Parekeets to the Guillotine: Barça – Espanyol

Liga Preview: Barça – Espanyol, Saturday 2pmEST, GolTV

Derbi Day: Morbo to the Max
Derbi Day: Morbo to the Max

I’m not much for corporal punishment and certainly not in favor of capital punishment, but for some reason twice a year I get this urge to massacre poor little parakeets. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, the feeling happens four times in a single season: yay Copa del Rey! You see, there’s this team, RCD Espanyol, who live over on Montjuic, in their evil castle, and they’re coming for a little visit tomorrow evening.

Instead of tea and crumpets waiting for them by a cozy fire, I suggest hatchets. Lots and lots of deadly, serrated hatchets. Cause I don’t like Espanyol, if you haven’t noticed. There’s not much in that personal dislike, of course, other than the inter-city fun that comes from finding something that’s a bit unsettling (historical conceptions of fidelity to the Franco regime, for instance, most of which are probably dead and gone) and running with it. But if you’ve ever visited an Espanyol-based blog on derbi day, you’ll know recognize the feeling of reading something distasteful, regardless of how respectful or disrespectful it really is. They want to beat us cause we’re the big brother and we want to beat them because they’re the little brother who nips at our heels. That there’s always the bitter taste of the 18 crazy seconds where they won the league for Real Madrid in 2007 only evinces more dislike from me, of course, and, I would imagine, more gloating fun from them. Which is why I was praying to the football gods to cast them down into the Segunda for this season, where they could unveil their new stadium (Cornella el Prat) to crowds of 200 or 300. Alas…

This is a derbi and it’s a special day, so long as those morons from Boixos Nois keep their flares to themselves this time. I’m still somewhat peeved that Barça received nothing from RFEF about that incident, regardless of it being at Montjuic and not in the Camp Nou. I’d be hollering for perico heads if they had thrown flares at us and it’s only right to have said as much at the time (which I did) and to continue to think the Boixos Nois are a bunch of jackasses bent on fighting more than enjoying the wonders of sport. I’m sure they had a wonderful battle after the match with whatever Espanyol’s ultra/hooligan group is called and I’m sure some of them are still nursing wounds of pride from the day.

Derbies are for enjoying the feeling of tension in the stands, for bellowing at the “wrong” colors on the field, and for feeling some sort of kinship with those around you as you do so. But it’s not about disliking pericos themselves for being who they are–after all, I subscribe to the idea that you don’t choose a club, a club chooses you and if that’s the case, you are who you are and as long as you’re a nice guy (or gal) about it all, we’ll get along. Some of my best friends are madridistas, after all.*

Their squad is riddled with holes: Kameni, Cristian, Chica, Pillud, Víctor Ruiz, Roncaglia, Pareja, Forlín, Baena, Javi Márquez, Verdú, Coro, Luis García, Sahar, Nakamura, Callejón, Iván Alonso, Juanjo.

They’re missing: Moisés, De la Peña, Tamudo, Marqués, or David García. First, not that they have a Márquez and a Marqués. That’s probably not confusing or anything, especially since they’re both midfielders. Anyway, their dangerman is Shunsuke Nakamura, despite his relative lack of form over the 10 matches he’s played (0 goals). And though he’s fallen from where he was a few years ago, especially as a freekick taker, he’s still a brilliant player and can hurt you if you ignore him. It’s Ivan Alonso that’s leading the way in the scoring department, with 3 in 11 matches, by the way, though that’s quite a feat for him as it accounts for almost 50% of their total goals (8).

To the stats:

11W-3D-0L (35GF, 9GA)
Espanyol: 3W-4D-6L (8GF, 20GA)

Barça: 6W-0D-0L (20GF, 5GA)
Espanyol: 1W-2D-3L (3GF, 8GA)

Obviously Espanyol is the inferior of the two teams, but many will argue that form goes out of the window on derbi day. I refuse to believe that is totally true, but if take last year as an example, you’ll note that that is mostly true. We haven’t beaten Espanyol in our last 3 tries at home (2 draws, 1 loss), but that doesn’t mean much for tomorrow, when both teams are limping into the Christmas break.

Our squad list: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Abidal, Chygrynskiy, Márquez, Maxwell, Puyol, Milito, Piqué, The Yaya, Keiteee, Xavi, Iniesta, Busi, Pedro, Bojan, Henry, Ibra.

Obviously the missing person is Lionel Andres Messi, who has a grade 2 sprain in his right ankle sustained during the Dynamo match on Wednesday. He may or may not be fit for Wedneday’s match against the winner of Atlante-Auckland City, but for now is out of the immediate plans. Because of that, I see Pedro! stepping into his spot, though switching out to the left.

Predicted lineup: Valdés, Alves, Chygrynskiy, Puyol, Maxwell, The Yaya, Keiteee, Xavi, Iniesta, Ibra, Pedro!

Yeah no Henry again, as well as no Pique and finally some Yaya on the field. Abidal takes a seat so Maxwell can crank up his legs for the first time in a bit, which is cool. Obviously I’m in favor of The Yaya starting, but I can see Busi getting another start in order to let The Yaya enter the game on Wednesday as fresh as possible. There are, after all, 2 games in 4 days (the 16th and 19th) and we have to enter strongly in order to win, especially if we face Estudiantes in the final (poor TP Mazembe lost to Pahong Steelers today despite leading 1-0 in the first half–damn you Pahong, those were my Congolese boys!**)

So go with the box-to-box midfielde (Keita) and put Iniesta on the right where he’s been more effective than on the left. Pedro! is capable of holding his own against Espanyol and then Henry can make an appearance as a sub in, say, the 70th minute, where his pace will give him more opportunities than maybe if he started. There’s a reason I’m selling Henry to the highest bidder on FIFA10, of course: he’s getting old (and he’s worth €25million! That’ll more than buy Juan Mata) and he’s injury prone, so let’s keep him healthy for the fairly meaningless Club World Cup Championship of FIFA Clubs…World…Championship…or whatever…because you know Guardiola and company want to win it (for sporting and financial reasons. Each win is worth something like $1.5million, I think, and the title probably more. That’ll look good next to Ibra’s transfer fee on the balance sheet) and is going to go all out in an attempt to get it.

So, of course, finally, the official prediction: 2-1, goals by Ibra and Keita. We’ll get the three points and RM will know this just as they start their clash with Valencia, which kicks off just after Barça’s match. Pressure? Yeah, pressure.

Gametime: Local time 8pm, 2pmEST/New York (check your local time here)
TV: GolTV in the USA, enjoy your RayRay! I’ll be Nevada Smiths in Manhattan if you’d like to join me for a beer and some screaming.

*Blatant lie. I have one friend who is a madridista and to be honest I haven’t spoken with him for about 3 years (not because he’s a madridista, but rather by dint of geographic separation), so I don’t even know if he watches football anymore.
** If you’re confused about the seemingly random allegiance, I lived in what was then Zaire in the early ’90s and have always been a fan of both their national team (which I track during most competitions) and any players coming out of there. I define soccer by how it relates to African streetball and watching TP Mazembe today was so wonderful because I was able to see some of the touches, some of the flourishes that marked the simple joy of a ball and some kids on the dirt patch outside my house. Sub-Saharan Africa plays like no one else, in my opinion, incorporating the “samba-style” Brasil used to play with (and which Dunga finally killed off) with their own indigenous rhythms that and voice. Poetry in motion, dancing on a field, art as sport. That’s why I was for TP Mazembe.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Carles P
    December 11, 2009

    I am actually glad Messi is out. He has been playing an insane amount of games (as all of our players have), and he definitely needs to rest.

    Iniesta- I hope he takes advantage of the games and raises his game to last years level.

  2. Carles P
    December 11, 2009

    OT- but has anyone noticed Ronaldinho raising his game a bit. I dare not say, to Barca level (not last year at Barca), but I gotta say he is looking slightly rejuvinated.

    • waleed
      December 11, 2009

      yes indeed, since their clash with Rome he’s been in a very remarkable comeback, Leonardo is giving him the confidence to rediscover himself and it’s been working so far,he is showing glimpses of magic every now and then, but still shy attempts cosidering the Ronie we know.

  3. mancini
    December 11, 2009

    Ronaldinho is still having some trouble finishing his own shots (save for penalties) but he is doing an amazing job linking and creating plays. Leading the league in assists last I checked.

  4. December 11, 2009

    All my in-laws minus one are Madridistas and have been forever. They still don’t understand why I love Barça, and it makes for some interesting conversations, to say the least…

    • December 11, 2009

      also hats off to valencia. if they win on Saturday they will share second place with real madrid, and they will be right on our heels too. Really wish we had not drawn 0-0 with them back in October. La liga is lot more balanced this year I feel.

      • Eduard
        December 11, 2009

        I’m glad my in-laws(future-in-laws) aren’t Madridistas. My gf can’t stand sports except soccer(she played in high school) and she’s becoming a Cule: watching the games, buying the jerseys and most impressively learning Catalan. Her family are college football fans(Sooners)

        • December 11, 2009

          Soooooners. Both of my parents went there. I am a lifelong fan obviously.

  5. Kari
    December 11, 2009

    Correct me if I’m wrong but hasn’t Espanyol already moved to their new stadium? There was talk last season when they were bottom dwellers that they didn’t want to start the first season in their new stadium in the Segunda…

    Anyway, here’s hoping it’s a blow-out! And maybe, just maybe, Bojan will make an appearance….in the 91st minute, if we’re lucky!.

  6. Kari
    December 11, 2009

    OT, but it looks like Alejandro Dominguez is going to Valencia…


    Didn’t Umai Emery say that they had to find a suitable replacement for their star players before Valencia’ll even think of selling them…?


  7. cliveee
    December 11, 2009

    Buuuuuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaaarcccccccaaaaaa! We will win and Real will most likely lose, and we will be ummm, how many points? umm… 9 pts clear.

  8. Eduard
    December 11, 2009

    BTW Dec13 is coming near.


      • Ethan
        December 11, 2009

        Great Article. I asked my buddy in barcelona today if he thought this would pass and if the spanish government would respect it, and he said the people would vote it through by large majority but that he doesnt see spain allowing catalunya to become an independent state. At least they are heading in the right direction if they really want independence, but my question is this. What happens if they did achieve independence, does that affect barca in la liga???

        • Kxevin
          December 11, 2009

          Good question, Ethan. My guess is that it might work the same way as Monaco, which plays in Ligue 1. But your friend is right. Barcelona is rich, and the heart of Spain’s tourism industry. This doesn’t even get into the parts of Catalunya that are in France (the territory technically extends as far as Perpignan, where you will find signage in Catalan).

          I believe it will pass as well, and will be symbolic as heck, but that’s about it.

          • Alexis
            December 12, 2009

            Another option would be Laporta pushing hard for a European League with the main teams in the continent…I would laugh out loud if that happens at the same time as Catalunya becomes independent!
            I am a first-generation Catalan, but I feel Catalan and not Spanish.
            Having said that, I have nothing against Spain (I would rather live in this country than in France or Italy).
            However, many people is growing tired of the economical and political unfairness towards our nation, and that is coming to a price.
            However the votes will be taking place outside Barcelona, which accounts for a big part of Catalunya’s population, and whose inhabitants feel both Catalan and Spanish.

  9. waleed
    December 11, 2009

    the recent poor form of Espanyol is the only thing concerning me, they’ll try to rise a hell tomorrow, dont forget that last year when they came to campnou they where in the relegation zone,and we’ve been unbeaten “home and away” since our 1st match against Numancia!! and still they managed to win!
    but still I don’t see them have a chance getting a way with it this time, not because they are too weak but because we are not going to allow it, last year too many factors helped our loss, red card for Kieta, some ridiculous mistake from VV and may be over confidence, and Delapina! this time they have nothing on their side except their will to bounce back against the champion!

  10. Helge
    December 11, 2009

    Espanyol is really missing Ivan De la Peña and Raul Tamudo? I think that’s great news, De la Peña has always been on fire when playing against us. Raul Tamudo missing probably isn’t such a big deal, because their (former) star striker is at loggerheads with the club since several month, or has it changed?

    Whatever, we have to win this match and I think our chances are better than almost ever before. Maybe it’s a sign of fate that Messi cannot play today, I fear that Espanyol might have injured him a lot stronger. If he only misses two matches, it was more like a rest than an injury to him.
    I’m not sure about Valencia doing us and themselves a favour tonight, so the three points gotta stay in Camp Nou!

    Isaiah, is there a particular African nation that you’re rooting for during the WC 2010, or do you simply hope that they can go as far as possible? Poor Côte d’Ivoire once again has such a tough group, and since I’m quite sure that Brazil finishes first, they’d have to face Spain in the round of 16. I’m not as confident as this one English football expert who tipped Brazil – Côte d’Ivoire for next year’s final (\\

    • Kxevin
      December 12, 2009

      I’m thinking Cote d’Ivoire is going to go a long way, too. They might even win that group. And if Drogba is on form, coupled with the Toure Tandem and all of the other talent that country has, I don’t think that anyone wants to see them at any stage of the competition.

  11. Reaper
    December 12, 2009

    Awesome read Isaiah. It’s scary that we’re playing so so many games! A lot of credit has to go to the new medical policies that Pep talked about when he took over. We’ve hardly had any long term injuries with the exception of Iniesta. Touch wood ofcourse and no, I’m not touching myself when I say that!

    • ElShowDeJason
      December 12, 2009

      To be honest, Iniesta and Henry can’t be blamed on the medical staff.

      They both, along with the MEdical and technical staff knew what they were putting them through when they played the Champion’s League Final.

      They were nowhere close to match fit, during the final, but they just had to play…

      And I think the result is being felt this season. Both arn’t having BAD seasons, but they are not playing as well as at the end of last season, and they knew that they were risking it when they decided to play injured.

  12. Lumi
    December 12, 2009

    Why has Yaya not been used all this while? let’s stop trying to cover for Pep look at other clubs in Europe with prominent Africans in plying thier trade. They still use them very much even though they will leave in January. Pep should’ve known before hand that this situation will surface and believe me this is definitely not the best way to handle such. Chelsea for example should be the most in worry considering the ”Ban” situation on them and that they have more key Africans in key positions playing for them. Yaya should start the remaining games this year including Espanyol Anything less will not be enough.

  13. Andrew M.
    December 12, 2009

    +5000 for the paragraph on the samba-style of sub-saharan africa!

    • Kxevin
      December 12, 2009

      The debate over the The Yaya thing has been long. Truth is that we don’t know why he hasn’t been playing. Some denizens here like Ramzi say that he’s being outplayed in practice, where such decisions are made. Others find that difficult to fathom. Still others, like Helge, believe that there is a bit of a disciplinary nature to the hiatus, as Guardlola makes sure that anyone whining (even through their agent) about lack of playing time, when we have a more than viable alternative, further hinders their chances of getting that playing time.

      Who knows? The truth is out there, as they’d say in the “X Files.” We’ll probably never know what it is. So as with all of our players, let’s enjoy them when they play, and enjoy whomever is out there, when they aren’t.

      Wait …. what? 😀

      • Achraf
        December 12, 2009

        ALL I know is I CAN’T WAIT for the creative excuse some guy’s gonna come up with if YAYA doesn’t play today. “Oh he’s beeing rested for the important Club World Cup. “

  14. Lumi
    December 12, 2009

    Why don’t we talk about his wages for a player of his magnitude. with such contribution he makes in a game for the BEST club in the world he should be paid more than his countryman in Sevilla and almost the same as Essien or masch. Or is it coz of his whining he earns little?.

    • Kxevin
      December 12, 2009

      It’s value to club, and starting wages. When The Yaya leaves us (and he will, sooner rather than later, based on the Kxevin Star Half-Life), he will get the big bucks. But he signed with us for not a ton of dosh, and got a big raise in the context of his starting salary with us.

      If he were of more value to us, he would be paid along the lines of someone who is more valuable, such as a Messi or Ibrahimovic, who also had their years of being underpaid relative to their ability levels.

      It’s just part of the deal. But if The Yaya doesn’t leave in the summer, I’ll be very surprised. It’s just that time. He came to us in 2007. The Kxevin Star Half-Life Theory says 3-4 years for talented imports, before they leave. Home-growns such as Messi and Xavi are an exception. So, that means that by 2010, or next season, his star’s half-life will have burned up, and off he goes.

      • jordi
        December 12, 2009

        Cocu stayed for 6 years 🙁 I had always hoped yaya would emulate Cocu 🙁

      • Flippy
        December 12, 2009

        hmm, Eto was here for 6 years, Marquez too (but more). Ronnie was here 5. Also I think Pep is preparing BOTH Yaya and Busi for ACN, because Busi will have to step it up and Yaya will get very fatigued during the tournament. Keita, on the other hand, won’t go very far in the ACN.

  15. December 12, 2009

    Sylvinho started for ManCity Against Bolton just now (FSC). His first start for them. Yay Sylvinho!

    • Vj
      December 12, 2009

      And he gets a card in his first start.. Didn’t he manage a whole season or so without getting one with us?

  16. Flippy
    December 12, 2009

    Sorry for being a bit off topic, but the winter transfer season is almost here. What do we need? What do we not need?
    – When Yaya and Keita leave for ACN, we’ll have just Iniesta, Xavi, and Busquets for our 3 man midfield, for a Villarreal game and 3 Sevilla games.
    –>Maybe Villarreal is not that great anymore.
    –>Also I’m not sure about this, but don’t they leave 2 weeks into December for pre-ACN training?
    –> I don’t count Messi or Pedro midfielders yet. We already know that we have Thiago and Jonathan for CDR and possible Tenerife, Valladoid, and Gijon
    –> We might be able to expect Keita back early, because Mali probably won’t go far.
    –> Returning back from ACN players are usually fatigued and maybe injured.
    –> Our entire January schedule looks like this:
    Villarreal, home Liga
    Sevilla, home CDR
    Tenerife, away Liga
    Sevilla, away CDR
    Sevilla, home Liga
    Valladoid, away Liga
    Gijon, away Liga
    If you want to include February:
    Getafe, home
    Atletico, away
    Racing, home
    Malaga, home
    –> Sevilla have it worse in January:
    Atletico, away Liga
    Us, away CDR
    Racing, home Liga
    Us, home CDR
    Us, away Liga
    Almeria, home Liga
    Valencia, home Liga
    –> I think Sevilla also have more African players.
    – We do not have a backup for Alves.
    –> Yes we have Puyol, but Marquez and Chyggy have not been so trustworthy and Milito is a question mark.
    – Henry is getting old.
    -> This one is very debatable, because Henry can get his form back, Pedro! can become a starter, Gai starts to do miracles, Bojan finally becomes a beast, etc
    –> But Henry is not in any form, losing his touch, and probably losing pace. Pedro! is seen more as a super sub or someone who just replaces the main man (that could be Henry or Messi) when the occasion arises. Bojan does not seem to be able to cement a spot as a starter at LW, and Gai still has a lot to learn.
    So the questions are:
    Do we get a backup for Alves? who?
    Do we get a replacement for Henry? who?
    and What do we do to survive when the African players go to Africa? If buy players, who?

      • December 12, 2009

        You forgot Pique in our CB options. Puyol out wide with any of Pique, Marquez, Chygstar, and Milito in the center and Abidal/Maxwell on the left.

        • Flippy
          December 12, 2009

          I meant when Puyol would be at RB, then one of Chyggy, Marquez, Milito will probably play and they are not as trustworthy at the moment.

  17. Lumi
    December 12, 2009

    A loan in my opinion would be the best option for ur so as to create less controversy when Black men return

    • Andrew M.
      December 12, 2009

      this might not be the most PC common characteristic between the players involved in the ACN to focus on. besides, many teams have white players eg, angola, south africa, zambia etc

  18. Lumi
    December 12, 2009

    How do you mean if he were of more value to Us kevin after his performance in the Semis and Finals last season.

  19. Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this also – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get anything done… Regards

  20. Aw, this was a really quality post. In theory I’d like to write like this also – taking time and real effort to make a good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and never seem to get anything done… Regards

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