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1. power failure; wide-spread electricity outage
2. lapse of memory, preferrably but not necessarily caused by excessive consumption of your favorite alcoholic beverage
3. Zzzzzzzing! When the lights go off…
Denizens of the Third World are all too familiar with definition number one. During my youth and early adult life spent in wealthier (and better run!) countries the rare and occasional power outage was greeted as a welcome novelty – an opportunity to light the candles and uncork a bottle of wine. However, now that blackouts are an almost weekly occurence in my life they are met with a “[expletive], not again!” and an “I hope the circuits of my TV weren’t burnt to a crisp just now…”
Definition number two is a universally shared experience lived by eager college frat boys, hopelessly unemployed slum dwellers and jaded millionaire housewives worldwide. I wonder if Lionel Messi and Andrés Iniesta remember the 2009 Champion’s League celebrations all that well…
As for the match, back-up power generator Jordi Roura turned on Victor Valdés, Dani Alves, Smash, Piqué, Alba, Busi, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro, Messi and Ghostface to light up the Mestalla. Notwithstanding the minor variations of our goalkeeper and Javier Mascherano, it was the exact same line-up of the previous three games.
It’s not a strain to say we started the game with out batteries considerably drained. Add the fact that we were facing a team that, to put it mildly, had something to prove after three encounters with Pure White Arrogance which must have left them feeling distinctly irrelevant and I can only conclude that the lights were off in whichever head came up with our starting eleven…
Valencia rushed out of the gates like a bunch of linebackers on deer antler spray, snapping at our heels and fighting for every inch to keep us out of the Red Zone. And indeed, as the first half progressed it became clear that our offense posed about as much threat as a ninety pound running back, so while their defense kept a both mentally and physically fatigued Barcelona in check with ease, their counter attacks grew more and more dangerous.
I don’t think anyone was surprised when half an hour into the match Éver Banega controlled a Piqué clearance and buried it to put the homeside up by one. I remembered the game against Atlético de Madrid not too long ago in which we didn’t wake up until Falcao scored the opener. To react or not to react, is the question. Negative, was the answer.
But fear not, a life line was tossed our way in the form of Joao Pereira, who, judging by the incredulous look on his face when he got whistled for the foul, must have suffered a temporary blackout (zzzzing!) during which he both pushed and kicked Pedro at the same time when the forward tried to receive a pass in the penalty area. A clear penalty which Messi put high and hard in the top left corner.* A hardly deserved equalizer, yet the score was tied again.
In the second half we looked a bit livelier. All four of Cesc, Messi, Villa and Pedro had the chance to score the winning goal, but then again it could have just as easily fallen at our end of the pitch with Valencia continuing to carve out dangerous counter opportunities up until the last minute, in which our Safety Victor Valdés made a key interception. In the end I went home thinking that, yeah, we really didn’t deserve anything more than a point.
So on Wednesday we drew one we should have won and yesterday we drew one we probably deserved to lose. Our record over the previous six games is as follows: D-L-W-W-D-D. We got no more than 4 points out of the last 3 league games and the only two reasons our lead hasn’t shrunk is because M*drid has already given up on the title and because Atletico is well, Atletico.
What gives? The last time we played Valencia was at the beginning of the league when we were not yet fifteen points removed from our main rivals. If memory serves me correctly we did not only not just finish a grueling clásico the week before but we also started a recently arrived Song that day, as well as Adriano and Alexis. I would go even further and say that there are two words that perfectly describe the first half of the season: rotation and wins.
Good arguments can be made for and against the inclusion of certain players, but I have no problem with our technical staff’s preferred starting eleven. However, they do not need to start every single match. What use is having 16 million euros worth of African music if you are not gonna play it? Or 26 million euro of Chilean firewater if you ain’t gonna take a sip. And David Villa could do with a couple of starts also. Last season Thiago started too many games, this season not enough. And what happened with Tello?
I can only speculate as to why we have not been rotating as of late, so I’d rather not. I do know that our bench is deeper than it has ever been during the Guardiola era. We were making full use of our squad up until the winter break. Before we get down to the serious end of the season it is essential that we get back to doing just that.
Our boys looked tired out there. We do not want them to look tired one month from now.
Or the lights will indeed…go…off.
“Villa not starting? It was a tough game, so we thought to keep the same team”
Jordi Roura Solá
* Whereas at the end of last season he had only converted a career approximate of 70% of his penalties, Messi has not missed one yet this season.