Champagne bottles are uncorked, hats fly into the air, balls drop, and so forth, as the partiers scream happily, hugging strangers, kissing loved ones, and generally making merry, as is their wont. It is not a celebration of the new year, though, it is me celebrating my lady’s departure to foreign shores for a week with her sister. Not that I don’t love her dearly, but sometimes Man Week has to happen and this is that week.
It also just happens to be the return to competitive action for our boys in blaugrana, so I must get back on my horse and start to churn out some serious posts. This is going to be a huge month for Barça, so, while I watch gargantuan amounts of college football and consume most of my calories in beer, I will be drumming away on this keyboard to make sure that all of you get your regular fix of BFB style infosome. That’s like infotainment, but it’s way more awesome, obviously.
Jan 2: Villarreal (Liga)
Jan 5: Sevilla (CdR)
Jan 10: @Tenerife (Liga)
Jan 13: @ Sevilla (CdR)
Jan 16/17: Sevilla (Liga)
Jan 20/21: TBA (CdR)
Jan 23/24: @Valladolid (Liga)
Jan 27/28: TBA (CdR)
Jan 31: @Sporting Gijón (Liga)
Note that the quarterfinals of the Copa del Rey are listed as TBA because it’s by no means a guarantee that we’ll make it there, but I thought it wise to include what could be included in the schedule. Another thing that I haven’t included is February’s first 2 weeks, which would include the semifinals of the CdR and two league matches (vs Getafe and @Atleti). So at minimum we have seven matches in January, which is no joke considering that we’re without Seydou Keita and The Grand Yaya due to African Cup of Nations duty with Mali and Cote d’Ivoire, respectively.
Speaking of ACN, the first match of that tournament is January 13 and the final is played on January 31, so if either Mali or Cote d’Ivoire go far, our players won’t return to action until after the CdR semifinal first leg (Feb 3/4) and maybe not until after the following weekend’s Liga match (vs Getafe). That’s a dramatic hole in our midfield, which I’ll get into more in my upcoming Villarreal preview.
The following is a rewrite of something reader Flippy emailed to me that he posted over at the Barcelona Offside, so thank you Flippy for bringing this to my attention. One can be fairly certain that any mistakes in the following discussion are mine and mine alone, so hold me accountable, not the Flipmeister.
While we may have a tough schedule (if you’ve forgotten it, read the list above), our opponents are by no means off the hook throughout the coming month. Specifically, our triple opponent Sevilla has a very tough stretch that, not to be to snarky about it, includes us three times they’re without four players* due to ACN duty and Luis Fabiano through injury. Their full schedule is @Atleti, @Barça, Racing Santander, Barça, @Barça, Almeria, Valencia.
Our first opponent is Villarreal, a team that is definitely a serious contender to be the first team to take all three points off of us in the league as well as being the first team to take points of any kind off of us at home. Their overall schedule for January is @Barça, @Celta Vigo (CdR), Almeria, Celta Vigo (CdR), @Valencia, Real Zaragoza, Osasuna. Obviously more on them in the preview, but for now, I’ll say that they’re looking at a very packed month as they’re more-than-likely to pass Celta in the CdR, so they’ll pass to the quarters to face the winner of Recreativo Huelva versus Atleti, but might be looking ahead to those and giving up the three points in the Camp Nou as already lost. I hope so, but you know they won’t be taking Celta more seriously than us.
When we travel to Tenerife, we’ll face a strange team that is probably kicking themselves for missing out on Pedro!, who is from the islands. They’re schedule is @Racing, Barça, @Almeria, Valencia, Real Zaragoza. They’ll definitely be entering their match with us looking to steal a victory, to put our mammoth scalp in their trophy case. Can’t take them lightly as they’re fantastic at home.
Valladolid will enter their match with us in the middle of the month, so they’ll have already put 3 league matches behind them and will be looking to take advantage of our fatigue. They, though, have a tough schedule too: @Getafe, Atleti, @Racing, Barça, Almeria.
Our final January opponent is Sporting Gijón, a team that held RM to a 0-0 draw, so you know they can play. Not only that, but they have four home matches out of five total. That’s completely ludicrous, of course, because it’s unfair on both their opponents and later them, as they have four away matches to make up for it. Ridiculous scheduling. Anyway, their sched: Malaga, Getafe, @Atleti, Racing, Barça. They should be coming in buoyant after that run, so look for them to be serious competition or points. Looks like I’m going to owe John, our resident and beloved madridista, another beer for betting that Sporting would go down to the Segunda.
Just to be comprehensive, so that you know what we’re potentially up against in the Copa, here’s Valencia’s schedule: Espanyol, Depor (CdR), @Xerez, @Depor (CdR), Villarreal, Tenerife, @Sevilla. If they get by Depor, stick Barça or Sevilla in after Villarreal and Tenerife.
Depor’s schedule: @Real Zaragoza, @Valencia (CdR), Osasuna, Valencia (CdR), @Mallorca, Bilbao, Real Madrid. If they beat Valencia in the Copa, they’ll play Barça or Sevilla after Mallorca and Bilbao. And note that Mallorca has a perfect home record so far, which is very, very surprising. Mallorca, though, is also still in the Copa del Rey.
Basically we’re talking about a very, very tough month for almost every team we face as well as for us. We can, however, consolidate our position in the league by continuing to win, especially if RM drops points while we defeat top-tier teams. Their schedule is @Osasuna, Mallorca, @Bilbao, Málaga, @Depor. That’s no easy feat, though Osasuna and Málaga are not the toughest of opponents to have at home while your chief league competitors are involved in the Copa del Rey. Not that I’m bringing that up as a raspberry towards anyone dressed in white out there or anything. cough Alcorconazo cough.
So, enjoy this long list of things while I write up the preview.
*Didier Zokora, Arouna Koné, and Koffi Romaric (Cote d’Ivoire), Freddie Kanoute (Mali)