Copa Preview: Barça – Sevilla, Tuesday 4pm, ESPN Deportes
It’s probably clear by now to even the most rabid of Sevilla fans that the rojiblancos only have one legitimate shot at a trophy this year. They’re in a battle with Mallorca for a Champions League spot in La Liga and they face CSKA Moscow in the first knockout round of the current CL. A trip to February in Russia sounds like quite the vacation, indeed, but at least they host the second leg. So what’s left to them is to battle for the Copa del Rey title, which they last won in 2006-07 by beating Gimnástica Segoviana, Rayo Vallecano, Real Betis*, Depor, and Getafe in that order.* So they weren’t exactly going through a tremendous gauntlet of teams, though they would have faced Barça in the final had Getafe not produced the miraculous 4-0 destruction of the blaugrana in the return leg, after Barça won the first leg 5-2 and one Leo Messi officially arrived on the worldwide stage with this stunner.
So Sevilla will enter this match knowing it’s the end of their season if they’re eliminated and that will make them a very dangerous team. Sure, they’re down a few players thanks to African Cup of Nations duty and that does help us out quite a bit, but they’re still dangerous as hell, especially if Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negredo decide to play better than they have in the past against us. They’re not hurting as badly as they might have been because Koffi Romaric and Arouna Koné were not selected by Cote D’Ivoire (because The Yaya is going to be the playmaker!).
Their full squad list: Palop, Konko, Drago, Escudé, Duscher, Fernando Navarro, Renato, Jesús Navas, Capel, Perotti, Koné, Negredo, Romaric, Lolo, Dani Jiménez, José Carlos, Cala, Redondo.
The last four players on the list are canteranos so they may or may not get used. José Carlos has 3 league appearances for Sevilla over the last 2 seasons and is a forward, so he’ll probably be behind Negredo in the pecking order. Does anyone know if Dani Jiménez is Manolo Jiménez’s son? It would be interesting if he were, but it is also quite possible that it is merely a coincidence they have the same last name.
But it’s not just sporting news that is currently going on in Sevilla, where club president Jose Maria del Nido is currently under investigation for, as I understand it, creating a criminal enterprise to gain access to municipal funds. I don’t know many of the details behind these allegations, but I do know that the presiding judge in the case has suggested 14 years in prison for del Nido. Whether anything will come of it, I have no idea, but it could mean a lot of financial trouble for Sevilla and so I’m sure things are not perfect over in the Sevilla world. Couple that with a loss in the Copa and we’re talking a potential meltdown of Betis proportions, though that might be taking it a bit far.
As for Barça, we’re currently looking at being without The Yaya due to ACN duty and Keita and Abidal through injury. Messi will return to action as well, which is good news, but that’s really where the assured lineup stops. I agree with Sport’s idea that it’s Pinto, Messi, and nine other players who ill start and that Guardiola will probably surprise us with what looks on the surface to be an awkward lineup. Is this the match we’ll see Piqué, Márquez, or Chygrynsky play the DM role or will Busi be pressed into service yet again? I think that Iniesta will also get the start despite it being only his second game back from the injury he sustained against Atlante in the CWC.
It’s not like we can take Sevilla or the upcoming trip to Tenerife the least bit lightly. We got lucky when our draw with Villarreal didn’t bite us in the ass because Real Madrid couldn’t come up with a goal against Osasuna (!), but we can’t count on that happening again and need to get off to a solid start in the Copa so that we can rest a couple of players in the away leg next week.
So here’s my lineup: Pinto, Alves, Chygrynsky, Puyol, Maxwell, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Ibra, Messi.
That’s a serious lineup for a serious match and even though it should mean we’re playing without Xavi against Tenerife, that match isn’t until Sunday so he should be well rested for that, especially if we can put in a solid performance tomorrow and keep him out of the lineup in the second match against Sevilla (so that he can play against Sevilla in the following match, of course—oy vey, right?). Ibra is suspended for Tenerife, so he’ll get the nod tomorrow, I’m pretty sure. Henry is unlikely to make 2 starts in a row, despite his solid effort against Villarreal, but that’s just age and the strain on the knees talking, not anything personal.
I’m not particularly concerned with the Copa this year because we just won it and if we’re looking a little bit weaker in the league than I’d like, meaning getting bumped from the Copa wouldn’t be the biggest disaster in the world. Naturally I’m rooting for us to run the table again and get another 6 trophies, but that’s 1) very unlikely and 2) capable of backfiring on us if we pick up any important injuries over the next couple of months. We were fortunate as all hell last year on the medical front and that is what allowed us to eventually win everything (that still sounds really cool), but will the stars align like that again? Unlikely, says the pessimist in me. The optimist in me, though, thinks the pessimist should shut his stupid trap or eat a knuckle sandwich. The optimist is not a pacifist, it turns out.
Guardiola is a fierce competitor, so much so that I bet he’s a real dick to play Monopoly or Scrabble with, so I imagine that he’ll get the boys nicely fired up after that lackluster second half against Villarreal nearly cost us our table position. This is an important month for many reasons, meaning that, if he values the Copa (and I think he does), Guardiola will be fielding some intense lineups in an attempt to consolidate the league position, move on in the Copa, and prepare the squad for the trip to Stuttgart.
Official Prediction: 2-1, goals by Messi and Busi. Yup, Busi. Awkward celebration to come as well. Their goal will be garbage, but will also cost us the chance to rest players in Sevilla.
It’s going to be raining matches this month, so let’s get wild and crazy and win them all, right? And, folks, is your preview. Let’s hear your views in the comments.
*You might remember the Sevilla-Betis matches because then Sevilla coach Juande Ramos was knocked out by a bottle thrown from the crowd.