Liga Preview: Tenerife – Barça, Sunday 3pmEST ESPN/ESPN Deportes
It is, to me, akin to going to a different country. Sure, they speak Spanish and all, but dude, it’s like 1,400 miles (70 kazillion kilometers) from the rich coast of Barcelona to the, um, rich coast of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. That distance is, by the way, is about the same distance as between New York City and Dallas or Pierre, North Dakota. Los Angeles and Houston. If you’re a European, it’s like going from Paris to Istanbul or Moscow. If you’re Australian, it’s like going to the corner store.
So it’s far. Quite far. But it’s not actually that wild compared to what American professional athletes have to do on a consistent basis, especially in the NBA or MLB. But it’s far and it takes a lot out of a player to have to travel those distances, especially because they’ll be turning right around and heading home afterward to prepare for a trip to Sevilla on Wednesday.
The Canary Islands consist of eight volcanic islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro, Fuerteventura, and La Graciosa), the largest of which, Tenerife, is our destination for Jornada 17. It is located between Gran Canaria and La Gomera and houses the stunning Mt. Teide, Spain’s highest point and the world’s third largest volcano. Naturally it was given mythical status by the Guanchinet, which only make sense when you see a bigass mountain spewing forth fire because it’s the home of the devil. I’m sure it also stole womenfolk, which any possessed mountain worth its salt will do. Teide dominates the landscape and I can only hope that Tenerife’s Estadio Heliodoro Rodríguez López has a view of it.*
The Canary Islands in general and Tenerife in particular have never produced any good footballers, so, really what o we have to worry about? Oh wait. Right. It’s a grand homecoming for our Santa Cruz de Tenerife native, who is probably currently second in Canary Footballing Hero Worship status only to this guy, who they say is a decent kicker of that spherical object. One hopes that this is merely another one of Pedro!’s conquests: oh just another notch in the old “I’ve scored everywhere” belt. Not that he’s going to celebrate it if he does because, well, he’s not a jerk and he loves him some Tenerife. Understandable.
There’s also a special connection between Tenerife and Pep Guardiola, though one that is less natural. In June of 1992, Pep Guardiola and the rest of the Dream Team finished their season by beating Athletic Bilbao 2-0 in the Camp Nou. There were, however, seven minutes left on the clock in Tenerife, where Real Madrid was playing to win the league. If they lost, Barça would be champions by a single point. The whole stadium stayed, listening to the radio over the loudspeakers, Guardiola biting his nails as everyone tensely waited for news of the end of the match. It ended 3-2 in Tenerife’s favor after RM went up 0-2 through goals by Fernando Hierro (who scored 21 that year!) and future Barça player Gheorghe Hagi and Barça were crowned champions. Naturally they caught it on film.
But wait, like a Shamwow commercial, there’s more! The very next year, by a quirk of scheduling Tenerife hosted Real Madrid on the last matchday once again and once again all Madrid had to do to win the league title was defeat Tenerife. This time, Tenerife wasn’t in 13th place, they were battling for fifth and a place in the UEFA Cup. And Real Madrid lost 2-0 while Barça won and were crowned champions again. Video of that second happening is here (HT Pedro at The Offside). So look on Tenerife with joy and cheer for them when they are down. And hopefully this year Tenerife will do us another favor by beating Real Madrid on Jornada 24 (February 27/28).
Tenerife sits in 17th place right now, 2 points above Malaga and Real Zaragoza. Their overall record is 4W-3D-9L (15GF, 30GA). They’re abysmal away from home (0W-1D-7L; 5GF, 22gA) but at home they’re 4W-2D-2L (10GF, 8GA). They earn 58.33% of the points available at home while Barça earns 75% of their possible away points (5W-3D-0L; 15GF, 4GA). That suggests, in a lot of ways, a draw is on the cards, but I think that Tenerife will be the unfortunate club that gets in our way right after we’ve lost our domestic match and only our second match overall. Remember what happened to our next opponent after last time we lost? Wrecked. Not that that means we’ll necessarily beat Tenerife like Kasparov would beat me in chess, it’s just that it augers well.
We’ll have to look out for Juan Francisco Martinez Modesto, better known as Nino. He’s their leading goalscorer with 5 goals in 16 matches, meaning he accounts for one-third of all their goals. He was the Segunda’s Pichichi last year with 29 goals, so you know he knows how to score, but this year he’s finding it harder to get the damn ball in the net, which is currently a good thing for us, but perhaps a bad thing if Tenerife remains vaguely impotent on the offensive end and can’t give anyone a run for their money outside of their own stadium.
An interesting bit of random information I found: According to Soccernet, Tenerife’s third leading scorer is a man named Ricardinho. A famous name, of course, because of this Ricardinho. Tenerife’s Ricardinho? Well, let’s just say there’s something going on at Soccernet because they’re claiming that Ricardinho is this Brazilian guy named Ricardo Augusto Leonardo who was born in Brazil on February 8, 1983 (my mother’s birthday and my birth year, just for future reference). The official Tenerife site and Wikipedia both concur that there is, indeed, a player on Tenerife born on February 8, 1983 who wears the number 8, is a midfielder, and has scored twice so far this season. But his name is Ricardo Leon Brito and he was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. So watch out for the shapeshifter they’ve got who can go by different names at different moments.
Oh the internet, you blessedly absurd conglomeration of information that is always true, even if it’s self-contradictory. Did you know that I’m the world’s strongest man? It’s true because it’s on the internet: read the previous sentence.
As for Barça, all of our players were on the field for yesterday’s training session, where they wore hats and gloves and crap because boohoo it was in the 40s waaaa we’re big babies. Goddammit, it hasn’t been above freezing here for 2 weeks! Yet I still have to go outside and exist. And not play professional sports. Hmm. Did I just crush my own argument? Ahem, back to the preview. Only Abidal and Jeffren weren’t able to fully participate, but they were outside working on their individual recovery plans. I’m still not exactly sure what happened to Abidal (it was a hamstring injury is all I know) or when he got injured, but he seems to be recovering okay and has been included in the squad list for tomorrow. I have to assume, then, that he’s fully fit and will start over Maxwell, rather than Maxwell starting in his place for this match and Abidal starting in Maxwell’s spot in the Copa. Jeffren’s return isn’t as imminent, but we could see him as early as the Copa match, but more likely the league match against Sevilla in a week, though that strikes me as a bad time to put someone fresh off injury back into the match, unless it’s as a sub when we’re cruising.
Also practicing with the first team squad were JDS, Gai Assulin, Victor Vazquez, and Thiago Alcantara, but only JDS and Thiago made the squad list. Hopefully at least one of them is introduced into the lineup tomorrow, but only if they’re not going to be playing in the Copa return leg. Personally, in the Sevilla match I’d rather see another lineup pretty much exactly like the one we field in the first leg against Sevilla because I value their minutes in the immediate future more than our chance of winning silverware via a static starting eleven that could cost us dearly if we pull a Colt McCoy and someone important goes down in a big game, with no experienced backups to help us out. Guardiola, I imagine, disagrees after claiming he made a mistake with the Copa lineup.
The squad lineup: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Abidal, Maxwell, Chygrynskiy, Puyol, Piqué, Márquez, Milito, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Thiago, Jonathan Dos Santos, Pedro!, Bojan, Messi, Henry.
My predicted lineup: Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Henry, Messi.
Ibra’s absence through suspension for yellow card accumulation forces Guardiola to reconsider what his front line will be and while it’s certainly possible that Iniesta gets the nod up front in place of Pedro!, I don’t see it happening as we’re somewhat short on midfielders with experience, but Guardiola could go with either JDS or Thiago to get a good mix of youth and veteran (Xavi); that would push Iniesta up the field at the probable expense of Pedro! as I just don’t see Henry being left on the bench for yet another match. Now, I don’t know if Guardiola is the type of manager that takes “I’m going home to my native lands!” as an excuse to start someone (it’s never come up before), but I suspect he is not, so Pedro!’s inclusion would be based entirely on the tactical approach the team takes. I just think that Henry’s size and veteran wiles would help the team more because of our distinct lack of a powerful forward.
There’s always the outside chance that Bojan and Chygrynskiy start to get them more playing time, but this time away from the pressure-laden confines of the Camp Nou. That’s an argument that probably won’t be lost on Guardiola, especially if he doesn’t plan on starting one or both of them on Wednesday. Still, our best lineup is what I’ve listed above (Yuh-huh! Yes it is–don’t argue with me, I am your king!)
I also do not believe in mandates from the divine or watery tarts, but I do, however, believe in predicting final scores.
Official Prediction: 1-1. Tenerife is going to have to come in and play solidly, but they will. Tenerife is no joke and we can’t act like they are. Even with a star-studded lineup, you can fall prey to their small fish status. Find the pun in that sentence, cause there is one.
Match time: Santa Cruz/Local time: 8pm; 9pm Barcelona time; 3pm NYC/EST; check your local time here
TV: This one is on ESPN Deportes here in the United States. I’ve heard that many of you have DirectTV, which is great for Champions League, but apparently not so hot for enjoying the delights of Barça without adding extra packages. What say you about this? Update: This match is now scheduled to be shown on ESPN/ESPNHD. Hooray!
What to eat: Chicharros, obviously.
*Wikipedia claims that the stadium has a field with the same dimensions as the Camp Nou, but I’m not sure I believe that because we’re known for having a huge field and most smaller clubs reduce the field size a bit (for sporting and economic purposes).