Copa Preview: Sevilla – Barça, Wednesday 4pm ,GolTV
Obviously the first thing you should do when preparing for the return leg of the Copa del Rey is read my interview with Ryan Knapp. That will give you a head-start as well as, perhaps, introduce you to a very talented and informed writer dedicated to La Liga. Not to mention brilliant, brilliant questions from a genius interviewer, of course.
Let’s jump right into the preview, shall we? It’s going to be a tough match not only because we’ve got a remontada (comeback) to do, but because we’re playing Sevilla. They proved in the first leg that they’re no joke, regardless of who they’re playing and even though they lost to Racing this past weekend at the Sanchez Pizjuan, they’re still dangerous. In fact, they might be more dangerous now than they otherwise would be because absolutely nothing can be taken for granted. The loss put them 13 points behind us in the league, meaning they have virtually no chance to catch up, meaning the Copa is their only legitimate shot at a domestic trophy.
Sevilla hasn’t released their official squad list, but Jimenez has said that he’s hoping to get at least one of Konko, Perotti, Jesus Navas, and Fernando Navarro. Luis Fabiano is definitely out for the match, which is good for us, but not good for the beauty of the match. Freddie Kanoute is also out due to being a part of Mali’s international team participating in the ACN. Still, with Jimenez and Renato both claiming that they’re going to go for the win and not just qualification through attrition. They seem to recognize what most of the people on this blog think, which I have to admit I agree with: if you park the bus, you lose to us at least 2-0. That, coupled with the home crowd’s love of attacking flair, would be a disastrous night for both the club and its manager.
A primer, then, on what various scores mean:
- Any loss, by any score, means Barça are out.
- Any draw, by any score, means Barça are out.
- A 1-0 victory means we are out.
- A 2-1 victory and we go to extra time.
- Any win by two goals are more and Barça are through.
- Any win by one goal in which we score more than 2 goals, and Barça are through.
This match is certainly there for the taking, but it will not come easy, even if all of the above-mentioned stars are out. Sevilla has a good manager and a good squad, with distinctly gifted players all over the pitch capable of wreaking havoc on our back line. If we play like we did against Tenerife, we will not get out with a manita to our name, but rather one pinned ingloriously to our noses.
One interesting thing I noted during the match was Sevilla’s change at halftime that, I think, influenced the match tremendously: Renato on for the injured Jesus Navas. While Navas is obviously the more talented on the ball, Renato is far more capable of controlling a match from the midfield, where Navas had been playing. Because of this forced change, Sevilla had more impact on proceedings and was able to eventually grab to well-deserved goals. Obviously our engine room didn’t take well to the change and you can blame it on whatever you’d like (Marquez’s deficiencies as a DM, a lack of support from the back line, solar flares, my preview), but the fact remains that we were clearly the better squad in the first half, but we unable to make the transition to a different style of possession and attack once they had limited our primary tactical option. I assume, then, that Renato will start tomorrow even if Jesus Navas is available to play and that they’ll pressure our midfield like mad in order to get some breakaways like Tenerife had before we settled down and wrested control (which I think was partly due to Tenerife’s conditioning, or lack thereof).
Our squad, then, must be able to handle large amounts of pressure in the middle 3 while our back 4 does something it hasn’t done for a while now: cover well. Our own high pressure, when broken against, yields vast acreage behind the back line which speedy players such as Diego Capel can take advantage of. If you can hit us when we’re least capable of defending in droves–when we’re only just out of our own box–you’re capable of getting fairly comfortable chances against us, which means a premium must be placed on the concept of not doing stupid crap near our box.
Given that thought, who should we start at DM? There’s the more experienced Busi–more experienced at DM, anyway, not overall–who tends to make overly-complicated moves in dangerous positions and has a tendency this year to give the ball away cheaply. He’s immensely talented and has passing range and vision beyond his years, but he quite often fails to keep it simple, preferring a pirouette to a pass, as if he is trying to make his opponents look foolish as well as garner olés from the crowd. Since I scream olé whenever Xavi does his little hold-the-defender-off-while-doing-the-simplest-move-and-breaking-free routine, I’d prefer it if Busi watched more video of our little film noir star and let himself do fancy moves only in their half of the field, when we have time to recover.
Then there’s Marquez, who has clearly lost a step in terms of pace, but has the tactical knowledge and positional sense to do some serious defensive work. Couple that with his long-range passing and you’d think he was a shoo-in, but he’s been somewhat off this year (garnering a 1 from Kevin along with a 2 and a 3 and only once getting better than a 5–vs Cultural in the Copa) and occasionally shows flashes of over-the-hill status. Guardiola has helped us out in this regard by leaving Marquez out of squad list for this match, but in general the question must be asked throughout January and into early February while we await The Yaya’s return.
We have an untested Dmytro Chygrynskiy we can call on as well, but his recent, um, exploits against Sevilla were not exactly confidence-inspiring. He did well enough in his moments as a DM against Tenerife on Sunday, but he was put on against a deflated side already down by five goals with five minutes left. Rightly, I think, he was rated incomplete because he didn’t have any thing to do with the match other than seeing it to its grave for a few seconds. I can easily see the Chygarrific One starting here tomorrow. He is also, I think, Guardiola’s project, meaning whether he succeeds or fails in the team is massively important to Pep, who probably sees him (and perhaps rightly) as validation of his own genius. Chygrynskiy did cost quite a bit, after all.
Last we have Pique as an option. He’s obviously knowledgeable about “the blaugrana way” and has proven himself a reliable backline member. But his lack of pace has been exposed this year and that might not be the greatest thing for a DM, though, like with Marquez and Chygrynskiy, positioning goes a long ways towards alleviating that problem. I consider him a better alternative to both Marquez and Chygrynskiy, but prefer him in the back line as well, creating a priority problem. Do you play Pique in his natural position or do you take a chance on him at DM? My assumption is that Busi will get the nod, simply based on experience and potential for a blinder.
Our full squad list, before we go any farther: Valdés, Pinto, Piqué, Chygrinskiy, Milito, Maxwell, Abidal, Puyol, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Ibrahimovic, Bojan, Messi, Alves, Dos Santos, Thiago, Henry
So where do we go from here? Pinto will start in goal, obviously, but beyond that, Guardiola’s plans are obscured in the mists of his crazysmartsuperbrain. And yes, that’s a real word. Trust me, I graduated summa cum laude from MIT, I know these things. Given those two facts, obviously I will get the lineup right for the 84th straight time.* Rijkaard just never gave me a run for my mental money, is all.
Predicted lineup: Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, JDS, Bojan, Ibra, Pedro!.
I think Guardiola puts out a serious lineup, but with some young’uns too because it’s a Copa match and getting them out there is important not just now, but in the future. Bojan deserves another start after his play on Sunday at Tenerife and while Sevilla is far better than Tenerife, I think Bojan should be on the field and hopefully for 90 minutes. As for keeping Messi on the bench, he’s been playing regularly and could use a few minutes off. Iniesta too, so I’ve put them on the bench as super subs. And we all know how subbing Messi on is useless.
We will attack, they will attack, and it will be awesome. I really am looking forward to a good match, but will we get through? We obviously can get through (see above bullet points for how), but Sevilla isn’t going to let this one go easily. We’ll have to impose ourselves on the match early and never let it go. If we give them an inch, they’ll take a mile and in metric that translates to the quarterfinals.
Official prediction: 1-1. Goal by Ibra. Unfortunately they will have the last laugh in this comedy festival. But, remember what happened last time I predicted 1-1? I do!
TV: In the US, this match will be on GolTV
Time: 10pm Sevilla/local time, 4pm NYC/EST time. Check your local time here.
Weather: Weather Underground reports tomorrow should be ~64F aka ~17.5C with a 40% chance of rain. Not too shabby. I guess AS and Marca can get back to their theories that Barça gets to play in nice weather while Real Madrid get to play…XBox at home, while crying.
Ref: Clos Gómez. In the league he gives out almost 5 yellows per match, which is fairly high, but in the Copa del Rey he gives out only 2.7 cards per match. Otherwise, I don’t have any particular opinion or insight on him. Hopefully he gives out cards for people chopping down Messi, but not for Busi diving like he’s Greg Louganis).
*It’s my blog, I can make shit up if I want to. Or cry!