Liga Preview: Valladolid – Barça, Saturday 2pmEST, GolTV
I remember as a child wandering through a museum somewhere–I have no idea where at this point, since I was maybe 8 or 9 at the time–and the crown jewel of the Spanish history section was a massive altar setup that was from some town with a fairly unpronounceable name: Vah-la-doe-lid, once I figured out that it wasn’t, in fact, Vadalodilid or Valalidolad. My Spanish at the time was non-existent and now the grown-up me laughs at child me for being such a putz, but I was impressed with the woodwork in the altar.
It turns out that Valladolid (Baya-doh-leed, more or less), a town in the middle of Spanish wine country and built along the bank of the Pisuerga River, has quite the history. It’s origins appear to be as a Roman outpost, but then fell under Moorish rule, becoming a modest village until the 10th century when it was captured by the Spanish. It was a city by the time 1469 rolled around and King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella were married there, uniting the Kingdom of Spain. Valladolid became the capital of this newly created nation and remained so until 1561, when it was demoted in favor of this crappy place called Madrid. Boo*. Cervantes lived there when he published the first part of Don Quixote in 1605 and Christopher Columbus died there in 1506, only a few years after “discovering” an inhabited land you may have heard of.
Real Valladolid itself wasn’t founded until 1928 and didn’t make its first appearance in the Primera until the 1948/49 season. The team was founded by combining Real Unión Deportiva de Valladolid and Club Deportivo Español, the latter of which split off and became Real Union.** Their best ever finish in the Primera was 4th in 1962-63. Valladolid took the nickname of the town, pucela, a name that has several potential meanings as well as the royal purple color. They still rock the purple and thus the title of this particular preview.
If you’re not an American football fan, you might not know who the Purple People Eaters are (and you might not even if you are a fan of the NFL), but, basically, they were a rough-and-tumble set of defensive linemen playing hard-nosed football for the Minnesota Vikings in the 60s and 70s. It’s not that Valladolid is anywhere near as dominate as the PPEs were, but they aren’t exactly shy about sticking in the boot. And they wear purple. Sure, they play in a stadium named after a Romantic poet (Jose Zarillo), but you can’t have everything and a touch of culture never hurt anyone, I don’t think. So there you have the title and how I think Valladolid is going to approach this match.
Valladolid overall: 3W-8D-7L (23GF 32GA)
Barça overall: 14W-4D-0L (46GF 10GA)
Valladolid home: 2W-4D-3L (15GF 17GA)
Barça away: 6W-3D-0L (20GF 4GA)
These numbers are a pretty strong indication of how much better Barça is, especially when you add in that Valladolid is currently 17th in the standings, only one solitary point clear of the relegation zone. Barça earns 2.56 points per match (46 total), while Valladolid earns 0.94pts per match (17 total). Then, of course, there’s the squad Barça have named for the trip:
Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Chygrynskiy, Milito, Márquez, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal, Maxwell, Jonathan Dos Santos, Xavi, Iniesta, Keita, Henry, Bojan, Pedro, Messi, Ibrahimovic
The re-inclusion of Keita, recently returned from African Cup of Nations duty, can’t help but cause Valladolid manager Jose Luis Mendilibar to groan. If you’re going to face us, you might as well face us when we’re down a horse, rather than when the stable is nearly full. The only thing he can really smile about is that we’re missing our prime defensive midfielders: The Yaya and Busi. The former is still with Cote d’Ivoire in Angola and the latter is injured for the match. Puyol, who was subbed off against Sevilla last weekend, has apparently not suffered serious enough damage to his back even though he missed practice on Thursday because of it. Turns out, unbeknownst to anyone, Puyi is a warrior. Huh.
So, with Ibra claiming he needs to get better and Messi scoring at an absurd pace, Valladolid must put the third worst defense in the league against the best offense. Say what you will about Valladolid’s talent, but they’ve got some serious cojones if they even turn up tomorrow. They may not be relegation fodder (Pythagorean Expectation using 1.36 as the exponent predicts they’ll end up 15th, which would make three years in a row for them at that location), but they’re certainly not European contenders and I think that this match will, in the end, be a fairly routine one.
The question, of course, is who do we put at DM because of Busi’s absence? Do we rotate in Chygrynskiy, Marquez, or Pique? Do we try Keita’s hand there? Here’s my guess as to the whole setup: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Marquez, Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, Ibra, Messi.
Without matches in midweek for another month, we don’t have to worry about fatigue and without injuries to anyone other than Busi, we don’t have to worry about depth quite as much either. Keita’s return gives us a very solid option off the bench in case we need steel at the back during the second half. I’m personally in favor of him being on the bench simply because the travel and the matches he played for Mali are probably still weighing down his legs a little. Put Marquez in front of his buddy Puyol and you know he’ll be marshaled correctly and Rafa will be able to supply Ibra and Messi with those long balls a bit more easily.
Official Prediction: 0-2, Barça, goals by Ibra and Messi. Sometimes there’s just no stopping a freight train.
TV: This match will be on GolTV in the US.
Time: 8pm Barcelona/local, 2pm EST/New York. Check your local time here.
*Valladolid was the capital once again from 1601-1606, but that’s just sorta crappy, right?
**You might remember Real Union, of course, as one of the teams that garnered promotion the Segunda last year. They did so by beating little-known fellow terceristas Alcorcon. But, of course, the reason I’m mentioning it is the other thing they did last season: being the first tercera team to knock Real Madrid out of the Copa del Rey. Take that, Alcorcon!
And to end things on a perhaps interesting personal note: Tomorrow morning I take of in an aeroplane to fly south to Mexico for a few days of sun and relaxation. I’ll still be making the occasional comment here, of course, and I’ll be writing next week’s preview of the Sporting match, but Kevin and Hector will be taking over for a week. They’re obviously up for the job and can more than handle it. So, with that, I head on out to the sun and warmth of not here, which is a great feeling. Hector, of course, is not allowed to be jealous since he’s probably reading this from the beach anyway. Jerk.