Return of the King: Barça – Getafe


Liga Preview: Barça – Getafe, Saturday 2pmEST, ESPN Deportes

Getafe. They of the Burger King shirts, of the “we’re tots second best in the capital now that Patetico sucks again”, of the inclination to drawing or beating the big boys. Welcome to our humble home, azulones. The last time we met, we ended up with a fairly lucky 0-2 victory with goals by Ibra and Messi. It was the second match of the year in La Liga and provided us with a measure of confidence ahead of our trip to Milan three days later for the first Champions League group stage match. It also catapulted us to the top of the league, where we have remained since, dominating most statistical categories and ever-so-slowly increasing our lead over Real Madrid.

Getafe are not one to do their Madrileño rivals a favor, but they’re in it for themselves first and foremost and with a European position on the line every time they take the field (they’re 3 points behind 6th-placed Depor and one point ahead of 8th placed Athletic Bilbao), they will not be taking this match off. They are looking, as always, to plunge their icy Morgul blades of reality into our backs in an attempt to keep us from running away with the title by mid March and to keep us on our toes, one horrible LotR reference at a time (see title for first one).

Quick stats comparison:
Barça overall: 16W-4D-0L (50GF, 10GA)
Getafe overall: 10W-1D-9L (27GF, 24GA)

Barça home: 8W-1D-0L (26GF, 6GA)
Getafe away: 3W-0D-7L (11GF, 16GA)

Their top goalscorer is Roberto Soldado with 10, followed by Casquero, Manu, Albin, and Pedro León all with 3 each.  That total (22) accounts for all but 5 of their total goals, or 81.48%.* That may sound pretty bad, but we’re not much more versatile in our scoring: while Messi has 15 and Ibrahimovic 11 (putting them 1 behind Getafe as a team), we’ve got two players–Keita and Pedro!–with 6 goals apiece. That means 4 players account for 38 of our 50 goals (76%). You could blame these things on players like Xavi, Iniesta, Henry, and Bojan not having stepped up their goalscoring, but Iniesta and Bojan both have 3 assists according to Soccernet and Xavi has 6. The lone man out on that “statistic”** is Henry, who has been credited with 0 assists.

My argument that none of this matters is that we’re still working out the bugs in what is a fairly new system. As Hector pointed out in a comment yesterday, Ibrahimovic was not brought in to fit a system, but rather to facilitate a change from one system to another. This paradigm shift, if you will, means that everyone is learning the ropes once again. Henry, then, is learning once again how to move as part of the overall group. What makes his job more difficult than, say, Messi’s, is that he’s no longer 22. Messi is both the focal point of our attacks and young enough to endure the physical pounding involved. That means, of course, that Henry is relegated to a wider role involving crosses rather than shots on goal. What I’ve noticed is that his crosses are more assured, but no one’s home in the middle because Ibrahimovic is still figuring out that run. When Keita is on the field, there’s much more understanding on our left wing and much more dangerous situations on crosses. Bojan has effectively changed his positioning habits and his crossing to adapt to this new situation (where Ibrahimovic slinks to the back post instead of racing to the near post) and has begun cutting back his crosses on the ground to the trailer, but Henry is typical 2 steps farther ahead than Bojan, meaning the trailer is there yet and Ibrahimovic is blocked by his defender. That’s my thinking, anyway, but I didn’t watch the last two matches–fiending so bad–so perhaps I’m off a bit. Guardiola, however, claims Henry is still several steps ahead of Pedro!, a claim I find to be quite true.

The difference between us “working out the bugs” in a system and Getafe being a mid-table club is that we have the world-class talent to figure out a complex system while still winning and they, um, don’t. Not that I’m disparaging them in terms of talent, but they don’t have the money on hand to create a squad like ours and would gladly take our bench over most of their starters. For instance, this was the depleted lineup we started against them in their house during Jornada 2: Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Chygrynskiy, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Pedro!, Jeffren, Ibrahimovic. While this is a perfectly legit lineup, it was, at the time, something of a wonder that our frontline consisted of P! and Chico Gallo instead of including Messi and our back line had Puyol out wide and Scary Ukrainian Jesus Man in the middle. Iniesta’s absence, of course, is also notable, but he was on the bench and he, along with Messi and Alves, were our substitutes throughout the second half. Now that is a friggin’ bench.

Anywho. One major thing we have going for us is that Getafe is in the middle of its Copa del Rey semifinal against Sevilla. The first leg was this past Wednesday, Feb 3, and the second leg is next Thursday, Feb 11. They’re not worried, of course, about fatigue at this point, because points are points and they’re in a 2-0 hole after their visit to the Sanchez Pizjuan. I expect Sevilla to continue on unless Getafe pulls off some sort of impossible comeback the likes of which has never been seen in their stadium before. Oh. We still owe them for that one, don’t we? Okay then.

Getafe’s squad list: Ustari, Codina, Cata Díaz, Mané, Belenguer, Mario, Rafa, Cortés, Miguel Torres, Ríos, Parejo, Boateng, Casquero, Kepa, Soldado, Albín, Manu, Miku.

Of those listed, their danger men are Roberto Soldado and Juan Albin. I’m not a huge fan of Soldado, but I think Albin has some great potential. My thinking is that of Soldado’s 10 goals, 6 have come via hat tricks against marginal opponents. That is not to say he isn’t talented, but it is to say that Getafe isn’t as good as some give them credit for based on their statistics. Pythagorean Expectation thinks they’re underachieving by a small fraction (2.33%) and thinks they should have another full point as an away team. This is similar to Barcelona’s situation, though, so that’s basically a push (the draw against Villarreal threw us off a bit–had we won that match, we’d be overachieving by 0.08%, which is negligible).

So, then, to our squad. Alves trained on Friday with the first team for almost the entire practice, using a personal trainer only for warm ups and stretches. I believe this means he’ll play 90 minutes on Saturday and keep canterano Albert Dalmau out of the lineup. Abidal–who may or may not be missing teeth after Thursday’s training session (h/t Miguel)–spent the first half of the session with the squad and then returned to solo work, meaning, I think, that we’ll see Maxwell deputizing on the left. Puyol is still out through yellow card accumulation, but with the return of Alves we’ll probably see a much more solid back line of Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell. Marquez could very well get the start over Milito and I wouldn’t have any problem with that except to reiterate Hector’s point that Getafe are fastfast in front keeping up with them will be a bit tough with Marquez. Milito is still probably not 100%, but he’s certainly still faster than Marquez. The hair ensures that. Abidal’s absence will be felt most keenly in this department.

Then there’s the DM debate. With Busi at full strength after his kidney bruise–still makes me say ouch–I think we’ll see him start. This is more a matter of principle for Guardiola, I think, than anything else. Obviously I think The Yaya is better, but Guardiola thinks Busi is the future of the club at that position–something I concur with most of the time–and he wants to make that future happen sooner rather than later. The Yaya is 26 years old while Busi is 21 and if Busi can be groomed into the player that The Yaya is within the next two years, we’ll have a monster DM on our hands who has veteran status within the team. I can understand that rationale, but I can’t help but think it’s because Guardiola sees himself in Busi (at least as a player–I don’t know anything about Busi as a person so I don’t know if he listens to intense classical music and wears sweater vests whenever possible), he gives Busi more time on the field. Part of that is that The Yaya is one of my favorite players and I want him to always start, but also because I actually think, thinking as objectively as I can , that Busi is not only not as good as The Yaya now, but never will be. Guardiola, who knows at least a thing or two more than I do about this game and about player development, thinks otherwise. I can accept being wrong about this, but, interestingly enough, I’m not sure I can accept being right because it means both that we’ll lose The Yaya to a cheap transfer in the coming window, Busi will not be all that good, and Guardiola will have created it all. Argh.

Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Busi, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Messi.

No Iniesta in the starting lineup, but only because of Keita’s steel. We need that and Iniesta’s ability to come off the bench and hold possession once we’ve got a lead going into the final 30 minutes.

Official prediction: 2-0, goals by Messi and Henry. I’m betting on Monsieur Titi. Ibra needs to score too, though, but won’t. Instead he’ll get both assists. You read it here first.

Time: Saturday 8pm Barcelona/local, 2pmEST/NYC. Check your local time here.
Weather: ~55F (12.7C) clear skies; should be good for tiki-taka.
TV: Here in the US, the match will be on ESPN Deportes.

Other things: Keep track of what’s going on in the Second Half Prediction by going here and checking it out. I’ll update it each Monday, though sometimes Tuesdays if I forget.

*Those two decimals were for all you haters out there.
**I don’t do assists because of the subjectivity involved in them so I don’t often cite them. This is a rare instance where I think it makes some sense to do so.

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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Ben Dover
    February 5, 2010

    First. BarcelonaFootballBlog is the best.

  2. auld super
    February 5, 2010

    Henry contributes more all round than Pedro and is trying but just isn’t scoring. Ibra’s the same lots of effort but no goals lately. The time to worry will be when they stop trying. 2-0 Ibra and Iniesta,I know but their due a goal each.

  3. john
    February 5, 2010


    Repeat: Any Chicagoans interested in watching the game at The Globe tomorrow? Kevin? Eh?

    And just so know one’s mislead: Aupa Geta Mother f- [signal terminated]

    • Kxevin
      February 5, 2010

      Nice idea, John, but I’m going to be on my sofa, recovering from a crazy-hard-assed Saturday morning workout, and making my psychic preparation for exposure to lots of people on Sunday (Super Bowl party).

      Oh, and best of luck, Parakeets!

      • john
        February 5, 2010

        It was worth a try. And a perhaps interesting little tid-bit about this long time [Madridista] reader: Besides el clasico, this match up is the one I most anticipate each season. Seriously.

        1. Real v. Barcelona
        2. Barcelona v. Getafe
        3. Betis v. Sevilla (sigh)
        4. Athletic v. Real
        5. Atletico v. Barcelona

        I might make some adjustments if I took a little more time, but that’s my off the cuff top five. Home teams listed first.

    • BarcaFan(BiH)
      February 5, 2010

      Really? Heck yes. Man, I’m always mad when they have it on Deportes because that’s like another extra 20 dollars that I’d have to dish out just to watch our team and no way I’m doing that. You deserve a treat if that’s true. Lemme check… 🙂

  4. yogi
    February 5, 2010

    good preview and getafe are usually tough opponents. i think we will shade this though. i want yaya to start though. he is our today and i do not believe that we should just forsake that advantage. CL is not that far away.

  5. Eklavya
    February 5, 2010

    That was one poor reference to the LOTR.

    I was watching some last season’s videos, and, Eto’o should have had about 6 goals here or something 😯 :


    • February 5, 2010

      Wow. I had forgotten about that.

      I miss Eto’o, though. That’s not a knock against Ibra, either. I just miss Eto’o. Simply, with no strings attached.

      • Hector
        February 5, 2010

        Sigh… Good ol’ Samu…That’s classic. Just as much as the hat tricks, pokers, and clutch goals, I’ll remember those types of games where the ball just would not go in but the guy just kept coming right back with more and more shots.

        • Eklavya
          February 5, 2010

          Yeah me too, just as Isaiah said, I miss Crazy Samu’s craziness. “Classic” is the right word, Hector.

          • majatt
            February 5, 2010

            I miss the wry smile after a chance goes begging. It used to annoy me like…you missed and are laughing!?! but then I understood it was him not dropping his head.

      • SoccerMom
        February 6, 2010

        Eto’o and Ronaldinho are like y’alls supermodel exgirlfriends.
        When they’re out of shape it’s all ‘he’s not all that’ and then when they do something pretty it’s all ‘daaaaamn’.

    • cliveee
      February 6, 2010

      geezz, that’s like 29 shots on target in 5 mins of highlight!!!

  6. Hector
    February 5, 2010

    Pedro de Leon is suspended on yellow card accumulation. That’s huge! Great news for us as he is one of the best crossers of the ball in Spain and an awesome free kick specialist. Albin can still bother us with his speed and dribbling though. I’m confident of Pique and co. handling Soldado but Albin scares me a little more.

    • Eklavya
      February 5, 2010

      Albin always kicks ass against us.

  7. Hector
    February 5, 2010

    Also, I am no clothing whore like a certain bike racer from Chicago who loiters around this board 😀 BUT one of the biggest regrets of my life is not getting a Getafe 2009-2010 Burger King jersey. The awesomeness just overwhelms me every time I see it. If you are going to sell out to a sponsor out of necessity then by god, THAT’S the way to do it. Go big or go home!

    • Kxevin
      February 5, 2010

      I missed out on getting one too, Hector. Limited edition, sold at the official Getafe shop (in person) only, near as I could tell. They weren’t in any way set up for e-commerce. The more current ones don’t have the King on the inside.

      And that’s clothing slut, sir. 😀

  8. Jim
    February 5, 2010

    Nice preview, Isaiah can’t agree with you on Iniesta though. Runs the risk of disturbing our passing game just when we’ve got it back and if we don’t have the possession we can’t keep them off our back four. To me, both Yaya and Iniesta are shoe -ins whenever they are fit.

  9. Helge
    February 5, 2010

    Why don’t we give Chygrynskiy another chance? From what I’ve read in Sport etc., he’s highly motivated and wants to prove his real worth for the club. The current articles all convey a positive attitude of Chygrynskiy, but how long will it last if he doesn’t play? Not everybody’s as patient as Banjo Crickets…
    I know about the incompatibility of Piqué and Scary Ukrainian Jesus Man, but I would take the risk against a certainly not 100% Getafe side without Pedro Leon.

  10. JMo
    February 5, 2010

    I really, REALLY want to see Pique and Chygs in the CB positions tomorrow. Almost as much as I want to see YAYA start.

    If Chygs is supposed to be the future, than why not see what he can do with Pique. Chys isn’t fast, but he’s sure as hell better than Milito and Marquez, and with the calm atmosphere surrounding this game (not the high stress level of the CDR) I think it could be just the chance to silence the whistles.

    On another note, if Ibra doesn’t start moving once the balls at his feet, I’m going to shatter the CPU screen I use to stream the games. Last match he started moving with the ball and the defenders almost crapped themselves.

    His movement creates space for others, BUT it also gives him chances to shoot. Whenever he gets it, I feel like I watching chess. “receives the ball… motionless.”

    Come on Ibra, I believe!

    • Kxevin
      February 5, 2010

      Guardiola is doing/saying all the right things with Ibrahimovic and Henry, though. With Ibrahimovic he’s praising the off-the-ball stuff, and with Henry, he’s saying that he’s still many steps better than Pedro.

      And even if it were bullshit intended to psych up the duo (but it all happens to be true), it would be of value. Because we need those two if we have any real Champions League aspirations, which we sure as hell do.

      • JMo
        February 6, 2010

        O I completely agree, but if I were a world class defender preparing to face us in the CL, i would program into my brain that if I mark Ibra and he receives the ball outside the box, don’t worry about covering him too much cuz he’ll just pass that.

        I mean, unless that’s some master strategy, like a misdirection that pep has been employing since the beginning and now he’s ready to unleash hell upon everyone.

        Which would be awesome.

    • eklavya
      February 6, 2010

      Actually I’m liking Milito over Marquez and Chiggy. At least at the moment.

  11. Alexinho
    February 5, 2010

    I would like to retroactively make a gesture of appreciation by thanking Hector for his post on the young’ns. His posts are few and far between, but absolutely necessary reading for Barca fans that enjoy the analytical side of followership. Quality, my man-

    I’m sure I’ll comment on this post as well but, obviously, I haven’t been around in awhile. Know you all missed me. I’ll be back shortly.

  12. barca96
    February 6, 2010

    so you are saying that Pep plays busi more cause he will be our future Dm? i disagree. If it’s that way, then how come henry plays more than pedro since we all know it’s henry’s last season?
    my theory is that pep is a very patriotic about Catalunya. hence the move for cesc, and busi over yaya. that’s my opinion though..

    • cliveee
      February 6, 2010

      very suspicious for pep to be like what you said, but i’d think its rather unprofessional to let patriotism get into player selections. so i’d rule it out.

    • February 6, 2010

      I wonder why the pateriotic Pep offloaded a catalan keeper and kept Pinto, used Pedro more than the one with a catalan mom,and promoted Thiago and JDS over their youth catalan colleagues at Barca athetic. Are we excluding any possibility for Keita to start today, or ever? And why did the catalan coach pay 25 M to buy a none catalan Ukrain to play where it seems half the catalan youth are clicking these days (He even loaned Botia out).

      The rotation will start kicking again, so I expect Yaya to start. Especially if we started Maxwell and Alves, thats where Yaya might serve better than Busquets.If he is ready and in form of course. If not, he will not start then. Thats spontanious logic right? Doesnt seem so anymore.

      • barca96
        February 7, 2010

        true. but maybe cause they are nowhere near 1st team material.
        glad that you are right cause yaya did start!

  13. Lumi
    February 6, 2010

    If YaYa doesn’t start this match i second him to leave when summer comes. For Heaven’s sake the ACN is over the new excuse is Busquets is a promise for the future. Damn Why doesn’t start Pedro up front coz he is a promising talent

    • auld super
      February 6, 2010

      I agree it makes no sense not playing YaYa he was fantastic last season and I couldn’t see Busi knocking on Pep’s door demanding a move if he’s not played more. Maybe there was a falling out or something and Pep wants him gone I don’t know but it’s mighty strange alright. Unlike Mascherano YaYa can play a bit as well as break up the play and is a far better player,the best DM playing today.

  14. Jim
    February 6, 2010

    Anything but Chiggy and Pique at the back for me. You can’t give up that sort of pace advantage to a team that is relying on counter attack. They won’t get much cover from the full backs. I’d like to see Milito get a chance. He deserves it after all he’s gone through and he hasn’t looked bad so far. Also, I thought there were signs Marquez is coming out of his slump last game. Just wish he wouldn’t try to appear so casual.

  15. Lumi
    February 6, 2010

    Yaya’s Contribution for us last season was priceless especially in the Semis and the Final

  16. Tajh
    February 6, 2010

    From sport survey Who do you prefer for Barca next season, Cesc or Ribery?

    I personally want Ribery over Cesc or Silva..and then maybe Cesc season after next when he would be cheaper since it would be his last year on his contract..

    • Vj
      February 6, 2010

      My order of preference –
      1. Ribery – I don’t care about his ‘injuries’ he’s a crack and he’d fill the hole left by Henry when he leaves perfectly..

      2. Silva – full on stud! He may not score many goals but neither does Iniesta, gets enough assists to make Villa a Pichichi contender..

      3. Villa – At LW.. That’s right I said LW..

      IMO Cesc may come back if he costs us what Pique did..

    • SoccerMom
      February 6, 2010

      I want Ribery because the SoccerFam first went gaga for him at the last World Cup and I gave my firstborn his first haircut around that time and he came out looking like Ribery.

      I’m going to make my own YouTube video. ‘Leave Valencia alooooone!’

  17. vicsoc8
    February 6, 2010

    Dani Alves has been training with the team again, but Dalmau has also continued practicing with the first team.

    Abidal is still only practicing half the time with the team. Don’t expect him to play today.

    Meanwhile it seems Jeffren is about to renew until 2013 and will be getting the number 20 shirt. Am I the only one who thinks he could make a start at right back today?

  18. SoccerMom
    February 6, 2010

    Getafe is heart-able.
    Those crazy kits with the creepy King.
    They’ve had heart and a half since Bernd.
    (Why do the RM coaches always seem like their *last* team was ‘the one that got away’?)
    Plus that 6-0 Copa ROUT at the Camp Nou. LaPorta points his cigar at the cancha and says, ‘Now that club’s got moxie!’

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