If the press is to be believed, we’re down in the table by something like ten points to an all-powerful Real Madrid team that shows no signs of losing this season. Only a shocking, utterly unforeseeable, and completely impossible self destruction by the blancos would enable us to get back into the race. It is a sad day in Barcelona history, indeed, when we can only fight for a Europa League spot.
Wait, we’re first, up by 2 points, have scored more goals and allowed fewer than anyone else, have lost just once to RM’s three times, currently own the tiebreaker with the merengues, and face Racing at the weekend while they face an up-and-coming Villarreal? And we still have Messi? Oh. I guess we should accept that we’re the best team on the planet and we’re having some injury problems, but that everything will be fine and we’ll continue to win matches because we’ve got a supremely talented squad filled with competitive mofos who won’t even think about losing, much less accept it as an inevitability.
The willingness to overreact is understandable in the short-term, but given the light of day and the length of the season, failing to put the league away by mid February is not the least bit surprising. Would you want the season to be over by the coming week? I wouldn’t, though I’ll admit that I’d gladly take that over Real Madrid still having a shot at the title, but even better would be Valencia, Sevilla, and someone else still being in it rather than12 or more points out. That’s just me, though. I don’t like losing, but I understand it’s merits in terms of making things a bit more interesting.*
The news itself is, actually, somewhat depressing.
-Both Xavi and Seydou Keita will be out for the Stuttgart away match and Keita is likely to miss the return leg as well. Yaya Toure may be back in time to partner Sergio Busquets in midfield, but for now it looks like Andres Iniesta and Jonathan Dos Santos will be our attacking mids in the 4-3-3 formation. We’ve also go Thiago Alcantara waiting to get his shot in the starting lineup, which could mean that we’ll see a fairly young forward 6 come Saturday against Racing.
-On the defensive side of things, Dmytro Chygrynskiy is set to return to the squad for the Racing match, which should be a massive boost to the back line. Even given Marc Bartra‘s solid performance off the bench as the RB, he’ll likely return to the B squad and Carles Puyol will take over the RB spot. Maxwell should start every match at LB while Eric Abidal recovers from his muscle tear. If Gerard Pique and Rafa Marquez can successfully limit their suspensions to 1 or 2 matches, that would obviously help the situation, but I’m not sure what the chances of that are.
-The aforementioned Iniesta is on the verge of getting his 300th cap for the first team. Of the current first team players, only Puyol, Xavi, and Victor Valdes have more appearances. Congratulations to our little, balding maestro, whose Iniestazos and generally excellent play have warmed the cold, dark parts of my heart many times over the last few years. And to think, he wore the 24 before The Yaya. Awesome.
-Apparently we’re looking at Ajax’s 23-year old Belgian international defender Jan Vertonghen as a potential summer signing. He plays mainly as a center back, meaning we’d be crazy to offer more than a stick of licorice for him. The Dutch like licorice, right? The thing is, here’s a list of defenders we have (age in parentheses): Puyol (31), Rafa Marquez (31), Eric Abidal (30), Gabi Milito (29), Maxwell (28), Dani Alves (26), Dmytro Chygrynskiy (23), Gerard Pique (23), Andreu Fontas (20), Marc Bartra (19), Albert Dalmau (17), and Marc Muniesa (17). On loan we have Henrique (23), Martin Caceres (22), and Alberto Botia (21). There is a slight age issue with the back line, but with Puyol and Marquez already re-signed through 2012, it’s hard to imagine that Vertonghen would get any sort of playing time before he too is “cresting the hill”. No doubt he’s a good player, but if he’s not an immediate backup for at least two positions (CB and RB, for instance) then he would be an absurd choice to spend money on. Don’t get me wrong, kid looks good, but whether or not he’s up for the big leagues, if he’s not far and away better than any of the above-listed players, we shouldn’t get near him. Our cantera is, after all, stacked with defensive talent at the moment.
-The new Table Prediction results are up, now that Tenerife and Mallorca played their stupid Monday Night Football game. Kevin O. maintains his solid lead, but only because he’s the one who put Zaragoza not down at the bottom of the table. My own predictions are currently tied for 2nd because Pythagorean Expectation put Atleti squarely where they are. Ah well.
-In Yahoo! Fantasy Soccer, I picked up an amazing 34.50 points because I forgot to remove The (Injured) Yaya from my lineup. Dammit. Then everyone else just sorta sucked, though my front line did well enough. Time to reorganize! The leader is still Hat Trick, who his/her lead over the rest of the top 5 by choosing Andres Palop (23pts) while everyone else had crappier GK results (I had German Lux for yet another lack of an appearance: 0pts!).
-In the Kevin Rating Synthesis, Sunday’s match was the lowest rated of the year, at an average of 4.38. The closest match was the first leg of the Sevilla tie in the Copa del Rey when the team grabbed a collective 4.92 and the closest Liga match was the 1-0 win against Almeria in which the team garnered a 5.57. That was also a 2-1 loss, by the way. Of the four ratings of 1 dished out by Kevin this year, two were on Sunday (Xavi and Jeffren) and two were during the draw against Villarreal (Bojan and Ibra). The highest rating on Sunday was Bartra’s 7.
-The KRS highest rated player of the year is Eric Abidal at 7.96 in all competitions. In the Liga it is again Abidal, this time at 8.33. The lowest rated player overall is Bojan Krkic with 4.13. In the league it is Jeffren with 2.50, though he’s only got 2 appearances.
And that, folks, is something to talk about today as I gear up for my first indoor match of the year and only my second one in like 4 months. Expect me to be wrecked tomorrow and barely up for getting myself home from my parents house (where I get to crash tonight, assuming they haven’t changed their locks). Also, podcasting with Madridistas tomorrow, so that should be fun. Expect me to be fiesty!
*That said, my Jayhawks are currently 11-0 in the Big12 after last night’s shitshow of a game against Texas A&M that they squeaked out of and they are a lock to win the whole damned deal with 5 games (30% of the season). That, naturally, makes me quite happy, but it is kinda boring now because only the individual games mean anything, not the whole league, which has fallen apart except for the Rock Chalk Jayhawks cruising as the #1 team in the nation. So, roughly, I’d rather have competition than a year-in, year-out slugfest between two pre-determined teams. Not that I’m bringing up salary caps again (I am).