With only two days to go before our next match (Racing at the Camp Nou), there’s a lot to discuss. I can’t wait for our next match and might just start on the preview immediately after publishing this post simply because, well, I’m an obsessive fool. While you’re reading this, consider sending in a picture to our background design. If you haven’t done so, please do so as soon as possible.
News after the jump.
-Both Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Yaya Toure returned to full practice today, signalling their potential inclusions in the squad for Racing and the latter’s definite inclusion in the Champions League squad. This is fantastic news, especially coupled with the returns of Gerard Pique and Rafa Marquez, both of whom return from suspension. I would suspect that one of either Dima or Rafa will be held out of Saturday’s squad list so as to ensure maximum recovery and availability for Tuesday’s match. That Dima is cup-tied and can’t participate in the Stuttgart match probably swings the decision in his favor, assuming he’s 100% come Saturday.
-Because Dani Alves is still injured, I expect our starting back line to be Carles Puyol as RB, Pique and Gabi Milito as CBs, and Maxwell as LB. This provides us with cover on our right side that Jeffren and Marc Bartra were unable to fully provide–though Bartra was a revelation nonetheless–and gives our midfield at least some protection if they make the same mistakes they made against Atletico last Sunday. The difference is, of course, that the Camp Nou field is in perfect condition and allows for beautiful passing. The state of Stuttgart’s pitch is important for next week’s CL match and their away match to Cologne might help us mightily in that regard.
–Sport led off their main page today with a list of transfer targets: César Azpilicueta (RB Osasuna), John O’Shea (Defender Manchester United), Juan Mata (LW Valencia) and Franck Ribéry (LW Bayern Munich). My quick thoughts: if he’s good, bring on Azpilicueta. He’s 20 and already has over 80 appearances for Osasuna. If he’s got the ball skills, let’s grab him on the cheap as a backup, but if he’s any more expensive than, say, €3m, then let’s stick with Bartra since he’s already 19 and has proven himself worthy of at least getting a shot as Alves’ backup. As for O’Shea: no. Mata or Ribéry, I would welcome, but I still believe in Jeffren as a legitimate LW option for the future and I don’t want to spend upwards of €20m, though that price maximum would eliminate at least Ribéry and probably Mata. It is also not a price maximum that anyone at Barça will pay any attention to. Ah well.
–Xavi has revealed in an interview that he has thought about leaving Barça on at least a couple of occasions, but that, in the end, the club gave him ample opportunities and allowed him to grow. When he first arrived in the first team, Xavi was confronted by the very real possibility of Pep Guardiola stealing all of his time by being, really, Pep Friggin Guardiola. He says he was trouble later in his career, especially during the last years of the Frank Rijkaard era, by thoughts that the club was looking to sell him. I’m supremely happy that none of that came about and that we kept our maestro and made him the focal point of our entire team.
-In that same interview, Andres Iniesta admitted that he had always been pursued by Real Madrid, but that Barça had “given me everything” and so it was impossible to leave the club because of how much support and love he received from teammates and fans. That, folks, is why we must love our cantera and not talk dirty about them. They will become the next superstars if we’re just patient enough.
-Racing are missing Pedro Munitis, Gonzalo Colsa, Mohammed Tchité, Jose Angel Crespo, and Luis García, which, if we’re going to be missing some serious firepower on our end, at least evens things up a little bit. Our own on-loan defender Henrique will be back for the match after missing their previous match because he just became a father and was at his wife’s side for the birth. Congratulations and way to keep your priorities straight. And here’s hoping that Ibra can get another headed goal against you!