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It’s mini-international break, which means that many of our players are away with their national squads. So we’ll start there before getting into other nonsense.
-The Spanish national team takes on France in the Stade de France, with Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Piqué, Carles Puyol, and Andres Iniesta being called up by del Bosque. I hope they don’t get too much playing time. The same goes for Thierry Henry, who has been included in the squad by Raymond “Einstein” Domenech. The main thing I’m hoping for here is few minutes and no injuries for all of our players. What I’m assuming will happen instead is that they’ll all play 90 in a bruising encounter. Sweet. Gametime: Wednesday, March 3, 3pmEST. [a Barça-related aside: do you think that these players will talk about the ’06 CL final played at the Stade de France? Will Henry get pissed if they do it near him?]
-Brazil take on Ireland at the Emirates on Tuesday. Dani Alves is the only Barça player involved. If he gets 90 minutes, no one will mind. Gametime: Tuesday, March 2, 3pmEST.
–Lionel Messi and his Argentine compatriots will take on Germany on Wednesday in Munich’s Allianz Arena. Obviously, Argie coach Diego Mamando Maradona will have Leo playing 120 minutes of a 90-minute game. Rest assured of that. And also rest assured that Argentina will look like crap. Gametime: Wednesday, March 3, 2:45pmEST.
–Thanks to the Mexican national team schedule an immensely important friendly against powerhouse New Zealand in Pasadena Frickin’ California, Rafael Marquez and Jonathan Dos Santos will probably not be available for Saturday’s match at Almeria. It’s great to see JDS getting the call up, but it seems extremely inconvenient to schedule this match so far from Europe if you’re going to include European players in the squad. What, does Javier “Bitter Beer Face” Aguirre not remember there’s a time difference? Gametime: Thursday, March 4, 10pmEST.
–Because he’s just a wittle bay-bay, Jeffren Suarez has been called up to the Spanish U-21 team for their Euro qualifier against Liechtenstein. That is, by the way, the only competitive match any Barça players are involved in this week. It is also interesting because Jeffren still hasn’t decided between Spain and Venezuela at the national level (and, if I understand correctly, doesn’t have to until he’s called up by the senior national team). So he’s currently playing with Spain and has actually refused a call up to the Venezuelan senior side to give himself a better shot at the full Spanish team, but I’m thinking U-21 is as high as he’ll go in the Spanish teams. Gametime: Tuesday, March 2, 1pmEST.
–Ah, bureaucracy. I’m not sure what’s going on here, but apparently Yaya Toure isn’t able to play for Cote d’Ivoire in their friendly against South Korea at QPR’s Loftus Road because the Ivorian delegation couldn’t get him a UK visa in time to play. Now, I’m not totally familiar with England’s immigration laws and I’ve heard they’re rather complicated and somewhat overblown (every year some player is denied a move to England because of work permits, for instance), but regardless, I find it absurd that Yaya Toure doesn’t have the bureaucratic support from his FA to be able to play in a friendly in England. Now, I’m happy he’s not playing in it, but it’s still utterly ridiculous that this occurred…There’s got to be a better way to put it than that, though. Oh, right. Gametime: Wednesday, March 3, 9:30amEST.
–So, moving on…Bojan Krkic is concerned about his playing time, as he probably should be. Guardiola seems to be moving back towards the “benches are used by ninnies” way of coaching that he developed around this time last year. It flummoxed me then, as it flummoxes me now. I recognize that our players are exceptional athletes capable of sustained movement for an hour and a half, but it seems that we could use, say Henry and Bojan off the bench, or The Yaya, or Thiago and JDS. Sure, there are other tactical considerations like winning the league and all that, but come on, we’re not talking about subbing on players who are worse than our opponents. Banjo Crickets deserves playing time not because he’s young and has potential, but because he’s actually good. His pass to Ibra for Ibra’s goal (and it was a goal–boo Weligton!) was pure instinct and brilliance. Perhaps he’s having problems putting together 90-minute matches, but that’s why he should get sub time that’s longer than 5 minutes. Say 15 or 20.
–Cesc Fabregas is standing near Barça players in some pictures!!! Holy Christ this means he’s coming for €30million and a Banjo. OhmygodCesctoBarçaohmygod. Blargh, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.
–Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not taking part in full training today because of a back injury suffered during the Malaga match. Perhaps he hurt it while wheeling around too quickly to look all incredulously at the ref for the foul called against him after he’d scored. Whatever your thoughts on that (it was a goal), it’s good that Ibra is not playing for Sweden anymore so that he can rest up and not have to carry an entire team on his (injured) back. He should be fine by the weekend.
-Speaking of ref decisions, The Man Who Hates Madrid (clearly), referee Perez Burrul*, has been singled out by RFEF for disciplinary action (or at least has been removed from his next assignment) after his apparently inept handling of the Atleti-Valencia match. Obviously I was rooting for Valencia in this encounter, but it seems that Burrul actually missed a clear penalty by Ever Banega right before Silva’s goal, then misinterpreted the rules when the fourth official called him over and had a penalty awarded and Carlos Marchena sent off for what was a definite handball in the box. The thing is, Burrul didn’t see it and the fourth official, as I understand it, has no right to call it, which means that while the fourth official should have the right to call it, Burrul went outside the acceptable lines as a referee and allowed what was, ostensibly, the protestations of Atleti players to sway his decision. That Burrul had previous missed an obvious penalty and would later give Miguel a straight red card for what should have only warranted a yellow probably aided in his reassignment, but there can be no doubt that the Marchena penalty and red played a major factor in it. Check the game highlights here.
What does this have to do with Barça? Well, over the last few years Perez Burrul and Mejuto Gonzalez have been considered the best referees in Spain and are thus assigned many of the more fiercely contested matches, including several Clasicos, derbis madrileños, etc. I think they’re both terrible referees because of their seeming inability to be consistent in their calls. I don’t mind calls that allow rougher play, so long as that rough play is called equally and consistently and I don’t mind if hand checks are called so long as they’re always called. How they came to be known as the best refs in Spain is beyond me, but removing Perez Burrul from the group of refs can only have positive effects (unless everyone else is actually worse, but I don’t believe it). Alfonso Rubinos Perez put in a fairly good performance in the match between Barça and Malaga on Saturday (blowing only the call on Ibra’s goal), but he’s also the guy who sent off Marc Muniesa during his debut and that, of course, is unforgivable. But at least he’s consistent in his calls. Bjorn Kuipers infuriated me during the Stuttgart match last week because he administered seemingly random cards. So getting Perez Burrul out of the way for a bit will do everyone some good, I think.
-Moving on quickly to Yahoo! Fantasy, Hat Trick is still in the lead with 1,294 points. In the “Is Isaiah Any Good At This Crap” watch, I finally broke 1,000 points, but am still in 17th (team name: The Yaya) after having a crap week thanks to forgetting to change my lineup once again and having Carlos Marchena sent off for -13.50pts. Ugh. I will crush you this coming week, Barça Albicelestes, with your stupid 16th place only 6 points ahead of me. Bank on it.
-In the Table Prediction game, scores are still low thanks to the stunning success of Real Zaragoza and Almeria and the relative disaster that is Getafe, but Lovelymofo leads with 35 points to my 34. Naturally these things change rapidly as 3 points still affects the standings quite a bit, but that will soon taper off and we’ll see fewer week-to-week differences in the overall standings.
*What I mean by that is he’s the one singled out by the Madrid press as the one most liable for the “Villarato” nonsense.