The Catalan Inquisition: Zaragoza – Barça

Basilica del Pilar (Wikimedia)
Basilca del Pilar (Wikimedia)

Liga Preview: Zaragoza – Barça, Sunday 4pm EST, GolTV

Apparently there’s still a league to compete in, though you wouldn’t know it from reading the daily rags, which are all focused on their omgcesctobarcaomg nonsense. I don’t even know who that is or what they’re talking about. I suppose I’ll have to figure it out before the 31st, though. Eh, there’s plenty of time.

It’s time to travel just over 300 kilometers (190 miles) pretty much due west to the city of Zaragoza, the capital of Aragon. It’s a smallish city, with just under 700,000 residents, but it’s steeped in history. In college I read The Song of Roland, like so many others have in their European history survey classes, which uses the city of Zaragoza as one of its plot devices. In the story, Charlemagne was aided by angels and divinity in general to sack the city in 777 in revenge for Roland’s death in the Battle of Roncevaux Pass and converted Zaragoza’s Muslim residents to Christianity. In reality Charlemagne never took Zaragoza, which remained a Muslim stronghold (though under various rulers) until 1118 when the Aragonese conquered the city from the Almovarids.

The Spanish Inquisition (which I’m sure totally came out of nowhere) made its mark on Zaragoza, which was the location of several “martyrdoms”, such as the famous murder of Pedro de Arbués in Zaragoza’s cathedral that sparked massive reprisals against the Jewish population accused of the crime that effectively ended the multiculturalism that had dominated the upper reaches of Zaragozan society for centuries. This led, I suppose one could read, to Zaragoza’s inquisitorial courts being stricter than most, but whatever the reason, large numbers of executions took place there.

Later, the city was besieged twice during the Napoleonic Peninsular War, including once where more than 50,000 defenders were killed. It eventually surrendered in 1809 to Napoleon’s forces (apparently the French just hate them some Zaragoza), but was liberated relatively quickly as Napoleon was swept out of Spain.

The city was once based mainly on agriculture, but is now floundering slightly in the modern economic world, with only its Opel factory a few miles outside of town putting it on the economic map. The city was host to the 2008 World’s Fair, which I guess is positive. Anyway, enough culture cause it’s getting boring. They’re all just plain old Spaniards, right? Right?

Real Zaragoza was founded in 1932 and they made their La Liga debut in in the 1939-40 season. They’ve never won the league (they were 2nd in 1974-75, 1 point ahead of Barça*), but have won the Copa del Rey 6 times, the most recent being in 03-04 when they beat RM’s galacticos through goals from Catalunya native and RM youth product Dani Garcia (who played for us from 1999 through 2003), this one guy named David Villa who you may have heard of, and the winner in the 111th minute coming from Argentine Luciano Galletti.

Their venerable ground, La Romareda, was opened on September 8, 1957, just 16 days before the Camp Nou first opened its doors. It can seat right around 34,500 and it’s pitch is listed as 107m x 68m, which is 2 meters longer than the Camp Nou’s and 4 meters narrower. That means it’s 284 square meters smaller than our pitch, though the width shouldn’t be a problem because, um, we’re really good and, they’re, well, read on…

Zaragoza entered their first match with us in 13th place and got a 6-1 lambasting at the Camp Nou for their troubles, with Keita netting a hat trick, Ibra grabbing 2, and Messi 1. They’re currently in 17th place, 3 points clear of the relegation zone, with 23 points to our 65. My preview of their visit was all about regaining our swagger and dismissing the idea of a “crisis” after our loss to Rubin Kazan, which we did with aplomb, but this match is about maintaining our current streak, which is 7 goals scored and none allowed in the last 2 matches. Zaragoza have drawn their last two (1-1 against Atleti and 0-0 at Santander), but they’re still fully capable of putting a hurting on us. It’s their house, after all.

Their leading scorer is actually a 3-way tie between Javier Arizmendi, Abel Aguilar, and Humberto Suazo, who all have 4 goals apiece. Angel Lafita has 3 goals and should be more dangerous than he currently is, but something’s going on with him. They also have Jermaine Pennant, who…well he sucks, so whatever. Sid Lowe’s Pennant watch is just sad at this point. 21 games, 0 goals and, really, very little impact.

Stats comparison:

Zaragoza: 6W-8D-12L (30GF 48GA)
Barça: 20W-2D-1L (64GF, 16GA)

Zaragoza: 4W-4D-4L (14GF 13GA)
Barça: 8W-4D-1L  (27GF 8GA)

Our squad list: Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Txigrinski, Milito, Maxwell, Márquez, Jeffren, Yaya, Keita, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Ibrahimovic, Henry, Pedro, Bojan.

The absence of Valdes is more worrisome than I would have imagined, but obviously the more important absence is Xavi. Keita is back, however and hopefully we’ll see him as a second half sub. If Busi really is 100% after picking up a small injury against Stuttgart, we should see the same midfield of Busi-Yaya-Iniesta. I expect Ibra to make a return to the starting lineup, but I could see Messi being pulled if he’s not 100%. Apparently he has some sort of a abscess in his mouth (the wording being used is flemón dental) which prevented him from training today. Still, he’s in the squad list, which is good.

Predicted lineup: Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Maxwell, Busi, The Yaya, Iniesta, Henry, Ibra, Pedro!

Obviously someone will have to step up in Messi’s absence, but I think that that person will be…wait for it…The Yaya. He had a terrific match against Stuttgart, which I think he’ll replicate against Zaragoza. He is, after all, an intergalactic force of good. And that has to count for something.

With RM winning (thanks to some bad reffing, apparently, not that Marca mentions it, though EMD and Sport were all over it), we need the three points to draw even in the league. I think we’ll get them. Official Prediction: 3-0. I would say 5325-0 because I think that the team should embody my devastation at Kansas’ loss tonight, but for some reason I don’t think they’ll notice…

Time: 9pm local time, 4pm EST/New York time, check your local time here
: In the US, the match will be on GolTV. Yay RayRay. Hey, that rhymes.

*It’s hard to believe, but Zaragoza ended up second with 38 points that year while champions Madrid had 50. Back then, a win was only worth 2 points, of course, but even at 3 points per win, Zaragoza would only have had 53 points to Madrid’s 70 and our 52. We’ve already earned 65 this year.

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


  1. nobody
    March 20, 2010

    I think its gonna be Henry or may be Ibra 😀 to save us this time. Wats up with Valdes anyways?
    Should be a decent game even with all those absences.

  2. stowe
    March 20, 2010

    this game worries me. i know we are much better, but i hope the team is focused. there are lots of injuries and the whole distraction of drawing arsenal. Hopefully Pep will have them set and we will take an early lead.

  3. Jnice
    March 20, 2010

    I think the Valdes thing is just a mistake by the official website, because they say all players were taken except Abidal and Xavi, and no other site mentions anything about Valdes.

    • Tim
      March 20, 2010

      Yeah, on the Catalan official site it lists Valdes in the squad.

      • March 20, 2010

        Oh, that’s good. I was so confused by that. I looked EVERYWHERE for word on it and nothing about Valdes came up. So that’s good. I’ll let my squad list and references to Valdes’ absence stand, but thanks for pointing that out.

  4. stephen
    March 20, 2010

    I think the fact we drew Arsenal, and played to well against Stuttgart is only motivation, tomorrow will be a bloodbath (sorry Zaragoza), these boys have a lot of intensity in their eyes right now.
    I like the 3-0 prediction, doubt much of Messi play, maybe some Ibrah Henry Pedro !

  5. Lev
    March 20, 2010

    Hold on what did I miss? Wasnt Ibra suspended for 3 games or did the suspension get lifted?

    • Karo
      March 21, 2010

      It was only 1 game…IBRA plz shut the critics up with a magnificent performance!!!

  6. cliveee
    March 20, 2010

    i hope ibra will regain confidence from this game on, and then play to his best for this moment in the season which i think is almost the climax! VAMOS IBRACADABRA!

  7. barca96
    March 21, 2010

    henry and messi should be rested.
    messi only come on when needed.
    henry can’t play 3 matches in 7 days.
    too much to ask from a 32 year old man.

    pep should give jeffren a chance

    • Jim
      March 21, 2010

      Can’t rest them both or we’d be in trouble. Don’t mind one on bench to be swapped in later. Neither should play a full game if its avoidable – but it might not be.

      Big question for me is does Pep start Ibra ? If he does and the team (for whatever reason) don’t play well it might eat away further at his confidence. Personally, I’d be tempted to give him the second half rather than start him. If we play well first half he should be able to fit in – if we don’t he has chance to show he can affect the game.

      • Jnice
        March 21, 2010

        I think that if Messi was fully fit, Ibra would be benched for a half as a message from Pep regarding his agent speaking in the media. Pep said it wasn’t his job to talk to players through their agents and that players should be able to control them. I think Ibra is lucky that Messi is suffering from this mouth issue because I doubt he would be starting.

        • jordi™
          March 21, 2010

          I had forgotten what a fat little douche Mino was.These agents need to learn this club is bigger than any player and pep can chose to play whoever the fuck he wants.Sick of agents.

  8. March 21, 2010

    ESPN Deportes recently wrote a piece (inspired by an English writer David Winner) equating different national teams to Star Wars characters. Just to share, here is what they came up with, and a short summary of their reasoning.

    LUKE SKYWALKER- Spain, the “new hope”, so to speak, Spain is the fresh new power–and the first non-winner in a long time that enters the World Cup as favorites.

    PRINCESS LEIA- Netherlands, beautiful, fine movements and good at hiding its weaknesses… but when things get really serious, steps back for the “real” protagonists

    YODA- Brasil, Master of Masters, and for good reason. No one can question their history, though at times seemingly slow, they are always capable of greatness.

    C3PO- France, gilded, aristocratic, tough… at its best with a hero (Luke… Zidane)

    R2D2- Mexico, small, always moving, likeable, though not very threatening

    DARTH VADER- Germany, dark, deadly, and robotic. Feared and respected.

    OBI WAN KENOBI- Argentina, a Master, won a lot of battles, and had inexhaustible energy. After that last meeting with Darth Vader, though, and he’s never regained that old strength.

    THE EMPEROR- Italy, Core of Evil, respected by all due to its mastery of the Dark Arts.

    JABBA THE HUTT- England, rich, ambitious, strong, and widely disliked. Owner of immense resources. A giant whose own weight is also its biggest impediment to progress.

    HAN SOLO- Portugal, at this point, nothing to lose.

    CHEWBACCA- Uruguay, old and powerful, but nowadays never more than a secondary character.

    THE EWOKS- New Zealand, a World Cup without New Zealand would be like a World Cup without the ewoks.

    Yeah, it’s a little Latin-centric, but it does a nice job of summing up the “stereotypes”.

  9. fcbfan
    March 21, 2010

    What did Maradona do to Messi hehehe. Anyway, Messi deserves a rest, Henry as well. Come on Ibra!

  10. fcbfan
    March 21, 2010

    and how about a Pique Gabi combo, against their old team.

  11. Helge
    March 21, 2010

    I also want Messi to be rested, cuz we cannot risk his fitness for the upcoming crucial weeks.

    But Messi was sooo important in the last weeks, I dunno if we can expect a trashing away from home without him. If Ibra doesn’t step up his game right now, I can see this getting ugly…

  12. y2k156
    March 21, 2010

    I do think we will see Milito today. I think Messi will be on bench. If things do not go right, he can always come for last 30 minutes. We have three matches in week so it is important for players to get rest and Messi is clocking too many minutes recently.

    It will be tough but we should still swing it.

  13. Cesc Blanc
    March 21, 2010

    little bit sorry about Jayhawks, at least because they blew my bracket. But on the other hand, my half-compatriot put on a show. Finally an Iranian made history in the greatest tournament on earth.
    Also, if Team S to T Izzo overcomes Maryland and Lucas has a good day, I kind of fancy MSU making it against NoI and they might make it to the Final Four again, which would be huge.

  14. csidle
    March 21, 2010

    I’m pretty sure the match is at 8PM local time, or well, I know it is. Not sure if this alters your converted time.

    • csidle
      March 21, 2010

      *”your listed time”, not converted time.

  15. csidle
    March 21, 2010

    No, it is at 9PM… That’s odd, I’m getting conflicting information from all kinds of sources.

  16. Vj
    March 21, 2010

    List out:

    Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Milito, Maxwell; Keita, Touré, Busquets; Messi, Ibrahimovic y Pedro

    No Iniesta/Puyol/Henry..

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