Liga Preview: Espanyol – Barça, Saturday 2pmEST GolTV
(If you didn’t listen to the podcast I did about el clásico on Wednesday, check it out here)
I don’t know what it is about them, but the pericos get under my skin. Maybe it’s that their main goal in life is to throw a wrench in the works of the cule machinery; maybe it’s because they’re boundlessly unlovable in the way a small club can be when they carry a chip on their shoulder at all times; maybe it’s because their president is an unadulterated jackass. I don’t really know. They are, to me, deserving of an absolute ass-kicking at our hands for the next 30 years thanks to the 18 seconds of madness a few years ago which I will not link to and I hope that we show them tomorrow how a real team plays.
Obviously they’ll come into this match claiming refereeing decisions will go against them, they’re the trod-upon little brothers in Catalunya, they don’t have the money to go up against the big boys from the city proper. I mean, because referees are always biased against them. Villarato extends down to the lower reaches of the table, where Espanyol currently plies its trade. Except, of course, for the inconvenient facts of the matter: Carlos Kameni got a straight red card on Tuesday for a pretty nasty tackle on Pedro Munitis (at 0:45) that left the striker out of the season with knee ligament damage; the card was rescinded by the Comité de Competición (Competition Committee) for what amounts to no reason whatsoever. They just kinda wanted to, I guess. Everything is so unfair! Everyone hates Espanyol! Waaaa.
Kameni’s inclusion doesn’t bother me, despite his obvious talents, for the simple reason that we’re going to crush them. When you go up against a Lilliputian and you’re Gulliver-sized, you should probably come out victorious. Naturally enough, you might not if you let your guard down and they tie you up while you’re slumbering, but if we play to our maximum capability, this will not be so much a derbi as a massacre. And we owe them for last year anyway, when they beat us at the Camp Nou (after an undeserved red card to Keita–Villarato!). And we owe them a few strong-footed tackles for the last, let’s see, how long have they been around? Oh, right, 110 years.
On paper, this is an absurd David against Goliath matchup. They’re 14th in the league with 37 points and a -14 goal differential while we’re first with 83 points and a +61 goal differential. Our top scorer is Lionel Messi with 27 while their entire team has scored just 26 goals all season. No, really. And their top scorer is a guy who arrived in January and has 6 goals to his name. That does, I think, put the Argentina-born, Italian Pablo Daniel Osvaldo in the danger man category. But is that just because you have to have someone be the danger man? The team is just plain awful away from home, but at the Cornella-el-Prat stadium, they’re 8W-5D-3L (18GF, 14GA). If you’re good at math you’ll be thinking about just how bad they are on the road. 8 goals away?
We are, of course, better at home too, but we have the best away record in the league at 11W-4D-1L (34GF, 10GA) and we’ve got the best players in the world starting to work together on all 5 cylinders. That’s a scary prospect for anyone and then Pochettino goes and does his whole “this will be my lineup” before we’ve even had the chance to put out our squad list. The official site gives just the squad list:
Kameni, Cristian Álvarez, Chica, Pillud, Dídac, Luis García, Ben Sahar, Roncaglia, Forlín, Baena, Callejón, Coro, Moisés, Iván Alonso, Víctor Ruiz, Pareja, Verdú i Osvaldo.
According to Sport, however, Pochettino is going to field the following starting 11: Kameni, Chica, Pareja, Víctor Ruiz, Dídac, Hurtado, Baena, Luis García, Verdú, Callejón, Osvaldo. I don’t know if this is true or not because there’s no corroboration from the official site, but if it is true, then it looks basically like what I’d expect out of Espanyol: to wit, a very mediocre lineup.
Look, it’s hard to write a coherent and balanced preview about team that sucks this bad. Espanyol sucks. They should be going down to the Segunda, much as they should have last year, but they’re getting by. Which is okay, I guess, cause that means at least two Barcelona derbis next year as well. I’d prefer, of course, to see them go down at the expense of a Tenerife or Xerez, but whatever, you can’t always get what you want and in these years of plenty for Barça fans, I’m going to be chill about Espanyol.
Psyche! Screw Espanyol! I hate those guys.
Our team is looking more and more robust, with both Abidal and Ibra returning to full training–though without medical clearance to play matches. We’ll see if either of them play against Espanyol, but I expect them to at least make the bench, though rushing them back before the Inter match might be a mistake. I’d like to get them match time if they’re fit, but risking them if the’re anywhere below 100% fully recovered is not worth it. Not with the league still up in the air, the semis of the Champions League to go through, and then the CL final if we’re able to make it there. I trust the squad that was put out against Depor to do the deed against Espanyol, but I think we’ll see Keita and Busi back on the field instead of Jeffren-Yaya.
Personally, I think Yaya earned another start and it was interesting to see how Guardiola deployed Busi when the latter was subbed on for Xavi on Wednesday. Instead of Yaya playing the Xavi role, it was Busi who stepped into fill those massive shoes. Hmm. A real puzzler because all 3 of them deserve to start, but there are only 2 spots.
Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Milito, Maxwell, Busi, Xavi, Keita, Pedro, Bojan, Messi.
Ibra and Abidal could start, but until they get the medical all clear, I’m not going with them. And they might be on the bench anyway, if Guardiola doesn’t think they need a full match to get ready for Inter or just doesn’t want to risk them in such a physical battle. And don’t be fooled: Espanyol is going to kick us and kick us hard. That’s how they play us because they can’t play us any other way. Espanyol sucks!
And remember, last time we played them, Messi wasn’t on the field and now he’s in brilliant form, as is the rest of the team. Scrappy-do-da nonsense got them a 1-0 loss at the Camp Nou, but it could have been a much bigger victory for us. Regardless, Messi + Xavi = kaboom for you. If you are an opponent.
Official Prediction: 0-2, goals by Messi and Bojan. I don’t really care what any of you say, we’re going to win this because we don’t know how else to end matches. Huuuuubriiiiisssss. Sure, but whatever, Messi has more goals than their whole team!
TV: In the US, this match will be on GolTV
Time: Kickoff is at 8pm Barcelona/local time, 2pmEST/New York time, check your local time here.
Weather: ~59F (~15C), partly cloudy, 0% chance of rain. Pretty perfect night for some football.
If you’re interested in running the liveblog tomorrow for us, please let us know by emailing us at team[at]barcelonafootballblog[dot]com. It’s pretty easy if you haven’t done it before. I’ll be at Woodwork in Brooklyn if you’re interested in meeting me. Email me at the address just listed and I’ll let you know when I’ll be there.
Okay folks–let’s freakin do this. 6 matches left, this one is huge. RM take on Valencia at the Bernabeu on Sunday and that could have serious title race, especially if we can get some David Silva scoring more goals action (and sparking more omgsilvatomadridomg nonsense in the newspapers).
PS. The image at the top of this post comes from here. For some reason it won’t save the link within the caption itself. Technology baffles me.
PPS. Can someone get Zimbio a new editor? Seriously. The above picture of Zlatan comes from here. Note the caption. In Madrid? Fuck you, Zimbio. Then there’s something I noticed earlier today here. I realize you think all black people look the same, Zimbio, but come the hell on, guys.