It’s obviously going to be a tense couple of days as we all count down, either inwardly or outwardly, to the kickoff against Inter on Wednesday afternoon/evening. Personally, I’m already dreaming about it in nervous and hectic ways, with the team scoring goals, but always needing one more to advance. My first thought upon waking up this morning was that we could win 4-2 and still not go through. It’s going to be a long couple of days…
But there is news afoot and it’s worth discussing:
The most significant news is that Sport is reporting that Guardiola already has his lineup chosen. If you’re surprised by Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Abidal, Busqutes, Xavi, Keita, Pedro, Ibrahimovic, Messi, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention to what has gone on since the beginning of the year. El Mundo Deportivo reports that Yaya may have played his way into a starting spot with his performance against Xerez, which was a glorious one indeed. Frankly, I would be surprised if Yaya started and Busquets didn’t and so I imagine that Sport‘s lineup will turn out to be correct despite several potential changes, including Maxwell for a possibly-still-injured Eric Abidal. Our French LB is currently working with physios on the field, but I don’t know what that means for his recovery time because the extent of his injury is unclear. Andres Iniesta is also training on the field again, but he is an assured absence until at least the last few weeks of the season and probably until the Champions League final, if we make it there.
Speaking of injuries, the word from Inter Milan’s camp is that Wesley Sneijder is working as hard as he can to be fit for the match thanks to an injury last week in training. There’s no word from the team on his condition and so I’m assuming that he will indeed play. Without Sneijder, they would be forced to field a far less controlling midfield and their counterattacks would have far less fluidity than they did last Tuesday when Sneijder was arguably the best player on the field.
There is also currently no reliable word about Maicon‘s status, but we’ll find out soon enough whether he’ll play. I imagine he will and that will make a massive difference during the game. He didn’t make the squad for their match this past weekend against Atalanta, but there’s also no specific mention of him on the official site as having missed practice. Backup Davide Santon is still recovering from a knee meniscus tear and won’t make the squad, which means they’re down another backup fullback in case Maicon can’t make it. As I said in the podcast I record last week, I want to beat the best, so if Maicon can play, I will not be disappointed. I am, however, a realist and know that his absence would greatly enhance our chances of going through, just as Iniesta’s absence enhances theirs.
The ref for the match will be the Belgian Frank de Bleekere, a man who is quite likely to ref either a semifinal or the final of this year’s World Cup. He’s generally quick to show yellow cards, which could work out in our favor or in Inter’s favor, though their history with him has been somewhat stormy (3 wins, 1 loss, but the loss took place along with Marco Materazzi‘s sending off at Anfield against Liverpool as seen above). I haven’t found statistics for our matches with de Bleekere, but I know that he reffed a 2007 CL match between Chelsea and Barça (the 4-2 loss), and the UEFA Super Cup match against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Because de Bleekere is known for handing out cautions, it’s worth noting that we have several potential suspension risks even if we do make it to the final. Dani Alves and Gerard Pique are on yellows and would be suspended if they pick one up on Wednesday. On Inter’s side, Javier Zanetti, Maicon, and Walter Samuel are all one card from suspension.
And of all of this de Bleekere business apparently means that Howard Webb will ref the CL Final. What? Really? Okay…on to other things before my brain explodes:
The Kevin Rating Synthesis (KRS) is out. Our latest match against Xerez rated a 6.62 average and 7 median, which is substantially better than our season-low of 4.29 average, 4 median against Espanyol the week before. The Inter match wasn’t rated because I did the ratings, not Kevin, so no word on where that would have been relative to the Espanyol crapfest. Our I found a mistake in the cumulative ratings, so I’m still working out; I’ll be getting that to you very shortly. For now, our best rated player in La Liga has been Eric Abidal at 8.38/9. Funny that he only has just one perfect 10 to his name in 13 rated appearances. Second is Valdes with 7.76/8 in 29 rated appearances (remember, ratings I made during my reviews do not count towards the KRS). The worst rated is Jeffren with 4.50/5 in 6 appearances, followed by Bojan at 4.64/4.5 in 14 apps.
Moving on to the Table Prediction Competition: Kevin O. remains in the lead. Check out the standings here. Please note that today’s standings do not reflect the Athletic-Osasuna score because it has yet to be played. Note that as a group we are all above the “children laugh at you” score, but only 2 of us are “not too shabby.” Ah well.
In Yahoo! Fantasy Football (league here), Hat Trick and Mes Que Un Club are the only teams with any real shot at the title with basically a 200 point lead going into the final 4 match days of the season. They’re currently only 21 points apart, though, so good luck to both of you and may the best team win. If you’re interested in how I’m doing, I’m in 10th now, having climbed up from 13th thanks to Sergio Aguero having a good match. FCBASH, eat my dust. My new goal is merely to end up in the top 10, which would be pretty great and then next year I’ll make a run for the title (and probably end up 75th out of 56 or something).
Okay, have your say in the comments, as always.