Stay Focused: Barça – Tenerife

Som Uuuuunnn (the Mystical Remix)
New or Old, Som Un (Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe)

Liga Preview: Barcelona – Tenerife, Tuesday 2pm, GolTV

Before Saturday’s game, I exhorted the boys in blaugrana to unleash hell on Villarreal and to a certain extent they did just that. It was refreshing to see a game that wasn’t all hard tackles and closed space, but instead was full of one-touch passing and attacking moves by both sides (gasp!). Obviously our goals made it a little easier to accept some of the defensive frailties that led to Villarreal’s best chances, though I still don’t understand what happened on their goal and I still don’t know what Valdes was thinking with his Zambrotta-esque clearance to the wrong team. Fortunately, those are fairly easily corrected mistakes (says the guy in his house almost 4,000 miles away), so I’m not too worried about them in the immediate future.

That future is, of course, the arrival of Tenerife at the Camp Nou. It would be a tragic mistake to take the Canarian outfit lightly, despite their points haul (roughly 2/5 our own–35 to 90), despite their abysmal away record (6pts in 17 matches), and despite their prior loss to us in their home stadium. This will not be an easy encounter because they are fighting relegation with everything they have. Sure, the gulf in class is obvious, but if Osasuna can get within one horrendous miss from downing Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, there is no doubt in my mind that taking the day off will cause us to lose the league. And that would be some fun payback for the merengues whose memories go back far enough to remember Tenerife “stealing” the league from the capitaleños.

Matches like that remind us all that we have to fight until the end and never consider it done until the trophy is in our cabinet. We’re not there yet. 9 points remain on the table and only 1 separates us from Madrid, who have the luxury or the curse (depending on how you look at it) of playing on Wednesday with our result already known. We currently have the league lead and that means we hold our own destiny in our hands, which is perfect. Win out and we are champions. There is no margin for error here, despite Madrid’s visit to the colossal fortress that is the ONO Estadi (which we breached, but just barely). If, and that’s a huge if, Madrid loses or draws on Wednesday, we’ll be primed for the title, but we cannot rely on their follies to gift us anything. We have to fight through and stay focused on our own matches.

Stats comparison:

Barça: 28W-6D-1L (87GF, 21GA)
Tenerife: 9W-8D-18L (37GF, 67GA)

Barça: 16W-1D-0L (49GF, 10GA)
Tenerife: 1W-3W-13L (13GF, 40GA)

It’s the best home record against the worst away record, the overall goal difference versus the worst. Only Espanyol and Deportivo have scored fewer away goals than Tenerife (9 and 12, respectively; Tenerife are tied with Valladolid at 13–we play Valladolid at the Camp Nou on the final day) and only RM has scored more home goals than we have (55 to 49 with a game in hand). No one has allowed fewer goals at home than we have (10) and no one has allowed more than Tenerife (40). This bodes well, of course, but it means nothing come gametime, when we have to put our foot on the gas pedal and not let up until the final whistle. Guardiola himself has said he remembers the terrible first 10 minutes we had against them in their stadium and the danger that they presented. Fortunately we didn’t concede and we ended up romping all over them in a most-undeserved way. So:

Stay. Focused.

Their leading scored is Nino (Juan Francisco Martinez Modesto, if you’re not into nicknames), who has 13 goals on the season and was last year’s Segunda Division Pichichi (and Zarra) winner. He’s obviously capable of scoring goals and shutting him down along with their midfielder Alejandro Alfaro, who has 7 goals, will be a big step towards winning the match. Their squad list includes both players: Sergio Aragoneses, Luis García, Marc Bertrán, Ezequiel Luna, Culebras, Manolo Martínez, Héctor, Pablo Sicilia, Mikel Alonso, Ricardo, Román, Richi, Juanlu, Kome, Ayoze, Alfaro, Nino, Omar, Ángel. They love players with just one name, it would appear (or perhaps it’s cultural? Pedro, a Canarian, is known by just one name as well).

Our squad practiced as almost a full unit today, with only Andres Iniesta missing. Abidal’s status is still unclear at the moment, but if he isn’t available for the match tomorrow, I don’t think he should play against Sevilla regardless of his fitness levels. I think he’s a better LB than Maxwell, but Max has been fantastic after being forced to step in full time and I don’t want to underestimate how much it means to a back line to play together on a regular basis. If Abidal can get 90 minutes against Tenerife, I’m fine with him playing against Sevilla, but if not, we’ll need our back line to be fully synced in order to get out of the Sanchez Pizjuan with 3 points. No rust can be evident or we will lose to the likes of Luis Fabiano and Freddie Kanoute.

Thankfully–and I say this grimly, not joyfully–Busi is suspended for the match because of yellow card accumulation (the second yellow supposedly shown him during the Villarreal match was instead shown to Joseba Llorente, but Busi is still a jackass for not just subbing off). That means Yaya will start at DM along with Xavi and Keita, assuming that Xavi, whose calf muscle problems will not go away, will start. I can imagine Guardiola gambling here and putting Xavi on the bench to rest him, but I don’t know if that’s the smartest thing to do simply because it would require Thiago Alcantara to get his first start of the season.

Pep could do something completely radical, of course: Pique at DM with Puyol and Milito at CBs or Milito and Chygrynskiy. That would allow Yaya to play the Xavi and Keita to continue his box-to-box invisible enforcer role. Up front I expect the return not only of Ibra, but also of Henry, whose combined success against Xerez should be enough to inspire Guardiola to pick them again. Because Tenerife is fighting for survival, they’ll have to come out of their shell a bit to get some goals, which means we should be able to cut them to pieces if we create space through our midfield. That means Messi playing the way we’ve unintentionally become accustomed to (little flicks over the top like his goal against RM or his second goal against Villarreal) and Ibra playing the way he did against Xerez, floating sideways and facilitating using his passing skills rather than attempting to make diagonal runs (his goal against Xerez is the perfect example of his ability to find space when he’s not the focal point of an attack–but more on that later in the week).

So, my proposed lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Messi.

My “Peppy” lineup, which is the most outrageously Guardiola-ish lineup I can think of: Valdes, Alves, Chygrynskiy, Milito, Maxwell, Pique, Yaya, Keita, Jeffren, Pedro, Messi.

Holy balls that would be a wild lineup. And I, for one, don’t know which is the more likely lineup given Pep’s enduring awesomeness at picking absurd lineups no one saw coming. I therefore claim both of them as my guesses and any combo thereof. Booyah.

I’ll update everyone on the Fantasy and the Prediction Challenge on Thursday as well as attempt (attempt) to get both a tactical post written and the Schedule and Where To Watch pages updated. No promises, though, because it’s a busy week for me and, well, I’ve got a league to freak out about.

Official Prediction: 3-0, goals by Messi (who I specifically didn’t call as scoring against Villarreal to give him a shot), Keita, and Thiago.

Time: 8pm Barcelona/local, 2pm EST/New York, check your local time here.
TV: In the US, this match will be on GolTV.
Weather:  55F (~13C), some small wind gusts, 30% chance of rain. Not perfect, but the ball should fizz across the grass throughout.

And just remember, we’re a team:

Except for Busi, these guys are awesome
Denis Doyle/Getty Images Europe
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Written by:

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


  1. May 3, 2010

    There was some bizarre incidents this weekend, like the Ossuana open goal miss, the Gerard back pass, and the Lazio farce. I hate to see Mourinho winning the triple because the Media will be merciless on the Ibra trade.

    If we don’t have confidence resting xavi tomorrow, then we better do something to shore up our midfield for next season. I hope we dont spend all of our money on Villa.

    This is yet another big week for the team…

    • jnelson
      May 3, 2010

      I’m not too worried about Inter and a treble. I say don’t waste time rooting against someone. Then, no one benefits. Instead, I say let’s be better than them. We did that last year, so let’s try again next year! Visca el Barca!!!

  2. Vj
    May 3, 2010

    Hand of God in action right there..

    *Not that there’s anything wrong with that*

      • inNYC
        May 3, 2010

        When Messi grabs your ass like that, you are bestowed with supernatural powers for the following match. It’s nicer than having to drink his sweat.

  3. Tyler
    May 3, 2010

    How awful was that attempted finish on the 2 v 1 by Osasuna??? Easily should have gone up there and could have won it, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I want to see another Messi hat trick before this season is over and I think Tuesday would be a perfect day to do such a thing!

    • mike in africa
      May 3, 2010

      no no, i think against sevilla would be the perfect day.

  4. Flyzowee
    May 3, 2010

    Not that i have any roots to spain, and yes i do want us to win this game but honestly Xavi- please stay away from this game. lets grind out a result without him, risk him against sevilla and bench him against valladolid.
    My thoughts…

  5. Kxevin
    May 3, 2010

    So, whatever we are doing to keep Messi injury free (knock wood), we should be doing twice over for Iniesta.

    And no more traveling exhibitions. Look what capering around on a crappy, slippy pitch did to Abidal. I think even more than Iniesta, that injury cost us dearly. With even one of them, we’re probably in the Final.

    I think that next season, we are going to kick ass and take names. World Cup years hurt everyone, but they hurt incumbents more, particularly incumbents that send, essentially, everyone to some NT or another. Too many matches means injuries, fluctuating form and other vexations.

    Tenerife in our house will not be a contest, particularly not with Captain Caveman in the back line. He seems to want this Liga as much as anyone on the club. He was monster on Saturday, and should be again on Tuesday.

    • Tyler
      May 3, 2010

      I think I remember reading somewhere Messi has a trainer/dietician that basically is on call 24/7 monitoring everything Messi eats, how much sleep he gets, how much he exercises. Basically a shadow that makes sure Messi is always in perfect physical condition. I recommend we get a ghost for our own ghostface-killah!

  6. Kxevin
    May 3, 2010

    Oh, and Fabiano has a Grade 2 ankle sprain, Isaiah. Odds are that he’s out for our match this weekend.

    • May 3, 2010

      Crazy. I didn’t realize he’d been injured. I saw the guy roll over his ankled during the Atleti match, but hadn’t actually seen anything about him being out.

      I’m too focused on this whole Tenerife thing, you know. So much so I didn’t include a score prediction.


  7. Stephen
    May 3, 2010

    Just hoping we gain some good (other than points) from this match, i.e. Abidal some playing time so he can get out there over the weekend, which would make my life better.
    I think Xavi rest, half time we are not up by at least 2, then xavi in second half, also see Messi only playing 1st half, and Pedro! going in to make more magic happen (if again, we are up by at least 2).

  8. Flyzowee
    May 3, 2010

    Just a thought
    You know the general perception that whenever xavi is injured, iniesta can easily walk into his role and take over….well its def not true at least not practically.

    Sorry to use an example from EE but its like askin kaka to drop deep and dictate the tempo wen Xabi alonso is injured.

    These two players (kaka and iniesta) cant just suppress their attacking instincts..
    Just a thought.

  9. jose011
    May 3, 2010

    i don’t agree. iniesta is first and foremost a midfielder. he is just as capable as xavi at releasing a deadly pass.

    kaka is really more of a hybrid SS/CF.

  10. barca96
    May 3, 2010

    strange that you didnt pick bojan as cf isaiah.
    why is that?

    i would give bojan a starting 11 spot in a heartbeat! for what he did in the last 2 matches.
    but then i noticed that even if a player plays a superb match, he still wont be selected for the next match. happened to yaya. he played a superb match only to be benched the next match. happened to maxwell as well if im not mistaken when he played RB.

    hopefully pep will rest xavi.
    keita and yaya will be able to protect thiago.
    i read last year that xavi decides himself whether he wants to play or rest. he said it himself in an interview.

  11. BA
    May 3, 2010

    there’s been alot of arguing over the relative values of differing football philosophies after the Inter-Barca tie, but we should have realized Monty Python settled this all long ago:


    • inNYC
      May 3, 2010

      An all time great…”and Marx is arguing that it was offside.”

      • Jose
        May 3, 2010

        “Beckenbauer obviously a bit of a surprise there.”

        Hehehe, classic.

    • Miguel
      May 3, 2010

      luna posted that about a week ago. still a classic.

  12. y2k156
    May 3, 2010

    Well, I think pep will have team ready. I also think that Ibra will start this one. Tenerife are not going to play ball with us. They will likely defend and try to hit us on break. CT is best when other team likes to play ball so i expect him to play on weekend and Ibra to get nod tomorrow. Sadly i do not see Henry starting. He might come in but not start.

  13. Eklavya
    May 3, 2010

    My XI:

    ————–The YAYA————

  14. Jim
    May 3, 2010

    For me, if he can start then Xavi needs to be on from the start and taken off only if/when we are 2 up. Imagine the tension by the time he came on if we do it the other way. I’d also be tempted to think about the balance of the midfield so he doesn’t have to do much chasing back – that’s if we’re going to be chasing back much.

    Sounding like a broken record here but a pitch the size of Camp Nou, I’d start Henry on the left with either Bojan or Ibra through the middle (Pep probably has to start Ibra or the guy’s confidence will receive a bit of a jolt ). I’d even be happy with a Bojan Ibra Henry front line knowing that Bojan will come in leaving space for Dani. Messi can make a difference in no time coming on but might not have to. I’m keener that he doesn’t pick up an injury even more than Xavi as he could be the difference if we’re struggling in Seville all on his own.

    If no Henry then Pep really needs to tell Maxwell to have a go at them down the left but that means getting him the ball quickly. For me, Keita is a safe passer and needs to seize the chance to move it a bit quicker if Maxwell overlaps since Max doesn’t have lightning pace. Still think he has a lot of attacking potential if he only realised it. He can come in as easily as go outside and is capable of playing quick one twos when he does.

  15. Kxevin
    May 3, 2010

    Now Fabiano is playing down his ankle injury, saying that he will work really hard to be back for our match, the bastid.

  16. Bill
    May 3, 2010

    How about starting Henry on the left, bojan in the middle, and Ibra on the right. In the midfield, give the keys to Messi, Keita and the Yaya. Xavi can rest and be brought in if needed, so can Pedro

  17. cliveee
    May 3, 2010

    I actually don’t mind if we take Arshavin from Arsenal for around 10-15m euros. Truly understand he is 28, but I think he still has what it takes to provide width for us. Take him as a sub or whatever, I don’t mind having him in our small squad.

  18. ooga aga
    May 3, 2010

    bojan on the left, ibra in the middle. if we need someone for a header in the box, switch bojan to the middle and put ibra on the left.

  19. May 3, 2010

    Man I like that Pique-Yaya-Keita midfield idea…in fact why use center backs at all then? Play 2 extra forwards and call it a forfeit when Barca reach 10 goals.

  20. Ciaran
    May 3, 2010

    It may be an idea to have a 4-2-3-1 with Yaya & Keita, have Messi in the whole & Pedro, Ibra & Bojan up top. Bojan deserves to play both for what he did at the weekend and what he did against Tenerife earlier this season… 2 assists.

    I’m all up for tearing Tenerife to shreds. Xavi doesn’t necessarily have to start if Messi is deep enough but it would require a good game from both fullbacks & a lot more movement up front.

    It’s such a pity we don’t have cover for Iniesta & Xavi. David Silva would be fantastic to have in our squad for games like this. Xavi needs a rest and Iniesta is injured but Keita is not creative. It’s a hard one.

    • BA
      May 3, 2010

      fast-track JDS. i’m willing to bet that some confidence and a bit of squad integration is all he needs, young though he is, for games like this. he’s certainly developing in that direction. but you’re right, these sorts of fixtures are practically made for David Silva (or, equally, Arshavin or Modric) to craft out a place running the midfield in the absence of Xavi and Iniesta, or to partner with 1 of our 2 artists in the standard 4-3-3. we certainly are going to need some more creative midfield depth over the summer.

      • Kxevin
        May 3, 2010

        Agreed. Wish he were healthy right now. Might we see some Thiago?

      • Miguel
        May 3, 2010

        that would be awesome, but jds is out for the rest of the season(i think).

        xavi playing w/this muscle tear is commendable, but didn’t both henry & iniesta play the champions league final while injured? how did their subsequent season fare?

  21. vicsoc8
    May 3, 2010

    Fernando Navarro, Sevilla’s left back and a product of our youth academy has an injury to his fibula and will be out of our game against Sevilla.

  22. ermengol
    May 3, 2010

    “Ibra playing the way he did against Xerez, floating sideways and facilitating using his passing skills rather than attempting to make diagonal runs (his goal against Xerez is the perfect example of his ability to find space when he’s not the focal point of an attack–but more on that later in the week.”


  23. Tajh
    May 3, 2010

    Guys 2moro will be 100 appearance in the colors for Alves.(if he continues at this rate we may never guess how long he can go on for)
    But It seems just yesterday that we signed both him and Keita from Sevilla.

  24. Kxevin
    May 3, 2010

    I don’t want destruction. I just want a win. We shouldn’t look past Tenerife, but that Sevilla match will be huge. HUGE, I tell youse. There is real danger in two layers of potential error: we’re at home, which will make us exceptionally complacent if we aren’t careful, and our focus will not be there in the way that it should be. If Tenerife steal an early goal, it could be a loooong match.

  25. Miguel
    May 3, 2010

    check out this article:


  26. Karo
    May 4, 2010

    I would like to see a starting lineup of


    rest Mr. X and Messi but if we dont have a solid lead by 50 min mark bring em on!!!

    • Karo
      May 4, 2010

      I just realized Busi is suspended after picking up a 5th yellow. Maybe Thiago in for Busquets?

  27. barca96
    May 4, 2010

    why you predict bojan wouldnt start isaiah?
    he desrves it.

  28. fcbfan
    May 4, 2010

    This game looks deceptively easy, I am a little nervous. I just want a win and if possible a rest for Xavi.

  29. jnelson
    May 4, 2010

    im predicting, if messi starts, that he will net 4 goals in a 5-0 romp. Remember last time i said we would win 4-0 with 3 goals from messi. Didnt we win 5-0 with an own goal and 3 from messi?? 😉

  30. Roja_N
    May 4, 2010

    Hi kevin / isaiah – This maybe irrelevant to the post, but what do you think of Mikel Arteta as a backup midfielder for next season instead of the whole Cesc nonsense. He’s been barca B trained so he’ll have a good idea of the system and may be ok with having to shuffle between xaviesta unlike Cesc who would probably be in a funk at being left out. Just a thought….

  31. Kxevin
    May 4, 2010

    Since we haven’t heard from Hector in a while, I’m taking his industrial-size bottle of Hector pills.

    Sport says that we’ve reached “tentative” agreements (mind you, “tentative” means “We might be TOTALLY wrong about this made-up stuff, but here ya go.”) with Villa (through Valencia, since he is without an agent at present), and Angel DiMaria.

    –Also, Laporta is saying that if Henry wants to do, he is welcome to. We’ve all figured that he’s leaving this summer anyhow. Laporta has made it official.

    –The Child Humper, aka Franck Ribery, has said that we would be his “dream” destination. This deal, of course, is contingent upon a fair price being reached, us meeting his undoubtedly silly wage demands, and a liberalization of the child endangerment laws in Catalunya. (For those who can’t tell, I take a very dim view of Ribery’s admitted actions. In case that wasn’t clear.)

  32. Kxevin
    May 4, 2010

    And how could I forget this last bit of news? Iniesta is ahead of schedule in his recovery, and will travel with the team (not included in the side, however) to Sevilla this weekend.

    Though at this point, I say rest him for the remainder of the season, put him on that Messi Program, and let’s kick ass and take names next year, free of World Cup and Internationals obligations. Yes, they will be tired after the tournament, but they will also be fit and (hopefully) healthy.

    It’s go time.

  33. Urska
    May 4, 2010

    whats the thing about Busi and his suspension?? English offical website says he is out, but in catalan/castelano theres no word about that

  34. Tyler
    May 4, 2010

    hmmmm now they’re saying the David Villa arrangement was a ‘misunderstanding’ and we were merely inquiring to see if any offers had been made for him. How that turned into us giving them Pedro and Bojan I dont know haha.

    I think Frank Ribery is over-rated and fragile, and obviously has some character issues. I feel we have the money, our coffers are fiscally sound. Let’s splash some money for Villa. He’s only got a couple years of play left in him anyways and I feel we should give him the opportunity to play for some silver and help us out. Don’t get rid of Bojan or Pedro – loans maybe – but let them mature and grow but have an established veteran crack occupying the left wing. We can still platoon our canteranos and have a deep rotation of strikers so legs don’t get tired. AND feed Iniesta the magical messi elixir and give him the shadow physician!

  35. BA
    May 4, 2010

    one more reason why we should sign Andrey Arshavin:

    ** Hi , Andrey! I have a question. You know that many girls love to play football, but when they reach a certain age they find it difficult to take a ball on their chest, what would be your advice???))))

    Arshavin: It is better to have a big chest than an ability to stop the ball with it ;))) **

    from his website Q&A sessions. there’s tons of these, and they’re absolutely hysterical.

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