Heigh ho, Silver, a.k.a. “Looking ahead to the first trophy”

Pep Morato/El Mundo Deportivo

Hmmm….wonder what these two are talking about? I’d rather imagine that it isn’t the price of xocolata in Barcelona.

For anybody who’s been living under a rock the past few days, it’s international friendly time, and we have been gutted. The list of players who have been called to serve their countries is a big’un: Ibrahimovic, Alves, Xavi, Busquets, Pique, Puyol, Valdes, Pedro!, Messi and Villa. Yes, that’s 9 of our starting XI. But we also have, in a week’s time, leg one of the Spanish Super Copa against a Sevilla side that will be looking to do what it did against us in the Copa del Rey last season.

So now what?


Pinto, you’d better be ready. As Princess Leia said, “You’re our only hope.” Let’s assume that he got the pre-season jitters out against the K-Leaguers, and is ready to be the keeper who warmed our hearts during Copa matches and instances where he subbed for Valdes. He’d better be.

Back Line

After the lengthy conversation pictured above, I would bet the house that Muniesa will be called to take part, in a back line that will probably look like this: Correia, Muniesa, Milito, Abidal (not called for France). El Mundo Deportivo suspects the same thing, given that Guardiola and Muniesa looked to be going over formations, movement and expectations. Is the kid ready? He’d better be, since the only player that Sevilla will lose is Jesus Navas.

While I might not go to war with this back line, I’m fairly confident, given that Guardiola will probably play as defensive a match as we have ever seen, planning to tread water and not get too hammered in the first leg, then going for it when the big boys return for the second leg, where we are also at home, and will be spoiling for a fight. I’m confident in Milito, Adriano and Abidal. Muniesa will be the question mark, and he will be playing in an area favored by Kanoute, who gives experienced defenders fits. We’ll see.


We picked up a bit of luck here in that Del Bosque showed a shard of compassion in not calling up Iniesta. And Jonathan Dos Santos has had his request not to take part in the friendly honored by his federation. Whew! Whether this is club committment or fallout from the World Cup hooraw is immaterial at this point. You can bet the summer home (the main home is already on the table) that he will be starting against Sevilla. Will Iniesta be ready? That is, will Guardiola risk a dude who has only just recovered from being singed by the sun during his beach outings (“We shouldn’t have gone during the day!”) in Iniesta? He might see a bit of time, but not the whole match.

We also have, ready for midfield duty, Andrade and Keita, as well as Thiago Alcantara who, last I checked hasn’t been called by anyone, though Jeffren and Krkic have, for the U-21s.

I don’t want to sound like I’m crossing the streams and inviting Armageddeon here, but if we can’t deal Hleb and there’s nothing in sight, might we see a Belorussian sighting? Extremely doubtful, but stranger things have happened. I’m expecting a midfield trio of Andrade, who has looked better in the attack than at left back at times, Keita and Dos Santos, two veterans with a kid, and don’t forget that Adriano in his capers up and down the field, will in effect be acting as a fourth midfielder, as well.

The Attack

I don’t know what the hell we’re going to do. No Pedro!, no Krkic, no Jeffren. Henry is a Red Bull now, which leaves us with….

ZubiZa says “At Barca, we never give up anything.” Cool. But the Mexico/Spain friendly takes place a mere three days before the first leg on August 14. So to reasonably expect players to turn around that quickly and be useful to their club teams is absurd. Even in mid-season, that’s a huge ask.

So what are we going to do in attack? Normally we come at clubs with a three-forward attack. We have the likes of Jonathan Soriano, Edu Oriol and Benja (Benjamin Martinez, who apparently has decided that not only will he dispense with a last name, but the bulk of his first name). There’s also Nolito, who hasn’t looked bad against sub-standard opposition in pre-season and Cristian Tello, who hasn’t knocked me out but I haven’t seen enough of him to be able to judge.

I would bet against those sudden knocks players pick up that rule them out of duty for friendlies, but have the exact duration that will find them ready for the next club match. The timing is just too sucky. “Um, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has picked up a knock, that will probably keep him sidelined for four days.” So we’re going to be makeshift city, kids. Here’s how I see it:

Correia Muniesa Milito Abidal
Keita Dos Santos Andrade
Oriol Martinez Soriano

I can also see Victor Sanchez getting some time, as well as any one of about 937 Atletic players. All bets are off on this one.


P.S. Request. Let’s keep this a Fabregas-free post, please. The decision is made, it’s done and there’s nothing more to say. We have some silver to battle for, starting oh, about NOWWWWW!

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. DontPanic
    August 7, 2010

    I think JDS realizes that SSC game might be one of the rare occasions when he might be in the starting eleven. Better to try to prove himself to Pep than to travel to Mexico for a friendly. Recent Cesc conclusion ould make me very happy if I were JDS or Thiago.

  2. El Kun
    August 7, 2010

    The starting XI looks … decent, given the circumstances. But what about the bench? How will Pep fill it up?
    Btw, is Thiago away on U19-duty as well?

    Sevilla will come out all guns blazing… They know they have to get at least 3 goals to secure the Cup in the first leg. And I can see them scoring that amount, too 🙁

    • DontPanic
      August 7, 2010

      I don’t think he is. Canales is already playing with RM. Thiago is probably just waiting for his teammates to return to start training with Barcelona B. Or he’s trainig with Juvenil.

    • Jnice
      August 7, 2010

      Thiago is in Barça and will start preseason with Enrique and the boys next week, but I expect he will get called up by Pep to train and will probably be on the squad list. Maybe Romeu and or Bartra as well.

  3. August 7, 2010

    There is no right selection we can suggest, now that we will only have the ball boys to select from. Your selection is reasonable in such situation, but I may tune it a bit:

    1) Its better to secure defense and make risks in front than it is to do it the other way. That’s why I prefer a back-line of:

    Adriano Milito Abidal Maxwell

    2) Keita and the dynamic Victor Sanchez in front of the defense for cover with JDS and Thiago in front of them. That will give both Maxwell and Adriano the license to attack with Sanchez moving back to support Milito and Abidal. (And I am excluding Iniesta as an option whom I think will play that game).

    3) I am not sure if we will get back some of our players there soon enough to play. I need to check when and Where Sweden and Argentina will play for example. Or else, install two kids there from the pool traveled to Asia or one of them with a surprising addition of Rochina who is in a good day (not a final against France with U19 day) can serve as an offense reference for this game.

    All that without taking any Hleb in consediration. Caseres situation may offer a U-turn in the coming days. The biggest concern is Pep pulling a “We can do it!” decision out of his hat and throwing all the exhausted players on the field for this one. He did so before.

    After all, lets keep things in the right perspective, that’s just a super friendly game. Its cool to do the best possible to win that title but it doesn’t worth dying for.

    • Jim
      August 7, 2010

      I think if we’re talking about no more CB signings there’s no better time to take the plunge and play a kid. For my money Muniesa looked the part in his only effort before ( until he was dismissed obviously !) and I’d give him a go. I worry about Abidal in the CB position and he’d be better at LB. That would enable Maxwell to play in midfield. Was there a reason you left him out of your selection, Kxevin?

  4. Lou
    August 7, 2010

    Bojan, Jeffren, Messi, Hleb and Ibra all play international matches in Europe on the 11th.

    Alves plays in the USA, but that match is on the 10th.

    So depending on fatigue levels some of these players could start. I’d say most likely Bojan and Jeffren since they are young, have lots to prove and didn’t have to go on the exhausting Asia tour.

    August 7, 2010

    hi guys i was in holidays so i lost some things!any news about transfers?

  6. Roz
    August 7, 2010

    Del Bousqe is against Barcelona. Thats the only explanation for this madness.

    August 7, 2010

    and about del bosque the man is a joke.the war is already start.and we have to fight with less players than last year.i have a bad feeling now.our starters are really very tired and we have no back ups for alvez,pique,busi,xavi,iniesta,villa.sorry but pep and zubi must work hard.

    August 7, 2010

    very well jnice!i was in a greek island with wife and kids!when you go and where??

    • Jnice
      August 7, 2010

      Sounds nice… unfortunately I’m stuck in New Jersey, no holidays.

    August 7, 2010

    i will go to barcelona for the barca-sevilla game guys.anyone else?

  10. Lev
    August 7, 2010

    Jnice you are right it is not that deep. IT IS DEEPER.

    Del Bosque did not organize the trip to Mexico, the Federation did. You can bet that cules are heavily outnumbered by Madridistas in said Federation. Del Bosque sure doesn´t help by calling damn near all of Barca’s players though.

    El Tri will fight hard to beat the World Champions. You can bet our boys will come home tired.

    Bastards. If Catalunya had its own national team this kind of b.s. would not happen. They should definitely push for it just like Scotland and Wales and N. Ireland.

    • Jnice
      August 7, 2010

      Jnice you are right it is not that deep. IT IS DEEPER.


    • Luke
      August 7, 2010

      3 gigantic holes with this:

      1. Without Barcelona and its players and its style, the good people at Los Federation would be sitting on shit for nothing after the World Cup, if they even made it. They know this, the world knows this, and Vincente del Bosque knows this. He called them up because he wants them, this is a show tour for Spain, nothing more.

      2. Catalunya deserves it’s own football team about like the American state of New York does. Sure there are good players there, but ITS PART OF A COUNTRY. It is not its own autonomous region. Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland are all drastically different situations than Catalunya, in so many ways. Also, if they had their own side, Catalunya would be forced to call up Barça players to even think of competing. Joan Laporta and Sandro Rosell and the whole lot can bitch and moan about secession all they want, but it’s going to happen about the same time America allows Texas or California to do it. They can hold themselves out as autonomous and act all proud about it, but in the end, they’d secede and be where the good people of all terribly small nations relying on one large city to function without much in the way of homegrown exports are.

      3. FIFA will never let it happen. Ever. Never ever ever. Spain just won the WC, without the Catalan players they would be, maybe, the 15th best team in the world. And that’s generous. FIFA must approve such things and it is not going to happen.

      • August 7, 2010

        “Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland are all drastically different situations than Catalunya, in so many ways.”

        It worth noting though, that -historically – Catalunya had it’s established independent presence on the map before Scotland. So its not valid to compare it to the state of New York just because -at the moment- none of the two can have an independent presence (I never heard that New yorkers are seeking it in the first place-another difference).

        Now I am not sure if Catalunya was independent how things would have differed in this friendly. The assumption is a long shot. May be as Lev pointed out they would have been more Barca-friendly. But may be, Barca wouldnt have been as big anyway because the club’s success was built basically on the fact that it represents the none independent Catalunya.

        There is no conspiracy or anything, but VDB could have dealt with this situation better. Yet, I can predict that there are strict conditions in the agreement made with Mexico that dictates the presence of the star players. The game honors the 100 years of …I dont know what, but there is an event related to it.

        May be the Spanish federation didnt expect the NT to reach the WC final and thought the players will have enough rest before the game, so he can plan the super cup games before and after this friendly.

        • Luke
          August 7, 2010

          I meant that they gained FIFA approval for separate squads a long time ago (Scotland having possibly the oldest national team in the world and thus predating the need for such approval) and are thus vastly different. Were they all still part of Great Britain as a team, I doubt FIFA would allow them to depart today.

          None of this even considers that if Catalunya gains independence, Barça basically becomes a non-starter since they have no league to play in, unless Catalunya forms a league with the likes of Espanyol and Saint Andreu… Am I the only person who has considered this? I seriously doubt that the Federation would make an exception to let Barça in, since the only club I know of in the world that does that is Monaco, and I guess FC Toronto in the MLS.

      • FP
        August 7, 2010

        Let’s see how Espana looks without the catalans shall we ?
        Ramos albiol Marchena arbeloa
        Javi martinez
        Iniesta xabi alonso david silva
        El nino david villa

        With the likes of Pedro , cazorla, senna coming off the bench

        Do you seriously think that this team isn’t good enough to be in the top. 5 ? Some of guys’s arrogance knows no bounderies does it ? With or without the catalans spain would do well

        There is no conspiracy del bosque called players from every team including your arch enemy ( 5 players )

        • Stephen
          August 7, 2010

          The “enemy” doesnt have a cup to play for. If they WERE good enough, Del Bosque wouldnt even turn his head in the Catalan’s direction. Just saying.

        • Kari
          August 7, 2010

          While I don’t agree with the “No Catalans, No Spain Wins” notion, I disagree on the notion because Del Bosque called up 5 RM players, no injustice was done.

          The fact is, unlike EE, we have an official competition three days after this friendly, a competition we’d like to win. Calling up 7 BARCA players (that includes Pedro! and Villa) that would otherwise start that game for us (with, maybe, the exception of Pedro!) sucks major a**. It may or may not a conspiracy, but they totally screwed us over any way you look at it.

        • Luke
          August 7, 2010

          Top 5? Without Xavi the team would have been hard-pressed to make it out of the group stages, because they played poorly. And having Albiol and Marchena as your CBs is not something that’s going to go over well.

          I don’t know what “arrogance” you speak of, but without both sides, Spain and Catalunya, they aren’t winning the championships. That was the entire point.

          • FP
            August 7, 2010

            Kari I’m not saying that you shouldn’t feel hard done by what I am saying is that del bosque isn’t out to get you , Florentino Perez is the last person Vicente wants to help

            Luke Xavi hasn’t played a single good game until the knock outs I don’t know what you’re talking about , with or without him Spain would have played well and got out nof the group
            Spain won the euro with Marchena at CB so maybe he is not as mediocre as you make him sound and I won’t even bother arguing about whether or not Albiol is good

            Yes you were arrogant when you claimed that spain needs Barca style to win , spain played good football at the Euros and won the tournament in style with only 3 Barcelonista in Puyol , xavi and iniesta on the pitch

  11. Kari
    August 7, 2010


    Get ready to fail.

  12. Vj
    August 7, 2010

    Whoa, Raul in a Schalke jersey feels weird..

  13. madbarca
    August 7, 2010

    From what I have seen of Bartra/Fontas/Muniesa, the three most promising youngsters billed to fill the vacant CB spot I can say,
    Bartra: Strength:He is defender in Pique mode, is very good on the ball, confident to distribute and move up.
    Weakness: Lacks speed and has got burned more than once by quick forwards. Is not confident enough to go in for hard tactical tackles.

    Fontas: Strength: Has good build, good in the air and excels in one to one situations.
    Weakness: Lacks speed as Bartra and his positioning on the field is not good often. Also is less comfortable on the ball. However it might be said that he has been injury prone in the past season and prior to that the guy was quick.

    Muniesa: Strength: Reads the game very well. Quicker and is a HARD TACKLER “the Puyol brand”.
    Weakness: Lacks strength and is not that intent on attack.

    However of all the above I prefer Muniesa, reason the guy just loves to defend and never afraid to get into duels which is the primary characteristic to be a good CB. I just hope the lad comes through cause everyone knows Barcas attack but its Puyols defence line is the real backbone of Barca.

    • Jnice
      August 7, 2010

      Fontas is the most comfortable on the ball out of all 3. He was a defensive midfielder only a few years ago before being converted to CB. If he was fully fit, he would be a lock to play against Sevilla before the other two.

  14. y2k156
    August 7, 2010

    Considering Messi and Ibra play in Europe three days in advance and are unlikelty to play 90 minutes in friendly, i do think that two of them will start along with iniesta in front line. This is assuming no complications.

    Overall i foresee Pinto – Maxwell, Muniesa, Milito, Abidal – Adriano, JDS, Keita – Iniesta, Ibra, Messi starting 11. Now this is by no way shabby and i would be comfortable in these guys to get us a result.

  15. Kxevin
    August 7, 2010

    Ramzi, if you’d watched as much of Les Bleus as I have, you’d take back that Abidal at CB notion. Stat! 😀

    I’m not sure if it’s just the overall dysfunction of that back line or what, but Abidal’s tendency is to be best when he only has one part to worry about. When attackers come at him from left AND right, as they do when he plays CB, he starts to get a little flummoxed, which is a fancy way of saying “Oh, Lord, we’re all going to die!”

    VicSan is a nice idea in midfield. He also has defensive abilities that might argue for his inclusion. I just like the spine of Keita and the versatility of Andrade. Interesting choice, though.

    y2k brings up a good point, which is that those friendlies are going to be more like a short training match. So Ibrahimovic has an hour’s plane ride to get back, Messi slightly longer. I also like your Adriano in the midfield. He’s comfortable there. I just think that Guardiola will want that marauding right back. Andrade has only played there once and granted, he kicked out the jams (better than at left back, frankly), but I think that Guardiola is going to play this one very tight, particularly in their house.

    It will be nice to have matches worth worrying about again. It’s been too long.

    • August 7, 2010

      “Ramzi, if you’d watched as much of Les Bleus as I have, you’d take back that Abidal at CB notion. Stat!”

      If so, then we are doomed! Unless we sign another CB. Though, the games I watched for France, Abidal played as good as any french player in the national team. None of them was good? That’s my point, I guess.

      Pep mentioned that Abidal is an option he is thinking of as a CB. Using Jim’s logic in his respond to my comment above, if that’s the case then its better to test that option as early as we can before its impossible to engineer a plan B.

      I agree with you though, I always like to see Maxwell in the midfield. If the young kids are readier than I think they are, then your way it goes! Or else, I prefer protecting them from unpleasant situations that may turn to worrisome snowballs for the future A.K.A Giovani dos Santos episode.

      • Kari
        August 7, 2010

        Well, so long as we don’t defend like Legia Warsaw or Arsenal, I think it’ll be fine…

        And yes, Kxevin, it’s been far too long.

          • Kari
            August 7, 2010

            Aww, that’s for asking 😀 .

            It was nice, if I ignore that fact that we had a wicked rainstorm here in Ottawa that day. Hung out with friends, managed to see Inception (if you haven’t seen it, I’d recommend it!) and, best of all, I got my Barca: Best Year of our Life book as well as a Xaviniesta 68 Barca jersey, which I’ll be rocking tomorrow. 😀

            The match is at 7AM EST, right?

          • Jnice
            August 7, 2010

            Sounds great and that jersey idea is very creative and exclusive haha.

            Yeah, I saw Inception, partly because Jason said it was so good. It was great.

            The match is at 2pm in Barcelona, so that should be 8am EST if I’m not mistaken.

  16. Sasha
    August 7, 2010

    Well, if there was to be an upside (small) to all of this, it might be that our squad uncertainty will make it a nightmare for Sevilla to try and plan for.

  17. vicsoc8
    August 7, 2010

    For some reason I just think Bojan will start. A U-21 game three days ahead of the game… I think he’ll be ready.

  18. poipoi
    August 7, 2010

    … watching spain vs lithuania in basketball and we are up by 24 or so. We can manage to win both WC this year, it can be historic for our sport. Don’t know which one is harder, the football or the basketball WC, guess that the USA national team makes the basketball one even harder 😀

    I was reading the “independence thread” and all … in soccer many say spain would be little without the catalans or without barça, to me it’s bullsh*t even I am cule. Since I am one it doesn’t offend me at all but I understand that the point can make some people mad. The style is similar because there are many common players since “catalan” “spanish” and “FCB player” are not autoexclusive concepts …still. Just kidding but the day barça plays with both FB catalanes we can start to talk, like sergi and ferrer remember? 😀 Thinking differently, remember what Pedro! and Iniesta have done for Barça or what Villa can do. Same thing with the national basketball team, the percentage of catalans is even bigger me thinks and they sure are the best players. All I can say is how much I like to see to the huge “catalan” collective in the national teams (they are always numerous and good) getting along with the other players from different regions. The “Gasoles”, Ricky and others with Rudy, Calderon, Reyes and many more. It’s like the relationship Xavi and Iker have, I think they have been together since they were teens, I love how xavi always calls him “makina”. I just love it, terrasa and mosteles right there so what.

  19. August 7, 2010

    “Catalunya deserves it’s own football team about like the American state of New York does.”

    Wow. You’ve just shat on a whole lot of culés.

    As far as what would happen if Catalunya gained independence, I don’t see why the current league format would have to change. Either way Barça and Real Madrid need each other.

    • jnelson
      August 7, 2010

      I think the state compared to should be Texas haha

      • Kxevin
        August 7, 2010

        As Ramzi noted earlier, Catalunya’s parallels to Scotland are uncanny, right down to having been a sovreign nation, betting the wrong way in a war, etc, etc.

        We could debate this until the cattle come home, but the fact of the matter is that you will see Catalunya given its independence when Chicago is given its independence from Illinois. No, the city hasn’t asked for it, but as regards its fiscal and cultural importance, the situations are very similar.

        But I just don’t agree with the statement “Catalunya deserves its own football team about like the American state of New York does.” You could certainly argue about a nation choosing sides and dealing with what came to it, and Scotland fighting for its independence on the battlefield in a way that Catalunya hasn’t. I’ll buy all of that.

        But if a former sovreign nation wants to once again be sovreign, and they can make it happen, rock and roll. If it ever were to happen, I can only imagine that the Liga would bend over backward to allow Barcelona to remain part of the league.

  20. Stephen
    August 7, 2010

    Doubt that Guardiola would place the entire “youth” on a frontline, Messi will probably play little for Argentina, and will probably play against Sevilla, Ibrah could if he doesnt play long for Sweden, but seeing how he hasn’t played with them in a while, they’ll probably play him quite a bit, I feel.
    Hoping for a 1-1 or a 1-0 to us that game.

  21. Kari
    August 7, 2010

    Anyone else pissed that because of that stupid friendly, Villa’s debut for us is going to (most likely) delayed? I really wanted to see him play with us 🙁

    Ah well, guess him debuting for us in the Camp Nou is better anyway…

    August 7, 2010

    it s not our job the catalonia independency.let out of here political talks.you in america don.t know anything about the subject.it s stupid to compare catalonia with new york and chicago.

    August 7, 2010

    i live in a country with many wars and enemies trough all the history.i respect and understand catalans.i wish them one day be a nation as they want.

  24. Kxevin
    August 7, 2010

    Well scratch Tello from the list of possibilities. Hamstring tear, gone 4-6 weeks.

    Hey, did we let the renewal of Luis Enrique slip by without a hip, hip, hooray? Damn!

    • Jnice
      August 7, 2010

      Dang, Tello actually looked great in the last 15 min against the K-League All Stars.

      And yeah, Luis Enrique will put pen to paper this week, I think.

  25. stowe
    August 8, 2010

    the team also has to play a fixture tonight and beijing, and according to ChinaDaily, they have signed a contract to play stars. but it’s China, so who knows if that’s true. (i’m selfishly hoping it is because i would rather see the stars play)

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