State of La Liga: Season Preview 09/10 [Update]

The dawn spreads its wispy fingers over the roofs of the neighboring buildings, sliding casually down Atlantic, splaying sideways at Flatbush. It dims the street light that shines through my window at that perfect angle where any attempt to block it from my eyes causes me to lose the air circulation in my room. I shift and try to sleep more, longer, anything to get rid of this feeling in my stomach. For once it’s not last night’s rounds with the boys that is causing me this insomnia. I look at my watch: 5 more hours to go. I roll over, pressing my face into the pillow. I roll over again, pulling the sheet over my legs then flipping it off moments later. I look at my watch: 4 hours, 59 minutes to go. I roll over, exhale.

“Stop tossing around, honey.” We love each other, of course, my girlfriend and I, but at 6am on Sunday morning, there is no such thing as empathy, just mumbled hatred. I try to hold still, but it’s too hot. I sit up and take a drink of water from the cup on the nightstand. I plop back down, exhale. “Stop tossing around, dickhead.”

I can’t explain it to her, she’ll never understand. It’s August 30 and I’m waiting as patiently as I can. I think she knows, intuitively, without having been reminded, that it’s Jornada 1, it’s el primer dia de la primera. It’s kickoff, it’s the beginning of another obsession. It’s gameday. No wonder I can’t sleep.

You say I can’t tell the future, but I already know how that morning will go, despite the distinct lack of FC Barcelona on that holiest of days. They play on Monday Night Futbol this time around, just this once, but that doesn’t make it any less special in the end. Or so I tell myself as the sun lifts off and kills any hope of falling back asleep. But you probably still don’t think I can tell the future. Well all right, let’s find out, once and for all, whether Professor Trawlaney college taught me anything about analysis and hypothesizing.

To the league, the protagonists of this preview:

The newbies, recently pulled from the purgatory that is La Segunda A, are Real Zaragoza, Tenerife, and Xerez. Of those three, Xerez might be in the worst state, despite being my FIFA 06 team, where we conquered everything in our paths because Barcelona didn’t want a new coach and the glory that went with hiring me. They floundered and Xerez, needing no capital influx to sustain its young and brilliant striker corps, went on to win La Liga in their first year “above ground” and no doubt would have walloped Europe as well, had FIFA 07 not come out. Reality is a bit harsher to the boys in blue and white, though they survived an RFEF inquiry into their finances that could have dropped them back to their previous league despite their championship year last year. It’s Xerez’s first season in La Primera and they’re probably not long for this top-flight thing.

But my first prediction is that Tenerife will finish 20th. Chalk it up, it’s as good as done. It’s not at all hard to predict that a team with few resources and no top-flight experience will be relegated, but I was wrong about Sporting Gijon last year, so there’s hope yet for the minnows. Not that you doubt me. They haven’t made significant moves in the transfer market (they lost Alfaro back to Sevilla is about all), which some might use to discredit their team, but what do you need a lot of reinforcements for if you’ve got a guy named Bellvis on your team? Sure, he couldn’t cut it at Valencia, but I’m guessing that’s because Soriano/Soler/whoever the crap is in charge over there couldn’t take another Butthead joke. Oh wait. Yeah, they’re going down.

19th will be Sporting Gijon, whose stay in the top flight has been far longer than anticipated despite their absurd goal differential (-32, worst in the league last year). They don’t have the financial sticking power that other clubs do and only an utter tank job by Betis, among others, saved their skins last year. History should be kind to these guys, but they cost me a drink last season (hey john!) and I cannot condone such insidious actions.

18th is the trickiest of them all, really, because the last day usually dramatically changes the landscape and a single goal can shift teams from third-to-last to 15th. Or vice-versa. Granted, last year was an insane year for the relegation zone, made all the more intruiging by a lack of competition at the top of the table, but still, there’s usualy something going on between 18th and 17th places, at the very least. Accusations of suitcases of money being handed out for good or bad performances will no doubt be replaced by delivery trucks of hair gel for Cronaldo, but I digress. I’m calling out Osasuna for this position, for falling into the gentle waters of the murky underworld. Sorry, guys, but life’s just not fair and your escape last year was but a small reprieve from the tightening noose. Think of it as your own, personal Incident Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (take that, David Pearce!).

Moving up the table, to the “sigh of relief” group, we find Valladolid, who will survive despite threatening to sink for almost the entire season, sort of like last year, except without Asenjo. They’ve got a guy named Pelé, so you can’t really argue with me on whether or not they’ll stay up. Nor can you argue with Manucho, who has claimed he’s as good as anyone else on the planet and has guaranteed some 350million goals this year while on loan from Manchester United–I think he actuallysaid 20 or was it 30? I’m going back to 350million.

Just above Valladolid, millimeteres from safety as well, is Xerez. Two promotion survivors? you ask. Well, yes, like last year, there will be teams willing to play worse than others.  I know they’ve got a crap budget and they’ve got kind of a wankery team, but they’ve added Victor Sánchez, so they have a solid utility player (to borrow a baseball term), but little else has come their way of any serious quality. Still, you have to like their chances against the above-mentioned clubs.

Almeria trundles in at 15 thanks to having to sell back Alvaro Negredo and his upteen number of goals, along with Bruno and Mané. They had a good run last year, but, like with Valladolid and Asenjo, you don’t lose a player of Negredo’s quality and do better. Goitom will help a bit, but not enough to push them anywhere near the top half of the table. Plucky, they certainly are, but I get to combine my fairly random antipathy towards Hugo Sanchez with a fairly nonpartisan guess that they’ll be near the bottom of the league. Yay, I suppose.

Athletic Bilbao, cup finalists last year, will do their part and stay up for another year, insuring that we’re all happy there’s further proof that you can, indeed, make a living by owning an all-Basque side. Llorente, ever the goal poacher, will score 50% of his teams total goals. Don’t act so surprised at such a statistical statement, it’s only going to be 25 goals. Yeste will have a lot more shots than that which will end up as souvenirs for some lucky kid walking by outside the stadium.

Real Zaragoza will get to stay up and handily — all the way in 13th — mostly because I fondly remember El Payaso Aimar and the Milito brothers rather than for any actual footballing reasons. None of those 3 players are still with Zaragoza, of course, but, among others, they have added Kalu Uche from Getafe and Jermaine Pennant on a free from some team in Blighty that dresses in red or something. Benitez is heart-broken about the loss, I’m sure. Lucky 13 is somewhere I’m sure most Zaragoza fans would be completely satisfied to trade their whole season for right now.

Poor Espanyol, who see their season begin to flounder even before the opening kickoff. Dani Jarque, blanqiazul to the core, got his wish and became captain, only to die a few weeks later (and 3 weeks before his girlfriend is due to have their first child). The tragedy that is a lost life is, of course, more important than a scuppered season (indeed a lifetime of scuppered seasons), but in a season preview, the importance of this loss to Espanyol cannot be overlooked. The team has quality — just as it did last year when they threatened to have the best stadium in all of La Segunda — but will it have cohesion without Jarque? They added Verdú from Depor, Ben Sahar from Chelsea, and Nakamura from Celtic, so they’ll stay up nicely, but won’t challenge for a European spot simply because Nakamura is getting older (as opposed to the typical player who gets younger). Match of the season, for them, will be hosting Barça at Cornella-El Prat. Sink or swim, our hearts go out to Jarque’s family and friends and I hope his child grows up to be captain of Espanyol (if it’s a girl, then I hope she’s the first female player for the team or something).

Dropping in at number 11 is Racing Santander, a team known mostly for not being all that good. They lost a boatload of people (Pereira, Zigic, Garay) and didn’t really get anyone in return (some guy named Crespo…but not that Crespo, unfotunately), but somehow I see them getting workmanlike wins against crap teams and getting hammered by the teams above them. Too good to go down, not good enough to break through. Ah well, call it intuition or whatever you’d like. There’s no rhyme or reason to this particular pick.

The crazies are out in force at Getafe again, enlisting The King (dude’s creepy) as well as some insane-ass ad agencies to tell us they’re going to run with the big dogs this year. They’re not. They’ll finish 11th and like it. They lost Uche to Valladolid and Granero to RM and then turned around and paid too much for Dani Parejo (€3m). They’re not big boys, but they’ll beat RM at least once, I’m sure, and garner that all-important top-half finish. For want of someone better to fill the spot, it’ll have to be Getafe.

Mallorca is basically the same team as last year, except with different personnel. What’s the point of betting against a team that, every single year, just goes about their business and ends up mid-table? So there you have it, Mallorca in 9th, not quite in striking distance of Europe, but never looking like dropping too near the relegation zone either. Ho-hum, guys, can’t you spice it up a bit? Where’s a retiring Eto’o when you need him for one last push towards the top 6? (La Liga Loca has them going down basically because they lost Juan Arango, so it’s really a competition to see who is most rightest, isn’t it?)

I’m going with Once-Super Depor in 8th. They haven’t lost all that many players of interest and also didn’t get anyone of interest, really. Omar Bravo is making the same rounds as always, shuttling between Mexico and Europe, confusing the crap out of me as to where he’s playing, why, and for how long. So…maybe he’s a part of their squad and totally maybe not. I’ve never been a huge Andres Guardado fan, but I have to admit that against most Liga competition, he can do damage with his pace alone. And that’s sort of how I see Depor as a whole: completely capable, but always overrated. So I’m going to overrate them and stick them in 8th.

The surprise of the season will be Malaga in 7th. And do you know why? It’s because they signed Xavi Torres from Barcelona and are going to find that they’ve got a pretty decent player on their hands. Obviously he’s not their only signing (Albert Luque still plays?), but he’s the one I’m most familiar with, so you’ll have to forgive me for focusing on Xavi Torres. If names meant anything, he’d be the greatest striker midfielder of all time. Unfortunately for the previously mentioned Pelé, they don’t.

There’s never a really good reason why Villarreal will do better than 12th, but they are always in contention throughout the year. Last year’s late-season self-destruction was a rarity and I don’t think it will be repeated. They added, among others, Nilmar and Jonathan Pereira, got a new coach (Ernesto Valverde), and lost Nihat and finally offloaded Guille Franco (end of contract and now he’s out of work despite starting for the Mexican national team). 80 league games and 15 goals does not a world-class striker make, but what do I know? I assume all 15 of those goals were against Javier Aguirre’s Atleti sides, making him seem irresistible as an attacking option. Now that he’s gone, there will be some serious ability up front for The Yellow Submarine, which is dangerous for everyone else. Expect Rossi to do good things this year, despite not having Altidore around to help him out — the problem is that everyone else above them has more talent than Villarreal. 6th, kiddies, is a decent showing in this league, just ask Malaga what they’d do for the Europa Cup spot

Oh no, Valencia in 5th? No Champions League for you, Messrs David, David, and Juan. The trio of Valencian midget attackers is a good one — a great one, you could argue — but the general incompetence that surrounds the inner workings of the club has seemed to have an effect on them quite similar to a tranquilizer. Why they’re so loyal to a team that occassionaly doesn’t pay them for a couple of months, I don’t know, but I suppose it’s commendable. I still think that it would have been better for Valencia to cash in on at least one of their stars to provide liquid assets, but if they’ve found a viable alternative, it’s somewhat hard to argue with that. The main reason for them sitting behind the other European contenders is their defense. They’ll score goals, they’ll have fun doing it, but they’ll also get manhandled a few times in defense. You read it here first, folks.

The eternal question of whether or not Atletico Madrid will choke and fail to make it to Europe seems to have been put to rest last year, but…And that’s the problem. There’s always a “but” at the end of a sentence where you predict Atleti will make the Champions League. Always. They’ve made all the typical moves you’d expect of Atleti in the transfer market, like keeping Forlan and Aguero, moving Leo Franco to Galatasaray and Coupet to PSG and picking up Sergio “the next Casillas” Asenjo (for €4m!), getting Jose Antonio Reyes back from Benfica, and they picked up some defensive reinforcements as well, all while offloading some inconsistent players like Banega (loan to Valencia), Maniche, and Seitaridis. You won’t find me arguing with their transfer policy, especially not when you consider how cheap their world-class goalie arrived for. So there you have it, Atleti will make spot number four and get into the Champions League…but…

After picking up Didier Zakora and bringing back Alfaro and De Mul from loans, Sevilla were basically the same team they were last year and I was going to drop them to 6th and then they went and got Alvaro Negredo from RM and beefed up their already pretty-damned-good front line. They’re still party-poopers for pretty much everyone else, simply because they’ve got gobs of quality (Kanoute, for instance) and everything to play for, but games against the men in blaugrana and the men in white will end in fat lips and L’s. Games at the Sanchez Pizjuan are always tough, of course, so look for a few key defeats there to paralyze others’ campaigns and boost Sevilla all the way to 3rd again.

It’s looking awfully similar at the top of the table, with Real Madrid coming in 2nd, despite their spending spree. If the focus is on winning the Champions League in the Bernabeu — and make no mistake about it, it is — then I think their league form will suffer to a certain degree. The talent on hand is massive, of course, but they are not yet a team ad have not yet found a way to win during the periods of strife that inevitably surface during a run at a title. That’s not to say that they won’t overcome such hurdles — actually that is precisely my prediction, what am I saying? Come the visit to the Camp Nou, they might be doing well, but they’ll leave with an L and a points deficit to the arch-rivals. I could probably devote a thousand words to their particular form of “transfer policy” but I’d rather move on, to something else. Like bird watching or smacking myself in the face.

And finally you have your champions: FC Barcelona. A 2-peat worthy of the ages, where a transfer policy that is a little bit more grounded will pay dividends. There are serious mountains to climb to win the league again, I know that, but my upcoming Barcelona-specific preview will take that on. Suffice to say that while our squad may not be mammoth, it is filled with quality from the top of Ibra’s shaggy hair to the bottom of Messi’s golden feet. It should be a battle for the ages when the two clasicos take place (no 2-6 drubbings this time around), but Barça will, in the end, come ou on top thanks to continuity and Guardiola’s Total Football philosophy. Pellegrini may be an excellent coach (and I have sung his praises before), but he has never worked in a situation like the cauldron that is the Bernabeu on a bad day. White hankies and whistles are par for the course in a 1-0 win. Imagine if there’s a 0-1 loss early in the season…Guardiola has dealt with this pressure and he will lead the 4-3-3 to stunning success once again. While the departure of Eto’o was sad for me, the arrival of Ibrahimovic has got me all atwitter in the brain, which is a wonderful feeling. I am anticipating what will happen, rather than dreading what we might not accomplish with such a talented squad. I have expectations, of course, but I am happy with last year to the point where I understand if there is no triplete waiting at the end of this go-round. Not that I’m not interested in it or don’t think we have the talent to achieve it, it’s just that I know how hard it is to repeat these things (it’s never been done, for instance).

I’m like a schoolgirl the day before prom: excited, nervous, happy, and, above all, I can’t wait to show off my pretty dress to all my friends.

The standings that you can hold me to in late May:

20. Xerez Tenerife
19. Sporting Gijon
18. Osasuna
17. Valladolid
16. Tenerife Xerez
15. Almeria
14. Athletic Bilbao
13. Real Zaragoza
12. Espanyol
11. Racing
10. Getafe
9. Mallorca
8. Depor
7. Malaga
6. Villarreal
5. Valencia
4. Atleti
3. Sevilla
2. Real Madrid
1. Barcelona

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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. Eduard
    August 25, 2009

    Bilbao will definately be higher, Madrid will come 3 or 4 after Sevilla and/or Valencia. Barca wont need 90 points to win the season this year, 82 will be enough

  2. Eduard
    August 25, 2009

    i’m happy Pep got what he wanted, Chygrynskiy is a good signing.

  3. Kxevin
    August 25, 2009

    Hey, remember when everyone was saying that Txiki B. sucked because we weren’t making any signings? 😀

    Just checking.

    The return of Guardiola kicked everything into action, and Txiki is fulfiling a major job of a club’s sporting director: Getting the coach the players that he wants.

    Not sure when the Chygrynskyy signing will be made official, but 25m was the magic number. Only time will tell if we overpaid, right?

  4. Basem
    August 25, 2009

    Don’t we already have milito, marquez as backups? Plus kerrison and that muniesa kid, that is more than enough. We should be spending money on a decent midfielder.

  5. Basem
    August 25, 2009

    My bad: Replace kerrison with henrique.

  6. jnelson
    August 25, 2009

    chygnasty? YES! one less badass to worry about on Friday. sweet….

  7. txikidracula
    August 26, 2009

    after losing arango to some german club & moya to valencia i don’t see mallorca finishing that high up. same goes for villarreal after losing nihat & the chileans: mati fernandez & pellegrini; despite getting nilmar(big fan).

    i’m thinking emery tries out zigic along side villa & silva just behind them. they’ll use the serbian to draw defenders out much like how gai assulin got all that space to play in against man city. i think they’ll make the champions league. sorry sevilla. maybe a long shot. shit is way too chaotic around there.

  8. txikidracula
    August 26, 2009

    *gai got all that space to play in thanks to ibra

  9. Kevo
    August 26, 2009

    I think Barca directive is not just thinking about THIS SEASON!
    It is correct, this season is super packed but some players in our squad are getting old and younger players need to step up to the task left by seniors.

    25m is quite a lot for a CB but if he is that versatile as he seems to be (CB, DM, aerial attack, ball distributer, leadership, etc.) then he can be worth it.
    Alves costs us 35m and people seemed to forget that.

  10. txikidracula
    August 26, 2009

    i’ve got a question? is c-nasty left footed? from what i’ve seen of him, which isn’t much, i think so. he plays on the left side of the other center back i think. would he & muniesa be able to pair up in the center both being zurdos? does that automatically move muniesa to left back?

  11. Kevo
    August 26, 2009

    I like lots of Rafa Marquez but he’s gotten injured quite a few times… hope he can stick around more because me loves hims tons!

  12. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    No, txikidracula, Chygnasty is right footed.

  13. Corrine
    August 26, 2009

    i think 25m will be too much no matter how well he performs for us, it’s just too expensive for a centerback. personally i think more proven defenders like vidic only barely get away with that price. but oh well, it’s about to be finalized and there’s no sense in getting fussy about it now 😛 he’s young and a signing for the future, so in pep we trust etc etc etc

    i kinda see atleti placing higher this season. out of all the other “top 6” teams i see them taking the most points off us and real. and i’d probably knock bilbao a step up too!

    oh ya and getafe will place MUCH higher because they have those cool burger king kits to motivate their players to score hahaha

  14. txikidracula
    August 26, 2009

    oh. right on thank you j-to the n-i-c-e. disregard that then.

    great read by the way isaiah. too busy being a chatty kathy to give you your mad props.

  15. jnelson
    August 26, 2009

    @Corrine and the BK kits:
    “So remember — every time a Getafe player does the King celebration this season, a marketing director gets his wings. And a little piece of the game dies forever.”-The Dirty Tackle
    HAHA. they have the King on the inside of their shirts! how lmao crazy.

    YouStillHere? has finally left. YAY! what a wonderful day. now if only we can get rid of monument…hmm….

  16. August 26, 2009

    Hey guys,

    Kevin and Isaiah, you guys write brilliantly! Love this blog!

    Is the new chap worth all the money? is it a done deal yet? will he play for us or against us on friday?

    I read an interview wherein Jorge Valdano said it’s very risky doing business with valencia cos their demeanor suggests that they want to sell a player (in real madrid’s case it was ayala at the time) and they decide to bail at the end. It was a good thing we opted out of the chase for Villa early although he is a crack!

    Kerrison didn’t do too well for Benfica last night acc to sport. He was too static, etc etc. Early nerves i guess. Hope he stands up soon.

    My argument with the subject of loaning players out is pretty clear. considering it’s essential that a player understand the barca philosophy, wouldn’t it be wiser to loan these guys to teams in europe that try n play the barca way? like Ajax and Arsenal for eg.?

    I agree Ajax may not be part of one of the strongest leagues in Europe but it seems that the adapting to a philosophy is more essential than the experience u acquire.

    Hleb is an exception to the rule because he’s a whiner who had the advantage of being an arsenal player but sub consciously refused to adapt preferring to wallow in self pity all season long. My favourite speed demon Overmars was great buy back in the day. 🙂

  17. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    GREAT Post Isaiah. funnier than the last one.

    wow… i was biting my nails with suspense, wondering who your prediciton for 1st place would be, Barca or the E.E. … ha!, just kidding.

    I think that when we go to Espanyol and whoop their asses, it would be a nice touch to not celebrate the 3 or 4 goals that we score on them, because of Jarque.

    oh, and if I am not mistaken, Ever Banega belongs to Valencia, and was on loan at Atleti. I think that you wrote that Atleti loaned him to Valencia.

    Great point about Madrid’s CL chase hindering their Liga campaing. i actually want them to do well in the CL for two reasons.
    A) obviously, i want them to lose concentration in the league.
    B) HOW EFFING SWEET WOULD IT BE TO SNATCH THE CHAMPION’S LEAGUE IN THE SANTIAGO BERNABEU!?!?!, and then the medals and award ceramony would be held at the Bernabeu. Imagine half of the stadium dressed in all white, watching us parade in their stadium holding the cup, pouring champainge, and general celebrating. (it would only be half white, because barca SHOULD get half the tix)
    -ok, this is getting WAY ahead of myself, but still, it would be awesome.

  18. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    Oh, and as usual, Crynaldo should be wiping the tears from his face, with raul, and kaka telling him that “it will be alright” and that “they tried their best”

  19. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    I just read that the president of Shaktar is a billionairre and is richer than Abramovich and is the richest man in Europe. Explains why this transfer has been so difficult.

    According to Jordi Cruyff, ” You give him 50 (mill) and he does not care.”


  20. yogi
    August 26, 2009

    Good analysis Isaiah. My dream as well is to beat Madrid in Madrid to get the champions league for second consecutive time. That would be awesome!

  21. Han
    August 26, 2009

    I’m in a mix here with you Isaiah and LLL. Mallorca is seriously weakened and will fight relegation dangers. Almeria will be on the outskirts as well, but I agree on on Zaragoza going for very safe midtable position (have nice team imo), same for the Basques and Deportivo edging towards Europe.

    Gijon will save itself by an inch hopefully(ditto last year) and either Valladollid or Osasuna will be in contention with the latter. Malaga and Getafe will suck and Atletico gets to be third because of Sevilla’s overreliance on ACN players.

    SO my prediction.
    1. we
    2. EE
    3. Gil y Gil
    4. Del Nido
    5. Dalport
    6. Formula Roig
    7. mini (m)EE
    8. Lendoira & bandits
    10.Batasuna & Friends
    11. Osasuna
    12. Hugol
    13. Michel the new Burger, by BK
    14. Malaga
    15. Valladolid
    16. Mallorca
    17. Xerez aka FC Shoot ‘m up
    18. FC Gran Canaria

  22. Alexis
    August 26, 2009

    I think we all miss the point of this signing. He is a young lad used to play in the UCL. Puyol is getting old (although I would like to see him having grandsons while still being our Captain). And Milito…Valdano was holding his tongue for a long time…but now he is self-praising about not signing him a few years ago for the EE, as he assures his knee cannot cope with three weekly matches.
    And guys, I am afraid he might be right. After all, the Argentinian has been injured for the last 16 months, and no doctor can predict when he is coming back (if he ever is). There are no announcements about him. That tells me one thing: the club might know it is difficult for Milito to play again, but they are trying to hide. I don’t know.
    So, it might be two important players less behind (Puyol has not renewed yet).
    I have read a journalist saying that, as this is the “directiva” last term, they are trying to get hidden commissions with Chryrgrywhatever in order to fatten their bank account before going home for good. I do not want to believe that. I think that Barça is above money.
    Time will tell…

  23. Cesc Pistol
    August 26, 2009

    “no top-flight experience will be relegated”

    You’re kidding right? Because what you said applies to Xerez rather than them. Chalk that one up. Xerez to be relegated.

    Tenerife have been a part of Liga the whole of the 90s. Personally I’d love for them to stay, if only to hurt Madrid again.
    (You atleast know of that right? RIGHT??)

    Anyhow, disagree with most of the lower half of the table and probably a few others. Can’t really elaborate now but whatever. =/

    Anyhow since no one responded to my comment on the origins of the whole “if they were in the chat world…” thing I’ll show you what I was talking about, just for laughs if anything:


    The real one was much older (and longer+funnier!) sometime around 01/02. Can’t find it though…

  24. Cesc Pistol
    August 26, 2009

    Sorry to say this but I’m disappointed with this one Isaiah. A good readbut hardly one that is well researched.

  25. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    Alexis, seems as if you have been reading too much AS.

  26. Helge
    August 26, 2009

    Isaiah, you mixed up Xerez and Tenerife in the final table, didn’t you?

    “Accusations of suitcases of money being handed out for good or bad performances will no doubt be replaced by delivery trucks of hair gel for Cronaldo”
    haha, that was brilliant. I’m looking forward to some more CR7/9/94 jokes during this season.

    Jason, the scenario you described is everyone’s dream here. It would be the ultimate experience for any Barca fan, nothing can surpass it, ever!

    And Chygrynskiy is about to reduce his wage from 3m to 1.2m ??? Now if that’s true he definitely is devoted to our club and I don’t think there are many players that would accept such a pay decline (even if Ibra said during an interview there are many players who would play for free at Barca… so why doesn’t he offer a pay reduction to 4m for the good of the club?:) ).
    Since he is still young and if he is also a great defensive midfielder, I think 25m is an acceptable price tag. If he signs a 5 year contract and you consider his rather low wage, it kind a reduces the transfer sum to 15 to 10m because other players like Mascherano would definitely want to earn 2 or 3m more per year.
    On the other hand, I suppose if he performs well at Barca, h will get a pay rise rather soon than late. Just 1.2m is nothing compared to the usual wages at this club…

  27. Han
    August 26, 2009

    Funny stuff CP.

    It would be breathtaking if Tenerife played their magic once again at the end of this season.

    When do they play madrid in the 2nd round?

  28. Alexis
    August 26, 2009


    You are right. I always read the 4 comics (Sport, EMD, Marca and As in that order) every single morning with my coffee. As makes me laugh even more than Family Guy. They somehow remind me of Stewie Griffins, willing to rule the world in a childish fashion.
    But you can only take that “panfleto” as a joke.
    However, as soon as they get a tread they can use to smack us, they do. it might be true or false.
    But the Milito issue has been a concern to me for a looooong time now. And it seems that the nightmare is here to hunt us…
    Anyway, if he cannot cope with three weekly matches, let’s hope he recovers to play at least once a week 🙂

  29. August 26, 2009

    For the younger/newer fans, Tenerife beat RM in the last game of the season to give us the Liga TWICE during the Dream Team’s reign. They should have a special place in every culé’s heart. I would definitely pick them to stay if only for that.

    The irony of ironies? Their coach was Jorge Valdano. 🙂

    Why do you think Cruyff always has nothing but good things to say about Valdano? As a coach, he owes Valdano BIG TIME 😀 .

  30. August 26, 2009

    my prediction is that atletico takes seccond place. they have so many gifted players and if they can come in this season with the form from the spring i think they can challenge us for the title.
    real i think is a disaster in the making nobody can live up to the expectations required there. i think cl is reals only hope

  31. yogi
    August 26, 2009

    if only atletico had added decent defenders and two central midfielders, they would have been contender. right now, and after watching their performance yesterday, i think they are likely to be in 3-6 band.

  32. Han
    August 26, 2009

    “As makes me laugh even more than Family Guy. They somehow remind me of Stewie Griffins, willing to rule the world in a childish fashion.
    But you can only take that “panfleto” as a joke.”

    Could not formulate that in a more rightful manner.

  33. Han
    August 26, 2009

    The 3-6 band for Atletico is quite derogatory imo, given they gave us a 4-3 defeat in the last encounter.

    However, your observation of their transfer policy looks quite right. Let’s hope they just stick to the 6-1 category (when we play them) as they have been last november.

  34. Mikel
    August 26, 2009

    At least As reserved a little box (however small) in their cover to announce that Barca were Supercopa Champions. Marca din’t even deign to do that (or was so microscopic that I didn’t see it). The mug of Pellegrini was the photo of the the cover.
    I remember that 5 years ago, As was considered an EE pamphlet, whilst Marca was a more fair tabloid, but I feel that Marca is trying to go for record Guinnes of fanatical newspaper.

    and waht about Milito? Has a date been set for his return? I really think athat in this day and age, 15 months in the sidelines is quite a layoff.

  35. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    I think As is worse than Marca, at least when it comes to the opinion pieces. It’s usually ridiculous talk about how after winning a friendly 4-0, they are better and stronger than us yadda yadda. I really can’t stand those opinion pieces. It angers me.

    I thought I read, a couple of weeks ago in Sport that Milito feels no more pain or something like that. I think Kevin mentioned might have mentioned it on one of his posts, too.

  36. kxevin
    August 26, 2009

    Yes. Last official word was that Milito was, after the last operation, pain-free and working out in Argentina.

    Frankly, at the time, he was worth a shot in the context of what our defense needed. Recall that we weren’t playing the offensive defense that we’re playing now.

    We wouldn’t sign him today, because he isn’t the kind of player we like on the back line. Which is why, if he ever gets healthy, we’ll sell him at a loss.

    As for Chygnasty, a reassesment of the fiscal worldview re defenders is valuable, in light of the Guardiola system.

    Defenders don’t just stand there and kick the ball out when it comes in. They start attacks, contribute to the attack on set pieces, even bring the ball up, to save Xavi some stress (skills that Vidic doesn’t have, by the by).

    In that context, a defender with youth, and the evident skills of Chygnasty is priced about right at 25m. Vidic would have been overpriced at the same number, IMHO.

  37. eklavya
    August 26, 2009

    Now we’re getting racy ads…

  38. August 26, 2009

    Our ex-player Ivan de la Peña is going to be Espanyol’s captain after Dani Jarque’s death. The Little Buddha sure put a hurtin’ on us last time they visited the Camp Nou.

    Frank de Bleeckere will be the ref for the UEFA Super Cup match on Friday. We’re 1-1-1 with him reffing us, the last match being the CL loss at Chelsea in 2006/07. Shakhtar is 1-0-1 with de Bleekere in charge, a win in the CL qualifiers in 06/07 and a loss to Milan in 04/05 during the group stage.

  39. Han
    August 26, 2009

    De Bleeckere is a belgian referee, nothing special too mention besides the fact that he has a tendency to go with the flow if you know what I mean.

    Some of his less than stellar games are imo a consequence of being bullied or influenced by homefans.

    All in all no problem, given the Monaco location for the game.

  40. August 26, 2009

    Also, Helge, you’re right, I made a mistake in the final table. Will correct.

    Tim, yes, Ambrose Bierce (reference this). Should probably have included a link in the original text. Will also correct that.

  41. poipoi
    August 26, 2009

    I don’t think txiki is doing a good job at all, we supposedly sign chigro 3 days before la liga starts for 25m, it would only be a good price if he plays well for a lot years. We changed ibra for etoo and some more money ok but what about keirrison and henrique? did guardiola ask for them?

    players 2009/2010:

    goal—-: victor, pinto and A KID
    2 cb’s—- puyol, pique, marquez, chigro, MILITO, FONTAS, MUNIESA, ABIDAL
    lb—- abidal maxwell and A KID
    rb—- alves PUYOL and A KID
    dm—- YAYA powerserg KEITA MARQUEZ CHIGRO and A KID
    2 “interiores”—- xavi iniesta YAYA KEITA MAXWELL THIAGO JDS
    2 wings—- messi henry pedro! bojan INIESTA
    striker: ibra, BOJAN, HENRY

    In big letters those who:

    1-will play cup of africa
    2- are still players of Barça B
    3- play in a “second choice” position like chigro as dm when he is a cb
    4*- milito, hope he gets well soon and comes back 🙁

    pedro! and bojan can do well in the wings and fontas or muniesa can participate in some games also but we need a midfielder or “interior” as pep has said in press conferences I think. We have some good Barça B players and we have many players that can play well in different positions… to be a team and make differents tasks at some time is a good thing but having 20 players (with milito yaya and keita that will miss part of the season) sounds risky. EE can’t win this liga and they have like 26 players, maybe one or a couple less.. but FCB players are better for sure and they know their style of playing… + ibrahimovic.

    Keita yaya and busi can play dm and interior / iniesta interior and wing / henry messi and bojan as 9 and wing / marquez, pique or chigro can play cb and dm / pedro both wings… looks like pep touches a lot of strings 😉 In pep we trust and he can make it work but I think the list of players is short anyway.

    I want to know how well will Valderde do with Vila-real, or or how well Atleti or Sevilla or Valencia will end so this league is not a thing of two again 😉

  42. August 26, 2009

    Tim, just realized what you mean by your question (I think) — also provided a link to “David Pearce” which just happens to rhyme with Ambrose Bierce. And I corrected the title of the short story (Occurrence and not Incident) as well. Totally kerfluffled that reference, eh?

  43. eklavya
    August 26, 2009

    Apparently Bojan will miss 6 games due to the U-21 world cup.

  44. Han
    August 26, 2009

    Always a great tournament to watch the stars of tomorrow. Saw that whole tournament in Holland (2005) a couple of years back when Messi was just unstoppable. Got benched first game, never ever since. He scored an absolute screamer in the semi-final, omfg.

    Great Argentina team that year btw, including: Messi, Aguero, Gago, Zabaleta, Biglia, Garay, …

  45. Kxevin
    August 26, 2009

    But poipoi, every transfer’s price becomes clearer over time. Chygrynskyy is no exception.

    Henrique was desired by Guardiola. Keirrison was not, which is part of why he went on immediate loan. The mechanism was in place already, so Guardiola said “What the hell,” and shipped him off.

    Chygrynskyy is fit and ready to go. It is easier for defenders, particularly defenders that play as he does, to integrate into our system than attackers. Based on what I’ve seen, he will be an excellent addition to the side.

    Who is right and who is wrong? Only time will tell.

    I think you can count Milito out for this season. My guess is that the club already has. Last reasonable estimate had him rejoining the training in October or November. That will be almost two years of no match play. Plus, he isn’t the kind of defender that we need any longer.

  46. Hector
    August 26, 2009

    Hmm… Some Barcelona CB clarifications seem to be in order *plots*.

    Han- That tournament gave me goosebumps. Messi had the most dominating overall performance from a youth player that I had ever seen. They lost against the USA of all teams when Messi started off in the bench. After that, it was total destruction for everybody else. His game against Brazil was the stuff of legends. He scored the first with that screamer you referenced and then assisted the game winner (at the 90th minute) to Zabaleta by skinning a Brazil defenfer from the left and crossing in. After that, some knew he would be great.

  47. Han
    August 26, 2009

    Absolutely agree, that tournament at least for me made it clear we had something special in the band of the best future footballer EVER at our club.

    Btw: nobody apparently looked closely at my prediction for La Liga… misses something… like two teams participating to make the total of 20 clubs (oops)

  48. Han
    August 26, 2009

    Btw, not proclaiming I knew he would become the nr.1 worldwide. As Hector mentions, You knew this kid was the best ever seen from a player that age.

    Btw: I forgot Santander and Gijon. Both are anyway not likely to have a big impact on LFP.

  49. eklavya
    August 26, 2009

    Ahh auto-correction Isaiah….

  50. Thelonious
    August 26, 2009

    Interesting. I think Atleti are going to come in third. Then Sevilla.


  51. August 26, 2009

    I can understand the argument that Atleti will come in 3rd, buuut….

    And that’s really all I have going for my version of things. It’s just that, well, it’s Atleti, people!

  52. August 26, 2009

    i have to agree with alexis (and whomever agreed with him before i did): signing chy implies milito is not going to make it. so valdano’s people were right not to sign him. big deal. he’s a nice fella and a friend of messi’s and the year he didn’t play we happened to win… how many titles? three, right? pity valdano is not commenting on other players they didn’t keep or sign. would he be as proud to talk about letting eto’o go? thing is, one reads the comic-books, as alexis calls them, and there’s something weird. why is valdano, usually a cool guy, attacking barcelona one week before the league starts? and why is pique mocking ee? are they already that nervous? have we really become that cool? well yeah, pique is cool. pique is piquembauer. and the word around here is, should madrid mess up this season, having spent all that money, having lost all possible alternatives to rule the club, well, they may face a four-five years period of doom.
    going back to chy, i think guardiola is thinking of a yaya part two. a guy who can come out from the center of the defense here and then cover xavi’s (and everybody’s) backs there. always playing the ball. so there you have two replacements for the price of one. better than signing two 12,5 mill. ones, i guess. but time will tell.
    finally, isaiah, i liked your post. ’cause i feel the same, just opposite: i find it hard to sleep after the games. whether we win or we lose, the euphoria or the sadness will make me wander the house up and down while my gf wishes she was dating a chess fan. oh well…

  53. August 26, 2009

    – I am with Isaiah. I am sick of putting high expectations on Atletico Madrid before each and every season. Sevilla may create a big surprise next season. They strengthened their squad where needed. Fullback, DM, Offense. Great team indeed.

    – Milito…Madrid were not as right for not sihning him as Barcelona were right for not signing Garay. Milito played after Madrid rejection and performed great. Madrid later competed with Barcelona to sign him but he picked Barcelona for obvious reasons. His injury was bad, it happens. I still hope he bounce back. A solid defender who is perfect in building the offense from defence. Or thats how he used to be.

    – Messi was destined to be a great player. Even before he was born you could feel it comming.

  54. jordi
    August 26, 2009

    Valdano is a turd. he says they were proved right.( 4 years later albeit) about milito.And he he might have a point. But who did they sign instead? Woodgate. How many games did woodgate play?? 9 games in 2 years! He was injury prone before they signed him, during the time he played for them, and after he left. So has he forgotten about woody? atleast we got 42 games out of Gabi.

  55. August 26, 2009

    mjk, yeah, my gf is like that too, sometimes, except for when she’s wearing her Messi shirt and screaming with the rest of us in Nevada Smiths. But other than that, yeah, she’s like “why don’t you love JK8 as much as I do?”.

  56. August 26, 2009

    That’s actually a really good point, jordi. I’ve forgotten about Woody.

    I’d forgotten about him because he never goddamned played. And remember when he scored an own goal on his debut? Awesome.

  57. August 26, 2009

    Ramzi, I do like the idea that there was some cosmic hole that we all innately understood, then Messi was born and that day we all knew something good had happened, even if we didn’t know what.

  58. August 26, 2009

    Remember Arturo Lupoli? Turns out he was born on the exact same day as Lionel Messi and yeah, he’s a professional athlete (unlike a lot of other people born on that day, June 24,1987 btw), but now he plays for Ascoli in Serie B after starting with Arsenal. A different fate.

  59. Mher
    August 26, 2009

    Arturo Lupoli had amazing potential. Its a shame it wasn’t nurtured correctly. I believe EE will come in 3rd next to Athleti. Aguero is set for a crazy breakout year at his rate and i dont think, as great a coach as he is, Pellegrini will be able to put the massive puzzle pieces together in time to content for the crown seriously.

  60. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    Great point, jordi. If a Madrid fan ever brings that up like Valdano did, I’m going to quote you.

  61. Alexinho
    August 26, 2009

    Very cool links. That Ambrose BBBierce thing was cool, but not as funny as the Sport is a TV Show. Anyway cool post, though two big complaints: Valladolid higher, Villareal higher. The rest, I can see it.

  62. Ciaran
    August 26, 2009

    Did anyone see the story that Anderson (Man Utd) went mad at Sir Alex when he was left out of the charity shield squad. Sir Alex confronted him and Anderson wouldn’t back down so has been dropped since then.

    Now that kid would really be a great addition to our midfield. Doesn’t score goals like he used to in his younger days but battles hard and has great technique

  63. August 26, 2009

    Ciaran, but is obviously a little bit of a problem for anyone who doesn’t play him enough…

  64. Helge
    August 26, 2009

    I’m absolutely against a transfer of Anderson, he is cocky but unlike CR7 he doesn’t have the skill that might allow you to show some arrogance. I also think he is a difficult character. He shall stay at ManUtd, they might even have some use for him this season (if they don’t get Robben).

  65. Ciaran
    August 26, 2009

    A player and his character are often conflicting in terms of their usefulness. If Quaresma had Iniesta’s brain he would have been one of the best ever but his temperament is shit.
    Pity though.

  66. Colin
    August 26, 2009

    Nice preview Isaiah. You and Mr. Lowe have some different opinions, I hope yours are on point when it’s all over.

    Did you read Malcolm Gladwell’s article about “David and Goliath” strategies? It’s interesting when you think about Gijon, who play wide-open even though conventional underdog strategy is to park the bus. That’s part of the reason their goal differential is so bad (the other part being, they suck) but the David thing might explain why they way outperformed their Pythagorean expectation.

    My last memory of Anderson is SPF blowing by him to set up the Eto’o goal in the CL final. No thanks.

  67. Kxevin
    August 26, 2009

    Ferguson is right. Coach’s word is law. You might agree or not, but once it’s made, that’s how you roll.

    Mher brings up a good point about Lupoli and the “nurturing” side of the equation. In the pressure-packed world of top-flight footy, do clubs have time to nurture fully and properly? Or is that what loan programs are for, to send a player to a club at which he can do his job without the crazy pressures of a place such as Barca?

  68. August 26, 2009

    Just read Sid Lowe’s predictions. I too hope he is wrong about the first and second places.

  69. August 26, 2009

    Also, Colin, no I haven’t read Gladwell’s article. Got a link?

  70. Hector
    August 26, 2009

    I am very disappointed in Sid Lowe. I’ve always considered him as the best English language La Liga writer and even though he sometimes has too much of a fancy for the outrageous and the quirky for my taste, he would always use logic and facts for an argument. Now he proclaims RM to be champions but doesn’t give any good arguments other than “they should be favorties but something somewhere suggests they won’t be”.

    WTF, Sid? You’re better than that, dude. You’re better than that. 🙁 I can accept us being underdogs if a good reason is given but COME ON. Very disappointing.

  71. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    I’d love Anderson if he was an option.

    Henry and the BANGSTA din’t track back at Arsenal and Inter, but they seem to do it now.

    Again, i’m convinced Pep can turn anyone into an ambitious SOB. Unless you are a lazy, bitter Belorussian who refuses to assimilate.

    Anyone really Geeked about the Derby di la Madodina?

    Hm… the E.E.’s website lists both Sneijder and VdV as # 23. thats odd..

    and USA Today is saying that Sniejder has signed for Inter,
    although i checked both the EE page, and Inter’s page, and neither are confirming it, but then agian, allegedly the story is about 20 minutes old..


  72. Colin
    August 26, 2009

    Here’s the Gladwell piece:

    And here’s a link discussing how it applies to American football strategies:

    The second piece is good because it refines the Gladwell idea to the statistical idea of variance. Short story, underdogs want more variance. I’d say Gijon brings in more variance through their wide open style. When they lose, they lose big (although they likely would have anyway), but they get some points they wouldn’t if they parked the bus.

  73. ballbeav
    August 26, 2009

    so will i be streaming the supercup on friday? booooooo.

  74. Hector
    August 26, 2009

    Its on FSC in the US. Also, Barca on ESPN on Monday.

    This is like nirvana for this disgruntled DIsh Network subscriber (not GolTV at home).

  75. BA
    August 26, 2009

    the Supercup on Friday is being shown on FSC.

  76. August 26, 2009

    ballbeav, yeah, it’s on FSC and FSE (Fox Sports en Español). If you don’t have it, then I suppose you will, indeed, be streaming.

  77. Tutomate
    August 26, 2009

    Your right Hector, Sid was very poor onhis arguments in that basically he lacked any. All I was able to surmise is that he thinks they deeper squad and that we might loose some people to injury particularly Xavi, and Messi.

  78. August 26, 2009

    Thank you, Colin, I have printed it and will read it on my commute home.

  79. Colin
    August 26, 2009

    Sure, hope you like ’em. Brain food for the sabermetricly inclined.

  80. yogi
    August 26, 2009

    Well, Sid does not give any valid reasons to prefer Madrid. While reading the comments on that blog, i came across one interesting comment. Apparantly Sid never predicts Barcelona to win anything. Maybe he is Barca fan and superstitious that if he predicts Barca to win, they will not. Other then that, found his analysis quite good.

  81. fcbfan
    August 26, 2009

    Sid’s Barca predictions didn’t come true last season, so I hope that continues.

  82. MoSSi
    August 26, 2009

    Sid is a madridista, he is a commentator and analyst on real madrid tv..

  83. lovelymofo
    August 26, 2009

    Colin, that article is awesome. I love the New Yorker, they always have interesting stuff.

    I’m guessing most of La Liga would consider Barça the Goliath of the story, except it seems to me that the team plays a la David, pressure and more pressure, with the skill of a Goliath. If that makes sense.

    Anyway, I think (and hope!) that Barça wins the Liga again. What was Sid’s predictions about Barça last year?

  84. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    lovelymofo, I think he said we would finish 2nd last year. So like others have said, this is a good thing.

  85. Mher
    August 26, 2009

    Kxevin, look at how many clubs Lupoli has been through whether it was an extended loan or even transfer. He never got a solid first team role when it actually mattered. I was always a fan of him in his younger days, doesn’t he hold the record for most youth goals an Italian has ever scored or something? Either way its just a bit sad that somebody like him, though he still has a lot of time, has not progressed at the rate which he should.

  86. Hilal
    August 26, 2009

    Oh please, Sid Lowe is a joke! He always predicts a loss for Barca and then gushes all over us when we win, as if he had predicted it all along. Last year he didnt think we would beat either Chelsea or Utd and he didnt think we would win the league either in his preseason predictions. He was all praise in his post game reviews though. lol.

    Barring any serious injuries i dont think the league will be too much of a problem. MAdrid still have a lot of kinks to work out, whereas we can start right where we left of….only it looks like we will actually be better this time around. The CL will be a lot harder because so much of it depends on luck. From luck of the draw, to refereeing decisions, to hitting the post, it all plays a part. That is why no team has retained the CL trophy, but if any team can do it, it is ours…..just as long as the key players stay fit.

  87. Colin
    August 26, 2009

    @loveleymofo: I think Barca plays a high variance style, which contributes to the moments of beauty Barca are more capable of than any other club, as well as the heartbreak.

  88. Mher
    August 26, 2009

    According the Wiki(always reliable lol 😉 ) Lupoli had scored 45 goals in 22 youth games for Parma, the team Guiseppe Rossi came from. best in Italian youth history.

  89. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    Sid Lowe is the written version of Ray Hudson, you know he isn’t going for your team, but when he is heaping the praise, I’ll take it!, and i find the hyperboles quite entertaing!

    So, while i know Sid, and Ray aren’t pulling for Barca, i sure enjoy when they kiss our ass. Great human beings? debateable, but talented and entertaining journalists? definitely.

  90. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    Damn. I’m taking all online classes this semester.
    Its a good thing, except that my browser has a tab on my studies, and another on here. Its distracting.

    I am trying to concentrate on the Principles of Information Systems, and the only things circulating my nuerons are FC Barcelona, and the thought ofentering the exciting world of Home-Brewing my own beer.

    Oh, plus i turned 22-today, so i almost feel bad for studying and not drinking irresponsibly.

  91. JeffP
    August 26, 2009

    Wait a second. Do you actually blame Sid for picking RM as last season’s preseason favorites? We just came off a horrendous year and firing of a successful manager who was replaced by a manager with no first division experience. At the same time we got rid of two Barca legends (well, maybe Deco was half a legend) while having our #9 playing for the new manager who publicly stated he wasn’t needed on the team.

    Hmmm. I don’t know what Sid was thinking.

    Let’s be honest, even the most optimistic fan (and I count myself in that group) was uneasy with all the turmoil within the club at the start of last season.

  92. fcbfan
    August 26, 2009

    Last season Sid had RM as favourite because they just won the league and Barca have a new coach, and that’s logical. So why isn’t he using the same logic this coming season? he is a madridista! I love his articles though.

  93. OhYes
    August 26, 2009

    Probably because RM has a solid team this season.

    Good coach, great starting 11 and decent depth. CRon, the most well-rounded player in the world, Kaka, a great playmaker, Benzema, a good striker, Xabi Alonso, etc. In any other league, that’s the team that’s gonna finish 1st.

    Of course, in this league, there’s another team called Barcelona. Now we all agree that there are certain positions that lack depth. (Xavi) And there’s a player that most people (and this includes highly-respected journalists) think flops in big games, called Ibrahimovic.

    On paper, it looks like a decent match-up.

    Through the eyes of a FAN however, there’s a clear-cut winner. And Sid, being human, is looking at it through the eyes of a fan, hence the RM prediction.

    I think it’s highly unfair to label him a hypocrite, or to call into question the greatness of his humanity based on this one prediction. He’s just doing what WE do on a regular basis.

    And although we all love to talk about objectiveness, it’s just impossible to reach anything resembling that when you’re talking about football and predictions. This is not a science!

  94. jordi
    August 26, 2009

    Hes saying we only have 19 players so we wont win the league? Well im pretty sure he didnt know who busi was at the start of last season. Yet look at his rapid rise, to start a champions league final, in just a yeal.Or who would have thought pique would have become one of the best center backs in the world so fast, in contrast to the begining of the season.Similarly, i feel if push comes to shove this year we can trust our youth again if wee have to. JDS and Thiago are very capable if we need to use them.Hopefully it wont come to that though.

  95. OhYes
    August 26, 2009

    jordi: It goes both ways. There are times when young players are predicted to rise to the very top, but they don’t. There are times when they slip through the cracks, and rise to the top suddenly, almost over night.

    So, if you want to say that the young ones can very easily provide the depth necessary for a team to competitively play sixty-whatever games within the course of 9 or so months, that’s fine. But you have to know that it’s basically a 50-50 bet, AT BEST.

    Realistically, you’re talking about young players that are consistently inconsistent when it comes to the top-tier leagues. Busquets had terrific games, and terrible games, just like any other young and inexperienced player. Pique is an exception to the rule.

    Will JDS, Thiago, Jeffren, and the other youngsters provide enough depth to win the league? Maybe. But there’s a really good chance that they wont because young ones rarely do.

  96. OhYes
    August 26, 2009

    Let me add that I’m just being Devil’s Advocate here.

    The one thing I agree with is that Barca needs more players, particularly creative midfielders.

    But I disagree when it comes to who will win the league. I actually think RM has a great chance to finish 3rd because with all that pressure, all of those’s very hard to remain a good coach.

  97. August 26, 2009

    If I wrote for the Guardian, you bet your ass I would be much more objective with my writing.

    I absolutely love Dr. Sid as a writer. His style and ability to bring to life all the details and personalities of Spanish football in English are extraordinary. I never put much attention on his stances. Like Jeff said, he made a damn good argument last year for putting RM 1st and there are definitely reasons to argue that they’ll be first this year but he didn’t lay them out. It just seemed a little shoddy by his high standards.

    I guess I may just be a little disappointed given how I admire his writing style. I KNOW Ray Ray is a closet madridista. His delight in screaming “Hala Madrid” the past few years was definitely palpable. Yet I still love him despite his eccentricities and ocassional obnoxiousness and over the top-ness. Its his job to be sensational. Its Sid’s job to present a rational argument every now and then when he gives opinions.

  98. OhYes
    August 26, 2009

    No, he did provide a rational argument. The one I presented in my initial post regarding this topic.

    “Real Madrid: Higuaín, Robben, Van Nistelrooy, Sneijder, Diarra … and that’s just the players on the bench. (Although Madrid would like to get rid of Sneijder and Robben still). Ronaldo, Kaká, Benzema, Xabi Alonso, Lass, Casillas … It might take a while to get it really right but they will score plenty of goals. And, contrary to popular belief, their defence isn’t their weak point – certainly once Pepe is back. Champions.”

    It’s very hard to provide a rational argument that will convince everyone in a short paragraph, but there’s something there.

    He’s saying they have improved their defense, there’s a lot of attacking power, tons of talent, and plenty of depth.

    Barcelona gets a short paragraph as well, and his reasoning is equally consistent.

    “Small squad, long season (World Club Cup, European Super Cup, World Cup at the end of it), but still brilliant. Last season Messi and Xavi stayed fit; if that doesn’t happen this year, they could pay for it. Will lose Keita and Touré to the African Cup of Nations, leaving them with only three midfielders. Really should be favourites but something somewhere suggests they won’t be. Second.”

    Small squad, long season. Who doesn’t agree with that? Compare the size of this squad with ManU’s squad the previous season. Small squad = less depth.

    The new argument presented here is injury. I also think we all agree that if Xavi and/or Messi get injured for a lengthy amount of time, that would seriously jeopardize our chances of winning the league. 2-4 weeks out for either of those guys at the right time (e.g. during game against the better teams in the league) and there go a handful of valuable points.

    As far as the favorites thing.. RM spent a shitload of cash on a shitload of highly rated players. It goes without saying that they could steal a lot of hearts before the season even begins.


    It’s impossible to be objective when it comes to opinion. It’s hard to even come close. Never mind football predictions. Objectivity goes out the window.

    All I’m saying is: Cut the guy some slack.

  99. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    yeah, as much as i like his writing, i just read the article, and his “rationale” for why madrid was going to win was their squad list, and the reason we’d be second is lack of depth.

    Often, experience and training count more than the quality and quantity of the tools that you have at your disposal.

    and this is under the assumption that they have better players, which i’m not buying.

    Valdes v Casillas … (E.E) (i’m objective)
    Alves v Ramos … (FCB) (Ramos = Inconsistent and a shitty defender)
    Puyol v Pepe… (FCB)
    Pique v Albiol (FCB)
    Abidal v Marcelo (FCB)
    THE YAYA v Lass (FCB)
    Xavi v Xabi (FCB)
    Iniesta v Kaka (FCB)
    Messi v Cronaldo (FCB)
    Benzema v Ibrahimovic (FCB)
    Henry v Raul (FCB)
    10 to 1for us.

    or more importantly, Puyol > Cronaldo, Yaya > Kaka, Messi > Marcelo

  100. Corrine
    August 26, 2009

    the pots for the CL group stage draw

    Pot 1
    Barcelona (ESP)
    Liverpool (ENG)
    Chelsea (ENG)
    Manchester United (ENG)
    AC Milan (ITA)
    Arsenal (ENG)
    Sevilla (ESP)
    Bayern Munich (GER)

    Pot 2
    Olympique Lyon (FRA)
    Internazionale (ITA)
    Real Madrid (ESP)
    CSKA Moscow (RUS)
    FC Porto (POR)
    AZ Alkmaar (NED)
    Juventus (ITA)
    Glasgow Rangers (SCO)

    Pot 3
    Olympiakos (GRE)
    Olympique Marseille (FRA)
    Dinamo Kiev (UKR)
    VfB Stuttgart (GER)
    Fiorentina (ITA)
    Atletico Madrid (ESP)
    Girondins Bordeaux (FRA)
    Besiktas (TUR)

    Pot 4
    VfL Wolfsburg (GER)
    Standard Liege (BEL)
    Maccabi Haifa (ISR)
    FC Zurich (SUI)
    Rubin Kazan (RUS)
    Unirea Urziceni (ROM)
    Debrecen (HUN)

    tomorrow at 1:30pm eastern!
    we could get inter… imagine that

  101. Corrine
    August 26, 2009

    hmmm i should really catch up on comments before barging in

  102. Mher
    August 26, 2009

    lol Hector. RayRay is DEFINITELY a closet madridista, but a respectful and honorable one.

  103. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    does that mean that we cannot be grouped with Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United, AC Milan, Arsenal, Sevilla, or Bayern Munich???

    isn’t it also true that we cannot be grouped with Real, Atleti, or again, Sevilla?

  104. ElShowDeJason
    August 26, 2009

    who do i want to be grouped against? from group one, Rangers or Alkmaar sound easy, I’m picking Rangers. from group 3, Besiktas sounds tempting, but i want Yaya to tackle Hleb, so, Stuttgart,. and From 4, i guess anyone other than Wolvsburg or Zurich.

  105. Jnice
    August 26, 2009

    Jason, it is true that we can’t play against a team from the same country until quarters.

  106. OhYes
    August 26, 2009

    “Often, experience and training count more than the quality and quantity of the tools that you have at your disposal.”

    Barca has the best 11 in the world. No doubt about it.

    But it’s ALSO critical to have the depth. Because there are going to be around 60 games for the team to play, and like I said, an injury at a important time could jeopardize the entire operation. At that point, you can still have the best 11..but parts of it will be in the waiting room and not the field. 😉

    Imagine injuries during the ACN! My, oh my, how interesting things would get.

  107. Corrine
    August 26, 2009

    since when did real madrid’s surplus of players mean that they have depth? they have many good players to choose from in certain positions, yes, but i wouldn’t necessarily think of that as having a deep squad. with players like ruud, robben and higuain on the bench it seems more like overcrowding and locker room problems to me. having depth also means having balance and right now RM don’t have that.

  108. jordi
    August 26, 2009

    I wont be surprised if we get Inter from pot 2.But then we always seem to get lyon at some stage. Ideally, a group with Rangers, Beskitas, and APOEL would be great 🙂 It would set off the conspirathists for sure.But im up for anyone really.

    As for depth, it depends. If we had a squad with 25 players but 7 of them were hleb’s (the bad version f him), we might have the quantity, but not the quality. Then that wouldnt be of much help.

    A lot of quality players dont want to come just to ride the pine, unless we paid them like City and Chelsea do.

  109. OhYes
    August 26, 2009

    Good points, Corrine.

    And I completely agree with you. It’s the egos that I think will cause the downfall of Real Madrid.

  110. Kxevin
    August 26, 2009

    The real question, and one that will, frankly, decide whether the Liga is a horse race or a blowout, is whether all of the highly-paid talent at the EE will subsume any ambitions and ego to the greater good.

    What made us so good last season were two things, really: luck on the injury front, and the willingness of the players to in effect act like canteranos trying to secure a spot in the big dance. They played like dogs, in other words.

    If that same effort is there this season, we’re in with a real shot. But objectively, you can see how Sid Lowe’s prediction could come to pass. If Pellegrini can get that talent clicking early, look for a horse race. But every club has a lull in the season. We did, they did, and the same will be true of this season.

    And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m nervous about this season. We’re one wrong foot plant away. Messi we can play without. We showed that we could last season. Xavi? No way. Henry? No way. Ibrahmovic? No way. We’ve already seen the difference that those players make.

    So now we play the games. In many ways, many teams are weaker this season, making the task easier and more difficult. More matches have become gimmes, which also means more bus parking, and playing for the 0-0. And over the aggregation of a season, draws will kill you more than losses will.

    Just as we had the magical season last year, there is no reason that another club can’t have a season like we had, where everything just goes right. Frankly, I like that we’re getting used to playing without the likes of Iniesta and Marquez. Henry was, until recently, playing in his traditional early-season pain.

    I’m excited about this year. Hopefully if we win the Super Cup on Friday, Guardiola will think about contesting the WCC with a passel of young’uns, augmented with some veteran spine.

    Oh, and shock of shocks, Gudjohnsen doesn’t want to leave. Shit, who would?

  111. Kxevin
    August 26, 2009

    The Champions League draw will decide a lot as well, I think. If we get stuck in a group of death and have to catfight out way out, look out. That could mean fatigue for the knockout stages, and trouble in the Liga.

    I look for the kids to get a lot of time in the Copa, which is almost certainly the one competition that Guardiola has already decided to blow off. That, and the Copa Catalunya.

  112. Eduard
    August 26, 2009

    I don’t care who we play as long as the team doesn’t have to play in Eastern Europe or Turkey. There’s truth about the depth, however, most of our players can play multiple positions. That being said, our guys count as 1.5 opposed to R.Madrid players that count like 1.0 per player. that means barca have more depth. 🙂

  113. jordi
    August 26, 2009

    The Yaya tips all balance in our favor.

  114. Corrine
    August 26, 2009

    yer i just hate how rm’s overflowing squad is suddenly being praised as a deep squad now. you can’t splash out big bucks on a bunch of big names on top of the class players you already have and get boasting rights of a deep squad, you have to earn it with good coaching and clever signings and every player needs to have a role. but blah blah blah

    @kevin draws will kill you more than losses will
    lol oh god, you mean like liverpool? 2 losses in the entire season, maximum points against chelsea and manutd, biggest goal difference in the league, but a 2nd place finish. the thing is, like manutd, RM know how to win. their winning streak between the clasicos just proved it and they always seem to end up with the 3 pts no matter how crappy they play. same thing with manutd too… they had a pretty dull season and won most of their games 1-0, but bagged their 3 pts anyway. i’m actually really impressed with how far they got in the CL being the defending champions and all, and on top of that they had they won the league, the club world cup, the carling up and went far in the fa cup. hopefully we can kinda do the same

  115. Corrine
    August 26, 2009

    on top of that they won the leage*

  116. Corrine
    August 26, 2009


    aaaaah there should be an editing option haha

  117. August 26, 2009

    I honestly think that both Barca and Real will be a lot closer to the chasing pack (Sevilla, Villareal, Atletico, Valencia) than many people think. Barca can’t POSSIBLY have as good a season as last year on the injury and everyone-happy-in-their-role fronts. Real will take time to settle. If there is separation from the pack, it might happen in the winter months when the CL is off and teams get into a rhythm. But for the first 3 months of the season, I expect the top to be fairly bunched up.

    Real have an awesome team, let’s not kid ourselves. The only things in favor for FCB with respect to Real is (a) the possibility of dressing room and morale issues, similar to Barca’s in the 07-08 season and (b) on-the-field gelling issues. On (b), I’m also super interested in what formation and team they will play. For me, they should have 4 in the back, Alonso and Diarra as double pivots; and Ronaldo, Robben and Kaka playing behind Benzema. The problem with that is that it leaves Raul on the bench, which might cause issues, and that all 3 of the attacking midfielders are either classical wingers (CR, AR) or like coming in from the wing (Kaka). It also leaves the middle of the park completely empty, but on paper, that’s their best team and best formation.

    One way or the other, it’s going to be a helluva lot of fun. I can’t wait.

  118. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    All I’m saying is, we don’t play Madrid every week. Their squad is nothing to worry about until El Clasico.

  119. August 27, 2009

    Corrine, i disagree with you on the squad depth issue. i think the collective quality of a team is bound to increase if you have world class players on the bench looking to breakthrough into the first team. However, on the flip side if the coach doesn’t look after the squad and makes sure everyone gets playing time, then you’re spot on cos that’s where the dissension sets in and disgruntled fringe players are not exactly the ideal recipe for a healthy dressing room atmosphere.

    Can’t wait to see ibra in action again tomm.

  120. ElShowDeJason
    August 27, 2009


    do you mean that we CAN survie without messi,
    but CANNOT without Xavi, Ibra, or Henry?

    i’ll entertain the idea by saying that w/o messi, it is hard as hell, but do-able.

    I’ll even etertain the xavi thing, although, i think Iniesta is up to the task.

    as far as Ibra: Messi-Henry-Pedro, or Pedro-Messi-Pedro are suitable alternatives. If not, messi-henry-iniesta with keita in the mid.

    and finally, i cannot agree that henry is more irreplaceable than messi. I love henry, but he hasn’t turned the tide completely in as many matches as Messi has.

    i dont wanna start a who is more valuable to the team, but i cannot agree with the “messi we can live without, henry we cannot live without” statement.

  121. Cesc Pistol
    August 27, 2009

    You guys do know that Sid is a self confessed Madridsta, right?
    Just like both Phil Ball and Eduardo-TheNewGuy on ESPN. Not that it makes them any bad journalists but they’re always gonna be biased. Take most of what they say about Barca/Madrid with more than just a pinch of salt. Hell, take it with a handful.

    Seems like i have to tell the ins and out of everything :/

  122. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    Well, I think we can live without Henry for a bit as long as Iniesta plays LW. If that was to happen, then I would want Yaya beside Xavi with Busquets. Or even Keita next to Xavi with Yaya behind aka the usual. In that case, I think we could survive without Henry for a bit. If Iniesta isn’t healthy, then I think we will suffer greatly with Henry’s absence.

  123. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    Phil Ball supports Madrid, too? Damn. Oh well, still like his writing.

  124. Aeneas
    August 27, 2009

    Yes, Jnice. If you ever get a chance to read Morbo, which I recommend, you will catch his bias, however slightly.

  125. Cesc Pistol
    August 27, 2009

    Not just that he said it explicitly in his articles more than just once.

  126. Aeneas
    August 27, 2009

    good call, CP. sounds like I need sleep.

  127. August 27, 2009

    Messi and Xavi are the most vital player for the team.

    Last season Alves was the third irreplacable player. But with Maxwell this season we will always have an offense oriented Fullback.

    Yet even without Messi or Xavi, it will not be a problem. Iniesta can do the job. He proved that last season, though he will always be underrated in a way or another.

  128. Mher
    August 27, 2009

    On a side note, i think we have to acknowledge how cool the name Dmytro is for our newest potential signing. he shall be nicknamed Dynomite! and/or Dynomitro or Dmytrosaurus

  129. August 27, 2009

    Oh then Ibra and Yaya come on the same level regarding their importance for the squad.

    The only reason I put Ibra as replacable is not having Bojan, but Henry. his record as a main striker last season was impressive. He played 3 games in the league I guess, scoring 5 goals.

  130. August 27, 2009

    Off-topic question: anyone know where I can get an AVI or WMV torrent for the Barca-Bayern first leg from last year? I found it in MKV format, but since I don’t have one of those converter thingies (and I’d like to burn it to DVD), I need it in another format. Anyone care to help?

  131. Jnice
    August 27, 2009



    It’s in Russian, though.

  132. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    This one is in Spanish


  133. tom
    August 27, 2009

    Great post Isaiah. I think that Sevilla will fight for a second place against EE. And I would put Valencia ainstead of Atletico. Although they lost Albiol, they still have Villa and Silva, who are better that Aguero and Forlan. But their defence sucks.

    25M for Chygnasty is, I think, an overrated price. I would give for him maximum 17M or something. But if Pep wants him, I’m with him.

    What’s wrong with Eastern Europe?

  134. yogi
    August 27, 2009

    I find it surprising that Kxevin thinks that Messi is replacable but rest are not. Xavi and Messi are the two players that we cannot do without. I can bet that if those two are there without any of the first 11 in midfield or attack, we will still give as good as it gets to almost anyone. Imagine those two away from first team and things change. I think this season will show us relative value of each member. We will need to rotate players so that means we will play without one or two and then lets see how we play.
    I wish no one was irreplacable but that is too much to ask for.

  135. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    Well, I think Kevin may be saying that we can play without Messi as long as Iniesta is fit and on his game. Not that Messi is replaceable for the whole season. I think we are speaking in terms of weeks or at most a month.

  136. Han
    August 27, 2009

    I must mention this, just to get it from my chest.

    When we missed Iniesta last season, we almost always without exception lost points. I believe this fact makes him maybe the most invaluable player.

    Anyway, One thing is for sure; If we are without either one of Xavi, Iniesta or Messi we will suffer. Should we be without two of them, we will have a very hard time. Should we miss two of them for an extended period, I believe we could start missing out on a lot of silverware.

    So yes we have a depth issue. Problem: who can you get 2 replace those players at a reasonable price? If we buy “cracks” they will become unhappy due to a lack of playing time, if you buy cheaper we will probably have quality issues (think about Guddy). Should we rely on Canteranos than we have a bunch of overenthousiastic and unexperienced players replacing our keyplayers. All in all quite a dillemma, any thoughts besides playing the allmighty Yaya at the CM positon (as this is imo nr. 1 solution)?

  137. August 27, 2009

    Thanks jnice. I had already come across the Spanish one, but wanted an English one. Maybe I’m being too picky and there simply isn’t one out there. Ah well. Thanks for your help though.

  138. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    Ahsan, this is an English one, but it is x264. I don’t know what type that is.

    First Half:

    2nd Half:

  139. Jnice
    August 27, 2009

    Txiki basically confirmed on Radio Marca that we have signed Chryg. All Spanish papers reporting that as a sort of farewell match, he will still take part in the Supercup match against us tomorrow. Don’t you guys think this is kind of weird? I imagine that he will be super duper nervous and will probably get judged by several sources rather unfairly.

  140. Flippy
    August 27, 2009

    Sid Lowe said we are doomed if Xavi and Messi our out at crucial times, but what he forgot to say is that Real Madrid is doomed if they have Kaka and Ronaldo out at crucial times…

    I question Real Madrid’s “depth”: Who is going to replace Ronaldo if he gets injured? If Sneijder and van der Vaart are leaving, who is going to replace Kaka if he’s out? Which is a worse step down, Ramos to Arbeloa or Alves to Puyol? Is a balanced midfield one that contains 3 DMs (Lass, Diarra, Gago), 2 wingers (Ronaldo, Robben), 2 CM (Granero, Guti), and 1 AM (kaka)? Are Drenthe and Marcelo good enough? How do you keep 4 good strikers happy and playing minutes when there are usually 1 or 2 slots? Albiol used to be called Albi-own-goal by Valencia Offside. Is Garay world-class? How about Metzelder? Pepe is suspended for the first 6 games, which include two crucial games against Sevilla and Villarreal. How do you know he won’t do something stupid again?

    Other things would include keeping all players happy, keeping the fans happy, and avoid chaos and confusion. What happens if CR falls short of expectations? You can’t bench him, because he cost 94m. What if van Gol manages to fight his way to a starting role? You have to play Raul, because he’s a legend. Benzem was bought for 30m, which is still a lot, and Higuain is not bad.

    Phew…I’m never going to talk that much about Real again…

  141. OhYes
    August 27, 2009

    Ribery is CRon 2.0 because now, apparently, he is going to RM next year

  142. Hilal
    August 27, 2009

    Thank you Flippy, you just saved me the trouble of posting something very similar. All this talk about our lack of depth, i dont see any more QUALITY depth at RM. The same way we cannot replace Xavi or Messi, they cannot replace Kaka or Benzema. The difference is that we have more irreplaceable players than they do, but how does that make our situation worse? It doesnt, it just means our first team is a lot better and that subs will never be of the same quality because no player of that quality is willing to sit on the bench.

    Injuries can fuck any team, we are in no more danger than anybody else. Personally I would rather have the young cantera players as backup than overpayed, mediocre players who will just bitch and whine about not getting enough playing time. Either way we are not going to have a bench that replaces the likes of Xavi and Messi. First of all there are no players as good as them and even if there were they would never sit on the bench. I would rather have a JDS or a Thiago than a Guddy or a Hleb. They understand the system, they will cherish any chance they get to play (as opposed to crying about not enough time on the pitch), it will give them opportunity to grow as players and they wont get rusty sitting on the bench because they keep fresh and fit playing for our youth squad. I really dont see a problem….

  143. Hilal
    August 27, 2009


    And Cesc is Xavi 2.0 because apparently he is coming to Barca next year….

  144. Hilal
    August 27, 2009

    Well if you listen to these sorts of reports then we already have a preagreement with Cesc that he comes next year. Personally i dont put much stock in these reports. A few months ago we had Ribery in the bag “according to reports” and a few months before him it was Aguerro. Its all talk, untill I see the player in the shirt I remain skeptical.

    Cesc coming to us is as likely as Ribery going to Madrid. Anyways thats all next year, lets stick to this year…

  145. August 27, 2009

    – We played without Iniesta in december. The most difficult games. We won it all, and in style.

    – I will check later may be, but we also played without Messi (with iniesta in his place) some games and we won it all.

    – I believe having Yaya, Iniesta, and Keita in the midfield with Henry Ibra, Messi upfront can beat any team as well.

    – Hell we can win at least 75 % of our games by havine Maxwell-Alves as fullbacks, Busquets and Yaya as holding mids with Messi playing as a “10”, then Henry, Ibra, and Bojan/Pedro infront (thats a selection without both Iniesta and Xavi.

    – The same as we can play Iniesta-Ibra-Messi infront of Xavi-Keita-Yaya. This option scored the same average of goals/game as the selection that is considered the best (Yaya-Iniesta-Xavi- Henry-Eto’o-Messi). I repeat scored the same goal average per game.

    So our depth is alright if well managed. No one cause crises if not available. Its just that some may need us more effort to cover than others.

  146. August 27, 2009

    Hilal, We hear these reports all the time since ever. I am not sure about how reliable it is. I hope not. I know…I know…

  147. August 27, 2009

    Several things-

    1) I know the Yaya can do all sorts of things but I still go by last year’s rule of thumb. We can survive without either Iniesta or Xavi for a while but definitely not both. Remember during the first half of last season, Iniesta suffered a long layoff as well and we won all our league games minus the one at Getafe which we drew during that stretch. Why did we roll at that point but noticeably struggle when he went down again in the second half? Xavi was much more tired at that point and it told, We can afford to survive without one of the two but not for a long time. If both of them go down for the same stretch then we’re in a world of hurt.

    They are still the only two players capable of playing the four position (center-mid tempo setter/maestro) as effectively for our system as we saw last season. The Yaya may do a decent job but it won’t be close to what our little geniuses can do. I like him playing off one of the two midgets.

    2) I expect to see the Iniesta/Xavi midfield played sparingly during the dog days of the season grind even if both are healthy. Why? Well, hopefully not injuries but because it makes sense to platoon Xavi and Iniesta at the four more often to keep them healthy. When the ACS comes around, we need them to be both ready or else we are in trouble. That’s where Busi, Guddy, Yaya, Keita, et al. come in, Hell, for certain games maybe a JDS or Thiago can play next to one of the two.

    3) I would actually argue that we may well have a “deeper” squad than last year depending on how well guys like Chygnasty (yeah, I’m counting him in), Bojan, and Pedro acquit themselves even though we also have a tougher year with more games. Huh? What?

    Players who left and their replacements:
    1) Hleb (Pedro!)
    2) Cáceres (Chygnasty and, in a sense, Fontas/Muniesta/maybe Adriano)
    3) Sylvinho (Maxwell)
    4) Eto’o (Ibra)
    5) Victor Sanchez (considering how often he played, I think JDS and Thiago can be considered replacements).

    As far as I’m concerned, we still have the same number of players available that we did for the Triplete. Consider that whereas last year Pedro and VicSan were the only canteranos occasionally trusted in the first team whereas this year we have the likes of Jeffren (assuming he does not get transferred), Muniesa, Fontas, JDS, and Thiago to call upon if the shit hits the fan.

    Why can this squad maybe be deeper than last year’s? If Pedro! and Bojan establish themselves as 100% reliable squad players (and that is definitely not a sure thing) then Iniesta and Xavi will be able to rest much more. Why? Instead of covering for an injured or tired Henry, Messi or Hleb on the front line, Iniesta can focus full time on midfield. Imagine all the times he played left wing he could have rested (or subbed Xavi so that HE could rest) if we had someone else to play left wing. I think Pep is pinning a lot of hope on Pedro! or Bojan being able to grab that left wing and make it their own when Henry is injured or filling in for Ibra. I just hope they both prove Pep’s trust in them is correctly placed because we need them to step up.

    What was the position that was spread the thinnest last year? Centerback. Between Chygnasty, Fontas, and Muniesa I would hope we have a better contribution to depth than Cáceres contributed.

    The ACN will be tough because we lose two first choice players for a significant stretch. However, knowing this gives the staff time to plan around this.

    In the end, it comes down to one main thing: luck.

  148. Han
    August 27, 2009

    @ Flippy and Hilal
    nice to point out EE’s similar defencies, lack of depth.
    Though imo they have a little more, than we which means first of all that we “as pointed out” have more irreplacable players and they might have more locker room issues.

    Btw: EE news. Robben is likely off to Bayern Munchen for 25million€ (imo good news for us, they lose out transfer wise since he was bought for 36million and they loose a possible gamewinner).

    So far my EE talk: think we’re quite ok with the Canteranos as pointed out, but wouldn’t mind keeping Guddy or buying a cheap but a lil better alternative (to Guddy, some thoughts brought me to Valbuena, but haven’t seen alot of him?).

  149. Han
    August 27, 2009

    Nice summary Hector, felt like Pep was schooling me personally about his choices.

    A top group for CL:
    Glasgow Rangers
    OL Marseille
    Apoel or Zurich

    Easy and entertaining Imo.

  150. August 27, 2009

    Glad to see Robben gone. They lose significant depth on the wings and a match winner.

  151. OhYes
    August 27, 2009

    I made the comparison to CRon because it took CRon a while to transfer but also because he was always going “next year.”

    Cesc to Xavi….?

  152. Flippy
    August 27, 2009

    Damn, If Robben goes to Munchen then that means two things:
    a) Real are not going to be playing with wingers
    b) Munchen are going to be a CL contender

  153. August 27, 2009

    Considering how often he is healthy and how Louis “Master of Terror” van Gaal is running things then its definitely not a sure thing.

  154. August 27, 2009

    Or Ribery will be a RM player sooner or later…

    If RM are stupid enough to let Robben go then, you dont need to worry about them.

  155. Han
    August 27, 2009

    Didn’t Real wanted to recuperate about 100million for the Dutchies?

    Robben 36M – sold 25M
    Sneijder 27M – sold 15M
    Huntelaar 20+7M – sold 15M (after 6months!!!!)
    we’re at 55M
    Still around
    Van Nistelrooy 15M- value close to nothing
    VDV 14M – Value close to half of what they bought him for 12 months ago.
    Drenthe 13M – see above, value close to half of what they bought him for 24 months ago.

    All in all doesn’t look that good for them 😉 and their selling policy has more issues than ours imho.

  156. Flippy
    August 27, 2009

    Apparently Sneijder is leaving for Inter as well. So that means Real now have a sqaud of 24. van der Vaart is going to leave, which makes it 23. Subtract de la Red, who is probably forced to retire with his health conditions. That is 22 squad players. We have 21, but Chygrynskiy is soon to be official. Still I think that when Chygrynskiy is official, Henrique will be on his way to Racing. So we have 21 and they have 22, but we have the advantage of youth players.

    About Xavi and Iniesta being out for a while at the same time, THE YAYA can probably do well against lower half table teams, but against big teams we would probably play something like:
    Alves – Piqué – Chygrynskiy/Marquez – Maxwell
    Keita – THE YAYA – Busquets
    Ibra – Henry

    The job of Keita and Busquets is to bring the ball to:
    a) the fullbacks
    b) Messi
    c) the strikers

    Marquez and/or Chygrynskiy would do the occasional long ball. Piqué and The Yaya sometimes switch so Piqué can make a run. A lot of movement by the Messi, Ibra, and Henry trio. Such as Ibra moving to the wing for Keita and Messi to bombard the box or Ibrahimovic switching positions with Messi. The key for success would be movement and quick passing. Even JDS may work in this case. If this happens during the ANC, put Chygrynskiy, Marquez, or Piqué at DM, and swap Keita with Gudjohnsen, Thiago, or JDS. Perhaps it may be better that Pedro takes place instead of Keita/Busquets with his speed. Either way I’d prefer to talk about this when it happens, because then we’d have a pretty clear idea of what we can do.

  157. ocho
    October 7, 2009

    This might sound odd.. but the one thing that really stood out was Tete (Tenerife) getting relegated.

    It was a bit disappointing to see that you think Tenerife’s going back down:(… I hope it’s just the numbers talking there cus everything I’ve seen of them so far this season has actually been quite impressive. More specifically, they played extremely well against both Real and Depor (despite the score lines which in my opinion were far from reflective of their performance) and not to mention how they broke Athletic Bilbao’s winning streak.

    Despite being an incurable Barca addict, I’ve grown slightly fond of Tenerife’s play so far this season. They seem to carry a similar desire and drive to that which we’ve grown accustomed to when watching our boys destroy teams week in, week out. Not only are they pressuring teams high up the field and working their asses off, but they’re also playing some very aesthetically pleasing football (a more primitive – probably exhausting and less natural – version of our Tiki Taka) and I commend that.

    It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve got the depth and mental strength to go on and improve over the course of the season (I definitely hope they do). Oh – and it’ll be interesting to see how other teams start coping with the extended flights to Tenerife’s home ground (too long a name to remember) once the season and different competitions start taking their toll.

    Now why would a Barca fan go on and on about a team like Tenerife (Tete)? I have no I idea – I probably wouldn’t even read this post if it were by someone else and the team hadn’t caught my attention. Oh well, I guess I just needed to dump the thought somewhere and who better to share it with than a cule community…

  158. This particular post makes i find that most of us need to take extra attention of ourself and each other.

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