Let the Mayhem Begin Again: Barça – Hércules

A feast for the eyes. And soul.

La Liga Preview: Barça – Hércules, Satuardy 12pm EST, GolTV

Here in New York City, the week after Labor Day is the regular resumption of school after summer vacation. It’s the end of the beach season, of people lazily hanging out on golf courses, and of course, it’s the return of the NFL. So instead of wasting my time outside in the beautiful sunshine, I get to sit in my underwear and watch large men attack each other. Or, because Spain is as lazy as us Americans, I can get back on the La Liga bandwagon and watch me some Barcelona futbol, baby! If I were capable of lighting off fireworks in your house as you read those italicized words, I would have, so imagine that having just happened.

Because of personal obligations 2 weekends ago, I have yet to watch a live La Liga Barça match (in fact the only La Liga match I’ve seen was Atleti-Sporting because it was on a Monday) and so my heart is already going pitter-patter and The Lovely Lady Who Puts Up With Lots of Nonsense is already rolling her eyes. It’s going to be a joyous season, I tell ya.

My team-by-team preview has already left you in no doubt whatsoever as to what is going to happen in the end, so it seems superfluous to write individual match previews, but I’ll do it anyway, because I’m that good to you. And you should love me for me. And perhaps send me chocolate because that’s what’s really driving this preview right now. Did you think I was going to start off this year without eating a container of fudge? Ha.

So it’s Hércules, that wonderfully named team, traveling 5 hours up the Autopista del Mediterráneo along the Costa Blanca, to meet its doom at the hands of Mighty Barcelona. Hércules have added firepower to their squad by bringing in David Trezequet, Royston Drenthe, and Nelson Valdez. Their 9 is some guy named Javier Portillo that you may have heard of and Francisco Rufete once graced Depor’s field in the blaugrana shirt, so you know they’re no slouches as a team. And yes, Barça is going to be slightly tired from international duty, including a trip to Buenos Aires for the bicentennial match in which Messi, Milito, and Mascherano eviscerated the likes of, um, well, does Spain have anyone good these days? They’re the perennial chokers on the international scene anyway, right?

Thing is, it’s the home debut for the team (if you forget about the Supercopa, which you will) and so it’s that much more exciting than any ol’ league match at the Camp Nou. Guardiola knows this and has tamped down expectations by playing up Hércules’ abilities, which is commendable. Yet I’m in a buoyant, festive mood because, well, because La Liga is back and who in their right mind thinks Hércules is going to stop Messi from running rampant? I mean, Hércules is so respected that Soccernet’s preview spent the first half talking about a former player that never had anything to do with Hércules. At least they do end up covering the team, though, saying they are missing Olivier Thomert, Javier Farinos, and Matias Fritzler while Cristian Pulhac is doubtful.

Okay, but that’s the thing: who the hell are Olivier Thomert, Javier Farinos, and Matias Fritzler? Two over 30-year olds and a 24-year old on loan from Lanús, that’s who. Hércules is in a pretty unique situation: everyone knows their front line, but no one knows their back line. No, really: Juanra, Mohamed Sarr, Abraham Paz, Cristian Pulhac, Kiko Femenía, Paco Peña, Sergio Rodríguez, David Cortés, Noé Pamarot. Get your thinking caps out. Who of those do you recognize?

Answer for yourself, of course, but I came up with Sergio Rodriguez (Barça B and Barça, the latter for 5 matches back in 04-06) and David Cortés (Getafe for the last 4 years). Juanra maybe, but I’m probably thinking of Juanma even though he played for Numancia during their stint in La Liga. I have mentioned him literally once in a preview and it was in January 2009 back in The Offside days in a squad list. If you’re an EPL fan, perhaps Noé Pamarot from his Portsmouth and Tottenham days, but that’s not my expertise.

Their forwards: Javier Portillo, Tote, David Trezeguet, Nelson Valdez, Olivier Thomert. Tote and Thomert I haven’t really heard of (Tote I have, but only while looking for information about Hércules and he’s the captain, so that’s not fair), but the others? Portillo, Trezeguet, and Nelson Valdes? Holy crap, I’d recognize them in an airport or mall! Sure, I’d recognize Portillo mostly for the Dingbat Level of crappy hair he’s had over the years, but the others were or are world class strikers. Damn. Also, if you’re badass like El rayo que no cesa, you created Hércules’ 2010-11 season on Wikipedia and have updated it incessantly. See what I did there? And yes, Barça has one too. And no, I’m not involved. For now.

All that said: we’re going to go bonkers on them. It’ll be one of those matches where they’ll hit us on the break once, but for the rest of the time it’ll be one-way traffic with a side of asskicking. Puyol is supposedly coming back from injury earlier than expected, but I don’t think he’ll start simply because it’s an unnecessary risk. Both Piqué and Milito can start in the middle or, if Guardiola is still concerned about that pairing, Piqué and Abidal did a more-than-adequate job against Racing and Abidal’s speed could be very useful once again.

Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Piqué, Milito, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

I realize that Bojan is our new 9 and that Guardiola said he’s steadily improving and will continue to improve, but he simply isn’t ready to start consistently. Mascherano shouldn’t start for the simple reason that he is a backup (which is my problem with his price tag) and, more complicatedlier, because I hate the doble pivote with a burning, burning passion. Iniesta belongs in the midfield, not in the front–and yeah, sure, I heard that Spain did all right in the World Cup this year or something with him up there and that he even did something kinda freakin’ sweet in some game or another–but really it all came down to them not having Lionel Messi while Barça does and thus can use Iniesta more effectively (and note that Iniesta was near the center circle at the beginning of that WC-winning goal).

So anyway, there you have it. Preview City. But here is some important stuff. Do you want to run the liveblog for tomorrow? You do, don’t you. Yes you do. So let me know if you’re up for it and we’ll get you set up. I’ll be at the bar getting snookered at noon, as is par for the course when the hippo-lookin’-feller that is my brother comes to town. He’s fat is what I’m saying. Either email me or leave a comment that says you’re up for it and we’ll get you set up.

Official Prediction: 3-1. Messi (2) and Villa.

Time: 6pm local/Barcelona, 12 noon EST, check your local time here.
TV: This match will be on in the US on GolTV (in HD now!).
Weather: ~76F (~24.5F), partly cloudy, 0% chance of rain. Perfect for some friggin football.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. Pique and Abidal “…more-than-adequate job against Racing” did they even challenge us? I still feel insecure with Abidal in the back, but I much rather have Maxwell on the wing… but I like Abidal on the pitch too… hm..

    Anyways, I think our score will be higher than that, but then again they all just got back from FIFA games..

    Bojan is 9… so sad. Enough said.

  2. mm..an easy victory and a prediction..5-0.HT 3-0.goals villa(2)pedro,messi and a header by pique in second half..

  3. guys i am so impressed from that player so i believe now that no alvez,maicon,s.ramos e.t.c about the best R.B.he is english and play for liverpool..and if alvez leave the summer i believe is the best choice.glen jhonson.

  4. Chocolate is gross.

    I think it will be Abidal in the center alongside Pique and Maxwell at left back. I also think Keita will start.

    Like I told you on twitter, Isaiah, it will be 3-0 to us with 2 goals from Messi and 1 from Pedro!

    1. Hah! take that Jnice and Stephen… he totally asked for our predictions, and he took mine…
      Not that I care or anything…

    1. As a person who has run liveblog a lot I have to say: it’s easy.

      If you do it tomorrow, kick some ass. I’ll be out touring wineries and trying not to get too drunk.

    2. lol, definitely don’t try and keep yourself from getting too drunk, whats the point in drinking sweet berry wine if you don’t get wasted? But just waiting for the word, thanks for the encouragement though.

    3. nevermind, just checked my email, got the word, ill have it up and running tomorrow everyone. visca barca!

  5. Puyol will start! Then be subbed out after the half. Score 4-1, goals: Messi x2, Villa x1, Bojan x1 (subbing for Pedro after the half).

    1. In a month in which Puyol is expected out for three weeks and comes back for two, and van Persie and a more-promising-than-usual Walcott both get six-weekers, I continue to marvel at Barca’s outstanding injury record. We have the best physios in the world.

  6. “Sergio Rodríguez, David Cortés, Noé Pamarot

    Ha! Who else thought that rhymed with Kakarot? From Dragonball Z? No one?

    Thought as much.

    I’ll just be geek in some corner other there.

    Barca and football in general, it’s been far too long.

    P.S Yay! for Bojangles getting the 9. It feels like he’s growing right in front of my eyes. I remember the days he used to run around with the 27, scoring in a CL quarter final. Now he’s all grown up, wearing the 9 and sitting on the bench all by himself with no Titi or Geri to keep him company. He’s..He’s a big boy now

    No, I’m not crying. I am simply shedding tears from the lacrimal apparatus without any irritation of ocular structures.

    1. Kakarot… I love DragonBallZ, best anime series of all times, without ANY doubt!
      I’m still waiting for DragonBallGT to be aired on German television, and I’m still dreanin’ about DragonBallZ 2 (directed by Akira Toriyama).

      Well, unfortunately one cannot get everything in life, so a brilliant Barca wins with goals from Messi and Villa would do 🙂
      Actually, Hercules seems a lot stronger than I thought (before reading Isaiah’s season preview). Given our recent record after international breaks, this game might become tricky.

    2. DB GT was definitely a step down from Z, IMO. You’re not missing much.

      It’s true that we usually suck after int. breaks but this is our first home game of the season, so we’ll definitely come out with guns blazing.

      I just hope there are no injuries…

  7. off topic a bit, well not really, but I was hoping that you all could hashtag on your twitters: #redcardhomophobia

    and also like on facebook

    if you are down with the message 🙂

    For me it’s not just about homophobia, but about intolerance of any kind, but due to some recent articles:



    And obviously others it would be nice to share that there is a sizeable number of fans, straight, gay, bisexual, transgendered, that support anti-homophobia efforts to truly keep the beautiful game beautiful.

    Ok thanks

  8. Hmph, I’m not working, but I’m moving! ARGH! Can’t watch this live. Oh wells, I’ll wear my good luck pin and keep up with the score thru my phone.

    Nice write up Queen Lizzy!

  9. I’m predicting a Thiago sighting before the final whistle blows. If I were Peppy G, I’d give the kid a nob over Bojan tomorrow just for the sheer beauty of his pass to Canales in the U-21 tournament.

    Can’t wait til he starts proving me right to all my friends about why we don’t need Cesc.


    1. I would love it if Thiago got some minutes, but he won’t be in the match squad. The only youth player who trained with the first team yesterday was JDS. I think he will be in the squad because he isn’t going to travel with the B team.

    1. I don’t think JDS will play with Barça B. He trained with the first team and according to Sport isn’t going to travel to Cartagena.

      And anyway, the time of the B match doesn’t determine whether or not the youth players will play with the first team because you can only play for one of the teams each week.

    2. Yeah, I just checked the main website regarding Barça B’s squad and it says:

      “Las ausencias más notables son la de Oriol Romeu, lesionado , y la de Jonathan dos Santos, con el primer equipo.”

      The most notable absences are of Oriol Romeu, injured, and of Jonathan dos Santos, with the first team.

      Here’s the complete Barça B match squad:

      Porteros: Oier y Miño.
      Defensas: Montoya, Bartra, Muniesa, Fontàs y Armando.
      Centrocampistas: Ilie, Riverola, Thiago, Sergi Roberto y Carmona.
      Delanteros: Edu Oriol, Benja, J. Soriano, Nolito, Saúl y Rochina.


  10. chocolate sent!

    and why are they having matches at weird hours this year? why? is this going to be a norm in the coming months? hmmmph… i just promised to go to dim sum with some friends and found out it will be a BARCELONA MATCH IN DA HOUSE CAMP NOU at the exact hour#$%@#$%^& This schedule will disable my social life.

    and, hahahaha, play an open game with us? hahaha…hahaha… how? how are you going to play open game when we have the ball all the time and throw 10 shots easily at your goal in some 20 minutes?

  11. I think we’ll get a better idea of how Pep sees the shape of the team for this season today. Interesting points for me are
    1. Does he really think Abidal can play CB against the top teams (not for me) or is he looking to fit in both he and Maxwell?
    2. Are we going for the “dreaded” ( my inverted commas) double pivot idea ?
    3. Is Iniesta going to be condemned to fitting in where there’s a problem rather than growing into a Xavi replacement? To me he is the only player on our books who has shown that he could fill those magnificent shoes and he won’t learn by being moved around. He needs serious time in that role when Xavi is rested.
    4. Who is going to be the fall guy this year? i can’t see both Bojan and Pedro getting good time this year and both are at the stage where they are looking to move up to the next level. I can see one of the them leaving at the end of the year.

    Btw, I hope Pep isn’t genuinely beating himself up over Ibra. To me, his only mistake was in buying him in the first place ( although in my more sanguine moments I have to concede it might have been worth a gamble at a lower price). It took bottle to leave out your biggest buy at the crucial point of the season and he knew that would cause trouble with Ibra’s ego being the size it is). I’m looking to see a bit more maturity in Pep this year in not expending so much energy during matches. He has the best footballing management job in in the world and everything after this is down. I’d like to see him stay and do a Ferguson with Barcelona.

    Sorry, another long post. Thank God there’s some footie tonight.

    Btw, got my tickets for the Spain match at Hampden. Sorry guys but I don’t want anyone rested for that one. We’re in the south stand six rows back next to the dugouts and tunnel. My good lady ( having seen Puyol remove his shirt during the WC) insists she’s going to throw away a lifetime of good behaviour by tackling Puyol to the ground as he runs out. He has been warned 🙂

    1. 3. Iniesta is not nor should ever be considered a Xavi “replacement”. He needs a lot more freedom in his play than that. His particular genius is that he is a very complete player who can adapt himself to the needs of any given team or any given game. Restricing him to a Xavi role would actually weaken him.

  12. I do think we will see some double pivots lineup few times this season. Unlike, Isaiah -and probably the majority- I will be excited about it. Especially in an advanced stage at the Champions league, while playing against big clubs on the road.

    Not sure why people find it radically unacceptable for a team to have double pivots where needed. More defensive? Maybe (and no shame in that), though I can make a case that double pivots with Adriano and Alves as fullbacks may prove more offense than one holding midfielder with Abidal being more dedicated defense wise. More width. More presence in the box. And less containable.

    Besides, we need to keep in mind that we have more depth in fullbacks and players capable to play as holding midfielders than we have for CM/AM now that Iniesta will be needed more often as one of the three upfront. So while figuring the best way to keep the squad fresh, this factor must be added to our calculation panel.

    Mind you, Mascherano+Busquets does not mean automatically double pivots. Busquets can also play as a CM. He master it.

    1. Maybe we can use the double pivot and avoid being dull, Ramzi, but I’ll need to see it work. I do agree that there will be times in the later stages of the CL where adopting a slightly more defensive posture wouldn’t harm us (thinks Inter last year where the team were obviously tired).

  13. I was out back with the little guys last night kicking the ball around … we used to call the 2 yr. old ‘Carbonero’ because he just stood around the sidelines until we got a good play going and then he’d run in and distract us and mess it all up … but yesterday he ran in, full-body tackled my 5 yr. old, said ‘Yay!’ and ran away … and my 5 yr. old stood up shakily, rubbed his sore head and said, ‘I think we should call him Mascherano’.

    So I’m up for the double-pivot, just this once, for sentimental reasons. I think the problem with the Selección double-pivot may have been Alonso anyhoo.

    And thank YOU, Ma’am, for the wham-bam-slammin’ pre-game review!

    1. LOL! Mascherano nickname >>>> Carbonero nickname.

      I really hated the double-pivot. I stand by my claim that Alonso really dragged down the team during the WC (although I reserve some sympathy after seeing him DE JONG’D). Not that he’s a bad player or anything, but for almost all the games, he was tryin’ to be Xavi.

      Sorry dude, you’re Xabi. No matter how much you wanna be Xavi

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