CL Preview: Rubin Kazan – Barça, Wednesday 12:45pmEST, FSCHD
When I was a senior in college, I had a housemate who spent 2 years living in Russia. He came back liking his pants tight, his ladies waif-like, and his vodka plentiful. And he taught me why it is that Russians are the king of drinkers: their games are infinitely more badass. The one I know translates from some Russian word I don’t know to “I am the tiger,” or some such. You get some friends, a table, and some liquor. Then you line up in a line and take turns taking a shot and crawling under the table. If you complete this arduous task, you go to the back of the line.
I don’t remember how long it was until I could no longer get out from under the table, but when that time came–and it comes for us all–fortunately there were others down there to talk to/pass out on. At least I wasn’t lonely in my idiotic obliteration. The lesson was that you’ll end up in bed with–no, no, that wasn’t that game. Hmm. What was the lesson? Oh yeah: don’t mess with Russians or they’ll stab you while you’re under a table. Or something like that.
There are various versions of the above-mentioned game that I’ve come across (“The Tiger has come” and “Enter the Dragon”) that have gambling involved as well, but I’m sure that in Tatarstan, this game has evolved to include ass-kickings and fire-breathing. From last year’s preview:
Reading the history of Kazan it quickly becomes obvious that the city is prone to being reduced to rubble. Fires and wars were the typical culprits, but Ivan the terrible massacred most of the population and then sent the rest of the Tatars to live a couple of dozen miles away. Basically, this is a resilient city. In the US, we talk about Mrs O’Leary’s cow burning down Chicago an it’s pretty amazing that it survived like it did; the 1909 San Francisco earthquake was devastating, of course, and the Dresden firebombing was awful, but those things only happened once. Kazan’s destruction happened at least five times.
A Russian friend of mine who is a well-traveled, very knowledgeable woman seemed the perfect person to ask about this accident-prone city. They’re like the Martin Short of cities, except without getting the girl at the end. And my friend, who knows a lot, was born and raised in Russia and has, as I mentioned, traveled extensively, said when I asked what cool things I could write about Kazan said: “I have no clue.” Not even educated Russians have heard of it!
Last year when a trip to Russia was announced, I was happy that it was against some lowly team called Rubin Kazan that no one had heard of and would be easily swept aside by our mighty army of midgets. Then we lost to them. At the Camp Nou. Then it got cold. And I still predicted a win in Tatarstan. And we had a goalless draw.
Before our loss at home, though, I described a vicious attack on an innocent man and this time around it’s Busi and Piqué who are hitting a milestone for us: 100 matches. So this time we’ve got our horse-faced midfielder and our class clown wandering the woods and running into things. If Piqué has a party in forest and no one goes, will Bojan still get pantsed?
This post needs more Alsou:
There, I think we’re back on track. I just learned that she sings in English. Did you know that this is meaningless when you watch her videos on mute?
Something you may not have realized about Rubin Kazan: they have Obafemi Martins now. Something you might not have realized about Obafemi Martins: he is 25. I would have guessed he was 29. Maybe even 49. But 25? Not that his age or presence made a difference against Copenhagen in their previous match as they lost 1-0 in Denmark. But they’re still 2nd in the Russian Premier League (22 of 30 matches played, down 4 points to Zenit St. Petersburg while CSKA Moscow are 4 points back of that with 2 games in hand).
Dogfight that that may be, they’ll be ready to go against us and will be happy that the temperature is dropping to the mid 50s and the rain has rolled in. It might not rain tomorrow, but it still won’t be as pleasant as a night out in Barcelona, so that could be to their advantage. The state of the pitch might normally matter, but having just played in the wastelands of San Mamés’ mud field, the team is used to it.
As best as I can tell, Rubin Kazan played a 3-5-2 against Copenhagen, who played a flat 4-4-2. This is the same thing that happened this past weekend in the RPL against Alania Vladikavkaz, a match which they won 1-0 thanks to a goal by defender Salvatore Bocchetti. Whether they’ll risk a 3-man back line or not against us is a question I can’t answer, having not seen any Rubin matches this year, but if they do stick with the 3-5-2, it’ll look more like a 5-3-2, which I think suggests they’d opt instead for a 4-4-1-1 like they played against us last year. 2 banks of 4 makes defensive sense and trying to earn a point off of us or all 3 via breaks (or a super golazo) like last year isn’t a bad strategy.
Not having Chori Dominguez might actually be the biggest deal for them as he’s at Valencia instead of being a serious attacking threat coming from deep like last year. And that’s where we’ll have to win this match: in midfield. So that means, for me:
Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Pedro.
The full squad list is: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Milito, Maxwell, Abidal, Busquets, Mascherano, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Pedro, Jeffren, Bojan, Villa, Messi.
Maxwell has logged quite a few minutes recently and Adriano is injured, so Abidal should start. Messi, on the other hand, should sit because he’s still recovering. If the match is in doubt and he’s 100%, then maybe he should get 15 minutes, but there’s no reason to risk him in any way from the start, no matter how much he wants to play and show the world what kind of a physical freak he is.
So, what kind of a score are we going to have?
Official prediction: 1-1. Goal by Pedro. It’s about time the kid scored. I just think that we’re going to be a bit below our typical level because of the travel, the injuries, and the pressure. That and Rubin is actually pretty good.
Time: 8:45pm Kazan/local time, 12:45pm New York/EST. Check your local time here.
TV: Here in the US it will be live on FSCHD since it’s the only match on at the time.
Weather: 59F (15C), slight chance of rain, 70% humidity. Should be fine, but could drop in temperature to as low as 54F (~12C).
Would anyone like to run the liveblog tomorrow? I cannot. Please volunteer via email or in the comments if you’re down.