Barça v. Mallorca Match Preview: Back on Track?

In tribute.
Sunday, October 3, 2010 – 19:00 pm Barcelona time / 13:00 pm EST – GolTV & GolTV HD

Good time for Isaiah to leave me in the lurch to write a preview eh? Xavi out. Villa suspended. Messi recovering (hopefully). Coming off a long trip to Russia and a draw. Pep still dressing like a Jehovah’s Witness. Players arguing about their FIFA 11 ratings being far too low (I am looking at you Pique and Busquets). A schizophrenic start to the season. Isaiah being out of town. My inability to wear the awesome new jacket my wife bought me for my birthday because it’s still too hot in this sweaty dungeon in which I live (aka, the American Southeast). As you can see, the team is at a critical juncture in the season already with so many story lines ongoing and we welcome a typically feisty side to the Camp Nou on Sunday without our best midfielder and short on offense. It’s preview time kids, step inside.

Mallorca are an extremely tricky side. In Journada 1, they played Madrid to a draw in Mallorca, the a loss by 2, a win by 3, a loss by 3, and then another win by 2. The draw and 2 wins all came at home, but away the losses have been bad and the Islanders have not looked good in those outings. I don’t know if the changes from last season are contributing to this run of poor form away, or if the trip has something to do with it, but they seem to be off the form that led them to 5th last season. The defense has been suspect away, giving up two easy ones to Gijon and getting thrashed by Bilbao. So there we go, the signs are pointing to an easy win and another 3 points…

Oh, wait, there are problems going in our camp? We’re missing the foremost piece of our puzzle, Mr. Xavi, who is out with tendonitis that has been affecting him for the better part of a month. Great. I am assuming that Iniesta will move back and take to filling in for Xavi, although with Pep making these lineups there is just as good a chance that Thiago starts or that we run with two holders in Mascherano and Busquets. Make no mistake, this is a problem, but not an insurmountable one. Xavi is our most important part as everything flows through him and without creativity or at least solid passing and possession, our game bottlenecks. However, Iniesta is more than capable of standing in for Xavi in a makeshift role. He has done it before. The only other injury concern is Adriano, who is definitely out.

Oh right. Messi. Forgot about him obviously. The world’s greatest Flea (suck it Red Hot Chili Peppers) made his comeback in the second half against Kazan after missing 2 Liga games with a mildly sprained ankle and played fairly well. He wasn’t as industrious as he liked to be, but he did create the most chances on goal after entering at the half. He says he is healed, and let’s hope so, because there is a better than good chance he’s playing the False 9 on Sunday with Pedro and Bojan on the wings. Honestly it seems like he made a good recovery and the cold was not bothering him all that much on Wednesday night. Kazan didn’t really attempt to attack Messi’s ankle and hopefully Mallorca will not target his ankle either.

Segwaying into the Villa scenario, Villa’s out for this one game after receiving a red card last week again Bilbao. It would look like we’re definitely going with the shortest front line running Bojan, Pedro, and Messi across the front since Iniesta will need to deputize the mids with Keita possibly replacing him, or maybe, possibly, hopefully a little Thiago to make things interesting and reward his hard work in practice. Barcastuff reported Nolito is also likely to be in the lineup tomorrow to help fill in for the Villa hole, so good for him as well. Look for the smaller, makeshift lineup to play well. I know Bojan has struggled to a lesser degree this year, but maybe a start and Messi taking it easier will give him the spark he needs. Lest we forget Pedro who hasn’t exactly set the world on fire this year either, but he also has a way of showing up when we least expect it, so everyone pretend like you’ve never heard of him again and make fun of the Canary Islands, that will help. With all this focus on the front, I would be remiss if I failed to mention how well the defense has been playing up to this point. Giving up goals happens, especially on the counter, but the defense, outside of Maxwell has been tough. Let us hope it continues.

What does all this mean? Well, your guess is as good as mine. Mallorca has been bad in away efforts, very bad. Yet, we’re missing our link in the midfield (Xavi is now known as the Missing Link, so that settles that argument about evolutionary history), one of our leading scorers in Villa, and have our best player recovering from an injury, all while on a short week coming home from a tough draw in Russia on a long trip. So yeah, the best laid plans of mice and men…

Prediction: 3-0. Goals from Bojan, Messi (x 2). Make no mistake, my caveats here should be seen more as warning caution, not making excuses. A team as talented as our Blaugrana should beat this team even missing a few pieces, and I believe we will. Playing at home against a weaker side should make this one contentious up front, but after gaining a stranglehold on possession, our talent and pace will win out.

Predicted Line-up
Valdes
Alves-Puyol-Pique-Abidal
Busquets-Iniesta-Keita
Pedro-Messi-Bojan

Post your predictions in the comments and let me know if someone wants to run the Liveblog tomorrow.

Photo by Angel Martinez/Getty Images Europe

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55 Comments

  1. Kxevin
    October 2, 2010

    Some Xavi math for everyone:

    258 games in 48 months, or 5.375 matches per month, 64.5 per season, 22,000 minutes played, since his serious knee injury.

    Everyone, repeat after me: HOLY CRAP!

    This one could be a draw just as easily as a thrashing. As usual, it will depend on the quality of turning our early chances, and there will be early chances.

    I’m thinking:

    VV
    Alves Pique Puyol Abidal
    Busquets Iniesta Keita
    Pedro Messi Krkic

    We’ll probably also see some time for Thiago, and I wouldn’t mind seeing some Nolito, who’s been called up for this match.

    • October 2, 2010

      I believe Miltio will replace Puyol in the back line…Hoping Smash gets another start btw…
      Been impressed with him last game, but idk where he will fit in this linesup without Xavi

    • Kari
      October 2, 2010

      Xavi is Iron Man (except, err, not ).

      Just as an aside, say both Xavi and Iniesta are out from some reason and Villa was, oh I dunno, suspended because he decided to do something dumb like retaliate after being provoked when our best player was injured (but that’s just hypothetical, of course), would Messi be put in the midfield? I remember he played once in the midfield for us and was okay. Plus, he has experience from the Argentina NT.

      I would put Thiago, but that just seems to be too big a responsibility right now (and he’s an Iniesta for me anyway). The only problem with the Messi midfield plan would be that our forward line would really suffer. Really, really suffer.

      (I have a bad feeling that we might go after Torres next summer. A very bad one. I hope we don’t; we’d really be the Spanish NT + Messi and Dani Alves.)

  2. Kari
    October 2, 2010

    Nolito’s been called up?! Yay! I’ve have a soft spot for him ever since I saw him during preseason.

    • Diego S.
      October 2, 2010

      He’s been doing good, He scored 2 goals in the last 2 matches for Barca B.

  3. Diego S.
    October 2, 2010

    Last Year Our Starting Line-up had “Yaya, Keita, Busquet, Pedro, Ibra, and Henry.”

    Anyway, I predict a win unless they make it hard for themselves, I see Pedro or Bojan scoring a goal with Messi scoring the other.

  4. Kxevin
    October 2, 2010

    I asked in the FIFA thread, but is Dos Santos suddenly not impressing? He’s healthy, but hasn’t been included in the last few batches of Bs called to the bench for first-team matches.

    Also, Guardiola says Messi’s ankle is improving rapidly, and he might play the full match tomorrow.

    I imagine Krkic will start, which is dangerous. If he stinks, you can’t quick hook him because it would damage his confidence even more. But if you leave him in, you damage the team. This season is going to be crucial for Krkic.

    Oh, and the picture above: Txigrinski (sighhhh). What might have been.

    • Kari
      October 2, 2010

      His departure what I regret the most this summer.

      Ibra, I understand, because he was a royal d*ck, but Txignasty was so humble and gracious even after he was totally screwed. Worse yet, the coach actually wanted him to stay. In a perfect world, Txignasty would have stayed, we’d have gotten Silva, Ibra wouldn’t have been a jerk and buckled down got to work would still be gone and, err, yeah. I think Yaya would have still gone too (but for even more mon~ay)

      • barca96
        October 2, 2010

        That was what I was asking too a few weeks ago. Last season JDS was the boy being called-up on multiple occasions, but this year it’s Thiago. I used to think that JDS was the more mature player, that’s why Pep called him. And Thiago being riskier footballer, hence needed more time to mature in the B-team but now it’s the other way around.
        Has JDS’s progress stalled I ask B-team followers? Or has Thiago become really good compared to last season?

        On Chiggy, I don’t know. He is a nice person and all but on the field he looked like a liability.

        • October 2, 2010

          Well considering when we took JDS from the Barca B team they lost heavily by a 5-1 margin i think and with him they won every game…

          JDS is playing an important role to that team..I doubt Pep wants to call him up just to sit on the bench and learn while he can be actually playing & learning….

          He is pretty much the Xavi of the B team….

    • Jnice
      October 2, 2010

      I’ve seen every minute of every Barça B match, and JDS hasn’t really looked all that great.

      Besides that, I don’t think Pep wants to leave Luis Enrique without both Thiago and JDS unless he really, really needs to.

      JDS will get his call ups, though. He just has to be more consistent.

      • Kxevin
        October 2, 2010

        Thanks for the update, Jnice. Much appreciated. I figured it was something related to playing time as it relates to quality.

        • jnelson
          October 2, 2010

          I remember reading from the rags or the official site (a huge disparity, i know) that at the start of this roll of Thiago call-ups that he was left out of the B team match (I think after their 5-1 defeat) because Luis Enrique wanted a more defensive approach. Thus, with the talent Thiago has, I think it only made sense to bring him with the first team and leave JDS to the B team. I think that is the contributing factor of why one without the other. Thiago is naturally more an offensive player. I share the opinion that JDS will also get his call-ups, but such call-ups need to be balanced and not cause an inconvenience for either squad. After all, the B team needs to win and remain in the Liga Adelante.

      • October 3, 2010

        For the record, JDS has not been impressing to me, not even in preseason. He looks ok, very ok actually in many aspects but none of them more refined or polished to make people think he is promising enough to promote. That’s why he stay in the B team.

  5. Luke
    October 2, 2010

    Oops, forgot to post predicted line-up, updating now…

    • October 2, 2010

      Orr Luke i now realized that the Barca B team is in Fifa 11 also..The rating for them are pretty decent….I do hate however that i have to actually buy my youth products from the B team in Manger mode.

  6. barca96
    October 2, 2010

    My line-up:

    —-VV—-
    Alves-Pique-Milito-Abidal
    Busi-Smash-Keiteee
    P!-Messi-Iniesta

    Hoping for some Thiago action!

  7. Auld Super
    October 2, 2010

    Bojan needs to go somewhere on loan and show he’s good enough because he’s not doing it at Barca and he never has.

  8. vicsoc8
    October 2, 2010

    I can run the liveblog tomorrow.

    I see a lineup of:

    VV
    Alves Pique Milito Abidal
    Busquets Macherano Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Bojan

    Busquets will be doing his best Xavi impression.

    • Kxevin
      October 2, 2010

      You’re on, vicsoc. Thanks so much.

      • vicsoc8
        October 2, 2010

        who should I email with the link this time?

  9. GREECE BARCA
    October 2, 2010

    do you regret about chiggy?i regret that my team have 91million players on loan.i regret that anri and marquez gone for free.

    • Auld Super
      October 2, 2010

      How could you regret Marquez going, God i thought we’d have to pay someone to take him off us. He was a timebomb and went off many many times.

      • Jim
        October 2, 2010

        Can’t agree. Since i started watching Barcelona about four or five seasons ago Marquez has been outstanding both as a defender and as a passer of the ball. His last season with us wasn’t his best but he gave a lot to the club and deserves more than a cheap comment about paying people to take him off our hands, imo.

        • Jnice
          October 2, 2010

          Agree with Jim. And for most of the treble winning season, the Marquez/Pique pairing was the best CB pairing we had.

          • Kxevin
            October 2, 2010

            True that, Jnice. I think that people often remember the bad things that a player does, rather than the immense body of work that preceded it. Marquez was never the same after his freak knee injury. But he was an excellent CB, long passer and attack starter out of the back. We are all huge fans of Pique, but Marquez could do with one pass what Pique has to do with a run/pass combination. That’s taking nothing away from Pique, just reminding folks of what Marquez could do.

            Txigrinski was also an excellent attack starter out of the back with the long pass. I would argue that is another thing missing from our attack, is the ability to go directly from the back line into the attack, via direct pass from a center back. Milito has that skill, as well.

    • Vj
      October 2, 2010

      People seem to forget that before that long injury Marquez picked up during the CL Semi first leg against Chelsea, Puyol was finding it hard to come into the team.. In fact during negotiations for a new contract, Puyol’s agent wanted to discuss his playing time I think..

      Say what you want, Marquez earned the nickname Kaiser – with him came the era of defensive solidity never seen before..

  10. Kari
    October 2, 2010

    BTW, game’s at 1:00pm EST on GolTV (does that mean RayRay and Baka Schoen?!)

  11. Dave
    October 2, 2010

    Stop all this Fifa nonsense-Pro evo is the way to go, always has been.
    You can edit the ratings in that, but be careful. A while back a friend of mine edited Sergio Ramos so that as well as being a competent rb had pace to rival Henry. In his heyday.

    • vicsoc8
      October 2, 2010

      It’s all about Football Manager.

    • Kari
      October 2, 2010

      Please.

      Super Mario Strikers is where it’s at. So badass. DK’s super special is El Mano de Dios.

      /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hr6-LRfKOXE&feature=related

  12. blitzen
    October 2, 2010

    Valencia vs Athletic Bilbao is starting. This ought to be good!

  13. blitzen
    October 2, 2010

    Xavi: “Winning is a drug.”

    Good interview with him in El Mundo Deportivo:

    *http://www.elmundodeportivo.es/gen/20101002/54015036196/noticia/xavi-mourinho-es-una-motivacion-extra.html

  14. Kxevin
    October 2, 2010

    Hell of a match between Bilbao and Valencia. And all I keep thinking is “If anybody plays us this open …. ” End-to-end stuff, kicked off by an early goal. Valencia are a very well-balanced side, and very dangerous on the wings. Next week should be good. Villa had better be spoiling for a fight, is all I know.

    • blitzen
      October 2, 2010

      Valencia 2-1 Athletic Bilbao

      Great game! Very exciting to watch. Valencia dominated in the first half, but the second was much more equal. Llorente surprisingly poor.

      Valencia still has the ugliest goalkeeper’s kit I have ever seen. I can’t wait until we play them! I really hope Xavi will be fit for that.

      • Kxevin
        October 2, 2010

        Llorente has been poor almost every time I’ve watched him, frankly. Not sure if it’s a question of service or movement creating availability for service. Or all of the above.

        • blitzen
          October 2, 2010

          Well, he has some offside issues, like Villa. But he moves well, makes himself available, just doesn’t get the support he needs from his team. I thought this was an unusually bad match for him; he was much better against Barca last week.

    • Ryan
      October 2, 2010

      The final minutes were especially intense! It really felt like Bilbao were going to steal a point during the 2nd half; good job to Valencia for not cracking.

  15. GREECE BARCA
    October 2, 2010

    can someone help me?i am looking for our youth teams squads and games.juvenil A B and cadet A B.anyone knows an english site?

    • PS
      October 2, 2010

      Juvenil A:

      *http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/english/futbol/temporada_10-11/futbol_base/FCB_Juvenil_A.html

      Juvenil B:
      *http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/english/futbol/temporada_10-11/futbol_base/FCB_Juvenil_B.html

      Fixtures and Results (in Spanish):
      *http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/castellano/futbol/futbol_base/partits_resultats/partits_resultats.html

    • Vj
      October 2, 2010

      The official site has info about the Juvenil A,B..

      ||http://www.fcbarcelona.com/web/english/futbol/temporada_10-11/futbol_base/FCB_Juvenil_A.html

  16. GREECE BARCA
    October 2, 2010

    ok finally is a joke.keirison is on loan in santos and don.t play a minute.who stupid made that transfer to barca sahtar buyed douglas kosta and willian and we keirison and enrique.tragic.

  17. Cluless(John)
    October 2, 2010

    I have been calling for Douglas costa for almost 2 years lol, good luck gaining support for Hume here.

    • Kxevin
      October 2, 2010

      So we buy Costa. Where does he play? Xavi’s spot. Nope. Iniesta’s. Nope. He plays a position (attacking mid) at which we are very well stocked. Talented? Sure. Talented in a way that will benefit our club? Good question.

      Greece Barca grouses about Willian. When I brought him up as a possible inexpensive winger, people laughed me out of the room. Suddenly it isn’t so funny any longer? But again, where does he play?

      Keirrison was always a long-term project. Gone Adriano was a need that we thought we could meet with his purchase. Things that we weren’t honestly anticipating were the real quality of Pique, the longevity of Puyol and the return to excellence of Milito. Suddenly Gone Adriano, who didn’t impress very much when he played with us, is seen as a mistake?

      How many transfers work out where the player is a brilliant addition to a club? You’d be surprised. Now look at our recent history of successful transfers:

      Henry: Helped the club to a treble
      Alves: One of the best right backs in the world
      Abidal: One of the best left backs in the world
      Here Adriano: Excellent squad player
      Maxwell: A steal of a high-quality left back or mid
      Keita: Wonderful midfielder
      Mascherano: We saw some of what he can do against Bilbao. Just wait until he really fits in
      Villa: Fully assimiliated into La Liga as one of its best strikers.

      Projects are an even more complex issue. Again, not many of them pan out. Was the Keirrison transfer expensive? Not in the context of a club such as ours. 15m is kinda peanuts. Was it in error? Who knows. Should he get a shot with us? Some say yes, others say no, Guardiola says no, and his is the word that counts.

      It’s easy to sit in front of a computer screen and say we should have done this or that, or somebody is stupid. But the fact of the matter is that in trying to fit players into the best club in the world, there are a great many considerations. You hit, you miss. One club’s starter is a guy who can’t even get a shot with us. Look at Caceres, Botia, Victor Sanchez and Gone Adriano, by way of example. It happens.

      Just don’t forget that the same “stupid” people who made the Keirrison deal also made the deals for the players who were absolutely integral to gaining us the treble in the Year of the Six Cups.

      • blitzen
        October 2, 2010

        I agree with everything here except:

        Alves: One of the best right backs in the world

        Dani Alves is THE best right back in the world. That is all.

      • Luis
        October 3, 2010

        Well said! But would like to say with Adriano it is too early to judge. Im slight concerned he wont be able to tiki taka like our other brazilian full backs. He has pace though however in his last match he seemed a bit tentative with it. If he sprints down the line not many can keep up and xaxiniesta will find him

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