The second trophy of the season is up for grabs at a neutral venue: Monaco’s Stade Louis II. It only holds 18,500 (if it were any bigger, it wouldn’t fit in the principality), so the crowd won’t be quite as raucous as you might expect for a match pitting the defending Champions League and UEFA Cup champions. The UEFA Super Cup, a one-off match designed as a pseudo friendly that gets everyone’s blood pumping before the domestic leagues are in full swing, is an excellent way for those who won the UEFA Cup (now Europa Cup). I’m not convinced of the need for such a match, but it’s fun nonetheless and offers up some extra silverware for the cabinet.
FCB last played in this match in August 2006, when Dani Alves and Sevilla beat them. So only our little Brazilian hummingbird has ever won this trophy. There are connections to AS Monaco as well that are documented here, the most notable of which is The Yaya’s stint there before he began playing for us.
So, it’s Shakhtar that we face. A team that we played twice in the CL group stage last year with varying results (1-2 away win that came in the last moments and a 2-3 home loss after passage had already been assured). I remember those games as tough, as full of knee-to-thigh tackles, and also including some big galumph of a Brazilian named Brandao. He is no longer there, having moved to Marseille, which is good for us because he 1) pissed me off and 2) was actually pretty good. Nice to know he’s no longer around.
Then there’s this other guy you may have heard of: Dmytro Chyhrynskiy. Yeah. Some guy. I’m assuming that he won’t be playing tomorrow because everyone has confirmed that he will be transferring to us. But he’s there in Monaco with the team, so I suppose he could be selected, though that makes fairly little sense from my perspective. He wouldn’t be able to go in hard on any of our players for fear that he would injure someone and then have to become their teammate immediately afterward. That wouldn’t be the best way to integrate yourself into the squad. And if he’s not willing to go in hard, then Shakhtar probably doesn’t want him out there being all baby-ish and giving up massive amounts of space, possession, and shots on goal. No reason for that, if you ask me. So he shouldn’t start.
To our squad, though: Guardiola has named all 24 available players for this one, meaning there’s will be lots of fresh, young faces on our bench, but out in the field I expect a fairly serious squad. Part of that is that Messi and Alves will miss Monday’s league opener because they’re going to train with their respective national teams to prepare for the Argentina-Brasil match that’s coming up. I expect a more serious lineup for this match than for the Gijon match simply because this is for a trophy rather than the first of 38 matches. It is, of course, possible that we’re going to see a mix of 1st team regulars and some 2nd team members, but I’m going to err on the side of “let’s win this thing” because I know that Pep is aware that Shakhtar wants something out of this game and will be going all-out in order to win. So, our lineup:
Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Busi, The Yaya, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Messi.
I’m sort of more hoping that The Yaya will get to play a more offensive-oriented role and that’s why I put him there. He’s the best DM there is (sorry, Hector, he’s above Masch in my world view, which is, of course highly biased), but that doesn’t necessarily make him a worse attacking mid than Busi or Keita. Or Gudjohnsen. So I’m saying we go with him rotating with Busi a bit (who can also take over some of the creative parts of the role). That way we have Keita fresh for Monday’s game and since The Yaya never gets tired, it’s not really a big deal to play him twice in 4 days. Xavi also does not get tired, but on Monday we’ll be starting this one pale guy so Xavi can rest then.
Another thing that I have incorporated into this lineup is the ability to sub Maxwell on if we’re not doing well and also if we are doing well and we don’t use him, Maxwell will be fresh for Monday’s game. Not that Le Greyhound isn’t capable of playing two games in such quick succession, it’s just that we need not expend his energy when we have Maxwell to back him up. I somehow don’t see us handing Chyhrynskiy his fist start on Monday, so I think it’ll be Marquez and Pique in the middle with Puyol or Henrique on the wing.
Our plan of attack will, no doubt, be, uh to gain possession and never give the ball back. Yeah. I think I’ve finally figured this whole system out. I think. Shakhtar will have to press the hell out of us to have a chance; for some reason I’m expecting a fairly open game that will be entertaining and will also result in us winning.
Official prediction: 3-1 Barcelona takes home the title. Sweet.
Would anyone like to run the Liveblog tomorrow? I, unfortunately, will not be able to do so. Volunteer in the comments or via an email.
New York/EST: 2:30pm
San Diego: 11:30am
Add On by Hector- Scouting video of Shaktar against Werder Bremen in last year’s UEFA Cup Final. Alas, the notes are in Spanish although a lot of it is self-explanatory. Suffice to say that the most interesting find for me is that Shaktar has a mess when it comes to marking set pieces. They often use a mix of zone and man coverage and even sometimes only use man. One would think that would be confusing to the players and apparently it is. With all of our new big tall guys, this is something to keep an eye on.