Liga Preview: Barça – Valencia, Saturday 2pm EST, ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
I am full of cake right now, but I think I can still get a preview posted today. Lucky you.
27-year old center back Ángel Dealbert is amazing. It’s not just his footballing career we’re talking about–spent mostly at Castellon before a move to Valencia last year–but also his time spent in a popular American business cartoon in which his catchphrase is “Deal with it!” and to which Dogbert invariably reacts with a facepalm. Mighty lols ensue, of course. So yeah, I just made that up, but did I mention that I’m full of cake? That’s my excuse.
Basically, the point is that I don’t understand why Valencia is top of the league. They lost Davids Villa and Silva to other clubs. They start Joaquin. They have lots of financial worries. They start Éver Banega. They have a player whose first name is Hedwiges. Hedwiges. Like the plural version of Harry Potter’s owl. They just bought a guy named Feghouli, which I’m pretty sure is something that would get you killed if you said it to the wrong people in some parts of Brooklyn. Did I mention they start Éver Banega? I’m still shocked by their performances, by how good they’ve been. Their solitary draw was against Atleti at the Mestalla and it should have been 3 points for los colchoneros, but it wasn’t and Valencia could even have stolen the points at the end.
The obvious reason for being top of the league is that they’ve earned more points than anyone else; they’re 1 of 2 teams without a loss and they’ve scored more goals than all but 3 of the teams in the league (one of those being Malaga) and conceded fewer than all but 1. They’re better than Barça in both of those categories. I’m not as confident, however, in their chances of earning 3 points as Eduardo Alvarez over at ESPN is. Guardiola is, after all, the master of turning a bad situation–financial gloom and doom, injuries, and an absolutely absurd membership curtailing–into 3 points and a collective “Holy goddamn” from the footballing world.
Here’s the thing: Valencia know they’re good. We know they’re good. But they’ve got a problem: Valencia know they’re good. Do you come out and play, do you come out and say “Hey, we’re better than you,” and try to beat us at our own game and give us space and time and allow us to run with the ball? Or do you sit back and defend and give up your advantages? They’ve got better wingers in Mata and Pablo Hernandez so they should try to stretch us, but if you stretch yourself while stretching us and you give the ball away? Messi scores with ease. If you keep it compact and you give up a goal against us? It’s unlikely you’ll walk out with your hide intact.
I don’t know if Xavi will play, but I’m guessing he will. Guardiola says we won’t push him if he’s not ready, but he practiced fully with the squad today, as did David Villa, Pedro, and Adriano. So we’ve got 19 names to put on the team sheet and that must be a little worrisome for Valencia. Unai Emory isn’t scared–nor should he be–but if he comes out to play and we field our best 11? Lights out, FIFA virus or no.
Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Bojan.
I could see Pedro starting, of course, but I’m still not betting on it. Given Guardiola’s propensity for odd lineups, I wouldn’t be surprised by something else involving Mascherano, but really I think this is our best lineup and our best approach. Time to bring home the bacon. Time to win us some Liga matches. And anyway, we’ve beaten them 13-0 in their last 3 visits to the Camp Nou. Bodes well, eh?
Official prediction: 3-0. That’s right. I’m going for it. We’re going to murderate some fools. And how. Goals by Messi (2) and Iniesta. I’ll be partying hard at Woodwork in Brooklyn if you’d like to stop by and scream obscenities at Valencia with me–I actually like Valencia, but not tomorrow–and help consume all the beer the bar has. Should be fun.
Would you like to run the liveblog? If so, please let us know in the comments.
TV: In the US, the match is on ESPN Deportes/ESPN3
Time: 10pm local/Barcelona, 2pm EST/NY, check your local time here.
Weather: ~61F (~16C), 20% chance or rain. Should be a great night for some football and any rain will only speed the field up a bit.