CL Preview: Barça – Copenhagen, Wednesday 2:45pm EST, Fox Deportes
Without looking, name me a Copenhagen player. Can’t do it? Didn’t think so. Without looking, where are they in the Danish top flight? Can’t do it? Didn’t think so. Without looking, what’s the official name of the Danish top flight? Well, I’m here to answer all of these questions and more. But first, a quick run down of how things are going in Champions League Group D.
1. FC Copenhagen: 6pts, 2-0-0 (3GF, 0GA)
2. FC Barcelona: 4pts, 1-1-0 (6GF, 2GA)
3. Rubin Kazan: 1pt, 0-1-1 (1GF, 2GA)
4. Panathinaikos: 0pts, 0-0-2 (1GF, 7GA)
What this means is that the Danish visit tomorrow is important to the final outcome of the group. I’m surprised that Copenhagen is at the top, but only because I’m surprised that they’ve been able to out-attack everyone they’ve encountered; thing is, that shouldn’t be a surprise. They’re top of the Danish Superliga by 12 points after just 12 matches. They’re 10-2-0 (29GF, 8GA) and haven’t failed to win since September 11 when they drew 2-2 with Silkeborg IF. So they know how to defend and they know how to attack. Hmm.
Who are they, though, as individuals? I…I don’t know. 2 of their 3 Champions League goals have been scored by Senegalese striker Dame N’Doye, but his Danish Superliga stats aren’t stunning (25 goals in 55 appearances) and he’s never played for any national team. Perhaps he’s extra motivated in the Champions League because he used to play for Panathinaikos, before they decided he wasn’t good enough for them. Perhaps not, of course.
Their captain is Hjalte Nørregaard, a 29-year old Danish international central midfielder who made a brief foray into the Dutch league with a year at Heerenveen before returning to his youth team and earning the armband. They also typically start César Santin, a 29-year old Brazilian journeyman who has a similar goalscoring record to N’Doye. He scored a hat trick this past weekend in a 5-0 drubbing of OB. N’Doye also got an injury time goal to put the final cherry on top of the demolition sundae they served up.
I don’t claim to have much knowledge about them–and sadly I missed their first 2 CL matches–but to take them for granted or to suggest they don’t deserve to be where they are in Group D is to underestimate them and risk losing to them. Guardiola won’t do that–if I know him, and boy do I, he’ll watch some of their matches–and I think we’ll see the best possible lineup against them.
Speaking of which, both Xavi and Puyol trained normally today even though the former is still not fully recovered. It would be foolish, I think, to risk Xavi despite the importance of this game because the next 31 league matches are more important than a single CL match. If playing him is risking the rest of his season or career, the match against Copenhagen isn’t the one to risk them on. Let Xavi rest and let a midfield of Iniesta, Keita, Busi, and Mascherano take over for a match, eh? We’re playing a 4-4-2 anyway, so why not put that out there fronted by Villa and Messi? It’s not a real 4-4-2, of course, but a dynamic 4-3-3 or even 3-4-3 or, as I like to call it, ?-?-?. You know where Valdes will be, but no one else.
Milito is still injured, so that pretty much ensures a back line of Pique and Puyol. The wing backs are obviously Alves and someone else on the left, who I think will be Abidal this time around because Maxwell started the last match. So, the whole lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Masch, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Villa. And naturally Guardiola will say nuh-uh to that and field like Miño, Bartra, Puyol, Pique, Jeffren, Gudjohnsen, Stoichkov, Guardiola, Xavi, Messi, Villa or something similar.
Doesn’t much matter, we’re at home and we’re going to win. And I’m going to enjoy it because that’s the sort of thing I do when we win. Official Prediction: 2-0. It won’t be easy and I expect them to threaten us several times, but I think we’ll get out of this one with a clean sheet. Goals by Messi and Villa. Yup.
Time: Wednesday, 8:45pm local/Barcelona, 2:45pm EST/NYC, check your local time here.
TV: In the US, it’s on Fox Deportes (formerly Fox Soccer en Español). Apparently it’s on TV3+ in Denmark, so there’s that.
Weather: ~63F (17C) at the start of the match, dropping into the high 50s throughout. 0% chance of rain until late. Should be a beautiful night, but they’ll have to get the sprinklers going to speed up the pitch.
Would you like to run a liveblog of this event? If so, let me know via email or in the comments and we’ll get you all set up. Awesome.