Juxtapositions: Zaragoza – Barça

The Old vs The New

Liga Preview: Real Zaragoza – Barcelona, Saturday 12 noon EST, GolTV

Spain is nothing if not a hodgepodge of architectural wonder. If you don’t believe me, just visit Toledo, a quick train ride south from Madrid–assuming, of course that RENFE is running on time or at all–and you’ll see a mind-blowingly Medieval town set in the middle of modernity. Kids with cell phones standing next to structures older than their family tree. The Palacio de la Aljafería in Zaragoza sits near a bend in the Ebro, a short distance upstream from where the Huerva River joins up.

Built in the 11th century, with foundations and a tower–the Troubadour Tower–dating back to the 9th century, it’s not a modern marvel, but it is beautiful. Take a tour of it, if you don’t believe me. They have the modern Aragon Corte–or legislature, if I’m not mistake–there, so it’s still of value beyond the historically inclined poeticisms. It sits a short distance from La Romareda, where Real Zaragoza play their home games.

I’ve already covered a bit of the history of the city of Zaragoza, so I won’t go back over that. Let’s talk instead about who Zaragoza is this year.

In my season preview, I went over their credentials and determined that they weren’t going to be very good. Apparently I underestimated their ability to be, uh, suckypoo. In that preview, I wrote:

A large number of changes, but not much difference, really. A €2m investment on a 30-year old defender seems to be misguided at best. The loss of Javi Arizmendi might end up being the biggest problem for them as they’ll struggle all the more to score goals, though, in truth, it was the defensive side of things that kept them from doing anything last year (and thus the investment in Contini). Getting Alex Sánchez from Barça strikes me as a smart move after having watched his U-19 tournament, but we’ll see if he beats out both Doblas and Leo Franco.

Verdict: If you don’t score goals, you’ll struggle. This is as good a time as any to point that out, I suppose. 16th.

They’re currently 20th with 3 points from 7 matches and they’re still struggling defensively. 0-3-4 (6GF, 12GA). Not that they’re lights out on offense or anything. Half of their goals came in the second half of a 3-5 pasting by Malaga, so in 6 matches, they managed just 3 goals, including 2 scoreless draws (one against, predictably, Depor). Of course, nearly half of their goals allowed were in that Malaga match, so they’ve allowed 7 goals in 6 matches otherwise. They were comprehensively destroyed, however, by Athletic Bilbao and only managed a garbage time goal to make it 2-1 when they really deserved a 4-0 thrashing.

Basically: they’re a terrible squad. Their leading scorer is Florent Sinama-Pongolle, with 2. And they have Edmilson. Remember him? I’ll admit I was never a big fan, though he was always better than Thiago Motta. Edmilson started in the 2006 Champions League final for us and played the first half before being replaced by Don Gusiluz himself, El Cerebro Andres Iniesta. He played somewhere around 100 games for us (I can’t find the exact number) between 2004 and 2008 when he left for Villarreal. After that it was Palmeiras and then back to Spain in January of this year to help out Zaragoza. They stayed up, of course, ending 5 points from the relegation zone in 14th and Edmilson got a new contract. Faaaantastic.

It’s because of this that I titled the post Juxtapositions. It’s not quite first versus worst because we’re in 3rd, but it is the opposite end of the table from last week’s opponent. They’re hard up looking for some players capable of helping them out and they’ve resorted to our former scraps (speaking of which, why wasn’t Edmilson loyal to us? Traitor!) while we’re bringing in the players who use to play for them before they got Big Time (Villa, Pique, Milito, though the last one got Bit Time by joining us directly). Interesting.

As for Barça, here’s the squad list: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Adriano, Abidal, Maxwell, Puyol, Piqué, Busquets, Mascherano, Keita, Iniesta, Thiago, Jeffren, Pedro, Messi, Bojan, Villa.

The big news is Xavi exclusion from the list so that he can–maybe–get some rest and heal his injured Achilles. He needs it, after all. Valdes is back after a bout of intestinal flu or whatever he had that caused ouchies in the tummies and also kept him out of the Copenhagen match. Pinto is relegated to the bench again, no doubt, and could be in the sporting docket for his actions in the CL.* Milito continues to be absent, meaning we should see a fairly standard lineup unless Puyol gets a rest and Abidal is pushed into the middle.

Predicted lieup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Keita, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

I just see that happening for some reason.

Official prediction: 0-3. Goals by Messi (2) and Bojan as a sub. Pack ’em deep, pack ’em high, do whatever you want, I think we’re in it to win it and this is going be another Iniestaaaazo of a game.

Time: 6pm local/Zaragoza, 12 noon EST/NYC, check your local time here.
TV: In the US, this match will be on GolTV and GolTVHD.
Weather: ~65F (~18C) at kickoff,  falling to around 60F (15.5C), 0% chance of rain.

Photo credit: JWJ

*For my money, I think what Pinto did (fake a whistle to try and get Copenhagen’s Santin to think he was offside) was silly, fairly unsporting, and probably just downright shitty, but it’s a gray area and I’m not sure where I stand on it. I’m a player–if a bad one in a rec league–and as a striker, I’ve come to expect that when I turn on defender, he’ll grab my wrist to hold me back. No ref will call that even though it’s as unsporting as faking a whistle. Our very own Luke says he likes to call out to the other players like he’s on their team so that they’ll mess up or pass the ball to the wrong person. I guess I don’t see anything wrong with those actions–I like to hook elbows under ribs when jostling–so I’m not sure what’s wrong with what Pinto did. It just seems wrong. But if it hadn’t worked (and who knows how often it doesn’t work), would anyone be mad that he’d tried it? Maybe all this just makes me a shitty player, but at least I don’t dive.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. Larm
    October 22, 2010

    ive heard that if you pretend to be part of the other team or the refs, its a yellow cardable offense. although in this case pinto denied that foward a clear goal scoring oppertunity so it could be a red.

  2. Diego S.
    October 22, 2010

    What Pinto did, I have to say, was creative. When a defender grabs the attacker’s arm for a second just to hold him back, It isn’t considered a foul in most cases. You keep playing till you hear the “referee’s” whistle. The attacker should be alarmed, he could see the linesman from his angle, The referee was behind him and Pinto was in front, Pinto used his Gloves!! to whistle. The whistle probably didn’t sound the same. When you go onto the pitch, You know that players will hold you, grab your shirt, pull your arm, call your name, taking the professional foul that would deny you a golden chance, and anything they can to stop you from scoring, You MUST be ready.

  3. Kari
    October 22, 2010

    So I have Pinto to thank for the LOLing spree I had when Santin randomly stopped? Combined with his Jedi mind trick and this stunt, I LOVE him.

    Not cool that he got fined for it (though I understand why…I think).

    I dislike Zaragoza, so I hope we pummel them; Villa breaking his duck (where the f did that expression come from anyway?!) and us scoring more than 3 would be awesome.

    • blitzen
      October 22, 2010

      Kari, Villa has already scored for us this season, so no ducks will be broken.

      • Kari
        October 22, 2010

        Okay, rephrase: Villa breaking his goal scoring duck for October

        His last goal for us was, get this, Sept. 14 against Panathanikos–if memory serves me right.

  4. Jeff
    October 22, 2010

    What Pinto did was Bush League…but I don’t think it was illegal. Plus, the FCK player must have the worst positional hearing of all-time if he thought that the whistle coming from Pinto was from the ref. IT reminds me of when A-Rod yelled “I got it” while running the bases and caused a Bluejay player to drop an infield pop-up. It’s cheap..but, hey, it won the game didn’t it?

    October 22, 2010

    imagine that!final of C.L!we are 2-2 with madrid and in 90minute messi go to score alone the winning goal!but pepe whistle and messi stop!and we go to penalty and we loose!come on!it.s not fair!

  6. Nik
    October 22, 2010

    If Pinto did commit a punishable offense, then I don’t mind him serving the consequences of his actions. To me, it doesn’t matter what the other team does. They can be as dirty as they want. What I care about is our team sticking to our moral standards. Doing wrong because others are isn’t a valid justification in my mind. Otherwise, we would have applauded Busquets for his diving last season.

    Yes, the player should have probably not been fooled by it. But it doesn’t change the fact that Pinto pretended to be the ref by whistling. If he did a punishable offense, he deserves to pay the fine/suspension/whatever.

    • Jeff
      October 22, 2010

      I think it does make a difference if the player is fooled by it. If the idiot FCK player just plays through none of this matters. This isn’t Henry’s handball or a dive for the purpose of tricking the ref. This is Bush Legue weird sportsmanship. Now, if it is against the rules and is clearly indicated as such then, yes, he should be punished for it. I didn’t know there was actually something written against said action but if there is then fine. But it’s a rule just like a professional foul…I don’t really see any morality issues here.

      • Kari
        October 22, 2010

        FCK player. FCK player.

        Yes, I am immature. And yes, I find it funny.

      • Nik
        October 22, 2010

        Yeah, I agree. If he didn’t break any rules, then I will return to happily laughing my ass off at that play.

  7. Cesc Blanc
    October 22, 2010

    Pinto is a true OG. We should give him a lifelong contract so that kids coming through learn a bit of his street smarts.

    Seriously, how can you even come up with that? That’s just insane!

    Big up to Pinto!

  8. Kari
    October 22, 2010

    I know sweet f-all about baseball, but doesn’t the opposition team have people on the sidelines who say “Heeeey, batter batter, hey, batter batter!” to distract the player at bat, so they’ll mess up. Do they get fined for it? (No, really. Do they?)

    • Louis
      October 22, 2010

      Kids do that in Little League. That doesn’t happen in the pros.

      • Kari
        October 22, 2010

        Ah, I see. Too bad. (Would have been pretty cool if they [pros] did that too…)

        Thanks for the info, Louis.

      • Kxevin
        October 22, 2010

        But the pros do yell stuff to distract batters. They also do little tricks to try and deceive base runners, and the like, just as NFL and NBA players trash talk to a degree that would have most of us running home, crying to our mothers.

  9. jhargrid
    October 22, 2010

    All I’m hoping is that the match against Zaragoza will give certain players a chance to finally score that long-awaited goal and clear their heads *coughDavidVillacough*. And hopefully we won’t have another brilliant but toothless display. Honestly, sometimes watching Barça these days is like watching myself play FIFA10, lots of possession, constant movement, but few results.

    • Jeff
      October 22, 2010

      Same problem with me. I dominate possesion but I’m lucky to get a 1-0 result.

      • jhargrid
        October 22, 2010

        The trick is to turn the difficulty down.

        • Nik
          October 22, 2010

          lol. Taking long range shots help as well.

  10. Ciaran
    October 22, 2010

    I didn’t realize that it had anything to do with Pinto. I pissed myself laughing. If I was Santin, I would have taken it on until I heard the ref whistle again. I’m sorry but I’d rather get a yellow for kicking the ball in the net than what happened.

    As for Zara, I’m guessing Pep will play another 4-4-2 and piss me off again. Busquets & Mascherano in midfield and Villa & Messi upfront. Probably play Keita from the start to boot.

    My XI would be far more aggressive to actually try to win the match.
    Alves | Pique | Abidal | Maxwell
    Iniesta | Busquets | Keita
    Messi | Bojan | Villa

    • Jim
      October 23, 2010

      Agreed on the selection, Ciaran, apart from leaving Puyol out. A reason for that?

  11. Kari
    October 22, 2010

    Oh, and here is the video of the Pinto incident (so awesome!):


    Hahahahahahaha! Still hilarious.

    • puchanamano
      October 23, 2010

      i thought more people here would find what pinto did hilariously awesome. im sure the FCK coach ain’t gonna be less angry though haha

  12. Kxevin
    October 22, 2010

    As I noted in an earlier Tweet, I am torn. The sporting side of me has the same reaction as Isaiah. The cule in me says “Good on yer, Peento!”

    Gamesmanship can take many forms, all of them requiring that the opponent be willing to fall for it, whether it’s words that make a volatile player head butt you and get himself red carded, the little stompings and grabbings that put an offensive player off his game, or a keeper being able to psyche out a penalty kick taker by motioning to him the direction he was leaning.

    And now this.

    Santin had to be pretty doofused to even fall for it. I quite seriously doubt that Pinto can exactly mimic a referee’s whistle, and you can always look over and see the flag. Lord knows he had enough time and space to do so.

    Nonetheless, I imagine that Pinto will receive a one or two-match ban, whether he deserves it in our eyes or not. I don’t believe that he does, and I’m the king of fair play. Diving, on one hand, is a deliberate attempt to deceive the ref and gain an advantage. But if you can dupe a fellow player, and that player falls for it, that falls under the “gamesmanship” category to me.

  13. Ryan
    October 22, 2010

    Beckenbauer talks about our very own Pique!

    “Gerard Pique has an incredible career ahead of him. Now he is a champion with Spain, as he was with Barcelona. It’s been an amazing progression. I’ve told Louis van Gaal that Bayern lack a central defender like him.”

  14. Kxevin
    October 22, 2010

    Anybody for a Camp Nou wedding? Better hurry up and get that request in, as socis can apply to get hitched on the grounds. Whoa!

    • Culer_Than_Thou
      October 23, 2010

      Can Sixth-degree socis apply?

    • Eklavya
      October 23, 2010

      Isaiah should reserve already! 😀

  15. barca96
    October 23, 2010

    I hope pep will rest both Puyol & Alves.


    Yes, two DM’s but with that line-up we need to as we play with two flying wing-backs. Just hope Adriano & Max make good use of the space.

    • Roz
      October 23, 2010

      Agree! whyd we get adriano to bench him? Front three of Messi-Bojan-Pedro. Hope Thiago and Jeffren get some action as well.

  16. October 23, 2010

    no, really. Pinto is a rapper and probably a beatboxer and you know how beatboxers can mimic sounds, and Pinto was being nice to Santin already, because he could have faked a bunch of tigers chasing him, or aircrafts crashing 7 feet above his head, or dinosaurs stomping his ass.

  17. Eklavya
    October 23, 2010

    My starting XI: (pretty boring one for once)

    Alves Pique Puyol Abidal
    Iniesta Mascherano Keita
    Messi Villa Pedro

    Is Adriano still injured?

    October 23, 2010

    yeah what s up with adriano?i hope he is not another hleb,caseres case!my great fantastic line up:victor,alvez,pique,abidal,adriano,mache,keita,iniesta,messi,bojan,pedro!and a prediction too:1-4,goals bu villa(2)pedro,bojan!and a 2-0 victory for barca b!

    October 23, 2010

    oh and i love the rumors about torres!for me a triangle of villa,torres,messi will be the perfect forward line in the world!he is strong,fast,killer in the box and in spain he will find his form!and he is humble as a character.very nice person!

  20. extreme barca fan
    October 23, 2010

    by the by:

    the barca B play at the same time at the mini estadi againt huesca

    October 23, 2010

    oh shit!same time?so tiago can play the first half with barca b and the second with the big boys!haha!

    • ariston
      October 23, 2010

      i can try to run it if nobody else is available, but i don’t know how to.

  22. blitzen
    October 23, 2010

    Damn! Just got a notification that the red warm-up shirt I ordered won’t be shipping until November now. I blame Rosell!

    • Nik
      October 23, 2010

      The jacket I ordered is also delayed until “early November.” Who knows when it’ll come.


  23. Roz
    October 23, 2010

    Line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Pique Puyol Abidal – Iniesta Busquets Keita – Pedro Messi Villa(Barcastuff)

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