Remember the assistant coach who was sent off during the Zaragoza match on Saturday? He’s Mohammed Ali Amar, better known as Nayim, a B team and then first team player born in a small autonomous city on the North African coast called Ceuta. There wasn’t anything especially amazing about Nayim’s career (7 league appearances with Barça, FYI, according to Wikipedia) except that he popped back up suddenly as assistant coach in a game agaust the blaugrana–and also played really well for while in England and Spain, but who’s counting that?–in a match just before Barça helicoptered over to his hometown for a Copa del Rey match.
Ceuta. The name doesn’t ring any bells, which is weird, because I’m pretty into geography and random Spanish colonial outposts, but a quick check of the history shows it wasn’t even a part of Spain proper until 1668 and who has time to study the modern Spanish autonomous cities all over the world. Oh, there are only 2? Melilla? Never heard of it. Doesn’t exist. What is this Ceuta, anyway? Must be some recently-founded place no one has ever heard of. It was founded in the 5th century BC by the Carthigians and called Abyla? Oh.
Still, no one has heard of it. Like actually read about it or the people who lived there. It was the home of Julian, Count of Ceuta? Well, sure, he was the Count of Ceuta of course–oh and his role in the Umayyad conquest of Hispania was pivotole and pretty much changed the course of history in North Africa, Spain, and by extension the rest of the world because of unclear problems with Roderic, Visigothic king of Spain that were most likely local politics playing out on a grander scale? Well, all right, so there’s something to this place, perhaps. Perhaps.
Basically, the history of Ceuta is fascinating and you should Wiki-wander around to learn about this city of 75,000 on the Península de Almina. There’s an old fort on the top of Mt. Hacho that was built by the Byzantines and later used by the Spanish. The city itself looks awash in various architectural wonderness (wonderitude, if you will) thanks to its ever-changing social and political landscape. And apparently its very existence causes problems between Spain and Morrocco because, well, everyone wants port cities. Like with Gibraltar, I don’t get the Spanish dogmatic approach to regional politics (or, conversely, the Morrocan one) and, as an ardent “I don’t give a poop about what land is in what country”-ist, I won’t get into it. Suffice to say that you can spend your entire afternoon following links and learning about a single, small city on the North African coast. And I say small despite it being nearly 10 times the size of my hometown–the current city I live in has 75,000 in view of my window, that’s all.*
Out of all this history, then, comes the modern city and its modern accoutrement, such as AD Ceuta. But, of course, it’s the team that has little history. Founded in 1996, it’s so young it’s not allowed to smoke in states where you can smoke when you’re in high school (Ohio, feel free to raise your hand here) and it wouldn’t get into R-rated movies either (Ohio, you can put your hand down now, don’t act like you card at movie theaters). Their head coach–José Diego Pastelero Corbacho–doesn’t appear to have been a professional player (though it’s unclear since he started managing at the age of 52), but has coached at Jerez CF (not to be confused with Xerez, mind you) and UD Melilla, meaning he’s a right veteran of the Spanish autonomous city Sengunda B world.
And that’s where Ceuta sits, in 5th after 10 games in Group 4 of the Segunda B. It’s below our youth team, which means that we have to be on our toes for any Alcorconazo-like moments. Their squad is pulled mainly from the Cape Verdes, which sounds terrible, but I’m sure someone can name some famous player from there who is escaping my mind at the moment. Okay, yeah, I googled that. Nani is from Cape Verde? The squad appears to be mostly washouts from bigger teams like Auxerre, Boca Juniors, and even Osasuna. And they’ve got a goalie named Fock. Yup. Just Fock. I hope he plays so the jeers are so much easier on this side of the Atlantic. Did I mention Fock is from the Cape Verdes? He is.
Our squad list is out, so let’s focus on that and completely move away from talking about Ceuta, which I know nothing about. Pinto, Puyol, Abidal, Maxwell, Adriano, Mascherano, Keita, Bojan, Jeffren, Pedro, Miño, Bartra, Fontàs, Thiago, Jonathan dos Santos, Nolito.
The first teamer players not making the trip are Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, and Villa, which means that we’re looking at a fairly mixed lineup of starters and B-teamers. I think that’s a solid way to do it. Put the youngsters out there with a backbone of good support and let them earn some minutes while still ensuring a solid result (and thus also ensuring the kiddies get more minutes in the second leg). I think that the Segunda A action will help the youngsters come in and get through this particular round easily enough.
The lineup I’m hoping to see is this: Miño, Adriano, Fontas, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, JDS, Thiago, Jeffren, Bojan, Nolito. Perhaps “hoping” isn’t the right word, but it’s what I’d put out there, in all of my infinite wisdom and inability to think as well as Guardiola. Pedro gets the bench treatment because, well, we need him more against Sevilla than we do against Ceuta, who he’ll see playing time against as a super sub. Keita would be a good addition to the midfield, of course, but I’m keeping him on the bench for no reason whatsoever other than I want to see how Thiago and JDS operate together.
Official Prediction: 1-2. They’re going to be playing their hearts out and, as Guardiola says, this is a very dangerous match because it’s easy to take lightly. You have to play hard (and that’s a reason to start Keita) and you have to take it seriously, tactically. Of course, the problem is that they’re in Segunda B and we should beat them–but that’s not hubris. Levante and Zaragoza should beat them too, but as we saw last year, that doesn’t always happen. Alcorcon was real. Real Union was real too. Is Ceuta good enough to hang with us? I guess we’ll find out soon.
Time: Tuesday, 10pm local time, 4pm EST/NYC, check your local time here.
TV: Here in the US, the game is on GolTVHD and ESPN3.
Weather: 63F (17C), 0% chance of rain.
And if you count the skyline, then a million is probably a more accurate count. I have a great view, is what I’m saying.