These are some serious, serious faces rolling off the plane into Copenhagen. Why? Because they know that this is a match that can make life a lot easier for our short-handed club. As with last season, we have one of the, if not the smallest roster of any major European club that is competing on three fronts. Win today, and it really doesn’t matter much what happens with the rest of the matches in the group. Here are the points standings right now:
FCK (yes, that’s just fun to type): 6
So. We still have to face Rubin Kazan and Panathinaikos, home and away, with 6 more points at stake after today’s match. Yes, we could still, by some thunderbolt, get messed up if we win today then lose the next two. But with 10 points, and the second-placed team 4 points behind us, it would be almost mathematically impossible, and winning today means that the worst we can do is second place in the group.
This means that Guardiola will want to take care of business, as I am in this shortie preview, since this seems to be a one-man operation these days, and I have a life, training and other stuff clamoring for what’s left of my short attention span. And I’m not the only one thinking of just getting it done:
Xavi: “That would mean we could rest some players, but it won’t be easy to beat Copenhagen.”
Messi: “It’d be good to get a win so that we can practically forget about the Champions League for a while.”
I don’t have to tell anyone that we are rolling into Copenhagen with our chests puffed out, after a 5-0 hammering of Sevilla on Saturday. I also don’t have to tell anyone that Copenhagen are a proud side, with a very strong home record to match our exceptionally good away record.
We’re rolling in with a 19-man squad, the full list of the 17 first-teamers, plus Thiago, and keeper Mino, who replaces Pinto (serving the two-match ban for naughty whistling). So: Valdes, Mino, Alves, Here Adriano, Abidal, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, Mascherano, Busquets, Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Krkic, Villa, Messi, Pedro, Milito, Thiago.
Xavi reports that he is feeling great after the weekend match, in which he could have played the full 90, so expect him to start this important match today. Everyone else is also healthy, so I fully expect Guardiola to roll out with a lineup that wants to score goals, but is cognizant of not conceding. Here’s my starting XI:
Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Messi, Villa
The idea will be put this one to bed early, then start rolling in key subs to rest folks for the weekend matches.
Not that I expect Copenhagen to cooperate with that program.
FC Copenhagen leads the Danish Liga by 14 points, having won 12 of its first 14 matches, with two draws. Essentially, they’re the Danish version of us, right? They also know that a good showing puts then in the driver’s seat as regards qualification. Now. Unlike Isaiah, I don’t care who they’re starting, or what their roster is. Because we’re going to win this one. Why? Because we’re the best club in the world. Duh. I say a 2-1 final, with goals from Messi and Villa, who will continue to round into the form that we’ve all been expecting.
Match time is 3:45EST, so set those DVRs. With all of the different cable and satellite systems out there, I won’t presume to tell anyone where it’s showing in their world. But Fox Soccer has the franchise, so that gives you North American and Canadian folks a starting point.
Finally, anybody who wants to run the LiveBlog should let me know here, or shoot me a note via firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll get you set up. I’ll be busy making the world safe for journalism, so I can’t do it. If no LiveBlog, I will set up a match comments post for everyone to go hog wild.
Yes, this is the shortest match preview in the history of this blog. So shut up. This cool picture of Puyol from training will make up for it.