Liga Preview: Deportivo La Coruña – Barcelona, Saturday 4pmEST, GolTV
I did a bad thing in college. Just once, mind you, but it’s weighed heavily on my mind since. I was walking through one of our largest dorms–North, if you’re familiar–and I spied a box in one of the hallways. It was clearly and definitively labeled “Books for Africa” and promised to deliver books to children learning to read in a variety of languages throughout the continent, but being the reading type, I naturally glanced through them. And, being the horrible person that I obviously am, I took one that caught my eye. That book was The Carpenter’s Pencil by Manuel Rivas, a Galician writer. It’s about love, death, and the Spanish Civil War (it’s quite upbeat, of course) and it holds a special place in my heart not just because the dorm where I found it was the home of [no one important, my dearest love, who is no doubt reading] but because that was great time in my life and I thoroughly enjoyed where I read it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what I know about Galicia, Barça’s destination this weekend. Manuel Rivas, a port city, and the old adage that you can’t judge a city by it’s book cover. That’s how it goes, right? I remember first getting into La Liga, first dipping my toes in it’s lovely waters, and there was this team in blue and white stripes sitting up there with the names everyone already knew. And their stadium was called The Razor–or at least that’s how I translated it–and that’s just badass. And then I found out that it was named after Riazor Beach in A Coruña and suddenly I didn’t want to visit that beach very much.
Depor was fun, broke the mold of big teams dominating, even won the title in 99-00 and appeared in European competitions. They became known as EuroDepor as SuperDepor had already been used in the early 90s and they had Juan Carlos Valeron in the middle. It’s hard to say how much influence Valeron had on my view of the game, but football has certainly never been quite the same since I saw him. Xavi is, at least in some ways, more Valeron than he is Guardiola (is that blasphemy?)–it was Juan Carlos that really showed me what patience on the field could do. Sid Lowe writes of him that: “He was not fast, powerful or athletic. In fact, he was slow. But somehow he made a virtue out of that; people seemed to dash past him, skidding by helplessly as he strolled about unaffected by it all. His vision behind the strikers was central to Deportivo’s success.”
Since he went downhill with injuries, Depor hasn’t been as good, but he’s still there (at 35!) and still quite fun to watch at times. His one goal last year was a beauty in the opening game at the Bernabeu, but this year he’s only managed 1 league start and 6 substitute appearances. The lack of an heir apparent has troubled Depor immensely throughout the last few years: Diego Tristan and Roy Makaay were never world beaters, but they were Pichichi in consecutive years thanks to Valeron’s brilliance. Recently Depor seems to be a place where strikers go to die. I usually predicted a scoreless draw for them, but now Adrián is scoring and I don’t know what to make of it; he dropped 3 on Córdoba in midweek in the Copa del Rey and has 4 league goals on top of that.
The team has 15 goals in La Liga, but they’ve somehow managed 12th place. They’re 3-4-1 (10GF, 5GA) at home, but Barça is 8-0-0 (29GA, 4GF) and that simply doesn’t look good for the Galicians. But here’s the real kicker: according to Wikipedia, “A Coruña or La Coruña (still sometimes known as Corunna in English, and archaically as The Groyne) is the second largest city in Galicia…” Wait, what was that last little bit? “second largest city in Galicia…” No, no, I mean the part about translations. “The Groyne”? Yeah, that part.
So we’re playing a team called The Groin? This is awesome. Say what you will about breathlessly parsing a city’s history or shining a light on culture and arts and all that…give me a groin joke any day of the week. How’s the groin these days, mate? I hear it’s hot and humid. And no, I don’t care that I’m misspelling the archaic misspelling. Groin! Ha! Wear a cup to the stadium because the groin’s balls are going to get kicked for 90 minutes! Barça is so going to hold onto the groin’s…oh.
As for us, for Barça, Guardiola has selected everyone: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Adriano, Piqué, Puyol, Milito, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Keita, Thiago, Afellay, Jeffren, Pedro, Villa, Messi, Bojan.
Maxwell is back after a brief injury period, Milito and Jeffren are once again included, Afelly might see some minutes in the league, and Thiago gets to go along for the ride even though he and probably Jeffren won’t be making the final cut. With a midweek Copa game against Real Betis (Segunda leaders) looming, I’m not sure how Guardiola will play this, especially considering the fatigue from the almost back-to-back games this week, including the Whack-a-Barça festival in Bilbao. Iniesta will return to the starting lineup, I’m pretty sure, so I’m going to go ahead and bet that we start our best 11.
We can’t really be worse in midfield than we were against Athletic, so that should be fine. I know Kevin gave him an 8, but if he puts in another performance like that, I think Busi should be sent to Tercera on loan for a month just to think about not heading the ball backwards and not kicking Xavi in the foot. I thought he’d outgrown a lot of his Bad Busi traits, but shiver me timbers, that was a horrid performance that we simply can’t afford to have if he really is the linchpin of our defense. Anyway, he’ll still get the start, I think.
Messi hasn’t scored for a while, so I think I’m going to start betting on him getting a hat trick. Villa is due for one that doesn’t go off the keeper’s foot–seriously, did Gorka’s horrendously slow run out scare you or something? I bet Luke’s front teeth you’d score in that position and end the whole thing right there, but all because of you, Luke has to get serious dental surgery. Way to go, David. And that’s not to shit on Villa’s performance, which I thought was generally pretty good–far better than Pedro’s pukearific performance–but rather to point out that goddammit Luke has to eat with a straw for a month. Keita was fabulous throughout the first half, by the way, with extremely threatening runs that no one bothered to look at except the time it was put to far in front of him and Keita got a chest full of Gorka’s knee.
All that is to say that Keita deserves to start, but Iniesta also deserves to start. As do 12 other players. So let’s go out with a 5-5-4, shall we? I don’t actually think that would help us very much unless they could only field 11 players, in which case Bojan’s hattrick is 100% ensured. As are Villa’s and Messi’s. And Abidal’s. Someone hit that man with a cookie! He scores when he gets his noggin’ splattered with sugar! And yes, for all of you wondering, I did a carbomb in celebration of Abidal’s goal. It was delicious.
Speaking of the Frenchman, why is Eric Abidal flashing gang signs at cameras in practice? Is he some sort of 20-year old white American college student? Did he then do Blood, laugh, and not have any idea what it means?
And now I’m going to go to Philadelphia to look at wedding venues. Because that is way more fun than watching Barça. On a completely unrelated note: anyone know where I can pick up a case of whiskey?