The Razor’s Edge: To Galicia and Back

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?

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. “Diego Tristan and Roy Makaay were never world beaters, but they were Pichichi in consecutive years thanks to Valeron’s brilliance.”

    Makaay might have not been one of the big names but he has been rocking La Liga and later Bundesliga for quite a long time. Hadn’t it been for van Nistelrooy, Makaay would be an undisputed starter for the Dutch national team.

  2. “I did a bad thing in college. Just once, mind you…”

    Just once? In college? My you were an absolute angel!

  3. This should be in the previous post but what the hell:

    The Ballon d’Or ceremony – when the actual trophy is given to the winner – will actually happen this Sunday at 11:00 AM Barca time.
    There will probably be some feeds available, looks for TF1 or Telefoot.
    It lasts about an hour, unless the winner is late (Crynaldo was like 20 mins late in 2008 LOL)!

  4. I don’t think Busquets was horrid against Athletic. He lost a few balls, but he did well for most of the match.

    About this match…. I’m not sure if anyone will be given a rest, but I won’t try and predict the lineup. I hope Thiago is included on the bench, but I doubt he’ll make the cut. In that case, I hope Afellay, who in Pep’s words has been “flawless”, gets some minutes.

    If we get an early goal, we can score 4 or 5.

  5. gee- since that 1 comment was deleted, I guess I’m glad I didn’t know what it meant.

    Excellent review, Isaiah. I hope we do start our best XI as we can’t risk any points, and as much as I like Keita, it pained me to see how hard Xavi had to work without Iniesta. Pep shouldn’t have to rest all of them as we should be able to start some of the fringe/ B players midweek (although segunda sides with something to prove can be tricky).

    1. Nowhere, he scored a long distance goal against Chile as well not too long ago. However, it is very unlikely that he’s gonna have a chance to score a goal like that at Barcelona. Specially when most of our opponents play to defend.

    2. P!! (well, he was P! at the time) scored a similarly long ranged goal for us a while back too though.

  6. Re: Villa post

    Wow. It’s like I’m living in an alternate universe. Villa being defended not only by Kxevin, but at the expense of Henry and Ibra–his favouritest players ever? Imposter! Who are you and what have you done with the real Kxevin! 😀

    Re: Ballon d’or

    I’ve said before and I’ll say it again:

    Messi’s the best player in the world, but Xavi should get it as a career award.

    Plus, he’s won the WC and was consistently amazing for 2+ years. It should really be for the best player, but we all know that isn’t the case. I wanna see a 1.Xavi 2.Messi 3.Iniesta but it’s probably gonna be 1.Xavi 2.Iniesta 3.Messi.

    In any case, Barca wins.

    Oh, and for all the people whining that Sneijder should have been included at the expense of Iniesta:

    –On Depor, they’ve been so sh*t of late, it’s almost becoming ridiculous–at least according to La Liga Loca. I’m pretty sure they’re LLL’s most hated team 😀

    Anyway, they’ve been struggling to score goals (maybe because they play FIVE at the back?), so I feel this will be a pretty routine win.

  7. I checked out that Wiki link, and that does sound like a jolly read! Must check it out! I’m working my way through Roberto Bolano’s 2666 right now, have you read it?

    Oh, the game. Wait…did you say Depor used to be fun? Wow. I don’t expect much fun out of them tomorrow. Except for all the goals we score against them, of course!

    Seriously, this could be a difficult game, as I expect them to play very defensively. We are going to have a tough time finding space. I hope Afellay gets a chance to show he can help with that.

    Prediction: 0-3 (Abidal hat-trick Iniesta, Messi x2

    Wait…did you say wedding???

    1. 2666 is one of my favorite books of all time. Just phenomenal.

      Bolano was just a genius. Long novels, novellas, short stories, poetry. He was dazzling across forms.

      Savage Detectives was fantastic. By Night in Chile and Distant Star are wonderful Last Evenings on Earth and the Return are great short story collections. Literature+Illness = Illness is an amazing essay.

      On top of that Bolano wrote about football in Barcelona! If we were to select an official short story for BFB we might have to pick Buba for that reason.

      What more could you want than a story about a professional footballer playing in La Liga for a professional team in Barcelona. Sure the team’s name is never specified so it could be Espanyol… but with a little imagination… it clearly haa to be about the Blaugrana. The narrator is a troubled left winger after all!

    2. We don’t get a lot of Spanish literature in Canada, so I was very excited to grab this (I work for the distributor). It’s very different from the sort of fiction I am used to. Less plot, more atmosphere. He writes beautifully, but I find I have to take a mental break every hundred pages or so, just to digest everything.

    3. Yeah. It’s a challenging book to try to get through and absorb. Part 3 is especially difficult. It’s supposed to be create the effect of simultaneous horror and numbness. And it does it well.

      2666 is a tough entry into Bolano work (not sure if it’s his first book your reading but from your note it sounded that way). I think the best first book of his to read is Last Evenings on Earth which is a short story collection.

      Savage Detectives is very different than 2666. Great in a different way. Much easier to read and very fun.

      Adam Kirsch’s review of 2666 was particular good if your interested:

      Also, Daniel Zalewski’s review of his work in the New Yorker titled “Vagabonds” is also very good. I’d post the link but that would be two in this message. Google bolano new yorker and vagabonds and it’ll come right up.

  8. but now Adrián is scoring and I don’t know what to make of it

    LLL does.

    “Meanwhile, back in La Coruña, striker Adrián is the talk of the town by breaking recent Deportivo tradition with his fancy goal getting ways. The forward bagged two against Athletic Bilbao at the weekend and three against Cordobá in a cup clash that needed extra time to ease Dull Depor through.

    Nevertheless, there’s no reason to get too excited just yet about a thrills and spills revival in Galicia as three of those goals were penalties, one was a deflected shot giving Adrián just the one proper goal according to LLL’s largely biased calculations.”

    1. hadn’t read lll yet, but this was exactly what i was gonna comment on. two of his three goals the last game were penalties! i’m not very worried about him.

      re: ballon d’or

      i’m predicting votes get split between xavi & iniesta & messi walks away w/it. hope xavi gets it, though.

    2. ha! stannard’s maniche jokes never get old.

      “As it happens it was like Maniche putting on his trousers for the first time after Christmas and the tightest of squeezes with Barça relying on away goals to pass through after a 1-1 draw.”

      i’m looking forward to that villarreal real game. i’ve got my fingers, toes, & eyeballs crossed.

  9. You should check out the Sofitel in Rittenhouse – that is where we will be having our reception in May – it’s quite nice.

    1. The article makes it seem like like FCB is the one responsible for “changing” the date of the match, when we all know that is not the case. At the beginning of the season all the regular matches show on the schedule as Sunday games, and then the Spanish Football Association “fixes” the schedule to whatever works for them, and the TV interests, or whatever.

      I feel very sorry for these people, but if they followed the Spanish League at all they would have known that no dates are ever set in stone, and they should have checked a hundred times online to see if the date was really the date. It’s scandalous, but it’s not surprising.

  10. Damn that sucks, they must have been pretty good seats too. Kxevin, how do you buy your tickets? Club website?

    1. Always, Pyro. And I plan to be there a couple of days before and after the match, for this precise reason.

      Nice avatar, blitzen!

  11. Hey everyone, can we talk? Let’s have a heart-to-heart. Can anyone tell me what is happening with one Jeffren Suarez Bermudez? He has been injured a lot this season. The boy has no luck at at all. But he recovered in time to score the 5th goal against RM in El Clasico. The Manita!

    But since then he has been on the bench. Not even the bench in the last couple of games–he has watched from the stands. As far as we know he is healthy. He is training as normal with the first team. I haven’t heard any rumours that Pep doesn;t rate him or that he wants to leave. So what is going on? Why can’t he get any minutes? Why won’t Pep play him instead of Bojan?

    Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not a fan of Jeffren or anything. I honestly haven’t seen enough of him to judge his quality. I just don’t understand why Pep won’t give him a runout when Bojan is sucking so hard. Why not give him a shot? If not now, when?

    1. It’s not that Jeffren hasn’t been given any opportunities. He has started a couple of games, but it seems that every time that he starts, he picks up some injury. He has been extremely unlucky. I think he had a muscle injury after some minutes one time that he started. He then started another game and ended up dislocating his shoulder. I really want him to do well, but he is just so unlucky.

    2. I really don’t think Jeffren is good enough for our squad. Pep wanted him to follow in Pedro’s footsteps and grow as a footballer, but with the injuries and everything else, I don’t think he’s developed in the way Pep had hoped.

      I think he will be sold in the summer for sure. From his point of view, that’s what he should be gunning for because with Afellay on the squad now, he must know that he’ll get even less time on the pitch.

  12. Guardiola: “In my whole career I didn’t meet anyone with the human qualities of Keita. It’s an honour to have him in the squad.”

    See, Kxevin? Guardiola isn’t anywhere near thinking about selling Keita this summer?

    1. I remember how (after Keita scored minutes after coming on) in the match against Lyon in the Camp Nou, Pep warmly embraced Keita.

  13. So on the advise given by fellow BFB members, I have bought a copy of ‘In Xanadu’ by William Dalrymple..I’ll start reading it shortly.

    I, for one, went all Dr. Cox when Abidal scored that know when he puts his hands on top of his head..yeah that..without the obvious anger mind

  14. Hey guys I just was browsing the Free on demand on my att uverse and found that under sports<ESPN Deportes<Futbol they have the the 5-0 clasico in full on there!!!! watching now. I dont know who if anyone has uverse, but they are really showing support for soccer

  15. EMD says Sandro and Cesc have made a pre-agreement on a signing of Cesc until the end of Rosell’s tenure (that is 2016). So there’s lots of time left, I hope neither of them gets into a hurry now 🙂

    1. That’s a dumb bit of news by MD. We’re in 2011 and they give themselves 5 years for the signing to be made. Anyone could come up with that. They’re just covering their bases.

      With that being said, why all the sudden Cesc news? Do people in Barcelona really buy more papers when they see his name on the covers? Just to read the same rumors hashed over and over again? Seems a bit silly to me and not interesting at all.

    2. Oh no, it’s more like my Spanish sucks 🙂

      They actually reported that there is already a pre-deal that will keep Cesc at Barca until 2016 🙁

  16. Excellent preview Isaiah
    Could you tell the name of the lighthouse.
    Is it in Galician country?

  17. figured it out.. a mouseover the image reveals it to be torr hercules.. tower of hercules??

  18. The one thing that bothers me especially when watching Barca B and if you watch the goals the senior tea have conceded is that while defending there is little to no marking of a player on the other wing than at which the ball is being played and the defense tends to heavily shift towards the ball side.

    Now, this has been the nature of our defense for some period which has left us exposed to quick counters with long diagonal balls and it has only been exploited at rare occasions but it seems a more serious issue with the B team. Anyone have an opinion on that?

    1. The perceived lack of physicality on our part might be one reason for it.

      The other one, more important one, is that the staff judged that the opponents are not skilled and aware enough to get the ball to that, often wide open, player more often than not.

      In a way, the team is playing percentages. Due to the quality of our pressing, these are heavily in our favor. But every once in a while, the quality opponent (or lucky bounce) manages to defy these odds and we get “punished”.

    2. I think it’s one of the calculated risks that our style of play demands. Usually it’s not an issue because we tend to win the ball back in the midfield but there are those few times when it comes back to bite you. Those are the times you scream at the TV.

  19. no more captcha! lovin it. hope messi scores, has to catch up with TB. that punk got another PK goal

    1. CR can win pichichi, as long as we win another treble 😀

      Or a double, and someone else but Real Madrid wins the CdR. That would make my year, another trophy-less season for Madrid. It would also exclude Crynaldo from a possible Top3 list for the FIFA Ballon D’Or 2011.

  20. A win here would put big pressure on the EE who face Vilarreal next.. Hope the Yellow Submarine play well

  21. Hope Villa score some goal. I would like to see Mascherano in starting XI and Affelay in second half. I like Depor but this team is not a very good team so we should win today.

  22. Anyone know where I can watch the Barcelona B game? I can’t find any links on atdhe or rojadirecta.

  23. I predict Messi goes crazy and get’s himself a ham-bone. (That’s four goals in a single match, in case you didn’t know)

    Also, I want to see me some Afellay, even if only for 10 minutes, I want to see if he can fit into our system. Obviously it’s going to take a long time before we see his true quality but based on the youtube videos I’ve seen I’m excited about what he can bring to the table.

  24. Come on boys (Barca B), don’t make it another draw! You can do it!

    These kids do an awful lot of running about trying to get the ball back. They need to slow it down and concentrate on their passing.

  25. This match is making me dizzy. So many long balls! So much running! I feel like I’m watching an EPL game. Not good.

    1. Yeah, they’re working hard, but they’ve looked desperate for most of the game and aren’t playing like they can.

  26. Looks like Barça B are about to take an L. Some of their decision making isn’t the best.

    Nice moment for Rafa, though. Hopefully he gets promoted. They need another midfielder with Romeu and Vazquez out injured and Riverola on loan.

    1. They are clearly missing Thiago a lot. No one really seems in control of the midfield. Maybe that’s why they decided not to promote him until the summer, so we can send him back for a few games if things get desperate.

      And just as I type that we score! *phew* A point salvaged.

      And just as I type THAT, they score! LOL!

    2. I think they are missing Thiago, Romeu, and a confident JDS.

      I doubt Thiago will play for them again unless our season finishes before theirs does.

  27. Never mind the L. Fortunate deflection off of Soriano to make it 1-1. Another draw on the cards for the boys.

    EDIT: Never mind the draw. Goal for Girona with virtually the last kick of the match. Silly.

  28. It will be tremendous football by Barcelona – dynamic, adroit, clever, waspish, cheeky and zippy. Well, I may just have mentioned all the seven dwarfs there, Phil, but they are looking that good and hot. Meanwhile Depor are looking like they were carrying handbags and lipstick…

    1. LOL.

      Ray, can I ask you why you blatantly refuse to answer some of Phil’s questions sometimes? I mean, I would too, but isn’t it awkward since you’re sitting next to each other?

    2. In fact, one of these days, Ray’s patience with Phil is gonna get stretched out like spandex on Miami beach, and if he , himself had better biomechanics than a peregrine falcon, he would go after Phil like a zombie hunter looking for a twinkie and the result would be like canaries singing in his ribcage (can’t remember that one verbatum/ hope I didn’t misquote).

    3. That man can be tighter than a fish’s arse, talking tennis in the land of the bullfight!

      we do just fine…

    4. Well, someone has to keep the commentary accessible to the viewers at home. Besides, if you had all the answers you’d probably recieve a nobel prize for football.

  29. Hey everyone. I’m out of lived, visit from my girlfriend who lives halfway around the country induced, hermitage. Unforunately, this is only a brief foray out of my cave, so unfortunately I won’t be putting on a liveblog today. Let’s go boys!

  30. Razor’s Edge> obvious reference to Razor Ramon I presume..ahh the days of pro-wrestling mania

  31. barcastuff: “Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Adriano Pique Puyol Abidal – Keita Mascherano Iniesta – Pedro Messi Villa”

    i didn’t see this one coming.

    1. Are you kidding me ?!?

      Why the hell such a “destructive” midfield? There is no need to rest Xavi, Busquets for the mid-week game, it’s only CdR and not CL. If we don’t win this, I’ll blame Pep, and only Pep. Crazy, and while sometimes I understand the rotation, this time I don’t get it at all!

  32. i don’t know how fluid we’ll be with both mascherano & keita. overly cautious, me thinks. come on pep adrian’s goals came primarily from penalties, bro. he bought into the hype.

    1. That’s what I’m thinking. I think our ball movement will suffer a bit. Are Depor really that dangerous on the counter? I don’t think so. Plus like you said, it’s raining, so our ball movement is what I’m most worried about.

    2. i think this puts too much pressure on messi to run the midfield aaand get the offense going. bit of a bottle neck. i see him getting hacked repeatedly.

  33. Maybe Xavi doesnt feel well? Lets wait till Pep’s post match presser.My bet is Pep thinks having them fit in february onwards is more important than blitzing teams in januaury.We should have enough pegada to handle depor tbh.

  34. To me, more interesting is the fact that the ever single outfield player on the bench for this game (other than Bojan) can pretty much pick any other team in the world to walk on and would be an automatic starter.

    Very impressive.

  35. Anyone else glad to see Sevilla winning again? They just got their 4th win in a row. Little surprise that Navas is healthy and playing again!

    As to us, I hope Xavi not starting is just for rotation reasons and not for any injury scares.

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