CdR Preview: Real Betis – FC Barcelona, Wednesday, 4pmEST, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com
I’ve been gone. You’ve missed me; you sat by the window, watching the driveway and waiting. I’m back now and you can stop thinking those terrible thoughts you had going through your head: Betis will not beat us 6-0 tomorrow. And you’ll have your preview, right here, right now, starting with some celebratory fun:
Happy Birthday, Pep Guardiola. Yay for turning 40, you’re now as old as my liver. He’s done a few things for the club, or so they tell me. It’s a joy to have him as our manager and a joy to watch his teams play. As much as I liked Rijkaard before him (and I liked Rijkaard quite a bit), this team is insane, beautiful, and irrepressibly fun. Here’s to more years with Guardiola in charge.
A 5-0 lead on Real Betis feels insurmountable, but it’s not. Not if we go out and forget to play, forget to put in the effort. Guardiola won’t let that happen, even if the kiddies are out there: “It is not a game for relaxation or discharging anything. It is a fully-charged game in which we have to compete hard and play to win.” And as such, the only B teamer going on the trip is Marc Bartra. Thiago moves back down to the B squad now that he has the promise of a first team spot next season, as odd as that is. Here’s hoping he gets the #4 jersey…
The squad lineup is: Valdés, Pinto, Adriano, Milito, Piqué, Bartra, Maxwell, Abidal, Mascherano, Keita, Sergio, Iniesta, Xavi, Afellay, Jeffren, Bojan, Messi, Villa, Pedro.
So no Dani Alves or Puyol thanks to injuries, but everyone else is healthy. I expected the back line to include both Bartra and Milito, the former because we’re up 5-0 and the latter because he decided to stay with us instead of joining Maulaga. Hooray for that second part because I like Gabi, though oddly my Boo Weligton self wonders if Milito wouldn’t have kept that marauding [Censored. Wow, are those even verbs? I’m terrified that they might be -ed] from getting any more starts. That’d be a service rendered to barcelonismo (and a tax deductible humanitarian effort) even after he left the colors behind.
So I think I’d like to see this: Pinto, Adriano, Bartra, Milito, Maxwell, Mascherano, Keita, Afellay, Bojan, Jeffren, Pedro.
Obviously this is a crazy lineup, with a midfield containing no real “Barça midfielders”, so Guardiola might opt for something more “traditional” with Xavi, Iniesta, or Busi in place of Afellay. The thing is, though, that at 5-0, I’d like to see what the kid can do, possession-wise, and this is the perfect opportunity. Let the guy get a start and see if he can combine well with the kiddies up front. We know Jeffren and Pedro will be pedal-to-the-metal all night (or at least until Jeffren has to go off injured), so that gives Afellay lots of room to operate. Let the boy play, okay? It’s actually that I haven’t seen much of him and I might as well get to. Come on.
As for Betis: sorry, guys, you’re kinda screwed. Frown face.
Quickly, a look at the record we set:
- 52 points out of a possible 57 in the first half of the league. Holy smokes! I mean, seriously, 52 points?
- 61 goals for, 11 against. Last year, the team allowed just 24 all season and are on pace to allow even fewer (22) while the offensive side has gone through the roof–and we thought it was through the roof last year when they ended with 98 goals. Can the squad really get 122 goals? I doubt it, but if they get close, wow.
Much more throughout the week as we prepare for the weekend match (vs Racing, 2pm EST) and I go over some stats from the first half of the season and some recent transfers throughout the league.