Chant the Guardiola: Barça-Almeria

That is not how you play soccer, Dani!

CdR Semifinal Leg 1: Barça – Almería, Wednesday 4pmEST, GolTV

He’s a frightfully dull guy sometimes, you know. He sits up there and he says things like “We have to work hard,” or “We have to work harder,” or even, when he’s feeling a bit spunky, “There is a lot of work to be done.” Once–but just once!–he let loose with a–get this, seriously, I can’t believe he did this–he let loose with a “This is serious business.” I thought I was going to have a heart attack!

And that is why it’s so hard to write these previews: Pep Guardiola gives you nothing. The last time we met up with Almeria was on November 20 and it was a bloodbath. A smackdown of epic proportions: the greatest away victory in the history of La Liga. 0-8. And now we meet them again, this time in the Copa del Rey semifinals and Guardiola goes on and on about how we’re not going to destroy them and how they’re an opponent we have to respect and yadda yadda, more of the right things to say. Ugh.

But it’s Almeria! And indeed it is, but it’s a different one than Jose Manuel Lillo’s side that we shellacked. Their new manager is José Luis Oltra, the man who managed Tenerife to their drop last year, but whose side put in 2 effective performances against us in doing so. Sure, they lost (0-5 and 4-1) and lost big, but they weren’t actually as bad as the scorelines suggested. The 0-5 was especially flattering and now that Almeria has just drawn 1-1 with Real Madrid in the league, they’ll believe in their giant killing abilities all the more. It is, in the end, actually a dangerous couple of matches, especially considering we have Hércules on Saturday and Atlético Madrid the following weekend. The instant you take anything for granted, you lose.

And that, of course, is the genius of Guardiola. He prepares for each match like it’s the Super Bowl, like this is do-or-die, but he does it calmly rather than in the manically intense way Mourinho seems to approach the world. Two different egos and two different personalities, but a similar singularity of focus and desire, I suppose. I wonder sometimes if one isn’t more likely than the other to burn out or, conversely, to burn out their players. They say of Heleno Herrera that he was masterful at controlling his players…for a few years. And then his style grated and the players wanted more control of their own lives. Is the same true of Guardiola or of Mourinho? But I digress.

Almeria rolls in with a mixed bag: Diego Alves (GK), Esteban (GK), Michel, Pellerano, Carlos García, Jakobsen, Luna, Bernardello, M’bami, Fabián Vargas, Corona, Ortiz Bernal, Crusat, Kalu Uche, Ulloa, Goitom, Piatti, Jonathan. This means they’re missing Juanito (a new signing), Juanma Ortiz, Marcelo Silva, Acasiete, and Nieto through injury or illness. That’s a pretty hefty list, but their strike force is still available, which is good news for them.

Argentine striker Leonardo Ulloa (7) has become their main goalscorer while Pablo Piatti (5) and Kalu Uche (4) are the only other players with more than 1 goal to their name. Ulloa is also the co-leading goalscorer in the Copa del Rey with 6. Oddly enough, for a team that play so tightly in La Liga, especially away from home (2-2-6; 8GF, 13GA), they’ve been racking up the big scores throughout the CdR. They defeated Real Sociedad in the Round of 32 5-3 on aggregate, then Mallorca 8-6, and lastly Depor 4-2, including a 3-2 second leg. They’ll score on you if you give them a chance, make no mistake about it.

Still, I don’t expect any goalfests. Their only real hope is to catch us on the break and shoot to kill, which means them sitting back and absorbing a lot of pressure. Obviously a lucky break or a tremendous piece of skill could blow the whole thing open, but they’ll be trying for the 0-0 draw the whole way, I would imagine, unless they learned something from Betis and think they can defeat us that way. And I’m not suggesting they can’t. Because they can. I just don’t think they’ll opt for that style. Hopefully I’m wrong, though, because I love to watch matches that move from one end of the field to the other, rather than sit camped in one end. Come out to play, please!

Barça, quickly: Thanks to Puyol’s injury, Pep will be looking for a replacement CB. I’m thinking Pique partnered by Abidal, but Milito should be given another shot because Puyol will be missing this weekend against Hércules as well and I’d rather save Abidal for that. It’s going to be about strength and energy rather than pace–Crusat and Piatti are quick, but not fast–so I’m going with Gerard and Gabi. Abidal simply doesn’t have an alliterative name partner in central defense, meaning that when either Adrian or Alves are in, Abidal is the obvious choice at LB. This is how you make championship sides.

Dani is questionable, but possible. If he plays, that would be a quick turnaround and really, if he’s not 100%, there’s no reason to risk him. Bojan is doubtful thanks to a stomach bug that has left him unable to train. Nolito has been called up in his stead, which could be a big moral boost for the guy. I’d say youngster instead of guy, but he’s actually 4 years older than Bojan. Pinto also returned to first team training after picking up a slight injury.

Predicted lineup: Pinto, Adriano, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Mascherano, Keita, Xavi, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

Official prediction: 2-0. A hard-fought win, indeed, but an important step towards the final.

And can I say right here that Grant Wahl pointed out in tweets the other day that if both Barça and RM make the CdR final, there will be 2 clásicos within 4 days thanks to our April 17 league date with them and the April 20 scheduled final. And if we draw them in the CL, we could play them 4 times in 2 weeks. I don’t think my heart could take that.

So, instead of leaving you in a cold sweat, here’s something amazing:

Check out more images here

By Isaiah

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

110 comments

    1. I think if Milito leaves this summer (likely) we have a good chance to mold a solid defender in Botia who’s had loads of experience by now.

      How old is he now? 22?

    2. I think you are right. Bartra is getting more training time with the first team right now, but Fontas was the one Pep trusted to start the game against Almeria a few months ago. And judging by his great performance in that game, he will fit right in with the first team when the time comes (hopefully this summer). I still replay that amazing pass he made to Pedro for the goal in that match. That’s the kind of pass Pique keeps trying to make, without the same results.

  1. I hope we win by more than 2 goals, especially if we put a strong lineup out. I also think Abidal’s pace will be needed for Almeria’s fast forwards, so no thanks to the option of Milito starting.

    1. Okay, let’s discuss the word “fast”–Piatti and Crusat are not fast. They’re quick. They have high acceleration a la Messi and thus appear “fast” over short distances. This is a result of them being short and the natural acceleration edge they have from quick leg turnover.

      But they are not “fast” in the sense that Abidal is fast. It takes Eric an extra step or two to reach full speed, but when he does, he easily out paces the vast majority of other players. I’ve seen Piatti and Crusat move and when they’re hauling down the line, they’re no faster than a Milito or Pique, they just get to their top speed faster than most.

      I don’t know how fast Ulloa is, actually, but Uche isn’t the speed demon some make him out to be, especially since he often plays behind the “speedy” striker as a support option and playmaker.

      Basically, who is faster, Messi or Pedro? If you say Messi, you’re simply incorrect. Who is quicker, however? Messi is, certainly. Also, his control makes him appear faster and quicker than he really is. The Getafe “Maradona goal” from a few years ago showcases exactly that. He didn’t cover the ground particularly fast, but he did it with such close control that it appeared faster than it was. Feel free to time it and compare it to the speed with which Abidal gets to a ball hit 60 yards.

      Anyway, I just thought I’d point that out. In a perfect world, Abidal would start every match, but this isn’t perfect, so he doesn’t. And anyway, I prefer Abidal at LB where his speed makes more difference.

    2. I remember The Yaya was pretty fast too. When we played Bayern two years ago, he outran Ribery (who was/is quick) and won the ball back.

      Same goes for Zlatan. People call(ed) him slow, but that slow is the opposite of quick and not the opposite of fast. Jason made a good point about this few months ago. Like the goal he scored at the Clasico, he started it by winning the ball in the defensive side, passing it on and then he outran the rest and put the ball in the net after Alves crossed it to him. Since he’s so big and huge, it takes more time for him to accelerate.
      More mass = more inertia = more force need to move = more time (something along those lines).

      Pique is also slow (=/= quick) but he was able to keep up with Crynaldo at the clasico so he can be fast as well once he accelerates.

      Adriano for example has an excellent acceleration and pace to maintain it. Alves also has pace but not really the acceleration.

      Bojan also has speed. Afellay also seems quick and fast.

      Anyone knows about Eto’o and Diego Milito? I’m interested.

    3. Okay, good points about the fast and quick (I know the difference, but I just decided to use the word fast), but either way, Abidal is a safer bet.

      Piatti and Crusat will find it easier to punish Milito than they will Abidal, that’s just the truth.

      You prefer Milito in the center instead of Abidal in the center and Maxwell on the left? After what I saw against Betis, I can’t say I do. MIlito’s positioning, timing, and decision making were all suspect and I don’t think it’s changed in a week’s time.

    4. The point actually is ,that they wont be able to use their “quickness” since even if they manage to get behind the defence, they will still have a long distance to cover before they will be close to the goal line.
      Such a distance would provide pique(who is fast but not quick) and the full back at the time with enough time to close down that space and meet the incoming challenge.

    5. True.

      But from what I saw of the pair last week, I’d still rather Abidal in the middle alongside Pique. Milito’s positioning and attempts to play the offside trap looked too suspect to me. He didn’t help Pique out at all and vice versa.

    6. Jnice, i agree milito had a night to forget against betis, but i think a lot will agree here that the betis match was an exception, we have seen milito play much better before, so lets give the guy a break.
      IMO the line-up against betis would beat the crap out of half the la liga teams, but that was a “special match” that we afforded to lose by a big score, so there was a lot of complacency and we lost

    7. For me, the back line always loses something without Puyol as it loses its leader. He’s the one who is always looking round making sure everyone moves up and talking to them which is essential in a good defence.

      To me, Abidal is probably the better bet overall as he has the pace to make up for any errors but we need to be sensible and give Milito another chance. He’s not as bad as that last game suggested. There’s a hint of the anti-Marquez sentiment about this where we turn on a player who has served us well because of one or two errors. The problem of playing him with Pique might be that Pique isn’t great at deciding whether to move up or not either.

  2. Good review Isiah, thank you
    As always i dont like predicting the line-up, but ill say i think abidal will play LB and our CD would be pique and milito, other than that i expect a full strength squad and Pinto.
    Also expect a double-Decker parked bus with some counter attacking attempts, dont forget this is Almeria only chance of silverware in a million years, so they take this very seriously.
    Finally, Almeria have improved a lot since that 0-8 defeat and i expect a tough tense match
    P.S any body know anything about Jose or Greece barca??, i haven’t seen a comment from them in ages.

  3. UMADebayor on loan to EE, with option to buy. Lets hope this turns into a Julian Faubert situation.

    1. Well, he barely played for ManCity this season, I don’t fear him at all. Van Gol might have caused us some concerns, I’ll be very surprised if Adebayor turns out to be such a difference maker as van Gol has been.

    2. I still don’t understand how ManCity keeps on buying strikers and people go there saying that they are “really interested” in their sporting program. I know the money factor is there, but what the hell, somehow it just escapes my mind how so many could do such a fail.

  4. I am so waiting for this to blow up in the EE’s face..get some more ego in that dressing room

  5. Wow, Blackpool is a terrific team!

    They are running riot against the unbeaten ManUnited, leading 2-0 at halftime but they should actually be up by 4 goals. They played some brilliant football, better than Arsenal does. I usually don’t like EPL matches, but this one is really fun. Great atmosphere in the stadium! Hats off to Blackpool, I hope they’ll win.
    Note that they are the financially poorest team in the PL, some of their players did not even play football as their main profession 2 or 3 years ago.

    1. btw, have you already gotten a ticket for Portugal-Argentina?

      You won’t see Tevez nor Aguero, but Messi will be there. If you go there, please jeer CRynaldo for me and make sure that Messi stays healthy 😀

    2. Nah, I don’t think I’m going. I don’t want to sit all alone next to Portugueses and my friend who’s going has all the seats filled next to him. 🙁

      It’s so sad. Infact, I’ve never ever been to a football game :/

      Why won’t Tevez or Aguero be there?

    3. They are not nominated by Alfio Basile, for no poarticular reason – except of that he wants to give other players a chance, before the Copa America.

    1. Cesc is happy right now. Bendtner just scored a rather pretty goal against Ipswich. They are tied on aggregate now in the Carling Cup game. Hey, I’m happy, too!

      OOPS now they’re up 2-0, 2-1 on aggregate. Maybe if I keep on typing they will keep on scoring.

    1. Can no one stop the Berba and his reign of terror?!?

      ManU play so much better when Rooney isn’t on the field.

    2. I don’t get what’s going on in the PL this season, a mediocre side and a mediocre striker lead the tables by a far distance.
      I just hope that they get knocked out of the CL asap.

    3. For United topping the table, it’s cos Arsenal, recent Chelsea, City and Spurs are all even more mediocre. For Berbatov, it’s just bizarre, though he scored five in one game and three in two others, so from his nineteen goals so far, eleven have been in three games. Then he’s scored two or three braces. He’s scoring in little bursts, like he’s farting out goals after a particularly gassy meal of peas. Long fart, nothing, couple of short farts, nothing, long fart.

    4. Rooney is actually playing more a defender than a striker recently.

      I wish Real had bought him for another 100m € last summer 😀

    5. I can’t believe there were people recently seriously suggesting that Barca should buy Rooney!

  6. Argh!!!
    I can’t wait for some team to finally beat ManUtd in the EPL. I always feel that they are actually a far less strong side than their position and points-advantage suggests :/
    But with City and Chelsea giving away points, Arsenal being a big match flop – who shall beat them?

  7. Can I just pop in to say two thing:

    GRAY IS GONE OMGOMGOMG. Adebayor to EE LOLOLOLOL

    Yeah, that’s about it.

    1. I share your sentiments. Right after the move was announced roberto.tarek, a Madrid fan, was on Scccernet (which hasn’t announced the move still, last time I checked at least) saying ‘Why hasn’t ESPN reported the very depressing news that we just signed Adebayor? fml’.

      Must suck for em LOL.

      Hope I’m not jinxing us by saying this and causing Villa to get some injury or Adebayor to score the winner in the Clasico (wait, LOOOOOOOOL HAHHAHAHAHAHA THE THOUGHT IS FUNNY) with them having the last laugh

  8. The thing with Adebayor is he has really only had one good season in his professional career (in which he scored 30 goals). He has never scored more than 16 goals other than that season. Assume we give him the benefit of the doubt and he has another season like that… cut it in half and that’s 8 goals, not likely to make a huge difference in the course of the season.

    Meanwhile he has never played in Spain, so he will have to do a bit of adapting. Add in the fact that he hasn’t really been playing at all this season, and he will take some time to get back into top shape.

    The real kicker is that Mourinho now has to decide whether he will play Benzema or Adebayor. We have to assume that Adebayor will play a fair amount, or he wouldn’t have been loaned. With Mourinho playing a one striker system you can’t imagine Adebayor will actually be bought next summer (unless Benzema leaves). That means Benzema gets less time and loses confidence.

    The deal has the feel of a short term solution that has the potential to cause long term issues at the club – Mourinho got exactly what he wanted.

    1. i’d MUCH rather them have that donkey than get horsie-face Ruud back. Adebayor doesn’t scare me at all, van Nistelrooy and his unerring ability to score from anywhere would.

    2. What it does though is allow Ronaldo to play his preferred position and Adebayor knows that he has a chance at one of the biggest clubs in the world. I’m still a little edgy. The biggest criticism of him for me is that he’s always been lazy. If he puts in the effort who knows? He can’t be match sharp though so if he plays from the start he’ll need a little luck which hopefully he won’t get.

  9. Abidal, being classy:

    “I’m at the top of my career. Never before [have] I played this good.”
    “Pep Guardiola is the best coach I’ve ever known.”
    “There won’t be problems to extend my contract. First meeting on Thursday. I don’t want more money, I want more years, until 2015.”

    He’s the man, although I can’t see him signing until 2015, that would mean he was signed until right before his 36th birthday!

    1. the last part about not being concerned about money, but just wanting to stay, is so refreshing to hear in light of Alves’ contract negotiations.

  10. Messi was fined €3000 and issued a yellow card by the Spanish FA for writing “Happy Birthday Mom” on his shirt.

    seriously, guys? seriously?

  11. Did anyone see Revista de la liga today?

    Balague said that there’s no offer from M. City for Alves, that’s why Barca are sticking to the 6 million net because they know M. City didn’t offer hem anything. He said that a source from M. City told him that..

    Interesting..

    1. I should add that I never completely trust Guillem. He always seems a bit fishy to me, but I believe him in this situation.

    2. I saw nobody posted it yet so I thought wth, I don’t trust him either but if he says that someone from M. City told him that then I believe it to.

    3. Yeah I saw Revista. I would take anything Balague says with a grain of salt. He tends to say a lot of things, most of them without real merit or backing, but that make him sound like he is “in the know”. It is very good self promotion. I loved the bit where he got the phonecall about Adebayour from Man City. He is of course so important that they would contact him straight away to let him know that while Madrid say the deal is done, the deal is not actually done. lol.

    1. Well for anyone who hasn’t read the article, Gray “jokingly” asked a female telecaster to help him position his microphone–down the front of his pants.

    1. I think he would definitely if we were losing. I also think he would if we were winning after having played them off the park.

      If they could give Ronnie an ovation simply because he killed them that night, I think Iniesta would receive one for his goal in the World Cup.

    2. LOL it depends on the magnitude of the killing. A 3-0 win yeah sure, standing ovation. A 6-2 win, disgust, leaving the stadium early, and no way in hell are they gonna clap they’re too down… if I remember right there were no applause or ovation after that humiliating 6-2 was there? The mood in the crowd seems resigned after 3-0 but just sick after 6-2.

  12. Awww, Rafa! I miss you. 🙁

    Marquez (NY Red Bulls): “It’s difficult to leave a big club but when I saw I wouldn’t play, I did a step back and to continue playing.”

    Marquez (new York Red Bulls): “The easiest thing for me would have been to stay at Barça and pick up the medals without having contributed.”

  13. Revista De La Liga – 01-25-11 (For the lazy folks still not registered to fbtz.com)

    *http://hotfile.com/dl/99565956/586039d/Revista_De_La_Liga_-_25-01-11.avi.html

    or

    *http://www.fileserve.com/file/CHVWawW/Revista De La Liga – 25-01-11.avi

    or

    *http://bitshare.com/files/2uiaxn14/Revista-De-La-Liga—18-01-11.avi.html

    Credit to Pakman at fbtz.com

  14. NOOOO can’t believe Puyol is reportedly out for the 1st leg of the Arsenal tie….I never would’ve thought his injury was so serious.

    1. I just checked out fcbarcelona.cat official website and it doesn’t say anything except:

      Puyol to have treatment on left knee
      http://www.fcbarcelona.cat
      Tests taken on Carles Puyol’s left knee on Sunday revealed that he is suffering from tendonitis. The club doctors will be treating the injury conservatively and his recovery will be monitored to decide on his availability over the next few games.
      Carles Puyol was substituted by Gerard Piqué at half time in the game against Racing after missing the trip to Seville for the second leg of last week’s Cup quarter final against Betis as a precautionary measure.

      The captain has played in 23 games so far this season and scored once, against Valencia.

    2. And also this:

      Options to cover for Puyol
      Jesús Carrillo
      The possible absence of Carles Puyol from Wednesday’s cup tie at the Camp Nou can be covered in a number of different ways.
      If it is indeed confirmed that Pep Guardiola will not be able to count on the Spanish international’s services against Almeria, then Éric Abidal and Sergio Busquets are the most likely substitutes, although there are other options.

      Gaby Milito

      If Gerard Piqué is fully fit, then he is obviously going to be one of the first choice centre backs for the game that kicks off at 22.00. One man he could team up with is Milito, who has decided not to leave the club during the winter transfer window and started the game with Betis in the previous round..

      Bartra and/or Fontàs

      There is also the option of using players from the B team. Puyol could be replaced by one of two players that already have first team experience. Fontàs even scored a goal against Rubin Kazan in the Champions League.

      Obvious choices

      When injury or suspension keep Puyol or Piqué sidelined, Busquets, and most of all Abidal, have generally filled in in the middle of the FCB defence. The Frenchman was given that job against Racing at the weekend and also against Bilbao in the cup, where he also scored his first official goal for the club. Busquets played at centre back in the Camp Nou fixture with Levante.

    3. And:

      Waiting game
      It will not be announced until Wednesday whether Puyol will be able to play. It is a serious enough injury to speculate that his presence is unlikely, but if there is any player that with an ability to recover quickly from injuries, then that man is Carles Puyol.

    4. I think it was Sport which reported that Puyi will be out for 3 weeks at least because of the tendonitis. No official report yet from the club, which gives me hope. But then tendonitis is a nagging injury which may or may not go on until the end of this season.

      Here’s to hoping that Xavi’s tendons hold up, and no one else gets this pesky injury.

  15. Woke up to a whole bunch of white crap outside. And it started crapping white stuff again. Gotta go shovel the white crap off the car. YUK! Hot chocolate and Copa game later, though! 🙂

  16. Abidal: “When Guardiola joined, I wanted to leave Barça because I didn’t like the way he talked to me, as if I was a youth player. President Laporta told me I shouldn’t take it badly, that Guardiola talked like that to everyone. Laporta and my family in the end convinced me to stay. And now we’re laughing when we’re recalling that with Pep.”

    This is very interesting. I didn’t know there had been any issue between Abidal and Pep. I’m glad he got over it!

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