Liga Preview: Barcelona – Athletic Bilbao, Sunday 3pmEST, GolTV(HD)
I’ll admit that I’m having trouble getting it together for this preview. Part of it is my natural inclination towards not using energy during weekends. Another part of it comes from the extra bottle of wine we had a dinner last night. And another part has to do with the fact that I’m a stupid Yankee muppet. Or at least that’s what they’re saying and since they’re so eloquent, I’m forced to agree.
I have a definite soft spot for Athletic Bilbao. I’m not entirely sure why, but I do. I think it’s got to do with their attitude towards youth development or their ability to stay in the top division all these years. It’s pretty incredible given their budget and talent pool, so I can’t help feeling something for them and hoping that they’ll do well. Except, of course, when they play us. We beat them 1-3 at San Mames in late September and then drew with them 0-0 and the Camp Nou and 1-1 at San Mames in the Copa del Rey.
Those last 2 games were tight and Athletic could have come away with a win in both of them so we have to be aware that we’re in no way out of the woods yet. And another thing: Abidal will probably not score. But if he does, carbomb time wooo. The Lady will not be happy with that, but it’s a law of the land. The consequences of breaking that rule would be devastating. I like my hands.
Bilbao are looking to get closer to Villarreal and that 4th Champions League spot, so they’ll want to leave the Camp with some points. Failing to do so could mean a 10 point deficit to the Yellow Submarine and Valencia (who could be tied with 48 points) and perhaps even being leapfrogged by Espanyol, who sit just 1 point behind los leones. So they’re coming to town with:
Iraizoz, Toquero, Koikili, Ustaritz, Amorebieta, David López, Iturraspe, Llorente, De Marcos, Gabilondo, Raúl, Susaeta, Iraola, Gurpegi, Castillo, Javi Martínez, Muniain, Ekiza.
Gotta keep an eye on Muniain and Llorente, of course, but Javi Martinez can control the midfield. There’s no doubt that they’re strong and capable and that they’ve studied up on Sporting and Arsenal’s successes against us. With our lead down to 2 points thanks to RM’s (predictable) victory over Levante it’s up to us to get it back to 5 points (and really 6 since we have the tiebreaker).
For our part, we’ll be missing Puyol and Jeffren once again, meaning we’ll probably start Pique and Abidal in the center with Maxwell out wide. I can imagine, however, starting Milito because of Llorente and Toquero’s physical presence and letting Abidal do his damage on the wing. I’d prefer that but I’m not Guardiola. Puyol’s continued absence is okay for now, but I’d like to see him back in action against Mallorca next weekend just to get him some reps before the Arsenal match when Pique will be missing.
Official Prediction: 2-0, goals by Messi (2). It’s time la pulga atomica got back on track and I think in front of the home crowd he’ll do just that.
Plus, as the following picture suggests, we need to defeat them for the good of humanity. Rule #2 is double tap.