The Truth Hurts: Barça-Zaragoza

Liga Preview: FC Barcelona – Real Zaragoza, Saturday 2pm, ESPN Deportes, ESPN3.com

Scene: A man stands on the field of an empty stadium. He wears a suit and tie.  He holds a cell phone to his ear with one hand.

Javier Aguirre: The Camp Nou is a gorgeous place, I’m telling you.

Voice on the phone: But will they really have me?

Aguirre: Of course! You come recommended from the highest circles of coaching in the world. They’ll have you.

Voice: Guardiola recommended me!? This is fantastic–

Aguirre: No, dammit, I did.

Voice: Oh. But I thought you said–

Aguirre: Shut up, do you want the job or not?

Voice: Well, of course, it’s be an honor to play there, in that stadium. My first time outside of Mexico and I get to go there? Fabulous.

Aguirre: Right.

Voice: And I’ll certainly be the tallest player on the squad. I mean, I’m over 3 feet tall! [laughs]

Aguirre: Too true.

Voice: Do you think I’ll get much playing time?

Aguirre: You’ll always be able to earn playing time. You’re straight gangster in front of net.

Voice: But that’s not what they need right now, is it? I mean, they’re pouring in the goals left and right. Or at least they were. I haven’t watched for a bit.

Aguirre: I understand your concern, but despite the number of goals you might think the team scores, they need you quite a bit. There’s been a veritable drought recently. Only 3 goals in the last 4 games!

Voice: Huh. I didn’t realize that, but like I said, I haven’t watched for a bit. That sounds promising. I’ll hop the first flight out.

Aguirre: Great. This stadium really is lovely.

Voice: I’ll see you there. [hangs up]

Aguirre: We’re saved! [jumps up and down a couple of times] I should go get another crew cut to celebrate. But no, that wouldn’t be prudent. I need this hair. Maybe I should grow a mustache. It certainly has helped Preciado. My, what a mustache that is. I’d be more envious if I weren’t so successful. But maybe I should.

[He debates this point throughout the night, standing on the stadium grass. The grounds crew, arriving early the next morning, ignores him. Soon a man comes out of the tunnel wearing a Barcelona shirt. He approaches Aguirre.]

Bofo Bautista: Javi, my man, my buddy, what’s good in the hood?

Aguirre: Oh great, you’re here! We’re saved. [turns to the grounds crew] Do you hear that, puñeteros? Saved!

Bofo: Heh, yeah, saved. I like it.

Aguirre: But why are you wearing that shirt?

Bofo: Just getting used to it, you know? Gotta be prepared for going out on the field for the first time.

Aguirre: What?

Bofo: You know, for my debut with Bar–

Puyol: Hey, guys. What’s the haps on the craps?

Bofo and Aguirre: Where’d you come from?

Puyol: Oh, I was just cutting the grass as usual. Sorta my pregame ritual. And post game. And during my off days. It’s actually just sort of a ritual. Or a job.

Aguirre: What?

Puyol: I’m on the grounds-crew.

Bofo: Will I have to cut the grass here too?

Puyol: Oh no no, visiting players don’t have do that. That’s silly. You’re crazy. Oh it was a joke. I like you. You’re a funny guy. I won’t kill you during the game. But bald. Quite bald. So maybe I will just mangle you.

Bofo:  Wait…during the game…hey, Javi, what’s this guy talking about?

Aguirre: Seemed pretty logical to me. What’s not to understand?

Bofo: Well you said “Come play for me in Barcelona, it’ll be great….the Camp Nou is a gorgeous place.”

Aguirre: Mmhmm…and?

Bofo: But you coach Zarago–oh crap.

Aguirre: Wait, you thought–Ha! Seriously?

Bofo: But…debut?

Puyol: Hey have a great afternoon. Wear extra shin guards tonight, though, I’ve got some thunder built up and I think I’m going to town on some unlucky soul. Take care! [goes back to his blaugrana-painted mower].

Bofo: So you lied to me! You said I’d sign for Barça!

Aguirre: I said “Do you want to play in Barcelona?” Not, “Do you want to play for Barcelona?” Seriously? Come on, man, even I’m not that crazy. Let’s get ready for the massacre I mean match.

Official Prediction: 3-0, goals by Messi (2) and Villa. None by Bofo.

By Isaiah

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

138 comments

  1. I’m curious, Barcelona fans, which hypothetical way of winning La Liga would bring you guys more joy: 1.) by holding an early lead at Christmas and slowing getting farther and farther ahead of Real Madrid and the pack – winning by something like 12 points, or 2.) by seeing Real Madrid lose on the final day and Barcelona win, taking the crown by only one point or by having a better GD.

    On the one hand, the severe humiliation of being the unchallenged leaders of La Liga for five months is appealing, allowing plenty of time for gloating and trash talk. But in scenario two, you would have a more dramatic, spiked sense of joy on that last day both at your team’s triumph as well as RM’s bitter failure.

    I ask this as a fan of neither team.

    1. I want the lead, and to hold on to it for as long as possible. I love the idea of them looking up at us, chasing points that we then equalize, to maintain the gap to them.

    2. I’ve always dreamed(wth spellchecker? shouldn’t it be dreamt?) about us winning the Liga on the final day at EE coming from behind in injury time a la Utd ’99. Fun as it may sound, it’s gut wrenching(and completely improbable)..

      Either way is fine, provided we play good football along the way..

      Props to Jeremy and co. for the fine Sevilla blog btw..

    3. We almost had that last year, Not a good feeling at all, Hopefully we get the title earlier this season.

    4. Definitely the first option. My heart couldn’t handle the stress of the second.

      And then there is the Schadenfreude factor: I want to watch the spirits of RM and its fans get slowly crushed into a heaving puddle of jelly, while Mou gets more and more frustrated and erratic until he finally implodes from sheer disgust.

      😀

    5. Aw geez, Blitz! Didja hafta go and hurt Bassam’s feelings? He’s an awfully nice guy, misguided in his choice of club, but nice. 🙂

    6. haha, as awfully sweet you lot are, the thought of switching to the dark side (well, its dark in my eyes) just makes me feel awful 😉

      Do i still get cookies and perfectly suspended drinks?

    7. No, as a meringue you will have to drink plain (skimmed) milk. You can have cookies, though. 😀

    1. No, Puyol does not yet have the green light, per the interview with Tito V. a few hours ago. He said “we will see tomorrow”

  2. Yes! Man I’ve missed Abidal at leftback! Not that Maxwell didn’t do a good job, he did but I rather have Abidal there then Maxwell..

  3. Also, Euler, have you or do you ever consider getting your UEFA license?

    I mean, if Edu Oriol has one..

    1. The original story was that, but since then I’ve heard that it was no knife. There was a drop of blood, and that if there was a knife the bodyguards didn’t know till after.

      Either way I hope everyone involved in the affair is okay and the shroudy details come to light.

    2. So Mou isn’t paranoid? People actually are out to get him? Scary!

      Seriously, though, that is some crazy shit.

  4. Hope your prediction is way off, Isaiah, because I hope Messi won’t play.

    Iniesta should also sit.

    Puyol and VV back is great, great news, if true. I thought Valdes was to be out for 6 weeks?

  5. If Puyol AND Valdes are coming back this week, then that’s excellent news all around. Anybody got links?

    And if the story about Mourinho being attacked is true, then holy crap, people. Rivalries are all well and good, rolling your eyes at Mourinho’s antics is fine, but this takes it WAY too far.

    1. idk…the worst thing is that instead of taking it as a cue to tone down, he will be even more of a prick now…

    2. Mourinho might be annoying, but nothing he says warrants actual physical violence. I wish he’d tone it down, sure, but not as a result of this ridiculousness.

  6. Oh, and I really hope Messi and Villa both sit out this game, because honestly, come on. At the very least, I want them to be subbed out by the 60th minute.

  7. Two Isaiah scenes in one week! I’m in hog heaven!

    Wish List:
    VV
    Alves, Pique, Milito (it’s Zara),Abidal(or Adriano(practice for Wed.)
    Xavi, Masche, Kieta
    P!, Messi (u know he will), 3M

    caveats:
    Messi plays no more than 60
    Puyi comes in for Milito at 60 to get back into the swing of things
    Xavi plays no more than 60
    Masche fouls (wimpy, non-hurtful foul) and sits out Sevilla, So Busi can play Sevilla and get his fifth and sits out Getafe. There you go, Jnice, how to manage the 4 foul thing(for the record I hate intentional cards but…).

    0-4 Messi (2), P! (2)

    Awful if Mou really was attacked. He’s one of the most annoying people in the world of footy, but FOOTBALL IS A GAME, really! What kind of person takes morbo to that level?

  8. The attack on Mourinho (if true) is just stupid and ugly, no one deserves this no matter what, i hope mourinho comes out unscathed.
    .
    .
    .
    .
    According to soccernet preview. Saragossa will be missing up to 7 Starters due to injuries/suspensions, this makes our job easier.
    I hope we give a rest to some of our guys: messi, iniesta, abidal & busi, and apparently, guardiola wont be on bench tomorrow.

  9. Voice: Guardiola recommended me!? This is fantastic–

    Aguirre: No, dammit, I did.

    Voice: Oh. But I thought you said–

    AWESOME 😀

  10. I’m watching the Dortmund v. Cologne game, and at halftime some guy mooned the camera when it panned towards him.

    I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that in a football match before, and that surprises me.

  11. VV
    Alves – Pique – Abidal – Adriano

    Busi
    Xavi Keita

    Pedro Villa Afellay

    Have Puyol come in for Abidal and Bojan for Villa

    1. I know! That product endorsement is so random!

      Maybe I should check out my local Best Buy? 😉

    1. I understands that details are scarce, but honestly, if it wasn’t a knife, then what on earth was it?

  12. If Messi doesn’t get benched tomorrow then he never will. I hope he was watching Ronaldo yesterday. He played every minute of every game and now he’s going to miss the next two games.
    I would start with the following–

    Pedro Bojan Afellay
    Keita Mascherano Xavi
    Maxwell Puyol Milito Alves

    –but I already know Messi will demand to play like his life depends on it.

  13. ——————-Pinto
    —–Alves—-Pique—-Milito—-Maxwell
    ——————-Masch
    ——–Thiago————-Keita
    —–Jeffren——-Bojan———-Afellay

    should be the lineup, if we value CL

    1. The defense could easily resist their attack imo. If the youngsters can’t create enough we can always sub in the starters in the second half.

      And yeah, Puyol to sub in for Alves

    2. shouldn’t Alves be rested when he have another game in less than 3 days!? Even Alves is not exception for the fatigue man 🙁

    3. I don’t think Puyol has the legs for that position anymore though. I’d rather see Adriano there, but Alves’ stamina is pretty legendary and probably needs less rotation compared to others.

    4. Alves doesn’t need as much rest as other players, in fact he goes stir crazy when he doesn’t play. He was off for 10 days with that injury and was bouncing off the walls.

  14. (On the topic of alleged attack)

    The event has been reported by credible sources like Cadenaser and BBC. But before we get carried away, few details are interesting:

    a. “A member of the club’s security staff was said to have received a 4cm (1.5in) stab wound”

    b. “the security staff member did not realise he had been stabbed until he was on the team bus”

    Barring the information on how deep the ‘stab’ was, this looks to be a minor thing. The ‘dagger’ can stand for anything as far as we know.

    (to put things into context) “The incident happened last Friday but has only just been reported by the Cadena Ser news channel”

    1. Why the wait?

    2. Knowing the profile of people providing personal protection, it should surprise nobody if the investigation reveals the bodyguard as the intended target.

    3. The whole thing smells. If I didn’t know any better, I would say they are preparing the terrain for The Clown’s departure at the end of the season.

  15. Did anyone see that Dortmund match? Wow, they’re fun to watch. It was a shame they didn’t score more, they had several chances, I only recall 1 Koln shot on goal..

    1. dortmund’s finishing was comical, but cologne’s rensing had a hell of a match from what i saw.

  16. Im super excited, I just got comcast in south Florida and it has ESPN deportes as a complimentary channel because of the large spanish population in South Florida!!!! Plus, Gol & Fox soccer are in the sports package for $5/mo. Also, can we give Afelay a run out, leaving P! to sub for him in like the 60th min, or for Villa, if the game is wrapped up. I also want to put this one to bed early an rest Leo for Tuesday!!!!!

  17. Some of you guys talk as if Zaragoza is just going to sit there and let us run over them. They’re playing against the best team in the world. Every team will play their best on that day to get noticed. Almeria was the only exception.

    -Messi- definitely take out in the 2nd half. No need for permissions. Just get him OUT!!(arnold schwarzenegger accent)
    -Puyol- last 10 mins or so to give him some rhythm.
    -Busi sit out to avoid suspension against Seville.
    -Abidal & Iniesta- must sit out as well.
    -Fontas, Thiago & 3M- a good opportunity for them to have some match time since it’s at home. Easier to gain experience with crowd support.

    It has seriously been quiet here. Usually when I wake up I got 100++ posts to catch up. But this has been a breeze.

  18. barcelona really do need promote themselves more heavily
    every nike store here sells a united jersey but i have to go half way across the city to the biggest one in town to get a barcelona one
    i m hoping that they have it

  19. Agreed. Thats why I am in heaven when I am Barcelona or New York. N.Y has a few Nike stores that represent Barca well, and of course there are a ton of “official” FCB stores all around Barcelona itself. Unfortunately, the ‘€’ beats the “$”s ass so shoping in Europe is crazy for an American to do. I remember I bought my girlfriend a Nike tee shirt…red with a black Nike swoosh in the middle and the with the word football embroidered nicely above it. Anyways, the shirt, as beautiful as it was, cost me €44 at the Nike store. I could not Fu**ing believe it I payed $66 dollars on a short sleeve tee shirt

  20. Puyol’s knee still hasn’t healed completely and he won’t be in the squad today. I’m getting kinda scared for Tuesday.

  21. I say rest as much players as you can but p!, it would be nice to see p! and afellay start. Fire!! Maybe bojan also, el guaje has been looking good IMO. zaragoza in camp nou should be easy. Will it be even 4-3-3?

    VV
    Alves pique milito adriano
    Masche
    Afellay keita
    P! Bojan villa

    There was no attack on mou people who want autographs usually carry pens. Anything with enough force can cut, if there had been an attack with a knife or some kind of weapon someone must have seen something.

  22. All I can say is, if Bojan doesn’t start today…Pep has completely lost confidence in him.

  23. Anyone watching Arsenal v. Sunderland? Hardly convincing. Nasri excellent, Wilshere good, but everyone else a bit dull. HLH pretty anonymous.

    1. Yep, I’ve started watching from the 2nd half. Think they’re holding it back with an eye towards Camp Nou?

    2. No, they can’t afford to hold back, they need to pick up points today. They are just…off. They never look as good without Fabregas, and with both Van Persie and Walcott out, they are a shadow of their former selves.

    3. It’s not even that Sunderland is good.
      And yet those EPL fans claim that we wont cut it in the EPL.
      We would’ve torn Sunderland apart.

      Geez..Whats going on here. Where is everyone?

  24. This wil be the most interesting selection of the season so far. First of all, Pep will have to figure out who will be playing against Arsenal and give some of them a decent rest. After that he has to decide whether its better to start the A team and build a lead or keep them on the bench and hope they aren’t needed at all.

    With regard to personnel I’d like to see Valdes get some action before Tuesday (he’s due us a good game in the return for what happened in the first leg). I think it’ll be Pique and Abidal at CB as you don’t want to mess too much. I’m guessing Puyol will be back and will partner Abidal midweek. Not too worried about resting Abidal as hopefully he’ll have very little to do. Really you shouldn’t get too tired playing at CB for us against most teams. I’m tempted to say I’d like to see Adriano at LB just to see him get two games in a row and a bit of rhythm but I don’t think he’ll be playing in midweek so Maxwell may need the game to ensure he’s ready for it.

    In midfield I’m sorry but I don’t see Masch getting a run until well on. Busi shouldn’t be too tired and its important we have complete midfield domination if we want to play about resting people. I’d start both Xavi and Iniesta and hope to take Iniesta off at half time. Xavi’s style means that he doesn’t exert himself too much if the opposition isn’t too strong. He can come off too with 20 to go if we’re 3 up.

    Up front I have to say i feel quite strongly that Messi should sit this one out. I’d put Bojan in along with Pedro and Villa, let him play through the middle and tell him if a low hard ball comes across the box he’d better be on the end of it ! Villa is living a dream at Barca and at his age you want to make the most of it. I wouldn’t rest him.

    If we do make changes let’s cut them some slack and not panic if we’re not ahead at half time. If all else fails we bring Messi on with 30 mins to go. Can you imagine the feelings of their defence seeing him coming on when they’ve already been chasing us for an hour?

    1. I’d rather Busi sit this out Jim and let sMasch get a rare start.
      It’s not about resting Busi but keeping him is safe for Getafe which is always difficult. He is on 4 yellow cards.

      I’d rather have Adriano helping the team attack Arsenal come Tuesday.

      Haha. That’s a scary thought for the defenders. Even Valencia could only pressure us for 15mins or so, imagine Zaragoza. After running ragged for an hour then having Messi coming on, it’s just too much.

  25. From barcastuff:

    Guardiola has arrived at the stadium, straight from the hospital. Team doctor Pruna accompanied him.

    !!! Geez, Pep, take it easy! Tito can handle coaching one game! I hope this doesn’t make things worse. Back injuries are not to be trifled with.

  26. I keep looking for some of this beautiful Barca-style football that Arsenal supposedly plays. Not seeing it today, that’s for sure!

    1. Well, their crosses into the box this game are having about as much success as ours do. 😉

    2. i only started watching from the second half(was watching bayern get beat up) but i think song not playing has something to do with their not playing very well. they tried denilson & diaby but that wasn’t dynamic enough. i think the cameroonian will be out v barca, too.

    1. The guy shoved Arshavin as he was falling down, bummer for Arsenal not getting the call there.

    1. Horrible Little Hobgoblin = Arshavin.

      Because he was rubbish for most of the game, and when he did perk up he had two key calls go against him: the non-penalty, and the possibly not-offside goal.

    2. He pulled them off and chucked them on the sideline. Not sure why, but I found it mildly amusing.

  27. Zaragoza sits 15th in the league and for today’s match they will be missing 7 of their starters between injury and suspension.

    Essentially one of the poorer teams in La Liga are going to be fielding a back up line up.

    This game is a significant opportunity to rest and prepare for the second leg against Arsenal on Tuesday.

    Man U dropped points and Arsenal had to win this match against sunderland. But they themselves again have serious injury problems and have been forced to play a very difficult match against where they haven’t been able to score to minute 87 so far.

    That’s forced them to play all of their key players the entire match.

    Pep needs to rotate the squad today. No Messi. I would also rest at least one of Xavi or Iniesta. I’d actually be tempted to rest both and play Afellay and Keita along with Busquets in midfield.

    The alternative strategy would be to play starters early and pull them after taking a lead. But even then they would be limited by the number of substitutions they can make. They should rest more than 3 players.

    They way they play the game today is going to impact their probability of advancing in the CL.

    They should take advantage of the opportunity.

    1. i just hope they don’t play their little hearts out at camp nou thinking the cl is the only competition they have a chance at winning.

    2. Please let him rest Iniesta. he has been off the last couple of games and should sit. Xavi should play, he just came back from time off and isn’t tired.

      Villa should play and keep up his run of good form, maybe come off after 60 minutes or so.

      Messi should sit, but will he?

    3. Afellay needs to play in midfield today unless Pep really has given up on Bojan.

      If Bojan doesn’t play today Pep is essentially saying he’s not functionally part of the squad in any meaningful way.

      I’m still a little concerned about Xavi playing too many minutes coming back from injury but he very well may be fine and that’s a non-issue.

      There is no reason why a Barcelona team relying heavily on it’s bench players (many of who are world class players in their own right) shouldn’t be able to beat a zaragoza team playing it’s back ups.

    4. Perhaps we can take something out of EE’s recent match, where they played against a second string Malaga. They got the predicted gaudy scoreline, but also injured their best player. I would prefer resting our key players and getting a more modest win.

    5. no messi while he is fit , and no iniesta or xavi? Wheres the magic unicorn that will make that happen?

    6. mei- why do you become so snarky on points you disagree with? It’s not even as if you make a counter argument. You’re just sarcastic. It’s really unnecessary and not particularly interesting.

      I’ve had many discussions with you here and have never done that in response to one of your posts.

      Please note – nowhere did I say that’s what is going to happen. In fact as I noted, “The alternative strategy….”

      I’m only writing what I would like to see happen. Not what I think will happen.

      I don’t want to see Messi play – but I would be surprised to see him sit.

    7. Euler , i apologize if you think that was a snipe at you.
      In fact when I have little time to take a look at all the comments after a busy day , I filter and read yours just because im sure something interesting and hard to notice bymyself will be included, so im quite sad to see that you think of my comments as an attack on you.
      Im being sarcastic because im as much frustrated as you about messi not being rotated enough (along with some other players).
      Its not supposed to be directed at you , but i cannot express this to the people I should .
      Its more of a spontaneous reaction to the notion that what you say is absolutely correct, yet has minimal chance of happening rather than what you say is wrong and im having a laugh about it.
      Im sorry ,again.

    8. mei- Thank you for the clarification. I appreciate that and am happy you took the time to explain. It’s always so hard to get context across on the internet and it’s easy for misunderstandings to take place. Glad that’s resolved.

  28. Also – Arsenal are a completely different team without van Persie on the pitch.

    They play a very different way.

    Not having Fabergas is obviously a huge issue – but van Persie gives them dimensions no other player on the squad can come close to and they can really struggle to score up front as they did today.

  29. I actually thought they weren’t bad, considering Fabregas has still to come back in. I’m more and more impressed by Wilshere, especially his pace. We need to watch him bursting past us in midfield. Those two plus Nasri are just about the best midfield we will face imo and they are capable of playing at a good pace. My other concern is if they play with Bendtner and Chamack up front. Not convinced that we could handle cross balls if neither Puyol nor Pique are there.

    We need to give one of our “Here’s how you keep the ball” lessons.

    1. Pique does seem to win every contested header, but Abidal has been pretty good at that too. I’m not too convinced with Milito’s aerial ability though. And we’ll need Busi in the midfield for that game… hmmm…. let’s really hope that Puyol can play, eh?

    2. Nasri was by far the best player on the pitch today, and Wilshere was solid too, but the rest of the team was blah, giving away ball after ball.

      I am sure that both Fabregas and Puyol will move heaven and earth to be there on Tuesday. Puyol pretty much has the green light unless he has an unexpected setback, and I think Cesc is expected to be OK by then as well.

    3. If Puyol doesn’t play today, then i dont think he can play 90 minutes on Wednesday

  30. Lineup I want to see today:

    Valdes
    Alves Pique Milito Adriano
    Xavi Mascherano Afellay
    Pedro Bojan Villa

    Lineup I expect to see:

    Valdes
    Alves Pique Milito Abidal
    Xavi Mascherano Iniesta
    Pedro Messi Villa

  31. I’m sorry, I don’t see Messi sitting this one out. It’s not just because because it’s the way we do business but also because Messi has this wonderful little habit of racking up major goal totals against Zaragosa. I can only hope that he doesn’t play the whole 90.

    1. I’d put him in ahead of the ghost. Iniesta has been looking off for too many games and we need him back to his awesome self for Tuesday. Wonder if it’s pre-paternal jitters 🙂

  32. Guys, how reliable is Barcastuff? If what I quoted below is true Pep is crazy. I don’t want him to relapse and miss Arsenal 🙁

    “Guardiola will give the tactical chat, attend the game (although it’s not clear from where) and then go back the hospital. #fcblive [md]”

  33. From Barcastuff:

    Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Pique Milito Maxwell – Xavi Mascherano Keita – Pedro Messi Bojan #fcblive

    1. Good, i wanted messi to get a rest, but this is good enough, Iniesta, busi, abidal and villa get it, hope messi gets subbed at the earliest possible time.

    2. This is Bojan’s last best chance to show what he is made of. I really hope he does well.

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