CL Preview: Barcelona-Manchester United, Saturday 2:45pm, Fox
For many of you, this is the big one. This is the Granddaddy of the All, but without the silly parade. For me, it’s a secondary trophy that—oh who the hell am I kidding? I’m so pumped I can’t sleep. Sure, it’s 5:30 on Thursday afternoon as I write this so I shouldn’t be asleep, but that is so beside the point.
Sure, it’s secondary, sure it’s got nothing on a single clasico, but this is a repeat of the 2009 final, style vs strength, Good vs Shrek. This is the match we’ve all been looking forward to since our souls were crushed horribly and mercilessly by Mourinho’s tactics, by Pepe’s tackles, by Busi’s diving, by the terrible aftermath that saw cule on cule action. And not the hot kind. The Requiem for a Dream kind.
There is plenty of tactical analysis we could do. Or I could link to myself and Jonathan Wilson in the same sentence and insult the latter quite severely; including Sid Lowe talking about Puyol and Pique just lumps him in with my nattering as well. But I did it anyway because that’s how I roll. If Glenn Davis and Nate Robinson are Shrek and Donkey, I don’t know who Wayne Rooney’s Nate Robinson is, but Nani must be Puss in Boots.
Are any of us actually ready for this? I most certainly am not. Yet I know it’s coming, just around the corner, just over the hilltop. The train I’m on is going backwards and I feel like I really am backing into the end of this season. I’ve been looking back so much—you’ll see the fruits of that labor shortly—and simultaneously trying to hunker down to avoid the nuclear fallout of the last month that I feel like I’ve completely lost touch with reality. I’ve dreamed about games, I walk down the halls at work pleading with my brain to stop drawing up the same damned formation (4-3-3! Say whaaaa? No way!) time and again, and I find myself staring off into space while watching other sports just imagining what the Red Devils could possibly throw at us. I need this to stop! I wrote an email the other day to my boss and barely caught the word “Barcelona” instead of the noun I meant. I need this to stop.
Yet I’m so excited about this game. I’m looking forward to it, I know it. I’ll be at the bar when it opens on Saturday and I’ll be chanting things about campeons and [wow, quadrilingual cursing of someone’s mother, impressive. –ed]. I’ll probably make some well-informed (and loud) comments about Imogen Thomas having Schwarzenegger’s love child. I might just have a lot of caffeine in the morning so that the shaking that causes will cancel out the nervous shaking. That’s how it works, right?…I’ll take your silence as a yes.
Affirmation of my immense understanding of the human body and substance abuse aside, I have this to say: Barça is hardly done. Whatever anyone may say about the end of an era, I will only believe it when I see it. It is perhaps incorrect to point at the World Cup as culpable for the team’s fatigue, but if Guardiola is going to reinforce the squad in the coming summer, there’s no reason to think that we won’t be as good next year. Perhaps our competition will also improve, but that’s okay, I’m happy to have that. I’m happy not knowing the outcome before the game begins…
Predicted Lineup: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.
I’m going with a lineup that I’d like to see, even though it is probable Puyol starts on the left and Mascherano gets the call in the middle. I have supreme faith in Roi Eric and I believe his combination of speed and positional sense will shut down whoever is put on that wing. Nani may beat him for trickery, but Abidal will growl and he’ll fall, earning himself a yellow for diving. It’s like a projected death rattle and only the receiver can hear it. If it’s Valencia, well, Abidal will have his hands full because of the speed and incisiveness, but with Puyol covering, I’m not particularly worried. If it’s Chicharito, fine, his speed is good, but his positioning on the wing is not particularly great, so yeah, let them put him there.
Official Prediction: Though you know this already…2-0, Barça. The game itself should be fun. The questions leading up to it are all about United’s formation and Barça’s back line health, but when kickoff happens, we should see some serious fun and some seriously talented players having that fun. Goals by Eto’o, err I mean Pedro and Messi. Valdes saves well from Park early on, but then Anderson in the middle screws up and Iniesta torches him and provides the assist. From there, it’s all over except the trophy ceremony and the lauding from the journos. Greatest club team in history? Can they repeat in Germany next year? Which Icelandic volcano will keep them from doing it?”
But I don’t say it best:
Here’s the thing: it’s not really about Manchester United. Oh no. It’s never about that. Not when Payaso and Payaso Junior are all up in some Arsenal training facilities:
It is clear to me, as it should be to you, unless your head is stuck somewhere in the sand, that the only reason Barça bothered to get to the Final, bothered to travel to London, worked all these years to be in this position, is to tap up Cesc.