Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona Preview

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2:00 pm EST Saturday, GolTV

Hey Gerard, can we go get some ice cream after training?


Oh hello there. Perhaps you meandered to this space looking for a story about the 4 clasicos in 3 weeks? Maybe you saw El Clasico III (Return of the Messi) and thought that you would come to the Barcelona football website of record (trademarked name, don’t try to take it) and spout off about how you think so-and-so is a diver, or you, like me, have been imparted with the knowledge that Lionel Messi is not actually a human but is actually the living embodiment of the great old one Cuthulhu, risen from his slumber, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, riled up into an angry fit after it heard lowly mortals naming false gods? Either way, you are out of luck. Cause we’re talking about the real show here, this Saturday’s match against Real Sociedad. Get excited!

As you surely know now, La Liga is coming upon Week 34 of 38, meaning that there are 15 points left to be had, including Saturday, and an 8-point lead for the good guys (9 technically when you could head-to-head). Sociedad is sitting on 38 points, 3 points out of relegation, yet still 12th in the Liga. Iniesta and Puyol are definitely out, Puyol I think is precautionary, and there is this minute little detail of El Clasico IV, The Footballening, on Tuesday, which means there is a good shot that this weekend will feature a number of the kiddos, including but not limited to, the young man featured in the above picture.

The usual suspects will be present including all the first-teamers available from the weekend (except Puyol) along with the normal bench guys, as well as Montoya, Roberto, and young Gerard Deulofeu (who will be wearing #41, which has always been my number in every sport). For those of you who might not know, Deulofeu is currently situated on Juvenil A, but recently made his first team debut with Barça B and is called up for his first match with the big guns. He is a forward/wing player and is getting a ton of hype from both the lower level managers/coaches as well as the Spanish national press for being the wave of the future with the national team. He’s 17 and if he played, it would certainly be a shock, but it would also be great for a lot of the young guys to get some playing time and rest players. Specifically Xavi and Messi. Messi, as you may know, has been the subject of some speculation this week because he originally had a “muscle strain” that was really just some bruises from the game, but apparently the staff are still trying to trick him in order to keep him off the bench. Our crack investigators here at BFB went undercover to hear what the training staff had to say to Messi:

Messi: I’m ready to go for the game this weekend sirs!
Staff: Um, Leo, don’t you remember when Ramos threw you down in the game Wednesday and your arm broke?
Messi: That was what? 2 days ago? It already healed after me and Bojan played Kinect and had juice boxes last night.
Staff: How does that heal a broken arm, don’t you use your body to control it?
Messi: *is distracted doing 500-piece kitty puzzle*
Pep: *apparates from thin air* You cannot play this weekend, you have a muscle strain
BFB Investigator: *sends anonymous text to Sid Lowe about it*
Messi: But coach, my legs are fine, and look, I can do the monkey bars
Pep: Lionel, please get down from there, look at all those bruises on your legs
BFB Investigator: *sends anonymous text to Isaiah about it*
BFB Investigator: *text message noise*
Messi: But Mister Guardiola, I really want to play
Pep: Lionel, I know you are 8 goals away from breaking the modern-day goal-scoring record, and 12 away from the all-time record, but you are injured
Messi: What are goals? I just want to play with my friends
Pep: *shakes head* I know, I know, that’s why we let you play in goal for the B team last weekend
Messi: But I want to play with the big kids again, plus Sergio said I was a cotton-headed-ninnymuggins, and I’m not, I promise
Pep: D’oh! Ok Lionel, let’s go look over this chart *gives signal*
Shadowy Figure: *chloroforms Messi and drags him off to Bojan’s Lego playroom dungeon*
Pep: *turns to the shadows* You, BFB Investigator, let no one know what you saw here *shoots poison-tipped dart*
BFB Investigator: *death rattle*
Luke: *watching via hidden video cam stream* Excellent

Prom pictures!

So basically, it is going to be a typical late-season FC Barcelona game under Pep: lots of young guys, probably sloppy, and hopefully a lead so the old guys can rest up some. Probably looking at Valdes-Alves-Pique-Fontas-Montoya-Keita-Thiago-Xavi-Afellay-Villa-Jeffren. I would love to see Sergi Roberto start as well, but I doubt Pep goes that young, that’s why I have Xavi in there. I also think it will be tied at the half and we will see Messi come on in the second half, just so the team does not drop points. I hope not, but I am realistic. Best case scenario: early goal for Villa and 2-0 at the half with Roberto, Montoya, Fontas, Jeffren, and Deulofeu getting a lot of time before a comfortable win.

My guess is 1-1 in the end because it is tough for the young guys to come in and meld so quickly, but securing Tuesday is a lot more important in the long run methinks. A draw will not be the worst outcome here.

Photo 1: FC Barcelona
Photo 2: Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe

Posted in Preview203 Comments

Postmortem: King’s Cup Finale

Le Sigh


These games are brutal for a number of reasons. Your team loses the Cup final. To its biggest rival. A week before playing that same team in a two-legged tie to decide a berth in the European final. So many implications, and yet, still very few. There is not much to say here other than a few brief takeaways and to get ready for Osasuna and the Champion’s League semis.

1. David Villa was dreadful. I hate to pile on any player, I really do. I am still in the “Fernando-Torres-can-pull-it-out-and-get-back-on-track” camp. However, Spain’s leading national team scorer and Barcelona’s key summer offensive signing has been sputtering for over a month now. Could the culprit be a lack of confidence in his game right now? Possibly. I tend to think it has to do with playing so many games now (Barcelona plays many more than Valencia typically did/do) and being asked to adjust his role. Can he get back on track? Of course, he’s a trust talent, but he needs either a breather or a confidence boost. Which leads us…

2. A lack of depth. Pep likes to carry his small squad, and I don’t usually tend to question the manager who is on a historic 4-year run for the club, however, the injury to Bojan has killed the depth even more, and there is no help in the reserve. It is hard to comprehend now, after the Liga has basically been wrapped up with said lack of depth, but in these trying cup ties, it becomes much more apparent. This means a summer signing is needed up front. Either on the wing or a backup 9 to provide a change of pace.

3. It’s only one game. It was the finale, and yes it was a hard knock, but it is only one game. Losing to Madrid sucks, big time, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. And today, it fell their way. However, with the Liga all but assured, it means that this is not leading to some historic Madrid treble or any such thing.

4. Pep hopefully learned a lot from the second half about what was working. In the past 2 games, Mou has used the Pep midfield situation to a tee, and he might do it again in Madrid (being that Carvalho is suspended for that game, he might not be able to). But the second half flowed better and the offense moved through Xavi and things were looking up until Extra Time. If the team comes out stagnant like the 1st half again, it’s going to be bad. A defense that plays that high cannot rely on some of the best players in the world missing or having a bad touch to get by.

5. Madrid earned it, or Barcelona lost it, I can’t decide. One way or the other, the team that deserved to win, did win. The first half was dreadful, the second half was better, and the goal was perfect. No keeper would stop it, no defender except Pique could have defended it (and he was in position guarding Adebayor). It hurts because it was Ronaldo and because it was Madrid, but it happens sometimes. Losing to Real Madrid, aside from being their arch enemy, is not shameful. They are the 2nd or 3rd best club team in the world, it’s not the worst thing ever.

6. Losing this game does not take away the other good things from this year and the past few. Closing in the Liga, a load of trophies, the best player in the world, and the best club in the world. The Copa del Rey is not a loser trophy or something minor, it is a worthwhile cup that any team in the RFEF would love to win, and winning it would have kept another treble hope alive, so it’s not something small, let’s not act like small fans. Congratulate them for winning a game and then move on for Osasuna, the CL, and the Supercup of Spain next August. Let’s not be petulant.

7. Best players of the night: Pique, Pinto, Xavi (2nd half), Messi (2nd half and when he could touch the ball), Busquets (aside from his theatrics, which I thought we were past), and Mascherano. Sometimes the team has an off game, it sucks that it happened in a final.

Sorry for the brevity here, but I have little else to say. We will be along later in the week with more updates and the preparations for Osasuna!

Posted in Barcelona, Copa del Rey, Review179 Comments

Postmortem: Barcelona 1-Villareal 0

Celebration!


In what may go down as the most important week of games that does not involve El Clasico, FC Barcelona acquitted themselves nicely while Real Madrid struggled and ultimately faltered before Sporting Gijon (titters). As a result, Barcelona stretches to an 8-point lead in the La Liga race with 8 games and of course the second Clasico remaining. As a fan, one of the biggest things is breathing room, so there we go, enjoy.

The team was bolstered by Madrid’s early loss and, depending on your view of the situation, this either gave Pep a license to run out a greatly changed lineup without Messi, or had no effect on his selection at all. After watching Pep for this long, he never does anything without a reason, so I know where my guess lies. Going in to what is normally considered a tough game for the team, the injuries and suspensions mounted. No Pedro, no Xavi, no Puyol, and no Messi, whose absence from an Argentina-Costa Rica friendly apparently caused massive rioting and post-apocalyptic scenarios (read: complaining), meant a younger, more uncomfortable lineup, and it showed out of the gate.

Villareal gained a ton of possession in the beginning. Rossi was dangerous, so dangerous. He kept undercutting Busquets, who was starting in place of the injured Puyol and the indefinitely out Abidal at the back. Chaos ensued early on. The first about 15 minutes there was no central midfield control because Xavi was suspended and Iniesta was playing out of position on the wing (someone please cite a good game he’s had there, because I cannot remember one). This led to 2 golden chances for Rossi, both ending in quick thinking from Valdes stopping a disastrous start. The first had Pique playing the ball and Busquets getting turned around before Valdes took the ball off a wide open Rossi’s feet in the box. The second was an excellent pass leading to a great palm save from Valdes across the goal mouth. Pep had seen enough and switched Pique to the other side while dropping Mascherano further back. After this, Rossi’s supply dried up and he was a non-factor.

The rest of the first half went along mundanely enough. Adriano ripped a shot, but for the most part it was nothing to write home about. Thiago showed a ton of promise and alternated between great runs, smart passing, and overrunning or missing his spots. He’s 19, so we’ll forgive him, or at least I will. I’m sure in 5 years when he’s Xavi II, some of you will still be complaining about his missed passes and all. Outside of Pique, Thiago, and Valdes, our team was three steps short of garbage.

Guardiola made no changes at the half, but a few players came out re-energized. Iniesta, for one, looked like a new player. I have a theory about this: it is because he knew he was being moved off the wing, which I am convinced he hates. Improvement came and Iniesta and Villa got close. Messi came on and this opened everything up. He actually had very little to do with the goal, but 3-4 Villareal defenders attached to Messi at all times and the whole thing opened up. Eventually Pique scored off a corner, an excellent volley, and not a handball. Silly yellow submarine. A few chances came and went before Valdes came up with a kick save off an 8-yard Santi Carzola strike. And that was that. Now for your takeaways.

1. Most importantly, breathing room
Beating Villareal with a depleted side is a plus. Beating them after Madrid loses to Gijon at home and I no longer have to hear about that stupid home unbeaten streak anymore, well that’s just a great Saturday. I will echo the sentiments of Avoiding The Drop’s Twitter feed and simply state that it is a lot more impressive to actually win the big games with your bajillion dollar squad than hold on to that kind of streak. Suffice to say an 8-point lead with 8 to play and a win by manita over Madrid already is amazing.

2. Thiago = Very Good
Let’s just say this, Thiago is going to be excellent. He’s 19 and already doing great things. He was not perfect, and after the first 40 he slowed down a lot, but that is to be expected. He has control, finesse, and the eyes to see it all. I hope the hype does not grow too loud on the kid, but he’s going to be excellent in a few years time.

Enjoy the victory. Enjoy your evening, or morning, or whatever time it is where you live. Remember, it’s all relative.

Posted in Review81 Comments

Footballer Rights as Employees

Love me, embrace me


I find this a pertinent time to write on a subject which is very close to my heart: the rights of the workers, specifically those of the players (read: employees) of FC Barcelona. I realize the contentious nature of the rights of workers and I could weed through your responses one-by-one but frankly they are insignificant edit and I tire of incessant buffonery, even before it begins. If you would like to know more about what you, as an American (if you are American), can thank unions for, then find this link, and enjoy. This also comes with an eye toward the oncoming labor strife in La Liga based upon TV revenue and a possible strike of this weekend’s football. The idea here is that employees have rights, and their rights supersede those of the club, as it is effectively a corporation. I know many of you will question my love for the club, and that’s silly argument, since love or hate of a club does not mean I put its well-being over that of an actual human. So proceed down that path at your own risk.

This writing had more to do with my interest in the topic and less to do with the oncoming strike in La Liga regarding TV money.

I guess all of this starts building in me when I hear the all too popular refrain when a player leaves a club about how he should have been more “loyal” to the club and the fans or whatever. It is to be expected I suppose. Fans are looking out for themselves and the club they hold dear, and the players are, in the long run, interchangeable. Someone once said that being a fan of a professional sports team is basically like cheering for laundry, because the players come and go, but the jersey stays, for much longer (akin to how a music critic is effectively writing about his or her mail). To this end, the fan reacts with rage and anger when a player decides to leave for another club or turns down an offer from the club because it is seen as inadequate. The jersey wins. The player is de-humanized. “Why did so-and-so leave?” “Why didn’t he stay around and work harder for a starting spot?” “He should have been more like ?” We have heard it all before. Incidentally, I have also written about this before in terms of loyalty in professional sports.

The obvious problem with this is that the person is still a human being, with rights and ideas, and a life to live. That person has to make the best decision for them and their family, not for a club or a fan. When the offer comes in, the player must weigh how much the rest of his youth and young manhood is worth. Rest assured that $30M over 6 years to the player is a gracious sum, but also understand that when said player has used up whatever value the club places on him, he’s going to be left in the gutter by the club. Or at least a gutter of sorts.

This is all contingent on a foundational argument of course. One that must be accepted before any topic can really be broached outside of the most generic of statements. It is simply that all people are unfortunately not born equal, but that the so-called birth lottery should not stop everyone from having an equal opportunity to succeed and that all people deserve equal treatment in terms of working conditions, health care, and the like.

It thus behooves the workers to form unions and bargain for better pay and equal rights, or somehow bargain in an individual capacity for their own pursuits, though this would like hold much less weight for the employee since it is only their services, and not those of the whole (unless your name is Messi). The union gives power for the employee to bargain effectively and for better pay, time, and services from the employer. This may seem an overstatement, but I firmly believe that without unions in the public and private sectors, we would return to the robber barons of old. Because unions gain political power and can lobby for regulations that most of us enjoy today. The corporation (employer) would seek to keep as much money for itself and its stockholders, meaning lessened services and opportunities for the worker who has no real power at that point other than their own skill and labor, which may be undone at any point through negligence, stupidity, blind chance, or any other similar fact of everyday human life. Without a cohesive group that gives some kind of power, the employer is free to treat the employee as they choose, without regard for overall conditions, since no overall contract is in place.

Now, before you start in on me, with your “but corporations aren’t inherently evil” and “socialism” blah blah blah, listen. Corporations, just like everything else on earth that is not named Karl Rove, is not inherently evil. Nothing is inherently evil because we aren’t born like that, and corporations aren’t all created like that. Some are altruistic, good to people and the planet, and benevolent to their employees, but this is not the rule, it’s the exception. If it were true, then the industrial revolution would have immediately produced increased livelihood among the workers because the companies got huge and should have therefore trickled the goods down to the worker. Except they didn’t. If you don’t believe me, read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or anything by Charles Dickens, or look at the treatment of employees back in those days. To cite but one easy example, look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. Fires break out in a sewing factory in NYC, employees could not flee because managers and owners had locked the doors to keep them from taking breaks from their shifts. 146 burned to death or jumped to it from windows they eventually broke. 2 14-year-olds died. So yeah, cram it with walnuts. It’s the pursuit of profit, and with no restrictions in the form of unions and regulations, corporations will seek profit to no end.

This applies to the current situation because if the games do not go ahead this weekend then we will have people who say that the players are selfish. Well that is just stupid. If you are getting screwed and you could hold out in order to make the money you deserve, would you? I would. And before I hear one comment about how much the players are paid as a reason for making them selfish, please understand that the market controls how much they are paid, the unions simply attempt to make sure it is livable in the first instance, and fairly administered in the second. Further, I am unsure that wanting retirement benefits is so much selfish as it is self-preservation when your primary means of making money involves running miles everyday, taking your body past normal limits, and dealing with the mental scrutiny that comes with being a professional footballer in a small league, let alone with the really huge leagues. If you give the best years of your life to an employer, you should be rewarded in the end with retirement assistance. That’s just how it is.

The point here is not to insinuate that employees are not selfish or that no union is corrupt, because neither is true. People are selfish in many ways, and when groups gain power, they can become corrupt. But 1 or 2 wrongs do not excuse the wrongs of a 3rd in allowing employers to treat employees like cattle, taking what they want and then discarding the remains. When people work, they deserve to be treated equally and not poorly simply because they are employees, and that’s why a strike is occasionally good and why you should care. The players have rights to self-preservation just like the club does, they just have much less power to exercise theirs. Just some thoughts.

Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe

Posted in Soap Box238 Comments

Praise Messi! Alves Re-Signs

As was previously predicted on these very pages by wise, old sage Kevin, Dani Alves will re-sign with FC Barcelona tomorrow until 2015. We attempted to contact Dani, but he was too busy celebrating:

Chest Bumps!

 

Samba Mofo's!

Seriously though, this is fucking huge. We rarely invoke the name of the most holy Messi as an explanation around these parts, but this deserved it. It signifies a few important points. The first of which is that Alves chose to stay. Make no mistake, Dani could have easily left for much more money at Man City without blinking an eye. Numbers have yet to be released, but City could easily double what FCB can pay. That’s the oil trade yawl. He either has just settled into a good life here or he really likes the club and wants to win. I do not care which.

 

Secondly, this means the core nucleus of the offense is all signed until at least 2014 (Xavi has a team option for 2015). Like Nate Dogg (pours one out) and Warren G, Pep like 16 in the clip and 1 in the hole in terms of having as much talent as possible. This is not small deal because it is very clear that Pep cares more about having Dani rove forward and throw crosses or cut in than he does about having a hold-up classic 9. He likes Messi as a flase 9 and he wants to keep the team running like it is now. Make no mistake, Ibra was thrust on him, there was a reason he did not like Eto’o up there, but now, he’s got the best player in a position where he’s scoring 40+ goals a season on the regular. Alves is a key component, because as you all remember, any other player over there drops the play ridiculously.

So let’s party, and of course as Blitzen has showed us, Dani knows how to leave the party:

This ain't Kansas anymore, thank Messi, cause that state sucks

Posted in Team News132 Comments

Postmortem: Barçelona 2 – Getafe 1

Two goalscorers


Of course I choose to volunteer to report on this game. “Oh yeah, Getafe, can’t be that bad right?” Mid-table, up-and-down, why not? Ugh. My reviewing prowess only goes so far, and it is definitely far too limited to cover all the minute aspects uncovered from yesterday’s 2-1 victory. So watch me fall flat on my face won’t you? Continue Reading

Posted in Review103 Comments

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