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2:00 pm EST Saturday, GolTV
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
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