Category: Preview

November 23, 2009 / / Champions League

CL Preview: Barcelona – Internazionale, Tuesday 2:45pm EST, Fox Soccer en Español and DirectTV

Barcelona at Dusk

Night falls swiftly across the city. The sun’s final rays reach out and strike the towers of the modern cathedral, its spindly form outlined momentarily against the darkening sky. Streetlights are on, illuminating cobblestone streets that intersect with sharp-angled apartment buildings built in the latest, most outlandish style.

Near the waterfront, where tourists often pack the cafes and restaurants, there is the distinct feeling of meshing centuries of culture with the neon shopping malls of international consumerism, of mountains of money failing to find their way through the dimly lit back alleys to where normal people live. But away from that, up the long diagonals that create a spider’s web out of the city’s streets and out past the city center, there is a hum. As you approach, walking amongst the shadows and family shops, you realize you’re in the middle of a throng, a crowd working its way slowly forward. There is energy and there is passion; there are shouts, laughter, grim silence, and that hum. That hum is there, the murmur of thousands of voices, of feet walking, of clothes swishing, the occasional horn honking.

This is a city built on individual greatness and collective passion, steeped in historical memory as alive as anywhere else on earth. This is the Barcelona of Antoni Gaudí, of Parc Güell, of Las Ramblas, of the Moors and Spanish Marches, of red and yellow flags fluttering on balconies, of the Catalan language, of cultural autonomy, of pa amb tomaquet, and, above all, of the Camp Nou, of Futbol Club Barcelona, of the blaugrana.

November 20, 2009 / / La Liga

Liga Preview: Athletic Bilbao – Barça, Saturday 4pmEST, GolTV (check local times here)

Lioness in Tanzania, summer 2009
Lioness in Tanzania, summer 2009

Don’t look now, but there are lions approaching. Hush, we don’t want to startle them. You see, they’re mainly nocturnal animals and we don’t need to distract them from their hunt just yet, before we’ve got the drop on them. No, I’m not kidding, they’re big, strong, have sharp teeth, and aren’t afraid of anyone or anything. Not even Captain Tarzan–I know it sounds crazy! But it’s true.

And don’t forget that we’re going into their lair. Back a wounded animal into a corner and it’ll come at you a hundred times more fiercely than otherwise. Those are some true words, buddy, I’m telling you. I’ve seen them devouring a wildebeast from 20 yards. No, really, I have. Crunching of bone, tearing of flesh, all that: real. I don’t like the idea of being put into a cage with one of those guys when they’re hungry. Come to think of it, I don’t like that idea even if they’re fully fed. Did you know a fully grown male can weigh more than 550lbs (250kg)? That’s two NFL offensive linemen. Two. Or one Refrigerator Perry, I guess.

November 9, 2009 / / Copa del Rey

CDR Preview: Barça – Cultural Leonesa, Tuesday 4pmEST, ESPN Deportes/ESPN360.com

One order of happiness for the youngsters, please!
One order of happiness for the youngsters, please!

While our babies bandy about their abilities in the U-17 World Championship in Nigeria*, our slightly older crew of youngsters will be playing host to Cultural Leonesa in the second leg of our Round of 32 Copa del Rey tie. The aggregate score is 0-2 in Barça’s favor thanks to Pedro!’s fine finishing in the first leg and a solid enough defense to get away with, um, not losing 4-0 to a Segunda B side.

First, let’s go over the possibilities: in order to advance to the Round of 16, Barça can win with any scoreline, can draw with any scoreline (2-2, 4-4, etc), and can lose 0-1 or with any scoreline in which they only lose by one goal (1-2, 2-3, 3-4, etc). A 0-2 loss would send the match to extra time. Because of the value of away goals, I think we’ll be able to come out and play our way through this match, especially if Cultural decides that they want to win this and comes out of their defensive shell.

But will they?

November 6, 2009 / / La Liga

Liga Preview: Barça – Mallorca, Saturday 2pm EST, GolTV (check local times here)

We have slightly fancier transport now...
We have slightly fancier transport now...

The surprise of the season so far, at least to me, has been Mallorca holding tightly to a UEFA cup spot. They’re in 5th now, one point above Depor and they boats the best home record in the league (5W-0D-0L, 13GF 1GA) and the solitary goal they have allowed at home was let in against Getafe when the game was already 3-0. But they’re winless on the road (0W-2D-2L, 3GF 8GA) and they also lost their away fixture at Valladolid in the Copa del Rey 2-1. That must be somewhat distressing to a team that slaughters you in Mallorca, but just can’t seem to come up with the points anywhere else.

I watched their battling 1-1 draw against Atleti in which they went down to nine men and still should have won thanks to Atleti’s inability to be anything other than total crap for most of their matches. Mallorca really impressed me with their attack, which was fairly weighted towards the counter, especially after they went down a man, but what was even more impressive was that when they went down the second man, they began to control the match. They probably won’t have that luxury against us, but they’re not going to go down without a fight.

November 3, 2009 / / Champions League

CL Preview: Rubin Kazan – Barça, Wednesday 12:30pmEST, Fox Soccer/FSE

Kazan Kremlin (Wikimedia)
Kazan Kremlin (Wikimedia)

Reading the history of Kazan it quickly becomes obvious that the city is prone to being reduced to rubble. Fires and wars were the typical culprits, but Ivan the terrible massacred most of the population and then sent the rest of the Tatars to live a couple of dozen miles away. Basically, this is a resilient city. In the US, we talk about Mrs O’Leary’s cow burning down Chicago an it’s pretty amazing that it survived like it did; the 1909 San Francisco earthquake was devastating, of course, and the Dresden firebombing was awful, but those things only happened once. Kazan’s destruction happened at least five times. No wonder they’re able to consider simply going to Barcelona and winning a match par for the course.

Because of all that, I say we torch the place–they won’t mind that much since they’re used to this sort of treatment from outside invaders, right? Seriously, come on, it’s not that big a deal if we pull the ring trick from Leon The Professional on them, right? Except without our death too, cause that would be friggin’ pointless.

October 30, 2009 / / La Liga

Liga Preview: Osasuna – Barça, 3pmEST Saturday, GolTV (check local times here)

Oh, why, hullo
Oh, why, hullo

I stood in a square, the streetlights illuminating the crowd, and looked upwards at the top of the tall fountain. A man had scaled the top and was yelling something to his friends below. My brother nudged me and pointed upwards. “Jerk is going to jump,” he said and I laughed. Not likely. He was 30 feet in the air above a smattering of drunk idiots and a whole mess of cobblestones that, given the opportunity, would split his skull like a pumpkin on Halloween. Or something.

Obviously he jumped.

October 27, 2009 / / Copa del Rey

Copa del Rey Preview: Cultural Leonesa – Barça, Wednesday 5pmEST (check your local time here)

Update! Update! This match will take place at 5pmEST, not 4pm as previously stated! Damned time changes in Spain I didn’t know about…

Cathedral of León (Wikimedia)
Cathedral of León (Wikimedia)

In the year 68, an aging general named Servius Sulpicius Galba levied a legion and marched on Rome, where he took over the Roman Empire from Nero, the emperor who had appointed Galba as governor of Hispania Tarraconensis only seven years before.

Galba’s reign was brief and ended violently: he was murdered only six months after taking the throne and most have forgotten his name. The city he left behind on his way to Roman obscurity is alive and well, its legacy cemented in its architecture and its place in history secure.

Founded by Legio septima Gemina (Seventh Twin Legion), the legion Galba used to take the Roman throne, León sits in northern Spain, in the shadows of the Cantabrian Mountains along the northern coast. It is a relatively small city (metro pop 200,000), but it is packed with history and culture.

October 24, 2009 / / La Liga

La Liga Preview: Barça – Real Zaragoza, Sunday 4pmEST ESNP2HD

The last time they were in town...
The last time they were in town...

There things you don’t do in life: take candy from children, start land wars in Asia, piss off The Yaya. Iniesta and Xavi have spent the last week fending off ridiculous questions about whether or not Barça is in crisis. What? We lose one match and suddenly there’s even the remote possibility that we’re in crisis? Villarreal is in crisis mode, not Barça. Forget that nonsense if you’re an FCB fan, it’s absurd. If you’re a player, I’m sure that it will galvanize you, make you mad, and make you clinical. Crisis? I doubt Real Zaragoza thinks we’re in crisis right now.

And I doubt that we’ll be very kind to the blanquillos when they come visiting on Sunday (check your local time here) not through any real fault of their own, but because the media has made this a match that will define more than just the days around it, but a lot of the season. A match against Real Zaragoza has gone from being a match against the 13th ranked team in the league to being a match that will decide whether or not Barça is having a disastrous season. Now do you see why it’s so absurd?

October 19, 2009 / / Champions League

CL Preview: Barça – Rubin Kazan, Tuesday 2:45pmEST, Fox Sports en Español

He is out there. Waiting, watching, listening to metal.
He is out there. Waiting, watching, listening to metal.

There’s a man standing in the beautiful wilds of an untamed jungle. He is forty feet in the air, balanced easily on a branch, surveying the scene. His blond locks shimmer and dance in the spotted light seeping through the canopy top. Both camouflaged and elegantly obvious, the man is one with his surroundings: poisonous and beautiful, stealthy and skilled. He has been here for a thousand years, you would imagine, motionless and watchful. There’s movement nearby and his eyes swing to the side, his head never moving, his muscles tensing ever so slightly.

There are words to describe the flurry of movement, the screech of pain, and the scene of horror, but those words are lost in the fear that ripples through you as watch a master hunter at work. He has taken another scalp for his bountiful collection. There is murder in his eyes as he turns his gaze upon his next victim. Be wary, traveler, for there is a killer on the loose and he is approaching another milestone in a career of milestones:

October 16, 2009 / / La Liga

Liga Preview: Valencia – Barça, Saturday 4pmEST, GolTV

A return to the Mestalla brings with it Phil and RayRay and the hyperbole without which many of us could not survive. Also, it brings us back to La Liga, which, thankfully, is going to dominate my life for while and get the pesky memories of World Cup qualifiers out of there. I like the World Cup itself, but give me continuous Barça any day over trivial international fair like “win or go home” European qualifiers. And yes, I stayed up to watch several matches this time around. Shush.

Today is the 5th anniversary of one Lionel Messi’s league debut with the first team. He came on for the final 8 minutes against Espanyol on October 16, 2004, and though he didn’t score the above goal until May 1, 2005 against Albacete, you knew big things were in store for this little guy. Little guy is relative, of course. We can expect a lot more out of Messi against Valencia this weekend, I would think, than we did in that match oh so long ago. Thanks for the memories so far, Leo, and let’s hope they keep on coming.

The title of this post explained, after the jump.

October 2, 2009 / / La Liga

La Liga Preview: Barça – Almería, Saturday 2pm, ESPN Deportes

Hey, this winning thing is fun...let's keep doing it.
Hey, this winning thing is fun...let's keep doing it.

Remember when you were younger and sports was all about the thrill, the spectacle, the careless joy of watching your team play? I remember those days too, but something happened and it became an activity fraught with peril. That massive change in approach came about rapidly for me, as I watched Weligton turn joyous play into a trap of injury possibilities.

I’m still seething about the lack of action against a player who purposefully attempted to injure not one, but two players in last week’s match. I do not, for a moment buy that it’s an overreaction on my part to demand Weligton be suspended for at least 3 matches and fined a commensurate amount. The reason has nothing to do with last week’s match, which we won anyway thanks to both individual brilliance and collective play that was worth far more than Malaga’s butcher tactics.

September 28, 2009 / / Champions League

CL Preview: Barça – Dynamo Kiev, Tuesday 2:45pmEST, Fox Sports en Español

Imagine how good I'd be if I wore these!
Imagine how good I'd be if I wore these!

In the 10th century, Русь, or Kievan Rus’, controlled what we know as the Ukraine, Belorussia, and eastern Russia. There were notable figures like Vladimir the Great and his son Yaroslav the Wise and Kievan Rus’ ended up controlling a vast swatch of Eastern Europe that extended into eastern Russia. They wrote the Russkaya Pravda and made the Dnieper a major trading route. Modern Kiev probably owes much to those centuries of rule.

It’s easy, of course, to get lost in the ramblings of history, to find ourselves connecting Kievan Rus’ to the present in a direct line, and, what’s more, to think about the Ostrogoths that came before that as somehow connected to the fairly ridiculous historical comparison we made last time with Visigothic maraudings in reverse. We could continue that and say that we are fighting the next battle in our made up war, moving from Italy to the Ukraine (with Barcelona as a proxy for the actual Ukraine), and ending up in Russia on Matchday 3, but that, of course, seems even more far-fetched than it did the first time I went about it.

Whether Lobanovskyi ever tried to channel Vladimir or Yaroslav, we’ll never know–perhaps there are better historical equivalents, but, again, I never did study Europe and I’m far too lazy to do a truly in-depth look at the history of these countries–but certainly there are connections between the Ukraine of footballing antiquity and our modern Barcelona-based juggernaut. Valeriy Vasylyovych Lobanovskyi, for those of you who are unaware, is one of the fathers of modern football. There are, of course, disputes about who developed what or influenced who, but it’s generally accepted that Lobanovskyi was one of the first to push players into that realm of physicality that allowed them to run for 90 minutes, to play, in essence, Total Football because they could stand the pace and no one else could.