CDR Preview: Barça – Cultural Leonesa, Tuesday 4pmEST, ESPN Deportes/ESPN360.com
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? They’re set fairly firmly in the lower regions of the Segunda B group 1 standings, sitting in the relegation zone at the moment, though tied on points with Izarra, who are in the relegation playoffs and 2 points behind Montañeros in the spot above that. They’re by no means doomed even after 12 matches as a win would put them up to 11th place out of 20. They’ve scored 12 goals in 12 matches and 0 against us. That doesn’t bode well for their chances of coming into the Camp Nou and running out winners 90 minutes later, but it also doesn’t disqualify them from being able to do so.
Barça will not be starting their best 11, there’s no doubt about that, no matter how unpredictable you believe Guardiola to be–and after the last lineup, who would put money on guessing correctly? The reason is that 6 of our regular starters are either injured or off on international duty already, preparing for World Cup Qualifiers.
Keita was diagnosed with a knee injury that will keep him out for around 10 days, meaning he shouldn’t miss any Barça matches unless Guardiola wants to keep him out against Athletic to ensure his full recovery. Ibrahimovic also sustained an injury in the Mallorca match that should keep him out for a week. Both of those injuries should be enough to keep the players out of international duty, with Keita missing meaningless WCQs and Ibra missing friendlies.
Henry and Abidal are off with France for their playoffs with Ireland, Chygrynskiy is off with the Ukraine for their playoffs with Greece, and The Yaya has deigned it okay that he join Cote D’Ivoire for a meaningless WCQ against Guinea. The 3 players with real duty are going to be given large numbers of minutes, so let’s hope that they get through without injuries or, in Henry’s case, without re-aggravating his previous injury. I’m fairly certain that Chygrynskiy will come through unscathed and will probably enjoy the physical battle against Greece; it might even make him better for us as he warms to playing a bit more.
So we’re approaching this with a solid lineup, with Jonathan Dos Santos, Andreu Fontàs, and Oriol Romeu practicing with the first squad today in preparation for the match. I suspect we’ll see a loaded bench, but a fairly odd lineup on the field:
Pinto, Alves, Marquez, Pique, Maxwell, Busi, Xavi, JDS, Pedro!, Bojan, Jeffren.
At first I wrote “weakened lineup” but now I’m not sure that’s a totally weak lineup. It will require constant vigilance by Xavi and Busi on the defensive half in order to keep up with any forays Alves and Maxwell make, but I think they can do it as Cultural push forward and open themselves up to one-touch passing in the final third. There’s always the possibility that we start Gai or Iniesta instead of one of the other midfielders, but Busi is really our only DM available with Keita and The Yaya gone.
Official Prediction: 1-1. Goal by our little man Bojan. Whatever has been said about him, he’s going to bury something spectacular in the first half. Take that, you damned naysayers. (Now come on, kid, don’t make me look bad!)
4pm EST/New York
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*Albert Dalmau, D, b. March 16, 1992; Sergi Gomez, D, b. March 28, 1992; Marc Muniesa, D, b. March 27, 1992; Adria Carmona, MF, b. February 8 1992; Javier Espinosa, MF, b. September 19, 1992; Sergi Roberto, MF b. February 7, 1992. They just beat Uruguay on penalties after a 3-3 in which Muniesa got a straight red and Roberto, who had previously scored a hat trick against Burkina Faso, missed a penalty during the first half. The back line was composed of 3 Barça youngsters until Muniesa’s red, which is pretty cool. Neither Adria Carmona nor Javier Espinosa played a part in the match.