You Want Hardball? Here’s some Zlatan: Depor – Barça

Liga Preview: Deportivo – Barcelona, Saturday 4pmEST, ESPN Deportes

Deportivo de La Coruña. The name rings a bell somewhere in the back of my mind. Where have I heard that before? It sounds so familiar…Super Depor. Oh! Super Depor! I know them–they’re from the past. They’re this team that was dominate in Spain and Europe for a little while, even winning the league in 99-00 and then they slid ever so ungracefully into the shadows of the Segunda, riddled with debt.

Now look who is back, in 5th place, four points out of a Champions League spot and looking to take on the mighty Barcelona in the Riazor. Their stadium holds 34,600 and I’m sure it will packed to the tip-top, the nosebleeders having someone on their shoulders to greet the reigning Triple champions in what is truly a tricky affair. I might make light of Depor’s financial situation in the mid-aughts, but they’re back now and despite their hard-nosed style of bargaining with Barcelona over Filipe Luis’ transfer that saw them eat dirt (or keep the player, depending on how you’d like to view it), they’re a team that has to be handled with seriousness.

This ain’t no Xerez, people.

They’re not free-scoring (17GF in 12 games), but they do have a solid defense (12GA) and their home record is 4W-1D-1L (8GF 5GA). Compare that to Barcelona’s 4W-3D-0L (12GF 3GA) away form and you can see a fairly desultory affair heading our way, can’t you? But wait! Who is that on the horizon?

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a dog bat. No! It’s Underdog The GreatZlat!

Come Get Some
Come Get Some

Yeah, he probably scored a 50meter goal with that one. Because he is a Ninja Gangster with no compassion. But the thing is, we should get used to this sort of thing cause, well, cause of this sort of thing. If Pele had been around during YouTube, we’d all be screaming “Watch Pele now!” but instead, it’s time we get something going whenever Ibra cadabra’s the ball: How did Zlat just do that?

If you’re a Depor defender, the answer is silence followed by tears. If you’re me, the answer is magic you cannot understand. 6’5″ and doing that? Go join LeBron James and Adrian Peterson in the “Should Be Illegal” category of sports stars. Depor will be hard pressed to stop a man on a tear, which opens the door for other players who have so far benefited from his passing. And if you were, like me concerned about his ego being a problem in the locker room, you have probably been won over by his passing and flair, but now is the time when he can truly shine, when he can win me over permanently. All he has to do is become the attacking fulcrum we want him to be, releasing Messi down the wings, through the center, and of course mopping up those back door crosses. Then he will become a hero.

Incidentally, I just beat Depor 0-2 in the Riazor in FIFA10 with goals from Ibra and Messi. Not that that will influence my official prediction or anything…

Let’s talk their squad for a second: Am I the only person who isn’t particularly impressed with Andres Guardado? I watched him playing for Atlas and the Mexican NT while I lived in Mexico and thought “good player” and now I watch him in La Liga and I think “yeah, good player.” But the thing is, everyone else seems to be gushing over him, as if I’m missing something. Am I? It’s certainly possible, but I’ve never seen him live up to the hype that surrounds him. He’s got such pretty, curly hair, though! So cuuuute. F that, dude should be a professional player in Spain, but it seems to me that he’s reached his zenith. Going elsewhere, to a larger club, wouldn’t be productive for him, I don’t think.

All that said, Depor’s danger man is Andres Guardado because, yeah, he’s a good player. He helps create things offensively and tracks back on defense quite a bit, but he doesn’t score often himself (once in 12 matches), which is nice for us. He’s fast, but not fast enough to beat Dani Alves continually. His partnerships up front haven’t produced a solid goalscoring threat (they have 5 players with 2 goals each) but that does suggest their scoring comes from all over the place (if you do math really well, you’ll have noted that the have a total of 12 goalscorers or their 17 goals; compare that to Barça’s 8 sharing a total of 32 goals, with Ibra topping the list at 9 and Bojan being the only player with just 1 goal). Still, their defense isn’t particularly good, with just LB Filipe Luis being any sort of a stud at the back.

The true battle will be on the right wing between Filipe and the Messi-Alves-Xavi trio, who will have to keep him from making his bombing runs down the side. And just in case you were wondering if Filipe would miss the match, here’s a little stat: Filipe has appeared in 82 straight league matches for Depor. Jesus H. Dude is a work horse and a half. That doesn’t increase his talent levels (which are high), but it does mean that he’ll have the legs to stay with our squad at least most of the match. So it will be up to Messi and company to outmaneuver and outdribble him while maintaining a solid midfield line.

What will Guardiola bring to the table? We have a seriously crucial Champions League match against Dynamo that we cannot, under any circumstance, lose 2-0 or worse or we are gone from the competition. I know that sounds easy since we haven’t lost by more than two goals since sometime in 1898*, so I shouldn’t be too worried, but complacency is obviously not okay.

The squad: Valdés, Pinto, Henry, Xavi, Piqué, Don Andres, Busi, Puyol, Pedro!, Ibra, Bojan, Maxwell, Messi, Chygrinskiy, Alves, Abidal, Keiteeee, The Yaya.

The main missing figures are Márquez and Milito. Guardiola explained in a press conference that he left Rafa out for technical reasons and that he’s fully fit. Before anyone jumps on the “sell him” bandwagon of crazy, let’s go ahead and point out that he has 3 other fully fit CBs for 2 positions along with emergency backup in Abidal and The Yaya. No reason to sacrifice a place in the squad for someone you won’t be using at all. But it does mean, to me, that Chygrynskiy will be starting tomorrow.

Predicted lineup: Valdés, Alves, Puyol, Chygnasty, Maxwell, Busi, Xavi, Keita, Pedro!, Ibra, Messi.

I see resting Abidal, The Yaya, Henry, and Iniesta as important for Wednesday’s very chilly match in the Ukraine (as of now, Weather Underground is reporting 26F falling to 21F during the game time hours–christ), so it’s absolutely possible that Guardiola banks on his second string attackers (Pedro!, Jeffren, Bojan) to at least get a point from this match before sending on Messi and Ibra as super subs once again to save them from overexertion. But there are three full days between the matches, so they should be able to recuperate in time to put in a full 90 even in the bitter cold. Note that I’ve put Busi in over The Yaya because I think that Guardiola wants to keep The Yaya out there in a cold and horrible Ukrainian world where Busi would be swallowed whole by the ghost of Champions League past. Or something. Plus, The Yaya has started 4 of the 5 CL matches and Busi just one. So yeah.

Anyway, in the end, I don’t see us dropping points without some sort of serious weather-related crapfest–20% chance of rain, 59F/15C–or some catastrophic Rubin-style goal that puts us in a tough hole early. We are, after all, the better team.

Official Prediction: 0-2, goals by Ibra and Messi (Didn’t see that coming? Sucka!).

Game time: 10pm local, 4pm EST/New York (check your local time here)
TV: ESPN Deportes

Rock on folks and come back for the liveblog tomorrow!

*Hey fact-checker dorks, go wild with that one!

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Aww man, I don’t have ESPN Deportes. I’m gonna have to call and add it. Hmmm, what channels should I get rid of to offset the price?

    I hope your prediction is right! I wanna see a crazy karate goal by Ibra.

  2. 2 really tough games…Super Depor having the upper hand since they’ve had a whole week to train where we’ve had 2

  3. HEeeeeeeeelllllllllllllllllll yeah!
    We are going to beat them 2-0! I have the same feelin’!
    squad prediction:


  4. Isaiah, no matter how many times you predict Messi to score, he’s still in a slump, so I doubt he will break it tomorrow.

    I’m going 1-2, goals by Ibra (2) and Idon’tgiveashit for Depor

  5. You have to go back to the 4-1 loss at Madrid to find a loss of 0:2, or by three or more goals.

    In the Champions League, you have to go all the way back to 2004 when we lost to Shakhtar Donetsk 2:0 in…… The Ukraine… On the final matchday… But fear not, we had already qualified for the knockout round.

  6. Sorry this is one post late, but I created an excel spreadsheet for setting up and going through a possible bracket. If people want it, let me know, I’d love to give it to people and it would be nice to get some feedback.

  7. my line up prediction:

    valdes – alves – puyol – pique – abidal – the yaya – xaviesta – messi – zlatan – pedro

    rest henry to play @ ukraine. to sub kieta for iniesta, n busi for toure……

    then, we’ll win 3-0……
    pep knew how to strategies psychology and mental preparation to play away game…:)

  8. Isaiah, I’m pretty sure I saw you at Nevada Smith’s today on ESPN.

    Were you there? I was looking for ya.

    Great group for the US.

    Visca el Barca

    1. red cards are by default a 2 match suspension.
      especially double yellows.

      any suspension beyond 2 matches results from multiple reds. ie, a direct red after a yellow, time wasting, fighting, or any infractions after a red, or anytime a council has to deliberate on an incident, they can hand a multiple game ban.

      again, any normal red card, especially a double yellow means the player misses the duration of the current game, plus the next game he is eligible to play.

  9. I want to see a Puyol – Chig partnership. It will give us a better idea about the new guy qualities when he works with the Captain, who is more a complement than an identical.

    This week will show the spirit of this team. I think/hope that the Xerez game will have a positive impact on the three games against Depor, Dynamo, and Espanyol.

    Ibra goal against RM was very important. He was under the pressure of proving himself for beng a quality upgrade as a “9”. His start, plus a goal in the classico will put all the doubts on hold. This will give him more time and space to show his worth.

    And Finally, I think Henry will start this game.

    Pst, it seems that Adem Ljajic will not join Man Utd anymore this January. For less than 9 M he is a very promising talent. Yet, it’s a shame that where he plays is exactly where we don’t need to improve.

  10. haha i did the same with game on fifa 10, 3-1 to barca, Keita and a double from IBRACADABRA! 🙂

  11. Damn man as a barca fan i am loving this blog, it has got to be the best barca blog out there , I definately will recommend to all barca fans i know 🙂 keep up the good work Isaiah

  12. Last year already but for sure this one is his last year in a top european team like Barça I think. Wouldn’t it be nice if we only had bojan as a sub for the 9 position this year? Bojan is kinda fading away while titi gets all the chances… and pedro! ‘s

    1. i agree and think we play titi just because of who he was and not because of who he is. if any other player was playing like him guardiola would bench them but he consistently starts when i think pedro deserves it waaay more. technically pedro deserves it more than messi, but we know messi is much more valuable to the game.

      i think it was against xerez but maybe against EE that i kept shouting that titi is offside. he was standing offside and making no effort at all to get back onside. this is while barca had the balll making a play forwards towards him where he was in the centre forward position.
      he seems lazy to me, and while i am not advocating him to be killed, exiled or forgotten about, i do think he should start some games on the bench. we also need to give his heir time to learn the position for when he does leave at the end of the season.

    2. why would we get rid of Henry? sure he hasn’t been playing up to par. but he’s been hurt for a good chunk of the season and playing in a new position. He is getting up there in years, but if we let him go we would need to replace his height. if bojan and pedro play up there with messi or iniesta then we have zero height. who would alves cross it to? in fact, if they can’t play on the wing AND center, does a striker even fit in our system?
      see Arsenal, they have no height without VP and Bendtner

    3. Any belief that Krkic is withering on the vine because of our slavish devotion to Henry is misguided in the extreme. Krkic hasn’t done very much when he’s been out there, and couldn’t even make anything happen against Xerez. If Krkic were impressing in practices, he’d be out there. Fact of the matter is that, in my opinion, Krkic is an albatros or more specifically, an elephant in the room.

      He’s the shining, goal-scoring as a junior example of our farm system at its best, right? Except that he hasn’t grown into his talent. At, say, Eto’o’s size, who knows how good Krkic would be? Probably pretty spectacular. But he’s a wee one, so he tends to shrink away when presented by grownups. Sorry, but he does.

      No, Henry hasn’t been anything like the Henry of last season. But neither has Messi, and nobody is talking about getting rid of him. Watch that Clasico again, and see how he softens up the defense for Ibrahimovic. Or watch the Inter match, and how he terrorizes their defense, thus making it possible for Pedro! to work his magic.

      This is (I’m pretty sure) Henry’s last season with the club. He’s had injuries, and has admitted that his heart wasn’t fully into the club while Les Bleus were struggling in the Cup qualifications. That’s over, and he’s already playing better. Like Iniesta, Messi and yes, Ibrahimovic, he has to gain full match fitness, and shake any injury remnants that he has, and then we’ll see.

      It’s funny, even in the stands at the Camp Nou, people were calling for Krkic to be inserted during the Inter match. Because if Henry isn’t scoring goals, he’s shit, never mind the all-pitch game that he worked like a dog to play in that crucial Champions League tie.

      I know that some are Henry haters, and that’s fine. To each their own. But if we’re going to start calling people out because they aren’t playing up to the par set by last season, that list gets really long. About the only folks exempt from it are Valdes, Pique, Puyol and Keita.

    4. Further, we play Henry because of what he does for the side. Has anyone seen Ibrahimovic bolting back up the pitch to make a sliding tackle to stop an opponent’s break? I’ll be over here waiting, while you pore through the match footage from this season.

      Watch how he drags the EE defense around, as they have that 6-2 hammering and his crucial goals in mind. If you still want to hate on him after that, rock on. But I can make a strong, Henry-like case (this year compared to last) against Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Alves, The Yaya, etc.

      Anyone who thinks that Guardiola is playing Henry because of past glories clearly hasn’t been watching what our coach does, and how he works.

    5. It’s not like he’s not playing to par last season… last season didn’t fulfill my hopes either. He has never played well in Spain, what he did was scoring some goals playing in the best team ever. I don’t care how many goals he scores, all I care is how he plays, and he does horribly.

    6. And concerning inter or the other games titi played as 9 … I think pep did it because titi still scares the shit out of the defenders while bojan doesn’t.

      Will he play today as left-wing? 😉

    7. i also dont understand why people write henry off.
      he gives us sooo much!!
      he attacks, defends…unbelievable for a guy of that age..
      he is the LW in the world..
      id take henry over robinho even though henry is 35!

      but i do think that he will leave in the summer 🙁

  13. Mmh… not starting the Yaya might have some serious consequences. He will be really mad if he doesn’t start (although I could understand the decision, because first of all you don’t say such things in public AND he had a really bad match last time).

    What’s the statistic? Only 3 wins in the last 17 visits to el Riazor? And the win at Depor was at March 19, 2005 thanks to a single goal by Ludovic Giuly. So apparently we did not even beat them last season.

    I’ll hope for a win, cuz that would be damn sweet, but I think we could also live with a draw this evening.

    1. Well, last season, we played Depor as the final game of the season. You know the one; where we fielding wearing those orange/pink/salmon away kits and Eto’o was fielded just so he could attempt to claim the pichichi (and failed). It was a meaningless game and, to be honest, Depor weren’t all that impressive.

    2. …that said, we shouldn’t play like we did against Xerez because they have a lot more quality up front (expect Bodipo is injured more than Robben and RVP put together… yeah, THAT often 😛 )

    3. The Yaya and Guardiola had a sit down, and everything is fine. The Yaya has said that he got a little worked up because of press rumors, and that Guardiola has assured him of his place in the squad. So no worries about not starting The Yaya, and spawning any man-mountain anger.

      I do, however, worry much about the intensity of January, and the fact that The Yaya and Keita will be gone from our roster for the ACN. Busquets just hasn’t shown me the match in, match out consistency that makes me calm when he’s out there.

  14. Well, there was some talk above about Bojan. I think this MAY be a factor, but he IS in university learning Sport Science y’know. I think that Pep doesn’t want him to, how should I say, get too stressed out. We all know that he’s a professional athelete and playing at one of the biggest clubs in the world and that this shouldn’t be much of an issue (hence the reason it hasn’t been brought up), but to mix education and sport at the same time is hard.

    Now, I don’t think this is a MAJOR factor or anything and he was in HS during his ‘break-out’ year, but I do think that it does kind of influences Guardiola who thought that Bojan was promoted to early anyway. This way, Bojan can focus on his schooling and Guardiola can play him Copa matches and games like that so he doesn’t wear himself out mentally and phyically.

    I think I could maybe argue this point a liitle more elequently, but just getting it out there…

  15. Off topic, am watching Man City vs Chelsea and it looks like Robinho is putting on a show for Pep cos he is tracking back every chance he gets. First time i have ever seen him do it with any sort of consistency. Also he looks really dangerous playing on the left and that is against Chelsea’s defedenders who are prob some of the best in the world (we should know).

    Chelsea look really good btw. If anybody is really going to challenge us in the CL again this year it is going to be them! Deco running around and tracking players, havent seen that in a while!

  16. Whats the worst news ramzi can get?
    Right, the Sports channels- for their own reasons- scrambled today, so not sure if the card will update before the game!PERRRRFACT!!!

    Regarding the Henry Vs Bojan Argument. I think its no argument. True that Henry is not performing well so far. He is running and putting lot of effort from time to time. But when needed -mainly in ibra position- he didnt perform his role as needed. But to say Bojan can do this better is more like a wishfull thinking. Even if he turn to be the best striker in the world-which is not going to happen- he won’t be able to do the role expected from Henry as a striker in the past two games. Bojan being a station/target man? No way. Henry will be better there even for the following 3 years where his pace will decline even more.

    Bojan is a second striker, or a wing forward for barcelona. If he succeeded to catch the level of expectations. And I hope he does. Unlike Kexin, I still cant say he is doomed to fail. Not yet at least. But as a striker, I will be surprised.

    Damn the sports channels! I dont want to watch through a steam!Its VJ curse!

  17. To those in the US without ESPN Deportes: the game will also be on In fact, the mods may want to update this post to reflect the online listing.

    Henry has been utter crap this year. He’s slow and lumbering and falls over and has been toothless in front of goal. He should not be starting in front of Pedro, big game or no big game. No way.

    On another note, Real looking solid against Almeria. 1-0 as I write this.

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