Oh me oh my, gotta shake off the cobwebs and figure out how I do a preview again. This is going to be rough, not only because I just flew in from Mexico (and boy are my arms tired), but I’ve only been given a few weeks off since I won the World Cup in a blaze of glory. Okay, yeah I didn’t do anything–I didn’t even go to Mexico–but I did watch the World Cup from the comfort of my home and I did think the summer was a bit too short.
There were the obligatory transfer rumors that I didn’t really cover (though I came up with some Banquillo names just in case) and the preseason matches that got my blood pumping and my lady shaking her head far too early in the season. I can’t help it if I scream goal at 8 in the morning while watching the blaugranitos imitating the blaugranotes. And then, of course, there’re the new arrivals to swoon over even as I categorically reject newer arrivals: Villa is going to be wonderful, but let’s bet on the cantera. No to Mascherano, Özil, and Cesc! It’s easy to just accept what’s already been done and just as easy to posture as a cantera-lover for future arrivals. You can always claim you weren’t in favor of so-and-so, look how they failed, I told you so. Or “I’ve grown to love such-and-such, though, he’s really accepted the colors.”
So, then, with that in mind, let’s see how our cantera does against Sevilla. Except, of course, it’s not really our cantera going out there alone. With the Spanish internationals out of the picture, we could actually see a greater number of non-canteranos: Rubén Miño, Adriano, Gabi Milito, Eric Abidal, Maxwell, Seydou Keita, JDS, Thiago, Bojan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Lionel Messi. The entire back line is transfers, with just 5 canteranos (oh no!) filling out the other positions. And it would be 4 were Jose Manuel Pinto not injured. That would be some sort of a record low under Guardiola, I think. (Note: that is a completely unsubstantiated claim, feel free to disprove it in the comments)
The Spanish internationals, of course, could still see time. They had an extra training session, along with the rarely-mentioned Martín Cáceres, and could very well be slated for substitute action. Starting any of them, even Iniesta, would be silly since they only have a couple of training sessions under their belts. They all seemed to take things easy against Mexico, which was nice to see, especially Xavi who is usually a ball of tireless work. And obviously Xavi is still capable of terrific passes, but he needs more training to be ready for the season. Call me silly for eschewing the chance at winning a trophy now for the potential of winning a bigger prize later, but the Super Cup doesn’t have that much romance in it. I don’t mean I don’t care about it, I just mean I’m down with the little ones and the subs getting their chance to shine. They put in the work in the preseason, after all, and it’s not like they’re some group of scrubs hauled in off the street for this one-off match.
Regular readers of this site will know that I believe strongly in JDS and Thiago (and, indeed, more in the former than the latter), so starting them against Sevilla doesn’t strike me as a big deal. Actually, it is a big deal, but not because we’re suddenly short-handed, but rather because I think it will prove how not short-handed we are. If he’s ready to play, you could replace Thiago with Iniesta to provide depth as well as allow JDS to be the “4” as he was against Beijing Gouan. Not that I’m equating Sevilla with Gouan, but JDS has shown, to me at least, that he’s capable of playing with the first team (and I think he’s shown as much to Guardiola too, who has supposedly rejected the Özil deal in favor of the canteranos).
So, then, Sevilla, who are still a good team. Their squad list is: Palop, Javi Varas, Konko, Dabo, Fazio, Squillaci, Escude, Renato, Cigarini, Romaric, Zokora, Navas, Alfaro, Perotti, Diego Capel, Negredo, Kanoute, Luis Fabiano.
Well then. Luis Fabiano versus Eric Abidal (version C.B) may cause some to shudder with fear, but I prefer that to Andreu Fontàs getting a baptism by fire. Jesus Navas will be running rampant down the side, assuming Sevilla forces him to play after his 45 minutes at the Azteca. Whether they’ll start all 3 of Negredo, Kanoute, and Luis Fabiano isn’t really something I’m prepared to go out on a limb on (I have no idea what Antonio Álvarez is planning), but if they do go that route Fontàs would be outclassed by a superior set of attackers in his real debut with the club. And yeah, I know he played in a league match last year, but it was meaningless. Fernando Navarro misses out, which could be a boon for Messi, who will run up against a second choice LB.
So Guardiola will probably surprise us all and start his internationals or maybe all kids or maybe sub himself on and run rampant through the midfield.
Official Prediction: 1-1. I think we’ll pass the ball around a lot and they’ll get one on the break and then we’ll lay siege to them even though they’ll be trying to play with us because they know the second leg will be all the big guns. Our goal by Messi.
UPDATE: Guardiola has released his squad list: Miño, Oier, Alvés, Ibrahimovic, Messi, Bojan, Keita, Milito, Maxwell, Jeffren, Adriano, Abidal, Nolito, Sergi Roberto, Thiago, Sergi Gómez, Jonathan dos Santos, Muniesa, Oriol Romeu.
Note the absences of all the Spanish internationals, including Iniesta, as well as Hleb, Víctor Sánchez, and Cáceres. I stick by my predictions and lineups.
Also, the match is at 9:30pm local time according to the official site (here), which is 3:30pm EST. Check your local time here. It doesn’t appear that this match will be televised live in the US, though it will obviously be on in Spain.