Preview: Barça Vs Athletic Bilbao

No rest for the wicked as we again suit up for our last calendar fixture of 2010, Copa del Rey.

The game is scheduled for a 8pm kick off Tuesday night local time at Camp Nou. The Copa del Rey is often one of those competitions that gets put on the back-burner, but I personally don’t mind it as it often gives us a chance to see some of the kids get serious minutes and also a rest for the senior guys. I suspect this first leg of the round of 16 will be no different.

You may remember Barça actually got knocked out of this competition last year at this stage – losing to eventual winners Sevilla on away goals (2-2). For those that don’t know much about this competition, Barça have the most wins of this Copa (25) while Bilbao are behind with 24. Last year also saw Alcorcón defeat Real Madrid 4-1 in what was a comical result in the round of 32.

As mentioned before, expect to see serious game time given to our kids (either as starts or from the bench) Although this is indeed a tricky draw, particularly as the first leg is home – Will Pep give game time to Xavi, Messi and co? Pep himself stating that “We need to get a good result because it will be difficult if we have to win the series in San Mames.” Enough said.

My personal feeling is we will see a mixed bag. Expect starts given to Mascherano, Pinto, Bojan and Adriano – but no doubt the heavy artillery will be on the bench if needed.

Bilbao are without Llorente (pulled muscle), a player who is an absolute goal machine and the focal point for everything bilbao, so that’s good news for us. He is also a player that has been linked with us in recent times – though I suspect we will never sign him. Bilbao are a tough side, no question, and you can bet the Basque based club will do everything they can to at least earn a draw away from home. I’ll be interested to see the formation they start with – they often play themselves a 4-3-3 with Javi Martinez being a main man in midfield for them.

As for us, I think we will still employ the 4-3-3. Don’t ask me why but I think this won’t be an easy game at all. I’m feeling a 3-1 scoreline, but it won’t be comprehensive nor pretty.

Possible Starting Lineups:

Barça: Pinto, Alves, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Mascherano, Adriano, Thiago, Keita, Pedro, Bojan

Bilbao: Iraizoz, Ustaritz, Ocio, Castillo, Iraola, Orbáiz, Iturraspe, Martínez, Gurpegui, Gabilondo, López, Muniain

Prediction: Barça 3 Bilbao 1
Just quickly: It has been announced that Bojan has agreed to a contract extension, meaning he is contracted to 2015 and his buyout raised to 100€ million.

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16 Responses to Preview: Barça Vs Athletic Bilbao

  1. barcacentralnic says:

    On Bojan I have to say I have often had my doubts. However, it should be pointed out that he is still only 20 (and 4 months) and Pedro had not even made his first team league debut at that age ( he was 20 and 5 months when he made his debut in Jan 2008). Bojan has made 146 first team appearances – admitedly many are as sub but it is still an impressive figure – and he has scored 38 goals. It seems doubtful whether Bojan will ever be considered a regular first team starter but he is a useful player to have in the squad and while he is happy to stay I am happy to have him.

    On the Copa game I agree it won’t be a pushover. I’m hoping to see some more of Thiago who is looking a very good bet for a promotion to a first team contract very soon. Barça 2 – 0 Athletic

  2. AyousB says:

    @Barcacentraldarren
    For those that don ’t know much about this
    competition, Barça have the most wins of this
    Copa (25) while Bilbao are behind with 24.

    I think Bilbao only had 23 (not 24) copa

    as per the game, i would love Pep to start with most of our regulars, (Masch and Thiago included and maybe Bojan) then after leading by 2-3 goals, he can now bring out/send in
    I predict 4 – 1

    • There’s some dispute over Bilbao’s record…I’ve always given them the 24. The LFP (Liga de Futbol Profesional) and the Spanish Football Federation only officially recognise 23 wins, as they won the inaugural 1902 trophy under a different name, Club Vizcaya. But the cup is on display in their trophy cabinet…that’s good enough for me

      BC Darren 🙂

  3. blaugranaboy says:

    im with the boys here in this should be a rest period for the big players. the copa is a trophy but by no means is it anywhere close to as important as the others. honestly, bilbao without llorente are a team our subs and a few cantera boys should manage a 2 goal victory over. also, bilbao are lions (pun intended) at home, but away can be quite poor. i think the starting line up will be weaker than the one above, i think pinto, maxwell, mascherno, keita, adriano, and bojan are for sure in, but we could also see the likes of bartra in for alves and fontas taking up one of the CB roles. i would in fact be very happy to see that in particular fontas because i have a really good feeling about him as a future player for us. i certainly do not want to see xavi, iniesta, puyol, villa, busquets, and messi in these games. yet i suspect messi may be on the bench and make an appearance as it appears messi just wants to play always and pep respects that to strong degree.

    bojan wise, im very happy. nic will tell u ive shared the same concerns about his professional career, but end of last year, when that arrogant bum ibrahimovic decided to play even at an atrociously shit level, bojan stepped up big time. he scored like 7 or 8 in sucessive matches and played a big part in securing that la liga trophy. that goal he scored against villarreal still stands in my mind and because of that run he has earned much patience not only in my eyes but in many cules’. he’s our product, and even though he disappoints at times he pitches in a fair amount. and nic is exactly right on the age thing. pedro only really broke through at 21, more even 22, so bojan has time to figure things out and maybe put on some needed muscle.

  4. AyousB says:

    Thanks Darren for that enlightment about Bilbao’s Copa honours.

    More about tonite’s match, I’ll not like us to make da same mistake as last season with Sevilla, though Ibra was a big shit in that match

  5. Fredegar says:

    I would love to have Llorente in our team. He could play exactly the same role as he does for Spain, the famous and long heralded “Plan B”. Imagine needing a goal for any game in the last 10 minutes, you stick Pique and Llorente up front, that could be devastating. His quality is not to be doubted, and I have a felling that despite not being technically as good as Zlatan, he would fit far better in this team. The problem, of course, is that he wouldn’t be a starter, I’m not sure he would like that…
    Anyway, as for today’s game, I also hope we can give the youngsters a bit of playing time, but I feel Pep will remember the game last year in Sevilla and still go with a pretty strong line-up. We had a big debate last year at the same time of year about the importance of the Cup. Somehow, I feel like it’s a bit less important this year, because last year we were defending our “invincible in any competition” aura, but on the other hand I’m very glad that Pep, being the character he is, just hates any defeat and will try to win the lot again if he can. An interesting game in any case!

  6. FCB-Holland says:

    Let’s assume that the Copa is a useless competition and the club should not make it a priority . However would it kill us if we actually take this competition seriously and try to win it instead of taking risks by fielding a WEAK line up ? I don’t know if Guardiola has learned anything from his last year’s failed strategy by underestimating Sevilla in the same competition and against Hercules in the league this season .
    I’m not sure I have much faith in a line up WITHOUT Messi , Xavi , Iniesta and Villa . Where is the “creativity ” and “goals ” are going to come from ? Besides , let’s not overlook the small detail of Abidal filling in as a CB . I think I beat this point to death so I am not going to add any more .
    I would love for our back ups to come out and dominate the game and produce a beautiful football in the process but It is NOT going to happen .
    I would not be surprised , if /when things get out of hand , to see Guardiola go to his Plan B : bring in Messi , Xavi / Iniesta to rescue the situation .
    Having said all that ; wouldn’t it make some sense to put a strong line up , at least in the first half , and try to win the tie then ? Why take the risk of having to go to Athletic and beat them in their own pitch ? Of course , I have full confidence in the ability of this club to beat any team any where but I don’t think it is necessary to put an added pressure on our players when things are not going our way .
    Let’s not forget that Guardiola’s Plan B did not work against Sevilla last season and against Hercules this year . I hope it works this time but I have my doubts .
    I am almost certain to see Messi , Xavi and Iniesta warming up at some point in the second half trying to bail us out .
    I am very sure if we end up winning the Copa , the same fans who are dismissing it now would be amongst the people cheering . People should make up their minds . You can’t have it both ways .
    Finally , about Bojan : I agree he is a talented young player and I’m happy that the club has decided to renew his contract but he is NOT going to get any bigger or stronger .
    I have my doubts about his ability to take over the CF position in the near future !!

  7. barcacentralnic says:

    I’d go for a pretty strong line up but there are some players who deserve a chance in this match, it seems logical to let Pinto and Bojan start for example, and the new players like Adriano and Mascherano should also get more minutes. But it would not surprise me to see Messi play from the beginning. I’d go for a team of: Pinto; Bartra, Puyol, Fontas, Maxwell; Thiago, Mascherano, Keita; Bojan, Messi, Adriano.

  8. barcacentralroger says:

    I am also not entirely convinced with fielding a substantially weaker team – I think the best approach is either to field a solid team (ie, with regular subs such as Keita over Xavi say) supplemented by recent graduates (Fontas, Thiago… January and promotion are just round the corner), but ensuring to keep some teeth with at least one of Iniesta, Messi, Pedro, or Villa up front, Abidal and Pique/Puyol at back, etc. The other alternative is to go with a markedly different line up but in order to test a strategy – why not try Busquets and Mascherano at the same time, brining in Thiago with Iniesta, and then play two up front? Whilst the Rubin Kazan game was a win (against an admittedly poor side) did anyone feel we saw that much of value (don’t get me wrong, individuals played well, but there was little fluidity, and it amounted to not much more than an opportunity for giving the youngsters first team time)…

    Glad regarding Bojan – Pep says there are have been no plans to sell or to loan but I wonder whether he could benefit from more playing time for half a season, but obviously, only if we buy in January (which I can’t see happening).

  9. barcacentralroger says:

    I agree that Messi will play – he can’t not at the moment and I think he sees this as a season to break all records.

    (I think that’s how he also sees next season.)

    (And the one after.)

    (Ad infinitum.)

  10. bc9jaCulé says:

    I see a good show beforehand. We shouldn’t forget too early that the squad that won RubinKazan (a side even our startin’ XI are yet to conquer) in the CL is basically the reserve team boys. Seriously, I think those boys are good to go against Bilbao (we even won them ‘3 – 1′ in d league this season without Messi).

    Of course, Messi & Pedro could be given a 2nd half start b’cause I know they never get tired of playin’ (& Messi would like to update his goal resumé) but I really wish Valdes, Puyol, Alves, Xavi, Iniesta and Villa are completely kept out of the loop (come Jan., we’ll need them thoroughly rejuvenated).

    My prediction
    Barça 3 – 1 Bilbao

    @ bcDarren & bcNic

    I heartily appreciate your relentless efforts in makin’ bc a reality but I’ll like to suggest that the kick-off time of matches should be stated on GMT basis too as that will be much easier to convert to our various local times. For instance, I reside here in Nigeria and might not particularly know the local time variation that exists in-between so I think the GMT timin’ would be much more convinient (it’s a suggestion, anyway).

    Have fuN!

  11. CougaR10 says:

    i think xavi and puyol needs rest,
    mascherano probably will be starting today..

    its hard to predict todays line up..

  12. barcacentralnic says:

    Team announced. I was way off with my prediction. We play as follows.
    Pinto; Alves, Piqué, Abidal (centre back 🙂 ) Maxwell; Xavi, Mascherano, Keita; Pedro, Bojan, Iniesta.

  13. barcacentralnic says:

    Would have thought Adriano deserved a chance.

  14. FCB-Parbo says:

    I hope they finish it off in the first half. Goooo Barca!!

    Read Cruyff’s Corner. Very nice Pep and his former coach. Have linked this site.
    http://www.totalbarca.com/2010/news/cruyffs-corner-a-team-with-an-insatiable-hunger/#more-61811

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