Preview – Barca – Racing Santander

Our boy Lio in action against Racing in 2008/9

Game 20 of the La Liga season, and we host Racing Santander at the Camp Nou tomorrow night at 20:00 Spanish time.  I’m not going to say Racing have done very poorly this season, but they have not been especially great either.  If I had to choice, I’d lean on the poor side.  They currently sit in 14th place with 20 points after 5 wins, 5 draws, and 9 defeats.  They have an awful away record, so that bodes well for us.  On their travels, they have only picked up 5 of their total points, managing just the 1 win, 2 draws, and 7 defeats.  This team’s major issue is glaringly obvious, and that is putting the ball in the net.  They have scored just 15 goals in the 19 games thus far, which is the worst in the league, and honor they share with the rather boring and defensive Deportivo.  Tim Stannard from Football365, who I can’t say I always see eye to eye with, has put much of this teams woes on Swedish striker Marcus Rosenberg (on loan from Werder Bremen) who has apparently been missing chances for fun, but is nevertheless the top goal-scorer with 5.

They also come with a rather depleted squad.  Pedro Munitis, their captain and frankly the teams heartbeat, will not play after a red card last weekend.  Their tough tackling, rather dirty right back Pinillos is injured, and so are Coltorti, Greek midfielder Tziolis, Oscar Serrano (once a very decent player at Espanyol), and Senegalese midfielder Diop.  Of the players that will play, some will know a Liga warhorse in Colsa and also Henrique, who Barca still own.  Lacen is probably the best player of the squad tonight, along with Turk Kennedy.

Honestly, I do not see this one being a problem.  The somewhat shock defeat (especially since we had a pretty strong squad out) at Betis will serve as a lesson to us.  Guardiola himself said the team will learn and grow from the defeat, which I fully agree with.  When Spain lost to Switzerland in the World Cup (I game I watched in frustration personally), people were telling me how shocking the result was and how Spain aren’t as good as I said.  But I calmly and honestly said this defeat will help us win the World Cup.  When you are such a good team and easily win most of your games, it’s human nature to fall into false comfort and against “lesser” opponents.  The defeat to Betis, which aside from ending a great unbeaten run too early, meant nothing to our progress in the Copa but it will serve as a wakeup call.  Even if we are the best in the world, we have to treat every game with respect and focus.  Furthermore, often when we lose an unexpected game, we like to come back in the next game to prove a point to ourselves and others.  If that is the case, Racing could be in for a torrid time.

Player wise, we do not have much injury issues.  Jeffren has injured himself and will be unavailable for an estimated 5 weeks, but that hardly impacts Pep’s team selection.  Pep may not play the strongest 11 but it should be pretty much the usual.  The team will be slightly rotated from now till the big Champions League tie, so Mascherano, Afellay, or Keita coming in here and there should not be a surprise.  I think the boys will put on a good showing tonight and win without too many scares.

There has been some rather unsavoury news regarding Dani Alves today however.  The papers are reporting that he has rejected our latest contract offer, that a few weeks back I remember the board said that would be the final one.  We have been in negotiations regarding this since October/November 2010.  If El Mundo has it right, he rejected a wage package similar to the likes of Pique, Puyol, and Valdes.  If that is the case, rejecting that is greedy and ridiculous on his part and he deserves no more.  How he thinks he deserves more than those 3 is beyond me.  I hope it’s just agent hardball nonsense and he will eventually tell him to accept.  Rumors about him going to Abu $tiy (what I affectionately call Manchester City) have been there for all to read for months and months, and if Dani really is about the money, he could find himself there eventually.  If I am not mistaken, I remember these contract negotiations saying it was just a one year renewal to 2015 with an option to extend to 2016.  So he is still under contract a while, but if he refuses to renew, the club may think about cashing in at some point.  But for now, I do not think we need worry just yet and start thinking about possible replacements.

There has also a story from Sport today saying that Jonathan Dos Santos has been given approval from the board to look for options elsewhere if he chooses to.  His contract expires in June and if he is unwilling to commit, the club is looking to cash in at least a few million.  He looked a great talent to me, but recently Thiago come more to the forefront, even reported a few days back he will officially be promoted to the first squad starting next season.  Being a talented midfielder at Barcelona has to be an extremely difficult spot.  Jonathan knows he will not be starting in that team for at least 3 or 4 years, if ever.  Xavi could go another 2 or 3, Iniesta many more, then probably Cesc, Afellay, and Thiago.  I do not feel any resentment about him wanting to take his career forward and if he does go, I wish him the best of luck and hope he does better than his brother has thus far.

Just a small note to finish, the reaction when Nic wanted to close the blog was strong to say the least.  Many asked him not to and as a result, barcacentral was born.  I know during the hard times we used this platform extensively to vent and express our views, but I urge reader to get a bit more involved with the comments and we get some discussion going.  Debate is the life force of a blog.

Enjoy the game guys.  Visca Barca.

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20 Responses to Preview – Barca – Racing Santander

  1. layibiyi says:

    yeah, debates are very important. its been a long while and i just found out fcbnews is closed, i hope everyone gets to eventually migrate here

  2. FCB-Parbo says:

    @ BBoy,
    1. I tought that not starting with our strong eleven would not be a problem for us against Betis, but sadly I was way wrong. So I hope that we start with our strong side and bring the points home, so Pep can do subs early 2nd half.

    2. Case Dani. I’ve read about it and if it’s true it’s making me MAD. In the same scale with 3 world champions and he isn’t satisfied. How dare he. If it’s about the money, then yes you’re right, he is tooooo greedy. Maybe ‘coz he doesn’t have Barca’s DNA. But then again Abidal neither and he wants to stay/retire at Barca. At least that’s what I read some time ago.

    3. You are right, when Nic post was “FCBNews says goodbye”, every 1 was so sad about it. Everyone had urged to continnue with this blog and so has BC been born. So fans, pls don’t let BC say goodbye!!!

  3. blaugranaboy says:

    well 2 comments on a preview is already a better response guys. good to see layibi back, welcome back man.

    fair enough on point 1 Parbo. i thought pep was going to go with an even weaker team against betis, so im glad he didnt. like i said, i think it will be pretty much the strongest team, with maybe one surprise. but i think betis are a much tougher team to be honest, despite being in segunda. they came out with no fear and that nothing to lose attitude. but still, i understand ur point and like ive said in every preview, im a true believer in treating every match with total respect and focus. and i think we will tonight

  4. barcacentralnic says:

    On the subject of whether to play the strongest team, or how strong should the team be?… I think when there are points at stake we have to take the game with the utmost seriousness. In fact this is one of the first things that impressed me in the Guardiola era is that we don’t relax for the so-called easy games, we also keep our concentration for the 90 minutes and no longer have a habit of conceding late goals. This is all down to a serious attititude at all levels which is vital to our success. If you play a weaker side in a game like this you are showing the opposition a lack of respect that can inspire them to raise their game. Not a clever move. Obviously we can’t play the same eleven every game but I think there should only two changes to the main team. I think this should be enough to give everybody a rest once every five weeks, plus you can use substitutions during a game if a player needs a rest.
    On the subject of Alves I have to say I am worried we will lose him, and whatever you want to say about Dani he adds something extra to the team that would be almost impossible to replace. I could write quite a bit about what I don’t like about him but I think he probably can justify a claim to a better deal than Pique, Puyol and Valdes. Perhaps part of that is down to him not being a local player like the three mentioned, it would be much more difficult for a Catalan player to leave. If we are honest we should recognise that many foreign players will never feel for the club sentimentally like the local boys, and this works in the agent’s favour when it comes to pushing for a deal. But besides this, just on the playing side I feel it is more complicated to replace Alves than to replace the other three, this is not to say he is a better player but he is a more distinct type of player which has to hold some value. I don’t like the fact that Alves is pushing for more but I do understand it. I’m afraid that the tightening of the club financies we have seen since Rosell’s arrival may lead us to lose a very special player.

    • barcacentralroger says:

      @ Nic – would tend to agree with the two changes per match where injury permits, but would definitely agree when it comes to introducing real youngsters. Seeing Thiago or entirely new starters like Affelay in a heavily changed side really doesn’t give them a chance to shine or play with confidence, as EVERYONE else on the team is playing with less confidence as their normal partners are not in place.

  5. FCB-Parbo says:

    Come on, I don’t understand it. Yes, Dani brings something special to the team, but so do others. Yes he was already a good player when he came to Barca, but don’t forget that Barca and Pep made him an even better player, actually a world class player. And b’coz of Barca the world has noticed him. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m mad at him. It’s not that he’s gonna earn less than before?

  6. Lockie17 says:

    I would like to just add a few comments to the above subject of Dani Alves, i think Nic is 100% right in saying he is unreplaceable he brings so much energy and pace to the team, is there another right back in the world half as good as him?
    Also he is such an important player to our system high intensity and excellent technique although his crosses are sometimes wayward and his link up play with Messi is awesome. We must keep him not at all costs but within reason. i dont fill Adriano is an adequate replacement.
    Guys this is a great blog and people please start commenting so this blog can grow again, I for 1 will be commenting more often now. My thoughts on tonights game we should win the game in the first half and maybe give Messi a little rest, seems a bit jaded and he was awful against Betis. i like the look of Afellay, he looks a very bright prospect and has more directness about him, willing to shoot from distance and beat a player.

  7. layibiyi says:

    yeah Bboy, good to be back with y’all….and good to see the new team of bloggers have been wisely selected.

    i haved missed all of you guys, has hilal crossed over here too? and how about the yaya toure guy, forgotten his id.

    about the match…i’m sure we all agree the defeat to betis was perfect for us, came at the right time as usual, we always get wake up calls this time of the year as usual even though they are usually about 3 matches. i hope this one call is enough for the team. we need to put more pressure on madrid

    • barcacentralroger says:

      That would be The Evil That Men Do (TETMD) – despite the rather strong allegiance to Yaya, appreciated a lot of his other thoughts (TETMD – if you are reading, would be good to hear from you, even if just to say “Hey”).

      Actually, on the topic of Yaya and Dani Alves, it is worth acknowledging that the most obvious destination would be City, who have shown the most interest, but whilst Yaya could claim to have been overlooked in his last season in favour of Busquets (and Yaya has grown somewhat at City this season from what little I’ve seen) Dani can’t really claim that – he is our clear first choice starter and is very well appreciated. I find it hard to see the motivation to move for a few extra pesos rather than to continue playing for this legendary team and interlinking with Lionel Messi every match…

      • layibiyi says:

        yeah, TETMD….

        i just hope alves thinks things out thoroughly before agreeing with his agent. Agents sometimes creates false scenarios for the players who are mostly busy focusing on the sporting aspect. at least, his case hasn’t been as messy as yaya toure’s who has one of the worst agents possible. teams like man city have distorted the market to the extent that alves’s agent can think pique n puyol are earning peanuts. what he must also note is the fact that he can easily lose his place in man city. if he happens to struggle in the aerially-based premiership (which is possible), man city would already be looking at ramos or someone for the next season.

        • barcacentralroger says:

          Good point – regarding the aerial-long-ball approach in English football. And even if Dani was the provider rather than the expected header of the ball (where you’re right, someone like Ramos would be preferable) Dani’s high crossing has been less than it was this season (although to be fair, perhaps acknowleding the lack of height in our front three).

  8. Caleb says:

    Dani Alves…. I don’t want to lose him. The problem: I think if we lose Alves in the hopes of saving money we’d be faced with spending even more money trying to find a replacement that’s even close to as good as him. Or we’ll have to play a much worse player in place of him. Not a good situation.

    With the huge shirt deal going through everyone knows there is some money at Barca, especially Dani and his agent.

  9. barcacentralomer says:

    Good to see other people helping Nic out in churning out a super blog. I don’t know if its the the effect of a tiring work week but I was struck by the supposed analogy between the Rijkaard and Pep Barca teams and FCB-News and Barcacentral. With no disrespect to FCBN, it was essentially all Nic similar to Rijkaard’s team built around the mindblowing R10 [2004-2006 R10]. BC on the other hand is more like Pep’s Barca, where Nic and the rest of the FCBN team [BB,Roger,Diatus,Darren] are all combining their individual talents to produce a more balanced and comprehensive blog. Keep it up guys!

    Now that I’m through with the pleasantries, I can revert to my ‘auditor/critic’ self. First off, I agree this game should not (at least in theory) pose too many problems for Barca and we should try to grab our 3 points ASAP and then throw in some of the fringe players like Mascherano, Afellay,Keita and Adriano for the remainder of the match. I would hate to see somebody like Messi/Xavi/Iniesta and the others in the strongest starting line-up picking up an injury in a home game against Racing before the CL restarts.

    Before discussing the Alves issue, BB’s informed us of JDS supposedly weighing his options. While I agree at present its next to impossible for him to become even a regular FCB bench warmer, he has to be careful and not rush into some stupid decision of joining a club/league where his inexperience might get exposed and stunt his growth or in the worst case even shatter his confidence. I doubt he’ll be able to find a more conducive environment than Barca with a great coach, familiar surroundings/mates and the absence of any unrealistic expectations on his young shoulders. He only has to look at his brother and realise that the grass is not always greener on the other side. However at the end of the day, its his career and if he decides to leave, good luck to him.

    Now coming to the Alves issue. The thing that has always irritated me about Barca’s world class youth system is its failure in the past 10-15 years to produce world class defenders whether in the CB role or as full backs unlike the midfielders assembly line we have in place. Puyol is the only name that comes to my mind. I don’t think Pique’s rise as a world class CB is entirely due to La Masia because IMO [which most will disagree] Pique’s raw talent was taken to a different level thanks to his time with Man Utd and the EPL. Barca’s best defenders that I can recall whether Koeman, Gio ,Abidal, Sylvinho,Beletti, Alves have always been acquisitions instead of homegrown talent. Puyol like I said is an exception to then general rule. La Masia definitely needs to work this thing out.

    So Alves wants more money. I can’t blame him to be honest, after all he doesn’t have Barca DNA and which one of us wouldn’t like a raise. I was a bit surprised initially as to why Nic thought Alves was ‘almost impossible to replace’. But then I remembered out screwed up scouting system that got us Henrqiue,Caceres and K9 among others. I do think Barca need to seriously consider shortlisting potential successors in the LB role with Abidal getting older and a very good if not excellent RB considering the possibility that Alves might leave in the summer.

    @ Nic: I know Alves is special but there are other top notch RBs who could do a similar job like Bosingwa and Sagna. For the long term there’s the promising Van Der Wiel and the out of favor Santon at Inter.

    • barcacentralomer says:

      @Nic: In short while I agree its going to very difficult finding a replacement if Alves leaves, I don’t think its an impossible task, we got over and much better after losing R10, we’ll do it again if Alves/any other player decides to leave.

    • barcacentralroger says:

      Thanks for the nice comments Omer – we always appreciate your comments and analysis back!

      I am divided on the Dani issue – I think we can find a replacement, but are any of those you mention quite as good in terms of what Dani does for us? Sagna could continue to grow as a player but I still feel he lacks that natural aggression. Bosingwa perhaps lacks the technique, but I’ll confess to not having seen enough of Van Der Wiel and Santon.

      That all being said, I think it’s worth noting that Dani has been a little inconsistent this season (or more inconsistent than normal). He is not in the strongest possible position to be pushing for a significant increase based on current performance although it is worth recognising that these contract negotiations could have been an effecting factor.

      • barcacentralomer says:

        Thanks 4 the prompt feedback. Sagna is one of the most underrated players IMO which could be due to the fact that everything in [the media about] Arsenal revolves around their ‘beautiful’ passing game and the time the defence makes the news is when they screw up. Speaking of the Gunners, there’s a very a talented young LB they have aka Kieran Gibbs who’s one to watch out for in the future. Bosingwa’s fitness and recurrent injuries is something that’s more concerning than his technical ability.

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