FINALLY, the dreaded dribble of the international break (but we can mention quickly the blaugrana was again hugely important in the two Spain games) is over and Barça are back! And get ready guys, cause we will have 7 games coming our way in just 23 days. Tomorrow at 6 pm we will face Real Sociedad in San Sebastián for our first away game of the year and 2nd game overall. We have had good news on the injury front with 4 first team players returning to full fitness, they are Afellay, Adriano, Maxwell, and PUYOL. Our brave captain first picked up this injury 8 months ago, and hasn’t played since the Champions League final more than 3 months ago. It’s pretty amazing how we managed to suceed without him, thanks in a big part to the amazing Mascherano, but having him back will be hugely important for us and the national team. Let’s hope the brave mountian man can stay fit and get back to his best, when he is the best.
Let’s take a quick glance at our opponents from the North. They finished 15th last season, but only 2 points off the drop. But, Soceidad play a really nice brand of football. Last year they gave us a decent fight and in particular against Madrid played very well and if not for the horrendous finishing of key man Antoine Griezmann they could have won or at least drawn. Xabi Prieto is the captain and has been there since I can remember. Also look out for the two loanees in McDonald Mariga and Carlos Vela from Inter Milan and Arsenal respectively. Mariga came to Inter from Parma in 2010 with a lot of hype, particuarly after he nearly joined financial dopers Manchester City. However he didn’t quite thrive last year so it appears the club feel the 24 year old Kenyan sensation needs first team football to refind his feet. Vela is a Mexican striker with a lot of raw talent and skills but has struggled to really become a big time player. He goes absent in games and simply isn’t prolific. Still on his day and in the right circumstances he can do some lovely stuff, so I hope he does well. Also look out for Chilean goalie Bravo, forward Llorente (Joseba), and Illaramendi, who has lovely skills.
Ok, back to us. We travelled with 20 players today, essentially our entire first team, with the exception of Piqué who is sitll recovering from his knock. Therefore, we could line up with essentially anything tomorrow, so I don’t see a need to even try and predict as we all know the possible combinations and permutations. We all expect a win tomorrow and with the pressure and intensity of competition from Real Madrid this season, most feel the margin for error to win the league will be tiny and dropped points against “this sort of team” just cannot happen.
There has been oodles of articles and talk the past week, both in Spain and outside, about La Liga and how it’s uncompetitive and an unsustainable model. Within Spain, this fight is being chaired by Del Nido (Sevilla) and Fernando Roig (Villarreal). Personally, I think there definitely is turth in the arguement and some more equality would be nice. However, I do not take it near the extent that Del Nido does, after calling La Liga not only the biggest load of “rubbish” in Europe, but the world. I do feel Barça and Real need to adopt a more equitable distribution of TV rights (despite the fact these clubs sell the league), like in England, however I truly believe most overlook just how good the two are. Sure Germany has been very competitive and exciting the last years with several different winners, but the truth also is that Bayern Munich aren’t very good at all, and if either ourselves or Real were in Germany we’d likely win the leauge each and every year judging on the Germans rather poor European record.
And as much as the Prem love to say they are so competitive and have the best league in the world, and much of that is the truth (though they all love to look over the fact its due to selling their tradition to foreigners), when I look at the last 5 years I only see 2 clubs winning, and if I look at the past 10 years it’s only 3. Comparing that to Spain, it’s been 2 in the last 5 years, and 4 in the past 10.
Here is the total list for tomorrow, enjoy the game guys, I’m really quite excited:
GK: Valdés, Pinto
DEF: Alves, Puyol, Adriano, Abidal, Maxwell, Fontàs
MID: Fábregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Keita, Busquets, Mascherano, Afellay
FWD: Alexis, Messi, Pedro, Villa