8 pm local time tomorrow the team returns to the Camp Nou with the mission of gaining 3 points but also playing to the standards we have set for ourselves. Tuesday night was not a good performance, I know Nic felt somewhat different, but that was for my money that easily ranks in the top 3 worst games under Pep’s guidance. That isn’t a damnation or criticism, simply an observation of events. But that’s the past and for now we look forward to tomorrow’s game against Mallorca.
They began the season with Michael Laudrup in charge, but very early on the signs were not good. He was quite upset at the sale of their best player by a country mile, the very impressive Jonathan de Guzman, and just 5 games into the season, with a 2W and 3L record, Laudrup resigned after his assistant was fired apparently for bad mouthing the club’s president.
Still, they found a really great replacement in Caparros. Most people don’t really know it was actually him who built up the great Sevilla squad Juande Ramos eventually had success with and despite never winning anything, he did a very fine job with Bilbao and I was quite shocked when they let him go for the rather bewildering appointment of Bielsa. So, I think they have found solid stewardship with this man in charge, and despite his record since taking over being rather measly (4D,1L).
Personnel wise, it’s slim picking to tell you the truth. Their Isreali keeper Aouate is rather good and often saves his defense embarrassment, but the key man is definitely Portuguese center back and captain Nunes, who I have seen have many stellar performances. In the midfield Castro can prove a tricky customer, and also look out for new signing Hemed. This young striker came over from Israel and has managed 4 goals thus far, 50% of the team total.
Back at home, Puyol and Pique have been given medical clearance and will be in the squad. Injury wise Pedro is out as well as the nearly ready Alexis, who joined his teammates for parts of training this week. Chile have in fact called him up to play the World Cup qualifiers in just 2 weeks time, but I think they will have a fight on their hands with the Barca medical staff.
Other than that, it’s as normal with the exception of Cuenca again most likely to make the bench. I read a piece on him recently and he came in and out of Barca twice, once as we thought he wasn’t good enough and then again on loan. Always doubted due to his lack of physique, he proved his worth with skill and apparently Pep admires the resilience he has shown to get where he is and therefore is willing to give him his shot.
The other big news is that Messi is in total crisis seeing as he has not scored in 3 games. Really, the media in football often show such little professionalism and intelligence. 3 games, sigh. Messi played poorly Tuesday, his worst game in years, he couldn’t make passes or beat a man, so what? He’s human, he has dips like everyone else, there is no story here. Whether he misses another 1000 penalties or plays poorly tomorrow he is the best player in the world, likely (?) the most gifted of all time, and he puts on the blaugrana week in week out desperate to win. Let’s all reflect and appreciate that.
However, Madrid are looking very good indeed and we can afford no slip ups, not at home against a team with just 2 wins. Expect another 10-man defense with intentions only to defend. Nic made a very interesting point that the team could be suffering mentally with always having to play this kind of very tactically and technically difficult and frustrating football. If so, that’s where Pep earns his money and as he was clearly not very impressed with Tuesday night, it won’t be strange to see us try and kick it up a few gears tomorrow.
Enjoy the game