Preview: Real Sociedad vs FC Barcelona (game 20 liga 2012/13)

valdes 22Barça begin the second half of the league season with a trip to San Sebastian to face Real Sociedad with a possible record eleventh straight away win at stake. Given the early 6 pm kick off time the team will change the normal habit of travelling on the day of the game, instead catching a flight after this afternoon’s training session. Tito Vilanova has named a squad of 20 players for the trip with no place for David Villa who still hasn’t recovered from his hamstring problems.

valdes 17Before talking about tomorrow’s game, it is impossible not to mention the bombshell announcement that Victor Valdés will not renew his current contract that finishes in 2014. While there may be some culés who don’t rate Valdés so highly, I can’t stress how difficult I think it will be to find a replacement. Before Valdés the last keeper who managed to make the position his own for a number of seasons was Andoni Zubizaretta. Between Zubi’s departure in 1994 and the rise of Valdés nearly a decade later we tried a number of keepers who nearly all disappointed in one way or another. Julen Lopetegi and Vitor Baia both appeared to be excellent keepers at their previous clubs but both flopped at Camp Nou while Roberto Bonano was as mediocre as so many in the Gaspart-era team, others who filled the position like Sergio’s dad Carles Busquets, Dutruel or Rustu all fell short of the necessary level and even Pepe Reina seemed to find the responsibility too much, in fact only Ruud Hesp had any success after being taken from relative obscurity at Roda. Hesp wasn’t the greatest keeper either but he was pretty consistent. He was also the keeper for the only two leagues we won in the time between Zubizaretta and Valdés.

There may still be some who believe Valdés is just playing a strategy to get a better contract from the club but the manner of his announcement indicates he really means to leave. Whatever his reasons, economic, professional or personal, I imagine it’s a little more than just wanting to “know other cultures”. It will be interesting to see what comes out in the future but my speculation is that there may be a slight disgruntlement at not getting the same deal as Puyol and Xavi. However, in this afternoon’s press conference Tito Vilanova said that he doesn’t believe Valdés has a problem with the club, pointing out that he wasn’t asking to leave now, just saying he wouldn’t continue and that he was showing the club respect by giving such a margin of time for a replacement to be found.

If the motivation for the move is professional then one has to say that it is a very courageous decision. He could easily stay at Barça and probably remain first team keeper for five or six years more, and who knows quite possibly win a couple more Champions Leagues. However, if he moves to another big European club and is successful, he may feel he will win the recognition that he seems to feel he doesn’t always get in Barcelona.

By making the decision now at least Valdés has given the club time to act. And surely now the best move would be to get somebody in this summer rather than waiting until 2014. Some might say the club would do well to sell Valdés this summer and in that way at least make some money but I don’t think that will happen. The news that Valdés is leaving will no doubt encourage any decent keeper to come and challenge Valdés for a year with the prospect of taking over in 2014.

barça 5-1 real sociedad messi second goalOn to tomorrow’s game. Real Sociedad under Phillippe Montanier have completed a very respectable first half of the season and they currently sit ninth in the table on 26 points. Completing the eleven-away-wins record is going to be complicated against a team with the equal best home defensive record in the league. It might also be pointed out that Barça haven’t won at Anoeta since May 2007 when two stunning passes from Ronaldinho set up Iniesta and Eto’o to score the goals in a 0-2 victory. Of course it’s true that Real then spent three seasons in the second division but since then we have played twice in San Sebastian under Pep Guardiola without winning. In May 2011 we lost 2-1 as our advantage at the top of La Liga allowed us to concentrate on knocking Madrid out of the Champions League semi-final. Then in September 2011 we could only draw 2-2 after taking an early 0-2 lead, the team showing the first signs of weakness in last year’s title race.

Before the cup game with Malaga this week Vilanova indicated he would give equal importance to the cup game and tomorrow’s league game, but he then put out, I think it’s fair to say, what was basically of a second-string team against Malaga. The only thing I can read from this is that the changes on Wednesday were due to there only being three days rest. Having played Sunday-Wednesday-Saturday we will have a five day break before the cup return in Malaga next Thursday. With more players rested on Wednesday I see no reason not to play our strongest XI tomorrow and then to do the same again on Thursday.

Barça squad: Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartrá, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Alba, Song, Busquets, Xavi, Thiago, Fabregas, Iniesta, Pedro, Tello, Alexis, Messi.

Possible lineups:

Real Sociedad: (4-2-3-1) Bravo; Carlos Martinez, Mikel Gonzalez, Iñigo Martinez, De La Bella; Pardu, Illaramendi; Carlos Vela, Xavi Prieto, Griezmann; Agirretxe.

Barça: Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Fabregas; Pedro, Messi, Iniesta.

Prediction: Real Sociedad 1 Barça 4

Date: Saturday 19 January 2013. Kick off 6 pm (local time)

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7 Responses to Preview: Real Sociedad vs FC Barcelona (game 20 liga 2012/13)

  1. Pingback: Preview: Real Sociedad vs FC Barcelona (game 20 liga 2012/13) « Views From The Bullpen

  2. barcacentralomer says:

    @Nic: I think the management has to shoulder some of the blame in not working hard enough to identify and develop a young keeper as Valdes’s understudy and eventual successor. If we are willing to try the youth/reserve team players in the Copa matches, why not give one of the younger keepers a run in the Copa fixtures. Nic, I happen to be one of those Barca fans who don’t rate Valdes among the top keepers in the world. However, there’s no denying the fact that Valdes is the best choice for Barca having come through the ranks and being in sync with the Barca style of play. I fully agree finding a replacement is going to be nothing short of mission impossible.
    While Barca’s hierarchy are keen to play down any dissatisfaction rumours, it seems unlikely that having established himself as undisputed numero uno at one of the biggest clubs in the world, Valdes would suddenly feel the urge to experience different cultures. Moreover, I don’t think Valdes is being chased by any of the big clubs either.

    • barcacentralnic says:

      However good our youth system may be it still seems there is no guarantee to producing more than one or two first team players every couple of years. It’s very rare to get a year like the Messi-Fabregas-Pique year, and because of the uniqueness of the goalkeeping position i’d say any club is doing well to produce one outstanding keeper every decade. I’m not sure about any of three B team keepers at the moment though the youngest, Miguel Bañuz, is only 19 and has time to improve. There is talk about the youth team keeper, 17-year-old Joseph Ondoa as being an excellent prospect but it’s probably a bit hopeful that he’ll be ready to take over in 2014. For the record of the names being stated as possible purchases the ones I like most are De Gea and Guaita. But for now I can’t see either as being better than Valdés. It’s going to be tough for whoever gets the job.

      • FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

        there are reports in Spain suggesting a certain unhappy Casillas as replacement. Do you know anybody by this name?? =D

      • barcacentralomer says:

        Its rare if not impossible to be able to promote so many youth team players into the first team and Barca or any other club is probably not going to be able to replicate this success any time soon. Consequently, the management should have taken into consideration the fact that Valdes was not being pushed hard enough for his starting place and they needed to bring in a promising young keeper or two and let him/them prove his worth in the B team, Copa fixtures and pre-season friendlies and if it didn’t work out over a season or two, they could have restarted. Even Zubi was not from Barca’s youth system. So if Barca couldn’t produce one from the academy, didn’t have the funds to get a top keeper or who didn’t want to be a bench warmer, perhaps plucking a talented young keeper from another club and grooming him to take over in the long run could have been tried out as well.

        Nic, I haven’t seen the Valencia guy but I’m still not convinced about De Gea from what I’ve seen of him at Man Utd. The EPL has some very good keepers like Vorm, Krul and Begovic and they’re not being chased by too many of the big clubs. There’s this fantastic prospect from Bundesliga called Stegen. Perhaps Barca can try an another approach. Bring in one of these guys at a reasonable amount and give them a season or two to gel in with Pinto as backup instead of splashing an enormous amount on a big-name signing which might not work out.

  3. FC Barcelona Rocks! says:

    Victor Valdes is going to be absolutely difficult to replace….I can only hope for the best.

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