Barcelona preview of Insanity!!!!!

27 05 2009

Oh god it’s here. It’s finally here. The 2009 UEFA Champions League Final in Roma. It is tomorrow. Oh man. Nerves are on edge, need more caffeine to think, can’t have more caffeine to maintain sanity. IfeellikewhatDaniAlvesmustfeellikeatalltimesexceptI’mnervousinsteadofhyper. Despite my thoughts on the CL, this is definitely an exciting game, a winner-takes-all free-for-all made-entirely-of-hyphenated-descriptions.

Please forgive the occasional freakout that will undoubtedly occur during the remainder of this preview. They will happen and I don’t want you to be caught unaware.

So here we are, the Stadio Olimpico, the final stop on the CL train, and it’s down to two teams that have earned their way there (shhh, Chelsea fans, shhh) — and it could be a game for the ages. Phil Ball is back for it and he thinks it will be a cracker, even though he thinks a team other than Barça will win it (boo!).

It’s being billed as Messi vs Cronaldo, as the two greatest players in the game today going head-to-head in a personal battle of wills…that somehow doesn’t actually involve either player ever running into the other on the field. There’s Messi vs Evra, Cronaldo vs. Sylvinho/Caceres/Puyol, Iniesta vs Park, Xavi vs Carrick, The Yaya vs Galactus…it’s more like a Barcelona vs. ManU game, almost. Imagine this: two fantastic teams take the field and play a game against each other on every part of the field, from the waterboys to the goalies. This is a goddamned final, people!

So here are my projected lineups, assuming all the injured players who might play do play (Ferdinand, Iniesta, and Henry):

—————-Valdes
Puyol–The Yaya–Pique–Sylvinho
—–Xavi——-Keita—–Iniesta
Messi———-Eto’o———–Henry

————-Van der Saar
O’Shea–Ferdinand–Vidic–Evra
–Park——–Carrick—Anderson
Cronaldo—–Berbatov—-Rooney

I know it’s not customary for me to predict the opposing lineup, but this seems as good a time to do so as any. After all, there really aren’t any games left in the season and if I’m going to put forth an effort to be a, you know, good blogger, it might as well be for this game. Now, I don’t know exactly how a ManU 4-3-3 works, but I think it means a lot of pressing by everyone, all the time. So being able to retain possession of the ball and not turn it over is going to be extremely important. The slightest mistake could result in a goal very reminiscent of Messi’s first goal against Real Madrid in the latest Clásico. I have no doubt that Iniesta + Xavi + Keita > Park + Carrick + Anderson, but Park and Carrick are no jokes and Anderson, while I don’t think too highly of him, is certainly capable of doing damage with a well-placed pass (hasn’t he never scored for ManU except in penalties?) and some good defensive work.*

So, as always, this match will be determined in the midfield, where, if Ferguson chooses to come out and actually play, Barça has as good a shot as they will ever have of smacking ManU around. Berbatov would, then, seem like a mistake because Cronaldo doesn’t play defense and while Rooney may, he’ll be needed up front when the ball gets rolling in that direction. Perhaps it will sound like a 4-3-3, but I envision it almost as a 4-2-1-2-1, with Anderson pushing up a bit almost as a “CAM” or extremely advanced DM while Berbatov plays the lone wolf up front. ManU fans appear confident they can beat Barça outright, in a game of slick passing, ball-control and if that’s how Ferguson thinks of it, I say bring it on. As I said, I’ll take our midfield without The Yaya, with a just-off-injury Iniesta, and Keita over their midfield trio (I’m assuming Anderson would be replaced with Fletcher were that possible).

If Ferguson decides to park a bus in his box, then I see him opting for Scholes over Berbatov, but, again, my reading of ManU’s potential lineups might be a tad outdated. I’ve seen them a few times this year (Five? Six?) and their tactical versatility is obvious, but they’ll be reacting to what is obviously our style and our abilities rather than stamping their mark on the game from the get-go. It could be like Chelsea, but with fewer players I actively dislike (I think I only actively dislike Cronaldo, but Evra might be in there too, not sure), so a bit less antipathy coming out of me during the game. I think that ManU is capable of playing beautifully if the circumstances are right, but their game is not predicated on beauty and ball movement while Barça’s certainly is. That gives Ferguson more tactical leeway, sure, but I think that Pep will send his boys out the play the game they’ve played the whole year and either Ferguson will react to it and find a way to stifle it or ManU will be destroyed by it.

Perhaps it’s arrogance that causes me to say these things, to think that at no point will someone be able to force this Barça team to play a different game, but so far this year I haven’t seen a need to be tactically “flexible” or “pragmatic” – it is easy to argue that Pep is inflexible, but I would counter that a “master tactician” like Ferguson merely doesn’t believe in a particular system and chooses instead to win at all costs. Both styles have their ups and downs, but I think that “pragmatic” is a code word for “systemless”. Perhaps I haven’t watched enough ManU to understand the system, but it seems that Barça is lauded (or vilified, whichever) by the international press for having a system precisely because it’s so rare as to be notable.

This is a final, this is Barça-ManU, this is blaugrana-Red Devils, this is something to look forward to, to hyperbolize, to spontaneously combust about. This is the game everyone called the Dream Final months ago before the draws were finalized, before we found out who we had to go through to make it to Rome. The fates conspired, first with a thunderstrike from Cronaldo against Porto and then with a bolt from Heaven by Andres Iniesta – and now we have our final. Sure, I would have rather been against Arsenal, but I don’t think they were ever stronger than ManU, especially not with all their injuries. Deserving isn’t a word I like to use, but, well, this is the game we all deserve. We put in our time as soccer fans, all of us, and now we get to see what could be the culmination of a generation of struggle, of having to see Liverpool and Chelsea grind out wins, of watching beautiful soccer die at the alter of “pragmatism”. Unless, of course, Ferguson decides to field the 10-0-0 that Chelsea seemed to prefer, in which case hopefully we’ll see vindication of going out to play, of looking to pass rather than kick.

Tom Henning Ovrebo was neither consistent nor decisive in his calls in the second Chelsea game (except maybe the consistency of being horrible) and I hope that Massimo Busacca believes in both fairness and in a lack of ankle kicking by Patrice Evra and Michael Carrick. If Xavi and Messi are allowed to play, by which I don’t mean given soft fouls all the time, but rather go about what they do better than anyone else in the world (dribble) without having their legs chopped out from under them in a constant patter of studs on skin, we’ll have a game that Barça will win. If, instead, fouls are let go “because it’s a final, let the players decide,” then, no, we probably won’t come away with the right result, but at least we’ll know why.

So let’s have a clean game where playing the game better than your opponent is prized over win-at-all-costs. Can Barça win if it’s a tooth-and-nail fight to the death? Maybe, but it’s unlikely. So we’ll see what kind of a mandate Busacca has to stop the systematic mauling of Barça players and we’ll see what kind of a man Ferguson is.

Meaningless stats: Barça has never lost a game Busacca was reffing. ManU have never lost a European Cup final. No team has won the CL twice in a row. No Spanish team has won the triplete. One of those will change and it will be the latter in both cases.

Naturally, much of all this depends on whether or not Henry and Iniesta start and can play most of the game. If they don’t play at all, we will lose. If they merely don’t start, we will probably lose. If only Henry starts, we need to play Cáceres-Puyol-Piqué-Sylvinho at the back and put The Yaya and Keita in midfield. At no point in time should Busi be on the field until the game is firmly in hand (2 goal lead or more). He was a disaster against Chelsea – an anonymous disaster at that – and we don’t need to see that again. He might have a better time if indeed ManU plays a 4-3-3 in which they drop Park and Carrick and leave Anderson as the sole attacking midfielder, but I don’t think that should be risked.

Iniesta’s ability to turn Park will be very important and Henry’s ability to get inside of O’Shea with a deft move will also be important, but I don’t think they will have to have the best games of their lives or anything – they will certainly have to contribute heavily, though, because this is not just a team game, but a team final against a good squad that will be hard to break down defensively. If Ferdinand is not fully recovered, that could help immensely in getting into their box and getting shots off, but it may not matter if Carrick and Park can’t properly contain Xavi and Iniesta. Perhaps Wayne is right that Park is the important piece for ManU in that if he has a bad game, it’s all over.

And now, for what you’ve all been patiently waiting for–except you, you skipped ahead and I know it!–The Official Prediction: Barcelona 2 – 1 Manchester United. Goals by Messi and Eto’o send the trophy to the Camp Nou, into history, the treble, this is going to be so awesome. Henry is going to have a hell of a night.

Oh god I can hardly wait. Make the waiting stop!

RC

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2 responses

27 05 2009
govind

Bring it ON !!!!! may the best team (read man u ) win !!!

27 05 2009
I Lost Thirty Pounds in Thirty Days

Cool Post, Thanks.

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