FC Barcelona – Spartak Moscow Champions league And La Liga matchBy: Ramzi | September 18th, 2012
Now that Puyol is not available for this match against the Spartak of Moscow, it is fitting to start this post remembering one of the defining moments in Puyol’s career against another club in Moscow – Lokomotiv. A moment that contributed in creating caveman’s legacy as an everlasting legend for his club and the two nations he belongs to in a way or another.
This is not just a casual notation nor is it an attempt to spice a preview just for the sake of it. This is a demonstration of the attitude the team need to grab, seizing the chance to run the season at will and finish it with a celebration or two.
Eight points separating between FC Barcelona and its direct rival in La Liga, no disrespect intended toward the teams parking in-between at the moment. It doesn’t surprise me that Real Madrid had a slow start this year. It was predictable that they will need time to find their real cause for the season – A motivating reason. It is no more proving capable of competing with FC Barcelona. It is no more about winning the league and reaching the top. It is tougher. It’s about staying at the top. They are no more battling to catch the car leading in front, but racing a determinant car speeding behind. Different set of mind, Different attitude and challenge.
So make no mistake, the eight points difference at this point is a race bonus, not a title decider. Real Madrid will be back. And FC Barcelona will have its Hlebruary and co periods. That’s why it is extremely vital that the Catalans make sure to get advantage of this stage where they have the edge and the better momentum, and make their next chapters in the Liga (and CL) as uncomplicated as possible. Relax for a moment and you wake up gifting a lethal hope to your rival, and they will need nothing more. A Puyol-ic attitude can get us there, and it is the only way to go. One of the key factors will be: Get the Champion’s league objective (in group stage) sorted out as soon as possible – therefore, winning against Spartak Moscow.
The good news is that the group is very easy. The bad news is that the last time the group was “very easy”, Barcelona crawled out of it to knockout stages thanks for Pinto’s whistle. The good news is that Spartak Moscow isn’t Manchester united or so. The bad news is that last time FC Barcelona tasted a defeat at home in the champion’s league was seventeen games ago against another Russian side, namely Rubin Kazan. So you can make up your mind about it, but be careful while jumping to conclusions.
I don’t know a lot about Spartak Moscow to be honest. I watched them against Fenerbahçe and I can tell they are physically strong and very similar to Rubin Kazan when it comes to counter attacks. However, they didn’t strike me as a team with enough tactical discipline or defense stability as Rubin. We should keep in mind though that they had to play an open game in Turkey, which is not the case against FC Barcelona.
My rule is not to judge a coach during his first season in power. No permanent conclusions whatsoever. Yet, I really like what I saw so far with Tito Vilanova. His media handling, Benching Messi and Alves, the gradual tactical tweaks with an increased dose of directness, Benching Messi and Alves, the “no gloves no smiles, you better perform or I spank you” approach toward the players, and most importantly: Benching Messi and Alves! Holy UNICEF! Not even Pep The Great went that far. Me like.
It is extremely tricky to guess Tito’s selection or tactics for this match. He is still very recent to be predictable. And he changed his system – to an extend- almost in every match. It will also depend on whether he decides to give Villa a start or –as I’d prefer- save him for the second half and then let him start against Granada. It is also important to decide whether Song should start in midfield against Spartak or as a center back against Granada.
If Villa is ready, this selection can do for me:
EDIT: Alba isnt available for the match.
Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Pique, Adriano, Busquets, Song, Xavi, Cesc, Messi, Villa.
Why not Thiago?
Just because Cesc needs it more. He had a good game against Getafe and it will be good to give him this chance to build on that performance. Thiago can play in the second half, and if the result was good enough, he can take Xavi’s place.
Why not Pedro?
What I like about this selection is that Alves and Adriano will attack more, with busquets playing more conservative. This means width will not be an issue and Cesc can play as a 10 behind Messi and Villa keeping them closer to Spartak’s box and operating the role he masters most. The presence of Song will contribute with Busquets in balancing the physical battle and give a better chance for Xavi to play closer to offense line, which is crucial if Spartak plays compact. Xavi can pick the pass in a needle eye, and where needed, he can switch with Song so Barca takes advantage of the Cameroonian runs to the box – Keita style. Most importantly, possession dominance.
Obviously Tito may use Thiago instead of either Busquets or Song in the midfield and if Villa isn’t available Pedro is the obvious choice there.
Unai Emery, Spartak Moscow’s coach met FC Barcelona in many occasions but never defeated them. It will be a huge surprise if he wins this one. But the blaugrana –occasionally Cocktail style- must not hand him the chance to start writing a different page.