La Liga Preview: FC Barcelona vs Real Sociedad, Or, Woohoo, La Liga Is Back!By: Ade C. | August 18th, 2012
And so we come out of our short summer hibernation to welcome back La Liga for a new season. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the clubs and the LFP are embroiled in a fight about TV rights which almost got this weekend’s matches cancelled: all is right with the world.
Barça’s first Liga opponent is Real Sociedad who, frankly, have an appalling record at the Camp Nou, with only three wins in 65 visits. But before you start feeling confident, let Tito Vilanova remind you that Pepsimism lives on: “Big teams have trouble starting the season. We have stumbled here on previous seasons”, he warned in his pre-match press conference this morning.
Well, then. Let us take a moment to adjust our expectations accordingly.
Nope, my expectations are still exceedingly high. I mean, just look at that squad picture! Look at all those players! For the first time in ages, the Barça squad doesn’t look like a boyband who hastily recruited some local kindergarten children to make up the numbers. And they’re all fit, with the exception of Thiago Alcántara, who is in the final stages of his recovery. And Cuenca, who I’d compleytely forgotten was still recovering from his summer surgery! Even Villa, who already got a few playing minutes at the latest pre-season friendly, is rumoured to get a few late minutes this weekend to complete his return to playing form.
So, with this in mind, my line-up against Real Sociedad would be this:
Alexis is just back from playing with Chile and Villa is not yet 100% fit; a few minutes in the end for one of them, if anything, should be enough. Puyol is allegedly back from injury, but I think we should ease him in and be careful. But as for the rest? Throw them to the lions’
annoying neighbours! Time to get into gear!
Let me list the reasons why I am less than my usually pessimistic self today:
-We have a wonderful, solid goalkeeper… and we have Pinto, for when we need more excitement.
-Puyol is back from injury, Mascherano continues to be awesome, Bartra has made a great impression in pre-season matches, we have Fontàs, though I admit I keep forgetting his existence, and Piqué… well, hopefully Piqué remembered to bring his brain back from holidays. I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to a back-up CB, but no longer am I mailing the contents of my piggy bank to Zubi with a big note in crayon that says ‘FOR CBS ONLY. DO NOT USE FOR COLOUR PHOTOCOPIES!’.
-We have Alves (and his… interesting new facial hair choices), we have Adriano, we have Montoya and we have new signing Jordi Alba. That’s a whole bunch of fullbacks who aren’t very good at defending, but who love running around like intoxicated hummingbirds. (I don’t want to speculate on a possible Abidal return… but if it happened, oh, if it happened!)
-We have Busquets. As long as he keeps his spindly limbs intact and doesn’t get too many cards for his tendency to fall when people breathe around him, we don’t need anyone else at DM. And if we do… well, isn’t that why we bought Song (in spite of all the Arsenal fans in the comments section who are calling him the worst thing since Hleb)? Or we have JDS, who wouldn’t be my first choice as his replacement, but the boy can do good. And let’s not forget that Masche was actually a pretty awesome DM before Pep brainwashed him.
-Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Thiago. Choose two. Don’t forget about Afellay. Count all the millions we paid for Song. Spare a thought for Sergi Roberto. Consider that JDS, Busquets, Adriano and even Messi might step in here with good results. Wonder why anyone thinks Barça needs midfielders.
-Messi. But wait, there’s more! Alongside Messi you can have your choice of David Villa (comes with a complimentary linesman in case you wear out the one you had), Alexis, Pedrito, Cuenca and Tello. Plus Afellay. Hit the crossbar and goalposts all you want, that’s a bunch of guaranteed goals right there (albeit not from set pieces).
Would I sell/loan any of these players? Hell NO! If last season taught us anything, it’s that injuries and tragedy can strike at any time, and a big squad can soften the blow; one of the main reasons Real Madrid managed to be more consistent than us and carry off La Liga is that they have a squad big enough to fill a small country.
-And we have Tito. Pep trusted Tito. Zubi and Rosell trust Tito. The players seem to trust Tito. I’m not expecting him to deliver six trophies on his first season, but I’m sure he will continue to mantain and improve on the Barça style.
So yes, you can’t blame me if I’m incredibly excited for tomorrow (and for the rest of the season). I have every bit of confidence
that I’ve managed to pick up from the pile of hankies I went through when Pep left in Tito Vilanova and his excellent poker face. I have every bit of confidence in these players. I’m even inclined to feel benevolent towards Rosell (though that will change the minute he opens his mouth in front of a microphone).
If you came for your dose of pessimism… well, come back on Monday for the match review. I’m sure I’ll have something to complain about by then. For now… VISCA EL BARÇA!