I’m going to apologise in advance. This rant has been building up for a while and I’ll try and keep it as short as possible. ITV football coverage (specifically Andy Townsend and his motley bunch of morons with Adrian Chiles and Roy Keane excluded) is so ridiculously bad I am seriously considering watching more games in complete silence in the hope that this will provide more interesting tactical analysis than what is on offer behind the mute button. In particular Townsend is so bad he actually makes my teeth hurt just watching him. He is utterly useless at providing any accurate analysis on football whatsoever, except to pontificate on how utterly fantastic Manchester United are. That goes for the rest of ITV as well. Having watched two United v Barça Champions’s League finals on ITV, they gave no indication whatsoever that United were about to get thumped and that everyone with an ounce of common sense knew that was exactly what was going to happen. Not ITV though, they spoke as if though the final were a mere formality before United received the trophy which is theirs by divine right. It was the same last night when they got dumped out by Basle. Quite unthinkable according to ITV despite the fact they’ve not had a proper midfield (or at least one capable of rivalling Barça’s) for the past three years. Incidentally, while we’re on the subject of ITV pundits and United midfielders, Roy Keane looked absolutely disgusted with the performance tonight.
But enough of all that. Rant over. It seems like I’ve been waiting forever for the latest instalment of El Clásico. Perhaps it was the deluge of El Clásico matches towards the end of last season or the long, long football free summer but as they say in the streets of Baltimore, I’m proper ‘jonesing’ for this weekend. Not that I think Barça will win. I reckon either a draw or a horrible defensive Madrid win. It’s probably their turn after all. That and Barça haven’t exactly set La Liga on fire this season, mainly due to Guardiola’s near-fetish for playing central midfielders at centre half and up front. Mascherano and Fabregas have consistently been played out of position all season, as Mascherano was last season too. I don’t get the logic of playing Fabregas as the ‘False Nine’, despite his ability to head the ball and score goals, when Messi is largely ineffective in his old right wing role. Fabregas is certainly more effective bursting from midfield as he used to at Arsenal, always used to look like he relished derby games as well. I also think that Pep is missing a trick by not playing Iniesta on the wing. A position he has excelled in for both club and country. Thankfully though, Pedro is finally back to full fitness and Alexis Sanchez is finally starting to show flashes of the brilliance that brought him to Catalunya from Udinese. If Guardiola does play Cesc in midfield though, I’ll back him to have a blinder in his first La Liga Clásico, Guardiola will probably go for his usual 4-3-3 but could opt for his occasional big game 3-4-3 as he did against A.C. Milan in the Champion’s League. Madrid will most likely go for their usual 4-2-3-1 unless they go for a defensive 4-3-3 to mirror Barça’s in order to man mark Messi, Xavi et al.
Here is how I think the teams will line up:
Dani Alves Pique Puyol Abidal
Iniesta Messi Villa
Arbeloa Sergio Ramos Pepe Marcelo
Xabi Alonso Sami Khedira
Di Maria Oezil C. Ronaldo
It’s possible that Benzema will get the nod ahead of Higuain as according Guillem Balague, Ronaldo prefers to play with him and Fabio Coentrão could start at left back ahead of the criminally underrated Marcelo. There is also, of course, the chance that Fabregas will be benched and Pedro will get a start, with Iniesta moving back into midfield. This was Guardiola’s preferred line up last season and we all know what happened then. But then again, anything could, and hopefully will, happen.