Friday, August 12, 2011

If Ronaldo Knocks Pep Over on Sunday Night, Then That's a Bad Omen

After reading Graham Hunter's description of the difference between Barca and Real's preseasons, I couldn't help but think of this scene from Rocky III, complete with Guardiola as Mickey, disgruntled because the champ's training is a circus. The fact that Barca were kicked off the Mall in DC is just perfect.

That said, there are two important differences that Hunter misses. First, Real are a much deeper squad than Barca, by design. Real view player acquisition like Manchester City do; they buy any player who looks interesting because money is no object. As a result, they have two teams worth of quality. Barca, on the other hand, buy for need (this is the first summer that Barca bought big-name players when the starting XI was already settled) and rely on the youth team to provide depth. Thus, Real ought to look better in preseason friendlies when they are playing the reserves. Hunter mentions the 4-1 defeat to Chivas, but doesn't mention that Barca led 1-0 and were playing well after an hour and that Chivas's rally was against a side consisting mostly of Barca B players.

Second, Barca never start seasons well. The 2009 treble-winning side lost its first match to Numancia, a team that would ultimately be relegated. After two matches, the Blaugrana had one point and the white hankies were already out. The 2011 double-winning side lost its home opener 2-0 to Hercules, another team that would ultimately get relegated. The point is that Barca train their players to peak physically in November and December (when they play Real and the crunch Champions League group stage matches; this year also will see Barca playing in the Club World Cup in Japan, most likely against a formidable Santos side starring Neymar and Ganso) and then again in April and May (when they play Real again and have the season-defining Champions League semis and final, Messi willing). The team just is not in peak condition in August and September and that's by design. From whom did I learn of this scheme? Graham Hunter, who has described on numerous occasions on World Football Daily.

This makes the Spanish Supercup matches against Real a fairly interesting proposition. Barca can never dismiss Clasicos in any form, but they don't put a priority on being in top form at the start of a marathon. So how do they approach these matches? We find out Sunday.

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