The knights of El Molinón stadium, the oldest professional football field in Spain will introduce the new season for the most recent champions at the Camp nou. A new adventure begins now. Get ready, and enjoy the journey.
Yet, If we look back in time, it seems like August 2008 was centuries ago, as the team achievements broke the limitations of time. In one year, this team achieved what all liga clubs failed to come close to since ever. We kick off with a different mindset, and different expectations.
One year ago, we approached the league after a summer that was full of storms.
We changed the coach, the players, and almost blew the board of directors. Now we enter the new season as the crowned Champions of Spain and Europe, while our main rivals changed the coach, players, and board of directors.
One year ago, we had to swallow the pride after watching the players standing in two lines congratulating the rivals for winning a title, We enter this season with the sweet sweet memories of a 2-6 win against Madrid, a 2-0 against Man Utd, two super cups, and lot of YouTube moments.
We started the last season badly. One of the worst starts in the club history. How are we going to start this one?
The opponent: Sporting Gijon.
One of the most interesting teams last season, Conceding 79 goals they won the worst defence award in the liga, followed by Numancia (69 goals). In 38 games, they lost 23, again, only matched by the relegated Numancia. But while Numancia sank to the second division without a trace, Gijon finished the season parking in the 14th slot. How come? Listen to this one Benitez: While Numancia won 10 games and drew 5; Gijon the anti-draw team drew only once in 38 games and won 14 games. Gijon survived because they did what Liverpool failed to do to win their league, they took risks. They played to win, not to avoid losing.
Yet, Manolo Preciado had to live with lot of critics from the Gijon supporters for suffering heavy defeats in the previous season by running unnecessary risks. The managerial situation in the club is not stable as well.
Regarding Squad reinforcements, They added Grégory and our own Botía to strengthen their defence, but still there is a need for a right back to compete with Sastre. Their left back Canella was one of the notable performers in the league last season, and there were lot of talks that he may move to a bigger club.
In the midfield Rivera is a player they have lot of hopes he will orchestrate the midfield for next season, but it seems that he wasn’t that convincing so far during preseason games. They added De las Cuevas as well from Atletico, who may prove a great support to help the team fighting for survival.
Bilic the Croatian striker, known for his incredible work rate, scored 12 goals for the team last season, but his future with the club is uncertain. Gijon also has the likes of Míchel, Barral and Maldonado to complete a decent squad for the following season.
But they will not start their season this week, this week they will pack the three points and hand it to Barcelona. Is it Overconfidence? Yes. But we, Barcelona, know that we can’t afford losing this one, nor we can accept a draw.
The Dear ones: Barcelona
It’s still unclear who will start this game for Barcelona. Lot of variables will effect pep decisions. The trip to Monaco was not a joy. Who is completely fit for the game? Yaya and Henry suffered some bad knocks in that game, are they completely recovered? What about Iniesta? Xavi fitness level is also a question.
My predicted start up:
Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Pique, Maxwell, Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Henry, Ibra, Pedro.
Gijon will have one striker and two roaming midfielders. It’s a waste of resources to have Abidal in the selection to act as a third centre back for this game. If we want a secure start, Keita can act as a holding Midfielder beside Yaya at the beginning while Maxwell and Alves contribute offensively. Then based on the opponent performance we switch the gear up. Keita presence in the midfield with Yaya helps Xavi to save some calories as they cover lot of space and position themselves perfectly creating outlets and breaking down opponents Offense. Keita also proved being a needed cover on the left for Maxwell by synchronizing with him so they both contribute offensively without risking the defensive tasks. Only if Yaya or Keita are not available, Busquets will start.
Regarding Iniesta, if he is completely fit for the game, I would have picked him to play on the right wing where we will miss Messi. But Pedro moral is something we need to get advantage of. It may prove being an opportunity for this young boy to achieve his complete transition to the first team as a reliable option to count on. Besides, it will be better to keep Iniesta on the bench as a game changer. His fitness level may not serve him to play ninety minutes anyway, so it’s better to wait till the second half, and analyse if Henry, Keita, or Xavi need rest or if we need more support on the right flank in case the result was not satisfying.
Ibra will be the player to watch. Will he score his first goal? Will he gel fast or not? Some of a zillion questions that he will not answer-all at once-in this game. Though, we can expect slight improvement. He will need the time to adapt. I think it will also be good that he switch positions with Henry more often during the game. He likes spaces and on the left he can find it. We bought him as a striker, no doubt. But during the adaptation period it’s important to generate the most effective performance possible to gain the feeling of the game, and to release some pressure. Pulling his marker out of the box while Henry slotting in, will increase our threat. I have a feeling that he will score in this game. Not a prediction, just a Pep kind of feeling…
It’s my first preview since a while and I am little rusty. Let’s hope Barca4Life sort out his Real-Life commitments soon. Or else you will need to live with the drop of Previews quality for a while.
I leave you with the highlights of the last game we played against Gijon last season.
Enjoy the game!