In my mind, I always felt somewhat thankful to Getafe, because I had this belief they were Real Madrid’s ultimate bogey team (besides Barça of course). I mean they have defeated los Merengues 4 times in the last 7 seasons, as well as managing 2 draws. In reality however, Getafe have a reasonably similar history against FC Barcelona, giving them a record against the traditional top two few others can boast. In the last 7 seasons, Getafe managed 2 victories as well as 3 draws against Barça. All Getafe’s victories came at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez, where FC Barcelona get the season back underway tomorrow at 8 pm local time. The most recent defeat came last season, 1-0, but on the bright side, the other was some time back in 2008 (2-0). These away games have also been historically rather tight, with victory never exceeding a 2 goal margin.
Getafe have begun the season in a very even manner: 1 win, 1 draw, 1 loss, 4 goals scored, and 4 goals conceded. The victory came in the second week deservedly defeating Real Madrid 2-1. Getafe were purchased by the Royal Emirates Group from Dubai in April 2011, but have not received the investment seen elsewhere in Europe. Then in July this year, bizarre news stories began to unearth pointing to clues that might explain why. Basically a group of people used a Brazilian waiter, dressed him up as a wealthy Arab sheikh, set up meetings to discuss club takeover deals, and swindelled clubs like Getafe out of tens of thousands of Euros in meeting fees. Furthermore, Getafe president Ángel Torres said just 2 months ago that he has had almost no contact from the Royal Emirates Group since their initial meeting in 2011 and that payment terms have not been met by the foreign party that may terminate all relations. A man named Joan Batalla, later arrested as part of the fraudsters, directly contradicted Torres’s statements saying all payment obliations have been met and that the Royal Emirates Group takeover is soon to be completed. The Dubai group themselves then admitted that there was a deadlock in negotiations around “ownership guarantee” but a deal was expected. So, maybe Royal Emirates Group are not actually legal owners of the club and that is why no major investment has been seen. It’s all rather unbelievable.
Back to the football. Getafe boss Luis García has called upon 19 players for tomorrow’s match. In that squad are a lot of new faces, with the club bringing in 10 new recruits over the summer. Keeper Miguel Ángel Moyá is one of the most influential. Moyá was once a very promising keeper at Mallorca and for whatever reason his dream move to Valencia was a total bust, so now he has found a new home in Madrid. Tough tackling loyal servant Cata Díaz rather surprisingly got picked up by Atletico de Madrid, so García brought in two central defenders in Alexis (former Sevilla and Valencia) and 25 year old Argentine Abraham from FC Basel. Moyá and Alexis have started all of Getafe’s games this season. Pedro León has returned to the club on loan from Real Madrid, former blaugrana Xavi Torres moved from Levante to become a crucial player in the midfield, and attacking midfielder Lafita joined from Zaragoza. Other new recruits are Adrían Colunga and Alvaro Vázquez. Strangely Miku, who started upfront the first 2 games, joined Celtic on loan 2 weeks ago.
The term “FIFA virus” is again making the rounds in the presses. Iniesta and Alexis both picked up small knocks with their national teams and Jordi Alba had his tonsils removed so they will not play tomorrow. But hey, that’s what a squad is for and I do not think overly fretting is appropriate. Still, injuries or not, the squad have done a fair bit of travelling, minimal training at the club, and the match just following an international has a history of delivering less than optimal results. The one piece of good news from the international matches was Fàbregas’s important role in Spain’s tough 1-0 win in Georgia, which should help end the somewhat silly stories surrounding him lately. Like he’s said clearly and pubicly several times now, he’s happy, he’s committed, and he’s here for the fans and his teammates.
New man Lafita is injured and will not feature. Keep an eye out for substitute Sarabia, a highly rated prospect who quite wisely has looked for first team experience away from Real Madrid.
Predicted Starting XI: Moyá – Valera – Abraham – Alexis – M. Torres; Míchel – Xavi Torres; León – Barrada – Castro; Collunga
Full squad: Moyá, Codina, Alexis, Mané, M. Torres, Lopo García, Abraham, Valera, Lacen, Sarabia,Gavilán, P. León, D. Castro, Barrada, Álvaro,Colunga, Paco Alcácer
Besides the 3 injured players mentioned above, Fontàs and Dos Santos were not selected to travel in the 19 man squad. The non first team players are Tello and Deulofeu. One possibility tomorrow could be Song coming in for Tello. Song’s physique will prove useful against an always physical Getafe, but he is much more than that: Alex provides a very real attacking threat. Puyol’s lack of travel over the break could pip him to start over Mascherano who travelled far and played 2 tough qualifiers.
Predicted Starting XI: Valdés; Alves – Piqué – Puyol – Adriano; Fàbregas – Busquets – Xavi; Tello – Messi – Pedro
Full squad: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Mascherano, Song, Cesc, Xavi, Villa, Messi, Thiago, Pinto, Bartra, Sergio, Pedro, Montoya, Adriano, Tello y Deulofeu
This won’t be an easy match. Getafe, having fewer international players, are more rested and prepared. With slim ambitions for silverware, home matches versus a Barça are their biggest stage and they will give 100%. History has shown this match, as well as the match after a FIFA break, are ones FC Barcelona often slog through to narrow victory. But, with this 5 point lead already over Real Madrid, the team will be motivated to maintain it. Messi is always there, Villa says he’s feeling excellent, and Pedro is looking razor sharp, truly brilliant. Maybe Villa will even get a start. The best news of all however is that these pesky FIFA breaks are over for a while and Barça games come thick and fast. Starting tomorrow at Getafe.
Image: MIGUEL RUIZ