Super Copa Review: Barcelona 5 – 4 Madrid Aggregate: The Heart is a Funny Object [Updated]

There’s a belief we often share that what’s beautiful is fragile.  That wonder is always on the verge of breaking apart.  That what’s beautiful cannot put up enough resistance to last in a world that can be so difficult and harsh.  This belief isn’t universally subscribed to – but it’s quite common across cultures.

In fact it seems that we often cherish something for its aesthetic qualities precisely because we know it’s ephemeral, that it doesn’t have adequate defenses to resist, that it’s lovely because it isn’t resilient enough to stay for very long.  Japanese cherry blossoms.  An aria sung.  Landscapes painted on scrolls bleached by the sun.  The colors of Holi washing away in the rain.

Football itself shares this bias.  In the unresolvable debate in its soul between romanticism and pragmatism, there’s a notion that the beautiful game simply isn’t robust enough to survive outside of a few flickering moments of brilliance.  The Netherlands 1974.  Brazil 1982.  These are fundamental touchstones for belief in the game.  Ephemeral beauty that ultimately couldn’t survive the pragmatic world it was faced with.

Guardiola’s Barcelona continues to prove all of this wrong. It continues its alchemy of mixing romanticism and pragmatism to produce a kind of aesthetic that is equal parts beauty and strength.

A new kind of wonder all over again.  That’s what we’re watching.

I try my best to be objective about the game.  To be dispassionate as I can.  It’s part of what I have to do for my writing here.  And I do that by using an analytical framework to watch and to try to understand the game.  Those are my tools, my point of view.  It’s in my nature.

And honestly, before this tie, objectively, I did not think this team was going to win.

I watched them play in person against Manchester United on the summer tour — they weren’t even remotely close to match form or fitness.

Then they had those other mediocre-to-disastrous pre-season games topped off by the 1-4 drubbing at the hand of Chivas.  The squad was not even close to match ready.  Sure those Barça squads were filled with youth players — but that also meant that the first team wasn’t available, wasn’t working within the system, that they weren’t even engaged in the process of getting ready through the experience of match play together.

In the first leg of the SuperCopa all of those issues came to the fore.  Barça were overwhelmed by a much more prepared, more match fit Madrid team.  A team which had clearly prioritized winning the SuperCopa as a way to start its season, and draw a stark contrast to the 5-0 victory Barça secured to start the Clasicos last year.  But in the end this Barça team was robust enough to survive and secure the result they needed at the Bernabeau.  But it literally took everything the group had, all of the resources that could be drawn upon from its experiences as champions.

Even after that first leg — objectively speaking — I didn’t know if they could win this second match. There would be accumulated fatigue.  The team was short due to injuries.  Objectively it just would not be possible to secure needed fitness or form in three days time.

But in the end the heart is such a funny object.  Strange and wondrous.  Who can understand it?  And make no mistake about it, this was a performance that came straight from the heart.   Yet another victory from Guardiola’s Barcelona that demonstrated that what’s beautiful in football doesn’t have to be fragile or mercurial — that in fact being tenacious and robust makes the whole of the project even more wondrous and joyful.

It’s football that makes you believe again.  In a whole new way.

The Two Best Seats at Camp Nou From Which to Watch the Genius At Work


Match Analysis

In order to fully appreciate the dynamics of this match and how play changed from the first leg it’s important to the relatively unorthodox manner in which Madrid implement their pressure defense.  As discussed in detail here at Barcelona Football Blog last season, Madrid press in a very interesting fashion.  One of the central tenets of strong defending is staying compact.  This is especially true to pressing.  In order to press effectively you need to make the field as small as possible.  To make the field as small as possible it’s important to stay compact.

Arrigo Sacchi famously made it a point to demand that his team leave no more than 25 meters between their forward and back lines.  The goal was to squeeze the opposition to one-quarter of the entire pitch.  With the liberalization of the off side trap however it’s likely impossible for any team to stay as compact as Sacchi wanted.

Nonetheless staying compact remains critical to the best pressing sides in the world.

When Madrid press they don’t stay nearly as compact as other sides that successfully press.  Staying compact means that you must play a high line.  Playing a high line involves significant risk for being beat over the top or through transition play.  Mourinho is attempting to have his side press, but to also decrease the risk associated with playing his back line high.

In the first leg of the Super Copa, based on average position, Madrid had approximately 50 M between their front line and back line.  For comparison, Barcelona had approximately 40M between its front line and back line.

How is Madrid simultaneously doing both of these things — pressuring the ball effectively without keeping its back line very high?  They are utilizing pace.  This is the most interesting tactical defensive innovation Mourinho has implemented while at Madrid.  Their team has tremendous athleticism distributed across the pitch.  Rather than depending on “hunting in packs” by staying compact Madrid initiates its pressure by having a select number of defenders run at the ball at pace.  When the ball is passed, they utilize pace to close down the receiver.  Because they have so much athleticism across the pitch they attempt to launch defensive attacks from numerous positions.

This is not to say Madrid’s defensive formation is loose.  For example, they become very compact on the press when the ball is played to the touchline.   It’s just that their formation is not as compact as one would anticipate given how effective their pressing is.  They are using velocity to make the pitch small.

Madrid Pressing Through Pace and Man Marking 1 vs. 1 But Not Staying Compact

The still shot above from leg 2 typifies how Madrid presses.  Notice how Madrid has numerical equivalence with Barcelona in the Barcelona defensive half (this is a major tactical adjustment Mourinho has made in response to the changes Guardiola made between the Copa Del Rey and Champions League Semi — fully explaining this adjustment will require a separate post however).

There is one marker on every Barcelona player at the back.  Once Barcelona attempt to advance the ball the Madrid defenders runs to close down the ball at speed.  Each marker follows the players without the ball to make ready pressure if a pass is made.  When the new Barça player receives the ball a new defensive attack is launched.

This defensive system takes advantage of two Barcelona characteristics:  1) Barça players tend to play passes to feet when they are building play out of the back; 2)  Barcelona players tend not attempt to beat defenders 1 vs. 1 off the dribble (more on this later in the explanation of goal one but a full explanation is out of the scope of this review)

However, all tactical systems have their trade offs.  And if you press the way Madrid does that means there has to be space in the interior of the defense.  What Madrid is gambling is that they can repossess the ball faster than you can find that interior space.

The way to beat this system is very clear.  Circulate the ball faster than they can run.  This requires quick decision making, rapid passing, and strong off the ball movement.  Barça’s problem in the first leg of the Super Copa was that all three of those facets of their game were off form.  The major problems were:  1)  they lacked the fitness required to move off the ball to probe interior space; 2) because neither Xavi nor Busquets and Pique didn’t start they lost the central axis of play.  The decision making was slower and the touch and passing not as deft or controlled.


The Class

Barcelona’s Adjustments

Addressing the Madrid Press

In this match, Barcelona made critical adjustments to counteract the way Madrid pressed.  Their ball circulation was much more rapid, with Xavi and Busquets back their central passing axis was much improved and their ability to build from the back markedly better.  This was supported by Pique’s presence in the back.  In addition, their off the ball movement was somewhat better, especially in the first half (but due to lack of fitness the off the ball movement still wasn’t good and it decayed severely in the second half which is why the team struggled so much later on).  Barça also attempted to play longer balls over the top more often (as opposed to leg one where the long balls were more like desperation heaves).

Finally, once it’s understood how Madrid’s system of pressure defense operates, it becomes very clear that one of the best ways to cause the Madrid system of man marking pressure based on team pace is to drop players who have the ability to beat players off the dribble deeper on the pitch.  If the Barça player can beat the man marking him 1 vs. 1, then the Madrid defense can become very vulnerable as interior space will open up quickly.  This is especially true if you can do this in midfield because Madrid was not keeping its back line very compact.  Space could be found between those lines.  And this is exactly how Barcelona scored its lightning first goal.

The play starts simply enough.  Pique plays the ball to Xavi who plays a simple ball to Messi.  The key issue here was Messi’s positioning.  He stations himself out on the flank in midfield.  Because C. Ronaldo is marking Alves on the press there is space behind him.  Carvalho, who was marking Messi for much of the match, steps out and  picks up Messi and marks him out along the toucline.  Coentrao drops deep and central into the space Carvalho has vacated, functionally playing the CB position now.  However, Messi beats Carvalho off the dribble and this creates a cascade of problems for Madrid.

Messi Beats Carvalho off the Dribble

In the still shot above notice what’s happened once Messi beats Carvalho off the dribble.  He has created a 2 vs. 1 situation for Khedira.  Pedro has intelligently dropped into that same space.  Messi was Carvalho’s responsibility.  As Khedira attempts to slide over to cover, he is caught wrong-footed and Messi easily blows by him.

The other key issue in the still shot above is that Xabi Alonso was responsible for man marking Iniesta.  When Messi breaks containment off Carvalho, Alonso starts drifting to the middle anticipating a Messi run through that region.

Messi's Run Breaks Madrid's Defensive System and Iniesta is Left Free

In the still shot above Messi has beat Khedira.  The key issue to note here is the positioning of the Madrid center backs.  Notice how much space Messi is about to move into.  This is because Pepe and Coentrao are staying deep rather than stepping up or staying as compact as they could.  They are too far away from where Messi has received the ball to step out on him. Rather than “hunting in a pack” to pressure Messi it’s only the defender assigned to mark him applying pressure 1 vs. 1.  The other defenders move away from Messi to deeper positions rather than towards him to press.

Once Messi beats Carvalho the deep Madrid backs start to move deeper rather than moving forward to close down and pressure alongside Khedira  (or to facilitate the off side trap).  Instead Khedira is left to pressure 1 vs. 1.  This open space forces Alonso to disregard Iniesta and commit to this area.  Iniesta reading the play makes a tremendous run.

The entire Madrid defensive system has collapsed because Messi beat Coentrao in a 1 vs. 1 situation.  They have a 6 vs. 3 numerical advantage around the ball and get carved open.

Rather than making the run that Alonso and the center defenders are waiting for however, Messi unleashes a brilliant through ball between the center backs for Iniesta to run onto (notice how it was not a ball to feet pass that caused the Madrid defense so much trouble).

Madrid Not Compact - Messi Opens Space in the Middle and Threads Through Ball In

In the still shot above, Iniesta has lost all of the defenders and timed his run brilliantly. Iniesta then goes on to show terrific composure and coolly beats Casillas with a lovely chip after dinking him.  Madrid has a 6 vs. 3 numerical advantage around the ball, and still get carved open in moments.  This is the risk they run by pressing in this fashion and not staying compact.  Defending the interior space can rapidly become a problem.

Overall, Barcelona’s off the ball movement simply wasn’t rapid and crisp enough to allow them to take advantage of the Madrid defensive system.  They simply did not have the fitness to do so.  In turn they struggled to maintain coherent possession a problem which would become a mounting problem as the game progressed.

All this said — the Madrid pressure defending was outstanding all evening.  Credit to them for their work rate and coordinated, system-based defending.

However, in the end Barcelona controlled 60% of possession in this second leg.  Not their usual domination of the ball but an improvement.  While the statistics varied in the first leg, Barcelona only had roughly 53% of the possession at the Bernabeu.


The Return of One Touch Play:  Barcelona’s Second Goal

In the first leg of the SuperCopa, Barça’s touch and weighting of passes were off all evening long.  In leg two, both were improved, though still far from where they will be once they regain match form. However, Barcelona’s second goal was just remarkable for the quality of its one touch play.

The goal, of course, was an utter work of genius between two players who are so skilled on the ball it is hard to get over.  The goal was scored off a corner that was created when Pedro beat Ramos off the flank.  Messi is positioned at the 18 yard line.  Xavi directs the corner and it deflects off Benzema toward Messi.  In theory this is not supposed to be a dangerous area to receive a corner.  It should be straight forward to close the man down, given how tight space is.

However, this is Messi and what he did was just genius.  Too much attention is being placed on this goal to how it ended.  What not being paid enough attention to is how it started.  Messi is being marked by Carvalho on this corner.  That’s how worried Madrid was about Messi.  They placed one of their CB out to the 18 yard line to defend him.  Xavi’s corner bounced once and starts rising as it approaches Messi.  That is a very difficult ball to even control off a corner when you are closely marked.

Not only does Messi control it but he beats Carvalho in an instant.  Messi intentionally one touch passes the ball off the bounce to Pique.  Just think about that.  He doesn’t even settle the ball with his chest.  He passes it perfectly to Pique.  And like that Carvalho is beat.  He turns to locate the ball and Messi instantly starts his run to goal.

Pique then makes a play that perhaps no other CB in the world can make.  First, once he sees the ball directed to Messi at the 18 yard line he comes backwards towards Messi.  He knows Madrid is going to run the off side trap from the corner and he beats them into an area of space in the crowded box.

Pique Steps into Space as Messi One Touch Passes Him the Ball WIth Chest

In the still shot above just look at how much space Pique has found inside the box on a corner.  That is a remarkable reading of space on the play.  He’s actively making himself a point of reference for Messi to play the ball off of.  Though I’m not sure I would guess this is a play Pep designed for this situation.  And it worked perfectly.

Pique receives the ball and then one touches the ball on a back heel pass to Messi, who is in stride on his run.  Just phenomenal skill from Pique there.  C. Ronaldo and Khedira attempt to catch Messi but his acceleration is just too much and he coolly beat Casillas yet again.

Overall, one of the key factors that won this trophy for Barcelona was their skill and tremendous execution on goal.  Here is a comparison of all shots on goal over the tie between the two teams.

Comparison of Shots on Goal: Barcelona's Clinical Finishing (via Opta Sports)

Barcelona Concede off Set Pieces

I’m not going to spend too much time analyzing these goals.  To be honest, both were the result of awful set piece defending.  On the first goal Barça did not close down Benzema as he collected a deflected corner.  Benzema made an outstanding cross to C. Ronaldo.  The goal may have been offside (it appeared Ramos got a touch putting Ronaldo into an off side position).  However, that is irrelevant.  The fact is Barça did not execute its off side trap properly off the corner.

The second goal was even worse.  Kaka put in an awful corner directly to Adriano, who proceeded to shank the clearance.  The Barça defenders then engaged in a comedy of clearance errors until the ball rolled to Benzema, who finished well.

Both of those conceded goals were filled with errors.  With more practice and drilling they are unlikely to occur later on in the season.

Nonetheless — credit to Madrid for taking advantage of the opportunities when presented.  Both C. Ronaldo and Benzema finished nicely.  And ultimately Madrid won the corners through their consistently high tempo direct play.

Barcelona’s Pressing is Improved but The Team Tires: The Back Line Saves the Match — The Story of the Second Half

One of the major problems for Barça in Leg 1 was their inability to press effectively due to limited fitness and stress from not retaining possession.  In this match, the pressing was better but still far from where it is when Barça are in full fitness and sharp.  But with the improved coordination and work rate their pressing was better.

A major key to all of this was the return to Sergio Busquets.  Busquets was still off form — but his presence defensively was enormous (as was his calm ball circulation).  Perhaps the biggest impact his return had was to help neutralize Mesut Oezil.  Oezil had a wonderful game in leg 1 — by far his best match against Barça.  Oezil is a very interesting player.  He has phenomenal vision and is a wonderful passer (especially off crosses from the flanks).

However, while he has good touch – he does not have great touch.  And while he has good close control of the ball it is not great either.  He’s not a player that is going to beat players off the dribble in tight space.  In fact much of his game is predicated on roaming laterally from touch line to touch line to find space.

As such, Oezil has often struggled with facing a team that presses vigorously (the Germany vs. Spain match in the 2010 WC exemplified this).

In this second leg Busquets supported by the overall Barça pressing did a marvelous job once again marking Oezil out of the game.

However, as the match proceeded Barça’s ability to press and engage in off the ball movement fell off significantly due to limited fitness.  As the second half went on there was a marked change in Barça’s play. In turn they got caught in a vicious cycle of losing the ball and then not being able to repossess it through pressing.  Madrid — who were also tiring — took the initiative and put Barça on the back foot again in the second half.

The team just couldn’t press with the vigor they usually do.  They don’t have the fitness.  In this regard while the actual way Madrid scored was due to an comical mistake, they were dictating play towards the middle to end of the second half and it looked like it was only a matter of time before they scored.

That Madrid did not take control of this game and put it way in the second half with the Barça press tiring is a testament to how brilliantly the back line played.  After a very poor game in leg one the defensive back four were outstanding in open play.

Defending Deep with a Disciplined Line: Mascherano Anchoring the Back

The Barça back line did what it rarely every has to do or is designed to do — absorb relentless pressure while defending deep.  That the back line could execute what was required to keep the team ahead or level was a testament to their determination, intelligence and hard work.

Cules will have differing opinions on who played the best — but Dani Alves and Javier Mascherano were both utterly brilliant this game.  Alves is often thought of as a poor defender.  But what his critics often confound is his position on the pitch with his defensive skill set.  In the Barça system his function is to get as forward as he can.  Pep is willing to risk players getting behind Alves — when they do that it is not a defensive lapse on Dani’s part.  It’s just a component of tactical risk.

In both legs of the SuperCopa, Alves was brilliant.  Guardiola likely adjusted how he wanted Dani to play and had him prioritize defending C. Ronaldo.  And in both games Alves had the Madrid attacker in his pocket. Over and over he made key tackles and interventions to neutralize Madrid’s chief goal scoring threat.

C. Ronaldo is known for his pace.  But in these two games we saw what a great athlete Alves is.  Over and over C. Ronaldo attempted to beat Alves on the flank through pace and couldn’t do it.  This was a major reason why Madrid had difficulty scoring from open play in these games.  Their biggest scoring threat was caged in by the Barça RB.

What can you say about Javier Mascherano?  He is a wonderful example of how it’s so easy in football to confuse a player’s role and his skill set.  In Liverpool he was confined to an extremely narrow, tactical role. He was a specialist player operating in Benitez’s highly autocratic system.  It seemed very odd that Guardiola was so interested in bringing to Barça a player who seemed limited to a “destroyer.”

But Pep knew better.  He saw that Mascherano’s skill set was far richer than his role allowed at Liverpool.  And since coming to Barcelona he’s been something of a revelation.

Over these past two games he has been an absolute rock.  He has played at a world class CB level.  And with Mascherano it all starts with his intelligence and defensive reading of the game.  The only other player on Barcelona who has similar talents is Puyol.  With every passing game at CB, Mascherano is looking more and more like the heir apparent to Puyol’s position on the team.

In the SuperCopa, Masch made one critical intervention after another after another.  For a player who was supposed to be a yellow and red card magnet outside of the rough EPL it’s particularly amazing to watch his dexterity and intelligence on challenges.  His ability to read a game is remarkable, and he used that ability to it’s fullest to anchor a back line that had to be perfect to see this team through.

Abidal had an absolutely terrible match in leg one. He was off form and repeatedly made clumsy mistakes.  Tonight he was back to looking like himself.  Calm and collected on the ball and very solid at the back.  He still is coming into form — he should have stepped up much more quickly on the off side trap on the first goal.  He and Pique both should have cleared the ball on the second.  But overall a terrific performance.

Similarly Pique was very good.  He’s still recovering from a knock and has missed significant training time but he played well at the back.  And his assist to Messi was an outrageous piece of skill from a center back.  Piquenbauer indeed.

Keita came on as a late sub for Busquets.  While he wasn’t involved very much, he also didn’t make any mistakes in a position he’s still adjusting to.

Finally, Victor Valdes was again just superb.  Time and time again he was pressured and challenged.  And Madrid just could not beat him from open play.  He was magnificent.  Once again he proved how unique he is.  Not only was his contribution saving shots fundamental but he was critical to building play from the back with his ball skills and distribution.


Guardiola Changes the Dynamics of the Match:  The Composed Play and Positional Intelligence of Cesc Fabregas and the Brilliance of Messi

Pep has done just a phenomenal job preparing his club for what turned out to be a vicious war when they were not close to being in the form Madrid were in.  One thing he probably should have done however was to bring in fresh legs sooner as the team was fading in the second half.  Now his hands were absolutely tied in many ways due to injury.  Sanchez would have been perfect to bring in for this match – but he picked up a knock.  Same for Afellay.

Villa and Pedro faded significantly during the second half due to fatigue.  Bringing on Adriano as a winger for Villa was a creative move.

But the area where Barcelona was really suffering was in the center of the pitch.  They lost control of the middle as the second half went on.  This was in part due to fatigue from Xavi, Iniesta and Messi (notice how infrequently Messi dropped deep to pick up the ball).

At the same time this was far too heated a game to bring in a youngster like Thiago.  He would have been overwhelmed.  It’s the kind of experience that can ruin a young player’s confidence and development.  It’s just beyond the scope of what they can do.

So once Madrid leveled the score Guardiola brought on the weapon he’s wanted so badly since he took over as manager.  And we saw tonight in very clear, stark terms why Pep wanted Cesc Fabregas so badly.

In a dying game where Madrid had all of the momentum and Barça were fading badly due to fatigue, Fabregas changed the dynamics of the match.  After conceding the equalizer, the entire team took on new determination.  But determination only gets you so far in the face of exhaustion.

Fabregas came in for Pedro and Pep moved Iniesta nominally to the wing (Iniesta of course pinched in to midfield a great deal).  And once he came on to the pitch he added significant composure and energy back into midfield play.  He was composed on the ball and did a wonderful job directing play.  He looked extremely comfortable right away.  In addition he played very well defensively making several strong interventions.

Fabregas and Xavi played as a very fluid two man central midfield with Xavi moving to the center right and slightly deeper and Fabregas largely towards the middle and moving into an advanced position.  Here’s an example of how Barça lined up:

Fabregas' Positioning Relative to Xavi

Fabregas played as a trequarista more than even as a central midfielder at Arsenal.  Even in the youth ranks at La Masia he was a player who looked to get forward and score.  Those traits were enhanced when he went to Arsenal and yesterday Fabregas made several intelligent runs forward — it seemed clear that he knew that he would have to provide a threat as the man with fresh legs.

Fabregas Makes Forward Run Opening Space for Messi Between the Lines

In the still shot above Alves has played the ball off to Adriano on the right wing.  Xavi is trailing the play towards the right.  Iniesta is behind in midfield.

Fabregas is making a direct run to goal and he is the most advanced Barcelona attacker.  This is something we rarely see from a Barça midfielder, and it’s a good example for how Fabregas will diversify play tactically for Barça.

The key to understanding the immense value of Fabregas making runs like this lies in Messi’s positioning in the above still shot.  With attacks engineered off the flanks Messi frequently slows down.  Often he does not make aggressive, direct runs to goal.  Instead he chooses to find space between the line for the pull back or delayed ball.  This is what he’s doing in the still shot above.

However, look at how space is being created for Messi.  It’s Fabregas’ run that is driving two defenders towards their own goal and away from Messi leaving him unmarked in space.  This is the potential interplay we are going to see from Cesc and Messi.  It is brilliant positional football.

Fabregas would go on to be integral to Barça’s final goal — the one that sealed the victory.  Much is being made of the fact that Fabregas made one of the passes before Messi’s otherworldly strike.  This is is missing the larger point.  What was so impressive about Fabregas’ play on that goal wasn’t his pass — it was his positional intelligence.

The goal scoring play started harmlessly enough.  Xavi plays a corner short, gets the ball back and plays it to Adriano, who then plays it to Alves, who plays it back out to Mascherano (stationed just inside of the midfield line in the center circle).  In other words, in the 87th minute of a 2-2 match Barça turn a corner kick into a ball played back to their CB standing at midfield.  They are playing the ball backward, and still transform the situation into a goal.

Xavi Plays Corner Backwards as Fabregas is Initially Double Marked in Middle


The screen shot above marks the start of the play as Xavi pulls the ball back towards Adriano.  The key thing here to notice is Fabregas’ initial positioning.  He’s toward the middle of the pitch and is double marked.

Fabregas Drifts Wide to Find Space as the Ball Continues Backwards

Above, as the ball is played backward, notice how Fabregas changes his position.  He is moving away from the center where he was double marked and is drifting out to the wing into the space vacated by Adriano who has pulled in to the middle to receive the ball from Xavi.  As Fabregas drifts outwards Xavi drifts into the middle between the lines.  Messi is walking back from an offside position stationing himself in the channel between CB and FB.

Two sources of movement: The ball played backwards vertically and Barça’s attacking central midfielder drifting horizontally into space.

What starts out as harmless, typical Barcelona “negative” and “boring passing backwards” rapidly turns into catastrophe for Madrid.

When Mascherano receives the ball at the midfield circle he plays speeds up the tempo of play by playing a brilliant long ball over the top to the player completely open in space — Fabregas.

Fabregas Now Free in Space Receives Long Ball Over the Top from Mascherano

In the still shot above, look at how much space Fabregas has found.  The perfectly weighted long ball over the top from Mascherano (he is an outstanding long ball passer over the top — perhaps the best on the entire team) cuts out all of the clustered Madrid defense in the middle.  But it’s Fabergas’ open positioning that allows Mascherano the target to circumvent the defenders.

Fabregas' Movement and Positional Intelligence Create a 2 vs. 1 Advantage for Barca

Fabregas controls the ball with fantastic first touch to start the final attacking maneuver, and here’s what’s so remarkable about this entire sequence tactically:  Fabregas started this play being double marked by the Madrid defense.  Through his positional intelligence he has now turned that initial double marking into a 2 vs. 1 situation for Barça out on the flank against Marcelo.  Not only that — he has created a 2 vs. 1 where the defender is isolated alone in space.  That is brilliant football.  The epitome of what the fluid interplay of tika taka is supposed to create.

Marcelo is forced to defend four things.  Fabregas, Adriano, the space behind him toward goal and the space lateral to him.   He cannot hope to defend even two of the four never mind all four.  Fabregas has multiple choices in how to exploit the situation.

And here’s where Fabregas’ training from La Masia comes into play.  Normally at this stage in the game it would make sense to use a 2 vs. 1 situation to attack the goal directly.  And Fabregas starts to do this.

Fabregas Forces Marcelo to Commit Leaving Adriano Open in Space

Fabregas doesn’t quickly one touch the ball away.  He shows Marcelo the ball.  He uses it to draw out the defender. He makes two slight feints toward goal, and in the end he achieves his goal.  In the still shot above notice how he’s forced Marcelo to commit to him.  This leaves Adriano alone in space.  But rather than playing the ball to the nearest open man, Fabregas further exploits the positional advantage by threading the ball unexpectedly to Messi who has found space between the lines (Adriano does a fantastic job letting the pass go right by him — that’s a great example of the small things players have to learn in the Barça system.  A year ago he think the pass is for him and traps the ball.)

Suddenly the tempo of play accelerates.  Messi rapidly one touches the ball to Adriano who has started a delayed run.  Marcelo is completely out of position because Fabregas forced him to commit.  Messi’s one touch pass perfectly plays Adriano back into open space.

Adriano Free in Space Delivers Cross into Box Messi Timing His Run

Adriano then delivers a perfect cross into Messi who executes a volley of staggering quality.

What’s amazing about this entire sequence is that Madrid really haven’t made any defensive mistakes at all.  In the still shot above notice how Coentrao has done an excellent job of tracking Messi’s run to goal.  Messi is marked in the box.  And he still scores.

At this point, I feel compelled to say something about Messi.  But what is there possible to say.  His genius is unfathomable at times.  His vision, intelligence, positioning, strength, balance, touch and ability to finish are beyond belief.  You can watch. It no longer surprises.  But it’s still difficult to believe it’s real.


The End:

To start off the season Guardiola wins his 11th trophy equaling Cruyff’s club record.  It is an almost outlandish level of achievement.  But what truly mattered here wasn’t this trophy — the SuperCopa is after all only a pre-season tie (one that is nice to win but not indicative of play in the real season).  What mattered was how this team won.

Barcelona proved robust in the face of tremendous difficulty.  This was a squad that prevailed yet again despite the fact that they were not even close to full form and fitness.  While Madrid was also in pre-season shape it is now clear how much they focused and prepared to win this trophy.  They were far ahead of Barça in terms of readiness to play.  And despite all that Barcelona produced a devastating result through a combinations of systems based discipline, tactical intelligence, skill and heart.  What Pep did to get this team through these two brutal matches was astonishing.

There is of course another story to this match — an ugly, unfortunate one.  But there will be plenty of time for that later.

Right now is a time to appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to witness this spectacle.  We will probably never see this again.  So we should always feel fortunate to have had the chance.  It will be up to us to explain to others years from now the wonder.  The determined heart.  The light and heat of this beautiful blaugrana fire.

How long can it last?

Man of the match?  I’d pick Guardiola.  But he wouldn’t want me to.  So instead I’ll select who I think he’d tell me to.

The team.

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  1. mei
    August 18, 2011

    Haha wtf euler. Just read the first two paragraphs and it feels like a novel book introduction.

    • Noslehcimretep
      August 18, 2011

      for real, in a year of reading this blog (any any other tactical review for that matter) that is the best opening I’ve ever seen.

  2. BarcaGirl_Indo
    August 18, 2011

    Euler, this is exactly what I need. thank you so much.

    my eyes hurt from reading crap about a non-exist racism by Villa,

    now I’m gonna read every single word from your review,
    I’ll make a comment later! 😀

    • mom4
      August 18, 2011

      Oh for crying out loud what now? Villa’s the target now not Busi? Brilliant Madr*d, try to take down a Spanish hero to deflect attention. What did I miss?

      • mom4
        August 18, 2011

        note on villa-ozil: apart from players hitting each other, there are no reports in the spanish media about any remarks about religions
        47 minutes ago

        note on villa-ozil: the supposed ozil quote on villa is apparently being spread by a real madrid fan site without giving any reliable source

      • mom4
        August 18, 2011

        I hope you know my rant wasn’t directed at you. Sorry you’ve been sad. Euler’s review will make you happier. Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

        • BarcaGirl_Indo
          August 18, 2011

          Euler’s review will make you happier.

          it did, mom4. thanks, mom4 and Euler! 😀

        • Barcaleya
          August 18, 2011


          Euler’s review is making me quite euphoric…like being in love. Haha

      • BarcaGirl_Indo
        August 18, 2011

        I know, mom4, I know.
        there’s no proof or statement whatsoever from EE,
        yet my friends on twitter already wishing for Villa’s death.

        I can’t stand it. God, why people are so ignorant? I can’t even. ugh.

  3. footballfan
    August 18, 2011

    Great review as usual Euler, very excited about how Fabregas (and Sanchez) will change how Barcelona usually plays. Pep seems to produce tactical innovation every year he is at Barcelona, really great.

  4. Jackieboy
    August 18, 2011

    Great review so far, not done reading yet, but just wanted to note that Xavi’s corner wasn’t directed at Messi, it was a cross that was headed out by Benzema.
    Oh, and just realized – Ronaldo’s goal was offside, I never noticed it was first deflected by Ramos, and then by CR, who was in an offside position at the time of Ramos’ deflection. Who cares.

    • August 18, 2011

      Thanks for noting the Xavi corner. I knew it was deflected off Benzema but was writing and rewatching. I thought Xavi was intending to send it to Messi even with the deflection. But you’re right – it was probably meant to in swing to Pique.

      I’m going to update the post to correct this so it doesn’t confuse people.

    • jrgunner
      August 18, 2011

      not only was there an offside, but the ball was not inside the quarter -circle when the corner is taken.i know it’s just a couple of inches but if they draw the lines on the pitch it is for a reason

  5. Gogah
    August 18, 2011

    Mouth watering de construction of Messi’s second goal. loved that.
    Also loved your beginning about robustness and the durability of aesthetic brilliance.
    Beauty and strength.
    those are the new words to describe this barca team. It is high time we stopped overlooking the strength, tenacity and competitiveness Pep has instilled in his squad. Let this be the beginning of more things to come this season. What a win! and what amazing goals! Messi’s brilliance is starting to tire me, frankly.

  6. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    Haven’t read this epic post yet, but I just wanted to say that this week Pep and Tito should be working on team defending of set pieces. Call up the B team and have them bang in corners and freekicks while the first team defends, and FIX this massive issue with our defense.

    • mom4
      August 18, 2011

      Can they do that during the strike? Can they practice?

      • August 18, 2011

        maybe puyol can call a practice without the coaches, we used to do that in hs when we couldn’t have an official practice we’d have a captains practice

      • blitzen
        August 18, 2011

        Strike doesn’t start until tomorrow, so they could do it today. But they won’t.

        • mom4
          August 18, 2011

          barcastuff barcastuff
          Barcelona say that, despite the players’ strike, the Gamper Trophy game against Napoli on Monday will be played #fcblive

          Strange way to conduct a strike. Oh well, put in all the guys and get some match fitness back.

  7. mei
    August 18, 2011

    So having read the entire article I got to say there are few writers that analyze tacticts in football one can read, having a beer , and enjoying it so much.
    Tactical insight is supposed to be boring and difficult to understand : euler makes it enjoyable and leaves you demanding more.

  8. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    Mourinho is complaining about ballboys now?

    “What I’m about to say is not a criticism, I’m just stating a fact: there were no ballboys in the second half, which is something typical of small teams when experiencing difficulties.”

    What the??? 🙄

    • August 18, 2011

      also there was no sun, I know in madrid we seem to be able to play games in the sunlight, maybe unicef wanted it darker so there minions could not be seen

      • blitzen
        August 18, 2011

        Yes, those nasty little Unicef imps trolling around stealing all the balls and poking people in the eye then blaming it on perfectly innocent people. It’s outrageous!

        • htMillBay
          August 18, 2011

          This has to be the last year of Mad cow because he is one of those egotistical coaches that think he is “mas de un club”.

          When EE is not playing Barca, they can play beautiful football. The most expensive club in the world is not lacking in talent. I have Madridista friends who hate Mou because they know their team is very capable yet the “special one” puts the spotlight on himself while putting a bad light on the entire team and club. They can’t wait until mad cow moves on to yet another desperate team.

  9. Whatever
    August 18, 2011

    Simply amazing. Thank you very much for taking the time to do the review. It’s brilliant.

  10. Flippy
    August 18, 2011

    Great review Euler! The amount of energy, time, and most importantly passion you commit to writing such pieces is remarkable. How do you normally watch the match? On television, or do you download it onto your computer? And the screenshots, how do you get those? How many times do you watch the match? Really, I think this kind of content deserves to be in a football magazine, or maybe even a book, not an online football blog that is free. Thank you so much Euler!!

  11. mom4
    August 18, 2011

    Wow, Euler! You are the Messi of tactical reviewers.

    BTW, what is a trequarista? How does it differ from a
    false 9 or attacking mf? Always wanted it explained in simple English.

    • footballfan
      August 18, 2011

      As best to my knowledge trequartista is someone who plays in the ‘hole’ behind the strikers, similar to how totti and sneijder play.

    • August 18, 2011

      A trequartista (“three quarters” in Italian) refers to a player playing between midfield and attack, who’s job it is to link up play but also get forward and score goals. Totti, Zidane, del Piero, Kaka were all trequartistas. Rooney would probably qualify today.

      It is similar to (but slightly different from) the Argentine “enganche”, who plays in a similar position but is more of a passer and playmaker than someone who scores goals: Riquelme, Aimar, Sneijder could all be classified as such. Their job is to supply the “last pass”.

      What both have in common is that they are traditionally referred to as “no. 10”. A false 9, by comparison, is the FURTHEST player up the pitch. What he has in common with the no 10 is that the skills required and tasks are similar (scoring and playmaking). The difference is that the no. 10 usually plays behind at least one if not two players, whereas the false 9 is furthest up the pitch. This is the Messi role. This is why Barca’s formation is sometimes referred to as one without a traditional center forward, since there is no one in that striker/forward role, and instead you have a very attacking midfielder playing in a withdrawn role.

      • mom4
        August 18, 2011

        Excellent, Ahsan. I finally understand! Thanks!(and to footballfan, too)

  12. BarcaGirl_Indo
    August 18, 2011

    I’ve read it, and it is another MESSI review by Euler. thank you so much for your dedication to make this review, Euler!

    – Messi, Messi, Messi. he always the biggest difference between Barça and EE. our team is amazing, even without Messi. but with Messi, we’re on another level.

    – set pieces. I know that our team was never really good in defending set pieces. but these two legs our defending of set pieces was so terrible. huge homework for Pep.

    – Fabregas. when the score was 2-2 and Cesc come in, I literally said : “Cesc, please save us, Cesc!” 😛
    I have this faith with Cesc, that he is a kind of player who can come into the field and makes a difference. and he did.
    I know that in the end it’s Messi who saved us, but like Euler said, it was Fabregas who changes the dynamics of the match when Barcelona was really suffering in the center of the pitch.

    Right now is a time to appreciate how fortunate we are to be able to witness this spectacle. We will probably never see this again. So we should always feel fortunate to have had the chance. It will be up to us to explain to others years from now the wonder. The determined heart. The light and heat of this beautiful blaugrana fire.

    absolutely beautiful.

  13. Blau-Grenade
    August 18, 2011

    Euler, you are absolutely brilliant. I read every word of this article. Not only do you understand everything tactically, but also know how to write it so that it is all a sheer pleasure for me to read. I’m so happy this blog is returning to footballing matters.

  14. c0rrine
    August 18, 2011

    awesome review 🙂 i was able to attend this game, my
    first match at the camp nou. so amazing, wish i coulda dragged you all there with me!!

    • Blau-Grenade
      August 18, 2011

      Wow, please tell us your experiences. Make a big post.

    • Colby
      August 18, 2011

      This isn’t THE corrine, is it (from way back when?) Also a fan of Liverpool if I remember correctly…

  15. K_legit
    August 18, 2011

    From twitter land:
    Onze del Madrid:Bin Laden, Jack el Destripador, Hannibal, Sadam, Franco, Hitler, Mussolini, Charles Manson, F.Krueger, Khedira i Pepe


  16. messi_fan
    August 18, 2011

    A really good review. I especially liked the part about Cesc’s positioning. I also liked the part where you pointed out how Messi chest-passed the ball to Pique. I hadn’t noticed that!

    Thanks Euler!

  17. Helge
    August 18, 2011

    Are you serious, Euler?

    I haven’t read it yet, but it seems you put as much effort into it as in bachelor thesis 🙂
    This must be the longest review ever, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as a ‘good night read’ later on.

    How long did it take you to write this review? Have you ever considered to publish your own book about football tactics?

  18. August 18, 2011

    Wow, Euler. This is more like a football lecture than a review. It took me more than 40 mins to read without making sure whether i have it digested. It’s really really tactical. Appreciate the effort. Thanks a lot.

    Euler, I do wanna ask, are the players really so aware of everything so tactically like your analysis? While I think you are so right and so observant in every single thing they did on the pitch, sometimes, I believe, they do things instinctively. Such as the Fabregas part. To me he has something in mind, but I don’t know whether it’s as tactical as what you suggested. Please share 🙂

    If you talk about intelligence, I also wanna give more credit to Adriano for the last goal. 1) Adriano sensed that Fabregas’ pass wasn’t directed to him 2) He ran into space after leaving the pass to Messi, who then, one-touched it back to him for the cross. 3) executed the cross wondrously to a spot Madrid couldn’t defend.
    Of course, I am not saying he is motm. but still…

    Will skip other nonsense for now…

    • Gogah
      August 18, 2011

      good question. but the answer is this.
      yes, the players do things instinctively. the smaller details (like sanchez’ headed pass for messi’s goal) are performed on instinct. But they always try to play for the larger picture and work towards a grand plan. The overall tactics and approach to the game, including controlling of space, speed of pressing, positional details are all communicated by Guardiola clearly. How they execute that grand plan is down to the players’ skills and instinct.
      Guardiola talks about spaces and moving the ball quickly and so on.
      it is up to the players if they want to toe poke it, side foot it or use their head. That is just my guess. Because I identify more with the player than a ‘director’. Yes the game plan is masterminded by Pep, but if the players do not have the creativity and intuition to make the plan come to fruition, it is of no use.

  19. Lev
    August 18, 2011

    WTF Euler? when is your book coming out?

  20. Megster
    August 18, 2011

    Wow euler! My brain’s bleeding right now as I try to picture every tactics you describe. But it was really a wonderful piece. Zonal Marking might be taking some notes from you right now.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      August 18, 2011

      Zonal Marking looks like amateur if you compare them to Euler! 😛

  21. August 18, 2011

    Fantastic review Euler, thanks so much. Your posts have helped me to understand the game and the way we play so much better.

  22. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    You are all missing the most important question of the day:

    What did Ryan end up writing on his sign?


  23. August 18, 2011

    This match review is brilliant. I sit there, blather on about writerly crap, then throw out scores that make everybody bicker about what a jackass I am. Euler just owns everything before him.

    For me, there were so many interesting parts, but foremost among them was the Mascherano comment, that he is becoming the heir apparent to Puyol. So here so many of us are, yelling about how we have to buy a quality CB to replace Puyol, we’re doomed, etc, etc, and Guardiola has a plan all along. I described Mascherano’s performance in an e-mail exchange with Kari as Puyolesque, and it was: the calmness, the key interventions, the passing out of the back and constant ball winning.

    Madness. The “in Guardiola we trust” phrase must, of necessity, rear its head again.

  24. Barcaleya
    August 18, 2011

    Dear Euler,

    I am at a loss for words for this particular review.

    So much romance. Haha.

    If Barcelona the team was a person, I’d want to be that person, based on the enumerated and dissected qualities in this review. Lovely but resilient. Romantic but pragmatic. Beauty lasting in a harsh and difficult world. Strength. Intelligence. Poise.

    Light and heat…

    Amazing how our boys makes poets of all of us….and thanks to Euler for being able to articulate (both technically and poetically) the beauty and genius that we see from the team.

  25. August 18, 2011

    Seems like there’s an analysis due from someone intelligent (I nominate Linda!) about instinct, players and how it affects their on-pitch actions. Curiously, I think that as cliveee notes above, it’s doubtful that the players think about their actions as clearly as Euler articulates them. But it’s the nexus of knowledge, talent and instinct that make such things appear so thoughtful, even though they are in fact thoughtLESS. They just happen.

    So when Sanchez kneels to head a ball to Messi, he doesn’t think “Okay, right here, I’m going to do this, so that this can happen and then maybe Messi will make the run.” He thinks it somewhere, in the same part of the brain that makes us duck when something is thrown at us, or start and loud, sharp sounds. It’s just instinct.

    Zinedine Zidane is still one of my favorite players to watch. The documentary on him (despite the fact that he’s wearing the wrong colors) is amazing, because when you can watch one player, you realize everything that he does. You also realize that talent elongates time. Messi can do what he does because he’s so good that he just has more time to play with. If you take, by way of example, Michael Jordan’s shot over Craig Ehlo in that now long-gone NBA playoff game, Jordan jumps and Ehlo jumps. Ehlo returns to earth and Jordan is still in the air, making his jump shot really nothing more than a simple shot that he’s taken and made about a million times in practice.

    Iniesta makes that run for the Messi pass not because he has thought about it, but because he hasn’t thought about it. It’s happened a million times in practice, why wouldn’t it happen now?

    There’s a great book called “The Talent Code” that gets into all of this very deeply, as well. Good stuff.

    • Xingxian
      August 18, 2011

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but my brain/memory tell me that in interviews/documentaries there is a distinct gulf between Xavi’s ability to recall/elaborate what/why he did versus Messi’s. Not to say that Xavi’s ability to explain and expound on soccer indicates a lack of instinct or talent.

  26. irie_jamaican
    August 18, 2011

    Awesome analysis. Wonderfully broken down so even the dumbest of the dumb should be able to understand. Trying to get my madridista brothers to read it and accept the brilliance that is Barca, but like all good madridistas, they are unable to see beyond the brainwashing of their cult leader (Mou)- even when they should know that what they are saying is nonsensical. I mean they are intelligent, educated people most of the time.

    • August 18, 2011

      Not really. It’s just that they are just committed to their club as we are to ours. To them, Marcelo’s foul on Fabregas was justly rewarded with a red card, then our bench escalated the affair, thus converting it to a brawl. Every argument has two sides.

      Some even believe that Fabregas’ reaction was exaggerated. Nonsense? No more or less nonsensical than the assertion that Pepe was trying to break Alves’ leg with his now-infamous challenge in El Clasic last season, or the allegations of racial taunts against Busquets, which have again reared their ugly head.

      El Clasic will never be civilized. The best we can hope for is less horrific. It makes those days of them just kicking Messi seem like fond nostalgia, right?

      • Srini
        August 18, 2011

        Kxevin, I think you do a lot of easy rationalisation while trying to play devil’s (EE’s) advocate for the sake of it.

        Marca and AS (and Sid Lowe reports on it as well) – the biggest Madridistas you would imagine – have themselves brought about criticisms of Jose Mourinho’s and his squad’s behaviour. Even the Villarato theory originator – can you get worse – Alfredo Relano seems to have written a stinging editorial on Madrid’s behavior. Atleast that is what I garnered from Google Translate. And even that punk Tomas Roncero seemed to have made some “rational” points on Punto Pelota.

        So, it is not as if the staunchest Madridistas can’t see through reality themselves and it is a stain on those unrelentingly biased buggers that they cannot get over their innate bias. So, it is not as simple as you make it out to be.

        • August 18, 2011

          You are incorrect on all counts. What I am explaining is some of the fallacies behind your notion that they are somehow “brainwashed.” They are no more or less “brainwashed” than we are. Each set of fans is seeing things through its own set of filters. To us, they’re wrong. To them, we’re wrong.

          It’s as simple as that.

          • Srini
            August 18, 2011

            No it is not as simple as that. Even the most diehard of fans can see through blatant misbehavior and be ashamed or atleast critical of it. Only the truly irredeemable will be incorrigible.

            But lets agree to disagree.

          • August 18, 2011

            You miss my point: It isn’t about misbehavior or shame. It’s simply about the ability of fans to believe that their side is right. This isn’t true of all fans, but that makes the reality no less apparent, thus making them no less brainwashed than our fans are.

            Recall the Busquets incident, and my reactions to it, and the stick that I took for it? Our side is right, dammit, and that’s that. It’s a perfect example of the other side of the coin. They said he said it, we said he didn’t. They say we’re brainwashed, we say we’re not.

            For me, this isn’t right or wrong, nor is it as simple as us being able to say that their fans are brainwashed, particularly when that brainwashing is in part, a big necessity of being a fan.

      • mei
        August 18, 2011

        Watch the video again. Mou walks into the field right when the challenge is made.Affair escalated by whom?

    • nzm
      August 18, 2011

      Yes – I read it with some surprise. I had to check the URL twice to make sure that I was on!

      The only thing that I don’t agree with is that Busquets will go to CB – at least, I hope that doesn’t happen. Bucket’s strength is in the midfield. Mascherano is a better mongrel (Puyol-esque) to take over as CB.

      I believe that the exit strategy for Puyol began with the purchase of Mascherano.

      • August 18, 2011

        Yeah, I don’t see Busquets going to the back line, either. But Mascherano, for sure. You and Euler, with the foresight. I admit that I didn’t see the Mascherano=Puyol thing. Not at all.

  27. superpeter
    August 18, 2011

    Great review!

    Love the first still shot: Messi scoring and CR helpless on his knees.

  28. Srini
    August 18, 2011

    Let me unabashedly say that this is some of the best stuff on sport I have ever read. It deserves a Pulitzer, Euler. I do not know of a better reporter on matches. Perhaps Marc Stein of ESPN on NBA games could be a match, but even he seems to be inferior. Forgive me for taking this time to lavish so much praise.

    What I liked about this review is that I related to all of what Euler said while watching the game, but after the incidents at the end of the game, the only thing left was a very bad taste in the mouth after what Jose Mourinho and his assorted thugs Marcelo and Pepe did. I wanted to enjoy the beauty and passion that won Barcelona this otherwise inconsequential cup, but I could not manage to do that.

    This review truly makes me want to enjoy the sweet (little) triumph and to rise above the Morbo. For that I thank Euler. Keep these coming, my fellow Cule and anonymous friend.

  29. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    By request, a Special SuperSillyCup edition of the blitzen awards:

    Swiss Army Knife Award: Adriano, who played as a winger for the last part of the game and beautifully assisted Messi’s goal (along with Fabregas). I think we may see him in the front line more in the future, especially if Villa gets more than a one-match ban and Afellay doesn’t come back soon. Well done.

    Gaby Milito Memorial Award: You just know if Gaby had been there he would have jumped right in to the melee and hauled people (Villa!) out by their ears to stop them getting in trouble. I never missed him more than I do right now.

    You Call This a Defense? Award: Iker Face, who is never ever at fault for any goal scored on him.

    Earned His Stripes Award: Cesc, playing his first game with the team, showing that he has the skills, the desire, and the speed of thought needed to be worthy of the uniform. Welcome back!

    Red Bull Gives You Wings Award: I am convinced that the entire RM team was loaded up on caffeine and sugar before the match. How else do you explain the intensity of their pressing, their speed, their inability to coordinate their bodies, resulting in those awful tackles, and the huge sugar crash they experienced near the end of the match, resulting in their acting like cranky toddlers having a temper tantrum?

    Crisis? What Crisis? Award: For anyone who didn’t notice, our backline was in pretty fine shape last night. Alves, Mascherano, Pique, and Abidal all had excellent matches. Masch too short to be a CB? HA!

    Turn the Other Cheek Award: Kaka, for not getting involved in the fracas at all, nice boy that he is, and Mascherano, for hauling Higuain out of the red card danger zone and calming him down with some captain-style straight talk (much more than Iker Face did, btw).

    Drank the Mou-L-Ade Jonestown Memorial Award: Iker Face, again, and Sergio Ramos, for their post-match comments. Sigh. White is now the colour of brainwashing.

    It’s a Victory For Football Xavi Memorial Award: “What,” I hear you say? “Victory for football? After everything that happened?” Yes, indeed. If you can disregard the excessive physical play, the nasty fouls, and the fracas at the end of the match, that was a damn fine game of football. RM actually came out and played, at least in the first half before they got so frustrated. No parking the bus. No hanging back and leaving CRonaldo dancing in frustration because of a lack of support from his midfield. A number 10 who is actually worthy of the number (no Diarra). And a Barcelona who prevails through their individual brilliance, great teamwork, and incredible heart, even though they were half-fit and lacking practise. This RM was much better prepared, in terrific shape, came out with a plan and executed it very well—and Barça beat them anyway. A victory for football, I say.

    • August 18, 2011

      I would like to forward the “Turn the Other Cheek award” to Sabella so he stops this “Messi Captain” non-sense and leaves El Jefecito to his rightful place in the Argentine NT. Thanks.

    • mom4
      August 18, 2011

      The very first Blitzen awards of the season! Great job, girl!

  30. barca
    August 18, 2011

    Great review Euler. It gives a great delight in discovering fans like you who can look beyond the tiki-taka and joga bonito and explain barcelona in terms of tactics. I found a lot about the match that I couldn’t see in first place.

  31. August 18, 2011

    I thought Madrid would be psychologically down just as we were psychologically “up” because in my mind we would come into this guns blazing with the cup in our pocket and it wasn’t the case, Madrid were dominating us for a while there, we couldn’t win a ball in the middle, Pique kept giving up the ball, etc etc. Madrid was in it to win it, and it made for a great match except when they decided to stop looking at how well they were doing and started to kick us around. Well Marcelo started to act like a child I should say, the match went fairly well until he came in.
    That CR7 goal, wasn’t his, he’s actually moving out of the way because he his Ramos touch it, in his celebration he doesn’t know whats up either. so LOL to that.

  32. August 18, 2011

    Good work Euler. Though I read it fast and will give it another round later. My five cents (or little more) about our defense :

    – At the moment, Valdes is THE BEST goalkeeper in Spain. By far.
    – Abidal was as exciting as music in this match. He was a solid fullback before, now he is a complete Barca-brand defender. And he is getting more skilful with time, which is astonishing considering his age.
    – Pique (and here where I disagree with Euler) didnt have a great match. He was ok at some times, confused some other times, and Oleguer-ic many times. And I’m talking about Pique the defender, not the forward. That -Ibra like Ha!- back heal was pure gold.
    – Mascherano is great as a center back (Zonal marking is wrong thinking otherwise). He has everything needed to be Puyolitic. And as I mentioned before, when there is Pique, there should be Mascherano. When there is Puyol, Busquets is the right partner. Aain, sMACH worth every euro paid to get him.
    – Alves: Thanks for renewing your contract. Flawless.

    I think the key problem for Real Madrid defense was the lack of synchronization and positional play while pressing. Barcelona improved a lot in the past three years on that. Vilanova mentioned that they had training sessions for that. Besides, RM pressing high showed the quality of our defense, by exposing their defense weaknesses when the team gave up on deep zonal defense. Messi and Iniesta were smart enough to attack between the two center backs.

    • blitzen
      August 18, 2011

      Mourinho’s loss of self-control, then, was proof of an emotional inability to accept a subservient role for another year. For all the millions of words written about his machiavellian cunning, this latest caper exposes a measure of stupidity, as well as nastiness, because he seemed to forget that every sneaky act is now recorded and pinged around the world on digital pathways. In a rational state he could not have thought that gouging the eye of a fellow professional who was in no position to see the attacker approach would enhance his already frayed reputation.

    • nzm
      August 18, 2011

      Good piece. Of course there were no ballboys for the 2nd half – it was after midnight and they had to go home to bed! 😀

  33. K_legit
    August 18, 2011

    Wow are blitzen and Srini doppelgangers?

    • Vj
      August 18, 2011

      If they were doppelgangers, they wouldn’t post the same thing at the same time. Just goes to show that they are not doppelgangers #logic 😛

  34. Brosep
    August 18, 2011

    Not a great source, but it’s what we all expected. Given LFP’s ability to enforce its own rules or even investigate reported infractions (stand up, Hercules), there is no surprise.

    The English FA just handed Alex Song a three match ban for a stomp on Joey Barton that the referee did not see. At the same time, they confirmed Gervinho’s three match ban for what amounted to a light tap on Barton’s head, even after considering evidence that Barton was diving/exaggerating.

    In this incident, which much like the Alex Song incident the ref did not see, Mourinho committed an infraction somewhat more serious than a tap on the side of the head and may go unpunished. As polemical as this sounds, the LFP seems to solve most of its problems by ignoring them, and this applies as well to player compensation issues (the strike) and match fixing allegations.

  35. say2
    August 18, 2011

    great review euler.
    love u guys at BFB u are simply hav made my fracture recovery process lot pleasant.

  36. nzm
    August 18, 2011

    Awesome analysis, Euler – and I sense, in your opening statement, that a romantic poet dwells within you!

    I was pretty perplexed when Adriano came on for Villa – puzzled because I didn’t know where he’d be positioned.

    But then I saw the sheer brilliance of Pep’s tactical reading of the game.

    Alves had effectively shut down Ronaldo, and in an effort to free up Cristiano, Mourinho moved Oezil to play outside him, hoping that Alves would not be able to sustain the pressure of defending both players.

    Pep saw this, and brought in Adriano – effectively 2 defenders on Barca’s right wing. This allowed Alves to continue defending deeper at the back, and Adriano could patrol the right wing.

    Shortly after this, Oezil, (lost his legs and puff as he does), was subbed off for Kaka, and Ronaldo moved to the right where Abidal also kept him quiet.

    This freed up Adriano to come forward which he did to great effect, being instrumental in the Fabregas-Messi-Adriano-Messi play in which he provided the assist for Messi’s 2nd goal.

    Sublime, all around.

    • blitzen
      August 18, 2011

      Xavi actually lost the ball in the first half, and – write it down in your notebooks – misplaced a pass to Andres Iniesta in the second. He probably donned his hair-shirt the next morning, and went to confessional. Is the end of the world nigh? Probably not, with Thiago and Fabregas waiting in the wings.


  37. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    Some good news: Ronaldinho has been called up by Brazil for the friendly against Ghana in September. Good for him!

    • nzm
      August 18, 2011

      That’s so cool! Brazil needs a spark to get them going again after their disastrous Copa America exit.

      Now, if only Riquelme can be convinced to return for Argentina…

    • Jnice
      August 18, 2011

      Just found out about that a few minutes ago. My favorite player ever recalled for a match against Ghana? Can’t get any better than that.

  38. Roviero
    August 18, 2011

    “Notice how much space Messi is about to move into. This is because Pepe and Carvalho are not staying compact. They are too far away from where Messi has received the ball to step out on him. This forces Alonso to disregard Iniesta and commit to this space. Iniesta reading the play makes a tremendous run.”

    You’re wrong. It has nothing to do with Pepe/Carvalho not staying compact. The back line are placed in a good position (if you want to play a high risk game that is) when Messi takes on Coentrao one on one. The mistake that’s being committed is when Pepe and Carvalho does not drop and take depth immediately when Messi beats Coentrao. Because from that point on all it takes are two passes (or some Messi magic) to put the Real Madrid defense in real danger. Sure enough, moments later when Messi dribbles past a tactically clumsy Khedira, Carvalho and Pepe get exposed by leaving too much space behind themselfes and Casillas. So… when Alonso forget to mark a fairly pacey Iniesta the end-result is inevitable.

    • nzm
      August 18, 2011

      Here’s another take:

      Pepe and Carvalho were perfectly fine where they were in order to play the offside trap on Iniesta.

      It was Ramos who stuffed up and didn’t move forward in line with Pepe and Carvalho, thus allowing Iniesta to be onside and go on to score.

      Also had Alonso stuck with Iniesta, it may have been the required pressure that was enough to foil the goal.

    • blitzen
      August 18, 2011

      Just having this debate on twitter. See video below. At 2:37 Mou swings his foot at the ball, which has rolled back into view in the same sightline to the viewer as Cesc’s head. Dani Alves gets there first and scoops it away as Mou’s foot follows through and misses. I don’t think he was or intended to kick Cesc. (His later assault on Tito was of course deliberate, though, and not open to debate.)

    • August 18, 2011

      Was coming here to address that.

      He didn’t kick him. This video at 2:37 shows he tried to, but missed. As I was saying to blitzen, this just gives us a different angle of the same situation. That’s why Cesc is in the same sight-line as Dani. You’re meant to watch both videos in conjunction to get the whole picture.

      Where Dani picks up the ball is no where near Mourinho, unless he magically teleported over.

      And by the way, at this point I’m not even angry. It’s there for everyone to see. Last season people used the embellishing from some of our players as if it balances out everything RM has done. It doesn’t and hasn’t. To see such a disintegration is unsurprising, but very damaging to RM — but at this point, I don’t think they care. It’s all about an means to an end.

      To quote Xavi, “es lamentable.” It’s lamentable.

      • blitzen
        August 18, 2011

        And the next twitter post in my timeline is “Mourinho cunningly stamps on Cesc”. Whether you believe there was intent or not, no contact was made. This is how these things get out of hand.

      • blitzen
        August 18, 2011

        Oh, and the same video seconds later shows Tito smack Mourinho upside the head in retaliation for the eye poke.

        No innocents here.

        • August 18, 2011

          If someone went over and poked me in the damned eye, I wouldn’t just say ‘gee, someone poked me in the eye, I’m just going to stand here and not do anything because we’re the bigger people’. There is something called self-defense. But in any case, that’s just me.

          Sorry, blitz. I really am sorry, but I can’t balance this out right now. Other than the racist chanting, which was saddening to hear and a real problem for Spanish football on the whole, and the Villa-Ozil situation, which was weird in itself, there is a bigger evil right now, IMHO. It’s gotten out of hand. And this is taking into account what has happened last season too. They are using the nonsense they create at the end of matches to distract from what they are doing on the pitch — the good and the bad — and their failure to beat us.

          I just can’t do it right now.

          I’m not angry or pissed off or anything. I’m just tired of it. We have a great football team, that showed a lot of heart. I’d much rather talk about that, TBQH.

          • Dani_el
            August 18, 2011

            I agree, for every action there’s a reaction, this, I believe, is a team of good guys, but to turn the other cheek…well that’s god like qualities.

            I am disgusted, by Mou and his orders, it is verguenza ajena (feeling shame for another). But still this was a great game for us, some madridistas are saying that “if it wasnt for Messi” or that they even had more possesion than us, as Euler said, we still had more possession and better chances. This was the tightest match in the last 3 years I think, but it they couldnt win Pep’s team now, without preseason training… I believe in this team more than ever, and maybe we’ll have the next Puyol in Masche.

  39. Triplo Volanti (formerly Cesc Pistol)
    August 18, 2011

    Jesus Christ EULER! I am shocked and amazed of not only your power of observation, tactical understanding but also to weave such beautiful words to express all of it. I love you, really I do. And I envy you more. I like to imagine I have an intuitive sense of understanding tactics and play while watching a match, but this is so far beyond me I am in awe. AWE.

    Really the only thing I wish to say is you must denote time to the things you left out as ‘to be discussed in another post’. I cannot state how happy your review makes me. It felt like a holy experience reading it.

  40. barca96
    August 18, 2011

    Just finished watching the match.
    I really am sick and fed up of playing against Madrid!

    Pique is right;
    Mourinho started all this!
    Spanish FA really need to do something with him and Pepe and Marcelo.

    I am supposed to wake up 1.5hours later and then again 3 hours after that but my blood is boiling right now. Can’t sleep!
    We won but I’m just so mad at the situation.
    This Mourinho character is sick!!!

    • Bill
      August 18, 2011

      Yes he is right. When it’s one or two players thugging their way through a game, it might be just them. But when you have 4,5, 6 players doing it, it has to be a team instruction.

  41. Bill
    August 18, 2011

    Ronaldo: God gave me this talent and told me to go entertain the people with it.

    Messi: I told him no such thing!

    Simply incredible. We are very spoilt and lucky to watch this guy play

  42. K_legit
    August 18, 2011

    I called Mourinho a spotlight-junkie and a media soundbyte whore..
    Was I wrong?

  43. barca96
    August 18, 2011

    This match review is brilliant. I sit there, blather on about writerly crap, then throw out scores that make everybody bicker about what a jackass I am. Euler just owns everything before him.

    Ok. Now I feel a tiny bit better 🙂
    Kxevin never fails to tickle my funny bone.

  44. Vj
    August 18, 2011

    Yay! A CB!! Oh? #okface

    Club sources confirm they are finalizing the loan of Genoa B centre back Diego Polenta (19) for Barcelona B. [via @barcastuff via]

  45. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    Fabregas has Arsene Wenger Syndrome, says he “did not zee it”:

    As for the man in the middle of the brawl, he was among the few people remaining calm. “It was a bad tackle – I was lucky [not to get hurt],” Fábregas said. “But I didn’t see anything after that.”

    From another Sid Lowe on the Guardian. The gist is, since Mourinho’s assault on Tito wasn’t mentioned in the referee’s report, no action will be taken by the RFEF unless Barcelona chooses to file a complaint, in which case an investigation would be opened. The club does not intend to do so, so the matter will be dropped.

    • Srini
      August 18, 2011


      Even the “central lechera” does not want to milk this for Madrid’s gain –

      [i]Even the unashamedly partisan Madrid media was unimpressed by Mourinho’s behaviour. Alfredo Relaño, the editor of the Sports daily AS, said: “It is time for Florentino [Pérez, the Madrid president]to reflect seriously on this because it is starting to become serious.” [/i]

      • barca96
        August 18, 2011

        Cesc mentioned that he was kicked. But did not name any names.

  46. PhepheSa
    August 18, 2011

    I love your analysis of the third goal. Seriously ZonalMarking has nothing on you. I am such a fangirl! We are so lucky to have someone like you who can just breakdown tactics in simple english. THANK YOU!

  47. jaymin
    August 18, 2011

    the gentleman at ZM has made a living writing tactical analyses of football matches. he is excellent, but I’ve never felt as in the thrall of a master reading one of his analyses than I did this match summary by Euler. the psychological dimension. you are an incredible analyst and writer, and I hope you keep it up!

  48. Dani_el
    August 18, 2011

    AWEsome review Euler!!

    “Man of the match? I’d pick Guardiola. But he wouldn’t want me to. So instead I’ll select who I think he’d tell me to.

    The team.”

    This is Barça.

  49. hammeronmessi
    August 18, 2011

    havent read the post yet.

    my observations.

    smasch was a beast in this match and dani our 2nd diver in chief,he had CR in his pocket.

    piques backheel genius.abi was very composed.busi and xavi was ok.

    fab was impressive

    we conceded 3 goals from it cause of lack of fitness or sharpness or there is something wrong in our defending of corners?.in both the legs i noticed benzema received the ball all alone in the far post during corners a few times.can u xplain it euler?

    and messi oh my oh my.

    the once royal madrid has now become the slum madrid due to the por que man.

    heat of the moment,over aggressivness,out of frustration all i can understand but a coach of a big club behaving like that,that i cant understand.he is bringing down madrid with his antics.

    and finally this team proved they r not all silk and style they r also el puto jefe in the mental strength department also.

    • Helge
      August 18, 2011

      As far as I can tell, we did not have such vast problems to defend the corners last season. Actually, all seasons.

      We’ve had the best defence of la Liga thrice, if we would have defended like that, even against the usual la Liga opponents, we certainly could not have won the Zamora Trophy.

      As Euler said, I’m also sure that these errors – and probably all three of the corner goals from RM – will not happen in the later stages of the season.

  50. barca96
    August 18, 2011

    Mourinho was really pleasuring himself when he was poking Tito’s eyes. Sick guy! He looked as if he is putting a finger in a cake with a naughty face.

  51. hammeronmessi
    August 18, 2011

    it seems that atletico bags falcao.

    nice bit of transfer deal.

    • Helge
      August 18, 2011

      I’ve heard rumours they’d pay 45m for Falcao. Even if it’s just 35m, still overpriced. We got Cesc for that. And Alexis for 9m less 🙂

      Anyway, the way Atleti plays, I don’t see them as top4 contenders.
      I expect Malaga to do very well this season, with Pellegrini and all their new players. My tip:
      Valencia and Malaga battle it out for 3rd and 4th spot, Sevilla, Atleti, Bilbao and Villarreal for the EL.

  52. August 18, 2011

    I want to thank everyone for the thoughtful comments. They are very kind.

    I know these pieces are very long and not easy to read so I really do appreciate people taking the time out to read them.

    Given how wonderful the match was and how much heart the team showed I didn’t want the vile ending and cynicism to be what we remembered or what we talked about today. Or at least I was hoping to minimize that to whatever degree possible through what I was capable of writing.

    I wanted to try to put people into the match as much as possible. Back into the substance rather than the nonsense if only for a little while. That was the reason for specificity and length.

    And believe me when I say this – if it weren’t for the wonderful community we have here there’s no way I would have put in that much effort in this piece or any other.

    And I know that feeling is shared by the BFB team.

    Thank you again.

    • Helge
      August 18, 2011

      With the term ‘pressure defending’ or ‘pressure defense’, you refer to using pressure as a form of defense itself, right? (according to ‘attack is the best means of defense’)

      At the first moment I thought it could refer to put pressure on the opposing defense, but I think you mean the general concept.

      I’d also like to know, how long does it take to become a master of football analysis, i.e. since when do you follow the beautiful game and the tactics behind it so closely?

    • Miguel
      August 18, 2011

      Awww. We wub you, too, Euler.

      Your portion on Fabregas was spot on. I noticed Fab’s moving out to the touchline and knew right away Masch would pick him out seeing the mismatch his teammate had created. Such a beautiful play. You did it justice.

      And despite Masche probably getting significant playing time as a center back, I do not see Fabby playing as a defensive midfielder. It’d be such a waste.

      • Miguel
        August 18, 2011

        And I forgot to mention that, with his awesome long balls and great anticipation in defense, Masche is the new Marquez. The good Marquez. Old early 08-09 Marquez. Before he busted up his knee.

    • ElJefe
      August 18, 2011

      Oh wow! Hard to tell on the Mou play but the Pepe thing was definitely intentional based on the speed of kick and pull back. Surely a coach behaving like this warrants 5-10 games out, no?

    • August 18, 2011

      At this point, I am beyond getting angry at whatever particular actions players and staff committed in the brawl. We can look back at each incident and judge players’ character for the way they behaved at the heat of the moment, but personally, I don’t see too much worth in it.

      What needs to happen, if the Spanish football authorities have any sense, is a careful video review of the incident and strict punishment for anyone who engaged in personal violence. Villa, Oezil, Mou, Tito, and so on… a thorough review and a sober doling out of match bans and fines. I don’t care if it means we have five players ruled out of the Malaga and Valencia matches. It needs to happen. These full squad brawls cannot keep happening, or it’s just going to get worse. And such post-hoc reviews need to start being done in Spain, as it is done in England. Every time. It’s not the severity of the punishment (“BAN MOU FOR THREE MONTHS”), but the certainty of it that acts as a true deterrent.

  53. Barcathegreatestever
    August 18, 2011

    Great job Euler, really. 4 6 0 formation for the win is reminiscent of octopus intelligence. There is no central intelligence just pieces all capable of morphing into any weapon required at the moment. Cesc signing is going to make the Masch signing seem just OK.

  54. Helge
    August 18, 2011

    Roma lost the first leg of the EL qualifier in Bratislava.
    Let’s keep our fingers crossed Luis Enrique can turn this around. Would be a horrific start if AS Roma fails 🙁

    • ElJefe
      August 18, 2011

      Falcao to Atletico…what a waste…

      • Miguel
        August 18, 2011

        Cool. I hope Atleti signing Ruben Micael, too, doesn’t shut the door on the Diego transfer (ex. Santos/Werder Bremen/Juventus/Wolfsburg.) That would be an awesome partnership.

  55. Vj
    August 18, 2011

    There is one thong I love to do after EE gets swatted down. Go to an EE forum and sample the M####dista Logic. Some gems include watching an action from a different angle and claiming it happened twice. Some are downright hilarious. You can never expect what a EEista believes..


    • Miguel
      August 18, 2011

      I’m sorry, but your typo is too funny! Stop trolling Madrid blogs.

      • Vj
        August 19, 2011

        I had CRon in mind. That’ll show me to troll their blogs!

    • August 18, 2011

      I posted that link yesterday, and while the design is nice, it’s really missing the nuance required to make it bite. Most of the “Madridista logic” is too out there for it to be even half-serious. Maybe they should start more serious, and at the end have that twist. Something like, “Real Madrid reacted to the Busquet’s incident because the institution takes the use of racial slurs very seriously. Except when it’s their own fans chanting it in their own stadium.”

      Right now, the anger is getting in the way of the funny, in my opinion.

  56. August 18, 2011

    This review is illuminating, btw, Euler. I saw it this morning and saved it for when I wasn’t as groggy, and it was well worth it. I keep telling my friends who don’t follow La Liga that the Clasicos are fascinating if only for how Pep and Mou are fighting a tactical war that is now 7 battles in. I point to your analyses to explain better than I can 🙂

  57. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    I flove Dani Alves. He is the king of the presser soundbite:

    “if you have a negative model, you do negative things. If you have a positive model, like Guardiola, who says positive things, who says you have to onto the pitch to compete and play football, it’s much better”.

    Alves also said that teams at this level have to know how to win and lose. “The best example is the final of the Champions League, against a team of gentlemen like Manchester United. Millions of people are watching and you have to stay calm.”

  58. August 18, 2011

    One of the thoughts that came into my mind several times over these past two games –

    Thank goodness RM did not sign Kun.

    Seriously – thank goodness.

    I would not want to see him on that front line. His addition would have made things so difficult for Barca.

    Same thing for Falcao though to a lesser extent.

    While I don’t really understand why Falcao would want to go to Athletico (money I guess?) or why Athletico would want to spend that much on one guy vs. spreading it around – I give them a lot of credit for what they’ve done this summer.

    They really tried to improve the club in the wake of Kun leaving. Turn and Falcao could be a terrific front line.

    But then again it is Athletico…

  59. August 18, 2011

    Michael Cox of Zonal Marking wrote two terrific pieces on the Super Copa – one at this own website and one for ESPN soccernet. I’m sure many people have already seen them – but if not I highly recommend them.

    Zonal Marking also talks about Madrid’s pressing. He’s taking a different point of view on it that I was.

    I hope this was clear enough in my post – but there’s really no hard and fast definition of what compact is or how far up the pitch the back line has to be before it’s considered a “high” back line. It’s relative. Sacchi defined for himself 25M between lines. That level is probably impossible to achieve but relative to those AC Milan teams the current Barca team could be considered not playing compact.

    The point I was trying to make is that given how aggressively and successfully Madrid press it’s interesting that they aren’t playing their back line even higher than they are. Their using the pace of their attacking players to give their back line more cushion.

    But not tactical system is perfect. Each has their own trade offs. So Madrid is decreasing space behind them by opening up more space in front of them in the interior. They varied that by often sending a CB to close out attackers higher up but that varied.

    Zonal Marking I believe is making the point that Madrid are playing against Barca very differently than they did last year when they used that trivote formation. They are generally playing a much higher back line. And that’s definitely true – compared to when the were “parking the bus” their current back line is much higher. Similarly compared to how Mourinho set up Inter – they are much higher.

    But again, the key thing is the point of reference for the comparison.

    Interestingly, while Madrid didn’t commit to this pressing game against Barca outside of a some portions of the CDR finals and second match of the CL tie, Madrid did press other sides in La Liga as the season went along in this way. Fast close outs from the advanced players using their pace to harass the ball. They just didn’t do this consistently against Barca.

    Seems like Mourinho was probably setting his team up to play the way we’ve seen last season against non-Barca competition.

    It’ll be interesting to see how they play out the season.

    • nzm
      August 19, 2011

      As part of the training regime, Pep has the team practising movements – defending and attacking – using only half the pitch.

      I guess that there’ll be a lot more training done in this way, this season!

  60. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    I just rewatched the first half, and it seems I forgot a couple of awards:

    Don Quixote Award: Pedro with full “tilting at windmills” arm action!

    Zees Is Fashun Award: Apparently this is the year of the popped collar. Not just CRonaldo, either. Our very own Alexis Sanchez and several of his Chilean teammates played that way in the recent friendly against France. Our kits may be ugly, but at least they don’t have collars!

    This Is Not What We Pay You For Award: Xavi getting himself a yellow card for a clumsy tackle on Coentrao. Who do you think you are, Paul Scholes? Stick to what you know!

    • nzm
      August 19, 2011

      The Xavi tackle on Coentrao was retribution for an earlier Coentrao marginal tackle on a Barca player – can’t remember who, offhand.

      Xavi was just explaining to Coentrao how the law of the land works.

      Right or wrong? – depends on your viewpoint!

  61. irie_jamaican
    August 18, 2011

    Anyone watched ESPN Press Pass? 2 of the 3 experts picked EE to win La Liga this year with Barca second – based on the Supercopa performances. They all saw that EE was playing better than last year but none of them mentioned that Barca has not played up to their usual standards and still have won.
    Not saying barca players are ‘angels’ but I am amazed that sensible/rational people do not wonder why a brawl only breaks out when EE loses.

    • Srini
      August 18, 2011

      Was Sid Lowe there as well? I find Lowe very intriguing. While he is the best writer on Spanish football, in the way he covers every aspect worth reading about it and therefore also about Barca and EE; he has always got his predictions wrong about Barca. He said we would lose before the manita, we would lose in the Champs league semis and we would lose before the Champs League Final and always got it wrong. Its as much a testament to the quality of Barca as much as the lack of ability to analyse enough on Sid Lowe’s part, to take a charitable view.

      • irie_jamaican
        August 19, 2011

        yeah Sid Lowe was there. He and Tommy Smyth predicted EE will win, Shaka Hislop picked Barca. Tommy’s a known EE fan though.

  62. blitzen
    August 18, 2011

    Amidst all the Supercopa Drama Llama, we seem to forgotten that our beloved Thierry Henry turned 34 yesterday.

    Congrats, Titi! As a cule and an Arsenal fan, you will always be a legend to me! 😀

    • blitzen
      August 18, 2011

      What is va-va-voom?: *

      Nike: *

      That interview with Cesc: *

      • blitzen
        August 18, 2011

        Moderated. Gosh darn it to heck. 🙁

  63. yana
    August 18, 2011

    What is wrong with that man? No, really, what is wrong in his head? And it’s not even the culture of thuggery and deflection he’s created that most disturbs me. No, it’s the calm approach to Tito from behind, the casual stroll over to Cesc on the ground and the little swing of the foot that is telling in its provocation even if there was no contact. It’s sociopathic.

    Please tell me that there are RM fans that won’t stand for this. I can’t bring myself to venture beyond this little safe haven on the internets right now, but there are madridistas I like, and I want to believe we would draw the same lines. I agree with Kxevin about fans — fandom, as love, is blind — but this… He is a cancer.

    Euler: your writing made me cry, for the beauty of our team. Thank you.

  64. adopted cule
    August 18, 2011

    Euler: this review is exceptional and I do not believe my comment will detract from it in the slightest but on the first goal, it was not Coentrao that Messi turns on to start the move, but rather Carvalho. Coentrao has dropped deeper and more toward the middle. He is the Madrid player wrongly waving for offside.

    • August 19, 2011

      Thanks so much for the astute eyes! You’re absolutely right – it was Carvalho. I was trying to get this review done and posted by the next morning so I rewatched it on the computer while making notes and taking still shots. That section of my recording was blurry and I mixed up the two players. Just rewatched another video it and it’s clearly Carvalho. Appreciate you pointing that out. I want this to be as accurate as possible.

      I’m most likely going to refer back to this post later on this season when I write about RM again. And I don’t want anyway who reads it later to get inaccurate information so I’m going to update that section of the post.

      It’ actually makes more sense for that to have been Carvalho. He was marking Messi for much of the game. It actually supports the general argument I was making. As Carvalho steps out to mark Messi, Coentrao falls alongside Pepe to make sure RM have more cover at the back deeper on the pitch.

      • adopted cule
        August 19, 2011

        I just found this site last night while looking for more content regarding the Super Cup and I was amazed at your attention to detail. I thought you would like to know about the Carvalho/Coentrao mix up. I made the same mistake. Credit for the sharp eyes actually goes to Michael Cox at ESPN.

        A thought that I had before reading your reviews of the two games and that you did not mention unless I missed it: Particularly in the first leg, Madrid’s pressing was rabid and, as you noted, the weakness was in the interior space left in front of the back line, which you point out was a risk Madrid was willing to take due to their stellar athleticism. I would say kudos to Madrid for playing such a high risk strategy if athleticism were all they relied on to cover this space. Madrid took an absurdly high number of hard, professional fouls in the first game. Any time that a Barcelona player threatened to break containment and get the ball into gaping spaces between the Madrid lines, a Madrid player would hack him down from behind with no potential play on the ball. Khedira received his yellow card for dragging down Thiago in this manner. Xabi was actually the worst culprit with at least 6 fouls that I would consider ‘professional’. I suggest that Jose knew where he was vulnerable playing this way and that he wasn’t going to rely only his club’s athleticism to cover the but instead tactically employed systemic fouls to stop any breaks at his vulnerable back four.

        While watching the second game, I felt like praising Xabi because he employed the professional foul far less often, but after reading your reviews I understood that he wasn’t just on better behavior, but that he was under orders to drop a little deeper in second leg because Barcelona now had the technical ability on the field to break the press with far more regularity.

        Old schoolers would claim that this was just hard nosed, smart football employed by Jose. I am new school and I call it cheating. Every team takes a professional foul occasionally if the situation warrants it, but when they do they deserve to be carded or sent off. To systemically insert this option into your game plan is reprehensible. Perhaps it is these kind of tactics, and not his off the field antics, that have Xavi and Pique claiming he is ruining Spanish football.

        • August 19, 2011

          Madrid took an absurdly high number of hard, professional fouls in the first game. Any time that a Barcelona player threatened to break containment and get the ball into gaping spaces between the Madrid lines, a Madrid player would hack him down from behind with no potential play on the ball.

          Well first off – welcome! Glad to have you on the blog. It’s a very good community here. Please return and post again on a regular basis.

          You bring up a very good point that I didn’t want to get into to much because it starts overlapping into areas where Madrid played in a very vile fashion.

          But your specific point is very correct. It’s very clear that in this set up Mourinho is using tactical fouling as a defensive technique.

          Basically the Madrid players are left 1 vs. 1 across many parts of the pitch. If one gets beat the rest of the team behind them is at numerical disadvantage.

          So what they are doing is this: tackle the ball and if you don’t get it – wipe out the attacker. Make sure that the attacker cannot progress. If you have to take the foul (or even the card) so be it.

          From this perspective on the play we’ve been discussing – the key play Messi made wasn’t only to beat Carvalho – but it was to also beat Carvalho attempt to tactically foul him. If you look at the play you can see Carvalho lunge in. He’s more than willing to foul Messi just to stop him. His failure was that he didn’t get the ball or the man. That’s why the Madrid defense completely broke down afterwards.

          The point Michael Cox has brought up on Carvalho not fitting into this role is a very good one.

          As I touched on – Madrid is using their pace to defend. They have good to outstanding pace all over the pitch now except in two spots – Carvalho and Xabi Alonso.

          The reason why Xabi Keeps making all of these awful tackles is that he is a poor athlete. He cannot close down the ball to defend. In turn he constantly has to wipe out the player to stop the play. He is constantly tactical fouling because he doesn’t have the foot speed to defend.

          In the second match he was playing deeper so he didn’t need to constantly foul in that same way.

          Alonso simply doesn’t fit the Madrid system. When Sahin comes back they should play him and send Alonso to the bench but I don’t know if they can afford to do that because Alonso is such a star there as one of their few Spanish players. They’ll probably bench Khedira – but that’s going to weaken their defense.

          Tactical fouling is always a high risk strategy as you are always at risk for picking up cards. When mixed with reckless anger it’s a recipe for disaster. The tackles stop being tactical at some point and just become violent.

          But Mou mou knows this – which is why he has been constantly complaining about referees since he came into La Liga.

          He knows he needs to pressure the refs to play this style of football – otherwise he’ll constantly have players sent off.

          • adopted cule
            August 19, 2011

            Thanks for the warm welcome. Terrific content and I will certainly be reading.

            Given your comprehensive analysis, I assumed that you had taken the high road by not mentioning the tactical fouling, which is commendable. It seems that the decision to comment on this issue is a slippery slope in either direction. To say that Jose’s tactics are vile seems accurate, but it quickly leads to finger pointing on both sides.

            However, not to accurately report on this aspect of these games results in an incomplete picture of the events and, consequently, mistaken impressions about the relative quality of the two teams.

            Furthermore, although I don’t think that one isolated article, brilliant though it may be, is of much consequence on the global football scene, it feels symptomatic of the general handling of Mourinho’s tactics in the world press. We read story after story concerning the rise of Real Madrid and the narrowing of the gap between the two teams, but very little mention of the dark design that kept these two games this close. To keep this short, what I fear is that by continually taking the moral high road and not mentioning the questionable nature of his tactics, the football press is letting Jose win, and to some degree, it shows on the field. He has waged war in the press to get exactly the kind of leniency on the field that Real Madrid received over these two legs. It is mind boggling that it took an act of sheer brutality to finally get a Madrid player thrown out of these games.

            I won’t belabor this point any more than I already have. I think you did an admirable job of riding this line in your analysis and I am in no way questioning your journalistic integrity. I am torn myself on what is an appropriate way to handle the issue and I respect your choice to deal with it in the way you did.

            Keep up the fantastic work.

          • Helge
            August 30, 2011

            Very interesting discussion between the two of you, I’ll keep those ‘dark strategies’ in mind.

            And hopefully the media will unveil the dark side of EE soon. But I doubt it. They will keep hailing Madrid, at least as long as Mou is there.

  65. August 19, 2011

    Well Euler,well…ehm…THANK YOU

    “It will be up to us to explain to others years from now the wonder. The determined heart. The light and heat of this beautiful blaugrana fire.”

    “Man of the match? I’d pick Guardiola. But he wouldn’t want me to. So instead I’ll select who I think he’d tell me to.

    The team.”


    • adopted cule
      August 20, 2011

      Great audio on this impressive visual demonstration of Barcelona’s positional IQ.

  66. August 19, 2011

    *WARNING serious rantage below and something I seriously need to get off my chest. Feel free to totally ignore, as I don’t plan on saying anything on the topic again*

    Something I find interesting is the use of diving and cheating when talking about Barcelona.

    Diving, in my view, is getting a foul when there is no contact made. Embellishing is making a meal of contact. And yet, the two are blurred together and simply referred to diving; in England, very often with outrage on TV and forums/blogs/message boards, as CHEATING — with capital letters to emphasize the point. Joey Barton on Twitter being the latest to use the term when talking about the Gervinho incident.

    Now here’s where it gets interesting.

    Barcelona, as a whole, is accused of being divers, and by extension, cheaters. This is as if the whole team, on a regular basis, gets fouls in their favor when there is no contact made. What I will say, as a cule who has no problem admitting (if that is the right word choice) it, that Alves and Busquets, and sometimes Iniesta and Mascherano, are embellishers. They make meals out of contact made. Every single game? Definitely not. After every Clasico? Still no. Why? The biggest example is the 5-0 manita at home. Notice how little embellishing there was in that game – and both Alves and Busi played in the game, as did Pepe, Khedira, Ramos. In the CL final, there was also little to no embellishing. There are reasons for that. But do they do it? Yes. Yes, they do.

    Which brings me to the next thing I want to rant about: the use of this embellishing as a method to look more balanced than one actually is. Somehow, this embellishing is equal to and, in the view of others, much worse than anything everyone else does, including potential career-ending tackles. “Bad tackles happen and it’s a man’s game anyway,” they say, “but diving/embellishing is CHEATING.”

    Let me get a couple of things out of the way. Firstly, diving and embellishing suck. It is cheating as it unfairly gains an advantage that is not deserved. However in my world view, terrible tackles are so much worse. At worse, diving and embellishing can get someone send off and you can lose the game. Tackling, on the other hand, can end careers – end a person’s livelihood; how a person makes money to support themselves and others around them; with many not having a back-up career. (The obscene amount of money they make in the first place is a different topic for another discussion).

    Secondly, we don’t use embellishing as part of our tactical system. That is to say, Pep does not deliberately ask players to make meals of contact. If they do, they are acting alone in their behaviour.

    The only time I can think of where embellishing was used as part of a deliberate, tactical approach, was the first leg of the CL semi-final after the Copa del Rey final. It was used as a direct response to the on-pitch mugging that occurred in the aforementioned final – to bring attention to the types of fouls that were no called due to the psychological pressure put on referees by a certain coach.

    Now, in England, with their hatred of CHEATING and envy of Barcelona, inevitably chose to focus on this part. Because the media, which has a large reach in the football world, is annoyed their top teams keep losing to us and fans of those teams we’ve beaten feel the need to try and take the ‘gloss’ of the shine of the club in envy. There is no other possible point of contention on the pitch with regards to Barcelona, so one part is taken and then blown out of proportion. After all, doesn’t every team have at least one embellisher?

    Has any manager or team complained about these so-called ‘theatrics’ other than one? There is a reason for that. For every action, there is a reaction; in football terms, for every tactical implement, there is an opposing one.

    For example, Athletic Bilbao play physical football. They stay compact and are no-nonsense in their tackling. When they exceed the boundaries, they are given cards and accept them without much fuss or outrage and continue on. Likewise we take the tackles, or dish them and get cards, with little fuss or complaint. Why is this? Because the games are hard fought, tackling no-nonsense but not cynical.

    Now here the thing I really want to get off my chest.

    If a team uses an aggressive approach as a part of a tactical system, which often exceeds the boundaries set by the rules of the game, are they not also CHEATING? After all, they are acting dishonestly/unfairly in order to gain an advantage. They are deliberately breaking the rules set by the game and are ‘conning’ the ref into believing there was little to no contact, that the player was diving, and/or it was their ‘first’ foul, and therefore go unpunished.

    If the team who uses an aggressive approach as part of a tactical system which often exceeds the boundaries set, also contains players who, often and serially, go to ground easily with little to no contact, does that not make them CHEATING hypocrites? After all, they are claiming to have moral beliefs that they do not conform to while acting dishonestly/unfairly by deliberately exceeding the rules of the game in order to gain an advantage.

    If the team’s coach who has implemented this aggressive approach as part of their tactical system, goes in front of the media and complains of players being dismissed are unwarranted, therefore saying said-players never exceed the boundaries of the game, and whose players claim it is due to the play-acting of the opposition team, make the coach’s team sanctimonious CHEATING hypocrites? After all they are making a show of being moral superior than others while being morally self-contradicting and are acting dishonestly/unfairly by deliberately exceeding the rules of the game in order to gain an advantage.

    At this point, one would say ‘Barcelona say/do this on the field and in post-match comments’ to make the comment seem more balanced, but I’m not going to because I’m not trying to be balanced.

    Apologies everyone, but I really, really, really needed to get that off my chest.

    /end rant.

    • August 20, 2011

      Hopefully you read this because I don’t want to post a reply in the newer comments 😛

      But I totally agree with you. Embellishing is wrong and I hate that our players do it. But not only do dangerous tackles (like Marcelo’s) carry much heavier consequences (a practice that RM has started to engage in as a matter of strategy), there is a “bona fide pattern” of Real Madrid players fouling our players and then turning around and accusing them of having dived. Graham Hunter, for one, commented on it in his report of the first leg, and it is as despicable and dishonest as diving and embellishing–it’s simply that in the machismo dominated atmosphere of football, such intentional deception of the ref is less salient.

      I will also take this opportunity to get this off my chest. Reading madridista blogs has taught me a lot about how they see the situation. They have some legitimate complaints, and many more illegitimate ones. But by far the practice that has to stop in such arguments is the continual building up of straw men.

      This practice, typically the bread and butter of mediocre minds, is far too rampant. Seriously, everyone would be better served by learning what a straw man logical fallacy is. It’s when you take an argument against you, hoist up a similar but far more superficial and flimsy argument (a straw man), and then refute that.

      So when you turn “Barcelona believes that the dangerously aggressive style that Madrid has resorted to is creating a toxic environment in the Clasicos” becomes “Barcelona believes that nobody should play anything other than beautiful football and to do so would be an act of immorality” you’ve just changed your opponent’s argument into something that it isn’t, so that is easy to refute. Many cules believe the former, a limited few believe the latter. The players have commented on the former, none have stated the latter.

      Same goes for when “Barcelona’s current recruitment policy places an emphasis on promoting canteranos far more than Real Madrid’s policy which has favored purchasing most of its talent in recent history” somehow becomes “Barca’s recruitment policy has always been about promoting from La Masia while Real Madrid’s is only about Galacticos.” Many cules believe the former, few cules will actually argue the latter.

      And this shit goes on and on. People need to ground themselves and argue against what is actually being said by the managers and players, not the absurd extreme to which their brain habitually takes their words to.

      Bah, this will go unread anyway, but that’s my piece.

      • August 20, 2011

        And it’s worth saying that for all the arguments we have with each other as mere fans, we are not alone in stating that Madrid has fallen to embarrassing levels on and off the field with its behavior the last few months.

        Off the top of my head, DiStefano, Morrientes, and Valdano, so called “old madridistas” have criticized continually the direction and attitude that Mourinho’s Madrid has taken. Not to mention much of the Madrid-based press itself which has signaled embarrassment over their squad’s behavior.

        In other words, this deterioration in Madrid’s behavior is not just something that us cules have imagined out of our bums; it is an actual issue that concerns plenty of age-old madridistas.

      • Barcaleya
        August 20, 2011

        I totally agree with this, Jose.

        I don’t know why I torture myself dropping by Madrid blog sites sometimes to find a proliferation of these “straw men” you just talked about. It doesn’t make sense anymore to respond or make a comment because they have totally gone off the path of the real issue. They have totally made up some new argument to discuss, these straw men, that it’s worthless to delve and join it as it’s something they came up with that can be argued their way and obviously, was never the point in the first place.

        It’s really frustrating. So I try hard to just let all these stupidities pass and put it down to human nature – people always have to blame something or someone else. They will never admit to their team being lesser or weaker.

        I can at least take comfort in the fact that we have the trophy/ies. Not them. So they can blather all they want…and make up stories in their minds, convincing themselves even of these made up events and arguments – but the trophies are ours. The accolades. The universal praise.

    • adopted cule
      August 20, 2011

      Awesome rant. Captures the frustration we all feel watching some of the most glorious football ever played hacked down by the tactics of a borderline psychotic.

      When embellishment of a foul is meant to produce an unwarranted card or an unwarranted penalty it is certainly cheating, which explains Joey Barton’s rather hypocritical rage at Gervinho last week.

      However, when embellishment is used to draw attention to the truth, it is not reprehensible. When Marcelo stuck his studs in Messi’s side, it is probable that Messi could have played through it. He is one tough hombre. Yet he went to ground. The goal of his embellishment was to call attention to a malicious and real offense. He was not trying to have a player unfairly penalized.

      In the face of tactical abuse, should a team wait until someone really is maimed to call attention to the problem?

      • Barcaleya
        August 20, 2011

        Very much agree. This I say over and over and over to Madridista friends.

  67. Dani_el
    August 20, 2011


    I prefer a thousand times (and this a personal opinion) a player who embellishes to protect himself (if the player who fouls takes a yellow card he will think twice before making another agressive entry) than a player who sistematically makes fouls, and some times to injure a player, I’ve just seen a video from Figo, who fouled a football player in 2005 and five, and ended his career. I’m just beginning to realize, that Madrid has a mediatic cover for their wrongs in the fields, years ago. (In that game Figo wasnt even send out)

  68. adopted cule
    August 20, 2011

    Some thoughts on the Keita substition.

    I was shocked by Pep’s decision to substitute Keita for Sergio, but on further reflection, a couple of things come to mind:

    Guardiola knew that the game would become more wide open. Immediately after the restart, Alves was moving up more assertively on the right flank. As both sides searched for the winning goal to avoid extra time, RM’s press would be less effective against a Barca side utilizing its full creative attacking capabilities than previously. Although Busquets has the skill set to attack goal, it does not seem to be in his nature to attack aggressively, whereas Keita is a natural attacker with a mind for goal. He has a knack for knowing where to be to finish a attack.

    Secondly: Busquets did not have his finest game and perhaps Pep knew he was flagging and would be a detriment in a situation where Barcelona needed to push forward with energy.

    Thirdly: With the introduction of Cesc into the game, Pep knew that he had the technical and positional ability to control play out of the back should Madrid continue to be effective with their high pressing (the combined ability of Xavi, Iniesta, and Cesc ensured this).

    Although Keita would not be instrumental in the final minutes of the game, his introduction makes complete sense in this perspective and the work rate of Fabregas completely masked any positional deficiencies Keita might have brought to the game.

    • adopted cule
      August 20, 2011

      Notice who would have had the next chance on the ball if Messi hadn’t arrived in time to finish on the winning goal. An argument could be made that Adriano’s pass was intended for Keita who was in perfect position to finish if Messi hadn’t gotten to the ball first. Busquets almost certainly would not have been where Keita was.

      • nzm
        August 20, 2011

        Yes, the 3 subs that Pep made for this match were faultless and tactically right on the button.

        Adriano for Villa
        Keita for Busquets
        Fabregas for Pedro

        You’re right when you say that Busquets wouldn’t have been in the same position as Keita was when Messi scored. As well as the scoring potential that his position had, Keita was also protection for Messi on his left. It meant that a Madrid defender couldn’t come too close to Messi from that direction, and gave him the space to take the ball and score.

  69. adopted cule
    August 21, 2011

    Pondering over the lineup Barcelona had on the field, and where they were playing on the pitch, during the 5+ minutes between Benzema’s goal and Messi’s winner, I stumbled across a new thought: With Cesc coming in (for Pedro, which necessitated Adriano’s move to the right wing to keep width there) and playing, ostensibly, in central midfield and shading to the left, and with Alves immediately pushing forward, Barcelona was relentlessly attacking the back triangle of Carvalho, Marcelo, and Coentrao on the right side, producing 4 dangerous situations on that side alone in 5 minutes of play, the last one resulting in the goal. With Villa out of the game and Cesc being everywhere on the pitch, it occurred to me to wonder what was going on over on the left side with only Iniesta and Abidal covering. Ronaldo had already switched to his right wing before the Benzema goal, and presumably, Barcelona would be susceptible to a well coordinated attack spearheaded by an aggressive run from Ramos, whose defensive responsibilities were considerably lightened.

    On reviewing the video of those five minutes, it was clear that Iniesta’s responsibility was to keep width on the left side. Euler does a great job of pointing out that the final goal was the really the result of a corner kick, which is key (and something I had forgotten when I thought about Keita‘s presence in the box). Barcelona played a short corner between Xavi and Messi and then worked the ball back to Mascherano. Again, as Euler points out, this could be interpreted as typical passive Barcelona play (although anybody who thinks that Barcelona plays passively is delusional): instead of attacking on a corner kick, they play a series of backward passes to a central defender (who just happens to be deadly accurate with his long balls). The rub to this is the fact that the defensive midfielder, Keita, and a central defender, Pique, have held their attack positions on the back side of the corner kick. Their decision not to track back to their normal positions clearly indicates that the attack on the corner kick not only wasn’t over, it hadn’t yet really begun.

    The series of passes back to Mascherano led to the Madrid team pushing out to regain its shape. Higuain moves out to press Masch while Kaka plays the passing lane to Alves, who was covered by Benzema in any case. Xavi is tracking back into the middle of the field while Coentrao and Ronaldo are pushing out after him. Cesc’s sneaky little run over to the wide right, as Euler points out, does indeed create numerical disparity of 2 v 1 (Adriano and Cesc versus Marcelo, but it is not the only relevant numerical advantage: Coentrao and Ronaldo have left Messi behind leaving Barcelona with a 3 v 2 advantage over the entire right front line. Carvalho cannot come out to cover Adriano because it would leave Messi in the clear. One could forgive Coentrao and Ronaldo for their positioning because they wouldn’t have assumed that two defensive players would be so advanced on a ball being played from midfield by a central defender.

    But because Pique and Keita have stayed so far forward, it creates yet another numerical advantage for Barcelona of 5 v 4 over the entire front line. Euler states that Madrid made no defensive errors on this goal, but I humbly suggest that Coentrao and Ronaldo failed to recognize the numerical advantage and did not scramble back to cover Messi as the ball is being played over the top to Cesc. Iniesta is dragging Xabi completely out of the play on the left and Pepe cannot abandon his position because it would leave Ramos in a 2 v 1 situation on the backside of the goal, which could easily lead to a tap in by Pique. Cesc’s recognition of the advantage and the speed with which Messi and Adriano complete the play is breathtaking. Cesc’s brilliant ball to Messi freezes Carvalho and Coentrao’s failure to get back on Messi as the ball is played over the top is exposed. Even when Cesc has the ball at his feet, Coentrao (who looked exhausted by the end of the first half and was so tired by the second half that he was egregiously late on almost every tackle) is still jogging nonchalantly back toward Messi. Only as Cesc plays his non-intuitive ball to Messi does Coentrao really start to run back. As the ball goes into the back of the net, he is holding up his hands as if to say to Pepe, ‘Why didn’t you cover Messi’s run?’. Although Pepe did drift off of Keita, he had to try to cover both Keita and Messi’s position. If he had moved only to cover Messi, Pepe would have left the middle of the goal wide open for Keita to tap the ball in.

    With Alves pushing up over these final minutes and Abidal basically responsible for containing any Ronaldo run on the right, Pep was playing hyper aggressive tactics. It is impossible to believe that positional play by the entire Barcelona team on the final goal was extemporaneous. Clearly this was the work of a master mind.

    • Barcaleya
      August 21, 2011

      Wow. Thank you for this very detailed analysis, adopted cule! I can actually picture in my mind everything that’s happening and the positioning of the players even without having to watch the replay.

      And I’m amazed even more to know everything that happened in those dying minutes of the game was planned and rehearsed and that everyone was ready to execute such a tactic.

      Just when people were wondering why Keita should be coming in, this analysis, makes it all clear and wow – Pep. Have no words for his brilliance. And the quality of our team to execute perfectly. Wow.

      This of course is what makes Mourinho lose his mind. He is MILES away from Pep.

      Despite our poor defensive positioning during RM’s corners, having conceded two equalizing away goals – Pep and the team knew what to do if something like that happened. We were prepared to play a clasico and win even when we weren’t fully fit and had new players without much practice with us. We were prepared to beat our deficiencies with the perfect masterplan by Pep. Wow.

      Just wow. Keep these sort of analysis coming, adopted cule. Thanks again. VISCA BARCA!!!!

  70. paxtonpale
    August 22, 2011

    Real Madrid was the better team in the first leg of the Spain SuperCopa but in the second leg everything changed. We saw that bringing Pique, Xavi, Busquests and Pedro really made the difference. We saw the midfield stronger and there more effective passes than the first leg. We also saw the defense stronger bringing back Pique into the starting 11. Eric Abidal really wasn’t playing well as centre back than he does at left back as we could tell from the two legs.
    I was quite confused how Pep played Adriano has a Wing Forward but in the end, him, Messi and Fabregas really were connecting together and made the last goal and inspiration to watch. Fabregas really will be a key in the midfielder not just now but in the future when Xavi goes.

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