First Liveblog of 2011/12: Barcelona vs Villarreal

These games against Villarreal tend to be the some of best games of the whole season! Let’s enjoy and hopefully see a Barcelona win!

Official Barça lineup (via @barcastuff): Valdes – Alexis Busquets Mascherano Abidal – Cesc Keita Thiago – Pedro Messi Iniesta

Barcelona Bench: Pinto, Bartra, Fontas, Dos Santos, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Villa

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Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. jordi™
    August 29, 2011

    Im excited.Even when there should be one change expected Pep again shows you can’t predict his line up.

  2. Calvin
    August 29, 2011

    Let the rotation begin! Thiago and Fabregas today. Should be interesting to see how they work together. Keita at DM isn’t that surprising but I am surprised to see Alexis at right back over Bartra or Dos Santos, or even Maxwell.

    Speaking of Maxwell where is he? I knew he was injured but I thought he had recovered?

    As a final thought – first game of the season and there are three B-teamers on the bench. We have a deeper squad than last year, but I think were still going to see more B-team involvement than last season.

    • Jackieboy
      August 29, 2011

      Pep said both Puyi and Maxwell should be back after the international break.

    • August 29, 2011

      Maxwell’s injured and won’t be back until after the international break.

      Afellay, Puyol, Adriano, Pique (possibly) too.

  3. astrosa
    August 29, 2011

    Interesting lineup. Especially if Fabregas is made to play as a defensive midfielder, this is testament to the ostensible evolution in Barcelona’s tactical formations that everyone from Zonal Marking to Euler to have been talking about.

    • Calvin
      August 29, 2011

      I have been meaning to write up a long comment about this issue, but I think Pep’s use of Fabregas so far coupled with Keita’s time at DM indicates that Cesc isn’t going to be playing DM except in emergency situations. I’ll get around to writing the long comment later, but expect to see Cesc playing further forward, not further back

      • Eklavya
        August 29, 2011

        But Keita playing DM and Thiago also playing don’t you think Cesc will play a similar role to what Xavi played vs Porto? Dropping deep to help Keita with possession and building play whereas Thiago plays ahead. I think it could be a possibility but I don’t it’s likely given how well Cesc has been playing advanced CAM so far for us.

        • Calvin
          August 29, 2011

          I think that is extremely possible, but that’s a very different tactical role than playing as the “lone” DM. A lot of people (including me) thought Cesc would be used a lot in that role, but his off the ball movement and his style of play has changed a lot since he was a DM in the youth team. I just don’t know if he has the defensive discipline to play as a lone DM against any but the least threatening opponents.

  4. Eklavya
    August 29, 2011

    So finally a big match without Xavi, huh? Wonder who’ll be running the show today. Thiago, Cesc and Iniesta in the same match? Fun time.

  5. blitzen
    August 29, 2011

    The mass confusion in my twitter timeline is hilarious! 😆

  6. Helge
    August 29, 2011

    lol 😀

    Crazy line-up.
    Seems as if we are playing Racing Santander, but not Villarreal…

    Does this suggest that Xavi’s tendinitis keeps him from playing 2 matches a week?
    Otherwise, I don’t see why Xavi should be rested in this important match (and before international break).

  7. Eklavya
    August 29, 2011

    I love it when Pep plays these “WTF!?” lineups. They happen only a handful of times in a season but they’re always really interesting to watch!

  8. ciaran
    August 29, 2011

    The way it’s lined up on our website is
    Masch – Busi – Abidal – Keita

  9. August 29, 2011

    Tactics dictated using Sanchez at RB.

    I can’t emphasize this enough – to beat Villareal you have to do two things:

    1. Utilize width and use it to attack.

    If you do not do this then you’ve completely played into their hands. They will be able to play all four of their midfielders centrally to press and turn the ball over.

    2. You must defend their two striker formation when they drift wide.

    Rossi and Nilmar play in a very unorthodox way. They constantly pull wide.

    So you have to have a mobile flank player to defend their movement.

    Neither JDS nor Bartra are ideally suited to do either of these two things.

    Really wish we had Busi in midfield against Villareal’s pressure.

    This is a huge test for Thiago and Keita.

    If the team is going to succeed in all of these competitions they will need to be able to utilize their players in these kinds of innovative, flexible arrangements.

    What Pep is doing here is some of the most innovative tactical and strategic thinking football has seen since Cruyff at Ajax.

    • ciaran
      August 29, 2011

      Masch has the skills to play fullback v Villarreal but unfortunately Busquets doesn’t.
      I’m slightly concerned.
      I could easily see Iniesta at DM instead of Cesc if Keita is actually playing in the defensive line

    • ciaran
      August 29, 2011

      Also, the formation that Villarreal play is very much a 4-2-2-2 with Cani and Borja given very free roles.
      I happen to think that Cani is probably the most underrated footballer in La Liga.

      It is very funny that when our XI is announced, no one has a clue who will play where or even what formation we will play.
      We most be the most tactically diverse team on the planet

  10. August 29, 2011

    Maybe the Guinness book has a record for “most midfielders in one starting XI” that Guardiola is trying to break.

  11. Gogah
    August 29, 2011

    why dont villarreal have any shirt sponsors

    • Vj
      August 29, 2011

      Many teams don’t have one. Even Valencia didn’t. No takers 🙁

      • Helge
        August 29, 2011

        Is the sponsor market still open, so can their still be made some shirt sponsor deals after August, 31?

        I certainly hope so, because when even the bigger sides don’t get any sponsors, how are they ever supposed to not let the gap between the Top2 and them grow even further?
        I don’t even think about closing that gap, but right now I could see a 30 points difference betweeen #2 and #3 :/

  12. olbucky
    August 29, 2011

    I’ve said it before many times, I’d love to see Messi play the Xavi position for a game. This year is gonna be fun!!!!

  13. Olufestus
    August 29, 2011

    Av been spoilt…am rotten..this team is something else

  14. August 29, 2011

    From the BFB Dictionary I haven’t got around to posting yet:

    Guardiola, Pep [Goo-ward-EE-o-la-pep], noun;
    1. Former captain of the Dream Team. Current coach of The Best Team in the World ™
    2. In him all cules trust.
    Baffling (v)
    1. To defy all logic and reason by playing abnormal formations and/or players out of position.
    2. Strokes of genius that would otherwise be insane if it were any other team: I was shocked when I saw the decision before realizing Pinto as referee was the perfect move.

    • Vj
      August 29, 2011

      I think not getting to see this game from the hostel was sort of punishment for doubting Pep.

      In Pep We Trust. Don’t turn into Arsene.

      • Xingxian
        August 29, 2011

        “Don’t turn into Arsene”
        I think in some circles that statement right there could be construed as doubting Pep. If so, I hope you don’t miss out on the next manita.

      • August 29, 2011

        Doubting our team. Comparing our defense to Arsenal’s? Seriously? /rubbing it in.

  15. Olufestus
    August 29, 2011

    I really dont know wat to post…this team is RUTHLESS RUTHLESSNESS…SCARY TEAM

  16. y2k156
    August 29, 2011

    This was quite a wonderful match. We controlled the match pretty much completely. Pep has put together a squad that can play in so many formations and still be effective.

    Villareal lost couple of players but still put out a very strong team. This same team gave us probably hardest game of last season and we steamrolled them this season. Hard to believe.

    I did not think that we were perfect though. Pedro and Sanchez sometimes did not play the right ball in my opinion. Also some give and go’s were not as slick as they will be in one months time. These are minor quibbles though. Brilliant performance all around. Would not be surprised to see us going 3 at back at most of matches in Ligue this season.

  17. Nik
    August 29, 2011

    Excellent game by us. Though I have to say, Villareal’s tactics left me scratching my head. I swear I saw them at one point defending with a tight 4-4-2, and they didn’t seem to be comfortable with that , as evidenced by the ease at which our midfield from hell pulled and stretched them to pieces. I was expecting them to pressure us more like they did in last year’s matches (though maybe my memory is off). Maybe their team was too tired? /head scratcher

    Oh well, too bad for them. Mind you, I doubt it would have made much of a difference in the final result. We were on fire tonight and most definitely deserved those 3 points.

  18. Gogah
    August 29, 2011

    what an insane team.
    i cant understand if our midfield team played so well or if villarreal played badly.

  19. mom4
    August 29, 2011

    And did I panic? I think not… OK, I did but just a little bit.
    And really guys, I was just being goofy when I picked a similar starting lineup. Who knew?

    Gosh, I love this team.

    • nzm
      August 29, 2011

      I just put a reply to that comment of yours, and asked you to check that you aren’t, in fact, Pep Guardiola!

      Holy-moly – you called the 3 man backline! And the only one that you got wrong was Xavi when Pep put in Pedro!

      mom4 for picking the teams from now on! 😛

      • nzm
        August 29, 2011

        Oh yeah, and he put Keita instead of Villa, but still mom4 – you da woman! 😀

  20. Helge
    August 29, 2011

    I cannot remember a teasm with more depth!

    And this team is probably the best ever so far, but they’ll have to win titles (i.e. at least la Liga and CL) first until I officially announce them as the best 🙂

    How long has Cesc been away? Given his interplay with Messi & Co, it must have been 8 weeks!

  21. August 29, 2011

    I dont think there are any words left to describe how insane this team is. I knew we would be improved this year but what I just saw blew my mind.

    This is the first game and we had a late preseason. We arent even firing on all cylinders yet and this is how we are playing?!?! Are you kidding me!

    Cesc and Sanchez look like they have been playing for us for years. Thiago is improving with every game. Iniesta is some how getting better and Messi is god.

    Oh and Xavi and Villa off the bench. How is that for impact players. Frack me. I hope people appreciate just how lucky we are. I dont think you will see a team like this for another 20 years.

    • Helge
      August 29, 2011

      Even JDS was quite good today.

      Maybe Villarreal was just as rubbish as Arsenal was against ManUtd?
      I cannot judge it since I’m not a neutral spectator, but when I watched ManUtd-Arsenal I thought “Wtf! This is a effing joke, Arsenal play as bad as Almeria did against us”
      Maybe a neutral observer thought the same about Villarreal today?

      • mei
        August 29, 2011

        apart from abidal , we had a makeshift defense on. And DM!

      • Ron Mexico
        August 29, 2011

        Arsenal was playing without Sagna, Vermaelen, Song, Wilshere, Gervinho, and Gibbs who all would have likely started-not to mention Frimpong. Villareal was playing essentially their first choice 11.

        There’s a big difference between the results. In my mind this is the better performance. Wenger was crazy to put out that team sheet and system and expect to compete. With the players afforded to him and the opponent, he needed to adjust his system. And he didn’t. This is why Pep is so fantastic. He can read the context and adjust accordingly, for example, by playing 3 at the back against the 2 striker system of Villareal.

  22. Ron Mexico
    August 29, 2011

    Good call by Pep to play 3 at the back against the 2-striker system of Villareal. That combined with the defensive help that Sanchez and Pedro provided on the wings and our pressing in midfield really stifled a potentially dangerous offense.

    Going forward we just have so many more weapons this year. Thiago was fantastic. Cesc and Messi’s understanding is phenomenal. Sanchez is a beast in attack and defense. This team looks special.

  23. August 29, 2011

    @ Kxevin re Peps plan of most midfielders in a match: he, he, yeah, but if that’s his plan it’s backfiring. I only saw 2-3 midfielders on the field: Mascherano, Busquets and sometimes Abidal…everyone else was playing forward…(except the sweeper Valdez.)

    I think Pep should go for “Most Goalscorers in a Match”

    It’s important that he have interesting objectives while we bide our time stealing candy from babies without shirt sponsors, waiting for the next Classico.

    Poor La Liga. 🙁

  24. Xingxian
    August 29, 2011

    I want to match Cruyff’s 4th year in a row. I know we can’t take it for granted, the opposition’s too strong for that, but it would be so very poetic.

  25. Goo
    August 29, 2011

    Pep: “We only had one defender, so we decided to play this way”.

    Aaaah. Wisdom, thy name is Pep.

    • Calvin
      August 29, 2011

      AKA “We only had one defender, so we decided to score 5 goals just in case.”

  26. mom4
    August 29, 2011

    I don’t think we can call it a “makeshift” defense anymore. Maybe the “defense du jour”. We can only do this because those called upon to defend are insanely talented footballers coached by a supremely talented coach.

    Do you think think, after this game, that Pep will finally get the credit he deserves as a tactician. Or are we just going to hear more “anybody can win with this team”? In Pep we trust!

    We don’t have a huge squad, be we have depth. High quality depth. Very deep depth.

  27. K_legit
    August 29, 2011

    Wait..what now?
    Guardiola: “Don’t touch Mascherano and Keita, they’re my little boys. They’re two sunshines.”
    via barcastuff

    • Calvin
      August 29, 2011

      Pep certainly has a way with words

  28. jordi™
    August 29, 2011

    Its really shit how every time we win domestically its down to bullying poor la liga teams who didnt get a fair tv deal.Its like 5-0 Madrid or Dominating Man Utd didnt happen.

    *waving at the haters*

    • August 29, 2011

      *offers the haters cookies and asks them to sit down for a grown-up talk*

      “Fair” TV rights is what’s hurting La Liga right now. Fair would be letting each team get the market value for their own matches, which is the current situation. La Liga needs unfair, distributed TV rights, and that starts with the distribution system that is going to be implemented in 2014. It’s not great, but it’s a big improvement over what exists now. And, let’s face it, it’s as good as it’s going to get right now given the current power dynamics of La Liga. The haters can kick and scream as hard as they want, but it helps no one to approach the issue of TV rights with the righteousness and pragmatism of a teenage suburbanite who just stumbled upon his father’s copy of the Communist Manifesto.

  29. August 29, 2011

    New post is up, but you can just stay here. We’ll use up both threads before Euler’s review comes up. 😀

  30. nzm
    August 29, 2011

    Far out –!

    I haven’t seen Barca pressuring in defence like that since the 08/09 season. Each time a Villarreal player got the ball, there were at least (at least) 3 Barca players immediately on him to get the ball back.

    This is why, when you see the Faltas count, you’ll see a high amount of pings against Barca – because there were so many more high-pressure tackles to regain possession or to slow down Villarrea’s play.

    And the amount of corners that we got was insane! Due to the pressure that our front players put on the Villarreal defence to clear the ball.

    Excellent to see Thiago settle down and play “thinking man’s” football. His goal was crazie – draw 5 defenders, look one way and shoot in the other direction.

    Hard to pick a MotM, but for me, Thiago is the one tonight. Messi did enough to keep in the game, but you can see that he’s not quite there with his sharpness – he conceded a lot of the possession which the midfield then did their utmost to regain.

    I imagine that Sanchez will get ticked off by Pep for removing his shirt, but I would gladly pay for a yellow card to see him do that again! 😛

    We watched the game with some Catalan neighbours of ours, and we all agreed that to beat Villareal 5-0 was better than beating Zaragoza 6-0 – although our Spanish gol TV commentators were quick to point out that Madrid’s game was “más difícil” because they were playing away. Yeah…..right!

  31. August 29, 2011

    Excellent way to start the season 😀 Not much else to say except that it’s great to see our new transfers and promoted B-teamers team up to take down the 4th placed team from last season.

    • August 29, 2011

      Also, we fielded 9 canteranos (8 if you don’t count Cesc) out of the 14 players that played. 🙂

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