Barca 1, Almeria 0, a.k.a. “Wallowing in it.”

So. Happy. Right. Now!
So. Happy. Right. Now!

Wow. What a golazo! That it was the only goal wasn’t really surprising when you watched the match for more than 10 minutes, as Hugo Sanchez unveiled a new formation, the 0-10-0, in an effort to keep us from scoring, shamefully playing for a draw at the Camp Nou.

Thankfully, the footy gods brought us the new, calm Pedro!, who spun and smoked a shot into the far upper 90, that was astonishing. Maxwell will get credit for the assist, but it’s a gift because that goal was all P!.

Who knew that it would be the only goal?

Guardiola rolled out a lineup that gave me instantaneous pucker: Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Puyol, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro!, Messi, Ibrahimovic. Why? Because Busquets will always have his moment, Maxwell gives away corners too cheaply and Marquez is still experiencing his Great Decline, which makes Puyol grab his fireman costume and run around too much. And whenever that happens, we concede.

Thankfully, Almeria had about as much interest in attacking us as I have in showering with a brick of limburger cheese, as The Fear kept them in check. “Can’t have them beating us 6-0. Nope. No way. Just kick them and the ball and off we go.”

And it almost worked, were it not for the aforementioned moment of individual brilliance saving the day. And a few more words about that golazo. Because Pedro! always attacks with the ball, the three defenders forming a triangle around him were playing him for the run or the pass. To his credit he realized this and decided that something from distance was just the trick. It’s his second strike for us that was crucial, that was again done with power and accuracy. And that moment was needed, because Almeria decided to man-mark Xavi again, as that is the tactic of this season and will remain so until Guardiola finds a way to beat it. I’d like to hand him the clue phone, which has someone on the other end saying “Busquets and Marquez don’t help!” With one constant follower and another shadowing, Xavi was effectively marked, and rarely allowed to be our devastating puppet master, except in non-danger areas.

This meant that Iniesta had to be the orchestrator, and that we had to one-touch our way into scoring positions. Iniesta, however, was just too anonymous and unselfish to a fault. He also looks like a little boy out there, with a body ill-suited to play the physical matches that the officiating dictates. And you can’t even say that the ref was having a bad match. He just wasn’t calling the ticky-tack stuff that we usually get. In every replay, the defender got ball first. It could be argued that the only call he missed was when he awarded a corner for a challenge in the box, but the defender didn’t touch the ball. So it’s either a penalty or a goal kick, dude. A corner is a punk call.

We also wasted Ibrahimovic by throwing long balls his way and saying “Do your thing, big fella,” or not working overlaps properly, which left Ibrahimovic’s three defenders to keep him company, with nobody taking advantage of the space created by his presence. It’s early days yet, but I’m sure he could be forgiven for thinking, just for an instant, “I could have stayed in Inter for this kind of stuff.” Pedro! worked very well with him, but you could see him trying to find space in which to work, being constantly shadowed by much of the very determined Almeria defense.

There were spaces to play into, that would come whenever Ibrahimovic took the ball and moved, and someone moved into the space that he’d just vacated. He lofted in a perfect ball for Pedro!, who should have done better with it. Then it was a perfect setup for Xavi, who knocked off a shot that the keeper still has no idea how he stopped.

And we spent more time arguing with the ref instead of playing the kind of one-touch football necessary to rip Almeria apart, bickering over alleged fouls not called. But every side that we face henceforth is going to play us physically, and the trick is to give it back when you can, and play through it when you can’t. Alves understands this, so does Puyol. The calls aren’t coming. Why should officials make the rich richer? Get over it and play football.

There were many bad signs in this desultory match that was a lot more tense than it needed to be:

–On one play Messi was charging the box, and Iniesta and Ibrahimovic stopped running, because they knew he was going to not even consider passing.
–Xavi didn’t touch the ball for stretches of time, thanks to diligent marking.
–We didn’t really control the midfield in an attacking way.
–Our defense is susceptible to full-speed attacks.
–Marquez, in his role as defensive mid, sucked more than a Pop-Sicle convention.

But as I said, Almeria wasn’t interested in exploiting any of those …. um …. challenges, so we could wallow in our collective mediocrity. We kept the ball pretty much forever, and Valdes made no saves. None, as in zero. The only ball he had to control near his goal was off a pass, and he flubbed it but was bailed out by his defenders. And that was that.

This match was a win, but it wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t really that exciting, because Almeria were never going to score. Never. Not with one forward playing behind the midfield line and everybody else defending. The sole remaining option is to counterattack, but that was never going to work, even when Puyol whipped out the blade for a play that might, at another time and place, earned a red card. As it was he got a yellow and Almeria, for just a second, were able to walk in our shoes.

So, how to deal with that Xavi marking business?

Guardiola made the exact right substitutions with that very thing in mind, first removing Marquez in favor of Gerard Pique. The dividends were immediate, as Pique brought the ball up in his usual smart way, delivering it to the midfielders in a primo position. The result was an excellent Ibrahimovic shot on goal, that was parried away with a stellar save. This was a refreshing change from Marquez dwelling on the ball for too long, playing matador defense and generally being craptastic. So Pique was the first move, because by bringing the ball up, he bypasses Xavi and his marker, delivering the ball to the danger area and forcing that marker to track back on defense.

The second moves were to bring in The Yaya for the awful Busquets, who continued his recent trend of setting up attacks for the other side, and Keita for Pedro!. The only error of this move is that Keita should have come in for Messi, who was shit. Yes, shit. You heard me.

So suddenly, Pique and The Yaya were defenders, attacking with the ball in a move intended to move the entire pitch onto their end. Xavi could then come back to get the ball, or accept delivery from a big-ass house as it went rumbling past. Smart. Very smart. Yes, Almeria continued to play defense as if it were still 0-0, so we could calmly retain possession, and successfully stave off the occasional counterattacking foray in what might be one of the most unimpressive wins from us that you will ever see.

Evah!

Team: 4. Quit whining to the officials and play football. If you dwell on the ball too long, of course you’re going get fouled, or have the ball taken away from you. Duh! Lousy overall performance.

Guardiola: 7. He played people who we won’t be seeing against Rubin Kazan, which explains the Maxwell, Marquez and Busquets thing. But made the right substitutions when things began getting crazy.

Valdes: 5. Man up and control balls in your box. It’s your box.

Alves: 6. Good defense, but was too loose with the ball at times. His passing was also off, and he just wasn’t integrated into the attack.

Marquez: 4. This is how you play when you have a contract on the table? If you’re going to bring the ball up, don’t lose it. And at least try to stop an attacker, rather than putting your arms behind your back and letting him run past you. Oh, and playing a ball with your upper arm might be considered a hand ball by some officials. Yes, you had good moments, but they were outweighed by the bad.

Puyol: 7. Strong and solid, except for the late error. He continues to be the beating heart of this club.

Maxwell: 4. Did you at least yell at the guys as they ran past you? And stop conceding corners so easily. Oh. One word, three syllables: O-ver-lap. On the other hand, thanks for making Abidal feel so warm and secure.

Busquets: 4. How can you dribble a ball out of bounds? What the hell? And why are you so hell-bent on helping the other team score? That’s not what “Charity begins at home” means. You dwell on the ball too long and generally try to do too much. Did you watch how The Yaya played when he came in? No. Did you really watch? People are saying that you’re the future for us. I hope it’s a distant one. My heart can’t take it.

Xavi: 6. Had a few loose balls early, and he has to bury that chance. The keeper shouldn’t have had a shot at it. Controlled well when he was allowed to, but there were too many times that he made life easy for his marker.

Iniesta: 6. Our Ghostface nickname for you doesn’t mean you should disappear for stretches. And make up your mind when you have the ball, instead of getting caught in that “Should I shoot or should I pass” limbo? By the time you decide, the moment is gone.

Messi: 3. You did almost as much to kill our attack as the Almeria defense did, with your consistent ignoring of fellow attackers and constant one-on-one forays that lost ball after ball. Your first touch is a bit loose of late, and your passing lacks precision.

Pedro!: 7. Shoot, dammit! Yes, you did that second time, but you should have done the same thing that first time and you would have had a brace. Nice to see that you chose to take advantage of the acres of space that Ibrahimovic’s presence allowed you. It goes without saying that you’re my Man of the Match. But don’t let it go to your head.

Ibrahimovic: 6. Excellent play with and without the ball. But you can’t get discouraged when that little Argentine dude doesn’t pass you the ball. Nice passing, and you should have had two assists. But that’s life, right, against a defense shadowing you with at least three men. Oh, and happy birthday. Sorry that your present was to have your scoring streak broken.

Substitutes

Pique (for Marquez): 7. You made an instant difference with your intelligent forward runs. Nice work.

The Yaya (for Busquets): 7. See above, Man Mountain. Your control and defensive work in keeping your part of the midfield shut down rocked my world. And so calm with and without the ball.

Keita (for Pedro!): 6. Nice effort and movement. Funny what athleticism does for an offense and defense, isn’t it? Hope you’re all nice and loose for Tuesday, sir.

So, we’re atop the table, waiting to see what happens between the EE and Liga B front-runner Sevilla. Until then ….

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

196 Comments

  1. Kxevin
    October 3, 2009

    Guardiola says Busquets didn’t play badly, and played well tactically. But The Yaya and Keita were brought on to add weight to the midfield.

    Whatever, dude.

    • Sumit
      October 3, 2009

      I agree with Guardiola – Busquets played well tactically.

    • bl
      October 4, 2009

      i agree as well, man i wouldn’t want to leave you alone in a dark alley with sergio, poor guy wouldn’t stand a chance even if he’d saved a kitten from a burning tree and then flown up to the 6th floor of collapsing building to return with an infant in blanket. you’d still stab him in the back and leave him face down in a gutter 😮

      • BarcaFan(BiH)
        October 4, 2009

        That is absolutely hilarious, especially the last sentence!!!!

    • Alexinho
      October 4, 2009

      I also kind of agree. In the past I’ve found my biggest disagreements / misunderstandings of the game with you have emanated from the DM position, so I can’t say I can point out great DM play if it’s not embodied in great tackles, but Busquets did much better against Almeria than the previous opponents. There were only a few moments that looked really typical of him, but other than that I had no complaints–nothing too obvious. And, for the most part, I thought he kept it simple.

      But I don’t know…

      • Kxevin
        October 4, 2009

        I watched the match again today. I didn’t see anything from Busquets that would alter my rating in any way. People might be fans of him. That’s their right. But in a 1-0 match, you can’t be as uncertain as he is on the ball, not that close to our box. Sorry, but you just can’t. When he plays well, he gets a high rating. Same with every player. But saying that “You hate so and so” is like asking the question “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” It’s indefensible, and insinuates by inference.

        It won’t be the last time, but I don’t hate any Barca player. I hate when they jeopardize our chances of winning, which was why Messi got the rating he did, as well as others.

        If you think I’m wrong, watch the match again, comment here and prove it. That advances the discussion. Saying “You hate X player” doesn’t, in any meaningful way.

  2. October 3, 2009

    haha maxwell is terrible i knew it. the barcelona left back order should be: #1 Abidal #2 Andre Santos #3 Maxwell. First!

    • Vj
      October 4, 2009

      Andre Santos? I’d prefer me some Filipe..

  3. SC
    October 3, 2009

    Hmm. I actually didn’t think Marquez was that bad. I would have given him at least a 5 for his first start after a long break and for really not working against team play the way Messi did. I think we just got a little spoiled with Pique’s style of continuously bringing the ball up on the pitch. But Marquez was never that type of player, preferring for long passes up the field. Some of them were pretty money.

    Messi was shit-tastic. Bojan should have been given some minutes and Pep should have kept P! in the match. I will say, I found the game extremely boring since Almeria had no interest in getting the ball back and just parked it. I only had one beer and I found myself dozing off.

  4. Jose25
    October 3, 2009

    “might be one of the most unimpressive wins from us that you will ever see”

    Spot. On.

  5. poipoi
    October 3, 2009

    jnice: thaaaaaaaanks for the “mysoccerplace” thing!! I hate to download them from rojadirecta. I’m about to watch the game right now, even though the ratings look as if we reach unknown levels of horror for FCB.

    kevin: don’t be so hard on ghostface… or he’ll show up in your dreams and scare the shit out of you 😉

  6. poipoi
    October 3, 2009

    “… as if we REACHED unknown…” 🙁

  7. fcbfan
    October 3, 2009

    Nice review Kevin.

    I’m anoyed at Busquet. Guys like Pedro, Jeffren and Bojan had to content with limited minutes, while Busi get playing time easily, and yet..

    • skyislm
      October 3, 2009

      Busi has to warm upto the season, at the least by January, when The Yaya will be out to ACN. I think that is the reason Pep is giving him these starts against lesser sides.

      • poipoi
        October 3, 2009

        remember he is in Spain’s squad, poor guy he’s not that bad, although comparing him to the yaya is like rudy fernandez vs michael jordan

  8. Kxevin
    October 3, 2009

    I think Guardiola was trying to make Busquets feel good. I agree that we’ve been spoiled by Pique and his talents. Marquez tried playing that way today, and it just didn’t cut the mustard. But thankfully, we had Almeria. Against a club really interested in scoring, we might have been in trouble.

    • jnelson
      October 3, 2009

      Yea I didn’t know exactly what role Marquez was playing or trying to play. I think it was Iggy from the Offside calling for his departure. I definitely don’t see how he can retire with Barca at this point, especially if Puyol is resigned, considering his own diminishing or projected pace. It’s sad how being only 32 means you become slow and worthless in sports. Maybe he just needs to take some tips from Ichiro.

      • SC
        October 4, 2009

        I think it’s silly to call for any player’s departure based on one or two performances. Marquez should take the offer on the table: 1 more year + 1 year renew option. It’s the best he can get at this point for Barcelona. Or he could go get a better deal at Athletico Madrid. But, I contend he is still good enough to play a back up role for us.

  9. Jnice
    October 3, 2009

    Kevin, wasn’t it Yaya not Pique who made that run and passed to Ibra for that great shot? Maybe not, and I won’t be watching this match a second time to find out. Yuck.

    Xavi also said that Iniesta was man marked like he was,albeit not as crazy, which would explain some of why he was also anonymous at times.

  10. jordi
    October 3, 2009

    Chico did not get off Xavi all game.With them man marking both iniesta and xavi, this would have been a good game for yaya, as we saw how we improved with him pushing forward. Hopefully we have our A game for the mestalla in 2 weeks, im not worried though as we always do well in the big games.My policy about criticizing leo is , i dont, fate has an evil way of showing us how much we miss things we take for granted and id rather have him sucking for a few games than being out for 4 months, id rather not live 2007 again.

  11. ballbeav
    October 3, 2009

    if the club was interested in scoring we would have sliced and diced them

    messi was saving himself for the qualifiers

  12. BA
    October 3, 2009

    the team just looks bored. there’s no spark or liveliness about them for long stretches of these games, despite having the ball. it’s the look of a team who walks onto the field knowing they’re going to get kicked and spend 90 minutes trying to break down a defensive line of 8-10 opposing players. which to be fair is all pretty true, but it does seem to be wearing on them. i mean: have we played a team that’s come out to just play football yet this season?

    hopefully the international breaks, a change of pace and system and responsibilities, will let our guys recover some zest for the game that right now seems sadly lacking.

    • jnelson
      October 3, 2009

      Sporting Gijon and Atletico came out guns blazing. I think that’s why we scored 9 goals from those two matches. Our 4-1 win over Racing may have been the same way.

  13. jordi
    October 3, 2009

    I dont blame Almeria for the way they played.From their perspective their goal difference hasnt been fucked, and now if there’s a close relegation scrap, they have 5 goals less against, and they have a chance of surviving in the way sporting did last season on goal difference.I guess this is how everyone will play us for the rest of the season. Pep just needs to tell leo if hes playing as a midfielder, or in the middle, he has to pass and playmake more.Hopefully Argentina manages to qualify, and he comes back out of the mode of playing to prove hes the best in the world.I hate when its Balon D’or time, he was like this around this time last season too.

  14. fcbfan
    October 3, 2009

    On the bright side, 7 games in 22 days, 6 wins and a draw. Not bad!

  15. Boat Forever
    October 3, 2009

    Stats so far this season

    Goals :

    Messi 8
    Ibra 5
    Pedro 4
    Keita 2
    Bojan 2
    Pique 2
    Xavi 1
    Alves 1

    Assists :

    Messi 4
    Xavi 4
    Alves 4
    Ibra 4
    Pedro 1
    Keita 1
    Busquets 1
    Maxwell 1

    P.S. WoW! P!

    • poipoi
      October 3, 2009

      all of the strikers scored but one… guess who? 😉

      • Kevo
        October 3, 2009

        he WILL SCORE Poipoi loal
        He will score, he is just warming up… 😉

      • Boat Forever
        October 3, 2009

        Sure they’d add up to 25, but I guess the major share in those 25 would be that of P! & Bojan collectively instead of you-know-who, leave alone all those being scored by himself

        My prediction for this season stats had Pedro! scoring like 5-8 goals & providing 5 assists( I even thought I’d been too optimistic with him!!) I guess I’m gonna be proven wrong BIG time 🙂

        • poipoi
          October 3, 2009

          let’s hope so! 😉

          do you think P! will stay some years in the team? I really don’t know

          • Boat Forever
            October 4, 2009

            Depends on whether Pep will sign a replacement for Henry or be content with P! & Bojan. I say go for the first option and make P! the eternal super-sub 😛

  16. poipoi
    October 3, 2009

    I just watched the game and I think Barça looked awful tonight. Little precision (no yaya), too much manmarking from the opponent, long passes by marquez, a strangely weak messi, a whole lot of complainig to the ref plus all the fouls we made. Ge got like 3 or 4 yellow cards I think, and puyol’s should have been red. The crowd was even encouraging the ref to end the game around minute 91!!! Quote from AS: ” El barcelona acaba pidiendo la hora” – “FCB finishes asking for the game to end” … or so 😉

    I think, even though after today, that xavi-iniesta is too difficult to man-mark. Xavi was today by chico AND HOW, but I think Iniesta wasn’t that much, he was just not fit. To me they are unstopable when they are playing back to back both at the top of their game. Anyway, if you’re having problems in the midfield imagine:
    whoever ( busi, keita, pique, txig, marquez)
    xavi-yaya (looks like pep won’t do it so xavi-keita)
    messi-ibra-iniesta

    *messi and iniesta constantly helping keita and xavi to bring the ball up, and keita filling spaces like he does so well 😉

  17. Jose25
    October 3, 2009

    I agree with the assessment that some players have half their minds on the qualifiers.

    With Sweden, France (although no Frenchmen on the field today) and Argentina in the position they’re in, the matches Messi, Ibra and others will play over the next 10 days are the most important matches for them for the remainder of the year (dare I say, more than the Clasico or CWC).

  18. scav
    October 3, 2009

    Hugo Sanchez? Coward? Idiot coach?

    Why are we surprised?

    • poipoi
      October 3, 2009

      he just played a lot of years for madrid, don’t blame him 😉

      and never scored a goal making more than a sinlge touch.

    • jnelson
      October 3, 2009

      I remember when he was the coach of the Mexican Olympic Qualifier team. What a joke. He was the disgrace of the country.

      • SC
        October 4, 2009

        Hugo Sanchez for Mexican NT = Maradona and Argentina NT.

  19. Jnice
    October 3, 2009

    Like I said in the liveblog, Pep stated that matches before and after the international break are the most dangerous, because of a tendency to get complacent and lazy.

  20. Kxevin
    October 4, 2009

    Post-match, Sanchez said he was satisfied with his team’s performance. I guess I’m just spoiled by our excellence, but how could any coach say he’s satisfied with losing? Because they didn’t lose by more?

    I know that goal differential could come to matter in a relegation scrap, but damn!

    What I didn’t see from our lads today were the dangerous diagonal runs. But as Ibra himself said, “It is difficult to play against so many defenders.” True that.

    But I don’t blame any side for wanting to not come out and get killed, it must be said.

  21. Ramzi
    October 4, 2009

    If a defeat against Barcelona is as certain as done, let it be a light defeat so it doesnt damage the team psyclogically for the following games where the win is more attainable, and without conceeding lot of goals so the opponents whom we consider as our main competitors against relegation struggle with goal difference when they get smashed by Barcelona conceeding 4 and 5 goals.

    Says Sanchez. Or I think so at least. And if it caught us by surprise, then thats a surprise.

    Besides, in his late substitutions he tried to hunt a draw, but it had to be a steal, for the players he had in his team, and the players he is playing against. And they were close in few late attempts.

    And I dont want to hear this “You can do nothing against lot of defenders” as we faced no defense yet compared to whats coming. Our basic goal for this season was to solve this problem, and we can. It wasnt the best game we played, but lets just say “it happens” not that “its normal”.

    I cant say there is one player who played worse than the other. The group dynamics were not inprocess for this game. Pep has to speak about it. But he has to watch the game couple of times first so he know exactly what to say. I have no doubt he will.

  22. Ramzi
    October 4, 2009

    To be more specific, What went bad in this game was not exactly the performance (sexy or not), nor the result. For me, its the bad signs tacticaly that I thought we threw behind our backs. And I really hope we will not fall in the same trap again, neither in big games where we take things more serious preparing for the match, nor against weak opponents where things are usually taken in a little sloppy way:

    – Pep substitutes were little late. Either Keita or Yaya had to be used earlier (if not from the start as I cant see the midfield without both of them).

    – We played exactly as we played in the first two games last season, technical midgets in the midfield against buses earn you possession all day and all night, but read this: Will not work! At least when Henry is not there either. The moment Iniesta opened to the left and Keita-Yaya came in to kick it as it need, the team improved. We needed someone to penetrate into the box and get advantage of Ibra pulling defenders out, we didnt have that one. Simply put.

    – “Mark your marker”, I said it before and I say it now. Chico marking against Xavi was impressive. Credit to Sanchez. But as I mentioned before the start of the season, if you cant get ride of your marker, mark him out of the game. If Yaya was in the midfield I would have recomended that Xavi switch positions with Yaya during the build up, pulling his marker out of service and giving yaya the space (if he need it) to contribute with Iniesta in the play making. Now that Yaya was not available, I expected us to be little creative.Example: Switching positions between Xavi and messi. Seriously. Let Xavi open to the right, and Messi play as a playmaker.

    Lot of lessons to learn from such kind of games. Thats a good news at the beginning of a season. it feels great that we earned 3 points in a game where we were not tactically up to it, but only the quality of a player who seems to be the most direct player we have finished the deal.

    Against a better team, we would have lost this one. Good early alert.

    • Gilmango
      October 5, 2009

      Ramzi – I discovered this site after Pep’s fcbtransfer blog spot died (r.i.p.), overall a great job is being done here, thanks to everyone!

      My question for you is whether you, Ramzi, is whether you are righting anywhere besides the comments field here? I love Hector’s analytical pieces but miss your contributions to Pep’s blog. Thanks – Gilman

  23. Cesc Blanc
    October 4, 2009

    I didn’t saw Marquez and Maxwell that bad either. As far as Guardiola regarding Busquets….do you seriously expect him to diss him in public after that game? I mean, I’m just saying.

    Guardiola has never ever ever criticized a player in public. That’s something he just doesn’t do and shouldn’t be done either. You do this in private.

    I hope Messi gets clear in his head once Argentina qualifies for the World Cup. That’s obviously a bit bothering him(if you look at some criticism in Argentina, it’s that he doesn’t take the game by its neck all alone, so this might explain why he is going Duke Nukem lately).

  24. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    //http://footballtalentspotter.com/player/sergiobusquetsburgos-8314.aspx

    Busi is here to stay, no matter what you say about him. He’s gonna improve. He’s destined to. He’s the Pep of The Dream Team, the way he was brought into the team, the position he played, the way he saved our asses in CL Final. Just a matter of regaining his confidence. The future of Barcelona & Spain…

    • October 4, 2009

      Not sure I trust that site with anything since it lists his nationality as unknown and his national team as Brazil. Say what now?

  25. messi_fan
    October 4, 2009

    With regards to Messi, his passing has been terrible the last few games, which might explain his reluctance to do so.

    One thing I can’t understand is why we keep trying to pass the ball into the goal. Against a 10 man defense, that requires a combination of:

    A) A perfect pass
    B) The intended target being on the same wavelength
    C) The defender not reading the pass

    C is where it usually breaks down against quality teams like Inter and Chelsea. From what little I saw of this match, there seemed to be a lot of problems with A and B.

    Which is why I don’t get why we don’t shoot from distance more. Look what happened when Pedro! took a crack at it. And we all remember Iniesta vs. Chelsea. Makes one wonder why we don’t do it more often.

    I’m not saying that we have to completely change the way we play and take a lot of hopeful shots. Just enough to keep the defense honest.

    In American football, even if a team has a great passing offense, it runs the ball every now and again to avoid becoming too one-dimensional. At the very least, it opens up the passing game since defense has to respect the run. And sometimes you get lucky and pull off a long run.

    We need to adopt a similar philsophy. Because for all of our attacking prowess, we are too one-dimensional. Teams know that we’re always going to try to pass the ball into the net. And we play right into their hands.

    • poipoi
      October 4, 2009

      I saw a bus yesterday and ibra didn’t seem to work very well against it. Plus… what are the “other options”? There are not many… madrid (benzema, ruud, pipita, raul), sevilla(o fabuloso, kanoute, negredo) or even valencia (villa, zigic) have more “striking options”

      I also think we always play in the exact same way, a very good one indeed and slightly changed with ibra, but we need to learn to change our game a bit at times.

      • messi_fan
        October 4, 2009

        I agree that other teams have more attacking options. We had Bojan on the bench. Can’t remember who else. But I think it’s more a question of tactics than personnel. Our team is talented enough that it usually CAN pass the ball into the net. But it is also talented enough that it doesn’t NEED to.

        I’d like to see Ibra take more free kicks. More free kick trickery in general, actually. I’d like to see Maxwell doing overlaps. His confidence seems low right now. I’d like to see more mad dashes down the sidelines and crosses whipped into the box.

        I also think Keita and Pedro! could be the X-Factors. That’s why I keep harping on Keita needing to learn to shoot. Because he will get a LOT of shooting opportunities. At least 2 good ones per game. And while I still don’t think it’s fair to say that Pedro has better shot than Henry :), he definitely has a good one. And being able to shoot with both feet is definitely helpful.

      • Boat Forever
        October 4, 2009

        Ibra provided 2 perfect passes, 1 for P! & the other for Xavi. It’s a pity they couldn’t convert the chances and you are blaming it all on Ibra! Ibra against Inter was almost successful in breaking the bus, he just lacked that bit of luck to put the ball into the back of the net. The team overall created like 8-10 chances against that well-organized bus compared to the 5 chances we got against Chelsea over two-legs last season. Now beat that!
        It’s true we don’t have many well-proven striking options available like the examples you have mentioned. But with the limited resources available, I think the best possible solution to that problem would be to give Bojan & Pedro as many minutes as possible and bringing on Henry in second half most of the time. That would serve 2 purposes, to give the youngsters much of the top-flight experience needed & to have a plan B. After all Bojan & P! got to play only against mediocre opponents in CDR last time, except for few minutes Bojan used to play in La Liga when the points were virtually out-of-reach for the opponents.

        • poipoi
          October 4, 2009

          I don’t want to argue, that is just what i saw… beat that?

          I’d like ibra to look for some passes and score instead of giving them. pedro and messi can score but xavi and iniesta not that much 😉

  26. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Luis Suarez scored a brace 🙂

    • Helge
      October 4, 2009

      lol, that’s actually a bad performance for him. He usually scores at least a hattrick 😀

  27. eklavya
    October 4, 2009

    Surprise surprise milan are down 1-nil

    • Helge
      October 4, 2009

      Against a team from the very bottom of the table… lucky, lucky Real Madrid, their CL group is a fucking joke.

  28. Jim
    October 4, 2009

    Really lets us see how much Xavi means to our system. I actually thought he did well. He did retreat into defence (CB position in a couple of cases) but as someone else said that only worked when Pique came on and took advantage of the gaps left in midfield. We should have made more of our defence moving forward. They didn’t have an attack to mark yet seemed content to play the ball across the back too much.

    Again, though, we need to cut the team some slack. You can’t win every game by playing well – the more important thing is to win those where you aren’t playing well and this was never in doubt.

    Nobody really stood out for me but they all put in the effort in closing down. Not sure what Keita would have added earlier if he’d been on. He doesn’t open anything up and we had total control of the midfield the whole game anyway. Would he have been able to crash the box effectively ? Don’t know – things were pretty crowded.

    Btw, i’m loving what I’m seeing of Suarez on YouTube.

  29. alexis
    October 4, 2009

    I think that we need to rest some players. Rotation was a key factor in succeeding last season. We lack depth fo bench. And Almeria looked like sticky beforehand (they were more than that during the match…gooey I would say), but affordable to play against with Marquez and Busquets.
    We should get ready to see more teams defending like that. And not only at the Nou Camp, but away as well (despite the local fans venting their anger).
    Another issue that keeps on pissing me off is the referee situation.
    How can the EE newspapers stick to the “Villarato”? Am I wrong or have we had a penalty not taken every match we have played so far in La Liga? 6 in total?
    Well, I am drooling in anticipation for the Mestalla match…that should be a good one!

  30. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    wow sevilla better win today or else i’ll go MADDDDDDD

  31. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Just today I read article describing Player Iker Muniain as the Spanish Messi & he indeed scored today LOL
    //http://imscouting.com/player_to_watch.aspx?id=K4cn2df5Tm4LrRNMhCcFbw||&name=Iker+Muniain

    • Boat Forever
      October 4, 2009

      Funniest article of the day :
      //http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2009/10/04/1540858/cristiano-ronaldo-urged-to-start-diving-by-real-madrid-teammates-

      Have a nice read guys 🙂

      • eklavya
        October 4, 2009

        WTF ARE THEY KIDDING US!??!?! MESSI DIVIES AS IF HE’S BEEN SHOT? WTF?!?!!? THIS TIME THEY’VE TOO FREAKIN’ FAR!!!

  32. iBlau
    October 4, 2009

    //http://www.goal.com/en/news/12/spain/2009/10/04/1540858/cristiano-ronaldo-urged-to-start-diving-by-real-madrid-teammates-

    Ok. Now I know its bs.com but this article caught my attention. Listing Marca as the source, it says that Ronaldo’s Real Madrid teammates are urging him to go down under challenges more easily and to follow the example set by certain members of Barcelona’s squad.

    “Ronaldo has been told to learn from Barcelona players Lionel Messi and Daniel Alves. When they are fouled, they go down like they are shot.”

    Now….I can’t really speak for Alves but Messi??? Even after receiving numerous fouls, he is the last player I’d expect to go down easily.

    Just thought I’d share this with you guys.

  33. Ramzi
    October 4, 2009

    If you read Goal.com, then you diserve what you get.

  34. Lumi
    October 4, 2009

    I’m a first timer and a long fan of The Great Club i admire everything that goes down here
    This goes to Kevin i will like you to add 2 marks to Iniesta for the magic he wraught without which i might have committed murder and 1 mark to Messi for all the salvo he drew for us especially Racing and Shaktar

  35. Lumi
    October 4, 2009

    All performance being last season pls

  36. Miguel
    October 4, 2009

    hmmm…do i watch juventus v. palermo or real get handled by sevilla?

  37. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    LOL did you guys read the post match comments? I find these hilarious for some reason:

    Xavi: “I’ve never been marked like that before, it was crazy, almost obsessive. He followed me everywhere even when I didn’t have the ball or went to take a corner, he was there all the time. It drives you crazy being man marked like that.”

    Iniesta: “I feel sorry for Ortiz because he came to play and practically did nothing at all but follow me around.”

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      “Talking about the tactical approach of the Almeria’s coach, Guardiola insisted he is not worried about other teams emulating the approach, ‘We merely lacked the ability to make inside passes. It does not worry me. When they defend against players individually, it is easier to attack as more spaces are created’, he finally surmised.”

      //http://www.totalbarca.com/2009/news/guardiola-this-match-shows-everything-has-a-price/

  38. Miguel
    October 4, 2009

    fucking juve :v( poopie face 2-0 palermo first half

    jesus navas!!!!!!!!!!!!

    maybe i will switch over & stream the juve game.

    look on flo flo’s face was priceless :^)

  39. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Yay!!! Jesús Navas’s the man 🙂

  40. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    ja, the sevilla fans singing guti’s song

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      right? so lucky not to be heading into half time down 2-0 or more.

  41. yogi
    October 4, 2009

    seville are damn good. i like the work their wingers are doing. navas as well as perotti. dont understand why maradona chose to ignore the kid, he seems quite excellent.

    • Boat Forever
      October 4, 2009

      Yeah Perotti seems to be very good. Sevilla in fact have a bunch of good wingers now in Perotti, Navas & Diego Capel.

  42. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    Fucking helll, this game should be over.

  43. Miguel
    October 4, 2009

    that is such fucking bullshit!!!

    i’m gonna be so pissed if they wind up w/a tie or a w after that shit.

    that’s why casillas is #1 in the nt

  44. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    Well this is why i dont watch madrid games :sigh: 1-1

  45. Jose25
    October 4, 2009

    Iker is unbelievable. Unbelievable.

    • Corrine
      October 4, 2009

      i know, i have forbidden a crush on him 🙁

      • SoccerMom
        October 4, 2009

        Is he dying his hair to match his away kit? Girlthing.

  46. yogi
    October 4, 2009

    the game is so different then our game though. just going for it pretty much all the time. ill take 1 – 1 but it is unlikely it will stay that way.

  47. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    woooo! celebrate good times, c’mon!
    *http://i39.tinypic.com/js2io1.gif <– click

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      fuck yeah! thats me @ the office christmas party

  48. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    Marcelo’s defending is amateurish

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      you see navas break his leg @ the 60th minute?

  49. yogi
    October 4, 2009

    Seville should be at least 4 – 1 ahead. I am enjoying it immensely right now. go seville!

  50. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    do we play sevilla during the african cup?

      • Boat Forever
        October 4, 2009

        Well they won’t have Kanoute available then, if it helps!!

        • BA
          October 4, 2009

          yes but we will be Yaya-less. bigger loss i think.

        • Miguel
          October 4, 2009

          or zokora or romaric…they’ll be w/cote d’ivoire too

  51. BA
    October 4, 2009

    i love that Madrid are handicapped by the egos of Raul and Guti, who play in place of superior players just sitting on the bench collecting dust.

  52. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Can some body explain why Pellegrini didn’t include Granero & Higuain in the starting line-up!? Granero is a very good winger & Higuain is being played in wings lately… So starting them would have been the right move as I see!!!

  53. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Whoa!!! We have to play Villareal, Sevilla & Ath. Madrid during ACN 🙁

  54. Fares
    October 4, 2009

    I can’t believe how bad Marcello is …

    • yogi
      October 4, 2009

      Yep. I remember making fun of Heinze and the many mistakes he made. Marcelo is not far behind from what i see. He has been taken around pretty much every time in this match. And we will have Messi on that side. Bring on Clasico!

      • BA
        October 4, 2009

        Marcelo is such a clown. one of the worst divers in La Liga, from left-back.

  55. Miguel
    October 4, 2009

    if only they had played flo flo’s 4-5-4…

  56. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    TOP OF THE TABLE

    I LOVE YOU SEVILLE

  57. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Yo!!! FC Barcelona stand top of the table in La Liga

  58. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    jaja ramos missed at the end. the sevilla fans wouldve rioted if that had went in.

  59. yogi
    October 4, 2009

    Maybe Liga is not a two horse race. Though one result does not disprove the theory.

  60. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    i dont think marcelo connected with a tackle all game, he didnt even manage to take down any players.I hate him though epecially when he scores and does his stupid celebration.

  61. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    The Evil Empire slips to 3rd position right?

  62. jnelson
    October 4, 2009

    What a great weekend. Thank you Sevilla, for giving AS and MARCA something to choke on. Did anybody notice how the entire game was basically counterattack-counterattack-counterattack-counterattack-counterattack-counterattack-counterattack ??? That soccernet article by Phil Ball I believe is pretty accurate. EE play like two separate teams, counterattacking all game long. I can’t believe how fast Sevilla was hauling ass all game long. Kudos to them.

  63. iBlau
    October 4, 2009

    Now we await the excuses….”Ronaldo didn’t play”, etc.

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      super depor in 4th, valencia in 5th

      villarreal in 19th!?!?

  64. lovelymofo
    October 4, 2009

    That was a fantastic game. Jesus Navas was impressive! Is it true he doesn’t play for la seleccion b/c of panic attacks?

    • Boat Forever
      October 4, 2009

      He’s now playing in CL… Expect him to wear the Spain jersey in near future 🙂

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      slip some xanax in his gatorade & call him up del bosque

    • jordi
      October 4, 2009

      He has homesickness and anxiety attacks but i think he said hes working on it cause he wants to go to south africa. Which would be awesome.

    • lovelymofo
      October 4, 2009

      The announcers on the spanish stream were talking about it, but they were being asses, saying he was a momma’s boy.

  65. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    Can any one else see Madrid going for a new winger during January transfer window? Hope it’s not Suarez 😛

  66. October 4, 2009

    Jesus Navas was just brilliant. Hands down their best player. Though I do agree that Marcelo was just purely horrendous the whole time. But I’ve said he was pretty shit for a couple of decades now (it feels like).

    Woohoo top of the table!

    Only reason it wasn’t 4-0 was Casillas is a beast.

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      isaiyaya, casillas was playing as if he were wearing micky mouse gloves

        • October 4, 2009

          Nope, 4-0. They don’t score their goal if it’s not for Casillas’ absurd save moments before.

  67. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    this was exactly what i needed after liverpool fell to 5th today… lol

  68. Kxevin
    October 4, 2009

    Watched a little, when Sevilla had gone ahead. What’s with the lack of ball pressure? You can’t just let a side pass the ball around! Neither side put any realistic sort of ball pressure on, and the midfield was like a revolving door.

    Then the nausea started to build, and I switched back to the Chicago Bears game.

  69. Boat Forever
    October 4, 2009

    So is the Thongboy playing for his country? I wish not & I wish Bangs would get to go to South Africa 🙂

  70. Lumi
    October 4, 2009

    Sevilla made my double week if only the top 3 positions in the table remain the same till we meet EE and send them to HADES!!

  71. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    Cristianodependencia. New word 😀 .atleast they cant say it about us and leo anymore.

    *http://www.marca.com/debate/2009/10/480/prevotaciones480.html

  72. jnelson
    October 4, 2009

    Actually, Sevilla are still third. They have identical records with EE, but EE have greater Goal Difference, despite the head-to-head record.

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      i thought it went: head-to-head –>goal differential? is that only the case in a runoff? who cares?

  73. Lumi
    October 4, 2009

    Please can someone on this blog answer this quest: Who is a Stopper and Who is a Sweeper

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      //http://expertfootball.com/coaching/positions.php

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      //http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2009/sep/22/football-tactics-trends

    • Hector
      October 4, 2009

      The Sweeper and the Libero always get mixed up. The former plays BEHIND the defensive line and has freedom to roam the whole horizontal span of the field to make stops. We call Valdes a sweeper keeper because sometimes he plays so far up that its as if he were an extra defender sweeping up the defenses mistakes. The Libero plays in FRONT on the defensive line and, like a sweeper, is given freedom to roam and make plays. This was the Beckenbauer position and he had the freedom to start attacks from that position.

      Some call Pique a libero but I think Yaya is closer to one than Pique in the defensive sense. I see Pique as a stopper on defense (the last centerback on defense who holds the line as opposed to a marker who hounds forwards in constant man marking) but occasionally as a libero on offense.

      • Sid
        October 5, 2009

        If you play a defender behind the defense line (Sweeper), wudnt the defense be vulnerable from attacks of a strikers lurking behind the defensive line (Since there wud not be an ooside trap) ?

  74. Jose25
    October 4, 2009

    If they are tied, then you go to head to head, where Sevilla are up. As far as I remember, even if one game hasnt been played yet, you go by h2h. Thats how it was done between barca and ee since ive been following la liga…

  75. Jose25
    October 4, 2009

    And yeah, technically not a big deal :p

  76. jordi
    October 4, 2009

    Munian is now the youngest player to score in la liga.

    • Miguel
      October 4, 2009

      i answered it twice already. jesus.

    • Ciaran
      October 4, 2009

      Basically, a ‘stopper’ is a more traditional defender, who just likes to defend. A ‘sweeper’ is a more technical player, capable of bringing the ball out of defense and starting attacks.
      To put faces on the terms, think of it like Puyol and Pique, with no disrespect to either’s abilities.
      Puyol is, first and more foremost a defender. He’ll man-mark an attacker, tackle often and win balls in the air against them. His primary job is to dispossess the attacker and/or clear the ball from his goal.
      Pique is much better on the ball, than the average defender and can easily push up to play as an extra midfielder when we are in possession. He builds attacks from deep and plays spaces rather than players.

      Did that help?

  77. bill
    October 4, 2009

    ha! madrid lost. sevilla outplayed them!

  78. Lumi
    October 4, 2009

    Another note i think on this match is that will be far from pushovers when we meet bar injuries

  79. Lumi
    October 4, 2009

    Another note i think on this match is that Sevilla will be far from pushovers when we meet bar injuries

  80. Ciaran
    October 4, 2009

    By the by, did anyone see Luis Suarez (Ajax) score another two goals today? One penalty placed perfectly in the top corner and a freekick that was equally perfect. He is the top scorer in Europe at the minute.
    Is anyone else predicting that he is our replacement for Thierry Henry next summer?

  81. October 4, 2009

    I dont think he might replace Henry cuz Henry is staying until his contract expires in 2011 but he might be a good addition into the squad and make our left winger dangerous as our right.but honestly i rather Silva more than any1 else.Plus Suarez is untested in La Liga

    • poipoi
      October 4, 2009

      if it expires in 2011 get rid of him the year before like we did with etoo… I would do it right now 😉

    • jordi
      October 4, 2009

      2011? I dont think Henry will stay here till 34

      • poipoi
        October 5, 2009

        yeah but… who will sign him? chelsea? 😉

  82. Cesc Blanc
    October 4, 2009

    Thong boy or not, but that line-up was hazardous from the beginning and made less sense afterward. I guess the idea was to control the midfield with 3 central midfielders behind Kaka and don’t let Sevilla get the ball too often. Problems were, that Madrid hasn’t played for possession in years and forgot about it and Sevilla didn’t need the ball that much and just outplayed them on the wings, where it was always 2×1 for Sevilla against either Marcelo or Ramos. Kind of stupid, especially with neither of them in form or any good in defending(at least Ramos right now). Alonso and Guti didn’t backtrack that well and even if they did, Renato would have joined the attack. So it was always 5 vs 4, 5 vs 5 or 6 vs 5 whenever Sevilla was in attack for Sevilla. If it wasn’t for Iker’s superpowers, Madrid should have been slaughtered.

  83. PM
    October 4, 2009

    Poor Marcelo! Jesus gave him a lesson today… next comes Messiah!

    • PM
      October 4, 2009

      I’m a bit worried about playing Valencia after the break. They forced us to draw last time we played them. I wish our Spanish players take it easy during the break.
      Anyway, on top at least for 2 weeks!!

      • Corrine
        October 4, 2009

        i don’t know, valencia are kinda in the same boat as villarreal and atleti right now. talent, but no team! plus david villa got injured today – he’ll probably be back after the break but he might not be 100%. their midfield (apart from the wings) and defense are especially weak this season. i’m not going to be overconfident or anything, especially knowing our form after the international break but i don’t think we should be soiling our panties over this one. plus all of their key players are also internationals as well. i think it’ll be a challenge but as long as we keep our game up we should get by

  84. fcbfan
    October 4, 2009

    Woohoo! we are on top for the next 2 weeks at least. good feeling heading into the break!

    Looking forward to all the headlines and excuses. You know it’s bad when they had to play Van Der Vaart! and Iker is unbelievable

  85. Helge
    October 4, 2009

    Haha, FC Sevilla rocks 😀

    But this win from Sevilla will only be valuable if we win in el Mestalla.

    Our team possibly also would have lost against Sevilla if we had to play them in the current shape of both teams. If Sevilla can keep up this level and don’t drop many points against lower sides, I don’t see a two horse title race – except of if Madrid drops behind 😀

    • Corrine
      October 4, 2009

      except of if Madrid drops behind
      lol

  86. stephen
    October 4, 2009

    Couldnt have said it better myself.

  87. Corrine
    October 4, 2009

    just realized titi will be out for france’s qualifiers :/ he was their only goal scorer during the last round of qualifiers. good luck with that les bleus!

    and if anyone cares, he also visited the emirates today which was timed funny since he recently talked about a comeback. it was nice to see the reception he got from the supporters

  88. Lumi
    October 5, 2009

    I prefer Suarez to Silva simply coz i think Suarez will be cheaper come summer

  89. Jaybxnyc
    October 5, 2009

    Call me crazy but am I the only one that thinks there was a small amount of luck when Pedro scored? I saw the replay plenty of times and as pedro recvd the pass he never once looked up before he shot. I understand strikers know where the goal is but it just seemed amazing that he didnt even look on goal. Then again who cares Barca won.

  90. Lumi
    October 5, 2009

    It Hurts me to my Groins when teams hack us down simply because we will not retaliate but i think one of the ways to come out strong come May next yr is return every tackle 4 one back simple TOOTH FOR TOOTH and BLOOD FOR BLOOD especially when we are pinned on the wall like Chelsea last season We have to use a Game plan per game to me that is how we will be UNPREDICTABLE.

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