The Comprehensive: FC Barcelona vs. BATE Borisov Review

We should all be so lucky as to kiss the MESSIah

It will sound weird to say, but on a historic night for Lionel Messi and one that saw Barcelona break every normal convention it has established for away Champion’s League group stage matches for 3 years, I am having trouble writing this. On the night of such a comprehensive beating, I find the descriptions difficult to come by. In a loss or a listless draw, I can boil my rage and point out flaws, or try to calm the collective fan conscience. But here, here I’m adrift. Then again, it’s a good problem to have and I’m done complaining about it.

Let’s start with Messi of course. Adjectives are useless endeavor for him at this point. Instead, I’m just calling him The Adjective from now on, since words have begun to fail. Anyway, at age 24 The Adjective has tied Ladislau Kubala as the club’s second-leading scorer at 194 goals with his brace today. Both goals were precisely taken, if only after the first was utterly flubbed by the BATE keeper, and Messi looked to be a nuisance and yet still in control at the same time, it must be maddening to watch him in opposition. Messi equalled the number in 280 official games, giving him a 0.69 goals per game average in 7 seasons. As if we need any more indication of Messi’s greatness, but it took Kubala more than 11 season to reach the mark.

History is wonderful and everything, but what’s more important, and showed up again today is the continued luscious passing that Messi exhibits, along with improved off-the-ball movement in midfield. In all competitions this season, The Adjective has 10 assists, to go along with 14 goals… in 10 official games. He also has taken an increasingly less forward role, allowing Cesc to occupy a “false 10” in the front while The Adjective moves in and out of midfield and forward, creating chances for himself and others. I think we all rightly worried that with age, The Adjective would lose some pace and maybe ball skills and be reduced to a set-piece weapon, since many of his goals in the past came from pace and skill and body control. Now his movement is opening up lanes for all players, more so than it previously was, and his passing, especially to Alves and Fabregas, has become something wonderful to behold. It may seem small, or even obvious, but with such a prolific player, the little improvements are sometimes the ones that make a player’s career and peak last even longer (see: Michael Jordan developing a post fadeaway toward the end of his Bulls years).

Now on to the team’s somewhat out-of-character performance. When asked specifically about the group stage games under Pep Guardiola, most fans of the club are almost certainly going to point to Barcelona’s substandard away performances, especially against the former Soviet Block. Pep’s sides have made a habit of playing down to away teams in the CL, especially Shaktar and Rubin Kazan, as well as at Copenhagen. These teams had played tight, almost bus-parking defense and stifled the team’s creativity.

Tonight however, the team was nearly perfect. BASE had zero desire to play an offensive game, they packed the box. They are part of the old Soviet block and Barcelona was playing away from the Camp Nou. Apparently, that meant little tonight. Barcelona was methodical. Their finishing clinical. The defense appeared when needed–apart from what appeared to be some confusion when Puyol and Valdes bumped knees in the first half, but that might have also just been a damn good pass. Another common CL complaint the fans usually bring is the missing of easy chances, there was no such thing today. Barcelona scored 4 and received an own goal (courtesy of signing him away from Manchester United in July), and had some other chances, but the blatant ones were put away. Pedro and Messi both had relative tap-ins, and The Adjective’s second along with Villa’s were just icing on a nice cake.

Barça did away with its bugaboos, at least for one night, and continues to play stunning, if sometimes frustrating, football. I know the dread from some came after 3 2-2 draws in quick succession, but it wasn’t as if the club was going through some all-out slump, or something. While drawing Sociedad was the product of a poorly played game, drawing Milan was down to two mental slips that came at critically stupid times. Valencia were, and are still, very hot and that was a wonderful game to watch. What we are forgetting, maybe, is that the team has also blasted Villareal, Atletico Madrid, BATE, and Osasuna, as well as beating a game Madrid side over 2 legs, and has taken home 2 cups already.

What I’m saying is that maybe Barça turned over a new leaf after this game, by breaking so many of its normal conventions. Regardless, the team played superbly and beat a game, if not certainly talented, BATE side. The game was well played from beginning to end. It therefore is hard to write about, at least for me, and you’re stuck with me on this one, so suck it up cupcakes and celebrate this one.


By Luke

We calls 'em likes we sees 'em.


  1. Loving the new Messi nick, Luke.

    A few interesting stats I picked up on Twitter:

    The ‘Adjective’ has scored 14 goals and has 9 assists. At this stage last year he only had 7 goals and 2 assists. Quite an improvement.

    Messi needed 59 matches to score 39 CL goals. Raul needed 72, Inzaghi 66 and Henry 69. Only Van Nistelrooy needed less matches (45).
    Both via @2010MisterChip

    via @EduPolo
    5-0 and 2-0 are the most repeated scorelines in the Guardiola era, namely 11 times. Scary.

  2. I got Hectored! So I repost because I’m genuinely curious:

    Is it me or was the ref in the way of the ball for almost the entire match? Maybe it just seemed that way because he was just one more in an already crowded BATE box, but it seemed like he was mostly just standing there, planted right in the middle of the action with no intention of getting out of the way.

    Just wondering if anyone else noticed this?

    1. I noticed this, I thought the players decided to play dodgeball with ref. But didn’t interfere too much with match.

    1. Yeah, Barça holds goal differential lead, but Milan holds away goals lead right now, which is the #1 tiebreaker.

  3. Owen P. Goal from man utd (undisclosed fee)..he sure is integrating well with the team..
    He should have more playing time if he keeps going like this.
    I should get his jersey soon..

    Anyway, congratulations to The Adjective. What an exceptional feat!
    And so happy for villa, thought he really worked hard in this match and really deserved that goal.

  4. Dani_el says:
    September 29, 2011 at 12:49 am
    “What kind of self-respecting drunkard runs out of bourbon in the middle of a Champions League match!? ”

    Bussiness Idea: Alcohol delivery!! ouh yeah!

    (just in case :P)

    1. I 100% approve of this change. The Adjective or The Superlative work, just depends on the person really.

  5. Well we all know what happened. Our usual bugaboos about away trips in CL group stages to Eastern European sides…

    were Hlebbed.

    Thank you Hleb for saying that about us and BATE, and proceeding to Hleb both Borisov and our usual issues.

    All hail the Hleb.

    1. That would have been something! We were screaming for it to happen, but the Barcelona – Borisov timelag didn’t help!

    2. With the way he’s charging forward and the amount of creativity we have in midfield, it’s only a matter of time before he gets his first league and CL goals!

    3. Im hoping its starts from one of his BOSS dribbles from the backline, then he does a one-two with Messi and he places it in the far corner, did I mention it will be at the bernabeu

  6. Thanks for the review Luke and the new Messi moniker. I was just reading a Jonathan Wilson piece about Chelsea’s transformation in which he quoted an old Hungarian manager as saying that the third season under a manager is the killer because the players get tired of having the manager in their ear selling the same system over and over and because the opposition has come up with fresh approaches to neutralize said system.

    Well, apparently it wasn’t a killer for Guardiola as Barcelona won the double last year. And at the beginning of this new season, with the introduction of Cesc and the winnowing of forwards and the non-introduction of new defenders, it seems clear that the system of the last three years is in transition. The recurring 3-4-3, although it is a natural extension of Cruyff and Guardiola’s total football concepts, might be a little more than just that however:

    Maybe it is part of an intentional plan to make sure the players don’t get bored listening to The Philosopher, as BANGS so lovingly described him, hammering on the same old message. By giving the players a fresh approach that is also a logical evolution of the system, he is keeping the best talent in the world, and a team that has already won everything there is to win, engaged and struggling to master something new.

    All that being said, there, for me, has been something vaguely unsatisfying about the last two manitas, a feeling that if the opposition had simply played a little bit better (two own goals, poor goal keeping, bad defense), then both games would have been far different. I don’t know why 10-0 over the last two games doesn’t feel as dominant as it should (and it was dominant, but to some degree the negativity by the opposition in both games ensured Barcelona would be dominant). Oh well, perhaps it was only the rain that put a damper on things for me, and the packed defenses, but I haven’t seen quite the creativity in the final third that I am longing for, nor enough sharpness in finishing touches.

    I really hope the team feels the same sense of not quite being there that I do, because it would be indicative that, despite commanding scorelines, this team is still in the nascent stages of what it is going to become.

    1. You have a very good point about motivation, and more on that point, remember when Alves said he’d do anything the coach tells him to do, eg jump of the camp nou stands. Well Guardiola keeps testing that statememnt, he keeps throwing on new tasks, roles, formations, game plans and the players keep responding the same way. Its quite amazing

      as for the 3-4-3, I’ve noticed that when opponents line up with two lines of four defenders and four midfielders infront of their box, we seem to normally attack with a line of 4 forwards and a line of four midfielders, so technically its man for man, but the problem is opponents have to double mark messi, has anybody noticed that?

    2. Ah, I heard about that guy in the Football Ramble! He was put into the Dean Windass Hall of Fame a few months ago. The Mou Mou before Mourinho.

    3. ugh I always get the old timey managers mixed up, I can’t tell my Hogan from myGuttman. My Meisl from my Chapman.

      oh well.

  7. Well that was a fun game once I finally got home and hubby and I could watch the whole thing.
    The most important things I took from the game:
    1. Messi is awesome even when he’s not at his awesomest.
    2. The black kits are way cool.
    3. Xavi in the black kit…
    4. BATE fans are excellent fans.
    5. It doesn’t matter where our players start in a lineup. Total Barcaball.
    6. sMasche and Puyi in the back. Just wow! You Shall Not Pass!
    7. That Messi kid could go far in this sport.
    8. Thought I wanted the Alves black shirt. Nope! Must have the #6!!!
    9. The emo hair is less aerodynamic and keeps Villa onside.
    10. Cesc still needs a haircut.

    1. mom4 FTW! No. 9 is hilarious. I still think of Pepe Le Pew when I look at Villa.

      I want a black shirt, but sponsorless. Wonder if one of the Asian knockoff outfits will do one? I’d wear THAT knockoff.

    2. Does anyone else think that a bluagrana strip across from the left shoulder to the right hip would have made this kit awesome?!

    3. Awesome list, mom4! I especially agree with #3 😀 but I have almost convinced myself to buy a Puyol away kit as I have a Xavi home kit from last year.

      And yes, the fans were terrific, weren’t they? They never stopped supporting their team and everyone was having a hell of a time. I kept waiting for them to strip off their shirts like the Shakhtar fans did, but it didn’t happen.

    4. Our capita looks particularly bad*ss in the away kit. But Xavi absolutely rocks it. Frankly, they all look great in it. And you can’t see Iniesta it it because of the severe contrast (helps him ghost past defenders) 🙂 . Nike got this one right.

      Still praying for your family.

    5. Cesc looks great in it as well.

      Sorry, but Abi almost disappears in it – he’s like a shadow on the field. Hey – maybe it’s Stealth Abi – pops up when you’re least expecting it! 😀

      Blitz – Puyol’s shirt was the first piece of kit that we bought – with UNICEF on the front, of course! 🙂

  8. Off-topic, but thought that you’d like to know: The Barca Babies have just creamed Olympic Marseille 4-1 at home in the Baby Champions League [Next Gen] or whatever it’s called!

  9. Another off-topic thang:

    Tonight, Barca TV showed footage of the team arriving back from Belarus, and among it was an obviously staged piece with Rosell and Pep walking through the airport together – to show the world that there’s nothing wrong between them, following Pep’s pro-Laporta comments. Rosell was trying to be all happy and chatty, and Pep looked like he wanted to be beamed up to anywhere but where he was. 🙂

    In other news, Pep reported that when he and Rosell “talked” about Pep’s Laporta comments, Rosell “reminded” Pep that he was an employee of FCB and expected to behave like one. That’s an argument that all out-of-control managers use!

  10. Looks like Puma is making a revival. It used to be just Eto’o and Drogba as their high profile players and now they have Aguero and Cesc as well.

    I really don’t understand Cesc’ decision though. He is in a Nike club where his buddies are Nike men too. Maybe it’s the money.

  11. BATE’s fans were amazing.They cheered for their team even though they were 5 goals down by the last minute.Complete opposite are the crowds in Camp Nou.I was very surprised at the atmosphere as I could literally even hear the players shouting instructions at their team mates.Camp Nou was very quiet even when their team was winning 5-0 aganist a very good opponent.There was occational applause but nothing more than that.Something which is unnatural for a strong 80,000 or more crowd.

  12. Did anyone read this:

    I’ll just put out what I know (since info on this is limited) and perhaps we can discuss it. I could be wrong in small points (its history afterall and thus everyone has a perspective) but I think most is correct.

    Boixos Nois weren’t always bad and violent or fascists for that matter. For many of initial years the Boix were filled with those leaning left and those in support of Independence. They were extremely vocal, made a hell load of noise and were responsible for organising many beautiful tifos and mosiacs. Some which are a part of the beautiful history of Camp Nou.

    However things changed dramatically when the neo-fascist wave took over most of Europe including Spain. Alot of the neo-fascist youth joined the Boixos and a sizeable part of the existing converted to it. I guess most of the young Boixos already subscribed to the “sex violence drugs” lifestyle and this seemed a natural progression. The result was ofcourse the Boixos was starting to became more of a hooligan group, violence abound, racist chants were everywhere even for Barca players not to mention them criticising the presidents and board almost every match (though many times rightly so)

    What resulted was that many of the older members and those of a more sensible mentality did not like this but the influence of this group was growing fast and become stronger. It lead to breaking up into different groups: Almogavers, Sang Cule and few others. But those incharge of Barca could not do much against the Boixos and some would claim that they went along to help them.

    On of the things that got Laporta elected was his firm stance over violence and the Boixos which gained him support from many but made enemies of the Boixos. Ofcourse they found ways to resist and the more violent memebers formed Casual FCB which was a hooligan group of hard fascists there only for violence. They too seem to be connected with the Grada Jove.

    Also it needs to be mentioned that Casual and Boixos have had violent incidences not only against opposition fans but against many Barca fans as well particularly Almogavers and Sang Cule and those who are leftist. They have strategically tried to suppress other fan groups though violence and intimidation. This is the primary reason I believe the club should have nothing to do with them.

    1. Great stuff. Thanks for posting. Right there with you. I do wish that Assembly votes weren’t mostly votes that reflect how the sporting project is going.

    2. That Andy Mitten article is terrible journalism. He brushes over the real issues with the Boixos Nois (racism, fascism, ultraviolence) with a single word, “indiscretions”, leaving the impression that they were kicked out of the Camp Nou simply for being a little too rowdy or because Laporta just didn’t want to subsidize their tickets. Shameful.

  13. violence is stupid and racism is worse. But perhaps the stadium needs some cheerleaders. I don’t know, though, as I’ve never been to a match

  14. I like this comment comparing Messi and CR.

    “Both Messi and Ronaldo are great players and phenomenal goal scorers. What sets them apart is how they influence the game. Ronaldo tends to need to score in order to influence a game because he is useless as a team player. Messi can have a huge influence on a game without scoring. Take the 5:0 classico for example, Messi was one of, if not the best player for Barcelona that night, but he did not score. Take away the goals & Messi is still great, but Ronaldo would be nothing.”

  15. 9 of our players called up for spain – VV, puyi, pique, xavi, thiago, busquets, cesc, villa and pedro.
    hope none of them end up injured again.

    1. HATE international breaks. Darnit, we’re just getting Puyi and Pique healthy again. They shouldn’t have to go. Spain has qualified already anyway. 🙁

  16. some quotes posted from the article posted by Rao and Triple Volanti

    t’s Saturday night in Barcelona and despite Pep Guardiola’s side leading Atletico Madrid 5-0, the rain isn’t the only thing putting a dampener on the atmosphere. Barca may boast the highest average attendances in world football at almost 80,000, but Camp Nou is far from a seething cauldron of noise.

    The thousands of football tourists who watch games are frequently blown away by the football and the huge stadium, but left underwhelmed by the unexpectedly flat atmosphere.

    so it wasn’t just my imagination that Camp Nou atmosphere was ‘dead’ against Milan.. in a stadium with that capacity, when the camera was far from the coaches, I could hear Allegri and Guardiola talked to their players..
    and against Atl. Madrid, the commentator on my TV kept saying about how quiet the stadium was..

    like Jordi Cardoner said “Our stadium needs the kind of support that our team deserves. Many other teams have much noisier supporters than we do, and our team deserves more.”
    totally agree with him.

    1. Yeah – as well as all that, what’s needed is a good person on the PA system.

      Once the teams are announced, little else is said. At other stadiums, goals are announced and made a big deal about, and this stirs up the crowd. At Camp Nou, everything is much more quieter and there’s no one leading the support efforts. It’s the size of the stadium that counts against it, too.

    2. It’s funny though, wonder what others think who have been there.
      I got the feeling that it is more like a cathedral, or a play or an opera, there was a pretty intense watching of the match (like looking at artwork), and then these modest and admiring outbursts of applause at exceptional displays or some jeers and gasps for fouls, but it seemed to crop up like at the end of a long back and forth exchange in a tennis match. There was some chanting periodically, but it was more reassuring and fairly subdued. It seems a bit of a reverence thing. It seems, and I may be completely off base, that it is pretty serious business. It almost seemed like the crowd (regulars) didn’t want to distract the players, and break their concentration, like when watching golf. It’s so hard to tell on TV too depending on how they mix the microphones they can make any stadium sound like pandemonium or a sensory deprivation tank. I did expect a more energetic crowd, but then it seemed very appropriate demeanor in another way… I’m sure it varies match to match, there are occasions like the return leg against Arsenal last year where I remember watching on TV and thinking the crowd is really picking them up. Wonder what the players think, I’m sure opposing players would say, regardless, it’s a tough venue.

    3. Yup – plus it’s very much a family affair. We can sit with a very old long-time season ticket holders (who hobble on canes to their seats) on one side of us, and on the other will be a family with 2 young kids.

      Whatever happens, it can’t lost that family atmosphere – it’s what makes Camp Nou unique and a safe venue.

      Bring back a rowdy crowd and you might lose the families and older folk. Then you’d have 50,000 loud fans and not the 80,000+ quieter fans as you have now. Financially, not a good move!

    4. The stadium was pretty loud during the 2nd leg of the Super Cup vs. EE last summer. Sure, there were plenty of dignified applause moments whenever Xaviniesta did something amazing in midfield, but goals and fouls were met by roars of approval/disbelief too. Lots of Messi worshiping too. 😀

      I did notice that there were some sections at the very front empty though. Right behind the north goal in particular looked especially bare. That might have been a peculiar circumstance, owing to socis not getting a free ticket to the game.

    5. so it wasn’t just my imagination that Camp Nou atmosphere was ‘dead’ against Milan..

      Sorry but I have to completely disagree. I already commented on it after the Milan match. While it’s true our fans arent on the same level as the English ones, the ambiance is great for CL matches. I watched the whole match on TV and there plenty of cheers, the Hymn was sung a handful of times and also a standing ovation for Keita/Puyol. I don’t know whether you were watching on TV or stream or what but it’s not at all what I had gathered from that match.

      Although, I do agree that our crowd could be a bit more ‘crazy’ for weekly league matches..

    6. What Ek said!

      I remember seeing the game against Inter in the SF two years ago, thinking ‘The crowd’s plenty fucking loud tonight!’

    1. Wow!

      Lots of things to blow the mind in those articles, but the second-to-last and third-to-last paragraphs in the Economist report really took the biscuit!

      FIFA corrupt? Not much!

    1. The possibility is a big Yes. (“Innocent” General Answer.:) )

      FIFA has already put a life ban on Qatari Mohammed Bin Hammam who, along with Jack Warner, was accused of paying out to ensure that Qatar won the 2022 World Cup. (Blatter made sure that he got rid of Hammam so that he could remain top dog. Hammam was sure to give him a run for the FIFA Presidency.)

      The Qataris have a plan that extends way beyond the little Barca deal. In a way, the club has become a pawn in the Qatari marketing machine for very little return.

      It wouldn’t surprise me if some extra dough or incentives went sliding under the table. It’s a dangerous thing though, because if caught, Qatar won’t think twice about hanging out to dry any other parties. They’re becoming too powerful to fail and in the current World financial climate, who else can be trusted to run a huge billion dollar World Cup in 11 years time, other than a mineral-rich country such as Russia or Qatar? The biggest loser will be FCB.

    1. I’m definitely Tommy Smyth-ed out, so not hearing him and on top of that, getting to hear Ray Ray is a great plus!

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