Barcelona – Plzen Liveblog

Starting XI: Valdes Alves Mascherano Abidal Adriano Xavi Busquets Iniesta Pedro Messi Villa

Bench: Pinto, Puyol, Fontas, Maxwell, Keita, Thiago, Cuenca

Game is at 2:45 EST. Liveblog will start as soon as my beer run ends.

Discussion quote for the day: “When things are peaceful, the warlike person trips over himself” – Nietzsche


  1. We should have buried this game long ago. Against a better team this might well have ended like the game vs Milan. How many chances did Messi alone miss?

  2. my internet was slow so i couldn’t really join in on the liveblog but i was thinking about what i could read…in that some of you guys think pep should be sharper in the press conferences; and to use them for the benefit of the team; as in to apply pressure to the refs to protect the players more. The point being, that other teams’ apparent success in this field, causes barca to play at a disadvantage, allowing teams to hit harder, keep their players and not get called with pks.

    IMO,as much as i think that embodies ‘modern’ football i appreciate pep’s insistance to keep the game on the field. We are mes que un club, we play in our own style, true to our philosophy of the football game. where style is just as important (not more) than winning. when we focus on the ‘other’ aspects of the game; i feel that it would be a pyrrhic victory. we may win more calls in the short run, but we lose out in the intangible ‘else’. viewing the game as a game, not a war or a strict obligation to win.

    I think it is a slippery slope that in some way justifies, ‘pay back fouls’, time wasting, diving, etc…

    Tragedy of the commons, if every team plays the media, it becomes a race to the bottom, everyone loses in the end as i think it leads to cynicism, and each and every word has to be analyzed multiple times and read between the lines. Each and every part of what makes this club so great becomes a ‘tool’ for control. -That is how UNICEF becomes a conspiracy, how schedules become unfair, and how group selection becomes difficult. Would puyol feel free enough to give out the captains band? would it still feel the same if we felt (even to a small degree) that it was a ploy for the cameras? i think that doubt weights too much. the whole busi scandal reminds us how easily our faith in the team can be questioned/challenged. xavi’s answer ‘i know him we wouldn’t do that’ would ring very differently.

    I think part of what makes barca work so well is that the players are allowed to be themselves, speak their mind and have fun with each other. Yes, all in the context of professional footballers, they have controlled diets and restricted activities (no jet-skiing) but i think it is very different to not being selected for the next game due to not repeating the ‘official’ club response at a press conference or feel the need to create fractions within the dressing room.

    Agreed, its not all black and white, barca does do tactical fouls, busi and alves dive, and true, pep was applauded after his ‘response’ to mourhino before the CL match (participating in the media game). But even then, his words were, give pokeinho a media trophy if he wants, we play on the field.

    The role of establishing an equal playing ground should fall onto the RFEF, if they are deemed to be working poorly or easily manipulated (a fair assessment), then the club should pressure, but though the board. The goal should be to make the institution stronger, not to ‘take advantage’ of frailties. It provides a platform to share with the other clubs…

    Call it naive, enlightened self-interest, or inverse commons, but i enjoyed an amazing game, not as a statement for the next 3, or an excuse to moan about other team’s games, or to call upon some missed calls. it was a joy to watch. laughed out loud, quite few times even when me missed and pep can work on those misses with more hair and a smile…

    /sorry for the rant: great blog guys. kari good preview and calvin gracias por the liveblog hope to make it next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. And I’d like to point out that saying “there’s something above winning” sounds all nice and fine when we are winning. I’d like to see you say that when we lose due to a bad ref call or perhaps lose the title because of bad calls.

      You enjoyed the game because you were comfortable in the fact that we were very likely going to win this match anyway.

      And as you address it through economic concepts I respond that in a prisoner dilemma type game if you don’t respond you lose out greater than if you do. To take the moral high road then is suicide if you look from that point of view.

      The board and the president need to address this urgently because it is fast becoming convention. If Pep cannot or will not do it then someone else needs to step up for the benefit of the institution. No one says we can’t play good cop bad cop.

      The Busi incident only reminds me of the faithless many that support this club who abandon it at the slightest of doubts from baseless accusations. They would rather have faith in cowards and liars than one of our own. I for one, do not care for such fans in the slightest.

    2. The Busi incident only reminds me of the faithless many that support this club who abandon it at the slightest of doubts from baseless accusations. They would rather have faith in cowards and liars than one of our own. I for one, do not care for such fans in the slightest.

      On that subject, I highly recommend people to read this really great post on Republik of Manchuria on the Evra/Suarez row, which is seven levels of nasty and very reminiscent of the Busi/Marcelo incident. Fantastic post. Really wish the same was written for the nastiness of last season. (Comment section also a great read, particularly a comment by stu).

    3. Wow, reading some of those comments is really surreal – just replace Suarez for Busquets and it’s last season all over again. Good post though and some of the comments are also very level headed.

    4. Right? I didn’t want to say it was exactly the same — but it’s close. Ay.

      (Just so people know: the Man Utd – Liverpool rivalry is like ours with EE, for a lack of a better comparison)

    5. I get you triplo, really. But there’s a difference between taking the high road and allowing oneself to become a doormat, and taking the high road and coming out the better person/club when people compare you to your enemy. Frankly, the less Mou-like we are, the better.

      It seems obvious that there’s been a disparity with the noncalls. We fans know it, the news outlets know it, heck, when even soccernet figures it out: (“They should have had a penalty when Messi produced a burst of speed and scythed into the area. He looked to be tripped, but the referee waved away his claims.”) you know it’s getting noticed. It’s there in plain sight for all to see so the club doesn’t have to moan about it. YET.

      That being said, right now we’re at the point of “so far so good” with this high road thing. If if gets too much, I think Pep will speak out, like he did last year against Mourinho.
      Heaven forbid that an injury would happen before this gets worked out.

      Now we fans have all the right in the world to complain about it. But we are not the ones who have to live with any adverse complications of our complaining. So there may be a reason for the club not to rock the referee boat as it were, whereas we have the freedom to bitch and moan all we want.

      But HOW THE HECK does not wanting Pep to play the media game equate with abandoning the club after the Busi accusations? Are you saying that those of us who would rather the club take this high road are these fickle fans? Or are you saying that if the club had spoken out sooner about the accusations we wouldn’t have lost these fans (because they weren’t really fans in the first place so we never really lost them)?

    6. Now we fans have all the right in the world to complain about it. But we are not the ones who have to live with any adverse complications of our complaining. So there may be a reason for the club not to rock the referee boat as it were, whereas we have the freedom to bitch and moan all we want.

      Right on! Totally agree; mom4

    7. Yes, I agree to a large extent that the game was enjoyable because barcelona had the freedom to play well. Right now we have the players and quality to be able to win most games we play well in.

      I became a fan during the rikaard era when we didn’t always win; yet I remember R10’s magic, and I appreciated the efforts of what the club was trying to do (grow and keep its identity). All i can say is that ‘more than winning’ is a goal/vision that is sought after over a span of many many games (series); while harping on ref calls draws comparison to an instance (or instances).

      I think its ok to be frustrated for the bad calls and look for ways to fix the situation. but by playing the prisoners game by their rules we would both end up losing by even more than by doing nothing! (also an example of looking at it as (small set) of instances vs. a (larger set) of series with well defined actions and consequences for a those circumstances. I think that we can sort of predict what would happen if we complain in the short run…but its harder to know what it will lead to. I would find it very tiring to read about every complaint after every game by every coach.

      My point is that I would like for Barca to find the answer to its problem on its own terms,

      So i think we agree on many levels, but I think Pep knows what he is doing as he has lived through the club through good and bad times. Remember that one of the reasons he left was because he did not feel appreciated, I do not want for the club to go down a path he would be uncomfortable in.

      I wonder what would have happened if not for iniesta’s goal at SB?
      Would the chelsea game be as haunting for us as it has been for them/obroro had ‘el puto crack’ not scored at the last min? Abidal’s red, also suspect agression, essiens wonder goal, it wasn’t a happy game, but how would i have judged the season i wonder? or CDR final, ugly, we lost; but bounced back, sevilla semi 2 years ago, or Man U semi with gabi’s injury. all recentish games where we had some bad calls but overall we moved on. Is it due to that success? or to that extra effort/desire to be more? Even after losing to inter we were still seen as favorites, the model team and that it took a volcano to beat

      the image of a club is always in a flux and while i dont expect players and board members to always be role models, i appreciate the effort; on and off the field. thanks for your input

    8. “The Busi incident only reminds me of the faithless many that support this club who abandon it at the slightest of doubts from baseless accusations. They would rather have faith in cowards and liars than one of our own. I for one, do not care for such fans in the slightest.”

      I don’t know if you are conflating ‘fans of Sergio Busquets’ with ‘fans of FC Barcelona’.
      I will reiterate my stance. Personally, I was not happy with how (according to what I read/saw/heard and understood) the club (by its relative standards) took as long as it did to go into damage-control mode as much as it did. I want to be leery of judging other people who label themselves as FC Barcelona supporters, but if I must draw a line and call something unacceptable, I feel that declaring a lack of fondness to some for not displaying enough tribalism is very dangerous. I don’t know if that’s what YOU in fact are calling for, but I felt that some on the internet were doing so.

      It’s one thing to have faith in something, but as anyone who’s ever been in an abusive relationship can tell you, sometimes having faith in something rather than recognizing that the ‘cowards and liars’ actually have a point and that you are tied to something vile. I believe that whether or not you choose to love something in spite of its flaws, it is important to recognize said flaws rather than remain ignorant in the name of loyalty.

      That being said, as of this date, I don’t strongly believe one way or another that Busquets did or did not use a given word (and yes I saw the video), I am a major fan of him as a member of our team (yesterday, I started an argument in the gym over him with an Arsenal supporter), and I continue to love this team. Visca Barรงa!

  3. Deportivo Cuatro talks about the non-pens on Messi (in Spanish, but you don’t really need to know it understand):

    I’d highly recommend user dicsi’s channel on YouTube for more Barca related Depor Cuatro. Awesome show with nice unseen footage.

    Also some highlights from today’s game:

    Iniesta goal. Seriously believe that if he scored more goals, he’d constantly be in the front running for WPOY alongside Messi. Just unreal at times.

    Messi freekick off post.

    Messi dribble off post.

    Villa goal.

    1. Wow, last pk Messi has gotten was a year and a half go. It’s ironic since in Europe he’s probably the most fouled player in the box and one of the least likely to dive (though I have seen him dive a couple times during the past year). Way to reward clean play refs. He probably earns a pk about every 2 or 3 matches which is why the refs are afraid to call them.

  4. I hope (probably against reason) that no more is said and written about the pks on Messi, real or imagined. Dejamos las quejas arbitrales a los otros.

  5. Pep already said a few weeks ago that Messi doesn’t dive and that Messi should have been awarded the penalties because he was fouled. Nothing more to say really.

    1. It’s nothing new, and it’s a ‘consequence’ of Barcelona, the best team in the world. We’re already killing people without getting penalties, so I guess this is the ref’s way of keeping things ‘competitive’. Or something. Personally, I’ve pretty much accepted it.

      But it doesn’t mean we can’t moan about it every now and again. ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. I always find this picture really perturbing. I’ll look at it once, and it looks more like Xavi. Then I’ll blink, and it looks more like Iniesta.

      Very strange.

    2. …who’s to say Xavi can’t father some kids and one of them takes a fancy to Iniesta’s daughter (or subsequent children)?


    3. Kari…whatever happened to that poor soul you consigned to work for those head cases in your ongoing series? Time for an update? ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. I only got this to say: what the hell is up with brazilian past greats?
    They cant seem to ever shut up and they always are so full of themselves. Shut the hell up or die already!

  7. Good game today, ball circulation was fantastic but the finishing was scary complacent. My take on the game:

    – Iniesta is brilliant. Unstoppable when he plays like this. That filck for the goal… Lovely. Best first touch in football.

    – Masch and Abidal were solid. Albeit untested, but they complement each other really well.

    – Adriano for me was underwhelming today. I don’t know if he was given instructions by pep to tuck into midfield or what, but he wasn’t providing any dangerous width or overlapping runs down his side (which we all know he’s capable of) and as a result Villa was less effective. A shame considering villa is devastating with a marauding fullback to give him space to cut in (eg. Alba vs scotland).

    – Messi was in “getafe wondergolazo” mode today. That run…
    that being said the finishing was lacking. Could have easily had a hatrick had he been more efficient. Getting closer and closer with the free kicks.

    – Pedro, magnificent pressing but incredibly wasteful. Should of at least had a brace though. Had a brilliant run down the right side in the second half.

    – Alves need 1v1 finishing lessons. He could probably be the top scorer on the team ( after the adjective of course :D) if he knew how to finish 1v1 or had some sort of left foot to cut in on or just finish from.

    – Xavi was simply xavi… A part of football will die when this man retires. Appreciation of space on the pitch is Jaw-dropping.

    – Busquets was quietly brilliant. Worked like a dog. Whenever the other team gets the ball just watch busquets, defensive intelligence at its finest. He also has to be one of the cleanest dis-possessors of the ball in world football. I’d love to see his foul count rate compared to other midfielders.

    1. “- Xavi was simply xaviโ€ฆ A part of football will die when this man retires.”
      How mournful… I wonder how much longer he can stay with us, even with Thiago and/or Fabregas serving as his valets and reducing the load on his knees?
      However unlikely it seems, I hope such a death heralds a birth that is equally memorable. Perhaps the joining of Rafinha and Espinosa, alongside the aging (in a good way) Iniesta and growing Busquets (and of course I expect Thiago, Fabregas and theAdjective to continue improving on their playmaking)

  8. To the comment YEZ left up top, I could not agree more that Pep does not need to change a thing about his attitude, but it is crazy that we control the all i the opponents box way more than anybody yet don’t get the penalty calls Madrid and others get….

  9. I’m probably going to irritate a few people with this but here it goes:
    As great as Messi’s been so far this season, he just seems to be lacking something.

    It’s been discussed here before about how he just doesn’t seem to be finding that killer pass from last season that pretty much turned him into another Xavi, except with better finishing.

    That ability to pick out his teammates in a crowded box was a huge part of what made him so unplayable last season. Opponents didn’t know whether to play him for the shot or the pass. When they stopped to block the shot, he passed it on to a teammate who would usually score. When they backed off and played him for the pass, he’d take a shot.

    He’s becoming slightly predictable now in the sense that while he’s still doing unbelievable things on the pitch, he tends to kill a lot of moves by overdribbling and trying to set himself up for a shot instead of doing what he would do in the past and slide a ball through to a teammate. At the beginning of this season, I thought it was due to him having not played with the team for a while, but nearly 3 months in and the problem still hasn’t been rectified.

    Yes he’s still providing amazing assists. He was, after all, involved in both goals today, neither of which were actually scored by him. But the fact remains that he isn’t passing as much as he did last season.

    I still love him to bits, but I don’t know whether it’s selfishness and the urge to be top scorer (which I really don’t want to believe), or instructions from Pep to take on players instead of passing, but it kind of needs to stop.

    1. I sorta agree in that he’s been sorta streaky this season so far. Streaky in terms of still amazing by any normal standards and scoring plenty, but only hitting full speed in bursts. He’s had some games where he seemed as good as he gets with passes and creativity and being all round unplayable, interspersed with games where he has lacked that something you say and overplays and stuff. Like yesterday. He overplayed far too much and while his skill with the ball was mesmerizing at times (some of those dribbles were amazing) it seemed like he was being a bit aimless at times. Still had a nice assist and should’ve gotten a couple of penalties, but full-on Messi is full of direction and menace, he never even gives an impression of aimless play.

    2. For me, and I hate to keep returning to the Michael Jordan analogy, but it’s so apt. Jordan would do spectacular things, flying around, dunking in faces, crossover dribble/drives and the crowd would go berserk, even though the Bulls would lose games.

      Now we aren’t losing, but watching Messi drive at 4-5 defenders can really only have one likely outcome. But it’s a surreal math experiment in which the probable outcome is defined by trying to solve the problem, rather than the result. So Messi drives at a bunch of defenders, the crowd says “Oooooh,” but when that third or fourth move falls short, the audience is still entertained and believes that the equation has been successfully solved.

      It hasn’t.

      The Messi complexity for me is contained in his demeanor this season. He seems rather subdued, coming to live only when he scores a goal or takes part in one. There used to be this verging-on-Ronaldinhoesque joy in his game, a sort of “Hey, let’s try this ….” feeling that was kind of like getting a new Ferrari and going driving all the time.

      Now, whether it’s the burden of expectation, some niggling injury or something else, he just doesn’t strike me (admittedly from my very unscientific aerie, thousands of miles away) as the same joyful, creative force.

      Even at that, he’s on pace to have one of his best seasons in the colors, so who are we to quibble, right? But as Sheena says, 3 months in, and things seem worse to me, rather than better. Wonder if it’s the international stuff gumming up the works?

    3. Well yeah, I wouldnt have the “Ronaldinho type happiness” this season either with the amount kicks he’s been recieving so far. You may say he gets kicked alot every season but this season has been the only one so far in which he gets kicked in and around the box and the ref IGNORES the obvious foul all the dang time. Messi is human. I’m pretty sure he notices that players are now allowed to assault him and get away with it.
      And really its still only the beginning of the season. Who knows if Pep has been the one telling him to take players on. I have really only seen these long dribbles in one or two games and both games involved a team which conformed to defending deep with no less tha 8 players behind the ball. Running at defenders is needed, I think, for these kind of set ups. How many times have people here complained that Villa and Pedro needs to take defenders on more? Well yesterday Messi did it for them and I think with the idea of entertaining the crowd as well. What would be better is if, instead of standing around all the time watching Messi in awe, other players would run beside or within him, maybe he would have better options for a pass and or maybe the other players can pick up loose balls and capitalize on goal chances/opportunities.

      Also, I really think if Messi has scored a hattrick yesterday there wouldnt be as much outcry of selfishness as there have been. Its all about luck and bad finishing to me though.

    4. Perhaps that sense that Messi isn’t enjoying himself has a little bit to do with him now being the Argentina captain? That seems to be really the only thing that has changed recently in the past few months or so.

    5. mmh… I’m not quite sure about Messi becoming slightly (more) predictable.

      He is still passing a lot, playing one-two’s, for instance with Iniesta, or with Dani Alves, he played an absolute killer pass into the run of Villa (or was it Pedro?) in the match against Racing which Villa/Pedro failed to convert, and Messi could easily have had more assists and more goals this season in general.

      He is already on 16 goals and 12 assists in 13 club matches, last season he had 28 assists in all 55 club matches. It might be that he tries to dribble more often, to score the ultimate goal, but so far it does not make hin any less deadlier than before (at least if you look at the stats).
      Maybe Messi is aiming more for the fast and short-played one-two’s this season, maybe he is even playing a bit more offensive because of Cesc and Thiago. I could imagine that Pep asks more defensive splitting passes from them (i.e. Cesc and Thiago), Messi is acting more as a target. Once he is in the penatly area, why shall he not dribble? He’s still the best in it, should have had 4 penalties already and it’s not like he would always take on the defence on his own, the amount of short passes with Iniesta, Alves etc. could even be higher than it was last season.

      He’s certainly playing fewer Xavi-esque passes than last season – but is this still his task?

    6. To my view, Messi’s “task” is to kill. Whether that means with a hurtful run that culminates in a goal, or the pass that helps a teammate score. Sometimes that means scoring, sometimes that means facilitating. But for me, both have to come within the overall flow. So returning to Jordan, his dunks were lovely, but his teammates were spectators, because they know they aren’t going to see the ball again.

      Now, should somebody be running in behind him to scoop up any leavings, once the defense does what it will inevitably do? Good question. Villa might certainly amp up his goal tally by doing more of what he did for that second goal last night. Here’s hoping.

  10. By the by, Jive Ass is working up a review, which he will grace us with when the elves have finished anointing his brow with libation.

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