A Tougher Battle Than You Might Think: Barça – Sevilla

Sevilla has a new coach that is an old hand at this La Liga business: Marcelino. That’s a man whose accomplishments with small clubs isn’t to be laughed about: a 6th placed finish with Racing Santander alongside successful promotion campaigns with Recreativo Huelva and Real Zaragoza. He’s had trouble at Zaragoza in the Primera, but who there hasn’t?  Now he’s at Sevilla and appears to be putting together another solid season.  They’ve never dropped below 6th in the table so far this season and are currently 1 of only 3 teams to remain without a loss. They’re only 2 points behind Barça and they’ve beaten both Málaga and Valencia.

And yet and yet…I can never really get over how I predict draws or close wins or even a loss against them and then Barça slices them into a thousand pieces, with Messi scoring 32 goals or something absurd like that. They’re 0W-3D-0L 2GF 2GA away from home, after all. 12 of their 15 points have come at home, including those wins against Málaga and Valencia (2-1 and 1-0, respectively). But they’re Sevilla! They’re good! They had Seydou and Dani and they’ve still got Kanoute, Negredo, and Jesus Navas. Sure, Negredo, Perotti, and Spahic are all injured, but they boast a solid squad including Martín Cáceres, Fernando Navarro, and Manu del Moral.

Just to get this out of the way, here’s their squad for the match: Palop, Javi Varas, Coke, Cáceres, Alexis, Fazio, Escudé, Navarro, Luna, Medel, Rakitic, Campaña, Trochovski, Jesús Navas, Armenteros, Manu del Moral, Luis Alberto, Kanouté.

That can be a lethal bunch of players, there’s no doubt about it, but without both Perotti and Negredo, they’re lacking on the offensive end. Negredo has the aerial skills to get into the mix and cause problems while Perotti has the footskills and speed on the wing to get behind our forward-thinking wingsbacks. Navas can do the same, of course, but without a counterweight on the other side, it might be easier to lock him down and suffocate his supply lines.

Part of their offensive problems might be that they start, according to the tactical formations supplied in Soccernet’s Gamecast, with just 10 men on the field (click on tactical formation and starting formation). Seems kind of important to put out 11, unless, I guess, if you’re Mourinho and you prefer to play with 10. Which you’re totally allowed to do, I’m sure. What’s the ref going to do? “Coach, I’m going to send someone off if you don’t put out enough players.” Even Marca got it right.

Whether they play a 4-4-1-1  or a 4-2-3-1, I think there will be some serious adjustments at Perotti’s absence. Negredo is “replaceable” in that you can stick in Kanoute and Manu de Moral without losing shape, though Negredo is definitely better at being the point man. Last year in Sevilla the introduction of Freddie Kanoute changed everything and it ended up 1-1 through Jesus Navas. Perhaps it should be noted that Negredo delivered the assist. Incidentally, do you know what else happened in that game? This.

Anyway, Barça has another piece of its collective puzzle back now that Cesc has been given the medical green light. That’s good news, though the team is functioning rather smoothly without him, Alexis, Pique, and the long-term loss of Afellay, which seems incredible until you realize that Barça won the league and Champions League last year without 2 of those 4. And that seems incredible given their talent levels and the amount of contribution they’ve given so far (Alexis perhaps not so much, but a goal in 2 games is pretty decent, especially when he got injured in one of those game and obviously couldn’t finish it). But having more people that Guardiola trusts to line up in midfield and up front will help. Pedro looks a bit rusty and Fabregas can step into that role while Mascherano continues to cover for Pique. It’s not that Fontas is bad, which he isn’t, but Puyol+Fontas doesn’t have the same ring to it, especially now that we know how well Masche can play in the back and Guardiola is willing to go with three creative midfielders (Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago) in the midfield meaning Busi can get a rest when he needs it.

Maybe we take it slow and Pedro doesn’t get a rest, but instead gets subbed out in favor of Fabregas, though Guardiola seems convinced that Villa can’t physically hack it for a full 90 minutes and always gives him the ol’ time wasting routine instead. I haven’t seen enough to be convinced that Cesc and Messi have come to an understanding about who is to take up what space, but the results are obviously pretty positive and that’s hard to argue with. Still, watching them makes me a bit crazy when they almost run into each other and draw defenders into their respective orbits, especially if someone has just created that space for them.

So, how do we roll out? I say this way: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta, Villa, Messi, Pedro.

I’ve heard whisperings from the internets that some people don’t care for Masche + Puyi (Puyerano?)–or rather that they prefer something else–but there’s no better pairing available to us. So that’s what we’re going to see. Pttth. And then why not start Cesc? We might see it, but he’s not fully match fit and we don’t need to replace him after 45 minutes; I’d rather see Pedro start and Cesc get 30 minutes. Abidal over Adriano or Maxwell all day all night in my book (remember, if King Eric scores, the rule is that you have to do an Irish Carbomb…or, if you don’t drink, you can do…uh…a Shirley Temple with a shot of Espresso in it? That sounds horrific. Someone come up with something quick!) and while I’m not necessarily his biggest fan, Busi is our best DM at the moment.

Okay, I brought this up, so I’m going to go for it. Busi is a good player. He’s got fantastic technique and is, in fact, the best rondo player we seem to have. But I’ve been very disappointed in his unwillingness to shoot recently. Against Plzen he had an open shot from 25 yards out that any other player on the team would have taken, with the possible exception of Valdes but probably not, yet he passed it up in favor of hesitating. That obviously closes his passing lane and destroyed the meticulously put-together attack. Yet he also released Messi a couple of times and should be commended for his adherence to tactical doctrine. With the exception of the Valencia game, I’ve been impressed with him this year. But he was horrific in the Valencia game, perhaps because of that tactical adherence that limited his mobility, and he needs to learn from that. Sevilla may very well throw Kanoute into the midfield mix and he has to be able to cope with multiple assignments on a single play.

Yet I’m not convinced about Sevilla because they lack a strong point man. Sure, Manu de Moral can put a hurtin’ on you, but he’s no Negredo and that could cost them dear, especially without Perotti to patrol the flanks and give them a quick counter attack.

So, prediction? You want a prediction? Okay fine. Official Prediction: 3-1, goals by Messi (2) and Cesc. All 3 assisted by Xavi. Because I want the fantasy points. I’m in 20th place okay?

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.


  1. October 22, 2011

    The reason why a Puyol/Mascherano pairing is not ideal is because they are both warriors rather than distributors. Barça has two types of CBs: warriors (Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal) and distributors (Piqué, Busquets, Fontàs). In a perfect world we should have one of each back there, rather than two of the same. With Puyol and Mascherano bringing the ball out from the defense could be difficult if Sevilla presses in numbers up high. Still, that’s not to say that pairing couldn’t work or shouldn’t be played, it really depends on the opponent and how Pep wants to approach the match.

    I’m always surprised by comments like “I’m not Busi’s biggest fan, but he’s the best that we have at DM at the moment”, at this point if you haven’t seen the worth he has for the team you are blind. He won and maintained the the starter’s job over two of the very best DMs in the world: Toure and Mascherano and that’s no accident. Rarely has a players skill set fit so perfectly with the system he’s playing in; the team is visibly less effective when he’s not at the 4, especially when we play a 3-4-3. And as to be being disappointed to him not taking his shot “lately”, I ask, when has he ever looked for his shot? He doesn’t want to shoot ever, because when he shoots that means Messi, Pedro, Villa or Iniesta are not shooting. In those situations he’ll try to get one of them the shot, because he’s unselfish and also one of the smartest players on the team.

    • Nav
      October 22, 2011

      Busi is one of the most under-appreciated players by Cules in my opinion.

      So much so that I couldn’t even find his jersey in the Camp Nou store!

      • just listenin
        October 22, 2011

        I couldn’t agree with you more! I don’t get it myself. I saw a few posts back or on twitter or something where Kxevin mentioned recently rewatching the CL final, I did too recently. And the one thing that stood out to me again was what an influence Busi had on that match. He consistenly contained and delayed MU attacks, and distributed to transition us to attack, just rock solid. We need to give him his props more. He’s one player I am often very disappointed (and concerned) when I see him left out of the starting 11, because we lack a certain fluidity and rhythm when he’s out.

  2. Helge
    October 22, 2011

    I think Puyerano is a reasonable choice for the match, especially since Negredo is injured (which I didn’t know before reading the preview, btw).
    We all have seen that Puyol has incredible power to jump for a header (WC, 6-2), but he’s still a rather short player, not to mention Mascherano.

    Ehm… do you have Messi, Xavi and Cesc in fantasy football? 🙂
    If you don’t have Cesc, I wouldn’t mind to see him as a bench warmer for the complete match, the Arsenal Hamstring Curse is still lurking around. We shouldn’t do the same mistake and urge Cesc.

    My prediction:
    2-1, goals by Pedro and Iniesta

  3. mom4
    October 22, 2011

    We’re all gonna die because we don’t have Bojan to save us this time!

    Puyerano will be in full You Shall Not Pass mode. Seriously, if I were a forward and I saw either of those two comin’ at me I’d start crying for my momma and running the other way.

    Dangit, gotta work today. Thank goodness for DVRs.

    Predictions, aka you read it here first:
    1. Xavi will make over 100 passes today. Care to bet against me? Didn’t think so.
    2. Messi will make somebody angry by dribbling instead of passing.
    3. Messi will make somebody angry by shooting instead of passing.
    4. Messi will make somebody angry by passing instead of dribbling.
    5. All other permutations of 1-4.
    6. Iniesta will make some poor defender look silly…several times.
    7. Alves will look somewhat uncomfortable after scoring the goal I predicted.
    8. We will have at least 5 corners today. So what!
    9. Pep will surprise us with some strange lineup or formation but it won’t matter because we always revert to our customary 1-8-1 anyway.
    10. 3-0 (Messi, Pedro, Alves)

    In all seriousness I’m a little worried. We played so hard on Wednesday because we didn’t kill off the game early so we’ll be tired. Have fun at the LB y’all.

    • Sheena
      October 22, 2011

      Or, you could be more optimistic with:

      2. Messi silences his critics by dishing out assists like a madman and passing the match into oblivion. 😉

  4. October 22, 2011

    Nothing like waking up, firing up the big-ass TV and seeing, in glorious HD ….

    Wolves vs Swansea. Nothing like a DVR full of Barca to cure the “there’s nothing on” blues.

    –Chelsea folks are raving about Oriol Romeu. In his two starts, none in the Prem, it should be added, he’s owned. And they’re even wondering if we were crazy for letting him go. Well, there are those buyback clauses in there, as well as the fact that with Busquets and Mascherano, his time won’t be now or anytime soon had he stayed “home,” so to speak.

    –Josep Capdevila, aside from having deficient math skills in his starting XI has my favorite back line on tap, of Alves/Mascherano/Puyol/Abidal. Let’s see if it comes to pass. (Valdés; Alves, Puyol, Masche, Abidal; Xavi, Busquets, Thiago; Messi, Iniesta Pedro o Villa). I’d say Villa. Pedro is off song right now. The return(s) of Fabregas and Sanchez will be just the thing to make him instantly start playing better.

  5. adopted cule
    October 22, 2011

    I am confused by Isaiah thinking Cesc will start on the forward line for Pedro, but I am only an egg. I suspect we’ll start in a 4-3-3, but Cesc will replace Puyol in the second half, moving to the 3-4-3. Sevilla won’t have the legs by then to counter it. 4-1. Messi runs rampant making Sevilla pay for broken plates.

  6. blitzen
    October 22, 2011

    I am predicting a clean sheet for Valdes so he can break his own record, and I will hold Isaiah personally responsible if anyone scores on him. 👿

    Jesus Navas hasn’t been looking his best lately (was left out of the last NT call-up as well), and Negredo is injured. It’s going to be difficult for Sevilla to put any effective attacks together. We also have home-field advantage. As long as we keep the ball and don’t concede any silly goals from set-pieces, we should be fine.

    I think Abidal might be rested for this game in favour of Adriano. Cesc will probably come in in the second half. Thiago to start.

    Prediction: 4-0 (Villa, Alves, Thiago, Messi)

  7. Anonymous_69
    October 22, 2011

    Puyol and Mascherano both have big leaps, but I’m still worried about them having to deal with the huge Kanoute, who is as tall as Pique and has great technical ability.

  8. adopted cule
    October 22, 2011

    If my math is correct, Barcelona have played 8 games this year in a 4-3-3 formation and 1 game in a 3-4-3 without Cesc. The cumulative score in those games was 20-8 (I am not including the final goals against Real or Porto, when Cesc was in the game and Barcelona were playing 3-4-3), for an average of 2.2-.9. In the 4 games plus the 20 minutes at the end of Super Cups in which Barcelona played a 3-4-3 with Cesc in the lineup, the cumulative score was 22-2, for an average of 5.5-.5. If you throw out the BATE scoreline in which BATE were criminally defensive and inept, then the first line would be 15-8 with an average of 1.9-1.


    The teams we played the 3-4-3 with Cesc include Villarreal (off form but still no push overs), Atletico (who came into the game in great form), Valencia, Porto (for ten minutes and a goal was scored in these ten minutes), Osasuna, and for ten minutes against Real in which Barcelona completely overran Madrid during that time and scored the most important goal of the season to date.

    Welcome back, Cesc.

  9. October 22, 2011

    Won’t be able to Liveblog dudes…

    I don’t know whether or not Calvin can, so if you’re interested in being a backup in case he can’t, email us at team@barcelonafootballblog.com using the subject ‘LiveBlog’ and your name please. :mrgreen:

    • Calvin
      October 22, 2011

      No worries, I’ll be able to run the liveblog.

  10. October 22, 2011

    This match will be an interesting battle.

    The way that a team playing a 4-4-2/ 4-4-1-1 can take advantage of a team playing a three man central midfield (4-3-3, 4-2-3-1) is by circulating the ball with speed to the wide positions.

    Out wide the wingers in the 4-4-1-1 don’t have any direct, natural defenders to mark them. Barca does decrease this factor by defending through team pressing across the pitch. But it’s still an issue.

    This problem with defending wide players can be even more exacerbated playing in a 3-4-3 formation. Then the only wide players on the pitch are the midfielders in the diamond who generally will be pinched in.

    Defending space wide is a real challenge in a 3-4-3. This was the problem Barca encountered in its opening against Valencia when they played so poorly until changing shape to a 4-3-3. Valencia played the ball rapidly to their left flank and used Jordi Alba and Mathieu to create numerical advantage on the flank. Barca didn’t have a natural defender to pick up attackers wide.

    Even Mascherano the the right defender in the three man back line had to come out from a more central, pinched in position to defend. And when he got out wide, he was often caught 1 vs. 2 on the flank.

    I believe nearly every time Barca has faced a 4-4-1-1/4-4-2 formation this season Pep has played his 3-4-3. It allows him to have an extra man in midfield and still have three defenders against two strikers at the back.

    But Sevilla’s wide play is dangerous. Not having Piatti is a major loss for them. Very big today. But it’s play out wide linking up to their physical strikers where they can hurt Barca.

    It will be very interesting to see how Pep plays this match. It’s possible that Cesc isn’t ready to start so Pep doesn’t have the option of a 3-4-3. But if Cesc is ready to start and play extended minutes, Pep does he has an interesting choice to make.

    Very different approaches to this game in particular.

    • adopted cule
      October 22, 2011

      Pep changed back to a 3-4-3 when he brought in Thiago in the second half in the Valencia game, with Alves at RB. Mascherano had an awful first half that day (as did Abidal, and Puyol was partially responsible for the first goal with an egregious turnover). Once Thiago came in and the formation switched back to 3-4-3, Barcelona bossed the rest of the game and were unlucky not to win, imo. I feel like the first half of the Valencia game is a complete aberration for the 3-4-3 experience in that Mascherano was stranded at right back, Alves was ineffective on the right wing, and Abidal had a horror show of a half. It took a lot to go wrong against an opponent perfectly tactically poised to be down a goal there and we recovered and earned the point by sticking to our 3-4-3 guns. 🙂

      • October 22, 2011

        Remember – by the time Thiago came into the game Keita had already been taken off for Adriano. Adriano was playing as a defensive winger in front of Alves. That was purely to neutralize the problems Barca had numerically on that right flank. That gave Barcelona a winger and true full back on that side.

        It was only after that substitution that Thiago came in.

        In other words – this was one of the rare instances where Pep responded to what the other manager was doing rather than dictating formation and play.

        Pep only brought Thiago in for Puyol after stabilizing that right defensive flank.

        In essence what Pep did was to match Sevilla’s asymmetric formation with his own asymmetric formation.

        Thiago didn’t come on until late in the match – and he was brought in for Puyol as an extra attacker. That 3-4-3 with Thiago on was very different in orientation and intent than the 3-4-3 barca started with.

        Also by then Valencia’s intent had changed and the match was entirely different with each side having different priorities, IMO. Valencia was looking to protect their lead and Barca was trying to press to equalize.

        People have commented on how the back line played that game – particularly Mascherano.

        But I think the opening of that match was highly influenced by structural issues.

        The reason why the back line looked so bad at the beginning – particularly Mascherano was tactics. Playing three at the back leaves you needing to play relatively narrow or risk being spread very wide through the channels.

        Emery’s asymmetric formation was designed to overload the middle by pinching in his right wing while keeping his left flank wide. And they the proceeded to run the attack through the left side as they were over and over able to generate 2 vs. 1.

        Masch may have had a poor match but that’s because on that right side there was no player in front of him. Dani stayed up as a wing and didn’t track back consistently. Xavi was pinched in.

        Abidal played very poorly. But even on that own goal part of why it happened was because the entire 3 man backline was forced to shift rightward and it was that excess requirement to move that facilitated that goal.

        The dynamics of that match completely changed once Barca went back to the 4-3-3. That was the key in getting back into that match.

        I don’t think the 3-4-3 was the right formation to play in that match. At least not the symmetric 3-4-3 they opened the match with.

        For me, bringing Thiago in was a different phase of the game by that time. That was much more akin to a manager taking off a defender for another attacker to trade offense for defense.

        • adopted cule
          October 22, 2011

          Couldn’t agree more about the temporary shift back to 4-3-3 stabilizing the game. My memory might be failing me or I might not have paid close enough attention but I don’t remember Thiago playing as a forward (perhaps that is not what you meant when you wrote ‘attacker’). The right side was a mess in the first half, but with Keita in the game (if I recall correctly) and Xavi, though he might have been pinched in, was stranded too far right too often, so Barcelona was having real difficulty playing the ball out of the back. Moving Alves back and switching back to 4-3-3 for 17 minutes also had the affect of allowing Xavi to move more centrally. If I recall correctly, Pep started to make this crucial adjustment even before the half, with Xavi moving more and more centrally so he could dictate play. Once the game was stabilized, Thiago was brought in at the 62nd minute to go to a more aggressive formation. I agree that the game situation had changed. For one thing, Valencia was gassed, but there was still a lot of time left. I still think that a mid game switch from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 is one of the best weapons Pep has at his disposal as it hits psychologically at the opponent. Almost every team Barcelona plays will have already had to claw and grasp just to stay in the game when they are suddenly forced to adjust to a new onslaught. Madrid succumbed to this at the end of the Spanish Super Cup and Valencia was barely able to hang on.

          In short, I disagree that 3-4-3 was tactically the wrong formation, but rather player allocation within the 3-4-3 (Alves up top, Xavi too far right, and Mascherano at RB) was all wrong. Different phase of the game or not, when Alves was at RB, Adriano at right wing, and Xavi more central, Barcelona owned the game in what I thought was a 3-4-3. Alves pretty much locked down the Valencia’s attacks, leaving them with no teeth, while Xavi and Thiago started to dictate play in the midfield. I believe, perhaps wrongly, that the Valencia game would have been a resounding win if the team that finished the game had started it.

  11. BarcaGirl_Indo
    October 22, 2011

    a great Milan source from twitter :
    @TheMilanGuy An important source who knows all the players and is big in media in Italy is sure that Thiago Silva will be sold to Barcelona next summer.

    @TheMilanGuy Unfortunately, this is someone in the know. ‘Favorite’ that last tweet, and check back 8 months from now.. A real shame.

    there were speculations since last year from Italian media, that there’s a “unwritten agreement”, if FCB sell Ibra for peanuts, then in the future Milan has the “obligation” to sell one of their star (Pato or TS) with cheap..

    • October 22, 2011

      I’ll believe this when someone is grinning with Zubi alongside the club logo..

    • October 22, 2011

      October 2010, same guy:

      For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you’ll remember me tweeting about Robinho to Milan, and Borriello to Roma days before it was released on the web. At the moment of my statement, I received numerous messages questioning my sanity for reporting such comical information. Two days after, I had more praise than Cristiano Ronaldo in a nightclub.

      My insider source, is actually somebody in my family. My grandfather was the vice president of Milan four decades ago, so we still have some connections inside the organization. The few times a year when real news is passed down to me from overseas, I report it. So far, they’ve been 100% correct. I wouldn’t report any information that I know isn’t legitimate, because I know as a reader I wouldn’t want to be led on with something that’ll eventually break my heart. A bit extreme I know, but football is more than a pastime for many of you, it’s an obsession – a way of life.

      So here’s the latest scoop. In January, Milan will purchase Kaka from Real Madrid. Soon enough, we’ll also see Ronaldinho in an LA Galaxy shirt.

      So yeah, I’m not betting on it even though it’s from what he considers a very good source, seeing as the Kaka news was supposedly from a source within AC Milan the club itself.

      That said, Silva is an insanely talented, incredible defender and would definitely improve the side, but I don’t know our current players seem too good to bench too and I’m not convinced splashing out huge and benching current players is wise. As in I’m not too sure the improvement will be considerable enough to be worth it.. I guess? Though in the long term, with Puyol aging…? Though we still have Mascherano who is the same age and still very good while not AS good as Silva, as well as plenty of B team talent in defense rising up the ranks.. I don’t know.

  12. Miguel
    October 22, 2011

    Barca B played today? And won? And JdS scored? And I missed it? Faaaaq.

    Was Eusebio suspended or something?

    OT: I thought Malaga was supposed to be good this year?

  13. Ryan
    October 22, 2011

    Darn, after a fun first 10 minutes, the Malaga-EE game ended as a contest so quickly. If we had half the amount of space afforded to Ronaldo and co…

  14. blaunero
    October 22, 2011

    It might be a blasphemy to say so, but today at least Real is playing like Barça. Ball possession, a high line, and lots of pressure.

  15. Helge
    October 22, 2011

    La Liga is f*cked up.

    Forget about Betis, Levante etc., forget about ANY excitement beside Barca-Real…
    It will be another season with 25+ points between 2nd and 3rd placed team, and both Barca & Real could win about 25 matches with 4-0 or more goals *argh*

    Drawing a match for Barca or Real is almost as tough a blow as losing twice in a row is for Chelsea or Bayern in their title chase 🙁

  16. Jackieboy
    October 22, 2011

    No Pedro or Puyol.

    BARÇA STARTING XI Valdés, Alves, Mascherano, Abidal, Adriano, Keita, Xavi, Thiago, Ineista, Messi and Villa #fcblive

  17. blaunero
    October 22, 2011

    Second league game in a row that Busquets doesn’t start. Wish the same rotation could be applied to Messi as well…

  18. Kimcelona
    October 22, 2011

    Malaga is f**king joke. They never seem to put enough fight against EE until they’re embarassed by at least 4 goals.. But I called it, I predicted a 6-0 scoreline in favor of EE. Pathetic. Now watch Sevilla fight for their lives against us and when its time to play Malaga they magically find form.

    Sevilla is tough. We woudl do well to score an early goal so we wont have to endure an hour of trying to break down Sevilla. I’m kinda surprised Pedrito is left out of the starting line up. I just heard that Pep left Puyi out due to precaution..

  19. tutomate
    October 22, 2011

    So I’m in second place with Jnice a close 3rd but who is Maniche? Dude is killing it.

  20. October 22, 2011

    i know it’s a little late, but i wanted to quickly chime in on the messi issue.

    as a former bulls fan and post-1998 lakers fan, i am much familiar with the ‘take over yourself vs defer to teammates’ dilemma.

    we fans like to believe we are right. that we can see things clearly because we are removed from the situation and can be objective. that we know better than pep. or messi. or phil jackson. or kobe. but even though i am not one to think that world class players and coaches are above criticism, the truth of the matter is that it almost always turns out we were wrong and they were right.

    there are many things that are going on inside the club that we are not privy to, things that we only get to find out years later from interviews or books, if at all.

    when it came to the lakers, people always thought that kobe should pass the ball more, trust his teammates more. even when many of those teammates were some of the worst in the league. you think you know better, then you read something like this (from a kobe interview):

    [..the game before we traded for Pau, we’re playing Detroit and I had like 40 points towards the end of the game. This is back when Detroit had Rasheed [Wallace], Chauncey [Billups] and those guys, so we had no business being in the game. So down the stretch of the game, they put in a box and one. So I’m surrounded by these players, Detroit players, and Kwame is under the basket, all by himself. Literally, like all by himself. So I pass him the ball, he bobbled it and it goes out of bounds.

    “So we go back to the timeout and I’m [upset], right? He goes, ‘I was wide open.’ ‘Yeah, I know.’ This is how I’m talking to him, like, during the game. I said, ‘You’re going to be open again, Kwame, because Rasheed is just totally ignoring you.’ He said, ‘Well, if I’m open don’t throw it to me.’ I was like, ‘Huh?’ He said, ‘Don’t throw it to me.’ I said, ‘Why not?’ He said, well, ‘I’m nervous. If I catch it and they foul me, I won’t make the free throws.’ I said, ‘Hell no!’

    “I go to Phil [Jackson], I say, ‘Hey Phil, take him out of the game.’ He’s like, ‘Nah, let him figure it out.’ So, we lose the game, I go the locker room, I’m steaming. Steaming. I’m furious. Then, finally I get a call, they said, ‘You know what, we got something that’s happening with Pau.’ I was like, ‘Alright. Cool.’…That’s what I had to deal with the whole year.”]

    i’m not saying this is the case here. but it makes you think.

    things that seem simple and logical to us are often very complicated. one of these instances would be messi playing all the minutes in games already decided. we will never know the real reason (until we know).

    we also tend to focus on individual (and often not that important) games and we fail to see the bigger picture. maybe messi overdribbling serves a purpose or maybe it’s just for highlights. we can only guess. as someone already said, we’ll see how they play in the games that count.

    phil jackson was notorious for not calling time outs when his team was in trouble, letting the players figure it out by themselves. this often led to lost games, but in the long run meant winning championships.

    we love to say ‘in pep we trust’. i think messi has earned that too

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