Barca 5, Mallorca 0, aka “Let’s not go handing out woof tickets just yet.”

"See? I shaved. Now shut up."

The most enduring image from this match for me came late, when they showed a rear view of Isaac Cuenca, whose No. 39 shirt was pristine. Then they showed Mallorca’s Alvaro Gimenez, and his No. 30 shirt was bedraggled, with the 0 just hanging on by a bit of adhesive, the rest of shirt all dirt and grass-stained, like dude had been dragged behind a truck.

He had. It’s license plate number was 10. No other letters, just the number 10. Familiar Messi watchers probably noted the “Godfather” stare on Messi’s pre-match face, and the fact that he was clean-shaven, then said “Uh, oh.” For whatever reason, after slumps in which he slouches around, unshaven and off-form, his comebacks are marked by a clean shave. Our fathers, back in the day, always believed that a shave and haircut were just the cure for whatever ails you. Maybe that’s all it took.

Or maybe it’s something more. Or nothing at all.

The differences

My first clue that Messi was different today was his head movement. When Messi is off, for whatever reason he just tunnel visions, almost as if his temporarily diminished capabilities necessitate full, unwavering concentration on the task at hand. Today, it was on a swivel, and everything was in play. Pass, run, delicate 1-2 …. all possibilities were available. When he chased a ball down, fouling a Mallorca player in an effort to get it back even though were were up 3-0 was another clue that Messi was back.

And that penalty. Boy, howdy, what a penalty. No delicate, “I’m smarter than you now watch” little thing. This was a “You will never touch this in a million years” howitzer into the far upper corner. It was a very clear message. “Yes, I always go right. Now let’s see you stop it.”

But, it should be noted that it was a PK off a thoroughly bogus penalty. Ridiculous. Ball to hand, all day and all night. Be that as it may, the PK is still worth noting for its absolute quality. And here’s another thing ….

People who say that Messi was being criticized, and everybody is stupid for criticizing him should realize that players, even great players, can be discussed and analyzed. And saying that the dude is playing like he needs about a week’s worth of sleep, some ice cream and a hug is not criticism. It’s an observation based in a moment, or in his case an extended sample of un Messi-like performances. Simple as that. Today, he was back to himself, until he decided to take the second half off, as did the rest of the team. And “himself” was brilliant, including runs that were also different.

Good Messi makes runs at defenses that are out of position, with defenders moving. He can take advantage of their instability, adding his own to terrorize. Bad Messi makes runs at stationary defenses that are saying “Come on, little man. Bring it.” Today’s match was an excellent example of these qualities, both good and bad. Is Messi back? He was never gone. And we will never know what happened this week. Was he allowed to rest during practices? Did he get Krkic’s supply of Rocket Pops? Some extra hugs? Who knows. Just love the result.

Washington Generals?

Mallorca jumped off the bridge. They weren’t pushed. Guardiola came out with Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Abidal, Adriano, Busquets, Keita, Thiago, Messi, Cuenca, Villa, and Mallorca came out with fire in their eyes. The match was still young when they unleashed a break that saw Alves caught pinched in toward the middle (again!), and they were off. Mascherano was outdone for pace and a flawless pass …. and their attacker pushed the ball wide. Valdes was beaten. Dead to rights. I thought for sure it was going to be a goal, then a 90-minute assault on a parked bus, complete with defenders arm-in-arm, singing “None shall pass.” But he missed. They they got the second blow of that stupid, stupid penalty call. Then not long after that, the second goal came when Cuenca smoked his defender and threw a perfect ball to Adriano, who scuffed the crap out of the volley, but it fell directly to an in-position Messi. Tap-in for 2-0.

Yes, another sign that Messi was on this match, was his being in the right spot so often during that first half. That comes from work, total involvement and reading the match. But for poor Mallorca, those two goals made them all but give up. As Phil Schoen said, “How do you recover when Barcelona’s been given a gift?”

You don’t. And you proceed to make matters worse by not playing defense with any discipline, shape or organization, a perpetual fire drill. Like the Washington Generals, who were the designated patsies for the famed Harlem Globetrotters, the team that always won, Mallorca did everything possible to hasten its demise. So you don’t have the same level of talent, then you proceed to not show shape or discipline, give balls away and do everything to make our life easy. Yes, the team played very well today. But they were also allowed to play very well. Compare Mallorca’s back line with Sevilla’s unison up-and-back, side-to-side disciplined elegance. Huge, like the talent gap.

So that third goal, off the amazing pass from Alves, required a few things for perfection to occur: space for Alves? Check. Room for Messi to run into? Check. And voila, a third goal. From that moment on, Mallorca were playing for pride and not to get hammered. They failed in both intentions, but it won’t be that long of a trip home, because hey, it’s Barca. But don’t kid yourselves, that 91st-minute Messi slam was professionals saying “Hey, what the hell. This match is over. Stop trying to humiliate us.”


I won’t go anointing the kid the second coming and stuff like that, but this is the second match that he has been an absolute delight. And if we ever figure out that his crosses are coming, and they’re really good, folks like Villa and Keita will be nailing tap-ins left and right. He has pace, aggression and skill. This match was really cool, because you got to see Deulofeu come on, a player who is 3 years younger than Cuenca and looked it. The polish and seasoning differences were apparent, as apparent as the talent of both. I admit to not following the B team as closely as others, but I don’t recall hearing a peep about Cuenca. It was like when Assulin was supposed to be magic, then some dude named Pedro popped up.

His goal, the fourth of the day, was a wonder not because of anything other that what it was: a perfect pass from Adriano that was controlled by a player who used both feet to round the keeper, and calmly slot home. All done by a 20-year-old B-teamer, freshly stamped with a “Masia-approved” logo. I reckon that’s the answer to the question, “How is Cuenca in front of goal?”

The timing of his emergenge is also good, with Pedro and Afellay being injured. I await to see what he will do against a big club, but Guardiola is bringing him along exactly right, by letting him get confidence in the Liga. And let’s not forget that beautiful, beautifully taken goal. Like those movies where the nerdy kid, in the final part, blossoms into a cool kid, Cuenca has exploded into life. I haven’t grinned after a goal that much since Abidal scored against Bilbao. So here. Grin along with me.


How wide? T h i i i s w i i i d e.

If you look at our recent case of the clunks, a constant characteristic has been center-dependent play, as if we’re playing down a corridor. Mostly because we were. Pedro was crap, and Villa useless on the wing because he doesn’t really have any 1-v-1 moves. Afellay is usually the width-maker, but he’s recovering from injury as is Sanchez. Alves is usually the man on the right, while we use overlaps from the LB to get that width on the right. But with injuries, nobody has been playing where they’re supposed to, and things have been messy. Enter Cuenca and Adriano. We saw hints of the latter when he was used on the right against Sevilla, then switched to the left as we were forced to become a bit more defensive. Today, with Cuenca on the right, consistently getting the better of his marker, and a marauding Adriano on the left, the full width of the pitch returned to us. It was only bad luck and a dodgy touch or two that has kept Adriano off the scoreboard of late, but he will tally. But a big part of why today’s match seemed to easy is that Mallorca, even had they evinced defensive discipline and aggressiveness, still would have been stretched. We need the full width of the pitch to be truly effective.

Speaking of slumps

Lost in everyone worrying about Messi is the fact that Villa hasn’t scored in the Liga since September. It’s one more sign that the team isn’t yet firing on all cylinders, because though Villa will always screw the pooch on some goals, he usually has chance after chance to put one or more in. Not of late. Some of it seems to be the reading of the game that seems to go awry when a player is slumping. You can’t fault his effort and ambition, and he will start finishing, just as he did last season when he went through a couple of similar scoring droughts before eventually turning in about the same number of goals per season that he reliably does. Why isn’t Villa as worrisome as Messi, though? Because he obviously isn’t a talisman. Should Villa’s lack of scoring be as worrisome as Messi’s? You betcha. Messi needs other threats to be as threatening as he can be. That means Villa. It explains why he was trying to feed Villa every chance he got.

More good news

Alexis Sanchez will get the green light this week, and is expected to be available the Bilbao match next Sunday. Not a moment too soon. That is going to a tough one, just because it almost always is. They’re playing very well right now, and Iker Munain, their Messi, is on fire. This means that for the immense November/December stretch that will include deciding whether we come out of our Champions League group No. 1 or 2 and the first (away) Clasic, the club will be healthy except for Afellay, who is quite capably replaced by Cuenca. Oh, and both of these dudes played, and neither one of them got hurt again.

"Hi, Mom! I'm okay! So is he!"

So we’re back, right?

Some are saying yes. I’m saying I don’t know, and won’t know until after the Bilbao and Milan matches, both away and both huge. And I don’t think that draw is acceptable in either one. We want to come out of the Champions League group as top, just for the more favorable draw, and I just don’t think that ANY dropped Liga points are a good thing. One point behind EE and if we grab a victory in their house, the psychological advantage gained is monstrous. P.S. Wouldn’t it rock if Levante could continue its wondrous run, putting pressure on both big clubs? Yep.

But for now, as the title notes, I’m not handing out any woof tickets. Not yet. When we put the wood to a good team in a convincing way, I will start to believe. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic, and thankful of the overall quality that allows us to dispatch willing victims such as Mallorca.

Team: 9. Excellent unison performance, with pressing, overlaps, movement and defense in depth. Hard to fault, even if almost everyone took the second half off. You can hardly blame them, since Mallorca kinda stopped playing for real as well.

Guardiola: 10. Right lineup, and who knew Cuenca was ready? He did. Weird. And whatever he did to/for/about Messi this week, hats off to that.

Valdes: 8. You forget what it’s like to be Valdes. Imagine sitting in your easy chair watching the match, then a flaming meteor crashes through the roof. “Whoa! What the ….” Valdes would have a fire extinguisher at the ready and, drink in one hand, not even getting up, snuff out the fire.

Alves: 7. Kind of a tale two Two Alveses, the dude who got jumped on defense and misplayed passes, then suddenly caught fire, becoming Storming Dani. His resurgence culminated in a one monster of a golazo that marked his debut in the scoring column this season.

Mascherano: 9. Guardiola said he’s been our best central defender this season. And how. Up and back, meeting (almost) every challenge. He was outdone for pace on Mallorca’s one great scoring chance, and that header that Valdes bailed him out on was kinda crazy. Beyond that, just brilliant. Then moved into midfield when Puyol/Pique came on.

Abidal: 9. Again, what can you say? His passing keeps improving, both short and long, and his pace is a security blanket for the back line. He’s improving rapidly, returning to Le Roi Abidal status in time for some very important matches.

Adriano: 9. For anybody still wondering why we bought him, look at today’s match. His pace is astonishing, and at full flower, he’s a left-sided Alves, particularly in tandem with Abidal at CB, who can cover for the times he gets caught too far forward.

Busquets: 7. Dazzling. Sometimes, it takes the absence of Xavi to make us understand what an intelligent player he is, on and off the ball. He’s another of those “right place” players. I do wish he would just take a foul, get up and keep playing, as he did in the 45th minute today, rather that first-half moment where he tried something silly, lost the ball then fell down, holding his foot.

Keita: 8. Marvelous today as that physical presence in the center of the pitch. Some suggest that Guardiola has some sort of strange allegiance to Keita, but no. Guardiola understands the value of a player who can stop an attack in our box, steal a pass or break up an attack in the midfield, blast a long shot or be in position for a header attempt at goal.

Thiago: 7. Everyone was thinking, “He’s going to be Xavi today, and it’s going to be awesome.” No, he was Thiago, a dynamo on both ends of the pitch, and all points in between. His defense has been a bonus for me, but it’s a wonder. He wants the ball. All the time. He’s also become significantly less casual with possession, as he matures before our eyes.

Messi: 9. Man of the Match by a long shot, for all of the reasons enumerated above.

Cuenca: 8. Improving rapidly, and we still don’t know how he will be against a big, dangerous opponent such as EE or Bilbao, but something tells me we will be finding out sooner rather than later. But again, see above for the reasons he delighted today.

Villa: 5. Like an analog radio, drifted in and out today, from involved to invisible. His work rate can’t be faulted, nor can his committment to the club. For a player who was The Man to come and give himself over to a system and way of play as he has, is to be admired. And he will come around. He always does.


Pique (for Abidal): incomplete. Nice to see Beanpole back, working his way into match shape again. And he didn’t get hurt.

Puyol (for Busquets): incomplete. Captain Caveman made a few of his classic interventions, flying into defensive situations with vigor unabated. Nice to see.

Deulofeu (for Villa): incomplete. The kid has talent. But he’s still a kid. Unlike Assulin, he has the body to go with that talent. When he nutmegged a defender and dashed for goal, you could see some of the bright promise, even as the kid part reared its head in a touch that was too hard. Definitely one for the future.

Shout-outs are cool!

Ray Ray gave me and the blog a shout-out today, in between humming the Himno while Phil Schoen was trying to read the lineups. People often say that Ray Ray is for one team or the other, but I think that he is just for the game in all of its beauty, played by whomever. The shout-out was cool, but if everyone here didn’t contribute to making this a brilliant space, nobody would be saying a thing. The family challenges the writers here to be better, think more, not screw stuff up and raise our games. Constantly. It it, as always, a pleasure.

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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.


  1. October 29, 2011

    Music listented to during the writing of this thing:

    Frank Capp Juggernaut
    Frank Sinatra
    Frida Hyvonen
    Haydn “Nelson” Mass
    Four Tops

    • Miguel
      October 29, 2011

      Turn me loose. We shall overcome. Where’d you get that funk froooooooom, huh?!

    • nzm
      October 30, 2011

      I learnt a new phrase: “woof ticket”. Turns out I’m not a gangsta. 🙁 🙂

  2. blitzen
    October 29, 2011

    Uh, Kxevin?

    I admit to not following the B team as closely as others, but I don’t recall hearing a peep about Cuenca.

    The reason you haven’t heard a peep about Cuenca is because Barcelona only (re)acquired him in 2009, then sent him off to Sabadell for a year on loan. Less than 6 months ago he was playing in the Segunda B division. He has only had six appearances with Barcelona B so far this season. When he popped up in the preseason campaign that was literally the first time most of us had clapped eyes on him.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2011

      And you obviously didn’t follow our comments during Barca’s USA tour when we wuz all dissin’ Cuenca and mom4 was asking me to go to FCB HQ and throw the boy some food. 😀

      • mom4
        October 30, 2011

        Didn’t work. Boy’s still painfully thin.

        • nzm
          October 31, 2011

          I keep missing him – he keeps standing sideways and disappears.

  3. October 29, 2011

    Good stuff, Kxevin.

    The reason you haven’t heard much re: Cuenca is because he was on loan at Sabadell last season. He also bounced around Reus (for two seasons) and CF Damm (a season) before coming back.

    This season is his first with the B-team in five years. Glad to see he’s taking full advantage of his chances. The seasoning he got, particularly at Sabadell, has served him well. He’s still got a ways, but this is nice to see.

    Mentally, I’ve already upgraded him to A-team status, so I didn’t take about him in the last post. Because of injures to our front line (and some exhaustion re: Villa; Pep said he was almost feeling discomfort), we’ll see a lot more of him and God Made Him.

    The shoutout was seven levels of awesome. Actually made me giddy.

  4. adopted cule
    October 30, 2011

    “Don’t call it a comeback”… LL Cool J

    • barca96
      October 30, 2011

      A few years back I saw a video of a Barca youth player freestyling in an indoor hall. Not sure if it was him though.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2011

      That’s awesome – thanks for the link.

    • blitzen
      October 30, 2011

      That’s great, thanks for posting it. Just goes to show that there is no one set route to getting to the first team. Some are promoted through every level, some are loaned out and come back again, but there are always opportunities if you work hard enough.

  5. barca96
    October 30, 2011

    How did sMasch get such a high score when 2 of his mistakes almost cost us goals? Both of which were in the first 30 mins.

    1) Mallorca were counter attacking on the left and a cross came in and sMasch just let the ball run to VV while there was an attacker behind him. It could’ve been a mis-communication again from VV but Abidal went after sMasch afterwards to do some talking instead of VV so I guess sMasch was at fault this time.

    2) The soft header back to VV.

    On both occasions we could’ve been easily been punished if we were playing against a better team.

    Not saying he had a bad match but you are in quite a generous mood today 🙂

  6. barca96
    October 30, 2011

    Although I have this game on DVR, unfortunately it’s not a GolTV broadcast. I’m gonna download the match just to hear Kxevin’s name being mentioned on TV. What an honour that we know that celebrity!! Seriously, I feel so privileged to actually read and debate with that person. Kxevin is not a legend. I’m sure all the other fans who were watching the match were wondering who that guy is. Amazing…

  7. Worddriven Bozo
    October 30, 2011

    It is Muniain, not Munain. And under Bielsa AC Bilbao is not just its usual incarnation. It attacks in waves, at speed.

    And don’t take Viktoria Plzen for granted in Czecho. You completely ignored them in talking about important games. I hope Pep is not so blind.

  8. barca96
    October 30, 2011

    A question that I forgot to ask a few days ago. What is the name of the song that was played in the Granada stadium before the match? It was beautiful and everyone was singing along.

  9. October 30, 2011

    Let me start by saying Viktoria is in trouble. Puyol, Pique, Iniesta, Xavi and Cesc all ready for a fresh start. We can hope this will help offense to have that extra spark needed. Messi cant do it on his own all the time.

    And that brings me to Messi’s argument. And this is more for future reference when we face teams like Sevilla instead of the Mallorcas. In short, in some games he can deliver a one man show and kill it, in other games his teammates need to give him a hand. The only difference today -beside Mallorca’s quality or lack it- was the players’ movement on the field, namely Adriano, Cuenca, and Alves (who should NEVER play as a CB in a 3-4-3!).

    Or else, I’ve been saying for a while now, the boy needs no rest, and he is not out of form. Best decision Pep made – which was the obvious one- was not to rest him on a cold bench for the game. Messi is so driven and he pushes himself to the edge all the time (which explains some of his attempts to dribble everyone out of the park and take all the responsibility). The only thing you can do for such player is to give an unquestionable trust and confidence, simply because there is no reason or need to be creative. Beside some desperate attempts to dribble everyone instead of taking a more secured alternatives (happened against Mallorca as well), he has been consistent so far this season. Still, the demands and expectations on him are always and understandably unlimited.

    True, no problem in criticizing him for some decisions he make during the game, and he is not perfect all the time. But as an overall performance (and I am not the rating guy here), the criticism stands while acknowledging that his performance was somewhere between 7 and 9 out of 10 in each and every game he played so far. At least from my bench, I didnt watch any bad game for Messi that I can remember. Not even an average one, or just ok. He was good in my books every time he stepped in there.


    Cuenca seems to be this season’s project for Pep. This is one of the main strengths of Pep, he knows where to put his money. In fact I think one of the main reasons why he promoted Fontas was to give a space for younger and more talented center backs in the reserve team to play more often. He needed a defender for the first team (and it seems he needed a defender for training sessions more than the actual games so far). At this age, it was just the right time to promote Fontas or else he will step on the toes of Sergio Gomez at B team. And so be it.

    But the real half baked project is Cuenca, and so far the guy is not wasting a chance to express and impress. Between his first full debut and the game against Mallorca there was one week, but still you can notice how the first teamers are increasingly counting on him as a reliable outlet, and he gets the credit for that.

    The most important impression I had is that the guy has the right attitude and personality on the field. He is ready to take responsibilities and that’s exactly what this team needs. He even has that street-player touch busquets-like in a good way that may evolve with time. To early to say how far he will go, especially when opponents start to keep an eye on him, but so far so good.


    Kxevin is right when he point out that Mascherano will make it tough for Pep in the coming days. The guy is a monster and in all fairness its a battle between Puyol and Pique to partner him. That’s all for the good of the team of course.

    • adopted cule
      October 30, 2011

      Great takes on both the Messi situation, which I still find a bizarre argument because I agree with your assessment that he has never been off form this year, and on Cuenca. Getting a little bit of good wing play made me want to jump 100% onto the Cuenca bandwagon. I just hope he keeps bringing it.

    • October 30, 2011

      the most telling thing Pep said during the press conference on Friday was that no player has ever constantly, every three days performed as Messi has done ever. Not Pele, not Maradona and Zidane had a great game every 3 months and people only remember that game. Messi goes H.A.M. every 3 days.

    • October 30, 2011

      Interesting observation about the first teamers trusting Cuenca in combination play. I remember a match last season in which Fontàs was forced to play LB due to the injuries to Abidal, Adriano, Maxwell and Puyol (!) and in that entire match he basically trotted up and down the side line absolutely by himself with no markers anywhere near him and he still received zero passes from his teammates. Food for thought about the future of Andreu.

  10. y2k156
    October 30, 2011

    Hear hear. Ramzi, i completely agree with what you have said. I do not recall a single bad game he has had, maybe few moments. Even the Granada game where people were slagging him off, he produced good moments right till end. He even laid excellent chance for Villa after a very nice run which was not converted late in second half. I was at the stadium and Messi’s misses were not better or worse than any one else in our team.

    We are allowed to question him as with any other players. We should just do it with objectiveness and not with emotion or preconceived notions. Coming back to this match, Messi was his usual self for me just with better result.

    As for match, this was nice match to get some movement back. Adriano and Cuenca were really good. As for the penalty, in my book it is penalty. The hand was not in normal position and if ball strikes hand in unnatural position within penalty box, it is penalty. Our own players are quite smart in this sense. If you see them defending in the box, they usually have their hands behind their backs. So less chance of flapping around.

    Loved the Alves golazo.

    Also good to see most of our players getting back to full fitness. It should be interesting to see how Pep handles the team and lines them up.

  11. October 30, 2011

    “Ball to hand”

    yes but that hand has nothing lost there. It’s not that the hand was tucked to him, but it was ahead of his head way up. He didn’t even protest because it was quite obvious.

    • October 30, 2011

      Penalty. No question. In fact, later incidents in the game proved this ref doesnt give penalties lightly, or else we would’ve had another two.

      This penalty was as clear as it can be – of course, unless if a player uses a machine gun to shoot an opponent in the box.

      • barca96
        October 30, 2011

        It was a penalty all night & day. Every ref at any part of the world would have had given the penalty.

    • ooga aga
      October 30, 2011

      exactly. one of the dumbest things a defender can do is jump up in the penalty box *with his hands raised at or above head level*. there is no good reason for your hands to be up there. penalty.

    • Renata
      October 30, 2011

      He did say that in the press conference. It was reported in all Spanish and Catalan newspapers.

  12. Eklavya
    October 30, 2011

    For anyone who’s planning on watching any matches today (or any matches from now on), note that time changed in Europe today so make sure you double check your schedule or whatever you guys do to not miss any matches.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      October 30, 2011

      thanks for the reminder!
      last season I missed the 1st half of Milan derby when the schedule switched to DST…

  13. BarcaGirl_Indo
    October 30, 2011

    Messi said people who said he was in crisis are crazy…

    maybe I am crazy, because I thought that boy had a dip in form… so happy some crazy people like me are wrong 😀

  14. Helge
    October 30, 2011

    David Villa’s shape is worrisome. I’m glad that you dedicated a paragrpah on it 🙂

    I don’t doubt his commitment and effort in each match either, but his goal-scoring form is pretty poor.
    The difference between Real and Barca right now is that Real Madrid has at least 2 prolific goal scorers. We blame Messi for the draw against Sevilla, but what if we’d had an in-form striker, say Higuain or Robin van Persie for that match? I saw RvP vs Chelsea, he was a brilliant finisher, a deadly striker. Pure confidence, something that Villa lacks right now*.
    In the last 2 matches, CR was simply bad. But they still have Higuain.
    Right now, there is a bigger ‘Messipendencia’ than ever before, but it’s not Messi’s fault, it’s Villa’s (and maybe also Pedro’s).
    I hope that Sanchez returns against Bilbao, like Kxevin predicts. And that he can turn on the style in attack, disburden Messi a lil bit. But Sanchez is not the goal-scorer that Villa should be!

    *It strikes me that Villa does not transform any confidence from the CL matches, where he has scored in every single match so far, to the league matches… what has to happen to bring Villa back on track?

    People say that Kxevin is anti-Messi, so maybe I’m anti-Villa^^
    He certainly has not met my expectations yet, not even last season.

  15. can_we_go_Xalvies
    October 30, 2011

    IMO Villa isn’t in much of a form slump, that one golden chance he had against Mallorca where Messi whipped a wicked through ball to Villa, Villa did an amazing job reading and timing his run to be perfectly onside and then his first touch was actually very good, he could have done better with his shot but the Mallorcan keeper did a very good job running out and stopping villa from taking the shot, even an in form striker like RVP would find it difficult to make a shot through that keeper.

    Villa was more in a mood slump than a form slump, his touch and his timing weren’t off, but maybe his decision making and effort was lacking in the last game. Now that Puyol and Pique are back, hopefully Abidal can go back to LB and Villa would feel a lot happier.

    • nzm
      October 31, 2011

      The keeper also came out against Cuenca…

  16. mom4
    October 30, 2011

    And saying that the dude is playing like he needs about a week’s worth of sleep, some ice cream and a hug is not criticism.
    Awwwwwww, we all volunteer for the hugs!

    Great review, Kxevin. Thanks (although how Busi can be both dazzling and yet only a 7 somewhat baffles me). And congrats on the Ray Ray shoutout. Waking up on a Sunday morning with a cuppa Dunkin and a Kxevin review is a great way to start the morning. Especially so after a satisfying Saturday that saw my Barca having fun on the pitch again and my second team, Arsenal, destroy Chelsea’s defense at SB. Now the only thing left to make my football weekend complete would be for my Baltimore Ravens to win today (and redeem themselves from that awful Monday Night Football performance earlier this week)!

    Familiar Messi watchers probably noted the “Godfather” stare on Messi’s pre-match face, and the fact that he was clean-shaven, then said “Uh, oh.”
    And yes, “gameface” Messi is a dangerous, footy-freak-of-nature Messi.

  17. Helge
    October 30, 2011

    and the players at Villarreal keep dropping like flies…
    Cani out for 6 months! :/

    • Ryan
      October 30, 2011

      They really are getting the worst of luck this season!

  18. Ryan
    October 30, 2011

    Ouch, Osasuna are leading Levante 2-0. Still a full half for Levante to mount a remuntada though!

  19. BarcaGirl_Indo
    October 30, 2011

    I just read that Roma – Milan preview, and it annoyed me…

    In my eyes, Barcelona has ruined modern day football. You read that properly, RUINED.
    …the rest of the World has fallen into the Barca trap. You either play Barca football, or you play crap, and that is the end of the story. When or why this happened is beyond me, but sadly Roma has fallen into the trap, and hard, so hard…

  20. Helge
    October 30, 2011

    So from now on, there won’t be any other team than EE or Barca on the top of the table…

    • ElJefe
      October 30, 2011

      For the next 100 years, unfortunately. The nature of sports business has changed. The Champion’s League is now effectively La Liga/EPL/Bundes.

  21. barca96
    October 30, 2011

    Last night I got the shock of my life when I saw the name coming on for Mallorca in the 2nd half. It was my ex-team mate Gianni Zuiverloon, their #2. He couldn’t cut it at Feyenoord nor West Brom but last night he was sharing the pitch with Messi & co. I hope he could swap shirt with any of the mega stars.

    • blitzen
      October 30, 2011

      Oh, was that his name? I kept hearing something like “Zubaloo”! 😆

      • SoccerMom
        October 30, 2011

        Now I’M hearing Ricky Ricardo sing “Boogaloo …”

    • Ryan
      October 30, 2011

      Yeah, I thought after Osasuna got the red that Levante could at least get one in. The season is long though, I still have hope!

  22. October 30, 2011

    We’ll need a Liveblogger for Tuesday’s game vs Plzen. Like, for real this time. Calvin can’t do it.

    I’ll set you up and give you a primer. You can email me at or if you prefer. You can also leave a comment below this one and I can email you. (I see your emails, so it’s all good).

    First come first serve!

  23. blitzen
    October 30, 2011

    Wigan chairman on the racism in football issue:

    The Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has said players are “out of order” to complain about being referred to by their race.

    Whelan, responding to allegations against John Terry, which the England captain denies, told LBC the issue of racism in football was overblown, and that players “should just get on with it”.

    He said: “If a white man insults a black man that’s big, big news. If a black man insults a white man that’s nothing, and it’s expected.

    “I think we should forget colour and … you know, it doesn’t bother anybody. Sometimes a footballer, when they’re playing at such a level, with the stress there is … if they call somebody white, if they call somebody black, you’ve just got to get on with it.

    “You know, I think the players who come and complain, sometimes they are a little bit out of order.

    “The game is a game, the game is a football game, whether you’re white, black, pink, red, it doesn’t matter. We’re all equal and we all play football and we should get on with it.”

    Well, I’m so glad he cleared that up. I didn’t realize there was an epidemic of white-ism out there as well. This must be that “banter” I keep hearing so much about. Good to know it “doesn’t bother anybody”.

  24. BarcaOwl
    October 30, 2011

    Congratulations on the shoutout, Kxevin. You’ve been doing a great job with this blog.

    I only have one question though: what is a woof ticket? I’ve not come across that before.

    • October 30, 2011

      Crap talking, based on potential performance. See link in review up top. Like writing checks you aren’t sure you can cash.

      • BarcaOwl
        October 31, 2011

        Thanks for explaining, Kxevin. We learn something everyday. I obviously need a new pair of glasses since I totally missed the link.

  25. barca96
    October 31, 2011

    All of Lionel Messi’s 13 league goals so far this season have been scored during home games at the Camp Nou

    That is really worrying!

    Yeah Blitz, my commentator also got it wrong. I heard him say Zooverloon before the sub was made so I never expected it to be my friend. I only realised it when the name appeared on the screen.

    Did you guys find it hard to make out the numbers on the Mallorca players? Those silver numbers dont really go along with the white jersey don’t they? I still could spot my friend though from his swagger. He always had that swagger.

  26. October 31, 2011

    Sanchez in the squad for Plzen!

    Why did I trust We always believe suspect bearers of glad tidings. He is traveling with the squad, but is not expected to be green-lighted for the Plzen match. Nor should we need him, it should be added.

  27. blitzen
    October 31, 2011

    Looking for something to do while you wait for the CL preview? Why not read some blitzen awards? They’re tasty!

    Working Class Heroes Award: Levante, who ended their unbeaten run in a 2-0 loss to Osasuna and have dropped to third in the league table. Following a world-class team like Barcelona, it is easy to forget the impact that a smaller local side can have on its supporters’ lives. This team has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people the last few weeks, and not just in Valencia or in Spain. They may be poor, ugly, and bad at football—but they will always be heroes.

    This Is Not How I Envisioned It Award: Isaac Cuenca, who in his first minute of the game slipped for no reason and fell on his ass in front of around 80,000 people. Um, he meant to do that!

    Top O’ The World, Ma! Award: Cuenca again, who went on to have a brilliant game and scored his first goal with the first team. A lovely goal it was, too. That boy has talented feet.

    But We Just Figured Out Who Pedro Is! Award: My English commentators, who were desperately trying to dredge up any information they could find on Cuenca. Damn these canteranos, they just keep crawling out of the woodwork!

    Crazy Eyes Award: Alexis Sanchez, watching from the stands. You could see his eyeballs whirling @@! Boy needs to get some football minutes stat! Thank goodness he will be declared fit soon.

    Don’t Leave Me Hanging Guys Award: Cesc Fabregas, for his adorkable attempt at a high-five while Pinto and Abidal were performing the Wahin Makinacion-approved Cobra Manoeuvre. Awk-ward!

    But Who Does That Make Captain Haddock? Award: Gerard “Tintin” Deulofeu. You can blame EMD for that one. They refer to him as Tintin in today’s edition, and now I will forever see the Boy Reporter when I look at him. Great snakes!

    Chut De Bol Award: The whole team. Because they all took their shots. Villa, Keita, Adriano, Alves, Pique, Thiago. OK, they didn’t all work out, but you can’t complain about the effort.

    These Are My Scoring Threads Award: Dani Alves, who was wearing a full suit-and-tie for his post-match interview, rather than the tees and jeans his teammates were sporting. Not like him at all. I would have expected a full-on leopard-pattern pimp suit and pirate hat.

    • Xingxian
      October 31, 2011

      There is so much beautiful from this game and in this whole comments section. I’m going to just post a YAY! 😀 for the Blitzen Awards and not try to respond to everything as I’m quite busy and temporarily displaced thanks to SURPRISE WINTER STORM in NJ, USA, where I live.

      Wanted to return Kxevin’s shout-out to all of us though by giving a shout-out back to him and all the administrator/writers. This site has become a great part of following the game and a great part of my daily/weekly life.

    • mom4
      October 31, 2011

      ******* BOO ********
      Did I scare y’all? No? 🙁 Oh well, Happy Halloween anyway BFBers! 🙂

      Oooooooooooh Blitzen awards! Hooray!

  28. barca96
    October 31, 2011

    Another thing I forgot to mention.

    Who started out as captain? It’s supposed to be VV right?
    I’m really confused cause when Puyol came in for Busquests, I think Pep instructed sMasch to keep/be the captain but he refused to and instead asked the armband to go to Puyol.

    • blitzen
      October 31, 2011

      VV wore the armband until Puyol came on. He handed it to Masch who passed it along.

      • barca96
        October 31, 2011

        But why was sMasch waving “No No” then?

        • barca96
          October 31, 2011

          Seemed to me that sMasch was asked by someone to put on the armband but he rejected and as expected wanted Puyol to wear it.

          I don’t know. Maybe I was reading too much into it. Time for bed.

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