Viktoria Plzen 0, Barca 4

"I blow my nose at you, evil little one!"

This is the kind of match that gives fuel for the fires stoked by those who say that certain teams have no business being in the Champions League, that big clubs such as ours, even though Viktoria Plzen is a champion in its own right, can stroll along with a guaranteed 3 points.

Those people are stupid.

Fast, brave and resourceful, the scoreline could easily have been 2-0 for the home side, even before the Messi penalty. What kind of a match would that have made for, then? Plzen had two extraordinarily good scoring chances, both of which should have resulted in goals. One was the result of a brilliant stop by Victor Valdes. The other was just one of those moments when a professional gets the yips. It happens.

If either of those two goals go in, it’s a very different match. Would we have scored enough to win? Probably. Maybe. Dunno. But hats off to Plzen who, even when they went a man down on a call that was harsh, continued to try and try and try again, putting on a lovely show for their very vocal home fans and playing like a champion.

We were just too good for them on this night.

Milestones and weirdness

It was a weird night of milestones, weird because who didn’t spend the first 5 minutes of that match thinking, “We’re getting our asses handed to us by that team in black. Damn! Oh …. wait …. never mind.” It was just bizarre. Meanwhile, the numbers just keep ticking over: Guardiola’s 200th, Messi’s 200th, Valdes’ record-setting, 824-minute streak of not conceding, 500 goals in the Guardiola era, the last fittingly coming off a Pique backheel for a Messi slot home. Milestone after milestone after milestone in a match that, saw us guarantee qualification for the knockout stages, where the real Champions League begins.

Another bit of weirdness was how similar this match was to the Mallorca match, in that the opponent started out brightly, screwed the pooch on a golden scoring opportunity then gave up a penalty that was converted by Messi, to functionally make the rest of the match academic after a moment of Messi excellence guaranteed at least a brace for the (again) clean-shaven, hyperactive wee one.

And Xavi didn’t start, or even play. That was weird. No Iniesta, either. And Villa was left off the squad in Champions League, the one competitition he’s actually been scoring. That was also weird. About the only normal things were the result, and the way that the result was derived, as Messi has returned to his dynamic self. Messidependencia? An argument could be made. But what team doesn’t depend on its best player, when you really sit down and think about it.

"Hooray for me!"

Workmanlike excellence

Guardiola came out with a lineup that showed he was serious about taking care of business, with Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Thiago, Adriano, Cuenca!, Messi, Fabregas, the first time that our first-choice back line has played together this season. The omnipresent Xavi was absent, however, which made for some disjointed-looking possession sequences as Thiago and Busquets filled the bill in a less-controlled, yet more dynamic way. But it was real quality that carried the day. Our players were just better than their players. Aside from the counterattacking, excellent chances, they couldn’t string more than three passes together without us taking the ball and proceeding on our merry way. The usual gaudy possession stats in our favor made this clear. I thought that the match was over at 0-2, because conceding two goals to a full-strength side for us is rare, much less a team that is down to 10.

Once we got up by two, we pretty much just passed the ball around and made sure that they didn’t do any harm, conserving energy for what is sure to be a very difficult weekend match, as we head to Fortress Bilbao. And that was that.

Goals, beautiful goals

No, it wasn’t a manita, but it could easily have been. The first goal was very straightforward, even as it was brilliant. Thiago dispossessed a Plzen player with style and aggression, then slotted an excellent ball to Messi, who did his swivel-hipped thing before being brought down in the box. And get this: he went left on the ensuing PK. How ’bout that? The second came off a brilliant 1-2 between Messi and Adriano, who found his way to the right spot for a flawless feed, that Messi slotted home. The third came from a delightful move and cross by Cuenca!, that was headed home by Fabregas. The fourth was sublime, as a dynamic passing sequence found Beanpole sliding a lovely backheel to Messi, who rounded the keeper and slotted home for that Barca ideal, the ball that you could walk into the net.

Despite the scoreline, however, it wasn’t a boring or ugly match. I liked the way that Plzen played. But the breaks of the game didn’t go their way, and we ultimately had too much quality. That was that.


The astute will note that Cuenca! has picked up the exclamation point that Pedro has long-since forsaken. The dude was brilliant again today, with runs, crosses, tracking back on defense to make and facilitate steals and an overall level of quality that finds its ultimate marker in the fact that the team is playing complicated buildup play with him as though he’s been there all season. And it certainly looks as though he has been. Some thought that he wouldn’t start this match, but there he was again, in a New Pedro (or at least Replacement Pedro for now) role that will exist until the Real Pedro comes back from injury. But for now, Cuenca is making hay while the sun shines, and doing so with endearing style. He’s fearless, and will take on defenders at the drop of a hat. His crosses are accurate after he creates the space, and he understands how valuable the ball is. We keep raving about him, for very good reason.

Now let’s deal with some points, shall we?

Team: 8. Some clunky moments, but overall the quality was just too high, collectively and performance-wise. Plzen just weren’t allowed to play, after those two breakdowns in short order seemed to rouse the side.

Guardiola: 9. Pretty close to perfect, but I have to fault him for not pulling Alves once the match was out of reach. I’d rather be without him for BATE than Milan. But when I noted that he had a coaching job on his hands, getting the side and Messi back to excellence, mission accomplished, it seems.

Valdes: 10. He didn’t have a lot to do, but did it all perfectly, including stopping a potentially match-changing 1-v-1 with a Plzen attacker. And congrats again on becoming the team’s record-setting keeper. Hard to believe he hasn’t already set that mark, isn’t it?

Alves: 4. Kind of a mess this match, with an uncharacteristic spree of giving passes away, prompting more than a few quizzical looks from teammates.

Pique: 6. Took Beanpole a while to work in. He was pretty dire early, including sloppy marking that almost led to a Plzen goal as a cross came into the box. Then he got it together. And nice assist.

Puyol: 7. Still working his way back, and a few positional glitches evinced themselves in a fine overall match. He knows where to be, and defines how to play Barca center back with his up and back movements, and reading of where the ball is going to be, two passes from now.

Abidal: 9. What a match. He was playing so well at CB that we forgot what a killer LB he is, with pace that covers for the sins of teammates. He was even being a better Adriano than Adriano, contributing to the attack with overlaps and runs up the left side. His calm assurance with the ball was also on display.

Busquets: 8. Quiet excellence from a player in a role that he was bred for. Passing, getting in the way, stealing balls and kick-starting attacks were his calling cards today, done with almost Keitaesque anonymity. You don’t realize how lustrous he was until you watch and say, “Oh, that was No. 16. There too. And there …. dang!”

Thiago: 8. Wow. Just. Wow. He isn’t Xavi, he’s Thiago. His dynamism on both ends of the pitch continue to captivate, as he, too, is everywhere. His defense isn’t something that people expected, but he is stalwart in regaining possession for the side, while delivering mostly unerring passes. If his brother is better, that’s just crazy.

Adriano: 4. Dude went on walkabout. Ramzi quipped via Twitter that he thought the match was being played in Plzen’s usual stadium, and went there instead. He popped up to assist Messi on the second goal, then went back to standing around on the left, as Abidal demonstrated how to be part of the attack, you have to actually move instead of standing there waiting for the ball.

Fabregas: 6. Excellent interplay and a very nice headed goal. And full credit for running alongside the Plzen defender during their best scoring chance, denying him options and making it easier for Valdes to make the save. That, to me, was his most impressive moment of the match.

Cuenca: 9. He isn’t promoted yet, but he will be for next season. For sure. He’s ready. We still haven’t seen him in a big match against a top-quality side, it must also be noted. But see my rave above.

Messi: 8. Excellent match, as he continues to ask “Crisis? What crisis?” Keep him shaving, please, as it seems to be Bearded Messi who has the clunks. Again, for those who say that people were silly for questioning whether he needed a rest, note how differently he is moving then and now. It really is amazing. Now, he wants the ball all the time, not just on offense when somebody passes it to him. The hat trick came so easily, and out of the overall team flow, most importantly.


Keita (for Busquets): incomplete. Came on, did his Keita thing in a match that was effectively over. Plzen was out of energy, and we kept the ball.

Maxwell (for Alves): incomplete. Man, would I liked to have seen that sub a few minutes earlier. Again, not a lot for him to do.

Sanchez (for Abidal): incomplete. Good to have him back in the lineup. He brings another dynamic, dribble-beating player to the fore, but one who understands the value of defense, possession and making up for your errors by regaining possession.

And with this victory, we are through to the knockout stages. Whether we will be top of group of second depends largely upon the result of the next CL group match, against Milan in their house. Oh, for one second of marking/defending, eh? But that’s life in the big city.

Thanks for reading, and in closing, has anyone noticed how often the entire team celebrates our goals? Maybe I just don’t watch enough other teams, but that strikes me as a quality that’s worth commenting on. Later.

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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. Eklavya
    November 2, 2011

    Is the second ‘c’ in Cuenca pronounced as a ‘s’ or a ‘k’?

    • Helge
      November 2, 2011

      Like a ‘k’, just like Barca is called Barka as long as you don’t write it with a proper ç.

    • mom4
      November 2, 2011

      If memory serves, in Spanish castellano, if the “c” is followed by an “e” or an “i” it has an “s” sound. Any other time it has a “k” sound. The letter “ç” always has an “s” sound but in certain parts or Spain will be pronounced more like a “th”. I have no clue about the subtleties of Catalan pronunciation.

      • ooga aga
        November 2, 2011

        the word cuenca (at least in spanish of el salvador) means “watershed” or “drainage basin”.

      • November 2, 2011

        I think in catalan is Bar’s’elona but in castellano is more like Bar’th’elona

        • nzm
          November 2, 2011

          Yes – no one in Catalonia says, “Bar’the’lona” – it’s always Barcelona.

          But the closer that you get to Gali’th’ia….:D

      • just listenin
        November 3, 2011

        All I know is that when I see or say it, it reminds me of our Capita’s beloved late pet sheep

  2. Helge
    November 2, 2011

    I think the Milan fans won’t agree with the first part of your review, either 😉

    So Messi scored the 500th goal under Pep, and also the 5000th goal for Barca last season. He likes records with a 5. Will he win 5 Balon D’Ors in his career, or will it be even more? 😀

    Again, for those who say that people were silly for questioning whether he needed a rest, note how differently he is moving then and now.
    How’s that possible?!? He’s had sooo many matches over the last years, he never gets a rest, than he sucks for two matches and suddenly, just three days later, he reappears in his usual best shape, as if he had been on a 2-week-long rehab! I don’t get his secret ^^

    I’m really excited how we’ll do at San Mames, it is potentially the toughest game of the real season so far (i.e. discounting SuperCopa).
    And with Cuenca stepping up, Sanchez coming back is it even possible to speak of a single, best line-up? We should field our best team in Bilbao, but does THE best exist?

    • hammeronmessi
      November 2, 2011

      what bout the milan fans,michelin?

      • hammeronmessi
        November 2, 2011

        got it,they drew with bate.

        • Helge
          November 2, 2011

          Yeah, that’s what I alluded to.

          But what about the ‘michelin’? 🙂

  3. nzm
    November 2, 2011

    Well said, Kevin.

    I must say that it was one of the more “restful” games that I’ve watched Barca play in recent months. My heart wasn’t threatening to leap out of my chest for 90+ minutes!

    If that first Plzn player going for goal had chipped over Valdes’ head, we would have been looking at a different ball game with a chagrined VV starting his record minutes count all over again.

    Thiago is coming along nicely, however IMO he’s still a little too flicky-flakky when he’s being closed down. I’ll have to look at the game again, but I think that it was Thiago losing the ball in this manner that gave Plzn their breakaway chance. Small thing, I know – but it’s something that he needs to to work on.

    One of the team’s most endearing features is the way in which they celebrate goals. It’s a team effort, so let’s celebrate as one.

    • Jnice
      November 2, 2011

      ’ll have to look at the game again, but I think that it was Thiago losing the ball in this manner that gave Plzn their breakaway chance. Small thing, I know – but it’s something that he needs to to work on.

      Wasn’t Thiago. Dani played a slightly loose ball to Cuenca who tried to save it and poke it away, but it was intercepted by a Plzen player.

  4. can_we_go_Xalvies
    November 2, 2011

    I am pretty sure that Guardiola once scheduled a team goal celebration exercise. I remember there was an article and pictures of it on the club website. I’m not sure how long ago this was, it could have been way back in early 2009.

    Team celebration is part of this team’s culture, they believe that scoring goals is an achievement from everyone on the team, and everyone gets to celebrate it. I guess it helps keep the players motivated and also helps the young ones enjoy the experience too.

  5. mom4
    November 2, 2011

    Nice review, Kxevin. Thanks. And thanks for Cuenca’s “!”.

    Goal celebrations? I love our goal celebrations. They almost always involve a pile of hugging. I feel sorry for VV having to celebrate alone or the poor guy who can’t celebrate because Pep called him over to discuss something. Goal celebrations elsewhere seem very individualistic (I had commented about this a few threads ago after RVP’s Arsenal goal). You could see it during the CL final also in Rooneys chest-thrown-back it’s me look what I did celebration. I remember watching Villa during the World Cup and wondering if he’d fit in because his celebrations involved a flourish kind of thing towards the crowd and were more individual. Yeah, part of me is thinking wow, what a TEAM during these celebrations and the other part of me os saying ugh, they’re all sweaty and disgusting and hugging, I hope they’re all using really good deoderant.

    Wait…there’s no “aka” in the title. Who are you and what have you done with our Kxevin?

    • The__K__Man
      November 2, 2011

      I did check the title again when I noticed it was by Kxevin to see if there was really no ‘aka’ or if it was me who just missed it.

  6. November 2, 2011

    I rewatched this match last night and found Plzen was actually pretty violent at times. But this only proves more of our quality, because even against a fearless, physical and aggressive side, we are able to avoid injury with our passing and movement. If we played like we did against Sevilla or Granada, some of us could have been hurt. Our ball circulations were particularly remarkable last night, even if you run at any of us in full speed, you end up run in circles because you will never run faster than the ball. So, back to the old question: What the hell should you do against this Barcelona?!

    Victor Valdes setting new records is a bigger joy for me than Messi and Pep setting new records. Because frankly, we all know Messi will break every single record soon, and Pep has already broken a lot of records. So, with VV sitting on the best seat in the stadium 75% of the time match in and out and still manage to make those match-changing saves is really difficult. People talk about how the record is handed to VV because Barca keeps the ball so well and their defense is so good, but for him not to relax and be ready for fire drill really take a lot of pressure and mental strength. Sooooo proud of Valdes!

  7. Worddriven Bozo
    November 2, 2011

    Gotta love Abidal, but 9 is too high, because he was at fault for the breakaway. (Alves also complicit; Pique and Puyol nowhere to be seen.)

    Barca wasn’t really too good for Plzen until they became too many for Plzen. I wouldn’t be surprised if they took points off A.C. Milan in the final game, even if Milan is still in the running for first in the group.

  8. hammeronmessi
    November 2, 2011

    good review,but gotta say abidals 9 is high(but we all know u r biased and anti messi.)

    thiago and cuneca were phenomenonal.

    with the crossing of cuenca and the skill set of pique,why not use pique in a forward role?that will be another headache for the opposing teams.

    • November 2, 2011

      (but we all know u r biased and anti messi.) Hahahaha hammer you are the most deadpan commenter here.

      • hammeronmessi
        November 2, 2011

        1.marked by or accomplished with a careful pretense of seriousness or calm detachment; impassive or expressionless: deadpan humor.

        2.displaying no emotional or personal involvement: a deadpan style.

        your comment made me look into whats the meaning of deadpan?now i get it.woof woof.

  9. hammeronmessi
    November 2, 2011

    what about a tribute to messi,valdes and pep in BFB?some video links,some great articles,some pictures,some quotes?what do u guys think?

  10. November 2, 2011

    hammeronmessi and Worddriven Bozo, watch the break again. Alves screws the pooch, which creates the jailbreak. Garbage in, garbage out. And Valdes saves the day.

    It’s actually worth watching the match again, just for Abidal’s work. Just as Puyol defines how a Barca CB should play, I think that Abidal is coming to define how a defensive-minded (to differentiate from Alves) Barca FB should play. In two words, “always there.”

    • hammeronmessi
      November 2, 2011

      watched it again.abidal ,instead of making a tactical foul, tried to poke the ball away in a half hearted manner near the halfway line,which would have contributed a goal for them,but VV saved the day.

      apart from that he was a beast,bailed out puyol a couple of times.he was fantastic but not a 9 fantsatic.

      • November 2, 2011

        And so this makes Abidal culpable in what way, other than someone wants him to be? As a club, we don’t use tactical fouls as an option. I wish that we did, but we don’t.

        Hence the “garbage in, garbage out” description. Things went bad from the pass that went awry, and our defense never does well with jailbreaks. Other teams foul, and newer players such as Maxwell or Adriano will throw in the occasional tactical foul. So will Alves. But not Abidal, or many of the other players. For the record I think it’s a mistake. The occasional non-yellow foul to stop play can be a good thing, even as it violates dictates of sportsmanship.

        But again, if you want Abidal to be culpable for the break, to your perspective, he is.

        • hammeronmessi
          November 2, 2011

          abidal is one of the guilty party along with dani and in a slightly way was not his fault entirely,but he definitely should made a tactical foul.and no i dont blame abidal for the break.i wasnt articulate enough in my post.

          As a club, we don’t use tactical fouls as an option.

          not so sure bout the top of my head 2 incidents come up.

          1.pique against cr in cl final 09,where he body checked cr.

          2.masche falling over cr in cl semifinal 11.

          The occasional non-yellow foul to stop play can be a good thing, even as it violates dictates of sportsmanship.

          i disagree.but again its ones perspective.

          • November 3, 2011

            How is falling over someone when one is being tripped a tactical foul?

  11. November 2, 2011

    Word directly from Milan is that Cassano experienced a “ischemic cerebral damage.” I leave it to the big brains in here to tell me what that means, exactly. Hope he’ll be okay.

    • Para
      November 2, 2011

      The english (speaking) media seems to be reporting it as a TIA (transient ischaemic attack), which is essentially a stroke where the symptoms resolve within 24 hours. Hopefully that means his symptoms are completely resolved.

      I’ve also read (on the Milan site, so I’m fairly certain this is credible) that the TIA was caused by an open foramen ovale (colloquially called a hole in the heart, I believe), which pre-disposes you to clots that can lead to strokes. He’s supposed to be having surgery to close that hole up.

      The Milan site said that he was in a stable clinical condition, so I hope all goes well with the surgery and that he recovers fully.

      • mom4
        November 2, 2011

        Statistically, 1 out of every 5 of us(or more) on this blog could have a PFO (patent (open) foramen ovale). It’s a leftover feature of fetal circulation (the foramen ovale like the ductus arteriosis usually closes soon after birth (they’re not needed after the first breath)) that usually causes no problem. Usually it’s no big deal, but it is a communication between the systemic and pulmonary circulations (an opening in the wall (septum) between the two atria (filling chambers) of the heart) and things can happen. There seems to be an increased risk of stroke and migraines. Our daughter has this along with other congenital (present at birth) heart defects that were taken care of in infancy by open heart surgery.

        I wonder if they’ll take care of this through a cardiac cath or if he’ll need open heart surgery.

        • SoccerMom
          November 2, 2011

          Hey! I had open-heart surgery too! ASD correction with VSD still intact but no restrictions. Holes let the light in!

  12. phil
    November 2, 2011

    The 4th goal was #1 on Sportscenter’s top plays from yesterday and is thus up for Best of the Best. Go to and go to the poll “Best of the Best” on the left. Hopefully we can knock off the defending champion 😀

  13. andrecito
    November 2, 2011

    wow..hammeronmessi…awesome idea..the coolest thing i’ve heard all day..
    lets think about this for a second..i don’t know how it would play out the 95% of the time of the game when i/c doesnt have the ball….but when he does–it would be freakin awesome to have gera up there!

  14. blitzen
    November 2, 2011

    I wasn’t going to do another edition of blitzen awards so soon, but I enjoyed watching yesterday’s game so much I couldn’t resist handing out a few. And, as always, if my awards aren’t your thing, just stroll on by, stroll on by.

    Som La Gent Blaugrana Award: Why does Messi look so tall? And why does the black team have all of the ball possession? Hang on, I get it now. We’re the ones in black! Well, that was weird.

    He Ain’t Xavi, He’s Our Brother Award: Thiago. As Kxevin pointed out above, and as I have been saying for ages, Thiago is not the next Xavi. He is Thiago, with his own set of skills that bring different things to the game. He had a monster of a match, charging at defenders, chasing down the ball, getting up and down the field wherever he was needed. Yes, he misplaced a few passes, but his ball recovery is almost as good as Masch’s. And he was incredibly unlucky not to score from that header.

    Keeping The Interns Busy Award: My English commentators again, who are suddenly full of information and trivia about Isaac Cuenca, just as if they had any clue who he was all along!

    Return of the King Award: A bit lost in the rumpus of praise over Cuenca’s and Valdes’ performances is the fact that our Captain Braveheart played a full 90 minutes for the first time in ages and had a very good game. No, he wasn’t perfect, there were a couple of mistakes (where exactly was he during that early breakaway from Plzn?), but just his presence on the field brings a level of security and calmness to the backline that has been sorely missed. And shouting. Xavi wasn’t kidding when he said Puyi never shuts up on the pitch. 😛

    Sergio Ramos Award for Sartorial FAIL: Cesc was wearing a headband. A. Head. Band.

    Biased Idiots Kxevin Memorial Award: The FIFA Ballon d’Or shortlist selection committee. Seriously, what more does Victor Valdes have to do to be recognized as he deserves? He has been the best GK in Spain for several years running and has been utterly fantastic in 2011, both in the league and the CL. And still he gets no love.

    • mom4
      November 2, 2011

      Sergio Ramos Award for Sartorial FAIL: Cesc was wearing a headband. A. Head. Band.

      I was like…OMgosh…he reminds me of…no I can’t bear to say it…Berbatov

      Epic fail, Cesc!

    • November 2, 2011

      And Valdes isn’t even the most baffling. First of all, what is Forlan doing there? He was terrible! This is the awards list for 2011 not 2010, but the nominations seem to be “players who did good in 2010 + Neymar”.

      Nobody from Borussia Dortmund who stormed to the German title. No Ibra or Thiago Silva from the Serie A winners. No Sanchez or Cavani (or even Di Natale), the best players in the entire Italian league and some of the best in the world last year. No forty-goal season Mario Gomez. No David Silva.

      Honestly even the list was a hundred times better than this one. It’s like one of those folks who barely follows football and knows just the big names, the hyped ones, the ones who were great a year ago and never actually watched any game except a handful drew up the list.

    • hammeronmessi
      November 2, 2011

      Sergio Ramos Award for Sartorial FAIL: Cesc was wearing a headband. A. Head. Band.

      hahaha.good one.that made me laugh.

  15. Josep
    November 2, 2011

    Two things;

    1. Anyone else notice even before the Pique backheel that he kept getting forward in the final 8-9 minutes? He was just like “puyi, hold down the fort” and started venturing..then he got involved and it was brilliant.

    2. Alves’ suspension is a blessing in disguise if Milan play a 4-3-1-2. It’ll allow a formation of

    Puyol Pique Abidal
    Xavi Iniesta Cesc
    Sanchez Messi Villa

    Mascherano marking out whoever they play in the hole, and the back three covering Zlatan and Pato if they play, allowing us to dominate the midfield against their 3 when Messi drops deep.

    Could just be me though, and Busi may start too (why has he not played as much recently?)

    • November 2, 2011

      “He was just like “puyi hold the fort” and started venturing”


      Yep. I noticed that too. Haha, Pique. What a boss.

      – Yeah, Busi will definitely start. He’s just been getting a break recently (since Del Bosque plays him every game for every minute for Spain, and he’s almost always starting for us). Iniesta too for that matter. Pep said he was exhausted after the Sevilla game, and with Andres’ injury record, they’re being very careful with him. For good reason.

      Though, I agree with your 3-4-3 formation. With Alves out, it’ll be too tempting for Pep.

      For Pato, we’ll have to have Abidal at CB, and we need Pique to mark Ibra, so I say:

      Masch – Pique – Abidal
      Xavi – Busi – Iniesta – (Thiago/Cesc)
      Alexis – Messi – Villa

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if Cuenca starts instead of Villa. We definitely need width. Can’t decide who would be better between Thiago (better defensively/more control in midfield) and Fabregas (offensive thrust/box crashing).

      I assume Milan will sit deep, so… Cesc? Hmm.

      Oh and personally, I think Milan play “worse” with Ibra, and before people jump on me, let me explain. It’s the same case with Sweden. When Ibra plays, he becomes the focal point and people will always pass the ball to him. Feel the need to always pass to him. There’s no real… surprise. Or diversity in attack. Maybe hit the ball to Pato to run onto once and awhile, but they’ll inevitably go through Ibra.

      It makes them easier to defend.

    • Anonymous_69
      November 3, 2011

      I still don’t like that idea. Especially with Alves out, they might predict the 3-4-3, and easily plot against it. Which might be disastrous for us. I prefer as little change from our regular setup as possible, with Adriano playing RB. He isn’t as good as Dani defensively, and he doesn’t contribute as much to build-up play, but he would add even more width and trickery on the right wing (if he has one of his good games).


      Messi and Sanchez certain starters in attack, I’m not sure about other spot though. If Pedro ever regains his best form, that spot is his. If not, then it’s between Cesc and Villa. Would like to see an attack consisting of Cesc, Sanchez, and Messi, but I’m not sure how Cesc would do as a false 9 up against Nesta and Silva.

      I am also begging to (seriously) try Pique upfront, and see where that gets us. Against teams like Athletic Bibao and AC Milan, who play with giant strikers, I think Pique always needs to start at CB. But I really want to see Pep try him as a 9. A couple of times as Sanchez-Pique-Messi, and a couple of times as Villa-Pique-Messi (Villa seems to play A LOT better off the space created by a powerful striker).

  16. y2k156
    November 2, 2011

    Excellent review.

    Just have to give props to plezen as well who played very well.

  17. November 2, 2011

    Villareal team of kids against all guns blazing Manchester City playing an attacking line-up. I fear for the poor Yellow Submarines.

  18. November 2, 2011

    I’m not sure I can accept a match review that is not “also known as” something else. Blasphemy.

    • November 2, 2011

      “We’re getting our asses handed to us by that team in black. Damn! Oh …. wait …. never mind.”

      even more confusing tuning in at half & seeing the scoreline

  19. November 2, 2011

    Wow Bayern are going medieval on Neapolitan ass.

    3-0 Gomez 17′ 23′ 42′ and it’s not even half-time yet.

  20. Dani_el
    November 2, 2011

    Thanks for the review Kxevin.

    I remember when Pedro was subbed for Henry, and kept doing things better than him that whole season, and Pep kept saying on the pressers how log of a road had Pedro to walk to be even compared to Henry. I like Cuenca, but I hope Pedro and Alexis have more chances for the coming matches. Still Cuenca reminds me of DiMaria in Portugal, in an un-evil way of course. About the ratings I don’t know if Abi deserves more points than Messi and same points than Cuenca. I like the guy, hell I admire him! But I don’t agree sometimes with your ratings of him.

    In another matter there are a couple of articles I wish to share with you guys.

    Here’s the one from Cristian Pulina that writes for Yahoosport about Barça related issues. Here he explains how Rossell didn’t give accurate explanations in the soci’s meeting that decided to sue Laporta. Mostly about the expensive suits, Rossell’s Junta said they were paid by the club, and it seems to be a lie, they were alledgedly payed by a sponsor, and they decided the type of suites they were paying. Also about the catering in the palcos, they seem to be inaccurate numbers, it all seems phishy.

  21. November 2, 2011

    Apparently City have scored 50 goals in 17 games in all competitions so far this season. Which is very very impressive honestly. (We’ve scored 53 in the same number of games, and I think Madrid have 52.)

    It’s so hard to not like them now somehow, or at least enjoy them winning. Partly cos my troll side enjoys the fact that City is sticking it to the same EPL big clubs whose fanboys always used to trash us and La Liga (and the City fans I’ve seen on the internet almost exclusively seem to revere Barca, not hate or trash us, so I may be biased), but mostly because their football has been really good to watch this season. Players I love like Yaya, Aguero, Balotelli and absolutely magical David Silva.

    They’re gonna be very very good in coming seasons. They’ve got tons of physicality with 6’3 ish man-monsters like Yaya, Dzeko, Balotelli, Kompany not to mention how extremely physical the likes of De Jong and Micah Richards are. They’re got plenty of pace across the attack. And they’ve got pure class in the likes of Silva and Aguero in a quite technically adept team (Balotelli, Adam Johnson, Nasri, Yaya, Dzeko, Milner are all also quite comfortable with the ball).

    • Gogah
      November 3, 2011

      I hope we meet them in the quarters or the semis.
      What a match that would make.

  22. momo
    November 2, 2011

    Does anyone know what’s up with the consecutive iniesta exclusions? I know he obviously wasn’t needed but it still seems strange to me…

    • kmlewis1980
      November 2, 2011

      I think Pep said yesterday that Iniesta was really tired after Sevilla, then something about the grass on the pitch made him nervous, so he decided to sit him.

  23. momo
    November 2, 2011

    RIP FCBHighDef…
    Damn yoooooooou Youtube!

    • blitzen
      November 2, 2011

      I see your apartment comes with an extra sofa-bed…I’m not busy that weekend… 😀

      Chelsea? Seriously? Just…no. You haven’t heard about the most recent chants by their lovely supporters? Ugh. Not even seeing Mata and Drogs is worth that. You’d probably have more fun going to see QPR.

      French fries are called chips and you put vinegar on them! 😛 Do not eat at Wimpy’s for any reason.

      Black pudding is yummy but it’s made from blood. Your call.

      St. Paul’s Cathedral is WOW. Buckingham Palace is not, because you can’t get near it.

      You can’t see London in a weekend, it’s too damn big. Pick 2 or 3 things you want to do and do them thoroughly.

      • November 2, 2011

        Wifey’s been a couple of times before, so I’m skating on her coattails.

  24. Dani_el
    November 2, 2011

    This is the last paragraph of Ruben Uria’s article that Nzm was talking about, pure beauty:

    “Today Messi, Rosario’s martian, belongs on his own right to the select Parthenon of football’s Olympus. Di Stefano was The Myth of Sisyphus, the solo player that was also the whole orchestra; Pele was the samba devil of Pan de Azucar (a hill in Rio), the dream that kicked planets; Cruyff was the devil’s rush, the high – voltage- rebel without a cause; and Maradona was a ham with legs, a cosmic keg that seemed to be from another planet, he hid the ball under his lard and shattered any given Sunday with his left leg. Today Messi, that kid which Rexach signed his future in a paper napkin, will overtake them all. Along with Fabregas and Pique, Messi is part of an unrepeatable generation and has fabricated his own destiny in the same way that he has ruled it. That is his greatness.”

    • barca96
      November 3, 2011

      Magical words..

      Thanks for the translations!!

    • Para
      November 3, 2011

      You’re awesome Dani_el–thanks so much for the translation!

  25. ElJefe
    November 3, 2011

    I just wrote an elaborate 5 page summary of this match, but then decided to erase it in place of this:


    Feels good. Abridged version of review:
    1) Pique backheel leading to goal: Fool me once, you’re a lucky, lanky (albeit skilled CB. Fool me twice, let’s start you in place of Villa
    2) Cuenca here to stay if he wants.
    3) Busi played terrible today (particularly at beginning) but still love having him in there. His distribution just makes the team better, which I assume Kxevin agrees with given his inflated review.
    4) Reunited and it feels so good….Capitan + Pique in the middle so Greyhound (what is spanish for greyhound?) can run the wings

  26. barca96
    November 3, 2011

    Keita (for Busquets): incomplete. Came on, did his Keita thing in a match that was effectively over. Plzen was out of energy, and we kept the ball.

    Nah 🙂 He had other ideas. In the first few minutes that he came in, he passed the ball straight to the opposition players.

    • November 3, 2011

      But not as many as Alves, who I think was confused by the other Blaugrana shirts.

  27. providence
    November 3, 2011

    where is david villa? why did he not make up the squad in? is he having a problem of late? or he is having a problem with pep?

    • barca96
      November 3, 2011

      Discomfort and he’s looked really tired for the past 2 matches up to a point where it looked he was wearing those ankle weights.

  28. Gogah
    November 3, 2011

    Happy to see you call out our celebration style.
    I spoke about this in one of my posts about the principles that makes this team the best ever. One of the points was the childlike quality present in most of our players’ attitudes. This allows for children and a wide range of neutrals to identify with the soul of the team. Every time a goal is scored all the players dogpile one another without a care for body odour or who is involved directly in the goal. Its a childlike quality and a lack of ego that pep has instilled in the squad. you would think these guys would be getting bored after scoring a cart load of goals. But no. The hunger and the excitement seems to remain in the squad and that’s great to see.

    Happy to see !Cuenca! and Lexus kill it. Villa and Pedro need to really step up if they want to retain their starting positions. I had also mentioned the possibility of Pique playing in a forward role in a comment in the earlier post. how do you think that would work out?

    He has amazing composure in the box (recall inter goal) and great feet for a defender (backheel to messi in madrid supercopa) and great height. With Pep experimenting with formations and player positions, do you think he would have considered playing pique up front. Maybe against certain opponents we could use some aerial threat up top, especially considering Cuenca’s and lexus’ skills wide. This could be the planB we never had. No?

  29. barca96
    November 3, 2011
  30. blitzen
    November 3, 2011

    TotalBarça has a story up on Isaac Cuenca:

    Interesting that Lucho didn’t consider him for Barça B. I wonder why not? Maybe between Nolito, Vazquez, Tello & Soriano he just didn’t think he would be able to give him playing time. Also interesting that Cuenca initially left Barcelona because he didn’t have “physical strength and height”. This is the same thing that prevented Pep from getting promoted until Cruyff intervened. Maybe this is one of the reasons Pep was drawn to Cuenca in the first place—he sees echoes of himself as a young player. You would think that a team whose best players are Iniesta, Messi, and Xavi would have learned its lesson by now.

    • Gogah
      November 3, 2011

      its an improvement yes.
      but way off from what a good web revamp could have been.
      the moody grey still exists.

      • nzm
        November 3, 2011

        That’s Microsoft Grey now that they’re in bed with Bill. 😀

        • Gogah
          November 3, 2011

          well said! 😀
          forgot the bill connection.
          but surely they can put a better web designer for the job

    • nzm
      November 3, 2011

      Doing a quick recce of it.

      Certainly it’s good that the other football teams are getting more recognition.

      I’m not sure that the other sports will like being lumped together under the “Other Sections” tab. They used to have their own Menu Item on the old website.

      • November 3, 2011

        The player biox are excellent, and no more watermarked images is also cool for us bloggers. Though we will certainly credit them, now that the watermarks are gone. It’s just a much better resource for fans, I think.

        • nzm
          November 3, 2011

          Yes, it is.

          Just did a quick check on one of the images loaded into Photoshop, and they aren’t embedded with a Digimarc watermark either, so the club is unable to track the image usage.

          However their Legal Terms are pretty rigid:
          You can’t even hyperlink to the website!

          • nzm
            November 3, 2011

            Oops – just broke the hyperlink ruling! 😀

  31. November 3, 2011

    Don’t know if this has been posted already, but check out some of Zlatan’s comments on Pep here:

    He tries to make Pep sound bad but honestly everything he says makes himself sound worse!

    • jordi™
      November 3, 2011

      I like the part where he says he drove his Ferrari to the almeria game.Way to stick it to the evil oppressor trying to keep him down:roll:

      Ill admit this part made me laugh:

      ” I thought ‘there is my enemy, scratching his bald head’”

      • November 3, 2011

        As I noted on Twitter, just when I think he might not be the biggest douche on the planet, he makes a luar out of me.

        • jordi™
          November 3, 2011

          The part that really stands out is how he calls the players school boys, blindly following pep.Imagine that, players coming off a sextuplet, following what ever their coach tells them, in hope of more success.Meanwhile ‘INeverwonaCl’, questions pep all along the way, because its his ‘personality’.If he came here in Pep’s first season when it was the convincing phase, fair enough, but he arrived after the most successful club season in history.If you can’t buy into that, you have a serious problem.

    • blitzen
      November 3, 2011

      “(Pep) was staring at me and I lost it. I thought ‘there is my enemy, scratching his bald head’. I yelled to him: ‘you have no balls!’ And probably worse things than that. “I added: ‘You are s***ing yourself because of (then-Internazionale manager Jose Mourinho, whose side beat Inter in the Champions League). You can go to hell!’ I was completely mad.”I threw a box full of training gear across the room, it crashed to the floor and Pep said nothing, just put stuff back in the box.

      Well. Assuming this is all true, it just makes me respect Guardiola more. Remember the single and only negative thing Pep has said regarding his issue with Ibrahimovic is “If I did not speak to him for 6 months there was a reason for that.” Absolute class.

      And tantrums aside, the single most damning thing Ibra says in this extract is “I stopped trying to adapt.” That’s what sealed his fate, no doubt in my mind. No one player is bigger than this team. That is fundamental to the Barça philosophy and the key to succeeding on the field and with the coach. Once he showed Pep he was neither willing nor able to subsume his ego into the hive mind do what was best for the team as a whole, his exit was inevitable.

      • Lev
        November 3, 2011

        Blitzen I completely agree with you.


        a BIIIIIIG however….

        If this was the case it makes it even more puzzling that the best deal we could have gotten for him was a last minute loan plus buy option for 24 million spread over 3 years. We basically had the whoooole summer to move him. Even more so when you take into account that we had gotten his replacement, Villa, before the WC.

        • November 3, 2011

          I think his salary was the big problem. There were plenty of teams that would have ponied up for him at a nice transfer fee, without the fat salary. Or maybe teams know about him, as did we, and hoped that being part of such a successful club would make him more willing to adapt/assimilate.

        • Gogah
          November 3, 2011

          It is possible that Rosell might have used the situation to make the ‘dire straits’ claim more apparent.

          Villa was procured before the WC. We could have sold Ibra to anyone(man city). he was coming off a not so bad season, 20+ goals, another league title and yet this shitty 24m deal was all we could manage? no i don’t buy it.

          • Huckleberry
            November 3, 2011

            Ibra didn’t want to go to a club not playing CL.

      • blitzen
        November 3, 2011

        Also, if the story above is true, The fact that we are just hearing about it now speaks volumes to me about how close-knit the Barcelona dressing-room is. Not a single one of the players or support staff leaked anything about it, not a word, not an implication, no criticism of any kind. Just moving on and getting on with it. Amazing.

        As for why we ended up making such a lousy last-minute deal for Ibra, I have no idea. I know a lot of clubs were waiting until after the World Cup to start splashing their cash around. And maybe RoSELL was hoping to be able to smooth over the issues between them. Ibra did play in the preseason, remember—he went to Asia and everything. Or, ultimately, maybe Ibra was just too expensive for most clubs and had burned too many bridges for anyone to want to put up that kind of money (see: Tevez).

        • November 3, 2011

          Very true, blitzen. But kinda no surprise, given the quality and depth of the group in question. Guardiola just walking over to pick up the stuff that Ibrahimovic threw is so brilliant. It’s almost as though he doesn’t have any time for stuff that will derail the mission. He could have argued back, or fought, but why? Just excise the tumor and keep on rolling.

        • November 3, 2011

          Great point blitzen about how close-nit the dressing room is!

          As far as it concerns the lousy Milan deal Ibrahimovic explains how he and Raiola plotted the low price ever since we got Villa by claiming they had agreed with EE!!
          it says so here by

          “También sorprende la revelación de Ibrahimovic sobre el plan que orquestó junto a su agente, Mino Raiola, para forzar su salida a bajo coste rumbo a Milán. “Tras fichar a Villa, tuve claro que debería forzar mi salida y lo hicimos afirmando que ya lo teníamos hecho con el Madrid. Así conseguimos el traspaso al Milan”, reveló Zlatan.”

    • mom4
      November 3, 2011

      SOOOooooooo glad he’s gone!
      Villa may have off days (or spells) but credit to him for the effort he made at adaptation.

  32. hammeronmessi
    November 3, 2011

    ibra the greatest,questionig pep bout the central role of messi?haha.

    maradona,stoichkov and most of the superstars have a very very big ego but what they also have in abundance is the sheer will to win,they simply hate losing,their ego simply didnot allow that.thats why they dominated matches and played when it mattered most.when the goings get tough they got more stronger

    ibra is a very good player,no doubt,but there were so many of us that didnt want him in barca because of his me and only me attitude.probably thats why he didnt score a cl KO stage goal before coming to us.his ego was useless cause he is simply weak mentally.when the goings get tough his head is the first one which was dropped.

    it was the worst business ever by barca.

    but congrats to pep for not uttering a simple word,at the same time i must say that his man management style may be not suitable for some people.(yaya,hleb,ibra,bojan),not that we care,without them we r still going stronger

    • November 3, 2011

      Why Yaya? Him and Pep had a great relationship by all accounts, Yaya said that Pep wanted him to stay and that Yaya would love to return to Barcelona someday too but that he felt he was fit enough and competitive enough to start every game and thus he moved cos he was being rotated with Busquets.

      • Dani_el
        November 3, 2011

        I think Yaya wanted way more money. I read an article which said, that when he was signed he was the highest payed football player in England, how much is he earning in the EPL? more than 10M euros a year? our highest paid player is Messi, I believe, earning 10.5M a year, also he gets all his publicity deals for himself, this is how we roll in Barça, in Madrid they keep 50% of publicity deals I think.

        • Ryan
          November 3, 2011

          More money and getting to play with his brother. Not that he knew that Kolo was going to be out for a long while because of that positive drug test result.

  33. Dani_el
    November 3, 2011

    I really like Toure, my guess is that if he would have adapted to a Masche role now, (and accept less money) he would have stayed on the team. But I would really like him in a Keita role, maybe he is not as disciplined as Keita, but he’s a force to be reckoned with, on the attack.

    • Dani_el
      November 3, 2011

      This is a weird quote from Ibra:
      “Bromeaba con Henry a quien Guardiola también ignoraba y nos decíamos “¿te ha mirado hoy? No, ¡pero he visto su espalda!”

      “I used to joke with Henry, whom Guardiola also ignored and we said to each other: “Has he looked at you today? No, but I have seen his back!””

      Not to take BANGS to seriously, but this is the first time I’ve heard Pep ignored Henry…

      • blitzen
        November 3, 2011

        And yet, Henry has had nothing but good things to say about Guardiola and the team since his departure. Back in March 2010, Pep responded to questions about Henry with this:

        Right now he is aware that he is not at his best and it is logical to pick other players. But in this situation he works hard and I’m here to help him. He is aware of what he has to do better but I think it is better that he believes in himself. I need him to have the same ambition that has made him the best for many years. In the next two months I am sure we will see the best of him.

        I can see Titi joking around with Ibra to try and lighten the situation for him, but I honestly don’t think he ever had an issue with Pep himself. He was smart enough to see when it was time for him to go and he had always talked about going to New York anyway.

        • Dani_el
          November 3, 2011

          Yep. Maybe he was trying to empathize with Ibra. Still, good riddance with him.

    • mom4
      November 3, 2011

      Awwwwwwww, you just found reason 1,000,003 that I love this team (reason 1,000,002 being that we ditched BANGS)!

    • Chiu
      November 3, 2011

      Lovely picture. Your “school boy” dream come true now Cuenca!

  34. ElJefe
    November 3, 2011

    Time for El Jefe’s Power Rankings based on what I’ve seen this season, and for UCL odds:

    1) Barca – Don’t want to jinx it by using the ‘T’ word
    2) Man U – Don’t be fooled by early season City game with Vidic/Rio sitting. Great youth who are playing better every day.
    3) Real Madrid – Neymar signing makes next year very interesting.
    4) Bayern – For once in a long time, they look like world beaters
    5) Man City – Despite all the hype, I think they still need more team attitude and time together before they can beat top class teams on a sustained basis.

    No Italian teams, and Chelsea needs to play alot better to sniff this list.

  35. Dani_el
    November 3, 2011

    There’s something that Kxvein said that is worth talking about. Apart from the human qualities of Barça’s players and how close they seem to be off the pitch, why they seem to be the only team that celebrates all goals together (less the keeper)? I’ve seen EE, there are usually 4 o 5 players celebrating, even ManUtd do that. Peru’s NT, my team, the last goal in Lima against Paraguay the ones celebrating the first goal, where the ones who played in Europe. It’s something to think about, I’m guessing we’ll see a post of it soon.

  36. Dani_el
    November 3, 2011

    I just have read from Ramzi¡s twitter that Barça juvenil won 4-1 Manchester City in the NextGen Series…!

    Let’s hope they don’t get any ideas in signing them…Good for Barça juvs!

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