Athletic Bilbao 2, Barca 2, aka “Unbeaten but bowed.”

"Please baby please, babybabybaby please!"

It was that kind of a match, one in which both teams came out hell bent for leather, in which the winner was right on the tip of someone’s boot, a match that even as it didn’t feel like a draw, was destined to be so by the Footy Gods.

Guardiola: “I told Bielsa that his players are beasts. I never played against such an intense team, players that runs so much.”
Bielsa: “It wouldn’t have been just if we would have won the game. A draw is a fair result.”

It was a match that was characterized by mutual respect from the coaches beforehand. On the sodden, rain-drenched pitch that became something of a quagmire, it was one of the best matches we’ve had the pleasure to witness. Bilbao came out and, as their coach promised, turned things into and end-to-end track meet, like the basketball game Bielsa said he wanted.

A draw was fair indeed, even as we might not like the outcome.

Undefeated, for all that’s worth

Evil Empire coach Jose Mourinho said that he would rather lose once than draw three times. If you look at the standings, you can see why. Three draws means six lost points. One loss means just three, which is why we are looking up at them from second place in the table, three points down and closer to third place than first. For now. Because this club’s identity is being forged on the anvil of opponents who are giving us their absolute best. Bilbao played like lions in their San Mames cathedral. They ran, fought, clawed, battled, acting not like they didn’t respect our quality, but rather like they respected it so much that they were willing to give everything on the pitch in search of a result.

It was glorious to witness. The rain never stoppped pouring down, and neither did the two worthy opponents. The only flaw in this match, if there was one, was that three of the four goals came from errors, even as one of them, their first, was a beautiful strike that left Valdes with no answer. We were pressured as never before, pressed by an opponent who demanded our best, because our best is what it was going to take to win this match. We didn’t hold up our end, which explains, even as wonderfully as they played, why we played to a draw.

So what the hell happened?

Simple. A high-quality opponent worked its heart out. We came out with a lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets, Adriano, Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Messi. Yes, it was the Adriano on left wing experiment, and not even 5 minutes into the match, it almost bore stunning fruit as he took a pass and spanked a too-weak shot toward goal. Was Messi beckoning for the cutback? Sure. Would have been a sure thing, too. But that’s life in football matches. as you just don’t realize how rare the chances are going to be. We ripped them open with some lightning-fast one touch football that found us in their box in numbers. That early opportunity, properly finished, means a very different match, one that they have to chase — which is when we are at our best.

As it was, things remained balanced on a knife edge until the first error came, off a Valdes long pass that was intended for Alves. Only he knows why he didn’t fight harder for the ball, but the result was a springboard counter by Bilbao. Mascherano had one chance to stop it and went for it, just missing the tackle. With our defense at sixes and sevens, the putaway was easy and just like that, we were down 1-0. But Bilbao, unlike another opponent, didn’t close up shop. They kept going for it as did we, and suddenly there was Abidal, who laid a perfect cross onto the head of Fabregas, who banged home a deft header to equalize. It was a beautiful goal that again, came from fast, one-touch efforts. Their ceding space was unavoidable, because the ball moved so quickly that space was inevitable. Abidal had lots of it, so did Fabregas, who was free and clear on the wrong side of the defender.

But of course there were more goals to come, and their second came off a comedy of errors that began with Mascherano banging a ball back for Valdes, rather than just smashing it into touch. Unfortunately, the pitch that had been holding up balls for the entire second half, decided to act like an ice rink. Valdes couldn’t reach the fast-moving ball, and the ensuing corner was something of a joke, as Abidal fluffed his lines on the clearance and the ball bounced toward our goal and off of Pique, Own goal that put us 2-1 down, with egg-smeared faces and a match that was maybe beginning to feel like a loss, as Bilbao, amazingly, began to play even harder, adding physicality to their pressing intensity and aggression.

Then, as on the other end, a crazy sequence of events unfolded as Iniesta took a pass and slid it toward goal. It was bobbled by the keeper, not properly cleared and Messi was right there to slot home. 2-2, and the Footy Gods had been appeased. And so it ended.

What was Bilbao doing right?

Working like dogs, and applying midfield pressure that found us wanting in the ball movement and physicality departments. Iniesta wasn’t his usual graceful self, and found that every time he got the ball, he had to beat two Bilbao defenders just to find space to pass it to a teammate. They clogged passing lanes, stuck legs out, harassed and battled as they restricted the battle to the midfield. They played us like we play others, pressing in the midfield to gain possession, thus shortening the distance to goal. It didn’t work as well as it does when we play it, but it worked well enough to keep us on the back foot for a lot longer than we like to be.

Coaches in contact sports such as American football often talk about “giving it up for the team,” putting everything that you have on the line for your teammates. Bilbao did that, and we gave it right back. So they turned it into a track meet played in a green lake. The open game benefited us, as chance after chance came, only to have us fluff the lines. Iniesta missed an open net, Villa shot it right at the keeper twice, all playing right into the hands of a dynamic, resolute Bilbao.

Did we do anything wrong?

Aside from not finishing our chances …. yes. We allowed the match to be frenetic, rather than calming it down with possession. Yes, we love an open match. We generally don’t love a frantic match, and that was some of the difference today. Bilbao, with their pressure, kept things turned up to full boil. So there were instances where we had more time, or got a little hasty, such as the Mascherano blast back to Valdes, resulting in the corner that put them in the lead. It’s one of the rare times that an opponent forced us into playing in a way that we don’t want or need to play.

Team: 6. We played well, but not at our best. Passing distances were too high as we let their pressure dictate to us how the match would be played. And the wasteful finishing continues.

Guardiola: 7. A good starting XI, but one that could have benefited from an earlier introduction of Alexis Sanchez, and some Keita, to deal with their physicality in the midfield.

Valdes: 5. A couple of excellent saves, but also had the long pass that led to their break for the first goal, and in my view he should have been more aggressive to clear his line for their goal-producing corner. Run out there and punch the ball away, or somehing.

Alves: 5. He’s just a little off these days, but the effect on the attack is huge. And too often (again this season), an opponent caught him pinched toward the center of the pitch, which unbalances the entire back line. He’s guilty of one touch too many-itis, as he wants to Make A Difference.

Mascherano: 6. He’s had better matches, as he was down from his Puyolesque omnipresence. And dude, if you’re going to go for the steal, do so in a way that stops their play..

Pique: 7. Good match, but lost too many physical battles to Llorente. Just in the wrong place at the wrong time on the own goal, unfortunately.

Abidal: 6. Strong overall play, and what a cross for Fabregas, but you have to clear your lines. Sometimes, there isn’t time to be calm on the ball. You just have to blast it out, the old “anywhere but here” defensive axiom.

Busquets: 5. He dwelled on the ball too long today, and lost every physical battle. Some good moments, but also plenty of “I’m dead! I’m dead!” action that detracts from the fact that he’s one of the best in the world at his position.

Xavi: 7. Had to work harder to establish his usual command and control, and we definitely lost something when he left the match. Perfect pass after perfect pass flowed from his feet, and we could have used him in the second half, when the pitch was becoming increasingly difficult to read.

Iniesta: 5. Off match today, with very poor finishing. There were times when the ball needed to be kept moving, rather than dancing at the feel of one of our masters.

Adriano: 5. Drifted in and out of the match entirely too much. More action from him would have helped open up the pitch even more. And that shirt tug in the box could have killed us.

Fabregas: 7. A beautifully taken goal, and his defense is an underrated aspect of his game. He was tracking back like a demon today.

Messi: 5. Talk about drifting in and out. There were times during the match where you forgot he was out there, made all the more noticeable by the times that he materialized and did something remarkable. We deserved a better shot at the winning goal at the end of injury time than him dribbling about, only to lose the ball.


Sanchez (for Xavi): 4. Not the kind of dynamic effect we were hoping for, but this isn’t his kind of a match. The muck and mire dilite his effectiveness at playing his game.

Villa (for Adriano): 6. Active and aggressive, with a fire I haven’t seen in him for some time. But he has to stop shooting directly at keepers.

Thiago (for Pique): 5. Boy, you almost wonder what might have happened had the substitution came before that own goal. Ah, well. Again, too frantic for his skill set, resulting in a lot of lunging and flapping about.

So suddenly, we’re 3 points down to EE, and people are panicking. Why? This club is working its way into form, still. Injuries and the like have made it difficult to find a rhythm. But we will, and when we do, look out!

The American judge gives it a 6.
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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. November 7, 2011

    Our team is so amazing that we treat draws like losses. Not me, not today. Great to see us fight back and get one when we absolutely needed it. As for their second, oh well, we platt the ball from the back and sometimes things happen. Great fun to watch today. Great to se Messi bang one home late, just like super copa second leg.

  2. barca96
    November 7, 2011

    I am not expecting Madrid to drop points at all vs. the big teams because they never do. The only drop points when you least expected it.

    I also felt that we lack the grit this year to grind out wins. Was really happy with the equalizer though. At least it showed some spirit.

    I don’t like to critisize Messi but a few times in the 2nd half, I saw him just standing around. And that last chance of the match, the FK, he really messed it up. Should’ve just played the kick and hope for a header or a rebound.

    • barca96
      November 7, 2011

      *The only drop points when you least expected it and that is usually vs. small teams.

  3. Artur
    November 7, 2011

    Intense game, horrible weather, TOUGH opponent.

    Proud of our boys, they gave it their all even in unplayable conditions.

    Visca Barca!

  4. barca96
    November 7, 2011

    You are in Chi-town aren’t you Kxevin? If that is so, it is almost mid-night now and you just finish writing this review up? Man..that is so cool! Thank you so much.

  5. November 7, 2011

    I think the rain completely killed our game. It’s pretty impossible to keep our intricate possession or even pass or dribble well on a pitch like that. Apart from the avoidable mistakes I think we actually played very well for a slippery swamp, not below par. Below our best yes, but not below our average very high level only affected by the environment.

    Not making excuses, happy with this point, but I do think it’s true.

  6. BarcaGirl_Indo
    November 7, 2011

    thanks for the review, Kxevin!
    you’re right, there’s no need to panic, at least for now.
    the good news is, if we can win all next 4 games, we’ll see ourself on top of the table again.
    but if we find ourself behind EE 6 points or more after El Clasico, then I need some La Manita-non alcohol drinks and a lot of hector pills 😕

    this is my comment from the last thread :
    we only dropped 5 points last season, until 12 February 2011.

    6 November 2011, we already dropped 8(!) points (4 of them against RSD and Sevilla, which should’ve been avoided)

    besides injuries and a bad pre season, is heavy rotation and irregular starting XI also caused these results and Pep should stop doing it?

    on paper, rotation is great, but the results were better last season, at least in the league.

    now the question is, while our team is still finding its form, can we do it without dropping points? cause maybe when we finally reach our peak, it’s too late.

    • nia
      November 7, 2011

      That’s exactly what i was thinking, that the many rotations are costing the team coz it hasn’t given the team a chance to build some chemistry. RM are playing good right now and are very fast, something that we are lacking. The front three are rotating goals and yet Villa and Pedro are yet to score in the liga. If we don’t improve soon and we lose in Madrid, i’m afraid that means bye bye title, twas nice knowing you.

      • BarcaGirl_Indo
        November 7, 2011

        The front three are rotating goals and yet Villa and Pedro are yet to score in the liga.

        what are you talking about?
        Pedro has scored 1 and Villa 3 goals in liga.
        our second top scorer after Messi (14) is Fabregas (5), followed by Xavi (4) and then Villa (3). cmiiw.

        Looking at those statistics, we rely heavily on Messi to score goals, and that’s worrying.
        Alexis Sanchez has it all to be a great winger, but he’s not a profilic goal scorer, yet.

        as for start panicking now, for me, not yet 🙂

        • barca96
          November 7, 2011

          The emergence of Cuenca although it’s a good one but it still doesn’t solve our problem = over reliance on Messi for goals.

        • nia
          November 7, 2011

          I actually meant the RM front 3 are scoring at will. All three of their stikers score regularly.

  7. nia
    November 7, 2011

    I think this is the perfect time to start panicking/ask serious questions. We’ve only won 2 of our 5 away games and 4 draws overall. PORQUE? Why is the team playing so poor away from home in the liga? At this rate, i don’t see us winning at EE tbh and i see us 6 points behind at the winter break coz i don’t see RM dropping any points before Dec either. We haven’t won vs any of the ‘big teams’ we’ve played and there’s a Messi dependancy starting to creep in. Why on earth they kept trying to pass throught the puddles is beyound me. The team had chances to play overhead balls or shoot from outside the box but did neither. Well with all the injured players starting to come back, i hope Pep chooses his best 11 and stop playing Adriano up front. Don’t want to end this season like 07/08 (passilo) YIKES!! espeacially with Mou in charge.

  8. barca96
    November 7, 2011

    i don’t see RM dropping any points before Dec

    Like I said above, RM drop points when you at least expect them to. Therefore I don’t think they won’t drop any point vs. the likes of Seville, Villareal & Valencia as they are an attacking team = the will leave gaps for their speedy strikers to exploit.

    • barca96
      November 7, 2011

      Reply to Nia actually. Forgot to click the reply button.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 7, 2011

      for the next 3 EE games, I have absolutely ZERO hope for Pathetico (if they can snatch even just a draw I’ll consider it as a miracle), and a tiny hope for Valencia and Sporting.

      but what’s important is ourself, there are really NO room for errors anymore, we must not come to Evil Ground with more than 3 points gap.

  9. Gogah
    November 7, 2011

    Our away form this year has been worrying no doubt. If you recall this time last year, we were handing manitas like it was candy, especially away games. A 5-1 away espanyol win and 4-1 bilbao win come to mind.

    I think the main problem this year has been a lot of distraction due to injuries and integrating new players. Add to the fact that pep has been experimenting to find the next logical evolution of this team’s style of play and tactics. I don’t think its the time to panic just yet.

    This month of november, as always will be crucial and will define the way the league is going to turn out this year. Expect EE to be very strong this year in la Liga and expect the ‘big’ teams to bend over to EE. So I think we should only depend on ourselves. Guardiola has a lot of work to do in cleaning up our play and finishing in the final third. I dont know if Villa is on his way down in his career and if we should expect 25+ goals a season from him but messi-dependencia is now more apparent than ever especially with P! and Villa misfiring. Our left flank just doesn’t seem to create the same feeling of danger like our right for the opposition and this has to be fixed.

    But i am looking forward to a resounding win at the bernabeu and i think we turn it on the most when we play the thugs in white so worry not my friends. this 3 point deficit should be wiped out come december.
    maybe it wouldn’t hurt to buy some sort of a low cost larsson-ish target player in January.

  10. Hassan Chakroun
    November 7, 2011

    Bad weather conditions, Bilbao’s man marking, iniesta and xavi’s failure to impose their passing game in midfield, messi’s deployment on the wing , absence of our usual triangles in midfield, and the most effective tactical fouling…

    these are what resulted in our loss..
    where we able to solve the above mentioned riddles?

    well.. the raining was in god hands, nothing could be done. bilbaos man marking could have been answered by deploying more ball handlers in midfield such as thiago instead of busquets, i mean there was no need to play a defensive midfielder against this bilbao side because not once they tried to build up play from the middle, all their attacks came from the sides through muniain and susaeta. so thiago would have made a better impact than busquets especially when xavi faded away in the second half. iniesta was a bullied throughout the game, he had to get past 2 players in order to pass the ball, and when he wasnt bullied he was unlucky, such as the ball played right in to iraizoz’z hands when he was trying to lob him. xavi is lethal when playing first touch passes and having the space to spread through balls to messi and fabregas, this was absent yesterday due to absence of triangles, no one was around him, iniesta was busy shrugging off defenders, and busquets was no were to be seen when xavi had the ball. messi should never be played wide again, we dropped points against sociedad, sevilla, and bilbao, and in the three games messi played wide, and was in all three games as ineffective as my grandmother. we have a football god in our team, a genius while playing in the middle, why loose that by playing him on the right?
    the essence of our system, are the triangles in midfield, whenever triangles are played right space is always found, but that was completely absent yesterday, due to iniesta being busy battling his man marker, and busquets no where to be found, resulting in xavi being ineffective (thats why he was later substituted) and thats because xavi is all about first touch passing through triangles in addition to through balls which was void yesterday because of the bad condition of the pitch (all passes where cut due to water ponds in the middle).
    bielsa’s men managed to complete the damage the rain did to our team, whenever we managed to find a slight space to try to impose our game, whenever one of our midfields got past his marker and started to think of the perfect pass a bilbao player directly fouled, and then we started all over again, only to find our self on the end of a tactical foul that hampered our progress..

    conclusion: no need to panic.. just yet.. dropping 8 points in 11 games is not something we are used to but la liga is getting tougher every year, add to that all teams play against us as if playing the final of a champions league..
    IN PEP WE TRUST, he always managed to get over slumps, learn from mistakes, improve performances, motivate our players.. pep WILL get us back on our feet.
    EE’s next 5 games include at. madrid, valencia, sevilla, and US, they WILL definitely drop points, if no team did us favors we WILL win in the bernabeu.
    alexis is getting back to his best form, fabregas is still integrating, pique is also getting back from injury, puyol is still rusty, so we have a lot to look forward to.. after the copa del rey game we have more than 10 days to prepare and get better..

    N.B: how good are we? alarm bells in our camp are rung when we DRAW a game.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 7, 2011

      great observation there, Hassan.

      need to win next 4 games in a row, and we’ll back on track, hopefully.

      • Hassan Chakroun
        November 12, 2011

        I really am confident that we will be back on track come the beginning of 2012.. and hopefully prove Fabio capello wrong after he said that our boys have lost their hunger..

    • barca96
      November 7, 2011

      bilbaos man marking could have been answered by deploying more ball handlers in midfield such as thiago instead of busquets

      When Keita is being played at DM, people complain that we need Busi as he is a better attacker and passer and can do triangle with Xaviesta. And now when Busi is playing, it’s still not enough? The same Busi who has been praised for being both superb at distributing and defending. I don’t know what to say.

      messi should never be played wide again, we dropped points against sociedad, sevilla, and bilbao, and in the three games messi played wide, and was in all three games as ineffective as my grandmother

      Poor ol’ Messi being compared to a grandmother now?
      Do you know Messi’s original position before he switched to false 9?
      Where did Messi play in our all conquering season? Did you think that Eto’o was playing RW?

      alexis is getting back to his best form, fabregas is still integrating

      I think it’s the other way around.

      • Hassan Chakroun
        November 12, 2011

        Dearest Colleague (barca96),

        Sorry my reply is a bit late, it has been 6 days since the bilbao game, and people may have forgotten what happened there.

        with all due respect, i would like to correct several points you got wrong:

        1- Busi is the best modern day defensive midfielder, excellent ball control(for a DMC), ability to break up play, and and a good passer, and his starting place in an all-star world cup winning spain is the best piece of proof, but in the bilbao game it would have been much better to have a natural ball handler in our midfield such as thiago because bilbao were not building up play from the middle, in addition to that in the second half the weather worsened, totally annulling busquets’ effect. i believe that in every game and situation a player would be better than another depending on the characteristics of the player picked.

        2- comparing messi to my grandmother isnt so bad.. after all i love the old lady 😉
        but if we return a bit to numbers we will find out that messi is most effective when playing as a false number 9 and not as a winger, sure he was discovered on the right flank, and sure he is brilliant even if he plays as a center back (after all he is messi). his most destructive displays came while playing in the center, and this season sociedad, sevilla, and bilbao’s games presented us with solid proof that we loose a winning card in playing messi wide (we can understand it though due to pedro’s absence and alexis’ returning from injury). but if we are to learn from our mistakes and enhance our performances we should play messi in the center rather than on the wing because after all even he did state that his best position is as false number 9.

        3- No

        Alexis is getting back to his best form after returning from a 6 weeks injury. and Fabregas is still integrating in our midfield, after all he personally admitted that he still feels that sometime he gets in the way of xavi and iniesta’s plays.

        Best Regards man

  11. Lev
    November 7, 2011

    Dribbling passed players through a mud bath? Nah. Slick passing in a swimming pool? Nah.

    If ever a game called for Keita this would have been it.

    We are losing way too many points to outdo EE this year. I am officially worried.

    • Gogah
      November 7, 2011

      nah. i feel like we’re losing way too many points trying to outdo ourselves.

      • BarcaGirl_Indo
        November 7, 2011

        I think I must agree with Gogah.

        Pep and the players obviously want to improve and outdo themselves every new season, they are trying to improve. with new system, formation, players, rotation.

        sometimes a change is tricky in this life. when we try to do it so we can improve, the result can be on our favor, or against us unfortunately.

        • Hassan Chakroun
          November 12, 2011


          if it aint broke.. dont fix it..

          Pep for sure knows this.. we might not be able to improve on our performance from the past couple of seasons. I mean great football analysts said that we are the best football team ever to grace the green field.

          there is nothing to worry about.. we are still in november, 27 games remaining, and we already played all the difficult teams in the first half of the season (unlike EE)..

  12. Gogah
    November 7, 2011

    So including the super cup thats 5 2-2 draws. 5!
    looks like 2-2 is our favorite scoreline after 5-0.

  13. barca96
    November 7, 2011

    You know, I’d prefer us grinding out 10 wins rather than having 5 manitas & 5 draws.

  14. blitzen
    November 7, 2011

    I really enjoyed watching this match for the intensity both sides brought. As I said in the liveblog, I’ll take a draw with no injuries and be happy with that. I do think the weather and the state of the pitch was the deciding factor in this game. There was just no hope of playing our usual passing game in that quagmire, with passes going astray or getting stuck. The Bilboners took great advantage of that, and more power to them for doing it.

    My MOTM is Iker Muniain. That boy is the real deal, and he’s only 18. He was absolutely brilliant for Bilbao in this game, battling for the ball everywhere, chasing down our forwards.

    MOTM for our side…tough one. Everyone was working really hard. Fabregas, I guess. He seemed to cope best with the conditions, and he got that lovely goal.

    • barca96
      November 7, 2011

      Yeah Muniain impressed me too. Whenever I watch Bilbao play he never failed me. I said last season already that I wished we signed him.
      Were we ever rumored to be interested in him before?

      Yeah I guess Cesc is used to all that rain in England 🙂
      But I thought he rushed with the passes one too many times. But man oh man, Adriano should’ve totally slided the ball to Cesc in the first half after he did a double 1-2’s with Xavi. Cesc had a clear shot on goal.

  15. Helge
    November 7, 2011

    So, this is the first time under Pep that we are more than 2 points behind EE.
    The only chance to correct this is el Clasico, because EE will rape the likes of Atleti, Sevilla and Valencia.

    Just read that Xavi has been called up for both friendlies in the next 10 days. What the ???
    I thought he was supposed to stay in Barcelona.
    At least all the Spanish senior internationals will stay until Thursday, so hopefully they won’t play more than 45 min each vs England (which is on Saturday evening).

  16. barca96
    November 7, 2011

    1st goal : sMasch already slipped. There is no way in hell he could’ve caught up with the Bilbao player. sMasch had to start from ZERO whereas the Bilbao was already on the run. No way in hell sMasch could’ve done anything about it. Lunging in like that was the best he could do.

    2nd goal: VV, Pique, Abidal & sMasch were all at fault.

    sMasch for conceding a silly corner kick.
    VV for not coming out to either catch or punch the ball away.
    Pique for being scared to head the ball. Dude, it’s ok to mess up your hair. Shakira won’t mind. I must admit that I used to be scared to head the ball for the exact same reason.
    Abidal for being so casual with the ball when the goal is a footstep away and Llorente another footstep in the other direction.

    VV really needs to improve his communication skills with his defenders.

    Abidal has been caught napping too many times for my liking in offside traps. He plays the attacker onside too many times. It happens a lot but for some reason it has never been mentioned before.

  17. barca96
    November 7, 2011

    Did anybody else how close Thiago was with a few of the Bilbao players? I reckon they are mates from the Spain Youth NT’s. They looked like they were trying to console him after the match instead of the usual chit chat. Did something happen to Thiago?

    • blitzen
      November 7, 2011

      Thiago is BFFs with Iker Muniain. They do little dance moves when either of them score for the U21 team. They are pretty adorable. 😀

      • barca96
        November 7, 2011

        Ahh no wonder. Hopefully Pep can see that they have a great chemistry and consider signing the kid. He suits us. Tracks back a lot! Finishing might not be as good as Pedro but his work rate is close.

        • Ryan
          November 7, 2011

          He has loads more skill than Pedro, and is just 18. But we have Gerard coming up, so there’s really no need for him. Plus it’s nice seeing other teams have really promising players, right?

  18. blitzen
    November 7, 2011

    Mourinho getting himself in hot water again. From 101greatgoals:

    “I want to thank the few who were behind the goal because if it were not for them I would have thought that the stadium was empty. For me the most important thing in football are the ones who buy the tickets. The people want this team. We sold out two days before [the match with Osasuna]. It does not matter the time [i.e. midday kick-off]. You do not need polls to know what the people want.” – Jose Mourinho.

    Did you spot it?

    Scandal has broken out at Real Madrid following the Special One’s post match comments on Sunday.
    During his presser after Real destroyed Osasuna 7-1, Mourinho singled out “the few who were behind the goal” for helping to create a noisy atmosphere during the lunchtime kick-off. The problem with that remark however, is that the people who congregate behind the Madrid goal are widely known for their neo-Nazi allegiances.

    By way of background, Spain only came out of a fascist dictatorship in the 1970s during which time Real Madrid were commonly recognised as General Franco’s pet club. In turn that spawned the creation of the Real Madrid Ultra Sur group in 1980, who for years now have been arriving at the Santiago Bernabeu with extremist flags, banners and chants.

    Many have criticised Real Madrid down the years for their tolerance of their Ultra Sur fans, and since Jose Mourinho’s weekend comments many are again questioning why one of the biggest clubs in world football think is acceptable to have such a deplorable brand of hatred present in their ground. Moreover, fingers are being pointed directly at the Madrid gaffer to understand why he thought it was a good idea to shower praise on people most feel sickened by.
    Interestingly, Real Madrid seem to have been sensitive to the controversial nature of Mourinho’s comments. That has been evidenced by a doctored transcript of Jose Mourinho’s post match comments on the club’s own website, in which the reference to the Ultra Sur’s was omitted from the translation provided.

    • blitzen
      November 7, 2011

      My italics went missing! Just to clarify, the entire content of the comment above is from 101greatgoals.

      • barca96
        November 7, 2011

        Bassam would probably check-in to share his thoughts on that.

        • blitzen
          November 7, 2011

          I don’t think anyone seriously thinks Mourinho is a fascist or meant to endorse the views of the Ultra Sur, but he should know better than to make statements like this. He’s not a stupid man, he must realize this is going to upset a lot of people.

          On the other hand, it’s a good thing that this issue is being raised. For a huge club like Real Madrid with a global support base to allow the Ultra Sur to remain in their stadium is shameful. By ignoring them they are tacitly endorsing them. It is long past time for RM to make a strong statement and kick them out.

          And before we get all holier-than-thou about Barcelona having kicked the Boixos Nois out of the Camp Nou, we should remember that they are still allowed at away games and at the Mini-Estadie (you can sometimes see their banners at Barça B games). FCB can and should do a lot more to distance themselves from these people. Putting anti-racism clauses in our players’ contracts is all very well, but the club has largely failed to address the racist & neo-Nazi elements of its own fanbase.

          • nzm
            November 7, 2011

            Boixos Noi are making their way back into Camp Nou, so the Bernabeu is not alone. However, Mourinho bringing attention to them is almost an incitement.

            At the last Barca General Assembly, it was voted that there would be a supporters’ terrace introduced into Camp Nou which has been interpreted to be a zone in which the Boixos Noi will be included, provided that they behave and pass police scrutiny.

            In the words of Jordi Cardoner, it will be:

            “a zone in the stadium for particularly passionate supporters who can set a “world standard” and “transmit the Barça values around the world”.

            The section will accommodate 1,400 members that reflect “Barça support, Catalanism and civil duty. We want the very best support for our team. Not accepting this project would be like giving in to violence. We have the best fans in the world and we should have the best terrace in the world” he said.”

            Why would not accepting this project be like giving in to violence?

            It’s a weird article with very strange wording: but the general consensus is that the Camp Nou home crowd is too quiet and does not do enough to audibly support the team.

            We’ve noticed the crowds becoming quieter over the past season – except for the matches against the stronger opponents. There used to be a band with drums set up behind the south stand and they are not present for all games any more. They would quite often lead the chants.

  19. blitzen
    November 7, 2011

    Who are you and what have you done with the real Sandro Rosell?!?

    Rosell said Spain would have to change the system of distributing television money under which the lion’s share goes to Barcelona and Real Madrid, putting them at an advantage over their rivals.
    “It is the only league where TV rights are negotiated individually and some time in the next three or four or five years we have to put it all in one pot and make the distribution the way it is in Serie A and the Premier League,” he said.
    “This is something Barcelona and Real Madrid are talking to the other clubs about; we have to listen to the demands of the other 18 clubs.”

    • nzm
      November 7, 2011

      No, no – it’s the real Sandro.

      He’s talking about reducing player salaries, as well as calling out other clubs for selling out to overseas interests.

      On that latter point, pot calling kettle black, much? 😀

      • stowe
        November 8, 2011

        Sponsors are different from selling the team. Good to see someone from the big two leading the way

        • nzm
          November 8, 2011

          There’s also more than one way in which to sell out. 🙂

  20. barcafanno1
    November 7, 2011

    guys already madrid are becoming favorites for la liga 🙁 []…. In one way its good… we won’t be starting as favorites in elclascio… so def ee will be under pressure in elclascio..

    • Nik
      November 7, 2011

      Aren’t they always favored to upend us before every clasico? I wouldn’t stress about what others (especially think, but it’s up to you.

      In Pep & this squad I trust.

  21. November 7, 2011

    To chime in on what Blitzen posted, which is essentially what I came here to see:

    A) A real shame the way the article has been posted by 101gg. And a bigger shame for @barcastuff, who apparently are the ones that tipped them off. The same people that rally against accusing players of racism are very quick to accuse managers of pro-nazi claims? Shame. Not to mention, the person that writes the article and the person that “tips” them about it says that the official website omitted that part. They fail to realize that the official website always omits huge chunks of Mourinho’s press conference and puts up the stuff that appeals to the public (one of the things i hate about the RM website).

    B) Ultra Sur were completely banned a couple of years ago. They were directly linked with the Calderon scandal as it was said that they helped unregistered voters in to vote for Calderon. After banning them, they were allowed to come back to the stadium under a certain capacity. They were not given the same amount of seats and they were put under certain behavioral conditions to conduct themselves under. They were also relocated to another position in the stadium, an isolated corner if my memory serves me right.

    I am with banning the Ultra Sur. Such groups have no place in football and as fans of any club. With that said, the club has been doing a great job of controlling their behavior. I won’t even comments on the Boix Noi as nzm covers it well.

  22. messifan
    November 7, 2011

    Hmmm…another draw 🙁 I haven’t seen the game yet but heard it was an excellent game. Now, I’m having a little doubt about us retaining the league title this year. I don’t think Madrid will drop points outside of the Clasicos. This season has been a bit odd for me. I think the team has improved and yet we’re dropping more points compared to last year. Initially, it was difficult to accept the idea of Barca potentially not winning everything (yes, i’m spoiled), but now that I’ve been thinking about it long enough, I’m slowly adjusting to the idea that it can happen and that’s okay. I think this year’s goal is to improve our style of play. However, the obnoxious fan in me still feel the pain whenever the team drops points. P.s. Sid Lowe wrote an excellent article about the game. Everyone should check it out!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      November 7, 2011

      don’t think Madrid will drop points outside of the Clasicos.

      if that’s what happen then we just have to admit they really deserve to be the champion more than us, no?

      just prepare ourself for the worst and pray for the best, it’s better that way 😉

  23. blitzen
    November 7, 2011

    Why so quiet in here today? Are we all on international break?

    I know Kari is away on her first call-up for Canuckistan, and SoccerMom is a regular starter for the Republic of Encephalonia, but what is everyone elses’ excuse?

  24. jakep22
    November 8, 2011

    Haven’t posted in a looooonnnnggg time, but haven’t stopped reading!
    Just a quick thought, has posted a list of all the premier league players available for free at the end of the season (unless they are resigned, obviously).

    Do any look appealing to any of you? Someone like Drogba would be absolutely fantastic, but his attitude (so I’ve read) could be a risk. Otherwise Anelka? Just wondering about everyone’s thoughts.

    • barca96
      November 8, 2011

      Drogba, Giggs and everyone available from Stoke, they might be useful when one day we come up against them on a cold Tuesday night 🙂

  25. just listenin
    November 8, 2011

    We’re over-ratating ourselves right into a bit of chaos and inconsistency. After complaining Keita out of DM back to his proper and most effective place in the midfield, we now have to do the same with Adriano apparently and get him 1) out of the starting lineup, and 2) back at the back. And let me just be clear, I love Keita, in his best role, and I don’t and haven’t ever really been a fan of Adriano… he’s done some wonderful things and I appreciate that, just not a big fan for some reason, that I can’t really explain, so won’t try.

    I know the “in Pep we trust” mantra, but honestly, you have all the strongholds from a team that by all measures is one of the best ever – it makes up the spine of the world cup champions, and arguably the best club team in generations. You can’t make such constant and sweeping deviations from it, all at one time. Lock down the backbone, and change something here or there – it’s the difference between incremental and transformational innovation. I understand fully wanting to innovate and take the team to even higher levels than thought imaginable, and it is possible with this talent pool – the only question for me is in the “how” of it, how do you get there? Do you try numerous unorthodox perturbations of the lineup to try to unlock it, or do you selectively change a player or two at most, and test – adapt, learn, and evolve. I think Pep is running the risk of revolution versus evolution, and revolutionary endeavors are much more risky than their evolutionary counterparts. I think we could raise the level and keep consistency a bit more by slowing the pace of change. I agree with several people who have called out the rotations and the lack of chemistry that is resulting. We are almost suffering a curse of riches – the winning, it’s inherent expectations, and the abundance of talent are almost working against us to some degree at this point, in my opinion.
    Not panicking, but I sure would consider putting a bit of a Kabosh on the wholesale experimentation – if we want the title. If we’re taking a pass this year for something bigger next?, then ok, keep it up.

    • barca96
      November 8, 2011

      that could only mean one thing if he is experimenting = he will be here next year! 🙂

    • blitzen
      November 8, 2011

      To be fair, Pep hasn’t had much but to experiment, with all the injuries the team has had. He has been forced to look at different lineups and formations, and for the most part things have worked out well.

      • just listenin
        November 8, 2011

        That’s fair to a degree – and I am getting close to having to dig into this in detail, but I think that we would find that even with whomever is left under any of the recent injury scenarios, that there has been a bit of pretty broad tweaking going on within what he has at any given time. We’ll see… most everyone is back and healthy, if we settle into something then we’ll know. Otherwise it seems to me he has a vision (if the past is any indication, a very clear vision) of what he wants, and he hasn’t seen it pop yet, so he’s trying to find it, and while we’re doing well (not to recent past levels), he may not be seeing what he wants, and that “seems” is creating some juxtaposing of position and formation to try to draw it out.

        • yev
          November 8, 2011

          i am not so sure we can be certain of knowing what pep wants…i mean it is just hard enough to figure out his line up!!! and he is always tinkering (last year’s 4-2-4; messi as a false 9, yaya playing as cm or cb)

          i feel calling it revolution vs evolution is just a matter of perpective (past and present) and maybe a little myopic in terms of barca’s past success…
          not to mention the limited number of games that have actually been played this season.

          in the end everyone would probably rest easier if we didnt feel the need to win 30 something of the 38 games in a season…there is a reason why the point totals have been historic last few years; it is not easy!!!

          i remember a rainy day vs. bilbao where xavi scored late from a shot that gave barca the win…but the game could have gone either way
          just like vs chelsea
          and even vs. arsenal last year when they had no shots on goal, they were one mache slide away from them booting us out of UCL;

          all i am saying is that perfection is nice, but not realistic then and now… and i am happy for the great games the team gives us, and it does feel like they are giving their all on the pitch…pep does a pretty good job of using the players at his disposal to get them to play well…

          i cant find that goal, or if it was this one, then it shows how memory is tricky…easy 3-1 win right?

  26. blitzen
    November 8, 2011

    So let’s see what lineup we can come up with for tomorrow’s game against Hospitalet. Obviously Pep will want to play some B players, and since Deulofeu, Rafinha, JDS, Tello and Sergi Roberto were all called up for training today, I assume they will be in the squad. I hope he plays a few of the first team, though, as a sign of respect for another local Catalan team. Here is what I would like to see:

    JDS Puyol Fontas Maxwell
    Sergi Roberto Iniesta Rafinha
    Deulofeu Villa Tello

    Maybe Fabregas instead of Villa if this shin thing is really an issue. Sub Puyol off at the half for Abidal, Keita for Iniesta. Xavi and Pique to be rested.

    • barca96
      November 8, 2011

      Wow Fontas in the team? Starting line-up???
      You sure you wanna go with that Blitzen?

      I would be surprised if he plays more than 45mins.

      • blitzen
        November 8, 2011

        LOL! Pep had better play him. If Fontas can’t play 90 minutes against Hospitalet, he may as well retire right now.

    • nzm
      November 8, 2011

      According to Spanish Football Fed rules, at least 7 players from the first teams of the clubs are required to play in CdR matches.

      • blitzen
        November 8, 2011

        To actually play, or just to be in the final squad?

        • nzm
          November 8, 2011

          They have to play, or as it says, they have to be fielded. 😉

          • blitzen
            November 8, 2011

            Well my lineup above has 6 first-teamers starting and 2 as subs, so that should work. Or Keita can start instead of Sergi Roberto and make it 7.

  27. blitzen
    November 8, 2011

    This made me laugh:

    According to the Daily Mirror Chelsea have finally come up with a way of being as good as Barcelona a few years down the line: buy all of Barcelona’s youth team players and make them Chelsea youth team players. Chelsea’s technical director, Michael Emenalo, is trying to sign the midfielder Sergio Roberto, who is 19, while the club’s Spanish scout Vicente Fernández is approaching very slowly from the other direction making cooing noises and holding out a bag of sweets for Barça youth-sprites Martín Montoya, Marc Bartra, Rafa “Rafinha” Alcántara and any other spotty teenager with a jink in his locker he can find within a 15-mile radius of the Camp Nou who isn’t quick enough to escape his sloshing butterfly net.

    From the Guardian Rumour Mill:

    • barca96
      November 8, 2011

      Some are even attempting 2 touches 😆

      I’ve been trying to advice the head coach of my team to do the rondo’s in practice but he still won’t listen. Ex-Arsenal youth player. Arsenal used to be a totally different team back then.

  28. Chiu
    November 11, 2011

    I thought rondo is usual practice in any football team, isnt it? Or its just barca that can do rondo smoothly and other team will looking not so good when doing rondo

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