The Kiddies Calm the Waters: Barça 4 – 0 BATE

Fontas: forever walking Chewbacca

We’re posting thick and fast now, so here are links to the last 3 things that we put up prior to this: Kari’s Clasico Podcast, Tito’s Return, and Soccermom’s Part 1 of the greatest book ever conceived. Read those!

Yesterday afternoon I watched the Basel-Manchester United Champions League match that ended with [Spoiler Alert!] Alex Ferguson’s team dropping to the Europa League for the first time in I don’t know how long. Some long amount of time. Part of what was so interesting about the match was how Basel played right through much of United’s midfield. Shaqiri was impressive, if also selfish at times, and he did a good job of simply taking the space given him and using it well. The same can be said of, say, Rafinha, in the match against BATE.

Kevin tweeted this before, but it’s worth reiterating: the players may be young, but the system is purring like a cat in the sun. That’s not necessarily a statement about the overall quality of the players, though they are certainly extremely talented, but it is a statement about the overall quality of the system put in place over the last two decades by a team always looking forward. Guardiola played it perfectly and the team responded in kind, perhaps against a weak opponent, but one that drew 1-1 with Milan.

Marti Riverola made his competitive debut, Rafinha and Thiago played together for the first time, and Sergi Roberto and Martin Montoya scored their debut first team goals. Pedro finished the match with 50 goals to his name in 140 appearances. Guardiola got his 150th win in 208 attempts (!).

Everyone line up and celebrate!

Beyond that, it was probably Pinto’s last European game between the sticks and I think Maxwell becomes the first outfield player to ever be older than the combined ages of everyone else other than his goalie. But I suppose when everyone else is in the single digits, that’s not so crazy. Bartra is 4 and Cuenca is 5, after all. All around, a solid day.

There were some fluffed lines that could have resulted in goals for BATE, but they were never really up for it and from the get-go it was always going Barça’s way. The stats are the usual stats: 75% possession, 9 shots on goal to 0, 6 fouls to 16. You’d imagine that Xaviniesta were controlling the midfield and not Thiafinantos. Yeah, that one didn’t really work out, did it? Jonafinhiago? Dammit. Dos Alcantara just seems like cheating. Jonathiago works well enough, I guess, but leaves out Rafinha. Ah well.

My major thought about this match is that it calms the nerves of various cules prior to The Big Game. The matches against Rayo and Levante were also therapeutic and should really help the squad go into the match on Saturday with a big grin and some backhands to the jowls to give away like candy on Halloween. It won’t be easy, but these matches, ones where the team gets its swagger back, even if vicariously, are massive. Real Madrid will know they were lucky to get away with an easy win in Amsterdam–2 goals ruled out by a Portuguese ref, let the nonsensical conspiracy theories abound!–even if it was a relatively weakened side. Fábio Coentrão and Pedro both played 90 minutes, which suggests they won’t get starts on Saturday, but anything can happen. Benzema and Higuain also played large parts in the RM match, so the advantage of resting up goes to Barça by a smidge. The advantage of being at the top of the league and this not being a must win goes to RM.

The future is bright, folks, though we’ll need to find a new defender. That’s not based on any lack of quality in either Bartra or Fontas, it’s just that, well, what’s with the lack of hair, boys? With those purty little haircuts that make you seem like nice young men, how can you ever compete with this:

And now I’m hyped. Get ready. It’s here.

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


  1. Gogah
    December 8, 2011

    “And now I’m hyped. Get ready. It’s here.”
    And now I’m hyped. Bring it!
    i have been trying to be extremely cautious and restrained and level headed entering this match in some naive belief that that might affect the outcome in a positive way for us.
    but you now got me into it isaiah. for no damn reason. 😀
    Bring it you white sh!tes.

  2. December 8, 2011

    Yep. The kids are alright.

    Meanwhile, we’ll need some ‘o this for the Big One:


    And some of this (ALEXIS!!!):

    Vamos nino maravilla

    And definitely some of this:

    Oh yes

    [via @pablitasan on Twitter]

    • momo
      December 8, 2011


      In the 2nd Gif: F*#@in Alonso not even going for the ball… Used to love him but ever since he joined Real Loaded… Ewww.

      3rd Gif: Pure Class

      • ooga aga
        December 8, 2011

        in the second one, watch pep on sidelines wave his arm, once, twice, at the ridiculous tackle attempts!

    • December 8, 2011

      Hmmm. I have to say I disagree with #2. The problem is that we’re playing through the middle too much [through Xavi and Messi]; we actually need to play on the wings much more than we are.

      • December 8, 2011

        I disagree with ALL of them:

        1. Mourinho has trained his club so that it can press and play frenetic football for 90 minutes. Will there be lulls? Yep. But it’s delusional to think that the storm will be “early.”

        2. As Kari notes, playing through the middle plays directly into their hands, hence my advocacy for the starting XI slots for Cuenca and Sanchez. Extreme width and play that moves out-in-out-in is the answer. If their defense (and keeper) doesn’t move, scoring will be out of the question.

        3. I’d rather see us mercurial. Try long balls to the forwards, break someone loose on a wing with a Xavi through ball. The time for controlled patience in when (if) we get a lead. It’s a varying attack that will keep them unbalanced.

        4. In watching the last few matches vs EE, we have played through pretty much everything, much to our detriment in the Copa final. The only one who doesn’t seem to want to play through everything is Busqeuets, but that’s been discussed before.

        5. I’d also that swagger isn’t the problem this season. Fatigue and overconfidence are. And stagnant movement at the worst possible times. This club knows that it’s the best in the world, so much so that it thinks it can turn it on whenever they like. I think we will see their best match of the season on Saturday. The effort against Milan insured that they could be well-rested and loaded for bear.

        Mourinho has built a team that doesn’t need a lot of the ball to kill you. He’s essentially built a team to beat us. Saturday will tell how his project is going.

        • December 8, 2011

          Admittedly, I skimmed through the post. I didn’t agree with most of them, but #2 is probably the one I disagree with the most.

          I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said. Just a caveat on point 1: RM actually can’t press for the 90 min, despite how intense their summer was. They get tired after 60 min. it’s because they don’t press like we press, forever inferior hunt in packs; rather, they use their athleticism and that’s taxing eventually..

          Interestingly enough, Mourinho may have built his team to exploit our weakness, but Pep has implemented changes that will take advantage of RM’s weakness to potentially devastating effect, with Alexis and Cesc [in a 3-5-2], while somewhat addressing our weaknesses. Although it’s obvious, with those signings in particular, Pep’s really had Madrid on the mind this whole time. And that’s pretty awesome.

          • I kind of agree with Kari about the point #1. I don’t think they can sustain their kind of pressing for the whole ninety minutes. If you look at the Super Copa clasicos, there was a serious drop of intensity from them after kind of 65 minutes.

            As far as point #2: Starting with Cuenca coudl be a bit tricky as he may find it difficult to hold on to the tempo and pressure. I would say start with Villa(yes that means the left wing will be narrow). But the key width will be provided Sanchez and Alves on right against Marcelo. That is going to be the key. Second around the 65-70 minutes we can have both Cuenca coming in dragging an already tired opposition wide of the pitch. Without Villa I have a feeling we have less players in the box who will actually take a shot at goal from a half chance. Even if he is going to shoot at the keeper, that could unsettle them a bit. Second Villa as far as I know has always shown in tough matches.

        • Calvin
          December 8, 2011

          I’m marking this day on my calendar, I think it’s the first time I’ve ever 100% agreed with Kxevin.

  3. nia
    December 8, 2011

    I’M SCARED!!! *_* I know to always believe in the team but it’s the thought of losing that scared the living daylights out of me. I need a hug!!!

    • December 8, 2011

      Did you know that in studying for that role, Mel Gibson actually visited the strange cage Guardiola keeps Puyol in between matches? He came away traumatized and that picture is now just him every night when he wakes up in a cold sweat.

      I kid you not.

      • just listenin
        December 8, 2011


        Ha! I know you’re kidding, because… no cage could contain THAT!
        you’d need 8 foot think steel reinforced concrete walls, surrounded by 3 foot thick lead barrier encased in a mountain… or something

  4. December 8, 2011

    Had a busy week and just got to watch the babies vs. Bate match last night.

    That was remarkably impressive.

    In some ways this match was the best clarifying example of what the Barcelona system is under Guardiola.

    In a way, by removing the individual genius and experience of the first team players – you could see the system itself with tremendous clarity.

    This isn’t to say the players out on the pitch weren’t talented – they are tremendous – it’s just that it gave a different vantage point into the game.

    You watch small things like Rafinha starting as a false 9 then moving to the wing as Pedro moves in centrally. The switch from 4 at the back to 3 at the back with Sergi Roberto moving from advanced midfield to the tip of the diamond. Just over and over you could see how Pep thinks about football.

    The most interesting part of the match for me was that the dynamics of play were not dictated by Thiago and Pedro.

    Given their comparative experience one could imagine both of those players dominating play. This is particularly true to Thiago in midfield.

    Instead Pep just continued playing the system – only he didn’t given any midfielder the “Xavi role.” Instead he split play between Thiago and Sergi Roberto.

    And in the front line – the game flowed through the best player on the pitch – Cuenca.

    He was absolutely phenomenal. What a match. Just brilliant stuff from him. Pedro was great in this match as well – Cuenca was just fantastic. A hair better even.

    Barca really have something in Cuenca. He really has great feet.

    Montoya – an absolute beast. He could walk on an start at RB for most major club sides right now. He is extremely good and good at what is arguably the position with the least talent at it in the world.

    If VdB really wants to be honest and give Spain the best chance possible to win Euro 2012 – there’s a real case to be made that his right flank should be Montoya and Cuenca. I mean that sincerely. Montoya is the best Spanish RB. If you want to say Iraola should play because of his experience – so be it. Montoya is a better player.

    And Cuenca offers exactly what ESP need.

    But those are thoughts for another day.

    The other thing from this match – I would really like to see Barca move Sergi Roberto to the holding midfield role. He’s terrific in an advanced role. But I think he could do very special things at DM and that’s his route to meaningful time on the first team.

  5. Xingxian
    December 8, 2011

    My Memory of the Match

    Montoya flicks the ball over the head of an onrushing forward instead of sending it to the heavens and then proceeds to romp forward. Pinto, who is watching, visibly starts applauding in a manner I imagined to be cackling and gleeful.

    • blitzen
      December 9, 2011

      I believe that was Bartra who did that, not Montoya (my English commentators got it wrong too, but I rewatched it several times to be sure).

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