Match Review Part 1: El Clásico Madrid 1 – 3 Barcelona: The Other 39 Seconds

There’s a curious attraction, almost an intoxication, which comes from spotting a trend.  We look for them everywhere.  It’s one of our foibles as humans.  So eager to project what’s to come, we read too much into the tealeaves of our times.  Small samples of evidence are transformed into forecasts and given weight they cannot possibly carry.  Housing prices have gone up and up for years.  They’ll continue to do so.  Let’s keep borrowing.  The Berlin Wall has fallen.  The Cold War is over.  Political economy has reached a final conclusion and democracy has won.

Finding trends allows us to believe that history has a direction, one that we can identify and shape.  On a more intimate level, it allows to believe that we can see the future that our own lives and circumstances are headed towards.  And if you can see your face tomorrow then you can sculpt your life in ways otherwise not possible.

 

We see patterns where none exist.  We place disproportionate emphasis on events that have taken place more recently.  We make conclusions about future events based on how something behaves at its peak performance thinking that this optimal state will define a new norm.

And so it was entering this Clásico.  The entire match became widely connected with this kind of thinking.  Almost everywhere one looked there was the general notion that Madrid would triumph because they had “closed the gap.”  There was frequent speculation about the Barcelona cycle closing.  This is a narrative we see a great deal in our culture of media and instant information.  A twin story of ascendance and decay.  Of a rise coupled to a fall.  A new cycle was opening with an old one closing.  That was the framing and in a sense the match itself turned into something of an afterthought.  The trends were clear after all.   The outcome apparent.

You Will Retire Me But Iniesta Will Retire Us Both

There’s no question that Madrid has improved as a squad over the past several seasons (a process that started under Pellegrini).  And they have been playing outstanding football this season.

But the consensus around what the outcome of this Clásico would be was based on a fundamental assumption.  That Madrid were improving while Barça were essentially standing still – even regressing.  Each squad was headed in different directions – this was taken as evidence of the Madrid’s perceived ascendance.  It was as if Madrid improving had to mean that Barcelona was regressing.

Illusionista

Madrid’s improvement seemed to preclude the possibility of Barça doing the same.  It seemed to eclipse the body of work that this Barcelona project has put together under Guardiola.  A new trend had emerged.  The cycle was over.

What we heard was that this team – it’s not the same Barcelona.  This Barça team is engaging in too much change.  There’s no lineup.  A different backline every game.  Trying out different formations and dropping points in the process.  They were growing complacent.

Madrid on the other hand were clearly on the rise.  Mourinho’s second season.  They have a system, a set selection of players.  This match would clearly demonstrate how far things had changed.  You could see it from the trends.

But teams don’t become champions in a world of abstract speculation.  Championships are designations that can only be earned on the pitch.  The narrative of ascension and decay voiced over and over placed a primacy on Madrid’s recent term results while discounting the accumulated accomplishments of this Barça team.  It placed a more vibrant value on recent results, on what could occur and placed a heavy discount rate on what’s been achieved.  That’s only the past after all.  And in our world of constant churn, even last May can seem a lifetime ago.

From this perspective, growth in performance is seen as equivalent, even more important, than level of achievement.  In this regard, Madrid’s improvement led observers to rethink this Barça team’s talent and fortitude.  Barça were after all not getting better at the same purportedly breathtaking rate as Madrid.

One of the things that makes trends difficult to discern with any validity is that they always call into question how far back in time one wants to target their start.  And with these two teams there are a few touch points that influence perception.  One is Mourinho’s hiring.  The other is the 5-0 Manita last season.  So Madrid has clear points of demarcation for people to think about.

And in these implicit comparisons of rates of growth and projections about talent and levels of actual play, one of the things that gets lost is that this Barcelona team under Guardiola is getting better.  It is just more difficult to see because of the recurring success.  The Barça team that beat Manchester United in 2011 was better than the one that beat United in 2009.  But the best you can do is win the European Cup.  There are no higher tangible milestones to point to.

And what we saw from this Clásico in fact wasn’t new.  We saw once again how this Barcelona project is never satisfied.  It always wants to win.  It isn’t complacent or interested in resting on the past or on a particular generation of talent.

We saw a team that is starting to evolve its core, a team that has been drastically turned over from 2008/09 yet still continues to achieve wondrous results.  We saw a new group of players emerging to contribute.  We saw a squad that is getting younger at key positions.

We saw a squad that Guardiola is constantly pushing to get better.  A squad organized by strategy and tactics that are always evolving playing a system that is constantly designed and redesigned.  If anything – this season we’ve seen these issues pushed even harder.

Surpassing Barcelona will not be an event because Barcelona will not sit still.  This is the challenge for the opposition.  Barcelona is a moving target – one that is competing not only against other teams – but against itself.  Surpassing this Barça project will require a process, a process that will only attain weight and meaning over sustained time.

The longer that process goes on for the opposition though, the more difficult it will become in some ways because with each achievement this Barça team learns more and more deeply how to execute at the highest level, how to stay composed and focused.  It explores new dimensions of how to win.

Winning builds a kind of knowledge that can only be learned from experience.  It’s a kind of tacit knowledge that can only be acquired through doing it, seeing it first hand, from being part of it.  Trends and linear projections about future accomplishments because another side is “improving” will not necessarily suffice.  Surpassing Barcelona will require a change of state – not simply an extension of a perceived direction or trend.

And Barça will not cede that territory easily.  They will do everything possible to retain their place.  In fact, they will continue to strive to increase the gap between themselves and others.  Let the competition improve.  We will too.  That’s the history of this group, of the institution.

Now let me be clear.  I am not saying this project will continue on at this level in perpetuity.   Barcelona will not win every trophy.  They very well may not win any more silver this season.  It is true that all teams, all epochs, have a cycle and eventually end.

What I am saying is that no one can say how long that cycle will last.  Success is contingent not fated.  Its end is not ordained.  To conclude that this project’s time is closing – or even beginning to close will require a large body of evidence.  One match, one result – even a season – will not prove that this team has burned through.

In fact, I’ll go further.  It’s very possible that this Barcelona project’s window has closed.  We can’t know.  We can never know in real time.  We can only know in retrospect.  We can only know after this team has been decisively beaten – after they’ve shown on the pitch that they can no longer compete at the highest level.  Trends, future projections, the rate of growth and improvement exhibited by other competitors – all of those are secondary.  What matters are the matches themselves – what they say.  Matches like the brilliant performance this squad once again executed in a Clásico at the Bernabeu, a competition with so much at stake.

It’s the matches that tell the story of a team and its cycle.  It’s success on the pitch that defines their opening chapter as a project – and their closing pages.

And to date there’s been very little empirical evidence to suggest that any cycle is closing.  A small series of matches to open a season does not provide any substantive evidence to those ends given the level of talent and achievement of this team.  There’s no evidence that Madrid improving means that Barça is somehow getting worse or deteriorating – even in a relative sense.  The two are not directly related.  Madrid can continue to improve.  That does not mean they will catch  Barcelona.  Only the matches will decide.  Not what people say, what’s projected, or what trends are discerned.

The situation between the teams is much more akin to competitive environments where each side pushes the other to get better.  There is constant pressure to improve.  And for me that’s been one of the recurring themes of this project under Pep.  There is no end – there’s only a process and that process is one that is constantly unsatisfied, that is always looking to get better, to play at a higher level.

Is the cycle ending?  One of my lasting memories of this match came after Barça scored its second goal.  The team celebrated with Xavi and the cameras panned to the group of five-hundred Barcelona supporters that had made their way to the Bernabeu.

What I’ll remember – what I love – about that picture is the supporter holding up a black jersey.  Number 27.  Deulofeu.  There’s something that’s hopelessly romantic about that image.  Bringing a Deulofeu jersey to the Clásico at the Bernabeu, a jersey that few spectators in the stadium will even see.  A jersey meant to be shared with the small band of cules present.

Obviously Deulofeu’s not even on the squad.  He’s a youth player and probability is stacked against him.  Chances are that he won’t make it as a contributor to the first team.  Those are just the odds for any 17 year old.

But there’s also a pragmatic aspect to the image. It acknowledges that the players we’re watching now – their time will end.  That there will always be other squads trying to surpass them and one eventually will.  It acknowledges that all of us face an enemy none of us can surpass – time.  It acknowledges all of that.  But it’s also saying that the institution understands this.  It understands that success isn’t an event, or a trend, or period of time.  Success is a process, one that is contingent, that constantly depends on improvement and regeneration.  That’s life.  That’s how we are able to breathe.

I’d guess that as he watched this Clasico, Deulofeu – and all of the players at La Masia – saw that image and opened their eyes in wonder. I’d guess they understood what the Clásico – what all of this means – even if only slightly better.  What’s expected of them.  What will depend on them.

I’d guess that they understood that the current cycle will end – and that one day it will be up to them.  It will be their responsibility to start their own cycle.  To renew this history – or at minimum – to try their very best to do so.  They will be given the resources required.  They’ll be educated and mentored on the pitch and off.  They’ll have a model.  They are watching it now.  Just like this current cohort had the opportunity to watch and learn from and admire a skinny number 4 who once wore blaugrana with elegance, who once had hair, who was once dismissed for being too small and too slow.  They have examples.  Which is just another way of saying that they are not alone.

But ultimately it will be up to them.  It doesn’t matter what’s projected.  Their potential success isn’t a foreordained result of some kind of “trend” simply because the past five seasons have brought so much success.  Barça is at a peak right now – but that’s just now.  What’s been accomplished, how this feels, isn’t a given.  It depends.  On hard work.  On patience.  On talent.  On teamwork and giving and belief.  It has to be re-learned and renewed all of the time.  I think those young boys sitting in La Masia watching their heroes learned that, know it a little more deeply and more securely in their hearts after watching the wonder of this last Clásico.

They know even better that one day they will have to walk into the Bernabeu needing to win.  They will walk into that monumental stadium hard pressed to produce a result, the world around them telling them that they are likely to fail.  And they’ll have to draw on every bit of talent and strength they have to win.  They’ll have to utilize every internal resource they can access.

And we’ll have to hope that they too will be able to develop the magical alchemy that mixes talent and determination with history.  The alchemy that understands the scope of what’s required to follow in the path being defined by this brilliant Barcelona project.  And maybe one day, under dire conditions at the Bernabeu, conditions such as being behind 1-0 within the first minute of a match, they’ll be able to access a kind of strength they weren’t sure they had.  A kind of strength that distills away the fear pounding in their hearts by mixing it with the memory of wonder:

 

Match Overview

This was an extraordinary match played by an extraordinary team.  Given the context of what was at stake, playing at the Bernabeu and the disastrous way the game opened – this performance was in many ways more impressive than the 5-0 manita at Camp Nou last season.

The most important moments of this match did take place in the opening minute.  But those critical moments weren’t the first 21 seconds in which Madrid scored.  The most important moments of the match were those that directly followed that score, that started once the ball was retrieved from the back of the net.

It was in those moments that the shape of the match was defined.  Barcelona easily could have collapsed under the weight of pressure.  This was after all part of the ascendancy so many expected from Madrid in this match.  The cycle had closed. It was now Madrid’s turn.  That was the narrative.  And the team was immediately staring into the possibility of falling behind nine points in La Liga with a loss.  Most squads would have come unhinged in that context at the Bernabeu.  But none of that happened.  Not for a moment.  Not to this Barcelona.

Instead the team simply kept their composure and got on with playing their game – just as planned.  They just had that much more work to do.  But they knew exactly what was needed – what had to be executed to regain control of the match and produce the vital outcome they needed.

That’s what you can do when you’ve been through this before and found the inner resources to prevail.  That’s what you can do when you’ve needed a goal in the dying moments at Stamford Bridge and found a way.  That’s what you can do when you’ve come from behind against Estudiantes in the Club World Cup through the efforts of Pedro – a little known player from the youth team – to equalize in the 89th minute and Messi willing the ball into the net with his chest in extra time.  That’s what you can do when you’ve gone down 1-0 at the Bernabeu and come back to win 2-6.  That’s the value of history.

And it was those moments of composure and patience in this Clásico – those other 39 seconds of the first minute of the match that were critical to driving the outcome.  It was there that the match was defined.  Where Barça found the will to see through a result that they had to have if they wanted to maximize their chances for winning La Liga.

[*Note: Part 2 of this review will cover the match analysis, tactics and player evaluation]

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178 Comments

  1. BarcaGirl_Indo
    December 12, 2011

    It acknowledges that the players we’re watching now – their time will end. That there will always be other squads trying to surpass them and one eventually will. It acknowledges that all of us face an enemy none of us can surpass – time.

    I didn’t realize there was a spectator with black Deulofeu jersey until you mentioned it.
    your words that I quoted above gave tears to my eyes.
    cherish these moment, guys. cherish it.

  2. Srini
    December 12, 2011

    Continuing on your line of thinking, Euler, I can see a similarity between the world’s assessment of Barcelona’s evolution (prior to the Clasico) to Francis Fukayama’s “End of history” statement that declared the end of evolution of world political economy beyond liberal democracy and market capitalism. Only for Fukuyama to be proven wrong.

    While cycles and eras do come to an end, they do so because of a material/dialectical change and not just because of some preordained “Hegelian” essence.

    Barcelona’s golden era therefore cannot last forever, but a decline in fortunes and an end to their glory can only come about when their play is surpassed by quality elsewhere or their evolution is halted because of factors beyond their control (ageing, lack of talent and skill fitting their evolution patterns).

    In that sense, the death of Barcelona’s glory was indeed exaggerated as the team showed in the El Clasico. Those who eulogised Madrid as having reached a stage that they were upstaging this Barca squad never quite pointed it out as to how the tactical evolution of Madrid was a true game changer, except by highlighting that their high pressing game combined with their evolved understanding was Kryptonite enough.

    I am looking forward to your Part II which will highlight the tactical flexibility of the Barca squad that helped it overcome the renewed Madrid.

  3. Gogah
    December 12, 2011

    Your first paragraph about doubt gives rise to many points.
    I dont understand why the media and even some cules are always ready to give the benefit of doubt to madrid and not our own magnificent pep team. yes we have dominated for over 3 years now. is it a self destructive mentality to constantly think that the cycle is over and madrid has closed the gap? if we have learned anything, it is that barcelona does not lose a match unless they want to. if anything, pep has always risen to a big occassion. ALWAYS. Given this incredible track record, how the hell did we go into this match feeling scared and doubtful? or even cautiously optimistic? We can never ever write this team off, not while pep is in charge. Every pre match analysis and review must by default hand over the win to Barca. Now the reason sid lowe and lot of other jokers are quick to predict otherwise is simply because the former narrative has become ‘boring’. people dont want to hear pundits say that barcelona will win, again. it is just not exciting. that is the true sad part.
    you are spot on when you say that perhaps the most fearsome aspect of this barca team is not that they try to stay above their biggest rivals, but also their own achievements. Even though we have been treated to some breathtaking football and absolute joy for the past few years and even though we may already be overwhelmed enough to accept a descent and a drop in efficiency the players clearly are not, under Pep guardiola. Someone said before that after being completely treated for the past few years anything more is a bonus. while i completely agree with this, is this what the team feels? barring puyol and xavi this team is incredibly young and incredibly experienced.

    “To conclude that this project’s time is closing – or even beginning to close will require a large body of evidence. One match, one result – even a season – will not prove that this team has burned through.”

    Absolutely.
    I think that now success has become a habit for barca.
    it will be very hard to shake off this habit.
    we may fail terribly for an entire year. But this team will keep reminding us about what is really possible.

  4. lea_terzi
    December 12, 2011

    Thank you, Euler, for always putting things in perspective!

    And in reply to the concerns about our chances in the Liga this season, and our enemies’ prowess against the rest of the opposition:

    Let’s not forget that this Madrid team peaked early, with the express purpose of beating us in the supercopa and the first classico at home, and hopefully building a hefty lead in the league. They took a gamble, it didn’t really pay off – don’t expect them to keep this level of fitness throughout the year. Last season they dropped 22 points in the Liga. This year – only 5 points before the classico, because of this early peak. But their season will balance itself out.

    Barca, however, are only now reaching their top form. Not only tactically, but also physically. The plan was to peak in time for the Club World Cup – also a gamble. A long winning streak after that is not out of question. It is too early to know what will happen, but it will be tough, very tough for Real to put the league beyond our reach before the classico at Camp Nou. And then it’s game time.

    I have faith in this team, its ability to get results when most needed, beat the odds and do so with style!

  5. BarcaOwl
    December 12, 2011

    Thanks for putting everything into perspective, Euler. Your posts are always a good read. Can’t wait for part two.

    • December 12, 2011

      That looked funny and he looked furious but what was he saying?

    • Ryan
      December 12, 2011

      Making up his own history: apparently TB scored the game winner in the 89th minute. Although he did guess right that Casillas made a great save on Messi. 😛

    • BTTFCule
      December 12, 2011

      This was Roncero predicting before classico. They must have wasted lots of paper. It was a waste of paper anyway so doesn’t matter!

    • K_legit in Oz
      December 12, 2011

      Ladies and Gentlemen,
      Meet Tomás Roncero, MADridista and Professional Douchebag

  6. K_legit in Oz
    December 12, 2011

    A few things I learned from this game

    1. Whenever we feel that this Barcelona team will struggle they somehow produce the best performance..this team thrives on adversity.

    2. Busquets is the best holding mid in the world today..he’s an octopus..kept fish face in his pocket

    3. Iniesta!!! Increíble! the way he just rides challenges beggars belief..I have long since maintained that he has the best first touch in football, even better than Messi!

    4. Cesc..that’s why we bought him! had a lousy game otherwise but his box-crashing is an essential reason to his purchase and his anarchy of positioning is the contrast to the machinations of Xavi and co..something which we lacked and now we don’t..He won the ball from Kaka, started off the attack, ran 60 yd, outmuscled Coentrao and scored..that move alone defines this team.

    5. Alexis, tu ets un crack! a friend of mine compares him to Ronaldinho..he says “Alexis is a street football player, a “pichanguero”. Like Ronaldinho, he barely finished school, whenever he could play, he would play football. Tight angles, small spaces, speed, dribbling. He’s tough too, he faced up to Pepe. Anyway, he’s proved himself in Italy, now it’s time for Spain.”

    6. Xavi: pim pam pim pam pim pam gol pim pam pim pam….

    7. Puyol: Càpita, Lleó..

    8. Watching the game with an actual penya!! If someone here has not done that I highly recommend you do..the passion and the joy of victory and the post match cathartic conversations are a great way to spend a sunday..that and some cold Estrella Damm on tap goes down well after a tiring football match 😀

    9. The jerseys, they have started growing on me even of the QF logo sticks out like a sore thumb..

    10.Valdes made me want to break stuff during the game! There were 50 angry Cules in the bar by the 25 min of the 1st half and from the corner of my eye I saw two madridistas think of walking in..they with the scarf and the smug..one feel of the atmosphere and they chickened out..cowards!

  7. lyd
    December 12, 2011

    In the spirit of this fantastic article and the epic myth trilogy:

    …….

    A day may come when the courage of the hobbit fails, when they forsake the total footballing philosophy and break all bonds of fellowship. But nothing close to that happened in those 39 seconds and what followed….

    The fellowship, showed abundance of creativity while not being at their best and rose above the occasion, even though Valdez, the hobbit with the best seat in the house, being the keeper of the peace, disrupted it early! I could have sworn to have the seen in his eyes the same fear that would take the hearts of me, but he stood up and bravely stuck to his game. More importantly, a lesson was learned and most importantly an example was set for the future keeper of the peace.

    The wise one turned from Pep the Grey to Pep the White! He owned Mourinho in his 2nd season, away from home, outfoxed him on every level. Part 2 of this read would justify the events and more, that i could not notice. Such a big game and so many levels of improvisations on tactics and play were seen. It was like seeing a jazz/classical orchestra-ish performance where the percussionist only messed up on the cue. And we must never forget that our players and the system has been busy composing masterpieces lately. So the execution on the match days these days are unlikely to be perfect.

    Sons of La Masia! Of Catalunya! My brother Cules. That night I put the hat of doubt off, sword of criticism back to the scabbard and took a bow. These days we celebrate!
    I bid you a standing ovation, Men or The Cules!

    😀

    • yev
      December 12, 2011

      ^ this was good 🙂 lyd, Keeper of the Mark, may your tiki taca prose continue for many moons

    • lyd
      December 12, 2011

      thanks yev.

      hope the White Wizard a.k.a Guardian of the Philosophy renews his contract this year and happily every year after.

      and hope the wisdom a.k.a Pep Talk continues for many moons.

    • mom4
      December 12, 2011

      😀

  8. Ryan
    December 12, 2011

    Great prelude to the tactical analysis, Euler! Valdes’ bravery in continuing to play his passing game, rather than start booting the ball up the field in fears of another howler, also plays to this belief in the system/process. Trust in the system (and Pep of course!) and things will turn out all right!

    OT: Anelka is going to be playing for a Chinese club starting next month, whoa!

  9. Blau-Grenade
    December 12, 2011

    Wow. Beautiful words. I have to read this article a few more times to discern the genius of Euler. Thanks for making my day.

  10. Helge
    December 12, 2011

    It was in those moments that the shape of the match was defined. Barcelona easily could have collapsed under the weight of pressure. This was after all part of the ascendancy so many expected from Madrid in this match. The cycle had closed. It was now Madrid’s turn. That was the narrative. And the team was immediately staring into the possibility of falling behind nine points in La Liga with a loss. Most squads would have come unhinged in that context at the Bernabeu. But none of that happened. Not for a moment. Not to this Barcelona.
    That is the self-conception of the greatest teams on earth. Nothing will bring them down. Manchester United also had this self-conception for a quite long time.
    But apart from Barca and ManUtd, I don’t remember a team in the last decade(s) that would have survived such incredible high pressure, when facing the highest possible mountain to climb. They got off to the worst possible start one could have feared. I was literally telling my friends, straight after kick-off, Real Madrid will press like hell for the first goal, and dear Lord, let it not come early…
    Barcelona had to fight against a double-headed dragon in the cavern of evil, with the back to the wall. The first strike of the dragon hit them brutaly, but against all odds they recovered, as if they had not been wounded at all, and got the better of him. They did so by being even more brave, throwing away some of their shields and armor. The new-found ease and fluidity was too much for the beast of a dragon to handle 🙂

    There is this one interview with Bruce Lee, where he persists that one should be water. I think this Barcelona team is quite close to being like water. It has a fluidity, a diversity and an adaptation that is simply outstanding. You can change the formation, i.e. you can move different parts of the volume around, but it still stays water and keeps its properties.
    On another note, water is (one of) the substance with the most known anomalies. When watching this side, I feel like experiencing anomaly, too!

  11. The__K__Man
    December 12, 2011

    http://goo.gl/EsVLF Pep’s interview with FIFA.com. Highly recommended.

  12. yev
    December 12, 2011

    “It placed a more vibrant value on recent results, on what could occur and placed a heavy discount rate on what’s been achieved. That’s only the past after all. And in our world of constant churn, even last May can seem a lifetime ago.”

    Too true, we sometimes forget that the narrative is larger than us, on what we may be able to imagine on our own. We are all enjoying an amazing period of our club and as they strive to be better I can keep enjoying the great pieces of inspiration you guys contribute with.

    Thank you for the words Euler and thank everyone for this mes que un blog!

  13. blitzen
    December 12, 2011

    Beautifully written, Euler, and I LOVE the pics you chose for the article!

  14. barca96
    December 12, 2011

    I still need to find a time to read this masterpiece but first I have a question.

    Kxevin, you follow the NBA don’t you? Or anyone else here who does, can you explain to me why the Lakers is pulling out from the race to sign CP3, Cris Paul? That’s their target so if it failed twice, why don’t they try to work something out especially now that Odom is already out.

    My guess is that Odom was traded to make way for Howard but can they even get him? What if Stern vetoes it also? They’ll end up with unhappy players. The dressing room in the Lakers must be pretty low now especially with the players who were supposed to be traded.

    Why are the owners of other teams and Stern against the Lakers’ idea to have Kobe-CP3-Howard in the team when it was fine last year for Miami to have Wade-LeBron-Bosh? And Celtics a few years back with Pierce-Garnett-Allen-Rondo.

    • December 12, 2011

      I don’t really follow the NBA, barca96. I watch the Bulls from time to time, but will not this season, mostly because of the ego involved in a bunch of squabbling millionaires thinking that coming back on Xmas Day would be their gift to the world. Ick!

    • mani
      December 12, 2011

      Well teaming up several superstars was one of the main issues the owners had during the lockout. Owners from the not-so-elite teams would like a more competitive balance. Having superstars team up is great for those few teams, but equals a loss of revenue for the rest, who would then struggle to sell seats for their mediocre teams, sell merchandise, etc.

      As for the Lakers pulling out of the CP3 trade- my best guess is they are pushing for Howard more than ever now. They freed up space by dealing Odom (a stupid move IMO). I do not like the Lakers much but they did themselves a service by not getting rid of Gasol, arguably their MVP much of the time.

    • Nik
      December 12, 2011

      My guess is that the Lakers saw that there was no trade deal that Stern would accept, so they pulled out. The damage has already been done; there wasn’t much use in continuing to chase after Paul with Stern casting final judgment on the deal.

      As for Odom, I believe I heard that he asked to be traded. He was upset at almost being traded in the first place and didn’t want to stay. Also, as you said, they are probably trying to free up room for Dwight.

      The smaller market teams (led by Dan Gilbert of the Cavs) HATED the summer of the Decision in 2010. One of their goals in the lockout was to prevent a repeat of superstars joining together in big markets from happening again. I don’t think they achieved that goal, but they were able to block this superstar move since the league technically owns the Hornets.

    • Miguel
      December 12, 2011

      Yeah, why is barca96 talking about this here? I come to this space to escape my Lakers problems.

      Odom was irritated to have been involved in the Paul trade in the first place. He did not practice with the team the first two days of training camp, showing up only briefly each day.

      “To me, I would think it’s better to stay away,” Odom told The Times in a phone interview Friday. “You know, the energy and all. I don’t know how it’s going to go right now. It’s a little weird. . . . Right now, I’ll be a fan of the game from a distance.”

      In addition to the draft pick, the Lakers received a traded-player exception worth Odom’s salary this season, $8.9 million. Under terms of the exception, the Lakers can obtain a player from another team by trading only a draft pick if the player makes less than $9 million. Teams have exactly one year to use a traded-player exception.

      The Lakers could try to package the traded-player exception to get a player better than Odom, but Bryant wasn’t anticipating it.

      “I’m not thinking that at all,” he said.
      http://www.latimes.com/sports/basketball/nba/lakers/la-sp-lakers-20111212,0,2950354.story

  15. mom4
    December 12, 2011

    Does anyone else wonder what Euler is in his “real” life?
    I had always thought he might be a physicist of some type, a mathematician or somehow involved in the physical sciences. Other times I am convinced he is a writer, or a philosopher. Regardless, he’s Euler and I’m glad he’s ours!

    • Helge
      December 12, 2011

      I was also wondering…
      my answer is: Probably a genius, like Da Vinci 🙂

    • mani
      December 12, 2011

      He is obviously a computer program with a thesaurus.

      Skynet?

    • NeverEver
      December 12, 2011

      I keep thinking something in business statistics… maybe economist?

      the phrase “discounted rate” keeps ringing in my head… lol

    • Miguel
      December 12, 2011

      Euler’s an underwear model.

  16. December 12, 2011

    From Sid Lowe’s most excellent piece about the match:

    As one player puts it: “When you play Barcelona you chase the ball. You think you’re going to get to it and they move it on, so you chase some more and you think you’re going to get to it, and they move it on again, so you chase some more and so more and some more. And you’re knackered … and you look up at the scoreboard and you think: ‘shit, there are still 88 minutes of this left’.”

    Full piece is here:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2011/dec/12/victor-valdes-barcelona-real-madrid

    • mani
      December 12, 2011

      So then the only way to beat Barca is to play them in an indoor game, with unlimited fresh subs coming in and out. As long as this indoor league wasn’t UEFA/UNICEF/CIA/NORAD sponsored of course.

      Though I fear Barca’s tiki-taka would be even deadlier on a 5-a-side small indoor field.

      Actually I’ve always wondered how Xavi, Iniesta, Fab, Messi, Busquets would play 5-a-side. Destructive as always I would imagine.

    • blitzen
      December 12, 2011

      This column has made me forgive Sid Lowe a multitude of sins. He does write beautifully, doesn’t he?

    • Puppet
      December 13, 2011

      Just out of curiosity, what are some of the “sins” he’s committed? I read Sid Lowe quite frequently, and although he is sometimes not as charitable towards Barca as I would be, i’m not a professional journalist who has to exercise a semblance of objectivity. Nothing he says seems too outrageous to me, yet there’s a cadre of cules who seem to hate his guts. Maybe I missed something (or things)?

    • blitzen
      December 13, 2011

      My problem with Sid is that he has a tendency not to let the facts get in the way of writing a good story. He is a brilliant writer, but doesn’t always do his homework, and it is infuriating to see how he (sometimes) misrepresents things in a column that has such a large readership.

      I also find his passive-aggressiveness on twitter more tiring than amusing. He loves to say he doesn’t care what his detractors think of him, while actually caring very much. I don’t hate his guts or anything, though. He is intelligent and quite funny, which is why I get pissed off when he just can’t be bothered to get it right.

    • Puppet
      December 13, 2011

      Fair enough. I’m definitely not the most educated when it comes to football facts and history, so I’m sure that i’ve taken his word for things that weren’t entirely true. I also don’t follow him on twitter, so i can’t speak on that. I just enjoy having an eloquent writer around who can key me into spanish footy. Thanks!

    • blitzen
      December 12, 2011

      I love this bit:

      Valdés is a player, let him play. His passing accuracy, at 85%, is easily the best in the league – not least because he actually passes it. He attempts fewer long ‘passes’ (over 35 yards) than anyone, at only 29%. Casillas is the nearest at 43.3% and only three goalkeepers are even under 50%.

      A. Maze. Ing.

    • mani
      December 12, 2011

      Wow. I figured he would be at or near the top in that category but to actually see the numbers and the gulf between him and the rest is remarkable.

      Can’t we play him as an outfield player just ONCE! Maybe in some obscure friendly a-la EE vs 100 kids in China.

    • lyd
      December 12, 2011

      Well, maybe someday an intelligent team would learn to press us deep. That might force a pivotal rotation between VV and the CBs, where VV would end up with the ball outside the box, having to play a smart pass.

      The only team who possibly can evolve into forcing that kind of a situation is Bilbao under Bielsa.
      Speaking of Bilbao, Barca scouts should keep an eye on for Munain. I know we are saturated in terms of attacking players, but that kid is just amazing.

    • mani
      December 12, 2011

      Huge fan of Munain’s game. With that said, I still don’t want Barcelona (or EE) to get him. We are spoiled in attack and it is nice to have talented players in the other Liga clubs. Makes for uber fiesty games that are a joy to watch.

    • G6O
      December 13, 2011

      And a lot of those long passes over 35 yards are still on the ground to a player in position to receive the ball, it is just that they are longer than 35 yards. I have hard time believing that he hoofs the ball forwards 3 out of 10 times based on watching the games

  17. blitzen
    December 12, 2011

    OK, you asked for them! Well, no, actually you didn’t, but you didn’t really think I would let the Clasico go by without some blitzen awards, did you? So you’re getting them whether you want them or not!

    MOTMOTMOI Award: It couldn’t be anyone but Puyol, could it? He was absolutely immense in both positions he played, rampaging all over the right half of the field, exhorting the team to lift themselves up after the first goal, and pouring every ounce of his heart and soul into winning the game. And did you see that bicycle kick? Puyol IS Barcelona.

    Real Madrid MOTM Award: Benzema, who in the second half seemed the only RM player (apart from Casillas) who was still trying to win the game.

    Iker Face Award: Xabi Alonso wins the category hands-down with his epic entry after the 3rd Barcelona goal.

    With Friends Like These Award: The Bernabeu crowd, for booing their own players (most notably Ronaldo). Way to kick your team when they are down, guys! Contrast this with how the Camp Nou crowd chanted Messi’s name when he scuffed that penalty earlier this year.

    Wave Your Card Award: Alexis Sanchez, for his relentless effort to convince the referee to hand a card to Coentrao after a strong tackle. It was funny, but I don’t like to see players waving imaginary cards like that. Bad Alexis.

    It Takes Two Award: Iniesta came in for more than his fair share of tackles in this game, but the worst was when Khedira and Coentrao tag-teamed him–right in front of the ref, too! You can’t keep our Andres down, though, and wasn’t he magical in this game, especially the second half?

    England NT Memorial Award For Underachievement: 600 games and only 64 goals? Clearly Xavi needs to do better.

    Boy Who Cried Wolf Award: Cristiano Ronaldo, whose teammates hilariously completely ignored him when he went down after a strong tackle outside the Barça box. Even though he may have actually been in some pain, his teammates had clearly seen it all before and just couldn’t be bothered with him. Oh how I laughed! 😆

    He Stoops To Conquer Award: Cesc Fabregas for his gorgeous low header for the goal that sealed the game. A brilliant team goal that shows how Barça has incorporated the skills from the new signings into its original philosophy.

    Roberto Baggio Memorial Award For Egregious Hair: Cesc’s FauxVilla notwithstanding, our boys’ hair has been pretty well-behaved lately, so I’m going to have to split this award between Coentrao (for his ugly platinum dye-job) and Teh Ramos (for his nasty Yorkie-and-headband combo).

    Eye For An Eye Award: Tito Vilanova, for taking the high road and resisting the impulse to pop Mourinho one in the face when he came over to shake hands. Not that he ever would have. Anyway, the pain of acting like a normal person must have caused Mou to suffer more than any physical retribution could have. And speaking of Tito:

    Tito Vilanova Memorial Award For Good Sportsmanship: Marcelo, for refusing to shake Pique’s hand after the game while wearing a pouty face Shirley Temple would have been proud of. Meanwhile, his teammate and captain Casillas went out of his way to congratulate several Barcelona players, especially his La Roja teammates.

    That’s your lot! 😀

    • Blau-Grenade
      December 12, 2011

      Brilliant! As always!!!

    • December 12, 2011

      Roberto Baggio award… Lol! So sad. So true. Great stuff!!

    • Miguel
      December 12, 2011

      Business in the front. Party in the back!

      I respect mullets way more than I do faux hawks.

      And speaking of adorable Italians, when do we get our dowry for Bojan? Is he suspended for the Juventus match today?

    • lyd
      December 12, 2011

      Loved em 😀

      I’d like to add two blitzen award proposals:

      *Touchline/corner flag affinity award: Gerard Pique for his outstanding positional sense. However that led to the 21s nightmare.

      *Steve Jobs collective iQ of a single person award:
      Pepe, Marcelo, Lass, DiMaria, Cronaldo.

    • incense
      December 12, 2011

      England NT Memorial Award For Underachievement.. YES!! 😀

    • SoccerMom
      December 12, 2011

      Cheers, Blitzen! Now it’s on to the glamorous after-party!

      MOTM Puyol added moment: Apparently told Pep mid-match about some kinks and aches that were concerning him. Chief’s response?

      “Aguantas por mis huevos.”

      Can you imagine how bad Puyi was feeling to give a heads-up to Pep in a Bernabeu Clásico? And can you imagine how massive Puyi is to his team for Pep to risk him out there? And then mention his private parts?

      So spit some shine on that silver, Puyi is gold!

    • nzm
      December 13, 2011

      So what was Puyol’s answer to that?

      He went back out and stopped one of Kaka’s crosses into the box – with his huevos! 😀

    • Miguel
      December 13, 2011

      Lord, have mercy.

    • Puppet
      December 13, 2011

      “Contrast this with how the Camp Nou crowd chanted Messi’s name when he scuffed that penalty earlier this year.”

      Right, or how the Camp Nou crowd began chanting Villa’s name when he was busting his butt against Rayo, but still couldn’t find the back of the net. Class right there.

  18. blitzen
    December 12, 2011

    From Pep’s FIFA interview:

    Finding intelligent players must be a priority for you then.

    Absolutely. The problem is you can’t always get them. You can sign players on the recommendation of friends and colleagues and based on what you see on TV, but it’s only when they’re out on the pitch with you that you find out if they can do what you want them to. It’s not easy. Sometimes it’s worked for me and sometimes it hasn’t.

    Heh heh heh. 😛

  19. December 12, 2011

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Hopefully will have part 2 up soon. There’s just so much to talk about as the match was wonderful.

    Zonal Marking made a fascinating comment in his match thread on the Clasico on Fabregas:

    ZonalMarking on December 11, 2011 at 11:04 am

    I’ve got it on good authority that a couple of the Barca coaches are concerned with Fabregas’ directness – think he makes Barca’s attacks too vertical and that it’s rubbing off on the other players…

    I asked him about this on twitter – said he’s writing a longer piece on it for tomorrow. Very interesting stuff.

    http://www.zonalmarking.net/2011/12/11/real-madrid-1-3-barcelona-tactics/

    • Dani_el
      December 12, 2011

      Thank you Euler for one more amazing piece of Euler-brilliance.
      I thought it was Pep’s idea to see him being more vertical, to teach us a little of EPL counter attack. That’s an area where we could improve a lot. Thinking about Henry and Eto’o in 2008/09.
      Still I don’t think that Cesc is adapting to much, maybe because of Pep’s advice or maybe because it seems to work, he hides most of the game to score a goal when noone (not me) expects it. I wouldn’t want him to adapt to much if that’s gonna make him forget what he learnt in England.
      Sadly Kxevin might be right about Villa. This may be his last season with us. I wouldn’t want that, I’d wish he could pick up his game, and stay a few more seasons with us.

  20. Miguel
    December 12, 2011

    Can’t wait for you to break it down in the second part, Euler!

  21. mani
    December 12, 2011

    omarmomani.blogspot.com

    He has some brilliant footie cartoons up on his blog!

  22. Dani_el
    December 12, 2011

    “Ultimately, there was nothing wrong with the referee, no diving, no play acting nothing, no excuses for any of us except that we weren’t good enough. I wouldn’t say Barcelona won this match, its more appropriate to say we lost this match.” From RealMadridFB.
    Though I obviously don’t agree with anything in this quote, because it has nothing on what really happened, I enojoyed Bassam’s comments, as his usual class act. We did win, it had nothing to do with luck(anymore than any other sport competitive game), but with hard work, a lot of preparation and humility, an own style of playing of more than 20 years, a genious of a coach and technical staff, and some of the best players in every position in the world. EE is a hard team to beat, they maybe the second best team on the world, and though I don’t like Mou’s style of not taking respònsabilities for his mistakes ever, it is a tough rival and they tried to play their best. Barça was the best squad on the field, and I don’t find Xavi’s declarations after the game not-at-all prideful. He was speaking the truth; Barça was superior on the field.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 12, 2011

      I wouldn’t say Barcelona won this match, its more appropriate to say we lost this match.

      I read that too. while I understand their point, I disagree with it.
      will be much more appropriate to say “RM lost the match, while FCB won the match.”

      it’s not like they rolled over, played bad, or we won by pure luck. definitely not.
      they played well, especially for the first 20-30 minutes. and while people may argue the second goal was pure luck, our victory was not by luck.

      we won with hard work, with heart, passion, spirit, intelligence, team work, tactical adjustment. we earned it.

      highlights to Pep’s tactical adjusment. he responded to Mou’s plan DURING the game WITHOUT any subtitutions. we’ll read about that soon from Euler.

      We won it, and they lost it. that’s what happened.

    • Dani_el
      December 12, 2011

      Completely agree .)

    • December 13, 2011

      I think the one line is being singled out without the article being taken into full perspective.

      The reason why we say RM lost the match is because in the first half, we had the game in our hands to finish. And we scuffed it. Then came the point to actually equalize, and again, the chance was handed on a silver platter, and we scuffed it.

      No credit is taken from Barcelona. Non at all if you read the FULL article. But the lack of heart and spirit that my team showed and the heart and spirit that Barcelona showed are contrasting. If RM showed more heart after going 1-2 down, just like Barcelona showed more heart after going 1-0 down, then we would perhaps be having a different scenario.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 13, 2011

      I read all of them actually, Bassam. I did. full article.

      like I said above, while I understand your point, I still disagree with that line. and you can see from my post that I didn’t attack your opinion by called you arrogant or something.

      “you lost it, we won it.” that line is more appropriate for me, but we don’t have to reach an agreement. 🙂

    • culegirl3
      December 12, 2011

      I read that on the RMFB website as well and was outraged for a few minutes but then realized its the madridista’s way of rationalizing things in their own depressed/disappointed state ….another of many excuses/ explanations. What ever makes them feel better and helps them sleep at night right? Saying Barcelona didn’t win but that EE lost takes the credit away from the hard work our boys, Pep, and the rest of the coaching staff put in prior to and during the game. So because it’s EE anyone that triumphs over them doesn’t actually win but instead is gifted when EE doesn’t perform up to their standards? Talk about over-inflated egos….that makes thong boy sound like a humble guy. Learn to accept loss, learn from it and move on…and stay classy, congratulate your opponent and admit you’ve been out played.

    • December 13, 2011

      Oh boy.

      What was written in the article on my site had nothing to do with over inflated egos. Or arrogance. Or took any credit away from Barcelona. It gave exactly the amount of respect that Barcelona deserved, and that’s a lot of respect.

      Just because we didn’t gush over the Barcelona performance and praise it while saying Real Madrid sucks does not mean that the opinion is invalid or the result of an over inflated ego.

      Real Madrid lost the game before Barcelona won it. A statement i stick by. I hate going into the Ifs of the game, but lets ponder a couple of thoughts:

      We are 1-0 up after 21 seconds, and 10 minutes or so after that, Ronaldo gets a clear cut chance to score. One that he scored from 50+ times last season. Instead of scoring what seemed to be an easy chance, he scuffs it. Bam 10 minutes later Alexis punishes us and scores.

      Fast forward to when the score was 1-2, and Ronaldo gets a free header in the Penalty box. Again, another chance that he would normally score with his eyes closed. Again, he scuffs it wide (both chances the keeper didn’t need to make a save). 1 minute after, Cesc scores the header.

      Add to that the amount of counter attacks that were wasted not due to pressure, but due to lack of concentration on our part (Several times Di Maria would be alone on the right only to misplace a pass badly) and you would see just how much Real Madrid lost themselves the game before Barcelona won it.

      SO in that sense, we Real Madrid lost the game before Barcelona won it in my opinion. And that doesn’t take away any of the effort that Barcelona put, it just puts in perspective the effort that Real Madrid put.

      If our article seemed to convey that we didn’t accept the loss, then we are clearly reading two completely different things.

    • culegirl3
      December 13, 2011

      I suppose there can be different interpretations/conclusions of what one reads.

      Personally I think its not that Cristiano choked big time during the game but rather that he’s so accustomed to drowning teams with goals that perhaps over-confidence played a part in him having such a craptastic match.

    • ooga aga
      December 13, 2011

      with all due respect bassam, and i do respect you, i have to disagree with your assertion that “in the first half, we had the game in our hands to finish.”

      fact is that whether RM is up 1-0 or 2-0 against barca, the game is not in RM’s hands. sorry. i always knew we would win this game. benzema’s tap-in off a busquets deflection simply made it more interesting.

      hugs.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 13, 2011

      funny that. generally people were so sure had Barça down 2-0 (with 80 minutes left to play!), that can guarantee a win for RM. it would be harder for sure, but we still could get a draw or even win with 80 minutes to play. 😉

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      The way I see it Messi did have a one on one chance with Casilla before our first goal. if he would have scored…
      Your first goal was our mistake.
      We had way too many chances on the second half, that way the game would have more easily ended 1-4 or 1-5 than 3-3 or 2-2. This is not just me, but also Sid Lowe’s argument.
      I did read the whole article, and I like the way you write, you seem to be more respectful of others, but there are other quotes from that article that stay behing Mou’s line: “We lost because of luck”.
      So in my view, I could also say, you didn’t get a manita because of luck? That would be wrong, you didn’t get a manita because of Iker, not because of bad luck for us, or Iniesta or Messi or Keita “scuffing it”.
      The way to improve is to look in our own mistakes, not leaving to many things to chance, that’s why Pep is a better coach than Mou.

    • barca96
      December 13, 2011

      I can’t remember any writer here saying something similar whenever we lost a match. Nothing like, if Messi would’ve converted that chance, we could’ve won or anything of the like.

    • December 13, 2011

      You mean lack of effectiveness in front of goal (something very evident in the game) is not a valid reason behind a loss? (mind you, that is one point in many others made).

    • lyd
      December 13, 2011

      @Bassam:

      It was obvious that Ronaldo missed two clean cut chances. But scoring 50+ goals like that and scoring in a pressure cooker el clasico is two different things, especially for him. Shooting from outside the box and heading into goal does not necessarily guarantee a goal, much more when a player realizes that chance may well be his only good one in the game. He had to hit the far post in both occasions so even a less accurate shot would have forced a save out of VV. How on earth are you even ruling out a potential Valdez save?

      Look, it was not our fault that the grass was long and wet, that partially led to the first blunder.

      And one more thing, we are used to seeing Ronaldo choke in big occasions, especially against Barca. If he had scored that would have fallen under luck category, in statistical sense.

      Honestly I think Madrid would be a better team with Kaka and Ozil minus Ronaldo. Or minus DiMaria instead of Ronaldo.

      Real got their tactics wrong. Simple! And hoped for some luck to begin with! The game could have ended 6-1, 7-2 on some other day! On the some other day, VV would not make that mistake.

      Look, the hottest stars die young. So when you try to press so hard from the very minute, you are supposed to lose focus at some point. It was clear, there was no respect for this great Barcelona team from the initial mindset. There were no intention of playing psychological mind games.

      If the Bernabeu was metaphorically seen as a casino that night, one would see our players playing games like poker, bridge while you guys playing gambling on roulette or being busy in slot machines.

    • Xingxian
      December 13, 2011

      Bassam, I don’t quite feel like Real Madrid grabbed the game and hurled it into the trash, but I do understand if not wholeheartedly agree with your sentiment (I don’t have strong feelings on the issue). Most of all I want to once more compliment and respect your class. Your blog is great and I enjoy my visits there.

  23. Momo
    December 12, 2011

    OT: Citeh vs Chelsea

    Absolutely disgusted with the Yaya today, kicking Mata when he’s down then slapping him when he got up, not to mention trying to rake his studs into ramires’s leg. Very unlike him… My respect for him definitely went down a notch in my eyes.

    • barca96
      December 13, 2011

      Just watched it. He didn’t kick. It was just a tap to his thigh and because Mata was complaining he gave him a taste of his hand which again wasn’t a hit.

      Not defending Yaya but they were both not hits but he deserves to get a yellow or red for putting his hands on another player though.

      Did’t see the incident on Ramires though.

  24. NeverEver
    December 12, 2011

    “Barcelona completed 681 passes to Madrid’s 427. People say: ah, but how many of those passes are relevant? The answer is: all of them. The pass is Barcelona’s identity; it is through possession that they feel comfortable and it is through possession that they do everything – from creating chances to preventing them, from speeding up the game to slowing it down. Even time wasting, even resting, happens with the ball. Possession is aesthetic but also anaesthetic.”

    thank you Sid Lowe, well said. every pass is important; front, back, side to side. doesn’t matter. it’s all necessary.

  25. ElJefe
    December 12, 2011

    I’ve never been such a Sevilla fan as I am this weekend!!

  26. Lev
    December 12, 2011

    “highlights to Pep’s tactical adjusment. he responded to Mou’s plan DURING the game WITHOUT any subtitutions. we’ll read about that soon from Euler.”

    And talking about substitutions, Mourinho’s didn’t make any sense to me!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 12, 2011

      agree. especially Di Maria subtitution. or was that a precaution? Idk. his end products wasn’t at his best, but at least he gave difficulties to our backline.

      if there’s a player who deserved to be substituted that would be Thong Boy, that selfish guy helped Barcelona, tbh. not just he missed chances created by his teammates, he also gave the ball away, slowed things down, hit a zillion free kicks right into our wall.

    • nzm
      December 13, 2011

      Di Maria was spent – he had been running his heart and lungs out trying to get the advantage, but he came off pretty exhausted. Plus, he did go down in a screaming heap after trying to get the ball off Pique. That injury may have escalated the hurt as the game progressed.

  27. BarcaGirl_Indo
    December 12, 2011

    this performance was in many ways more impressive than the 5-0 manita at Camp Nou last season.

    yes. we played a better football in manita game, but this victory is a lot harder than the manita.
    that’s why I’m too, say this performances in many ways more impressive.

    and has anyone posted Isaiah’s article on ESPN? nice piece too.

    http://blogs.soccernet.com/barcelona/archives/2011/12/a_classic_clasico_luck_or_tale.php

  28. just listenin
    December 12, 2011

    I’ve keep thinking about Cesc’s goal… Just watched it again, and damn, that is just amazing…and more so each time I watch it.
    There almost aren’t words for how that went down – all the way from the steal, to his race with Coentrao to the back post, to him fighting his way in with the defender between him and the ball… winning that race by a nose to get on the end of an inch perfect cross… all by design. What they did was exactly, exactly what they were trying to do. That is too beautiful. It looks so easy but everything from Iniesta maintaining possession and getting the ball off to Messi, Messi beating a challenge and putting the pass to Alves in stride in the right place to turn direction toward the cross, the perfect cross, and wow… wow. Coentrao’s role in it is fascinating too – he’s beside himself with how he gets beat by Iniesta, he throws his hand in frustration, and spots Cesc starting to run and runs with him, it’s like a epic cinematic chase scene… the whole thing is transcendent…

  29. Calvin
    December 12, 2011

    It’s not really a surprise that the narrative that rose up around this match was about the end of an era at Barcelona. The history of football is a history of the cycles of success and difficulty that teams go through. At the top levels of football this can be seen in teams like the Real Madrid in the 50s. Then there was Ajax in the early ’70s followed by Bayern Munich and then Liverpool. Add in the Milan team of the late ’80s and even the Galacticos. But even at the lower levels the cycles are apparent – Deportivos years as Super Depor are the perfect example.

    It’s in this context of the cycles in football that people were approaching this match. It wasn’t the match itself that was important, but the fact that people are thinking in the back of their minds that our current cycle has to end eventually. There’s also more than a speck of hope in these thoughts. This match just became the symbol for that belief. A loss for Barcelona in this match would have been a trophy for those waiting for this era to end, a banner they could rally around and point to as the watershed moment in Barcelonas downfall.

    The truth is, this cycle will eventually end (but not today!). The history of the modern game has taught us that all eras eventually end. But when we look back at The trends of history it is easy to forget that each trend is shaped by immediate events, but the immediate events that create a trend can often be more illuminating than the trend itself.

    The question to ask is “what has caused the downfall of great teams in the past, and are we making the same mistakes?” There isn’t much danger of our best players being sold off, and from what Rosell says it’s unlikely we disintegrate financially anytime soon. Losing Pep would certainly be a disaster, but right now he has freedom to run the team as he sees fit and the players are happy playing for him. I can’t see how Pep wouldn’t be happy.

    Complacency is always a dangerous enemy, lurking in the shadows, waiting to catch up with a team. However, Pep has led the team by example. He has been willing to make risky moves in the transfer market to keep the team fresh – not just with new faces but with new skills, with players who have specific skill sets. Sometimes it has backfired, like in the case of Ibrahimovic, but even then Pep realized he had made a mistake and fixed it. It would have been easy to let Bojan stay another year as a youth player, but Pep took the hard road and sent him out. His tactical approach shows no signs of complacency either, he is constantly searching for ways to make the team better – Busquets would never have been able to play such a key role in the Clasico if Pep hadn’t had the foresight to have him learn how to play centerback, and then seamlessly switch between centerback and defensive mid. Pep’s willingness to take risks and his pursuit of bettering the team also rubs off on the players, forcing them to remain vigilant. Pep has avoided the tempting fruit that so many people in his position have eaten – hubris.

    Which brings me to the next thing that can bring an end to an era, and the one I’m most worried about – boardroom meddling. It famously brought down the Galacticos, as Perez succumbed to hubris. I sometimes worry the same will happen to Rosell, and he will go off and sign a player against Guardiolas wishes. It’s unfortunately a trait that is all too common in owners and presidents of clubs. I’m hoping that the signings of Fabregas and Sanchez will cure him of this desire – two high profile players he can call his own, players that he can consider his stamp on the team.

    The thought of adding an unwanted player also raises the issue of a toxic dressing room. It’s why I will always oppose a Neymar transfer – I would always worry about how he would influence the dressing room, especially if things weren’t going well for him. At the moment though I can’t see a single source of unhappiness in the dressing room.

    People know from history that cycles always end, but they neglected to really look at why cycles end. Right now we have a philosophy in place that is fully embraced by Pep, by the players, and the fans. And it is most reassuring.

    • barca96
      December 13, 2011

      One and probably the only thing that they can’t prevent is the ageing process which sadly will see Puyol the the first to go. Maybe not because he is retiring but quite possibly due to the loss of pace to keep up with the likes of Di Maria, CR7 and the likes.

      The rest are all under their control, from the boardroom, coach and the players.

  30. Momo
    December 13, 2011

    ” At the moment though I can’t see a single source of unhappiness in the dressing room.”

    I get the feeling Villa isn’t exactly enjoying his role on the squad. I really thought he would play a bigger part in the Clasico, Pep doesn’t seem to really trust him anymore, despite what he says to the media. It seems he’s being phased out ala Henry (09/10). Can’t see him staying next year if things stay as they are.

    • Momo
      December 13, 2011

      Oops, meant as a reply too Calvin.

  31. barca96
    December 13, 2011

    Once again Romeu is one of the top 3 performer in Chelsea. For the match vs. the noisy City, he got a 8.5 which is second to Ramires’ game high 9.

    Amazing!

    He was always in the top 3 from all the handful matches that he was involved in. Great to see him getting valuable EPL minutes.

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      I read from Ramzi’s twitter that Villas Boas said that our buy-back clause on Romeu only works if Chelsea is willing to sell him. What kinf of bu-back clause would be that?

    • K_legit in Oz
      December 13, 2011

      The BS kind..buy backs are the parent club’s prerogative not the club to whom the player was transferred to

    • mani
      December 13, 2011

      AVB is wrong. He is dreaming. Maybe Roman hasn’t been inviting him to his yacht parties lately to discuss what a buy-back entails.

  32. BarcaGirl_Indo
    December 13, 2011

    many people (especially madridistas of course) do “what if CR scored, the game would be……….”

    but this “what if” thing they do is unbalance.

    what if Valdes didn’t pass the ball to Di Maria? RM probably wouldn’t score at all
    what if Messi kicked the ball wider to the right side of Casillas, when Ramos slipped? that could be 1-1 before CR had the first chance.

    • Extreme barca fan
      December 13, 2011

      The thing is BarcaGirl_Indo: that Madrididstas cant just say the following sentence: BARCA A RE A BETTER TEAM AND THEY DESERVED TO WIN. thats why you see all the ifffssss,
      its really silly and pointles to keep saying if so then so and so, just grow up and accept the fact. (NOT GONNA HAPPEN, I KNOW)

  33. K_legit in Oz
    December 13, 2011

    No the world is not ending but hleb is trending worldwide on twitter now…

    • December 13, 2011

      THE WORLD HAS BEEN HLEBBED!

    • blitzen
      December 13, 2011

      Wolfsburg isn’t renewing the loan. Hleb keeps coming back to us like a bad penny.

      Will no one rid me of this turbulent player?!?

    • K_legit in Oz
      December 13, 2011

      hey aren’t you the hlebster in disguise?

    • blitzen
      December 13, 2011

      ACK! You have seen through my disguise? YES! IT IS I, HLEB! I HAVE RETURNED!

      Lo, these many months I have resisted the pleas of the club and my legions of fans urging me to come back to Barcelona and take my rightful place as leader of the team. “No,” I said, “You have basked in my glory for too long! It is time for me to allow the other, lesser, players to step forward and carry the flag. How will they ever improve their paltry skills if they are always in my shadow? Think of the children!”

      They offered me money. I resisted.

      They offered me women. I resisted.

      They offered to name the Camp Nou after me. I considered it, then resisted.

      Finally, they offered me the one thing I couldn’t dismiss. The thing my billions of fans have been craving for years. Yes, I had to agree to return, if only because of my sheer generosity towards the children of the world. Yes, that’s right:

      I have agreed to become Barça’s new shirt sponsor!

      Now every player, every fan, every minute of every game—you can all be Hlebbed forever! 😈

    • mom4
      December 13, 2011

      Thanks, Blitz, I almost spilled my coffee all over my laptop reading this. #whenlolmeanslol

    • Blau-Grenade
      December 13, 2011

      Thats too funny!!!!

    • mom4
      December 13, 2011

      Um…enlighten me. If we can’t find a place for him does that mean we,since we technically own him, are obligated to welcome him onto the team. As in with a numbered jersey and his name on a locker door and all that entails???

      Did Flo get Wolfsburg to do this to us as part of an elaborate plot to destabilize us :0 ?

    • December 13, 2011

      This is going to be extra awkward…

    • blitzen
      December 13, 2011

      No, we are under no such obligations. He may be owned by Barça the club, but it is the coach who decides who is on his team. I assume he will be under the care of the club medical staff, however.

    • mani
      December 13, 2011

      Must buy jersey with ‘Hlebbed’ on the back.

    • mom4
      December 13, 2011

      That would be hysterical.

    • December 13, 2011

      If you did that, you would be my hero forever. I’ve started a #findhlebajob thing on Twitter. Comments welcome.

    • mani
      December 13, 2011

      And now you CAN!!! For three easy payments of….. well actually for free shipping worldwide from fcb.com until 12/14 (my credit card thanks you blitzen)

    • December 13, 2011

      E-mail me a photo when it arrives, and I will build a post around it. I swear.

    • December 13, 2011

      I find it hilarious that when I click the TT almost all the tweets not in another language are making Hlebbed jokes. The inside joke that started in BFB/Offside seems to common among Barca fan circles now lol.

  34. mom4
    December 13, 2011

    BarcaTheOffside Offside Barcelona
    “Thinking of getting Anna a perfume for the holidays, but I have no idea… can you give me a hand? http://on.fb.me/uSB6qw

    HELP! One of y’all with a twitter account please tell our Ghostface not to cop out by bying perfume for Anna. Be more ceative Don A. Put some thought into it. You’re rich…do better. Something from the heart.

    • mom4
      December 13, 2011

      jk

  35. December 13, 2011

    Oh, and Bassam was right. Recall that they had a glorious chance to score but Thong Boy scuffed it, rather than passing it to a wide-open DiMaria for what would have been a gimme. Believe what you want about our resilience and ultimate quality, but that moment was enormous, for so many reasons:

    –EE was let down by its best player
    –Said player showed himself to be as selfish as he can be at times
    –That shot looked doomed from the start
    –When we equalized so soon after that scuffed chance, it did psychic damage

    If TB does the right thing and they go up 2-0 at home, Mourinho would have been happy to park the bus, and answer any comments about his bravery by saying “We have a 9-point lead, so suck it.” The match was indeed on their boots in that first half, but the (effectively) two-goal swing shifted the momentum and the pressure so that suddenly, it was business as usual.

    • barca96
      December 13, 2011

      Let’s say CR7 did score, we could’ve still made a comeback. Just like we did after going down after just 20secs.

    • lyd
      December 13, 2011

      Even Thong Boy is an alien footballer.
      He is apparently everyones favorite spacegoat. lol

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      I guess then, following that reasoning, If Messi wouldn’t have “scuffed” it before Ronaldo’s chance, it would have been 1-2, and if Iniesta would have scuffed it those couple of times in the second half, plus Keita, it would have been 2-6? This brings memories.
      To many If’s to my taste, but in my view, we would have won this game either way, because we were the better team on the field and Pep was a better coach, adapting and making what a coach needs to do: “read the game”.
      (Following those If’s, it would not have been crazy seeing Victor Valdes saving one of their chances, as Iker saved so many goals for them. Both are extraordinary keepers, maybe the best in the world).

  36. Calvin
    December 13, 2011

    On the note of Hleb…

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but didn’t we sign him on a 4-year deal in the summer of 2008?

    Doesn’t that mean at the end of this year he will be available to leave on a Bosman and we won’t have to deal with him anymore.

  37. December 13, 2011

    Real Madrid lost the game before Barcelona won it. A statement i stick by. I hate going into the Ifs of the game,

    Respectfully disagree. I’ve watched this match four times. This was not the story of the match.

    You can dismiss this observation coming from me as a cule – but I’m pretty open when I watch and analyze matches.

    There were fundamental reasons why Barcelona won that match.

    You can take any match in football and simply say if we’d finished chances better we’d have won.

    If barca had finished chances better they would have beaten Inter in 2010 in the CLs.

    A fundamental reason why it seems like RM’s finishing is so poor when they play Barca isn’t because players are “choking”, etc. The major reason why this is such an issues is that when RM plays Barca they simply generate far, far fewer goal scoring chances.

    RM and its supporters just aren’t used to this. Match in and out RM generates boat loads of chances. In those situations one isn’t as focused on the efficiency of conversion.

    The fact is – C. Ronaldo is simply not an efficient finisher. This is statistically true. His shot/goal scoring ratio is not particularly good. The main driver for him scoring so often is that he and RM generates so many chances.

    And this is not a criticism of C.Ronaldo as selfish,etc. Yes he does shoot too much – but it is a substantive talent of his to generate goal scoring opportunities through his pace and explosion.

    To pull out a particular scoring opportunity for a player and say “finishing” is a problem when you know at baseline he is not an efficient scorer and expect him to score is a form of base-rate neglect and base rate fallacy.

    And this is true on the whole. RM simply doesn’t have the ball nearly as much as they are used to. They generate far fewer chances and quality chances. So each chance seems to carry much more weight.

    But that doesn’t change the baseline efficiency of scoring.

    And this is only one issue. Barca systematically won this match. And if RM really believes that they simply lost this match and Barca didn’t win it – they are going to have a much harder time overcoming the challenges they face than they otherwise would.

    • Srini
      December 13, 2011

      I completely agree. A simple video analysis of Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance is enough to prove the above point – as to how he was bottled up by Barcelona’s superior defending and system –

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=96hKXOp8OuA

      By my count, close to only 1/3rd of his touches were “effective” ones – if I define “effective” as creating an opportunity for his team to advance/progress. That amount of inefficiency for a premier player is surely a result of superior defensive pressure from the opposition that only piled onto frayed nerves.

      Isolating stray incidents and creating counter-factuals – “if” this had happened, history would have been different – is a poor approach for analysis.

      Collectively – tactically, psychologically and systemically – Barcelona were better – perhaps even far better – and that was the reason for their triumph. Not some luck from two scuffed chances from opposition alone.

      Another point about the Xavi goal. Everyone says that it boiled down to luck, but look at the way Marcelo defends the speculative long range effort. He turns his body and loosely allows it to touch his frame! That is *poor* defending. Shouldn’t it have been prudent of him to instead put his body directly on line while facing the ball and that could have maximised chances of a more effective clearance? I watched the game on an Indian network – Ten Action + and the expert Carlton Palmer (a former English player) was scathing in his indictment of Marcelo’s defense.

      [i]And if RM really believes that they simply lost this match and Barca didn’t win it – they are going to have a much harder time overcoming the challenges they face than they otherwise would.[/i]

      I am sure Jose Mourinho said what he said more for public consumption and privately sat down with his technical team to identify areas for improvement. If he didn’t, I would only be even more secure as a Cule about the Real Madrid challenge to Barca’s golden generation legacy.

    • BTTFCule
      December 13, 2011

      Talking about Carlton Parmer, he was so sure of Mourinho that he predicted 3-1 to EE. Afterwards he went to Mouron fan boy mode and said something like “Mourinho intends to win league without winning classicos”. He is such a Mou Mou fan boy that I have to mute most of the time!

      He keeps repeating ” Unless PEP goes to EPL and proves himself there he is not a top manager” :O

    • Srini
      December 13, 2011

      Yeah. There’s no doubt about that. Palmer resents the anti-traditional English approach and seems to be one of those “on a wet night against Stoke thesis” lovers :). I love listening to them Mou lovers, because they later get to eat humble pies and it is fun watching their verbal calisthenics.

    • mani
      December 13, 2011

      That’s it! I call for a friendly against Stoke some time in the near future. We’ll run out the Bate babies lineup, do a rain dance or two, and even make moan-rinho honorary Stoke coach for the night.

      IF we somehow beat them (a big IF), then we could even have a shot at Crystal Palace.

    • lyd
      December 13, 2011

      Nicely put!

      But I would disagree on the “choker” bit. If a top ballor d’or nominee cant raise his game on big occasions, time and time again, “choker” is perhaps an understatement.

      Top players opts to keep things simple in pressure matches. Like shooting on target, heading into the ground first etc. But Spacegoat tried to hit the far post, top corner.

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      “Barca systematically won this match. And if RM really believes that they simply lost this match and Barca didn’t win it – they are going to have a much harder time overcoming the challenges they face than they otherwise would.”
      I absolutely agree.

    • December 13, 2011

      😆

      That’s embarrassing.

    • December 13, 2011

      Yup 🙂
      And the 4 wins in a row is great as well. The editing really fails on soccernet. Definitely no “winning” over there at espn.

    • mani
      December 13, 2011

      Our Messiah is so awesome he even scores when he doesn’t score!

  38. Kaushik
    December 13, 2011

    This may be a bit late. Kaushik from RMFB here. Noticed the conversation regarding the one line picked up from my piece. Just wanted to say what Bassam mentioned, maybe in a different way. No credit taken away from Barcelona at all, but that post was all about Real Madrid and how I (and my fellow Madridistas) were disappointed and let down by the team. It was more emotional than anything else, and in that context if you are able to appreciate why I wrote that line that way, I would appreciate it. Congrats on the victory, honestly confidence levels are at a rock bottom, I just hope the league is in such a way come May that the Camp Nou leg will not matter. And to everyone that is part of this community, cheers, great blog, and now that I finally got myself to register here, I hope to return and comment a bit more.

    Cheers
    Kaushik

    • Kaushik
      December 13, 2011

      I was*

    • Blau-Grenade
      December 13, 2011

      Welcome to BFB Kaushik. Pleasure to see your comments and opinions. Look forward to reading your posts here.

    • December 13, 2011

      Cheers! Emotion should always be accompanied with what one loves. Even and especially when coming to sports. The humble man is always overlooked, but should always be well respected. Thank you for those words. I look forward to another perspective and insight into our great and eternal rivals.

    • December 13, 2011

      Overall, I thought your post was refreshingly honest and thoughtful, especially considering it was after a hard loss. Good job!

    • Xingxian
      December 13, 2011

      Hope you feel as welcome here as I do on your blog! (which is very welcome)

    • mom4
      December 13, 2011

      Welcome Kaushik. I personally didn’t see too much wrong with your post (yeah, I lurk). We tend to forget how we cules rag on our own players and their effort after a loss. My take on it was that luck ran both ways, calls went both ways, mistakes were made by both (to be expected when one of the two best teams in the world plays the other), brilliance was shown by both (well…indulge me when I say mostly by MY team 🙂 ) and the scoreline was a fair one. I didn’t think y’all played that poorly. Benz played well and it must feel great to finally get that expensive signing performing up to par.

      Anywho: I always offer Bassam cookies (with sprinklers) when he stops by. I’m sure he won’t mind sharing. Here you are:
      http://marshmallowmondays.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/cookies.jpg

      Come by often!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 13, 2011

      welcome Kaushik,

      I read your article in RMFB and I thought it’s well written.

      like I said to Bassam.
      while I personally understand your point on that line, I disagree with it.

      but it doesn’t matter, cule and madridista will always find things we’re not agree with.

      cheers.

  39. Srini
    December 13, 2011

    Meanwhile, Allas comes up with a fantastic ‘tactical analysis” video of this El Clasico. Leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind about how Pep tactically won this game. Lovely watch –

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O2yUxXieLW0

    • Blau-Grenade
      December 13, 2011

      Allas is unbelievable in his video production.. especially this one. Lovely analysis of the match.

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      Great video once again from Allas, thanks for sharing it!

    • lea_terzi
      December 13, 2011

      And also THIS from barcastuff:
      Marti Perarnau (journalist): “Just when Jose Mourinho thought he had the answers, Pep Guardiola changed the questions.” [el periodico]

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      Martí Perarnau Rocks!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 13, 2011

      amazing line.

  40. Camero
    December 13, 2011

    Hi all,
    I have been following this blog for some time but don’t usually comment but I thought I would this time on this fabulous match. I appreciate the tactical intelligence of this community and an eagerly anticipating The second part from Euler. I watched the game for a second time whilst looking out for some of the things mentioned.

    I got the impression in he first half that Iniesta was isolated on the left wing because he was playing wide to spread the field but looking at the average positions he maintained the same width throughout the half. Then I noticed that in the first half it seememed we kept shifting possession to the right, between Messi Xavi Alves. I think this made Cesc and Iniesta very isolated; In contrast most of our productive play and goals came from Messi, Cesc, Xavi linking with Iniesta on the left.

    Does anyone think we made a concerted effort to play more on the left and take advantage of Cesc and Iniesta whilst allowing Alves to spread the right side of the pitch. For me this was the key difference.

    Also Messi actually had quite a poor game and apart from the goal seemed unable to cut in from the right against Ramos and Lass.

    • mom4
      December 13, 2011

      Actually, I thought Messi had a great game. Destabilizing runs, dribbles (yes a team like Madrid will dispossess him more than another but nothing ventured nothing gained), drawing defenders like flies, involved in almost every moment of danger, one assist, one goal created. Not a MOTM game from him (I give that one to Puyi), but a very strong game.

  41. December 13, 2011

    First off, this post made me go – http://s3.amazonaws.com/kym-assets/photos/images/newsfeed/000/085/444/1282786204310.jpg?1318992465

    Now, blaming luck is a bit of a cop out. Champions rise above it though it evens out over the course of the season.

    The ‘you didn’t win, we lost’ argument makes me wanna laugh at the EEistas. Why? because they did the same after the 06/07 season when we flogged that dead horse over and over. Which is the right way to go about it. One can’t really be proud in saying that the other guys wouldn’t have won it had it not been for our errors. Guess what, you made those errors, they didn’t. That is why they deserved to win. Simple.

    As far as the Liga is concerned, its quite funny really. A couple of weeks ago, some people were behaving as if it was a lost cause and how we’d rather focus elsewhere. Now, it seems that we’ve won the the thing. In December. There is a loooot of drama still left and one thing is certain, we can’t afford another Hlebuary. We may even lose even after winning both the Clasics.

    But, we’ve achieved a huuuge psychological advantage in beating EE in their finest hour, in their backyard without even a hint of controversy. This won’t guarantee us the big eared trophy, but go a long way in doing so.

    Another thing. People still maintain that Mourinho is better than Pep because of the theory that unless Pep proves himself in other leagues, he won’t be good enough. Funnily, those people said the same thing about Messi, and after Saturday they have no doubt as to who the best player is. Wonder when history will repeat itself.. #andthatsallwhatihavetosayaboutthat

  42. MiZa
    December 13, 2011

    Has anyone noticed that when you look at the average positions, that Cesc is the deepest midfielder on the pitch once Busquets moved to CB?

    http://pic.twitter.com/P

  43. Jafri
    December 13, 2011

    OT – So Messi got the second highest number of yes votes in the Time magazine Man of the Year awards:

    http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2098471_2098928,00.html

    And in fact, if you look at it, he had the best yes votes to no votes ratio of any of the candidates (about +60,000) – so even if he won’t be the official man of the year, he’s definitely the people’s choice 🙂

    • December 14, 2011

      Much as I love Messi I want it to be the 99%.

  44. BarcaGirl_Indo
    December 13, 2011

    Euler’s post made me think about something.

    RM is known as a team that probably has the fastest and the deadliest counter attack – and they are.

    we have met them 3 times this season and they scored 5 goals.
    but none of the goals come from counter attack, iirc.

    in fact, from those 3 games, we ‘teach’ them how to do it.

    • MiZa
      December 13, 2011

      I would argue that Ozil’s goal from the first leg of the Super Cup was more or less a counter attack.

      That being said, the other four goals were either acutely–Adriano’s failed clearance and Valdes’s giveaway–or broadly–Alonso and Ronaldo both off sloppy corner kick scrambles–results of Barcelona defensive errors.

      The same can’t really be said about any of the goals we scored against them.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 13, 2011

      ah yes, Ozil’s goal.
      I can’t remember was that count as a counter attack or not.

      back in August, we had the worst form of the season. they were just so wasteful with their chances.

    • Dani_el
      December 13, 2011

      To prove my biase I could start the really silly argument that our goals against them are more beautiful, than theirs against us. Isn’t the goal from Cesc the first counter attack goal from us against EE since the 2-6?

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      December 13, 2011

      I agree that our goals in the 1st leg of SuperCopa was not typical “counter attack” goal.

      the thing is, we couldn’t control the game, lost possession over and over again, they pressed us like crazy horses. so we defended more than we attacked them.

      I remember correctly there were some mad EEistas said we were playing anti-football. 😀

    • MiZa
      December 13, 2011

      Counter-attacking goals can be beautiful. Cesc’s certainly was.

      It wasn’t an aesthetic argument, more about degrees of difficulty. Barca have not only scored more goals, but “created” more goals than Madrid who have benefited by punishing Barca for some sloppy plays.

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