Barca 1, Rubin Kazan 2, a.k.a. “I saw it coming.”

If only I had bent the ball ....
If only I had bent the ball .... if only ....

I’m not customarily one of those “I told you so folks,” but when everyone was predicting destruction for Rubin Kazan, a few folks were cautious. Last year, when we were sweeping all before us, that prediction would have been easy. We would have wiped the floor with them. This year, in the wake of iffy team displays that have been bailed out by individual brilliance, we were ripe for the picking.

What did it take? A resolute team with absolutely nothing to lose, poor finishing on our part and two plays, both facilitated by a defender who has a contract on the table, but shouldn’t have been on the pitch.

This picture of Pedro! says it all. He was the beneficiary of our absolute best chance of the second half, a half filled with hope until it was cruelly snatched away by a casual stab at the ball by Bojan Krkic, who did a Busquets, directly into the path of an attacking Kazan player. The Yaya tried a sliding tackle ….

Abidal was running for all that he was worth, trying to stop the play somehow, somewhere, and Rafa Marquez stood there as if he was waiting for the train as the player rushed past him, and the deed was done. Was this one of the greatest upsets in the history of club football? Some are painting it that way.

I view it as a club getting its just desserts, and a necessary wake-up call.

Guardiola rolled out a starting lineup that was a bit problematic for me. It’s no secret that I don’t think Marquez has what it takes any longer. And this was true before the knee injury. So, when I saw Valdes, Alves, Marquez, Pique, Abidal, The Yaya, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro! and Ibrahimovic, I was worried, for a number of reasons.

1. Marquez has been shit for a while now.
2. Where’s the cover? When we’re forced to play three back because Alves has pushed up, your trio must all be lock-and-load defenders with closing speed and ability to play the angles.
3. Kazan was going to park the bus, and the width and attacking up the flanks would be essential to breaking it.
4. No Keita? With a team determined to play off the counter, Keita would have been more valuable than Iniesta or Pedro! in keeping the middle locked down. That killed us on the go-ahead goal.

Yes, it’s easy to call it now. But the match started off brightly with a killer ball from Ibrahimovic to Iniesta, who probably would have scored a goal were he not child-sized, and easily muscled off the ball by the defender, who calmly tapped it away. Who knew it was to be that kind of night, as chance after chance went begging, lacking that final pass to complete the deal.

And the goal came so quickly after that, the cameramen were surprised. A simple clearance to Marquez led to a stupid, casual one-timer that he shanked directly into the path of a Kazan attacker. Valdes didn’t have a chance as the ball was blasted into the top corner, taking a glancing blow off the woodwork. That such an absurd shot beat our on-form keeper said a lot about what kind of night this would be, and this goal completely changed the match, because now we had to chase it, and chase we did. We kept the ball, and bombarded their box with attack after attack after attack as the Rubin Kazan defenders stuck legs and feet out, fouled, grabbed, pulled and tugged to kill momentum, waste time and inch ever closer to their miracle.

Yes, play was rough. Yes, the ref allowed it to be rough. So what? We should be used to it by now. Our arrogance as we swept the world aside last season has to be paid back, and that payment is coming from officials who say “Okay pretty boys, play through it.” So Xavi is loose on a break, and a defender just steps on the back of his foot. The boot comes off, the attack is stopped and all is fine in the world, right? It’s football, a professional foul. Last season, we played through those fouls. This season, they disrupt us because we aren’t anything vaguely approaching being on song, and teams know this. Touches aren’t as secure, players are lunging for balls instead of taking the extra step to get into position, and counters are coming fast and heavy.

And there will be more.

Is it justice that this loss came? Some would say yes, that we deserved it for thinking we could be collectively mediocre and skate through the season. I personally believe that any time we don’t win, it’s a travesty perpetrated by the football deities to make us appreciate it more when we resume winning. That they decided to snatch away a must-win match, particularly in light of Inter Milan drawing at home to Dynamo Kyiv, is particularly painful.

So we battered and scrabbled at the lock until two pieces of individual excellence broke the dam. Xavi played an inch-perfect pass to Ibrahimovic, who calmly controlled it and blasted it off the woodwork and past the keeper. It was 1-1, and the goal was brilliant. There isn’t any breakdown for this goal, other than to say it is precisely the kind of play that we purchased Ibrahimovic for. Flip the ball in to the big target man, and watch him do his thing. Now that’s bus breaking for you.

Then we began to go all out for the go-ahead goal, and Rubin Kazan were content to do little more than keep all 10 men behind the ball and wait for their chance. I won’t recap what already happened, as I did above. Suffice it to say that once that goal went in, a shot where again, Valdes was figuratively and actually defenseless, it felt like the lost points that it was feeling like for me, from the moment the first ball was dropped. Because here’s the difference between this year and last year, and it’s huge: speed of play.

Last year, we were past a defense and in the box before anybody really knew what was going on. But last year, we had all off season to prepare and train and get ready. This year, it’s SuperCups, and exhibitions and injured strikers and World Cup duty and a general malaise that was masked by a bright start in the Liga. The Valencia match was a warning sign, as we really should have lost that one, as well. So in my view, though this loss is shocking on paper, it was coming, like a big, ugly-ass freight train. I’m actually nauseous as I type, because losses sicken me. But even more, losses that smack of the Rijkaard years bring back profoundly unpleasant memories of matches dominated, only to fall away on a fluke play or last-minute breakaway goal.

Guardiola had better have some answers. I know that I have one, and he’s big and French. I like Pedro! and what he does as a substitute, as I’ve said time and again. Watching him dither away attacks in the first half frustrated me. Yes, he’s playing the best that he can, and more’s the pity. Because Henry, the much-maligned striker/winger/whatever dude, would have ripped shit to shreds tonight. Suddenly, those Robinho rumors make sense. Guardiola sees what we saw tonight, that without Henry in the side, the left side of our attack is fundamentally invisible.


Team: 5. Not as bad as they’ve been recently, but they lack precision and pace. Attacks are too slow to build, and the amount of negative passes was distressing, as if they were out of ideas, or worried about making the wrong decision with the ball. Confidence? Whatever it is, we aren’t collectively sharp.

Guardiola: 3. How do you not start your best players in a must-win match? And is Krkic really the sub for Pedro!? It should have been the other way around. No respect for Kazan, eh? Does that explain Marquez starting?

Valdes: 5. I reckon it’s hard to stop two blasts when you’re just standing there watching us attack and attack, and he couldn’t really do a lot for either one, but he was there for both, which means he guessed right. So make the play.

Alves: 3. His marker was playing into acres of space whenever Rubin got the ball. Alves should have made them pay on the offensive end, but he didn’t, preferring to play those dangerous little one-twos with Messi, while surrounded by defenders. And now he’s out for three weeks. So Puyol goes to right back, and we probably see more Marquez in the away leg to Rubin Kazan. Shit!

Pique: 6. Loose with the ball at times, but strong going forward. Our defenders really didn’t have a lot to do tonight.

Marquez: 1. Yes, 1. That’s these many. The first goal was all him. The second was a team effort. The Yaya just misses the sliding tackle, and Abidal is caught up the pitch. He comes ripping back into the picture, and had the outside of the attacker. All Marquez had to do was make some kind of a play to slow him up for a fraction of a second. He didn’t. Is that second goal all his? Nope. But he could have stopped it more effectively than any other defender.

Abidal: 8. Monster. Owned his side again, with calm defending. He also assumed that intermediate level of possession control that Henry usually does, making smart passes and the occasional overlapping run. But you could tell that he respected Kazan’s wing attacking abilities.

The Yaya: 8. Massive. Saved defenders’ bacon time and again, tirelessly won possession back all over the pitch, ran attackers down and stole balls. Just a great match.

Xavi: 5. He was unmarked, so he should have been a lot more influential. Poor control in the first half cost us an almost sure goal as he took a perfect pass from Messi, only to bounce it off his feet.

Iniesta: 6. Good match from Ghostface, who played himself down by being too slow with his passes, time and again. There were fewer dribbles to nowhere tonight, mostly because that was Pedro!’s job.

Messi: 5. Started out great as he let the match come to him, and time and again capitalized on great distribution and smart passing. Then the one-on-one Messi showed up, and things went downhill for him. Fouls are frustrating him this season, and he tries even harder to beat a defense one-on-one. Not a good trend. People will claim that Rubin played a good match in marking you tightly with 3-4 defenders, and laying lots of ticky-tack fouls on you. In the first half, you had lots of smart movement and excellent passing. Why abandon what was working?

Pedro!: 6. Little P!, I know that you’re trying your best. But you have to play more quickly, because even though you’re playing in Henry’s position, you’re not Henry, who can make a two-step burst and lace in a perfect cross. You, on the other hand, are almost Hlebian in your ability to derail an attack. With all the space you had to play into, you should have been owning that side of the pitch. And precision over power gets us that second goal.

Ibrahimovic: 8. Wilingness to play and make himself available, and what a goal! It made up for the one he should have scored, but scuffed the shot on in the first half. But his passing and facilitation were exceptional. I love me some BANGS.


Krkic (for Pedro!): 3. Look Kid, at least Pedro! didn’t give the ball away in a primo attacking position. You can’t just stick a leg out. Move your body and control the damned ball. That goal was 80% you. And if you’re going to cock up like that, make up for it with exceptional play. Question for the class: Is it time to declare the Krkic experiment over for now?

Keita (for Marquez): 5. Solid but unspectacular. He should have been starting, though. If he and Puyol start, it’s a very different match.

Busquets (for Alves): incomplete. An injury-based substitution that had no effect.

And now, no Alves. For 6 matches or 3-4 weeks, whichever comes first. In some ways, I think we’re a better defense without him bombing up the pitch. Unfortunately, Puyol’s diminishing pace makes him maybe not the most confidence-inspiring choice out there. Last season, we were lucky with injuries. This season, not so much. We’re still top of the group on goal differential, and Inter are bottom. But the problem with losing this match is that now, we have to go into the cold lands and get results. Period, full stop. Which means that we have to start playing a lot better pretty damned fast, and hope for a mild winter out in those parts.

I admit it: My hope was to have my Inter match be meaningless. Now, with a very tight group, anything can happen. I still think we qualify, but now we will have to work a lot harder to do so.

And yes, Rubin Kazan deserve full credit. They battened down the hatches and defended as if their lives depended on it. And they got two goals from three shots on goal. Not bad production. Not bad at all.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. what did dinho do to raul? i missed the whole game :S

    but i caught a bit of atletico after work
    they’re shameful!!!

    1. After Thiago silva scored the goal (or some EE player own goal) which wasn’t allowed both teams started pushing each other and Ronnie sort of slapped Raul on the back of his head.

  2. Atletico’s performance was expected, but still upsetting. Nothing a 2-3 Ronaldinho slap at home for Real Madrid couldn’t ammeliorate, though, haha.

    Still, 3/4 La Liga teams LOST this round.

    “For me, there are no analogies to the Rijkaard years. Yes, the example was begging to be made. But this is a better squad with a better coach (yes, I said it).”

    “But even more, losses that smack of the Rijkaard years bring back profoundly unpleasant memories of matches dominated, only to fall away on a fluke play or last-minute breakaway goal.”

    Contradictory? This is obviously not the same situation, but this particular match definitely had the same bad smell to it.

  3. Btw, just saw the replays… the game was exciting in the same way Chelsea-Liverpool was exciting last year: famous teams playing terrible, TERRIBLE defense.

    1. For those who forgot Hernanes & why we heard the name, here are the most recent videos(if you haven’t already watched them)

    2. No they didn’t
      Henrique & Keirrison played for Coritiba befor Henrique moved to Palmeiras… Keirrison followed him one year later but by that time Henrique moved to Europe
      Henrique plays for Sao Paulo

  4. All is a little more right in the world. I would love to say that someone else’s misery doesn’t ameliorate mine just a bit, but I’d be lying. And I have to say that, and my apologies to those Casillas devotees who think that if he sits on an oyster, cultured pearls will fall from his ass, but he should have stopped two of those shots.

    I don’t like that Liga sides lost 3 of 4 matches in this go-round. I also wonder, having watched some of the Sevilla/Stuttgart match, about Hleb and why he was so insufferably erratic for us.

  5. Is it ever going to end?

    Eto’o is taking legal action against Barca for compensation as part of the transfer fee that took him to Inter and admits the move hit him hard.

    Asked if there was anyone at Barca who disappointed him, the Cameroon international said: “Yes, I think if I say two, I will certainly aim at Pep and Joan, but there are many more people who let me down, many more.

    “There were many injustices made against me. I didn’t realise this would hit me so hard.”

    And then ….

    Joan Laporta has hinted that selling stars such as Samuel Eto’o, Ronaldinho and Deco was necessary when Pep Guardiola took over as it allowed order to be maintained within the squad.

    The Barcelona president lifted the lid on the reason why the current coach announced that he wanted to sell the trio within days of taking over in 2008.

    Though the move may have shocked many at the time, Laporta has now explained that new leaders were required, while rumours suggest that the older stars were becoming too powerful.

    Ronaldinho was sold to Milan and Deco left for Chelsea. Neither enjoyed great seasons last time out, while Eto’o persuaded the club to let him stay for one more campaign before being traded to Inter for Zlatan Ibrahimovic this summer.

    “We were confident that Pep would bring order to the dressing room. We made some changes, recycling the team’s leaders. We thought that was necessary,” Laporta was quoted as saying by Sport.

    “It allowed Guardiola to create new leaders, like Xavi, [Andres] Iniesta and [Lionel] Messi. But the result surpassed our expectations.”

  6. Hahaha, Fire in Mordor (EE offside)

    “Oh, stop whining. We lost. Take it like a man.

    We’re Real Madrid fans and we should be ashamed of ourselves. Now quit pretending you’re a “bigger” fan than I am. Do you enjoy losing and whining about it? Do you need your mommy to comfort you?

    Oh no, AC Milan only has 7 Champions Leagues. Oh, they’re so much more *pathetic* than we are (sarcasm off).

    They won their trophies RECENTLY. Just Paolo Maldini was present for 5 of them. At one point, they had the most indestructible team on the planet (the Capello era).

    So, give respect where it’s due and keep your head up high.You’re an embrassment to the club.”

  7. for all those unfortunate people who missed the match you can watch the disallowed goal and the fight here:


    P.S. I hate the “your comment is awaiting moderation” thing!

    1. I’m not saying Raul deserved to be hit (although the fact that it was our former talisman, and the first man that led me to Barca is a guilty pleasure for me) but I love the fact that he lost the way he did… Jeez, the man celebrated Dida’s gift like he just scored a chilena at the end of a 90 second team play. It did take some skill, but show some class for God’s sake.

  8. Marquez says he must improve rapidly! Glad you did the match Rafa


    1. manu’s even more lamerer now than it was w/out that cursed ronaldo. i can’t believe that game didn’t end nil nil.

  9. i just started watching a replay of the juventus maccabi haifa game. they started diego, giovinco, & camoranesi and they only managed a 1-0 scoreline??? worthless trezeguet. atleast its pretty.

  10. Does anyone know where to find the distance ran (covered) by both teams from the last game?
    As I recall, UEFA started tracking it last season, but it is no where on the website

    During the game, I think at one point barca had like 250km and Rubin had around 80. But i am not too sure…it does paint a vivid example of our how our system works and how, especially after the WCQ, our players’ sub prime preformance (on tired legs)

    1. All the stats can be found here:

  11. Rumors of the day:
    Barca linked with Gregory van der Wiel(RB) of Ajax & Sandro Ranieri Guimarães Cordeiro…
    El Mundo says that the board is planning to sign 3 players to increase the squad depth, the lack of which hurt us against Valencia & Rubin. They say the first preference would be signing a LW. And they continued speculating that Luis Suarez would most probably be signed because the board are getting frustrated with how Man. City have made Robinho untouchable. The back-up option would be Willian from Shakhtar.
    Next preference would be to sign a back-up for Alves & it seems that van der Wiel, a promising Dutch youngster, would be an option. The fact that Wenger, of all, is prepared to part with 7.5 mill for the player makes him an interesting option(because Vermaelen, who was bought for 10mill interestingly also from Ajax, has been an instant success at Emirates & been one of the best players till now for Arsenal)
    And last preference would be to sign a mid-fielder, which according to El Mundo, would be just a luxury if a RB is signed because Marquez or Pique could help out Busi to make it safe when The Yaya is absent!!! Now Sport chips in saying Sandro Ranieri Guimarães Cordeiro(CDM) from Internacional could be just that…
    Well coming to Sport, they came up with an article that signing Robinho in January should be a “must” because out-of-form Henry is not being replaced properly by Iniesta or Pedro! & the whining of Henry after he got subbed against Inter shows that lack of options might result in arrogance & complacency creeping into his play!

    I know I should have waited until Isaiah or Kxevin came up with ‘News of the Day’ before I posted this comment, but I couldn’t content myself because Sport’s article ‘Robinho signing-a MUST’ is actually their response to the nice smacking they got from El Mundo for publishing arbitrary fart about Robinho 😛
    Also I think that if at all we were to sign a Brazilian AGAIN! it better be Hernanes than another unproven but promising prospect, hope Txiki is listening!!!

    1. And yeah, Ex-Barcelonista & the Spanish international still under our radar, Diego Capel is being targeted by Benitez… I wonder how many more Left Wingers would he be needing when he already has Riera, Babel & Benayoun!!!

  12. No worries, Boat Forever. Good news. I figured that we were just waiting for the more sensible Jan. transfer window to do some depth repair. I like the rumors. Too bad they are only that. I like Willian a bit more than Suarez for our needs.

    The bit about Marquez feeling he needs to improve cracks me up. Will he find the step that he had already lost prior to his knee injury? I want some of that magic juice. Yeah!

    He isn’t of sufficient quality to be in the side for important matches. Period. When Milito comes back, look for Marquez to slide a notch down the depth chart. This game is cruel, but usually fair. Puyol keeps himself sharp with insane levels of fitness, and an internal fire that burns unabated. Fire+fitness=longevity.

    1. Aha! Why William to Suarez? I LOVE listening to this sorts of player different ‘styles/abilities comparisons.

      P.S. 200th comment 😀

    2. Kxevin has a soft spot for Willian 🙂

      I still think Silva is the best option, followed by Robinho. Dont like the idea of taking a risk on a player who may or may not be any better than the kids we already have. No offense to the respective leagues they play in, but its not the same level. A new player is always a risk, but a tried and tested player is much less of a risk. I especially dont like the dutch league for judging talent, its so touch and go. I still remember all the hype surrounding Kezman and the ludicrous 112 goals he scored in like 130-something game, he went to Chelsea and was such a disaster. Even after leaving Chelsea he never did well. Does anybody even know where he plays now?

      Yes… Suarez could be an exceptional player and if we didnt need quality depth so badly i would be all for risking it, but under the circumstances we need a player who can come in and almost instantly be a hit. There are only 3 players i can think of that fall into that category; Ribery, Silva and Robinho. Unfortunately i dont see us getting any of them 🙁

  13. Nope. Because Willian also plays defense, and is a pure winger. People are enamored of Suarez, based on some highlight reels and a pile of goals in a league that is known for piles of goals. Is he talented? Assuredly. Barca quality? Excellent question.

    Willian tormented us in the UEFA SuperCup, and showed all the traits that a pure winger in our system needs to have: pace, ball handling skills, good control and the ability/willingness to play defense. This last is crucial, and one reason Robinho didn’t make me all that happy. Henry’s tracking back on defense is remarkable. Willian performed those same duties against us for Shakhtar. He’s also young, and works very hard. Good passer, too.

    I don’t have a soft spot for Willian any more than anyone else has a soft spot for Suarez, or whichever other player they advocate. I just think that his skill set is the most effective solution on the wing, as a backup.

    1. Yeah ok but you are talking about one game. A game in which he was playing against the best team in the world and probably played one of the better games he has ever had. Players always raise their game when they play us, i have seen it so many times. You can’t judge a player on one game, or even two or three, anymore than you can judge a player by youtube clips or how many goals they scored in a (no offense) quite inferior league. Those to me are signings that are too risky, they are as likely to fail as they are to succeed. If we were planning on getting this player purely as a backup then maybe, but it looks like Henry is going to have a stop-start season so we need a player who can come in and fill his shoes adequately, or even if he stays fit allow for comfortable rotations so that its not risky resting Henry.. I don’t see how either Willian or Suarez could do that.

      I think Robinho could. I still think if he comes Pep will make sure he defends. Look how much Henry tracks back and defends now, but he never defended at Arsenal, or even in his first season with us. Same with Ibra; how many people were worried he was gona be lazy, hell as much as i supported the move its something i was concerned about too. Yet, Pep is getting the best out of him and he isnt even 100% yet. I would much rather rely on Peps ability to get the best out of a player who we already know, on his day, is world class, than players who may or may not be Barca quality.

      Now maybe you have seen a lot more of Willian than i am assuming you have (I assume you dont watch more than 5 or 6 Shaktar games a season). In which case maybe you are completely right and he’ll come, be a star and i can eat some crow 🙂

      I still want Silva more than any of em….and i most definitely do have a soft spot for Silva!

    2. silva would be fucking awesome! “would he score enough goals though?”, seems to be the 30 + million dollar question.

      i don’t know that you’re argument about willian showing up during big games makes any sense but here are some stats on him:

      07-08: 28 appearances, 1 goal
      08-09: 42 ———–, 5 —-
      09-10: 9 ———–, 1—–

      i don’t care where you’re playing, but if you average out about 3 goals a game & are top goal scorer playing as primarily a winger in a similar set up as barca,i’m guessing, you’re not much of a risk. i’m for suarez.

  14. Willian doesnt score enough for me, his goal output would be no better than iniesta out there.But i guess he can improve.

    1. Willian sure seems more barca guy to me but its tough to ignore all those goals Suarez puts in the net…

    2. But Henry has us spoiled. I would also say that Willian would score more in our system. It’s unavoidable.

      Henry’s wing excellence facilitated the triplete. Suddenly, there was that one extra person to watch out for, which created real space for others.

      I’ll have to make a point to watch Eredivisie matches, since they’re on Deportes or something.

  15. True, and he would have the advantage , i would think, of being cheaper.i really like Suarez though, and if it works out he can play all along the front 3 effectively.But im sure the club and pep will get the best available option.

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