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.

Shit.

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.

Substitutes

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.

211 comments

  1. it wasnt a must-win match. we’re not out of the competition and we’re still first place in the group on goal diff. if this is a must-win match, as you say, then every match is a must-win, which frankly isnt fair to the team. putting it in perspective, im glad we lose once in a while. i guess you cant say taht in a fan blog?

    i know you like to be the demanding one. i also know that drama makes for good reading, but….we played a good match. i was very entertained, the pace was phenomenal. we worked very hard. keita needed a break eventually, henry is injured and krkic is still coming back from injury. Rubin got lucky, we were unlucky, thats about the sum of it.

    henry would help but his presence doesnt guarantee us a win by any means. i would still rather have messi, iniesta, xavi, ibra, yaya, alves etc on the pitch over henry, if i had to have one player missing.

    the first goal is always so important in this game, no matter what teams are playing. that was a scholes-type goal today. dude had his eyes closed.

    1. I think most people including myself would disagree with the claim that we played a good match. Our left and right side of attack was impotent, our defense was clumsy, and our midfield wasn’t dominant.

      Sure Barca is a victim of it’s own success standards/expectations wise, but still..

  2. You’re right about Xavi, but he should get bumped up a point or two for that sweet sweet long ball for the goal

    Krkic still not ready for prime-time , he can play a supporting role but he can’t be relied upon to turn matches around. BUT, the experiment is not over. How old is he? I remember 5-10 years ago, before the Messi’s and Fabregas’s, when the expectation was that players can only show their real ability when they’re 23 or 24 and beyond. Not everyone is an early bloomer

    1. Bojan was promoted way too early. He should still be training with the JDS, Assulin, Fontas group. But the problem is that he is not getting enough play time to develop fully (granted, he was injured the last few weeks).

      Pep needs to ship him to a Malaga or a Racing where he can get the full 90 every week. Sorry to the fans, but he just can’t cut it as a sub. Hell, Pedro can barely cut it, imo. Let’s look at players coming off the bench for other Liga leaders: Higuain, Kanoute, Zigic. *cough* uh… yeah.

  3. Kxevin, I get frustrated when I read your articles. I’m frustrated, because Pep Guardiola doesn’t have you as one of his main coaching advisors. You correctly predict and assess these matches, calling Barca on the same mistakes time and again. But (as in cases like P!, Busquets, Keita, Puyol, etc.) it seems like the Team doesn’t learn from them most of the time. I wish they had you to knock some sense into them.

    As a side note, I hope this match proved that Carles P. is “the beating heart of this club” and is still the most important and effective defender we own. Give him his new contract! With him in the lineup, I am sure the final score is 1-0. Us…

  4. Agreed about Puyol, he still has something good to give. The talk of him retiring is premature. He should come back and throw us a “The rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” line

  5. It was better to lose in some ways. if we had managed to eek out a draw or win they would have been rewarded for their collective mediocrity.It would be harder for pep to convince them of the need to improve. Yeah he’d say it, but why play lights out if you got the 3 points right? Now they’ll be mad, or atleast they should and instead of coasting against Zaragoza, they can demand a performance of themselves. Besies we drew at home vs. basel last year and lost to shakhtar at home.If we improve and play to our potential, we can win in any stadium in the world.

  6. fuck yeah i get to watch the barca rubin game in its entirety!

    /http://www.mysoccerplace.net/video/barcelona-vs-rubin-12-full

    well almost all of it. i think the first rubin goal was cut off. good.

    a “1” for marquez? thats pretty angry. is he over the hill now and should we ship him off to a mexican primera side? probably. but that shouldn’t take away from his last season. he was a rock while puyol showed his age at times(and i’m being as unbiased as i could possibly be). i do get a rijkaard post champions league trophy vibe too though. hopefully everyone learns from this defeat & pep gives people some rest. i’m down w/what ramzi was talkin bout in his rotation rant.

    1. in marquez’s defense, he did injure his knee pretty badly this spring. He could still be recovering physically and definitely mentally. Kxevin I can see what you mean by “must-win game.” It would have really benefited the schedule to win yesterday. But it is sometimes very helpful to lose, especially early in the season when it is less harmful. (probably would have been a bit better to lose in the Liga, instead of giving importance to games on frozen tundra)

  7. “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.”

    This made me throw up a little. And die a little inside. Because it is exactly what I felt today, I just never put it into words. Thank you, Kevin.

    Btw, it was a “must-win” because now we need to be on full gear heading into freezing Ukraine and Russia. The ideal situation by far would have been to win this match AT HOME and then not have to depend as heavily on getting points out East. Not oft mentioned (outside this blog) but the commanding leads we took last year early on in the CL (both in the group stages and in knockout ties w/ Lyon and Bayern) were a good part of “the plan.” That is, that if we can smash in some wins/goals early on, we can conserve energy on the latter half/leg by playing Barca possession defense.

  8. Two comments on the rating:

    Pedro!’s rating is 1-2 too high. Seriously, I felt like he completely broke the pace of the attack half the times he got the ball.

    Marquez’s 1. Probably what he deserved. Usually I sense that US Barca bloggers are resentful of Marquez’s role in the team (due to his Mexican captaincy and general -being an ass- on the international matches), but this time, it was deserved.

    1. i totally agree w/his rating! he fucking blew it hard. should pep have started him in this champions league game instead of against zaragoza @ the weekend though? coming off of an injury or not there’s no excuse for THAT sort of shit, although i do think it’s easier to integrate back into the 1st team from a long injury if you’re a midfielder(iniesta); not a defender.

  9. totally sadden by the result. i’d say we were really unlucky to fail to snatch at least a draw. but it really becomes obvious to me that marquez should go. and to answer to your question, i think krkic should still be a sub for at least another year. he played like a little kid. however, something great for me is that Ibrahimovic was a joy to watch. every move and touch he made was fantastic. almost score the second, and maybe third… sigh…

  10. I’m with Kevin on this one. So disappointing. However we should take positives out of this result and the one with Valencia and figure out how to start clicking, this is just too painful.

  11. My thoughts of the game:
    It was an approvement compared to Valencia. We lost this game, but it was very unlucky. The first goal is not only a mistake by Marquez, in about 99 of 100 situations, the player which is given the opportunity to score by Marquez’ misplaced header will fail to hit the target or shoot it more directly into the hands of VV (quite a few wouldn’t even think about lashing a shot). Actually, it wasn’t an opportunity at all. Then, this was happening right at the beginning, if it happened on the quarter hour mark, we might already have been 1-0 up. Every bad luck of the world (and positive luck for their shooter) came together in that situation.
    The rest of the match has been described perfectly by Kxevin.

    Slowly, it’s time to admit just HOW incredible we were last season and it won’t be repeated. The farther we go into this season, the higher my appreciation for the last one gets. To be honest, at the very start of the season, I thought “We might do it again”, right now I’m more in the mood of “one title this season is a great success!”.
    It’s about to get tricky now, especially in the CL. Both matches in Kazan and Kiev are not certain 3 points for us, the only positive thing about the current standings is that Inter are last of the group. They have to travel to Kiev, which is also not guaranteed 3 points. If we are pointswise ahead of Inter when they visit us, everything’s fine. Inter will HAVE to attack than, or at least play a bit more offensive than they did in the Guiseppe Meazza.
    Right now I predict that one of the so-called favourites, Inter or us, will fail in this group. Some people claimed as group-stages were drawn that it will be a run about first place between us and Inter. From my point of view, our group is the hardest one of all. I still wonder how people can think of Rubin Kazan as a 2nd division team or compare them to teams like Maccabi Haifa, Unirea Urziceni etc. Press is already reporting about one of the biggest upsets in the history of the CL here in Germany… what the hell? There is no other “European” country whose football developed faster into a positive way than Russia (both on club and international level). Kazan is most-likely going to be the Russian champion for the 2nd consecutive time, and people still take them as underdogs? They are above Zenit and CSKA now!

    It’s time to pick up 3 points against Zaragoza, this might be the most important game of the season so far. As Alves is injured, I wanto to see a back-line of Puyol, Piqué, Txigrinski, Abidal/Maxwell. No Marquez in the next matches, please!
    We have to get rollin’ now for the match in Kazan, so we should better start with an impressive performance on Sunday.

  12. I think it is wrong to compare this team with the team last season. Sorry but I do not see any definite sign of failure in this tea’s future this season

    If this article is going to bring last season into the picture, then you have to remember how the team began last season, also the fact that the layout of the fixtures, Injuries and new faces in the squad is completely different.

    I do agree that the team has had its fair share of problems, and this game is something like a wake up call.

  13. good review kevin.

    i am not that disappointed though. today was coming but on normal days, we would have won. i hope this will act as wake up call for the team. we are too slow this year. we need to play fast and somehow that is not happening. also P! is still a sub and not a starter. Can milito come back early?

  14. One thing is for sure: Its a game we lost, not a game Rubin won. With all respect, they showed less quality than I thought they will. Beside the two goals where they exposed our exhausted legs and the typical bus parking that we’ve seen for years, nothing special makes them a threat. Unless if we just want to cover our eyes and feel better for losing against a great team.

    To crush the buss you need movement off the ball. We usually move effortless to break the opponent resistance down. We change the game tempo, switch positions, create gaps etc… We had no energy to do so in this game. We had no clear ideas and we were too predictable for any team. We wouldn’t have won this game regardless of the opponent.

    To crush a bus you need to play on the flanks well and cross the ball accurately. Everyone is jumping over pedro now for various/obvious reasons. But in the first half he was almost the only player who was playing as needed, tactically speaking. He was opening the flank, he crossed the ball right, he put lot of pressure on ball holder and helped gaining back possession. That diagonal pass to Alves is enough to give him a standing ovation. The problem was on the other flank where Alves was Cross-bad-curse all the time. And with Messi who was unable to figure out what exactly he has to do. At least pedro had clear ideas. But its neither Alves nor Messi fault. They were asked to play when they couldnt.

    Yet, I am kind of relaxed that we stated Messi and Alves instead of Bojan and Maxwell. Or else the subs would have been labeled as the reason for the loss and the benched/unavailable would have been considered as the only ones who win us games. Example: Since the beginning of the season, Henry had never got as much praise as he got in the last two games where he didnt play. Check previous posts. He is a key player no doubt. He is a quality starter, his presence create a slightly better depth as well if Pep wanted to recognize this (as one of the main weaknesses since last season is his inability to manage squad depth). With Henry you can make the Keita-Iniesta-Henry rotation that keep everyone less tired. But again, as in Valencia game, missing a player like henry is never a good news, but He was not the missing superman. So no need to bash anyone who play on the left just to live in denial. For two games in a row, we are not able to bother the opponent counters, we are miss-tackling, miss-covering, miss-positioning and you can feel that the players are pressing opponents just to show they are doing it, more than doing it in a systematic manner.

    If you watch the second half for example, you will notice that whenever Rubin moved the ball on our right flank, they had no resistance moving the ball from their third to ours. they were able to beat our three lines in three passes.

    The useless Pedro scored more goals than any one expecte he will in the whole season. Bojan before getting injured showed enough improvement to get a chance. I have no problem in signing more players, but till we do, we need to use what we have. What did Messi do in the first half that Bojan or even jeff couldnt? Nothing. I am not against messi, but I can predict that even Jeffren would have been able to put more pressure on Rubin players. Exhaust them without necessarily beating and scoring. Just make them run and run and run. Then in the second half, introduce Messi and thats when he can do the Magic. Instead, we started an exhausted Messi who collapsed fitness wise after 60 minutes (and wasnt fresh at the beginning), so the opponents were always able to outclass him fitness wise.

    We were already aware that we are tired, and yet we started only one holding mid in front of two tired technical players who cant do the transition nor the pressing. Space in the midfield was scary. it was even better to play two holding mids with Maxwell and Alves together. It would have been less fragile. luckily we only played against Rubin!

    In old military strategies there is a common plan: When you attack an enemy while you are not in a very dominate position, send first your less-valuable soldiers. let them run toward the enemy and get shot. Their objective is not to beat the enemy, but to make them less focused, less organized, less fit, and to decrease their armor and bullets. Afterward send the best you have to walk over them.

    We had the resources to do that as well, and we didnt. The loss is not a disaster. But the feeling that we are not learning is. And I dont want to go back to last season all the time. But may be the treble had some bad side effects as well.

    We can sign as many players as we wish. But if we are not going to use them, then they will only help us during training sessions.

    Now Alves is out, so we are forced to solve what we were able to avoid. If we start that automatic selection this weekend, I want also a loss. Till we learn.

    Pep is the best coach Barcelona can wish, and If he can only improve his resource management, he will end up being the best coach in the world.

  15. Um…You rate Pedro too high. I like him but Bojan played better than him in the match against Valencia. What they need is confidence.

    Marquez’s rating is 1 and Alves’ is 3? it’s too harsh… Yaya played well but he shouldn’t have tackle like that.

    However I agree with your opinion about Robinho rumors.

  16. Actually I think we played a decent game too and everybody seems to be harking back to last season…well as far as i recall whenever we came up against a well organised parked bus last year we struggled too. Lets not all forget the first game of the season, which was very very similar to last nights game. Lots of chances missed vs one chance taken and we lose the game. We didnt play our best game, no, BUT we have never played particularly well against 10 men behind the ball. Its not like Rubin came to play, dominated the game, shared possession, stopped us from creating any chances…none of those things happened. If they had I would be worried. Last year all our best performances came against teams who tried to play football and our worst performances came against those who didn’t. That is why we got Zlatan and that is what we are trying to improve on and I think its coming along. It certainly wont happen overnight..I am the kind of person who would rather draw positives than negatives and what I saw yesterday was a tired team trying their best to beat a very fresh, sharp opponent with only one goal : defend. That they got lucky over and over again is the nature of the game. We created more chances against this bus then I saw us create vs most buses last season. Certainly this is one of the better defensive performances I have seen from any opposition and we still created more than enough chances to win the game. That gives me a lot of hope, because like Kxevin quite rightly pointed out a lot of key players are tired, jaded and not playing to their best. Still, we created chance after chance. Certainly a lot more chances than we created against teams like Chelsea last season and that was at the peak of our powers.

    Most exciting thing to me is the progress of Zlatan and how he is improving. Again he was our best attacker yesterday and his goal was exactly why we bought him. Now all we need are the players around him to play as well as we know they can….

    “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.”

    This happened last season too Kxevin, more than once. These games happen, especially the way we play because we attack so much and can leave ourselves exposed. If we are particularly unlucky then we get stung, but we need to get pretty unlucky and I don’t think many will argue that we did last night. Vs Chelsea we got particularly lucky, had we lost that game instead of drawing or even losing it, you could have made exactly the same comment; but i think we all know how much better this team is than the Rijkaard era team. Even tired, off form and missing that final perfect pass, we are still better.

    1. now, this is some real talk. I couldn’t agree more. it’s our first loss of the SEASON, we can’t win EVERY game. yeah, we’re tired, we’re injured, we looked less than 100%, but it’s not a wake up call, it wasn’t a must-win match. We still have three trophies from last year sitting in a case, so we are still the champions and we will be on top form very soon. It’s going to be harder, and take more patience, but there is no need to panic.

      Now, if we look bad on Saturday, that’s when we need to re-assess things.

  17. Didn’t watch the game, so I cannot comment on it, but I saw the game against Valencia over the weekend, and it was the worst game I’ve seen play Barça in a long time, especially the first half. A positive that I’ve gleaned form the Uefa statistics page is that against Rubin Barça maintained good levels of possession: Barça 70%/
    Rubin 30%. http://www.uefa.com/competitions/ucl/fixturesresults/round=2000028/match=2000406/report=st.html

    The problem that I see this year is that we don’t have the goals of Henry, and nobody seems so far to step in to cover his absence. (Luis Suarez?)

  18. i wasn’t gonna come here for a while because anything football is just too much for me right now but this review actually snapped me back into reality… so thanks. i missed the game but this is all i’ll be needing lol

  19. You mentioned a couple of things I was thinking.

    -Rijkaard years. Yeah, that sure looked like it.

    -Second to Messi only, Iniesta was our asst. chief non-passer. He sure looked good dancing around DMs at times, but he made too many passes too late and in impossible situations.

    -Speaking of impossible situations, I felt the team often tried the most OUTRAGEOUS final balls that were never going to thread the needle, by talent or black magic.

    -That was The Yaya’s best match of the season. Too bad.

    -Xavi wasn’t marked and maybe should’ve been more influential, but I still think he was the second best man on the pitch next to The Yaya. Perhaps you’re being harsh on him for not controlling that ball in the box? He was facing the goal and it was coming over his shoulder for God’s sake…that’s a tall order even for an out-and-out striker.

    -I do think we might have to consider getting rid of Bojan. That Valencia loan sure looks enticing now. It’s a damn shame, politically speaking, because Guardiola gave him some kind of “assurances” that he’d have more time this season, which is apparently the only reason he stayed. He’s going to come into quite a bit of hot water for that, and for the first time (italicize that mentally). But after tonight, I get the impression that Pedro will be chosen ahead of Li’l Bo for now. It very well could be curtains for him.

    1. “Perhaps you’re being harsh on him for not controlling that ball in the box? He was facing the goal and it was coming over his shoulder for God’s sake…that’s a tall order even for an out-and-out striker.”

      Lol, I feel like this is done often here. We call something “a great chance” when it’s really obvious from the player’s position and momentum that it would be hella hard for ANYONE to convert that.

  20. first time we’ve lost a competitive match since May. it’s a wake up call! sounds the alarms! who’s head rolls first!?

    gimme a break.

    i think we all watched different games yesterday.

    what i saw:

    24 shots taken, us, to 3 for rubin.

    a goal post hit twice and several other close calls, for us.

    complete, complete domination of the match.

    a parked bus.

    an early goal off a broken play a la essien.

    we were unlucky. period. if you have played football, or watched barca enough, you know this happens. there is a portion of the game always left to chance.

    please spare me the drama.

    1. completely disagree, ballbeav. may be misinterpreting skill and finishing with luck. you might also agree this was not the best line up pep could have rolled out?

    2. Not to mention, the team is beat up and tired from the international break, and also hasn’t had a chance to play into form. When the team gets a few weeks to train together they will start playing faster and tighter. Then more of those 24 go in, and probably that second Rubin chance never happens.

  21. Spot on Kxevin. The quality of our play in the final third was only as good as the streams we had access to last night and Eklavya will vouch for that. 🙂

    Last night’s game reminded me a lot of the champions league semifinal. They scored early, sat back as if their lives depended on it. The only difference is Chelsea wasted a hatful of chances to finish us off but didn’t while good ol’ Rubin took their chance well. It’s the perfect way to play us though. Every bus that we come up against is hoping for this script.

    I wouldn’t look too much into this. Like xavi said we were woefully unlucky. The alves injury is the saddest thing bout yesterday.

  22. “Last night’s game reminded me a lot of the champions league semifinal. They scored early, sat back as if their lives depended on it. The only difference is Chelsea wasted a hatful of chances to finish us off but didn’t while good ol’ Rubin took their chance well.”

    To be fair to the team, we had 18 shots on goal to the 1 we got against Clam.

  23. 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).

    Comparisons to last year’s squad aren’t really all that valid because as I said, last season we had the off season to really work on form and playing together, and staying fit. All those extra matches at the end of a season take their toll on a side, and Cup years are killer.

    This was, as I said, a wake-up call. We have to play as a team. We won last year as a beautiful, fully functioning team. This year so far, we are a collection of individuals. That grouping will always have trouble with a team, as Valencia was, and as Rubin Kazan was.

    We can point to the lopsided shot totals and say “Yeah, we should have won,” but how many of those shots really troubled their keeper? My larger issue is that we aren’t finishing as we should. We’re trying all kinds of crazy passes that don’t have a hope in hell of getting through six or seven men in the box. And they don’t.

    As for Pedro!, he got the rating he deserved. Yes, he gave us some width. But he also dithered too much when he got the ball. He has to be more incisive. Either cut and shoot, or cut and pass. But the dribble …. wait …. dribble …. wait gives the defense time to get into position to anticipate whatever it is he’s thinking of doing. He, like the rest of our attack, isn’t playing quickly to a degree sufficient to unsettle defenses. Criticism of him for this match isn’t a blanket criticism. We all like P!. I love him as a sub.

    I agree with Ramzi about Jeffren, but I’ve been lobbying for some pitch time for Final Fantasy for a while now. He just cuts and runs toward goal, and makes himself available. And when he gets the ball, he shoots, or returns the pass. No screwing around.

    Krkic, for me, is a complex situation. Yes, he’s young. But he’s been in the first team side for three seasons now. It’s time to start showing why on a consistent basis. For me, it’s as simple as that. If his feelings are hurt, that’s life. We can’t afford to gift someone a place in the side, not with it being as thin as it is.

  24. Alves getting 3 while Marquez got 1 is unfair… Alves should get 2 I suppose. I think Ibra deserves 9 not just because of the goal, but the various touches he exhibited, too good! Iniesta not better than Messi because Messi had good first half. P! no way deserves 6, I know he’s putting in lot of effort ‘like every body else’ but no it wasn’t the kind of play needed when most of the times he was allowed lots of space and he left Ibra wanted in ‘D’… He’s god-damn target striker and you didn’t spent 70 mill for no reason damn it!!
    I too think Alves going out for 3 weeks is in a way very good for the team… Bring Maxwell in & with Puyol we can be more sure of not conceding goals. Dima also will get more chances. And most importantly all the FKs can be now taken by Ibra, man it’s so frustrating when Alves keeps on missing those free kicks!!

    1. That Ibra free kick was a rocket, wasn’t it? The 6 for P! was based in his effort, and the width that he did provide. Ramzi is right in that regard. He’s so close. I just wonder if he can close the gap.

      My jury is still out on Maxwell. Abidal is playing like such a stud right now. Too bad he can’t play right wing.

      I wouldn’t mind Messi taking some free kicks, either.

  25. He provided the width but there was no efficient use of it… I think may be he should have played RW with Ibra on LW. Because with the amount of space that he was allowed may be Alves would have utilized that. Whenever P! was out wide with the ball, Ibra was right in the middle waiting for a cross but P! takes too much time on the ball and Ibra had to drift down the left to collect a short pass… Now for that we had Eto’o and there was no need to bring in Ibra wasn’t it!? But the problem is even Bojan doesn’t help in that regard!! I feel Maxwell could have helped may be
    Till now only Xavi could make some proper use of the bus-breaking Ibra, providing some good aerial balls… Messi some times, but that’s it!!!

    1. That’s a good point… I’ve seen pedro on both sides, maybe he’d be better off on the right?

      We’ve seen him create moments of opposition-defense-devastation before, but for this game, he was the black hole of left-sided-attacking threats, everything stopped at his feet

  26. when did juande ramos start coaching for cska moscow? he was great in sevilla. i can’t fault him for taking the real madrid post. if it weren’t for barca selling their souls to the devil for the three cups last season he might have won something.

  27. WOW! El Mundo attacked Sport for spreading false rumors, indeed as Pep from the previous blog mentioned Suarez’s rep might really have some contacts at El Mundo 😛 But hope the board is really scouting on him… Another FAAAACCCCK YOU for Txiki for ruining pep’s plans during summer, had we bought one attacker we wouldn’t be in such a tight position in CL group

  28. Somewhat agree with the review, but everytime Barca attacked, Rubin had 8 behind the ball. They were very well organized.

    There were some great balls that almost came off, but a bit unlucky. For instance the Xavi chance wasn’t his fault. The defender got a toe in a deflected the ball just enough.

    Alves was and has not been crossing the ball well. He hits the defender 9 out of 10 times because he takes too long.

    Pedro slowed the play down at times, but that comes with confidence. He needs to realize that he is one on one often and try to beat the player. He definitely has the skills for it. Messi on the other hand has two defenders coming at him every time he touches the ball. Many times he passes it off quickly, but he tries to do too much sometimes.

    Yaya played very disciplined. Good game, but I would put more blame on the goal on him than Bojan. Yes, it was a sloppy pass, but the tackle was sloppier. In a situation like that, if you go down, you get the ball or the man, but he pulled up because he didn’t want the card. Marquez was terrible on that play though (as well as the first, I am not sure what he was doing, just head the fucking ball).

    Xavi definitely deserved a higher grade. What more do you want from a midfielder. He controlled the whole pitch as usual. Great assist.

    Overall, bad result, great play from opposition (unbelievable first goal, what a strike).

    Good fight from Barca to bring a goal back. Two mistakes (well the second goal came from three compounded mistakes).
    Barca needs about 2 more players and they should be set.

    After sweeping aside Europe last season, for every team, they play the game of their lives against us. And they all play very conservatively (except Atletico and that was 4 goals by half).

    Not really too worried about the season.

  29. I don’t know where all of your Bojan-love is gone, Kxevin.
    He played extremely well in the first few games of the season, then got injured and hasn’t been quite up to scratch since then.
    Comparatively, he is at the same level as Messi in his current dip or Iniesta after his injury and is miles ahead of Marquez.
    Pedro is a decent winger but does not have the intelligence needed at this level. I’ve said it before, I expect him to make it at the likes Deportivo or Villarreal.

    Abidal has been immense this season, our best and most consistent player by a long shot. I would think that at the minute we should be playing a back four of Puyol, Pique, Abidal & Maxwell, with maybe a double pivot in midfield until Henry is back.

    1. Next match should be Puyol, Marquez, Dima, Maxwell… Don’t think Marquez could fuck up that match as well. The starters definitely need some rest

    2. I never really had the Krkic love, Ciaran. But even if I had, it wouldn’t change my view that it’s Go Time for the Kid.

    3. And that’s Go Time as in, “Show me what ya got,” match in and match out. Right now, he shows just enough to make us wonder if it wouldn’t be a mistake to loan or (shudder) sell him. His potential is immense, just not as a striker. Killer winger, for sure, or he could be.

  30. Stats so far this season

    Goals :

    Messi 8
    Ibra 6
    Pedro 4
    Keita 2
    Bojan 2
    Pique 2
    Xavi 1
    Alves 1

    Assists :

    Xavi 5
    Messi 4
    Ibra 4
    Alves 4
    Pedro 1
    Keita 1
    Busquets 1
    Maxwell 1

  31. Pedro for me wasn’t close to being a 6. I don’t fault his effort or the fact that he may well grow into a decent player but last night he took nobody on, wasted a number of crosses and seemed unable to get to the byeline and put in a decent ball. His major play was getting the ball in space going nowhere and making an easy pass back to someone.

    As someone else said its symptomatic of the fact that our subs aren’t good enough. They don’t change games and don’t pull their weight enough in the game. I think there is a tendency to see things a bit black and white at times. The youngsters weren’t good enough 2 years ago, last year or this for top games.
    However, I’m not as worried as most seem to be by the defeat. We had to get beaten sometime. We weren’t outplayed, they had a lot of luck and played as well as they can. We weren’t great, that’s about it. It took a combination of all these things to beat us.

    Final word from me on Marquez. He’s not one of my personal favourites but he’s not a duffer. He’s just playing his way back, needs time on the pitch and made one mistake which caused a fluke goal from 30 yards that on any other night we’d have seen off safely. I’m still not sure what anyone is criticising him rather than Bojan/ Yaya/ Abidal/ Alves for anyway.

    Let’s get a week’s rest and training and see what the response is next week. If we play badly then we may have a problem. Where i absolutely agree with Kevin is on the need to speed up our passing game to get at teams more quickly.

  32. Great review but I´m not quite sure about Yaya’s rating. Might have played fine overall but after reviewing the goals I really feel he should and could have prevented both goals had he been on his toes. The faulty passes were not his but his awareness was sluggish, got the ball between his feet in the first goal and was very late on the ball for the second.

  33. This season is BS for everyone, too tight of a schedule and all players are getting injured and fatigue and blah… not talking about Barca but in general european football.

  34. i think its kind of weak to expect consistent result out of a player, but not give him consistent playing time. nevermind the fact he just came back from injury, and was playing with a team that was playing like crap.

    i dont think we should ever blame fowards for loosing the ball in the attacking 1/3rd that result in goals. last time i checked we have an entire midfield and defensive line, and keeper, who are paid to also defend

  35. I don’t think it’s time to sell Krkic; that’s just a little rash. However, since he can’t cut it as a striker would bringing in Suarez force us to sell him since Suarez is also young? What if we brought in Robinho? Curse Rijkaard for debuting people like Bojan and Gai too early!

    Another good question (in terms of the future of our youth) is who will replace Ibra as the 9? Who is the last canterano to a actually start as the 9? Not Ibra, Eto’o, Rivaldo, Ronaldo, Stoichov, etc. etc… Does anyone have the size that Pep’s system requires? What exactly does this have to do with what’s going on now? Our transactions during the transfer window have to work with Pep’s plans for the future. After all, we can’t just **** everything up like Milan.

    1. I thought Rochina looked like a 9, but lucho prefers to play older players.Im waitng on Mauro Icardi though.And any of the young Cameroonians could potentially be future 9s for us.They have the advantage of their physical strength, its a pity Bojan couldnt be stronger.

    2. RUBEN ROCHINA!!!!
      Who scored a awesome goal in the preseason!
      I want him to be our first real number 9 from the cantera

  36. Poor Huntelaar didn’t even start and now Inzaghi gets subs for Mario Bollelo or something like that….NOT Huntelaar. Haha

  37. Shit. It took me this long to work the loss out of my system and go back on the internet.

    – Overall, yeah, we dominated and the shot totals reflect that. It did seem like a vintage 06-07 “dominate a match but lose it on stupid mistakes and a fluke goal” performance. However…

    – Our transition game is still not up to full speed. Credit Rubin for keeping disciplined and compact but we are having a harder time than last year in moving through midfield and setting up attacks. On the bright side, Yaya played his best game in a while minus going to ground on the ultimately game winning goal and missing the tackle.

    – Iniesta is driving me a little crazy lately. He was awesome in relieving the pressure on Xavi and was instrumental in keeping possession. However, he still has a way to go to get back in form near the box. Xavi did a much better job than he did in crashing the box and his final ball was lacking. The season is obviously still young for him but he needs to improve his play in the final 1/4th IMO. When we play a winger like Pedro rather than a Henry on the left, we need a midfielder to provide a threat in the box and make runs in. We know Keita is more effective at this than our two midgets but at least Xavi tried to do it. Iniesta lived too much on the edge of the box.

    – Our front line minus Ibra was frustrating. I mostly agree with Ramzi that Pedro was at least positionally sound which is more than can be said for Messi, Alves, and sometimes Iniesta. Notice he was almost always hugging the left touchline, spreading the field and he did an awesome job controlling long diagonal balls from Xavi and Pique. His problem was a lack of understanding with Abidal on the overlaps which meant he missed some cutting in opportunities and I would say his crossing was bad if I remembered if he even crossed. Pedro is ambidextrous in theory but it seems to me that his right leg is preferred in the passing department because his service from the left was poor. That said, his off the ball movement and tracking back was good.

    – Messi and Alves were near positional disasters (albeit overall no). Messi had bright spots but he once again seemed lost in space for large stretches as he could not seem to decide where he needed to be. Alves and him frequently played one two’s like Kevin pointed out but that left an interstate’s worth of highway on the right for the counterattacks. Our team is at its best when everybody is in sync but Messi seemed only to be in sync with Alves and Xavi today. Also, I know the Rubin CB’s are big but a cross or two unto your 6’4 #9 won’t kill you.

    – I think this game was equal parts:

    1) Bad luck (hit the post twice and sorry, but the first Rubin goal was 1 in a 100).
    2) Fatigue and slightly faulty resource/player management coming off a tough FIFA round and a tough away Liga game.
    3) Individual mistakes

    Nothing that can’t be fixed.

    As far as I’m concerned, this was an ALMOST “must win game”. Why? Because now we must close out the deal in Rubin’s stadium in Russia, against Inter at home, and if it becomes decisive we have to take out whole A Team, to Ukraine in the middle of winter to play at Dynamo. Not exactly an easy run of games. Two far away cold games at enemy stadiums and a home game against Inter. No sweat. 🙁 Now we become even more tired and stressed. We can sure as hell still win the group but we have just over complicated our classification a hell of a lot.

    1. Thanks Hector for your analysis. And the last part is sooo true. We could have made the next 2 month a lot easier if we simply won today. Now we’ll need to be in a good shape for each remaining CL match, no more slip-ups allowed…
      And with Inter drawing against Kiew, this was the PERFECT opportunity to cool down the heat in the groupstage.

Comments are closed.