Barca 6, Zaragoza 1, a.k.a “Just what the doctor ordered,” a.k.a “Keeiteeeee!”

Because it's just like that. That's why.
Because it's just like that. That's why.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our Man of the Match, Seydou Keita, whom we all affectionately call Keiteee! He was absolutely, spot-on brilliant tonight in a crucial match for the side, against an opponent who was perfect.

Because they were about as threatening as a puppy, and we knew that going in. But more importantly, we went in rested. This team would have given Rubin Kazan the hiding that Isaiah predicted in his preview. The movement was sharper, the passing crisper and the energy was much, much higher. Tonight, this club would have beaten pretty much any club in the world, because for the first time this season, it played as a full-on team. Not individuals working toward a collective goal, but a team. The difference was crucial.

When a club isn’t playing as a team, players such as Keita don’t get the opportunity to shine, because people aren’t doing their parts to make sure that everyone on the pitch has an opportunity to excel. Messi makes his runs and loses the ball. Iniesta runs to nowhere. Xavi circles with the ball, because nobody is making the runs off of the ball to present him with options. It’s all a mess.

But when everyone is active, rested and energetic, this is the result. This match was so completely, so comprehensively dominant that it kind of got a little boring …. okay, I’m kidding. But I wanted Zaragoza to put up a little fight, just so that people wouldn’t say “Yeah, but it was just a Segunda side. What can you expect, really?”

Everything about this match was exceptional from a team perspective, particularly the interplay between our midfielders and attackers, and the flexibility that such things afforded the likes of Keita. Because when Xavi, Iniesta, Messi and Ibrahimovic are flowing, Keita is the guy raking up the leaves, so to speak. Ramzi, his most eloquent defender, is no doubt smiling at the all-pitch match that Keita had, one that made me so happy because he has been very good to great all season long. But this is the match that will make everyone say “Hey, yeah! Keita!”

Guardiola rolled out a lineup that showed his concern over the attacking prowess of Zaragoza: Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Txigrinski, Maxwell, Busquets, Keita, Xavi, Initesta, Messi, Ibrahimovic …. NOT! It’s easy to take chances with the back line in this kind of match, and this would have been the match to start Marquez.

Note also the forward/back left and right back. With Maxwell’s abilities to go forward, he’s a good choice since Puyol is a purely defensive right back, rather than the roaming force that Alves is. So there is always somebody home, which Puyol was in every instance except the goal, but he had pulled up lame, clutching and checking his ankle. I sure hope he’s okay, since we’re fresh out of right backs if he goes down.

Ultimately, there isn’t a whole lot to say about this match, so I’ll just make a few points, document the goals, then get to the ratings. Why isn’t there much to say? Because we dominated against a club that played its way into the Liga, but didn’t really deserve to be on the pitch with us. The lads got some confidence back, and learned to play as a team, which is crucial going into a very important stretch of matches.

–Zaragoza tried a different take on the Xavi Control approach, fronting him early with two men. But once we got the goal, and Iniesta stopped mucking about trying to be a winger and became Xavi Jr., that took care of that nonsense.

–Messi slowly but surely is getting his confidence back, and he did so by becoming the player that I so love to see, a team player who looks to make his teammates better, then takes advantage of the chaos that he can sow, when a defense doesn’t know if he’s going to pass or make the run.

–This is the first match in a while in which I have been happy with the movement off the ball. Note how there was always someone to pass the ball to. Now recall how time and again in recent matches, one of our players would be stranded with the ball, bereft of passing options that could advance an attack. Huge difference.

–I know that everyone tires of hearing me say this, but Ibrahimovic expands the capabilities of this club in a way that, if everyone can be healthy at the same time and on form, is going to make us a truly frightening force. Better than last year? Yes. Absolutely. Because just as Keita is so dangerous at that box-to-box running, with Ibrahivmovic you have a great striker who is also an exceptional midfielder. Did anyone notice the pass that he made to Maxwell to keep an attack going, where he in effect bounced the ball off of his instep to bypass the defenders that thought they had him shut down? And the interplay that is developing between he and Messi? Crazy. So excited.

Goal nr. 1: Keita header into the roof off a set piece, a very simple play that still has me giddy with unfettered delight, because the ability to score from set pieces makes us a much, much more dangerous side. Keita also split two defenders to head the ball in.

Goal nr. 2: This one makes me even happier, because Iniesta got hacked, winning a free kick, which Ibrahimovic decided he wanted to use to amputate the keeper’s hands. You don’t realize how crucial strong hands and wrists are to goalkeeping. Well, we do now. What a screamer! Wonder if that had something to do with how unhappy Alves looked, sitting in the stands? Just asking.

Goal nr. 3: Keita knocks in a perfect cross from Ibrahimovic, but lest anyone forget, Xavi laid out a pass for Ibrahimovic to run onto that should be enshrined is a “This is how you play attacking mid” hall of fame somewhere. The commentator was spot on in saying “Everything about this football club just makes you feel good.”

Goal nr. 4: This time it was Keita crossing to Ibrahimovic, taking a pass after Iniesta battled like a cornered albino wolverine for possession of the ball. Then Ibrahimovic knocked in a volley with the outside of his foot. The goal looked so easy. But good Lord, it wasn’t. No way, no how.

Goal nr. 5: This one made me happy, because it came from a brilliant Iniesta pass to Messi, who lofted a delicate rainbow over the keeper. This goal was a just reward for the brilliant, unselfish match that he played. And finding the back of the net can only help his damaged self-confidence in the aftermatch of his time with Maradumber.

Goal nr. 6: It was a free header for Keita, but think about this: He generated enough power to smoke a ball past the keeper, from a standing jump. He must be able to tow cars with his neck muscles.

Yes, we conceded, when a rotten pass from Maxwell led to a jailbreak. Valdes made an exceptional save to stop the initial shot, but when the blast from the outside came at him, he had some back luck in that his one-handed save bounced off his back hand and into the net. Conceding like that irritates me, because we lost control of the match for a moment. I suppose that being 4 goals up will do that to a side, right?

Team: 9. Still a few moments of sloppy play, but overall, an excellent performance when they could have just phoned it in and won 2-0 or something. The constant movement and hunger for the ball were extraordinary.

Guardiola: 9. Not sure what he did to get the lads ready for this match, but damn! He also understood the value of starting Messi and letting him play, to get his mojo back.

Valdes: 8. Some amazing saves to control Zaragoza jailbreaks late in the second half. Would someone again tell me why he isn’t playing for Spain? Is he the best keeper in La Liga right now? What makes his play even more amazing is that he doesn’t have a spotty defense to keep him on his toes. He never sees the ball then suddenly, he has to have the concentration to make a reflex save or stop a breakaway. Dude’s good.

Puyol: 7. Didn’t have a lot to do until we started getting sloppy, when he kept putting out fires with excellent play that ranged from right wing to center of the defensive box.

Pique: 6. Just solid defensive play. Had a couple of lapses, but got bailed out.

Txigrinski: 5. Slooooow. His lack of pace is worrisome for a lad who, like the rest of our defense, strays so far up the pitch. The couple of times he tried the Txikenbauer thing didn’t go so well. But he’s looked a lot better against better opposition.

Maxwell: 6. Strong effort in controlling that side of the pitch. He helped Pennant make clear why he was available on a free transfer. But his shit pass led to the Zaragoza goal.

Busquets: 6. I give him major props for his solid play with the ball. He would take and distribute. But he always goes off song and sure enough, he started holding the ball too much, and doing the wrong things with it. And he can’t defend straight up without fouling.

Xavi: 8. He had a few loose touches that brought his overall rating down, but what a match. His passing was mostly pinpoint accurate and always with the attack in mind.

Keita: 10. And not just because of the hat trick. He played defense, won balls, broke up attacks, made himself available for possession retaining passes and did just about everything except drive the bus to the match. He even gave Messi an affectionate hug after a chance went begging, as if to say “Don’t worry, dude. You’re still the best player alive.” The smiles from Ibrahimovic and Guardiola when Keita scored the hat trick were warm and genuine.

Iniesta: 7. He once again demonstrated the absurdity of people suggesting that he start at left wing over Henry. It’s boys against men. He was also struggling to beat defenders off the dribble. But he still isn’t in full form yet. His role as Xavi’s Mini Me brought him to full flower, as he bossed the left side of the midfield, battling for possession and making excellent passes.

Messi: 8. Loved his play tonight, for its intelligence and unselfishness. His close control is superhuman. That play where he flicked it around the defender, then went to get it would have been the goal of the season, had Ibra kept himself on side.

Ibrahimovic: 9. Astounding match from BANGS, that began with that perfect dummy to set up Messi’s first miss of a glorious chance. He played defense, harassed the keeper, battled to win the ball back, scored goals and notched assists. Again, one of those stat hog nights that demonstrated why we spent that crazy-ass money on the dude.


Marquez (for Pique): 4. He comes on, and we concede. Coincidence? Actually, yes. Maxwell’s horrific pass to Xavi was easily picked, and led to the Zaragoza break. Marquez did his usual following of the ball, rather than examining the situation and placing himself where it will do the most good. The goal wasn’t at all his fault. Txigrinski bears culpability for running back into the box aimlessly, instead of covering the trailer.

Krkic (for Ibrahimovic): 5. Ran around, looked cute, showed some good energy, but didn’t have much of an effect.

Jeffren (for Xavi): incomplete. Final Fantasy came in too late, really, to do much of anything except give the Camp Nou crowd the opportunity to give Xavi a standing ovation.

We remain busy, with a Copa match against Tercera side Cultural Leonesa, then mid-table Osasuna on the weekend, then the Champions League return leg against Rubin Kazan, where I can’t wait to see what our rejuvenated side can do. Henry will be back from injury, and I expect him to get some minutes mid-week probably, then a few more on the weekend. But he will make a significant difference in the CL tie, which I expect us to win.

And that’s what I know.

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. Keita’s performance was good and bad. Bad because it made me afraid of January. oh, and when did barca start playing ‘the new camp’?

  2. “Would someone again tell me why he isn’t playing for Spain? Is he the best keeper in La Liga right now?”

    YES. Look, no disrespect to Casillas, but Valdes deserves to get a starting spot “look” in some of the friendlies leading up to the World Cup. I want to see Messi take on Valdes (it has to be versus a solid attacking team, otherwise he may not even touch the ball, seeing how Spain is playing).

    Jeez. In ANY country that isn’t Spain (and maybe Italy), Valdes is the starting keeper.

    1. Obligatory jab at EE:

      It’s not fair that Casillas gets so much practice playing with Real Madrid’s defense that Valdes can’t get by playing with our defense.

    2. New name for EE: “Madrod”. // 2nd paragraph if still there.

    3. yea but Valdes has the advantage of facing messi ibra and henry shots every day in practice. hehe

    4. lol, I bet he got fooled around pretty much in every practice while making occasional super one on one saves. ibra alone can fool u around, making u throw yr body here and there and at the end score the goal.

    5. it actually might help spain a lot to have valdes in the starting XI over casillas. Casillas is a great keeper, but as Kxevin was saying he doesn’t play with a possession based team every week. Valdes would suit Spain’s possession game because Barca does the same thing.
      Casillas did make some amazing saves at Euro cup though.

    6. My thoughts exactly, actually. Spain’s game is more like Barca’s than Real Madrid’s. Again, Valdes needs to get a look.

      In fact, I’ll make a call right now that you can hold against me come May: in the friendlies leading up to the World Cup, if Valdes gets ONE appearance for Spain (at least a half), he’ll be in the squad for South Africa.

  3. When a club isn’t playing as a team, players such as Keita don’t get the opportunity to shine, because people aren’t doing their parts to make sure that everyone on the pitch has an opportunity to excel.

    wow wow wow such a simple piece of wisdom but it’s sooo true. homeboy was awesome tonight!

    Wonder if that had something to do with how unhappy Alves looked, sitting in the stands? Just asking.


    hey what’s up with all this zaragoza disrespecting?? they had jermaine pennant playing for them – he’s been to a CL final ok? hahaha

  4. I loved your appreciation of Ibr’s second goal. When I saw the replay, I couldn’t believe how easy he made that look. You said…

    “Then Ibrahimovic knocked in a volley with the outside of his foot. The goal looked so easy. But good Lord, it wasn’t. No way, no how.”

    which immediately brought me to this hysterical clip… enjoy if you haven’t seen it yet.

  5. Amazing game. Definately agree about TXignasty being SLOOOOOWW. Ibra needs to take all free kicks from on.

  6. What a joy of a game, two for ibra one for messi and three for keitee. Great ball rhythm, dribbles, crazy passes, combinations, switching of positions… the crowd was in total communion with the team, they applauded every miss the players made. When titi comes somebody in this starting 11 will have to sit on the bench. I don’t think that right now he can sit any of iniesta keita or xavi, and the team looked splendid today. When iniesta comes to the midfield to help keita goes a little up and the guy has speed and goal, I really like how they interact.

  7. If you re-watch the match, you’ll see how the uncertainty of Messi’s play is one of the most important keys to our match-form. Like you siad earlier, by making dangerous runs AND passing, teams succomb to their own indecision and anxiety.

    If he just runs (like he’s done as of late) the team can just lay down a rumble strip of cleats and legs, whereas if he dishes it out intelligently, teams can’t so easily commit.

    And despite the errant pass from Maxwell, I thought he played a heck of a game. Reminded my of The Sylvinho and was refreshing to watch. His little play around with Chygnasty in the opening 20 minutes (don’t remember exactly when) was supreme. Flick-header-flick-header. We’ve got some talented defenders ladies and gentlemen.

    Bojan squashed an opportunity, but I’m sure whenever he gets the ball inside the 18 his little heart starts beating like a pre-teen at his first dance or something.

    Visa el barca

    1. I looooved the pass that Chygnasty delivered to Ibra in the first half, i think it was Ibra’s first shot, the one he chested down and shot.
      That pass was preeeeecise and exquiiiisite because the way he moved forward with confidence up to the midfield and fired that long pass.


    this blog has now been picked up by NewsNow.

    I just was over there and your post-match review came up.

    Usually doesn’t happen with NewsNow and blogs, so I wanted to congratulate you if that’s appropriate, NewsNow does link some crap though so don’t be offended by the company lol.

  9. But i want some TITI BAAAAAAACK! 🙁
    He still has to catch up but imagine him as deadly as he was last season, booooy our lineup will be much more threatening.

  10. I think what Kxevin says about Busi sums up what I felt about his performance. I watched the entire match with joy and excitement but when I see busi dribbling and making bad passes that led to losing the ball, I get annoyed.

    I begin the think this guy is so young,and he must be some what generating arrogance in his head. I mean, he is sort of a regular starter in the best club in the world. But still he is not up to the standard of the rest of the team. So, is that why he is trying to shine in front of the fans? Is he deciphering well what it really means to play “beautiful” football? I think this guy needs to mature not only in his skills, but also his mind.

    Totally agree with how he defended. he fouls a lot, get fouled quite a lot (recalling from memory only) and usually lay on ground grabbing his own leg in anguish. So, I don’t know. Maybe I am comparing him to our fastest yet biggest and the best DMF in the world TheYaya, that’s why I get annoyed.

    1. I thought Busi did well overall today. His passing was great during most of the game, and his footwork was ample. There were a few things that aggravated me as well:

      1) the foul when someone put their hands in his face and Busi acted like someone b**** slapped him and fell in anguish.
      2) Busi’s foul when he shoved a Zaragoza player to the ground, outraged by the obvious call
      3) Busi’s late and ultra-careless giveaway that many times would have resulted in a goal. Seriously, look before you pass dude.

      Having considered the above points, I think a 6 was fair.

  11. Great match. Messi does not look confident. There were about 4 opportunities to score that last year he would have finished easily.

    That pass from Txigrinski to Ibra with the chest was great, but sometimes Ibra has a lot more time than he thinks or I guess he has already decided what to do, but he can take a few more touches and get a bit closer. He always wants the spectacular, which is fine if we are up by 3, but if its still 0-0, any goal will do.

    Glad to see Keita get some goals. Those are three goals that maybe only Puyol could score (on headers) or Messi could score (fast 30 yard run to the perfect position) which is why he is so valuable. He gives Barca options that no one else can provide.

    Can we all take a break from criticizing people in their first season with the team. Football is not always the immediate result, but building for the future as well. Maybe a player makes a mistake, but if it strengthens them enough so that they can play in a huge match when called on, then it is a small price to pay. It takes most players about a year to acclimate (Titi, Keita, Pique 3/4 season, Yaya, etc). I think Hleb would have been great this season for us, but he was just an ass. Though Ibra is doing fantastically in his first season (Alves did as well), let’s give Maxwell a half a season or so before judging him.

    And on the goal, Maxwell’s pass was slightly off, but what was Xavi thinking? That the pass wasn’t for him because it was two feet away from where it should have been? I guess he has high standards.

    1. *Xavi looks at pass with disdain*…”well if you’re not going to put the ball withing 2inches of my reach and with the precise pace that I can take it stride I’m not even going to bother. Who do think I am? Michael Ballack?!?”

    2. BlaugranaDOOM makes a good point. People wanted to ship Abidal out his first year, now look. People wanted to ship Henry out his first year, and now look. People wondered why we signed Keita, too.

      We have a difficult, intricate, movement-based system that requires much from its players. This was true even when they didn’t have to work like dogs chasing and maintaining possession.

      It takes time to work into a side, and only extraordinary players (read: Ibrahimovic) can show up and immediately make a difference. And I think that Henry had the luxury of coming into the side and playing at the point, his adjustment period wouldn’t have been so daunting.

      I’ve said before that Hleb would have been better this season. Nice to hear someone else say it. The midfield passing help would have been nice, too.

      But fans will never give up criticizing a player, irrespective of when it is. And sometimes, a player gets a reputation that is difficult to shake. There are some who still don’t give Valdes the props that he deserves, right?

      What I know is that when we are on, and usually even when we aren’t, we have just about the best team on the planet. It’s nice when we can celebrate that simple fact.

    3. And the problem with Maxwell’s pass wasn’t that it was off target. We’ve all seen Xavi correct those kinds of balls. The problem was that it was exactly where it needed to be for the defender to get the jump on the pass, and shove Xavi aside.

    4. “But fans will never give up criticizing a player, irrespective of when it is. And sometimes, a player gets a reputation that is difficult to shake.”

      So true… This is particularly evident seeing how on this blog some have come out with knives for Marquez. Working one’s way out of injury takes time as well, and often we as fans are quick to throw out one sprocket when the whole machine malfunctions.

    5. That’s true. I for one have had beef with Marquez. It can be very frustrating watching parts of our team struggle to keep par with the lofty expectations of our squad. Athletes will always be subject to criticism, after all they are paid to entertain. While criticism can be rough sometimes, specifically on Marquez, Busi, and Maxwell, don’t get it confused with disrespect. Fact is none of us can do anything near what the professionals of Barcelona can, or even Zaragoza. I know i can’t shoot as accurate as Keita, as strong as Puyol, pass like Busquets, defend like Marquez, cross like Maxwell, keep like Pinto. No matter what combination of gift/skill/hard work/discipline it is, they are great at the beautiful game. Even Xerez has players who are better at futbol than 99% of the world’s population. Being a professional athlete, earning money for entertaining fans, however, warrants criticism. Without criticism, where is the passion? If no one ever criticized anybody (excluding the ridiculous levels of Maradumber, Dumbenech, Weligton) what would we be doing HERE? Sadly, if an athlete can’t handle media, criticism, etc… maybe they should find a new career, or play for an obscure league with little global media, where less exposure means less money to go around. When was the last time, say an account, was criticized in a blog, newspaper, t.v. show?

      At the end of the day, if I saw Marquez in person I would be honored just to shake his hand. Of course he wouldn’t give a shit but…

      Besides, Txiki has already labeled him as the next priority, showing that Pep and the board have confidence in him and recognize his importance.

    6. “I know i can’t shoot as accurate as Keita”

      To illustrate this point especially, I just want to say: I would need 30 attempts to get ONE shot that flies as accurately (let’s not even talk powerfully) as Ibra did FOUR TIMES OUT OF FOUR today. It’s truly humbling…

    7. Well I scored a header on my first attempt and that was as pure a class finish as was Keita’s yesterday 😉
      I also scored a similar goal as of Messi’s in SuperCopa second leg & I think I can be pretty sure iniesta of all won’t score that! Yay!!!

  12. So true Jose. I didn’t see Marquez do anything wrong on the goal he tried to cover for 3 people, Maxwell, Txignasty, and himself because Maxwell made the wrong pass and Txignasty was to slow so all he could try to do was stymie the play which he did.

  13. I absolutely loved the goal where Keita appears out of nowhere, steals the ball, gives it to Xavi, vanishes, and seconds later comes out of thin air on the opposite end of the pitch to knock in Ibra’s cross.

    I literally had to rewind to track Keita on the play.

    Also, either his markers had no idea that he was there, or he had no idea that his markers where there, because he brutishly moved bodies, or outran bodies with blatant disregard of their existence to get to the end of those balls.

    I think Kxevin hit it spot on, that Keita really shines when the team is grooving, because it allows him to impose himself. When we are clunky, he is kinda stuck doing the inglorious dirty work.

    And Ibrahimovic. fuck, man… what an amazing game. Had it not been for Keita’s hat-trick, and his substitution, he would hands-down be the man of the match.

    It looked like he has been playing with the squad for years. His shots were hard and on-target. His passes were on point. His movement was deft and intelligent. He would have had a boatload of assists if Messi had boughten his shooting boots. Ibra brought the ballerina, the ninja, the gangsta, the beauty, and the best. We robbed Inter. ROBBED!

    And make no mistake, that keeper will have nightmares for a couple of days.

    1. May be injuring Casillas wrists is as good as scoring a hat-trick against Madrid, because Casillas is half the time their best player anyway & by injuring his wrists Ibra is almost a Liga winner 😛 Kidding, never wish harm to any player, especially Casillas because he guards Spain’s goal 🙂

  14. jnelson

    My point wasn’t that we can’t criticize the players for not performing, rather that players need time to get used to the team and sometimes to get their form back. They have to be able to make mistakes in that process.

    If 2 months from now, Marquez is still making the same mistakes, then fine, he will probably get benched. Before he got injured last season, he was playing fantastically. I have full confidence that he will be back to full strength in a month or so, but if Pep doesn’t put him out there, then he won’t get his rhythm back.

    Another example is Iniesta. He isn’t playing anywhere near the level he was at the end of last season, but do we really doubt that he has lost it?

    Busi will get better. I remember Iniesta coming in off the bench for Deco or Edmilson and making mistakes in the midfield, giving the ball away etc. That’s how you get better though. In 4 years, mark my words, Busi will be starting with Fabregas and Iniesta in the midfield for Spain.

    Nobody is harder on these players than themselves (well maybe Pep when he calls them into the office). We can call them out on it, but the sky isn’t falling. That’s all.

    Though one person we can all agree to criticize is Crynaldo. Everyone can get behind that.

  15. “All-in-all, I’m still on the fence about Keita, but I think he has tremendous potential and I’m willing to buy into the whole thing if he’s capable of co-existing rather than replacing. If he’s a replacement for Deco, he better have telepathic abilities with Messi and the capability to run into the corners while the front line shifts around. If he’s a replacement for Toure, I will need at least 4 trophies next year or it’s off with someone’s head. Period.”

  16. Speaking about the Zlatan freekick…

    Did anyone notice how excited Valdes got after it ?

    Dude must b thinkin… finally the goalkeepers sacrifice while letting Zlatan practice those blistering shots is paying off !! 😀

    U guys remember… when Pinto was complaining about how Zlatan always hurts them during training… ( he was even asking for a pay raise for it )

    1. So Ibra is costing us not just by his transfer fee and his own fee but also by bruising others hands huh!? LOL, I’m not complaining as long as he is oozing out that class. Also Pinto was only kidding that time & some people on Pep’s blog were like ‘the board is spoiling the kids by giving them extraordinary pay & the worst part is we can’t get proper suitors to buy when we put them on transfer market!’
      I was fucking proud today when my friend asked me the score & when I gave him all the details, he was like Ibra is saving your asses buddy! Well, I didn’t bother to explain him how it was all a team display because that dude still can’t get out of the impression Ibra gave to him by scoring that! goal against Rubin 🙂 And what makes me more proud is he made fun of us by saying Ibra was over-rated and we paid an exorbitant amount for him… I wonder how time changes the opinions!!!

    2. it is getting easier for the team to decide who to take freekicks from that range. alves never had that power and accuracy ibra demonstrated in the game. i am pretty sure he will become our new freekick scorer. but dude! this new freekick scorer is brutal like roberto carlos! but I LOVE IT!

    3. Not the first time Ibra demonstrated those qualities in his free-kicks… he had it in him always. I’m sad he wasn’t let to take any of those in the early part of the season because remember those games wherein he wanted to take defenders on his own because he didn’t score his first goal yet? With LOT of pressure of the transfer deal it became too much for him & the haters had some real good time 🙁 Anyway I’m happy it’s all in the past and Ibra is getting along very well… Hope he continues to improve 🙂

  17. Something to add about our first goal:
    I think the assist from Messi was a very special one, he saw that there was a free area straight in front of the goal in which Keita would run into. It was a perfect, soft cross. Also a great, strong run from Keita, but he was invited to do it due to Messi’s cross because he actually starts his run after Messi plays the ball.

    I agree that Keita is MOTM, but I was even more happy when Messi finally scored. He deserved it sooo much and I think for the whole team, it was more important than Keita’s hattrick. Damn, if the keeper didn’t get his finger tips to the first loft of Messi… but I shall not complain about this brilliant match, it’s unfair to the Madridistas who paied 250+ mio € and will never come close to such a genius play as ours 😉

    And I hope to see JDS, Fontas, Jeffren, Pedro, Bojan, Txigrinski etc. on Wednesday.

  18. – I agree with Jason. The second Keita goal was, like the announcers put it, a demonstration of what it means to be a modern day midfielder. THATS’s what a Barca “horse” box to box midfielder does. The dude tracks back, steals a ball, initiates a counter, runs back and overtakes everybody, turns on the jets when Ibra gets the ball, leaves a defender with a 2 yard head start in the dust after running all the way from his own box, and scores a goal. Incredible. The guy is a physical freak. No flash, just substance. This is what some of us mean when we say that Barca sometimes just needs more directness and Keita is just the man for that job.

    – I liked how our fullbacks did positionally today. We lose a lot with Alves on the bench and although Puyol did get caught up the field on the Zaragoza goal and lacks Alves’ recovery speed he was for the most part more positionally sound than Dani has been lately. Maxwell also did an excellent job picking his spots in attacking and defending. I loved his little “BFF’s” interplay with Ibra in one sequence and he seemed to have a good understanding with Iniesta. He did turn the ball over for the goal though.

    – Did you guys notice what we did with Iniesta in this game? He did spend some time as a left winger but for the most part he moved to midfield. How did we do this and why does it not happen more often? Usually with Dani on the right, Abidal has to pick his spots as to when to move forward. With Puyol on the right staying back more often than usual then Maxwell provided width thus allowing Iniesta to cut in. That’s not new. What was new was Keita playing more forward than usual and even taking turns on the left wing. Not to mention he did that well also, notching an assist in the process. Add to that Ibra drifting wide often to support the left and you see why our left hand side had one of its best games in recent memory.

    – Ibra put on a masterclass of a performance for a 9. His interplay is amazing. The chest pass to Messi for what should have been an assist, the dummy, the rabona pass to Maxwell, the goals… He is finally getting the diagonal runs. During his first games, I noticed he always seemed to be ready to break an offside trap, hugging the line and seemingly getting ready to explode. However, that meant no momentum. Now you see him making the diagonal runs that so often resulted in Henry and Samu goals last season. Its only a matter of time until he gets a hat trick or two. His second goal was a lot harder than it looked too.

  19. “Ran around, looked cute, showed some good energy, but didn’t have much of an effect.”

    It just struck me how much that quote sums up Bojan’s career up to this point.

    1. Sssssh! You will awaken the “He’s only a young’un” mafia. Don’t say you weren’t warned. 😀

    2. So true, Hector. It’s why I noted the left/right back up/back thing. Rarely will you see Maxwell and Alves in the side, because somebody has to stay home.

      As I said earlier, I think that Puyol’s ankle (whatever it was) was still bothering him, which affected his ability to get back to help defend on the goal.

      Oh, and the only thing that kept Ibra from being MOTM was Keita.

  20. Right on with your analysis of Keita’s game, Kevin. I was thinking along nearly identical lines, “Even without the goals scored, this is Keita’s best game at Barca ever”. Fully deserved 10. It’s bittersweet because now you realise what a BIGGER loss we’ll have in January with him and Yaya missing.

    But I’m really glad about his steady rise to prominence.

    I’m equally thrilled with the fact that we dominated so much with 3 stalwarts of the team missing :Dani alves, Yaya, and Henry. It says something. This is faaaaar from a Liverpool where a missing Gerrard and Torres means a side with no teeth

  21. Hector, I’ve noticed that our left side was particularly strong (offensive-wise) with Maxwell and also occasionally Keita on the wing. The Austrian commentator confused Maxwell, Messi and Ibra quite often. Perhaps he hasn’t seen a match of Maxwell yet, because almost every time when Maxwell was on the left wing doing some runs or dribblings, he was talking about Messi^^ And when Ibra scored his 2nd goal, he was also referring to Messi… what a professional!

    I also think that Messi has sometimes played the role he had during the CL final (maybe a CvOM – Central very Offensive Midfielder), because there was not much support for him on the right wing. But I was not surprised that Iniesta played more as a midfileder, probably because I’m still used to him as a midfielder and I forget that he was actually lined up as a left winger. 🙂

    And Ibra… he’s simply amazing! Those 2 shots he fired on goal when he was actually closely marked by the defenders, he’s got so much power and will to score on the one hand, but also makes brilliant assists (and brings some magic with him for the spectators, that was missed a bit since R10 left). I guess Pep must have known it, because now that Ibra’s been here for ~3 months, I’m convinced we couldn’t have made any better deal.

  22. Keita has really come into his own. For times last night, i felt as if we were shifting to 4 – 4 – 1 – 1 with Messi behind Ibra and a narrower midfield. Though due to our fluidity, we were never trully narrow.

    I still miss Etoo though Ibra is delivering on promises. He is hungry and wants to prove that he is of same class as Barca gods which is excellent. If we play like yesterday, there is no team in world that even comes close to us. Now i just hope we carry this form through November which is a crucial month for us.

    1. That’s always interesting, yogi. I think that the question has been coming up less and less, now that people are starting to understand what Ibrahimovic brings to the table.

      As I’ve said before, I’m on the record as loving and respecting what Eto’o did for the club. I just think, however, that Ibrahimovic is on another level because of his ball control and passing skills. Unfortunately, he doesn’t bring that constant running and motion to the table, which is something I think kept defenses on edge when Eto’o was in the side.

      But Ibra seems to make up for it with a very effective defensive presence, particularly now that he’s getting match fit. He won a few balls yesterday, and we’ve already seen what his size can do in winning balls on set pieces.

      I just hope that the wound has healed sufficiently that we can evaluate Ibrahimovic in his context, without the presumption that positive words about what he brings to the side are a diss of Eto’o and his immense contributions. Because Ibra has a long way to go to reach that level, and he might never get there. But if he keeps going as he is now, I’ll consider his transfer fee money well spent.

  23. Great comment from Pep about Ibra (excerpt of a guardian-article):

    Guardiola said criticism after Tuesday’s Champions League defeat to Russian champions Rubin Kazan at the Nou Camp had helped focus the players’ minds and he paid tribute to the raw power of Ibrahimovic’s free-kicks.
    “You should see him in training,” Guardiola told a news conference. “When he shoots our keepers tremble with fear.” 😀

    1. HAHA. Amazing quote and I can see why after his FK vs Zaragoza. Some people might way the keeper should have done better but that shot was an aboslute rocket and i dont think many keepers would have had the hands to stop it.

      If he can pull those off with any sort of regularity then we have yet another dimension to our game. Add to that the fact that teams will have to think twice before commiting fouls in midfield and we just get more and more dangerous….

    2. I am not a big fan of Crynaldo but his free kicks are similar. It is good that Valdes can get some practice before El Classico.

    3. helde can you link the article pls? i was looking for it but couldn’t find it. I’d like to read it.

  24. Not for nothin’, but I just want to say personally I never doubted the whole Ibra deal. I knew he would come in and dominate. From the start I knew that his style of play was going to open entirely different dimensions and approaches to our overall game. I can only imagine the pain that goalkeeper must be feeling in his palms today. That being said, I didn’t realize his goal output was going to be this high!

    I think this game shows that domestically (la liga) no one can really challenge us. They might be able to stifle our attack by clogging lanes and man marking Xavi, but all in all we are the best in La Liga. (Real Madrid could not score against a Sporting Gijon team we beat 3-0). To me the real test will be how we do in European competitions. Everyone is out for our head, and like Rubin showed, these aren’t newly promoted la liga teams. I’m basking in the glory of our win yesterday, but my mind and thoughts are only thinking about how we must show the rest of Europe the same kind of talent and ability to just steamroll teams.

    1. Yeah! Ever since we won the treble & Madrid went out of bounds to sign all those players I wanted us to win the Liga desperately so that it would be like a slap in the face for EE. Moreover to win a CL you need to have some luck, we had that against Chelsea & we went on to win the CL, and I’m sure some day a similar last minute goal comes back to bite us, some other time if not this time. And I didn’t want our boys to burn themselves out going for CL and risk our chances of winning the Liga, especially since Madrid boasted of their never ending depth & their bench is really the strongest there is… But then after our blip against Rubin, I realized if the Spanish teams lose their domination in the CL after just 1 year(because all these years only Barca went as far as semis!) the English media would be back blowing their trumpets explaining the world how good the EPL is and they also would have an excellent point to back their argument because this year’s CL if not won by a Spanish side then it is definitely an English side’s… Don’t see the likes of Inter, Juventus, Bayern, Wolfburg & Milan go much far. May be Lyon, but doubt they have what it takes to win the CL!!
      So my football wishes this season:
      1)Barca winning the Liga, Club World Cup & going as far as possible in CL. CDR would be awesome, would show the Catalans true domination over the Spanish King’s Cup 😉
      2)Sevilla, if not Barca, goes to the CL final and shows the world how football should be played 🙂

    2. I can’t see any non-Premiership side except for us winning Champions League, unless the EE comes together very quickly, and can defeat the injury bug that seems to be hitting them. They only had one striker for the Gijon match, which is hardly a good way to go about business.

      But full-on and healthy, I think they’re another strong candidate. The other leagues just don’t offer the quality on attack and defense that the Liga big two and the Prem entrants offer (not universally, it should be said. I think that Sevilla has a better shot at winning the CL than Arsenal).

      I also think that people are giving Rubin Kazan too much credit for their win. As I said in the review, if this side shows up last Tuesday, it’s a 2-0 or 3-0 win for us. Hopefully, they can build on the momentum and positive feelings of the Zaragoza dismantling, and realize that they can do that to anyone in the world.

    3. Not really!! They had their due credit in having their defenses organized… But it’s just that it made me realize that Barca now have an extra responsibility to win CL, not just because for their own personal glory to boast off winning 2 successive Cls but also that they owe it to the whole Spain nation. After all, Raul being our first enemy for years now & us being the same for him, he publicly supported us in CL all those times when only us made a decent run. They fulfilled one wish by winning a treble, now I wish they do that thing which was never done b4, win the CL in consecutive years and shut the arrogant english asses forever!!!

    4. I second that. I’m tired of “experts” dissing us like we don’t even belong in the same company of the “big four”.

    5. I really don’t get this sort of outrage. I read a bunch of english sources and commentary(BBC sports and the like, not tabloids), and a large majority of the commentary on Barcelona is comprised of praise bordering on envy. Where do you find this stuff?

    6. @UAI
      Well, I think you have to take another look at our match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, when Iniesta scored that Golazo of the century a very well-known commentator called Andy Gray lost his words for a few seconds and the first thing he utters was “Oh! No!!” May be you will start ignoring those arrogant bastards & wait until the CL final for the greater good 😛

    7. ^^ That’s because most English people (that I know, but I assume this applies widely) have followed the game for much much longer than foreign (read: non-European) fans. They know that AC Milan and Real Madrid were the bees knees in the 90s, and that Valencia, Bayern Munich, et al. aren’t pushovers–and neither are their leagues. Also, that Barca is the measure by which all other clubs are normalized. They know the history.

      It’s when you talk to fans who are newer to the game (typically not from areas where it’s traditionally popular, i.e. Latin America, Europe, Africa, Middle East) that you are more likely to find the paradigm of the EPL’s *unquestioned* superiority. This means mainly American and Asian followers who’s main exposure in club football has been to the EPL and its insanely good marketing, and only secondarily to La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga.

      Which is why I say, that just as easily had La Liga or Serie A had any sense (and had been run more efficiently), they would have marketed heavily in Asia and the United States before the EPL. Having taken advantage of that window, today the shoe would be on the other foot, and we’d be talking about those “plucky English clubs” rather than the “unbeatable CLAM”.

      Note: it helps that the EPL is fundamentally in the English language.

    8. Yeah, we should have a poll for best Champions league final.

      1. Barcelona-Sevilla (3-2)- Really rubs it in for Madrid that both la liga teams are in.

      2. Barcelona-EE (5-0)

      3. Barcelona-Chelsea (7-1)- Essien cracker again, but too late

      4. Barcelona-Arsenal (5-4)- Both teams play 2-4-4

      5. Sevilla-Arsenal (5-4)- The only teams I want in the final if we don’t make it.

    9. Not to be arrogant or anything but I like (2). Nothing like beating the EE in club futbol’s biggest game in their own stadia. I think an interesting path to that final would be playing Arsenal, ManU, Chelsea, but that would definitely be a gauntlet nobody would ask for. You do have to beat the best to be the best though…

    10. ha yes I know. I am talking about the old brazil system where they play with 4 strikers (2-4-4 not 4-4-2).

      But I guess they could play a 3-3-4.

    11. ahh… 2-4-4…

      as in:



  25. Keita: minute 40:30- In his teams own 30yrd are making a defensive play by stealing the ball. Minute 40:50, he is sliding into the other teams goal, along with a small gift called a soccer ball. The play was not a breakaway either, but a quick transition build-up that he tracked all the way. Two or three plays later, puyol was the one receiving a pass in a right side attackers position. I was watching this with my Man U cousin, and he goes,”what the hell is this?” Ahhh, I loved it!

    Ibra played very well in this game. He looks completely settled and comfortable in the system. Like it has been pointed out before, his interplay and passing is beautiful. More diagonal runs and situational awareness will help him avoid too many offsides(unnecessary turnovers). With this kind of service, I think he can shed that ‘small team killer’ reputation. I’m liking him on this team more and more.

    I liked Busquets confidence in this game. You could see clearly that he acted like he belongs. I agree that he needs to stop flailing and acting like Alves.There was a play where messi was fouled, he fell, got up quickly and wanted to keep running but the whistle had gone off. Thats who Busquets should learn from. I believe better results come when you focus on doing what you are supposed to, like Torres fighting through Rio Ferdinands challenge to score the game winner, as opposed to Drogba who acts as if he has been given an upper-cut by a defender half his size who barely touched him.

    Is Gudjohnsen still with the team? I had assumed he was sold but he was at camp nou yesterday.

    Can Maxwell play rightback if Puyol is injured? He is intelligent enough to work some magic with Messi on that side.

    I still like Bojan, given time he will be better than Aguero i believe.

    I’m itching for a re-match with Rubin Kazan!

    1. Guddy is with Monaco. He was just there watch the game, that’s all. His wife is fine, though.

  26. Another take on the goal we conceded: perhaps Xavi was caught a little unawares? I’m definitely not the guy to criticize Xavi, but my impression of where that goal began was when a Zaragoza attacker blew behind him and took the ball before he even touched it. I know, the pass was behind him, but it was certainly within leg-distance. I thought he wanted to let the ball pass him and control it to face the other side, when halfway through the turn he noticed he was too close to an attacker and…

    Anyway, what a great match to watch. Keita got a hattrick, dammit, you can’t beat that. Should’ve been seven goals, since one Ibra goal (would’ve been 3 or 4-0 at that point) got taken off the board because of that idiot linesman who for me got several calls wrong.

    “…overall, an excellent performance when they could have just phoned it in and won 2-0 or something.” Did anyone see Arsenal a couple hours before Zaragoza? I couldn’t believe how lazily they pissed away that lead.

    1. Arsenal pissed me off too Alexinho. I love them and they produce magic, albeit unconsistently, but they really piss me off sometimes.

      That’s why the pwnage dished out by Barca 2 hours later was much needed

    2. Call it coincidence or what ever, but just when City’s game was over and I was explained about the way they threw away their 2-0 lead I reacted saying no matter how much money you invest may be you can’t just take out mid-table tea-mentality completely out of their system because they put LOT of effort and win against strong opposition and add some complacency to those efforts to throw away points against comparatively mediocre opponents… It was half-time o Arsenal’s game by that time. now later on as I was watching the scores there goes Arsenal giving away a penalty in the dying minutes!!!

  27. Now that there’s still a chance of us considering to sign Hernanes in January, I watched Sao Paulo highlights yesterday… Not to take any thing away from Ibra’s FK, but this one from Hernanes is one hell of a strike really. Have a look at it once

    1. as much as i love hernanes and think he’d fit in perfectly to our system and most importantly give xavi some rest, i’m thinking barcelona’s long time plans center around fabregas. we’re more likely to go after a defensive midfielder a la mascherano than a xavi type player. i think bouquets and j-dubs should be able to give xavi sufficient down time up until we swoop for fabregas.

    2. Hernanes is more like an Essien or some body, a Box-To-Box mid-fielder. We do have 2 very good players of that profile, The Yaya & Keiteee, only Yaya molded himself into the best DM at Barca. I wouldn’t mind an Essienesque in our team! Never!! They give a lot of options on-field, would definitely be vital parts to change our formation or tactics according to the opposition… Agree, buying a DM would solve our issues during ACN but Keiteee & Xavi are not getting any younger. Xavi, because of his playing style, can still give 2-3 years of his best service after this season, but I don’t expect the same with Keiteee because his robust playing style demands a LOT of work-rate(remember his second goal yesterday & the praise he attracted by all of us because he seemed to have appeared all over the pitch this season!) and he’s 30 come January!!
      Though bringing a world-class DM, would get The Yaya up-front and he’d be available to give those keiteeesque performances but are you sure we are gonna find a DM as good as The Yaya? With whom Xaviniesta can remain as assured as they are when they have The Yaya guarding them!?

    3. 1) Nice FK
      2) I didn’t realize the brasilerao scored so many header goals
      3) I can’t believe Rogerio Ceni is still playing AND scoring goals as a keeper. What the hell.

    4. I just looked it up: he’s scored 84 goals! He’s a keeper! And no, at this point, it doesn’t matter that almost half of his goals were penalties because the other half were free kicks. Crazy!

    5. its no wonder why sao paolo’s slump coincided w/his absence earlier this year. his experience & calm at the back are enough to get them winning again.

  28. look who’s training w/the first team:
    “los defensas Iván Benítez y Andreu Fontàs, el centrocampista Jonathan Dos Santos y los delanteros Jonatan Soriano y Gai Assulin”


    1. Thanks Isaiah… for ruining happy thoughts…

      Yay for Youngins playing copa…
      Boo for having to stream that bitch…

  29. here’s another cruyff article: ¿Final de ciclo? Es un chiste, ¿no?


  30. Excerpt from the Phil Ball article (sorry if it’s been brought up):

    “And what is worse? To go down unexpectedly to a little-known force [Rubin Kazan], or to lose whenever you come up against anything decent, which seems to be the case so far with Real Madrid.”



  31. Even though he just came back from injury, I’m starting to worry that Iniesta has forgotten to do his favorite simple trick where he gets around the defend by shifting the ball from one foot to the other. He still is a great player, but that trick really made him out of this world and I worry that his season won’t be as good as it is supposed to be, because of the injury.

  32. Yaya Toure :
    Started all 3 CL matches, played 90+67+90=247min
    was unused in 4 Liga matches, started 4 matches, came on as sub in 1 match; played 90+25+78+90+90=373 minutes
    Total minutes played=620minutes

    Busi :
    Started none of CL matches, came on as sub in 2 of them; played 25min
    Started 5 Liga matches, came on as sub in 2 matches, unused in 1 match; played 90+11+75+12+90+90+90=459minutes
    Supercup, came on as sub and played 21minutes
    Total minutes played=505minutes

    However I think that these stats & how Busi is used in most of the Liga matches, while The Yaya in CL matches indicate Busi is well on his way to become the main DM in our system… May be we might not even consider to sign any mid-fielder during January, let alone a DM & even if we do sign a mid-fielder it might as well be a cup-tied, attacking mid-fielder loan signing(remember here we are kinked with a certain Danny Miguel), the way Busi is earning Guardiola’s confidence, Keita has improved his worth in the squad & the fact that both the Africans would be available for CL kock-out stage provided they are not injured of course!
    ACN is scheduled from Jan 10-31… Though it starts on 10th, they would be called well before & are gonna miss our match against Villareal, might miss match against Getafe as well due to the fatigue factors, provided both of them get to finals. Total 6 matches.

  33. Great game for Keita! Wonderful to see Ibra get the recognition. Messi scoring and getting an assist was awesome. Busquet is improving game after game. Anyone else think that Pep might opt to use Chygy as a DM when The Yaya and Keita are gone in January?

    One thing i’m really happy about is that a lot of the players are getting some much needed rest now.

  34. Terrific game and the (minimal) doubt I had about Ibra being the real deal for Barca has disappeared. That freakin free kick was outrageous. I don´t want Alves anywhere near the free kicks from now on. Massive, massive game from Keita as well. Real Madrid might have some big names but their game flow and team spirit is light years behind ours and I honestly can’t see them challenging us for the title this year. Nice to see Guddy watching his former teammates play from the stands- just like last season!

  35. sorry to harp on about your busquets inquisition, but how the hell do you give busquets a 6? come on man. that is just ridiculous. best game hes played in ages, he was solid. i was there at the game and he was truly a treat to watch. smooth, in control, did the little things and the hard things right.

    he made one stupid pass where he tried to get too fancy… one… pass. other than that he was perfect.

  36. especially since xavi gets an 8 when, even though maxwell’s pass wasn’t that great, xavi let it run past him and it was more his fault than maxwell’s. i’ll have to watch the game again to be sure, but from the stands (the play was right in front of me) it did seem xavi’s mistake.

  37. Random observation:

    Keita copied Zlatan’s celebration when he score his hattrick, which I think is the reason Zlatan was smiling on the bench 🙂

    1. Apparently, Keita and Ibra have some inside joke going regarding celebrations. Keita also made a motion that looked like he was plucking a guitar when Ibra scored his 2nd referring to a song Keita listens to, I believe.

      Regarding Ibra’s jump/fist pump thing, I think no one does that quite like he does. He has a unique way of doing it lol.

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