Match Review: Villareal 0 – 0 Barcelona: Missing Opportunities

Barcelona opened the current La Liga season in spectacular fashion defeating a then highly promising Villareal side 5-0. Utilizing a new formation and integrating new players, Barca produced football that was both remarkably fluid and effective. Even within the standards of the Guardiola-era Barcelona project, that match marked a noteworthy highlight of dynamic, attacking play.

Five months later, Barcelona was thwarted by a doggedly determined Villareal team, one that has itself been depleted by players lost to injury and sales since that first Liga match. Villareal deserves a great deal of praise for their disciplined, hard working performance, particularly given the recent context surrounding the club (the impending sale of Nilmar despite lack of depth at the striker position in particular the most recent difficulty). First and foremost, the story of this match was Villareal earning a favorable result.

Fabregas Sums Up the Mood (Photo: Courtesy FC Barcelona)

Barcelona, however, was clearly far from their best and not remotely close to operating at the level they achieved in the 5-0 match against the Yellow Submarine that opened the season. The 0-0 draw now sees Barcelona fall seven points back in the Liga race.

The debate for why Barcelona dropped points in this match and their recurring problems away from home will be one that will be vigorously debated from now all the way until the beginning of next season. However, one of the features of this match that I found particularly striking was the continuity in the quality of performance between this match the mid-week match against Real Madrid. Interestingly, this week demonstrated a Barcelona side exhibiting certain negative characteristics both home and away. We’ll examine a few of the factors which may have come in play in this review.

Context: Injuries and Lineup

As has been the story for much of this season for Barcelona, injuries set the context for how they would need to structure their play. With the injuries to Iniesta and Sanchez in the mid-week Clasico Barca entered this match with only twelve outfield player.

Unfortunately, in the morning it became known that Pedro has picked up a hamstring injury in training Friday and would be unavailable. In an emergency measure, Barcelona re-evaluated the Sanchez and determined that he could play with pain killers and was activated as “fit” to play.

As such, Barcelona entered this match with eleven healthy first team outfield players. That is an extraordinary figure, particularly given the importance of this match. Guardiola filled out his bench with newly promoted Isaac Cuenca and B team players. However, because the team had such little margin for error in the Liga race, using young players in a match on the road was going to be difficult.

Over the course of the season we’ve become almost acclimated, perhaps numbed, to the team playing short. But in this match the team literally came close to having the bare minimum number of experienced outfield players. The most experienced fully healthy player on the bench was Thiago, a young player himself newly promoted at the start of this season.

Mascherano's Goal Line Clearance (Courtesy: FC Barcelona)

What intensified this situation was the fact that Barca played a grueling mid-week match against their biggest rivals only three days prior, a match in which the team was already looking visibly fatigued.

Lineup

Given the lack of options, Guardiola’s initial line up almost wrote itself. He again elected to use the core group of players who were both healthiest and most experienced, a cohort which has been playing consistently every three days: Valdes/ Alves/ Puyol/ Pique/ Abidal/ Xavi/ Busquets/ Mascherano/Cesc Messi/ Adriano.

The only real surprise in the line up was Guardiola electing not to start Thiago. In the Madrid match, Barcelona looked fatigued in midfield, Fabregas in particular. Against Villareal, Guardiola elected to utilize that core midfield again, playing Fabregas, Xavi, and Busquets once more and adding Mascherano. Playing Busquets and Mascherano together rather than installing Thiago likely was motivated by playing away from home against a team that can be dangerous in possession.

The “Right” Tactics

The key to beating the Villareal system in terms of tactics is utilizing width. Villareal’s dynamic 4-4-2 requires the advanced midfielders, the interiores, to do double duty as wingers in a 4-4-2 when out of possession and as midfielders in a 4-2-2-2 when in possession. Attacking Villareal through width stretches the interiores and breaks the tight balance Villareal seeks to maintain. This is particularly true in transitions situations.

Guardiola utilized a 3-5-2/3-4-3 type of formation in this match with Alves and Adriano opening as modified wingers.

Tactically, this was the right formation in many regards. Adriano and Alves were both available as outlets for the ball. Adriano was the player who had the most time and space on the ball, often finding himself largely free on the pitch.

Unfortunately Tactics Alone Aren’t Enough

While the system Guardiola chose was fundamentally sound, his team lacked the dynamism needed to implement it successfully.

Again, as in the mid-week match against Madrid, Barcelona’s off the ball movement, ball circulation and pressing were severely lacking. At their best Barcelona play with a precision and crispness that are underpinned by dynami movement. It is that dynamic movement which allows a team with limited physicality to thrive and produce breath taking football. But when the movement is missing the Barcelona system breaks down.

Still Making Runs (Courtesy: FC Barcelona)

Against Villareal this breakdown was best exemplified by the way the defense operated in the first half. Barcelona utilized a three man backline for most of the first half. While there is nothing “new” about using a three man backline and other teams do so now, the way Barcelona has implemented its three man backline is very innovative.

Rather than clustering the three center backs together towards the center of the pitch, Barca spread their lateral center backs wide and actively incorporate the entire backline into the possession game and “attack.” For example, in this match against Villareal, Puyol, the nominal R lateral CB, not only played close to the touchline but also got up field high almost as an attacking full back. Without these innovations, the three man backline can create significant inefficiencies.

There are of course trades offs in the way Barca structures its back three. Most important of these is the following. By spreading the lateral CBs so wide, large channels are opened up between the CB and the lateral defenders. The three backs aren’t able to defend as a tightly knit “wall” as other three man backlines do.

This large channels mean that the Barca three man backline can only provide solidity through energetic movement, pace and flawless positional reading of the game at the back. Even more importantly the backline can only remain intact if the entire team defends as a highly coordinated unit, pressuring the ball and winning it back.

Over and over in the first half, Barcelona lacked the dynamism to defend as it does when it is at its best. The advanced defenders didn’t pressure the ball aggressively enough. This left the back three exposed. This was made worse by a lack of sharpness at the back.

In turn Villareal was able to generate multiple dangerous chances in the first half that were stopped only by a very last minute intervention. Eric Abidal repeatedly made critical defensive plays to thwart dangerous attacks, often as the last defender.

If there was one play that captured the match in microcosm for me it was on in which Villareal attacked on a counter and Puyol had to close space to defend. Villareal’s attack stalled for a moment from a poor touch and Puyol had the opportunity to break up the attack. It wasn’t the easiest of chances but one he makes consistently. But in this game Puyol made a meal of the clearance and the Villareal regained its counter. It was only through a last minute intervention from a Abidal that a clear goal scoring chance was thwarted.

I bring this instance up not as a criticism of Puyol. To the contrary I bring it up for what it says about the state of the team as a whole. There’s no question about the Captain’s heart or his desire to to compete. There is no question that Puyol wanted to get to the ball and suffocate the developing danger. But he was simply a step slow in closing down the play – a step he usually has when he’s playing as we expect him to. Against Villareal, that step simply wasn’t there.

And again, this wasn’t only an issue of the backline or playing three at the back. Barcelona played three at the back against Villareal in their first encounter this season and dominated. When the team is right and playing at a high level, they are able to play three at the back and maintain solidity, as was well demonstrated by the first Clasico of this season at the Bernabeu.

In this second match against Villreal, however, the team’s advanced pressure defense was slow as well and not nearly as dynamic as it should be. The net result of this was that the backline had to absorb more responsibility then they usually need to. In this regard many of the problems at the back were more symptoms than cause.

Guardiola adjusted for these difficulties by converting from three at the back to four at the back in the second half. This decreased the space between the channels in the backline. The extra defender provided more cover and Barca defended much more solidly in the second half. Interestingly, when Guardiola elected to sub on Sanchez to augment the attack he removed Pique from the match and moved Mascherano to CB alongside Puyol.

Playing three at the back has been a controversial and much focused on tactic from Guardiola, one that is still in evolution. But on the whole what we’ve seen can be summarized as follows. Playing three at the back gives Barcelona tremendous flexibility and adds significant richness to how they can organize possession and orchestrate the attack. However, the formation entails certain risks as well. On the whole the team can afford to take those risks when it is playing at its best. Under those circumstances the team is able to maintain defensive solidity against the best of sides. However, if the team isn’t operating at its highest level, three at the back leaves open vulnerabilities . In a sense, the team operates with less margin for error and less robustness with three at the back.

Villareal Simplify their Gameplan and Defend Solidly

Villareal can struggle in transition situations because their formation has to switch between a 4-2-2-2 in possession to a 4-4-2 in defense. If the opposition can play the ball out widely with speed after dispossessing Villareal then the only defender the Yellow Submarine may have is the full back, who himself is required to push up field in attack (this is a reason why Villareal often seems to struggle with Real Madrid-transition defense along the flanks).

Against Barcelona, the Yellow Submarine enjoy less possession then they are accustomed to. That hurts their style of play, but one of the side effects to this is that is also reduces the number of transition situations they find themselves in.

In this last match, Villareal stayed more organized in a 4-4-2 block and playing on the counter. The interiores stayed wide to defend and pulled centrally in mostly to counter.

This meant that Barcelona’s attack was faced with the task of breaking down Villreal’s organized block. Maintaining shape generally isn’t a real strength of Villareal’s, but in this match they did it well and worked extremely hard. They stayed compact and clotted the middle while also making sure to track Dani Alves on the right flank.

Barcelona Doesn’t Respond Adequately

Barcelona simply lacked the rapid ball circulation and off the ball movement needed to break this shape. As in the Real Madrid match, the Barca attack operated at too low a tempo and was too static.

Watching this match the recurring words that kept coming to mind was, “faster, faster, faster.” But they were never able to play the ball with the velocity they usually do. The extra energy and sharpness were missing.

These problems were compounded by a lack of precision. Barcelona’s pass accuracy in this match was only 84%. For comparison, in the first match against Villareal this season the team’s pass accuracy was 91%.

The Left Flank a Lost Opportunity

When teams focus on defending Barcelona it’s nearly impossible for them to defend all of the players that need to be marked while also controlling space. Trade offs have to be made. In this match Villareal made sure to keep shape in the center while also tracking Alves and then Sanchez on the right.

This approach worked well as those areas were heavily defended. But in doing so Villareal had to concede space along the left flank. This is a strategy we see teams take recurrently against Barcelona, particularly in the wake of Villa’s injury.

And in many ways it makes sense. Abidal is a great defensive LB – but he’s not going to make too many aggressive forward runs. With Villa injured long term, Pedro lost form and Iniesta being more comfortable in the center than on the flank, it’s the left flank that makes the most sense to concede.

However, this means that it is imperative for Barcelona to create damage out of that area. The left flank players are often the only ones on the entire Barcelona team who have time and space on the ball. This match was no different.

Adriano was the Barcelona player with the most time and space on the ball in an advanced position. Barcelona’s best chance to create danger and score was through him. Adriano’s shown that he’s more than capable of doing this with his runs and crosses. Unfortunately, Adriano didn’t read the match well and isolated himself. He stationed himself high up the pitch. This is his tactical role. However, in this match, Barcelona was never able to fully exert control of midfield through its precision passing game. As such, Adriano isolated himself and the game was determined behind him. And by staying high up the pitch and wide, he was unable to support the quality of the possession game.

In addition, Barcelona fell into a pattern they will revert to when they aren’t playing well – they tried to force the ball through the middle via Messi (and Fabregas too often).

But it was that left flank where the goal needed to come from. And this became all the more apparent when Tello entered the match. Substituted on with roughly fifteen minutes to play, B team winger Cristian Tello had an immediate impact on the match. With his pace and explosiveness he was able to beat the Villareal RB at will. In the brief period of time he was in the match, he generated a number of strong scoring opportunities and was the most dangerous player on the pitch. Unfortunately, Barcelona couldn’t convert those opportuities into an end product.

The left flank was open all game long. If there was one thing I hoped Pep would have done sooner was make adjustments to how the team was going to utilize the space in that area as that was the region where Barcelona could have found oxygen.

The Future? Tello An Electric Wire of a Player (Courtesy: FC Barcelona)

A Handful of Opportunities that Weren’t Finished

In the end, Barcelona had three to four terrific goal scoring opportunities – one to Messi and two to Fabregas in particular stand out– none of which were converted.

Messi’s chip was indicative of the entire match. That’s a shot we’ve seen him make over and over. This wasn’t a case where he forced the chip and the keeper was in position to anticipate it or defend it. The keeper was perfectly set up for a chip. Messi just missed – but not by much. That play was just emblematic of the lack of cutting edge the team demonstrated all night long.

Fabregas’s miss at the end of the game was a golden opportunity for the team to salvage three points from a poor performance. But Fabregas scuffed his shot on what was close to an open goal and sailed the ball well over the cross bar. It was the culmination of what was Fabregas’s worse game in the colors.

It’s easy to lament and say that the game was lost because of poor finishing. However, most matches can be chalked up to a team “not taking its chances.” Football however isn’t a game characterized by efficiency in scoring. Even players considered to be great finishers don’t come close to scoring on the vast majority of their opportunities. The primary factor that drives scoring isn’t necessarily high precision scoring – it’s generating a large number of high quality chances. Eventually a few will go in.

This game wasn’t simply decided by the team not finishing a handful of high quality opportunities. It was decided by the fact that they generated so few strong opportunities to score in the first place. When you do that every miss seems cataclysmic. But when Barca is playing well – we wouldn’t necessarily have paid so much attention to those three to four great chances not being finished because others would have been created and they would have scored on some of them.

Evaluation

Team: A very disappointing performance in what was a match they couldn’t afford to drop points in. The squad was off in most phases the match: defending, possession, transition and attack. These are matches that happen to most sides during the season. But given the context of La Liga, it was an off match which the team couldn’t afford to have.

Guardiola: Set out to play with the team’s preferred system of aggressive attacking on a night where his players just didn’t have it. Pep’s preference is to stick with his players and let them save close games. He’s been through so much with them and they’ve produced so many remarkable moments this makes sense. But it also means that he tends to leave changes for late. And this was a match in which earlier changes were probably warranted given the team’s lack of tempo and rhythm.

Valdes: Was strong when called upon, making several excellent saves when needed, particularly one off of a shot from Senna.

Alves: An off day to say the least for Dani. He played high up the pitch for much of the first half but simply didn’t contribute a great deal in possession. His passing and touch were curiously off. Just a bad match.

Puyol: Showed great heart and determination. And he didn’t play poorly in any way. But he was just playing a step slower then he usually does. At the same time a great deal was asked of him in this match – especially the amount of space he was responsible for defending in the first half. At the end of the Madrid match Puyol looked like he’d completely emptied the tank. It was surprising to see him start again today. But once Barca converted to a back four and he moved to CB from RB, he was solid again. Not a bad match from the Captain – more one that was strange to see in some moments.

Pique: Not his worst match of the season. But not nearly his best. This continues a concerning trend in Pique’s play this season. What makes this particularly disappointing that at 24 it is Pique who really needs to be shouldering more and more of the burden of the backline from Puyol and Abidal. Instead, it too often continues to be those two older defenders who have to support Pique. In a match of this importance the team needed much more from Pique. He needs to turn things around.

Abidal: A draw was very disappointing. The team couldn’t afford to drop two points. But perhaps the primary reason the match was a draw rather than a loss was Abidal’s play in the first half. He shut down multiple dangerous counters covering for other defenders either being in poor position or getting beat. At his age it feels like he’s getting better. Man of the match for making sure Barca escaped with at least one point.

Mascherano: Defended well and his flexibility allowed Guardiola to make needed changes and convert to four at the back to stabilize the defense. Started the game in the holding midfield spot where he played deep – deeper than Busquets usually does (which may have been due to the dangerous counters Villareal was generating). Was fine in possession playing a relatively conservative game (completed 85% of his passes). Brilliant goal line clearance off of a Villareal set piece saved a goal and potentially a loss.

Busquets: An ambiguous match. Generally did the things he always does well at a quality level: maintain ball possession, act as an outlet, circulate the ball. However, he wasn’t playing as a pure holding midfielder today. The team could have used some attacking thrust from Busquets. At this point, the opposition defense almost assumes Busquets will do little of direct danger. Xavi needed more help to shoulder the load of the attack.

Xavi: A strained performance. Frankly, he looked taxed and fatigued. That he was subbed off with 15 minutes remaining in a 0-0 match spoke volumes to where Xavi was physically. We often talk about Dani Alves’s remarkable work rate and stamina. But in many matches it is Xavi who runs the most on the team. It’s difficult to notice because Xavi doesn’t go on direct vertical runs. Instead he’s the player who is in near constant motion. As the central midfielder he constantly has to run and find space within the interior of the pitch both to control possession and to make himself available for the other players to pass to. Right now he looks like a tired player – much as he did in the second half against Madrid. One of the slight disappointments of this season has been the fact that despite bringing in Fabregas and promoting Thiago, Xavi isn’t receiving any more rest than he has in the past. Midfield was the area where Barca actually went out and built a significant amount of depth. But it hasn’t lessened the burden on Xavi.

Fabregas: What’s to say? A brilliant player who had one of those matches. He was just outright terrible in this match. It wasn’t even the missed shots on goal. Fabregas played a slow, lethargic game. And in some respects it’s difficult to blame him – he likely shouldn’t even have been out on the pitch as he looked exhausted against Madrid. It’s easy to forget, but Fabregas has played relatively little football over the past three seasons because he’s been recurrently injured. Right now it looks like he may be hitting a physical wall as he’s been playing every three days in multiple competition for an extended period of time. His touch and passing were errant in this match. And usually Fabregas is exemplary in his work rate. That too was absent. He just looked exhausted. Completed only 78% of his passes. While that wasn’t the lowest on the team (Messi-77%; Adriano 78%) one expects much more than a 78% pass accuracy rate from a Barcelona midfielder.

Messi: Not his match. With the line up Guardiola had to go with, the key question that was very evident was where would the goals come from? Ultimately, there were only two goal scoring threats on the pitch. This made it easy for Villareal to overplay the center – that was the region both Messi and Fabregas like to play through. Messi is used to this – but he also was a step off and didn’t have the dynamism in his play needed to break down a defense structured to make any player other than Messi beat them.

Adriano: Played too tactically if that makes sense. Stayed wide on the flank and high, but in doing so isolated himself from the game. His teammates should have gotten him the ball more. But he also needed to read what was going on and become more aggressive in making himself available. Instead he played a somewhat passive match. This is a difficult position for a player like Adriano to be in. He was the player with the most time and space on the ball. The attack needed to flow through him if only to start opening up other parts of the pitch. He needed to involve himself more directly. Instead he waited for his midfielders to find him and direct the ball to him. It never really happened.

Sanchez: Gamely tried to play despite a sprained shoulder which was ruling him out of the match prior to Pedro’s injury. Had limited influence on the match overall. He played a brilliantly 1-2 to Messi at the end of the match in space so tight it almost wasn’t there that almost won the team the match.

Thiago: Surprised to not see him start – which again shows that while Guardiola believes as much in young players as almost anyone in the world – he believes they have to be given responsibilities in controlled situations where they are in a position to thrive. Thiago started the first match Barca played against Villareal this season and played extremely well. But on the road, in late January, Guardiola elected to go with more experienced players. When he did come on in this match did well, adding movement to midfield.

Tello: While on the pitch Tello was perhaps the most dynamic attacking presence Barcelona had. Using his pace and skill on the ball, the winger was able to beat the Villareal defense repeatedly. It became apparent quickly that Villareal backline simply couldn’t cope with Tello physically. He added an element of explosiveness that Barelona have in limited supply and that quality significantly expanded the nature of the Barcelona attack. His entry marked the first time when Barcelona really started to exploit the open space Villareal was conceding on the left flank. While Adriano also has strong pace the difference on the left flank when Tello came on was that he used the ball to run at the defenders and make them defend in open space.

The End:

A lackluster display sees Barcelona dropping two very costly points sending them further behind the top of the table. Barcelona have now dropped more points away from home than they did all of last season. That’s a remarkable statistics. However, perhaps what’s even more concerning, is the echoes between this match and the midweek match against Madrid at home. Both home and away Barcelona played at a much lower pace, less precision and less cutting edge then we are accustomed to seeing them play with.

Watching the Madrid match mid-week, what really concerned me wasn’t even the result – it was the relatively lethargic way Barcelona played. It reminded me of the match last year the team played against Arsenal in the first leg of the CL and matches in the second half of the season where the team struggled to play with the verve and energy they did when they were at their best. It’s easy to forget after winning La Liga and the Champions League Trophy, but this Barca struggled at times in the second half of last season. And it was only after the players got a full two week break after wrapping up La Liga early that they returned to playing at their top form in the CL finals. That rest rejuvenated them and had them back to playing the dynamic football that no other team in the world can play.

Prior to this match against Villareal I wrote the following on twitter:

Cules aren’t going to want to hear this. But we are going to have to temper expectations over the next several weeks.

The fact is the schedule is going to be brutal and the team is down to 12 first team outfield players. That’s just an enormous difficulty.

If team drops points or doesn’t win – it’s likely going to be influenced by fatigue (physical & mental) more than lack of hunger & effort

Now, I thought this would be a difficult match after the gruelling mid-week match with Madrid, but I expected Barcelona to win this match against Villareal. I had no definitive idea that the team would drop points so soon. But the fact is, the team is in a very precarious situation right now in terms of depth and the risk was there for them to not be able to respond physically given the schedule. It just so happened that.

We’ll discuss Barcelona inconsistent form in detail for a long time. At their best, this Barcelona team is as good as any we’ve seen during Guardiola’s tenure. They are just not maintaining those lofty standards with the same regularity. And our inclination will be to find “the reason” for why the team hasn’t been as even as they have been the past three seasons. But with most complex occurrences, there likely isn’t any one reason. Injury, squad depth, lack of hunger, etc. are all possible and may all contribute. Reasons why the team was inconsistent in the beginning of the season may no longer hold now or may have changed in significance.

So in trying to understand what’s happening and why it is, there are three directions we need to follow. First, to figure out what the range of reasons are. Second, to try to determine the influence each of the factors have. Proportionality is critical to this kind of analysis because not all factors are likely to contribute equally. Third, how are these issues changing over time? As with many things, the entire picture will only be clarified with time.

For right now, to me, the issues which are most definitive just due to their factual nature is the sheer number of injuries and the number of available players. I’m not saying that is the only reason – but as far as I can say with any confidence – those seem to be significant drivers. As we know this team has struggled in February for form under Guardiola. The mid-week match against Madrid made me think that February may be coming early this season. And the most direct reason for this is likely the mounting injuries on a squad that is small at baseline.

The team has looked exhausted this week. Fabregas was subbed off against Madrid with the match hanging in the balance. Puyol looked a step slow against Villareal. Xavi looked tired against Madrid and was subbed off against Villreal. When was the last time Xavi was removed from a critical match which was tied? Guardiola doing so is remarkable.

Hopefully, this current stage of fatigue is only that – a stage the players are passing through. A temporary issue that will resolve. The team has dipped in form in the winter before only to return to its highest level of play. Unfortunately, in the recent past Barcelona played from the top of the table. The team didn’t drop so many points, particularly away, so early. That gave them a cushion they don’t have now.

Adding depth will be a challenge. The club has shown little desire to add players from the outside and the transfer window is more or less closed. As such we’ll have to hope for a rapid return to health, avoidance of future injuries and surprise contributions from the B team players.

Another factor which we’ll need to face and consider is a difficult one to deal with because there’s no way to “fix” it:  random chance.  What this Barcelona project has accomplished under Guardiola has been breathtaking.  And it’s breathtaking because it is so far out of the ordinary.  Watching this squad week in and out – it’s easy to forget that this simply isn’t normal.  No team is supposed to accomplish these things – never mind to do it for so long.  And part of what makes it so difficult to excel for this long is that football is a game that his influenced significantly by random chance.  To operate at the kind of level that this Barca has and to do so for so long means that you can’t be only slightly or even moderately better than the competition – you have to be significantly better.  If not then just by random chance something would interrupt your success.  This season – with the injuries – has that feeling.

To put this in perspective – the team that Barcelona is perhaps most often compared to is Sacchi’s brilliant Milan teams.  How many Serie titles did that side win?  One.  That’s it.  One domestic title.  People don’t realize that because what lasts in the football memory of the world is a combination of accomplishment and how a side plays.  But that a team as brilliant as that Milan side were to only win one Serie A title speaks so how difficult a task winning is at this level.

Many are already saying that the league is lost. This is simply not true. Until the math says otherwise – there is still a league to play for. This team will continue to push to win everything it can.  That is its history.

This is not to say that dropping points doesn’t hurt. It does. It hurts a great deal. But that doesn’t mean the table is set in concrete. All we can we can say definitively is that dropping those two points against Villareal decreases the teams probability of winning the league, perhaps significantly so. But that’s all we can discuss right now – probabilities. What makes sports so wonderful is that they aren’t predetermined. And remarkable things can happen. Especially with a group of individuals as remarkable as this Barcelona team is.
Visca Barca!

All Heart (Courtesy: FC Barcelona)

 

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156 Comments

  1. BarcaOwl
    January 30, 2012

    Thanks for the review, Euler. I have been waiting for it.

  2. Guide7
    January 30, 2012

    Deserves a round of applause, Great review as usual

    • barca96
      January 30, 2012

      Or Eulerogy?

  3. Megster
    January 30, 2012

    As usual, great review Euler!

  4. barca96
    January 30, 2012

    With all due respect where is a.k.a. review?
    Usually Kxevin does the La Liga reviews and Euler the CL and Cup matches.
    We’re so spoiled for choices.

  5. barca96
    January 30, 2012

    With all due respect where is a.k.a. review?
    Usually Kxevin does the La Liga reviews and Euler the CL and Cup matches.
    We’re so spoiled for choices.

    Messi is off because he is dead tired.

    Pep simply needs to rest him whenever we are winning by a 2 or 3 goal margins and not keep him on the pitch so that he can score more goals.

    That is the problem!!

    • Calvin
      January 30, 2012

      Kxevin has taken a month off and hired a crane to move his big ass TV to his new home.

      Expect an episode of “BFB Cribs” when he finally gets that TV perfectly centered.

    • barca96
      January 30, 2012

      Haha. Him with his 50inch plasma tv.

      But ours is not far off though at 47inches.

  6. IamXavi6
    January 30, 2012

    Nice review.

    The issue I have the most are uneducated fans and cules expecting this team to just clean up every year.

    Just think about this for a second. You’re biggest rival has spent the best part of over 500million to try and topple your success.

    You’ve been the dominant team in Spain, Europe and the world for over 4 years now. The amount of trophies, satisfaction, glory and general domination this team has brought to the world is at its worst, brillant, and at it’s best, absolutely etheral.

    Yet people STILL gripe and moan, and STILL wonder just what the hell is happening.

    ALL sports have cycles. All rivals do ANYTHING possible to topple the best team in their respective sporting medium.

    500million plus and 4 years later, maybe, just maybe, it might actaully work? who would’ve thunk it, huh?

    The overall trophy haul under Guardiola has been 13 out of 16 possible. Yet people still point and wonder what the hell is going on and are very quick to disregard and attack Barca.

    For shame on them, for shame on any Cule who turns their back on this team after what joy they have brought.

    And Haters gonna hate, period.

    I for one while of course be frustrated if we go trophy-less for the next multiple seasons, still get immense joy from the lads, the team and the football.

    As long as they do Catalonia proud – I couldnt care less about the haul or what will eventually be an end of the glory peroid for an xxxx amount of time.

    So be it. But don’t you ever turn your back on this team or moan or ‘demand’ or ‘expect’ – this club and these players owe you absolutely nothing, they have all brought you and the world endless joy for the better part of 5-6 years now.

    /rant

    • BarcaOwl
      January 30, 2012

      I’d give you cookies for this comment but I strongly suspect all cookies belong to Mom4. Will you accept a chocolate cake instead?

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      I think that after her Spain visit, Mom4 has switched to churros. You can haz cookies! 😀

    • mom4
      January 30, 2012

      Churros with chocolate…yummy! Can you put sprinklers on top of churros?

      No probs. I can bake/fry anything in blog life..in real life? Not so much.

    • BarcaOwl
      January 30, 2012

      Mom4, you could put sprinkles on after you dip them in chocolate? And how is little Xavi? Has the Ramos been dispatched to stuffed toy heaven yet?

    • blitzen
      January 30, 2012

      Perfect comment. I don’t have cookies or cake, but I’ll make you a manita shooter if you like. 😀

  7. barca96
    January 30, 2012

    I remember Euler saying before the match that he would like to see Busi take more attacking responsibilities and when I saw sMasch, Puyol and Pique in the line up, he would play along side Xavi.

    He certainly wasn’t in a DM position. He was higher up the field but he still did DM work.

    Was hoping to see him making runs or so.

    Thiago played LW vs. Santos in the CWC. Maybe Pep should try him out there again.

  8. Gogah
    January 30, 2012

    Great Review. As usual. Helped me make sense of a match that i missed.
    And I blame myself for the loss..err draw.

    I also just want to point out the danger of everyone already assuming that the CL is going to be ours. If anything, this is the title that is the most difficult to win, not because it is only dependent on quality but because there is a huge amount of luck involved. Furthermore, I am fairly certain that the governing bodies would also like to make it a fair contest and not have the same teams showing up for the finals year after year. Don’t want to dig up old stories, but I feel our exit to inter was also because of the same reason mentioned above.
    Barca vs Bayern in the final would have been a no contest.

    So everyone who is suggesting that we go all out for the CL and chill out on other titles is the worst sort of suggestion, which if followed, will only lead to nothing.

    Lets fight for all the remaining three.
    Ideal scenario? we will sweep them all.
    even if we win only one, it’s a bonus imo, considering the ridiculous amount of titles we have won.
    Worst case scenario? we will still have three titles this year.

    • barca96
      January 30, 2012

      If we manage to sweep all 3, I’ll run naked in the city (that’s what I said too to my friends when Arsenal scored in the CL Final 2006). =p

    • Gogah
      January 30, 2012

      And..?

    • BarcaOwl
      January 31, 2012

      You know what they say, barca96. Pictures or it didn’t happen. 😉

  9. January 30, 2012

    Apart from all the valuable reasons you have given Euler, I also think, we are struggling to deal with the high pressing employed by teams. Mid week and now, both the teams used this high pressing and a Barca side, which is not at its best, is struggling to get past that pressing. And the longer the ball is in our own half, I think the players feel more nervous and by the time the first half ends without any goal, we are really tired too, mentally and physically.
    I hope Pep would find some ways to deal with this high pressing. It is now quite open idea that the best way to stop Barca building an attack, is to press Barca high up. We can expect this from almost all the good teams.

    • Diego
      January 30, 2012

      The 3 matches where we ended the 1st half goalless (Sevilla, Getafe, Villareal)

  10. Diego
    January 30, 2012

    Reasons why a Cule should be optimistic.

    1- Mou has never passed the 90 point mark in his 10 years of coaching.

    2- EE will have Seviila (H) and Bilbao (A) after return Classico, Last match for Bilbao at San Mames before moving to new stadium.

    3- EE will drop points, If you think they’ll win every remaining match, We shouldn’t enter La Liga in the 1st place.

    4- As we have Hlebruary, Mou has Hlarch (is that even a word?) where he allowed Roma back into the title race and increased the gap between us to 8 pts last year.

    5- Messi hasn’t been himself lately, He’ll get back into form and drive this team forward.

    6- No depth ? That’s what Cuenca and Tello are for.

    7- If you believe any team can come back, It’s this, The greatest team in history.

    If In the end we didn’t win it, So be it. We gave our best.

    • Saint Iker
      January 31, 2012

      What do you mean by 1)? Mourinho had over 90 points last season with Madrid :s. He also managed 95 points with Chelsea in 04/05 and 91 points the next season with Chelsea. He also took Porto just shy of 90 with Porto, their highest ever points total.

  11. January 30, 2012

    Is my Name Clickable ?

    • January 30, 2012

      Yes it is.

    • barca96
      January 30, 2012

      Huh?

      There are two Diego’s?

    • mom4
      January 30, 2012

      No, clearly he thinks his name is Clickable not Diego now.

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      OOey – she’s back, and sharper than ever! 😀

    • January 30, 2012

      He has a different name every month!

    • January 30, 2012

      The same Diego, Clickable is just my nickname.

  12. barca96
    January 30, 2012

    A reader on a forum wrote this;

    What’s up with this recent rumours of Mourinho leaving RM and having problem with his players. Seems like utter non sense and more like the currently no.2 team getting a hand from journalist to unsettle RM. They didn’t get enough help from the referees recently

    and now they’re trying to to get help from the journalist eh.

    http://www.goal.com/en-india/news/2175/la-liga/2012/01/29/2873814/barcelonas-lionel-messi-and-xavi-slam-arrogant-la-liga

    That is quite embarrassing by Messi & Xavi to complain about the ref. It is opposite of Pep.

  13. Barca_Donut
    January 30, 2012

    Hello! This is my first post and just to say that I LOVE your review Euler! They make so much sense.

    It was hard to see the team draw over the weekend and I have to admit that I gave up La Liga after the game. But when you consider what this team had done over the past four years week after week, year after year, how can you completely write them off? This team is special and if there’s any team that can come back from a 7 pt deficit and beat the most expensive team in the world, it’s this one.

    And, you know what? Even if this team wins nothing…at least I’m not a Madridista.

    Visca Barca! 🙂

    • Calvin
      January 30, 2012

      Welcome

    • Barca_Donut
      January 30, 2012

      Thanks! 😀

    • January 30, 2012

      You have the best nick ever imagined.

    • Barca_Donut
      January 30, 2012

      Thank you. It’s how most teams feel when they meet Barca. 😉

    • barca96
      January 30, 2012

      Do you love donuts? Or is it supposed to mean something else?

      Are you a cop?

    • January 30, 2012

      More importantly, is Barca_Donut a guy or a girl or a …. Donut?

    • Miguel
      January 30, 2012

      Heh. Reminds me of a joke by one of my fave comedians, Maria Bamford, on how she plans on naming her future kids “The Golden Hen” and “Donut.”

      She says, “I know what you’re thinking. ‘How do you know they’re both gonna be girls?’ But a mother knows. A mother knows.”

    • BarcaOwl
      January 30, 2012

      Late to the party but I just want to get in my ‘Welcome!’ 😀

      Nice nickname, by the way.

    • Barca_Donut
      January 31, 2012

      Thanks for the welcome everyone! 😀

      And I am most definitely a Donut.

    • January 31, 2012

      What flavor?

    • Barca_Donut
      February 1, 2012

      Hmm…glazed.

  14. Lev
    January 30, 2012

    Was it somomo (girl you changed your name so many times I don’t know what to call you anymore) who said in the last thread “it is better to be a culé with a 7-point deficit than to be madridista”? Hear, hear! and Visca Barça!

    • Barca_Donut
      January 30, 2012

      That’s brilliant! Better than mine! They’ll probably win La Liga with a locker room that hates each other…or implode in the next few months and we’ll just watch them drop all possible points.

    • Lev
      January 30, 2012

      I don’t think they’ll implode. Honestly I think we should focus on the CL. I can take EE winning the league as long as they don’t beat us in the CL.

    • Barca_Donut
      January 30, 2012

      No. Implode is unlikely. There’s no way though that we’ll just focus on CL. Pep & the team aren’t like that. It might kill them but they’re going for every single trophy.

      EE beating us in CL…pass me the sick bucket.

    • barca96
      January 30, 2012

      Who can do an-Inter to us this season besides Madrid?

      There are no other team capable of playing like (ugly) that now besides Madrid, not even Chelsea.

    • Barca_Donut
      January 30, 2012

      Fine. Implode seems more likely then.

      Though we always seem to do well in big matches and what would be bigger than a CL match vs EE?

    • January 30, 2012

      Agreed. I don’t see the other teams hurting us in the way Madrid possibly could (and even they can’t tbh). Of course Bayern are a strong unit and have a few players who can always produce a bit of magic but I only truly see EE in the way, especially with both Manc clubs gone.

      Would love it if we win the CL esp IF the enemy takes the league this year. It will be a great consolation.

    • lyd
      January 30, 2012

      that was hilarious!
      lets compose more “it is better to be a cule with .. .. … than to be a madrista” jokes. 🙂
      I’ll give it a shot.. here it goes..

      At the end of the season, its better to be a cule with a broken heart than to be a madridi$ta with a broken ….. (wait for it) trophy.

    • Barca_Donut
      January 31, 2012

      It is better to be a cule with 6 fit players on the pitch(inc. Pinto) than a Madridista with 12 players on the pitch (11 + ref). 😛

      Sorry Pep. *hangs head in shame*

    • mom4
      January 30, 2012

      My dearest Lev said:
      (girl you changed your name so many times I don’t know what to call you anymore)
      Soooooo, whose fault is that? As I recall it, over the summer I tried to change my nick so it wouldn’t be confused with SoMa’s anymore and I HAD picked a seemingly good new nick and it was YOUR comment about your old roomate’s…um…issues that had me running to this simple one! 🙂

      And I do stand by my statement. It is better to be cheering for our team even if down 7,10,13, etc…than that other one. Can you imagin having to cheer for Pepe twice a week???

    • Lev
      January 30, 2012

      Hey just so you know what some mothers considered to my (no longer-) roommate’s issues other mothers considered delights. True fact.

      And with statements like that, you will never stand alone, mom4!

  15. barca96
    January 30, 2012

    I didn’t see anyone mentioning them before.

    I loveeee the new ORANJE training kits!!
    It looks like an NBA throwback jersey!!
    The only thing missing is the Dutch contingent in the squad 🙁

    • Lev
      January 30, 2012

      I love the orange away jersey’s for next season. And I just want Afellay to succeed, no way do I want another Dutch “contingent”

    • blitzen
      January 30, 2012

      I love the new training kits too. If I wasn’t so broke right now I would buy myself one. But no more Barça goodies for me for a while.

  16. Huckleberry
    January 30, 2012

    why do we have more injuries and are we looking more tired than – for example – RM?

    • Lev
      January 30, 2012

      It’s simple. Their squad is bigger, and more players in our squad have played more matches each season (+summer) since 2008.

    • Lev
      January 30, 2012

      Aaaaaand the board’s decision to play exhibition games in Neptune don’t help either, of course!

    • Laurentiu88
      January 30, 2012

      well i guess is down to money; if we want the best players we do have to pay them accordingly too…

  17. Laurentiu88
    January 30, 2012

    what about a decent pre-season! maybe players were not able to physically prepare correctly – and went into some hard initial games without the right physical condition… just guessing.

  18. Laurentiu88
    January 30, 2012

    Pedro will miss next two games! Man, how about some bloody good news for a change….

  19. Salia
    January 30, 2012

    Guardiola met this morning with the clubs highest sports executives possibly to discuss a last minute signing from barcastuff sport es

    so its probably not that reliable, but anyways who do you think we should buy at this stage of the season

    • January 30, 2012

      There hasn’t been even any rumors. So weird. I guess with Cesc here, tabloids have to actually come up with something and not reuse the same omgcesctobarcaomg story now.

    • Lev
      January 30, 2012

      Well, my understanding was that we paid Cesc with NEXT season’s transfer money, so I don’t see how we are gonna spend money now.

      Tbh I don’t even see how much it will help us. By the time a new player is integrated in our way of playing, surely our injury problems will be over? (knock knock)

      I don’t want a short term solution unless it also makes sense for next season.

    • Salia
      January 30, 2012

      So true I dont think Guardiola would consider buying anyone unless it was an afellay type of deal wher his contract was up in the summer

    • Calvin
      January 30, 2012

      Like Willian?

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      Maybe Barca would be the team that tamed Tevez?

      With Masch and Messi, it would be the best chance that he could get – and it could be a temp loan until the end of the season.

      *running away to hide, now! 😀

    • January 30, 2012

      I actually think that would be a fantastic solution. Tevez is a phenominal player and has exactly the sort of work rate and aggressive nature we require of our forwards. However I doubt it would ever happen. A temp loan till the end of the season would be perfect from a sporting point of view, but considering his salary at City I am not sure what it would make sense financially.

    • blitzen
      January 30, 2012

      A big fat NO to that for me! Too expensive, too sulky, not worth the trouble. We all saw in the Copa America last summer that he doesn’t combine well with Messi. If only we could get Kun…

      Anyway, back in the land of reality, if we sign anyone it should be Tello. Bring him up to the first team for the rest of the season (and promote Dongou to the B team to take his place). Tello is young, but he knows the system and has trained & played with the first team before. It will be bad for Barcelona B to lose him, but frankly the first team is just more important.

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      It’s important that the B Team excels as well, and here’s why:

      With so many talented younger footballers coming up through La Masia ranks, they need something to aspire to – and that’s not a team playing in the relatively anonymous third division.

      When Barca B is relegated to lower than Adelante, it’s at these times when the top picks, at the tender age of 16, are easily lured away by the likes of Wenger and Arsenal, with promises of playing time in better-placed teams and with a chance to shine at an earlier age. They’re young; they’re impatient; they think they know it all and they want to get out there and prove it as fast as possible.

      Barca B playing at a high level is an important motivator for the upcoming La Masia graduates to want to stay around at FCB. Unless the Spanish rules change and allow the kids to sign contracts (for first and second teams) at a younger age, FCB needs to do all that it can to keep its upcoming stars motivated to hang around for their big chances.

    • Nav
      January 30, 2012

      Damn he might be cup tied too.

    • Nav
      January 30, 2012

      Tevez would be amazing

    • mom4
      January 30, 2012

      Yeah girl, run and hide. 🙂
      Tevez??? Really??? And we thought Neymar might cause dressing room problems!
      Cup tied, moody, homesick, expensive, and I too thought Messi played better w/out him.

      Time for the B babies to shine and the physios to figure out some solutions.

    • mom4
      January 30, 2012

      On a serious note, I think our dressing room harmony is almost as important as our talent. Our team’s comaraderie is as fun to watch as their tiki taka (to me at least(yeah, I know I’m overly sentamental)). I don’t wanna mess with it.
      Besides, it would take too long for anyone coming in to learn the system fast enough. Cesc still isn’t there completely and he grew up on this stuff.

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      Ya – it was kind of a joke, but he is free! Anyway, Mancini isn’t interested in a loan – he wants Tevez far, far away for good.

      As for the Barca babies, I have my reservations about them too. Sure Eusubio hasn’t played them properly, but as individuals there’s been no one totally shining and out-standing against the other Adelante teams apart from Soriano, who’s now with Salzburg.

      It’s one thing to bring the B Teamers into the first team for one-off games where they are bound to do everything that they can to impress Pep, but can they maintain that high level week in, week out? Even now, we’re seeing a drop off in Cuenca’s effectiveness.

      Dongou is still way too young for Barca B – he’s the youngest player on the Juvenil A squad and needs at least one more season with them. Promote him too soon and he’ll end up as another Bojan – peaking early and then flattening out, or worse, getting injured by an older and tougher player.

      I believe that Barca needs at least a couple more seasoned top league players. Hell, we needed them at the beginning of the season, really. We lost Bojan and Jeffren replaced by Cesc and Alexis, so the squad numbers didn’t increase. Everyone was so worried about who would get playing time, and now it’s a case of who is still able to play!

      You could say that it’s bad luck that so many got injured, but with all the same-type hamstring and knee injuries, I hope that the team management is having a good look at its training regime. Something’s changed, and it’s gone wonky.

  20. January 30, 2012

    Tevez isn’t a conventional striker. His game is based on dropping deep and working very hard.

    The issue that comes up is that he wants to operate in almost exactly the same space as Messi.

    This is a major reason why Tevez has never been able to play with Messi on the ARG NT successfully. Tevez winds up occupying the space Messi likes to use.

    Tevez does not like to play wide. He wants to be in the center between the lines.

    And those are just some tactical issues outside of the obvious personality ones.

    I think we’ll see quite a bit of Tello.

    And we may start to see that against Valencia.

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      It’s still a big ask to expect Tello to step up into the first division and perform week in, week out as if he’s been there for years.

      But it will be a great op for him.

    • January 30, 2012

      It will be difficult. And it’s far from optimal to have to rely on B team players this way. I’m sure Pep really doesn’t want to do it as the tries to integrate them slowly and in a controlled fashion.

      I just think they’re at the point where there’s almost no options anymore.

      I don’t think there’s a point of rolling out the squad yet again when it looks so fatigued. They just have to use the players they can draw on – and unfortunately those are largely youth team players at this point.

      Tello, Cuenca, perhaps even Sergi Roberto may wind up playing important minutes.

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      One thing about Tello is that he does play fast, and the other forwards are going to have to be on their toes to run and keep level with him to latch onto his crosses.

      It’s shades of Adriano in this last game against Villarreal where he was alone up the pitch with no one to pass to.

      He’ll be most effective if Sanchez plays in the middle, I reckon. Sanchez will keep up with him. We may see Messi dropping deeper for the rest of the season, and Cuenca on the RW.

  21. lyd
    January 30, 2012

    How about Marko Marin? He seems a great prospect!

    I dont know whether he is for sale or not but apparently liverpool and tottenham are after him.

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      I loved watching Marin play in the Bundesliga when we lived in Germany. For some reason he’s not a hot pick for Jogi and hasn’t featured in the Deutsche Mannschaft in recent times.

      I’m not sure how he’s been doing recently, but he’s not scored any goals this season, and he’s just coming back from about 2 weeks out with a groin injury. Looks like he’s a little out of form at the moment, or unhappy at Bremen?

    • lyd
      January 30, 2012

      How is his defensive skills and work rate overall ?

      I haven’t seen much of him apart from some compilations. He seems to have the close control, composure, pace. And he is short and almost looks like Lionel.

      If he ends up in epl, that would be a shame!

    • nzm
      January 30, 2012

      I haven’t seen him play for quite some time. We don’t see much Bundesliga on TV in Spain – certainly not on the free channels, anyway!

      From what I can remember, he wasn’t much of a defensive player, but when he got the ball in midfield he could make things happen.

      Little guy – he’d fit right in to the Barca team, sizewise! 😀

  22. jordi™
    January 30, 2012

    Read some mentions of willian. I never saw anything in him as a player but its safe to safe we would never be able to afford him.

    http://shakhtar.com/en/news/20466

    ‘Met halfway’ at 30 million :O

    • Calvin
      January 30, 2012

      Considering his contract ends in 6 months, Shakhtar is insane.

  23. simple_barcafan
    January 30, 2012

    there is one argument which can be made in favor of concentrating on cl and cdr. Winnig these two would qualify us to more number of competitions next season..like the club world cup, spanish super cup, europa cup..well..just sayin..

  24. Laurentiu88
    January 30, 2012

    not being broke like us i guess Shaktar is free to ask as much as it please… 🙂

    I would guess Torres would be making plent of phone calls… 🙂

  25. Ryan
    January 30, 2012

    We already sold Soriano, right? And Nolito didn’t have a buy-back? Either of them would probably get some decent minutes if they were still here!

  26. Barcaguy
    January 30, 2012

    Thanks Euler,
    As usual an excellent analysis.
    This was the worst game I can remember Barca playing in its modern form.
    Pep blew it – that simple.
    Cesc was way off, two really bad games in a row.
    Xavi was not super human.
    Adriano had zip for a cutting edge.
    Alves wasn’t even causing serious problems.
    Messi missed twice alone with the keeper – that’s not good.
    Pep needs tons more faith in the B-boys. Every Masia great was a B-boy at some point.
    Had Tello been on for 10 more minutes we would have scored.
    Thiago for Cesc (at the start).
    No point in having planet Earth’s best cantera if you aren’t going to use the stones quarried.
    The masia is the source of Barca’s strength. Pep go to the source.

  27. blitzen
    January 30, 2012

    Oh, and just so you know, BFB mods: Since I clicked on that nasty ad offering Asian slave-wives, I now have malware redirecting to that page randomly. Of course it’s my fault for clicking on it, and I’ll get rid of it asap, but frankly I shouldn’t have to install an adblocker just to enjoy my favourite football blog.

    It’s really disappointing. I’m obviously the only one who cares about this.

    • January 30, 2012

      Hmm, adblock does wonders to one’s own site. I should probably disable it for BFB just I know what people are looking at. I’ll see what I can do about getting this particular ad off our site.

      Apologies to you, blitzen, and others who may have been offended by it (and may continue to be for a short period because I’m pretty much computer illiterate and might have trouble getting it down).

    • blitzen
      January 31, 2012

      Thank you.

    • ooga aga
      January 31, 2012

      you aren’t the only one

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      I don’t think you’re the only one who cares. I just think we all either block or ignore adds. I’ve grown so used to looking past adds now it’s like visual white noise. I don’t even notice them. Good luck fixing it, Isaiah.

  28. messifan
    January 30, 2012

    Finally caught up with recent Barca-related stories. Thanks Euler for another excellent review!

    Of course, there are still many games left, but the probability of winning the league is not that high. With the current squad, I think Pep should prioritize on which competitions to go for. It’s not realistic to go all out on three fronts. If I were Pep, I would focus on maintaining a Champions League spot for next year. Then go for the CL and Copa trophies. The ultimate goal is to perform at a high level, but we know it’s hard to do that every three days. Last year’s second half was extremely difficult and we largely had all key players available and played with consistencies. This season has a lot of changes, with a new system and more key players losing forms and getting injured, so it’s going to be a struggle to maintain a high standard of play. Resting some key players in not so important Liga matches would be ideal. B-team players could get assimilated with the first team and allowing first team players (Xavi, Puyol, Iniesta, and maybe Messi ) to get some much needed rest.

    I don’t know what the causes are for the lack of forms and inconsistencies but my guess would start with pre-season’s prep. Of course, they’ve played a lot over the last three years but a great pre-season would probably alleviate some of the problems the team is facing right now. I remember reading somewhere that for older players, it’s very important for them to maintain their match fitness even when on vacation. From the start, key players such as Pique, Xavi, Busquets, Alexis, Iniesta…got injured and from then on, the team is playing catch up. Coupled with NT friendlies and qualifiers, our players are exhausted.

  29. K_legit in Oz
    January 31, 2012

    So i have my first catalan language test a couple hours from now..this is not gonna be pretty.

    • BarcaOwl
      January 31, 2012

      Good luck!

  30. sd
    January 31, 2012

    I waited to see if anyone else would post this but y’all are too busy having discussions and transfer rumours and all and I am not completely sure if anyone has already posted this or not. I ask you all, is this not the cutest picture of our little messiah ever? Maybe the referees should be shown this and they give him some penalties and not let hacks get him? After seeing this picture I have renewed hope and still think we win Liga

    via Barcastuff

    http://twitter.com/#!/SamWon26/status/164001594755653632/photo/1

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Super Mario Messi. 🙂

  31. barca96
    January 31, 2012

    I do think that there is a need to have a last ditch January signing in order to freshen the squad and give it some hope.

    Back in the 2003 season. We were so far behind.
    And then came Davids, ofcourse Im excited because he was one of my favorite players at Ajax and he is aggressive.
    At that point we needed a player who can increase other players’ energy.
    Ronaldinho was part of it but I thought that Davids was the biggest factor of the increase in form for that squad and in the 2nd half they were superb!

    Maybe we don’t need someone of similar nature but at least have someone new who can give a new spark to the team.

    Maybe they;re tired of Messi.
    jk jk

    • G6O
      January 31, 2012

      2003/2004 was a season in a very different league. It was actually POSSIBLE to make such a come back because the champion Valencia drew 8 games and lost 7 and only won 23. It’s not that kind of a league any more unfortunately – EE are on course to win 32 games

  32. barca96
    January 31, 2012

    Madrid are rumored to be after Loew.
    I hope he doesn’t end up there cause that will mean that he will never be at Barca when Pep (touchwood) decides to call it quites 10 years later and Lucho and Oscar Garcia aren’t available.

  33. Gogah
    January 31, 2012

    what about asking Eto’o to come back for 5 months and help us a bit for this campaign.

    that’d be brilliant!

    • Chiu
      January 31, 2012

      agree with you, Gogah 🙂

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Oof – if you think Pep is stubborn about making changes during a match, I can really see him digging his toes in about getting Eto’o back. It would be too much to bear for his Catalan pride to swallow!

      It would be wonderful though!

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 31, 2012

      I would love some Eto’o. Please Pep. Can somebody please tweet him email him.

  34. Barca_Donut
    January 31, 2012

    The problems with loans etc is that they need to know how to play with this team and even players who were in the team 2/3 years ago will find it difficult to adapt to the new way the team is playing.

    Think the only real option to Pep is to rely on B-teamers and hope they step it up. This is a big chance for Cuenca, Tello, S. Roberto etc to really show their potential and grow in the team.

    Visca Barca Babies!

  35. mom4
    January 31, 2012

    Firstly, always a great read, Euler. What an asset you are to have here.

    What I did on my summer winter vacation.

    OK Eklavya, it’s not gonna be 10 pages long. Sorry, but real life has caught up with me. And it’s gonna be in bullet form because I’m still not past the jet lag and not at my prosaic best (do I even have a prosaic best?)

    1. I know we weren’t at our majestic best for the Betis game but to me we were amazing. Iniesta’s first touches are miraculous. Messi is always moving into great spaces, he’s not just strolling guys, Xavi doesn’t play football he dances. Seeing the captain play was a treat. He was a bit off and a little slow this game and it was illustrative to see how p*ssed off he was getting with himself. I was upset that Alves didn’t start as he’s one of my favs(OK, so they’re all one of my favs) and relieved when he got on. Sanchez was soooooo good. Every time Messi touched the ball you were at the edge of your seat in expectation. I won’t use this space to complain about their “offness” because I was more focused on the beauty that I was seeing firsthand than the mistakes.
    2.We were sitting less than 20 rows back on the bench side close to the corner (yeah, THAT close to Xavi when he took a corner). I was worried that because the travel agent managed to pull off such great seats that I was gonna be in with the quiet crowd. Well it seems that these must be the seats that travel agents can get for foreigners. We were surrounded by noisy Germans, Swedes, and I’m sure others that CHEERED loudly, KNEW THE CHANTS! and FELT the colors they had just bought(as in took out a second mortgage to buy) from the FCBotiga. They, like us, were there on a football pilgrimage. It also seemed like the rest of the crowd was noisy too and it was heartening that we were still cheering and encouraging even when Betis equalized.
    3. Interesting Xavi observation- he doesn’t just run, he has this little jumpy hop skip to his running. And he runs the whole field the whole game. Like a hyperactive toddler. No wonder he’s getting tired.
    4. Best place to watch a Barca game on TV in Barcelona- Murphy’s, an Irish pub just off La Rambla.
    5. Best people with whom to watch a Barca game at Murphy’s- nzm and partner. We went out three times with them and had a blast(except for a couple of hangovers). We felt so blessed to meet two wonderful new friends on our trip. Who knew soccer could do that?!!!
    6. Best coffee- Barcelona, pretty much anywhere.
    7. Best chocolate a la taza- Petritxol in Barcelona
    8. Favorite churros- Scala Duque in Sevilla
    9. Best tapas- Tapeo in the Born neighrborhood of Barcelona
    10. Favorite catherdral- Granada
    11. Favorite church- Santa Maria del Mar in Barcelona
    12. Best public transportation- Barcelona- clean, efficient, well planned, NO need to rent a car
    13. Best tortilla espanola- Cordoba- Bar Santos
    14. If in Granada, spend the 1.2 Euro to hop on the number 31 bus to see the view of the Alhambra at the San Nicolas church. The bus ride alone is better than most roller coaster rides.
    15. Derby- Betis v Sevilla- it wasn’t pretty football but it was exciting. If Betis had played as well against Sevilla as they did against us they would have killed Sevilla. Great amount of (mostly good natured) morbo. Did you know that there are at least 101 ways to use the word, put*? But I felt safe because I proudly wore my Betis scarf (best 10Euro safety device ever purchased). Hubby and I were the only people in the whole stadium not smoking like smokestacks. The stadium, Betis’, was not in the best state to begin with and Betis is far from economic stability so we cringed when we saw 2 chairs just in our vicinity being broken by irate fans after Sevilla’s equalizers
    16. If you plan to go up Montjuic and aren’t an avid hiker for goodness sake pre-plan and take the bus on the way up. We learned this the hard way.
    17. Invest in REALLY good shoes when going to Spain. You’re walking on cobblestone or river rock half the time.
    18. Many people speak English in Barcelona. You try to greet them in Catalan and before you get to try your Spanish on them they are already speaking English to you. Know your Castellano for Andalucia though.
    19. It’s cheaper to drink cava than Coke almost anywhere in Spain.
    20. There are McDonalds, Burger Kings, Starbucks, KFCs, Ben and Jerry’s, and Dunking Donuts all over Barcelona. How could they let that happen? Sadly, I admit we hit them a couple of times after ham and paella fatigue set in and just to get a decent sized soda.
    21. best email attachment sent to me by nzm;
    https://mail-attachment.googleusercontent.com/attachment?ui=2&ik=f14323d3b1&view=att&th=134f3831b2bab6c8&attid=0.1&disp=inline&safe=1&zw&sadssc=1&sadnir=1&saduie=AG9B_P8cexQFvkjI3ydZ_7QaHj_g&sadet=1328014521348&sads=lixLqePTpHn6zXbGLWlGp9N9KQU
    Sorry for the long link.
    This is for you, Blitzen. but I suppose you’ve alreaady seen it.

    • blitzen
      January 31, 2012

      That attachment doesn’t work for me, just takes me to the Google login page. 🙁

      Sounds like you had an absolute blast, and I am very jealous!

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      Sorry.
      It’s also the first image I get on Google Image when typing “Xavi and Iniesta after clasico”.

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Ah – it’s the one of Xavi and Ini sitting in the dressing room and Xavi only has his jockeys on. TMI. 😀

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Link doesn’t work, mom4. What was it, and maybe I can post it again?

      It was so much fun having you and Dad4 with us in Barcelona. La Champagneria, Tapeo and Flaherty’s aren’t the same without you guys. I don’t have you sitting beside me as we both watch through our fingers as RM take corner kicks! 😀

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      Xavi and Ini on bench after clasico, claro!

      And you miss getting my share of the olives 😉

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      It was Flaherty’s? I thought it was Murphy’s. I stand corrected.

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Not missing the olives as much as I am your share of the guacamole! 😀

      Ya – it was Flaherty’s. I think that you guys hit Murphy’s on your own, one night.

    • Miguel
      January 31, 2012

      You girls are too cute!

      I need to go on tour again.

    • Sheena
      January 31, 2012

      That sounds amazing, glad you had a good time. 🙂

    • BarcaOwl
      January 31, 2012

      Oh, wow. Barcelona sounds like a really fun place to visit. *looks at depleted bank account and sighs*

      Oh well, a girl can dream.

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 31, 2012

      Very cool that you guys had a good time in Barca 🙂

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      You see what you missed out on?

      You went to India instead! 😀

      (Just joking, B-G!)

    • January 31, 2012

      Whoa, I went to Granda and Cordoba during previous year’s winter as well!

      Good stuff! 🙂

  36. blitzen
    January 31, 2012

    Sporting Gijon have fired Manuel Preciado. Terrible, terrible. Such a fine man, and so popular with the players too. I don’t think any new coach will be able to take them out of the relegation zone, sadly. Gutted. 🙁

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/feedarticle/10068778

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Damn. I love Preciado. Was counting on him to keep RM honest in this round.

      I think that poor man is burnt out with all the tragedy in his personal life, as well as fighting against relegation all these seasons.

      I hope that a good team picks him up, because he’s a wonderful coach and a terrific character in La Liga.

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      Bad move by Gijon. Sad sad news!

    • January 31, 2012

      Noooooooooooo!

  37. blitzen
    January 31, 2012

    Also, rumour is that Hleb will be released from his contract today. We may finally be free of him!!!!

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      That’s it! Our “get out of Hlebruary free card”. Everything will be coming up roses from here on out.
      Yeah, I know that optimism doesn’t become a cule but it’s worth a try.

    • lyd
      January 31, 2012

      Last nail in the “Help Hleb” awareness campaign!

  38. mom4
    January 31, 2012

    barcastuffMalaga are interested in Barcelona midfielder Thiago Alcantara (20) and are ready to offer up to 30M to sign him today. [biznaga fm]
    31 minutes ago

    Malaga be smoking something.

    • Ryan
      January 31, 2012

      He’ll definitely be staying, but at least the offers are a bit more respectable this time. Weren’t English clubs offering 10 or 15 million last summer?

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      I’m excited about Malaga’s evolution. I’m hoping that by next year they’ll be another serious contender in La Liga.

      I want to see Pellegrini do well so that he can stick it to RM – in a gentlemanly way, of course!

    • Lev
      January 31, 2012

      I don-t care how he sticks it to EE as long as he does it deep and thorough and preferrably twice a season

  39. barca96
    January 31, 2012

    A bit off topic about NBA.
    People are going nuts over Blake Griffin’s dunk today.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3w_Vy0lDk_A

    But as soon as I saw that dunk, I remembered these two similar monster dunks that happened 10 years ago.

    Keon Clark
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ALAf186lLA

    Vince Carter
    Vince Carter’s being the undisputed number one. Dude jumped over a guy who’s 7foot2 while he is only 6foot7.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XMrPjl-927Q&feature=player_embedded

  40. nzm
    January 31, 2012

    Finally, the truth can come out!

    If any of you want to really know what Mom4 was doing in Barcelona recently, this is why she was here:

    http://bit.ly/yLDUOh

    😀

    • Blau-Grenade
      January 31, 2012

      LMAO… you are too funny!!!

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      8-|

      I’m gonna play the false 12 position!

    • Lev
      January 31, 2012

      That is when you sit right behind the bench 😉

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      And brings out the cookies with (the) sprinklers at half-time! 😀

    • mom4
      January 31, 2012

      No, I will provide the team with isotonic sports drinks at halftime and balanced recovery drinks at fulltime. After the game I will provide not only cookies but churros and chocolate…all with sprinklers.

      Geez, you don’t buy a Ferrari but drive it like a Fiat! 😉

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Ha – just as long as you’re not offside as much as that Fiat was, then it’s all good! 🙂

  41. nzm
    January 31, 2012

    Damnation – Athletico have just scored away against Mirandes in the first 20mins.

    Great to see Del Bosque in the stands – maybe he’s looking at Pablo Infante for the NT! 😀

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      And another.

      Llorente with 2.

    • Miguel
      January 31, 2012

      Sorry, Mirandés. You had a good run.

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      Disgusting refereeing – yet again. Bilbao is getting away with a lot of tactical fouls. They’ve also had 2 offsides called against them that weren’t, so at least the poor reffing is balanced!

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      They got one back in the overtime period at the end of the 2nd half!

      1-2 the final score. Go Mirandes at San Mamés!

  42. HisR0yalFlyness
    January 31, 2012

    *ttp://www.skybet.com/cms/breaking-transfer-news.shtm?name=Neymar

    83 million? Really? lol.

    • nzm
      January 31, 2012

      heh – already done above, but Mom4 was the transfer! 🙂

  43. Dave
    January 31, 2012

    Any see Revista????

    • mega_tajh
      January 31, 2012

      Currently downloading it.

  44. K_legit in Oz
    January 31, 2012

    “No m’agrada fer esport, pero m’agrada mirar futbol i beure vi”
    Not sure if my examiner got the context I was trying to put forward :/
    Catalan test went better than expected, except for that little tidbit there!

  45. IamXavi6
    January 31, 2012

    So long Hleb! So happy 😀

  46. Ryan
    January 31, 2012

    Alonso looks like he might not play at Getafe this weekend – with him gone maybe there’s a chance for points dropped? (hope springs eternal!)

Comments are closed.