Doldrums Are Real: Leverkusen-Barcelona

CL Preview: Bayer Leverkusen – Barcelona, Tuesday 2:45pm ET

It’s the doldrums of Hlebruary and we’re off to face Hleverkusen. Okay, so he never played for them, but Hlebgart isn’t available, so I made a substitution. Put on Tello for Pedro, so to speak. Made a mad dash for the end line and hooked in a wicked cross. Unfortunately it was an Alves cross and now the ball is some happy kid’s souvenir in the second deck. Until the meanie stewards take it back like the jerks they are. He’s just a kid.

Here’s the thing: Barça are far from being on suicide watch. Yes, the team lost to Osasuna, but they’ve dropped just 18 points in 22 matches. Borussia Dortmund has 46 points from 21 matches, AC Milan has 47 from 23, and Manchester City has 60 from 25. Maybe the league is lost, but that has little to do with underachieving–on pace to earn 83 points is hardly underachieving. It’s just that Madrid is on pace to earn 100. They’re being lethal in front of goal, having scored 12 more goals, and that is the difference, at the moment. 5 extra draws by Barcelona because goals were hard to come by in the crucial moments. 5 extra draws because these things happen.

And now it’s time for the Champions League, a trophy that is importanterest now for cules who don’t know what trophy-less seasons are. I’ll tell you what they are: they’re what Madrid went through for 3 years. They’re things that happen to all clubs and if you’re not used to it, you’re living the good life and you should be very aware of that. Not that anyone should stop fighting for any trophy still available. No one in this locker room will, I don’t think, though it would be nice to give Messi a rest once in a while.

So, Leverkusen gets to bear the brunt of our retaliation, I hope. Away day slumps have to stop if there’s going to be something to add to the trophy cabinet and this is where it begins. In Germany. On a cold night. In a different competition. They’re very meh these days and we’re very meh these days and they’re going to come out working like dogs to shut us down and try to take advantage of what’s going on. Injuries, lack of form, whatever it is, it’s going on and it will stop right here.

Squad: Valdes, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Fàbregas, Puyol, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Thiago, Mascherano, Pedro, Adriano, Abidal, Alexis, Cuenca, Busquets, Dos Santos, Tello, Sergi Roberto, Bartra, Oier

Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Iniesta, Xavi, Cesc, Messi, Alexis

There can be no other way than to play our best 11 at the moment. If Busi is an ungainly horse at the moment (and he’s certainly some sort of equine), he must stand all the more ungainly in the way of Leverkusen attacks. Those attacks will come from the likes of the immensely talented André Schürrle while the support structure involves veterans like Simon Rolfes. I like Tranquillo Barnetta a lot too, but that might just be his name.

“Oh no, they’ve got a massive lineup. We’ll never be able to hold them off!”
Tranquilo, hom-bray, they won’t score any golazos today.”
“But they have Machete Messi”

Leverkusen is definitely missing our old bee-fighting nemesis, Michael Ballack, through injury. Striker Eren Derdiyok injured himself stepping on glass at his home, according to this article by FCB. They’re also without Sidney Sam, their young midfielder. These changes make it all the tougher for them, but I’m sure they’ll play hard (and well) in front of their own fans.

Official Prediction: 1-1. Doldrums are doldrums, people. Hlebruary is Hlebruary, folks. Fear not, however, the return leg is in March.

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, smooch your favorite cule tomorrow…even if it means cornering Iniesta and emotionally scarring him for life.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. “Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone, smooch your favorite cule tomorrow…even if it means cornering Iniesta and emotionally scarring him for life.”

    Damn it Isaiah, how did you know I was considering it?

  2. Do you think Busi will play? Not sure about this. It’s an important match, so we have to go all out but I’m afraid he’ll get re-injured or something. Praying that won’t happen.

    I just WANT smooth passing and goals for us tomorrow. That would be a perfect gift for me, don’t need to kiss Iniesta 🙂

  3. If I were to chose one to emotionally scar, ‘twould not be Iniesta. Fortunately, I have a cule hubby available!

    I’m fine with your review so long as you don’t go predicting any more 0-4 victories. I’m not sure we’ll see Busi starting but it would calm my nerves considerably if we do.

    BTW, Ramzi wrote up a review of sorts as well. I don’t post it here as competition for Isaiah (even though we all love Ramzi), but open it up and look at the way cool Puyi pic.

    1. You better have a date with the liveblog. And the liveblog has a date with me. Therefore by the transitive property you have a date with me!

  4. 2006 – winners
    2008 – semi finalists
    2009 – winners
    2010 – semi finalists
    2011 – winners

    2012 – time to break the pattern here

    This is truly our competition. Lets go and get it with cautious optimism and humility and without obsession.
    and c’mon zenit! 😀

  5. Off Topic but this is coming from Cabral the Levante player that got kicked by Ramos on the referee in that match.

    Cabral: “We were robbed at the Bernabeu. There was a lot of talk on the 10 point lead on Barca and the ref seemed a Madrid player”.

    This is exactly what I am saying. For us linesmen see an imaginary offside They put their flag up and in Madrids matches when the other teams player is in their own half and a mile onside they give offside eg Mallorca when the score was 1-0 to Mallorca

    They dont see that kick by Ramos on the Levante player which is clear for everyone to see but then give offside for Barcelona when at first glance which is what the linesman has, you cant tell if Sergi Roberto has touched it, but no they would never give us the benefit of the doubt. Real had 11 penalties in the whole of last season but they whave got 11 ALREADY THIS SEASON and none against them. ISNT THAT A BIT SUSPICIOUS.

    1. You say ”you cant tell if Sergi Roberto has touched it” but can you tell if he didn’t? Beyond questionable doubt? Because to me it looked like he flicked it and if not he still got involved in the play, which prevent Osasuna players to head the away that fell to Alexis in an offside position

      The exact same thing happened in the RM game. Benzema scored and it was ruled off for offside. Although Higuain didn’t touch it but he did get in the way of a Levante player who could have made an intervention. Both extremely hard calls and both were called as offside. Don’t mention that do you though?

      And to that penalty thing, about it being suspicious. People could say the exact same thing about your contrasting home and away records. Your home form is almost imperious, goal difference is a whopping 42, but away it’s 5. Is’t that suspicious? Is that a sign they’re using performance enhancing drugs but can’t use it in away games? No it’s not, just coincidental. As Xavi would say ”Sore losers”….

    2. Nice touch last paragraph, refuting your own insane argument. Doping? Really?

      And its still a coincidence that EE continue to get penalty after penalty week in week out, while their opponents are being consistently denied. Same goes for Pepe/Ramos’ fouling.

      Heck, what can you say when Pepe can get away without any punishment after deliberately stamping on Messi’s foot?

    3. To keep records straight, it doesnt matter if Sergi Roberto touched the ball or not. It is offside anyways.

      I was shocked that even TV pundits are arguing if Sergi touched the ball. That is irrelevant. And I pointed that out on twitter yesterday.

      If you are offside and a teammate passes the ball your way, if you make the run, then even if you do not touch the ball and your teammate scores, it is still an offside. You contributed. You left an impact on opponent defense movement, sight, and decision making. No doubt. Clear offside.

      Thats why you offten see players in offside position standing in place and raising their arms up as:”I’ll not move or contribute. I cancel myself out of the move so I have no impact”. Not in Sergi’s case.

      Here I am not arguing if there is a conspiracy against Barcelona or not. When I reach a conclusion that there is certainly a conspiracy, I stop watching the Liga. Not just for the seasons Barca lose, but for ever as it doesnt make sense to keep watching while being that sure it is corrupted. Thats the Mourinho style I criticize, so I won’t follow. So as usual it is clean with no inch of doubt till I get an evidence proving otherwise, and then bye bye Liga for me.

    4. No it isn’t. The rule says that the “The Active Player should be behind or in line with atleast 2 opponent players when the pass is made”. So the only question here is when the pass was made who all were active. Whe the cross was made both Sergi Roberto(since he jumped for the ball) and Sanchez were both active but they were both onside also. So there is only one way of Sanchez being offside – if Sergi Roberto made a pass to Sanchez by flicking it. Which he actually didn’t and henceforth the call was wrong.

      Having said that I believed that it was the right call. The lines man who is standing at one end is not going to know for sure whether the ball made contact with the hair of Sergi Roberto(I think even a hair is enough). So he went with his gut feeling which for me was correct. It took us 3-4 seriously slow replays to confirm that he didn’t make any contact. Hence the benefit of the doubt should go to the referee.

      And once more we lost not because the linesman was against us. We lost because we made stupid defensive mistakes. The one which lead to the third goal was the reason why we lost. So just leave the linesman alone.

    5. No, you actually got it wrong. If a player who is offside contributes in the play, it is offside. It is not about who touches the ball, but who contributes. Sergi was offside -no doubt. He contributed – no doubt. Offside – no doubt.

    6. Absolutely not. The recent change of offside rules have confused a lot of people. But the basis of that rule still remains the same as the older one.

      For a player(now an active player) to be adjudged not to be in offside position he has to be behind on inline with atleast two opposition players when the ball is played(touched)to him .

      This rule never changed. The only change happened to the definition of an active player. Earlier anyone who is on the pitch was considered as an active player. Now that has changed to only include those who contributes to that particular play. In that sense when the cross was made into the box, Sergi was active but was onside.

    7. @AllAboutFCBarcelona, I could not reply to your last comment, I don’t know why but the Reply button did not show up.

      Was Tello’s goal to Sociedad valid? Alves was on the goal line and kind of passive and did not affect the gameplay after all.

  6. 3 years without a trophy? Seeing how most people claim the CWC, SSC & ESC are all part of the following season RM only went one season without a trophy, They won the Spanish Super Cup at the start of the 08/09 season and won the Copa Del Rey in the 10/11 season…. so only did they go trophy-less in 09/10 😉 technically speaking

  7. Ok fair enough but you still havent spoken about Ramos’s kick or the Mallorca offside and plenty more before that.
    You cant deny that all the luck has been with Real this season even if they have been brilliant or not.
    You speak of home form for Barcelona being suspicious. Not in the slightest. At home you have your fans behind you and also there is no travelling involved. Although that hasnt been the reason for Barcelonas poor away form eg, scoring 1 goal and then just losing concentration in the final minutes.
    With this away form it really wouldnt be deserving of the title. So all plaudits must go to Real

    1. The Ramos kick could or maybe should have been a red card but I believe the Levante player made such a meal out of it that it made the ref feel it was a bit of a dive and that was it really worthy of a red card? But these calls even the Mallorca one are so marginal you cant really argue. Its like the ramos red card against barca, the pinto handball against Valencia, the higuain goal against barca in the cl, the messi second yellow against Alonso, the chelsea – barca semi final. So many marginal calls that could go either, all these went in favour of barca, or is that you’re used to seein marginal calls given against you?

  8. Here is the legal terms of what I pointed out regarding the offside law:

    Offside position if:

    Nearer to his opponents’ goal line
    than both the ball and the second last
    opponent, at the moment the ball touches
    or is played by one of his teammate. And if he is active in the play.

    Active play:
    • Interfering with play
    • Interfering with an opponent
    • Gaining advantage

    “Interfering with an opponent” means:
    Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. For example, by clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision or movement. Or Making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of
    the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.


    All that implies on Sergi as he was offside the moment the ball was played, he was active and his movement made an impact on the opponent on many levels.

    1. No. I think you are getting it wrong. Those three conditions are to define who is an active player. I am not saying that Sergi was not an active player. He was very much active but he was very much onside as per the first para you have mentioned. It was because he was behind two of the opposition players.

      There was only one person who could have been offside – that’s Sanchez, had Sergi actually played the ball to him. Because then Sergi becomes the guy who contributes to this clause ” at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his teammate”. And at that point Sanchez was not behind the last two opposition players.

    2. Just watched the goal on Youtube again. On TV, I saw Sergi coming from offside before the ball was played. I cant find youtube link that goes a bit before the ball was played. Till I watch it again on TV – and I recorded the game- I will assume I confused Sanchez with Sergi.

      I’ll watch it again tonight.

    3. You can see the episode here:

      Sergi Roberto was onside. Hypothetically there are two options:
      1. He touches the ball -> Alexis is offside.
      2. He does not touch the ball -> Let say he suddenly decides to not touch the ball and lie down. Then the goal would be perfectly valid since he is onside and it has nothing to do with him being interfering or something.

      The real question is, what if Sergi flicks and the ball afterwards touches defenders head for Alexis to score. Would that be offside?

    4. It’s three situations, not just that one

      1. First half, score is 1-0 – Alexis is a meter onside, the ref raises the flag. Would have been 1-1

      2. Second Osasuna goal – the pass to the player who then passed to Lekic found him in offside position, about half a meter. It should never have been 2-0.

      3. The second disallowed Alexis goal which you are arguing about. If Sergi Roberto touched it then it is offside. But before that both Sergi Roberto and Alexis were clearly onside. That the call went against us is very telling because there is no way the ref could have seen whether Sergi Roberto touched it or not – even multiple replays didn’t make that clear, the only person who knows is Sergi Roberto himself. So the ref went on gut instinct as said above and that gut instinct is against Barca.

      On top of that there was the penalty appeal for pulling Alexis in the box in the second half with Madrid would have gotten half of the time given the kind of penalties they have been getting this season. I saw Sid Lowe saying all of them were perfectly good calls yesterday – what games did he watch? Half of those were clear dives, one was outside the box, etc.

      And then there is the whole long sequence of calls going the wrong way in Real’s benefit and against Barca from the beginning of the season. The Mallorca – Real game was very analogous to our game against Osasuna. Had Real gone down 2-0 as they should have, it would have been much more difficult for them to turn it around. But they didn’t go two goals down because the refs called offside when the Mallorca player was in his own half. Against us, they allow an Osasuna goal that was clearly offside.

      We have scored a grand total of 2 or 3 goals this season that were maybe offside, which all came in blowouts victories and didn’t matter much, plus the Pinto handball in the cup that did matter. On the other side are a long string of absurd calls (penalties not given and goals disallowed) that cost us a lot of points and gifted a lot of points to Real – enough to account for all the 10 point difference. Have we played badly away from home – yes, we have. But one should not ignore the impact of all these decisions, it has been huge and there does seem to be a clear bias in referee decisions.

    5. That was exactly my point but you explained it better, in half of our away games the decisions have gone against us not to mention a stone wall penalty against valencia in the 2-2 draw and a perfectly good goal that was disallowed in the loss against getafe that was called offside when it claearly wasnt the espanyol game when right in the last minute the defender handled the ball and it was a stone wall penalty. I cant remember his name but he even came out and said that he handled it and thank goodness the referee didnt see it

    6. There is no doubt that Real madrid is getting favored this season by Referees. My comment was about the Osasuna match. The worst of Real’s call was the disallowed second goal by Mallorca. The linesman called onside, when the player who received the pass was in his own half. As per the rule, one cannot be adjudged offside when he/she is in his own half.

      But I would hold the club management responsible for these constant referee debacle. If you look at Madrid matches, they are getting these calls majorly because the referees are afraid that Mourinho will cry in the press if these are disallowed. So all the 50/50 chance went their way. may be a lot of 30/70 chance too;-) But in our case we played the moral high ground not blaming the referee even when we were constantly denied legitimate calls. Now we can’t because the Liga is already out of our hands and will be accused of being cry babies. We are paying the price of not being a bit careful earlier.

    7. What moral high ground? This is what I hate about Barcelona and its fans. Mascherano got sent off in the tunnel after abusing the ref after the Osasuna game, Pep was shouting in the ear of the assistant ref all game then also got booked in the tunnel after the game. So they do complain about referee’s. The only difference is Pep/Masch etc didn’t do it to that press but is’t that two faced? To clearly blame the ref on the pitch but then in the press ”Barca don’t blame referees, it’s our own fault”… so why all this fuss in the tunnel? Then you lot slag Mourinho off for saying the same thing on the pitch and to the press? WOW… It’s like me saying I don’t like you to your face then when asking me about it I say nooo course I like you to avoid a situation. Moral high ground HAHA

    8. If you hate “Barcelona and its fans” why are you here? That Osasuna game’s officiating was pretty ridiculous and thus not surprising that Barcelona were complaining directly to the referees after the game. Turning the other cheek in previous badly officiated matches has taken its toll in terms of dropped points and injured players.

    9. I’m here because I started out having a decent debate but all this moral high ground, Evil Empire, we’re innocent, decent, angels crap is hilarious, but I digress, maybe our fans should stick to our own blogs as we’re all guilty of being biased, blind and hypocritical at some point…

    10. I can’t believe you are still debating about morality when you have Pepe in your team and an eye-gouger as your coach and still believe its all part of the game!

      Can’t blame him though, as might’ve thought this is what Mad***ismo is all about, considering how they idolize Juanito –

  9. Never mind that anyways, another injury.

    Xavi again had calf problems during Sundays training session. The staff will decide later today if he can play tonight from barcastuff

    Why so many injuries it is unbelievable especially with so many srtikers out or off form. Oh how I miss Davheed Villa, he wouldve eaten them chances up

  10. Schalke O4 and former Real Madrid player Raul yesterday showed up at Barcelonas team hotel for a chat with players and staff. (md)

    If only Real had some more players like him always was my favourite player at Real such a nice guy. These melees wouldnt be happening if he was still there

    1. Yess you know butt none have more class than Pepe that guy is just classy just ask getafes Casquero

    2. Trolling is not appreciated here. If you aren’t mature enough to hold a conversation, I must ask you to leave.

      Take a look at Bassam for a classy Madrid fan.

  11. I confess to not being sure what the squabble is about. It’s almost like people believe we’ve been playing as we always have, and there’s some vile conspiracy afoot to thwart our efforts. Wrong.

    It isn’t about referees, struck goalposts, featherless chickens or any of the other nonsense. It’s about us. In every last match that was a draw or loss, we had the chance to take care of business, to put things away. Perhaps a little more concentration on both ends of the pitch means that a few of those chances go in, or opponent attackers don’t get in a position to score.

    Because none of that happened, and that is all on us. It isn’t about refs, or class, or bickering with opposing fans. Simply put, we didn’t take care of business, and now we deal with it like grownups, like proper supporters. Our gladiators don’t whine about refereeing decisions. We shouldn’t either.

    Did the ball brush Sergi Roberto’s hair or not? Who cares. I’d rather ask Puyol why he wasn’t marking his man more closely, or how Pique let the attacker get inside position on him so easily. I’d rather ask about absent midfield pressure, and a system that isn’t working the way it is supposed to.

    Because if it was working the way that it was supposed to, we would be leading the table, looking forward to maintaining position and doing the deed in the coming home Clasic.

    But none of that happened now, did it? It’s easy to blame other folks, but it’s all on us. All of it.

    We have dealt with dodgy refereeing decisions in the three previous years, as well. The difference is that we were in a position to not care. If an offside player leaked through, Puyol or Abidal shut his butt down, and that was that. Balls and attackers didn’t even get through to our defense, which is vulnerable when it’s forced to be an actual defense, as we all know. We put our chances away on offense, and closed the door on defense.

    Now, it’s different, and so are the standings. And that’s that.

    1. Well said Kevin, poor defending is our fault, the ref didnt have anything to do with it, and so is poor finishing, we missed those easy chances not the ref.
      Its always easier to blame someone else, but if one is to grow he/she should take all the responsibilty for their own failures and ask themselves, what did i do wrong so that i won’t make the same mistake again

    2. Poor defending has been haunting us for a while;. Even when we win there’s been so many near catastrophes saved by a last ditch effort, VV heroics, the post, or the other team’s poor finishing.
      Pique has been running like he has eggs in his cleats but if he is reads the danger better he doesn’t have to play catch-up so often. We’ve been caught ball watching when we should have been paying attention to possible runs.

      Regardless, the ball should ideally never get past the midfield.

    3. I can see what you are saying and for the most part I agree, however that still does not excuse the level of refereeing. Yes, we should have put these games beyond the opposition so that these sorts of decisions dont make a difference, however that is not the point that is being made. The point is that these mistakes, if you can call them that, should not be happening, irrelevant of how we may or may not be playing. The referee and the linesman have a job to do and they havent been doing it very well so we have every right to complain and point it out.

      Especially when you put the decisions in the context of the games being played and how they evolve – For example in the last game, if the linesman was doing his job properly then Sanchez’s goal would have stood to make it 1-1. Instead it was dissalowed and their offside goal was allowed making it 2-0 instead of 1-1. Those are two mistakes that had a serious impact on the dynamic of the game. We shouldnt have to win games despite the referee’s mistakes. It is exceedingly frustrating, it’s not bad enough we have to contend with injuries and a fatigued squad but we also have to overcome awful refereeing. I can certainly understand why people feel the need to complain!

    4. I still don’t know why the last Alexis goal (what would have been the 3-3) was disallowed.

      Generally, I don’t care much about “if”s, because they’re still very much hypothetical. (“IF there had been a penalty; IF the referee hasn’t whistled before x player got to the ball he would have surely scored” <—– There's still a chance the player would have missed the penalty or not finished the chance to score).

      But what is more irritating is when a player actually *puts* the ball into the friggin' net and it's disallowed for no reason. It's just more frustrating to have fully-executed/finished opportunities disallowed than a situation where there's still a percentage of chance that the player doesn't score.

    5. you are right about the root problem, the team is no longer at the same level and it shows.

      and the team or the coach should not care about the refereeing.

      but from the level of club president, and we as supporters have every right to ask the questions on this matter. it should not be an excuse for the players, but that does not mean that the question should simply not be raised! it’s not about being a sour looser either. i think this goes a bit over the statistical error: take the 50/50 calls we get for and against with the same for madrid and you get a different result. what? has RM been brilliant in their away games? looking at the data people might think so, change only half of those calls and you get a different story.

      it is worth thinking why is this happening too. i dont wish to imagine conspiracies (thou’ in my country currently half the referees are in jail and we have phone call conv with club presidents openly bribing and paying for an offside call); we can ask whether from last season an image of being divers was on us – which can answer why we don’t get penalty calls when messi is chopped for ex?

      again, this may not be the most relevant aspect and definitely does not answers why we start our games like we’re not even present, it is not irrelevant for our liga position. i have been watching liga games for some years now, both our and madrid games and the differences have never been so stark.

    1. If Hlebuary can affect our players then who is to say we’re immune? BFB being hit with Hlebuary.

      I agree with Kevin. We can complain about calls or non-calls all we want but the fact of the matter is some poor play in key moments, along with a string of some poor luck (posts, etc.) is what has cost us this season. This team is better than letting a decision or two be the reason for losses or draws.

      Like Pep always says, if they’re kicking us, it means we’re not moving fast enough.

  12. The good, the bad, the awwww that’s so cute, and the scary from barcastuff:

    The good:
    Lionel Messi has scored 24 goals (and given 6 assists) in his last 23 CL games (21 starts) #fcblive [via @barcastatistics]

    The bad: see the scary

    The awwww that’s so cute:
    barcastuff barcastuff
    Castro (Leverkusen): “Xavi is one of my idols. I’d like to swap shirts with him, although my team-mate Ortega is his number 1 fan.” #fcblive

    The Scary:
    barcastuff barcastuff
    Xavi had again calf problems during Sunday’s training session. The staff will later today decide if he can play tonight. #fcblive [md]
    4 hours ago

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