Leverkusen 1 – 3 Barcelona: Getting Better

The path to sustained greatness is not a straight one, it is filled with pitfalls and dangers and misfortune, oh my. To successfully navigate the path it is necessary to push the boundaries, to evolve to meet novel challenges, to fall and then rise like a phoenix – better than before. For an example let’s consider the Beatles, one of the most acclaimed bands in modern music. The Beatles have many songs (I’ll let you argue about which ones below) that are beautiful pieces of music – comparable to Barcelona games like the ’10-’11 Champions League final. On the other hand they also produced (well Lennon did at least) the cringe-worthy Revolution 9 which sounds like a mix between nails on a chalkboard, the “most annoying sound in the world” Lloyd makes in Dumb and Dumber, and me singing in the shower. Throughout their career the Beatles were constantly attempting to evolve their sound – to make themselves better. Revolution 9 was a side effect of their drive, just as Barcelona’s recent struggles are a side effect of Pep and the boys’ pursuit of greatness.

Many Cules were wondering how the boys would react after having potentially lost the league only 3 days ago. Against Leverkusen they managed to overcome their recent difficulties and record their first Champions League knockout away win in the Guardiola era (EDIT: super memory fail). On top of that Messi broke the record for goals in the Champions League knockout stages at the tender age of 24. On top of that Sanchez managed to not only score his first Champions League goal ever, he grabbed a second as well. These three major milestones indicate that Barcelona isn’t just building on what has made them successful in the past, but also expanding their repertoire and evolving to address areas of weakness. This match was an encouraging sign for the team that makes it easier to understand their poor form over the last month – even the Beatles put out some awful songs in their quest to push the boundaries and evolve their sound.

With all that said, this game was no Revolution 9.

Pique and Shakira holding a bed in

Unlike the match over the weekend Guardiola chose to leave the youth on the bench, starting Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal, Fabregas, Busquets, Iniesta, Adriano, Messi, and Sanchez. Xavi was left out due to calf problems and Pique was left out so he could concentrate on composing sappy poetry. The bench was filled with padawan learners, boasting Pinto, Bartra, Dos Santos, Thiago, Roberto, Pedro, and Cuenca.

Barcelona was ready to play and immediately set about controlling the match with patient passing and good pressure, particularly in the midfield. Leverkusen were probing when they got the ball, quickly looking to get the ball wide to Schurrle and Augusto. However the first 10 minutes were devoid of chances for either team and Leverkusen began to drop nine men deep, preparing for the long siege that lay ahead. The first good chance came when a combination between Messi, Fabregas, and Alves saw the ball fortuitously squirt through the defense to Sanchez who was free on the right. Schwaab managed to cut out the cross to Messi with a textbook sliding challenge. Credit where credit is due, Schwaab defended well in this match despite his early yellow.

In the absence of Xavi Fabregas was playing a much more disciplined role in the midfield, spreading the ball around the pitch and occasionally looking for the hail mary to Sanchez as he loves to do. He was still getting forward, but seemed to be picking his chances more carefully – he made one particularly incisive run to beat the offside trap but couldn’t make anything of it. For the majority of the first half Leverkusen were defending and when they weren’t they struggled to put together three passes due to the pressing of  the hungry mint green wolves on the field. Meanwhile Barcelona just kept patiently passing and probing, confident that the opportunities would come if they continued to trust the system.

Iniesta was involved in a couple missed chances as he didn’t pick up a phenomenal 40 yard run by Alves, who looked like the Road Runner getting the best of Wile E. Coyote up and down the right flank all night. Shortly after Iniesta played the ball off of the back of Messi’s head from 30 yards. 2 points. The ref calls Sanchez offside after a cross from Cesc and looks like he may soil himself. Poor guy, imagine the pressure he must feel with all this talk about the refs.

With 10 minutes left in the half Leverkusen begin to step out of their shell and commit four or five players forward (and cross midfield a couple times). This led to chances for Barcelona, as Messi cradled a brilliant ball from Alves off his chest as if cradling a baby. Unfortunately even Messi was surprised his touch was that good and nothing came of it. The breakthrough finally came when Leverkusen were caught up and Messi played a brilliant flick with the outside of his left foot into the path of Fabregas and Sanchez who both knew exactly where Messi was going to play it. Sanchez beat Fabregas in a quick game of rock, paper, scissors and then beat the keeper just as easily to make it 1-0. Messi had one more solo run that didn’t quite come off, and the whistle blew. Half time. 78% possession. 1-0 away. Cool, calm, and collected.

A Hive Mind Moment

The second half began with Leverkusen needing a goal and playing like it. As they pressed high up the pitch and committed men forward the match was much more open than in the first half. You couldn’t be blamed for seeing a goal coming, especially after Friedrich got a toe on a long free kick but couldn’t direct it. Barcelona was looking to take advantage of the new space behind Leverkusen’s defense as Puyol played a nice chip that just skipped out of Sanchez’s reach.

It was Leverkusen who found the goal only six minutes into the half. A half clearance followed by a distinct lack of pressure from the midfield led to a cross that Barcelona couldn’t clear. Six or so headers in a row ensued and all of Puyol, Mascherano, and Adriano failed to clear the ball, which dropped to Augusto. Augusto played a delicate chip into Corluka whose cross evaded Abidal before Kadlec towered over Sanchez to head past a wrong-footed Valdes. It was a team goal by Leverkusen, and a team concession by Barcelona.

But Barcelona didn’t skip a beat, not a single head dropped, and everyone just went back about their business. The best example was when Alves took a precise freekick right at some guy in the stands – everything was back to normal. A quick restart led to Adriano finding Fabregas wide open across the pitch. As Fabregas strolled forward Sanchez began to move to the center while Alves furiously overlapped on the right. Leverkusen’s left back was forced to maintain enough width to deal with Alves that Fabregas could play the classic pass that splits the fullback and the centerback. Sanchez burst onto the scene, rounded the keeper, and coolly slotted home.

The Three Musketeers?

At 2-1 the fun wasn’t over, and Leverkusen quickly fashioned a chance for Augusto due to Barcelona losing the ball in midfield and some poor defending. The game remained open without many chances until Thiago replaced Iniesta in the 60th minute. Leverkusen created a great chance as Busquets misplaced a pace and the Germans blitzkrieged towards our goal where Schurrle somehow headed it into the path of Castro storming through on the left. Castro blasted the ball but Valdes got just enough of a touch to push it onto the post. It was the sort of chance that a team of Leverkusen’s caliber can create, and it took a great reaction save from Valdes to keep it 2-1.

Leverkusen were looking dangerous and creating chances, but it was coming with significant risk as we continued to try to get men behind their defense. Thiago played a long through pass to Sanchez before Alves and Messi combined for a shot. It was a great give and go between Alves and Messi which highlights why they like playing with each other so much – they are able to form triangles with only two people. It’s the 70th minute which means Adriano has played a full game and he limps off to be replaced by Pedro. Barcelona again tries to find space behind, with Messi playing Thiago through but Thiago is stonewalled by Leno.

In the 72nd minute Messi is all alone with two large Germans but he casually nutmegs Schwaab, squirms free, and smashes it against the outside of the post. If that move didn’t put a smile on your face I don’t know what will. It gave me the giggles. Keissling came on and tried to create some late drama, but Valdes was up to his diving header. The boys are still pressing for another goal and create several half chances – cutting through Leverkusen’s defense almost at will, but just not being able to connect the last pass. Cuenca steps on for Sanchez in the 85th minute. Late in the game, leading 2-1, we’ve seen this team take its foot off the peddle before. Not tonight. Messi gets the ball in the middle of the field and shrugs off a guy twice his height and weight who is dragging him down before finding Alves running through clear on goal. Alves has just Leno to beat and he… whips an inch perfect cross onto Messi’s boot for Messi to score.

It was an unbelievably unselfish gesture that symbolized the teams performance tonight. On the back of their recent poor form the team played calm, intelligent football. The players were working for each other and trusting each other. There was seriousness in their game tonight, but also joy. It was a good result, and good performance, and it reaffirms there is light at the end of the poor form tunnel.

Happy Valentine's Day, Bro

Valdes: B+. Had almost nothing to do in the first half until he ran way out to concede a throw in, mostly out of boredom I think. Jolted awake by Leverkusen’s early goal in the second half, he proceeded to deny Castro with a great fingertip save. Saved Kiessling’s diving header well. Long passing radar was a bit off while Leverkusen were pressing.

Alves: B+. Motored up and down the right flank like only he can do. Created several dangerous chances by getting behind the defense, the best of which he laid on a platter for Messi. His freekicks however, are absolutely terrible.

Puyol: B. Seemed less interested in putting out fires tonight, almost as if he was more confident with Mascherano next to him than he usually is with Pique. Put in a solid day at the office but will wish he had done better with one of the several chances he has to clear the ball right before their goal.

Mascherano: B. Calmly did his job at the back. Stepped up to win several balls at midfield as he has made a habit of doing. His passing was good when it was to another defender or Busquets, but his long passing wasn’t great. If he wasn’t ahead of Pique in the lineup before, this match should cement him there.

Abidal: B-. Must have worn his steel toed boots today as his touch kept deserting him in crucial moments. Did well defensively both on the left and sweeping up through the middle. His movement off the ball was good as well, but his touch led to losing possession too often.

Fabregas: A-. Asked to play a more reserved role than he has been lately. Responded  by spreading the ball around the field well and being more conservative with his passing (minus the occasional ball over the top, he loves those too much). Was incisive with his runs forward and covered for his teammates when they attacked. One of the better games he has played in the midfield.

Busquets:  B+.Was sporting the best facial hair on the pitch, to make up for the huge band-aid on his knee which seemed to act as a target for the opposing players’ boots. Did his job quietly but efficiently – winning the ball, distributing quickly, and always making himself available.

Iniesta: B. Kept the ball well but didn’t have the flair he usually exudes when he is fully fit and was relatively quiet all night. He came off for Thiago at 60 minutes without an injury, so it was a good day

Adriano: B. Didn’t offer much of a direct threat on the wing but maintained possession well. Dropped deep to help with defense and in midfield often. Nothing spectacular, but kept things ticking over well. Subbed at 69 minutes for Pedro.

Messi: A. His dribbling was a menace for the Leverkusen defense all night. When he wasn’t nutmegging Schwaab he was dropping deep to keep possession and facilitate play, or playing give and go’s with Alves on the right flank, or playing through balls for Sanchez, or pressing Leno at full pace to earn a throw in… a good match.

Sanchez: A-. Didn’t contribute a whole lot to build up play but constantly stretched Leverkusen’s defense with his running and acted as a reliable outlet. Got behind the defense and on goal twice and finished with the calm of an assassin both times. Worked hard in defense. Certainly would have preferred to stay on in search of a hat trick, but Pep is determined to keep him healthy.


Thiago: B+. Came on for Iniesta and gave the team a jolt of energy right when we needed it. Got stuck into several tough tackles and sprayed some nice passes around on the other end. It’s amazing to think this is his first full year in the squad.

Pedro: C-. Offered the team the a couple opportunities to practice their corners, but other than that contributed very little. His poor form continues.

Cuenca: N/A. Gave Sanchez 5 minutes of rest, ran 30 seconds off the clock, and didn’t have enough time to make an impact.

* All grading is done on the curve.


I’ll leave you with a line from the Beatles that I think applies to being a fan in the greatest era of Barcelona’s history: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

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  1. Lev
    February 15, 2012

    Nice review! Just wanted to be the first to remind you that the first knock out CL away win was in the Bernabeu with THAT Messi goal 🙂

    • February 15, 2012

      How the heck could I forget about that? Must be half asleep. Or half…

    • mega_tajh
      February 15, 2012

      Our first away Ucl win under Pep was against Shaktar Dontesk.

  2. ooga aga
    February 15, 2012

    thanks for the review calvin! you done good!

  3. nia
    February 15, 2012

    Nice review and good win by the team. I’m still a bit worried about Barca’s defence when the other team does decide to play them. They seem to not how to defend at the moment and i can underdstand that Abi didn’t want to concede a coner on the play that led to the equalizer but, he should have made sure that cross didn’t happen. It’s better to concede from the ck than from that kind of play.
    Alexi was a real gem, so was Messi. Adriano not so much so. I hope Barca goes far in the CL and win and i hope we don’t meet EE in the knock out stages either. I’m also glad that Pep manged his 1st win in the round of 16 but, i don’t know if it’s a good omen or not.

    • Jafri
      February 16, 2012

      I’d rather meet EE in the knockout stages than the CL final – I’m thinking about the CDR final last year, and the CDR quarter finals this year – It’s a lot harder to get past us over 180 minutes. Over 90 they might just fluke it…

      • G6O
        February 16, 2012

        Same thing here.

        The problem is that there doesn’t seem to be any team in the competition that can actually beat them other than us. So we just have to hope we end up in the same half of the draw.

      • Chiu
        February 16, 2012

        Agree, two leg tie against EE (or other top team) is preferable. I believe we and EE are top contenders, but Bayern and Milan are not so far behind,too. If we meet either Bayern or Milan in final, it would be pretty tight match too, over 90 minutes

        • barca96
          February 16, 2012

          I’d prefer to meet EE in a 2 legged tie rather than in a final where anything can happen.

    • G6O
      February 16, 2012

      We have never been good at defending when the other team is attacking us in our own half. We defend by not allowing the other team to get there and by maintaining possession. This is the whole point when Pep say “We’re shit without the ball” and it is also why any time possession drops below 65%, the game gets cagey.

      P.S. Something that occurred to me some time ago – the reason Puyol is such a lion in defense is that he spent the first half of his career in the first team playing in a system that was seriously tested almost every game. Those who remember those times will recall what shambles the defense was in and how Puyol had to put out fire after fire with desperate last-ditch defending. And he was actually for a while considered not a very good defender because of how poor the defense was as a whole. But it would seem to me that he would not have grown into the same player he is today without that experience.

      Now during the last few seasons we have dominated other teams to such an extent that the defense has never been put to that kind of test. And it seems that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future. So whoever is going to have to pick up the mantle will not go through that kind of experience. You can almost see it in the way Pique has gotten complacent the more titles we won and is not playing on the same level he was playing at two or three years ago. Of course, there are much worse problems one could be worried about that we don’t have but it’s just a thought I’ve had

      • Chiu
        February 16, 2012

        We also don’t have a world class keeper in that era. Rustu and Bonano are too average for Barca level.

        To mods, maybe someday you guys could make article about the old days Barca. Perhaps a story when we looked more like Holland national team rather than Spanish club or the dream team article. Just input 🙂

  4. barca96
    February 16, 2012

    I must add that Busi started out strongly but after a while kept on mishitting the ball when passing. Happened one too many times.

    But what my commentator claimed that that is not his job, to play short passing. He should leave it to Cesc who is excellent at it.
    I was so disgusted!!
    Cesc until this game was below par in short passing and it amazes me that commentator still doesn’t appreaciate Busi’s passing and importance in our team.

    His short passing is of course not on par with Xaviniesta but I think it is at least on par with Cesc.

  5. Gogah
    February 16, 2012

    getting better? we better be getting better.
    Its better to be getting better rather than being far and away the best.
    Its also better to be better in the CL since we are all so bitter about the league and its results offlate, not to mention the utter crap the refs have been serving us.
    Better late than never.
    Visca Barca!
    The bitter team turning better!

    sorry, jus spazing out

  6. Chiu
    February 16, 2012

    Kxevin for brought up about Rivaldo hattrick on previous post. It jog my memory again on how wild we (fans, players and the board) celebrated that 3-2 win over Valencia on the last day of 2001 league match. It’s just “only” to seal the 4th position and qualification for CL but everybody went crazy as if we win the league. Still fresh in my mind how I truly value that 3 points.

    Now, a decade later; we are indisputably stayed at the stratosphere of world football. It’s a significant contrast, but the levels of how we appreciate the thing now and the sky-scrapping expectation have become too unrealistic. I realize we are already accustomed with the incredible football for the last 4 years. It’s normal we as a fans wishing this cycle would never end, but it’s improbable.
    It’s too early to judge we are on the down cycle or come to the “end of era” conclusion. So I just want to enjoy what we have now. Thanks for the reality check Kxevin.

    By the way, that fantastic performance from Rivaldo could be equaled with Ronaldinho concert where he got standing ovation from Bernabeu crowd and Messi hattrick on 3-3 classico.

    PS: Sorry Calvin, for out of topic comment. Nice review.

    • G6O
      February 16, 2012

      A 3-1 win against Leverkusen 10 years ago would have been something to celebrate (in fact 10 years ago we lost 2-1 at the BayArena but in the group stage).

      The Rijkard team was never expected to win 5-0 away from home in the knockout phase of the CL.

      This team has never done that.

      We’ve been seriously spoiled

      • February 16, 2012

        A 3-1 against Leverkusen away in the CL round of 16 would have been celebrated in any of the past three years, let alone the past 10 years.

        I have a feeling the people who were unhappy with the performance were projecting their anger from the weekend onto this match, because we really played well.

    • nzm
      February 17, 2012

      They showed that game on Barca TV last night.

      Oh my stars, what an amazing backwards scissorkick from Rivaldo for his 3rd and match-winning goal in the 88th min.

      They are also showing matches in the Guardiola era – when players were still allowed to wear jewellery on the pitch, the coaching team smoked on the bench, and Mourinho was sitting beside Robson. Scary. 😀

  7. barca96
    February 16, 2012

    You guys have to understand the reason why everyone went wild.

    We went through a bad period and were in danger of losing out on CL.
    Imagine if we missed out on CL that year, there would’ve been a mass exodus of players in the summer and this club would’ve never reached this point.

    • sd
      February 16, 2012

      I am not so sure there would have been an exodus. Rijkaard’s first year in charge we played in the UEFA cup which was enough at the time to get Ronaldinho. But the point remains the same it is extremely important for the stability of the club to be in Europe. When I think about it since the days I have been supporting this club that 2nd place finish in 03/04 is my favourite year, what a ride it was! At one point we were something like 3 or 4 points above the relegation zone and then Davids joined. More than Ronaldinho I think he was the reason the club turned around. He did for that team effectively what Busi does for this now and Makelele did for Madrid before Perez stayed on his high horse. Anyways, this has gone way off topic…but I am not so sure we would have had an exodus besides maybe it wouldnt have been that bad given the mediocre players we had invested in; Rochemback, Geovanni, Gerard Lopez

  8. Laurentiu88
    February 16, 2012

    I am sorry to disagree with the previous post argument and the majority of comments on wards. What is the logic of comparing the team now with what was some seasons ago? We can pick some poor seasons and as a result be happy with any display. I think we should compare ourselves with maybe the previous season (to see whether we are progressing or not) and with other top teams now. THIS and ONLY this is relevant to judging our games now. The historical perspective is not necessarily wrong but in a sport where change happens rather fast is not necessarily revealing – especially when there are so many unaccounted changes (for example take the club budgets!)

    What I mean is that we should not build straw man from in our expectations – either expecting every time a 5-0 win or, on the other side, being satisfied with poor performances jsut because some seasons ago win were trophy less.

    As my comments on the game, the result is great – especially after the less satisfactory run of games and what clearly looks like a tired team and with so many absentees or coming from. On the other hand there were also things that did not seem ok. For example our lack of penetration, maybe we were ok to control the game at first, but I think the team is missing some in-form front men! Right now it feels to me we have to run everyhting through Messi. There is no left side to our attack – a second brain in Iniesta and somebody to play the role of Villa or Pedro (even thou’ Tello proved a good solution in some games).

    • barca96
      February 16, 2012

      I concur with your first two paragraphs.

      We shouldn’t compare with the team from another era which had too many different players. Heck, in that season, where we narrowly beat Valencia in the injury time, even Pep was still playing. Xavi and Puyol were young’uns.

      We shouldn’t use that era as a measuring stick.

    • February 16, 2012

      I see what you’re saying that we can’t compare our performances and results to those of seasons long past. However our past can help inform us that we are currently in an unparalleled part of our history, and instead of being angry every time a pass is miss hit or we concede a goal we should try to enjoy every minute of it.

      And yes, we are definitely lacking in form strikers. The fact that Cuenca may be our third best forward in the team right now (if you don’t include Fabregas) scares me. A lot.

  9. BarcaOwl
    February 16, 2012

    Thanks for the review, Calvin. It was a good read.

  10. ooga aga
    February 16, 2012

    lets see how valencia does at stoke on a cold stoke-y night! very glad we get two more days rest than they do, prior to their visit to the camp nou this weekend…

    but rooting for a valencia win today…

  11. February 16, 2012

    Nice review. If this keeps up, EVERYBODY will write better reviews than I.

    I don’t think two eras can be compared. My reference to the old days was to put my current worldview of “Holy Crap!” into a bit of perspective.

    A better way to put it is you know how every time you leave the house, the dog wags his tail and begs to come along, and how he does it every. last. time. And you think, “When will he figure it out?”

    He never will, because dogs are eternal optimists. THIS will be the time. Then when it finally happens, when you take him along, it’s pretty much the greatest thing that has EVER happened in his little doggy world.

    That’s me and this club. It’s why I won’t say the Liga is done til the math says it is. I’ll be standing by the door, wagging my tail, believing …. and even when there are no more “walks,” there will be more next week, and more chances to believe.


    • nzm
      February 16, 2012

      Bow wow to this!^^ Great analogy.

      Pep is our César Millán.

      In dog we trust.

      • mom4
        February 16, 2012

        Ummmm…do you think that Pep can take some time outta his schedule and come to my house and train the puppy. Xavi has been barking a lot and chewing on things and wreaking puppy havoc upon us.

        • BarcaOwl
          February 16, 2012

          Oh dear, mom4. Has he taken the Ramos apart by now?

          • mom4
            February 16, 2012

            Amazingly the Ramos is still with us. Some of the less well-made toys have had the stuffing ripped out of them by his big sister Irish Setter, Trudie (she never had any interest in toys before…Xavi has taught the old dog how to have fun). He isn’t as hard on his toys as he is on out fingers and his crate (he’s teething).

        • BarcaOwl
          February 16, 2012

          I guess the Ramos is tougher than we thought. 😛

          You have my sympathies for Xavi’s teething issue. When my rottie was at that stage, he shredded our footwear with much enthusiasm.

    • February 16, 2012

      Don’t be ridiculous. I miss the Kxevin reviews of yore. You were my muse (or maybe more like a Siren, haven’t decided if I’ve crashed on the rocks yet)

  12. February 16, 2012

    This is an awesome review, Calvin! Really enjoyed reading it.

    It’s the 70th minute which means Adriano has played a full game

    I LOL’d. So true.

    • Nav
      February 16, 2012

      What’s more disturbing about Adriano’s is his rate of injury. I almost expect him to pick up injuries in every game now.

  13. culegirl3
    February 16, 2012

    Wonderful review Calvin! Loved to comparison of Barcelona to the Beatles
    I was a bit dumbfounded at people’s comments post-Leverkusen game but I suppose we culés are never satisfied either way 😉

    OT: Is anyone here sick and tired of the never ending saga that is Patrice Evra/Luis Suarez?

    • Ryan
      February 16, 2012

      For my OT fun I rather be happy for Atleti – regardless of their horrible league form, they seem to enjoy the Europa League, eh?

      • culegirl3
        February 16, 2012

        That was quite a game…if only they’d put in the effort against EE.

        • mom4
          February 16, 2012

          Now Los Che tries to do it on a cold Thursday night at the Britannia.

          Go bats. Win. Dominate. Do Spain proud!

          and get really really really tired in the process.

        • Ryan
          February 16, 2012

          Yeah, that’ll never happen. Although with Falcao they really do have an aerial threat that can cause problems.

  14. barca96
    February 16, 2012

    What a perfect way to start the day for me 😆

    After Leverkusen players Friedrich and Kadlec fought for Messi’s shirt at half-time, the club wants to sell the shirts for charity. [bild]

    note: kadlec swapped shirts with messi at half-time but friedrich took the shirt from him, at full-time kadlec swapped again with messi


    Poor guys, in the end neither of them got it.

    • Chiu
      February 16, 2012

      So childlike LOL 🙂

      People idolize the brilliant Messi, even fellow profesionals haha

    • BarcaOwl
      February 17, 2012

      Do you think they’ll try to get hold of his shirt again when they come to Camp Nou?

  15. Jafri
    February 17, 2012

    Anyone know how Jeffren’s doing this season?

    • Salia
      February 17, 2012

      Jeffren about the same way he was doing here. Injured every other week and when he does play he always gets subbed out at half time either because of his poor performances or the fact that he is injured.

      Appearances 5
      Complete games 0
      Minutes played 222
      games started 3

      Yellow cards 1
      sent off with 2 bookings 1
      Goals 1

      he scored a freekick and while taking it he got injured

  16. Chiu
    February 17, 2012

    Some mixed thought:

    – From barcastuff: “Xavi, who trained at the gym yesterday, won’t play against Valencia on Sunday. Guardiola prefers he recovers for another week”. [cat radio]. We better ensure Xavi is completely fit and not risk him at all, as we will need him more on the decisive moment approaching end of season. We were able to beat Valencia in CDR without him, so I’m hopeful the team could repeat it this weekend.

    – With the suspension of Alves and Mascherano plus the injury precaution for Adriano, we’re pretty short of first teamers’ esp. defenders for Valencia match. I think Bartra and Montoya would get call up to ride the bench. And probably Pep would be forced to start with 3-4-3 like below:

    Puyol – Pique – Abidal
    Iniesta – Thiago – Busi – Cesc
    Messi – Cuenca – Alexis

    I personally prefer 4-3-3 against Valencia because last time we met them with 3 defenders, we struggled. Their winger took advantage and troubled us. If we start with 4-3-3, we need Busi or Bartra to pair with Pique as CB and Puyol shift to RB. Or Montoya fill the RB spot so Puyol could start CB. Though I think it’s too risky to play Bartra or Montoya against team with Valencia quality. Hopefully Adriano would make it to the squad so we could start with more solid 4 defenders.

    – Yesterday, Valdes was asked about possible passilo for EE. He said: “Wouldn’t be a problem. We’re professionals; you have to be graceful in victory and defeat.” I like his respond. If my memory serves me right, we did the same to respect Manchester United when they walked to the stand in CL final and we form the guard too in CDR final to salute EE?

    – When Pep will renew? What he wait? It would be positively pick up the spirit and atmosphere within the team if he does soon. An extra fuel to sail from Hlebruary to the end of season. Come on Pep!

  17. February 17, 2012

    Am I the only one here enjoying the fact that Valencia went to the Britannia on a cold rainy midweek night in winter, dominated, and won? Cos I’m… pretty stoked.

    *puts on shades* AAAAHHH YEAAAAAAAAAH

  18. Huckleberry
    February 17, 2012

    Hleb finally found a club somewhere in Russia

    • February 17, 2012

      I’m trying to think what his motivation to deposit the money could have been (if he actually did).

      Blackmail? Pay-off for a bid he was given without going through the normal process (in the article), deposit on a bride for one of our budding stars?

      • Miguel
        February 17, 2012

        Neymaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarr! Obviously.

        • February 17, 2012

          As I noted in other media forums, he either has an extravagantly progressive view of the child’s weekly allowance system, or he’s every bit as corrupt a little weasel as he accused (and sued) Laporta of being.

          I’m going to vote for No. 2.

          Transparency and cleanliness, my ass!

  19. February 17, 2012

    I am very happy with my campion, FC Barcelona, was a good game despite some mistakes, especially defensive. Congratulating Alexis is working hard on the field every minute solid performance if you follow well be a big one.

    • February 18, 2012

      Welcome to the blog! Hope to see you comment more often..

    • Chiu
      February 17, 2012

      from barcastuff:

      Calderon (ex-president Madrid): “That Madrid doesn’t allow the cup final to be played at their stadium is an action of a small club.” [com]

      – Sid mentioned that according to RFEF: we never vetoed Camp Nou to host 2004 CDR final. EE don’t have valid back-up argument to retaliate us, because we never did the same.

      – EE will get the 33,3% from the revenue. From business point of view, it’s an extra money for EE. Plus the stimulation and domino effect to the local economy (Madrid) on that week.

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