Barca 5, Valencia 1: Unlucky 13?, aka “A display of strength, kinda sorta.”


This was a weird one, in which positions were reversed. Usually, it’s us rolling into a match having only days before played a mid-weeker against a tough opponent. This time it was Valencia wearing our shoes, coming to Fortress Nou without Ever Banega who, in the “We can’t make this shit up,” file, has a broken ankle after forgetting to set the parking brake on his car as he filled it up with gas.

Let’s pause for a moment for that one.

This match was meaningful for a number of reasons. We are still, make no mistake about it, fighting for La Liga. We had a 13-point deficit to the league leaders after they thumped yet another opponent that was reduced to 10 men. As usual, it was a luxury that we weren’t going to be able to expect.

But we also had some suspended players, so Guardiola rolled out with Valdes, Montoya, Puyol, Pique, Abidal, Iniesta, Busquets, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi and Sanchez. Though Xavi practiced as normal with the group, he didn’t get the match start, nor should he have.

Valencia, fresh off showing the world that in fact a cold, winter night in Stoke is a pretty easy thing to deal with for a Liga side, began with pressure and a packed midfield, which did two things (three, if you do math like a journalist):

–Clearly demonstrated that they were coming to play, without fear and with the knowledge that they might catch us thinking “Why bother, the Liga is done.”

–The midfield is where the magic happens, so shutting that area down should reduce the magical possibilities.

–Making our defense do what it doesn’t like to do and isn’t really good at, which is playing defense.

In my tennis player past, I always hated doubles, not only because I’m the solitary sort of prig who likes to fail on his own, but because there would always be, in every match, the ridiculous “After you, my dear Alphonse” moment that resulted in a ball sliding right in between two players, unsure of whose responsibility dealing with the damned thing was.

So it was when what should have been a harmless pass to a Valencia attacker sandwiched between Pique and Montoya, became a shock goal for them and a 0-1 lead. Busquets did everything right in applying the kind of desperate, controlling pressure that really left only one outlet for the attacker, a lobbed pass to a solo attacker that surely, Bean Pole was going to deal with. Valdes, realizing too late the ensuing comedy of errors, came off his line in a move that makes the intrepid evaluator wonder what might have happened had he stayed home.

Be that as it may it was still 0-1, and we had a little egg on our faces. Was this going to be another Osasuna, a fraught encounter with an empowered, resilient opponent and a fraught defense?

Nope. The midgets pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and began to turn on a display of footballing beauty that makes it abundantly clear that while they might not be leading the Liga, there can be no doubt about the best footballing side around. It was passing, running, attack after attack and Sanchez continuing his coming out party.

It should be noted that while Messi tallied four goals, Sanchez’ was, for me, a more impressive overall match. His dynamism and end-to-end pressure deserved a goal if not more. Some of it was his own clunkiness in front of goal, some just a keeper standing on his head today, as we should all bow down to the staggering Diego Alves, who kept his side from taking an even worse hiding than it did, in a match that was closer than the scoreline indicated, but not really that close at all, at the same time. A weird one, in other words.

But the scoreline was a shock, really, because the match began with Pique showing off the Masia roots with a spectacular move in traffic, and Tika-Taka was in fine form. Valencia was pressing the ball, but just couldn’t get it. Pique uncorked another excellent run to unleash Messi, Busquets fed Pedro for a cross to nowhere, but you could see the pressure building.

And then came the mess of a goal, that in effect was something easily shrugged off as a fluke, which was what our side did. Sanchez (again) delivered a remarkable ball for Pedro, that resulted in nothing when as usual this season, the latter thought too much and the opportunity was lost. But the connections were being made, and the sprites were drawing ever closer until just as suddenly as for the Valencia goal, it happened:

A truly great ball from Fabregas for Pedro resulted in P finally doing the right thing in taking the pass, not clunking it up and charging directly forward to apply pressure, before a bit of luck involved itself as a defender’s clearance attempt fell directly to Messi who made no mistake, sliding a deft curler into the far post for 1-1.

As with Valdes, Valencia’s Alves was left helpless by his defense, and the match was in the balance. How would Valencia respond? How would we respond? What was about to happen here?

It was at this point that it became abundantly clear why this is a championship side, irrespective of what happens in the biggest competitions this season. And after our goal, you can see concern and doubt in the the Valencia faces, wondering if they had another wonder goal in them, another moment of defensive frailty from us to get them more shots, was the luck still there? Because Pedro’s cross was once again, really to nowhere, but luck, always luck. As importantly, the goal came from the cognizance that width was, today as always, the answer against a side willing to sow rock salt in the fertile ground in which Tika-Taka grows.

Refereeing conspiracy theorists then gained more ammunition as Fabregas appeared to be rather clearly fouled in the box, but the official was having none of it. For me, it was difficult to see how it wasn’t a penalty, but hey, I’m not a Liga official. Perhaps he thought that Fabregas went down a little too easily? Good question, one that we answered with more pressure and aggression in keeping Valencia on the back foot with fairy dust, magical powder left in the wake of glittering, vibrant football of the likes we haven’t seen from this club in some time.

Messi had a remarkable run that at any moment could have resulted in a goal for Sanchez rather than a goal kick for Valencia, had he just made a simple pass. Not that it mattered, because the midgets were rampant as Fabregas slid a lovely ball to Busquets while being fouled, and Busquets fed Ineista, who rolled an inch-perfect ball for Abidal, who topped that with another inch-perfect cross from Abidal for Messi, who was right on the doorstep. The first shot was stopped (and spilled) by Alves, but the follow-up was spanked home.

Just like that it was 2-1, via a pair of goals that both took advantage of the width that Valencia decided to cede to a side that was thriving on it.

And if you have the match on a recording device, gaze in wonderment at that Iniesta pass to Abidal again. So much of what a player can do with a ball is dictated by the pace and placement of the pass. The best passes leave the player with precious little to do except keep running as the ball magically appears at his feet. Iniesta’s ball to Abidal was one such moment. Abidal looked so natural taking the pass and continuing because it was so flawless. Indeed, it would have been indescribably churlish of him to not return the favor with a ball of the quality of the cross that he sang in for Messi.

Valencia looked to be in dire, dire trouble as that second goal, like gourmands at an all-you-can-eater at a 4-star Michelin joint, opened our eyes and made us hungryhungryhungrier. Another staggering pass from Fabregas to Sanchez resulted in feck all, as our spendy Chilean clearly needs to work on his finishing. He was 1-v-1 vs Alves, who did all the right things as Sanchez opted for power rather than guile. At another moment, Fabregas broke loose in the box but Alves stopped him, too. What could have been 4-1 against a lesser keeper was still 2-1 as Valencia dangled, somehow withstanding our pressing for a third, insurance, match-changing goal.

And we were treated to even more amazing passing sequences, give and gos, runs and rushes including a Messi/Iniesta sequence that unfolded like one of those high-wire acts that makes you slap your head in wonderment. It was so remarkable that you could, as Messi shot, see Fabregas starting to celebrate, perhaps because the quality of the play was such that it truly did deserve to result in a goal. Hmph. Fate wasn’t being so generous today. We were going to have to earn this one, to beat a keeper that was playing out of his mind, suddenly under siege. Shot after shot, run after run. the match win. There were many moments of joy in a match played on a pitch that seemed tilted toward the Valencia goal:

–A delightful bit of defense from Pedro sprung the side on the attack.

–Guardiola stood on the sideline, urging club to play faster, get moving, throw the ball in.

–Sanchez, again unleashed, takes an ill-advised shot, when he should have waited, even as the message was clear: I’m not waiting around, boys. I came here for greatness, now let’s get busy.

–In an opportunity to play a ball out, Valdes just put a rather emphatic boot into a clearance, after another mini cock-up by his defense. Perhaps a message?

–There was Iniesta (again) with a “wait what was that” pass for Fabregas, who somehow hit the crossbar. Our pressure and aggression returned the defense returns to its proper role of not really being a defense, but rather a group of players who deal with long, leaked balls and stray attackers, a very different task for which it is perfectly suited. And somehow, it got to the half still 2-1.

The second half picked up where the first left off, as poor Sanchez can’t buy one after a dynamite pass from Fabregas over the top, but Alves did it again. We pressed and pressed for that needed third goal needed for insurance, breathing room from a Valencia side that can score, and was unafraid. The match was, for me, on pins and needles.

Fabregas made a fragile, shuffling, shambling solo run into box, resulting in yet another stop from Alves. Messi steals the ball and makes a run, demonstrating little more than that he and Sanchez not quite on same wavelength yet. Then another Messi run too far.

The fearsome urgency of this side was clear in a moment during which Sanchez was fouled. As he lay there rubbing his ankle, doing the “Poor me” face, his teammates took the free kick, clearly saying “Get up, dude, you’re fine. We have work to do,” and restarted play.

Sanchez was gifted with yet another opportunity that cried out for a one-time volley, even as he earned a corner. Two players were shining like diamonds here, Alves for them in stopping everything that came near him and Sanchez, who was showing off his field-stretching skills as he forced yet another save from Alves, who was keeping his club around, dangling, for a late goal or bit of magic. We knew that and kept pressing as Valencia kept getting a leg, a foot, a desperate lunge in.

And still it was 2-1 as Messi went suddenly quiet, and Sanchez got very loud. Then Montoya, who had been gradually finding his feet in this match, never resembled Alves today as much as he did with a staggering pass for Messi, who clanged his header off the crossbar, as Alves got help that he didn’t need, and this match was positively killing me.

Fabregas scuffs another wide-open scoring chance, somehow, after busting Valencia open with another perfect ball for Sanchez who pressed, and the rebound fell directly to a wide-open Fabregas who proceeded to say “You, in the tenth row. Here’s a souvenir.” And Valencia was still hanging around, still with that evil 2-1 scoreline, as the typical Cule could be forgiven for beginning to think that Fate was setting us up for heartbreak. For what other explanation could there be for the witchcraft that kept that third goal from coming.

Messi pops a perfect ball to Pedro who screws the pooch on the cross for Sanchez, leaving Messi to make a face that said “NOW you see why I take the damn shots all the time!”

Then suddenly, it was nightmare time, as Pique committed the cardinal sin of heading a ball into the sky, resulting in a powerful volley from Valencia that forced a remarkable save from Valdes, followed by more danger off the corner. Then everything changed in three words: Tello for Pedro. I leave it to you to suss out whether the cheer of the crowd was salutary or anticipatory.

What got me geeked was that suddenly, we had a pair of greyhounds in the traps. Valencia’s coach Unai Emery seemed to sense this, understanding that heroism from a keeper only gets you so far, as he, too, clamored for his side to get busy, make plays such as the one that forced Valdes to rush from his line to stop a play as yet another ball over the top from ceded possession in the midfield led directly to danger from Valencia, even as Pique got away with one as he held back a Valencia attacker.

Still 2-1. Still.

And then it was Tello, who had been raising hell with pressure, pace and more pressure, taking a pass from Messi and charging directly at Valencia with pace. Not thinking, not seeking perfection, not doing anything except running directly at the defense and taking a shot that forced a spilled reflex save from Alves that is rammed home my Messi. And suddenly, insurance came from the sparkplug. Then Tello follows that up with a remarkable move that finds him alone in the box, running at Alves …. only to trip over ball. Dude faked himSELF out. At 3-1, you can laugh at that one, as Guardiola did.

The Tello Show continued as he created more chaos with a steal, attack and pass that led to a missed shot from Thiago. Then Messi steals the ball and feeds a wide-open Tello, who like Sanchez needs to work on his shooting at the next practice session.

It was the fourth goal that for me, makes MOTM a toss-up between Messi and Sanchez. The latter demonstrated his absurd work rate as he watched play develop, figured out where the ball was going to be then ran, like a man possessed, very late into a match that was already in hand, to make the interception. You can see him already reading the play, and running to where he knows the ball is going to be. Sure enough, blammo. He picks off the pass and feeds Busquets before taking off full-speed for the other end of the pitch. But Busquets does the right thing in feeding a bust-out Messi, who beautifully chips Alves. That’s FOUR goals for Messi in a match that wasn’t his best by a damn sight.

It was well and truly over, and Alves was done in by Fate, who clearly had things in mind other than breaking the hearts of Cules everywhere. And as lovely icing on the cake, Xavi tallies No. 5 off the aftermath of a seemingly impossible Messi little run/dribble, yielding a desperately cleared ball that fell right to Xavi, for another deft lob. Side of his outside foot.

“Fiesta del futbol,” indeed, as one of the ESPN Deportes commentators noted at the conclusion of this match, whose scoreline will tell a different story than the event itself. It’s back to a 10-point lead, as we look up the table in hope, buoyed by a delight of a display.

Team: 8. Team football was on full display, with very few moments of selfishness and tendencies to go it alone. It was midfield pressure, defense in depth and passing suitable to make a Spirograph dizzy.

Guardiola: 9. The right starting XI, the right substitutions. We’ll leave his moment with Fabregas for the ages, and just laud him for inserting Tello.

Valdes: 7. I thought he should have stayed home and taken his chances on the Piatti goal. Other than that and a funky clearance or two, another brilliant match. He is so sure and confident in his ball handling that it has to assure his defenders.

Montoya: 5. Seemed out of his depth for much of this match before finding his way in, but definitely one for the future.

Pique: 7. Now this is more like it. Was it the seat that he was forced to take against Bayer? Good question. But today’s match was his best in some time, on both ends of the pitch.

Puyol: 7. Powerhouse display. Done for pace a couple of times, which goes with the aging gladiator territory. And you wonder where he was during the Montoya/Pique pooch-screwing.

Abidal: 6. I don’t like his recent tendency to dither on the ball. Not one bit. It cost us a couple of times in situations that could have come to real danger, even as he worked his butt off to make up for them. And what a cross for Messi.

Busquets: 9. What an absolute gem of a match for our lanky DM. Without Xavi in the engine room his role changed to more box-to-box, and he handled it with grace and style. Remarkable play that often went under the radar.

Iniesta: 7. After a slow early start, became a dangerous wonder with ball after ball after amazing, remarkable ball. Then he would drift out again. Shone brightly in the Xavi role.

Fabregas: 7. Danger. All the time, with his ability to place a long pass in the exact right spot for an attacker like Sanchez. Needs to work on his finishing, however. Guardiola is right. He should have had two goals today.

Pedro: 5. He tries and tries, but a little something is missing. Good plays on offense and defense, but it’s almost like he’s thinking too much. A couple of bad first touches also cost us at what could have been key times.

Sanchez: 8. He continues to work his way into our remarkable side. His finishing needs work, but he changes the pitch from end to end in a way that we have sorely missed with the departures of Henry and Eto’o. He still plays around with the ball at bit too much, but he’s fearless, strong and confident.

Messi: 7. Yes, a 7, even as he grabs MOTM in a close-run vote from Sanchez. Being in the right place is an underestimated quality of a great player. He was in the perfect spot way too many times in this match for it to be happenstance. Had some giveaways, and a little laconic in his overall work rate, but a stellar match.


Tello (for Pedro). Not enough time for a full rating, but rather than a number, I will just say “WOW!” Sheer pace is so hard to argue with. Couple it with ball skills and you have real danger. Work on that finishing and his future is so, so bright.

Thiago (for Fabregas). Again, not enough time for a full rating, but notice how he stayed in the engine room when Xavi subbed on. I like that. Nice passing and movement, should have done better with his shot at goal.

Xavi (for Iniesta). Just a few minutes to loosen the old calf up, and he scored a lovely goal. Why not?

Next up for us is Atletico, in the cauldron of their home stadium. Let’s see if we can carry over this wonderfulness into a convincing road display. For now, a guy who says that everything is his:

"Minemineminemine! Mine!"

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. 7 for Messi? even after moving to your new house you’re still a biased jackass… 😀
    Just kidding..

    Happy with this match, one of the best performance of the season.. and glad to see “aka” back too! Thanks, Kevin..

    10 points? Yes, it’s a lot.. But it doesn’t matter to me, watching Barça plays brilliant gives me an enormous joy.. Just enjoy every single game..

    Also Cesc is getting better in midfield position.. Still have a lot of room to improve though, of course.. And Alexis, damn.. this guy is a beast..

    Next week we’ll be a tough test..

    1. This guy Kevin is a joke. He’s given Messi an average rating of 6.5 between this season and last. Two historical seasons in which Messi stats are outrageous and he’s been at his best in the biggest matches.

      Please recheck how many chances Messi created. He actually initiated most of the moves that led to his own goal. He should have been MORE selfish given how the others blew perfect chances he created.

      I don’t think Kevin understands that as the player on who’s shoulder’s creativity rests you are going to lose more balls than say your CB. As long as you lose them in the opponents 3rd it’s not a big problem.

      Please also note how Alexis played on the wing in this match. Alexis leading the line with Messi playing in the hole has not worked that well for Barca. It gets clogged up and Alexis is not the finisher that Messi is.

    2. Was breaking out of my hiatus to say something about Banega but first I’ll reply to this here:

      “This guy Kevin” grades on a semi-relative scale. He’s spent so many paragraphs in the past praising Messi sky-high that he reserves his 9s and 10s for matches like the 4-1 against Arsenal in 2009-2010. He’s not a joke just because he doesn’t slap down ridiculously high numbers for Messi for doing what he’s done so many times before.

      You play that well, that consistently, and Kevin takes that into account when he gives you his numbers. Calling him a ‘joke’ implies he’s obligated to not expect that new readers are unfamiliar with his gradings and explain them every time. He’s not.

  2. We were all heart, skill and magic today. We were irrepressible, unstoppable and unrelenting. But, damn, … are these keepers getting better or is it just me? Sheesh. I agree about Abidal, that something is just off, it’s as if he’s just too calm on the ball and that extra second gives an opponent an opportunity to strip him of the ball. I wish he would play with the same urgency when he receives a pass as he does when he misplaces a pass and tries to track it back down.
    Pique – I’m still not convinced. I think it’s been so long that he hasn’t had his head in the game, it’s almost like he’s coming back from an injury. I’d keep him on the bench a few more games for good measure.
    Pedro .. ugh .. I know he doesn’t have playing time but how can he be that off? Not only does he have a poor first touch and makes poor passing choices but he seems to disappear on the pitch. Yet, Tello comes on and see tons of action. Is it Pedro’s positioning? I hate to say it, but I hope our front line starts to include Tello instead of Pedro.
    Messi played an immense game and was my MOTM not simply because he scored 4 goals but because the sheer beauty, technique and unworldly skill set but mostly because he hustled all over the field, tracked back, took on defenders and made impossible passes.
    But, Alexis came in a close second because he gave it his all and deserved a goal. He gets better in every game. I see that he falls a lot less as each game goes by. Today I saw him him doing Xavi circles in order to get out of trouble. I really like what I see.
    Love Cesc, but I’ve loved him in every game he’s played. He’s a different kind of player, one that roams the middle – attacking and defending. He can make killer passes and he can score goals. He’s a player that can be almost anywhere at any given time. Yeah, he’s slow for pace and misplaces a few balls but IMO he make up for it in almost every match.
    We haven’t seen this team play with this intensity in a while so this game really made me happy. 🙂

  3. I would like to point something out. Yes, I havent read the entire (or any of it but I will get to it) article so it might have been already said. Barcelona after this game, after a very long time don’t have a midweek game. Playing like we did today and having a week off finally can only be a good thing. It will give everyone an opportunity to rest and refocus.

  4. Thanks for the quick review, Kxevin! It’s always fun to see Messi break records, such as scoring 4 goals in the league. 🙂

  5. Yaya! An ‘aka’!

    Just popping in to say I watched the match and this is what I mean when I said ‘just enjoy them’. Simply sensational.

    Performances like this is why *IMO* Barca doesn’t HAVE to win La Liga for me to be happy.

    That was so fun to watch. Do you think it was fun? I thought it was fun. Forget referees, conspiracies, Marca-esque tables. This is why I am a cule.

    What I’m most proud of: 9 out of the starting 11 were canteranos. They cost a grand total of… nada.

    Valencia didn’t use tactical fouling this time around. Curious decision. Awkward pressing at times too. And they played a high backline nonetheless. Maybe they didn’t have the legs?

    That said I think FCB adapted as well. Didn’t seem to have as many problems this time around.

    (I’m sorry but I just have to say it: When Jordi Alba complains and/or gets angry he looks like an enraged chipmunk.)

    I don’t usually indulge in tacky name puns but I’ll make an exception this one time: Asexis. I mean really. Udinese hipster is gloating. (BTW Isla out for 6 months?! Gah.)

    Jokes aside, it warms my heart to see how much he’s improved in 3 and a half years. Before he was a stocky, lovable midget with loads of potential (often masked by step overs); now a stocky, lovable midget with incredible vision, fantastic positional sense, ridiculous workrate, decent finishing ability with even more room to improve.

    He lives alone in Barcelona (no girlfriend, family, etc.) and it’s his first year so it really is all about football for him. Probably why he can’t handle sitting in the stands and would be down with painkillers if it meant he’d play.

    – That Busi pass. That Iniesta pass for Cesc’s palo hit. Should have gone in so that it can be rewatched for ages. What a build up. What a goal it would have been. The post is obviously a perico. (See what I did there?)

    Oh well. At least Messi finished off dat pass.

    I really don’t want to be a Debbie Downer but I hope the Tello hype doesn’t get out of control. Not accusing anyone, just saying in general. It’s not that I’m not happy for him — both him and Cuenca have come so far — and that’s exactly my point; they’re still improving. It’s dangerous to try to replace every off form player with the ‘next Masia star’. Unreasonable level of expectations, etc.*

    That said, there was a lot of space on the left wing and Tello’s pace was well suited to take advantage. Rami (?) just backed off of
    him. Nice. The slip however…. 😆

    [*I hope to do an in-depth post about the youth teams sometime. Someday. In the future.]

  6. Finally a performance that almost reaches the heights of last season. Not quite as good ball circulation (which is to be expected with a back-from-injury Iniesta, and without Xavi and Alves [who is very important in this regard]), but a more powerful attack. Last season Pedro and Villa were definitely better finishers than current Pedro, Cesc and Sanchez. But unlike last season, we had players other than Messi who were asking for the ball and taking players on. It got even better when Tello came on. THREE players demanding the ball, creating their own chances, and scaring the crap out of the defense? Haven’t seen that since Henry-Eto’o-Messi attack.

    In my opinion, we need a striker in the team. I actually think we are going to have a hard time finding room though. I mean, we are going to have next season: Messi, VIlla, Pedro, Sanchez, Fabregas, Afellay, and Cuenca. Let’s say we sell Afellay (which will be tough to do), and let’s say we consider Cesc’s place in the team in the midfield (which I don’t believe), we still don’t have room for a striker, if we are trying to accommodate Tello.

    Which brings another point; we are apparently going to promote all of Montoya, Bartra, Muniesa, and JDS this summer. Along with the probable promotion of Oier, and Tello. And we’ve already promoted Cuenca recently. I see the need to promote Montoya (we need a sub for Alves, which isn’t Puyol or the 3-4-3). And I would like Bartra to replace Fontas in the squad. But Muniesa as well? Unless they are planning on Muniesa gradually taking over Abidal’s defensive leftback position. And then there’s JDS. I really like him and hope he gets promoted. For years now I’ve been hoping JDS and Thiago would be the subs for Xavi and Iniesta. But then Cesc will have to stay in the front line always. Which brings me back to the first problem… Not to mention how tough it will be for the B team.

  7. I’m on to ya Kari .. 🙂
    Pedro is off form and Tello seems to have something we just NEED at this crucial time when we’re still clawing for La Liga. Tello has explosive pace on the wing that we desperately need to keep us viable. Pedro is just lacking in so many areas at this time. It’s not that I think Tello is the next Masia star nor is it personal against Pedro, but this is a game where the point is to win and where you try to field your best 11 players, not the ones you have soft spots for. Believe me, I like Pedro too, and he’s done sooo much for us in the past, but if I take the emotion out of it I’m more comfortable giving Tello a start and subbing in Pedro at this point in time.

    1. I completely agree. And it’s so easy to see how much the team wants Tello on the field right now. Pedro on the left, they almost looked like they didn’t want him to have the ball, they only used him as an outlet. They know that most likely, as soon as Pedro gets it, he one touches it backwards. And Valencia’s defense wasn’t at all worried about him. Then when Tello came on, our attack completely switched to his side. Messi constantly looked to play to him. And I loved how the whole Valencia back line became focused as soon as he got it. They already know about him, and they backed off a lot so that he couldn’t use his pace as much (but he did anyways :p). And you can see how the whole team really appreciates his speed. It’s not something we’re used to as much. Tello is probably our only attacker who can match up physically with the Madrid forwards. He’s probably as fast as Di Maria and Ronaldo, and doesn’t get muscled easily. I think Pep was mad at Tello for his finishing. Which is very understandable. But I hope that doesn’t stop him from starting Tello some more.

      I am pretty much against the 3-4-3, but I want to see it now against a smaller team. I want to see a Tello-Messi-Sanchez attack, and I want to see it supported by Cesc in his best “false 10” position. Also just want to see it in a regular 4-3-3 with Adriano and Alves playing as wingbacks.

    2. Hehe. Darn! I’ve been caught… :mrgreen:

      Honestly though, don’t get me wrong — I definitely see where people are coming from. It’s not as if I’m an old school Pedro! lover or anything, nor do I clamor for experience over those who earned it (just see my attitude towards many *ahem* experienced players in the B-team) And currently, Tello indeed offers things that are different — it’s been a long time since Barca had a pure winger. I’m just saying that if Tello has a string of bad games, it’s not that he’s suddenly become sh*t. (case in point, Cuenca. Not you, but many other cules on the net) There’s a learning curve, and it’s not good to place higher expectations on him. Remember what happened with Bojangles?

      Today as great as his offense was, his defensive game was lacking. (With Pedro!, vice versa.) There were times where Pep was having a bit of a go at him for not tracking back well enough to help Abidal and with some lax passing. From what I saw on my broadcast anyway.

      Tello was the third best forward of the b-team after Soriano and Nolito last season — this is a fact — but it’s also true that often he had terrible decision making, especially in the final third. The biggest reason why Tello looks so great in the first team is that he is much more restricted in the system. There’s not much room for him to think for himself, so to speak. Expecting him to effectively be our third best forward (after Messi, Alexis. Could added in Cesc to make it 4th) on the team, on this Barca where teams bust a gut just to draw or not lose too badly, is too much too soon IMO. Youth players should be brought in slowly, without too much pressure. That’s all I’m saying.

      And really, it just illustrates the lack of depth, particularly left wing, we have this season (with Villa, Afellay injured, Pedro! off form). There is also a fascinating parallel between the problems in the youth team and first team which I hope I get the time to explain to you all so I don’t sound like an obnoxious hipster. 😀

    3. Just a thought: out of Cuenca and Tello, I think Cuenca is the classic, pure winger type, while Tello is the Thierry Henry inverted winger type.

      I had no idea that people were already criticizing Cuenca. He came in a time of need, and he exceeded expectations. He is still playing well I think.

      Bojan’s problem was being promoted way too early. The summer we sold him was probably around the time we should have been promoting him, not 4 years sooner.

      Tello has improved a lot I feel. Sure, the first team helps him look better by giving him a more specific role, but he is obviously developing a lot. I agree that the young guys have to be brought up slowly, but I think that’s what has been happening. He had a year with Barca B, then a good loan spell, then another year and a half of Barca B, and now Barca need him a lot. Also, although we obviously are lacking options, I think using guys like Cuenca and Tello is a sign of the quality we possess. That even with Villa, Afellay, and Pedro fit and on form, I think Cuenca and Tello would still be earning minutes in matches like these. Too much pressure is a killer, but when we just need a win, we have to play our most on form players, which in this case means eff experience, bring the babies.

    4. Bojan wasn’t necessarily promoted too early. he just had the misfortune of being a surplus in Guardiola’s plans.

      and that’s the nicest way to say it.

  8. I loved seeing Iniesta play like a one-touch version of Xavi. Xavi slows down the play with his distribution, which is fine when everyone is fit and on form, but kills the momentum when fatigue sets in and makes it too easy to predict and defend against. Iniesta’s touch was so precise that he was able to keep the tempo moving with quicker passing and consistent forward movement, making it so hard for Valencia to handle the barrage of attacks.

    Also, I agree with Kari about being careful with the Tello hype–while he definitely brings a danger that we’ve been needing lately, his slip shows that he is feeling the pressure to live up to some very high expectations. That said, between Pedro and Tello, it is the latter who has been living up to expectations again and again. For me, he deserves a start–and soon.

  9. 7 for Messi? I think you discounted the numerous one on one chances he created for others.

    Pedro deserved a 6, he was decent and did contribute (not intentionally) for the equalising goal. Montoya was good. If you cut the first ten minutes, he was solid.

  10. You, in the tenth row. Here’s a souvenir

    For that reason, he should’ve been MOtM!

    -On a serious note, Busi is by far the MOtM.
    Sanchez isn’t even close. Yes he worked his horses off but he kept losing the ball, kept holding the ball and slowing down the play or ignoring the 1-2’s.
    In the dying minutes, Thiago made a run into the box and played a pass to Sanchez and was hoping he would return the favor as Thiago was through on goal but instead the Chilean held the ball and dreamed a bit and took a weak shot.
    It happened a few times actually where instead of playing 1-2’s, he just held the ball and broke the play.

    -Ever since the VV vs Iker article came out, VV’s distribution has been piss poor. I think for the past week, he lost more balls than what he did in the last 3 seasons combined.

    -Messi was selfish before he got his hattrick but after that he started playing a team game. Kept on passing, putting other players through on goal.


    1. haha, your last demand will never be granted, and you know that 🙂

      Well, if you look at the ratings, Busi is MotM!

      I also think that Sanchez gets a little bit too much praise in this review (and Messi a little bit tot few).
      Think about it this way: If it wasn’t for Messi, we would not have won this match.
      We might still have created lots of brilliant chances, but in the end it is essential to convert them. And make no mistake, it’s not like the goals from Messi were all pure tap-ins. The first goal is scored from a very tight angle and with the keeper being only 1m away from him. Almost an impossible goal.
      The third goal was rather easy, but Cesc showed us that even such a chance isn’t a given goal.
      And the fourth goal was simply sublime.
      Messi was sooo superior with his finishing compared to Sanchez (and also Cesc, although Cesc was really unlucky with his shot against the crossbar, whereas Sanchez simply screwed his opportunities), and he was also tracking back. Not all game long, but when Valencia was 1-0 up, I remember that Messi tracked some player’s run and almost appeared like a centerback. He wanted to prevent, by all means, going down 2-0 again.

      Sanchez had overall a good match, but he could also have been the ‘blame of the match’ if some other guy hadn’t sealed it for us.

  11. I thought Pep made the right decision to start Pedro over Tello. Just like Kxevin mentioned in his piece, Valencia had a tricky midweek game leading up to this tie and Pep took that into consideration very highly. We could see Valencia dropping their intensity, and their goal sort of lowered their concentration. Pedro had a bad game by his standards, but he still made an impact whatever his role. Anyway by the time Pep subbed on Tello, Valencia were nowhere near the same intensity as when they started the game, so no matter what Tello had no excuse but to have a big impact with his pace against Valencia’s tired legs. Pedro on the other hand started off decently but eventually faded away as the game wore on. If Tello started, would he have made an impact the same way or faded away as well?

  12. Thanks for the review Kxevin.
    Though I am d’accord with the Busi rting, I don’t think Messi deserves a 7. What does Messi have to do to get a 9 or a 10. Does he have to recover more balls than Busi, anticipate more than Puyol, save more balls than Valdes, have more assists than Cesc, and also be the top scorer?

    1. I guess he will have to convert all his chances, not lose the ball running into walls of defenders when trying to dribble through the whole defense, pass the ball when he has better positioned teammates instead of shooting or dribbling (and losing it), and be more active in the defensive phase of the game (he has been mostly strolling around instead of really running and pressuring the defenders as he has been doing in the past, and our pressing really suffers as a result – this season we don’t recover as many balls as deep in the opponents’s half as we did in the past) but I guess the latter is the trade-off that has to be made if he is to play every game

    2. Agree with you here. Take some of the past matches, where Messi didnt had the luck to score. If Alexis or Tello or Cesc had played like that, all these reviewers would say that was a man of the match performers.
      And yesterday, Messi surely was not at his best. Forget his 4 goals, which are simply average by Messi standards. But the chances he created for others, all of which were wasted except for Xavi, alone should get him a 7 or 8.
      Messi with his amazing displays have spoiled most reviewers, I guess. Or these guys have something against Messi, that he doesnt speak Catalan or he still wants to play for Argentina or something like that.

    3. You know, I think some of us will have to suffer a match with no Messi to fully appreciate how much we rely on him. No Messi, no win yesterday – and that’s far from the only time that would’ve happened this season. He is the only clinical finisher we have on the current team. He is also the best at assists. He also draws three or four defenders (genuinely, unlike what used to be said about Ibra) and he plays every game unlike some of our more fragile members. Give him a break.

      Ask Valencia whether they think Messi was just a 7 🙂

  13. Just shows what amount of good a little rest does for our team.
    I haven’t seen such intense attacking for a long time. With a little bit of clinical finishing, we could have easily done an osasuna or hospitalet against valencia yesterday. Lexus is my man of the match along with busquets even though messi got the 4 goals.
    Also, I just couldn’t help but wonder what this team would be like if it had a Ronnie of 2005 in it on the left, say instead of P(!)no more.
    Tello is a bullet, let’s not rush this guy. He’s one to keep.

    1. Even at his best Ronaldinho wasn’t doing much defending so it’s an open question how he would have fit in the current system. But yes, the attack would have been amazing. We can still see something like it if we get Neymar though but defending is again the question there (although I think he would work a lot more than he currently does with Pep as a coach).

  14. O good, an aka!

    -Now, what does Messi have to do to get a 9?
    He created danger all night long, scored 4 while others were playing catch with Diego Alves or fans in row 30, ran his little butt off, and should’ve had like five bizillion assists last night if others weren’t so wasteful. A 7? Really? MotM by a Yaya.
    -Alexis had a good game. He’s a lot of fun to watch. I love his work rate. But he wasn’t nearly the player Messi was.
    -Busquets was out of this world—MotMotM, not Sanchez. Never get injured again, Busi!

    Just my opinion. I don’t want to start an argument and I’m up very early and am far too tired and cranky to argue politely anyway 🙂 .

    1. I’m with you. He was, well yeah, still trying to think of the words… I think the match he had can be summed up in one of those Puyol like moments that Messi had in the first 5-6 minutes, where he did some insane juggling-dribbling run into the box and the ball was knocked away across the touchline and he was the one who ran over and took the throw in. I remember thinking someone is on a mission, and came to play his bicentennial match. Four goals, threatening run after threatening run capped with brilliant passes later, seemed a right assumption. You can write off some of the messy (with a y) stuff he does to luck, but only if you believe he is the luckiest guy on the planet because he does it time and time again. It’s either that, or he has some uncanny sense of this game that we’d probably all be pretty hard pressed to understand. It’s very clear to me that he is doing something out there that most other people playing the game are not, so often in the right place, seeing things others aren’t seeing, it almost has a weird Rainman-like sevant quality to it. He deserved a 9, at least a Messi 8.5. 4 goals!?, it’s hard to score one out there, as evidenced by the countless missed chances. They left a lot on the table, but it isn’t easy… they just make it look that way sometimes.

  15. Ahhh. An aka review I can read while I drink my morning coffee. Not only that, but I get to look forward to people lambasting Kxevins choice of giving Messi a 7 all day.

    It’s going to be a good day.

  16. awesome review, it made me laugh out loud a couple of times.

    some pointers:

    Pedro is not just out of form, he’s rather showing how average he really is. not all Masia kids make it, well, here’s one. even last year, there were signs that the spark had run out. sorry to say, but this is the player we [Pep] sacrificed Bojan for and i cannot help with feeling tremendously disappointed.

    Busquets makes things tick, not surprised at all he got the highest rating. also, the through ball for Messi was so fabulous, it makes me wonder if he won’t convert to a Xavi type player, sometimes around 30. he reads the game already almost as well as the master.

    1. I think that is very harsh on Pedro, hes only 20! give the boy time 😉

      But on a serious note, its worse enough to completely overestimate a youngster like Tello, however its even worse to also give up on a player’s abilities, Pedro is 23/24? hes not even close to the end of his career.

    2. he’s had sufficient time. 3 seasons? plenty of playing time too. we just booted someone that had 4 seasons & far less playing time….hmmm.

      it’s not giving up if he was overhyped to begin with, which is what i’m hinting at. not even hinting to be quite honest.

    3. Over-hyped? He opened up the scoring vs. EE AND United at the end of last season… on a team of passers, he provides an option that just runs, waves arms, and shoots (when he’s not injured, of course).

  17. What we saw last night was a team play without pressure, knowing La Liga is probably beyond their grasp. It was a glorious sight.

    1. Oh, by light years. I just never trust links that people send to me, and all that jazz. Call me paranoid, but when a friend spent the weekend Tweeting weight loss tips after he clicked a wrong link ….

      All fixed now. 😀

  18. As usual, a few things:

    –Watch the match again. Sanchez was a monster. The whole match. When Messi was walking or not moving, Sanchez was running. Hard. He destabilized, pressed, defended, passed. It was an amazing all-round match for a player who is fast improving. Fast.

    –Yes, a 7 for Messi. What Messi has to do to get a higher rating is play a complete match TO HIS LEVEL, and not just score goals. Look at the Busquets rating by way of comparison. Put another way, Xavi was on the pitch about 12 seconds and scored a goal as Messi did 4 times, by being in the right place at the right time, then finishing. Nothing wrong with that. It’s what great players do, right? Messi has played better matches. Much better.

    –Re: lack of tactical fouling. I actually noted, then forgot to mention the very early yellow that greeted their first tactical foul, on Messi. The “not today” message from the ref, who called a very fair match it must be added, was very clear.

    –Pedro isn’t average. He’s just a sub, elevated to drastic heights by some wonder goals. It happens. He’s like Giuly having a bust-out season, then becoming a starter. For us, in the quality of our system, Giuly was a sub. All day and all night. So is Pedro. Once Villa returns (if it happens this season), and Cuenca/Tello get a full off-season with the club to fully integrate, Pedro will be, as they say in Latin, subbus perpetuus. And that’s okay.

    –Krkic was promoted way, aay too early. He and his camp put pressure on the club and it caved. To his detriment. And he’s coming back soon.

    1. Good observation about the tactical fouling. Didn’t think about that but you are so right. With that early yellow the ref took out a major portion of their defensive strategy. They were tactically fouling all over the place the last two times we met.

      Did rewatch the game. Sanchez was def. an 8 and awesome but Messi was a 8.5-9 for me at his level. Just my opinion, you are entitled to yours. He sure made the game fun to watch. In fact, I can’t remember when I enjoyed a game this much. Watching our guys carve open Valencia’s defense at will made me giddy (or was that the cosmos as I was watching the game w/ hubby at a bar (first experience watching a game with a penya—cool stuff to be in the room with other people that have no problem pronouncing the name on the back of my shirt )). A 10-1 scoreline wouldn’t have been unfair.

      Good luck to Valencia with all their injury problems. I like the bats when we aren’t playing them.

    2. But watch Messi again, and tell me if he played a complete match, the kinds of complete matches that we have all seen him play, where he is contributing to midfield pressing, tracking back, scoring, passing and making intelligent runs.

      I won’t argue for a second that he makes the game fun to watch. But I actually had a lot more fun watching Busquets wreak havoc. As you know with me, it takes more than goals to make a good, or complete, match in a system that demands that its players contribute complete matches for it to run at its best.

    3. I think it’s obvious that Pep doesn’t want Messi playing as a destroyer midfielder/false 9 so you’re going to have to adjust your expectations.

      Pep leaves Messi on cause he knows he knows how to pace himself and that even Messi playing at a measured pace is still the best int he world.

      Let’s compare him to Alexis who you ranked as MOTM

      Shots – Messi 11, Alexis 4

      Goals – Messi 4, Alexis 0

      Shots on post – Messi 1, Alexis 0

      Assists – both zero though Xavi’s goal could almost be considered an assist

      Key passes – Messi 7, next nearest fabregas, iniesta, busq with 3 apiece. Alexis – 1

      Successful dribbles – Messi 9, Alexis 4

      Turnovers – Messi 0, Alexis 4

      Dispossessed – Messi 1, Alexis 1

      Free kicks won – Messi 2, Alexis 1

      Total passes – Messi 64, Alexis 48

      Pass % – Messi 81%, Alexis 83%

      Through balls – Messi 4, Alexis 2

      Crosses – Messi 3, Alexis 1

    4. Actually, I gave Messi MOTM, but it was close between he and Sanchez. And to cite an old adage there are lies, damned lies and statistics. And I can tell you that turnover statistic is wrong, by just having watched the match.

      Statistics only give you one view of things, one that is quantifiable through mere numbers, which never, ever tell the whole story.

      And I don’t think that Guardiola wants Messi standing around watching everybody else play until he gets near the ball, either. If he does, I would be very surprised.

      Funniest of all is that a 7 is a very, very good rating. You’d think I’d walked up and taken a whiz on the Mona Lisa or something. “Messi isn’t perfect. How dare he?” Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, as BFBers with tenure know. I know Messi is the resident deity, but not to me. And never will be. No player is.

    5. I wouldn’t be so sure about the ok not being given to conserve, given depth and role, how things are proceeding, etc.
      I mean, you do this when coaching. Multiple matches in a tournament on a weekend, you tell key players, sit or chill (work on quick one-two touch passing) against the walk opponent mid day so their ready for a challenge later. So it is very very contextual. Of course there is no way team unity sustains a “you take it easy, everyone else work your butt off” mentality generally, but sometimes, in some conditions, for certain reasons (depth, unknown non-public knowledge knocks, etc., etc.) both inter and intra match, I would think it would not only be condoned, but supported by coach and team given their objectives and options… Messi isn’t perfect, nobody is, and not a deity for sure, not close, but there’s something different…he’s really, really good, and at this point in time this is a very different club without him. It just seems a little contrarian sometimes to insist on a difficult to achieve level of objectivity regarding this… I can see wanting to stay above the idol worship nonsense, I don’t like it either and have asked “what’s up with Messi?” when off form in the past. In light of an undeniably breakthrough performance over some years now at play here…putting the ultra-objective, anti-idol worship, don’t flock with the birds concerns aside… this run will be tough to equal for a long time, Messi is beating at the heart of it and one of the best ever, qualitatively or quantitatively, it’s hard to draw a different conclusion. Big picture. Give him a 2, doesn’t matter.

    6. Bear with me as I attempt to type ln a smart phone.
      This was one of the few games where Messi didn’t need to play a complete game. Once we took control he did’nt need to drop back to support the buildup(something that he is often obligated to do when Xavi is out) because Busi and Iniesta had that convered. For once he was able to stay up front where he was most dangerous. Aside from that though i ghought he was sufficiently involved in anything good that was happening. I hate typing on this blasted thing!!!!!!!!!

    7. I’m on match watch 2.5… I think we’re going to have to start considering that since Messi isn’t going to rest on the sideline, that he is resting on the pitch a little, so that when the ball is at his feet, he has enough tiger in the tank, or to keep that step or two on the defense and run on to a Busi through ball. I think tactical resting has become part of his game and I wonder if we’re not trying to adapt to this tactically, because footballing genius aside, I don’t think Messi has the same level of pure athleticism that Sanchez seems to have, or at least that endurance component of it that people like Sanchez and Alves have. Some of our guys actually do get tired, others, not so much – and possibly why the importance of having such monster tracking back wings is becoming even more paramount in the system (and maybe why it appeared Guardiola was having a go at Tello for being a bit off there). I was happy to see the early card too, that as we know is one of my pet peeves, that these wonderful Liga refs don’t run the match hot and cold enough with early cards to set the tone, and then let the teams play it out a bit after that… among other issues they have.

      Sanchez was off the charts fantastic, I mentioned in the last post that I was really disappointed he could put a mark on the game card – he deserved a couple as well…. but Messi could have easily had six, seven instead of four, the header off the Montoya cross? Inches off having 5 for sure.

      Nice rating on Busi, I hope one day he gets his due and some things about his game don’t continue to tarnish him in people’s minds. He is another one…I have a feeling, he isn’t always faking as much as people think… he may actually have a low pain threshold. You see it all the time, one kid scrapes his knee and he’s up and playing with blood dripping down his leg, and another is crying and looking for a band-aid, people are different.

    8. Hey Kxevin, These were my observations about players from the post I made on the live blog. I agree with you on the Messi ratings. He was asleep sometimes on the field. For me Busi gets man of the match.

      What a beautiful match. Valencia attacked Barca on their turf through out the match. Hats off to Unai Emery.
      Now to the way that the Barca team played.
      Busi – You are the best DM in the world. A big bow to you.
      Cesc – You are the best box to box midfielder in the world.
      Messi – Best player in the world, when not asleep .
      Alexis – Dude please start taking players on, I want to see you compete against Messi for the best player in the world award. I know you have it in you. I see flashes of them in matches, and then you turn off. Another awesome game. In time, hopefully, Messi can show you how to put your one on one’s away. Hey, Im not complaining, you did an awesome job in the CL match against Leverkusen.
      Pique – Owned the air and water and the ground where he stood.
      Puyol – Captains performance. I almost thought he was playing midfield at one point. Intervention after intervention, he owned Soldado many times.
      Abidal – From left back, to central defender, to owning the left side of the defence, he was every where. What a defender.
      Tello – Keep playing like this, you will get your first start soon. You are so good that you outfoxed yourself after beating the defender. That third Messi goal was “Made in Tello.”
      Montoya – Helped keep the width on the right of the pitch… and spread the Valencia defence. Not a spectacular match, but a great workman like match with some great crosses runs and support to the key players in the team.
      Pedro – Please make way for Tello.
      Valdes – Great save, and great distribution from the back.
      Iniesta – Dude is sublime, his touches on the ball are beyond comparision. He moves like a dream, totally changing dimensions, on the soccer field.
      Xavi – Great to see you back buddy.
      Thiago – What a luxury to have on the bench. The future is bright.

      Special Mention:

      Diego Alves – If it were not for this dude the score would have been something like 15 – 1. Hats off to all your saves. Now back to watching the match again.

    9. all right, just a sub Pedro is, i feel comfortable with that. only that we lost a [very possible] starter because of him. and i’m not just being sentimental.

      don’t buy the too early promotion bit, sorry. the kid needed proper play time and more trust from his coach, after all he stepped up for Ibra pretty decently at the end of 2010. the problem was always in Bojan’s head and in Pep not having him in his plans. in the end, house always wins. for the record, i don’t think he’s coming back. he shouldn’t.

    10. I was one of those who backed Bojan to get a prolonged chance after Ibra despite the fact that way back on the Offside I was also one of the few who resisted the glorification of GDS and him. They were both promoted way too early and the problem with Bojan now is the problem I maintained back then. What does he actually do that is of Barcelona quality? He isn’t quick, he isn’t strong, he isn’t a great goal scorer, he isn’t tall. . . . .

      The problem with Pedro is that he had a great debut season but then didn’t suffer from the usual second season syndrome where young players make the breakthrough but then kinda need to learn their trade. He kept on scoring and made himself indispensable. I’m in the give him time camp. He has quick feet, is reasonably tricky and has energy to burn. Lack of confidence just now is making him look worse than he is.

    11. Bojan is quick though. i think his juvy stats argue against your not great goal scorer claim. 600, 800 goals throughout his masia career? it couldn’t all have been penalties! 😉

      i read somewhere [perhaps even on this blog] that for 2010 he had the best goal to playing time ratio. he can score goals, he can score goals under pressure [only to be disallowed, see Inter return leg] and he came through for the team when Ibra had to be put down.

      the problem is that Bojan was trained to be a striker for 8 years and then he got shifted to the wing. that wasn’t up his alley and he tried to make his point by requesting the #9 shirt. regardless, forget about Bojan, lost case, he’s in a “better” place now.

      Pedro did show signs of running out of fuel last season as well, probably not as obvious since MVP was clocking a lot of goals and the team was on the whole was performing at a higher level than they are right now. i’m not saying we should throw him to the sharks [although i’d love that], but it’d be nice if people realised he was in fact overhyped and only a short term solution for Barca’s needs.

      by the way, lack of confidence is what mainly killed Bojan. why should Pedro get preferential treatment? 🙂

    12. Pedro has been in and out of injury all season. Crucial goals vs. EE and United late last season are still fresh in my mind; he’s no Bojan!

  19. happy Busi didn’t get a yellow towards the end of the game, I think he already has 4 and would have missed the Madrid game…

    after games like this you understand what a team needs to reach a legend status; some teams might win some titles some of the time, as chance and context play their part…but titles are not sufficient, it is the game itself that has to please the imagination… it is through games like this that such a status is achieved.

  20. The other thing worth noting, and perhaps I was clear enough about this above, perhaps not, but when this club is playing as it did yesterday, it is absolutely beautiful to watch. Stunning, even.

    It’s also to Valencia’s credit (and ultimate doom) that they didn’t pack up shop after the goal and play defense, as many sides would have done. Sometimes, what it takes for a club to raise hell is a complicit opponent.

    And this match was on a knife edge for way too long, given how well we played. Don’t forget how late that third, sealing goal came, and how close Valencia came to scoring a second on more than one occasion. This could have been very, very different, which is what I mean about the score flattering to deceive.

    1. Very odd match… because you are right, it was pins and needles looking like it was headed to another 2-2, and then, we pulled away at 5-1, which looks dominating in a way it wasn’t almost given that stretch in the middle, but doesn’t do justice to the other side of the performance that was worthy of what could’ve been a 10/12-1 scoreline in another way… net, net, fair result.

  21. I guess when Messi will get old old and will repeat to his grand grand kids that ‘he scored 4 goals in one game’, he will not be wrong 🙂

  22. Oh, and if CSKA turn the trick against EE, you all should call me Slutski for a month, since I will be changing my handle in honor of the CSKA coach.

  23. Great review. But as usual Kevin always brings a little controversial rating that’s gets debates going. It’s beyond discussion that Messi was man of the match. 4 goals in a game is unquestionable. The only way one outplays a scorer like that is if you gave all the assists on a silver platter.

    Pedro’s problem may be that he is trying too hard to keep up with the stars. When Pedro played relaxed in the past few seasons, he was amazing. Now, he is trying too hard.

    Kxevin, how do you transfer the games from your DVR to your hard drive?

    1. Yeah, I think Pedro is pressured by Alexis. Pedro is basically an elite finisher and presser but his linkup play, control, passing, crossing, holdup leave quite a bit to be desired. Alexis is superior to him in every aspect except finishing.

      When a player is nervous the first thing to go is his finishing which is what Pedro should normally do best.

    2. Other teams would love to have someone scoring 4 for fun and then assisting some.

      Alexis slowed down the play a couple of times. How come nobody mentions it? When Villa used to keep the ball instead of 1-2’s there were a lot of complains.

    3. Ahem! (from Sanchez rating above)

      “He still plays around with the ball a bit too much.”

      My assumption was that the attendant “Thus screwing the pooch on attacks” was clear in context.

    4. I make DVDs, Bill, by just using the audio/video out. I don’t trust hard drives enough to put anything I actually want to keep on them, even since tech-nerd wifey told me funny stories about all the backups that her old firm couldn’t use because of storage damage, etc.

    5. Depending on the type of DVR that you have (I have the current Motorola DVR from Comcast), if you look on the back, you will see audio/video out jacks (including an S-Video out). Go to page 4 of the below link, for an example:

      I just connect the DVR to the input jacks of the DVD recorder, and off I go. It’s just dubbing, and I yearn for the days when DVD recorders (damn Hollywood!) get component video inputs, for HD-quality recording. Or even (shudder!) stand-alone Blu-Ray recorders.

  24. Just wanted to show up again before I have to returni to lurking to offer a moment of empathy for Ever Banega. ‘Getting ran over by your own car’ is funny, but not a funny enough punchline to have your career derailed/thrown off like that. Absolutely sad to hear it, wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    On news in other sports, also wanted to say:

    1. LIN-sanity! LIN-derella! LIN-tendo! Ve-LIN-tine! LIN-credible!

      On a serious note, how come he was sleeping on people’s couch before he got playing minutes with the Knicks two weeks ago?
      Are they that lowly paid until they can’t afford their own house? Or don’t they get paid at all?

    2. Lin fever on BFB? I love it. He probably crushed at his brothers couch because he wasn’t sure he would stay with the knicks for very long. He kept getting cut from other teams alot

    3. It’s a question of fit. His skill set meshes with the needs of the Knicks and voila, a star is born. Put him at another club and he (as the past has shown) probably doesn’t do so well. It’s a nice story for a league that burned a lot of goodwill with that stupid, stupid lockout/strike/whatever the hell you want to call it.

    4. He probably crushed at his brothers couch because he wasn’t sure he would stay with the knicks for very long

      Thanks Bill.
      But couldn’t he at least afford a short-term apartment?
      Don’t the clubs/franchises take care of the housing of their players?

    5. It actually depends on the club’s view of the player. High draft picks guaranteed to make the squad get temp housing, and all the trimmings. Players struggling to make the roster, coming to practice on nothing more than a hope that their quality will win them a spot, are on their own.

  25. Pedro deserves more credit and respect. Firstly, Bojan was not sacrificed for Pedro. Bojan saw the writing on the wall when the club began looking for attacking help and wanted to leave. Pedro showed more when the two were evaluated by Guardiola and he deserved to get more playing time.
    At this point it is only natural that Pedro try too hard and think too much. I’m sure he knows his level has dropped and I’m sure he is frustrated with the injuries and lack of continuity to his game. He works hard and is more than a merely a substitute. You are talking about a player that played in the World Cup for Spain.
    Tello can help the team out presently and in the coming years. I do not know what to think of Cuenca in the long term. I hope Villa regains all of his capacity and remains with the team. Sanchez is proving his worth…And Pedro is an important part of the team. He is a solid player. La Masia does not have just produce stars to make you drool. When he is healthy and gets an honest run of games he will regain his form and remind you of his ability and how well he fills his role.

    1. No question about that, barca96. No question at all. I’ve watched Roma enough to wonder if anything is going to be any different when he returns, because there is no way in hell they are buying him.

    2. He hasn’t really been getting playing time with Roma recently either.

      They are a whole other topic – starting to play some good football finally. Somewhat coincidentally Bojan’s benching corresponded fairly well with their upturn in form. It’s certainly not the only reason, but he really isnt anything special.

    3. yeha, Bojan is a regular jinx. we always sucked when he was here, good riddance.

      and people give *me* a hard time for disliking Villa or Pedro or Alexis. pfffft

    4. i do wonder why do people expect players to play well when they’ve got pretty much zero confidence.

      i tried to follow roma, but noticed the treatment is no different than what he got with us, so why bother. Bojan is dead and gone.

      it’s a pity that no-one realises what a loss this actually is. to football.

    5. Difference between Bojan and Pedro? Pep. He is working hard to get Pedro minutes to work out kinks in his game Bojan never got that

    6. But I do think that Krkic got minutes, even match starts, and had opportunities to work out the issues with his game, as well. His slide, however, deepened to a degree where the club and player probably thought a change of scenery wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    7. 5 minutes at the end of games is not a fair chance. i simply cannot stress this enough. and if by some chance he scored, it’d be ‘yeah, meaningless goal.’

      the 10 games he started when Ibra had to be put down, that was Bojan’s real trial. did he play well? yes. did he score goals? yes. did he help Barca retain la liga? again, yes.

      then Pep goes out to buy Villa. goodbye starting spot. i think it’s clear that Bojan didn’t want to leave and that he was somehow sportively forced out, since we don’t willingly sell our Masia boys.

      end of story, he’s gone and now we must deal with average Pedro.

    8. Disagree. Pep gave Bojan plenty of chances his first season, and still a good number of chances in his second season. Sure Pep didn’t give Bojan much time last season, but by that time Bojan had already spurned so many chances you can’t blame him.

      And I was a Bojan apologist.

    9. Consistent minutes is what counts. Even Bojan himself alluded to this. He couldn’t get games even when Barcelona were up by 3 around the 60th minute

    10. i couldn’t agree more.

      and it’s clear that when he did get consistent minutes, he came through for the team, i.e. end of 2010 season.

      but the majority are judging Bojan by the usual 5 min playtime anyway.

      player mismanagement by Pep, and i believe it was intentional [nothing personal of course, simply Pep having his own plans and wanting to play with his own toys when he took over]

    11. Pep said once that it was his mission to see Bojan succeed. He tried to integrate him, but CT just wasn’t up to the task. When you are struggling mightily vs. Ceuta of all teams, then you know something is wrong! The poor kid would trip on himself, trip on the field, and trip when the opponent put a hint of pressure. He needs quite some toughening up, but it won’t happen on Roma’s bench.

  26. I understand the 7, but I still think he deserves at least an 8.5 or 9. I mean, if “normal” is a 7, and Messi plays to his normal standard in almost every game, he should be getting 7 in almost every game (Messi is the most consistent player of all time). Even though this wasn’t his best game ever, it was still easily above his “normal” standard. Messi is the best player ever (for me), some of the matches he has played even go beyond anything we’ve come to expect from Messi, and are probably 14/10 performances, even for his standard. An 8 or 9 out of ten, is the type of game Messi plays very often, such as against Valencia.

    Also, excuse me if I am wrong, but it almost seems as if you are more intent on giving Messi a slower grade, almost BECAUSE of his goals… I mean, he scored 4, people are going crazy with the complements, so you feel like you should bring them back to earth and point out the mistakes he made. You say, 4 goals? So what? Messi can do so much more than easy goals! And you’re right. If Messi didn’t score those 4 goals, I would still have given him an 8.5 rating, and I bet you might have given him higher too. Because without the goals, he was still terrific. And without the goals, people wouldn’t be going as crazy complementing him, and you might feel more inclined to.

    1. Normal for whom? A 5 is average. Ratings up and down from there convey varying degrees of goodness or badness.

      Messi doesn’t play to his normal standard every match. Far from it, although this season he has certainly had far more sleepwalking matches than in previous seasons.

      But perhaps the root of your contention lies in the “Messi is the best player ever (for me).” For me, this isn’t true, not only because “best player ever” is such a subjective evaluator. Many would say that in his own way, Ronaldinho is in the “best player ever” contest, even if he let his body go, and is now a mess.

      As for the “excuse me if I’m wrong” part, you aren’t the first person to accuse me of such things. You’re as wrong as your predecessors have been. Every player on the pitch has an individual standard, based on their historical performance. Then you include factors such as work rate, individual and in context of the team needs, etc, etc. Then you come up with a rating.

      Whether Messi is doing “strategic resting” or “being lazy” depends on who you ask. I have seen him like a demon when the other club has possession far too often to believe that the time when he loses a ball and watches the opponent run away with it is the norm.

      So what, he scored 4 goals. Yes, they helped the club win the match. So what kind of credit do the players get who helped set up those goals? Messi didn’t do it all, right? Had he scored those goals on individual, length-of-pitch runs, then you’re onto something. What about Abidal’s cross, or Sanchez’s attack, or Tello’s effort, or Busquets’ pass? Messi doesn’t just drop down from Olympus and score goals. Now, you are correct in that there is a deification of Messi. You are incorrect in that there is a deliberate attempt on the part of me, or ANY BFB reviewers to bring a player or his devotees down a peg. That just isn’t how I roll. I used to resent the hell out of such implications. Now I understand that people have a lot invested in players. I don’t. Part of why I’m not a fan of ANY player is that it would inhibit my ability to evaluate them fairly. The other part is that I love the club. Players are agents of the club.

      The way I roll is fair. Always, always fair, even when people won’t like it. Because I actually don’t care whether they like it. That isn’t my role here. If I cared what people thought, I’d just give Messi a 10 every match because “he’s the best player EVAH,” and leave it at that. But my journalist’s mind just doesn’t work that way.

      Note how nobody quibbled with the comparatively low Valdes rating, though he is all the rage right now. Why? He isn’t the resident deity. 7 for Puyol? Nobody cares. 5 for Montoya? Who’s that?

      Just something to think about.

    2. So what, he scored 4 goals. Yes, they helped the club win the match. So what kind of credit do the players get who helped set up those goals? Messi didn’t do it all, right?

      I agree with you here. That’s why I hate it when people used to say that “without x player, we wouldn’t be here”.

      Goals always come from somewhere! That’s why everytime I score, I must thank the assist maker unless I made a solo run. But that’s highly unlikely at this point of my life 🙁

    3. I think it’s unfair to suppose that your readers would give Messi a 10 in every match because we think “he’s the best player EVAH”. I think many of us have proven to be much more informed.

      If anything, I find that from time to time you seem to judge Messi on a different scale from other players. For instance, it’s acceptable for Puyol or Abidal to perform their “defensive duties” and be considered a 8 or 9, but Messi has to do it all, do it well and all game long. That’s just impossible and so on your scale he’ll never reach that bar, hence I suppose you give him his 5,6, and 7 ratings.

      I know you’re stance is something along the lines of “I will not bow for anyone” but maybe sometimes it goes too far. Sometimes, Messi does deserve, if not a bow,… a 9 rating, maybe?

      I can almost predict when you’ll give Messi a lower rating and it’s not so much when he scores a few goals, but when you deem him to not have been running all over the field, at all times, tracking back, stealing balls, making runs, ALL GAME LONG.
      For example, from your review on 9/11 when Barca beat Atletico 5-0 and Messi scored a hat trick and you rated him a 5. Your comments were “He also wasn’t that involved in the pressing part of things, which to me is a sign that he isn’t at his best. At his best, Messi is omnipresent, rather than solely an offensive force.”

      Very unfair .. Messi is NOT omnipresent. Maybe you are putting him up on a pedestal that he cannot reach?

      Just something to think about.

    4. Fascinating psychology of this discussion, I get it now… by virtue of your analysis, it is actually Kxevin who has Messi on the pedestal!, that he then needs to create a rating scale around that he uses to knock him down off of… not the rest of us. Nice aha moment 😉 I can now even more peacefully disregard the whole non-sensical concept of individual ratings in this highly interdependent, abstract and synergistic system based game… which of course could have some nodes that are more highly active or influential than others

    5. 1. Sarcasm alert! (‘Nuff said.) I would hope that people aren’t so ill-informed as to think Messi deserves a 10 for every match. Likewise, I would hope that they were learned enough to understand that he doesn’t deserve a 9 or 10 because he scores 4 goals, just because he scored 4 goals. The body of reviews and ratings by myself and others, taken as a whole, should provide insight into an overall evaluation.

      2. Messi, like every player, gets the rating that he plays to. Why does he deserve a 9? I explained my rating, now you explain yours.

      3. Yes, you’re absolutely right about the Messi rating. Had Messi worked like Sanchez, or anything approaching Sanchez AND scored even 3 goals, it would have been a more complete match to my view. The club needs complete players to make its game work. The whole system is built around defenders as attackers and attackers as defenders. When one player is seemingly exempt from that, a hole develops. If someone is out of position, that’s two holes and suddenly, you can see, maybe, how people are getting at our defense easier than they have been in the past. As I have said before, NOBODY is playing to their standard this season, except for Valdes and Xavi.

      4. You confuse “I will not bow for anyone” with “I don’t care what anyone thinks.” I can’t. And the day that I let what someone might think influence my evaluations, I will stop reviewing matches. Period. Because my standards will be damaged. Beyond repair. No standards, no integrity. No integrity, and what’s the point?

      5. The sole reason that I engage in discussion about ratings is in the hope the people will at least attempt to understand my view. If all that people are going to do is say “You’re biased, and I will always think this,” rather than at least reading and understanding what I type (as I do when replying to comments), then what’s the point?

      6. We have all seen Messi when he is omnipresent. And it’s staggering. Again, ’nuff said.

    6. Let’s forget the ratings for a moment since it can get confusing … Busquets (9), Sanchez (8), Messi (7) MOTM Messi.
      But, I guess it can go a little like this – Busquets defended well and attacked well. Sanchez attacked well, defended well, finished poorly. Messi attacked well, defended poorly, finished well. Messi=Sanchez

      As a long time reader, I think you put most of your stock on WORK RATE. I think that’s your tipping point (Mr. Outlier).

      That’s fine. I don’t give the highest importance on how much more or less running around Messi did than Sanchez. They are different players. Last night, Messi didn’t have to have the highest work rate, other players were doing that already, Messi had to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills to put the ball in the back of the net.

      If it simply comes down to work rate, let’s just put a pedometer on all the players and rate them on miles run.

      Sorry, sarcasm again!

    7. “Messi, like every player, gets the rating that he plays to.”

      “Had Messi worked like Sanchez, or anything approaching Sanchez AND scored even 3 goals, it would have been a more complete match to my view.”

      Are you taking marks off Messi for not pressuring to the Alexis Sanchez standard? Sanchez is known as a player who runs his ass off every game. Like Eto’o or Tevez. That’s what he does almost every game. Messi has never been known that way. Some matches, when he’s extra fresh and motivated after a break, he will put an extra mile in, but most of the time, his defensive work is the way it was against Valencia. I don’t think it’s fair to take marks off him for that. I think both Messi and Sanchez should get equal marks for their pressuring of the opponent, as they both played more or less to their own standard in this regard. Then again, I didn’t watch the match a second time, so maybe I missed laziness from Messi, or extra extra extra running from Sanchez.

    8. Forgetting the ratings for a minute, if Messi did as much running as you would like him to do, Kxevin, he wouldn’t be playing every game and I’ve a feeling we’d be in the brown stuff. I’d rather have him resting on the job than sitting on the bench.

    9. In the end it’s all about effectiveness and Messi was effective, but so was Sanchez. I personally hate KRS, yes i do, but I certainly adore his reviews.

      I do not care if Messi was rated 7 on KRS and someone got more than that.. all I care is .. thank God he scored the four.. you take those goals away and we are 12 points behind..

    10. some day you realize you just have to let kxevin have his weird notions regarding the “ratings” of players. and let go of the confusion that it might cause you.

      while you are letting go, you can rewatch messi’s game, and revel in the genius, with no numbers from 1 to 10 to distract you.

      that said, i always love kxevins writings and reviews, even if i dont always agree with the quantifications…

    11. When fair is “weird,” this is a crazy place. Even as I understand that “fair” is also subjective. Further, “weird” is a loaded word that damns by its presence, even when the literal definition is used.

      Am I an outlier? Yep. No apologies for that. And when I start to conform, that will be another sign that it’s time to move on.

      It would be easy to watch a match casually once, throw up a review that made everybody happy, and be done with it. But that wouldn’t meet MY personal standard.

    12. Likewise, I love Kxevins writing style and everyone has their opinion based on how they enjoy seeing the game played. I can watch Messi play like he did last night all day long, never get tired of it and never fully understand just how he does it!

  27. Speaking of a 5 for Montoya… I have to disagree with Kxevin’s assessment (not the number, but what Kxevin actually said about him).

    Other than being at least partially at fault for the Valencia goal, I thought he had a pretty good. A lot of that was undoubtedly that for most of the game he had no direct opponent – Piatti was playing on that flank but constantly looking to come inside. Montoya was particularly good in the second half before Alba came on – Pep must have told him to exploit the space Valencia was leaving in front of him on the pitch and he got forward well. I can remember one specific cross that he put square on Messi’s head when it was still 2-1.

    He wasn’t as good when Alba came on at the end of the match and he had a direct opponent to deal with.

    His match was a classic match for him. Understated but very competent. Certainly didn’t think he looked out of his depth. The problem is that we are used to seeing Alves bombing up and down the flank in a way that no one else in the world can do.

    1. Agree that Montoya was much better in the second half. It seemed to take him a while to find his legs. And let’s face it, he is never going to make the kind of runs that Alves does, because he is a different kind of player. His role in the B team is much more defensive & I think he struggles a bit adapting to what Pep expects of him. Overall a good performance.

    2. Hence his 5. “Competent” is a 5, right? Or a C on the Calvin Scale.

      He came into the match, but players still got behind him too easily, and the pace of play took him a while to get his mind around. And just when he started getting his mind around things, on came Jordi Alba (yes, if the price is right).

    3. montoya appears pacier than alves. probably doesnt have near the stamina, and i remember one point where messi loooked to poke the ball out into space wide right, but there was no one there (alves wouldve been, but MM was napping). so he had to turn the ball back into the middle on the dribble, with lots of white shirts waiting.

    4. We can’t compare Montoya to Alves, to be fair to him. I do think that Montoya might be as close to a right-sided Abidal, when he reaches fullness, so to speak. And that kinda wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    5. I think Alves has lost a step over the last season. Montoya may be a little faster at this point but Alves, as cringe worthy as he has been at times this season on defense and with the ball at his feet, is so crucial and cagey all over the field.
      What everybody forgets is that these players are human. Just recently it was reported that he and his wife had divorced. I think that can mess with somebody’s head to the point of affecting his play.

    6. Yeah, I worried about him most of the first half. He was finding himself the wrong side of attackers quite often, although he did dig himself out as well on occasion. Improved second half but then they were hanging on by then.

  28. Is it me or most of the discussion is directed towards Kxevin’s review of the match and not the actual match itself? #BFBproblems

    1. Whereas your estimation of normal would equal a rating of 5 and Kxevin’s a 2 and …Vj’s…well sell Vj anyway because he doesn’t like puppies… 😉

  29. i think u should start rating messi by the scale u rate other players,by that ur ratings will be more balanced and accurate..and there wont be any messi must do this or do that 2 get ur best rating…OFFTOPIC:has sandro rosell ever spoken english in any of his interviews ,or does he even understands english at all

    1. 1. Every player is rated on the same scale. Read above.
      2. Why should he? I am sure that he speaks and understands English. But as a Catalan institution, it is appropriate that its president speaks the language of that institution.

    2. Rosell speaks and understands English very well.

      As much as I have reservations about the guy, he gave a wonderful speech in English when accepting the Best Team of the Year at the Laureus Awards in London last week. He made wonderful compliments about Sir Alex Ferguson who was sitting in the audience and was very diplomatic about Barca, Pep et al.

      There’s an ad running on Barca TV for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in which Rosell also speaks English.

      Català is the recognised language at Camp Nou. Even Pep gives his after-match interviews in Català which are translated into Castellano on the regional Spanish TV channels other than those of Catalunya’s. 😀

  30. What is great about this about is that we can agree, disagree, or agree to disagree and the thread doesn’t disintegrate into name calling, chaos, etc…

    1. It’s also why my break from reviews was so enjoyable. I could just watch the match on the sofa, have snacks then continue with my day, rather than watching it twice, taking copious notes, working it out as best I could then being called an asshole on Monday.

      As someone else noted, this should all be about the MATCH, rather than why I’m harsh/biased/stupid/unfeeling for having the temerity to say that Messi merely had a very good match.

    2. C’mon … you know you love it. Why else would you rate Messi so low? We know you’re yanking our chains …

    3. Um …. not quite. Not even close. More correctly, I just got back and I’m already tired, would be a more accurate depiction. But people have the right to say and think what they want.

    4. You have your way of evaluating performances. Some people have different ways. No way is wrong, just different. You can defend your numbers, we can defend ours. It’s what make a space like this wonderful.

      Don’t lose heart because some people don’t agree with you. We all love your reviews and appreciate the time, energy and love of the club you put into it. And secretely(or not so secretely) we all appreciate an outlet for and a little stimulation to debate something about which we are passionate. Thank you for that as well.

      Here’s hoping we can all call you Slutski after the EE CSKA tie as you have requested. Perhaps you could Catalanize/Eukada-ize/Txiki-ize/ or whateveritisize it with an “x”. Regardless, I now have another player to add to my funny soccer name list (Messi, Kaka, Butt, Rat, Burpo, Trasche, and now Slutski!)

    5. All true. But I don’t know if my way is in keeping with the mood of the space any longer. It isn’t a question of losing heart. It was now as it is then: with life, wife, work, training and other fun stuff, volunteering to get kicked in the balls on a weekly basis isn’t all that high on my priority list any longer. It happens.

    6. I agreed with your rating. Honestly, the more you watch Messi the easier it is to pick out his mistakes. There were passes that were not made that should have been made. I do not fault him for relaxing at time since he plays every minute of every game but when he does there is a price to pay at it is paid by his teammates as they have to compensate for his absence in pressing.
      Four goals does not necessarily make a player MOTM. Iniesta stood out. Busquets stood out as well as did Sanchez and Fabregas. Messi got the four goals being in the right places at the right time but that does not automatically lead to a higher rating.

    7. Dunno the toll it takes on you, but your evaluations have helped a newbie like me learn more subtleties about the game than almost anything else. I look at games differently because of them. Euler has helped with this too.
      You could always go with the “I’ve already explained this—this is my opinion—you are entitled to yours” approach and not worry about it so much. Much better for your health. Really we are quibbling over one or two points given to one or two players. Instead of fretting, be happy that the debate you started may help educate footy newbies like me.
      We get a little carried away because we love the team too much. For some of us the love of team translates into getting defensive about the team’s players. So really, we are all on the same side.
      Don’t worry…be happy…*starts singing*

    8. I’ll leave it at this. I appreciate you taking your time, Kxevin, to write reviews. I think we all enjoy them and have said as much. I think it’s a compliment to you that so many have found this blog and find it worthwhile to post on here time and time again. One of the reason I enjoy it is, like Mom4 said, it never disintegrates to name calling. So, I assume most of us adult enough to have a intelligent discussion.

      Personally, sometimes I go off to find other Barca blogs, not because I don’t like this one (I really do) but because I feel bad that it makes the writer feel discouraged (or insert your word here as I don’t want to presume) for volunteering.

      What would you suggest so as to make this not be so unpleasant?

    9. Sorry for making assumptions about the way you do your ratings, I actually read and enjoy all your reviews, including this one. I’ve actually learned quite a bit from your writing, I just didn’t agree with how you judged Messi. When he’s capable of such mind blowing performances, it’s hard time give him an over the top rating for a game in which he wasn’t at his best.

    1. Trying to cut down on coffee in the afternoon. Drinking more than a couple cups a day makes me look like Jeffren on speed in class.

    2. PS – the only reason I called it is because I had my fair share of shootouts with Kxevin back in the day.Not sure if he remembers them but we used to go back and forth on Bojan a lot. It would drive me crazy that he thought Bojan didn’t have a future in the team.

      As you can see by my comments above, time has smiled on his side of the argument.

  31. The thing that keeps me coming back to BFB, even when I swear off the internet and especially the fandom part of the internet, is the quality of the writing. I particularly appreciate Kxevin’s reviews because they make me look at the game in a different way; they challenge me to understand the system and the players’ contribution within the system. Now, Euler’s tactical reviews are master class, breaking the positioning and movement down so clearly that I am a much better viewer of any football match than I was. What Kxevin’s reviews teach me is the level of skill, vision, and execution each player has to bring, each and every match, to produce the beauty that this Barca is. The tactics are moot without the mental focus and physical striving to execute them. We say it all the time: any team can understand the tactics Barca uses, very few, possibly only one, can actually make it work. Any one piece out of sync, and it threatens the whole system. So a player not bringing everything he has is the knife’s edge we balance on, and Kxevin’s reviews are, to me, a very fair assessment of each player and his contribution that day. Someone can have a good performance in a bad outcome, and someone can have a not-so-good performance in a good outcome. I find that very valuable to understand.

  32. No apologies necessary from anyone for anything. Period. No changes required. This is supposed to be a space in which people can discuss their love of this team, in the way that they choose. Simple as that.

    I can’t stop doing reviews in the way that I do them and frankly, it sucks that they so often cause friction, and distract from the match, which was extraordinary. I wish that wasn’t the case. The bulk of the comments shouldn’t be about how unfair I am to Messi, who even if he cared a rat’s ass about what some nitwit in Chicago thought about his play, he probably wouldn’t for more than a nanosecond.

    I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t tiring. As this space picks up new residents, it also picks up new people who think I’m a biased jackass. It becomes like having the same conversation over and over and over and over …. I’d also be lying if I said that I wanted anyone to change anything. That isn’t what this space has been about, and it shouldn’t be what this space is about. Blogs, like people, change and evolve. It’s an organic process.

    What I am is a person who has, in the process of writing for The Offside/Barca and then this space, learned a lot about the game. There are people who comment who know more than I do. I learn from them. There are people who write for the space who know so much more than I, that I can’t even begin to know how to address the knowledge gap. I learn from them, as well. I am, in effect, just a guy who loves his football and has been lucky enough to have been given a forum in which to chatter about that love. I try to be as fair as I know how to be. I’ve been watching this club, and its players, for a long time. I remember when a little Argentine kid made his debut, and wondering if he was going to be as good as people said. That stuff is all sitting in there, informing evaluations and determinations. That stuff also means that I’m not going to always, or hardly ever, agree fully with someone. That’s life.

    1. Keep on writing. Keep on stimulating intelligent discussion. Keep on challenging us. Keep on giving Isaiah a hard time.

    2. I can’t stop doing reviews in the way that I do them and frankly, it sucks that they so often cause friction, and distract from the match, which was extraordinary. I wish that wasn’t the case.

      I wish that wasn’t the case too.
      I don’t always agree with you, I certainly don’t agree with a 7 for Messi, but I wish this rating matter didn’t cause this much distraction from the match (which an absolute beauty to watch).

      and keep on writing, Kxevin. I appreciate your hard work, and “aka” reviews is fun to read for me.

  33. Read the review again, and the section right after Tello came on the pitch brought into focus just how much of an impact he had on the match.

    Before he came on we were controlling proceedings but Valencia was looking dangerous as well. As Kxevin said earlier when the match was 2-1 the result hung on the edge of a knife and really could have gone either way. Right before Tello came on Valencia had a nice period with a couple chances. The feeling at the time was that there were going to be more goals and the team that scored the next one was going to have the momentum.

    On came Tello, and immediately started terrorizing Valencia’s right back area – an area they had been struggling in all night. He was working his butt off on defense and attacking with intent and it paid off when he had a fantastic run and shot that Diego Alves spilled; one of the few he didn’t smother all night. Messi was poaching to good effect and scored the goal. After that the match was won, and Tello had played a huge role in the goal that ended it.

    I’m not ready to start pimping Tello as the next star of the future, it’s still too early for me to tell. I will however praise Guardiola for the substitution. He gave Tello a role that maximized his strengths, and used it against a weak area of the opposing team. It was really a brilliant substitution.

  34. Messi’s rating does ignite a very Philosophical question about relative vs absolute points of reference. What does it mean to rate a player 7/10 against what standard is this measured…herein lies the genius of Kxevin’s method because quite frankly a 7/10 for Messi would be a 9 or 10 if Pedro gave in such a perfomance but when we hear Messi gave in a 9 his perfomance vs Valencia doesnt come to mind he has played waaay better.However the inherent problem with rating each player individually as such is that it causes frustration when a scale is not given,it is like reading a map without a key because generally people want/expect ratings to tell how Sanchez fared in comparison to Messi or Pedro and not in comparison to Sanchez of past games.

  35. The good news is that AT LAST! the team is getting to rest this week.

    They’ve all been given today and tomorrow off for some R&R.

    In the meantime, check out this article on Sami Khedira. I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry that someone thought to pose them like this was a great idea. It would have been better if it had been Khedira naked and his girlfriend covering his privates with her hands. She’d probably only need one. 😀

    1. Yeah, I saw those pictures on tumblr and was disappointed to see her being portrayed like that. Maybe it’s not a big deal in German society but personally, I thought those pictures were too sexist.

  36. I was acutally looking forward to having a contentious reaction to an AKA review lol! Don’t fear..I did! lol

    Ofcourse I dont agree with the 7 rating for Messi…what exactly is Messi’s standard? I dont know about you guys but I havent seen players going around scoring 4 goals past a top 3 opponent. I think his performance was pretty good. Definately MOTM.

    Alexis was wonderful. He was MOTMOTM. One thing I have gripe about though is double standards. Ok, so Alexis worked really hard all match even though he missed some chances, he was instrumental in how well we played. And as Kxevin said, “when Messi was walking or not moving, Sanchez was running. Hard. He destabilized, pressed, defended, passed.” Yep, all that I agree with but I seem to remember last season when Villa was doing the same exact things in some matches, but did not score, he was marked down and people claimed he was done and should be benched. I dont get it cause Alexis is new flavor of the week? (Don’t get me wrong, I love Alexis)

    Anywho, I think I agree with Kari about Tello. I’m really surprised (not really) that cules are wanting to sell Pedro and get Tello into the team permanently already. I dont know if people realize but Pedro has not had a good string of games to get back in playing rhythm. He’s been injured every 3 weeks. From the start of the season its been a cycle of discontinuity. How’s he supposed to magically gain match fitness and sharpness in 2 half games?
    And I really dont think he’s average. Ofcourse everyone on the team isnt the best ever at their position but I think all our players are great..thats what makes them tick when they are all on form.
    Tello’s young and he’s new and exciting and woooo, speed! But I remember the same things being said about Pedro when he just came on the scene. Tello’s talented but lets wait and see..
    I just dont like fans discarding players when they are having a rough patch for the next best thing. Its a vicious and unhealthy cycle.

    Busi and Iniesta are honorable mentions for MOTMOTM.
    For me, there was really no one who had a horrible game.
    I also wanted to point out Montoya’s performance. I think he was really solid (after the VAL goal). Definately making his case as Dani’s deputy.

    1. It isn’t a double standard, it’s a player-specific standard. And if you go back in time, you’ll find that when Villa played an all-pitch match (same with Henry, for that matter) he got praise and props for it. I am nothing if not consistent.

      Villa would get stick when he would stand around offsides, not score and not do much else. And he should have, just as Henry did. I recall when people said that I “loved” Henry, then the aggregate ratings came out and Henry was mid-team. It was kinda funny.

      In general, people have things invested in players that I don’t. As long as the team wins, I don’t give a rat’s who excels. Nor do I let who a player is affect his evaluative standard. Again, Messi has gotten 9s and 10s from me. For performances above his personal standard. Yesterday’s performance was above his personal standard. Had it not been, he would have gotten a 5, as in “average for that player.”

      But the same standard can’t apply to every player, because every player is different. Grading Pedro by Messi’s standard, he’d get 1s every match. Grading Montoya by Alves’ standard and again, 1s and 2s. Adriano would never meet Abidal’s standard. You grade a player on his own, individual standard. That’s only fair.

      A player’s match rating is irrespective of outcome. Even had Valencia nabbed a second and we stagnated, Sanchez would still have had a brilliant match. No question.

      As for Pedro vs Tello, I have been calling Pedro “the new Giuly” since he popped onto the scene, a player just waiting for a better player to push him onto the bench. Pedro is probably “average” in context of our overall squad, but he would start for a great many clubs. But make no mistake about it, Tello has that magic something that Pedro, for all of his wonder goals, doesn’t, to my eyes.

  37. First of all, since I somehow was not here when the abbreviation was first used, MotMotM = Man of the Match other than Messi ???

    To Kxevin: I want to say it’s unlikely that you’ll be called Slutski. Unfortunately CSKA is missing Akinfeev, Mark Gonzalez and Keisuke Honda. Plus they have sold Vagner Love. Consequently all my favourite (and their best) players are not there vs EE.
    I’d also like to know, would you have rated Sanchez and described/praised his match differently if Messi was not there, i.e. if we had drawn or even lost this match despite being far superior?
    [cf my comment ]
    Apart from that, I agree completely with your review. Especially how you elaborated and underlined the impact of Cristian Tello on the match 🙂

    1. To your Sanchez question, his rating would have been the same. He was brilliant. His runs and dynamism aren’t affected by an outcome. They are absolutes.

    2. No doubt, those parts of his game were brilliant.

      But as a forward, one of the main objectives is to score goals.
      If he constantly squandered such opportunities, costing us several points in la Liga or even the qualification in a CL knockout stage, would he still get such a high average rating?
      On the contrary, if a defender plays a superb match but makes three heavy mistakes that cost us three goals – how to rate him?
      Also an 8 out of 10?

      Sometimes I feel that, forwards in general, do get less criticism for ineffectiveness than defenders.

  38. I thought Pedro played a pretty good game! He was involved, didn’t lose the ball all that much, helped set up a goal, and exploited space when he was given a chance. I don’t think Pep taking him out for Tello was some sort of death sentence or even necessarily a reflection on his game: throughout this season, Pep has carefully timed the minutes of players returning to fitness, and no reason Pedro should be different. Sanchez was not permitted complete games while he was regaining his form, either.

    My guess would be that Pedro will see some regular time, especially if Xavi remains a question mark, and that he will improve for it.

    1. Luck permitting, he’ll get a string of games without getting injured! I think the rest will fall in place for Pedro if he can avoid yet another injury.

  39. Ratings are overrated. They are subjective and satisfies the writer’s whim.

    What matters is whether the writer has accurately described the events and has given us a good feel of the game. And Kxevin indeed has.

    Great game by Barca. Hopefully this translates onto the road as well.

    1. I agree with the poster above with the comment about ‘pedometer’ rating of players. But I enjoyed the article and the analysis of play. It’s funny, I don’t think too many people disagree with the content, it is just that we all place different weightings on the various aspects of the game when we start to rate players numerically.

  40. Thanks for the review, Kxevin!!!

    I feel so bad now at having missed the game.

    Jnice – please send me a link so I can watch the game. Please, please 😀

    1. Well, the only ones I have are HD ones (but they include mediafire links and you don’t need a premium account for those)

      Canal+ Broadcast

      First Half:


      Second Half:


      And Pakman has a good Sky Sports HD link with mediafire included in the embedupload links

  41. In other news. Oacar Garcia the successor to Pep as some are calling him has decided to leave the club come this summer.

    I’m very sad to hear this news, he did such an amazing job with the Junior A team. They say he may go to Shakhtar Donetsk maybe.

    1. That’s a huge loss for the club, and yet another sign of egos getting in the way.

      Garcia was turned down for the Barca B Manager job when Eusubio was appointed.

      Apparently his approach was “too similar” to that of Cruyff’s to sit well with the board.


  42. Let’s hope those LWBs get an acute case of frost bite tomorrow in Moscow and some rug burn from the plastic pitch 😆

    Visca Barça!

    1. Close. Lily White Bastards (LWB). It’s a colourful description of their jerseys. There are other even more colourful derivations of the LWB acronym, which I will not use, out of deference to the many fine ladies on this site. My second team/English team is Arsenal and they have a similar acronym to describe their most hated North London rivals, Tottenham, who also sport white jerseys. Funny how I seem to dislike clubs with white jerseys. Probably only a coincidence. Probably.

    2. The environment in general would be hostile and intimidating for LWB. Extreme cold, pitch condition, supporters, etc. But it wouldn’t be CSKA top performance because of the absences of some key players and they’re in fact on Russian league winter break. EE would be far ahead prepared and game-fit comparatively. Am crossing my finger that environment would influence the match result, in CSKA favor. Go Slutsky!

    3. True. But a man’s gotta have hope Chiu!

      There’s a lot of things that could go wrong for those LWB tomorrow such as the aforementioned frost bite and rug burns, along with some others which could include, but not limited to, injuries, team disharmony, disease, locust, pestilence, plague, dysentery, etc.

      I, for one, wouldn’t mind if all of the above were to happen to them in Moscow tomorrow. C’mon CSKA!!!

  43. Hi all! first post from me here but I love the website…

    So what do you guys think about the team’s reliance on Messi?
    Honestly from what I am seeing this season is that even a top striker like Sanchez and a super talentlike Fabregas are a little “in awe” of playing with him and seem to always look for him on the pitch. They all too often will stop and scan around for him when there are other options out there and lose the pace of the play.

    Just look for this the next time you watch a barca game.

    What do you think?

    1. Welcome Ita.

      I get what you’re saying but the biggest ‘offender’ of this phenomenon has to be Alves who would rather overlook an empty net in order to pick a pass to his little South American buddy. Never seen anything like that before tbh.

    2. I’d give him a 7 (kidding, kidding, lighten up people)

      Welcome Ita.

      Kxevin, your reviews are top class, people just struggle with the Fahrenheit-Celsius conversions with the ratings…

  44. Cracker of a game! I guess the complainy-pants after the Bayer game got what they wanted.

    Enjoyable review. Precise and reflects the game in fair proportions. And ratings are Ok imo and well defended by the author and neatly rounded off to the nearest integer. Didn’t clearly get what the fuss was all about!

    I’d give the team a 7 on level with Iniesta. Would prefer a more controlled game with varying intensity, less unforced errors. Then again, that’s just me. And valencia asked for it after the early goal. When will teams (especially in white) learn to be wise and not strike us early? A wise guy said- “Strike the dream team while they seem to cool down”

    No clear MOTM for me as the everybody chipped in along with Messi. Had the goals vs clear attempts on goal ratio been closer to one, or if the decisive 3rd goal had messi written all over it, then it’d be Leo.

    So its Soccermom’s doritos for the motm! 🙂

  45. I was unable to watch the match…Can anyone tell me what transpired between Cesc and Pep on the sidelines during the match? (also a video would be nice.. 🙂 )

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