Brief Bayer redux, aka “Notes from a churl”

So. Personal manita for Messi. What is there to say, really, about this match from the best player extant? Everyone has soiled themselves, had orgasms and exhausted all superlatives in verbal, cyber and print chroniclings of his remarkable feat. 5 goals in a Champions League match. I followed it on Twitter, then went home to watch, and formed my own impressions. I’ll start by saying this isn’t a match review. So no ratings or anything of the kind, just a few observations and questions.

–I’m going to be a churl here and have the temerity to suggest that the headline for a justly-analyzed viewing of this match would be “Barca destroy willing opponent.” Bayer didn’t have a chance in hell in this leg. They knew it, and the played like it. “Pressure? Why, they’re just going to pass it around us, and no way in hell are we going to overcome a 3 AWAY goal deficit. Sure, that’s going to happen. Why kill ourselves?” So they didn’t. And we cruised in third gear, which was more than sufficient to kill them.

Another hard truth is that Bayer didn’t have the quality to overturn that deficit, even had they had the effort and willingness to do so. This was very different than the Arsenal/Milan match, where Arsenal had the quality and the wherewithal to overturn a 4-goal deficit. The circumstances were also very different, in that Milan’s were home goals, rather than away goals. But Bayer would have had to win 3-1 just to force extra time. 3-0 to advance, etc, etc. Either way you look at it, the possibilities were absurd to contemplate. Miracles are one thing, going into the house of the best club in the world with a 3 away goal deficit and hoping to overturn it is beyond miraculous. Does this affect how athletes approach a match? Good question. Watching Bayer play Bayern Munich on the weekend was a very fascinating comparison in belief vs resignation.

–I wouldn’t dream of rating Lionel Messi for this match. He has become like certain performers, who are critic-proof. “It doesn’t matter what that jackass thought of my beloved band. I thought they were magical.” I got a lot of that as a music critic, and player ratings aren’t a whole lot different. But I did note some things, gleaned from the first 20 minutes of so of the Bayer match, in the voice of someone who doesn’t really know The Truth of what they were watching:

Why is that No. 10 guy not trying? He’s just walking around or standing there. He ran toward those other guys, lost the ball then took his sweet time getting back up. Now he’s standing there again. Boy, that pale guy sure looks like their best player. Is he?” Rio Ferdinand Tweeted, early in the Bayer match, “Messi doesn’t look interested tonight….!!”

Yes, this was obviously mistaken. And the person who didn’t know The Truth would, later in the match say, “Boy, that No. 10 guy is something, isn’t he?” And what makes Messi critic-proof is goals. It becomes impossible to rate him over and for a complete match, because of those goals. He scored 5 of them, so his rating should be an 11. Which all depends. Interesting.

–Here’s another pain in the ass question: When Ibrahimovic sauntered around, stood in place and watched the match until the ball came to him, cules called him lazy. When Messi does it, he is considered masterful at conserving his energy, a genius at reading the match, etc. Leaving aside the personality differences and dedication to the cause, which are well-documented, what’s the difference? Yes, that’s a legitimate question. I got some interesting answers on Twitter. They should be even better here, given the quality of discourse. (This is, of course, leaving out the obvious personality differences, and ultimate dedication to the club and cause.)

–Nobody should ever scoff at anyone giving or not giving Messi credit for being a great player, because it doesn’t matter. So what if some say that he isn’t going to be the greatest ever until he wins a World Cup. Why does it matter? People will always use whatever malleable standard they want to champion their chosen player. So Thong Boy isn’t one the greats because he doesn’t make him teammates better, and hasn’t won the biggest trophies. He just scores goals. Messi isn’t one of the greats because he hasn’t won a World Cup. Etc, etc, etc, etc …. It doesn’t matter to fans and supporters of those players. Brazilians will hear Pele’s geriatric grousing and say “Yeah! Win a WC, then we’ll talk.” Argentines will say that Pele is silly, that Messi is already the greatest of all time, and so forth.

Like what you like, and do what you do. None of the rest of it matters. It’s similar to audiophile message boards, in which someone wades in with a silly question such as “What’s the best amplifier for $5000?” Then you get 927 different answers, all passionately argued, because everyone believes in what is the best to them, even as differences in perception, auditory perception in particular, means that the question is impossible to answer. And so it is with Messi.

–Ssssssh! This is two matches that Adriano has played without getting injured. Is a trend developing? Yes, I know I jinxed it, and he’ll probably get run over by a Barcelona Bus Touristic. But it is pretty remarkable.

–Speaking of remarkable, how remarkable was the Tello brace yesterday? Another good question. Bayer were truly beaten down by then, right? I like that he did it, I love that Guardiola had the confidence in Tello to put him into a match that was …. wait a minute …. fundamentally meaningless, over and done with. Still, the experience was good, and his talents were put on display: the dude has pace and is fearless. He doesn’t seem to respect anything or anyone, which is how a fast, talented young player is supposed to be. Is he the second coming of anything? We don’t even know if he is the first coming of Tello yet. Let the lesson of Pedro serve you well here. Or more recently, Isaac Cuenca.

–I was working on the day that Michael Jackson died. A lot of people forget that Farrah Fawcett actually died first on that day. Our newsroom swung into gear, then when Jackson died, Fawcett became a news coverage footnote. So it is with APOEL, who turned a pretty remarkable feat in taking out Lyon yesterday in the other Champions League decider. The Cypriot side that could moves into the quarterfinals, a thing that nobody, but nobody (except its most rabid fans) gave them a chance at pulling off. Scoffers will say that Lyon hasn’t been all that convincing this season, etc, etc. Still, APOEL is in the quarterfinals. Then some wee genius goes and puts 5 goals on the board, and nobody cares all that much about APOEL, except their fans. Hats off to them, and here’s hoping they don’t get us in the next round, because we aren’t Lyon. Not even close.

–In the “Who would you like to play in the next round,” Ramzi wins with his call: CSKA. For all of the obvious reasons, right?

Now to stop, before this brief thing becomes something not at all brief.

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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.

207 Comments

  1. swamidigital
    March 9, 2012

    Although I tend to rate Messi highly, I too saw what you saw at the beginning of the game. And I do agree, even at five goals it wasn’t his finest or most complete game, mostly because the opposition faced did not put up as much a fight as they should have. I agree with many of your sentiments qualitatively regarding Messi in your reviews.

    However, at the end of the day football is measured in goals scored and given up. Possession, passing, work rate, etc. are not the final measure of victory in a match. These things are important in football for the influence they have on the final scoreline. This is why people rate Messi so highly. At the end of the day he scores and provides goals at a rate that no one else does. And it is plain to see that this is not solely a function of his teammates.

    At Barcelona we rate many things very highly, because of a particular aesthetic sense about how the game should be played. I too, share that sense, which is one reason I truly love this team. In fact, to be honest I am not so bothered by winning and losing (except for during a match itself where the passion flows), because what drove me toward Barca is just enjoying watching this beautiful team play. However, I think back to what Pep said in the lead up to the 2009 Champions League final, about how the team plays in this beautiful aesthetic style not only to entertain, and not just because it is a joy to watch, but because they firmly believe it is the best way to win a football match. And that is done fundamentally by scoring goals and preventing goals scored by the opposition. And Messi is the guy who most frequently puts the ball in the back of the opponents net. I realize there are things we have seen him do in the past that if he did them more now might make him even more influential in wins. But he has never scored goals at the rate that he is doing, and at this level few ever have. In fact, as he performed in the previous match no one ever has. And we say that often about Messi these days. I think it is simply that which you are underrating on final balance. I have no problems with any of your statements qualitatively, it is simply the weighting on final reflection that we might disagree on, and perhaps that too not by so much.

    I think back to another all time great in a different sport who I watched throughout my youth fervently, when evaluating Messi’s performance. Michael Jordan. If you compare Jordan’s performance and style of play in say… 87-88 against that in say… 95-96, you might find him slightly lacking in later years. He was more aggressive in all phases of the game earlier, and because we can quantify basketball better than football, we can also say he was more efficient and effective. But in 95-96 the Bulls were on the kind of run that Barca is on now, a truly stunning display of dominance that led them to the best ever record in the NBA. The reason they won so many games was because Jordan was the proverbial knife’s edge. He didn’t assert himself in all phases of the game like he had in previous years, or his previous three-peat with the Bulls, but he willed them to victory over and over precisely at the points that others could not. He was still just as dominant in regards to his peers, but in regards to his own personal high watermark you might say he was lacking. But it was perhaps not that he was lacking, but simply that he understood better how to carry his team to more victories. I see a little of that in Messi right now. I think in some ways it’s strange, because it’s a bit early in his career for him to have picked up on this. Then again he’s been playing for quite a while now already, so perhaps it’s not so surprising.

    Anyways, just my thoughts on rating Messi.

    -D

    • swamidigital
      March 9, 2012

      BTW perhaps 90-91 is a better comparison for Jordan since that was the first year they won the championship.

      Also I had the exact same thought in the early going, I was surprised Messi looked a bit uninterested because I thought he would be practically frothing at the mouth to play and attack given his very rare time off.

      However in regards to your statement: “Nobody should ever scoff at anyone giving or not giving Messi credit for being a great player, because it doesn’t matter. ”

      I would also say, it doesn’t really matter if people scoff at you for your rating, but you seem to put an awful lot of effort into defending it.

      I think it’s just the nature of the internet dialogue. Everything gets overly dissected online and without a conversation that conveys nuance and tone, and a flesh and blood person sitting in front of you, many people become overly dogmatic or harsh. But as a blogger I’m sure you’re aware of that.

    • March 9, 2012

      Nice comments, and true. And my energies actually go toward trying to get people to understand what went into a rating, and the lack of bias therein.

      But writing this brief post was rather instructional for me, as it finally made me realize that, as noted above, Messi is indeed critic-proof. Back in my music critic days, I once got so many faxes (yes, pre e-mail) that the departmental fax machine broke. And this was before noon. And it’s hard to make paying customers understand why the show that they shelled out money for, and clapped ’til their hands hurt was in fact, if you looked at it critically, a shit sandwich served on a plate of mud.

      Not that Messi is ever that bad. As Riquelme said, Messi could be standing there thinking about his mother, then get the ball and create a goal out of nothing. This is true. He’s a genius player, and there is for me no truer illustration of that than the fifth goal, off the dead run with zero windup. Blam. Impossible to defend, stop or predict.

      Those goals make him critic proof, because people say “It’s immaterial what ELSE he did. Look at those goals!” Or “What a run.” I see that that run ended in a defender taking the ball, an open teammate and a blown scoring chance. Someone else sees another mazy, crazy Messi run.

      I wish I had the time to have done a proper rating(s) for this match. I’ve watched it 3 times now, and would have given Messi a 7. And for the first time, I wouldn’t have bothered explaining it. Because as with him as the best player ever, or not, folks who think you’re biased are going to think that. Nothing you can do or say will ever make them believe otherwise. It’s the nature of fandom.

      I think of my saying, during the Michael Schumacher/Damon Hill row, that Schumacher was trying to get back on the racing line, rather than ramming Hill, as the latter’s supporters firmly believed. So I understand.

    • blitzen
      March 9, 2012

      A seven?!? NOOOOO!!!!!

      *throws self in front of Kxevin to protect him from the coming shitstorm of abuse*

      SAVE YOURSELF!

    • March 9, 2012

      Like the guy I pulled in front of me at a GWAR concert to take the gout of “slave blood” that Oderus was aiming my way.

      Interestingly, the reviewer over at The Offside gave Messi an 8.

    • blitzen
      March 9, 2012

      LOL. GWAR is hell. 😈

    • Manish
      March 9, 2012

      *************** STORM 1*********************

      It’s about responsibilities..I wouldn’t expect Busquets or a Keita to be scoring a bucketful of goals.. but I would certainly expect Messi/Pedro/Sanchez to do so.. cause that’s their job.

      Ratings should be on a weighted responsibility… a striker losing a ball isn’t as dangerous as a mid losing it…so on and ….

      But everyone has their own opinions on things but when something is public and as emotional as BFB..

      Seriously, if there was some very logical and a standard reasoning to every rating.. things would be simpler.. and we wouldn’t have a lot of broken hearts around…

      Will there be a review…:|

    • March 9, 2012

      But why isn’t a striker losing a ball as dangerous as a mid losing it, particularly given how high our line plays, and the lost ball leads to a bust-out counter, as it did at one point during the Bayer match? In a system predicated on ball control, anybody losing the ball is a problem. As long as we have the ball, we can’t lose.

      An attacking player in our system isn’t just there to score goals. It’s the Guardiola way. It’s passing, facilitation of ball control, assists, rushing the box and midfield pressure. Goals don’t supersede all. Had Bayer been a real opponent, rather than someone waiting to die, who knows what could have happened?

      But if the system works, Iniesta steals the ball from an attacker and Keita scores a goal. Sanchez dispossesses an attacker which leads to the pass that leads to a Messi goal. It’s the system.

      I went back and watched the 2-6 Clasico win, and it was a remarkable display of dominance. So was the manita, because it was the system at its fullest flower. I don’t know if, at present, we are seeing that, because of the conservation demands forced upon it by the team’s best player. So Messi loses the ball and doesn’t chase it. Whether this is by design or something else, I don’t know. But he doesn’t. And that means one less defender on a team where everyone attacks and defends.

      See what I mean?

    • nzm
      March 9, 2012

      I would have given him 7.5 because he did lose a lot of balls.

      Yes, when our forwards lose the ball, it is dangerous – especially when it’s Messi and he loses it somewhere about midfield.

      So many quick counters have come from a Messi lost ball. It’s as if the rest of Barca says, “It’s ok, Messi has the ball and we can relax a little”, and then all hell breaks loose when suddenly that defender/midfielder gets past Busquets/Alves and is on his way to the goal. If Puyol or Masch misses him, it’s as good as in the net if VV doesn’t pull another brilliant save.

    • Nik
      March 9, 2012

      I personally would have given a 7-7.5 as well. Nothing against his performance, but it’s clear that he (and the rest of the team) didn’t have to get out of third gear to whoop Bayer. Let’s save the 10s for when Messi (has to) plays at his best.

    • Manish
      March 9, 2012

      @nzm.. hopefully none of the folks here are school teachers…

    • nzm
      March 10, 2012

      Manish: what do you mean with that teacher comment?

    • Manish
      March 9, 2012

      And I am the BIGGEST Messi fan around.. 🙂

    • March 9, 2012

      And see, I’m a fan of the club. The players within it are immaterial to me. Messi could be Eto’o could be Henry could be Ibrahimovic. Doesn’t matter a whit, even as I appreciate his abilities on behalf of the club.

    • Jim
      March 10, 2012

      Every time Messi dribbles he could lose the ball. That’s just a fact of life with dribbling but if he doesn’t try we don’t score half of his goals. It isn’t as serious as a mid losing it because we still have more players goal side than if Busi loses it in front of the defence. Are you saying you don’t want him to try or that he is allowed to try but not to lose it ?

      Seriously, and not trying to be contrary ( for a change 🙂 ), any ratings system which comes up with anything less than perfect for that display isn’t rating the importance or difficulty of scoring goals highly enough imo. In the top club tournament in the world a single player scored five goals in one match and none of them were easy.

      Those goals don’t come without the ball being lost in other attempts but count me as one of those who wants to see him try whenever he likes and won’t condemn him if he has a day when it doesn’t come off.

  2. justsayin
    March 9, 2012

    Xavi Torres, one of the most respected Catalan journalists, known to have top contact at FCB, is predicting that Pep will renew contract on Wednesday, the 14th.

    Here’s to hoping …

    • March 9, 2012

      I can see him doing one more season, for sure.

  3. March 9, 2012

    http://www.teamtalk.com/news/7555/7581421/RFEF-stand-off-worries-Godall

    Former Barcelona vice-president Alfons Godall has urged the current club hierarchy to forge better relations with the Spanish federation.

    Barca have stated their intention to boycott a meeting with the RFEF on Tuesday because of their perceived ill-treatment by referees this season. The meeting has been called to decide a venue for this season’s Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao.

    Godall today claimed that former president Joan Laporta saw the importance of maintaining close links with the federation, in particular with his counterpart at the organisation Angel Maria Villar.

    Godall told Spanish sports daily Marca: “Not having a good relationship with the RFEF hurts us. We have to be close to the entities which exercise power and not turn our back on them.

    “Laporta cultivated very good relations with these institutions and that helped us.”

    Barcelona were angered by the decision to send off defender Gerard Pique during last Saturday’s Primera Division match against Sporting Gijon, a call Pique described as “premeditated”.

    They were unhappy with the RFEF’s decision not to take action against Real Madrid midfielder Pepe for an apparent stamp on the hand of Barca forward Lionel Messi earlier this season, and the Catalan giants also felt they should have been awarded penalties in matches against Osasuna and Valencia.

    • Nav
      March 9, 2012

      Why the f*k isn’t the club responding to this?

    • March 9, 2012

      (←_←)

  4. Ron Mexico
    March 9, 2012

    @Kxevin: In regards to your comments about Messi not tracking back and how this is counter-intuitive to the “Guardiola Way”, I have a couple of comments.

    I do agree with you to an extent, because we have all seen, in the past, how complete a player he can be. However, I think you overemphasize a system that Guardiola seems to have changed, albeit slightly.

    Pep is a demanding coach who expects quite a bit out of his players. You can see this in his touchline intensity. If he thought that Messi should be tracking back and working harder on defense it may just be me but I believe that it would manifest itself on the field. And certainly, from time to time Messi does actually track back to this day. However, it is true that he also will seemingly “stand around”.

    Now, I think there are a few different ways to interpret this. For certain people this could be interpreted as laziness. It is true, for instance, that Eto’o was a fantastic pressing central forward. And perhaps if you look at Messi’s workrate in the defensive phase through the prism of Eto’o then Messi could be perceived to not be performing up to the ‘Guardiola Way’. But those two players play that position in completely different ways and are asked to do different sets of things. In Messi’s case, because he is often running at defenders and coming deep to receive the ball, positioning and space to receive the ball are crucial. Contrast that to Eto’o who was generally playing on the defender’s shoulder anyways and therefore was already close to the players he was closing down.

    What it comes down to is this: if you criticize Messi for not tracking back, you also have to criticize Pep for either instructing him to not do so or for consistently allow Messi to undermine his philosophy.

    Finally, you mention that if we have the ball we can’t lose, but if we don’t score we can’t win. It seems to me that Messi is allowed such positional freedom because he is the best in the world at winning games for a team. However, in order for him to do so he needs space to receive a pass, turn and generally run at the defense. The trade-off you make when asking Messi to press consistently is that it inevitably means he will be closer to opposition players. Allowed freedom, however, he can drift across the pitch looking for dangerous areas to turn possession into a chance.

    Suppose that’s how I view it anyways. Cheers!

  5. March 10, 2012

    Messi was quite good in possession against Leverkusen.

    102 attempted pass. Completed 87%. Attempted one long pass greater than 25 yards and completed it. One pass set up a shot by a teammate.

    He was dispossessed only once and turned the ball over once.

    He attempted 4 through balls completing 1. Given how difficult through balls can be and how narrowly Leverkusen were playing it’s difficult to make much of that through ball rate.

    Overall it was a somewhat odd defensive match for the entire Barca front line given Leverkusen’s how little they saw the ball and their tactics.

    Lerkusen had very little possession – 23%. That’s remarkable – they saw less than 25% possession. So Barca had very little defending to do.

    On top of that Leverkusne consistently looked to play the ball long to try to attack on quick transitions and counters.

    As an example of this – the Leverkusen keeper attempted 24 passes the entire game. Every pass attempt was played long. So when Leverkusen had the ball deep – the region where the Barca forward line’s upfield pressure is key to the Barca defensive system – Leverkusen attempted to play the ball long out of the zone.

    Leverkusen essentially bypassed the zone the Barca forwards had to defend. Generally they looked to play the ball long or in the air to take advantage of their height and avoid the Barca high pressure.

    As an example of this – take a look the defensive game of the players flanking Messi.

    Pedro’s work rate as always was very high. However, Pedro made only one tackle and had no intereceptions. Iniesta – no tackles and one intercepted pass. Tello – one interception no tackles. Messi – no tackles no interceptions – not significant different than the rest of the front line.

    In addition the Barca front line committed very few fouls. That suggests that they weren’t very involved with pressuring the ball as Leverkusen played the ball over them (the Barca front line often leads the team in fouls committed due to the high pressure) Pedro-0 fouls. Iniesta-0 fouls. Tello-0 fouls. Messi – 1 foul.

    When Barca needed to defend it was in the zones behind the forward line. Busquets – 4 tackles and 5 intercepted passes. Fabregas 3 tackles 1 intercepted pass. Alves – 3 tackles 1 intercepted pass. The only player in the midfield zone who didn’t have similar figures was Xavi – 0 tackles 1 interception. The backline showed a similar story to Busquets.

    The way Leverkusen played just reduced the impact that high pressure from the forward line could have defensively as the ball was played either over their zone or through it quickly with long passes.

    • nzm
      March 10, 2012

      Great stats, Euler – thanks!

      I guess that most of the tackles and recovered balls came from the backline – Pique and Mascherano?

      An 87% success for Messi with 102 passes meant that 12 passes were incomplete. When taken into the context of the whole game it may not seem a lot, or does it?

      It goes back to the discussion above with Kxevin regarding strikers losing balls vs. midfielders or defenders.

      It could also be that when Messi loses the ball, it has more impact on the spectators when compared to another player losing it. Viewer angst? 😀

    • Bill
      March 10, 2012

      Very good stats Euler! It definitely tells a better story about Messi’s performance. A very important part of his game, or any great players game is learning when and where to pick your spots.

    • March 10, 2012

      Statistics can deceive as much as they can be used to tell a story of excellence. If a player loses only 2 balls, but both result in scoring chances, what then? Statistics can often paint a different picture.

  6. barca96
    March 10, 2012

    Rafinha has been called up to the Brazilian U20 side.

    My thoughts;
    As a player I think it’s better to compete with the elite (Spain) and actually have a hope of winning something compared to mediocre (Brazil) who are so disorganized and with no style of play.

    I hope he chooses Spain above Brazil. Don’t want another Boateng but above all, I want him to enjoy playing instead of always getting criticism in Brazil where they always accuse the European-based players of under perfoming when playing for country.

    • Ron Mexico
      March 10, 2012

      As a fan first of Brasil (I was introduced to Barcelona by Rivaldo) I am delighted that he has seemingly chosen his father’s country over Spain. Looking forward it’s hard to envision him getting in the Spanish side any time soon with the wealth of talent available in the zone he is likely to be deployed in. Whereas, the Brasilian side has only a few options like Ganso and the rather young Lucas. If he does develop like people envision he will be, at the very least, in a very young and promising side quickly. Now, I understand what you’re saying: they need to find a coach who can organize a team that can compete at the modern international level. But if they do, a young core of Rafinha, Thiago Silva, Dani Alves, Neymar, Ganso, Dimao, etc. is a formidable group that someday could challenge for a World Cup in my opinion.

    • Ron Mexico
      March 10, 2012

      Just got off work and I’m a little out of it. The fourth sentence should read: If he does develop like people think he will he will be incorporated into a young and promising side rather quickly.

      Further more, Brasil have made a habit of performing rather terribly in the run up to major competitions (2002 WC springs to mind). I think the team that is fielded at the WC will be a strong one. Coincidentally, I think that tournament has the chance to go down as one of the all time greats, as there are a number of teams who could theoretically win it: Germany, Spain, Brasil, Argentina, France, Belgium (a dark horse!), The Dutch, Italy. Theoretically.

  7. Laurentiu88
    March 10, 2012

    Mourinho is brilliant saying that we too are like them! 🙂 Even Sid Lowe tends to agree, saying all RM penalties were right calls (i assume even Getafe one? :))!
    This has become a joke! You have a game with three clear penalty calls and hint that things are not alright and now ‘we are all the same’, Pep too chases referees outside the parking lot? He too protests the clearest of decisions (i have in mind Pepe’s body check on Messi in 2nd leg of super cup when JM goes to protest)?

  8. March 10, 2012

    I don’t get the fuss about Godall comments. He basicaly just says that by having better relations with the refs we wouldn’t have to suffer from the refereeing disgrace we see this year and by no way that we would get fake penalties or smth similar.
    Although, I disagree with him I think the refereeing is Spain has been shitty and pro madrid for as long as I remember

    This Raul dive comes to mind since 2003
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ld-82xWh37I#t=0m44s

    This with Osasuna when madrid had Boluda as president
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgEhDDW0fMk&feature=related

    And of course this, which is a classic one at least here in Greece because it was vs Olympiakos in the CL. Imagine what would happen if we got that call. RED and PENALTY while the score is 1-0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwCWq6CfeQQ

    Expect madrid to scream Villarato at the first soft penalty we get, although Laporta is gone. As Pep says, we can’t win them in this game so we better not get involved

  9. Laurentiu88
    March 10, 2012

    “Nunca he deseado estar a la altura de Mourinho” pep

  10. Helge
    March 10, 2012

    A superb video compilation of Busquets, which honestly surprised me how good he is in each aspect of the game (although I am a fan of him since long ago)!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCYJOCoxDIQ

  11. March 10, 2012

    B team is playing now. Fun line up. Espinosa – yes that Espinosa – is actually starting.

    And Rafinha is playing as a false 9 with Deulofeu and Kiko on the wings.

    Here’s a working link:

    http://limev.com/deportemixocho (via @migeru_cb)

  12. yana
    March 10, 2012

    Okay, this is just ridiculously cute. Mini warmup kits! Mini adizeroes! Huge duffel bags! (well, probably normal size duffel bags, but they look huge in comparison.) Mini huddle! Mini lineup! Mini goal celebration! Mini badge-kissing!

    http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/fcbescola/detail/image_gallery/friendly-games-in-falset

    And perhaps we’ll see these pics again in about fourteen years’ time, give or take, when they’re posted again after the first team debut of one of these kids… 🙂

    • sd
      March 10, 2012

      Whats so mini about them? They are normal sized Barcelona players.

      Ridiculously cute? Yes, for sure.

      Mini? No way. Just simple, normal sized Barcelona players.

    • BarcaOwl
      March 10, 2012

      They are very cute indeed.

  13. Ahmad
    March 10, 2012

    Real Betis 1-0 Real Madrid

    Been in this situation too many times…

    • mom4
      March 10, 2012

      Too soon to be hopeful. Wearing my R. Betis scarf that I got over in Sevilla just in case.

      Must. Not. Hope.

    • kinukinu
      March 10, 2012

      didn’t they get the memo that scoring early against EE is the kiss of death? This will end 4-1 🙁

    • Nav
      March 10, 2012

      Lol. You don’t say…

    • nzm
      March 10, 2012

      Change of referee from the first half!

    • mom4
      March 10, 2012

      Really? I’m not watching. I refuse to be sucked into the trap that is hope.

    • March 10, 2012

      Its not about hope for me, no way MAdrid will drop 10 points. Not with the refs helping them out at every corner. Just now it was 2-2. There was the most blatant pen not given to BEtis and then 5 minutes later MAdrid score. I am not sure if there is a conspiracy, I would seriously like to think not since it would spell the death of Spanish football, but there is definitely something going on. No way this much help over the course of a season can be attributed to luck. Betis deserved to get something out of this game and once again a team that played well vs Madrid was robbed.

    • mom4
      March 10, 2012

      Yes but why was the ref changed?

  14. March 10, 2012

    Yet ANOTHER clear as day penalty not given against Madrid. IT is actually becoming really quite ridiculous now.

    • jordi™
      March 10, 2012

      Sergio Ramos just had a turn at goalkeeper too 😆

    • Jim
      March 10, 2012

      Just watched the last minutes. Were you referring to Ramos’ handball in injury time or was there an earlier one?

  15. March 10, 2012

    Hahahahahahaha. Make that TWO penalties not given. One right at the death. Pathetic refereeing again. This league is starting to become a bit of a joke.

  16. mega_tajh
    March 10, 2012

    2 Handball in the box not given, seriously.

  17. Gogah
    March 10, 2012

    didn’t see the game, but looking at all ur comments, seems like it was another case of shitty refereeing benefiting madrid.

    how much fun would it be if there was some way to prove mou bribing the refs and madrid getting relegated like say juventus

  18. Laurentiu88
    March 10, 2012

    what a joke people

    at 2-2 all the calls were going in RM’s way; their corner came after a foul of kaka, which should have seen red on two occasions (high foot and diving)

    handball. one. two. i don’t like when they give penalties for silly unintentional handballs like the first one, but dam it, second one was pure goalkeeping. as eurosport commentator saw it “Oh goodness me – the replay shows that hit Ramos’s arm and the whistle goes. Well then – what a game, the substitute referee the centre of it but Betis aren’t complaining as they haven’t had the benefit of the replay.”

    Did madrid actually win any away game this year without any controversy?

    • Laurentiu88
      March 10, 2012

      relevant quote

      ‘The keeper is up for this! Right at the death, Benat over it… half-cleared, the shot comes in from Montero and surely a penalty from Ramos! Stonewall penalty! Not given! Ramos stuck his arm out!”

  19. TITO
    March 10, 2012

    Ridiculous, the first one on Xabi was more unintentional but the second one or Ramos was stone wall penalty, even the whole stadium saw it, except the referees of course.
    And the third one Ronaldo scored, should have been offside call on Khedira (i have to see the replay again) cause i’m sure he was offside when he jumped but he more than surely interfered with the play and that is offside by the rules.
    Nevermind all the shit that has been happening, they will always get the 3 points this season no matter the opponent does.

    • Laurentiu88
      March 10, 2012

      I wondered too is 3rd goal could have been penalty but there was no replay… the ball did come from Khedira.

    • Laurentiu88
      March 10, 2012

      offside*

  20. Nav
    March 10, 2012

    Anyone know why the ref changed?

    • mega_tajh
      March 10, 2012

      During the 1st half it seemed like he had problems with his hamstring.

  21. messifan
    March 10, 2012

    Just caught up with the latest talking points.

    1) Dang! Pep was feisty today in his presser. Although, I wish he didn’t respond to Mou directly, I agree with him completely regarding accusations thrown at Barca. Just feel bad for those players who have put so much effort on the field, only to have some trying to discredit their achievements. Last year it was the doping case and the infamous “Por Que” speech, this year the ref/ref committee. Hope they stay strong and play their game. I know there’s a lot of people in this world who also admire Barcelona and what the club historically represents.

    2) Regarding points made on Messi’s evolution. I agree with some here that his role has changed from years past, and it could be that he is instructed to perform differently this year than last. It’s not fair to judge one’s performance based on last year’s criteria. Also, it’s amazing to see the amount of attention/resources the club has invested in him. I wonder when he’s with Argentina, does he performs differently (tracking back and defending more)?
    I’ve been following Messi and Barca for about three years, so I don’t know a lot about Messi’s prior development. Was he this talented as a kid? Or does his progression coincide with Pep’s era? Just curious.

    3) It’s wonderful to see underdogs winning and giving their all, let’s hope the trend continues next week. Let’s go CSKA Moscow!!! Also, credit to Betis for playing.

  22. Kimcelona
    March 10, 2012

    GO CSKA! Spanish dominance in the CL (other than Barca) be DAMNED!

    No matter how much I should cheer for EE in anything, I just cant bring myself to.

    Betis was great though and I am seriously worried about our away trip there…

    I hope Pep is taking notes…and the players see their (Betis players) never say die attitudes.

    • mega_tajh
      March 10, 2012

      Betis made EE give their all. They have to be drained against CSKA. 2-1 win for the Russians.

  23. March 10, 2012

    Sometimes I feel.. http://qkme.me/36jcyj

    Anyone still surprised at today’s outcome? How many times has this happened? You can only say its a coincidence if this has happened a couple of times. Otherwise you’re in denial.

    You have to raise your voice. Have to complain. I’m telling this again. We’re dealing with EE. They have a manager who is adept at bullying the refs into doing his dirty work. He even managed to retire a great ref. like Anders Frisk. Don’t even ask about the great UEFA/UNICEF conspiracy.

    If refs are finding it easier to side with EE even on the most blatant of calls, give them a reason not to. Sometimes silence is the best option, but you and I both know its not working. Yes, the other 18 teams might have bigger beef with the refs but who do you feel is more hard done by today? Us? Or Betis who gave their all today? If the ref had known that there would be an equally big shitstorm headed his way if he didn’t give the obvious penalties/cards wouldn’t Betis have benefited?

    Toeing the moral high ground is admirable. But don’t confuse it with remaining mute and letting thieves run away with the loot..

  24. Helge
    March 10, 2012

    Oh, this is so funny.

    I’m lovin it!

    2 clear hand penalties not given, another double by CR. Another match luckily won by EE.

    • Helge
      March 10, 2012

      Who does still think this league is not over?

      Or that the refs mistakes equal out for us and EE?

      This is fucking ridiculous.

    • Helge
      March 10, 2012

      Sorry, maybe I can sleep better afterwards, because I should sleep now but I’m still a bit agitated.
      Need to let out a cry of rage
      AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

      Good night 🙂

  25. messifan
    March 10, 2012

    Racing just sacked one of their three managers this week, so I guess Barca will be dealing with an unknown tomorrow. My guess would be Racing parking the bus and trying to get a point or three to lift themselves from the relegation zone. It’s a pity that their club is in such financial mess. I visited their website and their chairman page was blanked. Sid Lowe wrote an article about the chaos in the club a while ago. The situation sounds so dire. I do wonder, is Racing the only first league club in Santander? If so, maybe the management should attempt to strike some sort of partnership with the Santander Group and see if they could restructure their club? It would be a great community partnership. Just a thought.

    For tomorrow, I would like to see Messi, Cuenca and Pedro start. Pedro and Cuenca need to get into the playing rhythm. In midfield, I go with Keita, Cesc and Iniesta. In defense, Alves, Masch, (Barca B) and Adriano. Tello, Xavi and Sergi Roberto for impact subs.

    The game is at 1:00 pm EST. Daylight Saving is tomorrow for North American folks.

    At this stage, let’s focus on our play. I want to see intensity and commitment to our style. One game at a time and let’s win 🙂

    Also, I miss Kari and Soccermom!

    • messifan
      March 10, 2012

      P.S. An interesting statistics- Racing went into Administration last July with debts of over 33 million euros (Reuters, 3/7/12). That’s less than Torres’ 50 million euros transfer fee.

  26. K_legit in Oz
    March 10, 2012

    After Scumrinho leaves the EE in the lurch we will see it all go down…all the players will be sucked of any energy and that club will suffer..it is just what Scumrinho does to a club

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