Zaragoza – Barcelona Liveblog

I’m just going to leave this here and update it as the lineups come out.

Starting XI: Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Thiago, Keita, Fabregas, Pedro, Messi, Sanchez

Bench: Pinto, Montoya, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cuenca, Tello

Join me shortly before the match starts at 2:00 PM EST.


  1. FCB Starting lineup:


    1. Really hoping for lots of width, positive play from Pedro, Alexis, and Cesc, and hopefully some confidence-boosting goals!

      That back 4 means Pep isn’t messing around though; I thought he might try for one of the Barca babies to slot in for Puyol.

  2. Come on Zaragoza, I want you to lose today and then win every game until the end of the season! Don’t get relegated!!

    I can’t watch this game live, but tomorrow it’ll be waiting for me on my DVR with Ray Hudson commentary, so that’s good.

  3. there was no set midfield whatsoever…Keita, Fabregas and Thiago were just running around unsure..Pedro was absent for most of the game…We have to nurture either Fabregas or Thiago as a focal point if Xavinesta are absent…Else this is what happens..Stability started when Busi came in and the midfield settled a bit…looking at the game, Busi seems the best bet to replace Xavi..

    1. “Busi seems the best bet to replace Xavi..”
      Seems to me too but he has to learn a hell of a lot of creative play if that is the case…I reckon Thiago is being nurtured as the heir to Iniesta..

      Bear with me here but I guess as Messi grows older he will progress down the field to midfield

    2. Cesc was the problem for me. The man seems to have forgotten how to play Center Mid. Only showed brilliance in the final third.

      His spatial awareness in the middle of the park was very unimpressive. Not to mention his sometimes puzzling inability to play an easy to control 5 yard pass.

      I mean impossible lobs and through balls he can do, but a 5 yard pass seems like a struggle?

    3. I wouldn’T rely on Iniesta. He is too inconsistent. Thiago has.more.potential to take over from Xavi.

    4. We all were of this assumption that Fab will eventually replace Xavi and Thiago will take over Inesta…well, As Momo pointed out, Fab’s spatial awareness is not even as close to Busi…and Thiago is too quick and a bit hasty, considering the ballet that inesta performs..Hope experiance sloes him down. But as i said it has gotta be Busi. But if he takes over that role, who can replace Busi? …None I can think of..NONE..

  4. Good solid win. Was a pretty good performance considering the intensity and aggression with which Zaragoza played. Messi’s first was something else, a great finish. Good to see Pedro on the scoresheet, maybe/hopefully does his confidence and sharpness some good. And Alexis was brilliant all game.

  5. Really happy with the teams game today even though it wasn’t played at their own tempo.
    Its good.that they played a high tempo.match so.that they are prepared for chelsea.

  6. A lot more penalties now..that’s good..we were screwed out of a lot of those earlier in the season.

  7. The good: Messi, Puyol and Alexis. Special mention to Valdes for saving that penalty. And of course, we won.

    BUT the midfield of Cesc, Thiago and Keita did not work today. We played the second half with a man up but couldn’t control the game until the very end. Cesc was horrible. Zaragoza played well. They fouled a bit but not in a malicious way.

    Our finishing was not good. This is a concern since goals win us game.

    Lastly, I’m happy for Pedro. Hopefully, this is a positive beginning for him.

  8. Really happy with the teams game today even though it wasn’t played at their own tempo.
    Its good that they played a high tempo.match so.that they are prepared for chelsea.

  9. Impressed with Alexis today, worked very hard but its clear that he isn’t a natural goal threat. His distribution from the wing however is incredibly intelligent. That through ball for messi in the 2nd half had me on my feet.
    Also the third goal was lovely, hopefully Pedro’s confidence is on its way back.

    Another source of goals other than messi is a must if we are to end the season on a high.

    1. This was the first game that Alexis consistently showed the playmaking ability he displayed in Serie A, IMO. His passes into the box were immaculate. The fast break with Messi for the second goal was something I thought I’d see more of this season — Leo’s finish was terrific but Alexis’ long run and pass set it up. The partnership between them should only flourish in the years ahead.

  10. Cesc received his 5th yellow card and won’t play on Tuesday against Getafe (via barcastuff).

  11. The most puzzling question from this game is; where in the hell does fabregas fit in a 4-3-3?

    Being a trequista is obviously where he’s usually world class. However I’m struggling to be impressed with him when he’s placed anywhere else.

    Still too early to say, but I have a feeling barca overpaid for him.

    1. Give him time. IMO, the problem is too many experiments. He has never played one role consistently. Maybe that is due to injuries and the fact that we cannot afford to lose or even draw a game. He needs time to learn his role (whatever his role is). But the pressure of winning every match is almost impossible for new players to adapt to the system. If they play badly, criticisms start pouring in. I think in the long run, Cesc will be able to adapt to the style but not sure what the trade-off will be in the short run.

    2. About Cesc:

      I feel its a bit harsh to judge Fabregas at this moment when we can afford to not to. The midfield, forward line (without injuries) was already saturated without him being there.

      The guy is a unique individual. When he came he immediately made an impact in the SuperCopa, brought tactical diversity as time progressed, made Messi more dangerous than he already was, made up for the injuries of the forwards and took pressure of the newbie like Cuenca, Tello. Improved dressing room atmosphere. Now all that sums up to a lot and really was beyond expectations (except the dressing room atmosphere bit). My expectations at least! He is not here to fill for Xavi (for Xavi is Xavi) but in distant future, if everything goes well for him, we may talk about some kid whoโ€™d be expected to fill the shoes for Cesc.

      However, he is a midfielder and to see the lack of composure in midfield, below par close control (w.r.t his team mates) so many times is frustrating for many. Must be frustrating for Cesc as well. I get annoyed (must admit) when he keeps trying to play those unnecessary first time passes in order to make up for the close control, which leads to some sense of directness. Must learn a thing or two from Busi.

      Okay, poor Cesc had 8 years of youknowwhat and the last 2 seasons at youknowwhere was injury filled. Its was never meant to be easy to adjust to a fast evolving system, which already reached a superior level before he came. The upcoming preseason would be vital for him. 2 years of rehabilitation here and then see how everything shapes up. The idea for him is to get young again and rediscover those lost DNAs and we get to witness the curious case of Cesc in full glory. So lets spare him those intense criticisms for now! Anyway, it’d be really interesting to see Cesc’s progress in time.

  12. it used to be pique/puyol but now its mascherano/puyol because of shakira, women? hmm, they did it to Adam, david, solomon, sampson and now pique! MASCHERANO was the issue today! Grand Masch!

    1. Your’re joking right? Shakira is not the problem. Players sometimes hit bad form and they can recover.

    2. Pique had a phase, Busi had a phase, Pedro is going through a phase, so is Tello and even Cuenca for that matter. They’ll bounce back..

    1. Apart from that, he did EVERYTHING right. Fav. moment was when he stole that ball from Abraham which got him sent off. And a peach of a pass to Messi which I dunno he got too shocked to convert.

      Worth every penny..

  13. I don’t get what people see wrong at Cesc. He had a pretty decent game and his understanding with Messi is telepathic.

    We had a very hard game today and we must congrat the team… Thiago Alexis the outstanding players Messi amazing, but how did he missed from 6 yards? quite funny to see him down on his knees in despair ๐Ÿ™‚ and then the smile after the 3rd goal!!

    and as a side note, this is the second goal in a raw that we concede because of Mascherano. He still had a great game!

    1. I’m gonna have to disagree about Monster Masch being responsible for the only goal we conceded. The goal was a gift from the football gods! VV made an excellent save and what is Masch supposed to do if the ball comes right back to dude’s head. I honestly don’t think dude even knew what happened. Maybe I’m not giving him enough credit. Maybe he did react to the deflection off VV and headed it towards goal, but I’m not convinced. Monster Masch is our best defender IMHO. Puyol is still valuable. I’m not taking anything from him. However, he’s lost a step. Masch is in his prime and learned his position so well. He is also the best passer from the back. Pique had found his form again and we are clicking defensively. I think the problem was midfield which has been stated above. It was apparent we needed either Xavi or Busi to come on. It happened. We took control again. Puyol is needed for his leadership and ability to make a big play at big times. The equalizer for instance. Or a diving leg block. However, over the course of a game, Masch has been our rock like Puyol’s been over the YEARS for the cause.

  14. There were a bunch of issues in the midfield today. Keita is a decent destroyer but he is t anywhere near as good at distributing quickly and intelligently as Busquets. This meant that Thiago was forced to drop deeper to act as the distributed for Keita. In other words Keita was doing the destroyer role Busquets normally does, while Thiago was doing the distribution and linking the defense and midfield that Busquets normally does. Two players were doing the role that Busquets normally does himself.

    Meanwhile when Thiago was further upfield he doesn’t quite control a match yet. He distributes well to space and finds open players but he doesn’t demand the ball so he can set the tempo the way Xavi does. Thiago’s tempo is also set a bit faster than Xavi’s, but my thought is that he will learn to increase and decrease his tempo as needed as he gets older.

    Meanwhile Cesc has forgotten how to play as a midfielder. Watching him play today it is obvious why Pep played around with the 3-4-3 all season, Fabregas doesn’t really fit well in any position in our 4-3-3, except perhaps Messi’s position. The free role he played at Arsenal is coming back to haunt him as he has no patience whatsoever with his passing. One of the huge issues the club and Fabregas are going to face over the next year or two is how to fit him in the system and get the best out of him.

    1. “Two players were doing the role that Busquets normally does himself” Great comment that shows again how essential Busi is for us. Visca Busi!

  15. Decent game but I must be the only one concerned about our lack of finishing! Its VERY frustrating that no one can put the damn ball in the back of the net except for Messi..and even he’s missing some easy chances. Does Pep not see this problem? I know passing is a VERY important part of our game but goals win matches. The players maybe need shooting practise? Cause I mean if we’re not gonna play with a striker might as well train the passers to put the ball in the back of the net?!

    Alexis was majestic for a good portion of the match. Pedro, contrary to popular belief, had a pretty decent game topped off with a deserved goal, IMO. Messi was the difference in most occasions yet again. Puyi and Masche had great games. Dani was great before his coming off and Monti was really good when he came on. I am really loving this young’n…but then again I always did. Adriano wasnt bad.

    The only downfall was the starting midfield…In order to not upset the Keita brigade, I will just say that this was not one of his best matches. Tooooooo slow to get to the ball and in decision-making. Thiago was not that great in the first half and you already know how bad Cesc was (in midfield). It seems Cesc is confused on what to do on the pitch. Before, he would make up for his poor games by scoring crucial goals now he cant even buy a goal.

  16. The first half an hour of this match had no shape and no control but once Zara took the lead Pep immediately swapped Keita and Thiago and things improved slightly. The match was over the minute Busquests entered the pitch though, he shut the midfield down and let Thiago move forward.
    IMO Thiago HAS to play when Xavi doesn’t, Cesc tactically isn’t disciplined enough to play without Xavi. Cesc currently doesn’t suit our 4-3-3 but that may change as soon as he acclimatizes to our current style.
    This is probably why this was such an amazing match from Alexis, he is also very new to the system and has had some injuries. He assisted 2 goals and was responsible for both of the Abraham yellow cards.

    I’m glad Pedro scored today and he was marginally better than at any other stage this season but he’s still not part of our strongest XI.

  17. Cesc was terrible today? You guys do know that scoring goals is how to win games right? The back heel to Alexis, two or three long diaganal balls to Pedro, the 4 yard chip to Messi…he is most unpredictable player on the team. That is his role. He has played almost everywhere in the midfield and front three. He has got 17 goals and 11 assists. I think he is fitting in fine.

    The midfield problem didn’t come from Keita, Thiago, or Fabregas, it came from not having Busi on the field. Busi, Thiago, and Fabregas would have controlled the game just fine in the first half.

    1. Totally agree. I thought Cesc had a pretty good game. He had fair number of steals and what could have been some great assists. Despite Pedro’s goal, I thought he was invisible today. Before his goal, I was going to leave a comment that both teams were playing with 10 men. Alexis is already contributing MUCH more to this team at the moment than P (definitely no exclamation mark, perhaps Pedro? would be more fitting) I like Keita, but agree with many that he didn’t help much today. On a positive note – is Masch the best central defender in football right now? A case could be made…

    2. How is that overrating him? There aren’t actually too many amazing CBs in the world right now. Honestly, I also think Masch is one of the best CBs. I don’t know if he is number 1, but he is in the definitely top 5. If Pique ever gets back to his best, I think he is number 1. But for now, Mascherano is ahead of him and Puyol. I think Thiago Silva is the best central defender in the world. And I think Javi Martinez is an absolute boss as well. At this moment, Masch, Javi, and Silva are my top 3 CBs in the world. No other CBs really strike me right now. Sergio Ramos makes a good CB, although he is too easily dragged out of position and relies on his speed too much. Rami of Valencia is surprisingly right up there with the best of them at the moment. Like I said, Pique is ahead of all of them when he is at his best. And although he has improved recently, he is still far from his best.

    3. I thought he had a good game all things considered.One thing people forget is the last three seasons he didnt play this stage of the season with his injuries.I think it will take another season for him to adapt to the demands of more games than he is used to and he will make a more consistent season next year especially since the first year at this club is always so difficult.

    4. jordi,

      Good reminder. He was injured most of the last 2 years at Arsenal. Maybe the season is wearing on him. He started so brilliantly. He did have a rest against Milan in the 2nd leg. Although, his movement and touch passes were off from the beginning. I don’t think it’s a matter of talent. He has loads. It’s fitting into our system. Pep almost has to change his formation or tactics to integrate him into the line up. I do think a whole year and a regualr Pep preseason will do wonders. It’ll give time for Pep to ruminate about his place in the squad. It’s been mentioned above, but he also hasn’t had a position he’s played regularly. Pep’s asked him to fill numerous rolls based on availability of others and the needs as they arise. Alexis know his roll and position. So do Cuenca, Tello, and Pedro when they come on. Cesc has had to learn a system, keep fit(as you mention), and play multiple parts in the team.

  18. Aranda caused a lot of trouble to our backline and this is exactly what Drogba will do when we play Chelsea next week..we need Pique back and in form to combat that

    1. VV should also look out for Chelsea players offering hugs near his goal mouth *trolling activated*

    2. lol don’t be silly everyone knows the referee *ALWAYS* calls fouls on Barcelona players inside the penalty area ๐Ÿ˜‰

  19. I really liked our fourth goal. It was kind of an ‘in your face’ regarding the state of the pitch.

    If you won’t let us play on the ground, we’ll take our tiki taka to the air. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Pitch was fine. I didn’t see the ball take any awkward bounces or rolls. It looked funny b/c they had repairs made to it w/different hybrids of grass. It was a good shape though. Ray Ray said they always have one of the better pitches in the Liga.

    2. the grass was so long it was resembling a garden with that many flowers ๐Ÿ™‚

      Maybe this has been the main problem this season – having to adapt to playing in the savanna.

      For this I do hope Zaragoza goes down, for this and that slap on Messi and many others…

    3. There are several ways in which a pitch can be bad (and they are not mutually exclusive)

      1) It can have a very uneven surface with bumps and holes which cause awkward bounces, players losing their balance and, worst case, getting muscle and ligament injuries due to the ground not being where they think it would be while running.

      2) Tall grass that slows the ball down and makes fast passing difficult. In which case, if the pitch is otherwise smooth, the ball will mostly bounce fine, but tiki taka will still suffer

      3) Hard and dry surface.

      Now combine all three together and you get what we had to play on in Pamplona, at San Siro and some of our other away games. This one the problem was mostly the tall grass but this was still quite a problem.

      It is actually very difficult to see what the state of the pitch is on TV. It is either extreme close ups or the odd behavior of the ball that can tell and even then, grass being taller than it should be is not easy to spot, you have to be on the pitch and feel your feet sinking in it, the drag in your heels when you try to run, and the ball travelling at a snail pace to really see it. But if you see different-color patches on the field from the overview camera, it is a safe bet the surfaces isn’t in perfect condition

    4. Not really true. In golf a green can be discoloured yet perfect to putt on. The pitch last night wasn’t anything extreme. We’ve played on a lot worse.

    5. 1. I am not talking about golf.

      2. I very clearly didn’t say the pitch was the worst we have played

    6. Pep and several of the players commented on the state of the pitch afterwards. It was not fine. They should know.

      Cesc in particular said something about how slow the ball was moving on it.

    7. Well if Pep said something about it then I concede that it wasn’t perfect. However, letting the grass grow long to counter our play has been happening for a few years now. AI think most teams like pitch with taller grass. It suites their style of play. I don’t like to see us mention it everytime we play on a pitch that isn’t to our satisfaction. Not many are in Spain. The team we play against also has to play on the pitch. We won 4-1. It’s a mute point

  20. how amazing was Thiago’s pass at the forth goal? ๐Ÿ™‚

    what a difference it makes to have both him and Cesc as alternatives in our midfield.

    1. It made a huge difference indeed… Not in a positive way though. Although they have played together in the 4-3-3 before but I think this was the first time this happened without Busquets. And midfield control was totally lost as a result.

  21. Couple things:

    – The team responded appropriately after Zaragoza unsuccessful penalty and their first goal. Puyol again opportunely positioned himself in the right spot to equalize immediately after we conceded. We equalized right away after they score was mentally relieving. And with Messi score another goal to put us leading three minutes after; enough to frustrate Zaragoza.

    – I admire Pep choice to bench Iniesta and Busi. In normal circumstances, people would think at least one of Busi or Iniesta would play. But Pep dared to rest both, rolled Cesc โ€“ Keita โ€“ Thiago and no one would predict so. Now we have fresh Iniesta, Xavi (hope he fully recovered) and not so tired Busi for Getafe game. I hope the well managed andโ€ riskyโ€ rotation that Pep employed would prove positive to maintain our strings of good result until the end of season. All players would be geared up to step in anytime in this crucial final stretch.

    – Alexis was pretty good last night. Love his assist to Messi. And Pedro finally ended his drought. Hopefully that โ€œthirst quencher โ€œgoal would pick up Pedro self-confidence as we require all forwards besides Messi to contribute more in scoring. By the way, both were not involved in midweek Milan exertions. So credit for one more right decision from Pep, too.

    – A precious 3 points to sustain the pressure on EE. Itโ€™s provisionally minus 3 points from the top table. With a bit of luck; it would remain as is, or widened to a just 4 points tomorrow. I expect EE would start the big match tonight with an intense psychological load on their mind knowing Barca is only 3 points behind. I hope Valencia could bring the same level of performance like the last time they host EE in Mestalla. And who knows Emery could come with some wonderful tactics to surprise EE and manage a draw at least. Go Valencia!

    Visca BARCA!

  22. hmm.. Lexus was a much better buy than Cesc in my opinion based on what I’ve seen so far. But then again, I was always against the purchase of Cesc. He definitely needed this team more than the team needed him. But here’s hoping his intelligence will allow him to grow more to fit better with his team.
    If alexis can cut out the card waving and diving, and work on his finishing, he can really be something. its clear that at this point, he is not a natural goal scorer.
    Masch!! What a buy! As good a buy as Alves I reckon.
    The guy’s long passing is as spectacular as his tackles. If only he could be allowed to take more shots for the team. Its obvious he is enjoying the best form of his life.
    Alves should never be allowed to take a free kick. The guy cannot connect with a dead ball as well as a moving ball. Maybe Cesc should be given some opportunities.
    Now c’mon valencia and c’mon atleti.

  23. THere is no need to cristise Fabregas atm. He played well enough and improved immensely throughout the game. Its his first season and people for me are expecting great things. He has had injuries hitting him for the last few seasons and well he has been playing in the CAM when he did play for Arsenal in those past years. If he was playing where Arteta when he was at Arsenal then we should be asking questions. It takes time and Cesc will become the player everyone wants to be soon, hopefully next season. Pep will probs extend contract and a reason why is probably because he knows he hasn’t got the best of Cesc yet. He probably wants to ge tthe best of Cesc as well as winnoing. He will most probably leave when he wins the third CL trophy in a row though its up to Pep

    1. In that case I hope Barca lose in the CL final (to Bilbao) next year so that Pep has to stay at least 4 more years for 3 CL trophies in a row! ๐Ÿ˜€

  24. We could seriously see Levante move to 3rd place in a week or two, meaning there’ll be two blaugrana in the CL! They sure have been impressive this season, but it does seem like the usual CL contenders aren’t providing much of a fight for the spots.

    1. haha sweet pictures. looks like Pique is the common victim for team prank ๐Ÿ™‚

    2. Although it’s funny to see people thrown in the pool, it’s DANGEROUS. I personally know someone who was paralyzed from being accidentally dropped while people were attempting to throw her in the pool. It’s not just a freak accident. I’ve seen reports of it on tv and in the papers. Hopefully, Pep will tell them to knock it off.

  25. looks like our game at Levante will be far more dangerous than EE’s derby. Atletico have 3 players suspended due to some card happy referee. Might as well place our hopes somewhere else.. and I pick Granada!

  26. And also?

    Xavi (when seeing there were flowers between high grass on Zaragoza’s pitch): “What is that? This must be a joke.” [via catradio periodico]

    (via @barcastuff)

  27. Alves is doubtful for Getafe match this Tuesday. I hope Pique would get the medical green. And Puyol would play RB. If Pique and Alves are still absence, Montoya probably get the nod alongside Puyol – Masch – Adriano.

    1. I’ve been impressed by Montoya so far. Physically quite strong, decent positional sense and looks to get forward as well.

Comments are closed.