Real Zaragoza 1, Barca 4, aka “Season-defining, or a big dose of nothing”

It’s been a while since there’s been a match that, for this nerd, has been worth writing about, that has sparked a degree of passion that makes fingers home in on keys because you have to say something, even if you don’t quite know what. The win against Zaragoza was that kind of match.

And let’s be clear. As I write this, the gap to the Evil Empire is 3 points, but it could return to 6 points if they do the expected, dispatching a temporarily revived in Europe but stanky in the Liga Valencia. And then what? In the matches left, the two extreme possibilities are that the defeat of Zaragoza became the spark that ignited, defined what became a glorious treble season ….

Or it could be an empty gesture in a season where cules try to convince themselves that three tertiary trophies are still gold and not silver, baubles that console in the same way the Jake La Motta in “Raging Bull” crowed at the celebrating Sugar Ray Robinson, “You never got me down, Ray. You never got me down.”

Right now, all that we know is that we beat Zaragoza in their house, one in which an unmanicured lawn, the impediment du jour, didn’t matter. Nor did a ref who was determined to “let them play,” a choice that almost invariably benefits our opponents. Nor did an opponent who didn’t give a toss about our reputation, our anointing as the best club in the world, who came out and came at us with fire, vigor and pressure, who developed early chances and even took the lead, only to have those hopes dashed against the rocks not by going a man down, but by a series of plays by a team filled with excellence, a side that just knows how to make the plays that it has to in order to win Matches That Count.

And at this point, every match counts. In the Champions League, it’s potentially three matches for the grand prize. In the Liga, there is a zero margin for error in a situation that, even if we run the table and win every remaining match might still find us losing the league, thanks to lapses in previous months, taking the macro view. In the micro view, it’s two goals: Messi’s penalty vs Sevilla and the missed chip at Villarreal. If those shots are made, we’re 4 points better which means a 2-point gap heading into our house for the next Clasic, and we’re feeling reasonably good about things.

But that’s life, and that’s football, a game that can make fans weep with joy or sadness. Today’s match was huge, because Zaragoza is fighting for its Liga life, and that makes them very dangerous. What that club failed to realize, however, is that we are, as well, just in a very different way. The struggle made for immensely entertaining viewing, and a match that was a lot closer than its scoreline indicated, embodied in the stories of four players, who I will deal with one at a time.

Victor Valdes

This season, our defense has leaked goals. Victor Valdes has been one of the best keepers in the world for some time now, but we have pretty much been the only ones who have known that. Commentators such as Phil Schoen would always focus on the past, and say things such as were it not for the effectiveness of our press and stalwart back line, Valdes would be found out, dodgy past, etc, etc, reputation-tarnishing brickbats that can come to define a player.

This season, as holes have needed to be filled, Beanpoles have gone on psychic vacations and Cavemen haven’t been the men they once were, goals have come, opportunities have come and Valdes has laid his claim to excellence. Today, Zaragoza had early chances. A stop, a penalty stop and a stop that only a lucky bounce kept from being permanent, inspired all-caps shrieking in the various forms of social media.

But it wasn’t the stops, as much as what the stops represented. Zaragoza were waiting, ready to pounce on a team whose selection meant that there wasn’t going to be the iron-clad midfield control, which meant the opportunity-sapping possession wasn’t going to be there. This meant they had a chance but first, they needed goals. Valdes kept that from happening. As Schoen noted, people are going to forget about what Valdes did in the aftermath of this victory. 1-4 seems lopsided, like a can of whipass was opened up. That wasn’t the case at all. This match was balanced on a knife’s edge, and Valdes kept it from tipping in the wrong direction.

Alexis Sanchez

El nino maravilla crowed the hype for a player whose agent said, in effect, buy him and never lose another Clasic. The hype was there, but the performances weren’t. To be fair, ours is a very difficult system to fit into, as Cesc Fabregas is discovering. Throw in some injuries, one atop the other, and it would have been enough to derail Sanchez, but he kept at it, finding salvation in work rate. Even when he could do nothing else, he could run. And track back. And run for passes. And make sheer effort his calling card, until he found his place in this remarkable team of ours. His last two outings have made it very clear what we are in for next season, with full assimilation into the side. Because simply put, Sanchez was spectacular. Perfect? Nope. But decisive, with a pass and a remarkable move in the box that led to penalty, the catalyst in two desperately needed goals that allowed Pedro’s finale to be icing on the cake.

Those who say that we potentially have two Messis are misguided. There’s only one of those per lifetime. But what we do have is a Messiniesta hybrid, if you will, a player who uses quickness and guile to find space, who has the vision to make remarkable passes (which makes the one that he didn’t make so surprising) and the stamina to raise hell on defense, run to the other end and unsettle the offense. Scary thing is that Sanchez is going to get better, even as we realize that intelligence guides his game, for those foolish enough to think that mere effort is his calling card.

Against Zaragoza, his effect was terror and destabilization. For a defense keyed up to stop Messi, what wasn’t needed was a player who didn’t even need running space to get into the box, just the ball and some ingenuity. And once he got into the box, he became a threat, which meant that attention had to be diverted from the Principal Threat. And he made them pay, efforts augmented by the box-charging midgets, which gave Sanchez places to put the ball. A remarkable match from a remarkable player, who is coming to full flower at the exact right time.

Sergio Busquets

Sergio Busquets has been called a great many things, by a great many people. But it’s a safe bet that “balm” was never going to be among those words, until now. Because there is no other way to describe the soothing, pallative effect that he had on the match, when he was inserted.

But you had to watch him carefully, because on the surface, what you saw was that suddenly, we had midfield control, and possession. Passes went to the right spots, Zaragoza could string nothing together and we grabbed the match by the throat. If you watched carefully, you were rewarded not only with the sight of a man who at times functioned as that perfect pivote, but who was also a flat-out pain in the ass, if you were Zaragoza. He was everywhere.

What made goal-fest Pedro remarkable was that he had this remarkable sense of knowing where the ball was going to be. Knowing where it is, after all, means you’re too late, and always chasing it. Busquets has that ability. Whether it is God-given or a Satanic artifact depends on whether you’re trying to make anything happen in the midfield with him around. He doesn’t seem to chase the ball. It reminds you of the old Pepe Le Pew cartoons, in which the cat runs, pell-mell, trying to escape Pepe, who just trots along, blithe smile on his face, to head the cat off at the pass.

This is Busquets, and it’s beautiful to watch as he describes a series of diagonal runs, watching, moving just a little bit so that he is in the way of the opponent, and always available for a pass from a teammate. That one player can have that effect is remarkable. His entry, too, came at the exact right time, as even with 10 men, Zaragoza wasn’t going quietly, fighting with fire, buttressed by their fans, who deserve immense plaudits as they never stopped singing and chanting, bellicose bellowing roaring along right through the final whistle, egging their side on even as Sergio Busquets was stealing its hope.

Lionel Messi

It seems absurd to say this, but there are benefits to Xavi not playing in a match. One of them is that Lionel Messi sees more of the ball. Rather than Xavi keeping things under control in the midfield, dishing out passes like a chocolatier passing out bon bons, Messi has to go get the ball. He is more involved in the offense and the generation of the offense, aggressive movement that makes him even more unpredictable. And when he is unpredictable, even more than usual, he does stupid stuff …. like that run/pass in which he faked four Zaragoza players out of their jocks, jerked them hither and yon like marionettes then got them to respond to a feint that left him just a sliver of a passing lane to take advantage of, and he did, with a perfect ball. The game is cruel because a goal didn’t result. So instead of that play, that run being on highlight shows for perpetuity, it’s just another almost-moment, that fans can add to their “remember when” files. As Ray Ray said, Messi can sell chewing gum to somebody with lockjaw.

He scored a goal, a flamethrower of a shot to the near side, perfectly placed and leaving the keeper helpless. He scored a penalty. He should have, by rights, had two assists thanks to silver-platter offerings spurned by teammates. He’s also unfair. The neutral, to be truly fair, would say that Zaragoza might have deserved more from this match. But that is what happens when you play a team of geniuses. They don’t have to play their absolute best to break your heart. Sometimes, it just takes a few players …. four of them, to be precise, to rip your guts out and make your battle against relegation, sore-throated fans notwithstanding, significantly more difficult.

Did Zaragoza feel hard done by? Dunno. But I suspect that, in their heart of hearts, after watching the play of the four abovementioned players, performances of the kind that make possible, facilitate then consolidate victories, they won’t feel all that bad. Because though the team was messy, four players were beautiful; joyously, heart-stoppingly beautiful. And it’s never okay to lose. Not for any fan. But to have beauty such as that be responsible for a little disappointment makes you feel just a little bit better somehow, like being conned by a supermodel.

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Written by:

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. barca96
    April 8, 2012

    You were conned by a supermodel before?

    I was so satisfied from watching the match.
    They.showed hunger, spirit, fight etc.

    But why was.Xavi brought on?

    Montoya exceeded my.expectation.

  2. fiazhamsath
    April 8, 2012


    Cules, Can you Please Read this and Share this with your friends. Its high time we act together. We can’t sit silently when the crest of our beloved club is stooped low by our Haters. Please Share this!

  3. blitzen
    April 8, 2012

    Nice article, Kxevin! I pretty much agree with everything, especially the part about Busquets. The second he came into the game, everyone looked much more relaxed and confident. An absolute gem of a player.

  4. Ryan
    April 8, 2012

    Guaita is trying his absolute best to keep the EE game 0-0, so many amazing saves this half. About 10 minutes to go…

    • yana
      April 8, 2012

      Yes, it’s been an exciting game. Valencia in attacking mode, both teams with some truly horrid attempts at finishing, though. Both teams hit the post a couple of times.


      — Di Maria given a yellow for diving. In the Bernabeu.

      — Piatti bossing Pepe and Arbeloa around. Pretty sure he comes up to their shoulders, at best…

        • Richzorz
          April 8, 2012

          and Ozil and Cristiano diving like olympians… :p

      • yana
        April 8, 2012

        Oh yeah, and Pepe throwing a strop at Arbeloa for trying to get him up after being knocked over by Piatti. 🙂

    • dean
      April 8, 2012

      I wonder if EE fans are still calculating what how many wins and Barca losses they need for a pasillo 😉

  5. blitzen
    April 8, 2012

    4 points, baby! I did not watch the match, I wasn’t even on the internet until just now.

    You’re welcome. 😀

  6. Srini
    April 8, 2012

    4 points, ladies and gentlemen..

    Should have been 3, two shots on crossbars for the Valencia bravehearts. Great play in EE’s den and Emery deserves full credit.

    • dean
      April 8, 2012

      I can’t follow that sentiment,Madrid had more if not as many goal-scoring chances.

  7. Jackieboy
    April 8, 2012

    4 points! Real took 33 shots, 10 of those by Ronaldo, Valencia 18. WHAT_A_GAME!

    • Puppet
      April 8, 2012

      Guaita is to Madrid in the Bernabeu what Varas was to us at the Camp Nou earlier on. That’s some good footy karma right there! 😀

  8. mega_tajh
    April 8, 2012

    This game also showed why we are interested in Jordi ALba. He attacked and defended well despite what people are saying about his size. Also Rami what a defend, what a leader.

    • Ryan
      April 8, 2012

      At times Alba and Piatti were bullying Pepe off the ball, it was great. 🙂 I’m a definite fan of Alba – he’s already locked his place on the national team and hopefully we are serious about bringing him to Barcelona.

      • mega_tajh
        April 8, 2012

        To me he is like a Spanish Alves, similar work rate, passing skills are good, and even his positional sense makes up for his height.

        • Ryan
          April 8, 2012

          While nobody can match Alves’ work rate, Alba is pretty good at it. And I think his shots are more often on target; Dani only likes to score from outside the box. 😆

  9. Momo
    April 8, 2012

    I love you Valencia.
    Safe to say we’re officially back in the Liga race.

  10. jordi™
    April 8, 2012

    Valencia gave a master class today and might have even stolen a win with some luck.It was about time some goalkeeper had the game of their lives against them 😈 .I dont think words can describe how it would feel if we pull this off despite all the set backs this year.

  11. ciaran
    April 8, 2012

    I was more nervous watching that than I was when we play. Nail-biting stuff.
    It was great to watch but OH MY GOD Pepe, Ronaldo and Di Maria should all be ashamed of themselves.

    Here’s a question, if you dive to try to get a player a straight red card should you get the same?

    • dean
      April 8, 2012

      The Rules, say that simulation is yellow and with how much grey area exists around diving, handing reds for what could arguably be coincidental fall, or from some obtuse angle a legitimate call would result in a lot of controversies. i’d rather there be a commit that post match punished such divers for blatant dives

  12. April 8, 2012

    BTW, to all those who said the league was still on when we were 10 points behind: I am sorry. Sorry for the cynicism and the doubting and the “haha stupid naive kids”. You were right. I (along with many others) was way wrong.

    • jordi™
      April 8, 2012

      To be fair it was just hope and that they would feel the pressure in April and May than anything else.For me if the best team in history could drop points in these months over the last couple years, then no reason why they with less experience at winning shouldn’t.If Bayern can knock them out that will be the death knell for the not so special one and he can take his poisonous ‘football’ to england or wherever.

    • mom4
      April 8, 2012

      Sometimes, crow tastes delicious. yum yum!

    • Ryan
      April 8, 2012

      I too was feeling doom and gloom a month ago. It feels great to be wrong!

    • mega_tajh
      April 8, 2012

      I ALWAYS BELIEVED!! I love my team to death, knowing that they have never purposely let me down.

  13. April 8, 2012

    And pardon Debbie Downer checking in here again, but it’s still 4 points. Even if both teams run the table, it’s still us coming up short. And it’s bad karma to consider the home Clasic a foregone conclusion.

    That said, it sure would be nice if ATM wouldn’t give up the usual withdrawal to them. And they still have to see Sevilla and Bilbao in the run-in. We have a tough match coming up on Tuesday, however, and will have another one against Espanyol, who always save something extra (and extra nasty) for us. At least we will be home for that one.

    • blitzen
      April 8, 2012

      Both Bilbao and Sevilla played well today (especially Bilbao). I have to hope that one of those teams can take points off Madrid.

      • Ryan
        April 8, 2012

        I watched parts of that game. Muniain is always such a pleasure to watch. His dribbling almost created a goal near the end, just that his teammate couldn’t finish it off.

    • dean
      April 8, 2012

      While nothing would change if both teams run the table, this game is crucial, since Madrid very rarely if ever straight up lose. It all has to do with how teams play them, If liga teams score early or bring the game level, they make defensive subs, and set up the bus. This usually ends up in either a tie or a Madrid win as when Madrid are down in the latter stages of the game they bring on every offensive threat and teams inevitable concede. Personally them drawing twice is much more likelier than one loss.
      Not counting the barca game, they have 1 losses and 3 draws in La Liga.
      If they get any result at Camp Nou we can effectively give up on Liga short of madrid completely collapsing, so while its not a forgone conclusion, it might as well be because a win in that game has broad implications in terms of morale and attitude for the final stretch.

    • Messiah10
      April 8, 2012

      I’m trying to remain optimistic. If nothing else, the game today exposed some of EE’s diving and distastefull tactics. I’m sure Mo will say they were robbed somehow and Liga now has a conspiracy against them and Barca are “super-favorites” to win the league. I conceded the Liga a month ago. However, it wasn’t that I thought WE couldn’t put together an amazing, but that EE would not drop many points. Football is amazing. Look at Chelsea vs Wigan yesterday. Wigan are battling for their survival. They deserved at least a point, and didn’t get any. Football can make you jump for joy, feel unbridaled passion and warmth in your heart, and then snatch it away from you like a school bully in the playground who pushed you down and took away your favorite ball. Unreal! What a beautiful game indeed.

  14. April 8, 2012

    I would also say that after that Citeh match today, given that they had a 10-point lead in the table, I can’t see Mancini keeping his job for next season, unless Mou Mou decides he wants to stay.

    • mom4
      April 8, 2012

      Who else’d want the job when there’s Balotelli to babysit. Appalling behavior today.

  15. TITO
    April 8, 2012

    I couldn’t asked a better birthday gift!!!!!!!

  16. April 8, 2012

    Does anyone remember the exact lead we gave up in Pep’s first season before we won? I think the lead was at one point 12 points before coming down to 4 (or was it 3?) before the Clasico. Can anyone confirm?

    • April 8, 2012

      The gap b/w us and EE:

      Start -> 0 -> -2 -> 0 -> 3 -> 6 -> 9 -> 12 -> 10 -> 7 -> 4 -> 6 -> 4 (Clasic) -> 7 -> 8 (We won the league) -> 9 -> End.

      Still remember that season..

  17. Kimcelona
    April 8, 2012

    I won’t feel vindicated till the lead is down to 1 before the Clasico. I’ve always had hope though.

    Still, A4!

    I dont think I’ll be able to watch the Clasico without my teddy bear. :S

    If we pull this off against all the odds this season I’ll do something drastic…not sure yet but it will be sacrificial..

    BTW Great review Kxevin. This post will prob be hijacked with the wonderful news of points dropped by EE but we still must remain focused on OUR game. It is still our obligation to win the remaining matches. And I think this game (Zara) was the start (please God).

  18. April 8, 2012

    Obviously a very good weekend for Barca. Pulled out an oddly difficult match vs. Zaragoza away – the kind of away match they were struggling with earlier in the season.

    And now RM drops points.

    There are so many ups and downs to this long, multi-competition season. What changes is the probability of different outcomes.

    There was a general idea amongst some that Madrid weren’t going to drop points. But no team could continue to play at that blistering pace.

    All Barca had to do – what Pep focused them on – was to do what they could control.

    Madrid are still in control of the league race. But their probability of taking the title has diminished significantly.

  19. nzm
    April 8, 2012

    The draw against Valencia tonight also prevented this Madrid team from setting a club record of scoring in 42 straight games – by one game. 😀

    • lyd
      April 8, 2012

      Lets hope the goal drought continues for 2 games at least!

      Nah. One more game will do 😉

      (Excuse thy arrogance!)

  20. simple_barcafan
    April 8, 2012

    Pep guardiola’s number…

    • Megster
      April 8, 2012

      I noticed that one too… from 10 points (Messi) to 6 (Xavi) and now down to 4 (Pep’s). 🙂

  21. lyd
    April 8, 2012

    How did that end 0-0? End to end stuff, comedy of errors, no midfield, super fast counter attacks. Valencia playing faster than EE- some sight that was!! Outstanding keeping from Guaiti. Alba did good advertising for the transfer and Soldado was pure class in the brief 10 mins he played.

    And thank you Pepe, Di Maria, CR for the entertainment! One overshadowing the other- A total team effort from you three. Ozil and Marcelo chipped in with the dives. Cool!

    And ref was reasonable except for a few minor calls (which lead to threatening freekicks), thus putting an end to some conspiracy theories.

  22. simple_barcafan
    April 8, 2012

    heard that Soldado was sick and hence couldn’t start..If that is true, imagine if he was fully fit and played from the beginning..

    • Ryan
      April 8, 2012

      Yeah, he very nearly took two points from EE in the Mestalla, were it not for the ref calling off his third goal to tie the game. A shame that he had the flu!

  23. Colby
    April 8, 2012

    I only saw the second half. What calls was Karanka referring to in his presser when he said the usual, “madrid were robbed etc.” And why didn’t Mourinho do the press conference? Just the usual reason?

    • They say that that the Benzema’s and Ozil’s dives where penalty…but the most hilarious one is that they say that Cristiano blatant dive was red card! The commentator on my TV had a blast with this one! He said they can show the replay 10 more times but cristiano will still be diving from every single angle!

  24. Laurentiu88
    April 8, 2012

    well that was totally unexpected, but what do I know? 🙂

    what is this changing in the battle for la liga? from the standings pov we still need EE to slip one more time to have the momentum – the fate in our hands. the only difference is that one draw now is all it takes.
    but, from a larger perspective this may be a key moment – the seeds of doubt are back again after some impressive games at Osasuna especially. that it come to happen at home is even more important as these games were supposed to be sure victories. the pressure surely is getting to them – after the first 25 minutes they started to panic and lost all patience to dominate and create. they did have plenty of chances but they did not control the tempo of the game for large periods. they looked tired too – Apoel could’t have been this good. then again maybe when teams have some decent players in the middle EE has difficulties in controlling it.

    That referee really had some nerve to stand to that sort of pressure. Unbelievable how many dives i have seen tonight, and that Pepe…I hope EE keeps hold of him for many years 🙂

    So shameful of Ronaldo asking for a red card after tripping homself like an idiot…

  25. Roberto Senyera
    April 8, 2012

    Thank you Valencia!!!!

    The Liga race, now only a four point differential with seven games left, is back ON!!!! Big time! Heavy duty!

    NOTE: Edited for offensive content

    Visca Barça!!!!

    • Momo
      April 8, 2012

      Honestly Robert I think you stepped out of line referring to Ozil and Di maria’s physical appearances. Good old fashioned football passion is cool, but poking fun at how players look isn’t.

    • April 8, 2012

      This is not cool. At all. And utterly unnecessary.

      You can make jabs at diving, cheating, whatever. I realize there is a passion aspect, but there’s a line. There’s no need to make low blow comments about a person’s appearance; whether they be from Madrid or anywhere else.

      It is unbefitting of this space and I would like it if you wouldn’t make such a comment in the future.

      I’ll leave this up here as a reminder of what constitutes an unacceptable comment, but any other comments such as this will be met with either the Delete Hammer or, worse, The I Will Edit This Comment Hammer.

      And I can get pretty creative.

      • Roberto Senyera
        April 8, 2012

        You, and some others, take yourselves far too seriously sometimes.

        Have a laugh.

        As the Joker said in a recent Batman movie, “Why so serious?”

        Come on people. Have some fun. We’re not trying to solve world peace, the Middle East conflict, or curing cancer.

        Ban me if you wish. Obviously, some ‘esteemed’ writers don’t believe in freedom of speech.

        • April 8, 2012

          You make the mistake of confusing “freedom of speech,” a constitutionally protected right, with being hateful and abusive. I can assure you that the two are very different. Further, if you think that “just having fun” means slagging someone because of how they look, it isn’t much farther to go before race, religion, gender and sexual orientation are fair game.

          Further, “freedom of speech” doesn’t always apply, across the board. Does “freedom of speech” mean being able to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater? Absolutely not. It’s criminal, dangerous and reckless. It might also violate local laws and statutes, dependent upon where the moment of stupidity is occurring.

          This space has standards. A number of people have asked, politely, that you not violate them. It’s a simple request. If you don’t wish to meet the standards of this space, please find some other space in which to spend your time. No, we aren’t solving world peace, which doesn’t mean that discourse in the space doesn’t have standards.

          You further complicate the issue by including a barb at Kari, with the “esteemed writer” comment. Everyone is trying to be nice about this, but you’re making it difficult. You can’t stomp into a room, throw crap around and not expect everyone to take issue with it.

          So as I see it, you have two options: knock it off, or go elsewhere. Simple as that. Your choice, for now. Your posts above have been edited, as we often do with posts that violate community standards. That’s step 1. Step 2 will be deletion of all comments under your screen name. Step 3 is a ban.

          We would never actively send away a reader, unless that reader stomps on the conventions of the space, as you are doing. From here on out, it’s your call as to how you wish to proceed.

          • swamidigital
            April 9, 2012

            Well said Kxevin. Also people confuse freedom of speech in comments. Blogs are privately run, not public space. If comments don’t run with the rules of a site, the mods are well within their rights to remove anything. O/W freedom of speech would apply to spam and such too! >.<

          • swamidigital
            April 9, 2012

            lol at comparing blog comment moderation to murderous political movements. This is what is called internet raging.

        • Manish
          April 9, 2012

          Hey Roberto.. chill.. this is no etc etc..where everyone abuses everyone ..let’s keep this clean.. 😀

  26. Laurentiu88
    April 8, 2012

    i dont know if i have this right, but both khedira and di maria are suspended for the next game.

    • Ryan
      April 8, 2012

      TB has eluded that 5th yellow card for so long; it’d be interesting to see how they cope without their goal machine!

      Pretty funny how DiMaria’s 5th yellow came from simulation, no? 😆

    • Laurentiu88
      April 8, 2012

      or are just one card away from a suspension… i am not sure

  27. Messiah10
    April 8, 2012


    Thanks for the post. love the Lamotta reference. Made me think of his paranoia in Raging Bull and then thought of MO! Haha. I wonder who’s the most paranoid. If both Lamotta’s and Mourinho’s paranoid minds faced off, who would win? I think Lamotta since he was a boxer and bruiser. But Mo would probably kick him instead and then fake injury to get out of the fight. I’m amusing myself and anyone who hasn’t seen Raging Bull probably thinks I’m rambling and crazy.

  28. “We won’t win the league. Nope, it’s impossible.”

    Then it happened. EE dropped 6 points in 5 matches.
    And they said Mou is the master of mind games?

    Trying to control myself not to get hopeful, but this is fun anyway 😀

  29. K_legit in Oz
    April 8, 2012

    From the guardian:

    “Yes, it must have been a fix when Barca didn’t get a penalty and Ballack wasn’t sent off in the first leg against Chelsea in 2009. It must have been a fix when Puyol was sent off and a penalty was awarded after he collided with Fabregas in 2010. It must have been a fix when Milito’s offisde goal was given a year later and Sneijder’s penalty on Alves wasn’t given. It must have been a fix that same year when Bojan’s 94th-minute ‘winner’ was disallowed for a handball that no amount a replays can show to be clear. It must have been a fix when Messi had an onside goal that would have made it 0-2 was disallowed at the Emirates in 2011. It must have been a fix when Barca had two cast iron penalties not given at the San Siro last week. It was a fix – how couldn’t it be? – when the referee blew two correct penalties this week against Milan. And, of course, it must have been a fix when Barca drew Lyon, Bayern and Inter in the knockout stages in 2009; Stuttgart, Arsenal and Inter in 2010; Arsenal, Shakhtar and Madrid in 2011; and Bayer; Milan and Chelsea this season. Such easy draws, purleese. And beating Man Utd in 2009 with half their defence suspended or Wembley? How’s that a challenge?

    But, of course, it was no fix when when Porto beat Man Utd thanks to an incorrectly disallowed Paul Scholes goal. It was no fix when Chelsea beat Rijkaard’s Barca thanks to a goal facilitated by a foul on Valdes. It was no fix when Inter got out of the group stage against Dynamo Kiev with an injury-time offside goal. It was no fix when Inter beat Chelsea thanks to a penalty that wasn’t blown at the San Siro. It was no fix when Inter beat Barca thanks to the aforementioned incidents. No, when talking about Barca, there is a narrative: they get all the calls, they’re cheating, diving bastards, UEFA want them to win and put no obstacles in their way, all Barca wins are controversial and tainted by questionable decisions that, of course, only ever go their way. Yes, Barca have gotten many decisions over these past four seasons; they’ve also had quite a few go against them. But the begrudgers prefer to clog up below the line with a never-ending stream of conspiracy theories – some of which at times veer into xenophobic rants. But because it’s Barca, a team recognised by many as playing a revolutionary style a football that has dominated Spain and Europe, and provided the backbone to the previously inept Spanish national team that came out of nowhere (group stage at Euro 2008 and second round at 2006 WC) to win the Euros and World Cup it’s all down to luck and a black hand. People who profess to ‘love the beautiful game’ suddenly say that demanding a yellow card after being clattered is ‘ruining football’. People who call themselves ‘football fans’ get pissed off that a team that has sat back an defended, playing on the counter, having 19 attempts on goal over four matches is beaten by one that has made 62 attempts. “

    • K_legit in Oz
      April 8, 2012

      I must add that it must have been a fix that Abidal got a red card for nothing against Chelsea, that Ambrosini made 3-4 terrible fouls in the Camp Nou and got away without a red, it must have been a fix when Marcelo knowingly trod on Pedro’s ankles in the penalty box and got away with it, it must have been a fix when Ballack handled the ball in the box at Stamford Bridge and no penalty was given.
      There is no logic in this UEFA controversy but then again, blind hate has never followed logic at all
      Visca Barça!

      • April 8, 2012

        But hate is never logical. It’s an emotion, which always defies logic. If someone hates a mathematician, they would find fault with the notion that 2+2=4. It doesn’t matter what logic anyone presents. People are going to hate. That’s just how it goes. The mentions of incidents that argue against a conspiracy would morph into “Well, serves them right. Now they know how it feels.”

        There’s no winning against hate, as much as I hate to admit it.

        • K_legit in Oz
          April 8, 2012

          Do you remember the injury Busquets suffered against Real Sociedad? The text all over my newsfeed that day was how he deserved it and that it was karma and stuff like that and that sickened me.
          If this part of the football world is to hate Barça then so be it..its not like they matter anyway!

          • Interesting you mentioned about ‘karma’. That’s what my friend said after Barca vs Milan match, “How can you still support this team? Use your conscience. Watch out for the karma”

            I was LOL. Karma? If we’ll get any karma because the referee gave us the correct penalties, then we’re going to get a ‘good karma’.

          • April 9, 2012


            I have a bone to pick with its western misappropriation.

            From wikipedia, one meaning that is probably and frequently misunderstood is –

            Karma is not punishment or retribution but simply an extended expression or consequence of natural acts. Karma means “deed” or “act” and more broadly names the universal principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, that governs all life. The effects experienced are also able to be mitigated by actions and are not necessarily fated. That is to say, a particular action now is not binding to some particular, pre-determined future experience or reaction; it is not a simple, one-to-one correspondence of reward or punishment.

            One can argue that Busi ‘deserved’ it however twisted be the logic, but no bad ‘karma’ will come out of it.

            Funny thing is, the God, to whom the book that I find holy is attributed to, from which the meaning is misunderstood, has a diametrically opposite take on the case. Against evil, never did He hesitate in using ‘underhanded’ means.

            To put it in simple words, if your opponent uses extreme physicality, one cannot use the argument of ‘karma’ to say that your actions in the form of embellishments were wrong. And that you ‘deserve’ something bad in return.

            To summarize – ‘Karma’ wrongly used in the above context. /rant over [God help you if you read all of it. And I wasn’t joking one bit above. All serious]

        • Messiah10
          April 8, 2012

          In the past week or 2 I’ve made a concious decision to not read commments from trollers on other sites. Especially, formt he UK. I have an app that feeds Sky Sports news and last week I started reading comments after the Milan game and Mo’s commments. I was sickened that people actually believe there’s a conspiracy. It’s ridiculous. I started to respond to some of them. Thought for a moment and then erased my response. Pointless endeavor as you mention. I’m American. If common sense, logic, and factual information could be used to refute racisim, bigotry, & homophobia, then we wouldn’t have these issues in the states. Unfortunately, as Kxevin mentions, it’s an emotion. Passed down from generation to generation. Hate spurs irrational thoughts that counter such things as common sense. You can’t tell someone who thinks Global Warming is a conspiracy theory that its not. Even if you provide them evidence that’s scientifically irrefutable.

  30. Eduard
    April 8, 2012

    There’s still a few games left to play. And I don’t want to be a downer but we still have some complicated fixtures. I’ve never doubted that there wasn’t a chance for us to win, the odds were bad. The odds are still against barca but they are a hell of a lot better then they were a month ago..

    On a lighter note,
    Wouldn’t it be funny if Barca went after Arteta!!!

    • April 8, 2012

      No more deals with Arsenal please. *curls into fetal position* …Unless we have the opportunity to reverse-Hleb them of course. 8)

  31. Why on Earth is Piatti not considered for Argentina. I know he is not super talented and he has a limited set of skill, also does not score that many goals. But trust me he will work his heart out for the Team, especially Messi. Atleast they should give him a try.

    • blitzen
      April 9, 2012

      Unfortunately for Piatti, the one area where the Argentina NT is blessed is their abundance of forwards. I love Piatti myself, but with Messi, Kun, Higuain, Tevez, & Di Maria all vying for spots up front there isn’t much room for him.

  32. Megster
    April 8, 2012

    4 points!!!! Wohoooo!!! Happy Easter to everyone!!!!

  33. On other news… how many of you saw Pepe kicking Arbeloa. Was classic. Everyone says he mistook him for Piatti. How can that happen? Piatti is half the size of Arbeloa and wore a black jersey.

    • daratboya
      April 9, 2012

      i dont think pepe did that by accident..i believe he realize that is that guy try to get him to his feet, he kick him lol..u can see after that arbeloa kind of angry while pepe keep trying to roll haha

  34. K_legit in Oz
    April 8, 2012

    I believe all bets are off when it comes to Pepe..he’s a disgusting individual on the football field period. I hope he long continues top tarnish the reputation of that other club and drags its name through the mud.
    I have no doubt he was aiming for Piatti when he kicked out so.

    And to think some of them MADridistas think of him as the second coming of Hierro. He has one thing in common with Hierro though as Hierro himself was a despicable ‘tackler’.

      • barca96
        April 9, 2012

        C’mon now, there is no need to attack something that God created.
        Pepe or Ozil can’t choose their looks right? It’s not in their hands. Unless they go for a surgery.

        But they can dictate how they behave and conduct themselves.

        • barca96
          April 9, 2012

          I thought I was replying to a comment.

          • nzm
            April 9, 2012

            Kxevin’s been removing the poison from the system with some diligent editing. 😀

              • nzm
                April 9, 2012

                Huh – seems the “Reply” button isn’t working – it’s posting comments as new ones and not replies. Weird.

              • Ryan
                April 9, 2012

                Let me try this out to see if I can reply to comments.

                Visca Catalunya!

  35. Chiu
    April 9, 2012

    Great piece Kxevin, thanks!

    Some casual thoughts:

    – Another facet that we should highly value from Valdes is his consistent reliability for approximately 8 – 9 years as Barca keeper. As far as I can memorize, I never perceived a drastic plunge on his performance since the season Rijkaard promoted him. He constantly performs within the standard to play for any European top team. People might say that Valdes was looking good because of Barca dominant possession and quality defenders in front of him. But people overlook that some of his excellent saves and trademark are those NOT all keepers could do. He’s so good in one-on-one situation. He’s so good using his feet to block or passing the ball, possibly the keeper with the best footwork among the active players now. His reflexes are second to none. And he usually should gear up his game or get involved in the play after a long period of waiting the opposition to attack. That’s not a coincidence if you made those saves in every single season. That’s talent and skillfulness.

    – Talking about Messi and Alexis partnership, I agree with Kxevin that Alexis have the competence to distract some attention away from Messi. I think the analogy of Batman and Robin is quite relevant. Messi is the Batman and Alexis act as the Robin. Batman always use Robin as a diversion for the small villains and let the Batman face the joker uninterruptedly. Next season we could see more cohesive and fluid interplay between Messi and Alexis. This is a potential tactical exercise that Pep might harness to counter opposition players swarming Messi all the time. One last thing, Alexis must stop his card waving gesture every time he falls. That’s ugly bro!

    – Some opinions afloat about Busi as the best replacement of Xavi’s roles for future Barca. I’m going to agree with that. Busi skill sets are nearly parallel to bring what all Xavi do now. Busi bring composure; control on tempo, chameleon eyes ala Xavi to portrait the whole pitch, understand the concept of space ala Barca and a superb ball passing ability. And he has one more plus i.e better than Xavi in defending. However, if he’s going to be Xavi’s successor, he must develop his shooting ability, dribbling pass players and get more advance near the goal. We just have to find another great DM to ensure the current midfield caliber would continue many years to come.

    – Messi toying the whole Zaragoza defenders was a drooling action. It’s simply awesome looking at the magnitude of Messi for the opposition. Too many good “almost-moment” from Messi that would generate “WOWs” if converted into goals.

    Visca BARCA!

    • barca96
      April 9, 2012

      Nah, VV was shaky at first. He didn’t command the kind of commanding presence that he has today and was very error prone on corners.

      But I still preferred him over Bonano and Rustu though cause I like young’uns 🙂

      I was hoping Barca would sign Buffon back then though and Casillas because there were rumors on Casillas, either before Rijkaard era or during the beginning. Can’t remember.
      I think it was before. Laporta used Casillas as another voting tool besides Beckham.

    • blitzen
      April 9, 2012

      One last thing, Alexis must stop his card waving gesture every time he falls. That’s ugly bro!

      Yeah, I’ve mentioned this many times as well. I cringe every time he does it, even when he is in the right. Just looks so cheap. Bad Alexis!

  36. Kimcelona
    April 9, 2012

    So after my initial euphoria I have come to realize that even though a four point gap is encouragaing and EE have a few potentially tricky games (I dont count Pathetico..they always let me down) left, we have quite a few too;

    We still have Levante away. Ugh.
    Rayo and BETIS away are toooooo tricky not to worry some.
    And ofcourse we have the pericos scum and EE at home. Sigh. These are not forgone conclusions AT ALL. But if any team can pull off an unbelievable feat, its this one. Difficult it may be to actually not drop any more points for the remainder of the season, its not exactly impossible either.

    Sorry had to be another kimmy downer.

    • Laurentiu88
      April 9, 2012

      yes we all agree these games are terrific, but we are taking them on with new hope while they play their games after giving up 10 point lead and knowing that every mistake may be fatal 🙂

      this may make all their encounter far more trickier.

      • blitzen
        April 9, 2012

        Exactly. We have the psychological advantage and they are the ones looking over their shoulders. It’s not going to be easy to win all the games left, but I believe this team can do it.

  37. Marca says that Alexis, Thiago and Valdes all have accumulated four yellow cards. That’s quite scary. Thiago is definitely going to miss the Levante match, as he will pick up his obligatory yellow card against Getafe. Valdes and Sanchez is key and hope both of them keep out of referees book for the next two match.

    • jordi™
      April 9, 2012

      Interestingly Cristiano has been on 4 since before messi got his 5th.Would be funny if in the end he missed the clasico. Alonso has 4 as well but we all know he wears van Bommel’s invisibility cloak.

  38. Judas Pissed
    April 9, 2012

    Come Tuesday night the gap could be a single point. Who’d have thought that 4 weeks ago!?

  39. Gogah
    April 9, 2012

    It is official.
    ee drop points when i completely ignore their game.
    kinda makes sense too, i cannot recall myself ever checking madrid’s news in the past 3 years, it is only this year, the snooping around has begun.
    anyway, let us not get ahead of ourselves here cules. -4 points is better than -10, but it is still not ideal.

    Hope is a great thing.

    I applaud all of you for keeping the hope alive. I had said the league is over when we were 10 down. Let me still maintain that position.

    perhaps its working for us.

  40. pr17
    April 9, 2012

    bloody good match and we should note that we were immensely lucky. if penalty had gone in, and then aranda scored and if roberto hadnt made the mistake it would have been 2-0 against us against a team that would have parked the bus for all of second half. I for one thought ref was outstanding (even though penalty against VV was soft). Didnt card recklessly, allowed play to go on, wasnt intimidtaed by crowd and correctly spotted a postiga dive.

    Still, we played well once Busi came on.
    I missed the KRS badly this time since maybe for the first time ever keita would have received a 5 or 4 or a 3 (correct me if he did get such a rating before). Even his anonymous performances used to get a 8 under guise of he did his job, got in way and added physicality to game.

    Hope we close it out with Getafe, win at Levante and hope to get Villa back in training this week.

    • barca96
      April 9, 2012

      The first thing that came to my mind when I saw your name, “hey, the Keita hater. Surely he came back to attack Keita after a poor game” 🙂

      Where were you when he had good performances over the last couple of months?

      After watching Thiago and Cesc in midfiled last weekend, I can’t wait for Villa to come back. Before this, I wasn’t so excited. I thought he’s done. But now I think he can maximize his potentials because of Thiago and Cesc’ directness where Villa can make diagonal runs.

      Million times before Villa was ignored by Xavi and Iniesta.

      • pr17
        April 9, 2012

        enjoy mate. This was not a serious post on Keita. Allow me to gloat once. Frankly keita’s game didn’t matter since we won. Let pep make the big calls.

        We really miss villa though.

        Also how tall is muniesa. Does he look tall due to his lanky build or is he 6+. I might play him against geta and possibly levante to prepare him to combat Chelsea’s set piece threats (ivanonic, drog and terry).

        • blitzen
          April 9, 2012

          Muniesa is 5’11”. Plus about an inch of floppy hair. 😛

  41. hammeronmessi
    April 9, 2012

    A very good take on the match.KUDOS,kxevin.A perfect 10 IMO.

    In the micro view, it’s two goals: Messi’s penalty vs Sevilla and the missed chip at Villarreal. A brilliant chip(cheap)shot at messi.which in my opinion is totally unjustified.

    i never ever believe you are a messi hater.but ……………

    anyway we are only 4 points behind.good god.just a month ago i thought baring a miracle the title is we have a realistic chance to win the liga.

    PEP G is the real zedi knight,playing the so called mindgame spectacularly

  42. hammeronmessi
    April 9, 2012

    por que?u say?

    cause we have been wining and demolishing teams for the last 4 years.if EE had done that people would have noticed that too.

    success brings a lot a followers but also haters

  43. Laurentiu88
    April 9, 2012

    Seems that winning without a penalty in key moment or a red card is not that easy after all, ha?

  44. April 9, 2012

    Some tidying has gone on in the last few minutes, folks. Apologies for any comments that got caught up in the cleaning.

  45. Laurentiu88
    April 9, 2012

    Do you think Pep was right not to sign Ozil? I think he stated one time last season that he has been amazed that Ozil physically resisted so many games. I think this season he has finished something like 5 games.

    • blitzen
      April 9, 2012

      It’s weird, isn’t it? Wonder what is going on with him? Someone his age and fully fit should be able to play a full 90 minutes with no problem at all. How many times have we seen him subbed off in the 2nd half looking completely shattered?

      Either he has some underlying health issue, or the RM trainers are completely mismanaging him. Talented as Ozil is, I couldn’t see him thriving at Barcelona right now. Too physically demanding!

  46. Chiu
    April 9, 2012

    Couple things re liga race:

    – Not a so surprising result if Valencia successfully held EE a draw. If we don’t expect Los Ches as one of the teams to steal points from EE, I don’t think we have better bet either. I didn’t watch the match, but saw the highlight. Both teams have plenty of goal scoring opportunities and it was a high tense match. EE was dominant throughout, however Valencia comprised a rock-solid defense as well; particularly their keeper. Nonetheless, thank you Valencia!

    – I think EE surely started the game under some nervousness after Barca slashed the gap a day before, even a bit. When they didn’t able to score early and time is ticking down, they rush things. When they’re playing in haste, many mistakes tend to happen; even on the easiest chance. It’s kind of déjà vu of our draw in Villareal or Espanyol. And the quality of Valencia deteriorates the frustration; spiraled out the panic. The pattern went on with talking about referee in the press conference; typical Mou reaction (via Karanka attendance)

    – Now we’re tailing by a mere 4 points. Let’s contrast it with 10 points a month ago, and the tunnel now looks much brighter. I think EE leaked so many points recently stem from a mix of complacency, fatigue and mental pressure because Barca keep winning 3 points. And imagining if they should come to Camp Nou with smaller point gap make them disbelieve their chance to win the liga. Anyway, EE still have the upper hand if they can overcome the recent shaky trend. Pep should maintain the team approach and concentrate on the very next game. Don’t let any false euphoria creeping into the team, because we’re still 2nd in the table.

    Visca BARCA!

  47. Srini
    April 9, 2012

    EE/Barca upcoming schedules with present position of opponents and their point tallies so far- (Copy paste on Excel for best formatting)

    Date Home Away Venue Opposition OppPts Home/Away Opp Pos
    11-Apr Barcelona Getafe Estadio Camp Nou Getafe 42 H 10
    11-Apr Atlético Madrid Real Madrid Vicente Calderon Atlético Madrid 42 A 7
    15-Apr Levante Barcelona Ciudad de Valencia Levante 48 A 4
    15-Apr Real Madrid Sporting Gijon Santiago Bernabéu Sporting Gijon 25 H 20
    22-Apr Barcelona Real Madrid Estadio Camp Nou Real Madrid 79 H 1
    22-Apr Barcelona Real Madrid Estadio Camp Nou Barcelona 75 A 2
    29-Apr Rayo Vallecano Barcelona Campo Vallecas Rayo Vallecano 40 A 12
    29-Apr Real Madrid Sevilla FC Santiago Bernabéu Sevilla FC 42 H 8
    2-May Barcelona Málaga Estadio Camp Nou Málaga 47 H 5
    2-May Athletic Bilbao Real Madrid San Mamés Athletic Bilbao 41 A 11
    6-May Barcelona Espanyol Camp Nou Espanyol 42 H 9
    6-May Granada Real Madrid Los Carmenes Granada 35 A 16
    13-May Real Betis Barcelona Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera Real Betis 38 A 13
    13-May Real Madrid Mallorca Estadio Santiago Bernabéu Mallorca 37 H 14

    • Manish
      April 9, 2012

      brilliant article.. i like this part the best…

      “A coach once told me there are four factors that determine a players’ performance: his tactical awareness, his physical condition, his technical ability and his mental strength. Which is the only one that is variable at this stage of the season? Physically, the work has been done long ago to prepare you for this moment; technically, your ability is set in stone by now; and tactics, you can tweak a bit but you won’t make dramatic changes.

      The one factor that is volatile is the mind of a player. And when does the mind start to play tricks on you? When you’re under pressure. And for footballers, that means in April and May.”

      Read more:

  48. Manish
    April 9, 2012

    Yes the Messi chip and the penalty miss has certainly affected how the standings look.. but well Kxevin you’ve missed out a major major talking point.. where are the other goal scorers for Barca.. it’s totally unfair to put the blame squarely on Messi’s shoulders.. We have Messi with 60 goals and then the next in line has 15?

    • April 9, 2012

      Oh, no question. The gap between Messi and the second-top scorer is absurd, and a lot of the reason we are looking up at EE, instead of down at them. Messi has done so much and certainly, the question is valid, just as the observation is valid that he had those two chances, opportunities that he can put away in his sleep, 9 out of 10 times. It happens.

      And the “major talking point” is coming …. oh, yes, it is. 😀

      • Manish
        April 9, 2012

        Miss your articles apart from KRS..(Which i truly sincerely dread)…:D

  49. icemel
    April 9, 2012

    What a pleasurable game to watch…and a review to match! I was also heartened by Pedro’s performance. Maybe be too early to say, but I want to anyway: “He’s BACK!” …and some of those sick Mascherano passes and “thou shalt not pass”-takedowns had me out of my seat.

    This is going to be fun, regardless how the table shakes down, we’re going to be a proud second or an over-the-moon first…we have already won.

    PS Why is Zaragoza at the bottom? They’re well organized bruisers who moved the ball well when they had it. Hope they stay up.

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