Barça’s 2011/2012 Season – Part 2

Part Two of Six: In a multi-part saga, Barcelona Football Blog offers a retrospective blow-by-blow account of events around Barça’s First Football Team over the past season. Join us as we look back on the high and lows of the 11 months that were Pep’s last, as Manager.

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Continued from Part One

September 2011

Into the swing for La Liga, and the results of the away games started the alarm bells softly ringing. The first 9 days were occupied with National Team duties while Pep also attended the managers’ forum in France and received a medal from the Catalunyan Parliament. The FIFA virus reared its ugly head and Guardiola only had 3 training sessions with a full squad before the first game. Champions League commenced with Group Play: Barça was grouped with AC Milan, Bate Borisov and Viktoria Plzeň.

1st September: With the International Break in place, Pep Guardiola attended the 13th UEFA Managers’ Forum in Nyon, France.

7th & 8th September: Team members started returning from the International Break.

9th September: Pep Guardiola received the Gold Medal from the Parliament of Catalunya.

10th September: Away vs. Real Sociedad. La Liga. 2-2.
With 14 players back from FIFA International duties, the team travelled to Anoeta Stadium in the gorgeous city of San Sebastián. Pep elected to sit Messi, in an attempt to rest him after the international break, and started with Pedro, Thiago and Alexis up the front. A traditional 4-man backline was utilised, but the surprise was that Busquets and Fontàs would play the CB positions between Alves and Adriano. Xavi, Keita and Cesc would take the midfield.

All went well with quick goals to Xavi (9’) and Cesc (11’), but even though Barça maintained the majority of possession, no more goals were added. In the 30th minute, Alexis Sanchez went down with his second injury for the season and was replaced by Villa. The 2nd half started with Barça pressing hard, but early opportunities went begging. The game went pear-shaped when poor Barça defence allowed Sociedad to score two goals in as many minutes (59’ and 60’). Messi came on for Thiago; Barça upped the intensity and changed to a 3-man backline, however no shots could be netted. To add to the team’s woes, Messi went down after being fouled in the box at 90’+3, and, instead of receiving the penalty, he was booked for diving. Barça dropped 2 points in only the second game of the season.

Link to Match Highlights Video

11th September: Alexis was ruled out with a hamstring injury for the next 8 weeks.

13th September: Home vs. AC Milan. Champions League. 2-2.
It was time for the Champions League Group Stage with the first game played at home against AC Milan. Ibrahimovic was ruled out injured for Milan, and the sound of clucking chickens was heard throughout Barcelona.

A disastrous start to the game saw Pato score (25″) the fastest goal in CL history. Barça held their nerve, kept peppering the Milan goal and were rewarded with a goal to Pedro (35’) from a hard-fought Messi cross. However, the first half finished badly when Iniesta left the field with a hamstring injury.

Soon after the break, Villa scored (51’) from a wonderful free-kick, and the team hung on with most of the possession. Puyol and Afellay were subbed on for their first games after pre-season injuries had kept them from playing. The game looked to have gone Barça’s way when they conceded a late corner to Milan in virtually the last minute of play. Puyol was booked for dissent. The ball was sent into the box and Thiago Silva climbed above the defenders to score the equaliser from a strong header. A drawn result and 1 point each.

Link to Match Highlights Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C1k2zEeRa9g&feature=related

14th September: Iniesta was confirmed out for at least 4 weeks with a hamstring injury.

17th September: Home vs. Osasuna. La Liga. 8-0.
The Basque visitors bore the brunt of the Milan aftermath when they visited Camp Nou for Round 4 of La Liga. After picking up an injury in the pre-season tour, Maxwell got his first playing time of the season when he was subbed on in the 54th minute.

Fielding a 3-4-3 with Puyol back as a starter, the team ran rampant over a helpless Los Rijillos side, scoring a manita by half-time. Messi scored an early first (4’), followed by Cesc (13’) and Villa (33’). An Osasuna own-goal by Roversio (39’) made it 4-0, with Messi scoring the last (41’) for the first half.

In the second half, Xavi (56’) and Villa (75’) kept the score ticking over, while Messi completed his first hat-trick for the season with the final goal (79’) for the match to end 8-0.

Game Facts:
~ Abidal made his 100th Liga appearance achieved over 4 seasons.
~ Alves also made his 100th Liga appearance for Barça over 3 seasons.
~ Xavi scored his 40th Liga goal.
~ Cesc led the passing statistics, completing 101 of 112 attempts.

Link to Match Highlights Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iJv3PyFcoc

21st September:
Away vs. Valencia. La Liga. 2-2.
Playing the Mestalla is never easy and the game started poorly when a Mathieu cross was deflected into the goal by Abidal (11’); putting Barça on the back foot, playing a 3 man backline. A quick retaliatory goal by Pedro (13’) made it even again and, not long afterwards, Messi was denied a penalty after a rough Rami challenge; the defender already on a Yellow card. Valencia had the better of the first half with Mathieu causing a lot of problems down the left flank. The second goal for the home-side came again from a Mathieu cross which was collected by an unmarked Pablo who had no problems in scoring (22’) the second for Los Che.

Although switching to a 4-man backline for the 2nd half, Barça still looked uncomfortable under the energetic Valencia attack. A long-range blast from Mascherano unluckily hit the crossbar. Back to a 3-man backline at the 60th minute, Barça laid siege on the Valencia goal as the home-team chose to defend their lead. Mascherano nearly scored his first with a long range drive which bounced off the cross-bar. A great pass from Messi to Cesc saw him slot the ball (76’) past Guaita to level the score. The Blaugrana continued to push forward and nearly scored again in the 89th minute, but a triple opportunity from Villa, Adriano and Messi couldn’t find the back of the net. Another 2 points dropped.

Game Fact:
~ Puyol played his 350th Liga game for the club.

Link to Match Highlights Video



22nd September:
9 days after returning from a pre-season tour injury and playing minutes in the Milan and Osasuna matches, Afellay tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament during a team practice. He required surgery and was placed on the longterm injury list.

24th September: Home vs. Atlético Madrid. La Liga. 5-0.
Los Colchoneros came to visit and to proudly exhibit their newly acquired star, Colombian Rademel Falcao. However, he could only stand and watch as Barça controlled the match. After an early ATM miss, Villa opened the scoring (8’), followed 6 minutes later by an Atlético own-goal resulting from some wizardly play between Xavi and Messi which saw the ball rebound off Miranda (14’) into the net. The 3rd goal was a Messi masterpiece as he threaded the entire Atlético defence to chut-da-bol (25’) inside the near post.

The second half saw the Blaugrana switch from a 3-man to a 4-man defence when Piqué came on to play his first match since the second Supacopa match on 17th August. Messi produced another dazzling run to score (76’) his second, and completed his second hat-trick for the season (89’) to close out the match with another home manita.

Game Fact:
~ Victor Valdés played his 300th Liga game – made more significant by the fact that his debut game, on 1st September 2002, had also been against Atlético Madrid.

Link to Match Highlights Video

28th September: Away vs. BATE Borisov. Champions League. 0-5.
September finished with a visit to Hlebelarus to play the Minsk side in the second game of the Champions League Group round. It was a wet and cold Wednesday night, because Stoke has dibs on wet and cold Tuesdays.

The game was played in the Dynamo Minsk Stadium as BATE’s Horodskiy Stadium does not conform to UEFA minimum requirements for Champions League arenas.

BATE started with a deep defence (what’s new?), but Barça quickly assumed control, and pressure from Messi saw the first Blaugrana goal scored as a BATE own-goal (18’) by Aleksandr, followed quickly by a lovely Pedro header (21’) after he beat the keeper to the ball. The 3rd was equally embarrassing for the keeper after he dropped the ball from a Pedro cross, and Messi was there to head it (37’) into the net.

The second half continued in the same vein, with Messi scoring his second (54’). The visitors eased off the pace after this and were content to play out the game in unpleasant conditions. Villa scored a late strike (89′) to seal an emphatic win. Hot showers all around.

Game Facts:
~ Messi’s second goal of the night placed him equal with Kubala (194 goals) as the second top scorer in Barça history. He was now chasing César’s all-time record of 252.
~ The team equalled their biggest CL away win score of 5.

Link to Match Highlights Video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ys6RMvGBR7c

29th September: Alexis traveled to Chile to continue his recovery. He was accompanied by one of the team’s physiotherapists.

SEPTEMBER INJURY REPORT
1st – 6th:  Adriano with hamstring injury.
1st – 9th:
  Puyol, Maxwell and Afellay.
1st – 23rd:  Piqué with left calf muscle injury.
11th – 30th:  Alexis with hamstring injury.
14th – 30th:  Iniesta with hamstring injury.
22nd – 30th:  Afellay with ACL injury.


OCTOBER 2011

A rough month filled with more twanging hamstrings, an International break and lots of Liga, as well as a Champions League match and the grand opening of the new Masia Formation Centre Oriol Tort.

1st October:
Cesc pulled a hamstring during training and was out for at least 3 weeks.

2nd October: Away vs. Sporting de Gijón. La Liga. 0-1.
Playing at El Molinón is as unpredictable as a roulette game, but the team managed to record its first away Liga win for the season.

The goal came early from a rare Adriano shot (11’), and the team hung on for the next nervous 79+ minutes. Abidal was forced to come off with an injury. A narrow win, but we’ll take it. Barça tops the Liga Table for the first time this season.

Game Fact:
~ VV equalled Zubizarreta’s record of 301 Liga games for Barça.

Link to Match Highlights Video

3rd October: Afellay underwent his knee operation to repair his ACL. Abidal was reported to be out for 10 days with a hamstring strain suffered in the Gijón game, although this was later reduced and he was able to join the French team for international games.

4th October: The third International break for the season. 14 players left for their national teams of Spain, Argentina and France, to return on 13th October. Would the FIFA virus plague the team in the next game?

15th October: Home vs. Racing de Santander. La Liga. 3-0.
Racing came to town, and Piqué pulled his hamstring in only the 8th minute of the game and was replaced by Abidal. Iniesta was back for his first game after being injured for 4 weeks.

Barça quickly took control of the match and Racing keeper Toño was kept busy. Messi scored his first (12’) through some lovely link-up play with Iniesta. The 2nd goal (28’) was courtesy of a great header after an accurate Pedro cross found Xavi rising to meet the ball in the box.

After the break, the chances kept coming with Villa, Messi and Pedro missing good opportunities. Abidal even attempted a Ronaldinho bicycle shot (from a corner kick) which just missed going in. A penalty call for a definite foul on Messi was turned down, to the disbelief of the whole team and the fans. The match was sealed when Messi passed to Iniesta who shot for goal, only to have the ball bounce off the far post back out to Messi who made sure (69’) that it went in. The game finished with no appearance by the FIFA virus.

Game Fact:
~ Even though he lasted only 8 minutes, Piqué celebrated his 150th game for the Blaugrana.

Link to Match Highlights Video

16th October: Piqué ruled out for 15 days for a slight hamstring strain.

17th October: CB Andreu Fontàs extended his contract until 2015.

19th October: Home vs. Viktoria Plzeň. Champions League. 2-0.
The last game in the first legs of Barça’s Champions League Group was against the Czech side at Camp Nou. It was pretty much a one-sided affair with Barça attacking and Plzeň defending deep, particularly through the middle of the pitch.

Iniesta scored the first (10’) after some amazing linking with Messi. The shots kept coming well into the second half, with a few misses from Villa and Pedro, and more Messi misses than he’s had hot dinners. Nothing that he could do would make the ball go into the net, including a free kick which hit the bar, and a denied penalty appeal.

Finally, in the 82nd minute Villa regained possession and went forward.  He offloaded to Messi who couldn’t control the ball in the box and went down. The chasing Villa made sure that the ball went into the net. 2-0 in a game which should have been about 10-0 if all the sitters had found their mark, and an unhappy, frustrated Messi skulked off the pitch.

Game Fact:
~ Cuenca played for 6 minutes in his first team debut, making him the 18th La Masia graduate to play with the first team since Pep became the Mister.

Link to Match Highlights Video

20th October: In a grand ceremony attended by many players past and present, the new Masia Formation Centre Oriol Tort was opened, exactly 32 years after the original La Masia was commissioned.

22nd October: Home vs. Sevilla. La Liga. 0-0.
A dynamic Sevilla came to visit, and once more Pep fielded a 3-4-3 formation. The match became a goalkeeper duel, with VV and Varas in hot demand, as shots on goal were traded and saved.

In the 30th minute, the Blaugrana changed to a 4-man defence when it became apparent that Sevilla was looking for the quick counter and was not decreasing the intensity of their pressure. With Barça now playing wider, the attack intensified, but Sevilla keeper Varas played an outstanding match and continued to save shot after shot.

In injury time, a penalty was awarded to Barça after Iniesta was fouled. In the resulting kerfuffle, Kanouté was red-carded for tussling with Cesc. Messi stepped up to take the penalty which would win the game. Varas read it well and saved the shot. The game finished scoreless with the Barça team receiving a thunderous ovation from the Camp Nou crowd. 2 more points dropped.

Game Fact:
~ Valdés broke his own clean sheet record of 577 minutes without conceding a goal.

Link to Match Highlights Video

25th October: Away vs. Granada. La Liga. 0-1.
Off to Los Cármenes Stadium to play a team which had been promoted to La Liga after winning the play-offs at the end of last season.

Cuenca made his Liga debut on the left wing, and Cesc started after being out with injury for 4 weeks. The Granada defence held off the Barça attack as shot after shot was blocked or missed the target. Xavi was fouled on the edge of the box and scored a magnificent goal (33’) from the resulting free-kick.

Not long after the second half began, Granada’s Jaime was sent off after his second yellow which he received from a dangerous play on Maxwell. Pedro also left the field after twisting his ankle. Barça still could not find its way past a 10 man Granada and the misses continued – the most amazing save came when Messi chipped the ball over the keeper only for it to be cleared off the line by Granada’s Mainz. Towards the end of the game, Granada’s Dani Benítez, who had been needling Alves all match, was also red carded after 2 yellows. The game finished with another narrow away win for the Blaugrana.

Game Fact:
~ Xavi played his 392nd Liga game and he now holds the record for most Liga games played by a Barça player after equalling Migueli’s record in the last game against Sevilla.

Link to Match Highlights Video

26th October: Pedro injured tendons in his ankle during the Granada game and would be out for 2-3 weeks.

28th October: Piqué and Puyol get medical clearance to play again.

29th October: Home vs. Mallorca. La Liga. 5-0.
The team from the Balearics came to town and was battered by one of the fastest hat-tricks that they have most likely seen. Xavi watched from the stands and Piqué, Puyol and Iniesta sat on the bench.

Messi was flanked by Cuenca and Villa with Thiago, Busquets and Keita in midfield. A conventional 4-man line (Alves, Mascherano, Abidal and Adriano) stood before VV, although this morphed into a 3-man defence as Alves went forward.

The first goal (13’) came via a penalty after an Adriano cross hit the hand of a Mallorca player. Messi made no mistake with this one, (after his miss one week earlier against Sevilla), and planted it in the top right of the goal. The second goal (21’) once again involved Adriano as his mis-hit strike turned into a cross which found Messi, who stroked into the net. 8 minutes later, a perfectly weighted and flighted cross, from Alves, found its way to Messi’s left foot (29’) and was also put away. Messi’s 9th hat-trick in La Liga was scored in 15 minutes.

Soon after the half-time break, Cuenca latched onto a ball which he danced around the keeper to score his first La Liga goal (49’), and his maiden goal for the first team. With the game done and dusted, it was time to introduce B-teamer Gerard Deulofeu who came onto the pitch in the 63rd minute. More was to come, however, when Alves out-did his cross to Messi by scoring an absolute golazo (91’) to complete the manita win.

Game Facts:
~ Gerard Deulofeu was the 19th La Masia graduate to play under Pep Guardiola.
~ It was the 14th 5-0 win for the team with Guardiola as Manager.

Link to Match Highlights Video

31st October: The team flew to Prague for the next Champions League match. Alexis was included in the team, even though he had not received medical clearance to play.

OCTOBER INJURY REPORT
All Month:  Afellay with ACL injury and Alexis with hamstring injury.
Until 28th:  Puyol is rested for a few games as a precaution.
1st – 13th:  Iniesta with hamstring injury.
1st – 22nd:  Cesc with hamstring injury.
16th – 28th:  Piqué with hamstring injury.
26th – 31st:  Pedro with twisted ankle.

 

In the next instalment: An action-packed end to the year with 3 trophies played for, international travel for Champions League and the Club World Cup, a visit to Madrid and a season-ending injury for another player.

 

Not a bad lot of substitutes
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109 Comments

    • July 11, 2012

      You mean people aren’t queuing up to become second-class members? Shocking.

      • Judas Pissed
        July 12, 2012

        The Commitment Card offers NOTHING for 3 years at almost 100 euros a year – no wonder no one is signing up…

    • nzm
      July 11, 2012

      That’s roughly 870,000 Euros less in the club coffers.

      I’d put it down to a couple of things:
      1. The economic situation is biting hard.
      2. There is an underground protest against the current administration.

      The latter was very much on show at the CdR presentation at Camp Nou. Just about every Catalan fan in the stadium, who was wearing a player strip, had a Barca shirt with the Unicef logo on the front. Very few QF shirts were in the crowd, and they were mostly on tourists.

      We even see it on Barca TV during interviews with the local penyas – no one is in a QF shirt.

      People aren’t happy, but the problem isn’t concrete enough to be identified and acted against. It’s what Laporta is hooking into.

      If Rosell is involved in the Brazil bribes, it all got a bit more hairy for him today. FIFA released a document which proved that Brazilian Teixiera had accepted bribes.

      Although the bribes that have been revealed happened in the late 90s, you can bet that there’ll be people looking at all the following years in which Teixeira headed the Brazilian Football Federation.

  1. Josep
    July 11, 2012

    Arguably the best two posts since Linda’s review last year. Absolutely brilliantly put together.
    Cheers.

    • hansh
      July 11, 2012

      It amazes me all the time what the writers (and commenters!) here do to make this blog awesome. You’re right that these posts are incredible.

  2. Josep
    July 11, 2012

    Also, I think (its extremely early to tell, I know) that we’ll finish second in the league, well off first too. But the Champion’s League will be the focus.

    Tito will continue the project but with huge questions about the back line and Xavi, he’ll experiment a bit more. Player rotation, bringing up youngsters, seeing if Fontas can stay with the club or if Bartra is needed as well. If Muniesa is ready, if JDS can cut it or we need to make a signing, etc. Basically what I’m saying is, Pep was (somewhat) stubborn, rightly, to “rotate” very often. Puyol playing versus teams like Rayo won’t happen with Tito, or at least I hope.

    Tito’s main goal will be how to beat the teams that park the bus. More directness on the wings, 3 at the back, etc. Whatever he thinks needs to be done he’ll risk the league in order to find the perfect balance, whereas in the CL we should be fine in a group and then play the typical way in the KO stages.

      • Messiah10
        July 11, 2012

        Thanks for posting again. I love the part where Xavi or Iniesta says, “he goes a million miles a minute”, then it shows highlights after we score a goal and Pep’s going nuts trying to tell Tito and Xavi tactics. Makes me smile. Miracle at Stamford Bridge made me have chills.

    • Messiah10
      July 11, 2012

      How do you know what Tito’s focus will be? Do you have access to him? Why would the team consider the league less important then the Champions League in terms of team focus and objectives? I’m not sure how you can claim to know what Tito’s thinking unless you have some insider access that others don’t. I’m not sure the team even knows what he’s thinking yet, since they’re not even together yet. Are these your opinions?

      • Momo
        July 11, 2012

        Woah! Easy there. The man’s just saying what’s on his mind. No need to get all hostile and confrontational…

        • Messiah10
          July 11, 2012

          No hostility or confrontation. Simply asking him a question. That’s the problem with people reading posts. One can think someone’s implying something or a tone is there that isn’t.

          • Josep
            July 11, 2012

            The second and third words should be more than enough.

            “I think”

    • July 11, 2012

      I think that health will be the key. If we are healthy, we are the best team in the world. Remember that even with that blizzard of injuries, the season and not capturing the two biggest trophies really came down to 6 goals. Six. Stinkin’. Goals.

      Injuries hampered this club and what it could do in ways that we all know very well, but it’s worth repeating. Without cancer, Abidal is in the house and Wrongaldo isn’t even attacking that side of the pitch. Chelsea probably don’t score in our house, and everything is dandy. But the injuries meant too much playing time for some, inconsistent time for others. Hard to make a team come together in the right way, even with Messi dragging the offense to successes.

      If this club stays healthy, we will win Liga AND Champions League. Sanchez will be fully healthy and integrated, Fabregas will know what the hell he’s doing and Alba’s arrival opens up the left side of the attack, which will be huge for us. Are there questions? Absolutely. But RM had to have a record-setting season just to beat us, and it still came down to that Camp Nou Clasic. They wouldn’t have beaten a healthy FCB.

      That center back purchase matters. The Keita departure hurts, but with an intelligent move, we can absorb that. JDS is the most likely candidate.

      I know I’m more optimistic than Josep, but I think that we have the best club in the world. Period. Full stop. If that club stays healthy and motivated (nothing sparks motivation like not having the ultimate success), they will get it done, but I do think it will be down to the wire again.

      • Messiah10
        July 11, 2012

        Kevin, completely agree. Alexis will be a BEAST this season. He & Messi were already on a great wavelength and I think they’ll both step it up a notch. 🙂 Even though I didn’t think Alba showed much late in the year and beginning of Euro’s, I will have to step up and say I was wrong. I’m still concerned about his height, but his stamina and speed are unreal. His stamina is on par with Alves and he’s quicker than Alves. Those 2 together will be a frightening combo for opposing defenses this year. Cesc will definitely have a more defined role. Hopefully, the injury bug stays away so he doesn’t have to rotate and fill in multiple position and Iniesta isn’t moved to the left wing. I say we give JDS an opportunity. We don’t need to spend gazillions on Thiago Silva(AC Milan’s sporting director said he won’t rule out move for Silva or Ibra) because he’s only going to give us 3-4 good years. Who knows how he’d assimilate into the team anyway. Javi Martinez would cost to much too. JDS has the DNA and needs a shot at filling in. I can’t wait for the season to begin. So excited to see our boys in Blaugrana again. BARCA BARCA BARCA!!!

      • Josep
        July 11, 2012

        “Without cancer, Abidal is in the house and Wrongaldo isn’t even attacking that side of the pitch”

        How so? I don’t understand the conclusion here, if Abidal was playing Mourinho would’ve switched Cristiano to a different position?

        “Chelsea probably don’t score in our house, and everything is dandy”

        If you replay the games with Abidal, it could’ve been worse. Could’ve lost 2-0, who knows.

        “If this club stays healthy, we will win Liga AND Champions League. Sanchez will be fully healthy and integrated, Fabregas will know what the hell he’s doing and Alba’s arrival opens up the left side of the attack, which will be huge for us.”

        So Alba will immediately blend in and carve teams open, where as all other players struggle to adapt in their first season?

        “But RM had to have a record-setting season just to beat us, and it still came down to that Camp Nou Clasic. They wouldn’t have beaten a healthy FCB.”

        And we had to have one to beat them the year before. Records will continually fall in the current era, anyways, it’s only fair to put them up against the last 10-15 years or so. Also, a healthier (Sahin, Carvalho, di Maria) RM could’ve also beaten a healthy FCB. You don’t know that.

        “That center back purchase matters. The Keita departure hurts, but with an intelligent move, we can absorb that. JDS is the most likely candidate.”

        Agreed, not so much that a purchase, but definitely something needs to be done in the back line which is why I believe they won’t sign someone but will look to give 1-2 youngsters serious minutes. If we don’t spend 40m this year on a CB, we can spend it next year on one. Maybe Javi Martinez will have proven himself. Or better yet, one of our youngsters.

        “I know I’m more optimistic than Josep, but I think that we have the best club in the world. Period. Full stop.”

        I agree.

        “If that club stays healthy”

        If. It’s why its part of the game. It’s hoping on too much to expect a team to stay healthy.

        “and motivated (nothing sparks motivation like not having the ultimate success), they will get it done, but I do think it will be down to the wire again.”

        Arguably, tho it’s a common statement. Losing makes you want it that much more, but wouldn’t winning make you want to keep it that much more?

        • July 11, 2012

          Mourinho has switched Wrongaldo before to keep him from having to run at Abidal all the time. He finds the Alves flank a more inviting target. There’s history of that. But all you can go by is track record. A fit Abidal is one of the best left backs in the world. And when he is fit, his side of the pitch is where attacks go to die. He wouldn’t have made the defensive error that allowed the RM goal, and even when the Keystone Kops thing happened on the Drogba goal, Abidal would have been there to sort it out, instead of having crickets between Drogba and Valdes.

          Our record-setting year was Guardiola’s first, and the year of the treble. We had 3 fewer points season before last, 96 vs 99.

          All you can do with predictions, even the one that you’ve made that has us finishing a distant second to RM, is go by form. And on form and healthy, our players are better than theirs. There’s the track record that demonstrates that from the Guardiola era.

          Re: Alba, you only have to look to his performances in the Euros to see how he will mesh with Iniesta. Given the opportunity, week in and out to solidify this partnership, I can’t see it leading anywhere bad. We didn’t have much of a left-side in attack last season, thanks to the loss of Villa, and the Sanchez injury woes. Alba isn’t Alves’ quality, but he is a legitimate attacking option on that side of the pitch. No disrespect to Abidal or Adriano, but we haven’t had one since Henry was in the colors.

          Yes, many players struggle to fit into the system. A few don’t. Alba will be farther along because of his Spanish NT history, just as Villa was.

          Finally, winning doesn’t make you want to keep it. It never does. It explains so much of last season. The players themselves talked about complacency. Had Guardiola not sensed that it was time for a change in that regard, he’d probably still be coaching the side.

          Winning makes you come to expect winning, to expect it to all work out because it always has. There will always be another chance, until there isn’t. Then it’s a draw or a loss.

          I also expect Vilanova to fine-tune the possession game. Opponents were getting at our back line far too easily. So many goals against came from lost possession in silly parts of the pitch, leading to counters.

          With all that, it’s hard for me to be pessimistic about next season. Particularly as Mascherano will improve at the back line role, as well. Iniesta has improved, so has Messi. The team is still going up, and to my view, last year was an aberration more than a trend.

        • Ryan
          July 12, 2012

          The losses we have suffered to EE have been when we’re either missing Valdes (Copa final) or other key players (most recent match). The overall record vs. Mou’s EE is so skewed towards us that it’s a pretty rational conclusion to say our healthy 11 is better than theirs. Squadwise, though, they’ve got so much quality cover.

    • Josep
      July 11, 2012

      For anyone just getting into the club, watch it now. Watched it a year or two ago, brilliant and very informative.

    • Clouseau
      July 12, 2012

      Didn’t rewatched it again yet,but thanks for sharing.

      It’s one of the best made sportive Documentaries and reflected very well about Barça state before the Glory era begun.Great Insight.

      Laporta knew how to get specialists and talented Buissnesmen.But he could never keep them long thanks to his “King of Catalunya” mindset.
      I can’t happen to think what could happened if Laporta,Rosell,Ingla & F.Soriano never led their egoes won over them.

  3. July 11, 2012

    This beINSport channel is talking some serious stuff, if they can ever get on the effing dial. They will also be showing Segunda matches, as well as becoming the official home (not that there has been one heretofore) for BarcaTV and ThatOtherSpanishTeamTV.

    Vaporware. If the season starts and all you can do is stream matches, my life will not be abundance of joy.

    • Messiah10
      July 11, 2012

      I started to freak out about beInSport while I was reading Barca’s league calender. Thinking to myself, “what channel will these games be on?”, “How many Barca games will they show?”, “I can’t believe no Ray Ray & Phil!”. I really really really hope it’s sorted by Aug. I can’t imagine having to stream games the whole season. I’m sorry, but if you bid on Liga, EPL, Serie A, etc., shouldn’t you have to show a game plan of how you will reach audiences world wide? Wouldn’t there be a plan in place for other networks and beInsports before the bidding started? It seems ludicrous that something as important as Liga would have it’s viewers stranded in no man’s land.

      • mom4
        July 11, 2012

        We’re “soccer” fans in the US. That pretty much gives us second class status amongst the sport viewers here. Therefore, I don’t think we are a huge priority for the carriers. I wonder if Deportes will still carry some of the games.

        Seriously, we switched to Fios a month and a half ago to get more football (ESPN Deportes included in our package) and are wondering if we have to jump ship again back to Comcast. Obviously we’re just sitting tight for a while as things are clear as mud right now.

        • Messiah10
          July 11, 2012

          Agree with your “second” class status comment, but we are gaining on basketball and baseball. We are past hockey. Last season MLS was 2nd in attendance to all other U.S. sports. That’s unbelievable! It’s translated in coverage as well, with ESPN picking up options to broadcast from FSC and GolTv. I hope they pick up options from beInsports too. I don’t have the luxury of switching providers since I just did less than a year ago. I’ll be seriously depressed and ready to find a shower rod and piece of rope if Uverse doesn’t have beInsports provider. 🙁

    • July 11, 2012

      Was chatting with Phil Schoen on twitter and this was his comment:

      Soccer = legwork 😉 Not asking you to work for, rather with. We’re talking. Customers can help make sure they’re listening.

      I hope they get something worked out with the cable providers so y’all can have your HD broadcasts on your giant TVs.

      I’ll just keep watching my streams… *sigh*

      • nzm
        July 11, 2012

        No – he deserves someone with more class than that. 🙂

        • Messiah10
          July 11, 2012

          That girl looks like she has class and a whole lot more! Atta boy Xavi! Looks like a great vacation!

          • nzm
            July 12, 2012

            Nuh uh – if you have to flash a Hang 10 sign when you’re having a photo taken with one of the world’s greatest footballers, you’re either too insecure in your own skin or too full of yourself to just appreciate the moment for what it is. 😀

    • July 11, 2012

      Only 12 hours late, mom4! Old news. Seriously, girl, get on twitter!

      (and follow me, @blitzen13)

      Also, I got my summer bonus today, so I have pledged to invest in some serious manita shooter experimentation this weekend and will post the winning recipe. The things I do for this blog. 😀

      • mom4
        July 11, 2012

        12 hours late? Can’t get on at work. Sneak onto the internet via the droid sometimes but am pretty hopeless with it.

        Ya know, it took me a whole year of lurking here before I dared to post. I think it will take a whole lot longer for me to tweet. I am always very hesitant to put myself “out there” on the webbernet and hate giving personal info to any site. I almost died when registration came to this site (although I think it was an excellent thing now). I’ll stalk lurk at your account for all the up to date fangirl stuff I guess for a while. Maybe I’ll get up the courage.

        Manita shooters soon, hooray!

        • July 12, 2012

          You don’t NEED to give personal info to any site. If you’re really forced to (which would be.. never) give false info.

          Sometimes I have trouble recollecting what fake info. I’ve given at a particular site. Helps my memory 😀

    • nzm
      July 12, 2012

      I think that the woman in the first image is his sister Ariadna.

      • mom4
        July 12, 2012

        Actually, I really don’t give a flying fart who the girls are in either picture (although I wish him all the happiness of a great relationship (especially one that may lead to a household of future Barca midfielders running around)). Could be the Queen of England for all I care.

        The point is:

        That’s our Xavi in a flippin’ swim trunk. Enjoy sisters! 😉

        • July 12, 2012

          Mom4, you forgot to add another point:

          Xavi WITHOUT hair gel. He looks so much better with less. There’s an old adage, “less is moar!” 😛

        • Clouseau
          July 12, 2012

          Yupp,I would but then again he didn’t confirm it.I’ll say yes.

  4. nzm
    July 11, 2012

    Interesting to watch that Mallorca highlights (from Oct 2011) video and see Villa go down in the 38th minute of the game, and rub his left shin – about where it then broke in December.

  5. nzm
    July 11, 2012

    Reports filtering through that Ibra and Thiago Silva are headed to PSG in exchange for 65 million Euros.

    Ibra once more hooks up with his best mate Maxwell. That’s a friendship that I still cannot understand!

    • Messiah10
      July 11, 2012

      There’s talk of them dumping Robino too. Pato will have to pick up some serious slack if that’s the case. 65 million for the pair isn’t bad considering what we gave up for Ibra. I wouldn’t want him on my team regardless. Cancer.

      • July 12, 2012

        That was indeed a great report, but all of his stuff is. Milan is increasingly looking like the future for big clubs without sugar daddies. Huge wage bills, with heavily incentive-laden contracts, is the cost of success in top-level European football. Recall RoSELL crowing about the money we saved in bonuses by not winning Liga and/or Champions League. Financial Fair Play (I won’t even attempt to touch the irony of that, given the bribery and crap taking place at FIFA and UEFA) might be changing a lot in this game. For the better? Not sure.

        Ultimately, it could mean clubs seeking wealthy owners or co-investors, and hiding behind sugar daddies. Look at PSG, Citeh, Chelsea. If this Ibrahimovic/Silva deal happens, combined with the rest of what PSG has done, can’t see them not winning Ligue 1 for years, even if European football is that club’s biggest ambition.

        • Josep
          July 12, 2012

          The only chance anyone will have in Ligue 1 is a team like Rennes getting an insane crop of youth talent all at once.

          FFP is such a dangerous idea, if you think everyone has a good heart it’s a fantastic idea. But if you know people will try and find and exploit loopholes everywhere its a scary idea.

          • July 12, 2012

            And frankly, people trying to exploit loopholes will include us. I bet we already have lawyers sussing it all out and seeing what kinds of workarounds there are.

          • Messiah10
            July 12, 2012

            loopholes like EE resort island in the Middle East? That rings a bell. 🙂

  6. July 12, 2012

    In the “stuff that will never happen” file, I suggested that if we are that serious in our indignation over Mourinho’s lack of a penalty for the half-assed eye gouge on Vilanova, and the general conduct of his players toward ours, why not boycott the SuperCopa? Issue a high-toned statement, and don’t show up.

    I’m mostly kidding, as the club would NEVER do that, much less cede a trophy to them, but ….

    • Josep
      July 12, 2012

      Some are suggesting fielding a B team.

      We did that somewhat two seasons ago 😛

      • July 12, 2012

        No matter the president, that would be a bold, courageous statement of principle that would send a clear message. Of course, it would also the cost the club a metric shit ton of money, which is the biggest reason it will never happen.

        • nzm
          July 12, 2012

          But then, he wouldn’t have to pay player bonuses for winning if they didn’t turn up. 😛

    • July 12, 2012

      And amidst all the outraged indignation on twitter I mentioned that boycotting the supercup would only be punishing the players who worked for the chance to play in that game. This trophy doesn’t matter much to you or me, but I can assure you it matters very much to the players, especially the newly promoted boys who haven’t had a chance to play for it before, against our greatest rivals. Boycotting the cup would be disrespectful to them.

      • July 12, 2012

        True, but the players are lashing their ships to a club, which would have the obligation of explaining why such a choice would ultimately be in their best interest. I keep thinking about what if Alves had had his leg planted when Pepe did his Master of the Flying Guillotine move, or if Marcelo’s out-of-bounds scissor tackle had in fact caught Fabregas the wrong way, and blown out his knee(s). I can’t help but imagine that the players would be totally behind such a move.

        This differs from, say, the politically motivated boycotts of the Olympics, where the players were involved in globopolitical squabbles. Violence toward them in the Liga from RM directly affects them and, potentially, their careers.

        • July 12, 2012

          I can’t help but imagine that the players would be totally behind such a move.

          I think your imagination is running away with you. 🙂

          I think both the players and Tito would prefer just to put it behind them and get on with it.

          Anyway, as you say, it’s not going to happen, so no point discussing it further.

          • July 12, 2012

            You’re right in that it will never happen, but if you told the players that this move might prevent violence in future Clasics? Given that so many of them have spoken out against the violence, it just seems logical that they would support it, if properly presented.

      • mom4
        July 12, 2012

        Better response. We field a “witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station” lineup and open up a can of it upon them.

        First game is at the Camp Nou. 90,000 odd cules letting their opinions be heard.

        • mom4
          July 12, 2012

          Then we win the cup in their house and do a nice little Sardana in the Bernabeu. Justice is served as success is the best revenge.

    • July 12, 2012

      How about Tito going up to Mou and poke him back? Since there’s a precedence, no punishment will be enforced. Win-Win 😉

  7. July 12, 2012

    Well, with Thiago Silva reportedly joining PSG (if it pans out to be true, but even if it doesn’t there wasn’t much chance we were buying him this summer anyways) and Javi Martinez stating that he doesn’t see himself in Blaugrana next season it doesn’t look likely we will sign a big name centerback this summer.

    When you combine this with the fact that we potentially have three young centerbacks who could all be fighting for minutes it’s looking likely that we don’t sign any centerback this summer.

    I personally don’t have too much of a problem with it. If we aren’t going to buy a world class player, a player who can compete for starts in the Champions League, then I say save the money and let’s see how good Muniesa, Bartra, and Fontas really are.

    Meanwhile, our current squad is 25 players strong (if you include Abidal). It will be a definite change of pace from the Guardiola era if we start the season with that many players.

    • nzm
      July 12, 2012

      There are full squads and then there are full squads with depth.

      I.e. just about any player in the Real Madrid squad could be put on the pitch against Barca, and they’d do well.

      But could you say that about putting on any player from the Barca squad vs. RM? I think that the newly promoted B-team guys would falter – they’re just not up to playing at that level.

  8. barca96
    July 12, 2012

    Apologies for spamming.

    Let’s do a poll.

    This is in regards to the J. Martinez.

    1) buy him for 30mill (after negotiations from
    40mill)

    or

    2) buy Romeu back and use the balance + some
    to get a proper CB.

    I’d choose option 2.

    • July 12, 2012

      Javi Martinez is not going to happen, because:

      –We don’t have the money to buy him.
      –Athletic Bilbao pretty emphatically don’t want to sell him.
      –Athletic Bilbao, because it is a well-run club, doesn’t need to sell players to make money.

      So, they have set a price of 40m+VAT, which means more like 50m. For a center back. Every club will set a stupid price for a player it doesn’t really want to sell. So we might say “Sure, we’ll let you have Iniesta …. for 300 million.”

      And then there is this:

      “Barça rumors? Don’t see myself playing at Barça. I’m comfortable at Athletic and have a contract until 2016” – Javi Martinez, today

    • Ryan
      July 12, 2012

      Would Romeu cost us 15 million now, or is it still the cheaper option?

      • Clouseau
        July 12, 2012

        At the moment cheaper 10 million now next summer 15 mios.But it seems Chelsea has to approve first…

        • Ryan
          July 12, 2012

          Ouch, that isn’t much of a buy-back then. If he’s worth more than 15 million Chelsea won’t accept it, but if he isn’t worth it, then we won’t want to buy him back!

          • Clouseau
            July 12, 2012

            Yeah there lies the problem. It doesn’t seem that they’re not planning with him anymore.They’re busy with hunting fornew forwards xD

            Useless clause it sounds more like a modified “Dreamteam” clause rather than a buyback clause.

    • July 12, 2012

      Neither for me. J. Mart. is tooooo expensive and Romeu is meh. We have plenty of midfielders.

    • nzm
      July 12, 2012

      Oooh – they’re writing another letter to the RFEF.

      May as well slap them on the wrists with a wet bus ticket – it would be more effective.

      Seriously, the way in which this club pussyfoots around nowadays makes them all look like namby-pambies without a backbone in any of them.

    • Clouseau
      July 12, 2012

      France are physically so damn superior although they are younger than spains squad.Now they leading undeservly but hey that’s football.

        • Dani_el
          July 12, 2012

          Deulofeu passes to Grimaldo, Grimaldo assists a beautiful cross…goal Spain!

          • Clouseau
            July 12, 2012

            La Rojita find it difficult to defend of in corners.Should have won already.

            I like Grimaldo for his age he seems very mature and knows how to time and balance his forwardplay.
            Deulefeu’s goal esteemed his confidence he struggled and couldn’t dribble as always.Needs to be remembered that he got some teammates.Soloying opponents won’t work always…

            Spain should have killed off that game.Extratime looks exciting so far.

        • Clouseau
          July 12, 2012

          Oh,yes you’re right have confused both Teams.

  9. Xingxian
    July 12, 2012

    nzm, I sincerely thank you for writing. I am sad I only have words to express my gratitude.

    • nzm
      July 12, 2012

      Your words are more than enough, Xingxian – thank you for the acknowledgement! 🙂

    • Dani_el
      July 12, 2012

      My god. 62M. The awful part, is that we spent more than that only for I am Zlatan. Good luck with him Ancelotti.

    • Clouseau
      July 12, 2012

      Now that’s an appetizer for the upcoming friendly against PSG.PSG is getting serious.They almost created their own little “Milan”.

      Great Piece of buisness although Milan lost on quality.Milan can save about 18 million euros on salaries as well.At least they know how to sell.

      Serious Bromance is what we have here.I can imagine Zlatan singin’ “every breath you take” happily now 😉

  10. July 12, 2012

    Deulofeu is awesome skill wise, he’s been tearing it up all tournament.

    But dude just refuses to pass, even when he’s at a dead end. I would’ve smacked him upside the head a few times if I was his teammate:)

  11. July 12, 2012

    He doesn’t even acknowledge his teammate who set him up with a perfect pass..wtf is his problem?

    • Dani_el
      July 12, 2012

      France draws the game. This will be decided on penalties.

      • Clouseau
        July 12, 2012

        Great game thrilling Extratime plus penalty.Thoroughly enjoined it.

        Happy for the Greece their senior Nationalteam needs some new bloods anyway.

    • olbucky
      July 12, 2012

      Horrible celebration. Totally selfish. That attitude will never fly on the first team. I think I just decided I don’t want him. That pass was perfect and Delofeu didn’t even look at him. He just ran to the corner beating his chest. Let saying “me, me,me” . I thought I was looking at thong boy. This guy may be good but he does not get it. That was an emotional goal and we saw what he was made of. Something to think about for anyone who saw his disgusting behavior…

      • Dani_el
        July 12, 2012

        He’s pretty young. Don’t underestimate the power of Barça’s first team dressing room. He will learn there, hopefully.

        Deolofeu scored Spain’s last penalty and they will play against Greece on the final.

      • jordi™
        July 12, 2012

        Guess what. In competitive sports the tension release of adrenaline that comes from doing something important in difficult moments makes people react unpredictably.
        Messi practically broke the cornerflag in the champions League final after he scored. I remember henry exploding and pointing at the name on the back of his shirt when he scored at the bernabeu.
        We are talking about flawed human beings here, not robots. Saying you decided you don’t want him is as arrogant as anything Gerard, an 18 year old did today.

      • Ryan
        July 12, 2012

        Yes, he went a little crazy after scoring, but he did do the customary man (boy) pile afterwards! This isn’t close to TB pushing Higuain aside to try and score (and miss) or showing the world his thigh after scoring. The kid’s still really young and actually having some players who like to shoot will be helpful. Lord knows we suffered from a lack of Pedro and Villa shots last season.

        • replayed
          July 13, 2012

          I wonder how much of a factor Deulofeu’s age really is.

          When I compare his behavior to that of 18 year-old Alcácer yesterday, I confess to feeling a little jealous of Valencia.

          For me, it’s a matter of instinct as much as anything else. Worse than Tello, Deulofeu’s first and only instinct is to go for the glory, while Alcácer strikes me as having more of the Barça and National Team ethos by looking to pass first. And the range of his passing was quite impressive from what I saw of him.

          I appreciate that Barça can use more directness right now, but it would not at all surprise if a few years from now, Deulofeu’s skills become blunted against higher level opponents while Barça are (once again) throwing wads of cash at Valencia to pry Alcácer from them.

          • jordi™
            July 13, 2012

            Well Paco’s father died at the Mestalla after watching him score his first goal for Valencia last summer. Personal tragedy can accelerate growth in maturity. About looking to pass first, its a mixed bag like any young player.Paco can sometimes be like Villa and shoot from all angles.If it wouldnt be like that he wouldnt have his scoring statistics at this age.On the other hand there are games where Gerard spends the entire game beating his fullback and whipping in crosses.Its good he can mix it up.We dont want a new jesus navas.

  12. Dani_el
    July 12, 2012

    Thanks NZM for this articles. I realize they must take a lot of time and effort, and I appreciate it. Keep it going please..!

    Jan Vertonghen was signed by Tottenham Hotspurs. Ajax supposedly wants Muniesa as a loan to replace him. Do we need 3 left backs considering our injuries on that position last year? (being Jordi Alba, Adriano, and Muniesa; not counting just JET Eric Abidal)

    • nzm
      July 12, 2012

      Thanks Dani_el – there are 4 more to go, to complete the season!

    • July 12, 2012

      If we send Muniesa (or any of our young defenders) out on loan, Ajax is where I’d send them. Frank de Boer is doing an excellent job there and they play a style similar to Barcelona, so it would be an ideal situation for a defender to go on loan.

  13. Dave
    July 12, 2012

    Don’t watch the B team but if Delofuo thinks he can bring a big ego and arrogance to the first team,he’s in for an almighty shock. The likes of Xavi,Puyol Messi and Masch will bring him back to earth fairly quick.

    On J Martinez. A fantastic potential and a currently a very good player. But he’s price is way too much with the tax issue.

    Regardless the club needs to sign, this talk saying we have enough is ridiculous.

    I’d sign Capoue because of versatility and physicality. We will need his skill set for no doubt several opponents next season.

    The club also needs a cb. Puyol will play around 30 games a season and Pique needs to become more consistent. Masch is terrific. Furthermore the likes of Pique could do with some competition.

    12 mil on Capoue
    15 mil on Cb

    Set up.

    • Dave
      July 12, 2012

      I do think though that Delofeu will grow out of it. Part of me is also happy to see a winger with confidence, it’s essential so he can take risks and beat players

  14. lea_terzi
    July 13, 2012

    Btw, don’t know if anyone mentioned this before, but our “Chameleon eyes” Xavi does not just have unique vision, his eyes are actually different colors! The left one is much darker.

  15. Kimcelona
    July 14, 2012

    Excellent piece nzm! I am loving this series and really adore youre writing style, research and organization!

    Buuuuut, I’m a stickler for details and you HAVE TO correct that paragraph about Pep not winning at Valencia before. He won there in the 10/11 season. We won 1-0 thanks to a Messi goal off an Adriano assist.

    Sowwy.

    • nzm
      July 14, 2012

      You’re so right – and I took that tidbit on faith from an article on the FCB website – go figure!

      Thanks, Kimcelona – amended!

      No need to be sorry – I’m just pleased that you read it carefully enough to pick up the booboo! 😀

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