The Weary Traveler Returns Home: Barcelona 5 – 1 Real Sociedad

It was a long summer, but the Tito era began as one would have expected: Carles Puyol heading in a 4th minute corner. By the 17th minute it was 3-1 and Real Sociedad was well and truly sunk. It felt familiar in so many ways, of course, but there was a palpable sense of novelty throughout the match as every action was a first. After some point it was just silliness to scream out “That’s the first Mexican wave of the Tito era!” while the Camp Nou denizens demonstrated their absurd boredom.

I was 2 minutes late to the match thanks to an all mighty mix up at my brunch place–the chef thought the mango popsicle they had for dessert was passionfruit! Mrs. The Lady would not stand for it!–and I nearly missed the whole damned thing. But fortunately I was beer in hand when Capi gave poor Ion Ansotegui a nifty little bump that some, including Ansotegui, would call a shove, but which regardless of what you call it left Puyol wide open to use his noggin to hammer in what should have been the match winner. Chori Castro and the somewhat befuddled Barça midfield had something to say about that, though, as they left Real Sociedad back in the match through sloppy play and a very nice finish.

Then Messi decided to make some sort of statement or maybe he just got bored with not scoring goals. It’s hard to say with him sometimes. It doesn’t matter, really, because by the time he was done getting into 2nd gear, it was all over except the final 75 minutes, which were obviously going to be some sort of passing ritual where Xavi was called “imperious”, there was a 10-minute discussion about width, and Pedro was called “spastic”. It was suddenly inevitable yet again that a good La Liga team was going to leave the Camp Nou humbled by the merciless juggernaut of Way More Money Than You.

I was excited to see the match and giggling madly after having checked the Madrid score (“Hay Liga!” a friend cracked), but only Chori Castro’s goal gave the final scoreline a glimmer of potential. The manita, while personally fun because I’m a Barcelona fan, is yet another nail in the coffin of La Liga. It’s not like La Real boasts terrible players by any stretch; it’s not like Sociedad “deserved” to lose 5-0 because they were ambitious and actually had a decent attacking strategy; and it’s not like Barcelona were playing at some high-octane level. Until Iniesta and Villa decided to light up the show (and Sociedad visibly tired), it was just another training exercise in front of considerably more people than usual. Messi was actually pretty crappy, but then again, that’s a relative statement in which he was by far the best player on the field, but somehow didn’t get a six-bagger to his name.

Tello was a live wire, Pedro was a whirling dervish, and Xavi was, yeah you guessed it, imperious. Busquets looked like he was still mentally on la playa de Ibiza; Mascherano wanted to earn 8 cards, but could only manage 1; and Alba had the look of a possessed chipmunk lost in a suburban mall: “Where do I go? Who are all these people? I bet Hot Topic has some interesting new stuff!” and off he speeds through the crowd, finding a ball or an opponent at his feet occasionally, which he would then kick somewhat fiercely. And no, I have not been to a mall in the last 15 years. I have no idea if Hot Topic still exists. But I do know that if it does, it has nothing of interest. None of that is to say that Alba was bad (it’s his first real match for the team and he’s going through some growing pains) and it’s not to say that anyone was bad, which is another way of saying that Barça is so good that a meh, shoulder-shrugging day at the office can be a 5-1 pounding. Which, frankly, is pretty boring.

What’s not boring is this:


Welcome back, Guaje. You were missed as much for your humanity as for your goals. Your teammates resoundingly cheered you on from the bleacher section on Twitter and that was touching. Maybe they were a bit lackadaisical today on the field, but when it came down to it, everyone was hungry for the satiating goodness of goals. And it feels good, no matter how boring the season may turn out to be.

Let’s let this be a season of rejoicing: Guaje is back, Fontas is back, Afellay is back, Thiago will recover shortly, and Abidal may return (the tears are waiting, King Eric). You know what:

The season is back and it is time to dig in for the long haul.

Images from Eurosport and Sport

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Recent Posts

Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. August 19, 2012

    I’ll be the first to say this review makes me woozy with delight, even as there are many parts I dusagree with.

    Hats off.

  2. lyonss3
    August 19, 2012

    The season started as one might have expected…with a puyol header off a corner? Maybe that was sarcasm I’m not picking up, but I would have never expected Barca to open scoring off a corner. We are known for our lack of aerial ability. I agree with you about Messi though. It’s funny that the guy can have an “off” game, yet still bag a brace. Tello looks great, and with Villa back we have quite a selection of wingers. Hopefully Cuenca and Tello get decent time, but I’m sure they will when Alexis and Villa and Pedro need a rest. Cant wait for Thursday!

  3. cliveee
    August 19, 2012

    So Tito is not going to wear suits? Or is he shopping for some… to make up for his first failed attempt???

    GOOD START! Not everyone is ready, but we still start off with a Manita, which is wonderful!

    The arrival of Alba is like the second wing is finally added to this team, with a super motor running inside, flying 90mins at high speed.

    Inclusion of Tello surprised everyone, but more surprisingly, his much improved performance almost immediately repaid Tito’s faith to start him. Good kid, work hard! Messi finally hugging you means you have a future!

    • nzm
      August 20, 2012

      Too hot for suits at this time of year. Temp was still around 28degC when the game kicked off.

  4. dean
    August 19, 2012

    The first review of the season yay. Enjoy you’re writing style Isaiah.

  5. DumbOx
    August 19, 2012

    The MVP tandem back (and Puyol too!). While it’s still too early in the league schedule to say, I see a really great team in Tito’s team and may perhaps surpass Pep’s team. No disrespect to Guardiola but this team Tito is coaching moves the ball faster and pressures the other team to win back the ball. I am really looking forward to watching more of this team. Visca Barca!

    • Messiah10
      August 20, 2012

      DumbOx, while I love your enthusiasm, lets not get carried away.

      “. . .may perhaps surpass Pep’s team. ” Not to be Debbie Downer, but it was the 1st game of the season. Again, the 1st game. I love what the team showed, but unless they won 15-0, I don’t think we can start claiming they may be better than any of Pep’s 14/16 trophy clad teams. 🙂

  6. Guide7
    August 19, 2012

    Fantastic game, marvellous review.

    There are a lot of things to be happy about after this game and it’s not just The Manita.

    Tito looks really good on the sidelines. The way he expresses himself really shows who is in charge and the players respect that too.

    Villa scores, Pedro too and we still had Alexis on the bench. How about that for an attack?

    Tello has the skill to be a Barca player, any problem we might think (or know) he has is in his approach of the game. His performance in this one proves he can change for the better. Apart from once where he dragged a shot well wide, he always looked for a man in space and the result? Two assists and a key pass… That to me means we wouldn’t have scored 3/5 goals without him, or at least something along those lines. I’m looking forward to a Cuenca return, and please don’t sell Tello seeing as some are suggesting that he was included to strengthen a move away.

    100 goals for Messi… Now who’s with me? 🙂

    La Liga, CL, CDL supercopa. Please pardon my optimism but I think we have a serious shot on all of them.

    Seriously though, did anyone see the Alba/Villa combo? It’s just amazing. Did you even notice that our left flank looked even better than the right? That’s a scary thing for the opposition. And also, our fullbacks were able to push forward and we still had width when they drifted in towards goal (exchanging with wingers).

    I can’t claim to know what Tito has in store for us as far as tactics and lineups are concerned but I know it’s gonna be one hell of a ride for all of us, all we need to do is just sit there and act surprised when Messi scores.


    • Guide7
      August 19, 2012

      CDR is what I meant

  7. ooga aga
    August 19, 2012

    Zubi said we are looking to loan out some players (plural) in next few days. get your bets in.

    • nzm
      August 20, 2012

      barcastuff reporting talks with QPR to transfer Fontas. That wouldn’t surprise me, but it would disappoint me. Same if Afellay was sold. Those guys were injured before they really had the chance to play. Would love to see them kept around until January at least, but realise that some have got to go to make way for others.

  8. Tarik
    August 20, 2012

    It’s so nice to have Barca (and these reviews) back in my life. Throwing down the gauntlet with a 5-1 win is also a nice introduction to the season.

    There has been a real sense of pessimism for the season on the various sites I follow… and I hope today sort of shuts that up a little. It’s a long season, but our team is more than capable.

  9. Just a fan
    August 20, 2012

    The match itself was somehow boring but your review managed to make it really interesting !

    Keep it up Isaiah.

    • Messiah10
      August 20, 2012

      Couldn’t disagree more. The match was fantastic and I don’t want to pick out everything I disagree with Isiah over because it would end up being a novel.

    • Blau-Grenade
      August 20, 2012

      The match was really interesting for me.

  10. Gogah
    August 20, 2012

    When everyone on the team is fit, there is really no other team that can come close to our level. It’ll be important that our physios can keep the majority of our players fit throughout the season.
    As kxevin also noted before, I too think that we’ll start to see our play becoming a bit more vertical, direct with a bit more urgency. Possession stats may decrease and that may in turn demand more from the players physically and defensively, thereby making fitness a huge factor, though I think Tito will rotate more often and more effectively than Pep did.
    Maybe the perception of Vulnerability will work in our favour, lets see, the future though looks bright. I really like the squad as it is, hope we only loan/sell JDS just now. Maybe Afellay / Fontas can leave in Jan, if they have not been able to get any minutes.

  11. andrecito
    August 20, 2012

    some thoughts…

    *everytime there are deviations to what we all think the starting lineup will be…i always think to myself–“oh man, i hope he wasn’t injured in training”..

    *for about 10-25 minutes (cant remember exactly)…i thought pedro/messi/tello were absolutely i overexagerating that? i dont ever see replays…almost every linkup seemed to be so skillful, creative, confident..those guys have real guts…you can really see how hard they are fighting for their place..

    *i watch all the games on a 17″ laptop screen..but actually, for as long as i’ve been watching, i can easily distinguish all the players on the screen..there were always many shapes, shades, sizes…with this team–it’s impossible!!

    *the move tello had on the endline in the second half..he could of easily one-time wildly crossed it..but instead just nudged it to one side, over took the defender and made a play…for me-that was just raw, youth being bad-ass.. by the way, the english broadcaster i was listening to, kept pronouncing his name tell-lo. somebody needs to tell him..

    *i usually don’t make predictions at all..but watching messi-barring injury..i think he will score more goals then last year.

    *can’t wait for next game

  12. andrecito
    August 20, 2012

    i forgot one..

    *messi’s first goal and villa’s goal were serious emotional moments for me..

    -messi starting it all off in such an emphatic he just went and scored that because he wanted out next time..

    -villa is a warrior

  13. Salia
    August 20, 2012

    Alex Song’s going to wear shirt no. 25 for us but only for now pending on the departures from now till the end of the transfer window.

  14. Salia
    August 20, 2012

    It is also not expected Alex Song will play against Sampdoria tonight, but he will be presented with the other players before the game.

  15. andres ito
    August 20, 2012

    sorry to keep going in japan, opposite time of most people i think..

    after seeing some highlights..

    *after our first goal, tito looked like he was at a funeral..i was thinking…”what is he thinking?”..

    *villa and tello can be confused on my screen..thats awsesome for vila-isnt he like 25 years older than tello?

    *tello’s assist on pedro’s goal..i really dont think too many people in the world could or would do that..extraordinary in my opinion..

  16. flyzowee
    August 20, 2012

    Great Review!

    I just have a little concern about our front 3 not interchanging positions as much as in the past.

    Messi seems to stay dead central 90% of the time. Maybe if they switched more often the goals might spread out more evenly?

    I’ll admit that im a big villa fan and im really concerned about how long he can continue putting in a decent shift by playing wide giving the demands of playing there.

    When I look at Messi, sometimes I get the feeling that most of what he does is just poach goals. ( I know this is blasphemy but bear with me)

    Its like nowadays our No.9 position seems be the position that demands the least defensive effort IM0.
    I dont have a problem with this I just would like to see our other FWDS take up this position more often thats all.

    • Manish
      August 20, 2012

      “Most of what he does”.. i guess u are having the early season syndrome..:P

      You should watch all his goals of last season again and again * 100x

    • flyzowee
      August 20, 2012

      No… See im not hating on messi.
      Maybe I didnt say it right.
      What I mean is of the 10 outfield barca players, our No.9 currently (IMO) is the one who tracks back less, defends less etc.
      This has contributed immensely to Messis lack of injuries right?
      So now that we have a 31yr old villa returning from a broken leg, with probably less stamina and (most likely) less speed, I think it would be a good idea to have our front 3 more switch more often so that villa would find himself more central where the closing down/tracking back doesnt seem anywhere as demanding as being on the flanks.

    • August 20, 2012

      Careful there, flyzowee. You’re blaspheming. FWIW, I’m 100% with you. Our best player is also our most aggressive ballhawker in the opponents’ end. I disagreed with the decision taken by Guardiola to give him carte blanche to take defensive shifts off. I’d rather have him play fewer matches than not be 100% involved at both ends of the pitch.

    • swamidigital
      August 20, 2012

      Yeah you just have to watch one of those plays from previous seasons where he loses a ball, and becomes angrily determined to get it back. The team is more dangerous with Messi as aggressive in defense as offense, and he shouldn’t need to save us against minnows as long as our current forwards remain healthy… but it’s no use speculating because no one at barca is going to take him out.

  17. Lev
    August 20, 2012

    Yay! the first BfB review! Thanks Isaiah!

    Encouring return from Villa, who not only scored but also played well. Excellent 1st half from Tello! Very discouraging that Ibi has never had 45 minutes in which he excelled like that, because I was (am?) really rooting for him to succeed at Barça. Messi didn’t play that well but was instrumental in winning the game for us.

    Our bench is starting to look a lot deeper now, especially if we can transform Song into a viable CB option. Given how next year we are likely to go for Neymar.

    Hopig we will play better away than last season! At least we won’t wear black jerseys 🙂

  18. Manish
    August 20, 2012

    Messi just became Messi..when he needed to be.. so awesome and having Villa back.. yeaaaah…

  19. August 20, 2012

    Tito on Song:

    The manager talked about Alex Song after news broke that FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC had agreed to terms for the player: “he’s a footballer that gives us a bit of height. He’ll surprise us with his skill, he’s a great player.” He also added that Song can play in different positions and, most importantly, play the pivot role because “Busquets can’t play all of the games.” Vilanova also intends to use the new player as a center back.

  20. August 20, 2012

    Nice review, Isaiah, although I disagree with the part where you found the game boring! How could you be bored watching the terrific performance Tello put in? And the return of the real Pedro! Alba may not have put in his best performance, but I haven’t seen our left flank look that dangerous in years. Puyol was a monster, Pique got his swagger back, and this was all before Iniesta and Villa had even come on! Really not boring in the slightest.

    I was thinking of doing some awards, but maybe I’ll wait until after the Gamper and do two for the price of one. 😀

    • Lev
      August 20, 2012

      Pique did have a good game, but it is not that hard for a defender to come in the 2nd half when Sociedad is focusing more on not losing 8-1 than actually trying to score.

      Hopefully he will keep it up for the whole season. Really happy Pedro scored too. It is so important for us to have Pedro!!!! instead of Pedro?!?!?!

  21. Ezequiel
    August 20, 2012

    One thing that I really missed was a player attacking the near post on the low crosses (like the first Messi goal in the CL semifinals vs Madrid).
    Everytime Tello broke through the left, his only option was a cutback to the penalty spot, which was quite predictable. If Tito wants to use the whole width of the pitch, the wide players need to have more options to pass to.

    • Messiah10
      August 20, 2012

      Completely agree Ezequiel. I was thinking that after 2 or 3 Tello attacks. I’d like to see a near post and far post run at the same time with Messi waiting for the cutback. There was one image they replayed where Tello made it to the end line and when he cut it back they showed the image of our 3 forward players all standing beyond the box. That frustrated me, but that’s about all that did! Well, that and Dani trying to do to much with the ball on his side. He needs to get rid of it or go to the line like he used to. I’m not sure where that disappeared to?

  22. August 20, 2012

    The thing that stands out the most for me in this game is how desperate the team were for David Villa to score when he came on. You could see it all over Iniesta’s face—there was no way El Guaje was leaving that pitch without putting the ball in the net. This team.

    • Dani_el
      August 20, 2012

      Dead on! And Villa’s shirt as he was celebrating. This team..!

  23. August 20, 2012

    Love the title and thanks for the review, Isaiah. I disagreed with the “boring” tag. It was an entertaining game. And yes, Hot Topic still exists.

  24. cliveee
    August 20, 2012

    Villa return is like a new transfer. We missed him so bad last season. Last night he displayed his fluid movement on and off the ball with Iniestalba that made Sociedad didn’t know what to do with them at all. The goal he scored was also exactly the kind of clean strike on target we needed so so bad last season. Maravilla.

    • ooga aga
      August 20, 2012

      hitting it left footed from the left side across the face of goal, across the keeper (course the keeper a bit dragged out of position by the mesmerizing iniesta!)….villa…a very difficult thing to do. he wont be that clinical all season, because it’s impossible! but it’s a good sign.

  25. andres ito
    August 20, 2012

    gamper starts in a few hours?…the youngsters are playing in that?

    • August 20, 2012

      Yep. 15 Killer Bs were called up for the Gamper match. I like that in Tito. 3 subs before the 75th minute, now playing the kids in the Gamper? I was at the Gamper where Eto’o hurt his knee in a sliding scoring chance.

    • Messiah10
      August 21, 2012

      If there were 36 killer b’s it’d be Wu Tang Clan!

  26. andres ito
    August 20, 2012

    does that seem a little disrespectful? we invite a top division club to play a youth team?..will people like adrian, affelay,

    • andres ito
      August 20, 2012

      i meant adriano..

    • ooga aga
      August 20, 2012

      yes, you will see plenty of A-team players in the gamper who didnt get minutes yesterday.

      and for what its worth, sampdoria just got promoted…havent played a game in the Serie A yet this season…so they shouldnt deserve any more than our B team. ha! the reason we picked them is for Gamper is because it is 20th year anniversary of our defeating them in the european final. (koeman)

  27. barca96
    August 20, 2012

    Nzm, is there a reason for Rosell and his friends to want to build a new stadium?

    I don’t think that they need more seats as it’s only full for a handful of games during the course of a season.

    Maybe it’s really outdated and they need a refurbishment. That I agree. But nothing more. We don’t need a new stadium. Camp Nou is beautiful and big with so much history.

    The only problem I have with Camp Nou is the seating position. It’s far from the field. I have the same beef with Amsterdam Arena.

    I happen to support 2 teams where their eternal rivals have a better stadium; Feijenoord & EE. Their fans are much closer to the pitch and because of that are louder and thus giving the players a better support like a 12th man.

    I remember Nzm touched on something similar in the past.

    Nzm, is the stadium in a bad condition? If so it is understandably considering it’s age. But a refurbishment is just what they need. Not a new stadium.

    • August 20, 2012

      NZM will have a better sense for this – but to me what’s driving this push for a new stadium is revenue opportunities.

      Modern stadiums generate revenue streams in multiple ways-ones that older stadiums never envisioned.

      The biggest issue is often corporate boxes. They generate enormous sums of money. Those boxes have to built however & they are often very difficult to physically fit into existing structures.

      Other sources of revenue are restaurants, shops, possibly luxury apartments and real estate development.

      The big issue of risk here however is the state of the economy in Spain & Europe. The club will have to have a very good sense for example for how much demand there will be from German and Dutch corporates to buy luxury boxes in a new Camp Nou as it’s likely demand domestically from the private sector in Spain will be limited.

      On the flip side-the opportunity to increase revenue is enormous. So it’s really about balancing that risk/reward equation.

    • August 20, 2012

      A new stadium will mean they will be able to sell the naming rights. I don’t see any other reason for it. A new, “modern” stadium isn’t what the club needs. I will grant you that the Camp Nou is a wheezy old cathedral of football but you know what? It fits the mood.

      But they want to have an entire development, as Euler alludes to as well. But I bet you that most of all, they are salivating over naming rights, and the pretty, pretty penny those would fetch.

    • Messiah10
      August 21, 2012

      The bernabeu is SO freaking loud. During the game it’s not as noticeable from the t.v., but when they show actual footage from the stands or from the pitch it’s insane. Camp Nou rarely has that kind of noise. Mostly, due to size and width of the stadium. It’s similar to the old Hoosier Dome where the Indianapolis Colts played. It was so loud. It seated around 55,000 to 60,000 tops. They moved into Lucas Oil Field a couple of years ago and the noise level has dropped so much because it seats nearly 80,000. They now pump in noise over the speakers! 😉

    • nzm
      August 21, 2012

      The stadium is badly in need of a re-vamp, but that’s about all. It’s a solid structure that could do with some prettying up.

      For a huge stadium, you’re pretty close to the pitch, and we’ve sat in most places around the stadium and never felt far away from the action.

      Because of its size and openness, noise is hard to generate and an atmosphere is hard to retain. Sticking a half-roof over the seating areas would go a long way to solving this, as it would keep the noise in.

      The disadvantage would be that the natural grass turf would see less sun than it already does, and the groundsmen have a tough time maintaining the pitch over the winter without the roof. That could possibly mean a change in the pitch surface, with a semi-artificial turf being introduced – as per Bernabeu, Wembley and a lot of other pitches.

      The guys in their above comments have touched on the real reasons for a new stadium – naming rights, more marketing rights. Even though there are corporate lounges at Camp Nou, the people still have to come out of them to sit in seated rows to watch the game.

      It could also be the chance to reduce the size of the stadium – maybe to somewhere around 70 – 80,000 people. This would give “good reason” to up the ticket prices and create demand for tickets for lesser seats.

      When Madrid announced their stadium plans (last season?) which included a shopping mall etc, Barca quickly followed suit and showed plans to revamp Camp Nou with a similar concept built around it.

      I’m not sure whether you noticed, or if your coverage showed the revamp in the players’ tunnel. It looks awesome.

      Unfortunately, the revamp also included the benches. I say unfortunately because, instead of the beautiful FCB logo on each of the seats, as captured in this image that I took back in May this year, there is now the Qatar Foundation logo with the wording and the tree. Unbelievable. Instead of now playing psychological games on the opposing team who would be faced with the FCB logo when they sat on the seats, they now have a QF logo which means nothing to them.

  28. andres ito
    August 20, 2012

    oh–thanks ooga–
    i didnt know about that..
    now i understand the context better..
    sounds good to me*

  29. August 20, 2012

    The sense of familiarity and novelty Isaiah describes really felt part of this match. The first match of the season has that feel-we’ve seen this but even with real league competition being stopped for a few months, it has that sense of a reminder as to how great the game is.

    Then set that in the context of Tito’s first match – it gave the match a really interesting frame.

    The team really played wonderfully. The transition play and the “directness” it generated were very exciting to see. This match felt to me like the next “logical” step to where the team was trying to go last season but couldn’t get to as it wore down and didn’t have the tools to get there. We saw many elements of this in the match we played vs Getafe last season.

    For those interested I wrote about that match in detail last year as I felt it marked one of those moments of real tactical growth & change.

    We’ll see how things continue. I would be surprised to see us play in this same way vs RM as it would still be very early to try to use that system in same way. But I think this becomes one option or model for Tito to be able to draw on vs certain opponents, particularly against teams that try to defend in two banks of 4 deep.

    • August 20, 2012

      The speed of attack/transition knocked me out. Whether that was a consequence of the pace that was out there on the left (much good came from the left side vs RSO), we will see. Thursday will tell so much.

  30. Josep
    August 20, 2012

    Tito sending several messages, no? I still wonder the reason for Afellay’s lack of inclusion even on the bench. I’m reading too much into it, but maybe he’s finalizing a move out.

    Fontas to QPR is a rumor from “The People” I think, and they had a hilarious rumor last year that I can’t remembere off hand. Although, I’d love to see it as a QPR fan 😀

    Pique started from the bench sent a message that Pep may have had trouble sending last year? Iniesta’s seemed more out of fitness? Reading into nothing, again, so feel free to disagree.

    And I thought Messi rotated a lot, not 90% central. Tello was extremely impressive and played nothing like he has for the last 15 months.

    • August 20, 2012

      Tello was extremely impressive and played nothing like he has for the last 15 months.

      The most striking part of the whole match for me. I kept replaying that Pedro assist in my head. Last year, no way he plays that pass. This year, it seemed as natural as can be.

    • Jim
      August 20, 2012

      We’ll get a much better idea from Thursday’s team sheet I think.

    • cliveee
      August 20, 2012

      Yup, impressive Tello. Keep a cool head, lose some stepovers, read plays more carefully, and you get this pacy winger to perform like Pedro. Very promising.

    • ooga aga
      August 20, 2012

      it was established above that afellay’s lack of inclusion was probably due to his observance of the muslim holiday Eid.

    • August 20, 2012

      But Yaya Toure, who observed Ramadan, played a game with City earlier in the day. Plus, if Afellay celebrated the end of Ramadan, why would he be at the stadium? And he also featured in friendlies during the month of Ramadan too. I didn’t think his exclusion was because of religious reason.

    • hansh
      August 20, 2012

      You could very well be right that his exclusion wasn’t for religious reasons, but I wouldn’t take Yaya as evidence of that. We don’t know how observant/non-observant different players are, and just because one played doesn’t mean the other felt comfortable with that.

      Good point, though, that he was at the stadium. I hadn’t thought of that.

  31. August 20, 2012

    Kxevin, so I was looking at new beIn sport programs, and they have barca tv. Do you think the Qatar shirt sponsorship deal includes barca tv right too? I’m starting to think there’s more to this sponsorship than just the shirt.

  32. August 20, 2012

    Barcelona line-up (official): Pinto – Montoya Bartra Fontas Planas – Espinosa DosSantos S.Roberto – Afellay Villa Deulofeu

    Villa starts! Why not, eh? Let him get some minutes in a friendly match, put on a show for the Camp Nou faithful. He’ll certainly only play a half, if that.

  33. BarcaOwl
    August 20, 2012

    Thanks a lot for the review, Isaiah. It’s sure good to have football to watch once more.

  34. mom4
    August 20, 2012

    Down 0-1 already at the Gamper. 🙁

  35. Artur
    August 20, 2012

    I was very interested in this match so I took notes. Thought I’d share.

    First half.

    Espinosa reading play – Sampdoria was trying to set up and

    attack by shifting Barca midfield around but he read right

    through it and ran right towards Planas, knowing he was

    going to be pulled forward right before it happened .. wow

    Sampdoria goal early in the match (4min)- Deulefeu poor

    defending giving too much Space which lead to an excellent

    cross (not enough pressure on the attacker). Bartra and

    Fontas unable to do anything against a flying header.

    Villa trying too hard when team was 0-1 down osing a lot

    of posession. Overloaded the left flank most of the game

    leaving center unocupied (he was the starting CF)

    Montoya solid match but always outnumbered. Deulefeu was

    always too late to be back at defending. Deuleufeu was

    also ahead of all the players the entire match (on the

    right flank). Because of large distance between him and

    the rest it seemed like he was always on his own on the

    right flank.

    Espinosa very much in the “Iniesta” role .. always making

    runs towards the edge o the box.

    Sergi ROberto in the defensive midfielder role, but he was

    making runs forward himself all game long. Often felt like

    he restrained himself from running all the way to

    opponents box when he remembered he was the DM.

    Deuleufeu does a very neat tiny small step over and

    crosses a great low strong cross to Afellay who can’t tap

    it in. Probably the best chance of the match (13 minutes


    JDS invisible? wouldn’t have known he was playing if I

    didn’t hear commentator mention his name (15 minutes in)

    Sampdoria parking the bus … our midfield just passing it

    back and forth … feems like they pass it to each other

    waiting for somebody to take initiative to trying to solo

    the entire team … eventually Espinosa makes a run

    forward .. but is abruptly pushed to the ground .. no foul


    Most of the play happens on the left flank between

    Espinosa, Afellay and Villa. Barca verloads the left flank

    and leaves Deuleufeu 1on1 on the right flank with a lot of


    Free kick JDS on the right side of the penalty box – right

    in the goalies hands as he tries to go for goal.

    Deuleufeu keeps trying to take on players on the right

    flank 1on1. This time we get a corner out of it.

    Afellay now on the right flank (with Deu). He earns a free

    kick in a dangerous position, Villa takes it and skies it

    high. Afellay back on the left flank (is he roaming?)

    Sampdoria 2nd goal (dissalowed due to offside). Honestly

    that was just pathetic. Attack starts on our left flank.

    Planas gets outplayed 2v2. They pass right through out


    VIlla keeps making passes and run throughs on goal. but

    never recieves that final pass.

    Sergi Roberto crashes the box with all defenders being

    occupied marking out attackers and almost nets Afellay’s

    great cross in. Very good chance. He came out of nowhere.

    Great run by Espinosa, pushed to the ground again. (no

    foul, good tackle)

    Deuleufeu great run and cross, defender almost puts it in

    the back of the net. Another corner from his efforts.

    Deuleufeu starting to make runs towards the (empty) centre

    leaving a lot of space behind him to exploit for somebody.


    Another dangerous 2v1 against Montoya ..Deuleufeu needs to

    start tracking back.

    Pinto great save … Let’s just say it was Fontas’s fault

    who spreads his legs and freezes often.

    Deuleufeu switches flanks with Afellay. (I have a feeling

    this is due to Afellay helping track back more).
    2 mins later Deuleufeu on the right flank with a chance on

    goal and another corner kick …?? they must be switching

    every 2 minutes.

    Good play between Afellay, Villa and Planas who cuts it

    back for Espinosa but we get a corner instead.

    Good chance on a break. 3v3. But Afellay takes a long shot

    (barely misses) instead of passing to wide open Villa or


    ANOTHER break 3v2 this time ! Afellay leading the charge through the middle with Villa and Deuleufeu open on both flanks. He chooses to pass to a more open Deuleufeu who tries to run aroudn the goalkeeper .. but goalkeeper catches it. Pass could’ve been better though.

    Deuleufeu another chance 1 min later hits the post.

    My impressions:

    – Deuleufeu can hold his own alone, doesn’t need support. Always dangerous. If it wasn’t a good cross or a good shot on goal we always get a corner out of his efforts. BUT he’s terrible at tracking back. Sampdoria’s goal is all his fault IMO. Montoya very often handling 2v1s because Deuleufeu is too late to react.

    – Sergi Roberto and Espinosa very brilliant in attack, very poor in defending. Felt like we had 5 forwards with both of them crashing the box and each having more than 1 chance.

    – JDS .. very unimpressive. Not sure why we keep playing him in the DM, always outplayed, no physical presence in defending at all, pushed around .. offered nothing offensivly apart from taking and missing a free kick.

    – Defense sucks. Mainly Fontas and Planas who seem to be very stationary and always get outplayed. Bartra and Montoya often handle 3v2s (somehow). Overall we pressed but very weakly.

    – Villa and Afellay both taking chances, which is great, you can see they’re trying to get back in form. Afellay seemed to be in the middle more than Villa (who kept hugging the left flank all game long)

    • Artur
      August 20, 2012

      I’ve absolutely no idea why the formatting got screwed when I copy pasted from Notepad… sigh

  36. ciaran
    August 20, 2012

    Even though it’s basically Barca B, I’m fairly disappointed with the football. Bar giving the ball to Deulofeu we’ve had no ideas

  37. Artur
    August 20, 2012

    Second Half (I went to bank and came late.. 60 mins into the match)

    Deulofeu now double marked. This leaves a lot of space in the centre.
    Defense as shaky as ever. We’re disposed near our penalty box but it’s offside (Pinto saves anyway)

    Sampdoria break through our weak defense. 1on1 with Pinto. Attacker hits the post Replay shows that attacker catches Bartra in his blind spot. Pass was right between Fontas and Bartra with the later reacting too late. Could’ve been offside but wouldn’t have happened if Bartra wasn’t walking around unaware there’s CF behind him.

    Montoya playing much higher up the pitch now and Planas more conservative. (first half was the opposite)

    Villa 1-2 with Espinosa, could’ve been a chance on goal but Villa is pushed down on the return pass. No penalty.

    Sub 68 mins into the game. Pinto off for Oier. Villa off for Roman (the new guy from City I think). Good subs get our first team players off the pitch. Afellay gets the capt’n band.

    Roman aimlessly running around with no idea where he should go. He’s occupying Villa’s left flank though.

    Deulofeu switches with Roman and comes to left flank. Instantly creates a dangerous opportunity with a 1-2 with Afellay.

    Sub 77 mins into the game, Espinosa off for Lobato. Great match from Espinosa. Always involved everywhere on the pitch.

    Roman and Lobato try to make a chance but end up confusing each other.
    Subs 84 min. JDS off for Illie, Afellay off for Dongou, Planas off for Grimaldo.

    Instant dangerous chance with a long cross on for Dongou. Corner kick .. we can’t make anything off of it though.

    Grimaldo is EVERYWHERE. Instantly joins the attack with his great pace. As we get dispossessed he sprints back and steals the ball. Wow. Love this kid.

    Even though Grimaldo is small he pushes and probes his way through and has tremendous skills on the ball.
    Illie is only a little bit better than JDS at defending. Dongou does a better job (who tracks back a lot)

    My impressions:

    Poor second half overall.

    With Villa and Afellay subed for B teamers we instantly lost any threat we had. Roman is too new, Dongou had only one opportunity. Deulofeu never got the ball. Lobato offered nothing too.

    Grimaldo is one to watch for the future. He’s so young too.

    Villa-Afellay-Deulofeu was very dangerous ESPECIALLY on quick counter attacks. I liked how Afellay would charge in in between those 2 and pick defenses apart. Sergi Roberto with Espinosa provided great support from behind by making a lot of forward runs. We had great crosses this game but not too many great through passes. Villa was the only forward putting a lot of effort into making runs.

    Defense sucked all game. Hard.

    • August 20, 2012

      Thanks for the report. I caught about 25 minutes of the second half. Midfield (couldn’t tell who played there) held the ball for way too long. Sampdoria were very compact and physical; typical Italians. Espinosa, from the few minutes I saw him, was the only one who could receive and pass the ball with one touch. Defense and midfield were really sloppy. Oy, now I’m worried about the B-team!

  38. August 20, 2012

    Defeat?!? At home?!? With a meaningless trophy on the line?!?



    • yana
      August 20, 2012

      Well, it was really Eusebio’s team, you know…

  39. August 20, 2012

    As @Youngcules pointed out on twitter the players out there were Young Cules. No need to be overtly critical of kids (toddlers at the end in the form of Grimaldo/Dongou). They were facing a full fledged Serie A side filled with seasoned professionals and Maxi Lopez. Even then you could see flashes of genius in between. Give them some time..

    • Josep
      August 21, 2012

      1. No one was being overly critical..

      2. Maxi Lopez hehe

      3. Sampdoria is still a Serie B side in my eyes, having not yet played a Serie A game.

  40. August 20, 2012

    Not Deulofeu’s best match, I’d say. But it was part of the learning process for the Puppies. As others have noted, facing a full-fledged Serie A side, with a ref who wasn’t having any of the little fouls, it was an excellent match for them. Now they understand how stuff that works in Segunda, doesn’t work against grownups. Deulofeu particularly.

    There were some very solid scoring chances, but the biggest problem was the Puppies holding the ball too long, which facilitated Sampdoria playing defense. Again, they will learn, and hopefully did.

    Afellay played like a dude trying to play his way into a club. Villa is showing flashes. Lots of runs ignored, which is to be expected. These are the Barca Babies. Fact of the matter is that they were on the front foot, and only lost 0-1 against an experienced, physical Serie A side. Not bad.

    Oh, and Bartra is ready now, I’d say. Fontas is a goner, along with JDS. Afellay I’m not too sure about, but if you figure that ZubiZa was talking about three players being shopped, he’s most likely the third. But we’ll see soon enough, as there are less than two weeks left in the window. Still wouldn’t be surprised to see Afellay stick until January, though sensible Tello and the Song purchase don’t augur good things for 3M.

  41. ElJefe
    August 20, 2012


    Missed you guys in the offseason. Hey, who has the TV rights this year? On Fios I couldn’t find this match on Gol, Deportes, or ESPN3.

    • August 20, 2012

      BeINSport USA has rights to La Liga in the U.S. They also have rights to Italy and France, as well as a few other things. Essentially, they have supplanted GolTV. At present, they’re on DirecTV and Dish Network.

      There are a few renegades that slipped through the cracks. ESPN Deportes has rights to the Spanish SuperCup, for example. But for 99% of matches, if you don’t have DirecTV or Dish, you’re streaming or not watching.

    • Messiah10
      August 21, 2012

      Or going to a bar! 🙂

  42. Dani_el
    August 20, 2012

    They should give Afellay a chance, for this whole season. Taking into account our injuries history and our luck last year, he should find enough minutes and help the team keep competitiveness. Fontas and Dos Santos should be loaned/sold though.
    Does anyone have a link or something where I can see the team’s presentation?

    • chaospheory
      August 21, 2012

      If I could start a petition to keep Afellay for a season, I would. He shows a lot of desire to work for the spot, and has big league and big game experience. I wish, I wish, I wish.

  43. Xingxian
    August 20, 2012

    Hey, question for any US people who are watching with Dish.

    DirecTV is telling me they’re offering beIN Sport USA in HD
    Dish was iffy about confirming this

    Anyone have any info to help me decide who to switch to?

    • August 20, 2012

      Many have investigated this. Go with DirecTV. And there is what MIGHT, I repeat, MIGHT be some news coming for us Comcast subscribers. This was on a TV message board, in a BeINSport thread:

      Comcast is currently working with beIN Sports so that we can offer more European soccer to Xfinity customers. We will keep you up-to-date.
      Thank You


      Whether this is a form letter or a legit reaction to what has apparently been a steady exodus of customers, remains to be seen.
      Also, there is a movement, grassroots at present, that sets Sept. 3 as some sort of mass switching date. The masses revolt!

      The cynic in me says that it will take a lot of people leaving Comcast to make the math make sense. But we’ll see, as three different Comcast reps have popped into this message board with the same response. Could be canned, and just “insert channel here.”

      Here is an excellent story on the situation which, as usual, is more complex than it seems:–sow.html

      And finally, from another story about the situation:

      With thousands of irate customers threatening to leave the cable provider, Comcast Monday held talks with bein Sports USA, the channel that has acquired the rights of Spanish League football (soccer), having deprived its subscribers of the first day of it.

      Bill Gerth, Comcast executive in Philadelphia, let consumers know this afternoon from his Twitter account (@comcastcares):

      “Comcast is currently working with BeinSports more to offer European football to Xfinity customers. We will keep you informed, “Tweeted.

    • Skipper5
      August 20, 2012

      i have beIN in HD on DirectTV so 100% DirectTV has it. Dish i am told does not offer HD 100% of the time i.e u myt watch a match in HD today and not have HD next Sunday. I have heard this thru 3rd parties and cant confirm it as positively as i can confirm that DirectTV has beIN in HD.

    • Messiah10
      August 21, 2012

      I can confirm that the match I watched in a local bar was DirectTv and it was HD. Thank the stars. Before I switched to HD I didn’t know what I didn’t have. Once you have it, it’s hard to go back to the Dark Side.

    • Skipper5
      August 21, 2012

      thats so true, watching non-HD after watching HD is nigh impossible, there is always that gnawing feeling that says “you could be doing much better” 🙂

  44. August 21, 2012

    So everyone is after JDS now? This guy is a creative midfielder but gets cast as either Right Back(Pep’s favorite idea) or defensive midfielder(Tito’s favorite idea) whenever he gets a chance with the first team. And that too against an Italian team. He never stood a chance.

    You can’t write him off until you give him a proper chance. May be a brief substitute role in one of La Liga game in place of Xavi will show whether he can make it at this level. He should relish the oppurtunity to play alongside Iniesta and Busquets.

    • Artur
      August 21, 2012

      I think he either needs to adapt at another position other than CAM or look elsewhere. I don’t see JDS ever getting picked over Thiago and now Sergi Roberto and Espinosa. Let’s not forget Iniesta isn’t retiring anytime soon.
      I used to love the kid, but while others have been increasingly become better he’s been very stale. Wouldn’t want to believe he reached his peak …

    • August 21, 2012

      When did you last see JDS given a role in CAM in the first team? The ones you mentioned – Sergi Roberto and Espinosa, never were asked to play a role which they will never fit into. I think the last time I saw him playing the CAM role in first team was that pre-season friendly against Bayern last season. He looked fine there. Put Thiago, Espinosa and Sergi Roberto in the DM role and watch them fail at that position.

      I am not saying JDS is a great talent. Frankly I don’t know. But it’s better to give him a proper chance before marking him as a failure.

    • August 21, 2012

      The point is, JDS is never going to be first, second, third, or even fourth choice as a central midfielder in this team. There is just no room for him. Those are the cold equations. He either needs to adapt and play a different position or go somewhere else where he will have a chance to play regularly.

  45. Ezequiel
    August 21, 2012

    The issue with JDS playing as a pivote is that the kid has 0 presence when played there. It happened quite a bit during the last season, it happened again vs Sampdoria.

    His positioning is not that bad and he does cover the space in front of the back four. But at the same time he kinda… doesn’t, at least not good enough to protect the back line. The big gap between the defensive lines doesn’t help either.

    • August 21, 2012


    • Ryan
      August 21, 2012

      So, is this the new Pique focused face? 🙂

    • Messiah10
      August 21, 2012

      Best pic ever!

  46. August 21, 2012

    Song presser quotes (Z for ZubiZa, S for Song). Thanks to @barcastuff, @canalbarca and @barcanews23 for the fine work. Most interesting quotes to me in bold:

    Vilanova: “Thanks to Pep and to Keita for these four fantastic years. I wish both of them all the best.”

    Z: “We have the team we wanted since the start of preseason.”

    Z: “Alex Song was the first on the list of possible reinforcements in the midfield. He’s physically, technically and tactically strong.”

    S: “The chance to play at Barca only comes along once in a lifetime. I said yes without hesitation.”

    S: “When you arrive in a new country you have to do all you can to integrate. I plan to learn to talk some Catalan.” (Hleb teaches, even in his absence.)

    S: “The Camp Nou is a magical stadium. I already knew it from playing here with Arsenal, but having it as home ground must be fantastic.”

    S: “It’s a great day for me. I’ve come to a winning club, I will try to do my best to succeed.”

    S: “Happy to be here, Barça is the best club in the world. I’ve already felt this is a family club, it won’t take long to adapt.”

    S: “My kids look up to Messi and talk about him, Barca was an offer I could not refuse. Last week, I was holding renewal talks with Arsenal, but when Barça showed interest, I didn’t doubt. You only get this chance once. Everything went really fast”

    S: “I ​​want to thank the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for allowing me to get here.”

    S: “I want to win titles here. I’m with a team of winners and champions.”

    S: “Messi is the best player in the world. Until now, I could only watch him on TV, now i’ll be able to play with him.”

    S:”I know this a team full of quality players, so it’s up to me to learn and to compete for a spot in the team.”

    S: “Cesc is a good friend of mine, he’s explained many things about the club to me.”

    S: “People comparing me with former Barcelona player Yaya Toure? We are different players, we each have our skills.”

    Z: “Tras la salida de Keita, Preferimos la opción de fichar a un centrocampista antes que un central.” (Interesting. Once Keita left, the club wanted a versatile midfielder.)

    Bartomeu: “The will of the player to come to Barca made ​​things a lot easier. Negotiations were tough but easier than normal.”

    Z: “We did not sign Song for his height, I want to make that clear.”

    S: “I didn’t come here to take Busquets’ place, he’s the best defensive midfielder in the world . I come here to help the team.”

    S: “I can play at centre back too, played there a few times at Arsenal. I’ll play where the coach wants me to play.”

    S: “Madrid is a great team, I respect that, but Barca is the best.”

    S: “Arsenal’s playing style is similar to that of Barcelona and that will help me. I will work hard not to have any adaptation problems.”

    Note: Song chose “Mo Money, Mo Problems,” by the Notorious B.I.G. as his presentation music. He either knows exactly what the song’s title represents, or is blissfully clueless, like the t-shirts sold in Europe and Japan that have nonsense English words on them “MAKE!”

    Anyhow ….

    Song is saying all the right things, but actions speak louder than words.

    Was all the CB talk noise, or did that change once Keita left? Would a sporting director ever say, “Dude was our 6th choice.”

    ZubiZa also said the Puyol renewal is on track, which is great news to hear. Same with Tello, which, particularly after his display of the weekend, is also good news.

    • August 21, 2012

      Did Zubi really say that about not buying Song for his height? 😆

      Apparently Song stayed with Cesc his first night in town (maybe he still is, I don’t know). I have visions of the two of them in their PJs doing each other’s hair, trading stories about how they used to play pranks on RVP, and playing with Cesc’s miniature replica trophies.

    • Dani_el
      August 21, 2012

      LOL Oh Blitz!

  47. Gogah
    August 21, 2012

    on a lighter note, should we be concerned about our most recent purchase Alexandre Dimitri Song?
    Hleb and Chygrynskiy flashback!

    • Josep
      August 21, 2012

      How so?

    • mega_tajh
      August 21, 2012

      lol Alexandre Hleb and Dimitri Chygrynskiy.

  48. Josep
    August 21, 2012

    Still on the fence about Song. Maybe against parked buses we’ll try lining up with him next to Busi?


    Or a flat 4-2-3-1? Iunno. Something like Spain do, helps kill off any counter and means less players getting forward which means a little more space to operate in. Who knows.

    Interesting that Zubi says Song was on top of the list, I don’t know how much truth is in that but I’ll have to believe him.

    Thanks for the insight into the Afellay situation, hadn’t thought of that. We’ll see for Thursday. When healthy we are absolutely stacked.

    I barely watched the match last night; it was even less than a friendly. Just sad Cesc can’t add another trophy to his cabinet 🙁

    • August 21, 2012

      Song is a puzzler to me. In any ilneup for any serious match, I see Busquets/Xavi/Iniesta, unless Song is in the back line and shuttles back and forth. The reason Keita didn’t get as many minutes as his quality deserved was the quality of the people in front of him. Then Fabregas changed that balance even further. It’s the same equation, so I agree with you …. where does Song fit in?

      The ZubiZa comment about Keita leaving necessitating a shift was interesting. Perhaps that moved Song to the top of the list for his abilities in the back line as well as forward in midfield. Seems like he can play any position from back line to forward.

      But there’s also Bartra, who has surely played his way into staying with the first team though not officially a first teamer, like Thiago last year. I hate to say we’re looking pretty stacked and deep, but we kinda are.

    • August 21, 2012

      Bartra IS officially a first-teamer.

    • August 21, 2012

      Wait …. what did I miss? I knew there was talk of him being promoted. Weeelll sheeit! Never mind, then.


    • August 21, 2012

      Bartra, Montoya, Muniesa & JDS were all promoted at the end of last season. Monty is definitely staying & so is Bartra. Muniesa was probably about to be loaned or sold to Ajax, but with his injury he will stay in Barcelona without being registered as a first-team player (although he was at the presentation last night). JDS, as discussed above, is likely leaving.

      (Back to Bartra: Although Fontas is healthy, I think Tito prefers Bartra. Fontas is still on the bubble. I think they are looking for a club for him.)

Comments are closed.