Osasuna 1, Barca 2, aka “Felix didn’t have a bigger bag of tricks!”

“Yeah, it’s another black polo. So?”

Okay. My heart is now back to a normal rhythm, so let’s look at some general impressions of this match. This won’t be a review proper, because I’m streaming, rather than DVRing, but I do know this:

Great galloping Wilfred, how did we pull that one out? Like everyone else in the known Culeverse except for nia, I figured a draw was the best we could hope for, and the evidence was abundant:

–We were terrible
–Our key players were off song
–They were insane, working a game plan to perfection
–The ref was letting (as usual) the more aggressive side dictate play

We were, frankly, in trouble.

And then, somehow, this happened ….

And then this:

So where did this all come fron? Ladies and gents, I bring you my Man of the Match, Tito Vilanova. It’s only two matches into the Liga season, but it sparked a question that I raised on Twitter: Would Pep Guardiola have made those same substitutions?

My initial thought is as my more considered one is: No. But not for any negative reasons. I think that, in his heart, and the reason he isn’t coaching this club right now, is because Guardiola is a Cule. He feels, he understands, he is one of us. He rages against losses and poor play, he gesticulates, he weeps and parties when we win. He believes in his players as he thinks, “Just one minute more …. he has some magic in him. We just need one play …. ” That fire, that joy is why he eased his way into Cule hearts. Kindred spirits.

Vilanova is more cerebral. Players have said that our current coach was the brains of the operation, so to speak, and today was an excellent example, He understood exactly what the match needed, and did it. Xavi brought control, Pedro! brought chaos, Villa brought the threat and movement that gave Messi just enough space from an aggressive, ball-hawking Osasuna defense. We pulled this match out because of the subs.

In a way, a coach has to be heartless to sub a player. Guardiola is bad at it, Wenger is bad at it. And I would argue that you would be hard pressed to find a coach with greater affection for their charges, human beings who are, in reality, living, breathing chess pieces. “He isn’t getting it done. Out.” It’s harsh, but it has the team and its success at heart.

It seemed so obvious to everyone watching what needed to be done, and Vilanova did it. And we won. It seems so simple to say now, that we played 80 minutes of crap and 10 of good, but that’s how it was.

The real question is what happened?

Osasuna lost their minds

They deserved better from this match, and are to be applauded, sincerely, for an outstanding performance. They didn’t come out and play open, slitting their own throats. They came out determined to bleed if necessary for the colors. They contested every pass, made every 50/50 ball a point of severe contention, fouled, pushed, pulled, blocked, dove, did everything in their power to ensure that their club would come out the victor. How they didn’t have 3 or 4 goals is beyond me, their most confounding chance being the “Ohmygoddontgoin” miss that was the result of Busquets getting fancy, and getting tangled up in his feet instead. The result was, in effect, a running penalty kick that went juuuust a bit outside. Craziness.

This was the same team that handed our butts to us on this same ground last season, and they were doing it again until somehow that magical, slow roller trickled across the goal line. Shoulders seemed to slump, and they seemed to lose a step. Then Messi put the knife in, and that was that.

Collective failure is the most damaging

The list of players who were below par was as damaging as it was fascinating: Alves, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Alba, Puyol, Sanchez, Fabregas. It’s a wonder than anything at all happened, really. Iniesta misplaced balls, missed two great scoring opportunities and punted away a pass in midfield that resulted in an exceptionally dangerous Osasuna break. Sanchez held the ball too long, Fabregas struggled in that Xavi role, etc, etc. Was it the mid-week match? Partly. But I think it was also Osasuna. “Too much, too soon,” as the referee says in one of the crazy fight scenes in the movie “Slap Shot.” We’re ready for that kind of aggression in October, not August. And it showed.

So yes, much of why we were playing poorly is that we were forced to play poorly by a determined, amped-up opponent, but it doesn’t explain away everything. Let’s look at the starting lineup, of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba, Busquets, Fabregas, Iniesta, Messi, Sanchez, Tello. Are there answers to be found there?

Tika-taka works because there is always a home base, an apex of a triangle that the ball can always go to. An aggressive, pressing opponent coupled with a midfield “captain” who wasn’t quite sure how to roll in Fabregas, meant that suddenly, we didn’t have triangles. This meant long passes, and balls over the top that were easily headed away by Osasuna defenders. And they herded us into corridors, taking advantage of the lack of attacking width to funnel everything into a forest of feet. Tomorrow at work, assign someone to walk right behind you all the time, and give you a little kick on the Achilles from time to time, and see how productive you are. Defensively, midfield breakdowns halved the distance that an attacking opponent had to travel. But even without that, there was trotting instead of running, and the fateful cross had two of our players as spectators, rather than pressing defensive attackers, reducing the goal to a training pitch exercise. As with almost every goal, there was more than enough blame to go around.

The inevitable Xavi

Xavi entered the match and suddenly, the triangles had a shape. “Ping, ping, ping” went the ball as it always returned, like a yo-yo, to the creator. He moved from side to side, left and right, distributing, receiving, reminding one and all that the system we play is based on simple actions. You don’t take the ball, feint, dribble, stop, feint, dribble then pass it back. You take the pass, slide it to a man who is already thinking about where the ball is going to go next, then you move, reforming a triangle with two other players. Beautiful and logical.

The long knives are out for Fabregas, but it’s important to note that Fabregas has never been that kind of player. No player except for Xavi really is that kind of player. Fabregas ran the offense that he knew how to run, and our attack was the poorer for it. It wasn’t that he was invisible, it was that he wasn’t evident. Xavi is always evident. Fabregas would ping a ball to a player, and never get it back as he placed himself in a position that made it difficult to give it back. He will improve, and learn how to exist in this demanding system.

But Xavi is Xavi.

Great players do great things

The ultimate tyranny of FC Barcelona isn’t that it has great players, but that it has layers of great players. You play your heart out for most of the match, then in come Xavi, Pedro and Villa, 3/11ths of the Spain NT lineup. And there is Messi, laying in the long grass, so to speak, just waiting for a chance to kill you. Look at the semi-falling stab at the ball that he had to make to prod it over the goal line for that first goal, then the exuberant rocket that left the keeper helpless for the second. Two delightful goals that were also out of the ordinary goals, even as he has taught us that the extraordinary looks pretty ordinary sometimes.

Villa is somebody who you have to mark. You can let Tello get the ball then deal with him, because you know that he has to make a run. He isn’t going to kill you by curling a shot from some silly angle, or slide something over to a teammate, like Villa. That worry creates space, and that space is there to be exploited by great players.

And suddenly, it’s 2-1.

So what do we know?

Not much, really. Vilanova has a vision, but how his team will implement that vision remains to be seen. We applauded the direct, fast-moving, attacking style against Real Sociedad. Then a pair of SuperCopa ties meant that tomorrow always had to be taken into consideration, as we don’t really have two first-class starting XIs, so rest and thoughtful rotation was key. I don’t think we will really see that RSO team again until after the international break, when we don’t have a match every 2-3 days.

We know that Vilanova seems more willing to substitute than Guardiola, but this might be because he hasn’t really settled on his choice XI yet. Or it might well be that he won’t really have a choice XI, that it will be situational, Alba for some matches, Adriano for others. Time will tell.

Don’t be countin’ no chickens

Yes, we have a 5-point Liga lead over the other member of the Big Two. So what? Talk to me in May, preferably the end of May. There are many matches to be played, many points to be dropped by both clubs. Does it augur well for them that they only dropped 14 points all of last season, and have already dropped 5? No more than it did for us, the year of the Treble.

But today, we pulled one out of the fire. Whether this turns out to be the kind of fate-determining match that Great Teams Win, remains to be seen. For today, let’s just celebrate a win, as unlikely as it seemed for so long, which made its emergence seem all the more magical, tricks done by our wee sprites.

And for now, what a team, what a win, which I prefer to look at this way: If a supermodel walks up and starts spoon-feeding you chocolate ice cream, are you really going to question how it’s happening?


The length of time that Puyol will be lost to us due to his fractured cheekbone is yet to be determined. Some are already saying “See!? Shoulda brought a CB!” Pique picked an excellent time to be himself again. And if the rumored 6 weeks is true, the injury might have bought Fontas a reprieve until January.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. olbucky
    August 26, 2012

    Kxevin, great non-review and great point about Fabergas not being Xavi. I was trying to make that point during half time in the live blog although not as well. I never like it when Cesc and Iniesta are in the midfield at the same time. They play similar games and neither play the Xavi role like Xavi does. Thiago is the player that best fills the void when Xavi isn’t in the line up. When Pedro came in and Messi was pulled back into a deeper role I was wondering if Tito was going to experiment with Messi in Xavi’s role. I’ve know it’s blasphemy to take Messi off the front line but Messi is the only one that could do Xavi’s job as well as Xavi. It was like night and day once Xavi came on. What a game…

  2. August 26, 2012

    Get well soon puyi..
    Oooh but the thought of seeing fontas/bartra play in the back is exciting even just as subs. Now let’s hope no one will join our capitan in the injured list.
    Not the most ideal performance for us but happy for the win nonetheless.
    Btw, has anyone seen Tito smile yet? 😉
    Oh and if Tito wants to make the “dark plain polo” his signature look, I’m okay with that. I guess better plain than in flowery or tribal prints. 😉

  3. yana
    August 26, 2012

    “Would Pep Guardiola have made those same substitutions?”

    I have this funny mental image of a “Super-Secret Journal of Tito Vilanova 2008 – 2012” that consists entirely of “OMG Pep You Need to Sub! Subs before the 87th minute!” 🙂

    • August 26, 2012

      Pep would have, but 20 minutes later, and we would have run out of time before they could have an impact.

      I am actually very encouraged by Tito’s willingness to make the right subs at the right time.

      • Just like Kevin said, Guardiola probably thinks “Just one minute more… he has some magic in him. We just need one play …”

        3 consecutive wins for Tito Vilanova. Good start 😉

  4. Lev
    August 26, 2012

    Nice one Kxevin AKA best reviewer on the planet… But how come you didn’t write anything I disagree with??

    • August 26, 2012

      Seriously, the review feels almost incomplete without anythig for me to complain about.

  5. Lev
    August 26, 2012

    btw I forgot to say: anytime Leo wants to play badly and score two goals he is welcome to it 🙂

  6. alpinegroove
    August 26, 2012

    Let’s not forget that we got big help from the ref as well. Alexis was clearly offside at the beginning of the first goal play, and playing against 10 would have probably made things easier for the team even without the substitutions.
    I agree that Guardiola would have waited longer, but in my opinion, TV waited too long.
    Alexis played an important role in the first goal, but he was caught offside way too often. In general, his finishing isn’t great (except for in the clasicos). My guess is that we are going to see a lot of the MVP front line this season. Alexis needs more time to be ready as a starter.

    • Josep
      August 26, 2012

      I thought “these things even out over time” or so we were told as decision after decision went Madrid’s way.

      Messi and co were WRONGLY ruled offsides 3-4 times, and one extra time in injury time. I don’t feel bad about Sanchez not being ruled offside. He had gotten it wrong all match on several close ones.

      Most of the offsides weren’t even the runners fault, the pass was too late. I know, time your run, but the ball was late to leave the feet on several occasions. I hate how teams can be “aggrieved” when we get a big decision, but no one talks about the several ones that went against us.

      • alpinegroove
        August 26, 2012

        I also want to believe that overtime these even out (Mou certainly doesn’t believe that. When complaining about Pedro’s goal in the Super Cup, he forgot to mention that RM benefited from a wrong offside call against Valencia).
        All I was trying to say is that we got lucky today, though we were also unlucky earlier in the match (Iniesta’s miss). Offside calls can often go either way (like Pedro’s goal on Thursday), but a straight red for protesting and insulting in such a close game is ridiculous, in my opinion, as was Tito’s being sent off.

  7. Tarik
    August 26, 2012

    Slept through this match…and kind of glad as it seemed we played very poorly.

    5 points on EE is a big deal in my opinion. It’s too early to tell, points will be dropped, etc. but they just don’t have the capacity for consistency that they had last season. I am gonna go ahead and predict that we maintain at least a 2 point lead for the remainder of the season. I hope I am awarded cake if this proves valid.

  8. Josep
    August 26, 2012

    Your man of the match was sent off for dissent, by the way. No mention?

    • August 26, 2012

      It didn’t really rate for me. It was, if we are to believe Vilanova’s explanation, for a very benign protest. Didn’t matter to the match for me.

  9. August 26, 2012

    Just saw me some Getafe highlights. Worth noting that the “Get us Casillas!” tribe will find that he didn’t exactly cover himself in glory on that first goal, the kind of reflex save that Valdes often makes.

    • nia
      August 27, 2012

      even Pinto i’ve seen make saves from that header.

      • Messiah10
        August 27, 2012

        I rate Pinto very highly. I know he’s not as good as VV playing the ball out of the back, but I think he’s a great shot stopper, reacts well to balls in the air from crosses and corners, and has a toughness to him I like. I wouldn’t want any other number 2 in case some freak accident happens to VV. Both have their own qualities.

  10. Srini
    August 26, 2012

    Nice writeup, Kxevin. It is amazing that you come up with such gems in such short time.

    Some points –

    * It is true that Barca managed 1 point in 2 games and then won the treble in 08-09 but they hadn’t to contend with an opposition of the Barca kind as EE has to do. 5 points lost so early are going to be a burden for them – incidentally they did so in their third/fourth games last season, but so did Barca.

    * Cesc should have played in the Iniesta role than the Xavi role. But I think it is good that he is being blooded there now rather than later in the crunch.

    * Busquets’ workload is unbelievably high. Song will soon have to fill in. Will Song start in the Bernabeu? It is likely.

    * Puyol is an ironman. Incredibly over-aggressive of the Osasuna player to elbow him in the cheek. Amazing that he played on as if it was a mosquito-bite.

    * Barca miss Thiago as much as the U-23 squad missed him in the Olympics. Suddenly the “excess” in midfield does not seem so much. With Keita’s departure and Thiago’s injury and Xavi’s impending “geriatry”, it seems to be a new little headache.

    * So nice to see Getafe and Osasuna (nearly) having the big two on the mats. And they played so well. Not just simple parking the bus and counter-attack, but very determined attacking play. What great advertisement for the Liga. If only Spain gets out of its Euro-blues financial situation soon.

    * Hey, VJ.. What a day it has been for us, eh?

    • Srini
      August 26, 2012

      Umm.. one more thing

      * Valencia drew 3-3 against Depor on a day when Barca and Madrid had it tough. Reminded me of the early 2000s… when these two were as big as the Big two.

    • August 27, 2012

      This sorta day comes along once in a looong long time. Everything going right..

  11. August 26, 2012

    Messidependicia? After this match I’m more worried about Xavidependicia.

    Fabregas took a beating from the peanut gallery after this match for a couple reasons. No, he wasn’t the only player who played poorly today – for my money I thought Busquets had a particularly terrible match, but I think this had more to do with the fact that without Xavi he was asked to play too big of a role in coordinating and controlling the midfield.

    Cesc takes a particular beating because many, many people were 100% sure he would be the ideal replacement for Xavi. Of course, no one is a replacement for Xavi but I think a lot of people are disappointed in how big the gap is between their expectations for him and his performance on the pitch. I’ll go a step further and say I don’t think, at this moment, he is suited to playing in the midfield for us.

    A large part of his struggles have to do with the role he played at Arsenal – he was an attacking midfielder who had 100% freedom to roam and be the primary (only?) creative force in the Arsenal side. This is in line with Wenger’s methods of training – he doesn’t teach tactics as rigidly as say, Pep did. He prefers to put players in certain situations in practice and have them find their own solutions. Cesc is the perfect product of this system – a player who when given the freedom further up field can destabilize a defense almost single-handedly, but a player who isn’t tactically strong.

    If you look at Cesc’s performances since moving to Barcelona all of his best performances have come when he had a free role further up field. A main reason for the 3-4-3, with all it’s flaws, was to give Cesc a more free role higher up the field. He performed excellently at the beginning of the season and racked up a bunch of goals and assists. In the latter half of the season Guardiola moved away from the 3-4-3 and tried to utilize Cesc in the classic midfield. Cesc struggled.

    Then you look at his performances with the national team this summer. He played as a striker and did a very good job. A lot of people have said this was because he was playing as a false 9, but if you watch his movements and runs, especially in the final, he was really playing more as a traditional 9 (zonal marking wrote a great article about this). His runs were intelligent, destabilizing, and generally excellent.

    But when I think about the games he has played in Barcelona’s traditional 3 man midfield I have a hard time thinking of a single one that I would classify as above average. When the problem is that pervasive I’m inclined to believe that his skill set and mindset just (again, at this time) aren’t suited to playing in our midfield. It’s hard to tell where Cesc would fit best because the role he played at Arsenal doesn’t exist in the 4-3-3 formation Barcelona plays, but also because Messi takes on a lot of responsibilities that Cesc would have if he were playing that role.

    So what to do? The obvious solution is to retrain him so he can slot into our midfield – not as Xavi lite, but as a midfielder who can control a match in his own way. the other solution is to find a role for him that can take advantage of his unique skills and approach. I think at best Vilanova will use both approaches.

    Honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing Vilanova use Cesc in the same way del Bosque did at the Euros once in a while. The team has run into situations where the lack of a center forward has been apparent and detrimental. As much as people loved to hate it at the time, Cesc really did put in a classy performance or two as a center forward in the Euros. I wouldn’t use it very often, but if Cesc is sitting on the bench and Vilanova feels the need to change things up, maybe striker Cesc can be that elusive plan B…

    • Absolutely right. you will never be able to replace Xavi nor Iniesta. There are world class players. We never replaced Ronnie, but evolved the system to fit in with other class players available.

    • Messiah10
      August 27, 2012

      I completely agree with dependence on Xavi, but look who scored the goals. Again. Messi. We missed 2 clear cut chances(Iniesta) early on that would have helped put this game to bed. Instead we have to fight it out and exert every ounce of energy we have to win. In the end we had to rely on Messi to put the ball in the back of the net. Granted, Pedro and Villa came on late, so they probably would’ve buried those chances.

  12. Barcathegreatestever
    August 26, 2012

    Very enjoyable review! This match was hard to watch with recollections of last years struggles down the stretch. Real Madrids unspectacular play in similar conditions is a good barometer for how tough things were. It seems almost every team in the league can beat the leaders on a given day. Barca played brilliantly in the end and Messi had to have shredded the last hopes of Ronaldo supporters for pinching the Balon d’ Or. Cesc carried the team in last years Supercopa now Pedro has put the team on his own back, instrumental for three huge wins. So happy for Pedro. So happy Mourinho is looking at a 5 point gap

  13. cliveee
    August 26, 2012

    Phewww, wow, what a win.

    Every single thing was against us. The sun, our away kits, our fitness, Osatuna’s fire. Man, what a match to make me think, Liga is such a fun league (adding to a huge Getafe home win).

    We got lucky. It could be 3-0 for them before the subs came in and even 2-0 would have given us a much more hopeless atmosphere in such hostile ground. Coach made the right subs, impact came in almost instantly, and suddenly, Messi found space, Alexis got more runs to make and the engine is back to normal when Xavi allocate resources more evenly.

    Xavi’s pass to Alba is definitely a visionary idea. He could have made a long pass to the right side for Dani Alves, but he made 2 little steps to draw the left side open, and slid the pass to Alba. Alba had more than enough time to take the ball, look up and found Messi open. Of course, running a man down for the tunas also had huge influence on their “mark that little man out at all cost” plan, but the idea of Xavi utilizing our wingbacks are key for our engine to run. Busquets is learning this thing and has been pretty good at it now, but not Iniesta and Fabregas. Yes, Xavi is Xavi.

    • August 27, 2012

      Not quite the Osa-tuna you thought of, right? We clearly didn’t grill them 😀

  14. Ok, my 10 cents worth of opinion(it’s just ten cents, so don’t kill me)

    1) Cesc Fabregas cannot and should not be asked to play Xavi role. He sucks staying as a deep lying midfielder. I have said it many times that he is not your typical CM. He is a very advanced attacking midfielder. In last 5 years before joining Barca, he made the maximum number of assist by a midfielder in whole of Europe. It says something – he likes to play in a position where that final pass can be laid off. So Vilanova screwed himself up by not putting Iniesta in xavi’s role.

    2) Playing Cesc and Iniesta in middle could be risky. But a total no-go is playing Cesc in Xavi’s role and Busquets in DM role. Busquets will be pounded by opposition midfielders. Cesc will not present an outlet for him. So he in turn put Pique and Puyol under pressure. And that was the story of last night. I have never seen Alves tiring out but that happened yesternight. That was precisely he was covering two position(himself + cesc) for the whole night.

    3) Xavi’s deep lying role is very important for our set up. I still believe Iniesta could play that and should have asked to play that last night. Out of all the youngsters I only see JDS having the ease to play such a deep lying midfielder role. that’s why I keep asking not to write him off before giving a good go at the Xavi role along with other starting players.

    4) Sanchez needs to be benched. No offense intended. But the fun in seeing him play has gone. When he came in the start of last season, he was really a terror on that left side, opening the width. But after his impact on the first La Liga Clasico at Bernebeu, he is staying in a more central role. It has two problems. It negates the brilliant Alves’ attacking threat as he cannot play the quick 1-2 and open up the wing. Since he remain static, there is no switching happening b/n Messi and himself. So it becomes easy for opposition to mark Messi. So please put Pedro on the right and Villa on the left for the mid week fixture. Or even better – put Villa in the middle, Pedro on the left and Messi on the right and watch Messi and Alves.

    5) Pedro he is really back to his usual self. This guy has to be played in such high intensity matches where we have to peck back the opposition. And more over he help the defense so much.

    And any idea when King could resume action. I am already missing his pace in defense.

  15. Carter
    August 27, 2012

    Hey first time to post, I only registered because I had a interesting idea.

    Maybe instead of forcing Fabregas into a Xavi-esque (no one will be Xavi) role, adapt Busquets into that position. In the past, when team are focused on disrupting Xavi, Busquets has often taken the load in possession. If Busquets is to transition towards the playmaker role, Song’s addition to the club makes sense; as Busquets moves up to midfield with either Iniesta or Fabregas, Song fills the defensive mid role.

    • simple_barcafan
      August 27, 2012

      Welcome. I agree with you in regards to that Busquets not Iniesta or Fabergas should be slotted in Xavi’s role. Busquets in fact has the perfect skill set to slot into that position. But unfortunately he is TOO good in the DM position. He forced THE GREAT YAYA out of the team, and I might go as far as to say that he changed the structure of the Spanish NT itself, from a Aragones 4-3-3 to a 4-2-3-1, which del Bosque used to accommodate both him and Alonso.
      He is too important for Barca in that position. And that position is extremely important for a team that has such a attacking formation as Barca. So unless, Song performs as well as him, which I highly doubt, Tito will be reluctant to change his position. The other more likely solution is to make Iniesta/Cesc or Iniesta/Thiago or Thiago/Cesc combo to fill the role. The team has to evolve. Right now none can replicate Xavi, leaving Busquets. If I want to gamble, I would say JDS resembles Xavi the most among the B teamers.

    • The simple thing – do not tinker with something which is working fine. You may end up disturbing the whole system.

  16. Kimcelona
    August 27, 2012

    Few discrepancies:

    – Why do you talk as if only Osasuna had chances in the first half? Umm, we had about 3 guilt-edged opportunities in the first half, including a one-on-one Alexis should have put away before Osasuna’s goal and the open net Iniesta miss.
    So what’s all this talk about Osasuna could have been 3 or 4 goals up (must be exageration)? Well, so could we.

    In all honesty, I can only remember about 3 really dangerous opportunities for Osa, where I thought they should have/could have scored (before Barca’s wake up). One resulted in a goal, the other was a muck up by one of their players after being gifted an opportunity by Busi’s bafoonery. The only other was saved by VV.

    – Osasuna played well but that was helped by Barca playing badly. I’m still of the mindset that its early in the season, I dont expect the players to be on-form and fully in-sync as yet.

    – Why do fans talk of other teams “deserving” something out a match they didnt win?
    I’ve basically stopped having sympathy for any other team apart from Barca. Harsh I know, but who cares if they played great and lost? They didn’t score enough goals to win.

    – For me, Alba didnt have a “below-par” match.

    Anyways, after my initial euphoria at EE’s loss, I’ve come back down to earth and acknowledged that a 5 point lead with only 2 games played is really nothing. I’d prefer it after the Christamas break. We have Valencia next week after a potentially draining midweek game vs EE and then we have that darned Getafe after the international break, AWAY!

    • August 27, 2012

      We had one gilt-edged chance, the ball that Iniesta put over the net, improbably. The Sanchez chance was easily stopped by their keeper, as he really had only that lane to shoot in. Iniesta had another shot, but from distance he is rarely going to to beat a quality keeper. And sorry, but they smacked our butts all over the pitch, and were consistently more dangerous, particularly on counters, something we still haven’t sussed out using Tello’s pace to facilitate.

      • Kimcelona
        August 27, 2012

        “We had one gilt-edged chance, the ball that Iniesta put over the net, improbably.”

        Disagree. I counted 3 or 4. Doesnt matter if they were saved or the opportunity was dashed. The point is they were opportunities (which can be argued would have been put away any other day).
        And no need to apologize for your opinion. If they did smack our butts all over the pitch, wouldnt they have won yesterday? Nope, they didn’t.

  17. simple_barcafan
    August 27, 2012

    Excellent review Kxevin. It is seems weird that there is nothing I can disagree with..Very good insight of why Pep “might” have made late substitutions…

  18. Jared10
    August 27, 2012

    I agree with everyone about Xavi. As soon as he came in it was like watching a new team…an organized efficient/brilliant team. The Barca we all know and love! That being said though, its a major problem that we seem to need Xavi. With Tello on the the first team, Pedro’s back, Villa’s coming back…we won’t be as Messi reliant (theoretically). However, Tito needs to experiment with different ways to control the midfield when Xavi is resting. Cesc simply isn’t good enough at the role (taking nothing away from him, but he’s way better up front)That aside, what an entertaining game to watch! It nearly drove me crazy, but I had a feeling they could pull it off 🙂

    • Messiah10
      August 27, 2012

      We did that last year and it effectively killed our chances of Liga. I’d prefer to keep it safe and experiment in the Copa. I value the trophy, but not as much as Liga & CL. Really, I’m stating the obvious though.

  19. flyzowee
    August 27, 2012

    Is Tito going to miss the valencia game after his sending off?

    • Messiah10
      August 27, 2012

      Good point. However, with technology these days, no one’s truly cast away from the game. There’s always cell phones, walkie talkies, preparation before the game and half time.

  20. Gogah
    August 27, 2012

    Just to clear things up…

    No one is asking Cesc to be Xavi. Cesc can’t be Xavi in the way that Pedro can’t be Messi.

    We only ask that Cesc try to control the midfield in HIS OWN WAY. He not only seems reluctant to do so which is evident from his propensity to go into hiding, but also seems embarrassingly incapable.

    I think the boy has been too conditioned and I’m convinced that, in THIS SYSTEM, his only place, if you try to look for it, is in the front three.

    • August 27, 2012

      Some contradictions here. So you want Cesc to control the midfield in “his own way,” in “this system,” which has been implicitly designed for Xavi to orchestrate for a few years now. Through deduction, Cesc has to be Xavi?

    • Gogah
      August 27, 2012

      Sharp observation but that is exactly why I cited the propensity to hide aspect of his play as the primary criticism.
      Its true that ‘this system’ needs a xavi role, but it does not need xavi. I’ve seen Iniesta play that role to devastating effect, with a lot of us proclaiming him as the heir. Thiago has played that role of owning the midfield in some games. Its just that Xavi does it exceedingly well, consistently, like a machine.
      I’ve never seen cesc boss the midfield for barca.
      He doesn’t need to be Xavi. In his own way he can be more proactive and supportive (football-wise).

    • simple_barcafan
      August 27, 2012

      Read this somewhere: A frustrated madrid fan was blaming Ronaldo in her post and ended the comment saying “What is Ronaldo waiting for?
      Some one had replied “Waiting to take his penalty kick against Spain..”

  21. Judas Pissed
    August 27, 2012

    I’m confused as to why EE sign Luka Modric (5 goals in 40 games in his last season in England) for £33million and let Nuri Sahin (8 goals in 40 games in his last season in Germany) go out on loan for free..?

    • flyzowee
      August 27, 2012

      Does it matter?
      Hes a top top player who will bring some composure to that mess of a midfield that EE currently have.

    • Bill
      August 27, 2012

      Its simple really. Madrid go for the flavor of the season. If you happen to do something amazing last season, they want you. If someone else does something great this season, they will lose interest in you and go for him. This is why they would go for Schneijder, them get rod of him for Kaka, then displace Kaka with Oezil, then bring on Sahin to provide what Oezil can’t, then lose interest in him in favor of Modric.

  22. Messiah10
    August 27, 2012

    “How they didn’t have 3 or 4 goals is beyond me”

    . . . because their Osasuna.

  23. Xavi6
    August 27, 2012

    Modric is a player that can do things that no midfielder in EE can make : He can defend properly , he can attack , he has a vision and can produce defense splitting passes , his stamina is much better than Ozil who lasts only for 60 minutes against us + he can be Alonso’s heir.

    I think Mourinho will play Modric in Ozil’s place in Clasicos to pressure Busquets and the defence with the idea of providing assists to the forward trio on the break .

    • Xavi6
      August 27, 2012

      Sahin did not go for free , and he will learn a lot in the EPL , IMO it’s a shrewed piece of business from the EE management .

    • Do you really think Modrid can defend. I don’t think so. I have seen him playing for Spurs a lot of time. His distribution, vision all are great but defensively I think he is a bit weak.

  24. August 27, 2012

    Players have said that our current coach was the brains of the operation, so to speak

    Not that I’m doubting anything that’s been written, but I’d really like to know all who said this.

    And I would argue that you would be hard pressed to find a coach with greater affection for their charges, human beings who are, in reality, living, breathing chess pieces.

    This! In fact its much easier in Chess, where players can sacrifice pieces, without having to think what the piece will feel like afterwards. Detachment helps in some cases.

    Tomorrow at work, assign someone to walk right behind you all the time, and give you a little kick on the Achilles from time to time, and see how productive you are

    All of us already have someone like this. We know them as ‘Bosses’ 😛

    If a supermodel walks up and starts spoon-feeding you chocolate ice cream, are you really going to question how it’s happening?

    Come on Kxevin, I thought you were familiar with The Way of the Culé. Someone somewhere will complain about whatever that is happening, no matter how good things actually are 😀

  25. Messiah10
    August 27, 2012

    Was anyone else expecting a yellow card for the nasty hit on Puyol? Pique picked 1 up a few minutes before that and his was much cleaner and an attempt to play the ball. That was ridiculous. Also, did beInsport show the player sent off for dissent? I didn’t see it? I saw some protests, but that was it. If they did I’ll give them a pass, but if not, they need to get their act together.

    • Messiah10
      August 27, 2012

      I should explain that I can’t hear commentary, so maybe the announcers mentioned it. Probably did. However, I never saw the player highlighted and the red card graphic below his name.

    • nzm
      August 27, 2012

      I think that the feed is taken from the same filming source – doesn’t matter who the end provider is. Our GolT Spanish feed certainly didn’t show it – it wasn’t until we read an after-match review that we realised that an Osasuna player had been sent from the pitch.

      We saw Tito leaving the pitch, but didn’t see the card.

      On the whole, the camera work was pretty dismal – compacted by the appalling light conditions in the stadium as the cameras struggled to deal with the bright sunlight and dark shadows.

      Also, the Barca away strip is ghastly when it comes to trying to pick out the players. From a distance it’s too bright, in contrast to players’ faces, and the dark numbers on the shirt backs cannot be read.

      The only one that I could see with some clarity was Iniesta because of his pale skin. Perhaps that’s why his play (or lack of) stood out more when compared to the others! 😀

      • Messiah10
        August 27, 2012

        Haha. Completely agree. Those kits are so awful. What were they thinking? So we saw the same broadcast. I wasn’t sure if I’d missed something or if they chose not to air it because they were to busy showing highlights and didn’t catch it. I could make out Busi and Pique, but trying to distinguish Messi, Cesc, Tello, & Alba was tough. I really just went based off position, but with us that doesn’t help so much. I did see Tito moving off the pitch, but I thought he was taking a personal timeout! lol

  26. nzm
    August 27, 2012

    Winning games like this is what wins leagues. It’s not the commanding 5-0 total domination matches – it’s the scrappy, come-from-behind, eke-out-the-win, get-a-little-bit-of-luck encounters which are the deciders. It would be nicer for my heart if they were all 5-0 wins, though!

    The pitch was bobbly with long grass, but there should not be any more excuses from Barca about pitches like these – they have to get used to them, and they have to learn to play on them. At least it was better than the frozen, green-painted ice-rink that they encountered in last season’s Liga match.

    All credit to Osasuna: they pressed, ran their hearts out, took turns at fouling and chased the ball like demented terriers.

    The Barca ball carriers had no time to decide what to do before there was at least one Osasuna player on them – even Iniesta was caught out from behind on a couple of occasions.

    Each time a Barca triangle formed, two Osasuna players arrived to make it difficult and close it down.

    Also can’t discount the influence of the homecrowd – they bayed and brayed for almost the entire match: shouting, whistling, booing and calling for cards for Barca fouls. With the crowd so close to the pitch, it definitely impacts the play. But again, Barca has to get used to that.

    It seems that the team suffers from the same maladies, season after season. Good to see impact subs coming on a bit earlier, though.

  27. replayed
    August 27, 2012

    Late to the party, but just want to say that this piece is a beautiful piece of writing, Kxevin, with style and insight.

    • August 27, 2012

      Aw, shucks …. thanks to you and everyone else for the kind words. I sorta miss being a biased jackass. 😀

    • elacule
      August 27, 2012

      i agree with this, and feel compelled to share one of my favorite lines:

      “You play your heart out for most of the match, then in come Xavi, Pedro and Villa, 3/11ths of the Spain NT lineup. And there is Messi, laying in the long grass, so to speak, just waiting for a chance to kill you.”

      Lion-el Messi, in the long grass, waiting for his chance. I was laughing, seeing his mane, his careful watchfulness, his instant springing to the neck of the hapless antelope.

      lately i have been musing about “We’re all gonna die!!!” (isnt’ that your mantra, Kxevin?) – and realized it’s got a sweetness to it. we are all gonna die, and that makes these moments even more brilliant, delectable, desirable. mmmmmm. enjoy.

      visca el Barça!

  28. olbucky
    August 27, 2012

    During the bein broadcast Phil Schoen said that they would have more announcements on September 7th about more cable providers carrying the network. Hopefully Verizon is next. It seems progress is being made. All good news.

    • August 27, 2012

      DirecTV was the big on. With 21m subscribers, it’s hard to ignore that. Pay TV companies are losing subscribers in droves. In their heyday, they would have scoffed at a couple thousand folks flying the coop. Now? Not so much.

      So when DirecTV got it, irrespective of any consumer unrest, Comcast was going to get it as soon as it could, because DirecTV is their direct competitor. The folks attached to smaller companies that aren’t Comcast subsidiaries will be okay, eventually.

      The biggest question, I think (I would LOVE to know the terms of the deal) is the per-subscriber cost. Despite what anybody from BeIN says, new channels such as that have to buy their way onto the dial, until they have the marketing might to make different demands. Viacom found out the hard way. So have some other channels.

      Another goad for Comcast is that once people switch, they don’t switch back. So leaving for DirecTV means that customer is almost certainly gone to Comcast forever. Adding BeIN became an eventual no-brainer.

  29. August 27, 2012

    For those who don’t follow Euler on Twitter (@euleri) he’s dropping some thoughts about how Osasuna made us play poorly, mostly by pressuring Valdes and flooding the midfield, forcing long passes that were then battled for by their pushed-up back line.

    Hey, kinda sounds like stuff that WE used to do, doesn’t it? 😀

  30. simple_barcafan
    August 27, 2012

    42 million euros for Luka…wow..

    • AJ_10
      August 27, 2012

      42? Source please?? I’m hearing around 30?

  31. August 27, 2012

    I disagree slightly with this Tito/Pep sub situation. I don’t think it’s fair to have a general sweeping comparison between the two. You can say Tito has managed three official games with Barca or you can say Tito has (co)managed this team for about 5 years now. He has gained a whole lot of understandings regarding this team’s needs. Pep didn’t have that luxury during his first year or second or third (in terms of experience that Tito has now). I’m more inclined to say that Tito is on Year 5 of managing this team, so it’s natural (and expected for me) that he gets more things right than wrong.

    If Pep still managed this team, maybe he would have made the same subs at the appropriate time yesterday. We’ll just never know though. Recall Pep pulled Xavi out of last April’s clasico, that was pretty heartless to me.

    And if I can remember from last week’s clasico review thread, you were agreeing with Cliveee about Tito’s late substitutions and how it was not a good idea. Sometimes, Tito gets it right, sometimes he doesn’t.

    Anyway, lovely read. Don’t mind me disagreeing on some minor points 😀

    • August 27, 2012

      No worries. There are certain people I expect to disagree. My comment on Vilanova’s substitutions is that they came earlier than Guardiola’s, as a rule, precisely (my opinion) because of Guardiola’s belief in the athletes that he has placed on the pitch.

      Vilanova wasn’t in charge of substitutions when Guardiola was in charge, though he could, obviously, make suggestions. Now that he is fully in charge, even after only two matches, the pattern of earlier subs is emerging. Guardiola did a lot by feel, the intuition that he so often cited as the motivation behind some decisions.

      Sometimes, every coach gets it right, and sometimes, they don’t. It could also be argued that the 3 subs were obvious because they were pretty much the only options.

      When Guardiola pulled Xavi, it was because he was clearly struggling to perform physically, rather than being physically fine, but just not getting it done. I think the two situations are rather different. Frankly, I prefer Vilanova’s style. If you aren’t performing, get off the pitch and let’s try somebody else.

      People ragged and ragged on Guardiola for making substitutions too late in the match, or too late to do any real good. Vilanova is clearly different. As I noted above, we will have to see if he settles into a reliable pattern, once he understands the players that he has and what they can do.

      Also, this team has very different needs than the Guardiola teams, as opponents are playing against it differently. Look at the pressing of Valdes and the back line, and the chaos that wrought. That presents a different set of management complexities to solve. Vilanova is a different coach than Guardiola. The record will show whether he is better or worse.

      • August 28, 2012

        He has managed three important games if you counted the first leg super copa. So that’s a small sample to conclude his subbing pattern. I’m going to wait for the season to conclude before I can say his subs and timing in general are better than Pep’s. Though, if Tito starts subbing Messi this season, then I’ll revise my opinion.

        Yes, I agree that Tito is more cerebral and logical in contrast with Pep’s managing style, which is more emotional and abstract (to a certain extent). If Pep manages with poetry, I think Tito manages with prose.

  32. AJ_10
    August 27, 2012

    Nice write up Kxevin. Totally agree.

  33. Lev
    August 27, 2012

    btw, I can’t be the only person to have noticed Valdes’ reluction to pass the ball yesterday. Boy oh boy did he boot every ball that came his way as far as possible!

    • nzm
      August 27, 2012

      That was to do with the Osasuna pressure – they were hustling Valdes with their high play and relentless running after the ball. They were aiming to capitalise on any Barca errors.

      Thankfully, Victor saw fit to boot it out rather than play around, but it also meant that the ball was often gifted back to Osasuna – something which doesn’t happen a lot when VV can play it out properly.

  34. Helge
    August 27, 2012

    I dislike to see Bilbao suffer so hard… but their defense is really atrocious!
    Can it all be down to the lack of Javi Martinez?

    I’d love to see Bilbao battling for the EL places, but without Martinez and Llorente, that seems presumptuous :-/

    • nzm
      August 27, 2012

      Horrible, wasn’t it? Out-muscled by Atleti, that’s for sure. Bilbao players were being bounced off the ball and falling over faster than Alexis, but without the diving. They didn’t even have the energy to complain.

      The stigma of being up against a team (which beat them in the Europa final) at a ground (where they were beaten by Barca in the CdR final) must have played on their minds, because they were almost stationary at times.

      I was surprised to see Aduriz playing for them the other day – I hadn’t realised that he had left Valencia.

      Bilbao did have a big game about 4 days ago in the Europa qualifiers – 6-0 at home vs. Helsinki. Aduriz scored 2.

      • replayed
        August 27, 2012

        What kills me though is that this Atleti team will be nowhere to be seen when Real Madrid come calling. They’ll just roll over and present their throat. But you can bet that Falcao will go on a rampage when Barca are in town. Sigh.

        • Ryan
          August 27, 2012

          El Tigre scored on both Barca and Madrid last year, actually. It’s just that it’s been so long that that Madrid derby has been anything but free 6 points to EE, unfortunately. Atleti might be able to finally pull it off… maybe if its right after a Fifa break? It doesn’t seem that Xabi can take the multiple games that well anymore, and you know Del Bosque will use him for the WC qualifiers.

    • simple_barcafan
      August 27, 2012

      Sad…I really admire Bilbao though..They way they have stood their ground on the Javi Martinez deal to prove they are not a selling club..won my respect..

  35. Bill
    August 27, 2012

    ” Messi scores even when he doesn’t play well” did I just read about a coach willing to tell his best player that he didn’t play well?

    • My spanish is almost non exist, so I used google translate to understand it, but I’m not entirely sure what’s the story.

      If you don’t mind can you translate the main story?

      • August 28, 2012

        It basically says that Mourinho is deliberately mistreating Kaka to make him leave the club but is refusing to allow him to go somewhere decent like Milan, but instead is threatening to send him to Brazil or even *gasp!* an MLS club. Kaka and his father (allegedly) had a big confrontation with Mourinho, where Kaka was told in no uncertain terms that Mou wanted him out, but the issue is his wages, which are very high. Any loan deal would likely involve RM covering at least some of Kaka’s wages, which they don’t want to do. Kaka is refusing to accept a loan if it would entail any lowering of his wages because he feels he has been humiliated enough by the club. He feels if he had had consistent playing time he would not only be playing better football, but have had his choice of offers, like the interest from PSG, which later fell through. Oh, and Jorge Mendes is the real power behind the throne, but we all knew that already.

        • Dani_el
          August 28, 2012

          Thanks for that Blitzen. Sorry Barcagirl, next time I’ll be sure of translating the highlights 🙂

        • Messiah10
          August 28, 2012

          I pretty much agree with Kaka’s assessment of the situation, however, Ozil has played so well, it’s hard to take him out. No win situation for Kaka and unfortunately for him it will probably affect his WC ’14 plans

    • Blau-Grenade
      August 28, 2012

      I fell in love with the club during his time. Ronnie…. good old times. Glad to see he can still get those goals.

      • AJ_10
        August 28, 2012

        Same here Blau-grenade. He was the one who introduced me to this club.

        At his peak, the best player I ever saw. A shame it ended so quickly.

    • simple_barcafan
      August 28, 2012

      If anyone hasn’t, do it immediately..Also make sure your kids watch him play..

  36. Leckan1
    August 28, 2012

    So, Bojan to Milan on loan.


    It’s probably a better destination than Roma especially now with them having a little striker-crisis.

    • nzm
      August 28, 2012

      It’s make-or-break year for Bojan – he has to prove himself as a worthy first league player.

      Based on current performance, I highly doubt that Roma will pay the remaining 28 million for him, so if no one wants him after this season, he’ll return to Barcelona where his choices will most likely be:
      1. Play for the B team, or
      2. Get loaned out, or
      3. Get sold for a low price, just to get him off the Barca books.

      How utterly tragic.

      Despite his very early promotion, I do believe that giving him the #9 shirt was premature. After that, his form dropped as if he had nothing left to play/strive for, and he deteriorated – psychologically, more than any other way. He lost confidence and belief – perhaps out of complacency too.

      • Lev
        August 28, 2012

        mske or break year? I think it broke like 2 seasons ago 🙁

        why does he choose to go to another big club? He should have chosen one of the smaller ones that wanted him where he will get to play and maybe improve his reputation.

        • nzm
          August 28, 2012

          I really meant in terms of being able to stay in the top teams in top leagues. Bojan has to perform really well this season, if he wants to stay with notable teams. Otherwise, he’s going to end up at a lesser first league team or possibly a 2nd division team. At 22, that would be tough to take and even tougher to come back from.

        • Messiah10
          August 28, 2012

          He is at a small club now! Milan will rely on him a lot this year. Milan are in shambles.

      • August 28, 2012

        Giving him the number 9 was meant as sign that the club had faith in Bojan (or at least they pretended to). It’s the number he wanted all along, it was meant as a confidence booster. I don’t think the club could have done anything more for him, tbh.

        • simple_barcafan
          August 28, 2012

          It would have been better if the club had done “a little less for him”. In the sense that,if they could have convinced him that promoting him so early would be detrimental to his growth and it would be better if oscillated between the first team and B team for a bit longer.

          • Ryan
            August 28, 2012

            That’s looking at it from a rational perspective, unlike what happened at the time. Bojan actually did decently when he first came to the first team and after having tasted some success it was going to be difficult or near impossible to send him back down when it was clear he wasn’t doing well in la Liga. Had he not been so adamant to play on the first team, we might have seen something of a gradual transition along the lines of a Pedro, but with more natural talent. Alas.

        • nzm
          August 28, 2012

          I was hoping that they would send him out on loan for the 09/10 season which was when he got the #9. He really needed to go out and play more in that season, and he didn’t get that while staying at Barca.

          • August 28, 2012

            No, he didn’t take the #9 shirt until the 2010/11 season, after Ibra left. I specifically remember the soft-porn photo shoot one of the sports papers ran.

          • nzm
            August 29, 2012

            Trust you to remember that!

            I stand corrected.

            Still, 09/10 was the season in which he should have gone on loan.

    • Helge
      August 28, 2012

      I would have preferred Malaga as his loan destination.

      Obviously, they are not in a good situation either, but I believe they’d be more patient with him.
      Milan might still sign a proven striker, which could lead to another year on the bench and thus practically end Bojan’s high-profile career. No big club would take him after that.
      Last but not least, Pellegrini is a better coach than Allegri.

      • Messiah10
        August 28, 2012

        Milan aren’t signing anybody. Hence, Bojan. They have no $$$. They are in Dire Straits. Hopefully, he’ll shine for them with some consistent playing time. I wish him all the best, but even if he does come around, I don’t think we need him back here.

  37. elcapitan
    August 28, 2012

    Modric makes perfect sense for madrid. Kaka was
    feeling lonely on the bench so to prevent him from
    becoming unsettled, they bought him a friend so
    they can converse together on topics such as how
    many goals Ronaldo will score this year or if Ramos
    would actually defend someone next match, or
    philosophical topics like the meaning of life. Being
    on the bench for such long periods of time allows
    you such luxuries.
    Culled from ESPN

    • Lev
      August 28, 2012

      That’s funny.
      I actually think it makes a lot of sense. What has never made sense to me was for Madrid to play Xabi Alonso AND Khedira / Lass in games against hugely inferior teams.

      Thing is I feel that last season la Liga teams played right into Mordor’s hand by attacking them and leaving themselves vulnerable to the counter. With less and less teams exposing themselves they will need another creative midfielder.

  38. August 28, 2012

    Tito – Cesc can play at different positions, showed that before. He had a spectacular Euro, wouldn’t be fair to judge after 2 games now. (via ‏@barcastuff)

    Don’t worry people, I have not turned into a fanatic Cesc fangirl yet 😀

  39. August 28, 2012

    Looks like Afellay is gone. He asked Vilanova not to travel with the rest of the squad to the SuperCopa match, so that he can make a decision on his future. Word is loan to Liverpool.

    Meanwhile, Bojan Krkic is defo headed to Milan from Roma. No word on the other two, Dos Santos and Fontas, though there are rumors.

    • Blau-Grenade
      August 28, 2012

      Bojan needs to come back to Spain and join a smaller club where he can improve his game. I don’t think his style suits the Italian game. I have a feeling that it will be a big mistake for him for him to join Milan. If he cannot get a start at Roma, what makes him think that he can start at Milan, where there are the likes of Pato, Robinho, Pazzini, Sharaaway, Niang…

    • Kimcelona
      August 28, 2012

      I’m gonna miss Ibi. I’m also kinda annoyed it came to this.
      Why exactly did we buy him? It couldnt be just to fill the void in the second half of the 10/11 season with plans to sell for more cause:
      1. He didnt get enough chances to show what he was really worth anyways. I think he played like 10 games.
      2. He’s leaving on loan (which makes absolutely NO sense) a
      3. He could have offered sooo much difference and experience.

      I don’t wanna sound bitter but it pains me that instead of giving the player a chance to play after his unfortunate injury last season, we gave minutes which I think he could have gotten to Tello (who is supposedly bouncing between B team and first team). You would have thought with Cuenca out injured htis would be the time to use him as much as possible. The La Masia bias strikes again?

      Whatever. I just hope he ends up at Liverpool and maybe get alot of playing time. I wish him the best of luck cause he’s a very talented player in the peak of his career.

      • August 28, 2012

        Malaga qualified for the CL. It’s expected that they will soon announce a loan deal for Fontas. That leaves only Dos Santos.

        As for Afellay, the Alba and Song signings pretty much did him in, because suddenly, his skills on left wing were no longer needed, and midfield got even more packed with Song, figuring Thiago to get any spare minutes and then some. Song also has the advantage of being versatile enough to play up and back.

        He wanted to come, and it was a risk. Did the injury hurt him? Good question. Personally, I don’t think so, because the same players would have come in, and the same complexities would have reared their heads. He isn’t going to beat out Thiago or Alba. Sanchez will be setting up shop on the right wing, if Pedro isn’t. Villa is holding down the left, and Tello’s skill set vaulted Afellay. And that’s that.

        • August 28, 2012

          The injury (and Cesc’s, and Sanchez’ injuries) hurt him because Cuenca was promoted out of necessity. If Afellay had been healthy, Cuenca would have stayed with the B team last season and Ibi would have had a chance to prove himself to Pep. Instead, Cuenca got those chances.

      • nzm
        August 28, 2012

        I’m really sad about it, too. I had hoped that he would at least be able to stay until January.

        The best that he can do is to really grasp his next opportunity by the short and curlies and prove his worth. If he’s exceptional, he may get another chance at Barca.

    • Bill
      August 28, 2012

      Bojan really is a quality player. Milan can see that. He only needs games to become as true star. I’m not sure Milan can give him the minutes he needs. It seemed to me add if Roma’s coach had a good plan for him

    • Bill
      August 28, 2012

      Bojan really is a quality player. Milan can see that. He only needs games to become a true star. I’m not sure Milan can give him the minutes he needs. It seemed to me as if Roma’s coach had a good plan for him

  40. no clue cule
    August 28, 2012

    I love your reviews Kxevin and I have a question for You or Euler who I admire a lot and love his analysis of the games. I’m wondering why we never play with 4-2-3-1 formation?Example :
    I think that would give us more fluidity and stability with Alves and Alba going forward and Mash and Busi going backward.
    Also I think Villa would be more successfull as a true striker and Messi would still play as a false 9.
    Is this something we can benefit from or I just don’t have clue.
    Love this blog . Thanks

    • Peterj
      August 28, 2012

      Your formation is wacked.Xavi playing as a 7??

      • no clue cule
        August 29, 2012

        Why not. He was our second best scorer in previous season and organised attack is what we really need to penetrate the buses the teams park when they play against us. I’m just saying that we could try it as a plan B against teams like Chelsea.
        I know that our build up play would suffer at first so maybee changing Pique with Masch would be a good idea, so we could form triangels Pique-Xavi-Messi and Busi-Iniesta-Messi in the middle and with Alves and Alba going forward as wingers that would give us width and provide speed so we could really stretch their defences.
        In defence we would still have two rocks with Puyol and Masch and with Busi and Pique as DM we could easily kill any counterattacks and provide fast build play for new attack. Plus the trio Xavi-Messi-Iniesta feeding Villa with through balls would make virtualy any defence crumble and now add Alves and Alba on the wings and you have an attack like no other.

  41. Barcathegreatestever
    August 28, 2012

    Ok, tomorrow’ is a huge statement game now with Madrid wondering who’s going to show up. I would expect some major thuggery depending on the ref and if Barca take a lead. Lass, Xabi, Ramos and Pepe will be sharpening their studs. Mourinhos crew are going to ride the Ref like a donkey; probably have already started. Madrid fans will be ready to boo their team off the field and their press will crucify Mourinho if he sits back and loses or attacks and gets played off the park.
    I wish Villa was ready for a start but Pedro Alexis and Messi will give them more than they can handle. Albas game will be a huge factor. I expect Barca to move the ball faster than we’ve seen since the CL semis 2 years ago. I think Barca are going to blow them out and show the world that without injures they are invinceable.

    • Bill
      August 28, 2012

      Good point about moving the ball. In recent games against them, Barca have been too slow and tentative while on the ball and movements off the ball haven’t been the best I’ve seen. If we improve on this, it will be hard for them to keep fouling and disrupting the game.

    • Dani_el
      August 28, 2012

      And Udinese failed to classify to the CL group stage. That’s bad luck!

  42. simple_barcafan
    August 28, 2012

    Barcelona are facing Real Madrid for the 221st time in official competitions. Both clubs have 87 wins to their name.

    If the Catalan side win on Wednesday, they will be leading the head-to-head series for the first time in 80 years .

    Source: goal.com

  43. Messiah10
    August 28, 2012

    Bojan on loan to Milan with buy back option. Really sad for the kid. If we would just sell him so he could settle.

    • Messiah10
      August 28, 2012

      looks like a little late. Affelay to Liverpool is great for Liverpool. He will add great creativity and pace to match Suarez. Adding Sahin was big. They could have a good team if they add some depth. Rodgers is making some good buys/loans. Realistically, a top
      8 finish would be great for them. Everton are playing well. Swansea could finish top 10. Then you have the big boys at the top. Interesting PL this year.

  44. August 28, 2012

    Goodbye Ibi. We hardly knew ye. No, seriously, we didn’t..

  45. Thanks for the translation, Blitzen!
    And Dani_el, no need to apologize, and I will appreciate it very much if next time you translating the highlight 😀

    I’m so sad about Afellay, really wish he would succeed here. I really like that boy 😥
    But a loan to a club like Liverpool or other big club where his talent really needed, is the best option for his career.

    And I think I agree about Bojan, he should’ve chose a smaller club from la Liga, but who knows he might do well in Milan. They do need a quality striker after all.

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