Barca 1, Valencia 0; Getafe 1, Barca 4, aka “Nebulous qualities of want”

So. Here we are, basking in the afterglow of what would be a perfect Saturday, were it not for the fact that we face 4-6 weeks without our beating heart, Carles Puyol. We defeated Getafe in their house, a place in which we slid to a 0-1 loss last season, and Sevilla pulled off a miracle against our most hated rival, leaving us with an 8-point lead in the standings after only 4 matches.

Never mind that the last stat should quell the zeal of anyone thinking the Liga is done and dusted. After all, we still have Hlebuary to get through. I’d rather chat a bit about why this team, this season is different, and why two Big Matches found the same result — 3 points — in ways that were different, yet the same.

Two different lineups

For the Valencia match, a Big One because that club had just come off taking points off Them, Vilanova came out with Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Xavi, Fabregas, Messi, Sanchez, Pedro. For the Getafe match, there was some big news that happened:

“I’m confused. The match is on, but I’m sitting here.”

Vilanova had a chat with Messi before the match, to see how he felt after two difficult, physical South American World Cup qualifiers, and word came down that Messi would not be in the starting lineup today, which was Valdes, Montoya, Pique, Puyol, Adriano, Busquets, Xavi, Thiago, Pedro, Tello, Fabregas.

When the lineup for today was announced, people went crazy. A few of them Tweeted at me that Vilanova wasn’t all there for tinkering on the day of such a big match. Draws were predicted, and a few losses. I said that we were going to win. Why? Because of the Valencia match.


Watching the Valencia match via stream, I came away with the impression that things were much more fraught than they actually were, a feeling enhanced by the fact that one goal isn’t much of a margin. It’s a defensive lapse, a keeper error. Then I downloaded the match, watching it a couple of times just to be sure of what I was seeing, and the impression was very different: lockdown. That is, we played our possession game in a way that kept a dangerous opponent from becoming so. They got a couple of chances, including a late header that Valdes looked to have covered, but nothing particularly dire, once you get past the cule ability to see gloom in every set piece and throw in.

We took fouls, evinced effort and played out hearts out, defending by keeping the ball, minimizing the opportunities that an opponent has to get at us, thus making those rare moments carry significantly more import — much like us against Chelsea. And it paid off. More importantly, that Valencia match was an outing that, last season, might have gone differently.

Last season I sowed a bit of controversy in suggesting that the feeling of want wasn’t as acute as it had been in the past, a feeling that manifests itself in the slight dulling of the edge required to always, always be at or close to your best. Guardiola’s first year found that want in abundance, because nothing builds want in a championship-caliber athlete like failure. Each failure has caused this club to rebound:

— No silver at all in the last Rijkaard season
— Champions League failure after the Treble season
— Now, no major silver last season

Each time, the edge has been restored, reminding us of a very simple notion: If the best club in the world plays its game, it is unbeatable. We saw that at Valencia, but we saw it in a very different way at Getafe. Is this a reset season? The club touts the fact that it won 4 trophies last season, and it did: SuperCopa, UEFA SuperCup, World Club Championship and Copa del Reig. Anyone who thinks that all of those combined leave players satisfied in the same way that Champions League and/or Liga does, should reconsider. Particularly in considering how excruciatingly close things were in both competitions, with 6 goals meaning the difference between consolation prizes and another Year of the Six Cups. The off-season was spent sharpening edges.

That second Big Match

At Getafe, where we lost last season in a desultory 0-1 runout, Messi wasn’t starting and we were doomed. But something curious happened, or something curious only if you don’t know this club: It played its game, created chances and dominated Getafe at home, resulting in them having hardly any danger for us. At Getafe as at Valencia, Adriano scored the first goal, El Kabonngg! at Valencia and a simple finish off of some gorgeous interplay with Fabregas.

Getafe pressed more, and were more physical than Valencia. They defended differently, for the simple reason that without Messi in the starting XI, everybody became a danger. Look at how the blue shirts rush hither and yon, in effect chasing the ball rather than marking a player. In resting Messi, Vilanova freed up his club to play its game in a way that makes it infinitely dangerous. The match really could have been over by halftime, even though in effect, it was anyhow. Tello missed what should have been a sure scoring chance, Thiago was just off, hitting the crossbar. As it was, they only scored when two deflections resulted in a Mascherano own goal.

But look at how we chased the ball and marked their attackers, even more intensely than vs Valencia. Almost every time a Getafe player turned with the ball, he was faced with 2-3 pina coladas. They were reduced to long balls to a lone attacker, that were cleared and fed back into the mixer. When Messi was subbed in to face a tired Getafe, the first time he got the ball in midfield, their only option was to grab him, as they were too tired to chase him down.

And Vilanova went from idiot to genius in 90 minutes.

What the two matches had in common

Two different scorelines, two different perceptions, but what the wins over Valencia and Osasuna had in common, for me, is that they have gone a long way toward identifying this current group as Tito Vilanova’s team. The same sort of hardness that enables Vilanova to, when discussing players who won’t leave, say “This isn’t a social club,” finds its presence on the pitch, as well. Defense is more conservative, even as the two fullbacks swashbuckle as they did under Guardiola, just not to the same extent, as Vilanova recognizes that teams are attacking us differently.

There is also a, for lack of a better word, cynicism in the gruop that finds its voice in strategic fouling. Many a match under the Guardiola era found me screaming at the telly, “Foul him! Foul him!” Sometimes, when you know what’s about to happen, or when there’s danger developing, a well-timed foul that will stop the player yet not earn a card, is called for. Adriano did it a couple of times today. Mascherano also employs it. The rest of the group is learning it, and it is a wonderful thing when properly employed.

There is, shockingly, given the overall more conservative qualities of the way Vilanova’s side is playing so far, more movement across the pitch and players. Montoya was breaking up plays on the left side of the pitch, Adriano on the right, Mascherano everywhere (once Puyol went out). It seems to be a more disciplined-yet-looser variant of the total football that found its flower under Guardiola. And it’s pretty cool, certainly enhanced by the fact that Adriano and Montoya are compatible in their dual-sided capabilities.

The aggression with the ball is coming from players, rather than from the pass. Guardiola’s teams moved the ball like crazy. But as teams have begun to defend by clogging passing lanes, a player has to make a run with the ball to move defenders, which then enables space for the other attackers. It isn’t that we didn’t attack with the ball under Guardiola. We certainly did. It’s just becoming more evident under Vilanova, which probably explains why Tello got the deal that he got — his slashing, pacey style with the ball fits perfectly with what we’re seeing. Cuenca will be another one who should adapt quickly, and Thiago will probably find things more to his liking, as his skill set flourishes with the ball at his feet. Witness that shot that he clanged off the crossbar as but one example.

But all of this finds its roots in want. The team is hungry again, and playing like it. The addition of Messi was perfectly timed, to move the Getafe match from a close-run thing to a rout. Villa was icing on the cake. Both took advantage of an opponent that was tired. Pedro was running like crazy, Tello was running like crazy, Xavi was dancing, Thiago was running, Adriano was crashing around hither and yon. Everybody had to be respected, because nobody was king. Is Adriano cavorting around in the box if Messi is on the pitch? Maybe yes, probably not, because Messi is in the box, along with the 3-4 defenders that accompany him. Adriano found significantly more space that he and Fabregas reveled in, making the goal look easy. The midfield was clamping down, defenders were aggressively shutting down those attempted long balls.

And what have we learned?

Not much, really. We know that Vilanova isn’t Guardiola, but we knew that in actuality already. Yet many were watching him to see how he would diffrentiate himself from his predecessor. Guardiola had Messi start from the bench a few times, last against Real Sociedad last season. Would Guardiola have started Messi from the bench in a key match such as this? Good question. But Vilanova did, which is a point of distinction between the two.

Vilanova is the perfect man for the job right now Note the “right now” caveat. Guardiola left at the perfect time: there were flaws in the diamond. And yet, the club didn’t need someone to come in with an entirely new system — rather it needed a slight evolution of the present system, preferably by someone who already knows it intimately.

Enter Tito Vilanova.

Making him even more perfect is that because there wasn’t any major silver won last season, he has a bit more carte blanche than he would have, taking over after another Year of the Six Cups. He can try more things, stamp his authority on the club in a way that he couldn’t, following in the footsteps of a more-successful last season Guardiola. The players like and respect him, and learning curve is nonexistent, and he better than anyone knows what happened last season, and possible ways to fix it. Right man, right team, right time.

This centerback thing could be an issue

It’s looking like 4-6 weeks out for our Captain, which rules him out of El Clasic. The rest of the matches should be winnable without him, provided Pique does nothing silly, being as how he is on 3 yellows already. Should we have bought a CB in the summer transfer window? Let’s see what Bartra does, first. People thinking that Fontas will get a emergency runout are kidding themselves. He, like Dos Santos, is out of the team, sitting until January when they will find new homes.

Messi is a badass

But he’s even more of a badass with rest. Today he was staggering, seeming to be moving faster than anyone else could even think, when he turned to the attack. Contrast that with the tired, sluggish looking bloke sashaying around the pitch earlier this season. Yes, he was still scoring goals. But for me, he wasn’t looking as electric.

We had a good summer window One of our signings, this Villa dude, could work out pretty well.

In all seriouness, it is only now becoming apparently how much the shin was bothering Villa. The goal that he scored today was nowhere in evidence last season, as he held off a defender, took the pass perfectly and smoothly fired home past the keeper. Yes, it was one of those icing on the cake goals, but he continues to show signs of becoming the player we bought. That is immense.

Alex Song started against Valencia, and played an excellent match. Yes, there were people picking at his performance. Duh. That’s what Cules do. But I will say now as I said then, were Song from La Masia, there would be sonnets of praise being written in his honor. He absolutely looked to the manor born in that, as well as in his more forward position during the second leg of the SuperCopa.

Pedro! is back in form, which makes him once again, the Random Chaos Generator. He doesn’t have a real position, and can pop up anywhere with that howitzer foot of his. And he is completely unafraid to shoot when he sees the whites of the goal.

Jordi Alba, for me, is the least-sparking summer signing, even as he has done very well, and clearly opens up the left side of the pitch in new and exciting ways. That said, the competition has done Adriano good, as he is playing as well as he ever has, and the injury minimization work that he’s done in the off season also seems to have worked wonders.

Pique is back, playing the way that he did when people were talking about him being one of the best CBs in football. For my money, he isn’t quite at those otherworldly levels yet, but he’s been excellent this season, making the right plays (mostly), understanding his lack of pace and the imperatives that it places on his positioning, and controlling his attacks.

Too early to tell for Sanchez, but he will have to find his voice for the club to have the most effective shot at sparkling. He is, potentially, our second most dangerous player because of where he plays and how he can work with Messi when all is right in the world. You read it here first: 20 goals from Sanchez means we hoist Liga and Champions League trophies. That’s how important I think his performance is to the club’s attack, particularly with Messi on the pitch.

Rotation will be crucial

Today, Vilanova came out with a starting squad absent Iniesta, Sanchez, Alves, Alba (who I consider the starter) and Messi. Yank 5 of the established starters out of any team in the world against a dangerous opponent in their house, and see what happens. We bossed the match. As opponents play us with the same pressing, physical style that has been employed by everyone we have faced since the last quarter of last season, fresh legs will be crucial along with fresh minds. This means rotation, and lots of it. The effectiveness of that rotation starts with letting this team see that it can play the same way with different players. Hats off to Vilanova for that.

We don’t know how good this club is yet

The last time we had a coaching change, we had an inkling, because the talent at hand combined with the talent that arrived with him. This time around, the signings are less splashy, but might wind up being every bit as effective. This team is still reaching full fitness, still learning how everyone plays and plays together, as players evolve over time. Alba isn’t integrated, neither is Song. Both could prove crucial in the long campaign, as much as a fully fit Villa. The potential is immense, even as expectations are tempered. Now for reality.

Are Kxevin, et al stupid for predicting no big silver this season?

I hope so. But let’s see. An 8-point lead after only 4 matches doesn’t necessarily point to that same multiplier continuing throughout the rest of the season. If we beat Them at home, then take care of Sevilla, I don’t know that Cules would necessarily be misguided in puffing out their chests a little bit. But my match skills tell me that there are something like 418,335 points still on the table this season …. or something like that. And a lot could happen. October is a cruel month, that finds mid-week Champions League ties as part of the mix. So who knows?

I will say that this club has done better than I expected. I honestly didn’t expect to be perfect after our first four matches, and boy would I love to be wrong about major silver. Time will tell. For now, let’s bask in the glow of an 8-point lead, smile a little bit and hope that the predictions for our Captain aren’t as bad, once a full series of tests is done on Monday.


Categorized as La Liga

By Kxevin

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


  1. Where can I watch the games online? The worst part about college is I have nowhere to watch Barcelona

    1. if you come to this site jus before or during the game and ask, BFB family is always willing to share the links to the streams they are watching, which college are you in?

    2. Problem with Veetle is it often lags a couple of minutes behind. So if you are also following on twitter or a liveblog, everyone else is way ahead of you.

      I often use, and of course atdhenet(dot)tv is still around.

    3. has links to streams posts links to streams before the game starts typically has match threads with plenty of links to streams has match threads for every game with plenty of links to streams
      the live comments posts here typically have links to streams

      You’re not looking hard enough mate ๐Ÿ˜›

    4. Yup. wiziwig is the way to do it.

      It has live stream links , or if you want more quality and less buffering pauses & willing to watch with a mintue delay, it aslo has veetle & sopcast links. (Warning: loveblobs are useless when using sopcast and veetle)

  2. The fact that Tito’s decision to rest Messi worked well may turn out to be more important than we realise. Like Kevin noted in the post, without Messi on the pitch, suddenly, everyone is dangerous. Instead of constantly looking for the little guy, the rest of our players were taking the initiative to attack on their own and this meant that Getafe had to defend everyone and not just pile defenders on one player.

    It also lays the foundation for Tito to rest Messi more often without the cules breaking into a panic. But again, it all hinged on whether or not this result was a positive one. Last season, Pep attempted to rest Messi when the team visited Anoeta, but we ended up dropping 2 points, and after that he never left Messi on the bench again.

    Also, I don’t think anyone is really silly enough to believe the league is won. That’s ridiculous. But not being thrilled at the idea of being 8 points ahead of Madrid is ridiculous as well.

    I’m nervous about the Clasico, because Madrid will have to come out to attack, given the points difference. While this usually means that we’ll be left with the the opportunity to thread balls through their defense, we’ve seen what can happen when they really go for it. The last Clasico at the Bernabeu could have turned into a humiliation for us if they had finished better. How much that was down to them playing well or us not being mentally prepared (not to mention the Alves injury at the last minute), we’ll never know. But the idea of them doing that to us at our place scares me.

    Hopefully we’ll be ready for that kind of aggression now that the season has properly kicked off.

    Visca Barca.

  3. Ok so I’ve slept it over and we’re still leading by 8 points after 4 games. Must be true. I’d crack some more snarky wisecracks but its too soon..

    1. The first thing that I heard this morning, from the other side of the bed, was “8 points – heehee”! ๐Ÿ˜€

    2. J said “heehee”?


      First thing I heard was, “What are you doing with that laptop so early?” I was checking to see if the damn game had FINALLY finished downloading. Had to go to an Irish pub (It’s always the Irish pubs ?verdad? ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) down the street to see it replayed on beIN last night after work (because they have direct TV) because the download was taking so long and from y’alls talk it was to good of a game to wait for.

    1. heh – the world’s greatest player becomes a super sub! ๐Ÿ˜€

      It damn well works too – except for the Getafe game last season, Messi comes off the bench all fired up and bangs in goals!

  4. Don’t know how many of you folks are Comcast subs and want English commentary with your matches on BeIN~, but there’s an easy way to get it:

    On your clicker, go to “menu,” then “setup,” then “audio setup.” From there, to “default audio track,” and toggle that from “channel default” to “English.” Bingo bango, there ya go.

    It should be noted that you don’t get Phil and Ray Ray, but you do get very good English commentary.

    1. I saw it on a Philly footy fans board, and I’d forgotten about how easy it is to access SAP with Comcast. Wanted to share. Glad it helps. Got some Scottish dude for Genoa/Juve. Every English-language broadcast team should have a Scot on it.

    2. Yeah I did that with my cable, now I get English, not Ray & Phil though. Remember when we only had goltv in Spanish? I had to get the latino package to watch it, Comcast threw in that Spanish playboy channel right below BeIn for free…i dropped the package as soon as goltv in English arrived, but now I wish I had known I could change that playboy channel into English ๐Ÿ™‚ . Don’t judge me, I like it with dialogue!

    3. Very cool, though I kind of got used to the spanish broadcast last match, lol

      I don’t mind listening to the broadcast in spanish as long as it’s not those annoying espn deportes commentators.

  5. Kxevin- thanks for the post. Minor correction in the Valencia lineup, you wrote down twelve players in the starting lineup. Iniesta didn’t start that game.

  6. Very controlled game, played with absolute authority in Getafes’ home. I like it.

    Smart move by Tito to bench all players that traveled far. The team looked fresh as a result.

    “Everyone looked dangerous” is tantamount to having a bunch of butchers with hammers. Don’t forget we only had one goal as a result of Adriano completing his run, which was good fortunate since Fabregas had been pushed off the ball. Unless we have players that actually know how to score in there, benching Messi is still a risk that turned out well this time. We can only try that again when Villa and Pedro are scoring with confidence.

    Tello reminds me a little of Ronaldo because of his one trick pony style and his inability to be composed in front of goal. He just does that step over and runs like hell. Then when he gets to goal, first of all he starts shooting way too early(trying to get closer is a major reason why Messi is more efficient than Ronaldo), then he always opens his stance so obviously trying to go far post, and finally to make it worse, he exhibits bad shooting form by falling away from the ball thereby taking the sting out of the shot. Having said that, he could really be dangerous if he fixes some of those kinks in his game.

    They way the team cheered for Fabregas after the first goal and for Villa after his goal was really cool to see. Mourinho may not have a team but Barca does.

    Did anyone notice the number of cameras surrounding the Barca bench before the game? There was about 30 cameras, Getafe had about 4. These guys have really become rock stars, but for all the right reasons.

    I must confess, I like that new away kit. The players look faster, their legs look more powerful yet precise when handling the ball, and the movements look more authoritative.

    1. Tello worries me in the same respect too. He always tries to shoot across the face of the goal, instead of slotting into the near side. And his drive for the goal-line and cut back in is also predictable. He had Pedro open on the far side when he went for one of his shots as well. Hopefully he’ll start looking more for the options, but I know that Messi got frustrated with him for doing the same last season.

      As for the cameras around the Barca bench – they were there to record the historic event of Messi sitting on it!

    2. It seems like you guys are quickly turning on the player.
      Tello has had less time with the first team than any of our forwards and he is still learning his craft.
      He is the quickest player on our team and uses his pace in one on ones. He isn’t a finished product yet, if he was then I assume he wouldn’t be playing for us.
      Don’t forget a couple of weeks ago he was responsible for nearly all of the goals against Sociedad I think.

    3. I saw a comment on the Guardian about our wingers receiving a lot of criticisms. And I just had light bulb moment.

      From FlashRat (16 September 2012 12:17PM) :

      But there is a big tendency among Barca fans i’ve notice to criticise their wingers. Maybe its because the wingers have to stand so wide to stretch the play for guess who and have to show a lot more ball discipline than most wingers. They also get a lot less space behind defences than most wingers. Villa is now the messiah, but for a long time he was a goat. So was pedro last year. Alexis is getting it this year despite being a fantastic player. If he has a problem its a lack of selfishness in front of goal.

      So true! Our wingers have to know how to cross, drift inside, score goals, connect well with Messi and the midfield, and know how to press and track back. So many responsibilities and not a lot of love.

    4. You brought up a comment from September 2012? How can I argue with you? You do your research a little to well * goes and hides*

    5. Ciaran and Messifan, I think my comment was constructive criticism because I was simply stating ways he could finish better. I get that players need time to get comfortable in teams, that’s why I’m firmly on team Bojan, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

      What I cant stand is a player who is unable to adjust, trying the same thing over and over when clearly it isn’t working. That’s like applying one formula across all applications. How many goal scoring chances is he going to miss just because he tries the same move over and over because it once worked? That goes for all players. I got frustrated with Messi trying to roll spot kicks to the goalies’ left over and over even when it stopped working. As a forward, unpredictability is an important aspect of the game.

    6. In this game the fact he went for the far post was a no brainier as it is on most occasions from a tight angle. He almost made it too. great save from the keeper. I agree with the step over point but this guy can finish.

    7. Jim, going far post is not the main issue. Taking those shots way too early when the defender is clearly beat, and then opening your stance by first running to the left of the ball two steps before you hit it, is. You may as well wear a huge neon sign saying ‘I’m going far post!’ Now, it’s a great move if you are not going far post. Good goal scorers open up only when about to hit the ball.

    8. Bill: constructive criticisms are always welcome, same with counterpoints ๐Ÿ˜€

      About the good things Tello did yesterday, provide width AND remember that beautiful cross to Thiago in the first half, which Thiago almost scored (Thiago didn’t do a Tello; he shot at the near post but failed).

    9. ciaran: what’s wrong with commenting on where we see a shortfall in a player? With what’s been written above about Tello, they are things that he does a lot – they’ve become a pattern in his play. I hope that he does get the kinks knocked out of his game because he will be a dynamic player without them.

    10. Nothing wrong with it at all but after the Sociedad game where he set up two goals for Messi and another for Pedro by doing different things every time I don’t think that the point was fair.
      When or if Tello perfects his game he could be one of the best forwards in the world. Tito clearly believes this with the amount of game time he is being afforded.

      In terms of being a one trick pony there are worse tricks than being fast enough to beat a player and curl the ball around the keeper. Thierry Henry made a career out of it. .. and you can’t argue with that.
      For the record Tello is better than Henry at his age AND I AM NOT SAYING HE WILL BE BETTER THAN HENRY but he has bags of potential.

    11. We were talking about Tello’s performance in this match against Getafe. We saw none of what he did in the Sociedad match, and he reverted back to what he normally does.

      This is what was being pointed out.

      G60 makes some good points below this comment – it’s not about who he plays with, it’s about how he plays in certain situations. That can only be fixed by the player.

    12. Those issues with his game are not due to not having been in the team for long enough – they are systemic and criticism is fully justified. Even if you have not played with these same players for as long as they have with each other, that should not be affecting what you do in 1-on-1 situations with the keeper – it’s just not something that depends on that.

    13. Sorry, but what systemic issues? If it’s his 1-on-1 shooting, yeah I think is a bit one dimensional but that can be corrected with more training and if he’s willing to learn.

      By the time he gets an opportunity to shoot at goal, it’s usually from a 45 degree angle with the keeper doing all he can to narrow the angle and makes it difficult for a youth goalscorer. What should he do in that situation? loft the ball over the keeper or shoot at the near post? Who amongst our strikers can do that besides Messi and Villa? I think time spent with the first team is valuable for his development. What we see now hopefully will change with more time.

    14. “[Tello] could really be dangerous if he fixes some of those kinks in his game.”

      The one kink that needs most fixing is the one he’s least likely to fix at this late stage of his development: his touch. The ball tends to clang off his feet, and that’s a significant liability on a team where close control is essential.

      Me, I’m counting the days until Cuenca makes him superfluous again.

    15. I disagree on that one replayed. Pedro’s touch was easily the worst on our first team squad over the past few seasons and since his injury problems early last season his touch has improved no end.

    16. We’ll see which if either will make it eventually but ATM my money is heavily on Tello. Cuenca doesn’t have any stand out feature which you need in this side. Tells has blinding pace and a pretty good shot IMO.
      I can see Cuence going the same way as GDS, Bojan, affellay, JDS and possibly even Thiago if he doesn’t make the step up this year. He has to show he can run the midfield without Xavi present and control possession. Hope he manages it.

    17. I agree with Jim – Cuenca can do crosses but he doesn’t usually shoot or sprint pass the fullbacks. We need a diversified frontline, and I just feel that Cuenca offers more of the same – dribbles pass defenders then passes to the middle or goes to the end of the goal-line then crosses the ball to the penalty area, which tends to go nowhere because we don’t have a 9.

  7. Loved Thiago’s dribble and shot (that deserved a goal!) and Villa’s maravilla goal had me jumping. Wonderful match.

  8. Very nice review! Of course it is much too early to talk about winning the league, but an 8-point lead over our arch-rivals is a very nice thing to have going into our first CL game. We had better watch out for that Malaga, though, they are only 2 points behind us! ๐Ÿ˜€

    Terrible luck for Puyol to be injured again, but at least his face will get a proper chance to heal now. Looking at our next 5 games: Spartak Moscow (home), Granada (home), Sevilla (away), Benfica (away), Real Madrid (home). I could see Bartra starting in the Granada game, but other than that it looks like Masche & Pique all the way, and cross your fingers Pique doesn’t rack up any more cards (he has three). No, I don’t see Fontas getting a run-out either, but he just might make the bench.

    I had a lot of fun watching this game, everyone was playing at such a high level. Adriano was the only non-homegrown player in the starting XI–if only Alba had been healthy! And like I said on twitter, that Villa goal was absolutely textbook. Seen him do that a hundred times. If you looked up David Villa in the Big Book of Football, you would see a diagram of that exact goal. He is back, and he is in form!

  9. One thing Madrid are definitely better at than Barca is optimism.
    Marca reporting that the last time Madrid started a league campaign this badly they lifted the Champions League with Zidane scoring the winning goal… silver f–king lining.

    1. Whatever makes them sleep better at night. But I suppose Marca forgot to mention the final is played at Wembley this time and the last time a Champions League final is held there, Barcelona won. Silver lining…NOT ๐Ÿ˜€

  10. Can anyone remind me how much the biggest gap in points was between us and Madrid last season? And we managed to pull within four points, right?

    I gotta say, Tito makes excellent substitutions.

  11. Great analysis of how Sevilla beat Real Madrid – it had a lot to do with Michel’s well thought out strategies.

    Which makes me wonder; which coaches are considered great tacticians? I’ve heard that Fergie, Mourinho, Del Bosque and even Pep aren’t considered particularly keen tacticians (they work more through man management).

    1. One of his better effforts, for sure. Also worth noting that if Sevilla don’t work like dogs, none of that is possible.

      I find the biggest problem with them is that their players do only one thing, which kills them at key times. DiMaria’s man scored the goal, easily slipping truly hilarious marking. Whenever Wrongaldo plays defense, it ends in a foul. And he rarely tracks back. Imagine Pedro!, Sanchez or Fabregas not tracking back. And I wish Messi did it as often as he used to.

      There are some systemic issues there that were exposed by Sevilla, who still needed a shocking Ramos header miss to grab the full points.

      It’s also worth pointing out the other thing, which is that club’s comprehensive lack of class or composure. Higuain kicking a Sevilla player, Jughead taking a poke at Rakitic(?), then falling down, clutching his face and earning Rakitic the yellow, when Jughead should have been sent off. And isn’t a bleeding player usually sent off the pitch? Why was Wrongaldo, with that elbow gusher, allowed to take that very important free kick. Then, of course, Alonso’s abuse of Sevilla’s mascot-sized Jesus Navas. My hate for that club isn’t just historical, or rooted in my love for Barca. They make it so easy.

    2. Yeah, I wondered why Ronaldo was allowed to stay on the pitch as well. Guess the ref thought there was no point since there were only a few seconds left, but blood is blood.

  12. Good discussion on Tello, but I point to the fact that the dude is still but an egg. He is in the right club, and has already improved significantly from when we last saw him. Sky’s the limit for him. The “better than Henry” potential is interesting. I’d love to see if he had that kind of shotmaking potential, and would love it even more if he did. But yes, Henry was more raw than Tello. Wenger did an amazing job of making him into the player that he was/is. Let’s see what we can do with Tello.

    I think that both Cuenca and Tello have bright futures with the club. Cuenca as well is still developing, but he has Sanchez-like (that is, when Sanchez doesn’t have the shits) devastation qualities. He has a good shot, he just has to be encouraged to take it. It’s funny how some players need to learn to be selfish. Xavi had a few occasions yesterday where I was screaming “Shoot! Shoot!” But it just isn’t in his nature, and the moments pass so quickly.

    But ultimately, right now, Cuenca and Tello are just as (respectively) limited. They are first team because of the potential to rise beyond those limitations. Tello will learn things such as keeping his body closed, and how to cut in rather than always pushing the ball forward and diving for the end line. He will learn to vary his pace, to lull a defender in. Cuenca will learn to shoot, and not always do the push/dive for the OTHER end line. And both will, hopefully, reach their potential as FCB world-beaters.

  13. Tello’s performance in recent matches have been good. But watching you get a sense his effect could get amplified with a traditional Number 10 in the middle. I would like to see him start on the left with Villa in middle.

  14. Meanwhile his first touch is horrible. But it’s a bane and boon in some sense. Boon, when he cuts outside because it let him to pick up pace. But when he cuts inside the first touch is a liability with people pouncing on that ball.

    1. Poor first touch is never a good thing. You can cut and pick up space with a good first touch too. Nothing prevents you from doing so. While (stating the obvious here) if you have a good touch, you can do all sorts of things that otherwise you can’t.

  15. And what’s wrong with Mascherano? I love his bull dog style and the way he confidently and aggressively attacks all comers. But something happens when someone lobs in a ball. Mascherano turns into a puppy that’s been trained on. He doesn’t quite know what to do, as if someone forgot to teach him how to deal with those.

    He did it again in this game. A lobbed ball came, Mascherano simply helped that ball along to the attackers’ path with his hips. It almost resulted in a goal if it wasn’t poorly lobbed over Valdes. Those balls are not that hard to deal with. That was the one aspect of Abidals defending that I loved.

    Speaking of Abidal, I hope we get him back soon.

  16. Another reason to rejoice, Espanyol are in the relegation zone, hopefully they stay there. CHEERS.

    1. Their game yesterday was bizarre against Bilbao. Espanyol was hosing all over Bilbao and was leading 2-0. Bilbao suddenly woke up and levelled the game at 2-2. Aduriz (ex-Valencia) and Llorente did the damage.

      Espanyol fans looked mighty glum at that point. Then they got another one to lead 3-2, and almost right away they conceded another goal to Bilbao (Aduriz for his brace) and the game finished at 3-3!

      Pochettino got sent from the sidelines. I no longer like that guy after he left the Camp Nou pitch without shaking Pep’s hand after Pep’s last home game. He’s becoming like a mini-Mourino – bad-tempered and ill-mannered. Be interesting to see what sort of ban he gets, when compared to Tito’s 2-match ban.

      The Atleti-Rayo game was equally loco. Rayo held on well until the 2nd half and then Atleti scored just after the half began, and then another 3 in the space of 7 minutes.

      Atleti then went to sleep and Rayo scored 3 – also in less than 7 minutes! Unfortunately they ran out of time to get a 4th after some near misses, but Atleti nearly let that one slip away, but won 4-3. Diego Costa (after returning to Atleti from being on loan at Rayo last year) was definitely the play-maker in that game.

    2. I no longer like that guy after he left the Camp Nou pitch without shaking Pepโ€™s hand after Pepโ€™s last home game.

      Really? I never heard anything about that. That doesn’t sound like Pochettino at all, he and Pep have always been very cordial with each other.

    3. Yes – they were, and part of that was the tradition of the 2 managers posing for photos with the team shirts before each derby.

      Look at the recordings of the end of that game. Pep goes looking for Pochettino, but he’s nowhere to be found, so Pep heads out onto the pitch instead, still looking towards the Espanyol bench.

      Pochettino then bleated throughout his presser about how hard done by his team was, during the match.

      He’s really bad tempered these days – perhaps he knows that the bad results may mean that his job is on the line.

  17. “The aggression with the ball is coming from players, rather than from the pass” – This!

    What a great game by the boys and Tito even though he was not directly in charge. One gets a sense that Barca under Tito will be a little more pragmatic and flexible, luxuries which were hard to come by under the control of the purist in Pep who was/is so emotionally attached to the club. strategic Tactical fouling and more direct attacking is also another example of this evolution, which is great to see.

    I cant think of any other joy that equals seeing Villa score! hopefully he can keep this up.

    just one minor observation in your post, you keep making references to the valencia game as an away match, it was at home wasn’t it?

  18. Adriano’s goal celebration was funny. Everybody went to Cesc to celebrate. It is great to see the camradarie in the team, and for their willingness to make him succeed.

  19. Hey nzm (or anyone else who might know):

    I might just get to be in Barcelona for the Oct 7 clasico and I was wondering how the tickets work for the clasico for non-members. says “No tickets” when I click on the game’s Tickets link.

    External websites are charging a gazillion Euros/Pounds for the worst of seats so obviously that route is out of the question.

    What’s the likelihood of getting ANY seat in the stadium for a somewhat reasonable price? If there is a chance, when or more importantly, where would I do so?

    Thanks vm for your help.

    1. Your best bet at this point will be to try your hand at the supplemental ticket draw (online) that they usually have a day or two before the match, or hit the Camp Nou, where a block of last-minute tickets is usually put on sale the day before the match. Suffice it to say, it’s an extremely difficult ticket at best. The two times I have gone have both been through the Soci pre-sale, that happens in September. Even then, it’s crazy, as the FCB servers usually crash because some 150,000 people are trying to buy match tickets at the same time. My streak was broken when the server crashed as I was paying for my Clasic tickets. When I got back onto the site, my seat was gone. So there ya go.

    2. Thanks Kevin.

      The earliest I could get in to Barcelona would be that Saturday night/Sunday morning so looks like I’m SOL with the pre-match day sale at the Camp.

      What’s this supplemental ticket draw? Is there a notification you receive of when it comes up or is it simply at their discretion a few days prior? And I’m assuming this is right off the official website (tickets section)?

      What about scalpers? Don’t know how it works in Barcelona but I’m assuming there will be tons outside the stadium? Probably charge a hefty fee but honestly can’t be as bad as what some of these “hospitality” websites are charging.

    3. Not sure how it works for civilians, I’d always get an e-mail notification from the club.


      Hopefully, that’s sufficient emphasis. It’s one the most-counterfeited tickets anywhere, evah. You might get lucky and find someone with an extra, from someone who didn’t show up. But those opportunities are exceedingly rare. Buy one from some scruffy-looking dude in a windbreaker and you takes your chances.

      When you get it, go by the Camp. You never know, and you might find someone trying to sell there, which I would trust more than on match day, when lust in is the air (and not just courtesy of the Camp Nou travestis.

      When nzm pops in, she will have more information for you, I’m sure.

      Oh. For El Clasic, there is no such thing as a reasonable price. It’s an A Ticket match, so to speak. Good luck.

    4. I repeat what Kevin says: DON’T TRUST SCALPERS! By the time you’ve gone through the gates and got to the turnstiles where your ticket’s barcode is scanned, if it’s a fake, that scalper’s going to be long gone!

      The best bets are to try the main ticket office at the stadium or the FCB ticket booth which is halfway down Las Ramblas. It’s a stand-alone booth (in between the flower and ice cream stalls) in the middle walkway of La Rambla.

  20. When you look at the hesitancy of the referees to give Madrid players a yellow card, let alone a red card and look at their trigger happy hands to hand out yellow cards to our defenders really does me want to call it a conspiracy.

    It is ridiculous. Pique get’s a yellow card for the softest of challenges and even on his first tackle. This happens this season and last season as well.

    1. Yeah, I can only hope Busquets was for dissent as the tackle he was booked for was an excellent one – on the plus side, perhaps it’s just me but are Spanish officials giving fewer “automatic foul + booking” calls for unintentional handballs so far this season..?

    2. Busquets shouldn’t have punched the ball like that.

      But yeah, our players seems to get booked really easily while Madrid players get away with tackles that are much worse.

  21. An excerpt from Roberto Palomar’s opinion piece on Mourinho in today’s Marca (translation not mine):

    “The match versus Sevilla was “the typical match that Madrid easily won last season, when every time Cristiano Ronaldo sneezed it would end up in the goal. The problem is much deeper [than an attitude problem], but it goes beyond the banal and simplistic analysis of [Mourinho] because it identifies him as the principal guilty party–which he is. Real Madrid’s problem is that it plays like crap. Even worse. It doesn’t play at anything. It’s been that way since Mourinho’s been in charge of the team. Good play is not exactly among the virtues that have allowed it to win the Liga and dislodge Barcelona from their throne. Its virtues have more to do with the charging at the of the trumpet, with living off the defects of the opposing team, with counter-attacking football, sucking the rival’s blood, with physical intensity and concentration, with the camouflaging effect of Cristiano Ronaldo’s goals, which have covered up so many evenings of lousy play. Mourinho’s style is one commonly used by small teams to avoid relegation. The merit of [Mourinho] has been to make this principal system into one that’s useful for winning trophies. In the short- and medium term, it works. But in the long term, Mourinho’s teams lack greatness. If, on top of that, his teams coincide with a rival like Barcelona, the comparison becomes even more uncomfortable. Fans know, even if they’re a paying club member of Real Madrid, how some teams win [Real Madrid] and how others win [Barcelona]. And if that paying club member has been around for years and has their arse worn down from their Bernabeu seat, they must be absolutely disgusted.”

    1. Oooooooh! This soap opera should have a dramatic epic ending soon. I saw them in crisis for way too many times last season and nothing ever happened in the end. Hopefully, tomorrow crash and burn. Getting my popcorn ready ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

    2. Thank you for this. I have frequently been curious about how Madrid fans perceive their team. I know most of them love soccer and are knowledgeable about the game, so their style of play must be frustrating.

      What’s worse is when the two teams play each other. The gulf in class is very apparent. Even a defender like Pique shows more panache with the ball than anyone on their team. I don’t think most of their fans like that, especially considering the amount of money they pay for players

  22. I’m having a bittersweet moment. I was accepted into a cool program to go abroad and do research/act as a health team junior.

    Unfortunately that means I’m effectively on hiatus until November. No more loveblobs from me until then.

  23. When are we going to get an euler post?

    No offense to other admins but eulers’ tactical perception and method of expression is second to none IMO. Would love to see the details of the changes from Pep era to Tito era.

    1. British mode

      Ahh, yes that would, indeed, be most delightful
      *puts on reading glasses and lights up pipe*
      Yes, quite.

      /British mode

  24. I was watching Cuatro and i lol’d so hard when they ‘revealed’ the 7 players Mou was talking about when he claimed to want to make 7 subs during the Sevilla match. The had mug shots of Iker, Ramos, Alonso, Di Maria, Benzema, Higuain and someone else i can’t remember. Basically, all the non Portuguese speaking players. No wonder there’s division in the dressing room coz Mou causes those divisions himself.

    1. Bassam’s right. The thing Spanish footy in particular has taught me, is don’t trust journalists.

      If someone has a reported story, with quotes, and photos, and quotes supporting the quotes, and sworn affadavits from the people who made the quotes saying “For sure, I made those quotes,” then maybe, you can trust that story.

    2. I think you guys are missing the humor behind it. It was alluding to the fact that there are divisions within the team, with Mourinho favoring certain players. I don’t think they were pretending to know what’s going on or who Mourinho was talking about.

  25. Hey Kxevin or Blitzen or whoever knows, regarding the “readers online” section of he site on the home page on the right side of the page. I love the map feature. I realize that the red dots represent online users. Are the blue dots all registered users or just those that have visited in a given time frame like that day? Just curious. Thanks.

  26. What on earth happened to the Youtube links that I posted 24 hours ago?

    -Higuain kicking out and then fell.
    -Di Maria nearly KO’ed a Sevilla player who in turn got a yellow card.
    -Ronaldo taking a dive and nearly cried.

    I couldn’t find the clip of Alonso abusing Jesus Navas though so if anyone could provide the link, I’d really appreciate it.

  27. Was watching the Nextgen match between Barca vs Spurs this morning on PVR.

    I was impressed with Samper. He is really good.
    Wasn’t too impressed with the rest though especially the African kids.
    They had poor first touches and don’t really have the tiki taka in them. They went for power and athletism instead of slow build up play.

    Only Embwelle and Adama impressed me from the lot.
    Thankfully they had a lot of pace and made good use of it especially Adama who was flying on the right wing time and time again.

    The other notable mentions are;
    Quessada or Quintilla. Can’t remember exactly – LB
    Sandro – lethal finisher from Canary Islands (Pedro!)

    1. Unimpressed with the African kids.

      Says 2 of the 3? 4? African kids impressed you a lot. Which one is it?

    1. I watched this game, I laughed so hard when that happened! Even Ronaldo looked like he appreciated the irony.

  28. “Jim says:
    September 16, 2012 at 2:27 pm
    Weโ€™ll see which if either will make it eventually but ATM my money is heavily on Tello. Cuenca doesnโ€™t have any stand out feature which you need in this side. Tells has blinding pace and a pretty good shot IMO.
    I can see Cuence going the same way as GDS, Bojan, affellay, JDS and possibly even Thiago if he doesnโ€™t make the step up this year. He has to show he can run the midfield without Xavi present and control possession. Hope he manages it.”


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