Sevilla 2, Barca 3, aka “As beautiful as they are, I HATE matches like this”

The aka says it all: I hate matches like this, for so many reasons, but let’s start out with happy, Snoopy dance stuff: Improbably, we won. And we didn’t just win. We came back from 2-0 down against a gritty, resolute opponent in their house, an opponent who, in that same house, defeated our most bitter rival, an opponent who, for much of the match, came out and played us like an equal, showed no fear and almost got a result against us.

If this club pulls off what I still think will be an amazing feat, winning the Liga, it will be matches such as this one where we will look back in those season in review posts, and say “this was the one. Or that was the one. Or maybe, that was the one.”

This team isn’t just winning, it’s winning in a way that great teams do, not playing its best, with grit, determination and yes, a little bit of luck. We’ve said it before here, and it bears repeating: Last season, we lose this match.

There is a hunger in this group, an edge that wasn’t there last season, an advantage that finds its face in late goals of the sort that kill opponents and make shoulders slump. This team is a killer.

I said in this very space, that we were going to win this match. I didn’t know how, and I didn’t even doubt it after we went down 2-0, because all we had to was stop screwing up to right the ship. I say this even as I give Sevilla immense credit for bringing out our best, making us realize, as almost every opponent has this season, that the world isn’t afraid of us any longer. They no longer see the blaugrana shirt, and wonder how much they are going to lose by.

Instead, they stick out their chests and say “We have talent too, and we can beat this club.” In a way, this plays right into our hands, because they have talent, but we have more, even as a bunch of it is injured. But Sevilla was different. They not only chose to play us an an equal for much of the match, but in fact, they were equal. Whether you want to lay it at the feet of defensive errors, or an aggressive, physical, pressing style that forced us onto the back foot at key times, we played against an equal today. And we won. Better still, we won singing a redemption song for two players, one of whom is carrying a price tag around his neck like an albatross, while the other is almost finished with the looong road back from a serious injury.

“No worries. I got this.”

To win this match, the team had to change, adapt and take a different approach on the fly. Football is unlike other team sports in that there are no time outs to discuss strategy. The coach yells directions, makes substitutions and relies on the players to correctly implement his wishes. Our substitutes didn’t just mean different players, but a different way of playing.

Many of you probably noticed, most acutely with the additions of Tello and Villa, that Messi moved back to the role of a true 10, an influential playmaker with the ability to go for goal. This kept him from doing his tilting at windmills that he was doing earlier in the match, running at gaggles of defenders in the hope that magic will happen. He was part of the collective magic that allowed great things to happen. The goals were scored by Fabregas and Villa, even as Messi had a hand in all of them.

But his moving back kept space for attackers to run into, because you always have to respect Messi, a player who can destroy you at any time. He gets the ball, and it is impossible for defenses to not shriek and run toward that danger. Yet if the other players do their jobs, Messi as decoy/playmaker is every bit as dangerous as Messi the goal scorer, because the same body and ball control that allow him to score improbable goals, also allows him to see a pass that nobody else sees, to get a teammate the ball when by all rights, there isn’t any logical way to get them the ball. And then, they have to finish the trick.

Today’s match made me happy because those teammates finished the trick. We have discussed, time and again, the need for a teammate to step the hell up, so that Messi doesn’t feel like he has to do everything, score every goal, beat every defender every time. I can’t begin to imagine the pressure relief at watching Fabregas score twice, Villa score the winner, all from passes that Messi made. Whew!

“Ole, beeyotches! I’m back!”

But to do that, we had to come back from two conceded goals of the silliest kind. In the first, Song goes for a 50/50 ball and just misses the interception. Sevilla start a break, and the cross pings off Mascherano’s heel to another Sevilla attacker, who takes advantage of the acres of space given him by Alves and smokes one past Valdes.

What I saw on Twitter was “Song,” and that’s ridiculous. After going for the interception, you can see him hustle back to be in position in the center of the back line. But if the ball doesn’t ping off Mascherano at the exact right angle, if Alves even bothers to mark his man, if Valdes does a little better (even though he isn’t that kind of a keeper), that isn’t a goal.

Their second goal came off an appalling giveaway from Buequets, in the most dangerous part of the pitch, and Sevilla was off to the races. Again, it was “Song.” Phil Schoen, doing match commentary, scoffed that Song’s effort against Negredo “was a midfielder’s tackle.” But you do have to wonder if Song wasn’t worried about being last man, taking out the attacker and getting sent off. If you watch the replay, he was last man. Negredo finishes beautifully, and it was 2-0.

High risk, high reward

The other thing that started was “shoulda bought a center back in the summer.” What CB can deal with a springboard attack from a giveaway deep in his half that springs a fast, tricky striker? Would Puyol have stopped that one? Almost certainly not, because we’ve seen similar situations, and they’ve resulted in goals. The person we have isn’t good enough, and the other CB is always greener. Our defense is fine, if the attack doesn’t screw up.

There is no other club in the world in which defense and offense go hand in hand like ours. If the offense fails, or doesn’t press hard enough, or loses possession in a risky spot, it will be exposed. That’s just how it works. The same fluency with the ball that allows our defenders to become attackers, will find them out of position at times. That’s the risk that comes with the reward.

Then there was also the hue and cry for Bartra, but I’m guessing that if the man who watches practices every day, who knows his players better than any of us thinks that Bartra isn’t ready, then it’s a pretty safe bet that he isn’t ready.

I HATE matches like this!

The narrative is already beginning: Sevilla was hard done by, Sevilla had to play against the referee and Barca, etc, etc, as once again in La Liga, an incompetent official becomes the story over what was in fact an extraordinary match, from both sides. Great football, high drama and two teams playing their hearts out is what this fixture should be remembered for. We didn’t get a gift, and here’s something else: an incompetent referee is thus for both sides, but perceptionally, the more aggressive side will be seen as the benefactor of officiating incompetence.

Possession was 69/31 in our favor, we had 14 shots on goal to their 8, and 7 corners to their 2. Fouls were 15-3 in their favor. A simple look at these numbers would tell you what we already know, which is that one team was set up to defend and counter mostly, while the other team was keeping the ball and attacking. Yes, these statistics hide the speed and danger of their counters and yes, the possession stats hide the dimwitted futility that we at times displayed.

But this whole “12th man” business is facile, and lazy. If the ref calls some ridiculous penalty late in the match, something that is undeserved and a team converts it, it’s hard to argue with the gift-like qualities of such a boon. But we had to score 3 goals of very high quality, the first of which required the same bit of luck as Sevila’s first tally, while the others were just pure excellence. Would Sevilla have defended those the same with 11 men? Would the goals even have happened? Good question. But given that the man sent off was a midfielder, it’s tough to imagine a scenario in which he would have been in the box, defending one of our attacks when the goal(s) was scored.

–In the first, Messi pings a pass to Pedro!, who doesn’t quite control it but it falls right to Fabregas, who blasts it past the keeper.
–In the second, Messi flips a deft flick to Fabregas, who finishes cool as you like, over the keeper.
–In the third, Messi spanks a ball to Villa, who shrugs off two defenders and spanks it high, for the winning goal.

Further, when Gary Medel got sent off, it was because he was stupid. Was Sevilla hard done by in that situation? Yes. It wasn’t a red card. Fabregas, weasel that he is, exaggerated the hell out of that slight contact from Medel. But that’s what he does. That’s what most players do, and Medel should have known better. Anybody who carps about the ref should note the off the ball stuff that wasn’t getting called, by a ref with a reputation for allowing fouls.

Another part of the narrative is the handball call on Thiago that many say should have been made. The ref was right there, and ajudged incidental contact in the same way he did when a Messi shot stuck a Sevilla defender in the arm. No call in either situation, justly so. Not that any of this will squash that silly business.

This crap is bad for my heart. I’m getting along in years, you know, and this whole Cardiac Barca business is killing me. I was sweating and my heart was racing, all from stress. I can’t take a whole season of this. For realz.

Poor Thiago

Thiago Alcantara, a substitute for Busquets, hurt his knee in the match. It’s ligaments. The good side is that they are saying he won’t be able to play El Clasic, good as in the “it could be a lot worse” file. You like them talking about matches, rather than months. That dude deserves a break, even if he wasn’t exactly dazzling today.

Tito Vilanova, like a boss

“Maybe if I stand like him ….”

Vilanova doesn’t just have an eye for the right substitution, he also has the courage to make them. Alves was our worst defender today, and Vilanova pulled him, replacing him with Villa, another attacker. Yep. 3 at the back. Again. So keep the ball and minimize the risk. He yanked Busquets, who was having an excellent match, an brought on Thiago, again with attack in mind. Ditto for Sanchez, who came off in favor of Mr. Danger, Tello. And that risk was rewarded by a coach that, like his predecessor, doesn’t seen to be interested in draws. The season is young, but Vilanova’s substitution history and effectiveness is superior to Guardiola’s …. so far. Long way to go yet.

And now, to make sure I stay in practice ….

Team: 6. Still waiting for this group to play a whole match as a cohesive unit. There were times when you were ready to file a missing persons report for our offense, and there was way too much ineffectual possession. And stop bitching. You’re getting fouled. If he isn’t already calling it, he isn’t going to. There is also still a sense of players not quite knowing what to do with each other yet.

Vilanova: 9. Right lineup, right subs even if he couldn’t always work his influence from the sidelines.

Valdes: 5. As mentioned above, could have done better on that first goal, and didn’t have much to do beyond that.

Alves: 3. Poor defense except in spots, poor crossing and passing, just generally bad.

Song: 6. His positioning is still suspect, but he makes plays, interceptions and physical play. Cules may never accept him as a CB, but as Vilanova himself notes, he’s been doing very well in the position. He is physical, has a high work rate and hustles to make up for his errors.

Mascherano: 6. Some very good defensive plays, but not sure what he was thinking when he flicked a foot at that pass. Either clear the ball or let it go. If he doesn’t deflect that ball, the goal doesn’t happen. I like the fireman quality, but it sometimes goes awry.

Alba: 7. Our best defender today. Jesus Navas wasn’t the same unholy terror that he was against RM, and Alba was a bit part of that, even if it was like midget wrestling. Lots of interceptions and key instances of being in the way, thus affecting a Sevilla attack.

Busquets: 7. I thought he was having his usual wonderful match, right up until the giveaway. Even then he shrugged off the mistake and continued right on being excellent. His sense for where the ball is going to be is uncanny. I’d love to see more of him in the attack, but he has a role to play.

Xavi: 6. He’s had better matches, even if some of his difficulties can be laid at the feet of poor player movement. He missed a few runs, which is surprising. It’s harder for him without full-time help, and Fabregas wasn’t it.

Fabregas: 6. Playing better and better, with two goals, defense, effort and basically being all over the pitch. He still has those vanishing periods. Both of his goals were the well-taken, instinct kinds of finishes that you home our players learn to take more of. Less thinking, more shooting. Played to a higher rating, but lost a point because of the Medel business.

Messi: 4. Another substandard match, even as his influence in the three goals was key. At times today you could see him take a few steps after a Sevilla attacker, then just say to hell with it, deciding to stand around and wait for the ball to come back. The few times he did press, he would raise hell with Sevilla’s attack.

Sanchez: 4. When he comes off, he always looks frustrated. You can tell that he wants to do more, but he seems to be overthinking his play. His moves work, then he turns the wrong way with the ball. He’s in the clear, and opts for the pass instead of the shot. Still a work in progress, but people can be forgiven for beginning to question what the deal is.

Pedro!: 5. Solid match, with a great all-pitch work rate. A stifling defense such as Sevilla’s never does him any good as he thrives on space, and Sevilla just wasn’t leaving any. Disappeared for long stretches.


Tello (for Sanchez): 7. A constant danger, whose pace caused continual problems for the Sevilla players on that side of the pitch. More than a few balls passed into the box that deserved better attacking fates.

Thiago (for Busquets): 5. A few key plays, including the intercepted pass that led to the first goal, but not all that impressive.

Villa (for Alves): incomplete. Not enough time for a full rating, but he was aggressive, dynamic and unleashed. The winning goal that he scored was brilliant, shrugging off the defenders (second time this season) and scoring over the keeper.

So. We know what’s next. This team is perfect this season, and still isn’t playing all that particularly well, even if they’re getting the job done. If we beat them in our house, it’s (depending on what happens in their match tomorrow), potentially Liga-ending, even at this early date. I’ll be watching it with the Chicago Penya again, Penya Barcelonista Chicago, whose Facebook page is here. If you’re ever in Chicago, it’s a great group to hang out with.

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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. Xingxian
    September 29, 2012

    Man, I hope I can find a group like that Chicago one around where I am…

  2. AJ_10
    September 30, 2012

    If I may suggest, please scrap the KRS system. Keep the individual performance analysis (paragraph) but scrap the numbers. Its hard to understand as I cannot comprehend what they stand for. (Is a 10 THE Manita level of play? What is a zero? etc. Confusion abounds)

    Well written and fantastic review in an amazingly short time.

  3. Barcaleya
    September 30, 2012

    Visca el Barca!

    Like Kxevin – wasn’t too particularly worried when we were 2-0 down. I seriously thought we could still win it. And we did! Yay!

    My thoughts:

    I didn’t think we were playing all that badly even up to the 50-somethingth minute when we were down.

    I thought that Sevilla were playing really, really, well. Their long passes were on target, finding their man close to the box and we will always be in trouble that way. Still, but for the unfortunate deflection on Masch, their first goal would not have been scored, which actually speaks well of our defense. The second Sevilla goal too was another one of those normal things that happen (turnover) which unfortunately has a high risk for us because of our high line. But that’s part of our game so just because it resulted in a goal against us doesn’t mean we played ghastly. It’s the way we play and so far, the rewards have always been worth the risks.

    I like Song. As noted though, he still doesn’t make those last ditch efforts that Puyi and Masche do regularly. I’m sure he will learn in time.

    I cannot believe we had 69 percent possession because the game was end to end, exciting stuff.

    Since we’ve been more direct this season, our tiki-taka-ing hasn’t been as sustained so I think we don’t tire out our opponents as much as we did in seasons past. Our goals seem to be more direct too, however, and coming from much farther in the field, which is fantastic. I think Tito is specifically asking them to try to do that to give us more variety in attack (instead of constantly just walking the ball into the net).

    I’ve always thought that between Pep and Tito, Tito was the tactician. And boy, for all his calm demeanour, he has some balls. He didn’t care to settle for a draw away from home. Even when drawing from 2 down was an achievement in itself. He brought in more attacking power and went for the kill. Wow.

    Finally, really happy that Villa is back. In fact, I think he’s even better now than before injury. Obviously, caring for an already cracked and injured shin wasn’t good and it showed then.

    I am so, so happy for this particular win. Hopefully (not that I want us to be 2-0 down ever again), the team can look back at this game and KNOW that we can always find a way to claw back, while there is time left on the clock.

    So, yay! Visca el Barca!!! Long may we prosper and win all the Cups 😀

    • _Lily
      September 30, 2012

      Well, last time Villa broke a leg, he came out on the other side ambidextrous. Maybe this time we’ll get the treble.

  4. _Lily
    September 30, 2012

    I actually love to see matches like this in the league. It seems like most of the time, we only see real, heart-racing matches when it really, really matters (i.e., the CL knockouts or a clasico). It’s nice to have that tension and excitement when at the end of the day, a loss won’t be the end of the world or the end of a competition. I can’t enjoy a real, entertaining match in the CL KOs (especially since we’re usually playing against scum) – I get too tense. I legitimately enjoyed watching this.

    It’s a good thing it was Alba on Navas, though – any of our other defenders would have had a hell of a time with it. Alba was the best of them on the pitch and, as an added bonus, he’s spent a lot more time playing with Navas recently than the other three. (Granted, Sergio Ramos probably knows Navas better than most of the players on the pitch two weeks ago, and it certainly didn’t seem to help him much.)

    • Messiah10
      September 30, 2012

      A loss WOULD have been a big deal. If we lose, Sevilla have 14 pts., 1 behind us. If Aletico Madrid win today they would be top of the table with 16 pts. If EE win they climb only 5 pts back with Clasico to play, which, if they win, brings them within 2 pts. I can’t disagree more that, “. . .when at the end of the day, a loss won’t be the end of the world or the end of a competition.”

      • _Lily
        September 30, 2012

        I think you’re being a little melodramatic.

        A loss in the league is not the same thing as a loss in the knock-out stages of the Champions League. We won’t keep winning every game for the entire season – sooner or later, we will draw, and we will lose. When there are 38 rounds, you have time to make up the lost ground. When there are just two, you have a lot less space to mess up.

  5. Anonymous_69
    September 30, 2012

    I know these matches show the team’s character and fighting spirit, but man, when it happens game after game, all it shows is that we’re a struggling team. But I know we’ll improve with time, and the fact that we’ve gotten some of our most difficult away matches out of the away, unscathed, is a huge boost.

    Also, Alba vs Navas was soooo fun. Abidal himself struggled a hell of a lot playing against Navas. So it’s not just about speed. Alba stuck to him very well.

  6. September 30, 2012

    Pretty much spot on, solid review. I don’t quite understand why the team is not really gelling properly, the system doesn’t seem different from Pep’s so perhaps it’s the tiredness of euros catching on? But even then Messi doesn’t seem as good but I think his form is due to something mental rather than physical as he seems quite grim during matches which is quite different from how we see him.

    Whatever the case, Tito seems to have come out in flying colours with his subs and timing. However with the team not playing as good it seems like the tactics have really improved but the strategy has gone down a notch.

    On the match itself: It was a clear red for me as Medel clearly attacked Cesc with his head despite how light or heavy it might have been. An off the ball, away from play hit is always likely to be a red and it is was really stupid from Medel. I also don’t fully feel Cesc overplayed it as medel caught him square in the lip which can hurt really bad especially if the lip hits your teeth. The handball is a non incident as it was unintentional, the ref called it as such and moreover it was almost out of his view.

    For the actual football: Despite Song doing decent in most respects his positioning is quite awful and it even highlighted that sMasch’s isn’t that good either. Combine it with a really poor Alves offering no help on the right side and we have a defensive disaster of a match. Better get our act together before clasico.

    Good to see both Fabregas and Villa score crucial goals, should do wonders for their confidence and for Messi’s in them too. Someone really needs to have a talk with Alexis, his decision making and confidence in his own ability needs to improve – look at Tello, if he can fearlessly take on defenders so can you. Which brings me to Tello, whos turning out to be a great super sub really troubling defenders after their tired from chasing the ball for an hour. Kinda like P! in his first year.

    I LOVE matches like this, great entertainment has you involved, on the edge of your seat cheering, hoping praying for the lead character. Hollywood rarely makes such great thrillers!

    • Barcaleya
      September 30, 2012

      Yeah, I’m sure we’re tweaking our system a bit that’s why we’re not gelling properly.

      I couldn’t quite put my finger on it but when I saw the first Supercopa, I thought we weren’t as patient with the ball as we usually were. I thought we were passing it farther than usual, less triangles and more direct passes towards players closer to the goal. We were also losing a lot of the balls that way, which really scared me. Iniesta lost quite a few. Iniesta, can you imagine?!

      I deduced that they must be practicing this and trying it out as a step up from the slower, more-patient, small-triangle, walk-in-the goal, tiki taka. I thought they weren’t so attuned with the longer distances of the ball so when someone passes it that way, the receiver is somehow not ready and it gets intercepted. Who knows?

      I do hope we get better at this new system, whatever it is.

      I am really hoping that Song gets better at his position. Obviously, he’s being asked to play at a post he doesn’t play…so I just need to trust our scouts/coach in their belief that he has the skills/intelligence to adapt and adapt well.

      Anyhow…when we win the treble this season, I couldn’t care less if all wins were come-from-behind. Haha. I could deal with being scruffy this season, in contrast to our more polished, elegant self.

  7. nia
    September 30, 2012

    It was a good day for footy. Man U lost, we won in Fergie time and 4+7 made it 11 again 😉 stuff champions are made of. I like that we are winning and showing the courage to come back from being down but, i would like to have some matches that are not so much heart attack inducing. No doubt defence has to improve a lot but, i don’t think they are as bad as it seems.

    My heart was pounding just before Cesc scored in the 89min and when Villa scored, well, i’m sure every cule did the same thing. This match would have been lost last year or drawn. It seemed the team wasn’t responding to Pep after all and a change is what they needed to get their fire back, that and the losing the liga to EE the way they did.

    As for the ref, i think he was bad throughout and screwed Barca mostly. He made terrible non calls for both teams and how both teams ended up with two yellow cards each is beyond me. Barca made 3 fouls and Sevilla 18, hard ones too. So, for the Madristas crying Uefalona bla bla bla, i say, don’t throw rocks if you leave in a glass house. That’s how we felt last season, difference is, EE got blatant favours.

  8. September 30, 2012

    Would’ve been harsh had a handball been given against Thiago. He stretched to intercept a pass and the ball popped up and struck his arm. Didn’t seem like there was intent. The ball popped up so quick I don’t think Thiago could’ve purposely controlled with his hand if he wanted to. IMO, good non call by the ref and the correct interpretation of the handball rule.

    The rule about handball is clear but it seems every referee has their own interpretation. I believe FIFA specifically wrote the rule with the word intent in order to prevent players from deliberately kicking the ball into each other’s arms. If referees would standardize their interpretation of the rule then players will adapt. It’s a bit silly seeing players pause play momentarily to scream and howl at what they perceive is a handball; completely ignoring the fact that the player had no way of getting his hand out of the way.

    Incorrect interpretation of this rule prevented Barcelona from defending their CL title in 2010. I’m glad today the referee interpreted the rule correctly.

  9. Jim
    September 30, 2012

    First of all I have no idea how you begin to write a thoughtful and comprehensive review like this in the time you have available, Kxevin. I worry about your adrenalin levels after a Barca match 🙂

    Agree completely with your overview about the attitude of this team and about Messi’s effectiveness as a passer from deeper. His advantage over others is that he can carry it at full speed while still having the vision to look for the killer pass. I’ve stopped worrying about ratings 🙂 but what I would say is that, as a teacher when inspectors come in to assess us they aren’t interested in what we’ve tried to do or what hasn’t worked so much as whether or not what we have done has actually had an impact on the kids’ learning. Judged by impact, Messi would have been sensational last night as he had a hand in all we did well that impacted on the scoreline.

    Sorry about Thiago’s injury and loved his bravery coming back on after he hurt his knee because he knew we’d used all our subs. I fear that the knee is an unforgiving part of the body though . . . I thought Xavi was immense again. He was all that was keeping our passing game going at times, always available and always spreading the play beautifully. I did think his Achilles might be bothering him in a couple of the turns he made.

    I don’t know where to start with the defence other than to say our chances of winning anything go down in proportion to the number of times we play anyone other than Piqué and Puyol as our CBs. I’m torn between having a real go at Song and Masch and the inner realisation that neither of them will ever be a CB but they are doing a job for us in extremis. I think my bigger gripe is with Guardiola last year who played Masch in the big games at the end despite having Piqué available with predictable results against RM and Chelsea. What I would say is that it’s a bit rich of some to blame Song for going walkabout ( which he does) without heaping the same on Mascherano. I’m going to cut them a bit of slack for the first as it involved a bit of luck on Sevilla’s part although no way should Song have been making a desperation tackle that far up the park, Masch’s attempt at a clearance wasn’t great and Alves’ was disgracefully slow in looking to close down.

    However, perhaps the most damning for me was the second. I couldn’t believe the space between the two of them. I understand that in possession we look to have a space between the CBs but that is when we have good possession. The situation was a tricky one even before Busi made the bad pass with four opponents pressing the ball. No way should their CF have ever been left with nobody within fifteen yards of him for a start. Song’s positioning was particularly bad but Masch’s lack of awareness of that and failure to readjust brought to mind Souness’ comment that he doesn’t sense danger and position himself accordingly. He also started to run back, then slowed down as he saw Song looking to challenge. No way does this goal happen with Pique / Puyol in the side. Probably Puyol more than Piqué as I don’t think any of them would be allowed to slack like that with Puyi in attendance. Just no leadership or shape at the back I’m afraid.

    In offence, although I thought Alexis had another shocker ( and I’m still not seeing the pace), he did have a couple of tricky moves which I quite liked. Not a lot to build hope on I know but there’ll come a point where he realises his future might be in doubt and he has nothing to lose and starts taking people on and it might just be the making of him – if he genuinely does have the talent. Wish Tito would encourage him to do that a little more first though.

    Really heartened by the way Villa has come back. His genuine class is shining through. The way he holds off defenders and then manages to stay balanced for his finish is one of the reasons he is a world class striker. Messi must have gone home last night totally heartened by the way Cesc and Villa took the strain off him. Liked Tello again as well.

    The great thing is that none of the struggles we’ve had so far matter now. The points are in the bag and the team are buoyed by the resistance we have shown so far. I fear that the next couple of games will require a bit more class to see them out but ATM we are in a great position so I suppose despite ourselves we should sit back, enjoy it and give the team due credit. Will be keeping a close eye on the injury updates over the next couple of days though !

  10. Jim
    September 30, 2012

    Just a reminder of the hard work being put in by our “lesser lights” . From Barcastuff:

    Tw Pinto: “Ready to start working out again at the gym before training! This doesn’t stop, next stop Benfica. #GoForYourDreams” [@13_Pinto]
    10:35am – 30 Sep 12

  11. K_legit in Oz
    September 30, 2012

    From barcastuff:
    Further tests this morning showed Thiago’s knee injury is worse than initially thought. Official statement expected later today. [sport]


  12. K_legit in Oz
    September 30, 2012

    Also from barcastuff:
    Official: Puyol, Adriano &Iniesta have recovered from their injuries and are available for game against Benfica

    YES! YES! YES!

    • _Lily
      September 30, 2012

      That is very good news, but I really hope Puyol doesn’t play. I’d rather draw or lose to Benfica than risk not having Puyol for the clasico. We *need* him in defense, especially without Pique there.

  13. mom4
    September 30, 2012

    “There is a hunger in this group…

    Can they pleeeaaase try to sate that hunger a little earlier in the game?

    Last year I would have said game over after their second goal (can’t recall an 0-2 but would have said it had it occured). This game I kept watching. Kept hoping. Even kept believing. Messi as a 10 is a beautiful thing. It was like Messi had an epiphany—“So what if you’re gonna mark the hell outta me, I’ll kill you off by passing to my rather talented buddies. Now who ya gonna mark? Seems like Messi (as well as the whole team) needs to reinvent himself every so often to keep the opposition guessing.

    Oh, and the sub thing? I’m beginning to believe that Tito could cure a rainy day!

  14. mom4
    September 30, 2012

    I personally think that it’s going to be fun, frustrating, and maybe a little too exciting watching Song develop into a CB. He goes to win a ball, and he usually wins it, but it finds me screaming at the TV, “Dude, you don’t have a line of defenders behind you. You are the part of that last line!” When he doesn’t win that ball…

    When it comes down to it, though, we kind of have to have a DM at CB. One needs to be good with the ball at one’s feet to play anywhere on this team. Ordinary defenders need not apply. Expect trade-offs.

    I’m patient about Song’s development for now. Sanchez is the one I worry about.

  15. endico
    September 30, 2012

    Yes we are winning all our games but I’m worried. RM sharp attack might be too swift for our makeshift defense to handle and it may land us in big trouble in el-clasico.

  16. flyzowee
    September 30, 2012

    Im watching the game against real madrid where sanchez made his debut and im convinced he’ll come good for us. The sanchez in that game was definitely the player we paid big bucks for. Fearless, confident, tenacious and very instinctive – No overthinking, just taking names.

  17. Blau-Grenade
    September 30, 2012

    Hey Kxevin, Thanks for the review. I agree with all your points.

    I always love your ratings. Please keep them going and ignore the people who criticize it For me it gives me an important benchmark to compare my rating of the players with.

  18. Barcathegreatestever
    September 30, 2012

    This game caused so many emotions. At one point I felt a little sick. This was the greatest come from behind win I have ever seen by Barca, actually by any soccer team that I can think of right now. Great article but Tito is a 6 for starting Alexis over Tello and Villa. Messi is a 10 for “being the turbo button on a ferrari”. Before the subs he played two positions as Alexis was again hopeless and after showed why he’s the worlds greatest player, again.

    • Barcaleya
      September 30, 2012

      Great come back indeed!

      But you may be forgetting Liverpool at the Champions League finals in ’05.

      3-0 down at halftime.

      Now that was a comeback 😀

    • September 30, 2012

      So the question is would the subs have been as effective had defenders not been chasing Sanchez around? Think about that one for a second.

      Ferraris have turbos, but they don’t have buttons. It’s just always on. Messi wasn’t. I know I’m misguided in expecting cules to back off a player and give him time, but I will never lose hope. Sanchez wasn’t “hopeless.” Sanchez’s effectiveness varied, but if he ever learns to do the right thing (closest was the brilliant move/shot just wide in the second half), sky’s the limit.

      Tello and Villa aren’t as versatile and dynamic as Sanchez. Easy to see why he got the start.

      Messi did what he usually does, which is to go pretty much where he wants. Some will choose to believe that is playing two positions. It isn’t. Sanchez has ability. Frustratingly, he’s still learning.

      • Barcathegreatestever
        September 30, 2012

        I guess we were watching different games, ha ha. The Messi I was watching created every single attack on goal including the three goals against a Sevilla side at top form. He controlled the middle with Xavi and Busquets. He pressured up high, he was positioned on all crosses. He had an exceptional free kick which caused a highlight save of the season. The one play you highlight in the 85 th minute he doesn’t stick a Sevilla player on the counter, big deal. Messi was a 10 yesterday, without him they did absolutely nothing. Thats my opinion; no need for a discussion with someone who thinks he played poorly LOL

        • September 30, 2012

          …. Or a discussion with someone who always thinks he’s brilliant, yes? It’s a one size fits all shoe. As I said to someone else who seems convinced that Messi always craps rainbows, go back and watch the match, just him, then get back to me. It’s easy to let a few plays , brilliant as they were, color a judgment. But I score on the WHOLE match.

  19. psqd
    September 30, 2012

    Thanks for the review.
    Does anyone have a link to download the game? An unfortunately timed family wedding and no bein in this area means I missed the game. 8/

  20. barca96
    September 30, 2012

    Yay! A Kxevin review with numbers. Thanks! Will you watch matches with the Penya from now on?

    – In the previous post you said that your review wasn’t going to make a lot of folks happy but I didn’t see anything controversial (besides you giving Messi a 4 even though he had a hand in all the 3 goals and was very unselfish).

    – Even though Song tried his best to get back into position for the 1st goal, he shouldn’t have followed the ball that far in the first place. It left Alves with 2 people to mark. But damn it he didn’t even stuck his foot out!

    Song tends to get sucked our of position quite easily. I think he still thinks that he is a DM. Hopefully he will break off this habit soon.

    – sMasch didn’t have a good match either. It feels like a handicap having 2 converted CB’s. We will continue leaking goals in. How are we going to win titles with this type of CB’s?

    – Tito has balls of steels! He continously makes bold substitutions that actually pays off.

    – Only Pedro and Messi could’ve scored a goal like Villa did. Lethal!

    – We used to make fun of Arsenal having a bad physio but since last season we’ve had quite a number of injuries. What’s going on?

    • September 30, 2012

      Not all the time, because it’s a hassle to drive that far, park, etc. But with some regularity, yes indeed. Big, giant fun.

      –I reckon that Song is following orders. And he was back in the box before the ball got to Alves’ man, so Alves had plenty to time to mark him tighter than he in fact did. I don’t know that Song is any more forward of “out of position” than Pique. But he has better pace in getting back. I can’t believe how hard he worked to get back in position. He was on the other end of the pitch.

      I guess that for me, all of the “out of position” stuff for all of our defenders is because usually when teams come at us with intent, it’s off a jailbreak situation. It’s hard to play those for any defense, much less ours, that is predicated on the defenders essentially playing sweeper, and starting attacks.

  21. September 30, 2012

    Here’s what I think is happening with injuries (just a layman’s thought, so apply the appropriate grain(s) of salt):

    I’ve been bicycle racing for 30 years, with the middle portion of that period being at national level. There are busy periods, and not-so-busy periods, times when I would race 4x per week, and times when I would race 1-2x per week. And the more I raced, over an extended period, the more injuries I suffered, because tired muscles and ligaments are more brittle and fragile.

    Now let’s think about our players, who have essentially been playing non-stop football since 2008. Euros, regular season, Treble, so extra tournaments, World Cup, regular season, MORE extra tournaments, friendlies, Euros, regular season, friendlies, WC qualifiers, regular season again. The amount of football in the legs of our players is staggering. Of course stuff is going to break. It’s what human bodies do.

    Thiago’s 8-week layoff isn’t as bad as I suspected. Knee ligaments are nasty. It’s also worth noting that the most dangerous time for a player coming back from an extended injury break is that first month. He’s fit, but he isn’t. Yet he often plays like he does, but the complementary muscles, etc. aren’t yet ready for full tilt. It’s why I suspect Vilanova is bringing Villa back so slowly.

    I don’t think it’s anything that the club is doing or not doing. It’s just been a lotta, lotta football, and all of that fatigue is beginning to catch up with our players.

  22. September 30, 2012

    What a match. Difficult to even know where to begin.

    Clearly-this was a match we lose last season. Away at one of the most difficult places in La Liga. Forget it. This season-the team claws back and isn’t even satisfied with a tie.

    They continue to hound Sevilla in extra time. Don’t think there was a player on that pitch who was thinking I can’t believe we pulled level, what a day.

    The only focus for this team – and its manager – was that the job was not complete. And the focused like lasers on winning this match once Cesc tied it.

    And the best part of the match – Messi didn’t have to score. Because the way Sevilla was defending him it’s almost impossible for him to do so.

    Outside of the when he’s been asked to orchestrate the offense in place of Xavi, Cesc has played well this whole season. He’s done an excellent job filling in for Iniesta. Yesterday the goals finally came – and I don’t think it was an accident that they came in such a pressure packed match. The match was so intense that Cesc couldn’t think or rather let his thinking get in the way. Instead he let his talent flow through the game and executed. This is the same transition Sanchez is still trying to go through.

    But if it wasn’t for the progress Cesc had made in fitting into the template I don’t think he could have reached that state of being able to stop thinking and just playing.

    Villa’s finish was something similar. That play was in stark contrast to a few minutes earlier when he broke free in a similar space – and could have shot the ball – but instead tried to square the ball back for Messi. That move went nowhere because Kondogbia knocked down Messi when he went to make his run.

    The next time Villa played that 1-2 with Messi he didn’t even think to pass the ball back to center. He was intent on finishing the match. And he did.

    Oustanding stuff. And Tito’s tactical changes were absolutely spot on. He did exactly what a manager has to – he put his team in the position to win.

    Moving Messi from the false 9 to the 10 had a dramatic impact on this match.

    • Messiah10
      September 30, 2012


      Great point about Cesc’s goals coming in a pressurized environment. You are absolutely correct. He didn’t have time to think about the goals. It was pure instinct w/out and adrenaline. I agree that if we are 2-0 up and Cesc has those chances he doesn’t execute them because at those moments he’s feeling the pressure of scoring and executing. Great analysis!

      • nzm
        September 30, 2012

        Yes – we need situations like this for Alexis also – where he plays his natural game with no time to overthink, just play.

      • Messiah10
        September 30, 2012

        Yeah. 3-1 half time. Didn’t last long did it? 🙁

      • Ryan
        September 30, 2012

        DiMaria got great distance when jumping into the penalty box, eh?

  23. replayed
    September 30, 2012

    “Moving Messi from the false 9 to the 10 had a dramatic impact on this match.”

    Credit and thanks to Sevilla for inspiring this change, which may turn out to be pivotal for this team.

    That aside, I was so impressed with Michel’s tactical approach to this match. He spurned the standard anti-Barca measure of parking the bus in the defense. Instead, he parked the bus in the midfield. His fullbacks essentially played as wide midfielders. This means Sevilla were set up in something that looked like a 2-5-3, consistently outnumbering and compressing Barca’s midfield 3. whoscored’s map of Barca’s player positions shows Busquets, Cesc and Xavi packed right on top of each other in a vertical line, with the front 3 nearby in a tight horizontal bunch with no width in the attack. It’s startling.

    Barca were pretty much forced to go through the middle but weren’t even managing to get at Sevilla’s back line. The last twenty minutes or so of the first half were the most I’ve seen Barca dominated this season. This was different from the frantic bombardement at the Bernabeu or Osasuna’s breathless tackling. This was a calm, sustainable, *tactical* dominance.

    I’d also argue that both of Sevilla’s goals derived from their outnumbering Barca in the midfield. Song’s lunge forward ahead of the first goal was arguably successful. He did strip the ball from his target, but it rolled to another Sevilla player because there were more of them in the midfield, and the counter was on. There were several other instances where Song or Mascherano would press with a similar lunge, only to have the ball end up with another Sevilla midfielder with the Barcelona defense out of shape. Similarly, the Busquets pass to Xavi that led to the second goal failed because Xavi was surrounded by 4 Sevilla players at the time, not an uncommon disadvantage yesterday.

    Moving Messi back into the 10 slot was Tito’s move to compensate for this in the second half, and it definitely helped, although it must be said that what really turned the match was Sevilla losing one of their midfielders in the form of the hot-headed Medel. Once that happened, Barcelona were able to camp around the Sevilla box after being kept away from it for most of the match. Messi, Cesc and Villa magic ensued.

    Speaking of sustainable, I don’t believe this habit of relying on late heroics is that. It’s undeniably thrilling to watch, but as exhilarating as it may be for the players in the short term, I suspect it’s quite draining for them to go through that consistently. With the kind of long season Barca have ahead of them, I’d happily settle for uneventful wins ushered by 2-0 half-time leads.

  24. Messiah10
    September 30, 2012

    I posted this above in a response to a comment, but I think it’s so crucial that I want to say it again. THIS win was enormous! This is the type of win that wins championships. If we lose this game, Sevilla have 14 pts. 1 behind us. If A.M. win today, they climb top of the table with 16 pts. If EE win, which, it looks like they will, they climb 5 pts. back, instead of 8 pts. If they win the Clasico, they climb within 2 pts. If we win, we climb to 11 pts. That kind of swing is what wins leagues. Our team won’t be as tense for the Clasico now because EE has everything to lose. They have to win, so the pressure is ALL on them. We can afford to lose and still have a 5 pt. lead at the table. I’m so proud of this team and the effort yesterday. We could have quit. It’s been said, but last year we DO quit. Instead, we dug deep and pulled out an immense win. It gives me goose bumps. Really. People will say it’s early. It is, but this win and the points gained are so tremedous for our Liga campaign. This was a MUST win in my mind.

  25. simple_barcafan
    September 30, 2012

    I hope Bilbao and Valencia start winning..I admire them both…

    • Helge
      September 30, 2012

      Valencia did start winning!

      I don’t expect much from Bilbao this term, they seem to be screwed internally. Not getting Benat as replacement for Javi Martinez, a Llorente who certainly ain’t happy at the club anymore. There might be a lot of tension inside the team.

  26. simple_barcafan
    September 30, 2012

    “Rosell (president): “After 2014-15, when contracts expire, the tv money issue in the Liga could be changed, so we can have more competition”

    Hopefully it changes…(I wanna see 4 teams from the Liga in the CL semi finals.. 🙂 )

  27. ooga aga
    September 30, 2012

    thiago unas ocho semanas de baja

    thiago out some eight weeks

  28. ciaran
    September 30, 2012

    It’s strange looking at how our performances are somehow turning into wins. Normally over the last couple of seasons when we are playing average or below we would lose points or if we scraped out a victory it would only be because of some superhuman Messi bit of magic.
    The matches this season we have been below average pretty much throughout but have managed through substitutions and sheer determination pulled a goal or two from nowhere.

    This is not going to continue forever and we need to start actually playing some good football. We badly miss Iniesta, the lack of his playmaking and dribbling are forcing Messi to play further from goal meaning that we have no one at all near goal. Our wingers are maintaining width but there is little direct runs through the middle. Cesc gives us this option and if he has gotten his confidence back then he could be very dangerous.

    What I am very excited about tactically is the Tello & Alba combination down the left wing. They have great energy and pace to burn and they are one thing that we have lacked recently… directness.

    As excited as I am about the left wing I am equally concerned about the right wing. Dani Alves has been really poor and inconsistent so far this season so I’m hoping that Montoya is as good we all think he is going to be.

  29. Jim
    September 30, 2012

    Wow, just wow! What a performance from Europe. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a better comeback. Well done Paul Lawrie.

    So happy for Jose Maria. I was in tears watching him talk about Seve in his interview.

    • Barcaleya
      September 30, 2012

      It’s UNBELIVEABLE!!!! I can’t believe it.

      In all the years I’ve been watching the Ryder Cup – just couldn’t believe they could surmount this kind of deficit especially since the American golfers, individually, are better that their European counterparts (except for Rory).

      And to win in the singles matches…wow.

  30. simple_barcafan
    September 30, 2012

    The curious case of Dani Alves..

    • September 30, 2012

      Nothing curious about it. His deficiencies are becoming increasingly evident as teams attack us differently. The swashbuckling, cowabunga style that used to work so exceptionally well when we kept the ball all the time, has become something different for a number of reasons:

      –Teams are exploiting the space behind him, and his tendency to move to the middle when defending on breaks, as we saw yesterday.

      –Teams are cutting off his feed to Messi by overplaying, so that Alves is reduced to an attacker with the ball, and one of no real danger.

      –Teams are using numbers to disrupt the triangles on the left side of the pitch, eliminating the danger of that attack development.

      –As Messi has become more of a central player (recall that Alves thrived with Messi when Eto’o was more central), Alves has further become diminished.

      If Montoya develops properly, I see this as Alves’ last season with the club.

      • “As Messi has become more of a central player (recall that Alves thrived with Messi when Eto’o was more central), Alves has further become diminished.”

        Yes that’s very true. And to make matters worse, he has Sanchez in the position now instead of Messi. Have you ever noticed how Alves plays really well when Pedro start on the right. Alves still have lot to offer.

        • TITO
          October 1, 2012

          Was wondering how much we are going to get for Alves next season. And again we are going to cry how bad we are in doing business, i.e. selling players. Why, because we didn’t do it this summer when we actually had offers for him and could have got a lot of cash.

  31. Kimcelona
    September 30, 2012

    Wow, I actually agree with your review this week! Great job, I

  32. Kimcelona
    September 30, 2012

    Okay then my comment posted without me finishing.

    Anyways, as I was saying, I actually agree with your review this week. Great job, I am a hard nut to crack! 😀

    Song hasnt done bad at CB at all but he NEEDS to stop running towards the opponent player with the ball in midfield to try to challenge. When he misses, its hell for the team to get back (and for my nerves). I dont agree that he gets back quickly. Thats the whole heartattack inducing part of it. Most of the time if/when he misses a challenge and is out of position, he jogs back..I dunno if he’s just slow but its not a good thing. He’s too often out of position. But I wont blame solely Song for conceding. He’s just doing the job he’s asked to do as a DM turned CB and the club is to blame for not buying a true CB for 2-3 years now.

    All your ratings are spot on except Messi…and believe me this aint about thinking Messi sh*ts rainbows. He played okay in that game, about the same as Tello’s score, imo. Infact he did more to deserve a 7 than him. But its not surprising now, after reading your ratings for about 2 years, that you still didnt think he was good enough. I have watched the whole match over, focused on Messi, and he was the one spearheading many attacks, hell, he was involved in all three goals we scored for the comeback. He pressured and hustled and was the most unselfish I’ve seen him this season, also the most energetic I’ve seen him as well.
    In your last post you claim to know that Messi is human yet your standards/analysis of him reflect that you think he’ll never play to a good rating unless he’s being a robot on the field. So because he didnt hustle back for the ball one or two times, he was horrible. Youre like the father who never thinks his son is good enough, no matter how much he does.

    Anyways, I still enjoy reading your reviews, even if you do have something against Messi 😀

    • September 30, 2012

      As I’ve said, players are just cogs in the wheel that is FCB. Don’t have anything for or against any of them. It’s the only way I can evaluate fairly. And there are probably others with axes to grind against Messi, since I wasn’t the only one saying that he was playing poorly in the Twitterverse.

      For every good play that you saw, I’ll wager that you ignored a bad one, or ascribed a different quality to it (ambition, poor player movement around him, etc, etc). Once, as an exercise, I followed Keita during an entire match, and noted every last thing that he did, to buttress my contention that he was rated fairly, and I didn’t “like” Keita. The evidence stood for itself. It’s why I tell people, watch everything, not just the good stuff or the “whoa, Messi” moments, but everything. Then judge … him as well as my evaluation.

      And for the record, I don’t care if anyone agrees with anything I write, only that people come to it fairly, without any of that “You hate” or “You love” contentiousness because I don’t affirm beliefs. That’s my sole request.

      • Messiah10
        October 1, 2012

        I thought your rating of Messi was extremely fair. If my user name doesn’t give it away, I’m a Messi disciple!, but I can also objectively evaluate his performances. Overall, he didn’t have a great game. He conceded a lot of possession by giving the ball away cheaply. However, he did make up for it by playing a part in every goal we scored. It’s scary just how good he is. Even in his less than stellar form, he helps the team win games by simply playing to the whistle. I’ve never seen him quit. I love that about him. I also think he’s finding it extremely difficult to find any space this season. Teams are marking him more heavily with an extra man or two. I think it’s because of his exploits last season and our lack of a 2nd proven goal scorer. Teams are saying, “ok, you may beat us, but Messi won’t be. You’ll have to have someone else score.” The crazy thing is is that he still scores and provides assists. When that doesn’t happen he creates space by drawing defenders out.

  33. swamidigital
    September 30, 2012

    I like the analysis portion. I think the ratings are just becoming trolling though.

  34. mic
    October 1, 2012

    What has happened with Messi in the first half?
    He was mindlessly going against four opponents or trying too risky passes that even if successful would lead to nothing.
    It looked to me like he was over-motivated and lacking clear judgement because even with strict positional orders (which is doubtful) giving away ball like that is never desired unless you want to give Song some practice 🙂

    So for me the rating for his first half was 2 at most. Hell in weak moments for the first time ever I was even contemplating the possibility of benching him (sorry for that, I know that one is not supposed to do that).

    Toward the end of the match I would give him 7 or 8, so for the whole match 4 is a fitting score.

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