The Match No One Cares About: Benfica – Barcelona

I settle into my desk chair this morning, all ready to get to work on things (or at least that’s what we’ll tell my boss), and I’m confronted with a question from a coworker: “Man, Cesc should win an Oscar, shouldn’t he?” I suppose that was inevitab

le, but besides it not having been an Oscar-worthy performance (not even a Golden Globe, people!), it’s somewhat boring to talk about. It was a harsh call, but one that seems inevitable in the replays. An off-the-ball incident that was probably seen from behind by a linesman or from an equally bad angle by the fourth official. It probably looked like headbutt aggression out of the corner of the eye. Doesn’t justify Cesc’s poor attempt at channeling Sergio Busquets, but it also struck me that Medel lost his head and invited a bit of that down upon himself; I don’t think it should have been a red, for what that’s worth, but certainly a yellow.

So it’s a question of “oh look divers” and “oh look calls going your way” when it should be “Mateu Lahoz is a freakin’ bad ref.” Sevilla can feel free to be upset about his performance, but it’s not like he was one-sided in his terribleness. At least five times he refused to call obvious fouls. Then a similar play moments later would result in a yellow. But it’s not a question of Barça getting calls or not; as Aupa Submarino mentioned on Twitter, “It is always funny when supporters of big two argue they dont get the calls at all. ” Sure, we do get some calls. No doubt about it, but often that is the cult of the superstar, not a question of shirt color. How could Messi not have gotten around that guy? Because that guy must have fouled him. We’ll call that. Mascherano flies in, obviously got the ball first, he’s Mascherano! We won’t call that. Monchi’s Men makes a similar point.

And now that we have a match on our hands tomorrow in the Champions League, we’re focused on whether or not Cesc was hit in the face or not instead of looking forward to a tough trip to Portugal. Benfica is coming off a 1-2 win at Paços de Ferreira on Friday, Lima having scored a brace in their comeback win. That put them tied top of the table with Porto with 11 points from 5 matches. Oscar Cardozo leads their scoring with 4 while Lima and Rodrigo each have 3; poor old Nolito, once a darling of the youth team but unable to break in permanently to the first team, has scored once so far this year.

Benfica drew 0-0 at Celtic on CL Matchday 1, so they’re tied 2nd in the group and are no doubt looking to get their home campaign off to a flying start against the obvious group favorites. Given that Barcelona has an extremely tough weekend match ahead, there could be a moment when the players are looking ahead rather than at the team right in front of them. Benfica could very well steal a march on the squad, especially if Tito introduces rotations again and the team isn’t communicating especially effectively.

A win isn’t vital for Barça, but a loss wouldn’t be a particularly great outcome; a draw would be acceptable and would likely preserve the top spot for FCB given that Celtic is traveling to Moscow and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a home win or a draw. What I hope to see is more attacking verve from Barça like I saw in the opening exchanges against Sevilla. Messi was really working, really pushing for that early goal and it rocked Sevilla back a little bit. The work rate was phenomenal not only from the little Argentine, but from the rest of the squad.

Then the first goal happened in one of those weird flukey ways where everyone goes “and that is cleared…wait what the…” The team reacted by possessing more (partly because of Sevilla) and then the second goal happened (hi, Busi!) and suddenly that abyss appeared. A first loss? A shutout? Fortunately the work rate never truly slowed, though Messi did turn into hyper ballhog Messi for a few minutes in there before going all pass master on the things. With Puyol, Iniesta, and Adrian back, the team has more depth than it did, though Thiago’s ligament injury seems him out for a while.

I have nothing but love for that guy (though I accidentally sold him in FIFA13 by someone meeting the outrageous counteroffer I made on a lark–fortunately he rejected their contract offer; phew!), but Thiago is simply not as good as Iniesta, so while I don’t want to make such a trade ever, I’m happier to have Andresito back than I am sad that Thiago is out for a bit. Hopefully he can come back stronger than ever and totally make an ass out of me by winning the Balon d’Or like 8 times in one year. I dunno what that means either, actually, but there it is.

It would be somewhat surprising to see both Puyol and Iniesta get significant minutes just coming off of medium-term injuries, but I really want to see them get some minutes. While finishing first in the Champions League group is probably extremely important down the road, I will always prize a clasico over anything else, so I would gladly sacrifice 3 points tomorrow for 3 points on Sunday. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ll have to do anything of the sort simply because that’s not how sports work.

Remember Pablo Aimar? He once did this and almost pulled it off. He also did this (who’s that guy in the #24? And what about that #4?). Granted, those were a few years ago, but he’s still a guy that you can look and go “daaamn” when he does that unexpected, creative thing. Hampered by injuries, if memory serves, he was such a talent that it almost didn’t matter. He was still sublime much of the time. He’s been with Benfica since 2008-09 and has made, if Wikipedia serves, 159 appearances in that time. Pretty good numbers, really.

Basically, this is going to be a tough match and I see us drawing it as we work toward full fitness for Sunday’s match. Focus will be key and no doubt Tito will screech bloody freakin’ murder at everyone who doesn’t focus (as will Puyol), but I think that Benfica is good enough to get a draw at home against us.

Official Prediction: 2-2. Some goals by some people, including Pedro and Messi. Nolito grabs one late to equalize.Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl + B)Italic (Ctrl + I)Strikethrough (Alt + Shift + D)Unordered list (Alt + Shift + U)Ordered list (Alt + Shift + O)Blockquote (Alt + Shift + Q)Align Left (Alt + Shift + L)Align Center (Alt + Shift + C)Align Right (Alt + Shift + R)Insert/edit link (Alt + Shift + A)Unlink (Alt + Shift + S)Insert More Tag (Alt + Shift + T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt + Shift + N)▼
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I settle into my desk chair this morning, all ready to get to work on things (or at least that’s what we’ll tell my boss), and I’m confronted with a question from a coworker: “Man, Cesc should win an Oscar, shouldn’t he?” I suppose that was inevitable, but besides it not having been an Oscar-worthy performance (not even a Golden Globe, people!), it’s somewhat boring to talk about. It was a harsh call, but one that seems inevitable in the replays. An off-the-ball incident that was probably seen from behind by a linesman or from an equally bad angle by the fourth official. It probably looked like headbutt aggression out of the corner of the eye. Doesn’t justify Cesc’s poor attempt at channeling Sergio Busquets, but it also struck me that Medel lost his head and invited a bit of that down upon himself; I don’t think it should have been a red, for what that’s worth, but certainly a yellow.
So it’s a question of “oh look divers” and “oh look calls going your way” when it should be “Mateu Lahoz is a freakin’ bad ref.” Sevilla can feel free to be upset about his performance, but it’s not like he was one-sided in his terribleness. At least five times he refused to call obvious fouls. Then a similar play moments later would result in a yellow. But it’s not a question of Barça getting calls or not; as Aupa Submarino mentioned on Twitter, “It is always funny when supporters of big two argue they dont get the calls at all. ” Sure, we do get some calls. No doubt about it, but often that is the cult of the superstar, not a question of shirt color. How could Messi not have gotten around that guy? Because that guy must have fouled him. We’ll call that. Mascherano flies in, obviously got the ball first, he’s Mascherano! We won’t call that. Monchi’s Men makes a similar point.

And now that we have a match on our hands tomorrow in the Champions League, we’re focused on whether or not Cesc was hit in the face or not instead of looking forward to a tough trip to Portugal. Benfica is coming off a 1-2 win at Paços de Ferreira on Friday, Lima having scored a brace in their comeback win. That put them tied top of the table with Porto with 11 points from 5 matches. Oscar Cardozo leads their scoring with 4 while Lima and Rodrigo each have 3; poor old Nolito, once a darling of the youth team but unable to break in permanently to the first team, has scored once so far this year.
Benfica drew 0-0 at Celtic on CL Matchday 1, so they’re tied 2nd in the group and are no doubt looking to get their home campaign off to a flying start against the obvious group favorites. Given that Barcelona has an extremely tough weekend match ahead, there could be a moment when the players are looking ahead rather than at the team right in front of them. Benfica could very well steal a march on the squad, especially if Tito introduces rotations again and the team isn’t communicating especially effectively.
A win isn’t vital for Barça, but a loss wouldn’t be a particularly great outcome; a draw would be acceptable and would likely preserve the top spot for FCB given that Celtic is traveling to Moscow and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a home win or a draw. What I hope to see is more attacking verve from Barça like I saw in the opening exchanges against Sevilla. Messi was really working, really pushing for that early goal and it rocked Sevilla back a little bit. The work rate was phenomenal not only from the little Argentine, but from the rest of the squad.
Then the first goal happened in one of those weird flukey ways where everyone goes “and that is cleared…wait what the…” The team reacted by possessing more (partly because of Sevilla) and then the second goal happened (hi, Busi!) and suddenly that abyss appeared. A first loss? A shutout? Fortunately the work rate never truly slowed, though Messi did turn into hyper ballhog Messi for a few minutes in there before going all pass master on the things. With Puyol, Iniesta, and Adrian back, the team has more depth than it did, though Thiago’s ligament injury seems him out for a while.
I have nothing but love for that guy (though I accidentally sold him in FIFA13 by someone meeting the outrageous counteroffer I made on a lark–fortunately he rejected their contract offer; phew!), but Thiago is simply not as good as Iniesta, so while I don’t want to make such a trade ever, I’m happier to have Andresito back than I am sad that Thiago is out for a bit. Hopefully he can come back stronger than ever and totally make an ass out of me by winning the Balon d’Or like 8 times in one year. I dunno what that means either, actually, but there it is.
It would be somewhat surprising to see both Puyol and Iniesta get significant minutes just coming off of medium-term injuries, but I really want to see them get some minutes. While finishing first in the Champions League group is probably extremely important down the road, I will always prize a clasico over anything else, so I would gladly sacrifice 3 points tomorrow for 3 points on Sunday. Fortunately, I don’t think we’ll have to do anything of the sort simply because that’s not how sports work.
Remember Pablo Aimar? He once did this and almost pulled it off. He also did this (who’s that guy in the #24? And what about that #4?). Granted, those were a few years ago, but he’s still a guy that you can look and go “daaamn” when he does that unexpected, creative thing. Hampered by injuries, if memory serves, he was such a talent that it almost didn’t matter. He was still sublime much of the time. He’s been with Benfica since 2008-09 and has made, if Wikipedia serves, 159 appearances in that time. Pretty good numbers, really.
Basically, this is going to be a tough match and I see us drawing it as we work toward full fitness for Sunday’s match. Focus will be key and no doubt Tito will screech bloody freakin’ murder at everyone who doesn’t focus (as will Puyol), but I think that Benfica is good enough to get a draw at home against us.
Official Prediction: 2-2. Some goals by some people, including Pedro and Messi. Nolito grabs one late to equalize.
Path:

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.

239 comments

  1. Superb piece Isiah. Always enjoy your posts.
    Thanks for the links. Quite a nice blog and a video of Barca before I knew them.Seems strange not knowing more than half of them

  2. So that it lives here as well, guest reviewers, raise your hands. You can e-mail me at kevvwill@yahoo.com, with the match you’re interested in, and we’ll go from there.

    Procedure will be to write it up, then e-mail it to me along with suggestions for pictures, or actual links. And iff we go.

    1. That picture is freaking hilarious! At first, I though Puyi was doing a round house kick to the face Chuck Norris style. Look at the face on Cesc?! He’s like, “yo capi, wtf, chill bro. It’s freaking training and your supposed to be on crutches still!”

    2. Very excited to have Capitan Tarzan back! What a miracle. Tito can give him 20 or 30 minutes to get him prepped for the Clasico. Even if he gets playing time it’s an awful lot to ask of him to be his best for the Clasico. Still, I’d rather have a 70/80% Puyi than a DM at CB. Hopefully, Benfica and EE don’t do this to his knee! lol.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hHBY2SPAqM

  3. Thanks for the videos, Isaiah. It is nice to see the old Barca too. Back when I loved the team mainly because of its Dutch players and Rivaldo. Haha.

    I’m actually excited now not just to watch Barca but to see Aimar again.

    I loved him when he was in Valencia. Actually, I loved Valencia for a while (traitor). Back when they had Mendieta, Kily, Didier, then Aimar, Baraja, Abelda, Ayala, Pellegrino, Canizares, Carew. That was a good bunch of players. Many Spanish national team players too.

    I rooted for them like crazy at the CL finals. But twice lost to Real Madrid and to Bayern. Oh well….

  4. Great preview….

    I’d love to see Tito try a double pivot with song and busi at DM and Msch and Bartra at CB. Fabregas at attacking mid since he probably won’t start the clasico.

    —–vv——–
    alves–barta–Masch–Alba
    –Busi—Song—–
    ——-Fab———
    -sanchez–messi–Tello

    Sanchez should start IMO seeing as he probably wont start the Clasico.

    It’ll be interesting to see if we can “spain” (1-0) our way out of this match, seeing as its not a must win, and try to conserve xavi and some energy for the clasico.

  5. barcastuff‏

    Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Puyol Mascherano Alba – Xavi Busquets Cesc – Pedro Messi Alexis

    It would be fun to see Messi as the 10 again and Cesc as a forward.

    1. Not sure if I agree with his starting for health/fitness/recurrent injuries/age reasons. Comforted by it for sporting reasons.

  6. Well, for me this turns into a must not lose match. Celtic just amde thign a bit complicated. Darn you Celtic!

  7. Love the Portuguese teams, they play attacking football, with wingers and play at a very high tempo. Looking forward to a cracker…. No parking the bus business… and hope that is the case.

  8. No Villa? I thought he should get a start to prep for the weekend.
    Tito must like Cesc a lot. He starts in every game this season except the clasicos(?). Hope Puyi is not pushing himself too much. I’m too sleepy to worry about this match. Preparing for goals to be conceded though.

  9. Is anyone comforted by the sight of Puyol in defence? Also, Alba’s pace. I’m actually enjoying my glass of wine.

  10. Anyone else here? Feel I’m talking to myself 🙂

    Anyway, great o see Puyol giving Cesc a bollocking for not closing down. We’ve been needing that.

  11. I really really hope Puyol gets through this match and is fit for the weekend. He’s been made out of glass recently.

    1. Hope so too. Mind you, the last injury was just unfortunate in the way his knee was stretched. It would have been the same result with most players I think.

  12. Hi. Jafri. Another lovely bollocking of Masch from Puyi for not keeping the high line. I’m loving this !

  13. Pretty good first half. Great display of organising and leading the defence from Puyol. Might not last much longer if he’s to play in the Clasico though.

    1. Man of the Match fir First Half – Puyol for his leadership and patrolling the back line.

  14. Enjoying the silky smooth Sapnish passing. But sometimes I think we get so mesmerized by our own tiki taka that we forget to CHUTE DE BOL!

    Also, Cesc and Pedro, it’s helpful to have 11 of our guys on the field. Cut it out!

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