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

239 Comments

  1. Blau-Grenade
    October 2, 2012

    There is no doubt about the quality of that goal from Fabregas. Absolutely fantastic.

  2. Richzorz
    October 2, 2012

    Who needs to score goals themselves with assists like that!!

  3. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Absolutely brilliant Messi. That”ll be a three at least 🙂

  4. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    Need to do this more using Messi as a decoy

  5. _Lily
    October 2, 2012

    I hope Cesc continues this run as a goal scoring machine. Preferably in the clasico.

  6. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    Just love the effect Puyol has on this team. Absolutely pivotal

  7. lyd
    October 2, 2012

    Lovely to see Messi and Aimar on the same pitch.

  8. Richzorz
    October 2, 2012

    Have to say, it’s amazing that there was no yellow card for the foul(s) on Sanchez there…

  9. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Where’s Iniesta, Tito?

  10. simple_barcafan
    October 2, 2012

    I hope Tito subs Puyol and Xavi…Every min they stay on the field I have this fear that they might get injured for the clasico…

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      OUCH! 😐 😐 😐 You may have been right…

    • simple_barcafan
      October 2, 2012

      F***********************KKKKKKKKKKKKK
      ARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

    • simple_barcafan
      October 2, 2012

      I shouldn’t have spoken..I shouldnt have.. 🙁 🙁

  11. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Great header, Messi.

  12. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Oh shit!

  13. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Noooo

  14. Blau-Grenade
    October 2, 2012

    Puyol’s shoulder does not look good. AWwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww F******************k

  15. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    Poor Puyol

  16. Judas Pissed
    October 2, 2012

    FOR FUCKS SAKE PUYOLLL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. K_legit in Oz
    October 2, 2012

    Puyol..why the fuck did you need to go for that?

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      Wouldn’t be Puyol if he didn’t. Still, feel pretty sick seeing that :s

  18. mom4
    October 2, 2012

    tears

  19. K_legit in Oz
    October 2, 2012

    Stupid, stupid, stupid

  20. Judas Pissed
    October 2, 2012

    The season killer right there…

  21. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    Disaster no excuse

  22. October 2, 2012

    what is the status of Pique injury status? I am not much confident having Song and Mascherano in clasico.

  23. Momo
    October 2, 2012

    Dear Lord…

    Its not the shoulder, its the arm…

    • elacule
      October 2, 2012

      that’s what i thought, too – best possible case looked like (badly) dislocated elbow, but really, it just looked awful.

      so horrible. slo-mo replay was devastating.

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 2, 2012

      The arm just looked like it snapped from the the upper part like a twig. I am still squeamish.

  24. K_legit in Oz
    October 2, 2012

    Well I hope he realises he pretty much nixed his team’s chance for having a standard defensive line in the Clasico..absolutely needless

    • Momo
      October 2, 2012

      Clasico is the least of our worries now

    • elacule
      October 2, 2012

      now busquets with a red card? yeesh.

    • elacule
      October 2, 2012

      sorry, wrong spot. was just still freaked out from Puyol’s injury, and then the red card. what a traumatic ending – Dani is now looking badly hurt – like maybe a broken jaw from the guy who hit him full elbow

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      What do you want, the club to sell/fine him as punishment or something???

    • K_legit in Oz
      October 2, 2012

      I am sorry, are you a bit touched in the head? Stop trying to put words in my mouth.

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      You just seem to be blaming Puyol a bit too heavily for such a freak accident – if he wasn’t such a massively committed player /warrior who knows where (or even if) he’d be playing right now?? It’d be like if Messi didn’t try to dribble past so many players in case one of them injured him…

  25. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Broken arm. Heart sorry for him … And us.

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 2, 2012

      This is not for the faint of the heart.

  26. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    It’s only needless with hindsight. It could have happened in defence just as easily.

  27. Richzorz
    October 2, 2012

    On the positive side, Puyol is as much of a warrior as Abidal, probably be back on the pitch in a few weeks… 🙂

  28. K_legit in Oz
    October 2, 2012

    Oh man Puyol…why?! Was kinda hoping it would be just a dislocated shoulder but it looks bad man!! Argh Tarzan, you give me so much pain now!!!

  29. October 2, 2012

    we shud start Busquets in defense and song in middle in clasico.

  30. Kimcelona
    October 2, 2012

    Tears*

    I dont know about anyone but I can’t stomach seeing these kinds of things and especially it happening to someone who absolutely does not deserve this. Horrible sight.

    I cried for El Gueje’s broken leg and I’m crying even worse for this cause I actually saw the break…

  31. simple_barcafan
    October 2, 2012

    why Tito why!!!!! 🙁 ..I know this is a really stupid now to question why..But couldn’t Puyol just started for the clasico!!!!!!!!!
    I had this fear something like this will happen!!!!!!!
    I have no idea what the heck am I blabbering ……….**** this shit…

  32. Richzorz
    October 2, 2012

    WTF???

  33. K_legit in Oz
    October 2, 2012

    Red card wut?

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      UEFALONA! 😉

  34. Ahmad
    October 2, 2012

    This match has turned into a very nervy affair in these last dying minutes.

  35. simple_barcafan
    October 2, 2012

    The gods have forsaken us…

  36. mom4
    October 2, 2012

    Why is THAT not a red, then?

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      Because there was actual intent and contact apparently…. :s

    • elacule
      October 2, 2012

      exactly. he lost the plot.

  37. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    Ref is an utter disgrace

    • mom4
      October 2, 2012

      Ref has been great up ’til these last few minutes.

    • Dave
      October 2, 2012

      Maxi Perrira and Matic should both of seen red

  38. Judas Pissed
    October 2, 2012

    We are watching a Portugeuse team in Lisbon trying their best to damage us for a Portugeuse team in Madrid…

  39. mom4
    October 2, 2012

    Blow the freakin’ whistle and get us outta there!

  40. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    Ref is an utter disgrace… I despise Portuguese teams

    • elacule
      October 2, 2012

      why was Busquets given a red card but not the guy (i don’t know his name) who smashed Alves’ jaw?

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 2, 2012

      The Ref was actually quite good. I would say he is probably one of the better referee’s I have seen in recent times.

    • mom4
      October 2, 2012

      He was great until the end. Lost complete control at the end.

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 2, 2012

      Don’t think he ever lost control of the match. Once the Benfica players realized that they were going to lose the match anyway, they were just trying to injure the Barca players. But yes, there were a couple of glaring calls that were against Barca, the Busi red and when Alves got elbowed in he face.

    • Dave
      October 2, 2012

      That where the red earns his money able to calm things by stamping his authority. Matic and Maxi should of got red. That would settle things.

    • _Lily
      October 2, 2012

      Totally disagree – I thought that overall, the ref was actually pretty good.

  41. mom4
    October 2, 2012

    Thank God that is over.

    Busi’s card must be appealed.

    Anims, Capita!

    • Richzorz
      October 2, 2012

      Agreed! Be interesting to find out what the red was for in the official’s report…! :s

  42. mom4
    October 2, 2012

    According to barcastuff Puyi has been transfered to the hospital.

  43. Judas Pissed
    October 2, 2012

    If we start with Song & Masch at the back v Madrid – can you really see us getting a positive result?

    • mom4
      October 2, 2012

      yes

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 2, 2012

      Yes

    • G6O
      October 2, 2012

      It’s going to be very difficult 🙁

      Puyol will be out for very long – that elbow looked totally destroyed….

    • Kimcelona
      October 2, 2012

      NO.

      Sorry, the way I’m feeling now tells me a bad loss is in store for us.

    • TITO
      October 2, 2012

      Yes.

    • _Lily
      October 2, 2012

      Yes. It will be more difficult without Puyol or Pique, to be sure, but I certainly don’t think we should just give up hope. It’s not like Madrid’s defense isn’t pretty suspect these days, too.

    • simple_barcafan
      October 2, 2012

      I f***king dont care…All my mind is on Puyol now…

    • mom4
      October 2, 2012

      Yes you do. Because Puyol cares a crapload about it. Probably was driving the ambulance drivers apesh*t asking about the game.

    • _Lily
      October 2, 2012

      I understand your sentiment, but I bet that all of Puyol’s mind is on the clasico. 😛

    • Sheena
      October 2, 2012

      Yes.

  44. K_legit in Oz
    October 2, 2012

    Dislocated elbow it seems

  45. TITO
    October 2, 2012

    Too bad we are not a vengeance seeking team, i would have loved Masch to just fucking show Matic what a tough challenge is for once in the return game.

  46. Dave
    October 2, 2012

    TBH I am more disturbed with Puyol gone, he is key. Don’t think Pique is much of an improvement on those two.

    • Jim
      October 2, 2012

      Big, big improvement imo.

    • _Lily
      October 2, 2012

      Agreed. When Pique is playing at anything approaching his best, he blows both Mascherano and Song out of the water, and this year Pique has seemed to be himself again.

      Even in the second leg of the Super Cup, he was great after a few mistakes at the very beginning – he made some crucial interceptions at the end and IMO more than made up for his errors.

    • lea_terzi
      October 2, 2012

      1.92 meters of improvement 🙂 But seriously, Pique has been in form since the Euros.

    • Dave
      October 2, 2012

      Pique needs Puyol imo

    • _Lily
      October 2, 2012

      Pique is certainly better with Puyol, but I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he needs him. Pique was great at the Euro next to Sergio Ramos, who is certainly not Puyol, and the idea that Mascherano and Song are somehow more accomplished CBs who need Puyol’s guidance less than Pique does strikes me as a little ridiculous.

  47. October 2, 2012

    TV3 says preliminary reports are an elbow dislocation. That would be good news.

  48. Jim
    October 2, 2012

    Can’t believe dislocation after watching those pictures but I’m sure I remember dislocation being just as bad as a break. Ligaments etc are usually shot iirc.

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