The Power and the Glory: El Clasico

I speak Spanish, not Catalan. A lot of friends would claim I speak neither, that stringing curses together does not constitute fluency. I tell them to [bleep] [bleep] [bleeeeeep]. Other friends just look at me and shake their heads. I have no excuses other than to point at the screen I’m watching and repeat my vociferous bias. During most matches I try to remain somewhat impartial when it comes to player actions and even the odd referee decision. Not during el clásico. Not then. During those moments I speak fluent Catalan/gibberish.

Call it what you will—passion, nerves, a love of chaos, dementia—it turns a typically mild-mannered Midwestern man into a raging…I was going to say pitbull, but it’s more like a Chihuahua. A rabid Chihuahua! The constant yipping is more annoying than terrifying, but it gets under your skin anyway. And every now and then (but definitely not 4 times in 20 days), that is an absolutely enjoyable way to be. The last league encounter was not so amazing, but it’s been a gravy train for so long that there was always going to be a derailment at some point.

We’ve played this twice so far this year and twice so far this year individual Barcelona players were struck with a case of the dumb-dumbs  (I think of a twigging Pinky here while Brain builds up murderous rage in the background) leading directly to goals that ended up giving life and then the trophy to the opposition. Obviously a 3-2 win with Valdes giving up a silly goal is perfectly acceptable in the league (3 points! an 11 point lead!), but keeping those errors and ones where you whiff on long balls to an absolute minimum is a prerequisite for sustained success. The team hasn’t shown a penchant for defensive solidity over the last few matches, but with the return of Andres Iniesta, that could all change.

Kxevin posted about Cesc being pivotal and I don’t necessarily disagree, it’s just that Iniesta’s return provides the midfield with another possession-oriented player who can dribble his way cleverly out of bad positions and into good ones (at once! magic!) whereas Cesc is better at finding attacking space at full speed. Iniesta never appears to move at full speed, preferring controlled aggression to fearless power. Both have their merits, but for a Barça midfielder, I’d choose the former rather than the latter. Still, I’m guessing Cesc gets the call up for the match as does Iniesta. I think it’s Pedro (and width) that’s sacrificed for this one.

Speaking of who plays, I had a conversation with a friend about that…

Isaiah: So who starts for us this weekend?

QS: Valdes, Alves, Song, Masche, Alba, Xavi, Busi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Alexis. Tello supersub if we need goalz.

Isaiah: Oh my god, you hate David Villa!

QS: Well, he was a big meanie to that police car.

Isaiah: Also, why do you hate Cesc? He is basically the leading scorer on the team. Messi doesn’t count.

QS: Iniesta > Cesc. Any day errrday all day.

Isaiah: So you think we’re going to pwn?

QS: No, but I think we’ll win.

Isaiah: Prediction?

QS: Hm. I guess 2-1, though I could also see 3-2. Lots of goals in recent clásicos.

Isaiah: I’ll go with 3-1.

QS: Glad you’re optimistic. On the one hand recent form shows we’re kind of at risk – mainly from dumb mistakes at the back that RM are excellent at taking advantage of. On the other hand…

Isaiah: A MASCHE TO THE FACE. That’s the other hand.

QS: In a way I think RM has come full circle back from the overly aggressive/violent play that won them the Copa del Rey to more open/playing their own game. And if we’re on top of our game, we can destroy them because of that. So my heart’s prediction is MANITA.

Isaiah: And your bum’s prediction? FARTITA?

QS: Pepe.

Isaiah: “Shart” in Portuguese is “Pepe”

QS: Yeah, so is “fuckmongery”

So there you have it, folks: we’re going to win this one while my friends and I remain foul-mouthed, gutter-minded optimists. At least all is normal in the land of Oz. I can’t really get into the tactics of it anymore because I’ll just end up going haywire on the idea that 4-3-3 vs 4-2-3-1 is a recipe for someone‘s disaster, but I don’t know whose until I see whether that’s actually a 3-4-3 vs 4-3-2-1 with a trivote.


So will Gerard Pique play? I doubt it. I very much doubt it, in fact. There is simply no reason to force him to play when he is clearly not 100%. Against a lightning quick counter attack like Madrid’s, it would be virtual suicide to put a weak-ankled player in a high back line. Pique’s brilliance against Cristiano Ronaldo is that he can read angles (unchanged by his injury) and turn quickly (radically affected by his injury). He’s not as fast and he’s not as quick, but he’s got a good sense of direction that requires pivoting. So unless he’s feeling no pain whatsoever and has no reduced mobility whatsoever, Pique should sit this one out. Bartra might be out of his depth, but I’d risk him before I risked putting an injured player on the field and probably costing us a goal and an early substitution. That said, I agree with QS above that we’ll see Song in the back line. I’m not too worried about that despite the general cule belief that he’s crap. He had at least one bad match that I’ve seen, but he was no worse than anyone else in that match and the other matches where he’s been called a lot of things he didn’t deserve, he was at fault for practically nothing other than not picking up a straight red for a tackle on Alvaro Negredo. (Yes, he caused a Dani Alves own goal by some anti-fleet-footed bumbling, but that’s just how it goes sometimes–no one screamed at Masche for his similar failures leading to Sevilla’s first goal. “They’re not the same!” scream a bunch of readers, but they are the same. How’s that for tautology?)

In the first Supercopa leg, Barça started: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, Adriano, Xavi, Busquets, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Pedro. This is not so far removed from the available squad now, though I do see Alba starting on the left, Cesc in place of Pedro, and Alex Song for Pique at CB. That’s a system change rather than full-on personnel change. It’s more packed and will, I think, allow for a few tactical changes without using subs (Cesc drops to midfield, Iniesta spreads wide, Alexis slides wide as well alongside Dani Alves).  But I’m sure to be very wrong, as usual.

Whatever the political implications of this match (do read SoccerMom’s brilliance if you haven’t), it will all be played out on the field in an absorbing and heart-attack inducing manner. As it always is. This will be a doozy because RM will know going in that losing will put them down 11 points. Barça will want that, of course, but 11 points is not the end. FCB was down 10 with many, many fewer matches to play and still got within striking distance. Damn that most recent league clasico.

Yet, this one means something. I can’t help but come back to that. Maybe it’s 15-M, maybe it’s Artur and the Esteladas (great band name, btw), or maybe it’s just people in an economic crisis looking for something to hang their hat on. That’s what this is, right? The modern opiate of the masses. Let them eat football. And I, an American sitting thousands of miles away in the comfort of my own recession, am all for it. That is the power and the glory of el clasico: it can sway millions, even those who have no dog in that race.

Hopefully I will have more tomorrow, but if not, here’s something we can all rally behind, regardless of our political persuasions:

By Isaiah

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.


  1. Where do the writers on this blog get the idea that Cules think Song is crap. I’ve been on here and twitter and havent seen anyone say he’s crap. He’s just not a CB. Big difference. It aint his fault. His positioning is non existent and he’s slower then Cesc. For me, he seemed like a realllllly good player, a back up for DM in place of Busi..but seems Busi will never sit and we kinda need him to fill in at CB. He’s doing that job cause Tito asked him to, okay, but that doesnt mean he doesnt suck as a CB. He just doesnt seem like the player that has the discipline to stay in position or know when he should keep position.

    I can just imagine him moving out of position to go tackle someone in midfield on Sunday, leaving our already vacant right side of defense, even more vacant. Oh dear lord, Penaldo will have a field day.

    1. Your comment is a perfect illustration. You ask where we got the idea from that cules think Song sucks, then you go on to claim that he is going to be a disaster, to wit, “that doesn’t mean he doesn’t suck as a CB.”

      In fact, Mascherano, Xavi and (shudder) Vilanova have all said that Song has played well, and is learning fast. He moves up and back on the pitch just like any other FCB center back. But when Song does it, it’s a lack of discipline. When Pique or Puyol do it, it’s playing a high line, Barca-style.

      Is Song perfect? Lord, no. But you know what? None of our CBs are. Song was subbed in for Puyol and did very well against Benfica. Further, Song hasn’t played poorly in any of his outings, not that it stops cules from saying that he did, or assuming that he will.

      If Wrongaldo has a field day, it will be because Alves doesn’t have his stuff together, as has been the case far too often recently, something that nobody except a churlish few of us dare point out. But here’s the thing:

      Vilanova said that Song was purchased to play more as CB than any other position. So cules had better get used to seeing him in that role. And here’s something else. When Wrongaldo had that “field day” in the SuperCopa, it was the fault of the likes of Pique and Mascherano, not Song.

      So when you ask where people get the idea that cules think Song is crap, it’s pretty evident, actually.

      Now. Am I defending Song? Nope. He has had positional errors, just like all of our CBs, particularly when we give the ball away in midfield, leading to fast counterattacks. I just watched the manita Clasic, and the command/control that we had of that match started in the midfield, as it does with any good match that we have. Then the CBs just sweep balls away that leak through. If that doesn’t happen, it doesn’t matter who we have in the back line. We are going to leak goals.

      So my whole point is fairness, and lay any blame at the feet of the system, rather than a particular player.

    2. @ Kxevin

      You don’t expect Tito & co to say otherwise don’t you?

      Imo he’s done an okay job. If he was a a big disaster, they would’ve said he did ok and could improve. I can’t imagine them criticizing a new player adapting a new position.

    3. They would dance around the answer. And he wouldn’t have been the immediate sub when Puyol went out. Does this mean we should discount ALL public praise from coaches and players, or just the comments that don’t suit the desired narrative?

      No matter how anyone slices, dices or tries to justify it, Song is being treated unfairly, to my view.

    4. Typical response.

      Again, theres a difference between saying a player is just crap to saying he’s not good at CB.

      Don’t you get it? Ofcourse he’s not a terrible player, infact he’s very talented BUT at the CB position, he doesnt do well. Simple.

      So I’m gonna stick to what I asked before, please show me someone who has said he’s just crap.

      All the players and the coaches on the team could say to the media he’s doing good, what else are they supposed to say, he sucks at CB? I’m giving my opinion on what I see. He might be a great learner, a good listener and all that stuff but the fact remains he’s out of position more often than not.

      This is what is always done- people bring up instances of when he has made good tackles in midfield to prove he’s somehow great at CB or point out the flaws of others like Dani and Masche to compensate.
      Funny how some of your defenses for Song dont apply for others.

      And, its not even about him being perfect. Its about fundamental stuff like knowing when to keep his position that I’m worried about. Pique and Puyol dont always go for walkabouts, they know when and how to position themselves. Pique, for the most part this season knows when he should bring the ball forward. Thats different from leaving your post to attack the player with the ball in midfield without any care in the world. He doesnt seem to know how to do that. Never did I blame him for all our problems, nor did I say he’s the reason we’re gonna lose. Its just an observation that makes me think we will suffer on Sunday.

      All players get criticized, you should know that you do it all the time.

    5. I agree with your point if not your tone. This is the heart of the argument:

      Pique and Puyol dont always go for walkabouts, they know when and how to position themselves. Pique, for the most part this season knows when he should bring the ball forward. Thats different from leaving your post to attack the player with the ball in midfield without any care in the world. [Song] doesnt seem to know how to do that.

      On several occasions Song left his post without appearing to notice that there wasn’t enough coverage behind him. He challenged someone for the ball, lost, and left Masche completely exposed to a charging opponent(s). Part of the blame for that falls on Dani Alves, who should have been dropping back when Song went forward, but the point is that Song needs to be more aware that he is in the last line of defenders and communicate better with his teammates.

    6. Thank you and yes, Dani has been culpable on more than one occassion this season but the only reason why I singled out Song is because there seems to be some kind of consensus between Kxevin and Isaiah that everyone thinks he’s just crap. And thats simply not the case.

      And I apologize if my tone seemed aggressive or confrontational.

    7. Kevin, I totally agree with you. Song is a great player but its easy to take cheap shots because he’s the new kid on the block. Nobody mentions that he absolutely demolished negrado in the aerial duels, which will be vital when we RM hoof the ball forward. Playing smart and not getting a red card after Busquets mistake also kept Barca viable.
      I suspect piqué will play. If he does, we might see a Busquets Song pivot to withstand any RM banzai charge. After that They will turn into a rabble and Barca should have no trouble picking them off.

  2. If Marc Bartra was our centre back ‘signing’ in the summer – why isn’t he playing?

    1. 1. because he wasn’t.
      2. if it was possible to play a midfielder in the GK position, we would be doing that too.

    2. Do people really want to see a recent Masia graduate at CB in El Clasic? Bartra will be worked in gradually, and he will play when Vilanova thinks that he’s ready. The times that we have seen him play, he has looked very good. But this is a match for players who have played at the highest level, in matches that Matter, rather than friendlies, etc. At present, that isn’t Bartra.

      But I do think as the season progresses, particularly once Copa begins, we will see increasingly more of him, and a LOT more of him next season.

    3. It just wouldn’t be fair to pitch Bartra in just now.

      However, I don’t agree that every goal we lose is a fault of the system as a whole. Some are, some are more down to a couple of errors and some come about because of a single error by a player. So it’s fair to assess Song’s contribution. What’s not fair IMO is to say that this means he’s a crap CB . However, I’ve also not seen a lot of that either. Most of the comments are quite justifiably pointing out that he has made some errors in that position (such as the second Sevilla goal where for me his lack of urgency in getting back across when he saw the danger was as bad as his awful positioning in the first place.)

      None of this means he can’t eventually learn how to be a decent CB ( same for Masch actually) but right at this moment the two of them in the centre of our defence against a quick moving offence is a disaster waiting to happen and one which I don’t think would happen were Pique fit and able to play. Goes without saying that if we had Piqué /Puyol I’d be having a relatively calm run up to the Clasico but that’s not gonna be so we have to go with what we have. Which in turn is why, for me, Iniesta is a no brainer to start. Without him we don’t have the control in midfield to keep them off the defence. Even with him the first 20 are going to be frantic but every time he or Xavi keeps possession in an impossible situation it chips away at their belief and their stamina.

    4. From Barcastuff:

      Vilanova is considering to play 3-4-3 against Real Madrid tomorrow, with Busquets moving between defense and midfield. #fcblive [md]
      2:16pm – 6 Oct 12

      I’m somehow doubting this…

    5. If the midfield doesn’t do its job, it won’t matter who’s in the back line. We don’t have a CB in the squad who woukd have done better than Song did on that goal. The giveaway meant that wherever he was almost, he woukd have been out of position. He also figured out that he was the last man, which dictates the challenge options the defender has, particularly against a player adept at going to ground. So he recovered as best he could, and forced Negredo to settle for a very difficult shot. Which he made. And that’s life. It’s part and parcel of the way our club plays defense.

      ALL of our CBs have positioning errors all over the place. They’re slow. Can’t be helped. It’s why pressing and an active midfield helps our defense so much.

    6. “However, I don’t agree that every goal we lose is a fault of the system as a whole. Some are, some are more down to a couple of errors and some come about because of a single error by a player. So it’s fair to assess Song’s contribution.”

      Thank you, Jim.
      This idea that all goals are down to systematic problems is a cop out. Why don’t we just play with all strikers on the pitch then..why do we even bother with Pique and Puyol?

  3. Well I’m a memeber of the group who think that Song Sucks at CB, maybe he will be a good one in the future, but right now i just think he plain SUCKS.
    When a barca CB (insert any name here) makes a run forward and it works then good, if it doesn’t (he loses the ball and our back line is exposed)then he just made a mistake, simple as that.
    However the classico is only a day away, Tito will have to work this out and maybe 2 weeks from now Pique will be back and we wont worry so much about the CB position.

    1. So by your “When a barca CB” addition to the “Song Sucks” contention, ALL of our CBs suck. The winter window transfer bill is going to be pretty expensive, replacing all of them, yes?

    2. How did you reach to that conclusion is beyond me Kevin, but to be clear ill try to be more specific, i think Song sucks at CB, also, ill remind you that i hope he will be good at that in the very near future.
      And no we are not going to replace all of them in the winter transfer window (as far as i think i know).

    3. The transfer window also comes down to WHO’s available? I thought the English commentators stated it wonderfully last game. “You don’t just buy to buy at Barcelona.” A CB at Barcelona has to possess qualities that are technical as well as instinctual. I don’t see anyone on the market who fits that bill. Most of the CB’s out there are playing for a top team in Europe right now. The clubs their with either won’t sell and the player doesn’t want to leave or the fee would be astronomical!

  4. I too have never seen anyone saying that Song has been crap. It’s like Song is the new Keita. A player we can’t criticize or point out an error he committed at all. Very different from crap.

    1. Song isn’t the new Keita. Don’t overreact. Keita received plenty of praise. People defended Keita when he received unfair slagging, as I am Song. What I am saying is that Pique and Puyol and Mascherano make many of the EXACT SAME errors as Song, and nobody says a word. They are forgiven. But the narrative is that Song is inadequate, so that sticks. Mascherano can be out of position, or Puyol slow in closing down, and nothing. But woe betide an out-of-favor (which is pretty fast, as he just got here this season …. he wasn’t around when we were leaking goals last season and didn’t win major silver, right?) player who isn’t flawless immediately. Dude’s in trouble.

      The vehemence against Song is a new level, though. It’s almost as if the disappointment that we didn’t buy a “real” CB is manifesting itself in the reactions that people have to his play.

      I have before issued the challenge: document the Song errors. “Positioning” is a fall-back, and one of which if we are going to dock Song, then we should dock ALL of our CBs. Because they are all out of position at points during a match. Repeatedly. It might sound like a mantra, but it isn’t fair.

  5. I disagree with Kxevin view that Pique makes the same mistake as Song by venturing forward and hence leaving the defense exposed.

    Pique goes forward to join the attack, to give an extra body’s and height and most importantly, when we have possession of the ball.

    Song on the other hand went out of his zone to chase an opponent player who has the ball. This is much much riskier than Pique’s actions.

    1. Again, you’re shifting to support a narrative. Pique doesn’t always go into the attack. Sometimes, he slides forward into the midfield, just as Song does. And if Busquets gives away another ball in midfield as he did against Sevilla, Pique won’t be as close to making a play as Song was. Nor Puyol. We’ve all watched this club enough to know that this is true.

      Barca CBs don’t have “zones.” We aren’t a Premiership side. Alves slides forward, Busquets slides forward, a CB slides forward to fill that space. I dread the day a Barca CB just stands in position, waiting for the ball to come his way. That means one less attacker/presser. It’s what I mean by the rules being malleable in the case of an unpopular player.

      But these are my last words are on the Song matter. If people want to think he’s bad, rock on. Just watch the matches again, watch what he does and what the other CBs do, then ask yourself how bad he actually is.

    2. I can’t believe you just said that Pique makes the same mistakes as Song and nobody says a word, Kxevin. 🙂

      Piqué does not venture forward to win the ball as much as Song and would certainly not have been caught as badly out of position as him on that Sevilla goal. Do you really think either pique or Puyol would have started to regain position then slowed down and failed to block the forward on that play as Song did?

      I have already in another thread documented what I saw as the positioning errors of both Masch and Song in that game and have always attempted to be specific where a goal has been lost. Happy if anyone wants to do the same for Puyol or Piqué. It makes for good discussion IMO and gets us away from the situation where we’re heaping praise on someone for a robust, but unnecessary tackle while they go AWOL on the next attack.

  6. I’d like to have a couple of game changers on the bench just in case we need to shake things up late on, like Tito’s been doing in lots of our matches lately. Whether his substitutions will have the same effect when we play an opponent of Madrid’s calibre remains to be seen.

    In that spirit, I’m all for Cesc starting. Depending on how the match plays out, Iniesta could come on in the second half if we need him to, as could Villa, who I don’t think will start either.

    A part of me still doesn’t quite think that Tello is quite ready for a match with so much riding on it. I know he came on as a sub in the Supercopa first leg… but that was the Supercopa.

    So basically: Valdes, Alves, Song, Mascherano, Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Cesc, Pedro, Messi, Sanchez. I’m hoping for something similar to the 1-3 at their place last season where Messi played as an actual number 10 with Sanchez moving horizontally in front of him.

    The 5-0 has been mentioned above, and how our defenders mainly just had to sweep up that night since our midfield was working so well. That’s true. But even more than that, I think we could look at the 3-1 against Arsenal. In that game, we didn’t have Puyol or Pique either. Mascherano hadn’t been moved to CB yet, so we played with Busi there instead. That game more than any showed that we can manage so long as our possession is spot on, and the entire team presses like demons. We’re about to head into an international break, so I’m hoping the team really goes all out.

    I don’t know whether we will win or not. As many have mentioned before in this space, like many cules, I’ll head into the match yelling a strange mixture of “BRING IT ON” and “WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE”, that sounds a more or less like “VISCAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”.

    1. Villa, Tello and Iniesta will be the game-changers you desire. Not a bad selection from which to choose.

      Your point about midfield pressure and control is well made. For me, I will go into this match with the same full confidence in the club and its coach and the decisions he has made, that I always have. And I will go in thinking we are going to win, and believing that until objective reality (score, match ending) tells me otherwise.

  7. Just for the record, let me also just say that as much as I dreaded his arrival and what it meant for a proper CB purchase, I have actually been impressed by Song so far. He has held his own quite well for a fresher in the world’s best team.

    I remember also commenting way back before he actually arrived, that his acceptance would ultimately come down to his success at CB.
    Maybe i shouldn’t say stuff. They happen. 😛

    For all the song doubters, It is actually Alves imo who’s been absolutely incorrigible this season. I can’t make up my mind about my preferred lineup for sunday so won’t share. Visca! I have a good feeling about this one.

    1. For avoidance of doubt, I rate Song pretty highly as a DM. I do think he could adequately step in for Busi.

    1. I just hope there’s not a bit of wishful thinking going on here on the part of Tito and co. The guy was meant to be limping just a few days ago !

      The Clasico is no place for a half fit player – even if I am a big fan and we’re desperate.

  8. It’s unbelievable how much criticism a player that’s out of position and is participating due to lack of defenders in a defense line that is a work in progress,gets.

    In an ideal situation Song would be gradually be transformed also as a defender playing alongside Puyol or Pique and then Mascherano.
    We bought the guy to play mainly DM , and maybe MC or DC.
    He would gradually improve his defense attributes such as positioning, when to stick to the attacker and about the quirks of Barcelona’s defense line such as often having 60 meters of distance behind you and the keeper.

    On top of the above the player has done , considering all things have had a number of good games.
    The whole defense system has been affected by the change in the way team attacks such as the use of the flanks and that both our starting eleven full backs create much more width and are more dynamic in their transitions.
    In short, and I pretty much think that it’s pretty evident the defense line seems pretty much suspect at the moment – it’s expected though.

    What’s not expected ? To blame it to the new guy just because he is not established and “looks out of place” .
    Considering the situation the player has played very well.
    The room for improvements is such that only confidence should be the feeling most express.
    Considering the alternatives… there aren’t any.

  9. The issue of barcas defense in the upcoming game is being continually considered a major weakness.
    I wouldn’t be so quick to call, knowing that barca have previously employed a three man defense against ee and prevailed.
    The two dm deployable at cb should be encouraged to forge forward more and that should add us a man in the mid.
    Anyway, I personally expect a game which if ee attempt to rush us at the back, they will get a serious spanking.
    Another Manita? Ok, maybe a two nil.
    Vv, alves, masche, busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, cesc, messi, Pedro! And Alexis would be my ideal lineup but cesc tends to get in the way of messi when Iniesta is around.
    So, most likely song in and cesc out.
    (this season barca have such a strong bench! Tells, cesc, villa are murder and must make mou wonder how to make pepe remain focused)

  10. Too much discussion on Song. I guess the big headache for Tito is Cesc vs Iniesta. I will feel more comfortable with Iniesta on the field. To me he is like a Xavi-Messi combo and he releases pressure from both key players. Tito, being more pragmatic, might drop Sanchez and go with 4 midfielders. Which might turn out to be a better option. Remember that before Benfica match Sanchez was not really doing great.

  11. How many times over the last few years did RM win against barca in camp nou? Exactly once – when the whole team were dead from the previous CL match. So, I’m not worried about tomorrow at all. We are almost certainly coming out with 8+ points gap. I’m pretty sure no one in the locker room wants to see an angry Messi again 🙂

  12. I think we will have an excellent game. Very relaxed as a loss will not necessarily mean damnation. Yet that relaxedness should aid our team to focus more and not panic. I am happy that we have others also scoring now and that should keep ee worried about the whole team and not jus messi. Anyway… #isbarcababy!

  13. Ooh, and the crowd will be extremely partisan and loud due to all the catalan independence matter. Tomorrow is going to be crazy

  14. A player is judged by how much he measures up to expectations. Song cost alot for a position we didn’t need and at the cost of a proper CB. He’d have to be exceptional to prove his worth and he’s not measuring up, not even close.

    Masch, Pique and almost everyone else on the squad don’t have too much to prove to the fans, they’ve earned their place, Song hasn’t.

    It may not be fair from a match-to-match perspective but it’s fair over a longer term.

  15. i have hope…you see, if 1.5 million catalans can take to the streets for justice…then maybe a few of us here can just get along and support the team…rather than getting snippy about so-and-so sucking at this or that….

    i know, “thats what the blog is for” ha ha

    i will admit that i used to get on kxevins case about ridiculous things such as player ratings. then i saw that it just wasnt worth it. after all, i think if i met kxevin, we would get along just great! the interweb can bring out some nastiness in me, and everyone!

    go team!

    1. i should modify the word ‘nastiness’ — i just mean that people use certain tones, and get hung up on certain things, when in real-life conversation it would never come to that…

      go team!

  16. Defense Vs Sevilla:



    – Sevilla CB plays a loopy hopeful ball in midfield circle. Busquetes closes down Negredo and aims to win this 50/50 aerial ball. No real threat whatsoever even if Negredo wins the header. However, Masche with a good view, needlessly chooses to “assist” Busi, but ends up clashing heads with him. Ball drops on Rakitic and suddenly a threat pops on the left flank – a 2v2 scenario with much space! Song, already on a super-high line, rightfully goes UP imo, to close down Rakitic, after having seen Alvez close enough to Trochowski. Tochowski receives a pass and then plays a reverse through ball to Rakitic but Song with his outstretched leg, breaks up the play. On some other day, the through ball could have resulted to a goal.

    Now if you guys say that Song should not have gotten higher to close down Rakitic in that situation,then Its a pity!

  17. Situation 2:


    – Sevilla CB clears the ball with a header and ball drops to Navas in the upper half of Sevillas’ half. Navas decides to mix things up from his variety of skills and ends up to make a full speed run, drags Busi and even Alba along. Now Masche and Song were chilling out at a high line, marking out Negredo and were waiting for Navas to lose the ball as usual. Now Negredo does a smart thing. He drops back diagonally and allows Navas to run into Song and then makes a sneaky diagonal run to the right. Now Alba, already coming down at a blistering pace, decides to get in between Masche and Song, in order to cover the space behind Song like a temporary sweeper, in case Navas manages to pull off a Navas on Song. All Masche has to do is to track Negredo’s run, since it is Masche who was least involved all along and had the best view of the whole apparent threat. But Masche decides to act as a backup-sweeper to Alba, a position that does not exist in football. A snapshot at 36:20 would show Navas dragging 5 players (even Dani came back!) and all of their eyes as well. Song moves UP a bit and intercepts Navas’s run but the ball luckily goes to Rakitic who then plays a first time ball to a free Negredo on the move. Now there IS a real threat as Negredo is 1v1 with much space and momentum. Negredo later manages to take a dangerous left footed shot which almost made it.

    – Now this move happens really fast. You can say that Alba could have tracked Negredo’s run, or Song should NOT have moved UP to intercept Navas, instead could have dropped back or sth. But defenders work as a unit and responds to others movements/minimizes collective errors. The one with the temporal best view gets to improvise accordingly. Imo Masche was disappointing here, in Situation1 as well.

  18. So criticizing Song for leaving his “position” is just wrong I feel! If we did concede (replace Rakitic/Trochowski with Modric and Negredo with Benzema- its then likely) from the two scenarios that I mentioned, I guess some of you here would have accused Song, wrongly. Having said all that, what worries me is that Song tends to get flat footed at times, at times leaves his marker which makes him vulnerable to pace and long range shots (from edge of the box). But as pluses, his game reading skills and height/reach sort of compensates things.

    We attack as a unit and defend as a unit. If one CB moves up, the others respond accordingly- to preserve shape in a dynamic space. Even a proven CB from elsewhere would find things really hard to cope, so soon.

    1. If all you’re saying is that Masch is as bad positionally and decision -wise as Song then you’ll not hear an argument from me. Anyway, we’ll see tomorrow if they play together.

    2. Jim, in the two handpicked situations, Masch committed errors in both. First was an unforced error and in the second he was caught ball-watching. Song adjusted, took calculated risks (moved further up, closed down) and did well in both cases. I pointed out those two scenarios to HIGHLIGHT trivial PROBLEMS faced by a HIGH BACK LINE like ours, where silly unforced error (Masch’s header in 1) can lead to unwanted chaos, where chaos can be neutralized with intelligent adjustments (had Masche tracked Negredo’s run in 2).

      If you thought that I somehow deduced “Masch IS as bad positionally and decision -wise as Song” solely based on those two isolated events, then it means either you read too much in between the lines, or didn’t bother to read properly. And if you think Song is worse than Masch in reading the game, assuming they are comparable, then it is your burden of proof, not mine! Which Mascherano to compare with Song? Mascherano of then (after similar playing time as Song) or the Mascherano of now?

      It doesn’t matter to me (in a way) if tonight, they play together or does not. Whoever plays, specific problems at the back are recurring, more or less. I’m more interested to see how we deal with it in time.

    3. Thanks. Maybe I wasn’t clear. Late at night watching EPL does nothing for anyone’s. communication skills 🙂

    4. Or maybe Lyd is the type of person who likes to argue with him/her self! 🙂 . Just kidding! Sorry I couldn’t resist….

    5. Bill, sometimes we agree to disagree and sometimes there are spaces between agreement and disagreement.
      lol you are right about me arguing with myself. You know what? Conversations inside ones head is so much fun. Not kidding!

      Jim, I understand 🙂

      My communication skills have been at an all time low, ever since I learned to talk/write. Working on it.

    6. I didn’t actually say Masch was worse in reading the game. I think it’s a close call although Masch has more of a sense of urgency about his play. My problem with buying Song as a CB has always been that he has never really played well there. As a DM he has quick feet and a great awareness of how to turn out of trouble allied to strength in the tackle. All good qualities.

      I take your point with your examples but the main problems in that game (the goals) are what we’ve been talking about where both CBs were at fault. It’s also not a great argument to presume that people would have blamed him wrongly if . . . I made the point before that I actually prefer it when we do look more closely at what has happened rather than the tendency to make immediate judgements as happened (inevitably) in live blogs and the like. Whenever we lose a goal I,like many others if we’re lucky enough to be watching it on TV, immediately replay the goal to see what has really happened.

      With regard to today’s game I don’t see an alternative to the two as CB (can’t risk Pique if not 100%) so i hope they do well. It’s also probably not fair to judge them on this match either as we’re likely to come under pretty severe pressure which would test even Pique and Puyol.

    7. You might say Masch WAS worse than Song in so and so occasions or the other way around, but when you write X IS as bad as Y (or throw a prospect) ….., then it really feels like a general comparison. Your initial comment felt like a misrepresentation of the position i wanted to take.

      It’s a common tendency to single out a defender when goals happen. Look I wrote, “I GUESS SOME of YOU here would have accused Song, wrongly.” – In a way, I myself put little value in that presumption. So yeah, it wasn’t great, but related of course. One important thing to remember is that CBs almost always work in pairs. So it’s obvious (yet strangely subtle at the same time) that they’d be at fault at most occasions. It’s the combined skill set that decides the strength/weakness of the overall defense. I would love to compare, for e.g, Puyol-Song partnership vs Puyol-Masch vs ….. , rather than individual players, in context of effectiveness of play.

    8. I’d quote blitzen (B) who wrote, “On several occasions Song left his post without appearing to notice that there wasn’t enough coverage behind him. He challenged someone for the ball, lost, and left Masche completely exposed to a charging opponent(s).”

      B rightly pointed out Dani’s partial fault later in the comment. I agree with B here but not totally. I guess in some occasions out of those ones (although don’t know exactly which occasions) B referred to, Masch could have adjusted better by reacting earlier in order to prevent complete exposure!

      Feel Song has been doing a lot of things right so soon, which people may take for granted. Song (like Masch) was not bought as a CB, rather to play 2 different position. Not a finished product but a work/composition in progress, based on the little i’ve seen at Barca. He may settle into more of a DM in future, unlike Masch.

  19. Anyone else want to see Messi at RW, Cesc in the False-9 position, and Iniesta in his usual AM role? No? Just me?

  20. Attack The Weakest Point
    The best defender so far this season is Jordi Alba. He will be very important tomorrow and will potentially change the game for us, because the weakest link that we’d yet to exploit on the Madrid lineup is still where Alba faces – rightback Arbeloa. Alba could play with whoever Tito wants to play on the left and work out some left wing business.

    Alex Song will not be the decisive matter in tomorrow’s match. It will be our efficiency that matters. That’s why Cesc will definitely start tomorrow. Pedro needs to get back on gear and be ready to take the chances unlike what he did against Benfica. Tello, Villa will be on the bench with Iniesta, forming a very scary impact sub weapons, giving pressure to Madrid.

    I don’t believe it will be a 3-4-3. But if Alves wanna be absent, it will automatically be a 3 at the back. Hope he wakes up in time.

    I want a bigger gap! LETS DO IT BARCA!

    1. I will be very scared if Iniesta starts on the bench. Our only hope of keeping them off our defence is a top performance from the twins and no giving away of the ball cheaply to allow counters.

      We also need someone onto Alonso ASAP to prevent the hopeful long (usually diagonal) ball for the counter. I have no worries about Alba’s ability to prevent that on his side but the right sided CB will have to be alert to the ball into Alves’ position. Having said that , Dani has shown better awareness of positioning in Clasicos than most games.

    2. Part of me wants us to bring Iniesta back slowly for his long term well being, but part of me can’t imagine playing such a game without him. The guy really dominates Madrid in a way only Xavi and Messi can.

  21. I’m excited about this game. Barcelona will play without any tension, because going 8 games without a loss gives you a lot of breathing space. If Barcelona go down a goal or two, no problem. Barcelona know they are still 5 points ahead, and that they have mounted great comebacks this season. If Madrid go down a goal or two, being 11 points behind, and the fact that they couldn’t respond to the likes of Valencia and Sevilla would weigh heavily on them.

    Regardless of the result today, I just hope to see Barcelona play their game. I want to see collective pressure in defense and great team play. Passing and great off the ball movement for me is key. That was what made that 5-0 possible and had been lacking since. Madrid wants to put pressure on the ball and they have done so successfully recently because we haven’t utilized the half touch philosophy effectively.

    This season, I have noticed more frequent combination plays, quick one-two’s, full of half-touches. I hope to see those today.

    Regarding Song, we have to put everything in perspective. The guy is new, he is playing in a new system and not in his best position. Atleast he is covering where we had no options.

    The defense doesn’t inspire much confidence right now, but that’s down to injuries, not song. Can anyone think of any team that would survive injuries to their top 3 defenders? Can you imagine Madrid without their top 3 defenders? I think his performances merit some criticism, but also gratitude that he is helping the team where we were desperate.

    1. Must be getting carried away. Don’t usually have a go at lineups. Need to go lie down.


      Alves, Song, Masch, Alba

      Busi, Xavi, Iniesta

      Pedro Messi Villa

      Song needs to be able to cover the long diagonal ball behind Alves, we will kick ass in midfield and Villa fired up by being free of injury and back on the shoulder of the last defender a la manita !

    2. @ Jim

      But both Villa and Iniesta aren’t match fit.
      I don’t mind putting Iniesta in but I just don’t see Villa as a starter anymore, match fit or not.

      To be honest, he was anonymous vs Sevilla last week until the goal. He has fallen way back in the pecking order for me.

    3. And we need Cesc as he is a goal scoring threat. And didn’t you say that Cesc had to start a few days ago?

    4. Not me I’m afraid. I just have a feeling Villa’s ready to go now. He’s great at the one twos in the box. Not that I dislike Cesc.

  22. Okay guys, my 2 cents regarding lineup:
    sort of a 352/532 hybrid. (although formation numbers are insignificant for me!)

    Okay, before you call me insane, would let you that I’m aware of Bartra’s inexperience and the pressure cooker occasion. But I’m personally a fan of Bartra and I believe he can handle a clasico (which comes with every “season”- this is the autumn clasico for me :P) at the Camp Nou.

    Messi plays a 10. Width taken by Pedro and one of the full back. Holy Trinity dictates play as usual.

    Onus on EE to attack us and go for 3 points, hence the added cushion in defense with Bartra. Usually Mou targets the opening 10 mins of each half with high pressing, so all we need to do use width (more) effectively then. Dani should focus on being more of a BRB which is “Be Righ-Back” NOT “be right back”.

    A manita is on (slight exaggeration!), if we score first and capitalize on their excessive aggression! Can Mou make his lads play better than Sevilla? Dont think so but lets see.

    Alexis/Tello replaces Pedro, Cesc replaces Xavi/Iniesta, Messi yells at Cesc for a decade old incident when they were kids, playing under Tito. Well, nothing’s changed! 😛 Everything is rosy again within Camp Cule!:D

  23. Would you guys play with 3 at the back?

    I for one don’t actually mind us taking a risk for today’s match. Ok maybe start with 4 at the back and once we settle down after 30 mins, shift to 3 at the back. What better time to try out a risky but possibly a good tactic of keeping possession by putting extra bodies in midfield when we are 8 points up.

    Too bad Adriano is injured, otherwise with him in, this tactic would work better since he is well equipped as he is a hybrid. We kinda need Alba’s pace at the back.

  24. My lineup:


    Alves Song Mascherano Alba
    Xavi Fabregas Busquets
    Pedro Messi Sanchez

    Situational subs. With a lead, Iniesta for Fabregas. Trailing, Villa for Sanchez.

    Why start without Iniesta? Fabregas piping-hot right now, and a coach is nuts not to ride the hot player. He’s also greatly improved at tracking back, and can deal with a physical match more effectively than Iniesta. He also plays more of the pitch than Iniesta, meaning box to box. Just to difficult to leave him out the way he’s playing.

    Man, without Pique my wacky part wants to go for Montoya, but he hasn’t gotten ANY time of late, and this is not the time to do that. But his pace and stay-home tendencies aren’t bad thing. Watching matches from last season reminded me of how much Abidal’s pace forgave so many positioning sins. He was such an immense loss.

    I predict 2-1, goals from Pedro and Fabregas, Higuain for them.

  25. Damn it. It’s still only 12.45am here. Still another hour to go. Usually I would stay awake but I’m dead tired and sleepy especially just after 2 hours of futsal. Hopefully I can wake up later. Good luck guys!

  26. My nerves r shot ;( clasico’s should come with a health warning, lol. Haven’t been right all morning.

  27. I’d go with:
    ——————– VV ————————–
    Alves — Song —– sMasche —— Alba
    ——————– Busi ————————
    ———— Xavi ——– Cesc —————-
    Alexis ———– Messi ———— Casper

    3-1 (Messi dos, Casper, Pepe)

    Visca Barça!! 🙂

    1. I would have to agree with that statement. I don’t think anybody predicted that lineup except Tito.

  28. Wow, Adriano at CB. I think I can see what Tito is doing with this lineup. Cesc will play centrally, so Alba will provide width on the left. Adriano will shift a bit over to the left to cover Alba and has the pace to deal with Madrid’s quick transitions. This plan will only work if Barca dominates the ball. However, this also means that Tito doesn’t think Song is ready, regardless of what he’s said about him in previous press conferences.

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