Barca 2, Real Madrid 2, aka “A classic classíc, ‘Rashomon’ style”

Doorbell rings, post-Classíc-cule answers ….

Hello, is this the Cule residence?
Yes, who’s there please?
This is the SuperModel Chocolate Ice Cream supply company. We have a delivery.

(Door opens)

Okay, what’s with those shoes? What kind of chocolate ice cream is this? I’m picky, you know. Is that the supermodel’s natural hair color? It’s drafty in here …..

Something happened today, and exactly what it is, depends upon your worldview. For me, what happened leaves me with a feeling described by the above image of Messi. It’s an image of exultation, rage, joy, a ton of emotions, all having to do with the fact that an extraordinary thing happened today:

The hearts of champions were uncovered.

People often talk about season-turning events, those times when a team looks in the mirror and says “Yes. We want this.” You never, ever see the moment, but you do see the result. This club has come back tine and again this season, back from hanging against Sevilla, back from being down against Spartak, and we have gathered and said “Last season, this club would have lost that match.” But that’s Spartak and Sevilla.

On Sunday, FC Barcelona faced off against the second-best club in the world, and for about a half-hour, it got its ass handed to it. Wide-open Ramos header, Wrongaldo goal from a passing sequence that sliced our defense open like the jury-rigged thing that it was, a wannabe goal that smacked off the crossbar, attack after attack, play after play, until the collective said, “Enough. That’s it. We’re better than this.”

And our amazing club started to play its game. Pretty hard to attack when you don’t have the ball. Pretty hard to assault a makeshift back line when sprites are playing keepaway, and all you can do is foul them. And the match turned around. The submissive turned dominant, the greatest player on the planet took over and suddenly, everything was different. The back line didn’t matter, their size and strength didn’t matter. Everything paled in the face of the kind of want that shakes a ball loose in a goalmouth scramble, that directs a free kick on its S-shaped path to goal, resurgent, elegant tika-taka, designed to control the match in the only way that this club knows how: with the ball at its feet.

This club drew, and almost won a match that it wasn’t even supposed to have a chance at. The back line was Alves/Mascherano/Adriano/Alba. The enemy was supposed to have a field day, and for a half-hour, they did. But, as I have said before, if we play our game, it doesn’t matter who is in the back line. And it didn’t.

They were riding high, having destroyed no-longer-super Depor. We limped in, Capita and Bean Pole-less, probably planning to play a disaster in the back line, or something, and we were going to die. Yep. Smothered by goals, don’t you know? But our club didn’t play along, and the match ended as it began, us atop the table with a 8-point lead on our most hated rivals, a lead that no cule in his or her right mind would have told you would exist in their wildest dreams, had you taken a poll at the beginning of the season.

And yet, here they are.

That’s what I saw happen. Others saw very different things, suddenly feeling like points were dropped, Vilanova was a disaster, this was screwed up, that was screwed up. Count blessings? Hell, I don’t even see blessings. When people call many cules spoiled, it’s because they’re right. This club yanked an improbable draw out of the fire, covered itself in glory and took part in a Classíc that finally lived up to the billing.

All of that makes any negativity, or recriminations, or any kind of notions other than joy and pride rather difficult for me to understand. So I’m not even going to try. I’m just going to shake my head in amazement, and keep on typing.

Vilanova be cray, yo!

Adriano at center back. Think about that one for an instant. Adriano at center back. Yes, it was yet another fill-in, an adapted player in a specialist role. Turns out the club had been practicing with that alignment all week. Man, it could have used a lot more practice, because Adriano wasn’t good. No mention in the comments to speak of, though I’m going to suggest that if Alex Song had the match that Adriano had, people would be buying plane tickets to Barcelona, to give Song a sac shot.

Did the selection mean that Song was, in fact, as crappy as everyone says? Or that Vilanova figured “Hell, neither one of ’em is a CB, so I might as well put the fastest guy out there.” Dunno. What I do know is that Adriano got a lot better, as did our entire back line, when the rest of the sprites came back to help, and press, when the possession numbers began to eke their way toward FCB normalcy, because when we play our game, the back line never sees the ball, really.

Vilanova had confidence in that. Two goals were ceded, both team efforts, lest we think about blaming individual players. On the first, Alba and Iniesta(?) were lazy working a switch, and Ozil had scads of space in which to pass a ball to Wrongaldo, who Alves decided wasn’t worth marking all that closely, and Valdes played for the spectacular, rather than the mundane, maybe expecting Wrongaldo to curl one across his goal, rather that just blasting it past him on the near side. Collective failure.

For the second, Busquets knocked a header into the air, which fell to Iniesta, who was being marked by Marcelo. Iniesta lost the ensuring physical battle, and the ball pings away. Sanchez charges up and, in an effort to volley it to our back line, tapped it again to Marcelo, who fed Ozil, who slid an absolutely flawless pass through to Wrongaldo. For that pass to find the player, Montoya had to lose focus for a moment, then charge forward in a vain attempt at setting up the offside trap, because if he’d look at his teammates, he would have seen that Mascherano didn’t get the message, and was playing the attacker on. Valdes charged out of his goal and then hesitated. In that moment of hesitation, that was it. Would a faster charge have narrowed the angle, forcing Wrongaldo to get the yips? We’ll never know, because all That Valdes did in coming off his line then stopping, was to make the goal a bit easier to pull off.

Both goals were team efforts, for attacker and attacked. And still, through it all, Vilanova knew. Possession, for us, IS defense. The defenders are in fact just cogs in the possession wheel. They aren’t there to purely and solely defend as much as to help press, start attacks from the back, or serve as outlets for possession-controlling passes that they take, control and feed right back into the mixer. And when we gained control of the match, that is exactly what it did.

Results redefine expectations

Lots of people looked at this match and expected to lose. As events transpired, it would seem that the Fates had, as well, playing right into the hands of doom-spotting cules. When that didn’t happen, when a loss became a potential win became a draw became a smote crossbar away from a win, expectations changed. “We lost two points.”

Do I feel like we could have won that match? Yep. Do I feel like we left three points on the table? For about a minute, yes. They I realized that my expectation, going into the match, was victory. The quality of the opponent, the skill of its game and the aggression with which they played it, shifted my expectations as well, from “We’re getting killed out there,” to “Yay! We got a point!” Because I don’t know if we come back from the 0-3 halftime score that better finishing would have generated for them. Just sayin’.

Great players do great things

The two superstars in this match underwent intriguing transformations; theirs from cocky, “calm down” gesturing, preening talent to wincing, “Hey everybody, I have an owie” uncertainty. Ours went from no space and no real influence, to taking over the match. Both their superstar and our superstar had a brace. But the influence of our superstar, during his ascendancy, as glittering and omnipresent as the sun.

Sergio Busquets, my Man of the Match, was everywhere. Passing, breaking up, stealing, getting the way, making tactical fouls, doing whatever it took to hold things in abeyance until the rest of the team did the gut check, and started playing the way that it should. Then Busquets went from last-ditch genius to enhancement.

Andres Iniesta single-handedly increased the running miles of the Real Madrid back line by pulling them hither and yon, making them chase him, then the ball, even sometimes both. His sparkle increased at roughly the same time as Messi’s. He does things with the ball, magic tricks, they seem like, because the only way that ball could have gotten from here to there was if it dematerialized.

Jordi Alba isn’t a Great Player yet, but he certainly had a great match with scrambling around that was almost as inevitable and all-encompassing as that of Busquets.

Martin Montoya subbed in for Dani Alves, and had a wonderful match. Yes, he made errors. Everyone did. But for the second time in a Classíc, he came in and did yeoman work against their superstar who suddenly, was quiet.

What a match!

Passes flew, players flew, and for much of the time, both sets of players were so intent on playing the beautiful game as it was meant to be played, that they forgot to do all of the silly stuff, the flopping, the exaggeration and whining that have come to define the Classíc. Both sides played so quickly, attacked so savagely, moved the ball with such alacrity that it was a joy to watch, even as my heart was threatening to leap from my chest, such was the adrenaline. They are good. Make no mistake about it. So are we.

In many ways, I’m not sure that a neutral doesn’t ever feel cheated by this match, one in which expectations are so high that you are almost numbed to its actual existence. With a horse in this race, the quality almost doesn’t matter. The intensity, the feeling, the sheer emotion is such that the mere existence of the thing is enough to turn you inside out.

Ultimately, I don’t begin to know what is going to happen with the rest of the season, just as I don’t really know how people can witness the match that was played today, and have the virulent negativity that is popping up in this, and other spaces. I don’t know much at all, except we have a hell of a team, one bound and determined to make a liar out of dumbasses such as I, who had the nerve to suggest that it wouldn’t win major silver this season. And it bears repeating that boy, would I be overjoyed to be wrong.

By Kxevin

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. Couldn’t breathe for the majority of the match. El Clasic is back to its original excitement level. Very good match. Celebration of football.

    Gutted we didn’t grab all three points, but no complain about our performance. Visca.

  2. No mention in the comments to
    speak of, though I’m going to suggest that if
    Alex Song had the match that Adriano had,
    people would be buying plane tickets to
    Barcelona, to give Song a sac shot.

    C’mon man. Why did you have to bring a non topic up? It’s irrelevant. He was not even playing. And most of the people were pointing out his mistakes in the past for acting like a DM/CM instead of a CB by chasing the ball into midfield.

    I didn’t see Adriano doing that.. He only ventured forward to penentrate which was good. And he did ok just like Song did when he played CB. Not a lot of errors.

    And lastly I thought you were done with this Song business? Since you’re not done, I have a question for you though.

    Would you like Tito to continue with project Song @ CB or try out Adriano once more?

  3. our utter dearth of real central defenders has cost us, and will continue to do so. i cannot understand why one was not purchased over the summer. it would be a crime against the club to not purchase one in the January window.

    Adriano at center-back is a joke for a club of our ambitions; is there any confirmation that he’s played in that position at *any* other point in his career than in a Clasico? it’s incredibly difficult to fault him for a bad performance; putting Iniesta in goal would probably result in a similar outcome because that’s not his bloody position. it is however the club’s responsibility to ensure that we have the players we need to compete, and in that they’ve failed miserably. we let a huge opportunity slip through our hands as a result.

  4. Adriano had a good solid game, no complaints there. Pretty much agree with the rest of the review. Can I also say I really like Tito fighting back in the press against Mou’s nonsense, unlike Pep who always** took the high road (morally right, strategically questionable).

    **Except for that one time. You know.

  5. – We all talk about Alves but VV should’ve had his near post covered. How many times has he beaten at his own corner? And he seems to waste balls this season by kicking it out instead of short passes even when his defender is free.

    I know everyone is excited about Montoya but Alves has been ok this season besides the 2 mistakes this week. No need to sell him unless he wants to go. I still see him as a key player.

    – I seriously don’t understand how people can call Messi & Ronaldo even. What did Ronaldo do besides those 2 goals? Messi is involved in everything and now is even better at freekicks. I for one never look at goals only as a measuring stick of a player’s brilliance. Ronaldo is in the same category as Falcao imo. Goal scoring machines. Nothing more, nothing less.

    – Messi kinda ruined his image again by waving the imaginary yellow card. Really unnecessary.

    1. Agreed on VV and Messi.

      Alves is another issue all together. He just doesn’t seem to close down players like he used to. How he just watched Trochowski and Ronaldo for the goals is disappointing. I’m not saying he was necessarily at fault, but no sliding attempt, nothing to help Valdes close some angles, just Nothing! His crosses are aimless and his passes have become very careless. He seems as if his head/heart is not in the game.

    2. Which Messi part did you agree on Bill? There were 2, 1 good and 1 bad 🙂

      I would say that his short passes have been careless but that is more down to the predictability. Every player knows that he will always look for Messi and now there is a great distance between him and Messi on the pitch. Messi used to be RW, then even when he was a false 10, he spent a lot of time on Centre Right to make plays with Alves and Pedro but now it’s gone.

    3. Disagree with everything you say here. Alves has played like Shat the entire season. I’m not sure what he even brings to the team anymore. Certainly not defending. I was actually happy he got injured. I’ve been a fan of Montoya for a while and wouldn’t mind him getting the nod over Dani. VV maybe, could’da should’da, covered the near post. In fact I yelled that at him in disgust. However, I’m not even sure if he was a foot over that goal doesn’t go in. Thong boy hit the dickens out of that ball. It was a rocket. No Chance for VV. I thought VV played balls out of the back when he should’ve and got rid of them when he should’ve. He’s not wasting anything. Also, Messi was pissed because he’d been hacked again by EE for most of game. Alonso is cheap shot artist. If Ref had guts he’d have called that a yellow and sent him packing. If that ruined Messi’s image, how bout wrongaldo pointing to his stupid line in his head and Pepe running over to do the same. What glamour boys.

  6. Thanks for the review, that was quick!

    El Classico happened, and a game actually broke out. This was nerve wracking and fun! Great plays from both teams and both great players.

    I know a lot of you think Busquets was the MOTM, but for me, Pedro was. Marcelo usually bullies him and Pedro can’t beat him, but not today. Marcelo looked terrified of P! The guy was everywhere. He helped in defense, harassed their keeper, put in some crosses manhandled Marcelo, set up guys, presented himself as an option and took some great chances. Usually his hustle is good, but rarely this all-round.

    It takes Alexis a series of six moves to shake his man. Two for Iniesta. Just a body fake for Messi.

    I agree with Kxevin on Valdes. It’s something that I have noted in a few games. Even for the Negredo strike last week, he doesn’t commit himself to closing angles. He comes out half hearted and then stops in bad areas. He also let in a goal in that game very similar to Ronaldo’s. Most keepers would stick their legs out, because, you know, the leg is closer to the ground than his hands. Getting beat near post like that is not what a great keeper like him can be proud of, especially when Ronaldo usually hits in the general direction.

    All that would be forgiven because Valdes starts plays from the back. But even that was horrible today.

    The way Xavi and Iniesta move with and around the ball is just a sight to behold.

    1. “All that would be forgiven because Valdes starts plays from the back. But even that was horrible today.”

      I think he was under strict orders to hoof the ball away. Tito wasn’t taking any chances with Madrid’s high press.

    2. “All that would be forgiven because Valdes starts plays from the back. But even that was horrible today.”

      Exactly. Now I don’t really see what’s so special about him once you take that aspect of his game away.

      I think he was under strict orders to hoof the ball away. Tito wasn’t taking any chances with Madrid’s high press.

      Problem is that it wasn’t just this match. He’s been doing it all season long (short actually). Quite a strange order from the coaching staff.

    3. I can’t conceive Tito telling Victor to hoof it away…unless they have also lost confidence in him…

    4. I noticed this VV hoofing from the first leg of the Supercopa in August. I can only think that he MUST have been given orders to do so. Tito said very recently that that was the BEST game we’ve had so far in this season.

      Why would VV change his game and the way we play our games if he wasn’t asked to do so? He’s the best GK with the ball on his feet. He can make short or long passes really well. Even when he made that passing mistake against RM (last season) leading to a goal in the first minutes of the game, he stuck with playing his/our way which is to pass and not to hoof the ball away. That was courage. And Pep praised him for it.

      I noticed that he’s been consistently hoofing the ball away this season. I’m sure Tito would tell him to stop doing so if this isn’t part of our plans. It scares and makes me cringe cause I always think the ball goes to the opponents that way.

      But…well…that’s why I think it’s part of our strategy now.

  7. @Kxevin, you probably summed up what i was feeling right after the match. I felt we should have knicked it, right at the end when we had two good chances from Monty and Pedro and i did believe we dropped two points. I guess i always expect Barca to win. After much consideration, i agree with your analysis. At first, i thought for sure we we’re gonna lose considering we had no real CB. Expectations starting running high when we took the lead and how we controlled the match at the end was awesome. I, like most cule’s couldn’t breath the whole match in fear but, at the end of the day, 8 points is better than 5.

    On another note, Monty was awesome, kept his cool and Dani boyy better watch out for his spot. Speaking of Dani, is he trying to push himself out of the team and to PSG? Last yr he wasn’t so good and i put it down to his divorce but, two games in a row now, he’s let players shoot at goal without so much sticking his foot out. Oh well, players come and go.

    I was wondering why EE is quite happy with the result? Considering Barca were ripe for the picking with a weakend backline, i would have thought they would be dissapointed tbh. This game made me realize how Barca are a great team. Imagine if EE had come in with no Pepe, Ramos, Higuain, Ozil, Kedhira, i think they would have struggled. As for Leo, goalazo of a free kick. VISCA BARCA

  8. “[T]he collective said, “Enough. That’s it. We’re better than this.”

    Or put in another way, Alves came off.

    Here are some fun stats. Number of Madrid shots on/near target before minute 27? 4, including the goal and two Benzema misses, one an absolute sitter. Number of Madrid shots on/near target after minute 27? 2, their second goal and an easy save at Valdes’s lower left from Higuain.

    Why minute 27? Because that’s when Alves came off.

    Maybe it’s all a matter of perspective, but I went into this game fully expecting Barcelona to win it. Yes, I did raise an eyebrow when I saw Adriano at center back, but I saw no reason why the first place team in the league playing at home couldn’t handle a 6th place team they were leading by 8 points. Yes, even that team.

    Sure, the opening minutes were a shambles, but even at their worst, they didn’t terrify me the way the great Bernabeu Blitz in the SuperCopa Part Deux scared the daylights out of me. I thought Barca were playing pretty well except for one glaring exception: Dani Alves who was having an absolute nightmare.

    In spite of that, I even remember saying in the chat shortly after Benzema hit the post that I was confident Barca would be able to weather the storm, and would have the match well in hand by the second half. And then a miracle happened. Alves pulled up lame (or decided he had had enough of embarrassing himself), and Montoya came in. At that moment, I was convinced Barca were going to win the game, and that was even before Messi’s first goal went in. And just to keep my confidence up, Madrid didn’t come anywhere near Barca’s goal during the remainder of that first half.

    After Messi struck that breathtaking free kick, I genuinely thought the game was done and dusted. But then, Mascherano got sucked in towards the ball at the wrong time, and the lead was gone, taking with it the team’s confidence in a makeshift defense that was actually working pretty well.

    In other words, I still felt that Barcelona were clearly the better team, and I wanted the team to press that advantage. But Tito was all too happy to accept Madrid’s weak-ass offer of a draw, and so he declined to use his third substitution for the first time this season.

    So yeah, from where I was standing, I didn’t see heroes in the making so much as two points dropped that didn’t need to be. I was way more impressed by the efforts against Osasuna and Sevilla on the road. *Shrug*

    1. There are several huge differences between Osasuna/Sevilla and Madrid.

      1) At Osasuna and Sevilla, we were losing. Yesterday, we were not.

      2) If we’d lost to Osasuna or Sevilla, we would have dropped 3 points. Drawing with Madrid effectively meant that we didn’t drop any.

      3) Who should he have subbed on? Villa, presumably. Would he have helped change the scoreline to a victory without making us lose something defensively? Pedro tracks back a lot to help defend, and he knows when he’s needed – he did that a lot last clasico, too, when we had a similar mishap. Alexis can be a bit more physical and also tends to track back more.

      Villa will pitch in with the defense, but he’s still a more offensive player. There’s nothing wrong with that, but maybe right here, in this situation, discretion was the better part of valor. Feeling like you *need* to use all your substitutions can lead to stupid mistakes.

  9. Two shots on goal, not that Madrid were any better, but they weren’t playing at home. Busquets had a great game. Messi saves Barca’s blushes (again). Montoya didn’t disappoint. I expected the worst before this match, so I should be glad that we were not at the wrong end of a 5-0 thrashing.

    Fabregas selected to start over Sanchez! I don’t care if Cesc agreed to lower his wages to play for Barca, I don’t care if he is playing for free, if Vilanova continues in his predecessor’s path, ie playing Cesc at any cost, he will end up like Pep last season. With no major trophies. Did Tito not learn anything from last season at all?

    How can a club like Barca be in this predicament? It is Messi or no one at all. Why do the club put so much pressure on this kid?

    1. Um. What?

      Cesc and Alexis scored the goals against Benfica. Cesc and Villa snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at Sevilla. Xavi grabbed the winning goal against Granada. It hasn’t been Messi or no one at all for the past few games – Messi hadn’t even scored in the last three.

      Has he been involved in many of those goals? Yes. But he’s not a kid. He’s 25. Contributing to the game and to victory is his job. As long as he’s not the only one scoring and the only one rescuing Barca, I don’t see a problem.

    2. You don’t see a pattern developing with Barca just like last season or the past few seasons? They look to Messi not just for scoring goals but also for creating chances. You must not have watched the matches if you are arguing that those goals against Sevilla and Benfica would have happened without Messi on the pitch.

      It is just not the goals and assists that defines Messi. There is no other player in the world who can suck opposition players in and make space others for others to do their thing as Messi does. Or may be what you care about is just the goals. Even in that case, he is leading the goals and assists charts for Barca, isn’t he?

      Football is a team game, but I’m afraid this team is not good enough to win titles without Messi, not with such a strong Real Madrid squad around. Sadly, take Messi out and Barca are done. I am sure I am not the only on who sees and fears that.

  10. I read something on twitter from Graham Hunter , something like Messi didn’t want Villa to come on. I’ll try to find it again and post it. Maybe i read it wrong.

    1. No way. They were doing 1-2’s just last week.

      On the other hand, the so called insider Guillem Ballague claims during the match that Alves was taken off for tactical reasons and not because of his injury. Absolute joker!

    2. In answer to why Villa hadn’t been used: “my colleague and general legend @petejenson suggests that Messi told Tito he wasn´t allowed on.”

      Maybe I just have my “I love Messi” sunglasses on, but I find it very difficult to believe that Messi told Tito not to put Villa on for personal reasons. I also find it difficult to believe that Tito would listen even if Messi did say that. I mean, come on, he’s been coaching Messi on and off since Messi was 14. I’m pretty sure your coach from when you were a kid doesn’t fail to notice when you revert back to acting like you’re 14.

      I can maybe imagine a general question being misconstrued or twisted, but that it. Seriously, Messi is not a primadona. He wants to win.

    3. That sounds pathetic. May be Hunter should have asked his legend and colleague for the source. Some other journalist was other day saying Tito is the only guy who can seriously ask Messi to stay on bench, without hurting him. They know well so much. So for that kind of a man to keep Villa out of the game for Messi is too much of an allegation. In those last 5 minutes, if Villas was there instead of Pedro, I am sure we would have won this game.

    4. I can “suggest” things too. Doesn’t make them true. I “suggest” that Graham’s colleague and general legend was bored and having a laugh.

  11. Is Song the new keita. “Must be defended at all costs”.
    I don’t that barb against song critics was needed kxevin.

    Overall a decent game. Alves has been in a funk for 3-4 weeks and i think Monty deserves a few weeks of starting. More conservative but whenever he goes upfront he is usually decisive.

    Good game from Pedro too. He scared marcelo and ramos with his play which wasn’t happening last season. He needs to lock the right wing position and let Tello, Sanchez and Villa scrap for left wing forward position. Cuenca when fit should also focus on right since he is much better on this wing.

    So time for a break and hope messi puts in a great game vs uruguay to win the 4th ballon d’or in a row.

    Time to play bartra in CB in training ans give him a few starts along with masche or pique in home games.

  12. my colleague and general legend @petejenson suggests that Messi told Tito he wasn´t allowed on #BumperGraham

    1. I suspect that’s someone’s idea of a joke, riffing on their little contretemps of a few weeks ago.

  13. Hope to see Song in action too in champs league and few liga matches. Unlike some other people in the past who were bit part players, Song is actually good at his basic job(DM).

    He should also be given creative licence to move forward and create against teams parking the bus. He will not be effective all the time with creative passes but i think with creative passes, one needs some allowance to make mistakes which strangely xavi seems unwilling to make in past year or so.

    Not elated but not unhappy too with this result.

  14. Great review, Kxevin. Thank you for carrying this site while most of the other mods are busy/away.

    Very satisfied with the draw. Would I have wanted us to win? Of course. Did I think we were going to nick it at the end with Montoya and Pedro’s opportunities? I definitely did. But a draw was a fair result, and one I’d take against an injury-free, desperate-to-win Madrid. Even if it was a draw at the Camp Nou.

    Just a couple of points that have already been mentioned by other people here:

    1. Dani isn’t closing down; he made the same mistake in the Supercopa and now he’s doing it again. Gives Ronaldo etc too much respect. Sometimes you need the charge in and tackle Mascherano approach.

    2. Valdes has been beaten at his near post time and time again. The ones that stand out for me are this one, the Supercopa, that time against RvP in the 2010-11 season. The best keepers have their near posts covered. And also, he used to be a lot more decisive before – he’d either charge out and stop the shot at the strikers feet, or stay in the goalmouth. Not get caught in no mans land.

    A fair result, and one that puts more pressure on them. I’m happy with that.

    One last thing; Ronaldo got injured quite a few minutes away from full time. Now he might be out with a shoulder sprain. What is wrong with EE?? Why did they not take him off and tend to him sooner?!

    1. Re: Ronaldo – I was wondering the same thing, especially after Mourinho made a sub that seemed to indicate he was playing for the draw. Maybe they were figuring he’d have time to recover during international break or that he’d just refuse to go off, but by the end, he was looking like he was in pain, especially since he fell on it at least one more time. Typically Ronaldo doesn’t play that sort of thing up for the cameras. The refs, sure, but not the cameras. If he didn’t make it worse and can be 100% fit against Dortmund, they’ll be lucky.

  15. couple of fine points raised by sid lowe in his notes in Sports illustrated. he notes, a point observed by many supporters including me, that barca arent pressing as much as Pep’s team and team is defending deeper. when was the last time we saw barca using offside trap (maybe vs chelsea till pique got injured).
    time for a euler review on this.
    I personally believe without pressing, we lose a bit of our aura and pressure cooker we built in opponent’s half. in the 6-2 drubbing, 2 goals resulted from pressing lass. Maybe in totality, less pressing is fine but somehow i feel a bit nostalgic about no pressing.

    1. I dont think we are not pressing at all. We will see more of the high up pressing as we gets towards the second half of season, and when we have a strong back line.
      Yesterday, for me, was the first time we saw a Barca who was a bit hesitant to swamp upwards, because they were a bit worried about the back situation. Valdes didnt pass a single goal kick in the first half I think. I strongly believe this was not just to avoid any mistakes because of the guaranteed high press by Real in the first minutes, but also because of the knowledge that our back line is just on the verge of danger.

  16. Gold comment from Sid’s Guardian piece;

    There isn’t club in the world that doesn’t try to be some combination of barca and real.
    Arsenal 70% barca, 30% real
    Chelsea 5% barca, 30 % real rest a bus with N, P, 1 gears.

    Had me in stiches with the N, P, 1 gears 😆

  17. nonnynay
    8 October 2012 3:57AM

    Ronaldo fighting through the pain is the bravest thing I’ve ever seen.

    1. I’m as antimadridista as any you’ll find, but I will vouch that it was pretty gritty of him. If you’ve ever landed on yourself like that, you KNOW how hard it is to grit through it, even on adrenaline. That’s assuming it wasn’t a more serious injury than it looked like (though I heard today he’s recovering faster).

  18. Tiagosong;

    Well done Ronaldo for silencing the Camp Nou whilst injured and also tracking back and chasing Pedro down in the last minute with an injured shoulder.

    1. Flake;

      Do you operate your computer with one hand? By the look of it, the other hand must be permanently stroking Cristiano’s … shoulder.

      Hilarious stuff! 😆

  19. Good positive review and Maybe I can add some perspective around the perceived negativity from Cules surrounding this game. I can’t speak for all of them, but according to me, The team played a great game given their resources and a completely makeshift backline without all the starters in defence.

    But here’s the root of the frustration. It seems like
    We are increasingly becoming good at solving problems that should have never existed in the first place.

    Thats the worst part. It comes down to the stubborn reluctance of the club to buy a damn CB when the poor track record in that position in recent years, Puyol’s age and injury woes in addition to another vital member’s organ transplants were clear for all the world to see.

    Its not like we cannot manage without one. Of course we can, this is the worlds best team with shit loads of talent. But should we? Why struggle to achieve a requirement when the same can be accomplished with some minor easy fixes.

    We are well aware of the players’ curing abilities. We only ask that certain preventive measures be taken.

    From players (proper pressing, movement, closing down, etc) as well as the board (ability to be nimble and shrewd with quick purchases, sales, proactive reinvention and analysis rather than a lazy reliance on an old formula) this is what pep stood for btw.

    On a more positive note, Busi, Alba and Monty are the club’s future. Dani can leave for all i care. I’ll thank him sincerely for not only extending the usual Brazilian effectiveness period, but also for being possibly among the top 4 vital pieces in Guardiola’s machine.


  20. I’m extremely happy to come away with a point when our 2 1st choice CB’s are injured. I’m sorry but Iniesta was fouled on the play he conceded possession that led to Thong Boy’s 2nd goal. If that gets called we win the game. I thought the referee was inconsistent and calling a lot of minor stuff EE’s way. Maybe that’s the Cule in me. I am really proud of the effort our boys gave.

    1. I thought the referee was pretty good especially in the 1st half. He wasn’t gonna let anyone get away with fouls. It slows down the play but it is what is best for us especially when we are playing against a team of players who loves to foul our players.

      But in the 2nd half for some reason he decided to let the game flow and let Madrid players get away with some fouls. Alonso really benefited from this.

      And in the 9th minute I thought he was going to book Ramos for the kick out to Messi.

    2. The fouls he called on Alba for his play on Di Maria were horrible. Maria was falling to the ground instantly. It was obvious he was diving. I really can’t stand him!

  21. Interesting stats posted on the Barca site:

    Apart from possession and corners, this is one of the most even matches that I’ve seen in a clasico.

    What’s amazing to me is that even with that Barca back-line, the team only conceded 2 corners to Madrid which certainly helped to negate their scoring threat.

    The heat-maps show how differently the 2 teams play – Barca tends to clog up the mid-field with slower plays and passing, while Madrid distributes the ball much more quickly through faster play and long balls over the mid-field. This is how they are so effective even with the lesser possession rate. It has our defence (no matter who is playing) scrambling when Madrid is pinging the ball from one side of the pitch to the other.

    That was an amazing game last night.

    I am concerned about VV’s direction. He comes out when he shouldn’t, doesn’t protect his short-side, is pretty dismal when the high ball comes in from the corner kick and has now taken to punting the ball out to give possession back to the opposition.

    The first 3 are traits that he’s had forever, but add this new punt-the-ball play to it, and he’s not looking crash hot.

    1. Anyone else notice that Victor’s dip in form seems to coincide with Sergi’s dad leaving as GK coach?

    2. I’m not opposed to an occasional hoof it down the field clearance from VV, but this punting to distribute the ball out of the back has got to go. If the tallest dude in your front line is barely 5’7″, it’s always going to gift possession back to the other team. I think the form has dipped since the new keeper coach, but the hesitancy to play out of the back has only been since the Super Copa gaffe. I also think, or the angry romantic in me likes to think that Dani’s dip started during his separation /divorce.

    3. True about Dani Mom. But VV was doing his usual thing in the 1st couple of matches this season. Don’t know why he doesn’t trust his passing anymore. It’s not like he committed a bad pass that led him to suddenly alter his game.

  22. – Messi was amazing. And Iniesta was superb as well.

    -Excellent reveiw Kxevin. But unfortunately for you, it wasn’t Masche playing tristiano onside as far as I can see.

    -Anyone else think that Alves is not getting last ditch tackles in ever since he scored that own goal? Don’t know, but could explain his reluctance to get involved in the shot. Or he is carrying a knock. Because he was definitely sub par

    – Valdes refuses to play short passes and seems incapable of defending his post.We always say that he is good with his feet, but if he keeps punting it out then I don’t see his appeal anymore.At least in Classicos (since he does build up play against other teams, albeit less than before)

    1. I concur with your views on VV. If he keeps punting it out, we don’t really have an advantage in having him as our GK.

  23. Hello all,

    Just a thought. Mr. Mourinho is quite expert at coaching against FCB at this juncture. He was expecting Mr. Song to play CB and prepared accordingly, I assume. Mr. Villanova, by playing Mr. “Adriano,” did something that RMCdF was not expecting. Mr. A is a well integrated player who would enhance play when FCB was in possession. Perhaps Mr. V has created an advantage where there wasn’t one.


  24. Disagree with everything you say here. Alves has played like Shat the entire season. I’m not sure what he even brings to the team anymore. Certainly not defending. I was actually happy he got injured. I’ve been a fan of Montoya for a while and wouldn’t mind him getting the nod over Dani.

    I would like to respectfully disagree with you. I remember some were saying just a few weeks ago how his crosses has improved. And c’mon, what is up with this. Just because of 2 mistakes in consecutive weeks and and some below par to average games a few matches into the season, we already forgot what he is capable of??

    And do not forget that it could’ve been Tito’s idea not to let Alves venture too much forward anymore.

    Letting him sit out a few matches is enough. No need to sell him in January.

    1. I haven’t seen any improvement in his crosses. In fact I don’t recall any to the middle where he used to put those dangerous balls into. I think his roll has changed and Messi’s position on the field has, so he won’t have the target he did in 08/09 and 09/10, but he’s not getting to the end line and constantly passing back to the middle from the corner of the box. His defense has been atrocious this year. I really haven’t seen him play a great game. He’s had a couple of ok performances and 4 not very good performances. I guess we see totally different things when we watch the games. That’s ok with me because if everyone agreed on this blog it would be pretty boring. I wasn’t against selling him this summer and now I’m definitely in favor of it. He served his purpose. Let PSG take him and give us $20 million for him and we can invest that in a CB this coming summer. I want to clarify about what I said about “being happy he got injured”. I never want to see our players injured. Even if I’m not happy with their play. However, I meant that I wasn’t pleased with his performance and it made it easy for Tito to make a change without having to embarrass him.

  25. Points to be Taken from a very good Performance:

    1) Yup, our defense got exposed a number of times. But chill out guys and especially those who believe we have to buy an extra Central defender. Here is the problem. By the time winter transfer market opens, we could be having these defenders in action – Puyol, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Alves, Song, Bartra, Montoya and hopefully Abidal. It does not make sense to go to market inJanuary. What we should ideally do is get Bartra and Montoya kind of ready.

    2) Cesc may have played well in the absence of Iniesta, but that does not alter the ultimate truth – Iniesta cannot be replaced in our midfield. Whenever he dropped into midfield we had more pace and control. That means if Cesc has to be used he has to be used as a floating No.10

    3) Now this is very important. Something has happened to Messi this season – he has transformed into a brilliant free kick taker from around 20 yards out. Now it’s up to the team to exploit it. Oppositions will not have any qualm in conceding free kick from that distance so Iniesta and Messi in particular should try to draw fouls in that range. A little bit of quick feet would help at that position. If you look at Messi’s proficiency from that distance he always hit the target and in most case the keeper has to stretch himself to keep the ball out. That has become a seriously good goal scoring opportunity.

    4) Alves need to be talked to. Seriously that’s the second time he has exposed Valdes. He should have dived at Ronaldo’s shot. May be it’s the absence of Puyol which is letting him off the hook. he has been a real asset for us all these years. BUt if he is becoming a liability it’s better to cash on him. It will bring down the wages a lot too.

  26. I was hoping that a journalist would’ve asked Tito why he decided to play Iniesta much higher up the pitch instead of Cesc.

    I thought it was a poor decision. Cesc is a goal scoring threat and Iniesta is simply a much better midfielder. So I really didn’t understand the decision.

    1. But that would leave our midfield exposed, right? Our midfield couldn’t really dominate the match until the last quarter or so.

  27. Highlights of the match for those who missed it so that you can skip forward if you are in a rush;

    9 – Ramos kicked out at Messi
    12.40 – Alves double marking sMasch’s man, Marcelo and left Benzema open. Di Maria & Ozil were un marked in our box too. Abysmal marking.
    19.35 – Iniesta
    21.15 – Iniesta
    35 – Busi
    35.22 – Xavi
    41.35 – Busi
    43.40 – Busi
    43.55 – Busi
    44 – Messi
    45.37 – Iniesta
    46.10 – Messi
    48. sMasch through ball
    50.53 – Iniesta
    51.40 – Busi
    55.06 Iniesta
    55.50 – Alonso tackle from the back
    60.10 – Messi freekick
    62.10 – Tiki taka
    62.50 – Busi taking Higuain for a ride who in turn lashed out
    67.02 – Xavi
    69 – Iniesta
    69.10 – Messi dribble
    72.15 – Montoya shot

    This is actually my notes from the 1st viewing. I edited most of them with details after a 2nd viewing just now but I accidentally pressed cancel when I tried to prevent the phone from going to sleep mode. Bloody annoying!! Next time I should do it Kxevin’s style and scribble on a piece of paper instead.

    After a 2nd viewing here is my list of best performing players;
    1) Busi
    2) Messi
    3) Alba
    4) Iniesta

  28. What a match. From the first moment we learned that “Adriano is going to play center back? (We’re screwed!)” to the final whistle which came much too soon, as Barcelona was playing some of their best football of the season…all of it, very enjoyable.

    Anyway, the thoughts:

    1. Adriano was immense. Sure, he’s to blame for a goal and a few clear-cut chances, but we should quickly remember that the alternative is a weary Alex Song, a player with height and (exaggerated) speed who we can’t really trust so short into his career. Sure, I nervously was clenching my couch with every corner and free kick, but in the end it was the best Tito could do. We’re likely to get a CB — I’ve been wrong here before, mind you — but the choices are limited in January, with the elite ones being cup-tied and what not.
    2. Messi should no longer play the False 9 in these games. It simply doesn’t make sense given the way that Madrid has set up, as well as our team’s unwillingness (understandably, however) to play two out-and-out forwards/wingers on either side of the field. All of this coupled with the hack-a-Messi strategy that doesn’t seem to produce cards for the strangest of reasons should add up to playing him as a 10 with Alexis or Cesc up top. The logic is fairly simple: the less players on Messi, the more he’s involved in creative build-up play…the better. Come on, Tito.
    3. Alves was woeful. Is it motivation? Lingering injury? The arrival of Alba, which perhaps more than anything tempers his runs? — again, Abidal was so crucial to the structural imbalance of this great team. Whatever the reason, Montoya looks like a stud. And while I’m not set to give up on Alves yet, Montoya appears to be the star in the making.

    More later. Great game.

    1. Haha I like your hack-a-Messi line. It really is very similar to what Shaq went through. Only difference is that NBA referees don’t make mistakes and thus Shaq received a lot of calls in his favor. Not that he made much use of them anyways lol but at least the fouls were called unlike in football.

      Shaq’s free throws were so ugly that one commentator said after yet another miss that it could go into the Shaq ugly top 10 free throws. Hilarious! I wish there really is such a video.

    2. Haha. You know what’s amazing, as a young guy, Shaq used to have a decent midrange jump shot, and had much better form with free throws…then something happened…like Barkley and his golf swing!

    3. Haha!

      It’s absurd, though! I watched the game with a neutral (Dortmund fan, lovely people) and he couldn’t believe the strategy of fouling Messi before he entered he box. We came to the conclusion that the fouls were sneakily “non-serious” and that they are, in fact, very possible opportunities for goals given Messi’s ability to skip past one, two, three opponents at will. In a sense, there’s an (unfortunate) prevailing logic that fouls on counter’s are more serious, which explains Busquets’s yellow and the deliberate strategy of not allowing Messi anywhere inside the goal box.

  29. A few things:

    –The Song observation was just that. An observation. Let it distract if you like, but it was a very brief point worth making.

    –Something is going on with Alves. Not sure what it is, but the sudden (well, not all that sudden as it began last season, really) dip in form is troubling. On the attacking end, some has to do with how Messi is playing and how defenses are playing Alves. On the defensive end, that’s another matter. We can attribute some of it to the fact that because we aren’t pressing as much, things are getting more exposed at the back. This makes the run of injuries to defenders even more a giant pile of rotten luck. I hope he gets it sorted, because he is much needed for our championship ambitions this season.

    –The last 5 minutes of that match were bonkers, starting with Montoya hitting the crossbar. Pedro! missed his opportunity to become Pedro!!!!!!!! for perpetuity. Sanchez got in the way of the one shot, but that one wasn’t beating Casillas. That second shot, however …. Absolutely bonkers ending to a tip-top match.

    –I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we started pressing more. We had to. No way we get out of there alive if we don’t.

    –I love the tactical wrinkle of a deeper Messi. It gets him the ball earlier and more often, something I was commenting on watching previous matches from other seasons. It forces him to think about things other than scoring, as well. I don’t know if he’s the best passer on the team, but he’s pretty darned close. He sees things that other players, even Xavi, don’t see. Or Xavi might see them but think, “I can’t get that ball there.” Messi thinks, “Sure, why not?” And bango.

    It also unsettles defenses, because they unconsciously move out to deal with Messi, which opens up space for runners behind them. All of this is good. It also puts Messi in positions where he can’t help but assist with the press, as he is also an excellent ball winner.

    This is why, when people discuss/compare Messi/Ronaldo, I just don’t see how they can do it. Yes, both score lots of goals and are phenomenal attacking talents, but that is where the comparison ends for me.

    –Xavi’s influence was subtle but very strong in this match, even the times when he had the intelligence to defer to Messi as playmaker.

    –Not sure what’s up with Valdes, but something is. Maybe he and Alves are symbiotically linked by the phonetic similarities of their names. Who knows? But he has been beaten this season on shots that he stops in previous seasons. I don’t think it’s all the departure of Daddy Busi. He’s hesitant. You almost wonder if the defensive complexities aren’t making him tentative when he shouldn’t be. Dunno.

    But the Valdes of last season probably leaves us victors in this match. He will get it back, though. Form comes and goes. Class is permanent.

    1. I find it extremely annoying when tv pundits,commentators and journalist keep asking themselves that question, Messi or Ronaldo. I don’t mind netizens arguing but I didn’t expect tv pundits, commentators & journalists to be so clueless. They should know better that it’s not all about goals.

      Messi has really become unselfish for the past 3 matches. There were at least 2 moves where he passed whereas the previous Messi would’ve continued trying to take on the defense and in the end loses the ball.

      The deeper Messi plays, the more I can picture Falcao finishing off the moves. Too bad he is a Madrista. But hey, Ozil was a Cule too.

      I thought Alexis had his best match this season last night. Can’t wait for him to continue with this form. He had confidence to take on his man.

      Cesc on the other hand regressed. Too many loose passes and lost balls. He really looked lost in deep in midfield.

      I think both Alves and VV could do with some time off. at least Alves has a competitor for his spot whereas VV knows that Pinto can’t challenge him. I do however think that it’s not the root of the problem as it looks to be more of a psychological problem.

    2. The fact that Ronaldo is compared to Messi is a testament to Messi in some ways. Was Messi, say, **simply** a 10 we’d be marveling at him in Ronaldinho-esque fashion, as we wouldn’t need to cite his incredible goalscoring abilities since they were, understandably, lesser than Ronaldo’s but extremely impressive for his position. It’s now, thus, become an afterthought that Messi creates, passes, gobbles up the attention and stray boots of 5-6 players, whatever…

      Now it’s simply become a “Pichichi battle” and had Messi simply lost that–a proximity that in any intelligent universe would be more than praiseworthy given the hundreds of less shots he takes and all the other things he does–it’s very likely that he’d be a serious bet not to take a 4th straight Ballon d’Or.

      Jesus. It’s insane, guys!

    3. I’ve been a proponent of Messi in the deeper role for a long time. Messi may not end up with as many goals but net net I think you end up with more goals. Messi would have some brilliant runs and clear the box out for service to charging forwards.
      In. Barcas system you should be able to count on 20 plus goals out of your other starting forwards the way Henry and Eto did a few years ago. those are the standards that a forward should live up to. Between Xavi feeding you and the increased freedom from all the focus on Messi a player like Alexis has no excuses. Guys like Falcao or Aguero would put some big numbers up playing with us. Just sayin…

    4. Valde has no problem. H e has been always weak on his near post. Those who can shoot hard has exploited the same. Remember Van Persie goal at Emirates. Lampard goal at Cam Nou.

  30. Here’s the deal with Alves. You put him next to Adriano and Maxwell, I kiss his feet. You put him next to Montoya, I give him a donkey kick! 🙂

    1. Aah, this takes me back !

      Alves has never been as good a defender as Maxwell. As far as offence is concerned I can’t remember Maxwell ever attacking to judge. 🙂

  31. Oh. Also important to note that Montoya isn’t Ready. But the pot is boiling. Alves is still just about the best overall right back in the world (when you consider attacking AND defending). Montoya isn’t ready to replace him just yet, folks, even as he had a hell of a match yesterday.

    Looks like we’ll be seeing more of him, too. Depor certainly, and probably Celtic.

    1. It was only after Montoya came in did Barca become the better team. Madrid were making quite a few inroads at that point to the Barca game. Not ready??? Matter of perception.

  32. 1. Good choice to not use both Mascherano and Song. Both of them make the classic DM at CB mistake and get sucked up field. Mascherano made this mistake for the second goal where he once again failed to recognize there was danger behind him and position himself accordingly. This is the weak part of his game, and the defense would have been much worse off with both Song and Mascherano making this mistake.

    2. The biggest problem with Song is that his best position doesn’t fit the teams needs. A CB was needed, and Song isn’t a CB.

    3. Montoya is good. Alves has been poor compared to his own standards all season. Would be happy to see him move this summer while he still has value. Would be nice to shed his huge wages as well.

    4. In the grand scheme a draw was a good result

    1. I suspect the real reason Song wasn’t on was because Vilanova was concerned about his pace vs. Madrid. In the opening 30, where RM were carving us up, he might have done better than Adriano, but I think it was more having the pace to respond to counterattacking and to get to balls played quickly upfield by RM that was the reason Adriano was there.

    2. I don’t think RM out played us in the first 30 mins tbh. They had a good spell between 20-30 mins when they scored and hit the post twice. Other than that, Barca had a lot of possesion but didn’t do much with it.

    3. ^ this. the narrative among madrid fans, some cules and supposed neutrals, is that madrid wasted their dominance in the first half, that they “won” the first part of the game and should have had more to show for it.

      fact is that we controlled the match almost entirely. yes they had a chance on a corner, and when they hit the post. but other than that they couldnt string 3 passes together. when they got the ball, we won it right back. and that was their game plan? ha ha. we werent penetrating at the beginning, true, but i think we were playing this conservative, content on maintaining possession the whole time, we did not need to go for the throat (until after they scored) since we have an 8 point lead and a improvised defense. goals aside, for madrid to crow about anything they did in this match is grasping at straws.

      call me biased but we were the much better team.

    4. I agree with you, and I watched the game again today. There was a period right after their first goal and for about 10-15 minutes afterwards that you could say RM had the upper hand. They hit the post and had a couple of clear misses. This was also a period where Xavi, Messi, and Busi made some uncharacteristic giveaways in the midfield, and Dani was at his worst, positionally speaking. After Montoya came on (27th minute) everything seemed to calm down, and after that I would have to say Barça was dominant.

      (Not that RM were poor by any means. Let’s be fair, they played hard, pressed, and took advantage of the inevitable mistakes of our players. And aside from a couple of harsh fouls, it was a pretty clean game as well, which was a big relief.)

  33. Really good point with regards to how expectation changed as the match went on. If you had put this lineup sheet up for the first Liga clasico before the season started, I’m sure most would have predicted 3 points for Madrid. And in the beginning they tore us apart. Ozil played some beautiful passes to Ronaldo for his goals, actually I thought Ozil was the most dangerous player for them. It was lucky for us that no one but Ronaldo could finish off a move in the beginning. Playing our game at a very high level, even when harassed by RM is what allowed us to control the match, and I think we have been watching this team for so long that once they start playing that way we just expect the win to come.

    All in all, getting this draw was crucial and keep in mind RM will be rueing their lost opportunity much, much more than us. Especially since this is probably the weakest we will be all season.

    1. Was anyone surprised that Ozil played past the 60th minute? lol. He got over 70 minutes this game! He must be doing the P90X at his house. 🙂

    1. Nice eyes. I forgot to look for them and didn’t see them because it was so quick. I had to go back and pause it. That’s funny. Great video. I loved Conrad’s seat for Messi’s free kick goal! That would’ve been sick! Loved old dudes throw back jersey he’s probably had since Cruyff days.

  34. I don’t understand the pessimism about this match either.

    Over the full 90 minutes, it was a baöanced match in every single aspect of the game.
    We played against the strongest counter-attacking team in the world – which was incredibly motivated, on a high from their last convincingly won matches, and probably further pushed by a backline of ours that lacked at least 2 regular starters (Abidal would also be a regular starter against RM due to his pace). Take Ramos, Pepe, and hell, even Arbeloa away from their team and let’s see how this goes.
    Just sayin’ that the omen was not good for this match, might have gotten worse for many after reading the line-up and hit rock bottom when Dani Alves was injured and we 1-0 behind.

    The comeback quality of this side is incredible. Yes, we did not win in the end, but we had the chances and got RM in the pocket for the last 20 mins. Although they were supposed to have the psychologic advantage from the 2-2, they were supposed to meed the three points more than us.

    Busquets already had a hell of a match defensively, but you also need to have a lot of courage to make backheel tricks in such a dangerous position as his. I’ve already seen him perform them succesfully in the last matches. He’s not only an immmaculate reader of the match and almost Yaya-esque destroyer, he’s developing a smoothness* that we usually only know from Iniesta^^
    *paired with some tactical fouls, that could tbh have led to a double-yellow (the ref from yesterday statistically shows the least sending-offs).

    Last but not least, if Montoya’s shot had hit the back of the net, I’d have had an escalation of joy nearly as impulsive as the Iniestazo. Considering the build-up for it, I cannot think of a better Clasico goal.

    1. I don’t understand either. We were far from perfect but take a look at our line-up. Even with that line up we almost got 3 points at the end of the game.

      And I definitely don’t understand how some madriditsa take a conclusion from last Clasico match that right now EE is a better team than Barcelona. I just can’t see the last match as a proof of that argument, because like you said, it’s a pretty balanced game against a weaker version-Barcelona.

      We played with Adriano (first time as a CB) and Montoya (unexperienced young player) for heaven’s sake. If they are a better team then they should’ve slaughtered us with 2-5 goals difference.

      And people may hate him, but Busquets’ performance is absolute class.

    2. Yeah, just take a gander at and their recent article stating that EE have now surpassed Barcelona and that the era is over. Quite a strange reaction when you consider how depleted the back line is! Can you imagine us having a go at Varane, Arbeloa, Carbalho (he’s still around, right?), and Contrao?

    3. well, Carvalho is a natural centre back, right? And we had ZERO natural centre back last match 😆

      So it’s probably more like Coentrao, Essien, Marcelo(as a CB), and Arbeloa

    4. Right, but part of our problem with having no natural ones is self-inflicted – we haven’t bought any! With more patience we could’ve at least had Chyg or Caceres stepping in. But it sure would be fun to have a go at the back 4 you mentioned. 😆

  35. About Alves and Montoya, during match lots of non-cules said our weak defence are getting worse and we’re going to get ripped apart by EE when Dani got injured.

    Well I wasn’t, I was happy Montoya came on. I saw it as a blessing in disguise. With their recent performances, I prefer to have Montoya on the field.
    Dani needs to sort his performance immediately.

    Oh, and international break? Boooo 🙄

  36. Apparantly, according to sport, Puyi will try to make back for around Nov 15th, 5 weeks instead of the 8 weeks. Lol, i thought he’s try to come back sooner.

    1. Thanks for the link. I really wish more people will recognize his talent. Allas is helping the cause.

  37. It occurs to me that I have been remiss in something. For people who want an excellent English-language source for Catalan news, a woman named Liz Castro (@lizcastro on Twitter) runs a site called News Catalonia. Articles, opinion, and she makes no bones about her pro-Catalan affiliation. That said, it’s a very useful source.

  38. Hey, remember when we sold Toure Yaya, and people were heaping scorn upon Busquets and his DM capabilities? Seems so long ago now ….

  39. Thanks Kxevin for the review, and I like your review so much more with no rating number 😉

    Maybe something was wrong with me, but this was probably the first clasico where afterward I felt like I had nothing insightful or new to add to the analysis. Granted I was in a self-induced panic mode, but nothing from this match stood out for me. I felt like it was just another regular match…

    No new wrinkles, tactic-wise, for me to chew over. Yes, the inclusion of Adriano was a surprise, but we had discussed the lack of defenders prior, so when I saw his name in the lineup, I was like okay. RM used their usual system, and we continued to play the same way like we always have this season. No controversies or excitement in the aftermaths. I just felt indifferent :/

  40. Late to the game, again, but still have a couple thoughts.
    First, nice review, especially given how quickly it was put together after the game!
    What is there to say that hasn’t been said? Likely not much, but there remain a few things, if said, I haven’t read. Tito’s lineup was unexpected and interesting, okay a lot of people have said that, but bear with me. The obvious surprises were that both adriano and alba were in the lineup & the backline together, and likewise iniesta and cesc were in the lineup & the “midfield” together. Finally, that Pedro was the sole winger/wide forward and he was playing on the right and in front of Alves.

    The backline was obviously makeshift, had never played a game together, etc. That said, I agree with the reviews that gave them the credit they are due. They gave away chances as any reasonable person would expect against RM period, let alone with Barca’s system. Spacing and marking were an issue especially in the first half and to an extreme for a period around the first goal. A good portion of that was down to Dani. Based on the lineup he was asked to play differently than he prefers and/or maximizes his skill set. However, he has played very well against RM and Ronaldo when asked to play more conservatively or traditionally. In this games he didn’t. I believe he has troubles playing with a winger or wide forward ahead of him, i.e. he has played his best with messi in front of him operating as an inverted winger. In that case messi was always looking to turn inside, which is still the case, pulling defenders inside and opening space for dani to run into. With an attacker in front of him who is playing more traditionally that avenue is cut off and dani turns his runs inside, and gets sucked inside. In this game that tendency continued on the defensive end of the field. When Montoya entered the game he played well, especially given his age, experience, and the circumstance. He also found that pocket of space in the right midfield and operated well from there.

    Towards the end of last season, when the rumors were running rampant that Alves had one foot out the door and many of us were content to help him along, there were discussions about Dani’s past, current, and future role. It was pointed out by many that Barca had been asymmetric or chiral and it was difficult, given key players’ tendencies, to see how that changing. It was also wondered aloud how Alba could fit into that asymmetry productively. This game supplied answers to that question, whilst giving reason for that line of questioning to begin anew.

    We saw a match between two very asymmetric teams. I was interested to see Tito employ a multifaceted approach to attacking and defending RM’s asymmetry while changing Barca’s asymmetry. Dani turned out to be the sacrificial lamb on this altar, literally and Pedro figuratively. Dani has often played a key role in attempts to pacify RM’s right side, whether he was making runs from his “right back” position or positioned as a more traditional winger. This has met with varied success and often allowed space behind dani that was sometimes exploited. The problem with RM’s left side is that you would like to pin back Marcelo and contain Ronaldo. This time Tito decided to play Pedro, a guy who could make marcelo defend and would also track his when necessary, as the right winder/wide forward. This was very effective in nullifying marcelo. However, it also hampered dani’s runs and overall effectiveness. What we saw from Montoya was a player whose tendency is to make fewer runs down the sideline more content to find the space augment possession. he stayed at home more, which helped him defend, but still picked his time and spaces well when he did run.

    On the opposite side of the field we saw a new variation on something familiar. First, pep has often shunned playing a true wide player on the left in big games and forced iniesta onto the wing, either to allow space for cesc in the lineup, augment possession and control of the midfield, or just as a way to get his “best 11” players on the field. Many have cried foul, myself amongst them, when iniesta has been forced onto the touchline and often marginalized. Arbeloa is in many ways the anti-marcelo, and the flip side the RM’s asymmetry. He is an adequate defender, but a player, when spoken about the discussion centers on why/how there is not a better player available for RM or Spain. (I believe that Montoya is that option for Spain, but his progress is limited by his lack of first team minutes.) Tito chose to attack Arbeloa by trying to pull him out of position with Iniesta and Cesc and run at him/behind him with Alba. Iniesta prefers to attack the gap between the RB and CB and his work with Alba on the touchline has been fantastic. The choice to pay iniesta at his preferred position and give Alba freedom to attack is the choice that necessitated/forced the use of Adriano at CB. Adriano is a player much better suited to covering gaps on the left than Mascherano or Song. If the choice had been made to left Dani run up the right an argument could be made that Mascherano or Song could slide to the right. However, Adriano was a much better choice, in theory and practice, to cover the left. (The ideal player is, of course, the one still recovering from his transplant, and given the rumblings of his progress we can all salivate at the flexibility that would be allowed by his return. Not to mention a tear or too, cause it’d be a great story for a great guy.)

    Another piece of this puzzle is Messi’s evolution towards/to a 10, as in role not rating, though often they are equally appropriate. Many people have talked about it, during and prior to this season. I will skip the arguments for and against and stick to what was for me an unforeseen consequence. That consequence, at least for now, is a shift in the asymmetry of the team from right to left. The combination of Messi regularly receiving the ball deeper and overwhelmingly turning to his left drastically changes the role of the right sided attackers. We have seen, increasingly the last few games, how this emphasizes runs from outside to inside and runs in the gap between RB and CB. So much so that I have been arguing with the Messi on my TV to look at Pedro and turn to your right. I am sure he will improve in this, but seemingly 9 of 10 times Messi is receiving the ball and turning to his left, often turning his back on space behind him for Dani or Pedro, let alone himself. In the last game once he finally decided to turn to his right it gave him just enough to get his body behind the defender and it resulted in a goal. If he is able to change that tendency to turn to the left from 9/10 time to 7/10 times he receives the ball defenders will be forced to respect that possibility and it will give him more room or time each time he receives the ball.

    But I digress, the point is that as unorthodox as the lineup appeared, and one could argue played relative to the past, there was a logic behind it that looked to attack RM’s weaknesses due to asymmetry by altering Barca’s. Tito was also consistent with “Pep’s” core tenants while showing his own inclinations in the direct of directness and pragmatism. In playing Messi deeper and including Iniesta and Cesc in the midfield not on the wing he committed to the priority of numbers in midfield, possession, and getting Messi the ball. The largest shift away from the past was that the system was changed to optimize Alba’s skill set on the left as opposed to Alves’ on the right. A change that was supported by Alba’s outstanding performance, and some would argue, Alves’ poor one. The consistency in that choice is that it was simply mirroring Alves’ normal role on the left side of of the pitch without the gamble of opening Barca on RM’s stronger side, and facilitated Messi’s changing role and tendencies by putting Alba’s runs in front of him whereas Alves’ would have/were behind him.

    This is all to say nothing of Busquets’ ridiculously good game. He above all others has kept the merry-go-round at centerback from derailing the season already. I’d argue that with any other player in his position thus far Barca & RM could be chasing Atleti from the better part of 10 points down. In this game seemed tailor-made to show off his usually nearly invisible game, whilst also requiring the most of him.

    And yes, VV should have had his near post covered. I would also argue with the nearly universal proclamations that he had no chance at the second goal. He had a shot, not a good one, but he had one, and should be expected to have one. The second goal is a situation a barca keeper should be expecting and one that VV has faced countless times before, often pulling it out a save or forcing a miss. The difference between playing keeper for barcelona and anyone else is the frequency with which you will be asked to use your feet and deal with one-on-one’s. VV’s ability with both of those is the reason he is reasonably called the best keeper in the world for Barca and won as many zamora’s as he has.

    And finally, what a game to watch! And honestly a fair result, and relatively clean game. Top of the table w/ Atleti and an 8 point gap over Real! Fantastic!

    1. Excellent analysis. As we now know, or at least from ZubiZa, Vilanova used Adriano because Song hasn’t yet fully acclimated, in that there are certain automatic things that an FCB defender does that Song isn’t doing. Adriano has been with the club for two seasons, and is fully assimilated, so.

      Loving the Messi at the 10 as well. Now hopefully, once he reaches full fitness, we’ll see more of Villa as the 9, with Messi playing behind him.

  41. Wonderful tactical analysis and one I have not seen anywhere else on the Net. Thank you.

    1. thanks. i hadn’t seen much about why tito used adriano, just my two cents, but was curious if others would agree.

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