Return to the Riazor: Depor – Barcelona

The weekend arrives like a blast of fresh air. Sure, in this part of the world that blast is actually carrying a rainstorm and chilly temperatures, but whatever, I can deal with that for a return of domestic league football. I wasn’t able to catch a single minute of the international matches—this Friday and Monday thing somehow conflicts with my, you know, work schedule…and my, you know, going out with friends schedule as well—so this is an even greater return of football than normal.

We head to Galicia to face Deportivo la Coruña, the 18th placed team with 6 points. Their solitary win of the season came in their first match against Osasuna, one of just 2 teams beneath them in the table. That win, however, was at home, where they’ve got 1-1-1 (3GF, 3GA). It’s their 2 straight away losses, added onto their only home loss the week prior, that has contributed their current status. They played Valencia to a 3-3 draw at the Mestalla in Week 2, coming back from 3-1 down to earn themselves a point–granted they got their 3rd goal from a second yellow penalty on Ricardo Costa–and then earned 1-1 draws against Getafe and at Granada. It would be a mistake to take this team lightly, as if they’ll simply roll over. They’re much worse defensively away from home (6GA, 11GF), but 5 of those goals were shipped to Real Madrid at the Bernabeu. Interestingly, Riki, a former Real Madrid youth product who never made it to the first team before being shipped off to–get this, it’s shocking–Getafe, scored the opening goal of what turned out to be a rout in the other direction.*

Barça, for their part, still have defensive injuries to deal with, including both Pique and Alves missing out on the trip. Tito has countered this by including Jonathan dos Santos in the lineup for the first time this season: Valdés, Pinto, Jordi Alba, Adriano, Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Song, Sergio Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Dos Santos, Cesc, Alexis, Villa, Pedro, Messi, Tello.

While it’s great to see JDS being selected for a match (I’m still a believer in his talent–more on that in a later post), it’s very unlikely that he’ll actually get any playing time. It’s more likely that a tired Messi will get the nod in central defense than JDS starting. And yeah, I understand probability  so if JDS starts and Messi is on the bench through the 60th minute, don’t come tweeting me about all that crap. You can’t prove I’m wrong. Thing is, we don’t have the defensive depth to let Mascherano sit out, so it’s unlikely that Messi will allow himself to be rested while Mascher gets the nod. No way Pulga believes he can’t handle as much work as Jefecito.

So it’s a return to the world of La Liga, to Atleti somehow acting so un-Atleti like and hanging with us at the top of the table. Real Madrid has a busted defense in ways that are far more worrisome for them than Barça missing Pique and Puyol are for FCB (how crazy of a statement is that?). We’ll know the outcome of that match heading into our own, so there may be naught but status quo to play for or there will be a shock result to capitalize on. Either way, the most important thing is to beat Depor at the Riazor: no easy feat.

Official Prediction: 1-3. Valdes let’s an easy one beyond him to start the match and then Barça roar back. RM fans cry foul and demand that the red card Depor receive at 1-2 be reviewed at the highest level: by Mourinho. Goals by Pedro and Messi (2).

*Further fun: Riki scored what turned out to be the game-winner for Getafe against RM while he was on loan during 2004-05. The final score was 2-1 to Getafe. The other scorer for Getafe? Raul Albiol. Hat tip to @BassamDgheim for pointing out the Riki-RM connection. While he’s often considered a laughable strike option, he’s scored 40 goals in 174 appearances for Depor–not a great record, but not something that should make him ridiculed by all and sundry.

By Isaiah

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


  1. This referee is a disgrace. A yellow for Messi??? You got to get your head checked man!!!

  2. this is the ref that we had vs osasuna last yr when we lost. We’re fighting the elements people

    1. Same one? Well, that explains a lot of things. The Mascherano second yellow wasn’t even a foul, let a lone a red. And the penalty was outside the box…

      Anyway, we won, but that was too much excitement for my taste

      Of course, it would have helped if we didn’t let in such cheap goals too – it’s not as if we played badly or Deportivo really put pressure on us, we just tried very hard to beat ourselves. Be thankful we had Messi in miracle-working mode…

  3. Phew!!!! Another close win for Barca.

    My MOTM is Cesc.

    Special thanks to the Ref for an entertaining game.

    1. I might be on my own here but I didn’t think he had a bad game apart from too many cards for me.

    2. No, I thought the ref had a decent game.

      I think that once he realized that he shouldn’t have given Mascherano that second yellow, he tried to even things out by giving out cards for everything in sight.

    3. He had a poor game overall. He just whistled every single contact made. Players were afraid to actually look at the opponent fearing that the ref will call a foul.

  4. What the fuck, literally, what a hell was all that.
    The commentator just said a stat, that this season we are letting a goal every 3,5 shots. That’s something Tito should think about, with or without first CB choices.

    1. That’s a horrible stat. It actually means the team defense isn’t working that bad – that’s around 4 shots a game allowed, which is not at all bad. The problem is too many of them are going in, a lot of them very cheap goals like today

  5. Is it possible to go through this season watching Barcelona without almost getting a heart attack?

    1. The Puyol I know will break his neck trying to break down Tito’s door because, you know, he’s Puyol!!

  6. On the plus side : Cesc was superb , Messi is just exceptional and he keeps saving our a** .
    On a different note , I just don’t want to see Valdes again as our #1 . This guy is a liability , and I wanna kill Rosell and Zubi for not buying a CB , out defense is a catastrophe .

    a CB is needed ASAP . and obviously , Bartra has a long way to go .

  7. Wow amazing game, 19 years since the last 5-4 game in La Liga. Our defense though mistakes game after game like this Bein’s host chick’s.

    1. chick*. Also would loved to see Bartra get some time soon, though maybe this was not the game. Though we have not had 4 scored against us since 2009 in a game ..

    2. Well, we only had 4 scored against us technically. One of them we scored ourselves, and it wasn’t even a forced own goal…

  8. A bit over the top where VV is concerned. He has saved us time and again. Bad goal he lost today but you can’t ave any confidence p laying behind a defence like that. Hopefully in three weeks or so we’ll have our top guys back and the difference will be immense.

    Cesc was great but you see our dilemma. He can’t play in place of Xavi. With Xavi on the pitch they don’t see enough of the ball to come back.

    It was exciting though, wasn’t it 🙂

    1. and he screwed us time and time again .
      He is not Barca material . and It kills me when I think we could have Neuer in his place or even De Gea .

    2. You have to be kidding with De Gea! I’m not sure how many times you mean by time and time again. I can think of a couple of dodgy ones this season but not many last. When we tried our failed three at the back he was all that stood between us and a few beatings IMO.

    3. Not kidding , De Gea was enormous with ATM . and he is getting better and better with Man U now.
      And Neuer was available before Bayern bought him.
      I remember his errors since he was passing the ball to David Villa when Villa was playing in VAL.
      Can’t remember a season without some scandalous errors made by him . he does not have the enough capabilities to be Barca’s #1

    4. Come on Xavi6, have you been watching VV along with the rest of us over these last several years? I watch United all the time and I can tell you, and so can the many frustrated United fans that De Gea has a spotty record at best. Sure he’s improved, but he’s made way more errors than VV by far. And he doesn’t bring the same level of play that VV does. Think about how much of Barcas play originates from goal as opposed to Bayeren or United where they tend to just boot it out. VV essentially plays sweeper. You can’t just substitute just any keeper in that role including Casillas. His form has dipped but you are having a knee jerk reaction to everything he does. He is still a valuable member to this squad. I’ve watched every match this team has played at least once since Pep took over and I’ve come to appreciate how valuable VV is to this squad in more ways than one. There’s just not that many guys out there that could seemlessly step in to his shoes as easily as you think. Theres a reason he’s the number 2 keeper on the best international team in the world and the number one at the best club team in the world.

    5. “Not Barça material”. Yeah, that’s why he has won the Zamora award four years in a row. 🙄

      Come on. He had a bad game, and he hasn’t had a great start to his season. But he has been a top-notch keeper for years, and we owe him a little patience.

    6. IMO , the Zamora is a team trophy not a GK trophy .

      Valdes got it cause the midfield in front of him monopolized possession and at one time , we had one hell of a defense composed of Alves (at his best) , Puyol , Pique and King Abi . opponents found it hard even to get a sniff at our goal , meaning that he was not faced with a big number of difficult saves to do.

      He is not a “top-notch” GK at all , this elite list contains a small number of GKs like Neuer , Casillas , Cech , Buffon .

      Valdes often gives mixed performances , sometimes he makes some good saves and in other time he makes such stupid mistakes that turns me furious . this is not the level needed to play at Barca where you need to be one hell of a GK . and that’s why I sais that he is not barca material at all , Seeing him playing with stalwarts like Messi , Xavi , Iniesta really puzzles me .

      We really need a good GK .

    7. The ZAMORA trophy is a complete joke. Of course the defensive midfielders, fullbacks, and centrebacks are far more important.

    8. De Gea was making some horrible mistakes (like the ones Valdes is making now ) when he firstly arrived at ManU , but after some bad months he started to improve and made some breathtaking saves .

      I am watching Barca since Van Gaal’s time , I know about the GK crisis we were having at the turn of the century and IMO , Valdes is not the answer , he is a liability . it’s not about loving or hating his personality (this is not a social club as Tito said ) , it’s about his performances .

      We need someone to make saves + Valdes has been kicking balls to the opponent since the Di Maria’s goal in the supercopa , even the build up role is not going so well with him now .

    9. I agree he needs competition and Pinto is not it but I disagree that he is a liability. The DiMaria goal still stings but it was one goal. As for. The build up, he has been surrounded by different defenders every week filling in so yes, things have been a little off but I don’t think he’s forgotten how to pass. Once Everyone is healthy I would expect that to normalize. Again, I think your just piling on.

    10. And you can’t compare the mistakes VV is making now to what DeGea made early at United. They aren’t even in the same ballpark. If you do you’re not watching the same games.

    11. You can think whatever you want. It’s a free world 🙂
      I was only saying that they have been doing some horrible mistakes not saying they are the exact errors or circumstances , only same magnitude of errors and De Gea was enormous in ATM.
      I don’t think I will take a fee if Valdes left the team or something . I only think that he is not good enough to be Barca #1 , and I hope he proves me wrong coz I am becoming afraid every time I see him on the pitch.

    12. De Gea is still VERY questionable in the air. He doesn’t command his box at all. He’s struggled without Vidic and a in form Ferdinand bossing the box. He does make some spectacular saves, but so does Valdes.

  9. VV job is to save our ass over and over again, that’s why he is the goalkeeper. His job is also to not let ridiculous goals. That is just killing the moral of the players on the pitch.
    And not to mention us.
    This is not a view based just on this game.

    1. Agree , and since Di Maria’s goal in the Supercopa , he keeps giving away possession to the opponents every time he gets the ball .
      He lost confidence in himself , and a better GK shall be brought in .

      His ability to generate ridiculous errors has grown over this summer .

    2. I’m telling ya, it started going downhill after Sergio’s dad left. I think he was the reason for Victor’s great form the previous few years. We need papa Busi back!

  10. cesc got yellow for celebrating the 3-5 for, according to the referee, “entering the pitch without my permission”..

  11. I don’t understand all the criticism of Valdes today. Yes, Barca conceded 4 goals but let’s look at them and Valdes’ level of responsibility.

    1) Penalty. Penalties are saved at a very low rate. I don’t see how Valdes can be blamed for not saving it.
    2) Shot from the top of the box that was screened from his view and deflected off a Depor player right in front of him. Still, he did in front of the ball. Could have done better.
    3) Golazo off of a free kick. Valdes had this covered well, but the placement was absolutely perfect. I don’t think that there is a goalie in the world who would have saved that.
    4) Own goal from Jordi Alba. What was Valdes supposed to do to stop this?

    So… out of 4 goals, Valdes is at fault for at most one. His distribution was lacking at times as well but his performance is not commensurate with the rage.

    1. For me, its not about any particular game or goal, but the fact that he’s been regressing rather than progressing. It has been a slow process, but I think it started when his gk coach left.

    2. Yeah, I don’t the criticism either. Out of those four goals conceded, the only one he could be blamed for was the second goal, but even with that one, we could say he didn’t get a clear view of where the ball was heading because of the crowd in the box. I deliberately noted one of his saves in one of my comments above for people to remember the good he did in this game as well.

      My only concern about him as of this season is his distribution from the back. He’s been kicking the ball higher up the pitch instead of passing to his defenders (but then again, his defenders for most of this time are not Pique or Puyi).

    3. The 2nd goal was savable. Yes, he was screened, but he was in front of the ball. You have to knock it away or prevent it from going in. It’s a bit harsh, but a lot of keepers would’ve saved that. The 3rd goal was completely his fault. He set the wall up to the right of him. That means the near post to the ball was his cover. He hopped left right when the ball was struck and that little hop was enough space for the ball to go through. Why hop left if the wall is there? If you watch the replay he gets finger tips on the ball. That hop left was the difference between his hands getting a touch and punching the ball away. Still, I wouldn’t want any other keeper. He distributes out of the back better than any keeper I’ve ever seen! He’s in a poor run of form right now and it doesn’t help that 3 of our back line are injured. Maybe he’s putting to much pressure on himself. Obviously, the 1st goal shouldn’t have been a penalty. It was outside of the box. The 2nd goal should’ve been cleared by his teammates, but he still should’ve prevented it from going in. The 3rd goal was all him. I even think he was to far off his line for the 4th own goal.

    4. No, the third goal was not his fault. If Messi were to score that goal (and he’s done so multiple times this season), we would be drooling over how beautiful that free-kick was. VV almost got there, but the goal was a result of the scorer having the skill to bend over to the top corner. You can blame Valdes for the way he set up the wall, but at that moment of set-up, we also didn’t know which side the taker would go (there were THREE possible takers around the ball). No keeper in this world could save that. I don’t swoon over a goal easily, and I thought that goal was fantastic.

    5. I thought the goal was a beauty as well, but still convinced if VV doesn’t hop left he saves that goal.

    6. Ok, so why not give full credit to the scorer then.

      If you blame VV for that free-kick, you might as well blame him for not stopping the penalty because he dove to the right instead of just standing up to stop the shot. In these cases, it makes no sense to have hindsight answers.

  12. With this game Messi moves in to the top spot of Pichichi standings at 11, C.R. 9, Falcao 8

    Cesc should move to 1st in the league in assists with 4

    Barca were 1st as of Oct. 7th in Fair Play with only 12 yellows for the season. However, after this game, and this ref, that will surely change!

    1. We’ve already had 3 sending offs this season too. Ha! Refs sure are showing us..

      We’re not Uefalona again until the next time ONE decision goes our way :/

  13. Song was favoring his right leg after about the 70th min and stopped being very mobile after that. Does anyone know how serious the injury is?

  14. Suprise suprise, Marca thinks that Masche’s red card was fair. They were crying solo robar when Marcelo hacked Cesc in last yrs super copa. tsk tsk. I hope Barca appeals those cards, even if they get denied, instead of keeping quite all the time. Ever since Mou b*tched about the refs, non of his players get as many cards as we do nowadays and they have dirty players like Pepe, Ramos, Arbeloa, Marcelo. If we hadn’t won though, i think Tito would have said something.

    After Riki’s performance today, let me EVER hear someone give Busi a hard time about his acting skills.

    1. Not sure how you can argue against it from their point of view. He shouldn’t have survived after the ref made the call that it was a penalty. I’m also not sure where their player was meant to go, given that Masch was sprawled across his path having made no contact with the ball whatsoever. A foul every day, and for me a stonewall penalty when you see in slo mo where the “contact” was actually made. Yes, Masch was just outside the box but rolled backwards onto the line and that’s where the contact was made. Having made the decision no way should the ref have let him stay on the pitch.

      However, this is only one goal. Can we now agree that Mascherano is a liability at the back ? No need to make the tackle from behind that he was booked for, no need to sprawl in front of their player for the penalty. The only place I have sympathy for him is where he was actually sent off which was a nothing. I have been hoping that he would learn from previous mistakes but I’m now at the stage where we really need to get him out of that position ASAP. Maybe easier said than done though.

  15. Valdes is a great goalkeeper who fits the system better than any other goalkeeper out there at the moment. Let’s not deny that players go through good and bad form, and Valdes is going through a bit of bad form.

    The real problem as other people have mentioned is that the defense is more makeshift than a car held together with duct tape.

    It’s becoming clear that Tito doesn’t trust Bartra. Kid hasn’t seen a second on the pitch yet this season. We’ve got Song and freaking Adriano playing ahead of him at center back right now. As well as Song has been doing under the circumstances, does anyone really think he’s going to become a world class centerback this season? In two seasons? In four seasons? Mascherano has been a revelation since moving to CB but two years on he still makes positioning and awareness mistakes.

    This makes it even crazier that the club didn’t buy a CB this season. The argument against buying a CB is dependent on the idea that we have some young CBs who could do with some playing time and make it long term at the club. Fontas has been deemed excess, Muniesa was on his way out this summer, and now it appears Bartra isn’t going to be trusted either. With this in mind the need for a CB should have been blindingly obvious during the summer.

    And don’t try to tell me there weren’t options out there. The club only ever considered the superstar signings. A little scouting would have gone a long way.

    Oh, and now we’re still going to need a CB next summer. It’s not like they’re going to be a whole lot cheaper then.

  16. Didn’t see the game. But saw the highlights. Don’t want to make VV a scapegoat, but if it was VV of last year – that freekick and the ungainly miss wouldn’t have been goals. In other words, it should have been 5-2.

    The freekick was superbly taken, but I thought VV made an uncharacteristic early commitment to the other direction and was too late to react to the swerve. He has been an excellent shot stopper and anticipator generally and if he was in the form, he was in the last season, that superb freekick was not going inside goal.

    The other goal, where he was clearly unsighted also saw him show no reflex, something he has in abundance.

    VV has to build his form, I suppose as the season progresses. Admittedly, the CB situation is a concern, but VV’s lack of form doesn’t help mitigate it.

    1. I’m not sure it’s fair to blame him for the free kick although like some others I didn’t like his positioning given the wall he had set up. The problem GKs face is that free kick takers have become so good at getting the ball up and down that you can no longer defend one corner with the wall and concentrate on the other. I’d rather look on it as VV not pulling off a great save rather than expecting him to stop an excellently taken FK. Other teams are allowed to do great things against us. I do think he was at fault for the one that dribbled in whether or not he was partially unsighted but for me he is still one of the top goalkeepers in the world. What is worrying is that I get the feeling he is a confidence keeper and I just hope that hasn’t been dented by his couple of errors this season.

    2. Yes. I have a similar sentiment. Fault or not, VV’s confidence shouldn’t be affected by this. After the Super Copa leg one fiasco, he became a bit tentative with his distributions in the following games. I hope that he gets over this tough period and shows why he is on par with the best in the world.

    1. I think Barcastuff is still saying that there’s no confirmation of these rumours although it’d be great news.

      From the same source, though, for me it’s worrying that Piqué is still working individually in the gym. How long has it been? Has there been any specific diagnosis? I remember last season in my own hometown team an injury like this started as being two weeks and ended up in surgery. Unlikely he’ll now be fit for Celtic.

      Btw, don’t regard Celtic as pushovers. If they come to defend we’ll murder them. If they come to have a go they’ll certainly score. They come forward very quickly.

    2. Tito already said he wasn’t going to risk Pique against Celtic or Rayo. Next game after that is the CDR tie against Alaves. Might be a good warm-up for him.

    3. It’s going to be interesting without Puyol, Pique and Busi.

      I imagine that Adriano will get the nod with Masch in the CB positions, flanked by Montoya/Alves and Alba. Possibly Song in the middle with Ini, Xavi and Cesc with Messi and Pedro/Villa/Tello.

    4. I’m a bit concerned about Celtic. Their one of those teams that we’ve beaten easily in the past, but that could give them extra motivation. We are a shambles defensively. I listen to a lot of talk radio and their supporters are confident going into the game. We have the Camp Nou in our favor. Most teams aren’t used to playing on that big of a pitch. If we spread the ball around and do our thing I think we’ll be alright. We need to score 1st and keep them off the board for the first 45 so they don’t gain confidence.

    5. Very confusing information about the apparent birth of his son.
      I’ve read that Zubi (at the after match press conference) said Messi was already flying to the hospital to see his new born son, Olé (Argentinean Newspaper) alludes to Messi’s fatherhood on their cover – and then @barcastuff tweets there is nothing offical yet. etc don’t report it either.

      Anyway, the crazy heart-attack threatening matches under Tizo simply do not want to stop! 😀

    1. Annoyed?

      “You never smile at a crocodile and you never give Messi this much space.” – RayRay

      “Amazing strike! The power is searing. It nearly bursts the net.” – RayRay

      “This is a magnamorpus hit!” ??? – RayRay

      “He doesn’t defy gravity, he teases it, he taunts it.” – RayRay

      I could never be annoyed with RayRay. He fills me with so much joy! I love this man. I’m partial to Phil as well. Although, he can make absurd comments from time to time.

    2. It was mostly their more tactical comments – such as how Masch is much better when playing in front of Pique and Puyol – when has that happened?

      The Ray-Ray soundbites are gold, especially the one about the Barca away kit looking like “the sun threw up.” 😀

  17. The situation of Song and Mascherano is entirely indicative of the lack of foresight Rossell and his people have had. Mascherano is a formidable stop gap and adds to the rotation but he is not a viable reason not to purchase a legitimate CB. If Pique barely played last year and it is obvious Puyol is older and more injury prone then it only adds to the reason to buy a CB. I hope Fontas shows something while at Mallorca and at this rate Bartra should be lent as well so that he gets minutes.
    Valdes is disappointing at best. I’m glad he can point to zamora trophies to validate his worth but he is gradually becoming a hindrance. He can no longer be passed the ball back because it becomes an instant loss of possessions. The team is better off kicking the ball to the side line.
    I was happy with Fabregas play. I was happy to see Messi provided passes as he attacks defenders. Villa needs more minutes. Tello adds nicely to the rotation. Great to see Xavi get a well deserved rest. Iniesta looked sluggish until Xavi came in. Busquets played well. Alba only makes sense if the the center of the defense is not a mess, which it is with two midfielders playing CB.
    Mascherano can be and should be blamed for most of the trouble yesterday. He should not have slid from behind. He should not have been on the ground to be used as an excuse for a penalty. He gave up a dumb corner for the second goal.
    The good news- Barca would have dropped points in this kind of game last year but instead they kept going forward and entertained and took all three points. Yay.

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