Champions League Comments Post

Forget about the league for a moment: winning tonight will ensure that we sleep gently atop a 5 point lead with 3 matches left to play. By no means will qualification be assured, of course, but the trips to Scotland and Russia will become less foreboding. Especially if Spartak and Benfica can manage a draw (for our sake, of course–it’s 2-1 in Russia at the time of writing this).

It’s no easy task to defeat a rampant Celtic side, however. They’re coming off a 5-0 victory on Saturday against St. Mirren and they think they’re underdogs. They top the SPL table and it seems no one believes they can take a point off of Barcelona, much less nab all 3. Yes, they’ve just grabbed the SPL lead and will not relinquish it again, but there’s no Busquets (suspended), no Pique (injured), and no Puyol (injured). Who starts at DM? Who starts at CB? Song and Adriano, one imagines, but we’ll have to see if Bartra and Montoya get the nods.

This is a home match and, as such, it is virtually must-win. This is a match against a good opponent and, as such, it requires full concentration. Any lapses will be dealt with more severely than they were by Depor. The opposing defense will not rupture like a leaky dam. This is going to be tight, this is going to be tough. Celtic is here to play.

We could scream all day about history, about the last time Celtic and Barça met, about the ghost of Henrik Larsson (“I’m not dead yet!” he crows), but really, these are different teams than those. This is today and the historical anecdotes are just that: anecdotes. Play to the whistle, chicos.

By Isaiah

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

223 comments

  1. FWIW, my preferred line-up would be:

    Valdes
    Montoya Mascherano Adriano Alba
    Xavi Song Cesc
    Alexis Villa Pedro

    Messi, Iniesta & Bartra as supersubs.

    Yeah, that’s right. I’d bench Messi. There is a rumour going around the twitterverse that he is suffering from a cold, so I would keep him in reserve for if we needed an impact sub. I also feel that after Cesc’s excellent game on Saturday he deserves another start, but I would like Xavi there as well for stability, especially since our first-choice DM, Busquets, can’t play.

    I think if we can stave off any silliness at the back and avoid giving up too many corners & FKs, we shouldn’t have much trouble. I think Valdes will be in a mood to vindicate himself, so I expect him to have a good game.

  2. Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Adriano Bartra Mascherano Alba – Xavi Song Iniesta – Pedro Messi Alexis #fcblive

    Bartra finally gets a start!!!

  3. With us leading our biggest opponents, shaktar and benfica by 3 points with a game at hand, and 3 more games to play in the round, this was the game to rest Messi and Iniesta. We have a lot to lose if those two get injured.

    1. Injuries can happen any time.

      If there was a right time to rest Messi, it was probably the last game, when he came back tired from the Internationals, with jet lag. With any manager or club in the world, if Messi is fit, Messi starts.

      Iniesta seemed fine to me in the last match with no signs of fatigue, why did you want Iniesta to rest?

    2. We needed Messi and Iniesta in the last game because we are vulnerable immediately after internationals and we need to keep up the pace in la Liga. Like you said, Messi was tired. Probably still is. It was a risk to play him and it worked, but he still needs to rest after that two Weeks of hectic travel.
      Iniesta has a history of muscle problems. We should try and limit him to important games at this stage of the season and give him as much rest as possible. This was one of those games.

  4. Can we get any smaller? Wouldn’t like to see many Alba vs Samoras duels.

    Unlucky for Cesc missing out but I’m liking the twins in midfield. Big game for Alexis. I’m sensing he’s working his way down the pecking order.

    1. Given the way things have gone defensively this season Valdes should really have anticipated that!!

    1. You know it’s going to be like that all night. Get used to it. Can’t expect a defence of that height to deal with cross balls.

    1. Well said. Sanchez is so predictable. Where are the folks who said alexis is best bet against tight defences and against high line defences. Only alba is happy to penetrate and risk losing penetration. Take some risks fellas.

    1. You watching the same game I am? Except for the goal of course I think we’ve been pretty good. Buses aren’t easy to break down.

  5. Watching alexis on the wing is depressing… The guy needs to be more central to be effective. As a winger he’s not nearly barca level.

  6. Alexis has done alright so far, given Alba some nice passes into dangerous positions, set up a half-chance for Xavi, made a great run in behind (albeit missing the target)

    Was about to criticise Celtic for almost Chelsea-esque levels of timewasting but it looks like Samaras might have an actual injury (then again that replay looked like he might have actually been offside for the goal!!)

    1. Not for me. These are all obvious passes made possible by Alba’s great running. He carries no real threat.

    2. yeah. Alba should be designated left winger and alexis relegated to left back. Alexis is displaying creativity of a gorilla given a brush and canvas to paint. I am talking of his performance so far and not him in general.
      Time for villa. atleast celtic will mark him where as they have been ignoring sanchez so far.
      Adriano isnt going outside at all. Dont understand his fascination with using his left foot so much.

    1. Well, I have to admit that was a great goal but if that’s what it takes to break a bunker than we should be seriously worried.

      Also Messi still lazy and not pressing nearly enough.

    2. Not sure but I think they started charging money for using the software or limiting the numbers in the free version ?

  7. I’d love to have Iniesta join any of the pickup soccer groups I play in.
    Just for 1 day.

    1. And my TV died last night. I couldn’t even program the DVR to record the match. 🙁

  8. So we rest a little, hear the haltime Tito talk, rehydrate, and then unlease hell in the second half. Messi hasn’t had a hat rick in almost 4 days. He’s due.

  9. I was just going to write that Alexis or Iniesta should be asked to make runs through the middle or pulled for Cesc – they spent a lot of time hanging out on the wing with Alba, as did Adriano and Pedro on the other side, with no one in the area to pass to (except for quadruple-marked Messi).
    And then we scored 🙂

  10. Thoughts on first half.

    What a team goal and come back.

    The Barca play is mostly going through the middle. The wide players, Alexis and Pedro are not taking on the wings. Only person providing width and runs is Jordi Alba on the left hand side.

    Bartra – what a calming presence in the back. Seriously Tito, you need to start that guy more often.

    Man of the first half – Jordi Alba – for the runs on the left, and Marc Bartra for the calming presence in the back.

    Changes in my mind the second half – Montoya for Adriano(to provide width on the right(, Tello for Alexis(for pace and taking on defenders), Cesc for Pedro – for more direct play to support Messi and Tello..

    1. To be fair its a little too early to call Bartra a “calming presence” when Barca have had 82% posession

    2. Seriously hope this match will propel Bartra above Song in CB pecking order. Of course, as a new signing, Song needs minutes and time to adjust, but hopefully not at the back alongside Mascherano. I actually like him in midfield, he gives us a new dimension there.

  11. Sanchez is going the route of Afellay, hes being way too cautious. He needs to be more direct and aggressive with his dribbling and start shooting more. The problem for him is that there are far cheaper options in terms of wages for our wing. He needs to start showing why he is worth those wages soon.

  12. About 5 minutes ago Song attempted to step up and make a tackle while Celtic were on the counter. Totally missed the dude and left the back completely exposed. Those kind of attempts are not needed. Stay home and track back!

  13. There’s space in front of the defense for Villa’s shot, I feel like he would be a good sub because he’s lethal cutting in and shooting.

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