If it’s Tuesday, it must be Alavés

It’s Copa del Rey time or to give the trophy its official title, it’s time for El Campeonato de España – Copa de Su Majestad el Rey de Fútbol (Championship of Spain – His Majesty the King’s Football Cup).

You know the one – the Catalunyan and Basque fans love their teams to be in the final just so that they can boo and whistle during the playing of Spain’s National Anthem – La Marcha Real (The King’s March).  If the anthem had words, I’m sure that there would be some pretty impolite renditions sung in Català and Euskara.

There was some discussion about Spain’s National Anthem getting words, but the whole idea was mierda-mierda’d.

Click here to see the 10pm CET kick-off time converted to your timezone: Deportivo Alavés vs. FC Barcelona

Streams for the match are usually found here, here and here.

Digression aside – time for THAT competition which is known as the DFB-Pokal Cup, FA Cup, Coppa Italia and Coupe de France in other parts of Europe.

Since late August, CdR elimination games have been taking place, with teams in lower divisions battling it out to emerge as next-round contenders to play the big guns from the Primera División.  That starts today, when the remaining 32 teams meet, in Leg 1 of 2, to reduce down to 16 for the next round.

It’s a rather complicated system and, in this round of 32, the 7 Primera teams which qualified for European competitions get to meet the remaining 7 teams from Segunda B and the Tercera (3rd) Divisións.  The 5 remaining Segunda División (Liga Adelante) teams will face 5 La Liga (Primera) teams.  The 8 remaining La Liga (Primera) teams will face each other.

Still with me after that?  Don’t worry about it.  The draw for Champions League is complicated enough, without trying to comprehend the CdR draw.  Let the RFEF work for its Euros.

All that matters is that a Segunda B team, from the Basque Country city of Vitoria, drew FC Barcelona as their next round rival in the Copa del Rey.

Deportivo Alavés.


A Brief Club History

Over its 91 years, Alavés has spent 11 of them in the First Division.  They’ve had a couple of notable coaches – Hungarian Ferenc Puskás coached the 1968/69 season, and Pepe Mel (currently with Real Betis) managed them over 2003/04.

The team’s most prolific Primera spell was 5 seasons from 1998–2003.  In the 1999/2000 season, they beat FC Barcelona twice – home and away – and finished 6th overall which qualified them for the UEFA Cup.

Whoa!  Beat FC Barcelona…twice?  In one La Liga season?  Indeed – with the scores 2-1 (at home) and 0-1 (at Camp Nou).

In the 2000/01 season, Alavés (knocking out Inter Milan and Rayo Vallecano), reached the final of the UEFA Cup to play Liverpool (who had ousted FC Barcelona).  It was a match worthy of a final, with Alavés coming from behind to level the score at 4-4 in normal time.

This was the era in which Golden Goals decided matches, and extra time wasn’t kind to the Basque team.  Two of their players were carded off the pitch.  Reduced to 9 men and defending a Liverpool freekick, the incoming ball was headed into the goal by an Alavés player to give Liverpool the win.  An own Golden Goal – how utterly tragic.

A notable player for them at the time was Jordi Cruyff, son of Johan.  Little Jordi who had played for Barcelona B and the First Team before being unceremoniously shown the door after zijn vader was sacked.  The baby was indeed thrown out with the bath water – picked up by the scruyff of his neck and tossed out.

After leaving Manchester United on a free transfer, Cruyff Jnr. joined Alavés for 3 seasons (2000–2003) and scored in the UEFA Cup Final against Liverpool.  After Alavés was relegated back to Segunda in 2003, Jordi packed his bags for Espanyol.

You can watch Jordi and his team-mates playing Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup Final in this 5 minute match summary:

Did you spot the baby-faced Steven Gerrard?

Copa del Rey Record
So, has Alavés ever met Barça in Copa del Rey matches?  Why yes, yes it has – on 4 occasions since 1927.  But it’s never done that well.  You can check the results for yourself on the Barça website:  Previous Cup Ties between Barça and Alavés

The best CdR result that the club has achieved was during the 1997/98 season, when Alavés ousted Real Madrid in the Round of 16 (agg. 2-2 and progressing on an Away goal).  They defeated Depor (agg. 3-1) in the Quarter-Final, but lost to Mallorca (agg. 1-3) in the Semi-Final Round.  FC Barcelona beat Mallorca to win the Copa del Rey that year.

Present day

What of Alavés today?

The club has been in Segunda B for the past 4 seasons.  It’s a hugely competitive division with 81 teams split into 4 groups.  Alavés currently sits atop their Group 2.  They’ve won 8 games and lost 2; scored 14 goals and conceded 4, while earning 24 points so far.  If they maintain a Top 4 Group placing at season’s end, the club will progress into the play-offs (16 teams vying for 2 places) to win promotion to Segunda B (a.k.a. La Liga Adelante).

Unfortunately for Alavés, the team has just lost one of its key players to injury.  Earlier this month, Forward Rubén Negredo damaged his left ACL during a practice session and will be out for 6 months.

Suspended for tonight’s match are Defender Luciano and Forward Juanma.  Advancement has come with a price.

The team will be counting on Mid-fielder Guzmán to lead the way.  This season, he’s scored 4 goals in 9 games so far.  Also look out for GK Miguel who was once a La Masia student, but was released from FCB at the age of 19 in 2000.

The Stadium
Tonight, the Mendizorrotza will be packed to its almost 20,000 capacity.  The game is the hottest ticket in Vitoria which is the second-largest city in the Basque Country.  A blue and white mosaic has been planned, and all fans have been encouraged to come dressed in club colours, as well as to purchase the special souvenir scarf that has been produced especially for the occasion.  The partisan crowd will no doubt chant, sing and cheer their team as loudly and as long as they can, mixing in a bit of whistling and jeering in an effort to unsettle Barça.

The pitch condition remains to be seen, but it is grass and its size is 105m x 67m – only 1 meter narrower than Camp Nou and of the same length.  Depending on how good the drainage system, it may still be slightly soft underfoot, given the amount of rain that has not remained mainly on the plain in Spain in recent weeks.  The close proximity of the crowd to the playing area will be something which Barça will have to get used to in a hurry, if they are to remain focused on the job.

 

FC Barcelona
Tito has decided to rest 5 key players who will not even make the journey to Vitoria.  Messi, VV, Xavi, Pedro and Alba will stay at home.

Only 2 B teamers – Oier (as back-up GK) and Sergi Roberto – will join Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Bartra, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Song, Dos Santos, Iniesta, Cesc, Alexis, Villa and Tello for the trip.

16 players required and 16 taken – no spares!

Why more Barcelona B Players aren’t playing
That Tito has not loaded up with Barça babies has been put down to how serious he is about a good result.

The REAL reason is that Barça B’s game vs. Huesca which should have been played on Oct 20th, was called off because the Huesca pitch resembled a lake more than a football field.  The game has been rescheduled to be played tomorrow (31st Oct) which meant that Tito could not snatch more B team members from the cradle.

Line-up
While the back line remains more of a mystery (and we now have choices!), I would expect to see Cesc, Busquets and Ini start in midfield and ahead of them will be Alexis, Villa and Tello.  Pinto will be in goal, and maybe Alves will get the nod with Bartra, Mascherano and Adriano.

Or perhaps Tito will put out a 3-4-3  – Pinto, Montoya, Bartra, Adriano, Dos Santos, Song, Busi, Cesc, Alexis, Villa and Tello – and, if it all goes pie-eyed, the formation will morph and super-subs will come in to change the game around the 60th minute.

 

What’s your prediction for the score?

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124 Comments

  1. Blau-Grenade
    October 30, 2012

    Lovely read as always!!! Look forward to the match 🙂

    • Lev
      October 30, 2012

      Agreed! I’ll probably only be able to see the 1st hafl but I’m kinda disappointed at not seeing more Barça B players though.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      Thanks! We have to watch on Marca TV. I’ll have to wash my eyes out after the game. 😀

  2. October 30, 2012

    Dunno, my gut is telling me that Busquets will be rested tonight. of course, my gut was completely wrong on the last few lineups… 😛

    • Blau-Grenade
      October 30, 2012

      Barca have much to gain from acclimatizing Song, Dos Santos, or Sergi Roberto at the Defensive Mid position, and also by allowing two of Song Adriano Bartra Mascherano play centre backs, than allow play Busquets in any of those positions in this match. He should definitely be rested.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      I almost didn’t predict a line-up because I really don’t know how Tito is going to play this.

      It depends on whether he wants to sew the game up early (he’ll come out with the big guns), or whether he’ll play the lesser experienced players and see what happens before making effective subs.

  3. October 30, 2012

    I’m back in the country, but I have class during the match so I won’t be able to host the liveblog I know you’ve all been longing for.

    That said, would like to see Bartra start for sure, and I think that’s a lock.

    Both Busquets and Mascherano probably deserve a rest just judging from games played recently but the only reasonable scenario where that happens is if Dos Santos plays DM *shivers*

    Would like to see either Dos Santos or Sergi start in midfield, preferably Sergi if I’m honest.

    Harder to say for Montoya or Alves – Montoya is still the understudy and should probably get some minutes, but an argument could be made for Alves as (I’m pretty sure) he’s coming off an injury.

    Shouldn’t see much surprise in the forward line. Then again, Cesc could pretend to be Messi for the night or Iniesta could play on the left. Even if it’s the expected Sanchez – Villa – Tello, it will be interesting to see which one plays central.

  4. Richzorz
    October 30, 2012

    There’s almost an argument for leaving the B team players to face segunda opposition tomorrow instead of segunda B opposition tonight…the guys who’ve been called up should hopefully see as much time on the pitch as possible!!

    • barca96
      October 30, 2012

      I’m baffled by Tito’s decision. This is only the best of 32. If the kids can’t get minutes at this staged of the season and at this stage of the tournament, I better stop wishing to see some more kids in action anytime this season.

      If they are not given a chance to play alongside their stars vs a team that is playing a league below them, how will they have hope?

      Pretty disappointed. Pep brought more B players at this stage.

      • October 30, 2012

        Did you miss the part where the B team have their own game to play tomorrow? They lost their last game and need a strong team to recoup some points. The last thing we want to do is have them fall below RM Castilla in the rankings.

        • October 30, 2012

          Going to have to disagree. While winning is obviously important in the development of youth players, the B teams league standing means approximately nothing (unless they are in the relegation zone because that threatens the opportunities to develop youth in the future).

          Barcelona doesn’t have tons more youth players playing for our first team than Madrid because our B-team has been doing better than their B-team. It has been the willingness of coaches (specifically Rijkaard and Guardiola recently) to take opportunities to integrate youth players in the first team that has made our youth so successful.

          That said, expect to see a bunch more youth players in the return match after we (hopefully) take a good lead in this match.

          • October 30, 2012

            The B team’s standing may mean nothing to you, but you don’t speak for the club. Neither do I, of course, but I do know that Eusebio wants to win that game tomorrow, and he’s not going to do that if his best players are taken off him. If they didn’t have this midweek game we would certainly have seen more B players called up, but I don’t believe even Pep would have thrown a spanner in the B team’s works in a situation like this.

          • October 30, 2012

            I’m of the opinion that if the club is prioritizing the B teams rank in the Segunda above what is best for the development of individual players, then the club is prioritizing the wrong thing.

            It comes down to how I envision the purpose of the B team. The only reason to have a B team is to develop and groom players as well as possible for the first team. It is just an extension of the youth system, and as it is the highest level it doesn’t need to be as concerned with developing the players as people in case they don’t make it in football.

            That’s why I believe to prioritize anything other than player development in the B team is the wrong approach.

          • James08771
            October 30, 2012

            Hi guys,

            Apologies if I’m overstepping. But if we’re talking about development, I don’t know if playing Alavés is truly better for the B-teamers than playing a Segunda side. It’s true that they’ll get an opportunity to play with some of the first-team players and be looked at by Vilanova himself, but I don’t think the Round of 32 in the CDR against a Segunda B side is truly a venue to blood a whole bunch of these guys. Segunda B sides don’t have the squads to compete for both league and cup, and my estimation will be that the squad will not be able to rotate, and thus be tired. I think it’s best for the B-teamers to focus on staying ahead of Castilla and compete with highly ambitious clubs looking towards La Liga.

          • October 30, 2012

            For me, the B team should be about preparing players for the first team, and staying up, in that order of priority. Staying up makes the preparation job easier. Even if it finishes below their Castilla, as long as it stays up, it’s still in the best position to be helpful to the first team.

            The B team’s table position is certainly a source of pride to club, but I’d be willing to bet that producing effective, high-quality players for the first team is even more important. Because that’s the point. From pre-Benjamin right on up to B, preparation is for the first team. Everybody plays the same way to facilitate that. Everybody slides right in. The difference becomes the quality of the opponent as a player moves up the levels, but the fundamentals of the game shouldn’t change.

          • October 30, 2012

            None of which changes the fact that in this specific situation (unexpected midweek game for the B team) the club deemed it more important for the youth team to have continuity. That doesn’t mean they are more interested in results than development of youth players, it just means that sometimes unexpected stuff happens.

      • nzm
        October 30, 2012

        barca96 – the kids can’t play tonight. Read the article above. 🙂

  5. October 30, 2012

    Speaking of playing the kids, here is what Mourinho had to say about why he isn’t promoting more youth players (English link):

    http://www.as.com/english/articulo/castilla-use-different-model-and/20121030dasdenspo_4/Ten

    His relationship with Alberto Toril (RM Castilla coach): “The relationship is fine. I do my work in the first team and he does his in the second team. I have three players that he can use. It’s positive for both of us, to have the chance to have Jesús, Nacho and Morata, and for me it’s also positive that they have minutes. This cooperation with three players is positive, but he has his independence. I think that’s a good thing. We play with a different system; they have another model. There are Castilla players that play in positions that don’t exist in the first team, like Jesé who plays nueve y medio (‘nine and a half’). Also, our wide players play further forward and in Castilla it’s a 4-4-2. That’s not good for the players really…”

    “… Toril knows everything that I’ve spoken to you about. He knows that with me, Nacho will never be a centre-back but he has his independence. He decides if it’s more important to finish fourth, fifth or sixth in the Segunda or help a player to develop so he can come through to the first team.”

    • October 30, 2012

      And that is why you will NEVER see an RM starting XI that is comprised of players mostly from the Castilla as long as Mou Mou is in the house. “Different systems” is the part that stuck out to me, and the only quibble that I know many have about Eusebio at times.

      But it strikes me that throughout the chain, FCB players learn to play in the proper way, so that they can move up — up and back when they get to B. I don’t know if it’s all that parochial of me to consider this the most effective way to use a B program as an effective source of players.

      It strikes me that with a different system, you never really know HOW a player is going to play in the first-team system.

      Or am I crazy?

      • James08771
        October 30, 2012

        Here’s an honest question: How many B teams or reserve squads actually play the same formation or tactical system as their first teams? If I could wager, I’d bet that there aren’t many. The fact that Barça’s squads resemble (or used to) each other is definitely an advantage. However if a player succeeds at a level and can advance (whether it’s to a first team or simply a bigger club altogether), if the player succeeds using skill-sets that can utilized for the betterment of the squad, I think that is most important. Besides, positions and tactics are never fluid for a long period of time. It’s how Guardiola and Vilanova were able to recognize Mascherano’s ability to play CB so well. Or how Messi was confidently shifted from a wide position to play centrally.

        • Lev
          October 30, 2012

          My answer depends on in which context I put your question.

          A talented player can succeed, no doubt. I fully agree with you there.

          For Barça as a whole it is hugely beneficial that we play with the same philosophy throughout all the club’s levels. The way that our youth players fit in when they make it to the 1st team is nuff proof.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      So Mourinho is justifying not promoting Castilla players by saying that Toril isn’t training them properly for the First team?

      That Toril is putting results before developing a player in the right way?

      From what I’ve seen of them, the Castilla boys do very well for themselves when representing Spain in their age groups.

      Mourinho is copping out along the easy street, I feel, and the club doesn’t appear to have a development program that is consistent across the ranks.

      Now, Eusebio – have you read this? 😀

  6. James08771
    October 30, 2012

    Thank you, nzm! I had no idea that the Huesca pitch was flooded. Very informative post, thank you again. Enjoy the game tonight!

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      Thanks James!

      It was heart-breaking to see how hard the Huesca groundsmen worked to clear the pitch of water.

      They got it really clear and the match looked to be a go but, just before kick-off, the skies opened and it dumped down. The puddles quickly appeared and the game was abandoned.

      We’re hanging out until 10pm waiting for the game. The time is dragging……….

      • James08771
        October 30, 2012

        It must be 🙂 Luckily it’s a late enough start for me to get home from work and get a workout in before kick-off. Happy drinking…I mean, hanging out!

  7. nzm
    October 30, 2012

    Pinto

    Alves Bartra Masch Montoya

    Roberto Busi Ini

    Alexis Villa Cesc

    😀

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      How must Dos Santos be feeling right now?

      • mom4
        October 30, 2012

        Villa as a 9. Whoda thunk it! 🙂

        Would like to see Tello over Alexis.

          • mom4
            October 30, 2012

            Oh come on! We’ve done the Cesc as a false Messi thing before. I wanna see Villa as 9. You hear me, Tito?

    • mom4
      October 30, 2012

      Lineup full of win!

      So thrilled to see Sergi Roberto playing again. Oof, but this must be hard on JDS (dugowngravenowlieinit).

      • mom4
        October 30, 2012

        Sorry about mixing metaphors but I think it works here.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      The game? No. Another 33 minutes as of writing.

      • Lev
        October 30, 2012

        Ah ok. I don’t like that he rolled out with a line-up of so many 1st team players. The season will be long enough as it is. First decision Tito has made that I don’t agree with.

        • nzm
          October 30, 2012

          Read the article to find out why there are not many B team players in the squad for tonight. 🙂

  8. olbucky
    October 30, 2012

    Thanks for the write up nzm, very informative. You bring great info to this blog. It took my mind off the hurricane damage to the drywall on my living room ceiling from Sandy. At least I have power and will be able to stream the match.
    The wet pitch worries me if it’s as bad as you write. The last thing we need is an injury knock on wood.
    As for not playing the babies, I have to agree with Blitzen. It’s not as if they dont play with the first team on a daily basis so the interplay with the first team really shouldn’t be so much of an issue. It’s impossible to say what Pep would do now but lets not forget how flat they were last year in the CDR against Hospitlat and had to be bailed out by a moment of brilliance by Iniesta. That I’m sure is fresh in Tito’s mind as I’m sure it would be in Pep’s if he were still here.

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      Hang in there, olbucky – I’m glad that I could provide a bit of diversion!

      Watching the players warm up, and the pitch looks good, but it is still very wet and breaking up even as the players warm up.

      But then, even Camp Nou did the same during the Celtic game. The weather has been much wetter in the past 3 weeks than we can remember over the past 4 years that we’ve been here.

  9. Lev
    October 30, 2012

    @nzm “I want to see Alexis in the middle!”

    although we know that is his best position, what’s the point of playing him there? He will have to adapt to life on the wings, because that is where he will succeed or not. Messi and Cesc occupy the central axis and somehow I don’t think they are moving in the foreseeable future

    • nzm
      October 30, 2012

      Sure – but when there’s a chance for him to play there, why not? A little reward for all his frustration. Same could be said for Villa, but now we see Villa named in the center – if he stays there.

      • Lev
        October 30, 2012

        I think Villa plays well as a left forward… His problem at Barça has always been the goal/opportunities-handed-to-him-on a-silver-platter ratio but he is doing fine so far this season

  10. olbucky
    October 30, 2012

    Anyone know if there’s such thing as an English stream for this match?

  11. Jafri
    October 30, 2012

    I don’t get Montoya and Alves both… Which one’s going to be on the left??

  12. dsbarca
    October 30, 2012

    Let’s go Barca!

    Edited for content – remove link.

    *This is the 3rd time that you’ve posted this on various posts. Enough already, please.

    • swamidigital
      October 30, 2012

      I’m getting that as a spanish stream but very high quality. Makes me wish I got beinsport in HD!

  13. dsbarca
    October 30, 2012

    Great goal but David Villa … he is like old wine … how older, much better! Villa Maravilla!

  14. olbucky
    October 30, 2012

    Pretty flat first half. I think the Babies debate may be settled. If they were in we could be looking at a very different scoreline. No real playmaker. When Xavi isn’t there I really miss him.

    • stefan2k
      October 30, 2012

      Lets pray that Xavi never retires…

  15. Lev
    October 30, 2012

    not impressed so far… And poor Alexis. This game isn’t gonna help his confidence one bit.

  16. ooga aga
    October 30, 2012

    where is everybody? hey dsbarca stop posting the link.

    great pass by iniesta, splendid goal by villa. vaya barca

  17. swamidigital
    October 30, 2012

    Poor Alexis, even when he scores there is a phantom offside call.

  18. ooga aga
    October 30, 2012

    hate t0 say it but alexis was onside 🙂

  19. ooga aga
    October 30, 2012

    you see that divot that came up when montoya challenged that guy in the box? like a square foot of soil

  20. replayed
    October 30, 2012

    Alves still hasn’t checked in yet.

  21. replayed
    October 30, 2012

    And Tello’s first touch clangs again.

  22. replayed
    October 30, 2012

    Hee, an Alaves player just grabbed JDS by the balls. From behind.

    • replayed
      October 30, 2012

      Somewhere more delicate. Fortunately. Kinda.

  23. ooga aga
    October 30, 2012

    great last goal by fabs, gives us cushion for return leg. alaves needs to score 4.

  24. lea_terzi
    October 30, 2012

    They made Dani angry. And he actually delivered an accurate cross.

  25. mom4
    October 30, 2012

    Well, good thing Dani already has kids.

    Not sure he did much other than that cross to prove he’s back in form.

  26. Blau-Grenade
    October 30, 2012

    Thoughts on the game

    Pitch: This pitch was soggy, uneven, and slowed the ball down considerably. It was funny to see the ball slowing down and bobbling every time somebody made a pass. Patches of turf would just come loose any time a player tried to get a firm foot hold on the ground for a shot or block. And so Barca could not get their passing game going in full flow.

    Although this was a 3rd division team, Alaves scrapped, clawed and fouled when possible. They were fighters and pressured Barca all the way to the very last minute, when they were finally rewarded with a shot on goal that Pinto saved. They even caught the balls of 2Saints and pulled him back, and also kicked Alves in his balls.

    Montoya and Alves ran up and down the pitch all match. Alves gave an attacking outlet on the right all match. Good to see him back, and topped it off with a fine assist with his cross to Fabregas for a great goal.

    Sergi Roberto running the midfield is not the same as Xavi running the midfield. The play in the midfield was very scrappy.

    Good to see Bartra get more minutes.

    MOTM: Cesc again, for working all match, tirelessly, defending, attacking and doing everything in between, and for getting in a fine header.

    • Lev
      October 30, 2012

      what I liked was that despite playing a 3rd division team our guys put in a lot of effort. Especially in the first half they were swarming like bees pressuring Alaves to get the ball back whenever they lost it.

      • Blau-Grenade
        October 30, 2012

        In the end, Tito had to adjust the tactics such that Barca were playing 3 4 3, with Cesc playing the false 9 role.

        Bartra Song sMash
        Alves 2Saints SergiRoberto Montoya
        Alexis Cesc Tello

        Song was solid for the time he was on the pitch. Although he is far less mobile compared to Busi, he is a rock in winning headers and tackles. Good wins of the ball both in the air and ground from Song. As far as I remember, he did not make a single bad pass in the half an hour he played.

  27. October 30, 2012

    Sergi Roberto is some player. Him and Thiago as a duo are going to be awesome to watch in the medium term. Whisper it, but Xavi and Iniesta of the future? (No jinx intended)

  28. cliveee
    October 30, 2012

    wow, what a first half…. if we approach every away game this way(chase every ball, put tremendous pressure on opponents, run like crazy in general), it will be hard to see us lose points.

  29. ciaran
    October 30, 2012

    We are becoming a much more effective team going forward this season.
    With Cesc in our midfield we are obviously more direct and create chances faster than we would normally. He is the only outfield player that has started every Liga match for us and the run of games is certainly paying off. His forward runs are timed better and his passing for the past 3-4weeks has been brilliant.
    Villa’s form is like having a new signing. His finishing is lethal as always and his movement is getting him into the right positions.
    Alexis really needs something to just go into the back of the net soon. He is very cautious in his play now and is afraid to make the right off the ball movements that he used to. He has the physical attributes that Ludovic Giuly had and if he could develop the off-the-ball movement that Ludo had he would be a 20+ goal a season man. Giuly used to try to receive the ball inside the fullback rather than outside as he didn’t have the dribbling skills to beat them in a one-on-one. Ronaldinho & Deco used to give him some quality balls too.

    Great also to see Alves have a decent game. His crosses were inconsistent as usual but the assist for Cesc was great.

  30. KEVINO17
    October 30, 2012

    I really find this criticism of Alexis very strange. He did, in fact, score, but it was taken off him. That is bad luck, not bad play. I only saw the first half but it was pretty obvious that he was a creative hub for the team, putting the ball into the POMA several times. If someone had latched onto one of those crosses, people would be saying he had a good game. I’d much rather see Alexis moving the ball around than blasting shots from outside the box (e.g. Villa).

  31. Doug
    October 30, 2012

    Good win. No injuries, which is kind of surprising, given the state of the pitch.

    For me, MOTM was Don Andres. Nice assist, beautiful goal.

  32. Oil_Can
    October 31, 2012

    I only saw the second half, but from what I saw Alexis played well, Unlucky he didn’t get his goal.

    I like the way Tito lately has been rotating our three key midfielders Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc, Even though Cesc has played the majority of the matches. With Villa, Pedro and Alexis all getting their starts regularly, and our constant rotation of defenders and fullbacks, Tito is quite the manager who likes to rotate and so far so good, very effective.

  33. KEVINO17
    October 31, 2012

    I think the thing I really like about Alexis is that he always seems to be out there for the team. You will never see him blast at the goal from distance or try to lob a stupid pass over the top (a la Pique) just because he feels like it. In fact, how many times has he tried a shot from outside the penalty area since he arrived? Bet you could count them on one hand. And he works his socks off in defence. In many ways, he is the perfect Barca player. I bet his team-mates appreciate what he does.

      • KEVINO17
        October 31, 2012

        Never thought much of people who write “LOL”.

    • nzm
      October 31, 2012

      Yes – I like Alexis for his work ethic. He constantly moves and creates space for his team-mates. For Cesc’s goal against Rayo the other night, he drew the defender away from Cesc so that Fab had a clear shot on goal – wonderful to watch his instinctive moves in plays like that.

      He’s at the stage where he’s over-thinking – if he can get through that and just relax a little, we’ll see Alexis shine.

      Cesc went through that stage at the end of last season, and the fanbase came down heavy on him. Now, he’s being awarded MotM in games! 😀 It’s because he’s been given games where he’s had space to move (i.e. either no Xavi or no Iniesta), that he’s able to play his more natural game.

      A few more games like that for Alexis (although they will be rare because how many times are Pedro and/or Messi going to sit out?) and we’ll see him become more comfortable.

      Alexis is perhaps the player who has to adapt his play more to Barca’s style than anyone else on the pitch. That’s going to take time, and with the team changing again under Tito, we should expect that it’s going to take a little longer. However, even at this stage, his contribution on the pitch is extremely valuable. I’m not sure why only goal-scoring equates to success in some people’s eyes.

      The club would do well to help Alexis by giving him exercises to increase his stop-to-start speed – sprinting training and the like. He’s too static in his legs when playing the short passing game. An increase in his agility will do wonders for his game.

      Funny how some in the fanbase expect the foreign players to slot right in and they are given no leeway to adapt, yet La Masia grads are given space and time to “feel their way” into the squad before the knives come out. If anything, it should be the other way around – who’s more used to playing the Barca way, after all? 🙂

      • Lev
        October 31, 2012

        yeah, but we’re culés, right? we want the canteranos to succeed more than anyone else, it’s in our blood.

        Lexus didn’t have a bad game and he was unlucky to have his goal disallowed but remember we were playing a 3rd division team. Right now I prefer Villa, Pedro and Tello. Not good for a player who cost us 27(?) million euros + variables. And Cuenca is gonna come back too.

        I agree players should be judged on more than just goals but for a forward to score only 1 in 14 games is not good. And the problem is not only not scoring. He doesn’t dribble passed his defender. Ever. At Udinese we saw him do step-over dribbles around the goalkeeper for cryin’ out loud. One of the big reasons we were happy that he came was because he was to provide us with another dribbling threat aside from Messi and Iniesta.

        Lexus has already had one season to adapt. This season he is playing worse. The Spanish commentators were saying that if he doesn’t score soon he might get sold in January. I wouldn’t go that far but if he doesn’t show us his true talent this season next summer should be bye-bye time while we can still make money off of him (to throw at Neymar, lol)…

        • Oil_Can
          October 31, 2012

          But thats the thing, if you strip away Tello, Pedro and Villa of their goal scoring ability and what are they really worth to the team? not much. Pedro and to some extent Villa have that work ethic ability that really adds to the team, but Sanchez out trumps both of them when it comes to defensive contribution and most importantly winning the ball back for a quick turnover.

          Villa and Pedro were struggling not too long ago as well and they seemed to have overcome things while under the support of Tito, I don’t see why its not the same with Sanchez, I’d be surprised if Sanchez was considered as a player we are willing to sell

        • nzm
          October 31, 2012

          yeah, but we’re culés, right? we want the canteranos to succeed more than anyone else, it’s in our blood.

          Uh no, this culé wants the team to be successful.

          If it’s with cantaneros who are the best in the world for their positions, that’s cool, but if a mediocre cantanero takes the place of someone better who’s available and affordable, then it’s not cool.

          ****
          Alexis spent most of last season injured or recovering. This is his first full season if he remains healthy.

          Alexis also played on the right at Udinese, and Italian football is a faster, pacier game which suited his style and physique.

          At the beginning of this season, I was one who said that Alexis would have this year to prove himself. I think that he’s starting to do that – just needs more game time and the right combo of team mates to make it happen. I do like him playing with Messi – especially when both of them go forward together – it’s a formidable threat.

          • Lev
            October 31, 2012

            ah ok, maybe not more than ANYTHING else, lol…

            I’m all for giving Alexis more game time to prove himself but it’s just that – to me he is not proving himself for reasons already mentioned.

            And I’m not saying that there is no value in a forward working hard and helping out the defense but if that was what we were looking we could have bought Dirk Kuyt for a lot less :s

            Here’s hoping he will prove me wrong!

          • nzm
            October 31, 2012

            Dirk Kuyt? 32, at the end of his career? Gimme a break…

  34. October 31, 2012

    Did anyone catch the Milan match? Someone whose opinion I trust said that Krkic was “unplayable.” Granted it was against Palermo, but still …. encouraging comment.

    • October 31, 2012

      Are you sure it wasn’t the Milan coach who considered him “unplayable”…and benched him? 😛

      I kid, I kid. Good to see he is settling in and doing well.

      • Lev
        October 31, 2012

        lol, funny.

        Let’s say he does well at Milan. Do we sell him or keep him?

        • October 31, 2012

          Where would he play? Bojan’s best position is in the middle. Has that changed at Milan? IMO, as long as Messi is the focal point of this Barcelona team, Bojan will be surplus to requirements.

          Sell.

          • October 31, 2012

            Krkic will not play for this club ever again. Whether Milan buys him permanently, or we sell him to someone else while he is in their charge, he’s done for us.

          • Bill
            October 31, 2012

            Krkic attacks from the wings, or plays as the second striker. He is coming of age at Milan. My dream of Krkic benching Villa at Barca continues…. 🙂

  35. Messiah10
    October 31, 2012

    OT: Crazy game yesterday between Arsenal & Reading. Reading went up 4-0 in 1st half and Arsenal got one back before the half. Ref played 2 extra minutes of extra time from the 4 that were added. Meaning there were 6 minutes of extra time in 1st half! 4-1 at half. Arsenal fought back to 4-4 and game ended 7-5 in extra time!

    • nzm
      October 31, 2012

      And a lot of Arsenal fans left when the score was at 0-2.

      That’s what you get for being disloyal deserters!

      • October 31, 2012

        That game was shambolic. As blitzen Tweeted, it should have been set to Benny Hill music, with Shriners driving around the pitch in little cars. Shambolic defending, etc, etc. Epic my ass, as some have been calling it. It was a poorly defended race to the bottom. If Wenger is any coach as all, he will be calling bull on the fact that his club needed 7 goals to beat Reading, just as Vilanova was probably like “WTF! We shouldn’t NEED 5 goals to beat Depor!”

  36. October 31, 2012

    I know that cules like to do this, but write Alexis Sanchez off at your own peril. He is class, plain and simple. We see every time Chile plays. The fact that he is still struggling with exactly where to play and what to do, happens at FCB. We have seen it with almost EVERY transfer except for Alves, but he was just doing for us what he did at Sevilla, which makes acclimation a lot easier.

    For Udinese, Sanchez was the equivalent of Messi. But we already have one of those. So now he has to figure out where he does fit in. Fabregas, who got his start in La Masia and is freakin’ CATALAN, had acclimation problems. It. Will. Happen.

    Sanchez is a brilliant player with a work rate that is off the charts. In a match in which we are playing possession, hanging on to a lead, I’d rather have Sanchez on the pitch than most of our attackers. He has pace and the willingness to track back. Villa tracks back every now and again. Sanchez does it all the time. So does Pedro. And it’s awesome.

    He’s struggling right now, just like lots of FCB players struggle. Pique struggled last season. So did Fabregas. Afellay struggled with the system, its quality and injuries. Fontas never got a shot. Song is struggling a bit now, but is acclimating quickly. As others have noted, this is Sanchez’s second season, after an injury-wracked first season. He will come good. You can see the signs.

    Also, know this: Sanchez isn’t a goal scorer. Never has been. He will score some goals, just because he tends to always be around/in the box, but he isn’t a scorer in the same way that a Villa is. He’s the guy who makes That pass, that will lead to a goal or an assist. He will keep possession, and do the scut work that other players don’t deign to do.

    For now, be patient, as we were with all the other players who strug …. oh, wait. Cules weren’t patient with them, either. Never mind. (Hehehehehe!)

    • Lev
      October 31, 2012

      Agree with everything you are saying (well except that the word “equivalent” should never be in the same sentence as the name “Messi” lol) but are you saying that it is not a MUST for Sanchez to improve this year?

      And we knew all along Sanchez wasn’t a goal scorer but he should at least be a goal scoring threat.

      But yes, patience is a virtue. I hope he will come good!

    • Bill
      October 31, 2012

      The question is Kxevin, would you rather have a hard working forward like Sanchez, with a less than desirable end product, or a forward like Messi who doesn’t track back as much, saving his energy for offense and his end product is impeccable as a result?
      And no, in a soccer game, you can’t have both in equal measure. When you work extremely hard in defense, your offense suffers. Its why Pedro and Villa struggle a little, it’s why Sanchez shines for Chile but struggles for Barcelona and it’s why Argentina is making a conscious effort to discourage Messi from tracking back too far.

      And I wish Bojan got this kind of impassioned defense! 🙂

      • Lev
        October 31, 2012

        Hey, Bojan was beyond defense.

        I don’t think it has to be one or the other. Sanchez must simply become more efficient offensively. And it would be desirable if he improved upon last season, not regress. But yeah, he will get the time and as long as we are winning I like it that Tito is giving him as much minutes as possible.

        By the way, if Pedro has another season like last, his position will be in doubt too.

        • Jim
          October 31, 2012

          Bojan’s problem was that there wasn’t anything that he did better than the people around him who were vying for his place. That’s the way it is at Barcelona.

          I’m not buying the bit about him improving. I don’t see any difference between when he joined and now. He has also had a better time with injuries so the jury may be out but they are on their way back. His major skill for me when we bought him was his ability o take on and beat his man thereby destabilising a defence. That’s not something that gradually improves or depends on coming to grips with a system. It’s something you either have or you don’t. If he wasn’t terrorising lower quality opposition last night ( and I don’t know. I didn’t see it) then when will he. If he thinks his current level of play will keep him in the side then I fear he is mistaken. Not sure either about him being a formidable threat going forward with Messi, nzm. To be fair you could probably say the same of Messi and my granny 🙂

          Kxevin, atm I can’t think who I wouldn’t rather see on the field in front of Alexis from Messi, Villa, Pedro or Cesc. If Cesc gets a midfield spot are we really going to bench Iniesta rather than play him wide left? A player who really just assists isn’t as valuable as one who assists and scores twenty a season.

          To me, he is different from Bojan in that I’ve seen videos of him turning defences inside out so I know he was capable. In that sense, I suppose there’s still hope and while he plays for us we’ll all be hoping he can turn it around. None of us want to see that amount of money wasted so its not a case of hating on him but can anyone really not think that the money men are already thinking that his sale would not only create a gap for Neymar but also defray a whack of the cost?

          • October 31, 2012

            My main issue with Sanchez (as usual) is fairness. Cules are patient with some, not patient with others. Be patient (or not) with all, equally.

            Krkic was treated more than fairly. The simple fact is that he wasn’t good enough, and won’t be at the end of this season either, when it is hoped that he doesn’t come back to us, like a bad penny. Put another way, is there anyone on the bench right now that Krkic, even at his best, you could see displacing? I can’t.

            For the Sanchez question, it depends on HOW a forward tracks back. Luckily, we have both. Sanchez does the full track back. In my world, Messi would as well. He did during the Treble season, and it didn’t affect him. The reason he isn’t now is because his scoring is needed. Now that Pedro, Fabregas and Villa are banging in goals, note that we’re seeing more of Messi on the other end of the pitch. Attack with 11, defend with 11.

            So I don’t think it’s an either/or. A coach worried about Messi’s stamina should sit him more, to my view. I know that Messi wants to play every match, but he shouldn’t. Like yesterday, as a perfect example.

            I kinda didn’t answer the either/or question, did I?

          • nzm
            October 31, 2012

            Not sure either about him being a formidable threat going forward with Messi, nzm. To be fair you could probably say the same of Messi and my granny

            If your granny was built like Alexis and could play like him, I’d have no problems with your granny playing with Messi, Jim.

            But you also need to watch Messi and Alexis moving together. Even when it doesn’t work, the movement is amazing. Alexis’ movement is amazing just on its own. The space he opened for Fabregas to score vs. Rayo was superb. It’s so easy not to notice these things when the result doesn’t directly relate to the actions that happened off the ball.

  37. mangut
    October 31, 2012

    He is playing out of position and he is not a scorer so why is he played in a position that is not what he is accustomed rather than where he has thrived and much less a position where you are expected to score goals?! It makes no sense as a purchase unless you have very long term plans such as rotating him with Messi, Iniesta, oh and Fabregas was also purchased to roam around the same areas. Supporters should be frustrated. Could Aguero have been purchased 2-3 summers ago? Would he have fit in better? Is he not as multidimensional as Sanchez? But if Sanchez is so multidimensional why is he being limited to the wings? I like his effort and tenacity. I like his unselfishness. He may easily have scored 3-4 goals that he has passed up in deference to others.
    Anyhow, WHERE IS PIQUE?!

    • nzm
      October 31, 2012

      He should be rotating with Pedro, but then along came Cuenca because Alexis was injured a lot, and Pedro also got injured.

      But then Cuenca was permanently signed to the First Team so when Alexis did come back to strength, he had more competition in his favoured position. As Cuenca was Pep’s pet project, he tended to get favoured.

      So now he’s played more on the left wing where he’s trying to find his stride.

      He’s gotta be a little frustrated, but he’s certainly giving it all that he can. The light will go on if we cules can be patient enough to let it happen!

      • Lev
        October 31, 2012

        Right. And then came Tello, too, and he has really improved this season 🙂

        • nzm
          October 31, 2012

          Tello’s improved? I don’t really think so. Although I did notice that he actually made a great recovery in defence last night – and his defence isn’t that great usually. Tello was also another of Pep’s pet projects.

          • Lev
            October 31, 2012

            well i should have written that he improved since last season since I’m not sure how much improving he has been doing over the last 14 games :). I do think he has a better awareness of the players around him now compared to last year.

          • Bill
            October 31, 2012

            Tello actually shows me a little more variety and skills on the right than on the left side of attack. Go figure!

  38. Jim
    October 31, 2012

    From Barcastuff: Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney is studying Xavi’s way of playing and passing to improve in his new midfield role. [via as]

    I was going to mock Rooney but then I started to think good on him not settling for the EPL way of playing. He has always been totally complimentary about Xavi and Iniesta.

    Not sure it’s as simple as watching him though, Wayne.

    • swamidigital
      October 31, 2012

      Xavi and Iniesta have been pretty complimentary towards him as well, so…

    • K_legit in Oz
      October 31, 2012

      Haha! Es allí la peli eh!

  39. KEVINO17
    October 31, 2012

    People have to accept that, the way Barca is set up, the wingers are not going to get as many goal opportunities as Messi and Cesc in the middle. Messi gets about 6 or 7 chances a game and often scores a couple so you forget his misses. It’s not that easy for players on the wings.
    As regards Alexis’ defensive work-rate I note that it was Alexis and Alves (I think) who stole the ball and set up Iniesta (Villa only played a minor role). Is it being suggested that Alexis shouldn’t have hustled and therefore saved himself to play offense.
    It’s good that Messi doesn’t track back so much, but that means the other forwards have to take up the slack.
    Finally, I used to think that Alexis was best on the left, playing as an inverted winger. But I think he’s really best on the right, driving to the by-line and cutting the ball back with his right foot.

  40. K_legit in Oz
    October 31, 2012

    Its not far off when we’ll see a ‘All La Masia’ starting XI

    Valdes

    Montoya Bartra/Puyol Pique Alba

    Xavi Busquets Iniesta

    Pedro Cesc Messi

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