Betis vs. Barça: Where the Team is Tough & the Fans are Tougher

 

Last season, Barça’s ultimate Liga game was away to Betis. With the Liga lost, it mattered little, except to the hosts. VV started instead of an injured Pinto; Afellay started his first game since his injury; Busquets scored; Alves was sent off; 2 goals to Betis and then Keita scored to level at 2-2.

We were left wondering if VV had retained his Zamora. Luckily he had, and VV went on to win his record 5th Zamora Trophy.

 

The Benito Villamarin Stadium has not been kind to the Blaugrana: in their last 13 appearances there, Barça has only won once.  Yup – you read that right – just once, in the last 13 games.  The last 7 years facing the Béticos in Seville has resulted in just one win in 2005/06 when Barcelona won 1-4.  In the total 47 games played away, Barça has won 18; drawn 13 and lost 16.

If Barça has a nemesis in La Liga, then I would count Real Betis Balompié as being that team.  Who can forget the CdR games in January 2011, when Barcelona beat Betis 5-0 at Camp Nou, only for the return match to go to the wire when Betis roared ahead and finished 3-1 – almost staging an incredible comeback.  Those thinking of an easy game tomorrow should reassess their expectations.

 

The Betis Manager
If you know Pepe Mel, then you may wonder what’s different about him this season, as he paces the sidelines during the game.  He no longer wears glasses.  It took us a while to figure out what had changed.  Just thought that you may like to know that.

After being sacked from Rayo Vallecano in February 2010, Mel signed on to manage Betis for the 2010/11 season when they played in Liga Adelante.  The team was hugely successful and immediately won promotion back to the Liga Primera for 2011/12.  They managed to stay up for this season which was partly why the home fans were so ecstatically celebrating after the 2-2 draw with Barça at the end of last season.

Pepe Mel is smart.  He is known for his “start the game running and hit them hard and fast” tactics which give opposing teams little time to settle – especially when combined with the tumultuous roar of the Betis fans who are incredibly vocal.

In a recent interview given after his team beat Real Madrid, Pepe Mel stated, “The only thing that now obsesses me is FC Barcelona.”

 

How’s Betis doing?
Don’t expect a soft start in this game – Betis will be taking the game to the Blaugrana, looking for just one little gap in the defence for them to slot the ball home.  That’s all they needed to beat Real Madrid – 1-0 – a couple of weeks ago.  That solitary goal was scored in the 17th minute, and Betis hung on for the rest of the game to win.  They’re not pussies.

Since losing the Seville derby to Sevilla (5-1), the team has been on a winning streak.  After downing Real Madrid, they beat Valladolid 3-0 (CdR game), followed by a closer Liga match away against Deportivo which they won 2-3 after Depor had come back to level the score at 2-2.

This weekend, Málaga’s comfortable 4-0 win against Granada has seen them claim 4th position on the La Liga table, equal in points with Betis (25 each), but with a better goal difference.  Ahead of them lie Madrid (32), Atlético (34 also with one game less), and Barcelona on 40.

Betis will be wanting these points to keep them in contention for the Champions/Europa Leagues positions.

 

Who to watch?
After his match-winning goal against Real Madrid, Barça should be wary of Beñat Etxebarria Urkiaga – known simply as Beñat because no English or American commentator could ever pronounce those Basque surnames.  He has scored 3 goals and given 5 assists in La Liga for the season.  The Mid-fielder made his debut for Spain in the recent friendly against Panama where he had an average game, but obviously came back fired up and motivated by the experience.

Rubén Castro is the team’s danger man up front.  He has scored 8 goals for Betis this season, sitting 4th on the Pichichi list behind Falcao (11), Cristiano (13) and Messi (20 according to Marca, 21 according to the rest of the world).  All 8 goals have come from open-play, and he’s given 1 assist.

If he plays, Striker Jorge Molina is also a tall threat. In 2nd place for Betis with 4 goals scored, he could present an aerial challenge against the Blaugrana defence during set piece play.

22yo Juan Carlos (on loan from Zaragoza) is also a quick Mid-fielder who has given 4 assists for the season.

Costa Rican Joel Campbell may also start, given his impressive current form including a beautiful goal against Deportivo.

 

A Fleeting Friendship
Betis has experienced recent tragedy with the loss of young centreback Miki Roqué.  Born in Barcelona, an 18yo Miki signed to Liverpool in 2005 and spent 4 seasons there, but he was mostly loaned out to other clubs during that time.

In 2009, Miki was bought by Betis to play in the B team, but spent the 2010/11 season alternating between the B and the First teams.  It was during this season that Roqué was diagnosed with cancer, and he retired from football to begin treatment at Barcelona’s Dexeus Clinic.

Carles Puyol was born in La Pobla de Segur – a tiny town of just 3,000 inhabitants.  Miki’s mother is also from Segur, and it was this commonality which saw Puyol and Roqué form a bond that started when Puyol was visiting Abidal, who was undergoing treatment for his liver cancer in the same clinic.

Puyol paid all the expenses for Miki Roqué’s cancer treatment, and when the Blaugrana captain entered the same hospital for his knee operation, he was able to visit Miki more often and support him during his treatment.

On 28th May 2011, Barça beat Man U at Wembley in the 2011 Champions League Final, and Puyol wore a shirt bearing the message, “Anims Miki” in support of his friend.  Just prior to this, he had also given the captain’s armband to Abidal so that he could lift the Champions League Trophy.

Our captain – a mix of steel and marshmallow

Sadly, earlier this year on June 24th, Miki Roqué died.  He was 23 years old.

This will be the first visit back to the Betis Stadium since Miki’s death.

 

The Stadium and Conditions for the Match
The Benito Villamarin Stadium will be rocking for this match.  The fans will sing the anthem and chants very loudly, as they always do – the team has one of the most passionate fanbases in La Liga.

Ticket sales have been extremely strong, and the fans have been motivated for the match, with Twitter messages such as this:

“Our scarves, our flags and our voices will be the first goal.”

The weather is expected to be clear and fine, but cold at 8°C/46°F, with a humidity of 93% and a light wind.

 

Choices, Choices
With the exceptions of Cuenca and Abidal, every other player is fit for duty.  That’s nearly THE WHOLE DAMN TEAM, people.

Bartra, Alves and Alexis were the latest to receive the green light this week, although Bartra will not be travelling along with Dos Santos and Montoya.  Not sure why Monty’s been left behind.

Travelling to Seville will be:  Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Cesc, Puyol, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Thiago, Mascherano, Busquets, Pedro, Alba, Adriano, Song and Tello.

Puyol is apparently carrying a “knock to the knee” and is being closely monitored, while Messi who also suffered a “knock to the knee” during the Benfica game will travel, and his selection will depend on a final decision to be made before the game.  We all had knocking knees when Messi went down on Wednesday night – at least, I did.

Wild horses will be needed to drag both Messi and Puyol away from playing, I suppose.  Either that, or a very stern Tito Vilanova stamping his foot down and being the boss.

 

Speaking of stamping feet, there’s this and this from GolT’s Gol Zap program here in Spain.

 

 

The game starts on Sunday 9th at 9pm CET. Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Real Betis vs. FC Barcelona

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

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244 Comments

    • nia
      December 8, 2012

      I have to admit, it’s kinda hard getting past his voice. never knew i could dislike a person so much, without even meeting them. I couldn’t do it(watch the vid). I’m sure he has some very good points.

      • Momo
        December 8, 2012

        Haha, yes he has a terrible voice.

        I’ll save you the trouble of going through the whole thing but the part at 34:20 in the video, where he’s saying his goodbyes to one of his players, is an eye opener to how close his relationship is with most of his players is. I was actually moved.

    • Richzorz
      December 9, 2012

      Watched and enjoyed – it does “humanize” him to an extent, although I’m not so sure ITV would have got as much access to Mou without focusing largely on positive interviews with his former employees/colleagues and skipping over the more negative aspects of his career.
      Looks a lot less like he’ll leave Madrid without winning a CL trophy, and I didn’t realise just how obsessed the guy is with Barcelona.. but yeah, definitely an interesting “box-office” character!!

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      Saw it last week. Really just confirmed my opinion of him. Everything is about him, he has a real nasty side and I think the only thing the programme changed for me was that SAF went down further in my estimation for his support of Mourinho’s antics.

      • Emeka
        December 10, 2012

        Agree. It’s a real surprise most haven’t figured him out yet. Every single action he takes is geared towards his success, his team’s success, his players’ success. Every. Single. Thing. I don’t like his methods but he is a very intelligent person and it has brought him a lot of success.

  1. mom4
    December 8, 2012

    Real Betis fans are absolutely crazy. They are also absolutely wonderful. We went to the Sevilla derby last year. Some observations:
    1. Loud. It was very loud. Like, deafeningly loud.
    2. The pitch was in extremely good condition. The stadium, not so much.
    3. The stadium was in worse condition after the game. We saw two seats kicked in after Sevilla managed to equalize. That’s just within our sight.
    4. Did you know that the Spanish “p” word can be used as an adjective, noun, verb, and possibly, although I’m not quite sure, a preposition? But mostly it was part of a cheer directed at the Sevilla fans on the top tier to our right.
    6. The Betis scarf I bought on the way into the stadium was the best 10 Euros I ever spent. Instant safety insurance policy.
    7. Quite possible, hubby and I were the only people over the age of 12 who were not smoking. Very smoky…strangely it suited the ambience and we didn’t mind a bit.
    8. I don’t know if I ever really understood the word derby before attending one. I also don’t know if I’d ever have the courage to go to one again now that I do. I do know that I’m so glad I got to experience this.
    9. This is gonna be a very tough away game. We will have to earn these 3 points.

  2. nia
    December 8, 2012

    I got really nervous earlier on when i read on Mundo that, Barca haven’t won at Betis for SEVEN years o-O eeek. I watched that copa match when Barca where overwhelmed by Betis in the first half and i must admit, even getting a draw tomorrow will be fine by me.

    That said, I’m expecting them to come out guns blazing, just like they do all the time but, i think Barca will be a little too strong for them this time(well, i hope). I also think Messi will become the new Muller and asking for a clean sheet is too much in this ground. It will be a tight game for sure and it amazese to see Barca with almost a full roster of players. Not used to seeing my team with many healthy players before. VAMOS BARCA, SOM HI!!!! 🙂

  3. December 9, 2012

    Interesting fact about Juan Carlos: He was the first Canterano that Mourinho gave a debut to with the first team. He made a 10 minute appearance against Deportivo in that season that they got relegated.

    He’s one of those players that got sold via a third party ownership thing (think Jorge Mendes) and is actually owned by Braga, loaned to Zaragoza that subsequently loaned him to Betis. RM have a 4m buy back clause on him too. Gotta love La Liga and Mendes huh?

    He’s a good player. Left winger. Very very quick. Makes great runs but not very effective with his final ball. Will make a lot of runs behind the RB

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Well, not a huge fan of Mendes!

      Carlos got one game with the Madrid First Team and was on the bench for 2 other games.

      I do have a lot of respect for Madrid’s selling and buy-back policies – they really have it sorted out. They get great money for their youth players and have sensible buy-back options put into their contracts.

      It will be interesting to see if Carlos is put out tonight – he’s only just returned from injury, albeit a minor one that kept him out for only a week.

  4. 505
    December 9, 2012

    thanks for the preview.

    excited to see how puyol will be received. what he did for miki roque and his family was beyond words. our captain is perfect ♥

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      I’m more worried to see if he will play. Sounds like we need to bring our A defence to this one.

  5. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    “That solitary goal was scored in the 17th minute, and Betis hung on for the rest of the game to win. They’re not pussies.” lol! Best line ever nzm! I almost spit out my coffee. 🙂 I’m not sure it’s a good idea to play Messi in this game. Tough environment and Betis will be playing tough tactics. I have a lot of respect for Pepe Mel’s teams. He always has them fired up and ready to play. Hopefully, we can withstand their initial onslaught and relentlessness and push on to claim a victory. If not a draw would suit me just fine. Visca Barca!

  6. genesfut
    December 9, 2012

    Looks dire but I think barca will blow them away. Isbarcababy!

  7. December 9, 2012

    Yikes! Betis always gives us problems! I predict a draw or a last minute victory. (Let’s hope I’m wrong…).

  8. Art is a blast
    December 9, 2012

    I hate barca. Lets go madrid

      • Art is a blast
        December 9, 2012

        Wow hi! Yeah it’s me. I’m shocked! Most people don’t know me even though I think I’m quite famous…

        • December 9, 2012

          Man your ressurction was a fail of epic proportions. You got trolled hard.

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Wow – change of heart from your other posts.

      • Art is a blast
        December 9, 2012

        Dont blame me! I’m curious by nature and also a man in a mission B-) I guess I wanted to check a few things since I’m new here.
        – 1st thing, how fast my post would be deleted( if it was going to be…) or not if I posted a pro-madrid post.
        -your reactions 😛
        -I’m really bored; it’s 1 in the morning here; and so cold and the match is not starting…

        Yeah, but no matter what I write I’ll always be barca at heart. That’s why I’m staying till 3 in the morning to watch and support them….

  9. December 9, 2012

    VV
    Adriano Piqué Puyol Alba
    Xavi Busi Cesc
    Pedro Messi Iniesta

    No Alves. Messi starts.

  10. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Holy cow – Falcao has scored 5 and there’s still 20 minutes to go!

  11. TITO
    December 9, 2012

    His teammates weren’t too happy with his selfishness on the last goal.

  12. olbucky
    December 9, 2012

    Anyone have the Ray and Phil stream?

  13. dean
    December 9, 2012

    Wow this stadium is buzzing, ^ second the sentiment above to share any phil/ray stream.

  14. nia
    December 9, 2012

    as soon as we empty the ‘nursery’ another one goes back in, arrrrggg.

  15. alpinegroove
    December 9, 2012

    Alexis before Villa? Pretty strange. Villa has been in pretty good form, and Alexis is just coming back from injury.
    Is Villa leaving in January?

  16. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    Wrong sub for me. We’re needing Ini in the midfield and Villa up front.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      At least Iniesta has moved back. This is going to be a battle to hold the ball.

    • alpinegroove
      December 9, 2012

      Iniesta is in the midfield now.

  17. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Alexis is the better defender, I guess.

  18. Richzorz
    December 9, 2012

    Pah, they made that a little too easy for Messi…!

  19. alpinegroove
    December 9, 2012

    Alexis’s run enables Messi’s goal.

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Yup – that’s why Alexis is so good with Messi.

  20. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    I KNEW he’d score there! Betis gave him WAY to much room when he received it. Astonishing! You know he’ll go left and shoot and you still can’t stop him. He’s the GREATEST ever.

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Similar to his goal against Sociedad in Camp Nou in 2010/11 season.

  21. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Iniesta is in that kind of mood today.

  22. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Looks like Juan Carlos pulled a groin. :0

  23. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Juan Carlos off – he’s only just come back from injury.

  24. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    WOW! What open play! Adriano with great run finished by Messi and Ghostface! We look RAZOR sharp!

  25. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Superb skills from Iniesta – what a layoff!

      • alpinegroove
        December 9, 2012

        And the fact that Messi didn’t make a run toward goal but stayed back and waited for the ball.

  26. Skipper5
    December 9, 2012

    kinda feels good to have that done nice and early now to jus win the match, he looked really pleased though, great to see…

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      I know it’s kinda obvious but Iniesta is brilliant! Every time he touches the ball he seems to do something out of the ordinary.

  27. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    The difference between the way the A team passes the ball around and what the young’uns were doing against Benfica is astounding.

  28. alpinegroove
    December 9, 2012

    Adriano is in great form. Had done a lot for the team this season, when not injured.

    • replayed
      December 9, 2012

      Yeah, he’s looking good today. Alves has more competition than just Montoya.

    • Richzorz
      December 9, 2012

      He should really complain to the press in the post-match interviews!! ;p ;p ;p

  29. alpinegroove
    December 9, 2012

    Looks like Alexis has much more positional freedom today. Trend continues.

  30. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Unlike Villa’s, Messi’s run was onside just now.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      Yup, but tbf some of Villa’s are as well.

  31. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Awesome defence from Alexis – double-teaming with Alba.

  32. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    One day, Xavi – that ball’s going in! Keep doing it!

  33. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Love to see Xavi take that shot!

  34. Richzorz
    December 9, 2012

    Was that Tito getting a white flag out!? :p

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      ha! Think that he had to wipe his tears away.

  35. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Well, that goal was too easy. Alba played him onside.

  36. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Looks like Alba kept him onside on the far side. Puyol & Pique stepped up. Did you see Tito blow his nose in a hanky? He was crying he was so upset! 🙁

  37. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    I’ve been impressed by Adriano today. Even at the goal there he was really alert and got out quickly.

  38. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Great run by Alba. Alexis had the right idea but not the right touch for the pass.

  39. Richzorz
    December 9, 2012

    Puyol attempting a 35-yard volley!?! 😀

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Showing some frustration there!

      But if Zabaleta can do it from that distance, so can Puyol!!

      • Richzorz
        December 9, 2012

        Looked a good hit! Shame it was blocked… 🙂

  40. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Overall, fantastic half. Alba fell asleep for a second and now it’s game on! We’ll have to get another goal or 2 for me to feel comfortable. Let’s not have ANOTHER anxiety riddled game!

  41. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Cesc has injured a thigh muscle – out for 3-4 weeks. Not too bad as that will be some of the Christmas break as well.

    Apparently, Tito was intending to give the team some time off for the Xmas break anyway.

    • Richzorz
      December 9, 2012

      Looks like Puyol will need some time off too… 🙁

  42. Richzorz
    December 9, 2012

    Cesc expected to be out for a few weeks…time for Thiago/Alexis/Song to up their game!!

  43. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Puyol also with thigh muscle discomfort. Mascherano on for him.

  44. Richzorz
    December 9, 2012

    Should really have been at least a yellow for the off-the-ball kick/trip on Alexis… :s

  45. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Looks like Betis were instructed by Mel to start annoying Barca off their game. Here’s hoping the ref stops being so laissez-faire.

  46. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    Wow. Close. Adriano turned his back and goodness knows what VV was trying to do.

  47. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Messi needs to set another record pronto. This match is too close for comfort.

  48. nia
    December 9, 2012

    whats going on? all of a sudden were being out Barca’d

    • Richzorz
      December 9, 2012

      I dunno, Barca don’t do THAT much kicking…shame 2 subs already had to be used could have been a good time to bring in Alex “The WALL” Song!

  49. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Heh, Mascherano comes in for Puyol and suddenly Valdes is hoofing upfield.

  50. nia
    December 9, 2012

    OK, Betis are just playing dirty now

  51. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Ref definitely needs to take control of this thing.

    • Richzorz
      December 9, 2012

      Oh wow, he actually brought a yellow card to the game with him!

  52. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Xavi and Busquets are getting very static. They’re not moving around to receive balls in the midfield. All the action is being confined to the wings, and that favors Betis.

  53. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Suddenly without Puyol, the back-line isn’t as organised. Someone has to be trained into that role to take it on when Puyi’s not on the pitch.

  54. nia
    December 9, 2012

    this game is getting too exciting for my heart

  55. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    C’mon Pedro. How bout a decent ball in the box???

  56. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    Another embarrassing dive I’m afraid.

  57. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    Guys it’s not hard to cross a ball with no pressure !

  58. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Good grief, Pedro – you’re taking over from Alves!

  59. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Adriano’s crossing does leave something to be desired. The one hole in his wing play.

  60. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    That was a great ball. Good read by keeper!

  61. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Lacking that final ball from Alba and Pedro!

  62. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Cesc’s substitution was a big loss. He allowed Iniesta to move further forward on the left which opened up space for both Messi’s goals.

    • replayed
      December 9, 2012

      Huh? Cesc was subbed out before either goal scored.

      • Messiah10
        December 9, 2012

        Was he? Well, he still opened up space from the sidelines!

  63. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Holy moley – hit the post and luckily landed in VV’s arms!

  64. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Messi’s final ball has been lacking as well.

  65. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    Ok, Pedro needs to come off. This is awful.

  66. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Yep. That’s a yellow. C’mon Pedro

  67. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Man, Pedro – you can’t miss those.

  68. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    GOD DAMN! HE can’t buy a goal!

  69. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Great stop by Alba, but What the Hell was he thinking trying to dribble that our!?

  70. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Barca are begging for Betis to equalize.

  71. nia
    December 9, 2012

    my heart, my heart. three points for my heart

  72. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    We are skating by the skin of our teeth. C’mon boys!

    • Messiah10
      December 9, 2012

      haha. Great minds think alike!

  73. Jim
    December 9, 2012

    Why is Villa still sitting on the bench?

    • replayed
      December 9, 2012

      The midfield isn’t controlling the match enough to bring him in. He’d be wasted.

  74. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Uh-oh, here comes Thiago. I’d have gone with Song.

  75. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    We were losing out in midfield and Thiago will bring some control back

  76. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Wow, the woodwork is getting a workout in this match. Apologies to Thiago.

  77. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    The ball looks 5 yards farther than spot of foul!~

  78. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    ARE U FUCKING KIDDING? How is that a foul on Messi? Ridiculous

  79. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Dude was sucking on that cig HARD! LOL

  80. replayed
    December 9, 2012

    Not a good pass by Messi. A worse finish by Thiago.

  81. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    Man oh man. On a plate for Thiago

  82. Messiah10
    December 9, 2012

    and i take a HUGE sigh of relief! Man that was a super tense 2nd half!

  83. nzm
    December 9, 2012

    Woohoooo!!!!

    Records everywhere!!!!

    What a tense game!

    Messi gives away his shirt – his record-breaking shirt!!!

    • Richzorz
      December 9, 2012

      lol, sorry if I keep posting the same line as you… 😛

    • Messiah10
      December 9, 2012

      What a lucky fan to get that jersey! I would cherish that thing for rest of my life! I hope they keep it and not put it on Ebay for highest bid.

      • nzm
        December 9, 2012

        I’m guessing that he changed his shirt at half-time and has the record-breaking shirt in his bag in the locker room!

  84. Richzorz
    December 9, 2012

    Messi gives away his “record breaking” shirt!!
    (although I guess he’d need a spare mansion if he kept the shirt every time he broke a record…)

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Ha!

      I heard that Messi wants to display all the shirts that he’s collected so far. It’s up around the 400 mark already!

      • barca96
        December 9, 2012

        I was surprised that he gave away a historical shirt.

        I guess he changed at half-time and kept that one.

  85. nia
    December 9, 2012

    That was an awesome game. Even better that we won 🙂

  86. simple_barcafan
    December 9, 2012

    why did Tito take so long to sub Pedro out? he was clearly out of form..

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Because he already had to sub out Cesc at about the 15th minute mark, and take out Puyol at half-time. He only had 1 sub left, so he hung onto that for as long as he could, just in case someone else had to unexpectedly come off.

  87. simple_barcafan
    December 9, 2012

    Respect for Betis. And its fans..whew!

      • Messiah10
        December 9, 2012

        The 3rd goal for his hat trick against Brazil is prob my favorite of the 86!

        • nzm
          December 9, 2012

          1 goal for every 63 minutes of playing time!

          • Messiah10
            December 9, 2012

            That’s so stupid silly isn’t it?!

      • mom4
        December 9, 2012

        Spent more time covering my eyes then watching in the second half. I’m pathetic. 🙂

        • nzm
          December 9, 2012

          Ah! Was tense for sure, but not clasico tense. I did manage to keep watching this. Perhaps it was because it was a stream rather than a honking big screen in the Irish pub!

  88. barca96
    December 9, 2012

    Did anybody else watch the match from a Sky broadcast?

    After the post match talk with Guillem and Mikel, they played a clip of Messi with a nice background song that goes something like this;

    “Now he was born in the city, raised on the farm, comes in like superman”

    It’s sang by a lady. It sounds like a song from before the 60’s or even 50’s. American definitely.

    I’m counting on you Mom4 🙂

  89. Art is a blast
    December 9, 2012

    I’m getting really frustrated!! Forget about getting any goals why can’t anybody besides messi even shoot properly? We could’ve killed the game in first half had the 2 offside calls been ruled out but what the hell happened after we conceded the goal? And sorry, but sanchez should try staying on his feet more often.

    Like I said I’m frustrated. Really frustated!! I should clear my head. The 2nd half play killed me.

  90. barca96
    December 9, 2012

    Guillem keeps on spoiling the Messi moment with his “Messi needs the team” . Same goes every player who scores doesn’t it? I’m looking forward to hear him saying the same thing they next time someone scores. Geez. Give the little man credit.

    And he said Ronaldo has a case for the Ballon d’Or as he scored in more Clasicos and scores in important matches.

    • TITO
      December 9, 2012

      That’s just Guillem, he hates our guts. He’s tired of Barca this, Barca that…

    • Messiah10
      December 9, 2012

      Why even listen to that idiot. He clearly has an agenda and is biased. I wouldn’t give him the time of day. Anyone who thinks Ronaldo deserves the Ballon d’Or over Messi this year needs their head examined. They lose all credibility with me.

      • barca96
        December 9, 2012

        He was on Sky. Why is he so highly regarded? He is not an ex footballer. Not a top journalist like Sid Lowe, Graham Hunter, Jonathan Wilson, Michael Cox etc. Why does he get so much air time?

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Turn off the haters.

      You should have been watching Al Jazeera – great Messi special after the match, intelligent commentary and awesome analysis.

      • barca96
        December 9, 2012

        I wished I had Al-Jazeera. I watched the match on ESPN who is using Sky broadcast. Even if I subscribe to Al Jazeera, I would only be getting the news channel. I don’t think they’re showing the matches on their main channel which is 24/7 news.

        • nzm
          December 9, 2012

          I was watching it on a stream from thefirstrow.eu

          It was great. First time that I’ve caught it and I wish that we had it too! It even beat Phil and Ray because the commentators were so knowledgeable.

  91. TITO
    December 9, 2012

    I’m still waiting for the sane reason why Villa shouldn’t play and why Pedro continually gets his chance. And i don’t buy the “he runs more and defends and….”. He is a forward, his first job as a striker is to score goals or to assist. His goal tally – 0, while he makes an assist here and there.
    It’s clear that we are missing a striker, someone else rather than Messi that can score a goal, Villa should get more chances!!!

    • Messiah10
      December 9, 2012

      I buy the “he defends more”. His work rate is phenomenal! He does so much tracking back, double teaming, trapping, pressuring, that it’s hard to keep him out of the line up. Villa doesn’t do that. I agree we need another pure striker, but we’ve spread the goals around rather nicely this year. This game was one of those that our other guys just couldn’t finish and Betis’s keeper made some nice saves.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      This ^^^^^^^^^

      What is going on? There can’t be many who don’t think Villa is our second best goalscorer. He is even doing well this season so far in terms of goals. I also don’t buy the defending story that has somehow sprung up as some kind of excuse for other forwards not scoring. We didn’t pay €30m ish for a forward whose main attribute is defending. Yet again he has gone past nobody, posed no threat, hit one good pass .

      I also don’t agree that this was no game for Villa. The easiest way to put this game to bed was to score another goal and neither Pedro nor Alexis were doing that. They dont have his composure close to goal or his dangerous movement especially as the game opened up in the second half.

      We also can’t rely on the idea of spreading goals around IMO. Take out Messi’s goals ( assuming a decent length of injury which could easily still happen) and to have any chance of winning anything we’d need 20 + from two strikers. One or two from six or seven players doesn’t come close. I still (kinda) believe in Pedro as he’s done it before but it’s not looking likely this year and Alexis is at best a 15 or so goal scorer and hasn’t looked likely at all this year.

      This is a problem we should be preparing for. Messi can’t escape injury for ever.

      • Jim
        December 9, 2012

        Not Messiah 10’s post . Curse this system 🙂 I was agreeing with Tito.

        • nzm
          December 9, 2012

          You did agree with Tito. It’s just that Messiah10 replied to him before you, so his reply is first. As long as you hit the “Reply” link directly under the message to which you want to reply, it works. 🙂

  92. barca96
    December 9, 2012

    Falcao scored 5 in one match. He has surpassed Ronaldo in the best goalscorer after Messi. After all, Ronaldo just scores goal.

    I hope it will end the Messi vs Ronaldo debate although it won’t be fair to Falcao as he is doing the same thing as Ronaldo which is to score bucket load of goals but doesn’t get much recognition.

  93. Momo
    December 9, 2012

    Ahhhhh messi… It was never in doubt was it. So lucky to be watching him.

    Other thoughts on the game: Our midfield is not quite what it used to be… while it’s still among the best in the world, but it’s no longer the unplayable force it used to be.

    Xavi has slowed down considerably IMO, while iniesta has been enjoyin himself in more advanced positions but has been below his usual brilliance deeper. Cesc is cesc, he offers something different and more direct.

    On the other hand, really impressed with pique. He’s been showing a lot more leadership and I saw him berating adriano and busquets on several occasions getting them in line. Really good to see.

    Alexis performed well considering he’s just come back from injury. Pedro on the other hand was dreadful. Funny how differently he plays for spain, where he seems to assume a lot more responsibility. At barca he pretty much looks for messi 99% of the time. So frustrating.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      Not sure where in the game you thought Xavi was slow, momo. I thought given the ground, fans and a team totally fired up, the midfield did beautifully until we gave away a goal and that was down to the ability of both to forever be available and be able to retain possession. Where i would agree is that they lose some of their effectiveness when bodies pour forward quickly as happens sometimes with RM and that happened towards the end of the first half and the start of the second.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      Agreed on Pique. Thought he was immense – again 🙂

  94. barca96
    December 9, 2012

    -It was really stupid of sMasch and Adriano to concede a corner when they could’ve just cleared the ball. The worst offender is sMasch. He had 2 chances to get rid of the ball and when he knew cornered just threw himself to the ground.

    Stops giving away cheap freekicks!

    -I don’t understand why VV didn’t just catch the ball. If he was worried that he’ll go over the line just punch it away.

    -Nice to see Thiago at LW. He can dribble and cut in.

  95. barca96
    December 9, 2012

    And Xavi and Iniesta don’t really pressure anymore for the past 2 seasons. So our back line is easily exposed. Busy can’t do it in his own. The distance between defense and midfield is too much.

    Pique us back to his best. I can’t imagine how many more goals we would concede without him or Puyol.

    • Doug
      December 9, 2012

      That’s not even close to being true. I’ve seen Xavi and Iniesta consistently come back and help defend. You’re looking for issues that aren’t there.

      • simple_barcafan
        December 9, 2012

        I kinda agree with barca96 says..Even I noticed their pressing has gone down…Heck on a side note, the pressing of the entire team had gone down. so am not sure if we can single out Xavi and Ini..

  96. barca96
    December 9, 2012

    Usually Tito makes his changes quite early. But he’s been waiting quite late recently. Pedro really had to come off. He couldn’t buy a goal. And he couldn’t beat a man.

    I was hoping he would come off for Villa though. If he’s using the work rate argument, then when can Villa ever play again?

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Pedro couldn’t come off any earlier because 2 subs had already been made much earlier than planned – Cesc in about the 15th minute and Puyol off at half-time.

      Tito had to keep that 3rd sub for as long as he could, just in case something unplanned happened where he would need to replace another player.

  97. TITO
    December 9, 2012

    The thing with Pedro is that is going on for much too long. I mean, if we are required to have a runner who works hard, i think some other player can do that work rate better than him. We need his goals, and it’s going to become more crucial as the season goes on. He lost his self belief long time ago, he can’t even score on one-on-ones. The only thing saving him from the bench is that we keep wining with more or less the same line up.

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      Would love to see Alexis start on the right for a change.

      When Cuenca returns it will be interesting to see how he fares.

    • Momo
      December 9, 2012

      I partially disagree, he’s lost his self belief in OUR system. He’s been a completely different player with spain. More assertive, creative, assured, ruthless….

      yes an argument could be made that some of these teams were relatively weak, however he’s a different player when in the national team. He’s more like how he was in his first season under pep 09/10. Doesn’t look for messi or anyone else, gets in the box and goes for goal.

      It’s up to tito to give him back that mindset of him being a separate attacker, not just the guy who makes space for messi.

      • nzm
        December 9, 2012

        Yes – same with Alexis. Both of them need the space to play their own games. But seriously, when Pedro gets a chance like that, he needs to put it away. But it is a loss of self-belief as you say.

  98. KEVINO17
    December 9, 2012

    Presumably, Villa didn’t play because Tito doesn’t want a static forward who runs off-side all the time (a half-dozen times a game is the mandatory minimum). To say that Barca needs an authentic “goal-scorer” is far too simplistic because Villa doesn’t really help the team create chances (which is the hard part) or stop chances (which is also tough).

    I think Tito’s attitude is that because Messi doesn’t have to do a full shift defending (so he stays fresh) the team needs extra mobility and defence from the wingers. That is why he favours Pedro and Alexis, even if they aren’t scoring much.

    Indeed, the fact that Villa has scored a number of goals this year is perhaps a sign that he’s not fully performing his role on the wing.

    • Momo
      December 9, 2012

      I think this whole “keeping messi fresh thing” is affecting our pressing game. I mean if 32 year old xavi can get press even if at jogging pace, why can’t messi?

      Of course that’s just how I see it, I’m assuming vilanova already knows our pressing isn’t working as well and that this whole thing is a carefully thought out plan involving the physios to keep messi fit.

      • Manish
        December 9, 2012

        Funny… This topic has been beaten to death now… Messi runs when he is supposed to not to keep him fresh…but to ensure his injuries do it crop up again…

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      Suspicion of scraping the bottom of the barrel for an anti Villa argument there 🙂

      However, on a more serious note there does seem to be a problem with Villa. I assumed he would regain his place because of the goals in him. It’s beginning to look like Tito sees it another way. Can’t argue with the results but that’s almost entirely down the best player the world has ever seen. Remember that moment we thought Messi was out for the season? Who was in your mind that was going to replace his number of goals?

    • nzm
      December 9, 2012

      With 23 goals, Messi has equalled Cristiano’s record for most goals scored in the first half of a season, which the Madrid player set last season.

      With more games to play, he should surpass that.

      ***
      Tonight’s game was Xavi’s 650th – amazing!

      • Art is a blast
        December 9, 2012

        23/22 goals is just in the la liga, isn’t it? Wow thats a lot of goals! A lot of great goals! Its great for the team BUT should we be alarmed that we are getting too dependent on messi? I mean if messi had been benched last night do you think we would have won? Honestly I think we would get a draw….

        Btw, messi’s total contributions( goals+ assists) in a calendar year is already well above 100, I assume?

  99. December 9, 2012

    Let me reveal something you all have been missing, Tito is a messi guy, he believes in messi and wants everybody to play the damn ball to him, thats why fabregas has been playing all season and san adreas moved to LW, he is trying to play everybody that messi is compatible with and i really fear for villa…

    • Jim
      December 9, 2012

      Or, perish the thought, was there more to the spat between Messi and Villa? Hope not. I’d hate to think that of Leo. Btw, I don’t see any evidence of Villa being less compatible with Messi

    • KEVINO17
      December 9, 2012

      With Cesc out (and Xavi and the Don probably needing a bit more rest than when they were football foals) I hope Tito looks at using Song in a more advanced midfield role or maybe even in tandem with Busquets.

    • December 9, 2012

      This kind of conjecture is just silly. Tito has more understanding of tactics and this team in his left toe than any of us. That’s why he’s manager of FCB, and we are commenting on a blog. That doesn’t mean he’s perfect, but to suggest he’s setting up the team just to get Messi goals has to be the dumbest suggestion I’ve heard.

  100. KEVINO17
    December 9, 2012

    A lot of people here though are missing the big picture. The worst news of the weekend is the Christiano might not be taking all the free kicks any more. That is a DISASTER!

    • Art is a blast
      December 9, 2012

      I’d rather say it is a blessing in disguise for real madrid….

    • Art is a blast
      December 10, 2012

      Btw, did you watch the ronaldo documentary, where they analyse everything about ronaldo’s play from his 6-pack and back muscles to his glare. They analysed ronaldo’s free kicks and broke it down to give reasons for why he takes 3 calculated backward steps from ball before the fk, how much he inclines his body, even why he separates his leg to a fixed distance, then they do the geometry. Some of his fk’s are good I agree but even ronaldo would be like…. huh really? 8-l

  101. Art is a blast
    December 9, 2012

    About Messi’s pressing, I saw him really press about 3 times and they all lead to quick counter attacking moments, I think. So I leave it to him he knows what he is doing….

    Also the awarness of the player is a massive element in our style of play. If there is one thing that other teams trying to replicate our style lacks it is awarness. The commentators were telling (for inesta’s chip in the 1st half) how when messi starts pressing inesta knows where the ball is going and he steals the ball. It really impresses me.

    And the crowd…wow! the crowd really became a part of the team. So loud! I definitely understand why we find it hard to win there. The only other place where the crowd is really intimidating is in the bundesliga.

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