He’s a 500lbs Man Mountain: Bill Gentleman vs Barça

Espanyol was a gift that kept on giving. A 2-2 draw in the Bernabeu and then a 4-0 hiding at the Camp Nou? Yes, please. Malaga ran out 3-2 winners against the capitaleños a week after fine performances by Roque Santa Cruz and Willy “Bill Gentleman” Caballero. It’s unlikely they’ll fall apart like the periquitos, but Barça is in absolutely outrageous form: even Alexis is scoring! [We’re going for the lowest common denominator now? -ed]

Outrageous form looks like this: 11 straight wins in the league dating back to the 4-5 win at Depor on October 20, a 7-0 aggregate score in the Round of 16 in the Copa del Rey, and a 1st place finish a Champions League group. 1 solitary loss (1!) and just 2 draws (2!) in 28 matches since the regular season kicked off. 2 losses and 2 draws in 30 matches if you add the Super Copa. And here’s the thing: Malaga, who are in 4th and are 9W-4D-5L (31pts) are anything but a bad side. Those 31 points put them on pace to be fourth in the English Premier League (tied with Everton with 36 points after 21 matches); put it another way: above Arsenal, Liverpool, Newcastle, and (of course) QPR. They’d be 5th in the Bundesliga, T-6th in Serie A, and 4th in Ligue 1.

They’ve allowed just 13 goals in 18 matches, by far the best in La Liga, bested in Europe by only Juventus (13 allowed in 19) and PSG (12 allowed in 20). That’s something even the official site had to talk about. They’ve allowed 9 at home and have scored 23 of their 28 goals there too. That gives them an 6W-1D-2L record at La Rosaleda. Turns out they’re good when they’re not on the road.

Let’s talk, quickly, about individuals:

Javier Saviola: a former Barça having a resurgent season of sorts. Last year he scored 6 goals in 30 matches. This year he’s already scored 6 goals in 21 appearances. He’s not setting the world on fire, but he’s also not failing to show up. I”m sure he’d love to get a goal against his former club.

Roque Santa Cruz: Two quickfire goals against RM sank the defending champs 2 matches ago. He’s got 7 goals in 23 matches, which is pretty solid. And some of the mods think that he’s quite attractive when he doesn’t wear a shirt. He might be tough to handle give his height, but his speed may fail him if he’s up against Mascherano. Against Pique it’s a different question.

Isco: He’s 20 and blowing the world away. Or at least the world that pays attention to good football. He’s this year’s Michu. Or maybe even Iago Aspas. Wait, Iago is currently the sensation. Can there be two revelatory midfield players in a single year? He’ll be the toughest of the bunch to handle and will be someone Sergio Busquets will have to keep a very close eye on. [Yes, I know that Aspas is considered a forward and often plays high up, but Cesc also plays high up. Is he a forward? Aspas is a creative player whose physical location on the field does not often signify his role in the team. A butterfly is neither butter nor a fly. Discuss.]

Willy Caballero: It could be argued that BILL GENTLEMAN was solely responsible for Madrid’s loss to Malaga with his terrific, constant saves. It could also be argued that BILL GENTLEMAN is a 500lbs Man Mountain who can palm a medicine ball, that he can shotgun a handle of whiskey while gently caressing a baby to sleep, that he can eat more buffalo wings than you. But for now we’ll just focus on his saves and how Barça is going to have to put the ball into the corners to get their goals.

Welligton: BOOOOOOOO.

As for the team in blaugrana, David Villa is injured, Adriano is returning, and Lionel Messi is going to want some playing time after being left on the bench against Cordoba. I bet he gets it. The squad:

Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Puyol, Bartra, Song, Mascherano, Alba, Adriano, Cesc, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Pedro, Alexis, Messi, Tello

Note the inclusion of Pedro. That’s not particularly noteworthy, except that today (January 12) is the 5th anniversary of his debut against Murcia. Read all about it. It would be wonderful to see him continue his good form (2 goals, 2 incorrectly disallowed goals against Espanyol) with a smashing game against Malaga. We’ll see, of course, if he even gets a start given Alexis’ goal all around good game against Cordoba. I kid. He’ll start, though Alexis getting a goal (much less 2) will be huge for his self confidence as well.

Official prediction: 2-3. A thriller, with Messi providing the grand finale in the final minutes with a brilliant solo effort to send the papers into a tizzy and the television crowd into absolute pandemonium. That’s quite the prediction, no? Messi (2), Iniesta, Isco (2).

And, because I simply can’t not talk about it, earlier this afternoon Real Madrid dropped more points, this time in a scoreless draw at Osasuna. This gives Barcelona an opportunity to make this a 2 horse race: Barça and Atleti. I honestly didn’t think I would be saying that at any point in the next 20 years. Jose Mourinho is imploding along with his team, Kaka the latest example of a player to lose his head in a moment of pure idiocy to earn himself a useless second yellow and deprive his team of a player down the stretch. These are the things players under immense pressure do when they begin to crack. We saw it some last year in Barça, but this is a different level. This is  falling from grace like a meteor. They’ve dropped more points in 19 matches than they did in 38 last year, which is to say that they’re either gearing up for an insane second half or, far more likely, they’re going to continue to lose points at approximately this rate.

You do not understand what is happening in this picture. No one understands. No one CAN understand. My body contorts like a gymnast mixed with Gumby. I am BILL GENTLEMAN. Be afraid.
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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

145 Comments

  1. bhed
    January 13, 2013

    OK, I’ve been super critical of Alves this season, but thought he was great today. I’m torn now – should I get behind him emotionally again, or was today a freak example of great form?

  2. andrecito
    January 13, 2013

    imho..its a no brainer..how can you not love dani?!?!
    the fact that so many people have seemed to turn on him, to me, is mind boggling..is montoya really ready to be a full time starter? and with adriano injury problems, there is no way he can be seen as an every game player.. watching dani on the ball, his touches, flicks..are just fun to watch..so what if his crosses don’t always make it in the box…we dont even have anyone to head them in!

    and happy bday blitzen…i always enjoy reading your posts:)

  3. andrecito
    January 13, 2013

    well said BA..iniesta is a soccer-sex-machine..or a maquina de futbol sexual..

    my favorite today was with him and cesc on the touchline..cant remember if it was the first or second half..but one of them (i think iniesta) ended up falling down..

  4. January 14, 2013

    Why is Willy not the first choice goal keeper for Argentina?

  5. yana
    January 14, 2013

    I had to look up Diego Buonanotte, because man, he made our hobbits look tall! Messi is famously the diminutive Argentine footballer, but he actually has a few inches on Buonanotte, who is only 5’3″. And then there’s Pablo Piatti (Valencia), who is 5’4″. I guess it’s fitting that they both made their way from Argentina to Spain, where los bajitos thrive…

  6. hammeronmessi
    January 14, 2013

    This team made me spoiled.

    Have been watching football for over a decade and will continue to do the same until my death.I am 31 and i believe in my life of viewing football there is always a “before and after”after this Barcelona.

    How beautiful one football team can play?i thought the performance of the manita can never be reached,but the last 2 performances showed us it may exceed that.this team is that good.

    Hats off to you guys,hats off.

    Dani’s biggest asset was his stamina and physique,as he grew older he may never reach those level but he is still at a level that is pretty good for barca.moreover after the inclusion of alba our attack is more oriented on the Left,so his role is not the same.one thing for sure his buildup play is much much higher than adriano and monty.his crosses are poor but link up play,harrasing of opposition anf the way he riles up the opposition is seconf to none.

    Masche apart from that head had a flawless game.what a tackle on that little man bouannete.loved that.

    my commentators were saying malaga kept messi realtively quiet anf i concur.he has an ok game.yet he scored 2 and 2 assists.mindboggling what we expect from him.

    Alexis i really love him.people should accept that he is an instinctive finisher,when he has time to think most of the time he fluffed his chances.would like to see him given some continuous minutes.

    • barca96
      January 14, 2013

      Long time no see.

      I thought Alves had a good match but nothing special. He has always been this good, well most of the times.

      It’s just that he looked excellent because he made less errors. Less time on the ball = less risk of making an error.

      And he didn’t over think when on the ball nor did he only look for Messi when on the ball.

      I found it really funny when people wanted to sell Alves earlier in the season just because Montoya had a good run of games and then Adriano came in. Form only is temporary.

  7. culeasacucumber
    January 14, 2013

    Hi all,

    New member but long-time visitor here. Apologies to go off topic slightly but I’m after a bit of Barcelona advice and this seemed like the perfect place to ask. I’m travelling to Barcelona at the end of next week and I have tickets for the Osasuna game at the Camp Nou, thus fulfilling one my lifetime ambitions of watching FCB live! I’ve been to the city three times previously, including two visits of the stadium for a tour, but this is my first time attending a match. Can you offer any advice on how to maximise the enjoyment from my matchday experience? Such as the best places to go before the game for atmosphere and food/drinks? I’ve got a good knowledge of the city and the stadium area but I’m guessing that it’s a totally different experience on a matchday so any recommendations will be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks!

    • nzm
      January 14, 2013

      Hey culeasacucumber!

      Welcome to the blog!

      mom4 and I will be at that match too!

      As I’m a moderator on this BFB blog, I can see your email address. I’ll send you an email with some advice and details.

      Probably won’t be until Wednesday before I can do this, as today will be spent travelling back to Berlin, and tomorrow will be back to Barcelona day.

      cheers
      Michele

    • culeasacucumber
      January 14, 2013

      Muchas gracias! 🙂

    • January 14, 2013

      That’s an awesome nick/handle BTW..

  8. Blau-Grenade
    January 14, 2013

    Iniesta has been the best I have ever seen him in the last few matches. I think he is feeling the heat from Cesc and Thiago.

  9. barca96
    January 14, 2013

    Our players should show Atletico Madrid more respect during interviews. They keep on talking about Real Madrid. Show Atletico more respect please as they are our closest challenger.

    • January 14, 2013

      They can only respond to the questions the journalists ask them, so take any quotes with a grain of salt. 🙂

  10. barca96
    January 14, 2013

    Even though we won comfortably in the end, I still think that more attentive should be given to the wrong offside call on the Messi goal.

    Imagine if we drew or lost due to that wrong call?

    Last season we did face the mistakes and lost a lot of points as a result. Thankfully this season the players take matters into their own hands and don’t need to blame for lost points.

    Is it that expensive to have the kind of offside technology used by football games such as FIFA and PES?

    • Richzorz
      January 14, 2013

      Whilst we’re at it can we turn Injuries and Fatigue “OFF” for the rest of the season..? :p

      (I think the “technology” is part of the video-game, guess you could fit the ball and every player with numerous motion-tracking sensors and map each match in real-time 3D although it might be a little impractical and ridiculously pricey!!)

    • Clouseau
      January 14, 2013

      I thought it was a correct call as Messi wasn’t passive offside in said situation as he tried to head the ball first and stopped to late.

    • replayed
      January 14, 2013

      The laws of the game don’t say anything about “trying” to play the ball, only whether or not you actually play it.

      As Messi didn’t actually play the ball and didn’t interfere with an opponent, I’d say he was passive through the first phase.

      I know players who know they’re in an offside position like to make a big show of not attempting to play the ball, but the show is mostly for the benefit of the assistant ref.

  11. cliveee
    January 14, 2013

    http://twitter.com/Oscarico_SA/status/290701067887460352/photo/1

    Ridiculous.

    Jordi Alba still impresses me every match he plays. I share the idea of us not peaking at the moment yet, and this strong Alba-Iniesta wing play remains as a big weapon we haven’t be fully utilized yet. Crosses that Alba throws in are often more scorable than Alves but nobody in the receiving ends 7 out of 10 times. Definitely needs to get that chemistry between players pinned down on the wall. “When Alba overlaps, be prepared for great cross”.

    • Ben
      January 14, 2013

      That graphic would be even more impressive if they rearranged the players tied for 4th. It could be Iniesta – Fabregas – Messi – Pedro.

    • Clouseau
      January 14, 2013

      One of the main positives this season. Cesc already surpassed his assist telly from last season while Iniesta caught up to his assist telly from last season.

      Looking promising so far!

      Quite proud to see Ebert on the list he use to play for my local club 🙂

  12. January 14, 2013

    Haven’t read the comments, but I will. Review’s up, guys. Sorry it took so long!

  13. dean
    January 14, 2013

    test

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