Real Sociedad vs. Barça: Can you hear the drums? They beat for thee

RealSociedadVsBarcelona

On January 20th each year, the beautiful city of San Sebastián (think of a small Paris by the sea) in the Basque Country celebrates the festival known as La Tamborrada.  It begins in the evening of January 19th and continues for 24 hours.  It’s loud, because the main instrument is the drum.

Drums beaten for 24 hours sounds like my idea of a personal hell.  Add some bagpipes to that and you’d have me whimpering in a pathetic, drooling heap in the corner, crying, “make it stop, make it stop.”  Luckily bagpipes are the Galicians’ and Asturians’ instrument of torture and didn’t make it as far as the Basque Country.  So, only drums it is in El País Vasco.

La Tamborrada is a highly organised event.  Groups of drummers, dressed as chefs and soldiers, march through the streets beating out the rhythms and singing songs that have been composed especially for the event.  The kids even get into the act with their schools organising drumming corps for the children’s marches which happen during the morning of the festival.

How does this fit in football?  Thanks for asking.

 

Kicking off La Tamborrada
Into the second half of the season, and tonight’s game starts early at 6pm CET.  Before the game, Real Sociedad has organised a demonstration of 2 drumming corps that will march around the athletic track, supplying the warm-up beats for the players and entertaining the crowd.  The drummers will also beat out the Sociedad anthem “Txuri Urdin” (White & Blue) as the players emerge from the tunnel before kick-off.

If we’re not deaf by then, what can we expect?

 

Anoeta Stadium
Nestled in a little gully overlooked by the city’s Velodrome and Bullring, Real Sociedad’s pretty little 32,000+ capacity stadium also occasionally serves as a rugby pitch for French Club Biarritz Olympique.

Barça’s last 2 visits there have yielded a loss for the Blaugrana (2010/11) and a draw (2011/12) after they were leading 0-2, went to sleep and then let Sociedad catch up.  In fact, Barça hasn’t won away against Sociedad since 2007, but the Basque team did play 3 seasons in the Liga Adelante since then.

Tomorrow’s crowd could be a good one given that it’s the start of La Tamborrada, although it may also be affected by the festival because those who are drumming may have to be elsewhere.  (As for the weather – see below.)

 

Real Sociedad’s Form – Rather Erratic
This season, Sociedad’s record at home is 5W  2L  3D.  Those 2 losses were 0-1 affairs to Atlético de Madrid and Espanyol.  Their away form has been less successful:  2W  5L  2D for a season’s result of 7W  7L  5D thus far.  They’ve beaten notable in-form teams such as Rayo and Málaga, as well as Sevilla and Valencia.

A couple of weeks ago, they participated in a controversial game away to Real Madrid (where Mourinho selected Adan ahead of Casillas, but the reserve keeper lasted about 10 mins before being red-carded, so Casillas had to play after all), and narrowly missed winning by 4 goals to 3 when, perhaps with a little more pressing, they could have won or at least drawn the match.  (But then our guys didn’t do any better when they allowed a 10-man Málaga to come back to level 2-2 last Wednesday night.)

With 29 points, Real Sociedad sits 9th on the Liga Table – 4 points behind Valencia in 7th and Levante in 8th.

 

Players to Watch
Coach Phillipe Montanier (his French accent when speaking Castellano is so cute!) has a full squad for selection with no players injured and 3 players (Iñigo Martínez, Dani Estrada and Mikel González) back from serving a 1 match suspension from Yellow card accumulations.  Hmmm… do you think that their last cards (awarded in the Madrid game) were deliberate so that they were not suspended for this match?

The squad is:
GKs: Bravo, Zubikarai.
Defence:  Carlos Martínez, Dani Estrada, Mikel, Iñigo, De la Bella, José Ángel.
Mid-fielders:  Pardo, Illarra, Markel, Elustondo.
Forwards:  Xabi Prieto, Vela, Ifrán, Agirretxe, Chory Castro, Griezmann.

Real Sociedad used to follow the same system as Athletic Bilbao of only using Basque-born players, but the club abandoned that practice in 1989.  The team is now a mix of Basque (who have progressed through the Sociedad youth teams to the Senior level), and International players.

Notable local players are:
~ Captain Xabi Prieto has played at the club since he was 5 years old.  He scored his first hat-trick 2 weeks ago in the 4-3 loss to Real Madrid.  Lying second on the goal-scoring table, his tally stands at 4 for the season, with 3 assists.
~ 21yo CB Iñigo Martínez is gaining a lot of attention from overseas clubs, and it won’t be long before Real Sociedad is presented with an irresistible offer for him.  Although he’s a promising player, Iñigo was part of the disappointing Olympic Team and suffered the ignominy of being sent off (for a last-man tackle) in the first game against Japan.
~ 20yo Mid-fielder Rubén Pardo has 2 goals and 2 assists for his 743 minutes played.  In 2011, he was part of the successful Spanish U-19 team to win the UEFA U-19 Football Championship in Romania.
~ Forward Imanol Agirretxe is a threat in front of goal, especially when linking up with his captain.  The 6’1″ striker is often used as an impact player and has 3 goals and 1 assist.

The squad also has a few Internationals, some of whom are also members of their countries’ National Teams.
~ GK Claudio Bravo is the captain of Chile and has been with Sociedad since 2006.  When he makes a good save, you can shout “Bravo!” and really mean it.
~ 21yo French player Antoine Griezmann is no slug on the left wing.  Our Right defence is going to have to be on their toes to contain this guy, who can also play as a striker.  With 3 goals and 2 assists for Sociedad, Griezmann also plays for the French U-21 team.
~ Uruguayan “Chori” Castro made the move from Mallorca to Sociedad this season.  The winger, still feeling his way into the team, is mainly being used as a sub, but still has 2 goals and 1 assist for his 639 Liga minutes.
~ In August 2012, Mexican Carlos Vela signed permanently to Real Sociedad after being on-loan to the club last season from Arsenal.  Signed by the Gunners in 2005, Vela has spent most seasons out on loan because of UK work permit restrictions for non-EU citizens.  The 23yo Striker leads the goal table with 8 netted and 3 assists.  He has also accumulated 6 cards – the second-highest total in the club for the season. Vela has been a member of the Mexico squad since 2007.

 

Qatar Strikes Again
For some inexplicable reason, but most likely for healthy monetary compensation, the home team’s camisetas will bear a new sponsor for this game – and this game only.  The name of Qatari firm Al Gosaibi Capital (with a really bad website – don’t click on it if you are at work because the music is loud) will be splayed across the chiseled abs of the Sociedad players.

 

Weather Forecast
Unfortunately, it’s not great.  Rain, sometimes heavy, is forecast for Saturday and it could also be quite windy.  And cold.  This will not suit our boys.  Shades of the conditions at San Mamés last season, but hopefully the pitch won’t be as water-logged.

 

Who’s Tito gonna play?
Because of the early game time, the Barça team travelled to San Sebastián on Friday night.

Once again, Jonathan dos Santos was left behind to mop the floors and turn off the lights, and David Villa still has an injured thigh and also didn’t travel.  Abidal, Cuenca and Muniesa, although training again with the main group, have not received medical clearance and won’t be going anywhere until they do.

The squad is:  Valdés, Pinto, Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Puyol, Mascherano, Alba, Adriano, Xavi, Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta, Cesc, Pedro, Alexis, Messi and Tello.

Alex Song travelled with the group but has already been ruled out with a minor injury that has seen him training in the gym since the Málaga CdR game.

Anyone else think that Tito is going to have selection headaches when the whole squad is back in business?

I anticipate a no-nonsense-let’s-get-the-job-done team although, with the expected weather conditions, he may decide to rest a couple of key players to save them for the return CdR match against Málaga next Thursday.

 

The game kicks off tonight, Saturday 19th January at 6:00pm CET

Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona

Streams for the match are usually found on First Row, Roja Directa and Bar TV.

 

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211 Comments

  1. mom4
    January 19, 2013

    I love me a little cultural geography lesson in my preview. Football is the funnest way to learn things!

    @ Blitzen, regarding last post…THAT pic… *fans self*…yes, messifan, you are 100% correct!

    Wanna see our best out there, just to shake off the last game.
    VV
    Alves, Pique, Puyol/Masche, Alba
    Xavi, Busi, Cesc
    Pedro, Messi Ini

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      I’d vote for Tello and Alexis in the front line and save Pedro and Ini for the CDR decider.

      The season opener against RS is still Tello’s best overall performance so far, and he had a very decent match last Wednesday. As for Alexis? Speaking of needing to shake things off.

      On that tip, I’d also run Thiago out again (he really was superb before the wheels came off against Malaga) on that horse named Busquests.

      I’d also let the Energizer Bunny recharge today. Montoya can get some more practice on the left.

      So I vote

      Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Montoya
      Thiago, Busquests, Cesc
      Alexis, Messi, Tello

      all in the name of saving as many big guns as possible for the first truly massive game Barca will be playing this season.

      • replayed
        January 19, 2013

        ^^^ D’oh! “Bunny” should be “Squirrel.”

        • mom4
          January 19, 2013

          Xavi, Pedro, and the squirrel didn’t play or hardly played in tbe cup game. They will need some game time. Ten + days off is bad, too. Not too worried about resting anyone as there has been ample rotation.

          • replayed
            January 19, 2013

            Understood. Which is why those three should be first off the bench, even if to put the victory in deep chill.

          • replayed
            January 19, 2013

            Wow, I’m not normally one for cute, furry animals (not at least of the bestial variety), but that is a seriously winsome critter. Alba approves.

          • nzm
            January 19, 2013

            I liked the term “Energizer Squirrel” myself.

            He keeps on going, and going, and going… 🙂

  2. samarth-culé
    January 19, 2013

    -A lovely preview everytime… Always nice to learn something new! Thanks nzm 🙂

    I’d love to see (resting Don Andrés):
    VV
    Alves-Pique-Masche-Alba
    Xavi-Busi-Cesc
    Alexis-Messi-Pedro

    -Good to hear other teams getting sponsor, even if it’s for a match!

    -And the kits for next year are leaking quite fast… And these look pretty good too (ofcourse except the ‘QATAR’ branding)!
    https://twitter.com/NanCule95/status/291469384667508736/photo/1

    • Jafri
      January 19, 2013

      The sleeves! Oh my God, the sleeves! My eyes!!

      • samarth-culé
        January 19, 2013

        Come on! They are not that bad…!!

  3. elacule
    January 19, 2013

    nzm,

    i appreciate the educational pre-match posts, too!

    when i first started watching footy, i wanted at least some of the half-time commentary to be about local history, art, culture, customs, food, etc.

    somehow your preview made me wonder what they eat. maybe i’m just hungry.

    ela

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      Heh – thanks!

      The traditional meal for the festival used to be Eel, but since it’s now so expensive to buy, any seafood will do.

      San Sebastian has a long tradition with good food – the Basques are renown for it. We never had a bad meal up there.

      The city’s gourmet clubs will get together tomorrow night for their festival feasts.

  4. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Hope they rest Iniesta today…

    VV
    Alves-Pique-Masch-Alba
    Xavi-Busquets-Fabregas
    Alexis-Messi-Pedro

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      His prose can be a little purple (especially for The Guardian), but this article is a great example of what makes Sid Lowe a first-class journalist. He can take a position while still being able to look at all sides of an issue. He understands the idea of balance.

    • Messiah10
      January 19, 2013

      This is spiraling out of control. The Catalan media and Spanish media in general are making VV out to be a pariah. He’s decided he wants to end his career at a club he’s spent his entire life! He wants to try something different. I wish him the best and the rest can F off!

  5. barca96
    January 19, 2013

    Late to the party but isn’t it normal for a club to sell a player once they are on a decline. It’s for the best of the club. They’re not running a charity here.

    And Chiggy? He has never looked comfortable. And if he really was or is that good, how come he is still with the same team after all these years? Pep simply made a mistake like every manager does. I won’t categorize Chiggy as a good or promising player because he was a Barca player or because Pep thought that he was good.

    sMasch is about a million times better than him at CB. Yaya likewise. Busi not far behind. And the funny thing is, CB is not even their natural position.

  6. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Team is:

    VV
    Alves Pique Puyol Alba
    Xavi Busi Cesc
    Pedro Messi Iniesta

    mom4 called it!

  7. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    The 2 bands are drumming their little hearts out.

    Our boys are in bright yellow warming up on the pitch.

  8. sebanovic
    January 19, 2013

    If anyone could possibly post the link to a bein stream, I’d very much appreciate it 🙂

  9. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Wearing the worst kits possible.
    Wow, Messi with an incredible fail.
    At least Pedro finally gets a start ahead of Alexis.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      I’d say Pedro is ahead of Alexis in the pecking order these days.

      • chop
        January 19, 2013

        Really? Since when?

        Other than the finishing, I think we look a lot more direct with Pedro. His windmill motion is intimidating to opponents as well.

        • replayed
          January 19, 2013

          Pedro started the league at Malaga, a major game by any standards. Alexis subbed in for him eventually.

          I’ll take Pedro any day, any place, any time.

          • chop
            January 19, 2013

            The league is over. The CDR match was the more important one.

          • replayed
            January 19, 2013

            The CDR match was the more important one.

            Which is why Tello and Thiago started it?

            Right…

          • replayed
            January 19, 2013

            Not to mention Song. (Nothing against him)

  10. alpinegroove
    January 19, 2013

    Everything comes from the left.

    • chop
      January 19, 2013

      Remember when everything came from the right?

  11. alpinegroove
    January 19, 2013

    Does the dummy counts as Cesc’s assist?

  12. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    That would have been a brilliant goal.

  13. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Some of the lights have gone out, but not enough to affect the play.

  14. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Puyol and Pique setting the off-side trap – brilliant!

    They both jumped forward as the ball was thrown in!

    • Rivaldo
      January 20, 2013

      Can’t be offside for a “throw in”.

      • nzm
        January 21, 2013

        That’s correct.

        It was to put a Sociedad player off-side for the next play.

        The ball was thrown in, the receiving player played the quick pass up the pitch to another player, but Puyi and Pique had already put him off-side.

        This play was really noticeable because the camera was on Puyi as he was looking to check where the back-line was positioned, and he made sure that he and Pique jumped forward to put the Sociedad player off-side.

    • Ryan
      January 19, 2013

      So glad he got it, especially after hitting the post earlier!

  15. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Call it a tap in but Alexis missed 2 identical changes last match, LOL. So much more fluid with Pedro. Alexis reminds me of Tevez.

    • alpinegroove
      January 19, 2013

      No question Alexis should have done better, but Pedro’s goal was much much easier that those opportunities.

  16. yana
    January 19, 2013

    Classic Barça goal, classic Pedro goal, love it.

  17. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Big cheer from the Barca fans as that ball was fed back to VV.

  18. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    wow – Alves is finding his range with the crosses tonight!

  19. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Busi not having the best of it – he’s given away a couple.

    • chop
      January 19, 2013

      They’re cutting through Barcelona’s midfield with ease.

        • chop
          January 19, 2013

          You wouldn’t? They have as many shots as Barcelona and they’ve been good shots. Busquets – Xavi – Fab are doing nothing to halt them before they get to the back line.

  20. alpinegroove
    January 19, 2013

    Pedro has a lot of freedom today.

  21. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Pique now 1 card away from suspension.

  22. alpinegroove
    January 19, 2013

    Alves could see a second yellow today…

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      He has none so far this season!

      Tito will most likely sub him off.

  23. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    That Alba-Iniesta hook-up is almost psychic!

  24. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    Can’t believe that ball stayed out.

  25. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Noooo – the second post shot tonight!

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      when oh when are they going to learn not to leave that far post player undefended?

  26. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Leaking goals like it’s going out of fashion, grrr.

  27. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Cue the VV is not focused comments…

  28. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Barca need to start making those goals go in. Reminds me of the game last season.

  29. nia
    January 19, 2013

    what’s with the defence today? It’s all over the place.

  30. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    What is with the rear guard today? They’re playing it fast and loose.

  31. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Wow – great save from Bravo too. Messi’s shot was a bullet.

  32. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Oy Vey, the amount of misplaced passes…

  33. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    Exciting stuff but mainly because we’re being a bit cavalier tonight. Busi losing a few balls that he wouldn’t normally. Better from Alves. His positioning on the goal wasn’t disastrous IMO although he could have sprinted across a bit quicker and slid in. Even if the guy had seen it coming, turning back would’ve given Puyol a chance to get him.

    No real worries for me at the moment though. We’re cutting them up when we like.

  34. stefan2k
    January 19, 2013

    Deja vu regarding the Alves goal

  35. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    Gaizka is so awesome. My favorite Liga pundit.

  36. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    So I haven’t seen Valdes pass short once so far (been watching from the half hour mark)

  37. January 19, 2013

    Excellent first half from the club. Today is a really good example of the changes in the template that have been added this season to expand the system.

    The transition play is excellent-very fast to prevent defense from resetting teh structure of it’s block.

    The team really takes advantage of when they can play direct. La Real is playing a high back line & Barca are really looking to attack it aggressively. Bad luck with the post – but that shot Messi had where he chipped the keeper on the run was a microcosm of the attack. Wonderful, aggressive, direct ball from Xavi & intelligent run from Messi to attack that high back line.

    Was really hoping we’d score a 3rd to rest players for MAL but it’s a game now. La Real are energized at home.

    Puyol is puyol. Legend. Heart of the team. But I really don’t understant what he was doing with his positioning on that entire goal concession sequence. His mispositioning caused the backline to lose shape. So it goes-even for the best of them. Nature of the game.

    Should be a great 2nd half.

  38. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    RS are launching the ball towards the general vicinity of the Barca box whenever possible. They figure they might just get lucky again.

  39. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Barca are playing like they don’t want to play.

  40. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    And that’s what happens when you get a stupid first yellow card. Daft Piqué.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Pique forgot who the referee was.

  41. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Pique, Pique,, so clumsy sometimes. It’s gonna be a tough week this.

  42. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Yeah Fabs, hang your head low. You should.

      • nzm
        January 19, 2013

        If you’ve been in the Love Blob, then you’ll know what I mean when I say that I think that Chop is sadster’s brother. 🙂

  43. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    Cesc isn’t very mobile. Think Pedro can cover more ground.

  44. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Wow, they had about 5 chances during that sequence and finally got one.

  45. nia
    January 19, 2013

    We didn’t get out of our half yet. They deserve that.

  46. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Benching Iker worked wonders for clean sheets. Bench VV in Malaga, lol 🙂

    • nzm
      January 19, 2013

      wasn’t his fault. The ball was deflected off its trajectory by Masch.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      That’s a Pinto-always-starts-CDR-games joke, right?

      • nia
        January 19, 2013

        yes yes, it was a joke. Seriously though, the team needs to start keeping clean sheets. Could cost us in a CL and looks like it will cost us in the copa.

  47. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Is this really about Dani and Jordi both playing? That doesn’t work, does it?

  48. nia
    January 19, 2013

    We don’t necessarily need to win this but, it’d be good for moral going into the Malaga game.

    • Jafri
      January 19, 2013

      They would be such unnecessary points dropped though…

      • replayed
        January 19, 2013

        All dropped points are unnecessary.

        If RS get a result, they will have earned it.

  49. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Messi seem to have lost his free kick abilities.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Free kicks aren’t penalties, you know?

  50. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    This is one of the problems with the cavalier style that Euler was talking about earlier where we break at speed. It’s great if it works and it should have tonight but it makes it harder to keep both the ball and your shape IMO.

  51. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    What’s up with us tonight ? All our players are behaving like bad tempered superstars.

  52. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    Barca should know better than trying to pressure Undiano Mallenco. They’re only giving him excuses to break out a yellow card for dissent.

  53. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Teams are working out that if you press Xavi heavily, then he can’t play effectively. Xavi is being shut down tonight.

  54. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Ooofff – ref went for the card there, but both Busi and Ini were on Yellows already. He changed his mind.

  55. replayed
    January 19, 2013

    No subs, Tito?

    Don’t you have a crucial CDR game to think about?

  56. Blau-Grenade
    January 19, 2013

    Only thing I want to say is that they wanted it more than Barca.

  57. Jafri
    January 19, 2013

    Cannot believe that just happened.

  58. Jim
    January 19, 2013

    Yeah, well played them. Sickener of a last goal to lose. Masch played him right then went back to his old ways, dashed back and played him on.

  59. Ryan
    January 19, 2013

    Well, the unbeaten streak had to end sometime, but we sure looked tired out there.

  60. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Knew it after the Malaga game, that Barca would have it hard this game. We were horrible. Sociedad were the better team today tbh. Pique didn’t help much with his card but, the team didn’t play well at all after they went 2 up. Hope this will wake them up for the CDR tie. VISCA BARCA!!!

  61. chop
    January 19, 2013

    Masch has been terrible this year. He’s actually making Puyol, who looked done last season, good by comparison.

  62. mom4
    January 19, 2013

    Spent the game yelling “run”, “move toward the ball”, “don’t raise your hand and try to call the game get up and defend”. Yup, they wanted it more. We are gonna be soooooo tired for the cup game.

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      That’s why I was hoping for the B squad for this match. It was worth losing a league game in order to be fresh for the cup match.

      But now the team has a loss and no freshness.

  63. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    The mucking around between scoring 2 goals and half-time is costing this team dearly. That’s the second time in a week.

    The impetus to keep scoring suddenly deserts them and they go back to passing the ball around.

    Hope Tito addresses this.

    • Nav
      January 19, 2013

      I don’t understand why Tito waited till the 88th minute to introduce Adriano. Was Alexis and Thiago not on the bench today? They should have been subbed in earlier.

        • Nav
          January 19, 2013

          Pedro should have been replaced earlier by either Alexis or Thiago

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Though, to be fair, RS scored their first goal seconds after what should have been Messi’s 2nd and Barca’s 3rd clanked off the post.

      • nzm
        January 19, 2013

        Granted – but they still did waste a lot of time.

        With Sociedad pressing so hard, the only option is to press them back. Especially before half-time when if it all goes wrong, they have another 45 mins to recover.

  64. Nav
    January 19, 2013

    Man, end of a pretty crappy week for Barca. Here’s to hoping the team picks it up!

  65. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Same thing happened last year there too. Only difference is, they lost this time. This is how Barca lost the liga last yr. Going ahead and letting other teams come back. I don’t think the team is tired, infact, I think they are too well rested. Anyhow, chin up boys, you’ll get them next time.

    • samarth-culé
      January 19, 2013

      Didn’t seem to be any of those that they were either tired or too rested. Just that Pique got what should have been an avoidable red card just when Barca were starting to get momentum in the 2nd half…

  66. samarth-culé
    January 19, 2013

    -Pique getting the first yellow in a similar way a Malaga player got in the previous game. VERY BAD.
    -Cesc has to make way for Masche and no wonders we are one man down in the midfield. Thus, Messi has to drop deeper so often that it’s like he’s playing AM instead of CF. Xavi drops deeper to start the attacks and also drifts his marker off-position to make space but not much success with that. And, didn’t we lose much of a reference in the CF position then…?
    -And when the crosses are being played, we don’t enough players to take those most of the times!
    -On another note, why are our players mobbing the ref around after the card has been issued? It’s highly unlikely that the ref would rescind the card! Atleast, I have never seen any ref do that before…

    • samarth-culé
      January 19, 2013

      -And on a positive note, let’s hope the loss fires up the boys enough to win the tie at La Rosaleda and not be complacent in the future!

  67. Richzorz
    January 19, 2013

    It happens – Sociedad played well, Pique channelled his inner Kaka and picked up an avoidable red, we hit the post a couple of times, home side got away with a few questionable offside calls, were gifted a classic Mascherano OG, and got lucky with the bounce of the ball for their fullback to get in position to cross for the winner…I guess it’s not such a bad time to drop points – still a healthy lead in La Liga, just don’t make it a habit!!

  68. January 19, 2013

    Well-the team wasn’t going to go undefeated. It’s the first loss of the league season. Overall though-it feels like the team may be going through the dip in form it seems to every winter. Yes-Hlebuary may be here. Hopefully it will be a light, short season.

    Pique-really not sure what to say. What he did was just immature & selfish. Picked up an indulgent first card for no reason. Just cannot do that as a CB particularly in an away match.

    The first goal was simply a mess. Again-love Puyol but that entire sequence was one of those periods where he becomes overly aggressive & plays at too high a tempo. He stepped up inappropriately at the start of the sequence (unclear who he was trying to mark). Then dropped too deep. Then both he & Pique both converged on the ball when it deflected in the air. Just a mess. But during that entire sequence Puyol didn’t actually mark anyone. That’s what forced Alves to support Pique marking the central attacker. That in turn is why the R flank lost balance & an attacker went unmarked.

    But the larger dynamic of this match was about the trade off the team incurs when playing both Cesc & Iniesta together. Both play high up. Cesc’s game is very oriented around vertical runs. That often means he’s in sub-optimal position to support transition defense.

    Now to clarify-I don’t think this is a bad thing in any way. Tactics are about how you manage trade offs. And playing this way has allowed Barca to play they best they have since fall of 2010.

    And more importantly-I’m very supportive of this expansion in the template. It was absolutely needed to diversify the system. Otherwise-it’s simply too easy for the opposition to methodically organize it’s block into a strong shape & structure. The attack had to become higher tempo, more vertical & direct. This is especially true when facing a team playing the kind of high back line la Real were today.

    But nothing’s perfect. The specific problem that we saw today is that the team’s tempo dropped. I had a sinking feeling watching the squad the 2nd half of the match vs MAL. The squad really dropped it’s off the ball movement & tempo. It started feeling like the start of the winter drop off. That continued today.

    So here’s the issue: if you’re going to play Iniesta & Cesc so high together then the team must play with a very high work rate & defend at a high tempo. Some players will have to make up for Cesc & Iniesta being out of position in the transition defense. That’s been key the whole season.

    But today the team played at a lower tempo. So the transition defense lost balance. That was the main issue at hand outside of Pique’s sending off.

    Ironically, today was a game where the team really would’ve benefited a great deal from Sanchez’s work rate & defending. That wouldn’t helped solidify the defense significantly. Alternatively, Tito should’ve changed shape taking off Cesc up 2-1 & using Song or Thiago deeper on the pitch to reestablish balance.

    Unfortunately, now the team is going to be very tired after working so hard headed into a must win match away at MAL. Very difficult situation to be in.

  69. samarth-culé
    January 19, 2013

    Tito not happy with the refs… was also visible during the game.
    “There have been 200 fouls today like the one of Pique’s second yellow card. But it was a clear yellow, don’t have to add more.”
    “I told Pique at half-time to be careful, that his first foul would be a second yellow.”

    • replayed
      January 19, 2013

      Not a coincidence that it takes Undiano Mallenco to make Tito lose his cool.

      Barca’s record in matches with this particular ref is easily its worst compared to any other Liga ref.

      • January 19, 2013

        It doesn’t really matter who the ref was. Pique’s first card was absolutely ridiculous and he has only himself to blame. What on earth did he think he was doing there? Then he makes a tackle like that while already on a yellow? Almost any ref would have been forced to give him a card there.

        • replayed
          January 19, 2013

          No argument with any of that.

          But my point was that Tito — uncharacteristically — did not restrict his criticism to Pique. He clearly took a couple of pointed shots at Undiano Mallenco. He simply couldn’t help himself, I suspect, because he knows full well Barca’s track record with that particular ref.

          The implication of I told Pique at half-time to be careful, that his first foul would be a second yellow is pretty obvious to me.

          I’m not trying to absolve Pique. I’m merely pointing out that Undiano Mallenco’s track record with Barca is enough to make even a cool cat like Tito lose his customary frostiness.

  70. Wind170
    January 19, 2013

    they have to be more alert after scoring 2nd goal,many cases…
    odd subs(2) as well, being too defensive after the red card,
    Simply, Barca DNA is not being defensive-minded . Better subs are available even Fab looks engaged in the ‘screensaver mode’ in 2nd half.
    Odd play from the keeper, too rush sometimes and hoofing the ball forward even when situation is safe and nearby players are available.
    The speed looks frantically fast even after the red card from the back.
    Given defense isn’t the strength,losing possession easily especailly in the middle and the back(pitch) with 10 men is playing fire. Players that can keep the ball better and with higher work rate(not necessarily defensive) may be better.
    Again, the 2nd Sub is absurb and sends the wrong signal to the players which did not play to their strength.This is a tactic more familiar to the ‘SO”s RM instead.Both defensive subs cannot prevent conceding goals. Pretty certain,Ref looks ‘drunk’. But the signal is strange, manager looks scared, defensive subs, plays look franctic and similar, back and forth interactions.

    Not wanting to dwell with the defense, but the keeper looks suspect for the 3rd goal.

    Strange,really strange. Too many set-pieces go through the air…Patience is important especially they don’t send too much men forward even with an extra man. Counter-attack not quite useful then.
    The lead should be attacked, not defended especially under ‘2 goal rule’ circumstance, which is so often seen especially in last season.

  71. Judas Pissed
    January 19, 2013

    Could be worse – you could all support Oldham Athletic as well like me!

  72. BA
    January 19, 2013

    We. need. a. real. center-back.

    don’t know how many times i’m going to have to say that. maybe if i staple a note to a pig’s head and throw it on Tito’s bed Godfather style?

    • bhed
      January 19, 2013

      Couldn’t agree more. Masch is a phenomenal tackler, but the evidence is mounting that last season’s solidity at CB was a fluke. I think many here are in denial. CB’s WILL get cards, we need defensive depth. On that note, despite better crossing this game, Alves is a defensive liability.

      • Momo
        January 19, 2013

        Yes bhed, Masch has managed to fluke his way at CB at one of the best teams in the world for…. wait for it…. an ENTIRE season..

        This blog is a hilarious read whenever barca drops points.

        • bhed
          January 19, 2013

          Sure, if you put it like that…

          All I’m saying is that last season, Masch was a revelation in central defense, beyond most people’s expectations. Possibly a real successor to Puyol. This season, he has not been. Not sure what’s so crazy about that.

  73. nia
    January 19, 2013

    Just found out that Barca haven’t won at sociedad for the last yrs. Surprised they struggle that much over there.

  74. Humphrey Bogart
    January 19, 2013

    okay, 4 hours ago, after the match ended, i was really angry about our performance, about the way we feebley accpted our fate. then i did go out with friends for dinner, we had faboulous food, a lot of red wine and a good time, but in my belly there was still this gnarling feeling.
    There is one thing i really deteste in life and that is waste, and that is what we are doing now: wasting. one week ago, we had the world at our feed: unbeaten in the league, the copa and CL well within in reach, within one one week everything has chnanged. After our pitty performance we are as good as out of the copa (after a 2:2 at HOME the chance of going through is about 20%) and the way we performed Malaga could send its B-team and it would be enough to send us out. One can say that wednesday was an off day, alright, that can happen, but then come back STRONGER, to show everybody that you are still top dog, instead we come back like anxious babys, taking a lead and THEN getting beaten (do not give me the 10 men crap, malaga were down to 10 and they did get a draw at camp now). We showed neither sill, nor passion, nor fight, or any kind of interet or care. Do not make the mistake to thing we are too far ahead, the way we played everybody can beat us with us and more important we showed ourselve as weak, us soft belly, we showed ourselves us Arsenal, lot of fancy dapping but now steal of fight when it counts, that is just what madrid needs: us showing weakness and they will pounce, the way we played we are easy prey even for a side weakened as Milan.
    One week ago everythng seemmed possible, now we must hold on to win the league, everything else is good as out of reach now

    • Ryan
      January 19, 2013

      Judging by the sheer pessimism of this post, I’d say lay off the wine next time!

    • Momo
      January 19, 2013

      LOL…. Oh Humphrey, we can always count on your level headed, calm, optimistic posts. I think we found a new mod!

      (Sarcasm)

  75. January 19, 2013

    Why in the world is anyone even bringing up Mascherano? This loss wasn’t related to him in any major way.

    The problem today outside of Pique’s card was transition defense – by the team as a whole- but particularly from the attacking players.

    And if you really want to “blame” a CB for this other than Pique well then it’s Puyol for his mispositioning/mismarking on the first goal.

    But as usual there really is no point in blaming any one individual for today outside of Pique’s lack of thinking. It’s completely off the mark. Defensive issues were related to the team as an entire system.

    The team has been wildly successful this season. Past anyone’s expectations. But when anything suboptimal happens people look to blame the “usual suspects.” Mascherano being one of them. Funny how that blame seems to be recurrently focused on players who are so often seen as “new” or “not from La Masia” etc somehow.

    The team didn’t perform well as a unit. If you want to understand why then you need to think about the unit as a whole. Not pin it on the player who came in after Pique rashly got sent off (and then made excuses for it after on twitter).

    • Humphrey Bogart
      January 19, 2013

      i agree with a lot you said, but not with one point; “the team has been widly successfull”. i agree not with that. Have we win any trophies yet? No. Have we played to full potential in last games? No. We did throw the EE a life line and be sure they will take it, they will roll over Valencia tommorrow like a Porsche Cayenne and as we did show weaknesses in last games they will hunt us down. CdR? for me finished. Malaga need ony a draw and we are out, no problem. CL? well one thought Milan would be an easy draw but at the look of things El Shaarawy will make mince pie out of our (non existing) defence

      • January 19, 2013

        i agree with a lot you said, but not with one point; “the team has been widly successfull”. i agree not with that. Have we win any trophies yet?

        Given that it’s impossible for them to have won any trophies this year by January this is a completely peripheral issue.

        Yes-going undefeated the first half of the league season & having an large lead over the sides in 2nd & 3rd while winning one own group in the CL is wildly successful given where we are in the season.

        What will happen? Who knows.

        But the notion that the team’s first league loss – a loss after which they will be no worse than 8/15 pts ahead- is just- is a cataclysmic event is not rational. It’s a panic response.

        We go through this every year in the winter. The team has a dip in form. This dip happens because of the periodization schedule. The team is designed to physically peak in time for the semis/finals of the CL.

        This happens every single year.

        Based on your comments in this thread-you are wildly over reacting.

        • Jim
          January 19, 2013

          Why on earth would anyone think we aren’t still favourites to go through in the Copa? We are talking about the best team in the world and the only variable for me is whether or not we are up for it midweek. I would think Malaga are in for a pretty torrid time.

          Personally, I’m not too fond of the more direct approach we seem to adopt at times as it tends to de emphasise Xavi who I think is our biggest asset ( apart from the obvious one). It becomes more of a lottery but even so if we take our chances nobody can live with us.

          Who in Europe would you rather be than us at the moment?

    • mic
      January 19, 2013

      It seemed to me that system was not working even before we had to defend. We were loosing unusually many balls in midfield, even Busquets! We were unable to form effective triangles, which forced individual dribbles which were bound to fail, like most of the Iniesta’s attempts.

    • Jim
      January 19, 2013

      Just had a look at Pique’s Twitter page. He has a point that he has been harshly dealt with this season but can’t have any excuse for today. That first yellow was inexcusable. The second can happen to a defender at times but you don’t make that tackle on a yellow.

      . The whole team seemed a little tetchy today though.

      • replayed
        January 19, 2013

        The whole team seemed a little tetchy today though.

        Yeah, it was like everyone got up on the wrong side of the bed.

        I remember there was a theory last season that traveling the day before Liga matches did not seem to agree with the team.

    • bhed
      January 19, 2013

      Definitely not down to Masch for the loss. The question though, is if he is a viable starting center back for the best team in the world. I don’t really know at this point. I was originally responding to a call for more depth at CB.

  76. nzm
    January 19, 2013

    Sociedad was clever tonight with the way in which they used angled runs to cut through the Barca midfield and defence.

    This left the Barca defence unsettled and out of position as players came out to try and block the ball carrier instead of holding the defensive line. Puyol was caught out a few times doing this – trying to do too much.

    Barca simply isn’t used to having to set a sliding defensive line which goes from side to side, much like the players on the rods of a table football game. If you watch Dortmund, they do this extremely well and effectively.

    Sociedad wanted the win tonight and they got it. Kudos to them. The impact substitution in Agirretxe was extremely effective for that last goal with his fresh long legs managing to poke the ball into the net.

  77. January 19, 2013

    How goes the wailing and rending of garments? Just checking after a loooong day on an airplane. I swear they were moving Chicago away from us. Anyhow, sampled the match, a match that, as with Malaga, should have been over in the first half, yet wasn’t. Wasteful, and it came back to bite us. Again.

    RSO played a hell of a match, taking advantage of weaknesses and, who didn’t know that silly Pique yellow was going to come back to haunt?

    A loss is good for the side. Now that the undefeated crap is over with, let’s play some football.

  78. alpinegroove
    January 19, 2013

    As for fatigue, luckily the CDR match is on Thursday. 5 days of rest is not that bad even after a difficult match today.
    Plus, my assumption is that Tito is not planning to start the same team on Thursday.
    I have a feeling we might see Iniesta in midfield and Alexis upfront.

  79. January 19, 2013

    On another note, people …. LISTEN to yourselves. A few days ago, this team was shitting daisies and lilac blossoms. Now Mascherano is a problem somehow, the team isn’t defensive-minded (thank the stars for that!), and some people see Armageddon lurking. Folks are taking after Humphrey Bogart for the usually ridiculously pessimistic posts on offer under that screen name, but the train was rolling.

    BA notes that we need a real CB, but Puyol has been a deity for such a long time. Isn’t he a real CB? Mascherano would need to still be playing to catch up to Puyol in the hose-off sweepstakes today. Messi left a couple on the table today that bit us in the butt, just like Sanchez did against Sociedad.

    Team win, team loss. Is it any one player’s fault? Absolutely not. Something to keep in mind next time the long knives come out for Sanchez, Song or Thiago. This was one of those matches. Two, actually. In both cases, the damage is very repairable. Still an 8/15 point lead in Liga if ATM and RM win tomorrow. Win at Malaga and the Copa issue is fixed. Voila.

    But this team losing a match isn’t the end of the world. Better it happened now with a huge cushion than at some other time. And now they understand: No games off, no easy days. Every opponent will be looking to bring the mighty Barça down a peg. Foot on the gas, foot stays on the gas until the beast is slain.

    • mom4
      January 19, 2013

      Wait…you mean the world didn’t end today?

    • BA
      January 20, 2013

      our problem at CB is not that “Mascherano isn’t good enough to play there” because he’s shown that most of the time he is. it’s that we lack options at center-back; we all know that Puyol-Mascherano isn’t a very strong pairing, but we had no other senior player on the bench to bring on for that position. Pique is assured of his starting place when fit in part because of that fact, and perhaps that contributes to his complacency/attitude.

      forget about this one result, the idea that we’re going to endure the kind of challenge on 3 fronts our play lately has deserved with a mere 2 real center-backs, one of whom is 34 years old, plus assorted converted midfielders while maintaining our standard of play is hopeful to the point of naivete. Abidal is wonderful, but he hasn’t played at all this season, his inclusion in the squad isn’t a guarantee and he’s still recovering from cancer. apart from he, who else do we have that’s a natural defender? we have kids, and midfielders, and i think we can see that it’s just not adequate.

      so my point is this: in order to maintain our quality of play throughout the season *and* in order to promote competitiveness, we need more natural options for what is currently our most crucial position. i don’t think that’s unreasonable OR a kneejerk reaction, since many of us have been saying that for the last 12 months. this game was merely a very illustrative example of why we need to invest in at least one natural, professional CB.

  80. barca96
    January 19, 2013

    Remember I complained about Messi for taking a cheap shot by kicking the balls to a player at a free kick?? Right. Karma is a bitch.

    I fail to see how sMasch can be blamed. The only way I could blame him is the way he stood for that own goal and the water he moved as the ball hit him. He moved inwards which in turn guided the ball towards goal instead of away from goal.

    Puyol on the other hand should’ve cleared the ball for the 1st goal and shouldn’t have needlessly kicked the ball out for the 3rd goalie. He had so much time and space.

  81. barca96
    January 19, 2013

    Alves could be blamed for the 1st goal but he was covering Puyol who was covering Pique who unnecessarily went too far out attacking the ball.

    • Jim
      January 20, 2013

      Agree with most of that assessment. I’m not sure Piqué had a choice whether to go for the ball or not. You can’t let a ball bounce uncontested just outside your area. However, having gone for it I’d rather he’d won it ! Puyol was the main issue here although again he was dragged away from marking his man by the thought of winning the second ball – but again he didn’t. I’m not blaming Alves.

      With regard to Masch, no way was he the cause of our defeat. Uncharacteristic loss of possession all over. I would argue we were wobbling even before half time and just didnt sort it. I was assuming Tito would opt for a slightly less expansive game in the second half, get control and hope for a third.

      back to Masch, I thought He played pretty well last weekend. I would say, however, that a defender should never turn away from a cross/ shot as it leaves you open to this happening. Bit like Nasri in the wall a few weeks ago but these things can happen. The final goal I would say he could have done better. He was holding a decent high line with Puyol which kept them out of our area then just before the ball was played he dashed back a few yards giving their guy the space to get a run on VV and stay onside. Not good defending.

      However, as Kxevin says, at least that’s the undefeated monkey off our back and this’ll be hurting. Look forward to the next game.

      • barca96
        January 20, 2013

        Hi Jim. I decided to watch the 3rd goal again on my DVR and put it on slow motion after reading your comment this morning.

        I noticed that he did hesitate whether to play him offside but I think he noticed that Alba was playing all of them onside. Alba was right at the sideline. I didn’t notice on which side of the pitch the linesman was and I can’t check it anymore as I’ve deleted the match. But in any case, it wouldn’t have been a successful offside trap.

        I’m not good in positioning in defending. I’m horrible actually. That’s probably the only position I haven’t played regularly. The last time I tried was when I got an earful that it still rings in my ear till this day for making the exact same mistake as sMasch by letting the striker sneak behind me at a cross.

        But I’m not convinced that that is the right way because if the attacker is in front of me, defender, how am I going to get to the ball first? I didn’t argue with the captain and have never asked him about it but what do you think is that correct way?

        Do you think that sMasch could’ve prevented the own goal if he didn’t move his body sideways and in turn directed the ball to the goal?

        Yes. It’s much better that it happens now than later say in March or April.

        On another note, I’m speaking for myself here. When I criticize a player like Thiago the other day, it wasn’t me saying that he had a bad match. He made an error. One error doesn’t equal to whole performance for me. Just because I thought that Thiago made a mistake it doesn’t mean that I thought he had a bad match or even a bad player.

        But some people here think that if me or anyone else comment on an error commited by a player, it equals to a bashing on the player. It happens on this blog and others as well.

        • replayed
          January 20, 2013

          But some people here think that if me or anyone else comment on an error commited by a player, it equals to a bashing on the player.

          Don’t sweat it.

          I call it the Only-*I*-Am-Allowed-to-Criticize-A-Player Syndrome, a common affliction in these parts.

          And some hard cases additionally suffer from the more exotic (and hilarious) Only-*I*-Am-Allowed-to-Praise-A-Player Syndrome.

          Just learn to recognize the symptoms of OIAACAPS and OIAAPAPS, and you’ll feel a lot better about letting that kind of possessiveness roll off your back.

        • Jim
          January 20, 2013

          Barca 96, I only ever played at the back in an emergency so I’m not really any kind of expert on defending. Having watched the goal again you’re right to some extent. Alba does come back but isnt actually playing him on at the vital moment. – they’re close to level at one point but that gives the guy a couple of yards to get speed up on Masch who had a couple of yards to move out.

          However, having watched it a number of times what I’m struck by is the quality of the ball in, which was bending away from Masch. It’s maybe one of those occasions where you just have to say too good and accept it was quality. Masch could / should have tried to stop it getting across him but it could well have resulted in an own goal. I did think Busi and Alba should have stopped it coming across between them but on re watching, the passer got a couple of lucky bounces which helped him.

          As a rule you’ll get most flack as a defender if you let the attacker come across (in front of ) you. There is an argument that says Dani should have closed in as Masch can’t watch the run and the ball (you can see the guy cleverly waiting till Masch has had his look then setting off immediately). However, having suffered when he did that first half I suppose you couldn’t blame Dani for keeping a bit of space to cover the man behind him. Linesman was right beside play but only looked across as the ball was being played by which time the guy was level with Masch who was just on the point of coming out again so was caught off balance.

          With regard to turning his body that was always something we were taught – there is nothing worse than a midfielder or an attacker tying to defend then either turning their back or sticking a leg out to divert something. Puyol and Piqué are great at taking the hit but our other defenders all try to preserve their good looks

  82. Barka
    January 20, 2013

    It’s just one of those matches where with a little luck on our side, for example Messi or Pedro hitting the inside of the post), and we would have won this match comfortably. I don’t think you can blame the loss on anyone today except for may be Pique.

    I actually am happy that our first losss in la liga 12/13 happened in 2013 when we are 18 points in front of Real Madrid. You can’t ask for more from the team.

  83. fiazhamsath
    January 20, 2013

    Oh Lord, the chaos we see after Barça lose a match is so damn funny. First Loss in 20 Game weeks after going 2-0 up, hitting the post twice, playing 30+ mins down to 10 men, in an away stadium Barça haven’t won since 2007, but still will surely have a healthy #A8 & #A15 after this week?

    Someone offered this situation Barça are in at GW20 to me at start of the Season, I’d have taken it gladly.

    Marca’s One Heading last night says it all – “Barça are Human”, as if we didn’t know, or did we?

  84. barca96
    January 20, 2013

    Pique needs to look at himself first, in reference to the red card incident and Mourinho.

    I still think it is very childish on the RSO player for kicking the ball to Pique on purpose just like Messi. I find it a cowardly and cheap act.

    And can’t the referee see that the ball actually wasn’t going anywhere? That it was kicked purposely to get the player booked. If Pique was in between 2 RSO players then yes but he wasn’t just like the incident with Messi.

    • mei
      January 20, 2013

      No way , really. The team that commits the infraction is the one penalised and obliged to walk away from the ball and organize their defend as soon as possible .
      The offensive team does not have to wait and it should not. Pique did such a stupid mistake stading there , and he did another after the match by posting the ratio of fouls/cards/dismissals he has this season.
      He should be looking at this stat and realizing that he has been doing something stupid and stop it. Like not messing with officials or with other players while the ball is not in play.

      On another note, we lost a match. Yeah so what?

  85. bhed
    January 20, 2013

    At the risk of unleashing the wrath of the OIAACAP brigade, I would like to start a real discussion on whether Mascherano is a viable starting CB for the best team in the world. That is really the question that needs to be answered before we make a decision about buying a CB. Does anyone really believe that Puyol will have no injury/fatigue/card issues the rest of the season if we’re lucky enough to keep playing twice a week? Yes, Barca defends with the ball, but does that mean we don’t need depth at CB? If Bartra is ready ady, why hasn’t he been rotated in more?

    Now before the snide attacks start, know that I have great respect and affection for all these players, but if we can’t have these discussions on BFB, where can we have them? Have you seen the inane/hostile comments on other sites?

    • barca96
      January 20, 2013

      SMasch is the 3rd best CB we have atm and better than a whole lot of other CB’s in La Liga. He would be perfect if he got his positioning right.

      We haven’t seen much of Bartra but he certainly got at least 2 more seasons to prove himself. No pressure. I don’t expect him to be ready. CB’s take more time to be a starter. I would say that it has a lot to do with maturity. And experience. But with experience you need playing time therefore I think it’s best if he goes on loan. I wouldn’t chose him over sMasch.

      • bhed
        January 20, 2013

        So how good of a positional sense does our 3rd best CB need? Can he be as good as he was last season again? Puyi is still our starter when he’s healthy, but how much can we expect of him at this stage?

  86. bhed
    January 20, 2013

    Also, people should realize that this site is the ONLY place where many of us can voice our concerns/frustrations with people who know what we’re even talking about.

  87. January 20, 2013

    Hi all! Haven’t read your comments but I will do so later. Review’s up.

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