Real Sociedad 3 – Barça 2, as we are undefeated no more


A wise man once said that every disadvantage gives you an advantage.

Your laptop stopped working? Go get that Macbook you always wanted! Got a head-crunching hangover after spending the whole night drinking? The perfect excuse to miss Sunday mass! Your wife is filing for divorce? Now you can finally hook up with that hot cousin of hers!

It had to happen some day. We were bound to lose eventually. And where else than La Anoeta, the ground where we haven’t won in more than five years. Not even Pep Guardiola, the most victorious manager in the history of our club, conqueror of worlds and slayer of enemies, the man who kicked butt from Rome to Tokyo, had ever left San Sebastian with three points in his pocket.

Doomsayer Tito, he who repeatedly warned us the team would lose sooner rather than later, looked to the skies. VV, Dani Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Busquets, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro, Messi and Iniesta were the stars he favored most. They indeed shone brightly for a good forty minutes, making any other outcome than a win seem unlikely.

So unlikely that when Gonzalo Castro scored to narrow the lead, the first thought that popped in my head was not, “what the hell is our defense playing at?”, but, “good, at least the second half won’t be boring.” Funny how things turn out. We quickly broke out with a beautiful attack that ended with Messi volleying straight at the keeper. It was to be our last shot on goal.

The players who came out of the dressing room were the same as the ones who went in, but their game wasn’t. There was no creativity, no spark and no hunger. While our hosts started the half with something to prove we were seemingly content to go through the motions. After Piqué was sent off upon collecting his second yellow*, Tito called upon Mascherano to fortify the defense, but the dynamics of the game had already changed.  Real Sociedad smelled their chance and pounced on it.

Two - Two
Two – Two

Within minutes Busquets prevented a close-ranged shot. Then Victor saved another one. It proved to be only a short delay for an equalizer that was well on its way. Soon “El Chory” Gonzalez was buried underneath his teammates for having scored his second goal of the day. Newly subbed Mascherano took the deflection that Valdés arguably should have done better to save.

Tied at two goals each, with a short half hour left to go for the win. Real Sociedad waited until the last minute to do just that.

We all knew it was coming. Yet no-one saw it coming.

No-one except one. Rewind to the start of the match. Not even a minute had passed and he was already gesticulating wildly and yelling at his defenders, the back of his head still wet from the volley that splashed behind his goal. How ironic that the one screaming his teammates into focus was Victor Valdes.

So what? We are the best team in the Milky Way. We snack on Spaniards and have Basques for breakfast. Done and dusted in forty-five, take a break and come back for rondos. Five minutes after kick-off Messi was alone with the goalkeeper. Four balons d’or are nice, but a Golden Globe is even better. Leo showed off his acting chops by aiming his shot well wide of the goal. The resemblance to Alexis Sanchez was uncanny.

Two minutes later he was back to his modest ways and scored the game’s opener. Cesc’s fabulous step over wrong footed the defense and upon receiving Iniesta’s pass our number 10 showed no forgiveness. 1-0. It was Messi’s first away goal against Real Sociedad, having scored his previous hundred-ninety-seven league goals anywhere but in La Anoeta. A bad omen for the fans clad in white shirts with blue stripes, hoping to keep their undefeated home streak against the blaugrana intact.

Give that man his "!" back!
Give that man his “!” back

Further encouragement came in the form of Pedro, who keeps showing signs of having finally shaken off his goalophobia. First he let off a rocket that exploded on the post, leaving the keeper for dead and several defenders wounded. He then put himself in the right place at the right time to tap in a Dani Alves cross. Up two goals to none after twenty-five minutes.

On any given day against any given team that would have decided the match right then and there. And on this day, against this team, we should have killed any chance they had to get back in to the game. We certainly came close. We jumped up from our bar stools cheering in anticipation when Messi lobbed the keeper. But ooohs turned to aaahs as the ball hit the post, after which it spinned towards crossing the goal line so gently the defenders were almost embarassed to clear it.

Carnaval almost came early when Pedrinho danced through the defense with a sombrero that would have made Ronnie proud. Unfortunately he was denied the chance to finish the move by none other than his own captain, who blasted the ball into the stands. As it turned out, there were three more goals to be scored. Just not where by the team we expected it.

Pique. Attracting cards like babes.
Piqué: babe card magnet

So why did we lose? Why does the same group of players we have seen run their lungs out in order to try to score the fifth goal in the dying minutes of a route, play so lethargically in the last forty-five minutes of a game they are not winning? Have the many games won stilled our hunger? Did our goalkeeper’s announcement that he no longer wants to continue at the Camp Nou effect his teammates’ focus?

Was this a one-off? It seemed that when you have been undefeated for so long, a loss raises so many questions. One week ago I wondered if we had reached our peak. I argued we could still improve. We then played a bad second half against the very same team we dominated a couple of days earlier and we now conceded three consecutive goals for the first time since back in Rijkaard’s days**… Was I wrong? Have we started too well, and are we now on the way down? Are we actually overestimating our team?

Is Bojanuary the new Hlebuary?!?!?


Ooh that losing feeling
Ooh that losing feeling

Note to self: calm down. We are still sitting comfortably on top of the league. We are still in both the Copa del Rey and the Champion’s League. We are still the most beautiful football team in the world. We knew we would lose some day. Just not right now, not just yet.

A wise man once said that every disadvantage has its advantage. Maybe losing this game is the best thing that could happen to us. A timely wake up call to remind us not to take every victory for granted. To push the players to the fullfill their incredible potential as we start the second half of the season. To alert our technical staff to our weaknesses. For our team to keep winning, and for us to appreciate when they do, one must never forget that bitter taste of loss. All credit to Real Sociedad for serving us just what we needed.


“Elk nadeel heb z’n voordeel”

Hendrik Johannes Cruijff***




*Gerard Piqué has committed 7 fouls this season and has received 5 yellow cards. Rarely does he receive an unjustifiable yellow, but they are almost always soft and he is never forgiven. Whereas the vast majority of defenders get away with murder, Gerard is one of the cleanest in the game. Still referees just love to book him.

** Theory proved unfounded by resident know-it-all nzm in the comment section below. You go girl!

***a wise man

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. Still referees just love to book him.

    He’s aristocratic, rich, tall, good-looking and partnered to a pop goddess.

    You do the math.

  2. The hoodoo of Anoeta struck again. I’m sure they use voodoo over there on Barca each time. Same thing last yr, Barca take a two goal lead, only to tie at the end. Can’t really explain it at all. We played a beauty of a match away to Malaga. This just doesn’t make any sense.

    We had to lose sooner or later and losing as a Barca fan brings the loss into perspective. That’s how good this team is. Credit to Sociedad who did play a really good game. Even before Pique got sent off, they had our defense on the rocks. Now to move on, they need to win a Malaga. That’s the way to get over that blip and without Tito as (AS) reported that he’ll be in NY for 10 days(god bless).


  3. I love how pissed off Xavi looks in that last pic. Scary!

    We always knew we were going to lose sometime. The missed chances of the first half came back to bite us in the ass. After Pique got himself sent off, Real Sociedad knew they were in with a chance and pressed as hard as they could.

    Atletico Madrid beat Levante today and Real Madrid is currently leading Valencia by 5 goals–in the first half–so I think we can say for certain that our gap has narrowed to 8 and 15 points respectively. You know what, though? That’s still damned good!

    1. I thought the same thing regarding the Xavi pic. Yup, ready to tear somebody another one. Hope they all have their game faces on for Thursday.

      And what the heck is happening over at the Mestalla?

      Last week every result was great. Barca won, EE drew, and then my Ravens won. So this weekend we lose, EE is demolishing the bats, and my Ravens have to play tonight for the honor of getting to the Super Bowl. I’m not superstitious, but I don’t like how that portends for my throwball team.

  4. It depends, if this is only one in a million, than ok, it wont affect us in a long run, but if this is a start to something bad, like losing what we build for a half of season, than it was just something that shouldn’t have happened.
    We’ll see that n the next few games.
    I’m not saying that we are bound not to lose a game, it’s just the feeling what pattern that game will give us in the second half of the season.
    For instance, you can immediately see what it did to RM and their boost up. RM are too good to give them a hope that they can catch us. I know, i know, it’s still a 15 points lead, but…

  5. For me, our undefeated streak had already ended when we lost against EE in the second leg of the Supercopa. This current defeat is no biggie either IMO. Keep calm and carry on.

    1. Ha – thought that you might be here to celebrate! 😀

      How about that?

      Brother vs. Brother in the coaching stakes!

    2. Congrats! since Steelers are no longer in the picture I am supporting our rivals now! Or at least I did last night against the Brady bunch.

      Don’t know who I’ll go for come Super Bowl.

    3. I. Hate. You.

      Although I might be rooting for the Ravens in the Super Bowl just to see Ray Lewis’s superb reaction :).

    4. Super Harbowl! Go 49ers though 😉

      Footy is my favorite sport, but my niners’ playoff run has me too distracted to be concerned about this loss. That, or the big lead our boys still have over the Madrid teams. Either way I have no doubt that Barca can bounce back appropriately. All focus will be on getting past Malaga.

  6. Haha. Cruyff said it before either a Barca or Holland match in 1998-2000. Even the tv presenters were scratching their heads back in the studio.

    1. Ha! Cruijff used to say it all the time, and he was usually right.

      If your team gets a red card, your players will work harder.

      If your squad is too small, no players will be unhappy about lack of playing time.

      If your star (false) number 9 is too short, your marauding full back will cross the ball less….uhhh wait a minute, lol!

      In other news:

      Tito is off to NYC for 10 days to start his chemo.
      Sport reports that Villa has asked Tito if he can be sold this transfer window!

      And completely unrelated:
      Sneijder is off to Galatasaray, the only club in Europe willing to meet his salary demands.

    2. I’m really surprised Galatasaray is able to afford him. Where are all the other sugar daddy clubs? I reckon they would be the one bidding for him. I thought if not them at least the Russian clubs.

      I guess they thought it would be too big of a gamble. After all he only had one world class season.

    3. Hmmm it was my first time hearing him say that then. I think it was him sitting at the Camp Nou sidelines and then when they went back to the studio (NOS2 iirc), they had a giggle.

    4. I think he is an idiot for chosing the money. He would have done well at any top club in Europe.

      Then again, Istanbul is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and the Turkish league one of the most passionate.

    5. Oh yeah it is indeed one of the modern beautiful cities but it is not really a place where the best players go to. If he didn’t want to take a pay cut, then at least play for a big team in EPL or PSG or somewhere in Russia. It’s not as low quality as MLS or Chinese or OZ or Russian league but I see Turkish league as in between like the Brazilian league.

    6. Good riddance to him and let him rot in the Turkish league forgotten and unseen. He is a mercenary with a horrible attitude. Most of the Holland team are prima donas who aren’t fit for the orange.

  7. Looks like I couldn’t have picked a better time to miss a Barca game voluntarily.

    On another note, I was wondering and if anyone has the info handy, please share, during Pep’s 4 years, how many times did a team score more than 2 goals against us?

    1. 9 times, if you include 1 Friendly and 1 Copa Catalunya match. The latter was played by the B Team and, although it was counted as a First Team match, Pep wasn’t the coach on the sideline.

      9th Dec 2008: Barça vs. Shakhtar Donetsk 2-3 CL
      1st Mar 2009: At. Madrid vs. Barça 4-3 Liga
      10th May 2009: Barça vs. Villarreal 3-3 Liga
      14th Aug 2010: Sevilla vs. Barça 3-1 Supacopa
      19th Jan 2011: Betis vs. Barça 3-1 CdR
      4th Aug 2011: Barça vs. Guadalajara 1-4 Friendly
      9th Aug 2011: Barça vs. Espanyol 0-3 Copa Catalunya played by the B team
      11th Feb 2012: Osasuna vs. Barça 3-2 Liga
      20th Mar 2012: Barça vs. Granada 5-3 Liga

    2. Uuuuuuh, what I wanna know is if I was right when I wrote that we had not conceded 3 consecutive goals during that stretch!

    3. Sorry to say but it happened. 😉

      In the Supacopa match on 14th Aug 2010, Ibra scored the 1st at 21′, then Sevilla scored 3 consecutives: Fabiano 62′, and then Kanouté with a brace at 74′ and 83′.

      In the Friendly vs. Guadalajara, Villa scored 27′, and then Guadalajara scored 4 (60′, 63′, 72′ and injury time) in the second half.

      And of course, in the Copa Catalunya match, all 3 were consecutive goals by Espanyol! 😆

      But the Supacopa match is the only one that you can really count if you only want to include recognised competitions.

      In La Liga and Champions League, the team did not concede 3 consecutive goals during Pep’s tenure.

      They twice came close:

      19th Jan 2011: Betis vs. Barça 3-1 CdR
      Molina: 2′
      Molina: 7′

      Messi: 38′
      Arzu: 45’+1

      11th Feb 2012: Osasuna vs. Barça 3-2 Liga
      Lekić: 4′
      Lekić: 22′

      Alexis: 51′
      Garcia: 56′
      Tello: 73′

    4. Thanks NZYCLOPEDIA! 😀

      Wow! 9
      i myself had thought that the figure would be in single digits.
      9. that, there, my friends is one unbelievable record.

      Forget Barca’s attacking prowess, that team is one of the best defences ever organized.

    5. Keep quiet you, sitting in Newark waiting for your flight to Barcelona. 😆

      Go have another cup of coffee. But then on second thoughts, don’t, because you’ll want to sleep on the plane so that you can hit the ground running when I meet you at the aeroport tomorrow morning!

    6. You’re absolutely correct – how did I miss that?

      20th April 2010: Milan vs. Barça 3-1 CL
      Pedro: 19′
      Sneijder: 30′
      Maicon: 48′
      Milito: 61′

      Another 3 in a row to add to the list, Lev!

  8. Not really following NFL but when I was a kid, in 90-92, I used to follow 49’ers. They had a player named Young. Number 7.

    But since 2002, I liked the Patriots, simply because of their low key entrance at the Super bowl as opposed to other team who went out one by one. From that moment on, I adopted that team. Hehe. I bought 1 nice Patriots t-shirt 2 years ago.

    1. Steve Young. Replaced Joe Montana. Young played for the 49ers in their last Superbowl in 94 and won MVP when the 49ers beat San Diego. Shit I’m old….

    2. Thanks NZM! I liked that guy but they stopped showing NFL in 93-94 so I never followed up until 2000.

      But I do see some people mention Montana or wear his jersey. Rice and a few others but I’ve never seen a Young jersey in my life or even see his name mentioned on the net so I reckoned I got his name wrong or he was just 1 or 2 season wonder.

      Was he good as well after 94?

    3. Steve Young was amazing. My favorite QB growing up. Him and Jerry Rice were my favorite NFL players. Couple that with Jim Harbaugh being the coach at Stanford while I was there, and I’m certainly rooting for the 49ers. I don’t watch too much american football anymore though, I can’t celebrate the physicality of it anymore knowing what it is doing to the players in the long term.

  9. Wow, Iniesta made the starting line up twice!

    Great review, Lev. Of course it’s inevitable that every team loses eventually, but somehow before every single game I find myself thinking, “Nah, not this one, the loss will come some other time. Not today!” I don’t know if it’s foolish or hopeful or (probably) both.

    1. Yikes! Thanks for pointing that out to me. (Cesc, get back in there! – Done!)

      What I like least about our loss was that M*drid beat Valencia 5-0. As Sid Lowe just wrote: “Emotionally, something shifted this weekend”.

  10. I’m not sure I can agree with anyone who thinks VV should’ve done better with that deflection. Masch should’ve stood in the way and taken it like a defender should. His fault entirely. I thought it was just one of those games. We didn’t miss opportunities as much as hit the woodwork twice and were unfortunate not to have put the game to bed.

    1. When it comes to goalkeeping, I have a very simple philosophy:
      If you can touch it, you can save it.

      VV got a full hand on the ball. Should have done better to keep it from crossing the line.

      This does not negate your excellent point about Mascherano. Go towards the ball to block it. Don’t turn away and stick a leg out.

    2. The way I see it with Mascherano is that the team really needs to get him into a position to score – at the right end of the pitch! Once he’s done that, he might get a taste for putting that ball into the correct net. 😆

      With a play like that, you can
      1. Stick your leg out and save it = hero, who saves the world.
      2. Not do anything = zero, as everyone questions why the inaction.
      3. Stick your leg out and deflect it = zero, as everyone looks at the play to cement the case that Masch is not a CB.

      Unfortunately for Masch, the number of times that #3 happens completely overshadows that number of times that #1 happens, and #1 with Masch happens more than #3.

    3. The problem is not that he stuck his leg out, it is that he turned away from the ball while doing so. It was a half-*ss attempt at blocking the ball.

      Masch is the player I am most disappointed with this season. Not because I think he sucks as a CB, but because he has regressed instead of improved.

      Last season he made us think we had found the long-term replacement for Puyol, despite his lack of height.

      This year he is not even that good of a shor-term replacement for Puyol. And he still hasn’t grown!

    4. I think #2 is more of a problem with Dani than Masch, although the own goals are not helping his case. Very much in agreement with Lev on the larger issue. Can one guy be the best slide tackler in the game, and also have unerring defensive positioning sense? I’m torn since I LOVE Masch, but we haven’t seen him be that decisive DM at Barca, and if he’s not as solid at CB as we need him to be, what’s his role? It makes me uncomfortable to follow that line of thinking.

    5. Yes that’s my only issue with him in the RSO match. The way he blocked the shot he kinda directed it in instead of away. (own goal).

      And yes, he regressed quite a lot. Don’t understand why. Maybe he’s unhappy playing there. Or he’s just in a funk. Nonetheless,we still need him to be our 3rd CB. Bartra is not ready to take over his spot. Bartra can’t even get any La Liga minutes yet.

      I’d say send him out on a loan. At least we know whether he can cut it next season or not and buy another defender. Problem is if we loan him now we might be short but I think if our CB’S are out, Tito would rather go with Busi or Song.

  11. I pmsl in our supermarket just now.

    There are huge signboards up in the bread section with Messi advertising Bimbo bread. It just struck me as amusing!

    Now if it was Cristiano, it would ring more true!

    1. Almost as good as the advert for a signed Messi jersey at the top of Bassam’ s RM blog last night when I popped over

    1. Despite being an Espanyol man through and through, I’ve always liked the guy. I hope he gets results there, because it would be a shame if he gets tossed out quickly without any appreciation. He’s a good coach who tries to play the game in a positive way.

  12. @mom4 bad karma leaving B-more when the Ravens go to the Superbowl. Then again…Ravens going to the Superbowl must have been the last, no, I mean LAST thing you expected when planning your trip :p

  13. According to Barcastuff Man United has been looking for a replacement for De Gea due to the Valdes situation. He’d be a great fit.
    On another note go Ravens

  14. Your weekly public service announcement:

    –Is it Mascherano’s turn on the whipping post now? Repeat after me: Smasch is a boss.

    There is more nattering about Mascherano than Puyol, who was the root of the problem on the first goal. Mascherano has not regressed. There is too much evidence to the contrary for that to be a supportable supposition. I know that like those other furriners Mascherano isn’t fashionable, but whoa. Reaaly? Remember when he was our only reliable, healthy CB earlier this season, and the work he did for the club?

    Simply put that match should have already been out of reach for RSO. If people are going to bang on Mascherano, and Valdes for getting a hand on it and not stopping it, Pique should be in the crosshairs for being stupid, Puyol for being a headless chicken too much of the time, Fabregas for being invisible, and Messi for missing an open net with a too-casual finishing attempt.

    That’s a pretty long line before you get to Mascherano.

    –There were some comments in a previous post about not being able to criticize certain players, and one that I don’t agree with. When people criticize a player these days, it goes crazy. A bad play becomes a reason to question a player’s existence. That is wrong.

    As everyone knows, to my view EVERYONE is fair game, from Messi to Dos Santos. When people critique criticism, it is usually from the viewpoint of fairness. If X player is a liability for Y play, then why is Z player exempted from criticism for a crucial error? Someone on Twitter said that Messi has earned the right to make mistakes. To my view that was justification for the virulent double standard that plagues discussion of this team.

    –This club, filled with wrecks the likes of Song, Mascherano, Sanchez, etc is 8 points up on second place in the Liga, and 15 up on third place. Sid Lowe can blather about psychological shifts all he likes. This is a simple math question at this point in time.

    –Criticism, like form, is fleeting. If the team spanks Malaga to advance in the Copa, then takes care of Valencia on the weekend, party streamers will again be shooting from the bandwagon.

    1. Sid Lowe van Blather

      New nickname for Sid! 😛

      (You should definitely keep that iPad, Kxevin, it makes your comments much more interesting!)

    2. That was banged out on my Galaxy S2, smartypants. With coooold hands after a brisk stroll in -2 degree temperatures. Neener. And because my thumbs are so fat, I always screw up the “c.”

    3. Hey. I could’ve sworn Kxevin’s comment ended with a neener. But now there is another line after it. You guys can even edit comments? I thought it was just the post and for comments straight update delete like those we had during the invasion from Arsenal fans.

    4. I was more of the opinion Dani was at fault for the 1st goal. He rotated to far over in the middle of the pitch when it was already covered. Thus over exposing his area and allowing Castro to shoot without anyone in front of him. How many times have we seen this this year. Dani’s side of the pitch with acres of space to shoot and score. Who was he expecting to cover for him? He’s the last line of defense and you CANNOT rotate that far away from your position.

    5. Alves thought that he had to cover Puyol since Puyol tried to cover Pique who went too far up. Sometime in the past I commented that our midfielders, Xavi and Iniesta being too slow to help out the defense and in that match it happened again. Maybe their tired, I don’t know but sometimes Busi can’t do it on his own.

    6. Exactly. So when apportioning “fault,” where does the finger fall. Usually on the least favored player. So some will say “Dammit, Dani!” Others will say “Puyol was scampering about,” still others will say “Dammit, Pique!”

      Rare is the goal conceded by this club that isn’t a team effort. Even when people were ripping Adriano for not being “strong enough” on that Malaga equalizer, why not also ask why two players were covering Weligton, who isn’t exactly an offensive force.

      It’s why I always say “team goals,” both for and against.

    7. Mmmm I disagree with some of what you are saying here, brother.

      The more I look back at the equalizer, the more I feel Valdes is to blame for that goal. And having gotten so much of the ball when trying to bat it out, I’d bet my life that he was thinking “damn, I should have had that one” as he was picking it up out of net.

      That does not excuse Mascherano’s weak attempt at blocking the ball, Puyol’s positioning on the first goal, Piqué’s yellows or Messi’s two misses.

      I think saying Mascherano was our only healthy CB (not counting Bartra) earlier this season would be a more accurate statement. Our defense was quite horrendous at the time, and Javier screwed the pooch on more than one occasion. I personally feel sMasch played better the previous season. He certainly hasn’t improved, which to me is a disappointment. I’m not saying he sucks, but maybe I had set my hopes too high.

      This season our defense got better (somewhat) once Puyol returned from his latest injury, although one could easily argue that case that our capita has also been regressing the last two years. Age dislocated elbows and such do take their toll.

      Lastly I would agree that nobody is exempt from criticism, not even he who is arguable the best player the world has ever seen. But given he has one of the highest conversion rates in Europe, to critize Messi for missing a shot or two is quite harsh.

      Also people are allowed to critize one or two players without listing all the players who made mistakes or should have played better, lol!

      Let’s hope we indeed spank Malaga AND Valencia this week. We need to get back into our groove.

    8. No. Criticizing Messi isn’t harsh. No more or less harsh than any other player, as he is indeed any other player on the Barça squad. And that is irrespective of conversion rates, or any other statistic that people can trot out to exempt him.

      If we are going to exempt Messi from missing a shot or two because of his high conversion rate, should we exempt Sanchez when he misses because of the number of kilometers that he runs during a match?

      This is what I mean. When we start parsing criticism, it becomes increasingly unfair. The fairest way (and the root of the controversy regarding my match ratings) is that each match is its own universe, and you judge a player within that universe. Just as Sanchez’s misses were painful in the Malaga match, Messi’s misses were painful against RSO. Same deal.

      Players get picked on, and it isn’t fair. No way, no how. Xavi wasn’t himself either, spraying balls hither and yon when he wasn’t making his typically sublime passes. The only player who was up to his standard for the entire match was Iniesta, but even him, just once I wish he would get into position and shoot the damned ball, instead of trying to beat just one more defender and having the play fall apart.

      My point is that players get picked on. And it seems to be Mascherano’s turn. And that isn’t right.

      Oh. The defense didn’t get better because Puyol returned. He hasn’t been anything approaching his usual self. The defense got better because the midfield got better, and opposing offenses had increasingly less opportunities to get AT said defense. Big difference. Compare the early-season headless chicken midfield with the calm, controlled midfield of today. That is the biggest difference in the defense. Not Puyol.

    9. I see what you are saying. Nevertheless players will get critized, and just because people don’t equally critize all players worthy of such in one post or comment or match does not necessarily make that criticism less valid.

      I still prefer the Puyol-Piqué partnership over any featuring Masch as I think that this season it has given our team more stability (though as your argument suggests that might be entirely coincidentally).

      As it stands you make a great point about our defense, our midfield and Puyol. Fully agree that our capita has not been anything close to his usual self. Tbh I don’t think he was last year, either.

      Here’s hoping you are right and that Javier will turn out the boss I thought he was becoming last season.

    10. That was me Kxevin. I speak for myself here, but I was just complaining about Thiago’s error. I didn’t even comment on him as a player. He gave the ball away. It’s a fact. And I can’t remember anyone going to the extent of asking him to be dropped or even sold. We love our players but when they make a mistake I don’t see a problem in pointing it out.

      There is a difference in criticizing an action and performance of the match and criticizing the player in general.

      I was just about to ask you to stop using the iPad for good cause you clearly aren’t good with the auto-correction thingy.

      Try out Swiftkey 3 on your Droid. It’s really useful especially if you type the same sentences numerous times a day like me.

    11. Oh ya, and I am speaking for myself here because I can’t remember exactly what the other 200 comments were about. The only thing I criticized sMasch for was the way he moved his body in blocking the shot. He turned his body in a way that it kinda guided/directed the ball towards goal instead of away.

    12. It wasn’t just you, so please don’t feel my comment was in any way aimed at you. I agree that there is a difference between critique of an action and using that action as a club to bash a player, which happens all too often.

    13. So let me get this straight. Are you saying we are not allowed to question players’ roles, form, or future unless we do the same for every other player on the squad, and in the same post? I don’t think Mascherano was at fault for that goal, but again, the larger question is whether he’s a safe bet at starting CB for Barca. How is that not a valid (and interesting) topic for discussion?

    14. You don’t have it straight. It’s a simple cry for fairness, and understanding that every player makes mistakes. For me, Mascherano is a safer bet than Puyol at starting CB right now.

      My sole point was that Mascherano seemed to me to be the whipping boy of the moment, where other players never have their turn on the post.

      The other thing is that a discussion of Mascherano’s error grew into a broader thing about his fitness as a Barça CB. To my view, the two are not at all related.

    15. Well that seems more reasonable. I was not equating the error and the broader question, but when we give up 3 goals (NOT due to Masch), and we’ve been giving up goals all season, it seems like a good time to talk defense, even if its in fact a midfield problem.

      Not sure I agree about Masch vs. Puyol, Puyol’s positional sense at CB has been developed over many years, but it’s an interesting debate.

      And again, Masch IS a beast, but like Lev, I’m not sure he’s the future at CB. If he is, I think we should look to buy versatile 2nd stringers (Adriano, Song) and let some Barca babies develop. If he’s not, then we should use our transfer budget to get a top tier CB. And we still might need a replacement for Dani (unless Montoya is ready for the big time on a regular basis, he might be with Alba marauding down the right). Adriano has been phenomenal, but is still susceptible to injury. You might disagree with some of these observations, but I don’t think any of them are crazy or vindictive.

      Like you, and everyone here (except Bassam!), I want to see us win everything, always, forever.

    16. I’m not sure if you,re playing Devil’s Advocate in the above comment Kxevin, but if you’re not I have to say I can’t believe you think Mascherano is any kind of safe bet in our defence, never mind better than Puyol.

      I’ve got a longer history than most in pointing out his deficiencies ( not from a gloating point of view but more concern for our defence) but it has gradually become obvious to almost everyone that although he plays his heart out every game his temperament and positional sense as a CB are flawed and have cost us big time. Graham Hunter, whose views I rate, reckoned that one of Pep’s biggest mistakes at the tail end of last season was not recognising that Pique was a much better bet than Mascherano and that it cost us. Yes, I know we can trace back a lot of goals and apportion blame to a variety of people but Masch very often is the catalyst for the creation of a goal against by a vital chase out of defence to win an irretrievable ball or a positional error on offside. Even last weekend where I thought he played really well, in the first minute he dashed out unnecessarily to win an unwinnable header and created a real goalscoring opportunity for Malaga.

      From last year, when he played a large part in losing goals in the vital games which cost us two trophies ( well, okay, maybe the league was beyond us anyway) to this year when there was an important error in quite a few games he has proved himself unreliable in that position.

      For me, and in the end it is all about opinions and I respect yours as you know, he is not a Barca standard CB and is nowhere near as effective as Puyol in that position. There were several moments in the last game where Puyol and Pique moved as one to play the opposition offside or cover for each other. They just know what they are doing. We have been able to relax more while viewing the game despite the fact that Tito has made the game more of a lottery by insisting on a more adventurous approach.

      Mascherano needs to be played in a position where he can make a mistake without it resulting in a goal. He can go to ground attempting to make a tackle or get a position wrong without it costing us. Then we get the benefit of his ball winning ability. As a sub for Busi he would be decent in difficult games as he unsettles the opposition, probably more than song for me, although song’s footwork is better.

      I didn’t see a noticeable improvement in the midfield when Puyol returned. I’ve not seen a better midfield often this year for reasons outlined above. What I saw in Puyol was someone who could read the game brilliantly, knew when to go to ground and when not and someone who worked well with his partner. I know Puyol can’t play every game any more but I want him and Pique playing the big ones.

  15. i adore your defence of masche. I totally agree. I attribute a small dip in masche’s form to lack of regular partners (it sounds obvious).
    I feel Tito should signal internally that Masche and Pique are first choice pair with puyol and bartra as backups and standins during rotations. I don’t think Puyol would have a problem with that.
    Whenever masche has played, he has been very effective at breaking the forward press with his intelligent passes to midfield. Well he was pretty good in the 3-1 defeat of malaga just a few days back. He should have started over puyol yesterday considering their pressing. However i attribute this loss to lack of hunger on part of entire team. Nobody wanted the ball enough and wanted a shortcut to a win. Aint gonna happen.

    Masche has also been heading a few corners away. However he has committed a few errors this year and would need to curb it down.

    I am all with supporting alexis, song and masche. Hope we turn it around against malaga.

  16. In other news …. (from da Twitters, via @barcastuff)

    Abidal is in last stage of his pre-season. Will get medical green light this week. After that, needs several more weeks to be match-fit [md]

    1. All 25 squad players out on the practice pitch for the 2nd day in a row.

      That must be another record!

      We just need our Tito back now.

    2. I wouldn’t mind seeing some Cuenca against Malaga. I miss his can opener effect on that right wing. It will be interesting to see how he fits into Vilanova’s plans. He’s a delight of a player, more promising for me than Tello.

    3. I wouldn’t mind seeing Cuenca(can opener) on the right, Tello(the gazelle) on the left, with Messi in the middle.

      Most of the others will have to play defense since neither Tello, nor Cuenca contribute significantly to that effect.

  17. Oh my.. Pique is naming his son Milan. Could it be that he followed Beckham’s footsteps in naming his child after that place it was conceived? I’m referring Brooklyn.

    1. Speaking of apparel, can you get older Barca kits at the big flea market in Barcelona, or in some of the vintage clothing places there?

    2. So much the better, I just don’t want Qatar on the chest. My favorite was the yellow away with the vertical blaugrana stripe, I think that was the year of the treble (septuple?). That’s probably a popular one.

      The tequila sunrise one is growing on me though, winning away does that.

    3. I love our away kit, but maybe that’s because I live in a tropical country!

      Speaking of…does anyone feel our deal with Turkish Airlines got torpedoed by QF passing the sponsorship to Qatar Airways next season? Nice piece of business, Rosell!

    4. Check some of the stores like Carrefour and Al Campo in their sports clothing sections. They carry Barca gear for the “locals” and sometimes have shirts without sponsor logos on them.

      There’s a big Carrefour in the Glories shopping centre next to Elcants.

    1. Would surely cause a headache in our finances but I think it’s better for the whole Liga in general, esp. the smaller clubs like Levante, Rayo etc.

    2. Can’t say I’m thrilled. Although I recognize the Liga can’t go on like this, I don’t want us to lose ground vs the EPL’s powerhouses…

      I would love it if they brought back the 3 foreigners rule of the pre-EU days. It’s the best thing that could happen to European football, actually.

  18. Baby Pique is called: Milan Pique Mebarak:)born at 22:30. Congrates to the new parents. I’m sure the baby is gonna be a heart breaker in the looks department.

  19. now they are saying abidal is gonna be 3-4 days in the hospital for tests! is this a normal precaution before they give him the ‘green light’, or did he regress somehow?

  20. Every week, Barca TV does a round-up on how each of the club’s teams have played in their respective weekly games.

    They then put together a video of the top goals for the week, and the club’s website is now putting these online.

    Check out the latest, especially the #1 goal with Iker Merino from Benjamin C:

    His bicycle kick would make Ronaldinho proud!

    Lovely to see how all the goal-scorers immediately turn around to acknowledge the assisting player.

    1. It didn’t look like he kicked the boy. He kicked the ball which was under the boy. Nonetheless, Hazard shouldn’t have done that.

      The boy is 17 btw. It was his last match as a ball boy and he claimed before the match that he will be stationed at the goal side which will mean that it is the time wasting area.

      Pretty petty by the boy to do that but Hazard shouldn’t have done what he did. Makes them both childish.

  21. Pretty quiet in here yesterday…

    Casillas is injured for 6-8 weeks. If Barça wins tonight we will face an Iker-less M*drid (as will Manchester Utd!)

    Interesting dilemma for Mourinho.

    Only a couple of rounds earlier he tried to have people believe that Adán was better than Iker. If he asks for another GK this transfer window he would look like a right idiot. And Even if he does, Florentino might not be inclined to give him what he wants anyway.

  22. I want Cuenca to stay but since the club prefers him to go on loan, I’d prefer him to go to Valencia. Ajax is a few steps below.

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