Malaga v Barça, aka “The preview that really isn’t”

Ha! You all are probably wondering why I don’t write more previews. It’s simple. I’m not very good at them.

And yet, this match is worth saying something about, for a great many reasons. So rather than getting all prose-y and whatnot, in bullet points, here’s my half-assed preview.

Adversity?: To think that this is a viable notion requires being a cule. Because is it only in that exalted state of soul-crushing paranoia that you can think this club suffers from even a hint of adversity. Let’s have a gander, shall we? Leading the Liga by 8 and 15 points over the 2nd and 3rd place squads, respectively. It has the best player on the planet, scampering about. It has the best midfield on the planet. It’s hard to think of anything at all bad to say about this squad, and yet ….

“Lawd, lawd, we all gon’ die!” Adversity my sun-kissed tush! A draw in the Copa and a loss in the Liga at a ground at which Barça have an awe-inspiring record of futility? This is what passes for adversity in cule-land. All I can say is knock it off, and quit ginning crap up. People don’t beat this club. This club loses matches. As long as the club doesn’t decide to lose or draw today, it will be advancing to a shitstorm of a semi-final against That Team.

Let’s pause a sec to parse that, while everybody in the world says “That arrogant douchebag. How dare he say that teams can’t beat Barça!” Sorry, but it’s what I believe. If you look at every adverse result this season, it’s come from silly mistakes, inattention (like the cat who stops playing with the mouse, only to have the mouse get up and run away) or just plain lack of concentration.

But this will be a good test for the squad, because all that Malaga will have to do is leave with what they came with: a 0-0, to advance. What’s going to happen? Dunno. It’s the Copa, after all, and for anyone who doesn’t know my views on the Copa, read on.

Dump the Copa: I know that the Copa is part of the team’s preparation and peaking program, that has it in peak condition going into the serious part of the Champions League, but you know what? I don’t particularly care about the Copa. I only see it as two draining matches for a secondary cup that is useful only for making phrases such as “Year of the Six Cups” have a nice ring to them. For a team that is serious about the Liga and Champions League, the Copa strikes me as a big pain in the ass.

Draw to Malaga, and a potential boil will be lanced.

Not that such a thing will happen: I think the club is going to come out today and get in that ass, mostly because of the psychological effects and the guilt attendant to being responsible for cules leaping, en masse, off cliffs like so many doom-seeing lemmings. Plus the players, to a man, hate losing. They aren’t used to it, and it makes them angry. Never bet against angry sprites.

What of Malaga?: First, they have two key players out. Second, they are an excellent side. Third, they aren’t as good as Barça. The 3-1 win at their house was more indicative of reality than the 2-2 draw at the Camp Nou. Sorry, Malaga supporters, but you know that’s true. So today, I expect a focus borne of a team that knows it can afford to drop points in the Liga, a club that also knows it will be home for the weekend match. I expect fireworks. I have much respect for Malaga, but I think that Barça is the best team in the world, and won’t be playing the second-best team in the world until the Copa semi-finals.

Surprises?: If Malaga is smart, they will come out and attack, even if that goes against only about a zillion years of football “knowledge.” But if you give Barça the ball and let them keep it, you die. Simple as that. Teams have had success by coming out and playing football, rather than sitting back and trying to nick a result, because to do that, requires luck and mistakes. Getting both is rare. Getting both in quantities sufficient to topple the best club in the world is rarer still.

Players and the scorecard: For me, I like a starting lineup of Pinto, Montoya, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Thiago, Fabregas, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro and Sanchez, with Messi under orders to unleash the defense. I think that this lineup offers attacking force and is well equipped to take advantage of a Malaga side that will be sitting back, because that’s what it is going to do. It’s so hard for coaches to get religion, even when logic is dictating it. So we will have the ball. A lot. And that means having players who are active, and making runs into the Malaga box. Early and often. It also means that long shots are going to be important, which is why my left back is the man possessed of El Kabonng! and is unafraid to use it. But make no mistake, this isn’t about tactics, formations and whatnot. It’s about the best team in the world deciding to play like it. If it does, no worries. If it doesn’t, for me, still no worries.

Prediction: 1-2 Barça, and a trip to hell in the semi-finals against RM. And no, that won’t be two Classics, because I reserve the Classic moniker for Liga encounters. There are only two per year. The others are just, as I see them, blizzards of bile.

And that’s that.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. If we win this, then when will the semi finals be? I really really wish, it will not come anywhere around the second liga classico. I am scared about the pressure that will have on the players. If the semi final dates are not fixed already, I hope the Spanish FA, will show some common sense to fix different dates sensibly.

    I really dont think Messi is going to be unleashed on the defence, Kxevin. (When Messi played like that, every body wanted him to pass more and dribble less, and now he rarley does those brilliant runs, as if he has been told to not do so.I would love to see that old Messi, even if it means he scores less goals – selfish I am) But he is growing, and need to be protected from dangerous tackles and injuries. I think our coaching staff thinks , a Messi who is only 50% of the old Messi, is good enough for us to win, and better have him like this, rather than getting injured. As he is always marked by more than 2 players these days, and more than half the fouls on him are never called, club will want him to be protected. So they wont ask Messi to go at cent percent.

    1. 1st leg is the 29th at Mordor where Messi will have a chance to throw the ring into the fiery pits of hell! 2nd leg is a MONTH later on Feb. 26th! To me, that is ridiculous! However, to the RFEF it’s common and completely sane.

  2. Thanks for the preview.

    Mom4, respective spouses and I will be at Flaherty’s Irish Pub alternatively sipping beverages to calm our nerves and hiding our faces in our hands whenever we concede a corner or a freekick that’s close enough to be goal-able.

    I think that the pitch is going to be a big part of this match tonight if the Malaga groundsmen have not been able to get it right.

    They replaced the pitch not long ago because it had been invaded by a fungus, but after last week’s draw to Celta, coach Pellegrini said that the pitch surface was like a skating rink.

    It is the same pitch on which Barca won 2 weeks ago, but Pellegrini thinks that it’s got worse since then.

    1. Thanks nzm. Thats kind of scary.

      Would you know anything about this. Out of our love for Barca and the city, my wife and I are thinking about moving to Barcelona for at least an year or two. She currently is a theatre teacher in an International school and is actually on the process of applying to similar schools in Barcelona. Do you have any idea of how well these schools pay?. I will understand, if you cant answer this. thanks.

    2. I’m sorry, fotobirajesh, I wouldn’t know the answer to that. The best that I can suggest is if you look at some of the Spain/Barcelona forums online and ask your questions there. Hopefully there will be people who can answer your queries.

  3. I’m feeling a narrow, tense win. Don’t think there’ll be a blowout. The pitch is going to hamper our game for sure.

    As for Casillas being out for six weeks, I don’t think Madrid should be too panicked about losing their backup keeper 😈

  4. Dump the Copa: I know that the Copa is part of the team’s preparation and peaking program, that has it in peak condition going into the serious part of the Champions League, but you know what? I don’t particularly care about the Copa. I only see it as two draining matches for a secondary cup that is useful only for making phrases such as “Year of the Six Cups” have a nice ring to them. For a team that is serious about the Liga and Champions League, the Copa strikes me as a big pain in the ass.

    It’s times like this that make me think of the these words of wisdom:

    I don’t mind saying that I have been pretty silly over these past few years, something that knocked me over the head in two parts, if you will:

    The first was someone Tweeting to me that he believed Guardiola’s record is diminished when people count the lesser trophies among his haul, that really only the Liga and Champions Leagues are the ones that Matter.

    The second was the quote, from Guardiola, above.

    What’s made me silly is realizing, only now, that when you are striving for perfection, to be the absolute best all the time, every trophy is one of the ones that Matter.

    I have already prattled on about the rare, wonderful state of grace that is winning. What I have only of late come to realize is that maybe for Pep Guardiola and our beloved club, winning is winning, silver is silver and when a club is striving for perfection, to be the absolute best that it can, silver is a mark, an acknowledgement that for that time period in that particular competition, that club did its job — to be the best. And for that club, there can be no such thing as meaningless, or diminished silver.



    1. Still true. But I think this is a very different situation. It’s already been messed up by losing the SuperCopa. And I still don’t rate the Copa, even as, like I said, it’s really lovely adorning a 2014 soci ID card along with two or three other trophies. Perfection is already therefore unattainable, so dump the Copa.

      I see this team as a lot more fragile as well, compared to the Guardiola teams. I don’t think this team can and will win everything (well, it already hasn’t if you count SuperCopa). I think the absolute best it can do will be Liga and Champions League, tasks made infinitely easier by not having to deal with all the attendant crap of meeting that team twice.

      So yeah. Dump the Copa.

    2. Yes, strive to win everything, always, even friendlies. Not saying we should jump off bridges when they lose, but if there’s a scoreboard, it matters.

    3. More fragile than last year? Not sure what you mean by that. Physically & and in terms of sheer numbers the team is in much better shape than last season. Psychologically? Well they did lose the Supercopa, but since then have dropped only 5 points in the league, and topped their CL group. Doesn’t seem that fragile to me. A couple of players haven’t been at their best, but some have improved dramatically (Pique, Cesc, Pedro), and at least one of our new signings (Alba) has made an enormous difference to the team. Fragile?

    4. If you had asked me at the beginning of the season I would have would have agreed as far as not wanting to meet that team more than necessary. Fed up with clasicos.

      However… If we win tonight we will meet them in the Copa semifinal. I heard (could somebody confirm this?) that that would give Madrid the following schedule:

      Barça, Man U, Depor (away), Barça, Barça, Man U.

      All this without Casillas.

      Would it not be in our best interest to heap us much pressure as possible on our rivals at this point?

      The chance of actually repeating the 2008/2009 treble might turn out to be a dream, but with a team like ours we should reach for the stars.

  5. Something tells me this might turn into a MESSI affair, yeah, things might get really MESSI that the tornado that hit Arsenal@campnou in 2010, either way, win draw or loose, barca till I go six feet!

  6. I love it. This is one of my favorite events in January every year. Around December we have all the usual events marking the passage of time–for me, Christmas, then new year’s, and shortly after, as surely as the sun rises in the east, Kevin’s annual “dump the copa speech.”

    I love this blog.

    1. Hahahahhahaha that had me laughing out loud.

      I could give an F about the Copa…well, maybe a little f not a big one…

      At least we can say “well at least we one the Cup last year”… (and doesn’t that make you feel great? Not really)

      I would actually add to Josep’s remark above:

      It’s useless unless we win the league and the CL, too! When that happens it’s friggin awesome!

    2. Don’t make me come over there, Colby! I can’t help it. I’m paranoid that way, and always think of a finite amount of resources in the energy fields of our sprites.

  7. Pinto, Alves, Piqué, Cesc, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Mascherano, Sergio, Pedro and Jordi Alba

    That, kids, is a serious lineup.

  8. I’ve got an uneasy feeling that we are gonna get knocked out. Hope that’s not the case. Vamos Barca!!!

  9. Malaga are having a frighteningly easy time opening up the Barca defense in counter.

    A penalty could have easily been given against Pique just now.

    [Is there a newly enforced wait time between posts on this blog? I was just told I was posting too quickly, 8 minutes after my previous post.]

  10. Malaga are for real. I’m more convinced than ever that they and Barca are also on a collision course in the Champions League.

    1. I felt Iniesta overthought the shot for a very small fraction of a second. Thats the achilles heel of being a midfielder. They will always look for options, compared to a striker who always has the goal in their mind.

  11. Wow fantastic game. A classic cup game. Malaga are playing their heart out, and so are Barca. These are the games I love.

    1. Now that Barca have the two away goals needed, Malaga will let it all hang out. No need for them to be cautious any longer. Should make for a more open game.

  12. Iniesta brings the expression “tiptoeing through the tulips” to mind. Either that, or “stepping through a mine field.” I love his outrage to the ref afterwards about not getting a foul call. The ref probably just said, “Ini, you were doing just fine.”

    The Malaga defense is earning its pay today.

    1. Yeah, he took that really beautifully. But note how he took the time to place the shot. Even though he’s a striker.

  13. I would give MOTM to Wellington. He has saved Malaga bacon time and again with his last ditch efforts.

  14. Iniesta plays his heart out today. Cesc did some good work but also some missed pass. Messi, so far no good.

    1. Messi has been marked very heavily today. I would not fault him for trying. Several of the Wellington tackles kept him from getting on the scoresheet.

    2. That wellington guy is as evil as Pepe. He is the second dirties player in the La Liga. I don’t believe his stamp on Cesc was accidental. He looked at Cesc’ thigh before he stamped.

    3. Yeah, he was on clamp down by the defense, but I thought he was working his socks off all game.

    4. Actually he was more active than he has been for most of the season – he tried a lot of dribbles that often did not succeed but at least showed intent, which as been lacking as if lately. He missed three chances that he otherwise buries with ease, and I am not sure how happy the coaching staff was with the amount of dribbling he did, but as I said, the activity level was higher than usual, which is good.

    1. I think so. There is going to be pandemonium in the dressing room. But Thiago can add to the defence. He usually ends up being a good partner to the defensive midfielder.

    2. Probably a smart call that should have come from the coaches. It was only a matter of time before someone got hurt in this game. To many lose fouls not carded IMO.

  15. A laugher in the end (thanks partly to the Away goals rule), but that first half was top stuff indeed.

  16. I think we played fantastically. I also think Malaga did too. They gave us a run for our money. I was getting irritated at the ref for not calling blatant fouls by Malaga’s midfield and d-backs. Some of the holding, shirt pulling, cynical stamps were going to end up with someone injured and out for a period of time. A little disappointed we didn’t finish several chances we had. Messi missed 2, Cesc missed 2-3 that he really should’ve finished, as well as Iniesta missing a couple sitters. Their goalie did really well to keep them out, but you have to be more clinical when your 5 yards in front of goal. The game should’ve been done and dusted and I should’nt of had to do deep breathing exercises to calm down! Xavi, again was brilliant. He is the master maestro!

  17. One of my all time favorite matches was the Barca vs Malaga in the March of 2009 . Eto’o Henry and Messi formed the trident up front. Eto’o and Henry did their famous salute to the fans. Here are the highlights of that match.


    We do not have forwards of the same caliber now. But, Barcelona were beautiful today.

    1. umm, we do not play the same way anymore. Villa and Pedro are equally, if not more, capable as Henry and Eto’o.

    2. I love Pedro but comparing him to Eto’o is way too much imo!
      Eto’o is one of the best pure finishers I have seen and Pedro is way too young for that!

    3. I just watched the CL final in Rome. I don’t really miss Eto’o to be honest. I’m glad that we have Pedro now. Better touch, better passer of the ball, knows how to dribble. Just an all round better player.

      If Pedro is a more selfish player like a striker like Eto’o should be, I bet he would score as much of not more than Eto’o.

    4. I watch most of my games on the TV, and have been since Rijkaard became coach. For me, the Eto’o Henry Messi time was the most exciting time to watch Barcelona. I just knew when they would step on the pitch that I would see spectacular goals, and they never disappointed me.

      Ronaldinho was magical too, but towards the end of his stint at Camp Nou, I had lost all my respect for him.

      I guess, it is Pedro and Cesc now, and in comparison, they are both better ball players than Henry and Eto’o, but there is something about the finishing of Henry and Eto’o that was magical for me.

      Henry would have probably stayed and done well at Barca but for Ibra. After Ibra came, he was just too slow to make anything of the runs and interplay that Henry was doing on the left of the pitch. Henry would time and again run to the by line, only to find Ibra still ambling into the box, and his crosses into the box would be useless. Ibra also never ended up supporting Henry up front, and that is why he ended up being a lonely figure up front on the left, and then he left Camp Nou.

      I always dream of having a great striker at Barca like Eto’o, somebody like Falcao, who is hard working and is a great finisher of the ball.

    5. Yes I totally agree with you in that they were the most exciting trident. They were all different. But they have this swagger and they demanded respect from opponents and they fear the trio.

      Now it’s more effective, well at least it looks like it since they’re being really cautious with the ball except Messi.

      I thought Henry was not bad in his last year too. Helped a hell lot in defense but I guess he just didn’t suit our playing style anymore. I would love to have him back though. Can you imagine him on LW with Alba and Iniesta behind him.

    6. Thanks for sharing the video. What a great match that way. And yeah, the salute at the end made my day.

  18. Hello everyone Longtime Reader very rare commenter. I am trying to plan a rip roarin in and out trip (with a possibility of being extended) to Barcelona to catch the Feb 10th match between Barca and Getafe. This is the first time that I will be seeing Barca and I chose this in hopes of seeing a full and fit squad. The problem is that I am having a hard time getting a reasonable ticket for the match. I went to the official web site to purchase one, but it will not allow me to get a ticket for whatever reason. I do not know if it is because I am in the US or not. I have looked at other sites but they are way more expensive than the prices on the fc barclona web site. Just trying to do this on a simple budget. If there is anyone who could be helpfull in this situation I would be sooooooooo grateful.
    What are the possibilities of getting decent tickets on match day?

    1. In the past the blogger NZM has made several recommendations to get tickets. Here are some of them.

      Camp Nou is a huge stadium, and unless it is a Champions League match like the one against AC Milan, or the Classico, or Atletico Madrid match, there are always tickets available.

      Do not buy tickets from scalpers or dubious sources online.

      You can buy tickets at Camp Nou on match day or before.

      There is also a ticket outlet in La Rambla, may be others, but this one is pretty popular with tourists.

      Be very careful of pick pocketers.

      Enjoy your game, take some pictures, and share your experience here.

  19. Man, Malaga is the real deal.
    I really hope they sort out their finances, buy the players Pellegrini wants and make it to the CL next year. I have loved all his teams and admire the way he gets his teams to play crisp one touch football.

    Barca’s game was a little frustrating to watch until pique’s goal when we calmed down. There were too many wayward passes, poor off the ball movement and too much dwelling on the ball. ‘just pass it already’ I was yelling.

    Also Am I the only one who feels that Xavi’s game struggles a bit in Tito’s system?

  20. What. A. Game. This is what we pay to see. Even though im pretty sure it is bad for my blood pressure and general wellbeing these are the games I love the most. Much more entertaining than the 5-0 drubbings where the opposition barely touch the ball (although those are nice too!).

    Credit to Malaga. They played a fantastic game. Cant say I liked their hack and hope tactics but I cant blame them for that, you do what you have to do to win, its the refs job to call fouls. With that in mind it should be noted that BOTH their goals came off the back of counters that originated from fouls by Malaga. The first a blatant handball and the second a pretty disgraceful stomp that probably should have seen a red. Ah well, shit happens and our boys just pick themselves up and come again, and again, and again. I think that is the main difference between last season and this one. Last year those poor refereeing decisions seemed to cost us, this year the players just say ok well that sucks looks like we will have to score again..

    I know this wasnt a classic Barca performance in terms of possession and control, but taking into account the state of the pitch we were playing on and the way the opposition played I thought we did exceptionally well, especially the second half. I have yet to see a team press us as well as Malaga did in the first half today, they reminded me of us a few seasons ago when Guardiola first started his reign. Its great to see, even if it makes it harder for us to play, because win or lose, thats the way I believe the game should be played.

    I am on the fence about the Copa. If we didnt have such a commanding lead of the league I would say dump it, and had we lost last night I certainly wouldnt have lost any sleep over it, still I find it hard to ever want us to lose, ever, in any game. I imagine, and I hope, the players feel the same.

  21. This our run of games starting 20th Feb:

    Milan Away
    Sevilla Home
    Madrid Home (Cup)
    Madrid Away (League)
    Depor Home
    Milan Home

    Bring it on!

  22. Found this comment at Guardian. Had me in stitches just thinking about Casillas driving with 1 hand to the hospital.

    Furthermore as if Perez press conference isn’t enough to point out Marca’s unfounded allegations, Relano from AS tries to add fuel to the fire by writing an opinion piece on Casillas having to drive himself to the hospital using only 1 hand. This anti-Mourinho campaign is really getting absurd.

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