blitzen awards, the El Morbico edition

Jordi Roura surveys the pitch in advance of the game.
Jordi Roura surveys the pitch in advance of the game.

They’re back! You didn’t think I could let a Clasico Morbico go by without a nice fresh round of blitzen awards, did you? Oh, you know you missed, them, really.

Golden Kneecap Award: Xabi Alonso, who successfully used his Cloak of Classiness to conceal several quite nasty kicks, or rather knees, to the nether regions of Barça players-including Iniesta, who tumbled over and looked around with a face of complete disbelief. Alonso made it all the way to the 89th minute of the match before picking up a yellow card. Classy.

Stream Of Consciousness Award: According to some accounts, Tito has been having trouble finding Barça matches on television while he has been in New York, so he has had to resort to dodgy internet streams just like the rest of us! I don’t know about you, but it makes me feel closer to him knowing he is also screaming in despair when his feed cuts out just as Messi gets clear through on goal…

MOTMOTMOI Award: I have two deserving winners, here. First, Pinto! He had an excellent game, IMO. He looked sharp, made big saves, and overall showed why the club chose to extend his contract for another year. Yes, he did have one Pintocalypse moment, but if he didn’t go walkabout at least once per game, he just wouldn’t be Pinto, would he? The second half of the award goes to Varane, who at the tender age of 19 had an absolutely enormous game. I struggle to remember anything he did wrong. If he can manage to play at a consistently high level, I have no doubt he will be terrorizing our forwards for years to come.

Pique Memorial Gilded Icepack: Usually it’s our lanky CB picking up this kind of injury, but on Wednesday it was Pinto doing the honours, when Dani Alves raced back to the goalline to clear a dangerous ball and slid in toe first…smack into Pinto’s family jewels! I’m a woman, and even I flinched and yelped in sympathy. Hope there is no permanent damage!

Trollhattan Memorial TOTM Award: Sadly, I have to give this award to the crowd at the Santiago Bernabeu, large sections of which (no, not everyone, of course) spent most of the match hurling racist abuse at Dani Alves. Graham Hunter said in his column that it was about the worst he had ever experienced. Which leads to:

Wizard of Oz Award: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” Real Madrid and their media mouthpieces attempt to distract attention from the racist chants directed against Dani Alves by engaging in a smear campaign against Messi. Enough said about that. Oh, except for this:

Yes, We Have No Bananas Award: Jose Callejon, for his interesting statement that other clubs, including Real Madrid, suffer racial abuse as well, and since nothing can be done about it, we should all just ignore it and hope it goes away.

Gangnam Style Award: To Dani Alves, for launching himself onto Carvalho and trying to ride him like a pony. Someone needs to make a gif of that.

Hear No Evil Award: Jonathan Dos Santos, who tried out his new “Transfer-Talk-Canceling” Headphones this month and managed to secure himself another six months of relaxing on Barça’s comfortable, well-padded bench. Well done, Jona!

Shut Up and Focus Puyol Memorial Award: Clearly, Puyol runs away with this one for the following bit of business involving Pique, a lighter, and an important game we are playing here, hello! Puyol has no time for your foolish complaints!

By blitzen

Canadian, cule, corporate wage slave. Came late to the beautiful game, but fell under FCB's spell in 2006 and never looked back.


  1. Meanwhile, Balotelli, scored two in his AC Milan debut.
    Bojan will probably be seeing less playing time.
    The upcoming CL tie has just become more interesting.

    1. We need someone with a bloody spine to make decisions. Looks like the players are picking the line-up at the moment. Worrying trend.

      Barcastuff tweeted yesterday that we’ll use the same line-up today as against RM. How did that information get out?

    2. Seriously I think it’s time Tito thinks about resigning (at least for this half season) and Barca assign a coach to take over the left season, Roura or whoever can have full power to take charge of the team. The current situation is not good for Tito’s health. He has to handle team business during the tough chemotherapy. I know what the patients would be like when they are under the therapy. They will be very sick, vomiting, losing hairs and weight, and can’t really focus on things. The most important thing for Tito now is to put all his duty aside and have a good mood and strong mentality. During the last season of Pep’s era, Pep almost couldn’t bear the pressure of being Barca’s coach. I can’t imagine what kind of pressure Tito is having now, worrying about his life, his family, and his work (one of the most stressful jobs in the world, if not the most). Tito needs time off and fully focus on his treatment.

      On the other hand, Roura is very conservative in terms of the line-up in the past few matches. He was almost using the same line-up. One reason for the success of Tito’s first half season is because he is willing and daring to rotate players (even Messi when he thinks necessary). But now we are stuck to the same players (yes, I know Puyol wasn’t starting in this match). You can see the players were tired and not running around a lot. And the youth players and bench players (Tello, Montoya, Song, Villa, etc) haven’t got enough playing minutes for several matches. This could be a problem when the CL games are back. I can understand why Roura chose to do so because it’s a safe choice and he is only an assistant coach. But we can’t be like through the whole Feb and March (or maybe even longer because Tito can’t be back to work immediately after the painful and exhaustic therapy). Either the club give Roura full power to be a true coach in the next two months or find another short-term coach to carry the team. Anyway, I don’t think the current mode is good for Tito and for the team. It could be a loss for both.

    3. Not sure things are as bad as being suggested. I’m not a fan of the more direct approach but I have to admit it’ll work in most situations. Maybe Tito would’ve played the same lineup for such a tough away match. Anyway, I wouldn’t blame Roura at the moment. Maybe the time to introduce the rotation is at home under easier conditions.

      You can be sure that Puyol, Messi, Xavi and Iniesta are having their say behind the scenes if they think there is something wrong. I’m pretty sure Xavi will already have spoken to Tito about the new style.

    4. No, I am not blaming Roura. I am blaming Rossell and Zubizarreta who should think about solutions instead of letting things be like this until Tito is back. Roura is an assistant coach and I totally understand he doesn’t want to make mistakes. So the safest way is to send out our strongest players. Also I don’t know if players like Messi, Puyol, Xavi, etc would tell the coach “I am tired. Could you rest me next match?”. They are competitive pros and they always want to play. The only way to rest them is that the coach tells them firmly so.

    5. @caosanping

      Good points. I don’t think anyone saw coming – Tito’s relapse and such a lengthy time away from Barca for the treatment. I hear he will be in NY until end of March? In hindsight, I don’t think it was such a great idea for him to take this job, granted no one would’ve expected this, but did the stress cause his condition to worsen? Who knows…

      I think the club is caught in two minds now. Tito is being terribly missed, on the other hand, Roura, on this evidence, is not the best back-up manager, he just sends out the most used line-up during Tito’s time. Does he have the presence and personality to control and manage the egos in the dressing room? Does he have the authority to bench the superstars in the dressing room? I don’t think so.

      Too much player power is not good for any club. Unfortunately, I think that most influential players are playing all matches now, youngsters and non-Spanish internationals are being completely ignored. I hope club finds a solution soon.

    6. If it’s really true that Tito will be the out for that long, I hope they get Lucho or Garcia back. At least they’ll have someone to look up to.

    7. Tito will only come back later than sooner. It takes a few months to recover from the damage caused by the cancer cells and the chemotherapy (the latter most often causes more damage). After the treatment, the doctor will definitely suggest him to rest for a while before he comes back to his stressful job. So it doesn’t do any good on him if he hurries his recovery process. The best way is that the club find a substitution in next few months so Tito can have a peaceful mind. There is nothing more important than his life and his family.

  2. Another bad news- Xavi has some thigh injury. He is 33 already. Remember how careful Pep used him last season? Even earlier this season, Tito used Song and Thiago to rest Xavi when necessary. This is not a good sign. I am worrying more of our 11 start up players will be caught by injury while our bench players are not match-fit because of lacking playing time.

    1. Sometimes I feel Rossell and Zubizarreta had been resting on Pep’s shoulder for too long so that they don’t know how to take responsibility at such critical moments when Tito is sick. We need a coach and we need someone who can tell the players what to do when the team is in difficult situation. I know RM and Valencia are tough opponents. But the thing I worry the most is not the result but the current situation, e.g. sticking to the same start-up players, slow response to what happens on the filed, no substitution until 80+ minutes, and tired players on and off the field. We need someone standing behind the team when the situation isn’t easy, just like what Pep and Tito did.

  3. Hmmm.

    Roura playing the same players and no rotation?
    -Pep did it too remember?

    Roura not firing the squad up during HT at Madrid?
    -Pep surely didn’t have an effective Pep talk at HT of the home match vs Madrid in the most defining match of the season in terms of the league.

    I don’t like both of their styles. They need to protect Messi more so that he’ll peak at the business end of the season. It looks like they’re more focused on Messi getting goal scoring records rather than team trophies.

    1. Pep did it when it reached the end of the season, which I understand. But now is only early Feb. No way we can play the left season with 11-12 players. We did it with 13 players 7 years ago but it was almost a miracle and there wasn’t another choice. But now we have almost 25 healthy players for the coach to deploy. We need someone who is brave and wise enough to rotate the players. Otherwise we will see more injuries of the start up players and complaints from the bench players.

    2. No Caosanping, Pep has always been like that. 1st match till the last match of the season he played Messi for the full 90 mins. He even played Messi in a meaningless Copa del Rey match that is already won. And I remember for this one particular match where he said he brought Messi on for the fans. Ridiculous!

      Fans want what’s best for the team not for the fans in the stadium.

      And even on those rare occasions where he did take out our key players, it was most likely in the last few minutes of the game. I find him very poor in that aspect, the way he ran the key players to the ground and leave them on when we are cruising.

      Tito seemed different in the first quarter of the season when he had to make impact subs but ever since we steamrolled past our opponents, he got back to where Pep left. Leaving key players like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta on for the whole match or the last few minutes.

      I don’t expect them to take themselves out whenever they wish to like in the NBA because it’s not possible but take take them out when we receive already winning. I prefer us winning a lot of 2-0’s and have our key players fit and fresh for the business end of the season and win most of the games especially those important ones in March-May rather than going for big wins in November-February.

    3. You are tight though in us having 25 healthy players compared to before when we always had a paper thin squad.

      Why not utilize them? What if our key players gets injured? How are the squad players ever going to gel when they hardly get playing time to catch a rythmm?

  4. This year: 59 points after 22 matches.
    Last year: 48 points after 22 matches.

    This year: 9-point lead on 2nd place, 16-point lead on 3rd place, with 16 matches left.

    So this club that has to date only had a single Liga loss in 22 matches, would have to find a way to lose 3 of its last 16 matches, and the second-place club would have to be perfect during that same period. And that’s 5 losses for the third-place club to catch, a club that would first have to catch and pass the second-place club.

    Possible? Sure. But with each week, the likelihood diminishes. I’m damned happy with where this club is, and very pleasantly surprised, given my dire season prediction.

  5. An excellent match and fair result.

    Valencia pressed really hard throughout the match. Ref was allowing EPL level of physical contact and they made the most of it. It was not dirty so no complaints. I have always liked Valencia so happy to see them play well.

    As for Barca, thought we played well. We could have won with Villa & Cesc missing great chances.

    So lead still remains and we even have a week without mid week match before we play Milan. So things are quite ok i think.

  6. Poor match selection again.
    I cannot believe the same team that endured an intense match against EE were put out against Valencia at their home, even though we are quite comfortable in the league. The tired legs and lack of freshness was easy to see. This was a game to start Alexis, Villa, Thiago, Song, etc and opportunity to test them against top quality opposition.
    This cancer plague on our club is really starting to annoy me.

    1. “Cancer plague?” Dang, homie …. (Unless it’s a direct reference to the Vilanova and Abidal situations, in which case I would say that “Life happens.”)

      The players finished poorly, but I rather imagine the coaching staff is breathing a sigh of relief right now rather than ruing points that were lost. Because Valencia was rested, ready and serious. Poor finishing was a problem again, for both sides even if we are just focused on our side.

      But I rather imagine we would have been hailing our players for gutting one out rather than cursing the moon, had Fabregas or Villa been able to finish excellent chances. It happens.

  7. Which was more ordinary from us, against Madrid or Valencia. We were just lucky to have that Penalty.
    Very disappointed with Villa, a world class striker, even if he is in for 1 minute or 45 minutes, that was an open chance for a world class striker.
    Our midfield really needs to catch up. If this means, Xavi, Cesc and Busquets has to be rested for a week, let it be.
    Almost all our best chances were created by Messi, who always had more than 2 players taking care of him – very strange. And wonder what Gerry Armstrong and many others expect him to do every match – a hatrick.
    Iniesta does many things, with an elegance on the field, but 95% of the time it results in nothing – no goals/assists/chances, just a feeling there could be danger few meters away, and then nothing.

  8. Don’t understand the Roura hate above.

    We drew at the Mestalla. Pep had only won once there and it was an ugly, scrappy 0-1 affair from what I recall (correct me if my recollection is off). Two draws in a row. Away games. Against two strong teams and we’re panicking?

    Valencia didn’t have a game mid-week. They went into this well rested. Look how the mid-week game affected RM. Did we expect to be fresh as daisies?

    It’s Hlebruary. I’d extend a little grace to the players and coaching staff and have a little faith. Geez, it’s too early to panic, y’all!

    1. Yes, I don’t understand the calls to replace Tito/Roura with an interim coach, either. We are having an extremely successful season. Panicking and bringing in someone new—with different ideas and ways of working– would have a destabilizing effect on the team, not the other way around. Yes, I think Roura made a serious error in judgement with the lineup in the last game, but you know what? That’s going to happen sometimes. Pep did it too. But throwing out the baby, the bathwater and the bathtub itself would be a complete overreaction.

      Congrats for your team’s win, mom4! Go Stallions Ravens!

    2. I’m not a math whiz, but let me try this out:

      The team has dropped 6 points in 22 matches. Even if ATM and RM were perfect for the rest of the season, Barça would still need to drop a third again as many points in the remaining 16 matches than it has the previous 22 for second place to draw even in the standings.

      In looking at the rest of the schedule, there are some difficult Liga matches:

      –Away to RM
      –Away to ATM
      –Away to Athletic Bilbao

      The Champions League legs against Milan are sandwiched by Granada home/RM away, and then Deportivo and Rayo for the second leg.

      Like any “the sky is falling” proper cule, I see doom around every corner. I think, “The last three Liga matches have been L-W-D, and “Lawd, lawd, what if that trend continues?!” I see the potential for broken players to come back from international duty. I, like the kid in “The Sixth Sense,” see dead people.

      But while I am not smug or overconfident because mathematically, things are still possible, anything could happen, etc, etc, etc, it would take something pretty much beyond the realm of comprehension for our beloved club to cough up its Liga lead.

      –Now. Would I have started essentially the same group that battled to a bonkers draw with RM in the Copa? No, because I wouldn’t have started my best XI in that Cops. But I’m not coach of FC Barcelona. Tito Vilanova is, even if his second, Jordi Roura, is in charge at present.

      Roura knows what he is doing. Villa played well, even if he also played too slowly for my liking at many a time. He had a glorious chance that if he buries, then Roura is being hailed as a genius at nailing the right substitution, and the Return of El Guaje is being sung around cule campfires.

      In a difficult match against a tricky opponent, any coach would go with his best XI, I rather imagine. You count on your players to get their jobs done, is all that I can think. It happens.

      As mom4 notes, Valencia was watching us wear ourselves out against RM on the telly, stretching and preparing to get in that ass. Of course this was going to be a difficult match, as anticipated by many. They pulled out a draw. Given the chances Valencia had, and the immensity of Valdes, it could have been very different.

    3. The only thing that I’m not getting about Roura is his timidity around the substitutions. They’re coming too late to be effective – much like Pep did.

      If Roura could make the sub calls a bit earlier, then all would be well. Bigger cojones are needed – and perhaps that’s not a call that he’s in a position to make. We don’t know how much communication there really is going on between Roura and Tito, and who is really calling the shots. And maybe that is the real issue.

      But those subs – the right replacements in a timely fashion – have been critical for the success of this team over the season. Without them, it’s like going back to the old ways.

  9. Xavi is out for two weeks with a hamstring injury. So he misses Getafe and Granada, but is back for the first Milan leg and RM away. Couldn’t have happened at a better time, frankly. Song also pulled out of the Cameroon friendly, with a sore knee, which I’m guessing is directly related to the Xavi news, as in “Uh, what say you rest for that friendly, Frylock?”

    1. No. The club has said 15 days, which is effectively two weeks. That means he’s back just in time for Milan. In watching the match, you wouldn’t have known Xavi was injured. My guess is that the 15 days isn’t actually going to be, and that he will be passed fit the weekend before Milan, or pass a pre-match fitness test and play.

      And even if he doesn’t, I’d go anywhere with a Iniesta/Busquets/Thiago midfield.

  10. OT: I’ve heard references to Pedro coming out of the Barcelona C team. Why was the C team disbanded? Cost cutting?

    1. When Pep came in to coach the B side it was decided to merge the existing B & C teams to consolidate resources. The B team was in the Tercera division and the C team was way down in a regional league. It just didn’t make sense to keep them both. Pep cherry-picked the best players of the two teams and let the rest go. One of the hardest things he ever had to do.

  11. Sigh. So there is 1 CL match that was rigged that was played in England which happened 3-4 years ago.

    They haven’t said which game it was but I fear that people might point out at our infamous Iniestazo match.

    1. Implying any ref can fix that bullet of a shot by ini.
      Match fixing would not go as far as top level play, probably some small eastern european side’s goaly in a qualifying tie lets 5+ goals making a certain type of bet appealing.

    2. Or Chelsea vs Napoli last season, I remember thinking RDM was the luckiest manager ever after that one…!

    3. Odds are that it would have to be a privately-owned club owned by a filthy-rich oligarch who could afford to offer such a bounty to get a lesser club (or some of its key players) to throw a game.

  12. Interesting EMD piece about Bartra, Tello and Montoya, and how the coaching staff in the cases of the latter two seem to be more concerned about how they are dealing with not getting playing time. The intimation is that their complexities are attitudinal.

    But let’s not forget that competition is brutal at the best club in the world. There’s also the Abidal question.

  13. I thought it happens in the small leagues too but then Calciopoli happened.

    No. I don’t believe that that match was fixed but since they mentioned that there was ONE CL match played on an English soil and considering that that match was the most controversial match in the last 3-4 years.

    Of course they can not predict the Iniestazo but the refs that are bribed are usually told to help one particular team.

    But I don’t believe that the match was fixed. It doesn’t make sense because Abidal was wrongly sent off.

  14. I just want to extend my heart felt expressions to a rabid fan…
    Sooooo happy for you Mom4. Ravens pulled it out at the end. Must admit was a little set off by the “safety play at the end” but kudos for your men with the play!! As a skins fan I am really happy for a victory so close to he beltway!!

    1. Awww, thanks! We were screaming for John to call for the safety at the party we were at. Ooof, but the field position for the kick if we hadn’t!

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