Granada 1, Barça 2, aka “The confidence game”

Wake us when it's over, please. Thanks.
Wake us when it’s over, please. Thanks.

This picture of the coaching staff cracks me up because like many New Cules, they already have an expectation of what is supposed to happen, even as their reasons are different for having the same anticipation:

— We roll into town, kick the crap out of whatever poor side has the great misfortune to play against us, and that’s three more points in the bank. Ding!

— The staff says “Hell’s bells, our boys is good, and I wouldn’t take a one of them boys from the other side. On paper we are superior so logically, we should be able to have success.”

We all want to think otherwise, but it’s difficult because as with the coaching staff, the team is just so damned good! And the cule thinks, “Of course the best team in the world is supposed to kick the crap out of everyone. What’s the matter with you?”

Yet every now and again, an opponent comes along who hasn’t read the script, and then the real fun begins.

Granada was at home, and they definitely didn’t get the script. Yes, this is the same Granada that had won its last two matches, with the scalps of RM and No Longer Super Depor hanging from its belt. And Barça was coming into its house with plenty on its mind: a Champions League clash in midweek vs AC Milan, then a Copa home leg against RM in the immediate future. They were hoping to catch a distracted club, have some luck themselves and pull out another result.

Rotation was the operative word for Barça, as Roura rolled out with Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Adriano, Busquets, Thiago, Fabregas, Messi, Pedro, Sanchez. And things started out pretty much the way everyone expected them to go: We kept the ball, knocked it around for a while, then decided it was time to score. Alexis Sanchez made yet another one of those remarkable runs of his, and Messi found him with an absolute peach of a pass …. and Sanchez fluffed his lines.

For a moment there, as he ran onto the ball, everyone had visions of Getafe rolling through their heads and a cool, slotted finish. But in the time it took that remarkable ball to get to him, Sanchez had time to think, and blammo. Nothing. Ray Hudson, on the BeIN Sport match call, likened him to Long John Silver, with only one leg to stand on.

And Granada seemed to take heart from that, with some aggressive attacks and forays into our end, showing off the fact that we weren’t the only team on the pitch able to play slick, attacking football.

Then it happened again. Again Sanchez got an exquisite pass, again from Messi, and again, in that time that it took for the ball to get there, he thought, hesitated and the moment was gone.


But rather than diddling around, giving consoling hugs and saying “Dang, dude …. that sucks,” the Granada players were churlish enough to say “Hey, their best tracking back attacker is laying on his face in our box, and we have the ball. What say we venture forth, mates?”

And so they did, with a springboard attack of remarkable aggression and ball movement, one of those attacks that will always catch our defense out because well hell, where did that come from? Didn’t we just have the ball? A bit of fast movement, slick passing and Alves going on holiday on the far post later, they slotted home for a 1-0 lead that was no less than they deserved because they came out and played football. Granada pressed intelligently, took their chances (including a brilliant opportunity that found ex-homeboy Nolito not ready for the challenge), and didn’t cower in the corner at the sight of the Barça crest.

It was 1-0, and there was doubt. “They’re going to park the bus.” “We’re all going to die.” “Why can’t our defenders defend?”

Some knuckleheads were pretty calm, because they had predicted a 1-2 scoreline and could see the tactical error of Granada’s ways, evinced by the fact that Dani Alves has his best match in some time. Granada essentially figured that the real danger was in the center, where that No. 10 was, and let’s just leave those tactical width folks to stand around out there and do their tactical width thing. So not only was Granada able get get a lead, they were able to defend it until the half. But my 1-2 prediction was looking strong, because Granada had played an excellent half of football, while Barça masqueraded as the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight, creating plenty of chances and yet not converting, because of a number of things.

Everyone has, in their lives, blown something. Job, date, bowling game, some other sport. You had it, and you flat out blew it, for whatever reason, and now the chance is gone. There are usually a few simple reasons that we blow stuff: overconfidence, fatigue, lack of concentration, overconcentration.

The past four seasons have been outings in which our beloved football club could well have won four Champions Leagues, instead of two of four. Poor finishing. Krkic somehow missed an open net with his header against Inter Milan (lack of concentration), and that was that. Messi missed his penalty against Chelsea in the Camp Nou last season (fatigue) and that was that. And then there was today.

Sanchez missed two glorious chances. So did Messi, but for reasons different than Sanchez.

As well all know, Alexis Sanchez probably has to leave his car on the street, because he can’t put it in his garage. And lovemaking is right out of the question, because well …. um …. yeah. He has a confidence problem that is only getting worse, so his misses were rooted in that “Agggh! Okayhereitcomesdon’tscrewitupthistimenononodon’tcomeon …. Agggh!” He’s thinking so much, trying so hard, is so focused on NOT screwing up, that he does.

Messi missed his simple chances (I believe) through a simple lack of concentration. So the movement isn’t quite as sharp, nor is the control. And pow. Ya miss. And in one case, cules scream bloody murder. “Aggggh! He did it again!” And suddenly, an immensely talented player isn’t fit to wear the colors …. or something.

Meanwhile, we had a second half to play, and those two first-half bottlers, Sanchez and Messi, pretty much picked up where they left off, only this time Sanchez spurned a killer through ball from Fabregas, for a change of pace. But something else was happening.

Whether it was Granada tiring, realizing what they had the potential to accomplish or Barça just plain started playing better, suddenly there were more and better opportunities. The ball was moving, the Sprites were everywhere and Granada was on the back foot. One important difference was that Adriano was subbed off “as a precaution,” which I firmly believe was a precaution against him being crap any longer. Because he was. Jordi Alba came on, and suddenly things were moving around, and Granada had to play the full width of its very wide home pitch, and that created problems as they actually did start to get tired.

So who knew that the goal would come from the simplest of plays, as Fabregas unleashed a rocket of a shot from distance, that the Granada keeper spilled. Guess who was right there to lash it home? No, not Sanchez. Messi. Boom. Just like that it was 1-1, and Granada was really starting to wonder.

To their credit, they stuck to their game plan, recognizing that where there was one goal there was almost certainly another. So they pressed intelligently and waited, but their opportunities were fewer and fewer as the possession game began to work, and chances were being created. Two goals were ruled offside that shouldn’t have been, but there was some scrabbling at the lock going on and it was evident that we were more likely to score than they were.

Then Thiago was fouled, Messi stepped up to take the ensuing free kick, and that was that. 1-2, as I predicted.


Some say, “Where would we be without Messi,” and I say we’d be fine, because someone else would be in that position, and they would be scoring goals in a system that is designed to keep the ball, create chances and create goals. Yes, Messi is the best player in the world. But many of the goals that the system creates, doesn’t take the best player in the world to score them.

Was the match fraught? Depends on your perspective. Was it in any greater danger of being a loss than the 6-1 win over Getafe? No. And even if it was a loss, what would a dropped 3 points represent, really, assuming that both Madrid teams “threatening” our table-topping place were to win tomorrow? A lead of (shudder!) 9 and 13 points.

Confidence, expectation and The Cule

We have one hell of a football club, and have, really, for the past 8 seasons because even when the Rijkaard teams were a mess, they were still a good football club even if the on-pitch results weren’t bearing that out. And perspective is a fascinating thing, because there are supporters of clubs such as Sevilla, Levante, Granada or Athletic Bilbao, who find it absurd when cules run around, rending garments and ripping chunks of hair from their scalps because we conceded a goal, drew or even lost a match. They wish that such feelings were so rare for them that such events were considered apocalyptic, that they didn’t have to watch Blaugrana-clad midgets caper about in joy after having thwacked yet another goal past their helpless keeper.

And they’re kinda right to find it a bit silly. But expectation has changed expectations. When every match is supposed to be a win, it’s hard to get minds around things potentially damaging that anticipation. Every time cules sit down to watch a match these days, they might say one thing, but they are believing that Barça is going to win, because that’s what it does. So a draw becomes unfathomable, a loss life-changing, and the Quest for Blame begins.

I am confident in this club. I have the expectation that the players will try their hardest when they are on the pitch. As an athlete, I am aware that some days, no matter how hard you try, you just don’t have it, and you ain’t never gonna get it. So as cules sit there, wondering what’s wrong and why the team hasn’t dropped a manita on some Liga minnow, the players are trying their hardest, even as the other team’s players are also trying their hardest.

I am confident that this team, if it plays as it can, should win every match that it plays. And I say this even as I am aware of the peaks and valleys in athletic performance that make such a thing impossible. Because of that, I never expect the club to win, until it does. It’s a rather fatalistic worldview in a way, that defensive expect the worst, so that you can be surprised by the best.

Alexis Sanchez and the Struggle

On Twitter, I wondered if Sanchez is finished at Barça. And I wondered this not because he isn’t a brilliant, at-times spectacular player, but because of the psychological damage inflicted on him with every miss, every move to the wrong spot on the pitch. Cules feel it, the coaching staff feels it, the player feels it. After a while, it becomes paralyzing, so much so that it no longer becomes possible for a player to have success in a system.

But man, he doesn’t deserve the lambasting he’s been getting. At the end of the first half, the missed chances tally was Sanchez 2, Messi 2. Messi bounced back and got the brace that proved to be the winning margin, while Sanchez bounced to the bench, to be replaced by Tello, who was part of the reason the last 10 minutes of the match seemed so fraught — dude can’t defend.

IS Alexis Sanchez struggling? To put the ball in the goal, yes. To do the rest of his job: making runs, defending, tracking back, tackling, creating space, passing …. no. But because of that oppression, that “Why the hell can’t I score goals,” the other parts of his game might start to be affected, because like any one of us, Sanchez is human. And humans hate screwing up. This means that whenever possible, humans will try to avoid it. At some point, however consciously or not, maybe he doesn’t run in a way that puts him in a position to make an error. Maybe.

Or maybe he realizes one day that he is never going to be able to play his best position in this club, because it is occupied by the best player in the world. And his second-best position is occupied by Andres Iniesta. And so he tries to find space in which he can play, in a less-dynamic and direct system than he likes, a system that runs less and retains possession, and he wonders. Anyone with pride would.

Many wonder, “Where is the Alexis Sanchez we bought from Udinese?” I rather imagine that were Barça to start playing like Udinese, that guy would show up pretty quickly. But that isn’t going to happen.

So is Alexis Sanchez done at Barça? I think that he is, which doesn’t mean he isn’t good enough to play at Barça. It just means that sometimes, a change of scenery is the best thing for a player’s career. When he leaves, some will say “Good riddance,” others will wonder about what might have happened had his potential been realized at Barça. And that will be that.

Meanwhile, today our football club did what it was pretty much supposed to do. Kids capered about and the Granada players applauded their home supporters in gratitude for the cheers, the music, the cacophony that was supposed to lift their players to an improbable result. Granada lost, but with chests puffed out. Everybody clapped, and Pique gave a kid his shirt. If you want a measure of how good this team is, understand that: Rather than stomping off the pitch, yelling at officials and being outraged by the indignity of it all, a one-goal loss at home felt pretty good. And Barça knew that it had been in a football match.

Whatever script somebody was expecting, this was the script that was, and it sure was fun to watch.


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. You’ve got an interesting point about Alexis. I don’t agree… yet. There is still a realistic chance that he can overcome his current psychological situation and stay at Barca. We can’t sell him just now anyway. And not to use him ever again is hardly an option. But I think it’s time that players like Tello and Villa should get some of those minutes that Alexis is now getting. If Alexis wants those minutes back, and I’m sure he wants to, he has to fight for them. First and foremost on the training pitch and on the occasions he gets in real matches. Since Champions League matches come rolling in and the team starts to rotate again, he’ll get those occasions still.

    Btw, I don’t think any comparison of Alexis’ missed chances and Messi’s missed chances does Alexis any favour. I see what you want to say with it but comparing Alexis to Messi is the last thing a concerned cule should do nowadays.

    1. I commented it previously too on Kxevin’s comparison of Messi’s and Alexis’ misses. And the worst part is that Messi actually makes up for it and scores while Alexis keeps on shooting blanks.

  2. “Was the match fraught? Depends on your perspective. Was it in any greater danger of being a loss than the 6-1 win over Getafe? No.”

    Could you explain what you mean with that? You don’t want to say that it was always clear that our team will turn the match or, once they did that, keep the lead, right?

  3. It wasn’t a pretty match – but the team deserves great credit for pulling out the win away from home when points easily could be dropped (as Madrid did vs Granada…)

    This was another match where last year the team drops points. This year they see it through.

    Now yes-it was up to Messi to score both goals. But in the 2nd half the team started to play much better as a unit. More coordinated, more cohesive. They also adjusted to how Granada was defending. Taking shots from outside of the box was one of those adjustments & it led to that poacher’s score from Messi.

    On the Barca concession-think far too much focus is being placed inappropriately on Alves. On twitter I got a bunch of comments to this effect.

    That goal barca conceded was a great example of what can happen to a system, to a defense as a unit.

    That counter starts by Alexis losing the ball in Granada’s box. When he falls that opens up space for Granada to move the ball along the left side of the pitch. Cesc steps up to fill that space L as he should. Rather than play the ball along the L flank the Granada player keeps the ball & dribbles it towards the center.

    This in turn forces Busquets to step up to close him down. That in turn leads the Granada central attacker to drop deep to link play. Pique then steps up into central midfielder to track the attacker as he drops.

    To be clear – the reason why Alves had to pinch in off the R flank was to make up for Pique needing to step out into midfield. That’s what a R FB is supposed to do. You can’t leave an attacker in the center part of the pitch unmarked or leave a gaping hole there. That is the root cause for why Alves wound up sucked in centrally on that goal.

    People often blame Alves for this kind of positioning but when he’s caught in the center like that it’s usually to make up for the positioning of other defenders.

    This season Barca has had a real issue with the channel between the L CB and the L FB. Teams attack that space over and over. This has forced the entire back line to wind up shifting L to make up for the attack. This pulls the R FB off the flank.

    This is one of the reasons why Pedro’s work rate is so important. But even he can’t run down the pitch to catch up with the LW all the time.

    The other major problem in that concession was that even though Mascherano went L Adriano didn’t go out to pressure or close down the ball.

    Barca is such a small team. There is no way we can survive crosses that aren’t pressured. Same thing that happened a few games ago when Alba switched off. The way Barca defends-it’s critical for players to be pressured as we’re just not equipped to handle quality crosses in the box-especially if they get over Pique.

    At the end of that play – just look where all of the backline is positioned. It’s forced left and that breaks their shape. Pique is trying to cover centrally and has dropped very deep. Alves is trying to mark 2 players one of who is central and is playing for a pull back in front of Pique.

    That was a system level goal concession not the fault of any one player.

    Overall Alves was Barca’s best player on the pitch today. He was simply terrific. The number of quality, difficult crosses he made (that weren’t finished) was fantastic. His runs from deep and pressing were great. It’s been so good to see him return to form. He’s once again on his way to being the world’s best RB.

    Pique was very strong again as well. Thiago had a terrific game. So impressive defensively and in orchestration. Messi opened in a playmaker’s role and that required Thiago to have to adjust and find his rhythm. But he really grew into the match. In addition -he was very strong defensively. Outstanding performance from a 21 year old.

    1. Euler is spot on about the goal, hence my “Where did that come from?” analogy. When the system breaks, it will yield chances. And goals. Alves becomes the most obvious symptom, but isn’t the root of the problem.

      Did anyone notice Messi defending in the last 10 minuyes? I think it was because Tello is such a mess defending that it becomes all hands on deck.

    2. But Kxevin, above in your original post you said

      and Alves going on holiday on the far post later

      While Euler on the other hand didn’t blame the goal on Alves. So which one do you really think?

      I agree with your earlier statement. Euler is right that Alves sometimes has to cover the CB spot as Puyol or Pique get off their lines to cover someone else like I mentioned many times before.

      But for this goal, Alves had no business leaving his marker this time though. Pique had him.

    3. Alves DID go on holiday on the back post. That doesn’t mean the goal was entirely his fault, though. Rare is the Barça conceded goal that isn’t a team effort.

    4. I rewatched the last ten minutes and apart from two short pressing runs Messi’s defensive work is nonexistant. Tello does some defensive runs. Not saying that he did enough but he did far more than Messi. And Messi had the opportunity to help, he just didn’t.

      While I can understand how important it is for Messi to save energy, I can’t understand why he doesn’t track back in situations like this.

    5. I’m one of those who’ve been quite critical of Alves, and assuredly over the top sometimes, but while I understand the backs sometimes have to cover for the CB’s, those aren’t the only times he’s been out of position. I hope he does get back to top form, and I end up looking like an idiot – wouldn’t be the first time.

    6. Agreed on most of the analysis of the goal, Euler, and it’s a point that has been made a few times before about defenders shuffling out when a cross is imminent and not sprinting to put real pressure on the ball. However, imo Alves could have done a lot better . The last look he takes at his attacker’s positioning is a good couple of yards outside the area as they are running back. He from then on is essentially ball watching, even as it soars well above Pique’s head and it is obvious it is going to clear them all. I’m not sure where you mean Piqué stepped up into midfield. I can’t see him taking a step out at all until the ball has reached the attacker at the far post by which time the damage is one. He has to cover the cut back and it is Masch’s job to cover the eventual scorer although as I said earlier I’m not sure I’d blame him as it would have had to be a very quick adjustment of position.

      Worse than that, this has equally obviously been picked up by the opposition as a flaw in our defending of cross balls as a result of recent matches. They tried the same ball three or four times with a fair amount of success. Not sure it’s entirely a “system goal” for that reason although the way we play and our lack of height make it a more obvious strategy for the opposition.

    7. I’ve watched this entire counter multiple times in frame by frame slow motion. To me this was absolutely a team concession and people are being far too hard on Alves.

      Pique steps up into the Barcelona attacking half at around 24:50 of the match. it’s towards the first half of the GRA counter.

      Neither he nor Busquets really has a chance to close down the ball due to the way GRA orchestrates the counter. There’s just too much space to cover as there were 4 barca attackers caught in the opposition box at the start of the play.

      Mascherano has moves very leftwards anticipating the ball to support Adriano. Rather than put himself in position to pressure Adriano tucks back.

      At 24:50 when Pique steps into the attacking half to pressure (as he should) he leaves a massive gaping hole in the back line. Mascherano is left. Pique is in the attacking half. This is why Alves moves central.

      Pique then sprints back – but he also sprints to the left portion of the pitch to support Mascherano & Busquets. This was the fundamental issue on that counter. Barca clustered too much center-L in transition. When Pique first sprints back Barca have a 3/4 v 2 in a local area vs GRA’s break. But this leaves players unmarked elsewhere (including the player who crossed the ball).

      Because Pique has shaded left a gap opens between him & Alves-who is center-R marking the wide attacker (who eventually receives the cross)

      So here comes the issue that decides this goal. In the 4 v 2 cluster Pique & Mascherano focus on the more advance attacker (as they should). But the attacker behind makes an extremely intelligent diagonal run into the channel between Pique & Alves. This run goes behind Pique’s back & he loses sight of the attacker (not his fault given everything going on). Busquets focuses on the ball and doesn’t track this run either.

      But that diagonal run isolates Alves in a 1 v 2 in the box. That’s an impossible situation for a defender. Alves starts to lean R to get back to the wide attacker but then stops when he sees the diagonal run and stays more central to try to mark both players. Unfortunately in turn he gets caught in 2 minds as to who to close down. He cannot allow the diagonal run through the middle to go unchecked though. That has to be the priority (though that’s not the typical responsibility of a R FB)

      Now if I had a criticism to make – at this point it’s actually Pique who is “ball watching” so to speak. He’s lost sight of this diagaonal runner through his zone. He’s watching the cross being made. Ideally he should’ve picked up this diagonal runner but it’s so quick and the run is behind him so it’s difficult to process all of this. It was just a great run.

      But due to that diagonal run that isn’t picked up Alves has to stop himself from marking the wide attacker who receives the cross. He’s forced to mark 2 attackers at once while also being the only defender on the R side for Barca. That’s nearly impossible for a defender.

      We talk about the defense so much this season. You mention teams targeting Alves. That’s not the case. What teams are doing over and over is attacking the channel between the L CB & L FB. This goes back to last season. This was exactly why we conceded that 2nd goal to RM at camp nou for example.

      The opposition is basically saying if Barca are going to send a L FB up high then we are going to force the L CB to cover large space. This is especially done when Mascherano is at CB-they are forcing him to play large amounts of space he doesn’t have that much experience covering.

      The whole goal of the opposition positional attack to to take advantage of Barca on the L. Force Barca to compensate with more players on that side so that the defense loses shape. Then see how play can be switched more center/rightwards to take advantage of the broken shape.

      Could Alves have done better. I suppose. But so could Pique & Mascherano. And most of all Adriano – who committed the biggest mistake in not pressuring a cross vs a back line that has 3 players on it 5’9 or shorter.

      But then can talk about Pique, Puyol, Alves, etc. But the fundamental issue in this defense is that we were never the same once we lost Abidal. Even when Pique & Puyol play together the defense simply doesn’t have the same solidity and the fundamental reason is Abidal. It’s a massive loss we’re still paying for.

    8. Fwiw, I wouldn’t personally count anything before the crosser not being closed down. At that stage the goal is eminently preventable and Adriano should have made more of an attempt to close it down.

      At the moment the ball is struck Pique’s positioning is perfect (and so is Alves’). There should be no chance of losing a goal to this. The only slight issue is the extra player arriving unmarked by our midfield. Pique cant deal with him because Masch is in front of his man but its no issue. However, as soon as the ball is struck Piqué realises immediately it is way over his head and turns to face the play (ie back post). Alves is still oblivious to the position of his man and hasn’t even started to turn. Piqué covers the nearest man as he should but Alves is still lost and facing the wrong way and as a result can’t get near him.
      On its own one goal like this is no problem and to be fair to Alves sometimes it is a closer call as to what to do. However in this match alone I remember another one which Piqué had to be quick to close down ( a header back from the beeline) and another where Alves did well to get his head to it. In my book that means the opposition have spotted something.

      However, we’ll agree to disagree. It’s no problem and something I find quite interesting to look at and discuss. 🙂

    9. Good discussion! Not a black or white situation.

      But I think here’s where we disagree:

      Fwiw, I wouldn’t personally count anything before the crosser not being closed down.

      Personally I do. How plays end -especially counter attacks-end is often heavily influenced by how they start & evolve. The last parts of the sequence are just extensions of what’s happened before.

      Barca wound up in sub-optimal position due to how fast they had to scramble back with too many attackers up field in transition.

      To me that was what created the conditions for the goal. Pique & Alves just wound up with too much space/too many players to defend and that big gap between them.

      Does that mean a goal was inevitable? No not at all. But it does mean that those conditions significantly increased the probability of a concession.

      The only slight issue is the extra player arriving unmarked by our midfield.

      To me-this extra player is a big deal. TBH I loved that play as a football fan as it was just a great example of how using space intelligently creates goals.

      That player never touches the ball but his run created the conditions for his team to score.

      Alves was literally in the process of going over to the wide attacker to mark him more closely & then stops when he sees that extra man from midfield make the run behind Pique. Pique really can’t pick him up as you note. So Alves tries to. But then he also has the wide attacker to cover as well. This is obviously why 1 v 2 are so difficult for defenders and why so much of attacking football is focused on generating numerical advantage in sub-regions on the pitch.

      Dani was anticipating a cross coming. That’s why his first move was towards the wide player. But then the runner comes from midfield. At that point Dani cannot know which player is going to receive the cross.

      Both of those attackers are well positioned to receive the cross. And the priority does need to be with the attacker who is more central as he is in direct scoring position if he’s targeted with the cross.

      It’s just a difficult situation IMO and that’s why I really ascribe it to the defense as a system than any one person. Could Alves have done better-yes. Could’ve been more decisive. But I could bring up similar issues for so many other plaers. Busquets could’ve tracked the run. Pique could’ve kept a better eye on the runner from midfield. Masche could’ve been better positioned (especially initially as he got too far left). Adriano shouldn’ve closed down the crosser (most controllable problem to fix).

      But this is how Barca concedes. It takes this confluence of events and small mistakes for the opposition to get it’s chance. GRA did that successfully on this occasion. Give credit to them-well executed transtion.

      And I’ll also say this – to take it a step further – in the Barca defensive system you can make a real argument that it’s Pedro’s “responsibility” to run back like a demon to reduce the risks of being at numerical disadvantage and pick up that wide attacker so that Alves can pick up the midfield runner. Pedro does this so often – and it frequently goes unnoticed. But when he’s unable to make up that space you see the consquences – such as that goal. This is in part why his job is so difficult & so thankless.

      But all of this is just so difficult to execute vs fast counters.

  4. Alexis finished? I hope not, but you may be right.

    It might depend on how much money we could get for him.

    After all, most of us want Neymar to come, right? And we need a GK and CB.

  5. I want to say a few things about “The (hyper-)critical Cule”.

    In a way, I am a perfect example of it. I tend to see and get angry about every little mistake. Every pass that isn’t perfectly precise, every lost ball, every miscontrol of the ball, etc.. Only seldom I can simply appreciate the positive things about a game without thinking of what went wrong. And if something does went wrong, I tend to see it as a sign of bigger trouble awaiting us in the next matches/ against stronger opponents/ in the CL / against Madrid/ you name it.

    On the other hand, I declare myself not guilty of being another type of the hypercritical Cule. I don’t easily say that a players just isn’t good enough, has to go or something like this. Hell, I’m even part of the “Let’s keep Bojan for another year… or two…”-party. Also, I want to believe that my attitude towards players is guided by fairly neutral analysis and not by emotion.

    I think that there are a lot of cules like me. People who are very very critical towards our team but refrain from overly emotional and obviously unfair assessment of the team or certain players.

    I want to say something in favor of this very critical view of our team. I want to argue that it isn’t nitpicking or unreasonably high expectations.

    I think it is reasonable to view our beloved team so critical because this team is capable of perfection. Well, not really perfection but to come as close to perfection as any team in the history of football ever did. This team can be the greatest side of all time.

    Maybe it already is the greatest side of all time, maybe the Guardiola years were enough to make this claim. But there is a realistic chance that the team can keep playing at this unbelievably high level. That in 20 years or so, we won’t speak about “Pep’s Barca” but about “Pep’s and Tito’s Barca”.

    In the last 5 years, Barca has reached the mountaintop. There is a strong case that we witness the best team this club will ever produce. The level of performance, the level of dominance, the trophies and, maybe most importantly, the beauty of this team support such a claim.

    But are we still on the peak of the mountain? For sure, we’re still pretty high up, but are we at the peak? I think our stay there is in danger. Of course it always was in danger! As multiple players have said, it is hard to reproduce this level of excellence week after week after week. One bad game doesn’t mean we’re not on the peak anymore, nor do two games, or three, or four… But there is the danger of descent. We won’t fall off the mountain, the team is just too good for that to happen, but we can take little steps downwards. Just like Federer did, for example.

    But I think the team has the potential to stay on the top for another season, or two. And I want them to stay there. I have high expectations, not because I’m ungrateful but because I know the team can measure up to them.

    Just like Kxevin, I am confident in our team. I believe that there are one or two years on the mountaintop left for them. But that is the reason why I’m so critical. Because I know they can do better than today. I’m not panicking but I see signs of descent. The number of goals we concede for example. Or the individual mistakes. The way nearly every player besides Messi seems afraid to score. The lack of pressing. I know that the team can do better than that.

    It would be perfectly human and totally understandable if the team can’t hold the level of the last four years for another year or two. Teams come in cycles and all that. But nevertheless, it would be a pity. And that’s why I, and many other cules, are so very very critical.

    1. Sorry for the long post. It was on my mind for some time. Please don’t see it as a bashing of cules bashing cules for being critical but as a reflection of my feelings and my attitude towards this team.

    2. Great post. I plead guilty only to a fear that when this cycle is over we won’t be considered the best club team in history. We should have been well established in that position by now but a series of misfortunes ( events, dear boy!) and a series of (imo) tactical errors by Pep last year (3 at the back, Masch instead of Pique) we didn’t fulfil our potential.

      We are going to win the league this year – others have conceded us it and have moved on in their thoughts no matter how unfair it is not to value that achievement. We are caught, in a position not of our choosing, where we are going to have to prevent RM winning the CL and win it ourselves for this to be any more than a decent season.

      It is for this reason that I, and I’m guessing others, are more concerned with how we are playing as we are trying to see where we might stand against the very best who await us. For that reason I am concerned, that Puyol won’t be able to partner Piqué in all the vital matches, that we are de-skilling Xavi by becoming too direct ( not giving him Ini in the middle) and losing the ball and that we have nobody other than Messi seemingly capable of scoring 20 a season other than Villa who we are constantly benching.

      None of that means that I am critical about this team’s achievements so far or pessimistic about future success. I would point those who think so to the posts on predictions for the current season.

  6. Some say, “Where would we be without Messi,” and I say we’d be fine, because someone else would be in that position, and they would be scoring goals in a system that is designed to keep the ball, create chances and create goals.

    I was just wondering who would be the someone else.

    1. it is one of those typical kxevin rants even when evidence is overwhelmingly towards the contrary. good review apart from plugs for alexis which detracts from quality of review. A kxevin blast to follow.
      My solution for alexis, send him to b team to rediscover his form. The worst thing about today was not the misses on 1-1 but the fact that he passed back 10 times he got the ball in the wing. to put it plainly he was s**t with the ball.
      alexis at his best is capable of beating players on the wing, send accurate curled crosses / cutbacks to centre and also chase every punt forward and finish decent no of 1 o 1s. He is terribly lacking in confidence. a small stint in B team will do him world of good.

  7. I’ve been reading this blog for some time. Am I wrong to say…Kevin actually downplays the “credit”/”importance” to Messi?

  8. Alexis Sanchez made yet another one of those remarkable runs of his, and Messi found him with an absolute peach of a pass …. and Sanchez fluffed his lines.

    I would’ve put it this way.

    Alexis Sanchez made another one of those runs and Messi found him with a remarkable absolute peach of a pass of his …. and Sanchez fluffed his lines again.


    I would like Alexis to keep on getting minutes but preferably in the league matches. We can afford to wait for him to get that last quarter of skill needed (final touch and finishing).

    His first touch in the final third suggests to me that he is not a natural forward. I go through the same thing when I play upfront. I just don’t have that natural instinct. Messi, Pedro, Villa know exactly what to do with their first touch in order to pull away from the defender. Alexis doesn’t.

    Last week when I was playing, I did a similar run that Alexis is so lauded for, I took out 2 defenders to the left side of the pitch while my team mate was running on goal. Nobody gave a damn about my contribution for that goal but in my heart I felt that I could play for Barca for a moment there :p

    If Alexis can get away and actually get a lot credit for simply dragging defenders away and non stop pressuring and tracking back and I do it all the time, even though I am really disappointed with my game but I am happy knowing that many here do rate that kind of work.

    1. You know, on a strictly human level you’ve got to feel for the guy. As Kxevin says the more often this happens the more he must actually dread getting the chance to score. I have to say his head doesn’t go down either. I’d love the Alexis we watched on YouTube videos on his arrival and got excited about to turn up at Barca. Nobody “wants” a Barca player to fail. Makes me wonder what the reports from scouts said about him and whether it was made clear he wasn’t a natural goal scorer.

    2. I don’t even need him to be a 20 goal type of player but at least 10-15. If not, we might as well get someone cheaper.

      Overall I still prefer Alexis over Neymar but this is mainly due to the work rate because I view work rate very highly but to score <10 goals in a season is really too much to the point where I prefer goals over work rate.

  9. akexis’s best place in barcelona is that of a no 9(with lateral movement especially towards the r wing).

    I want to know the player’s name who can replace messi?


    Can any body tell me where in ISTANBUL i can watch the MILAN BARCA match without streaming?

    1. This I don’t know because I missed Barça-Chelsea when I was in Istanbul some years ago. What I can tell you is that you MUST visit a game while there, whether it’s Galatasaray, Besiktas or Fenerbahce. When it comes to soccer stadium filled with lunatic fanatics, not many countries can compete with Turkey (and I mean that as a compliment)

    2. thanks for the reply(no cookies for you though).

      i will take your advice,not too sure whether i am able to visit a game there.
      will be there in an official tour and there is a visit in ankara.

      btw what bout the bars or clubs ?

    3. You really gotta learn to use Google:

      Without even trying, I found these Sports Pubs and a hostel restaurant in Istanbul that may be showing the game:

      Up to you to do the rest, and contact them to see if they’re screening it!

    4. While agreeing with nzm about the power of Google, here’s a suggestion from Twitter followers: Ada Cafe Istiklal Caddesi.

      I have no idea where in Istanbul that is, but you can figure that out.

  10. It is really a known fact that Kxevin considers Messi an average player… Anything he can do.. Anybody can do because the system allows it..

    well show me one player in barca HIS

  11. Look, if some of you are going to whine because I don’t deify Messi, at least pick a moment where there isn’t abundant evidence to the contrary. Here, I’ll do some simple cutting and pasting, to help you out, from right above:

    Yes, Messi is the best player in the world. But many of the goals that the system creates, doesn’t take the best player in the world to score them.”

    “Or maybe he realizes one day that he is never going to be able to play his best position in this club, because it is occupied by the best player in the world.

    Two examples, from the very piece of writing that a few of you use as evidence that somehow, I don’t rate Messi. I don’t often say this, but ARE YOU CRAZY. How dimwittedly blinkered would I have to be not to rate a player of Messi’s quality. And let’s assume for an instant that there was some sort of spite or animus, what would it be?

    “Damn him, for helping the club that I love so much have so much success! Curse him to Hades.”

    Just stop and think for a moment. That’s all it will take.

    Now. Do I deify Messi, and think the sun and moon revolve around him? No. But that’s me. Do I think that without Messi, this club would still have great success? Yes, because the system would have been adapted so that it didn’t focus on Messi. Make no mistake: This club has the best, or one of the best players in the world at every position on the pitch. To think that club wouldn’t be successful if you removed one player, even one extraordinary player, is logically unsupportable.

    But the snide remarks and innuendo become almost childish, particularly from the likes of pr17 and Peterj. I reckon the next step will be singing a nursery rhyme, about “Kevin and Sanchez under a tree/K-I-S-S-I-N-G.”

    It doesn’t become you, nor does it become the level of discourse on this board, particularly in a piece in which I say that Sanchez screwed the pooch, and think that he is done in Barça. If you disagree with what I have written, offer commentary with that in mind, instead of nonsense and innuendo. Raise the level of discourse in a space that is noteworthy for the quality and thoughtfulness of its comments, traits that elevate it from a mere message board.

    1. I personally do not prefer a debate on whether Messi is important to the team or not..

      And i never get into those discussions.. but every new person who comments on this blog notices the same thing.. it’s not me who started this.. it’s any “new reader”.. plain and simple..

    2. But instead you prefer to hurl baseless allegations based on nothing more than the fact that I don’t do affirmation? It’s a very simple request: Show me the evidence that I don’t rate Messi. Lay it out there for everyone to see. Otherwise, knock it off.

      Yes, I said that it doesn’t take the best player in the world to score some of the goals that Messi scores. That’s a simple fact. Do you think it took the best player in the world to score that first goal that he scored yesterday? Yes, his anticipation that the keeper might spill the Fabregas shot was good, but he isn’t the only attacker alive who would prowl the box at the sight of a low, hard shot from distance, right?

      So it’s simple: You call me out, I’m returning the favor. Show me the evidence. “Every new person who comments on this blog notices the same thing.” Really? Show me. Cut and paste the comments so that I can see them, and we can go from there. Again, it’s a very, very simple request, and there are reams of posts from which to choose, and many new names that have come to the space. So the evidence should be abundant.

    3. Wow chill down. And I wrote that as a compliment.
      I know it is the goal that the system creates. Perfectly so. We have the best playmakers as well.

      On the opposite end though, having a striker like Torres/ sadly Alexis/ Higuan/ Benzema etc who are awesome but down in confidence….would mean a 50-50 chance or even less for even the first goal. And the second goal? No!

      Well, I was thinking “lo and behold, a barca fan who under-rates Messi, wow” So I guess I was wrong.

    4. and I have been looking to do this for some time…but been too lazy to sign in. Thanks Kxevin and company. For the wonderfully written articles on our favorite club. That you delight week in and week out with your efforts is a great great accomplishment, I believe.

  12. *dons flameproof armour*

    I would like to see Alexis start the game against Milan. I think it will perfectly suit his style and he will do very well. The team will need his ability to read the opponents and create space. Starting Tello in that game would be a mistake, as I don’t believe his game intelligence is high enough to handle a team like Milan just yet. I would even start Pedro over Tello, although Pedro was quite poor yesterday.

    Come at me, bros!

    1. I think it will depend on the evolution of Villa but yes, a Sanchez start would be just the ticket against Milan, particularly if they come out with three forwards and the intention of attacking like crazy (a smart tactic against Barça, by the by).

      Of course I also think that if he misses another excellent chance, his head will explode, like that scene in the movie “Scanners.”

    2. Being an away game, I think we’ll see a more conventional line-up with Iniesta back on the left and Cesc in the middle.

    3. Alexis should be the best option for Milan. He knows the Seria A inside out. I do hope Tello would get to have a go at those old defenders 🙂

  13. If we could get 30m for Sanchez, I’d fly to Barcelona and help him pack. We have some expensive transfer market aspirations, and (for a change) some players that should fetch a hunk of change.

    — Villa, 15-20m
    — Sanchez, 25-30m
    — Alves, 20-30m
    — Valdes, 20-30m

    This doesn’t even take in the likes of Afellay, Krkic, Tello or Cuenca (both won’t go, but one very well might). Those sums, atop our usual 50m transfer budget, means that a quality CB, GK and NEYMAR!!!! would be will within the realm of possibility.

    Darn shame we didn’t plump for Thiago Silva last summer, but PSG wasn’t taking no for an answer. Same with Javi Martinez. But a top-quality CB is going to be verrry expensive, because there aren’t that many of them that would work in the Barça system.

    Meanwhile, we have a season to deal with, and silver to battle for.

    1. I don’t agree with Alves. He has shown for the last handful of matches that he is back to his best, okay his best was in 2008-10 but what I meant was his current capabilities. He is simply too old to be like last time. In any case, I do not wish to sell Alves. Adriano was better in the 1st half of the season but we were extremely lucky he wasn’t injured much.

      If Montoya had gotten a lot of minutes and can prove that he is well capable of playing in La Liga week in week out then yes.

      At the moment, Tito clearly thinks that he isn’t ready. We can’t rely on Adriano.

      But yeah, this summer we would probably make the most sales in a long time. Hopefully we won’t get shortchanged as usual (free transfer, low selling price).

    2. But I think that Alves is on the way down, rather than up. He has reached that point in the quality/value curve where all signs point to “sale,” unless Adriano leaves. Then Alves stays, and Montoya starts getting more minutes, which will happen next season either way.

    3. Ya. He has reached his climax but I’d say even on his current level he is still better than Montoya. I wish Messi would stick to the RW more so that Alves can be more effective in attack.

    4. I don’t think we should sell Dani Alves either. He is still one of the world’s best RBs. I am seemingly one of the few culés who has not been overly impressed by Montoya this season.

      I also wonder if we can really get that much for Villa and Valdes, since this summer both will be in the last year of the contract and bidders will know that they want out.

      And I wonder how much we can get for Afellay and Bojan. In the latter’s case, don’t we need to “buy him back” for 12 million or something like that before we sell him?

  14. “Or maybe he realizes one day that he is never going to be able to play his best position in this club, because it is occupied by the best player in the world. And his second-best position is occupied by Andres Iniesta.”

    What’s the point of acquiring players who can’t play in their natural position? Alexis, Cesc, Masch, perhaps even Song? Except for Alba, everyone the club bought in the last few years is playing out of their natural positions.

    The issue with Cesc is not only he can’t play his favorite position, by including him, Iniesta has to be moved away from his.

    1. I think the club buys a player and hopes that he can adapt. Mascherano has, Fabregas has, Song is showing signs and if Sanchez didn’t have his finishing woes, we would be talking about him having successfully adapted.

      The club probably hopes for versatility and talent.

  15. And though i am a really big Messi fan.. there is no denying that 2013.. Ronaldo is playing better than Messi.. but Iniesta is better than them both…

    1. Wait. You mean by playing better really all round play and contribution or just goals?

      I’ve seen 2 Madrid matches already this year. Ronaldo was anonymous besides the goals he scored.

    2. Certainly not better if we’re comparing their contributions vs. Granada! Own goal vs. 2 goals have Messi clearly in the lead. Messi may seem a bit off color at times, but he’s so good that even when playing below his standards he manages to get a goal or two. And it doesn’t help that nobody can finish off any of the great almost-assists that Messi provides.

    3. Way too thin a slice to compare, for Ronaldo and Iniesta. Messi has been playing at the highest level consistently for about 4 years now. Neither Ronaldo nor Iniesta can match that.

    4. That’s not really true. Aside from that one season where he was constantly injured, Iniesta has been playing at an extremely high level for at least 5 years.

    5. Iniesta has injury spells every season, including this one. Although this season has been one of his better ones recently. Also, as good as Iniesta has been lately, I still don’t think he’s as consistent as Messi has been over the last 4 years.

  16. Good review Kxevin, always fun to read your perspective.

    Everyone seems to agree with Euler’s version of that goal… I must have been watching a different game, because I didn’t see what he described. The winger dribbled to the inside? The striker dropped deep? Pique moved to the midfield? Alves was caught in the middle? Huh?

    As I saw it, Pique and Alves were right where they were supposed to be. My culprits for the goal are:

    3. Alves and Adriano- Even though they were where they should have been, they could have pressed a little more. Adriano more so than Alves, because if he harasses the winger a little, the cross isn’t as perfect. Alves’ guy one-timed his pass, so there is very little he could have done about it, so his lack of response was excusable.

    2. Valdes- Dude left his position and didn’t even make an honest effort to redirect that pass. That thing he always does where he runs outwards only to put his hand down to help himself land softly, I don’t get. If you are not going to make an effort, stay near the goal, don’t leave it so open. (by the way, thank you sir, for firing yourself from the team!)

    1. Mascherano- To me, the biggest culprit. Not because he could have stopped the goal, but because he was the one defender who was nowhere on that play. If the initial cross that came in had been directed at the eventual goal scorer, he couldn’t have stopped it because he wasn’t close to him at all. But that cross went to the far post only to be re-directed in. Guess what, there was Mascherano BEHIND the attacker! Not only that, he reacted way too slowly to that play.

    Overall great game. I’m really liking how Thiago is developing. That kid will be great.

    And Messi, thanks again!

    1. Thanks, Bill. It’s funny, because as soon as Granada lofted that long pass, I paused the DVR and said to myself, “They’re going to score.” Sure enough. Springboard counters make our defense a mess, and they probably always will. The one player who can fix that is recovering from cancer/transplant surgery.

      Note that Adriano’s “injury” came shortly after that goal. (He’s fine, the club said today.)

      I think that, with the exception of giveaways or gaffes in the box, every goal the club concedes is a group effort, as you lay out. It almost seems like everybody goes into fireman mode, and moves to the ball, despite the evidence they get in practice every single day, that the ball is going to move.

      I think it’s why I don’t freak out that much over conceded goals. This system is going to concede goals. One a match wouldn’t surprise me at all, even as I would love to have clean sheets all the time.

    2. I agree too that our playing style is such that we are going to concede a goal every match. Clean sheets are going to be rare. But then, doesn’t that put a lot of pressure on us? It becomes almost necessary for us to score the first goal. If we concede first, then it is highly likely that teams will start parking buses and planes. Especially in high profile Champions League matches or finals. Conceding first also opens us up to more counter attacks.

    3. I was describing the entire counter GRA executed from the time Alexis lost the ball in the GRA box as a sequence. To me how counters end are heavily influenced by how they begin and where players are initially positioned.

      I made the same point about Adriano and agree with you there. Fair point on Valdes.

      On Mascherano-his positioning could’ve been better. But teams are doing his over and over. They are trying to force him to cover the space behind the attacking LB to try to force him to cover large areas at the back. That’s an area he still struggles with as it forces him to move so much while still having to mark players.

      We’ve never fully made up for losing Abidal. That’s the fundamental issue we haven’t been able to correct.

      Also agree on Thiago. He was very strong yesterday and is progressing very well both offensively and defensively.

    4. That’s what I saw too Bill! I guess its just a matter of Rashomon. Everyone’s reality is just that, their reality, which explains many of the passionate disagreements here – “were you even watching the same game?”

      I’ve often thought that if we could really experience the world through someone else’s eyes, it would be so disorienting that it would literally be nauseating!

    5. Bill points out several factors that led to the goal. TBH the comments on this board I’ve seen from you seem to inordinately pound on Alves over and over as being this awful,hapless defender who is a massive weakness. He’s not. He makes mistakes and his game involves trade offs as he’s asked to play such a large role in attack. But he’s been very good this season both in attack and in defense.

    6. Guilty as charged. I think it started with the Ronaldo goal in the first league Classico – he just seemed to give up on the play. Since then, I’ve seen a pattern of defensive mistakes (granted, he’s made a few great defensive plays too), and I don’t think he’s been as effective in attack as you – he’s had some beauties, but also some real howlers, and not just poor final balls (which of course will have a lower percentage). Selective perception? Undoubtedly, but the point I was making in the previous post is that all perception is selective (cognition and perception is an interest of mine). I respect your analysis TREMENDOUSLY. I’ve learned so much from your tactical overviews and miss your regular posts here (I’ve lurked for years), but we all have our perceptive filters.

      Also, I don’t have too many people around me who follow futbol, much less Barca, and frustration is often a stronger impetus to post than delight. I also value the intelligent and mature community here, and want to get their perspective on what I’m seeing/feeling. Some of the responses to my comments have made me reevaluate my opinions.

      On that note, what about Dani’s positioning on Nolito’s first attempt that Victor saved (not sure the time, I didn’t save the game). I thought he was caught out there, so the first goal seemed more like deja vu.

  17. I forgot to mention this last night. Sky showed the match a little longer where a kid ran up to Pique. It was such a touching moment where he hugged Pique and begged for something, i presume his jersey. He will be a great Dad!

    But it makes me wonder though, why did the kid go to Pique instead of Messi or Iniesta?

    And I noticed a few Madrid fans in the stands. They PAID to see Barca play against another team. haha

  18. Some say, “Where would we be without Messi,” and I say we’d be fine, because someone else would be in that position, and they would be scoring goals in a system that is designed to keep the ball, create chances and create goals. Yes, Messi is the best player in the world. But many of the goals that the system creates, doesn’t take the best player in the world to score them.

    There have been many instances where Messi scored by individual brilliance and not the result of team work. E.g. him dribbling 3-4 players and shoot.

    You don’t need to treat Messi like he shits rainbows but don’t pretend that he is more than a player you can pluck out of the farm and put in his position and expect to get the same results. No way it will happen!

    1. Just as I pity people who deify a normal human being. Would everyone be happy if I said that Messi blows tasty bubbles from him bum and makes the world a better place with his mere existence? Ain’t gonna happen. What folks NEED to do, however, is get used to having a real-life journalist evaluate things in this space. You’d think, with all that I have written by now, that this would have happened, but I reckon things move slowly in the world.

      barca96 sees a very logical comment that a journalist would make, and mistakes it for an anti-Messi rant. No. It’s simple reality. What if he got hurt and was out for the rest of the season? What would happen? We would have to (shudder) find another way to score goals, and we would. It’s that simple, so stop overblowing a simple comment because it doesn’t hew to your worldview.

      And Mik’s follow-up is just absurd. There is so much to discuss in the above piece, but as usual, it comes down to how much I hate or don’t appreciate Messi, a view that can at best be described as misguided. Advice: READ WHAT I WRITE. Then take it for what it is, not how it pertains to your worldview. The statement is as simple as can be, but you focus on the fact that I wrote “it doesn’t take the best player in the world to score them,” as an assault, rather than a very simple statement of fact.

      Yesterday’s goal was a simple put-back into an open net. Do you think it took the spark of the divine to block that ball into the open net? That only Messi could have possibly scored that goal and no other player in a Barça shirt? Really?

      The subsequent free kick took a player of Messi’s caliber to score. Absolutely.

      What you two, and anybody else in this space who has problems with the fact that I don’t worship ANY player, should do is get over it. Because I get it, and have said it before as I have above. Messi is the best player in the world, and we are lucky to have him playing for Barça. Simple. Only a fool would deny that.

      But players come and players go. The club is the constant. One day, Messi will lose a step or two, or have a hard time coming back after a serious injury. Or maybe one day, he suddenly won’t have it. And at that time, the club will have to figure out what to do, as it did a year too late with Ronaldinho. And in the future as in the past, there will be the wailing and rending of garments from people who don’t understand that a player is a piece of the puzzle that a club uses to secure success. They come and they go, irrespective of how great or spectacular they are.

      There are people who stopped following the club when it sold Ronaldinho, something I can understand, but can’t fathom. The same will be true when Messi moves on, whenever that day comes. For me, it will still be Barça in my heart and soul.

  19. Did we play poorly__No
    Did we finish our chances __no
    Were granada better_no
    Didn’t valdez do what he’s been paid to do_yes
    Were we lucky__yes
    Were granada luckier_yes
    Was Messi the difference again_Yes
    Did we take the 3points_YES!
    Have cules forgotten is HLEBUARY_YES!
    Ces’t fini.
    ViscaElBarca..bring on AC

  20. Was just trying to remind everyone that we DID win last night and that the closest rival is 15 points away from us.
    And don’t try to compare what happened last night with the games ahead against Milan and RM, it will be totally different.
    Oh, and bthw, only three teams in La Liga have conceded less than us.

  21. I remember the days of a constantly rotating and pressing barca front three and I just sigh in dispair at we have today.

    We have now been reduced to two workmen and a poacher.

    We have bought into this idea that messi is indispensible and turned him into one lazy dude.

    People may not realize this but messis non existant workrate has already reduced neymars chance of success at barca considerably.

    Its already helped push forward villas transfer this summer because he cant make up the ground to cover for messis lazy bones.

    Just think about that for a second. We are soon to be without the services of the greatest striker in spanish history because at 32 yrs of age he is required to cover twice as much ground as a guy 7yrs younger than him.

    Look guys we are far better off without this current version of messi.

    This club has been scoring goals for 100+yrs of its existence and will continue to do so irrespective of personnel.

    The only reason why we are entertaining this sleep walking pulga is because we as a club are mentally shackled with the idea that messi=3PTS=Trophies.

    If hes too tired to press, bench his ass and lets see if this juggernaut of a club will not rise to do battle.

    Arent there any other cules out there who are just tired of this development because personally ive had it!

    I love messi but im not happy with this cancer that the club has permitted to creep into his game.

    Sorry for the long post.

    1. I am not being harsh on Messi, if anything im being harsh on the club. They are the ones allowing this to happen.

      After all, Messi is just a mere employee who picks up his cheque every week. If hes not meeting a requirement, then you gotta make him meet them or hes down the pecking order. Simple.

    2. Spot on. We should sell this ‘cancer’ to Real Madrid. Then we can all sit back and enjoy while Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, David Villa et al will win us a treble every season. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Yes, please make it happen.

    3. Yes I agree. Infact I suggest replacing the entire front line with a bunch of Alexises that will never stop running the entire game. I mean they wont score, but come on! Think of the pressing they could do!

    4. Why can’t someone make a simple comment without being treated as a fool? If people disagree, explain why. It’s an interesting comment as so many are in this space, and deserves respectful discussion.

      I know, I know …. “He WOULD say that. But he hates Messi.” Sighhhhh. This space used to be better than this. It really did.

    5. I’ll start: flyzowee makes an interesting point in that the club’s style has changed radically to accommodate a great player. A churl would note that even as Messi has set records and set the world on fire, the club is winning fewer and fewer trophies.

      This year, the squad would have to be kidnapped by aliens not to win the Liga, and is still in play for the Treble. But the style of play is rather different from the style that last won the treble. I’d suggest that the depiction of Messi as a malingerer is a bit excessive, but my guess is that flyzowee used hyperbole to make a point.

      But recall the Henry comment that under Guardiola, he had never run as much in his entire career. Attackers defend and defenders attack. The club has found success with this concept. I think that Vilanova is still working out how to continue this ethos while keeping its best player on the pitch for every match (FWIW, a notion that I disagree with).

      He might ultimately decide that maybe, just maybe, the club doesn’t need Messi for every match, that if Barça is facing a relegation side, with a Champions League semi-final tie looming, the team should be able to win the Liga match without its greatest weapon.

      It isn’t a question of Messi, but of the club and how the club can best utilize its greatest asset. Rijkaard struggled with the same thing with Ronaldinho. You wanted that dude on the pitch all the time, even the times when maybe he didn’t need to be.

      “Cancer?” Mmmmm, no. But it’s an interesting viewpoint as a whole, nonetheless.

    6. Absolutely agree that Messi should be rested in meaningless matches. He has broken all the records there are to break. A perfect resting break would be this upcoming Liga game against Sevilla, so he can concentrate on the Milan and Classico games.
      I almost always find myself in agreement with your assessment of Messi in the games he plays. I miss the KRS and your ratings of the players. I used to take the ratings as a barometer for my own viewpoint of how players performed.

    7. Thanks, Blau-Grenade. I wish I still had the time to do them. For example, the above piece took less than an hour to write, after watching the match. That’s about half the time it would take to break down just a half of a match.

      Damnable real life and its demands.

    8. “A churl would note that even as Messi has set records and set the world on fire, the club is winning fewer and fewer trophies.”

      The club has been winning fewer and fewer trohpies? Now I am confused. Was it normal business for Barca to win at least 2 trophies every season before Pep came and Messi started fulfilling his potential?
      That is a bit of a stretch.

      Messi plays all the time cause the staff is obviously ok with it, his teammates love it (as evidenced by their very words)and cause he’s happy playing every match to help the team. Would we (the fans) like to see him rested every once in a while against lowly opposition? Yep..but posting about Messi essentially being a cancer, questioning the club and the coaching staff’s authority is too over the top.

    9. I got to be agree with most of these statement, granted that villa’s health condition is not on max this year, or the fact that he is benched most of the time, god knows (and medical team I suppose) what’s going on behind the curtain about him, but he got to deserve more chances than alexis.

      Given the minimal time on the pitch, he’s stil the 2nd leading goalscorer of the team (?) and that’s counting quite a bad game he’s been having whenever he plays too.

      Sure alexis is good at tracking back, intelligent run bla bla bla, but as a forward, you got to score when you’re given a chance. Not that I’m saying he isn’t trying, but I don’t see why one should be rated over the other on no apparent evident.

      No one is bigger than a club, as as kxevin says, rare that this team conceded not due to team’s fault, imo goal scoring also is a result of a team effort. Messi might be brilliant, but to treat him above the other, allowing him to slack off to so-called conserve his energy is really mind boggling for me.

      Despite record breaking season last year, we’ve won less trophies. Is the trophy important? I would lie if I said it doesn’t. But it sure feels empty at the end of last season despite all the achievement of a person

    10. Yes, Kimcelona. In Guardiola’s first year, the club won six trophies. Messi had 38 goals in 50 matches. The club has yet to equal that, and in Messi’s historic, record-breaking scoring season last year, the club only won the Copa.

      Granted, we don’t have anything like a front line of Henry/Messi/Eto’o, but I think that scoring diversity and ability to stretch the pitch made the club more dangerous on the attack, in that it could slash like RM, or tika-taka like it does today. I think that Vilanova is trying, with the introduction of a more direct style, to get back some of that attacking diversity.

      And for me, the business of Barça is trophies. If we won the treble and Messi only had 14 goals, I wouldn’t be bothered in the least. And I bet, neither would Messi.

  22. I never refered to messi as a cancer.

    Ive heard many reasons from many cules as to why messi has the sovereign right to moonwalk his way around the pitch and the underlining vibe I get is that messi is indespensible and barca cannot hope to perform optimally without him because even when he sucks, his moonwalking presence alone is a sufficient trade off for his seemingly disinterested attitude.

    I have a problem with that. Tbh I think its bs.

    1. I have a feeling that a few games with no Messi might cure you of his feeling…

      Still waiting to hear who is going to score 20+ goals a season cos we’d need two of them. Names?

    2. The question of “what if” is a real one. What if Messi gets injured? What would happen? As I see it, we’d see this lineup:

      Best back line/keeper

      Would the club score as many goals? No way in hell. Would it score enough goals to win matches? I think so. Okay, Getafe is 2 or 3 to 1 instead of 6-1, and things would have to shift and adapt. But it’s a valid question, as is the real question that flyzowee is asking, which is why drive the Ferrari all the time? Sometimes it’s out of tune, or needs rest after a hard track day, right? Yet the garage door opens, and out it rolls, even when there is a Bentley or Lamborghini parked next to it.

    3. Hmmm. Not a bad thought. Fabregas’ forward runs would be very useful, latching onto balls from the mids. I also think that Sanchez would revert more to his Udinese/Chile role, which would be interesting to watch.

      I also if Song wouldn’t feature into one of those lineups, with those forward through balls of his.

  23. I’m sorry. I thought we were supposed to be happy when we win and proud that 3 of the world’s top 4 players belong to us. Did I miss something?

    We’re 15/19 points ahead in the league, have an aggregate advantage in the cup, and are heading into the tie with Milan pretty darn healthy despite the fact that it’s Hlebruary. We also have a squad about which other teams can only dream. Doom surely awaits us.

    1. The Way of the Cule is fraught with angst, even in the face of statistical reality. Vj posted a brilliant, and oh-so-apt quote above that perfectly captures sentiment on the part of some.

      As you note, we are light years ahead in the Liga (12/14 points), and favorites in the Copa and Champions League. That is worth joy, even as in that joy we can admit that we ain’t won nuthin’ yet.

      But man, is it looking good.

  24. Sigh. How about we change the conversation to something more civil?

    Right. These Milan chaps; are they still playing the narrow 4-3-1-2 that they were using last season? The one that means they are one of the few teams that match our midfield numbers (3+Messi) – but constrains them into the narrowest of shapes?

    I have no idea what’s going on with Milan anymore but seems like anyone over the age of 28 has been given a golden handshake and put out to pasture.

    So, what aspects do we need to emphasize upon to beat them? Anyone with more information care to pitch in?

  25. Assessment of the upcoming match Barcelona vs Milan.

    I saw the last league game that Milan played versus Parma that Milan won 2 1. Balotelli had a huge impact on this match. I also saw Italy vs Germany in which Italy soundly beat Germany with 2 goals from Balotelli.

    Firstly: Balotelli!!
    He is a classy player. If he has a good day, he can be devastating just like in match against Parma, or the match against Germany. He has beautiful ball control, a fantastic free kick, and an amazing shot on goal, and is a fantastic header of the ball.

    Secondly, Ricardo Montilivo!!! Montilivo is Milan’s holding midfielder, and the heir to Pirlo. This is the same guy that made the pass, from deep in his own half, to Balotelli for his second goal in the Euro match against Germany. Montilivo is a class act. If Barca let him play, he will have a devastating effect with his passes to the front line.

    Athletism: The Italian teams in general do a lot of running and are a lot more physical. Barca will have to contend with people that will be running for the whole game.

    Parking the Bus: Italians are also very good at defending. There are very few goals usually scored in Italian matches. Barca will find it very hard to break the Italian bus. Case in point the Inter Milan match that Barca lost a couple of years ago. It will be a very similar case here.

    Wing play: A lot of playmaking was done by the wing players of Milan. The wingers ran up and down the pitch the whole game, and this is where Milan take the ball up the pitch. Dani Alves and Jordi Alba will have their hands full. They will be constantly crossing balls into the box. This is a huge issue for Barca because of the Milan front line.

    The front line: The front line of Milan is frighting!
    Balotelli(great header of the ball, great ball control, fantastic shot etc etc)
    Niang – he was supporting Balotelli up front in the match against Parma(fast, strong, tall, can easily turn Pique or Puyol), and the defenders found it very hard to contend with the Niang Balotelli combo.
    El Sharawaay (Fast and effective in counterattacking)
    Kevin Prince Boating(likes to get forward and score goals and provide crosses).

    These forwards can turn the match around in an instant. The match will not be over until it is over.

    Watch out for a fantastic, on the edge of the seat match against Milan. Visca Barca.

    1. I don’t think Bojan will get a play around in the match, at least not as a starter. His performance was poor in the Parma match. We might see Robinho. They also have Pazzini, the Italian international. He might get a runaround.

      I would still be nervous about the Niang, El Sharaaway(wide forwards) and Pazzini as center forward combination.

    2. Possession is going to be crucial against Milan at their house. They don’t need a lot of the ball to score goals, I noticed in the few times I watched them this season. And don’t underestimate the fire of a player with something to prove, as in Krkic. Keep the ball, and we keep control of the match.

      I still think we’re going to get a couple of away goals. I see something like 2-2 there, then we turn the trick at home.

    3. I am just a little nervous after what Juventus did to Celtic. Celtic made two mistakes, and had three goals scored against them in their house. This is when Celtic were attacking Juventus the whole game. In the match against Barca, Celtic only ventured forward two times, and they had two goals. That’s Italian football. Italian teams just don’t make mistakes in defending. And they are brutal on the counter.

      Barca cannot turn off in the match even for a few seconds, from the start to the end. They will be punished if they did.

    4. Underestimate krkic? I thought he had a full year with us, in which each opportunity he was given in order to prove he was worthy of a squad member was wasted .

      He whined about playing time, about squad condition and talked up his game during his hugely disappointing performances on the pitch.

      Here is he again, prior to the match promising to fight back against his boyhood club and scoring too. Give us a break bojan , play and score or whatever just don’t make statements like that again.

  26. barca96 sees a very logical comment that a journalist would make, and mistakes it for an anti-Messi rant.

    There have been many instances where Messi scored by individual brilliance and not the result of team work. E.g. him dribbling 3-4 players and shoot.

    I didn’t make a sarcastic comment or anything. It was a genuine comment and question. I am not capable of making a sarcasm comment due to my poor grasp of English.

    I said;

    You don’t need to treat Messi like he shits rainbows but don’t pretend that he is more than a player you can pluck out of the farm and put in his position and expect to get the same results. No way it will happen!

    Who do you think can play in his position and get the same results?

    Okay, yesterday he scored 1 poacher’s goal. How many players do we have anticipates a rebound in our team? Most of the times, not just in this team, the furthest player upfield would be off side.

    Free kick. Only Xavi might have scored that.

    But there are many other instances where if it weren’t for his individual brilliance, we wouldn’t be able to get any points.

    So who do you think could replicate what Messi does?

    Messi has 37 goals now and it would’ve made him the top scorer in every season besides the last 3. And Messi is not all about goals. I think you know that yourself.

    I don’t expect you to declare to all of us that he is the best player etc etc there is no need for that but you always seem to take a shot at him. That’s just the way I feel it.

    Recently you compared his miss and Alexis and then now this.

    1. Free kick. Only Xavi might have scored that.

      Or Villa (when fit). People tend to forget, but he has scored some brilliant ones. Thiago is also really good at FKs (he scored several with the U21 NT) when he gets a chance.

    2. The question is not who can replicate what Messi does, but rather how van the system afapt to replace what Messi does? That is a very different question.

      I would say play Sanchez as that false 9 and turn him loose. Villa woukd also benefit from being unshackled. Fabregas also makes a fine false 9. The team would getit done.

      I think that the pronlem starts with how the question is posed. Everyone says “Then find me someone to replace Messi.” You don’t need that. You need 2-3 goals per match, from a team with Xavi, Iniesta, Fabregas, Sanchez, Pedro, Villa, etc. That group should be able to score enough goals to win matches.

      And no, I don’t take shots at Messi. Never have. What I do is evaluate him from the biew of someone who isn’t a fan of any player. That will make my opinions run counter to what many feel. I wish people would accept that rather that seeing an honest assessment and automatically saying “You hate Messi.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Unlike too many cules, I don’t dislike ANY player. I even found virtue in Hleb.

    3. And no, I didn’t compare Messi’s and Sanchez’s misses. What I said was that as of halftime, both players had missed two excellent chances. What is false about that statement?

  27. Poor Alexis, he’s getting hit from all angles. Even press pass had a little segment dedicated to him today. It’s a shame that, with every game that goes by, his performance is being scrutinised and his confidence is getting lower and lower. I like the kid, I really do but, it seems lately that the guy can’t make out what he wants to do when he gets into the box. Pass to Messi or shoot? Often enough, he makes the wrong choice. I wouldn’t say he’s in the Torres bracket just yet coz, he does so many other things well. Maybe they should play him as a RB for a few matches(coz he can defend really good) and try to get his confidence back up. There’s still hope for Alexis coz, for Chile, he plays well. Just the pressure for playing for the best club in the world, I think, is getting to him a little. #ANIMO ALEXIS!!!

    One question. Did Marca finally give Messi that one goal they had said was an own goal? I see they have him at 37 liga goals, same as everyone else. If so, anyone know why they changed their minds, kkk.

    Also, on press pass, Sid Lowe had EE to upset both Barca and Man U in the return fixtures of the copa and CL return legs. Could still happen but, I think they will be knocked out of at least one of those. I hope they get knocked out of both tbh. I hope Mou wins nothing this yr. I wouldn’t mind EE winning a major trophy without Mou at the head. The guy just rubs me up the wrong way.

    1. Also, on press pass, Sid Lowe had EE to upset both Barca and Man U in the return fixtures of the copa and CL return legs.

      He did? YES! If he runs true to form, that means he has cursed them to lose both games. 😈

    2. Yes!!! If you followed the Guardian, you would’ve noticed the trend. I can’t imagine how it feels to be a fan of the particular team went Sid Lowe publishes the article on Mondays. It is supposed to be a happy occassion but I would feel nervous until the following week.

  28. A really good comment from Flake over at the Guardian;

    Yes the intensity slipped a little (but not died) after winning the 2nd world club cup in 2011, and since then, our forward press has started to leak a bit, and there again, Leo has a part of the blame as well though he has become even smarter about conserving his energy and hence his astounding stats. So Busi alone stopping the leak leaves a lot of spaces for our CBs, hence we concede on avg more than 1 goal a game.

    But Cesc, Alexis, Tello should add more bite up front to make up for it. Alexis is the best mover, anticipator and chance-creator in our fwd line and I mean it, he is priceless. He was never a goalscorer, but hopefully with the right attitude, he will get that aspect of the game sorted as well – he is still young, so there should be no stopping him.

    Thiago needs to go back to Barca B IMHO to actually improve on his effectiveness in midfield rather than hone his “style” – but lucky bugger has the most illustrious midfield ever in world football around him to learn from. He better start doing it fast, and you cant hv such heavy-footedness in a Barca midfield. You got to be a mover, nimble footed.

    Lastly I see too many folks diss Barca’s decision to buy Song instead of a proper CB last summer. Well yes, another CB would hv been great, but at some lvl they trusted Muniesa (remember?) & Bartra to provide enough buffer to the other 3 guys. Didnt happen, but trust me, this team cannot be without a backup to Busi either. Leo and Busi are really the 2 guys overburdeing themselves almost every game for this team. The coaching staff need to think from that angle.

    You can see the effect of wrapping up the Liga by last Dec – the motivation is bound to drop a little, and esp for this record-breaking team. And you dont hv to go any further for evidence when they line up against Madrid – Barca dont really feel 120% for it any longer and has been the case with other teams too since 2012 beginning (and yet they hv won so much!!!), nor do they “hate” them with a vengeance.

    In many ways, this team is a first in terms of what it has achieved for nearly 5 seasons – hardly any precedent, so difficult to blame them really. Even management and players right now are discovering how far these guys can go in terms of motivation and intensity. And you can see in some way, why Leo stands tall even amongst such peers in company – as Pep said, he has a defatiguable urge for excellence. Though his body language in the pitch belies it (and which many mistake for not being a leader like maradona), he doesnt need it to motivate his teammates. He does it with his sheer performance, game after game after game.

    The only thing I disagree with is his view on Thiago. I thought before that he should go on loan but since Xavi is getting older now and should get more rest, there is space for him to get playing time.

    1. The Busquets observation is on point. Maybe the Song purchase was rooted in the coaching staff decision to go whole hog with Mascherano at CB.

      In that case Song over a CB makes perfect sense. Cool find, barca96. I love reading comments that make me think about stuff.

    2. You should subscribe to the Guardian and try to whisk away some of the bloggers there that I mentioned before (flake, dreiserkeiserbund, playmaker10, amrociusbocanegra etc.) to this lovely blog of yours. I was contemplating to do that last year but their English is so superior and some of the bloggers there are really harsh so I decided not to.

      But then again, if they come here instead, there will be no one defending Barca on the Guardian 🙂

  29. Messi doesn’t have work rate? sigh he’s a demon for tracking back. Of course he doesn’t do it all the time but then again which attacker does?

    On the other hand if I am permitted to go on a bit of offensive.
    Messi doesn’t have work rate? Who gives a shit, I’d happily let him lounge about if he can score 70 goals a season again and again..Is he benefiting because of his team mates supposed extra work? Yes. Is he deserving of it, should the team revolve around him? HELL Yes.
    Best in the World and soon to be G.o.a.T ladies and gents, hating on his supposed lack of work rate is (for lack of a better word) idiotic.

  30. I prefer Messi to pressure more as I think it is more effective and our system will go on even when Messi retires but as long as we outscore our opponent = we win right??..

    1. Great reading. Everyone seems to acknowledge that he’s doing the job he was brought on for. And he’s great at it. Still, the lack of confidence when going for goal needs to end before it becomes a liability at this stage of the season.

      I’d have to disagree with Kxevin saying he’s done at Barcelona – right now in Feb, but I feel a decision on his career with us will be made depending on how he does from now till May. If he adds the finishing touch to his game that’s perfect; if he forgets his scoring boots at home in the big matches then I don’t think his off-the-ball movements will save him. I hope he gets through this rough patch. I wonder if he will. I just wish I didn’t get the nagging feeling that our season might depend on it.

  31. I have always wondered, if the club or the coaching staff ever take a note of all the discussions happening across the online world. There are so many expert opinions.
    I wish they never come across these comments from online experts, so that some wrong ideas wont be injected into their thought process on the team and players, may it be Alexis or Messi.
    Lucky that we had Pep and now Tito, and their staff who know exactly what they are doing.

  32. @barca96 I remember reading in ZM, a comment about how barca players hate madrid so much and how barca players are united by that ‘hate’ against madrid. I had to laugh a bit at that accusation.

    Anyways, I feel sorry for alexis. He is a forward, who is actually a tracker, is expected to be a provider, sometimes be a decoy and also an occassional goal scorer. If we need a forward who can only get us goals we should buy another Zlatan Ibramovich.

    And on messi’s pressing- can’t he actually press, maybe selectively? Esp after we hit a fk or corner. I know he is conserving his energy but still….its not like he should press throughout the game. And in imp matches like the CL. This milan match, give it your all and let the tie be over in the 1st leg. There are too many distractions afterwards.

    Btw when I asked to find someone to replace messi, that was an honest question. (Like barca96 my english s*cks and can’t make sarcastic comments.) Bcoz right now none of our forwards are capable of getting us goals.

    1. I think that we, in many ways, have forwards who have forGOTTEN that they can get us goals. We have all scream when someone passes up a great scoring chance in the box to slide the ball to Messi. But I think that luxuries become habits become instinct.

      Last season, our attack was a mess. Messi took on a huge burden in assuming the scoring reins for the team. I think that this season, with an assimilated Fabregas, a (sorta) in form Pedro, healthy (ish) Villa and (gulp!) Sanchez, we have people who can put the ball in the net. Really, we do. In addition, Xavi makes his runs into the box, etc. We can get it done.

      For me, the most amazing Messi was the Treble season Messi, because he was a fiend on every part of the pitch — scurrying back to steal a ball from an attacker, clamping down in midfield to harass with Iniesta, making some crazy, mazy run to score a goal or free up someone to score a goal. And he was healthy that year. And not fatigued.

      It’s worth noting that we also had Henry and Eto’o that season, but I do wonder, with Villa and Sanchez, why we aren’t thinking along those same lines. Sanchez is that vertical, dynamic kind of player like Henry, who can rush the defense and hold the ball up if need be. And Villa is a direct, lethal finisher when he is in form, and he has been showing signs of late.

      So it strikes me that we have the nucleus for an approach similar to the HME triumvirate.

    2. MVP was most likely our last season where we had 3 20+ goal/season forwards. I doubt we will have that type of numbers again as long as Messi is playing and our system revolves around Messi.

    3. Is it because the system revolves around Messi that Adriano has more goals than Alexis.

      Now it’s a trend..that if a forward does not play well.. .. well blame Messi.. he’s screwed up the system.

      If the defense cannot do it’s job.. blame Messi.. he should have tracked back.. if the Mid field cant handle a run.. well it is cause Messi did not track back again..

      All great teams have great forwards.. RVP never tracks back for united.. The original Ronaldo never did.. Ibra never does.. neither does the current Ronaldo..

      What’s all with this Messi hate..

      And non of the above have the Assist or goals that Messi has..

      But now..talking about the Barca system.. i wish too Messi tracked back.. but the managers and the players know what they are doing.. more than anyone in this let’s end this stupidity..

      I am tired of all these anti Messi stuff.. he is not ‘The One’ or anything..but if other strikers took their chances like Messi has.. we will have 3 30+ goal forwards..

    4. I pray.. Alexis finds his shooting boots before the UCL game… we need everybody to fire in this tough stretch…everybody..

    5. No fault, no blame, most of all no hate. There is nothing in my comment that suggests, or even intimates, anything of the kind. How can anyone who supports this club hate its best player? It is an observation, based on looking back at the current iteration of the club at its swashbuckling best, comparing it to now and offering a theory.

      That is vastly different than “hate,” which dismisses notions that fly contrary to popular opinion with a single, inaccurate word. Am I nuts? Discuss. But it isn’t “stupidity” or “anti Messi stuff.” It’s just speculation and theorizing. Happens at every team’s blog, right?

      For me, the attack at its best had everyone tracking back and defending. And that attack set a standard for excellence as regards winning trophies that has yet to be equaled. So why not offer up speculative theory that suggests a possible way to return to that excellence?

      Is the theory flawed? Do we not have the players to execute it? Gimme something other than “hate” and “anti-Messi,” because neither condition exists.

    1. The Goya Awards ceremony (Spain’s Oscars) was held last night so Sport is following up with some prizes of their own. 😉

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