Barça 2, Sevilla 1, aka “I wanna be on Tellovision!”


There is something funny in the reality that the two Liga giants both went into Saturday’s match day as a favorite, only to go down a goal, then rally for a narrow, one-goal victory. Could both colossi have had the same thing on the brain? Maybe, just maybe. And it must have been contagious, because the weekend’s opponent, Sevilla, also had Copa on the brain, as both us and them have decisive matches this week against sides from the capitol city.

And yet, there are differences, as Sevilla’s Copa hopes embody the only silver that it has a shot at. Barça, on the other hand, sincerely hopes that this year isn’t like the last, in which the Copa is its only silverware. Say what you want about the two teams, imbalance of Liga power, etc, but there was the weekend’s reality.

As a consequence, both teams decided to hold key players back, with the likes of Negredo watching from the bench for Sevilla, while Xavi and Puyol rested on the home side of the benches.

Further complicating things is that Barça is coming off of an armageddon of a match, a 0-2 Champions League loss to AC Milan, a match that had so many pundits, cules and assorted hangers-on predicting everything from a loss in the return leg to the return of the Plague.

So clearly, one team had quite a bit more to prove than the other, which leads to all sorts of questions, most notably ….

Where was the urgency that we were supposed to see? might be one of them, as the rotation focused lineup came out and engaged in a leisurely game of kickabout, as cules fretted and moaned, one foot on the ledge, one eye on the television screen. “Lord today, have they learned NOTHING from the Milan match?! MORE aimless possession?! Gaaah!”

The lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Montoya, Song, Thiago, Iniesta, Messi, Sanchez and Villa not only had rotation in mind, but promised a different approach to the match. So imagine everyone’s surprise at the same old same old: Villa standing off to the left on the touchline, trying to get the attention of that food vendor in the stands. On the other side, Sanchez got the ball and faked …. dribbled …. faked …. then passed it back to midfield, while Messi decided that yes, THIS was going to be the day that he would beat 4-5 defenders off the dribble. Because like that TV commercial of his, “impossible is nothing.” Or something.

“Static” was the word of the day. No runs, no motion, none of that fancy Barça stuff that used to make opponents quake in fear at the notion of coming into the Camp Nou. Instead, our sprites decided to entertain the visitors with some practice passing sessions, and Sevilla was impressed.

“Hey, looka them boys passing that ball around. The designs are like one of those Spirograph toys. So pretty. Whoops! Here comes a stray ball. Hang on a sec while I knock it away.”

And so on, until Sevilla decided “Boy, howdy, should we liven this party up by scoring a goal,” and so THEY did, off a set piece as Alberto “When You Were Mine” Botia leaped into the air, clearing three midgets in a single leap, and headed past a pretty much defenseless Victor Valdes, who seemed just a tad flummoxed by that which had transpired.

"Hey! Hey! HEY! What a brotha got to do up in here?!"
“Hey! Hey! HEY! What a brotha got to do up in here?!”

And meanwhile, the passing demonstration resumed, but with a little more urgency that led to the same result: entertained Sevilla defenders and a 0-1 deficit at the break. And here was the problem(s):

— An offense based on passing and movement needs plenty of the latter to be successful.
— With an out-of-position Montoya on the left and the isolated-as-usual Alves on the right, that meant penetration and danger had to come from wingers rather than the overlapping fullbacks, as tactical width got a rethink by everybody except our wingers.

And yet, the team didn’t look all that perturbed as Jordi Puffy Coat emoted on the sidelines, probably for a reason that in their distress, cules don’t take a moment to consider:

Maybe things aren’t all that bad as they seem, ya know?

Big lead over second and third place in the Liga, an advantage on the away goal in the Copa semi-final and two piddlin’ home goals to overcome against AC Milan in two weeks time. Hmph. Really? Really.

And during the halftime break, we were left to ponder yet another delight of an outing by Alex Song, who is really making a case for some more time. That’s two in a row for those keeping score.


Meanwhile, in Sprite Land, Prince Jordi was consulting with a hologram, saying “Help me Master Tito. You’re our only hope.” Then some little guy started messing up syntax and stuff, and suddenly, it all made sense.

"Hey, I have an idea."
“Hey, I have an idea.”

When the teams came out for the second half, things were about to be different, as a return to the past was in order. Sanchez came off for Tello, and Villa moved to the center, in front of Messi.

Now, you people who were keeping track of the debate might have remembered some of us saying how cool it would be to harken back to the Treble days of yesteryear, and have Messi mating up with a fast winger who can turn play quickly, getting out ahead of the break on long passes, and a finisher prowling the box to take advantage of space created by Messi as well as making space FOR Messi. And wouldn’t ya know it, that is just what started happening, and it didn’t take long for the new thinking to bear fruit, for many things happened as a result of this reapportionment of forces:

— The left side of the attack was in business, and Montoya didn’t have to do anything except defend.
— Because Sevilla suddenly had to worry about the left side and that danger, the right side, in the person of Dani Alves, got room to frolic, like back in the day.
— Messi got a little more working room, because it ain’t as though David Villa is just some mope, strolling around on the left side of the pitch. Now he’s danger.

So when it came to pass that, in a lovely bit of elegant football artistry, Alves had the space to pick a pass, and deposited said effort right on the noggin of Villa, who headed home for a 1-1 draw. And there was much rejoicing.

"Come to me, my precious ...."
“Come to me, my precious ….”

And suddenly, as if by magic, there was possession, passing, movement and danger. Because instead of a static attack based on a nonexistent threatx2, a situation that was always leaving a passel of defenders free and easy to vex the life out Messi, as Villa ran around in the box, defenders had to worry about him, just like they used to have to worry about Samuel Eto’o. And the midfielders would then just slide the ball out to the left, where Tello outran everybody to get to it, then ran toward the box.

Suddenly, stuff was feeling a little less fraught as the new attitude worked so well, the team decided that a second goal was probably going to be a lovely thing. So once again, Tello outran everybody and their mamas, and in the space that he suddenly had, saw Messi, running in behind Villa, who was worrying those Sevilla defenders. He put the pass right on Messi’s foot, which unerringly slammed home for the 2-1 lead. And there was more rejoicing.

The official site is calling the comeback win a “Dosi de confiança.” Others are calling it a narrow win. Still others are calling it a worrying sign, and list the host of things that could potentially haunt this club in the two competitions in which it isn’t facing a yawning advantage:

— Lack of team speed, which makes breaks extra dangerous.
— Lack of an effective press, which gives opponents more time on the ball with which to get at our defense, which suddenly has to be a traditional defense.
— An attack that is going to leak goals.
— A tired-looking Messi.

Etc, etc. What I saw was a team that did what it was supposed to do, which is score enough goals to win the football match. This it did. Was it pretty? Nope. Dominant? Nope. Effective? Not all the time, but certainly enough of the time to resolve matters. A sign of anything? Yes and no. No if you seek doom, yes if you seek the kind of on-the-fly adaptability that is the sign of a good football team. Halftime adjustments, and today’s was a doozy because it changes the potential template for future matches in a very interesting way.

I rather imagine that the Tello bandwagon is popping streamers and groaning under the weight of all the passengers, but let’s not be so hasty. It is doubtful in the extreme that Tello will start either of the two matches coming up, for the simple reason that fresher defenders deal with him better than tired ones, because he really isn’t all that versatile. He gets the ball, and runs like the wind. Sharper defenders early in a match can more effectively capitalize on his dodgy first touch and limited inventiveness, where after halftime, when defenders have been chasing wee ones for a while, it becomes much more obviously Tello Time.

What excited me more was the man playing in front of Messi, something a great many have been calling for. Nice to see that it worked. Like a charm.

The other really interesting development was the match-closing midfield of Xavi/Busquets/Song. Busquets thrived with a partner in crime, as he did when teamed with Seydou Keita. Xavi found life easier, because he always had that reset button as he did with Keita, as he played the ball off of either Busquets or Song, to re-sync the possession game.

Whether these are real glimpses of the future, or one-off reactions to a match situation, remains to be seen. In the meantime, know that despite all the worry, all the blame, all of the gnashing of teeth, our beloved football club has a big, giant lead in La Liga. It also had a mid-week date with its most bitter rival, for a shiny trinket that both clubs crave, just probably not at much as rubbing the rival’s face in it in the aftermath of the elimination of one of the two colossi.

We can worry about that bridge when we come to it. For now, it’s worth noting that Barça beat a quality opponent, and barely got out of second gear. I can’t wait to see the machine at full throttle. The end of Hlebruary is nigh.

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Written by:

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. February 23, 2013

    as the rotation focused lineup came out and engaged in a leisurely game of kickabout,

    Just a little nitpick, but actually Barça was quite aggressive in the opening 15 minutes or so. There were plenty of shots from outside the box in a row. No, none of them were on target, but the intent was there. They were clearly showing that they had learned something from the Milan game.

    Song is probably my MOTM, although Thiago was very good as well. Song edges it because of his excellent ball recovery skills. Villa was sharp, so was Dani. Messi did what he needed to, Tello showed that he has learned from his mistakes.

    Montoya was disappointing, but as Isaiah pointed out, he was playing on the left which is not his position, and he is rusty after not playing for so long. Masche was on and off, made two key tackles. And most importantly, Pique did not pick up a card, so he is available for Tuesday’s game. *Phew*

    • February 23, 2013

      Not at all aggressive for my tastes, and Sevilla was leaving significantly more space than Milan. It was like they felt bad after spurning that early chance, and just said “Let’s kick it around.” So many times you could see an attacker with the ball, but nobody makingba run to get open. It was craziness.

      • February 24, 2013

        Not aggressive. But werent lazy either. If Villa had got that ball from messi, instead of Messi, may be we would have gone one up early and it would have been very different.
        Still it is beyond comprehension how we could look so lazy in the first half. In fact, after the second goal too, for some minutes we were really lazy.

    • nia
      February 24, 2013

      Why would Pique have missed the Tuesday game? If so, does Di Maria miss that game since he was red carded?(must have been a liga record, 11secs)

  2. Anonymous_69
    February 23, 2013

    Tello’s chances have been limited this season, but when he does play, he always impresses. And he has SO MUCH potential.

    I try not to get overly excited about him. There’s a lot that can go wrong, his first touch is still bad, and even if he doesn’t reach his full potential, he will still become a very good super-sub.

    But it’s hard to keep myself from thinking of what might be. If he can work on that first touch of his, if he can keep developing as he currently is, and if he can fine-tune his positioning a bit (all huge “ifs”), he has the potential to be great.

    Lots to work on, but if he does it right, he will be a starter soon enough IMO.

  3. pr17
    February 23, 2013

    great review. I was shouting out for movement in the first half. Both sanchez and villa were static so many times. thiago attempted to do a run or two but that was it. Song had a great match. Looks a safe cover for busi. Though i wouldnt jump onto song busi and xavi midfield like you suggested. Again you are overplaying the xavi busi keita midfield. We hardly created with keita and all creation responsibility fell on 1 player. Dont know what reset means.

    Tello and villa were a breath of fresh air. we need to have villa. Midfield continued to ignore him on counter attacks in first half. I say we need to let a few risky passes go towards villa. if not it will atleast throw their shape off a bit.

    Hope abidal makes a comeback in clasico.

  4. KEVINO17
    February 23, 2013

    Imagine how much more effective Barca will be with Alba playing behind Villa. Montoya was OK, but there was acres of space on the left that Alba would have galloped into. Very encouraging for the games against RM and Milan.

    One of the things about Song (which I’m not the first to mention) is that he seems to cover a lot more ground horizontally, getting across to help on the wings, than Busquets, which is vital when stopping the counter-attack.

    Further, the more I see of Song, the more I think he is a born central midfielder. Protects the ball well. Good at picking out forward passes and has a tremendous defensive component to his game.

    If Barca play like this against Milan, with even more pressure upfield, I think they can really do a job on them.

    Song for Central Midfield.

  5. nia
    February 24, 2013

    I think Song had a good game as well. Improving with every appearance. Glad to see Jordi using the double pivot to try and see out the game, although Sevilla had a few chances to score later on. Tello also did a good job after he came on.
    Still, a few tricky games coming up in the copa and CL and an extremely dodgy defence to boot. Well, I hope we do make it through both but, we’ll take it one game at a time. First the dreaded EE.

    Still trying to figure out what happened during the Christmas break, as the second half to Barca’s season hasn’t been exactly stellar. Are they still working up to second half peakness, complacency or the team is just a little tired?

  6. ian_percival
    February 24, 2013

    TAKE IT OR NOT,if alex song was catalan he would’ve been getting the knod most times,am not saying he’s better than busi but atleast they should sometimes try him in central midfield,i bet he would impress,i mean,statistically song is the only barça player this season with the least misplaced pass in the minutes he has been given to play,and i think he has not been given enough credit here that he deserves,he was grand against sevilla,the MOTM for me and for everyone else,unless you have a confused opinion.Shame he’s not catalan so you can understand how meaningless the difference is.DONT JUDGE ME I’M ENGLISH AND AM WHITE BUT I DON’T THINK ITS IMPORTANT,EVERYONE SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY,XD!

    • Benj
      February 24, 2013

      If you don’t think it’s important, why mention it? I’m right handed and have brown eyes, so what? Song doesn’t get many starts because he is a new player in the team and he plays in a spot where there is competition. Against physical teams, Busi is the bomb at DM, not because he is imposing, but because he makes imposing players look less so. Against some teams you could go with Xavi at DM, due to the fact he rarely misplaces the ball and can be (to use that great term by kxev) the reset button for Fab/Ini/Leo. Song provides something different, but it’s just hard to use all of your options, or you’ll end up with a lineup featuring 8 CMs. It has nothing to do with being catalan or not, it has to do with our system. If we played (god forbid) a double pivote system like EE, it would probably be Song and Busi, but until then, you probably wont see them together and I’d prefer Busi.
      Although a Song-Busi-Masche midfield in front of an Abi-Puyol-Pique-Dani would be our new ‘You Shall Not Pass’!

      • Benj
        February 24, 2013

        “you probably wont see them together”
        EDIT: I meant starting together, apologies

      • nzm
        February 25, 2013

        If we played (god forbid) a double pivote system like EE, it would probably be Song and Busi, but until then, you probably wont see them together…

        We saw them together in this Sevilla match, and it was good. 🙂

  7. Anirudh
    February 24, 2013

    Good article , but once Villa drifted inside and Dani was almost playing as a winger. Dont you think they missed a trick by not using the flank left open by dani?

  8. blazeofglory
    February 24, 2013

    Two clasicos coming up!! My my…

    Here’s hoping that we meet RM later in the CL too! I wouldn’t mind shedding hair for those two clasicos, as all of Spanish football seems to be on a crisis. All four teams are pegged back somehow in the CL. I believe RM is in a better position. All goals they score will be away goals.

  9. KEVINO17
    February 24, 2013

    Question: why bother playing Pedro. The tactical formation in the second half seemed excellent. Villa in the middle. Winger on the Left. Alves bombing forward to provide width on the right. It was noticeable that with a centre forward ahead, Messi had more space and could play wall passes, and there was a focus for crosses. Meant there was always at least one player in the box in a scoring position.
    Thought Tello was excellent. But someone as agile as him should be doing more defending.

  10. K_legit in Oz
    February 24, 2013

    I think with Song and Busquets on the pitch, its the closest Barcelona will get to having a 3 man defense. Busquets was playing right of midfield with Alves pushing way way up.
    We might see that against Milan in the return leg.

  11. TITO
    February 24, 2013

    Geoffrey Kondogbia – their France international, i quite liked the way he played and controlled the ball. Came as a substitution in the second half.
    I just re-watched the game again, and what a difference in our approach between the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second half. If we play like that (we used to) against both RM and Milan i’m certain that we will get results which will suit us.

  12. TITO
    February 24, 2013


    “The manager told me to open the pitch up, to take players on and to take my chances in front of goal.”

    The manager should tell that to all our attackers.

    • Blau-Grenade
      February 24, 2013

      The problem is others, outside of Messi, are not capable of doing it. Some people say, “oh Cuenca” could have done all that and more. Cuenca does not have the pace. Further Cuenca does not have the shot that Tello has.

      Villa Alexis and Pedro suffer from constant pass back syndrome. I dont care if they loose the ball one a one situation to the defender. But at least make the effort and take the defender. I can’t stand that.

      • Messiah10
        February 24, 2013

        You left out Dani on that list of pass back syndrome.

  13. dsbarca
    February 24, 2013

    The match against Sevilla was not our best match but the good thing is that we won. Let’s play the best game of the season on Tuesday vs RM. Let’s give the best, the most precise match, let’s scoring all chances, not conceding stupid goals! Visca Barca!

  14. psalmuel
    February 24, 2013

    hey guyz,i just joined this site officially today but i’v been a fan of this site for a year now and i enjoy the posts, and the reviews have been top notch,i do enjoy the comment section very well and admire how there’s no cursing (like on Hope am welcome?

    • Jim
      February 24, 2013

      Of course you are :).

      We’re all after the same thing which is this team of ours lifting as much silverware as possible. Good to see so many people feeling comfortable posting here.

      • February 24, 2013

        Welcome psalmuel. Interesting screen name. What’s the derivation.

        Thanks for the nice comment about the comments. Oh, we let fly from time to time but yes, we’re pretty proud of the fact that as a general rule, everyone is thoughtful and respectful when commenting here. We like to think (hope) that it makes for a better experience all around. Glad to see that folks agree with us.

  15. Jim
    February 24, 2013

    (from Barcastuff). Messi: “With Villa up front in the second half, Sevilla’s centre backs couldn’t move forward, which gave me more space.” #fcblive

    • nzm
      February 24, 2013

      Which really tells the tale – it was Villa’s switch of position that made the difference.

    • nzm
      February 24, 2013

      After writing this, I then scrolled down and read Euler’s comment!

  16. psalmuel
    February 24, 2013

    against milan,forget about the false nine tactic, put in a true striker (villa) in the bus,put tello on the LW, messi should play a RF instead. Alves should keep on crossing to villa and tello should utilise his touch line cut back. Start ini,thiago and song in the midfield cause we’ll be needing urgency and ruggedness

  17. Nice Review Kxevin – Brilliant and Balanced.

    I absolutely agree with what you said, we should not expect Tello to start against RM and Milan. He should be unleashed only against a tired defense. Starting him from the beginning could expose the left flank a bit for us. Also as you said he could be very effective against a tired defense. More over starting Pedro on the flanks is not a bad option. But we have to make sure that Alba, Iniesta and Pedro combine on the left flank like they did in Euro in some matches.

    But the key will be to start Villa in the middle. We saw how good Messi’s run looks with Villa ahead of him and how he was creating enough doubt on the defenders mind. People say that there is some telepathic understanding between Cesc and Messi, Messi and Iniesta etc. But no one seems to notice how well Villa and Messi link up in the box with Villa ahead of Messi. In the 2010 year we could see clearly how Villa and Messi used to play a series of sweet exchanges exactly in the middle of crowded box. If we have to have a decent chance against Milan, we have to do this from the start, may be a bit faster.

    Villa is a real threat in the box. He may not convert most of chances but remember with him in middle we have a better chance of creating more and also unleashing Messi with a bit more space.

  18. February 24, 2013

    A few tidbits:

    Sport sez the club is actually prepping a renewal offer for Villa, with the mind of him being the new Larsson. Yes, that means supersub. Makes sense.

    — Ramalho (coach Santos): “Barça-Neymar talk? It’s an honour for us. We’d like him to join them. Barcelona will take good care of him.” (More and more, people are acting like it’s a done deal. A friend from Barcelona who claims to have excellent sources says he is defo coming this summer. The Sevilla match showed us what a pure winger, rather than a converted forward — Henry was the aberration — can do on the wing. Now imagine someone with significantly more talent than Tello out there. I’m reservedly anticipatory, because there are still the character, tracking back questions, etc. But in theory, the Neymar acquisition could improve the club significantly. As regards the possibility of it happening, recall the Sport and EMD stories about him coming this summer, and the lack of denials from the player and Santos. Also recall that Neymar’s father has come out in the press and said that Barça is the best place for him, as has Pele. Weirdness abounds. Believe nothing until the player is standing in the Camp Nou kissing the crest. UEFA could still pass a rule against having Neymar and Messi in the same front line, after all.)

    — Song lost one ball yesterday, recovered 13. Yikes.

    — Allas continues to knock out gems:

  19. February 24, 2013

    This was a match that was transformed by tactics. Barca’s change in shape was the key to turning this around.

    In the first half Barca played their base template. To be clear-Sanchez & Villa were not just static. They were playing the tactical roles they were instructed to-stay wide & open the middle.

    And they did this effectively. They successfully opened gaps in the channels between the FBs & CBs on both sides.

    This wasn’t a match like Milan where the defense controlled space. Barca opened space in the first half.

    The frustrating thing about the first half is how the midfielders, all of them Iniesta, Thiago, & Song – just refused to make runs from deep to exploit the space in the channels. This is such a problem. The team becomes so hyperfocused on circulating the ball that they at times stop seeing the game. And that was the first half yesterday.

    Once again-because the midfielders were so passive & the wingers instructed to stay wide to space the pitch the entire attack boiled down to Messi needing to beat 4-5 defenders.

    If the wingers are instructed to stay wide then the midfielders absolutely must make penetrating runs to goal. But that rarely happened-despite there being space to do so.

    The other option is for the wingers to beat the defenders off the ball with the dribble & get to goal. But it’s been ages since Barca had players on form who can do this. And Villa and Sanchez both also looked to circulate the ball too much when they got it wide. But their role in the 1st half were largely tactical as they were both so often far from goal. Both were unlikely to create goal threats from those positions

    If the midfielders don’t make runs from deep in this set up that then the defense is going to have a 4 v 1 on the striker. And that’s what happened.

    People are focusing too much on the introduction of Tello. The key player in the second half & key tactical change was moving Villa to the center. This occupied both CBs and turned a 4 v 1 on Messi into a 2 v 1.

    Jim quotes this above but it’s worth repeating: Messi said this after the match (via barcastuff)

    Messi: “With Villa up front in the second half, Sevilla’s centre backs couldn’t move forward, which gave me more space.”

    This space opened by Villa for Messi was a key to the 2nd goal. Messi doesn’t find that space in the first half as both CBs would’ve been pinned to him

    Just as importantly Villa worked the R channel. This drew the R FB very narrow. This was critical as it opened up the R flank even more for Barca to play on.

    On the first goal – forget Villa’s header. Look at the acres of space Alves has to play in because Villa has drawn the R FB narrow. That was the underlying dynamics of that goal.

    I know Villa’s had a difficult confusing season, but I do hope he stays positive and comes on strong to close the season. The team needs him. And I hope he signs an extension.

    Tello was very good on the left. But his role was a secondary function of Barca overloading the center via the Villa-Messi-Midfield axis.

    All this said, Dani Alves was the best player on the pitch for Barcelona and probably the only player to be effectively influential in both halves.

    I’m surprised to not see people talking more about Alves. Alves had the most touches on the team (132-tied with Thiago). Alves Completed the second most passes (after Thiago). And in the 2nd half the attack flowed through him.

    If you add together the number of pass attempts and touches Xavi & Iniesta had together yesterday – Alves had more than both of them put together (Xavi can on for iniesta so together they played the same minutes as Alves). That’s how infuential Dani was. He sliced apart Sevilla over and over.

    He was also good defensively. Led the team in tackles. And the threat that Sevilla did generate came down the Barca L flank (yet again).

    The primary reason Villa was able to move to the 9 is because Alves is able to man the entire R flank by himself. No other R FB in the world allows this kind of tactical flexibility.

    Alves has been superb since returning from that injury. He’s back to being the best R FB in the world, or very close to it. He transforms how Barca is able to play.

    A note I’ll make on Song. It’s good to see him integrating. He’s playing well. But watching the way his game is evolving is also becoming very concerning to me.

    You watch him play now and you can just see the pattern taking place again: a new player comes to Barca and in order to fit into the pass first template guts his game from the things that were his strengths before.

    The Alex Song that played for Arsenal last year – with a player who retained those strengths – Barca scores yesterday in the first half. He’s sublimating his strengths so much that his game is in the process of disappearing. So rather than Song adding to the template he’s just reducing his game severely to fit the template.

    • Artur
      February 24, 2013

      Great comment about Alves, Euler. I think it’s partly his fault for his great game to go unnoticed, he’s such an immense player that we only expect this level of game play from him. We definitely take what he does for us for granted, I love the amount of trust coaches have in him when they allow him to have the entire rank flank for himself.

      It’s good you mention that about Song, I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who noticed he hasn’t crashed the box once. You could argue its for tactical reasons and he was instructed to do so (especially in second half to cover alves’s runs down the flank) but cmon, once of his biggest strengths is providing the foundation for the attacks. Really rigid.

      Thoughts about Iniesta’s role in yesterday’s 11? I found Xavi to better fit the formula after he was subbed in.

      • nzm
        February 24, 2013

        Song did crash the box last night but no one ran with him.

        • KEVINO17
          February 24, 2013

          Agree. He did it several times.
          Easy to criiticise the wingers. But there really isn’t a winger in the world who can waltz past a duoble team. Only Tello really got one-on-ones for the reasons Euler has so elegantly stated.
          Very interesting that messi would come out and basically tell Roura this is how he wants it.

    • Rivaldo
      February 24, 2013

      Interesting point on Song at the end.
      This is what happened to Sanchez, the difference is that we’ve called it “Messi pleasing”. To fit into the template he has lost alot of his dynamism. I’ll watch for Song’d development but he’s been looking good.

    • sd
      February 24, 2013

      I have been following your twitter timeline. I don’t have my own twitter so didn’t contribute anything there but wanted to suggest something w.r.t the question of playing Villa as a 9 against Madrid and balancing the transition wing-defence so that Ronaldo/Coentrao or Ronaldo/Arbeloa/Di Maria do not overload Alves or Alba.

      Could Barcelona not play Pedro or Alexis with Villa in the middle and ask one of them to follow Ronaldo to whatever flank he is on. If he moves to the R flank, Pedro attacks with Alves on the R. If he moves to the L, Pedro attacks with Alba on the L. Mixing with either Iniesta or Xavi. And of course they are asked to put in a lot of work over there but only for a half. Alexis or someone else then replaces them.

      Viable solution or not?

    • Tsivoman
      February 25, 2013

      I have to ask a question Euler.

      This pattern we’re seeing with the likes of Song, Alexis and Villa, don’t you think is worrying for the team in general going forward?

      I’ts fairly easy for people to criticize these players by saying they are not living up the their billing after joining Barca and yet ignore the fact that these players are being asked to abandon their natural game/abilities for the good of the team?

      Take Alexis for instance, why is he so dominant, free and effective for Chile and yet each time he wears the Barca shirt, he looks poor (for lack of a better word)?

      Given that tiki-taka has been so called found out by the opposition, wouldn’t it be better for the coaching staff to unshackle and release them? This i think could be devastating for the opposition because it could be unexpected as tiki-taka was when it came to mainstream.

      Notice how Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and Alba don’t have to adjust their style/abilities when playing either for the club or respective NT.

      I would be interesting to see how Neyma adapts if he does come.

    • psqd
      February 25, 2013

      Interesting comments as usual, thanks.
      I have a couple of additions and questions about the topics covered.
      First, Dani was great. He is gaining momentum with minutes. As you described and has been laid out time and time again here before. The guy has a unique skillset and he is only going to be the player people have come to expect him to be if he is allowed to play the role he is uniquely suited to. Which is to say, let him play the entire right touchline and don’t put an orthodox winger in front of him. Which is not to say that he can’t perform in other roles, but that is how he is best utilized and maximized. Oh and it helps tremendously if there is someone tasked to be in the box like a, gasp, 9. Predictably, if he’s got someone to play one-two’s with AND someone positioned amongst the CB’s he is given the greatest possibility to shine. The beauty is that Dani facilitates this by essentially playing two positions, simultaneously allowing and requiring the “RW” to cut inside and give him space.
      The obvious difference came when villa moved in front of messi and tello was stationed on the left wing. As stated it was more about the change of formation than personnel. In many ways this was a reversion to “pep’s” barcelona in that the asymmetry returned to the right wing. It also brought back a formation that looked to be gaining momentum last season before villa’s injury. It’s something that I would like to see more often and hopefully will if villa is recovered. First, it shows an available option or plan B that is often available without substitution and has many of the advantages of the plan b 9 that many call for without completely abandoning plan a, which is so often successful. It does pose a few questions at least partially by pointing out the weaknesses that have become ever more glaring during hlebuary.
      The formation(s) used during the game were a reversion to right sided asymmetry we’ve grown used to seeing from pep’s barcelona. To a certain extent they were only available because alba was rested. Montoya was used and positioned much more like abidal than alba. This is to be expected because montoya isn’t naturally as aggressive as alba, is playing out of position, and frankly isn’t fast enough to be as effective. He also isn’t as fast as abidal, which means what effectively is a back 3 isn’t as effective a back 3 as pep’s back 3. So even as abidal returns to fitness barca hasn’t figured out how to replace abidal.

      With Dani returning to form and favor this second question becomes more academic and/or at least less immediate. Early this season when Montoya and Adriano were dominating the RB minutes I wondered if we could see a mirrored swap or change in team chirality. That is, alba becomes alves on the left and the right back becomes more conservative and effectively the RCB of a back 3? Was that a way forward? It obviously isn’t this season, and Euler and others pointed out that swapping two players isn’t enough to flip the chirality. The most obvious reason is Messi, the less obvious reason is Iniesta and to a certain extent Xavi. One of the things that has been repeated exposed this season is a lack of team speed. Most often people cite a lack of speed at CB as the problem. It certainly can be and it’s not worth rehashing here. However, I don’t recall seeing much discussion about how slow the midfield is. Barca’s midfield runs a ton and does a lot of work, defends/badgers well relatively high up the pitch and recovers balls there. However, if you get the ball behind them you basically don’t have to worry about them. One of the reasons teams are increasingly effective on barca’s left is the space alba leaves when he is off being alves jr. However, he like dani is fast and does amazingly well with recovery defense given the what he is asked to do. In my opinion. What I think everyone is learning is how much abidal and the system was set up to protect/compensate for iniesta. I love Andres to death and what he does is ridiculous, but this season we have seen the defensive cost to allowing him to do what he does. Also, that neither of his midfield cohorts are fast enough reliably cover all their often is to recover. This is another reason the wings are asked to do so much work for this team. It’s not just the high pressure, but because they as being asked to use their speed to cover space and players that would often be covered by MF’s.

      The system’s success this weekend begs the question of whether it can be implemented with what has up until now been the first choice 11. Until now they have tried to occupy the CB’s and create the space for messi without designating a full time #9. And as an aside I am tired of calling messi a false 9 just cause there isn’t a 9 on the field. Case and point with villa playing as a 9 ahead of him is he a false 9? even if his positioning stays relatively unchanged? Anyway, pedro is asked to make diagonal runs to occupy the CB’s, iniesta distracts largely from the channel and cesc sometimes makes some runs that the CB’s have to pay attention to, but again he isn’t fast enough to provide the constant threat to push the CB’s back like having a 9 there does. So I would argue that having a few players mime at that role hasn’t proven an effective substitute. Luckily it’s not always necessary for this team to win. But it certainly seemed missing against milan.

      I think Euler has looked for pedro to fill in at 9 from RW as a possibility. It’s the most obvious, but can he do the defensive work he is asked to do from all the way up top? doubt it and then you are further weakening a precarious defensive system. Basically, I think the system we saw at the weekend has much more tactical flexibility than what has become the first choice 11 so far this season.

      So it’ll be interesting to see what’s rolled out against RM tomorrow and at the weekend. But against milan I can’t see how you can’t include villa likely at cesc’s expense.

  20. February 24, 2013

    Went back to look up some statistics, because I wanted to see how much our defense really “sucks” this year. I found some interesting stuff. Here ya go, separated by competition and goals for/against:

    08-09 (Treble): L: 105/35; CL: 32/13; CdR: 17/6 (13 headed goals conc.)
    09-10 (Liga): L: 98/24, CL: 20/10; CdR: 9/2 (5 headed goals conc.)
    10-11 (Double): L: 95/21; CL: 30/9; CdR: 22/6 (4 headed goals conc.)
    11-12 (Copa): L: 114/29; CL: 35/10; CdR: 26/5 (9 headed goals conc.)
    12-13 (??): L: 82/28; CL: 11/7; CdR: 20/6

    What I find interesting is that we had the same defense last year as this year, so I am not sure how the defense can suddenly “suck.” Also, look at the goals. We gave up a number of goals that this year, would have people on the ledges, looking to leap. The best year defensively was the year of the 10/11 double. Note that fact in light of the video I posted last thread about Messi/Pedro/Villa pressing as part of the defense.

    Now, numbers don’t tell the whole story. If you give up a few goals when you’re winning 6-3, you don’t worry that much. The larger problem for me, is as pressing goes away, goals leak because then our defense is forced to be that thing at which it is least good: a defense.

    Anyhow, anyone who can interpret some kind of trend or something from these stats, feel free. Here ya go.

    • Artur
      February 24, 2013

      I don’t know where you get these statistics, but would it be possible to get some on VV since we’re speaking about defense?

      • February 24, 2013

        Official club site. The Valdes question is interesting. As with any set of numbers, including goals/shots etc, it isn’t what but how. If the defense cocks up and leaves a keeper exposed, that will count as a goal against for the keeper and the team, but it is more illustrative as a goal against the team, right? That’s why I didn’t bother with Valdes stats, particularly given as his stranglehold on the Zamora trophy is either meaningful or worthless, if you consider the defense’s role in a keeper’s success.

        • February 24, 2013

          Also interesting is that in the Treble year, look at those goals against totals! I’m not sure any cules would still be alive if the club were to match those totals this season.

          But with 13 Liga matches left, the club should be right around the same totals as in the Treble season for the Liga.

        • Artur
          February 24, 2013

          I’m a fan of VV. He’s real classy guy who moulds with the team exceptionally well, not to mention fits our system. But I find that one of the reasons why it’s difficult to judge his performance for us is because he has the statistics to back him up (i.e. zamora trophy). Case to point – Casillas. Just like any Ronaldo fan will have a hard time disagreeing that Messi is the better player, I doubt any VV fan will do the same with regards to Iker. Casillas is better, yet all the stats are against him. This is why I think statistics for goalkeepers mean very little. To me it’s whther or not they show up to big games. How many classicos has VV bailed us out vs Iker?

          It’s weird, but comparing Victor to Iker even feels a bit unfair..

          I guess question I’m trying to ask is would we be better off with a GK who is more skilled with his hands than his feet?

          Anybody have any news with regards to our scouting reports on next year’s GK btw? Last I heard we were interested in Tottenham’s GK.

    • February 24, 2013

      Over the 4 years prior to this season Barca averaged scoring 2.5 goals per game while conceding around .75 goals per game IIRC.

      This year we’re scoring around 3 goal/match and conceding a little over 1 goal per match (around 1.01 IIRC).

      So we’re basically scoring around 17% more goals while conceding 25% more goals.

      This is clearly another way to win – increase the attack while overcoming the increased instability in conceding. And there’s a real argument for this being a more effective way of winning. Football is so low scoring that in a way scoring goals is more valuable than not conceding.

      But the problem is if you’re goal scoring let’s up even somewhat then you may only be scoring at the same rate as you have in the past while still conceding at the same high rate. Which is what we’re seeing over the past 6 weeks or so.

      • Artur
        February 24, 2013


        This is why EPL and most other “top” clubs in Europe are much more focused on NOT conceding than they are in scoring goals. For them it’s always #1 don’t concede and #2 score goals, for us it’s historically been the other way around.

        Case to point:
        Winning 3-2 at home
        But losing 0-1 away

        Pretty familiar numbers eh?

        • vdot16
          February 25, 2013

          Actually this is the problems even the EPL clubs are facing now in Europe. The defenses in EPL have been leaky over the past couple of years and the clubs have been defensively poor compared to the past.

          IMO the problem with the approach of score more than your opponent is in cup games and in Europe over two legged ties. Just like you said 3-2 home and 0-1 away are always on the horizon when the team is even a little off-form.

          Will be interesting to see how we play in the remaining big games this season.

  21. TITO
    February 24, 2013

    I would like to see the shots/attacks vs. goals ratio this season and the previous 3-4 seasons.
    I got the impression that teams used to work much harder to score against us. Now it’s just a walk on the park for them.
    Every time that the opponent attacks us, it gives me a headache, a dangerous situation is on the verge, with a high probability for a goal.

  22. Messiah10
    February 24, 2013

    I had the feeling last season that our “system” or adaptation of the “system” under Pep had been figured out. Park the bus and man mark Messi with the 2 CB’s and a DM if possible. If all else fails then mark him with the entire back line and DM. This year it started out as much of the same, but we had Alba opening up space on the left and drawing defenders with him and Iniesta over lapping him and getting into the box. I haven’t seen that since the Dec. break. I’m not sure why. Is Alba tired? Is Iniesta tired? Messi definitely looks tired, but who wouldn’t be when your marked by 3-5 players and have no space to create anything. It has to be frustrating as well. I felt frustrated last season and am getting the same feeling again. Why can’t we revert back to the original system of 08/09? I understand we had different players in Henry & Eto’o who made that possible, but Tello/Alexis/Pedro should be able to provide it on the left or right. Put Villa in the middle and Messi on the left again and we would begin to see the space we need. Dani and Messi combined so well for those 3 glorious season. It all started to go South when EVERY team parked the bus. Someone HAS to play in front of Messi now! It’s the only way to draw the defenders closer to the goal and allow Messi to pick the ball up closer to the box. Milan had to have been happy as hell to see him dropping to the half way line picking up the ball and doing nothing with it. I know I would’ve been. This is where we are really missing Tito. I hate to bring up an impossible, but Afellay would be ideal as the starter on the left. Then Tello could come on and bring even more pace as he has done. I never liked the loan move, but the way the season started it seemed there was no room for him. Neymar would be ideal for the left as Kxevin mentions. I still have concerns over his physicality and defense, but he’s a play maker and pure goal scorer. Even if he makes the move this summer I can’t conceive him making an immediate impact because of the time it will take for him to transition to Liga. Anyhow, I’m rambling now, but I’m the one on a ledge that Kxevin mentions and I WANT to climb down!

    • Messiah10
      February 24, 2013

      I meant Messi on the right. Duh.

    • February 24, 2013

      As much as I like Afellay, don’t see where he fits in this team.

      Not needed in midfield and not at his best on the wing.

      • Messiah10
        February 24, 2013

        I thought he was one of Holland’s only effective players during the Euro’s and that was mostly on the LW. He has pace, moves, and a good shot. I would’ve given him the nod on the left above Tello before the season started. Now it’s more of a 50/50.

  23. mom4
    February 24, 2013

    I wanna be on Tellovision”

    You’ve been waiting like forever for a chance to use that one, Right? 🙂

    • February 24, 2013

      It actually just came to me as I was sitting down to write the review, if you can believe it. I like this type of review, because it functions as my real-life writing does: first word, best word. No thinking or screwing around. You know what you want to say, so say it. Most writers get in their own way in thinking about Writing. Writing, however, is just written conversation. So it’s pretty easy.

  24. alpinegroove
    February 24, 2013

    What would keep Neymar from being boxed in to a limited role in the same way that Song, Villa, Alexis, Cesc, etc. have?
    As Euler describes above regarding Song, there is something about how the team incorporates new players that hinders their versatility and creativity.

    • February 24, 2013

      That’s the question. I think that the club and its most valuable player are going to have to adjust. If you just drop Neymar into our system right now, as he is, he and the system will kick ass, assuming his head doesn’t implode with the pressure of being at Barça. Here’s some of why:

      — He’s a pure winger. But he’s a LOT better than Tello. So all that Tello stuff that works, should work even better, because he can beat defenders off the dribble, etc. He also has a wicked shot.

      — His associative play means that there is another actual passer on that side of the pitch. Not like Alba, where he is running overlaps and bouncing the ball back to midfield, or Villa. Neymar has real, actual ball skills, like a Barça sprite. This means that Alba can defend more and not get caught up, removing that vacated channel as an attacking option. It also saves wear and tear on Iniesta and Xavi.

      — His linkup play means that you have a real playmaker out there as well. Because like Messi, Neymar isn’t just a goal scorer. He is also a very intelligent passer who understands space: how to use it, where to be in it and where others need to be in it.

      He really is one hell of a player who yes, could still implode with the pressure, etc, even assuming the rumors are true. But …. and I don’t say this at all lightly …. at full potential, he could give us almost a left-side Messi in terms of danger on and off the ball.

      But the club is going to have to recognize what it has, and make it work within the template without stifling its natural qualities. Part of why Sanchez is so tentative is because he IS assimilated, yet he’s struggling with wanting to play like Alexis Sanchez. And at times he doesn’t know what to do. It’s weird.

      • Momo
        February 24, 2013

        As long as he doesn’t get number 9 I am sure he will do well. That jersey is cursed I tell ya!

        • February 24, 2013

          Eto’o did okay with it, yes? But he won’t get 9, even if the Sanchez sale rumors are true.

          • ibbe
            February 24, 2013

            Isn’t Neymar’s favorite # is 11? I hope they don’t take the number from Thiago (again). Great analyzing of the player by the way. I’m looking forward to seeing him in a barca shirt if the rumors are true. I missed that Brazilian talent on the left since Ronaldinho left..

      • alpinegroove
        February 24, 2013

        The question for me is not whether he can be all of that but whether the system will allow him. Just like there is no question for me that Villa is a world class finisher, who usually is not allowed to play as such.

  25. alpinegroove
    February 24, 2013

    What do we do with Cesc?
    When he was more active in the attacking role, making more vertical runs, we were really exposed in transition defense.
    Now that he makes no runs, he is almost useless.

    • Tsivoman
      February 25, 2013

      I think Cesc is a classic case similar to Song, Villa, and Alexis.

      Granted, Cesc was successful during the first half of last season and early games of this season but you could always see that he still got lost in the Barca system time and time again during games.

      Contrast that to his Arsenal days when he basically run the show by being allowed to roam the midfield with no restrictions, and he was deadly with his play-making and passing.

      The important and most critical question to ask is:
      Has the system that has served the club so successfully over the last few years become so restrictive that great talents in world football are being made to look average within it?

      • nzm
        February 25, 2013

        Excellent question.

        My short answer to that would be yes.

        I can’t think of one forward who could play like a forward without the Barca system having to adapt to fit the player.

        We saw how that could happen in the second half of the Sevilla match when Villa came into the middle and Messi dropped back. Put some dedicated wingers onto the pitch and then suddenly you have an attacking Barca with pace and movement.

        But then the midfield would have to be re-jigged!

  26. KEVINO17
    February 24, 2013

    Has anyone ever seen Neymar defend? And if he doesn’t defend, won’t he just be an expensive passenger?

    • KEVINO17
      February 24, 2013

      I say that because Messi really does dog it these days – understandably. Someone goes past him and he’s immediately got his hands on his hips. Barca can’t afford two luxury forwards.

        • KEVINO17
          February 24, 2013

          Tracking back is good, but going forward and actually confronting the player with the ball or helping team-mates to double-team is even better. Then you steal the ball in a dangerous position and stop any chance of a counter-attack. Pedro and Alexis are exceptionally good at doing that.

  27. ian_percival
    February 24, 2013

    Please i have a gift of seeing things that no one sees.everyone’s talking about messi-villa switch,but we’re forgetting about our defence which is gonna be the determining factor to our CL survival,if we focus on attack only and we get the goals we need and then milan scores us with our weak defence then its over.we have to address the defence too

    • February 24, 2013

      Oh, we see it. But for me, you’re asking the wrong question. It isn’t what about the defense, but rather what about the system that makes our defenders have to function as actual defenders?

      That is, our defenders are best when they are allowed to function as modified sweepers, who deal with balls that leak through the midfield pressure, etc. When they have to function as actual defenders …. well …. we don’t have those kinds of defenders, even as they CAN defend.

      But the success of their skill sets are predicated upon a systemic approach to defense, team defense, that doesn’t take them out of their skill/comfort zone. It’s no coincidence that our best defensive year was 10/11, when MVP was pressing like an all-night drycleaner. We also had Abidal.

      People also forget that our defense has ALWAYS given up the same kinds of goals: “silly” goals off the break, that catch somebody out of position and everyone reverts to fireman mode, always forgetting someone. In past years it has been the runner off of a set piece, or a loose man in the box, or an unmarked passer. Same stuff as this year.

      • bhed
        February 25, 2013

        And the award for best simile in a comment goes to… “pressing like an all-night drycleaner.”

        • barca96
          February 25, 2013

          Kxevin has an amazing way with words. They always crack me up! You (Kxevin) should audition for stand up comedian!

      • February 25, 2013

        Aw, shucks …. everybody has the same flair for words. They just have to relax and let it get to their fingers. I know a writer who is hilarious when he talks, tells tales, etc. But his writing reads like a block of wood. I always tell him “No, be like you are.” Being ourselves is something that we’re all really good at.

  28. February 25, 2013

    Missed this game. But here’s what I think.

    Only two things stand between this team and another treble victory.

    1. Effective Pressing.
    2. Re instilling Villa’s confidence in his shot taking abilities and worth to the team.

    • February 25, 2013

      3.Better concentration in defence
      4.Getting more compact like before – to reduce the space between the defence-mf-forwards

        • barca96
          February 25, 2013

          Yup. Excellent points.

          The space between MF and DF is the biggest I’ve seen since Pep’s era.

  29. February 25, 2013

    So two matches coming up against our most hated rival, and something has just now occurred to me:

    Have there been a pair of meetings worth less? Copa semis, and y’all know my views on the Copa. Then the away Classic (see what I did there?).

    I have given up on my “Dump the Copa” notion being adopted by the team even as it makes sense for sporting AND political reasons. (“This Catalan club cares little for your King and his Cup! Sniff!”). As for the Liga, in looking at points totals and standings, the club would have to drop a point a week to yield the lead that it has in the standings, assuming that tje second and third-placed teams were perfect for the rest of the season.

    So I would make both matches ways to find out about players in a real (vs Real) cauldron.

    Copa: Pinto, Montoya, Mascherano, Bartra, Adriano, Song, JDS, Thiago, Sanchez, Villa, Pedro. And let fly.

    Classic: Valdes, Montoya, Pique, Bartra, Alba, Song, Mascherano, Thiago, Sanchez, Tello, Deulofeu.

    Yes, two Messi-less matches. Same for Xavi and Iniesta and Puyol. Rest and rotation in matches in which the result isn’t all that critical. Yep.

    • February 25, 2013

      Sounds allright.
      I doubt if the club/players will think so as there is always some pride involved, playing against Madrid.

      Also, since the Milan remontada is not guaranteed, it would end up quite embarassing to lose (if at all we lose the classicos) two successive el classico’s and then go out of CL as well. – just a bit of negative thinking. I wish we win all three.

    • February 25, 2013

      As little as I care about the Copa, I’d send out a strong team to belt them at home and regain our morale.
      I am all for sending the Babies to the Bernabeu though and resting the big boys.

    • ibbe
      February 25, 2013

      The league would lose its taste if we lose to real. And i think it would be huge moral boost if we win against our most hated rival. But then again if it means progression and winnig the CL then yes send our babies.

      • February 25, 2013

        Really? Why? Would potentially losing to RM somehow taint the work that the team has put it, or the high quality of play that has contributed to the big lead? Don’t think so.

        • barca96
          February 25, 2013

          The league would lose its taste if we lose to real

          Even if we beat them in a more important fixture a few days before that? In a match that will KO them and send us to a Cup Final?

          • Tsivoman
            February 25, 2013

            I agree that losing to Madrid will definately affect the team phycologically which they don’t need right now.

            I would go 100% in the Copa clasico tomorrow 26th and maybe a draw on Saturday in the league clasico.

          • February 25, 2013

            I see these two matches as being nasty, violent affairs. And the whole side looks tired. Did anyone notice Pique lumbering after Sevilla’s not-particularly-swift Negredo on the weekend? Or how tired Xavi and Iniesta look these days? And I have not seen Messi walking as much in a while. I know, I know …. “Stop it, you churl …. he’s resting within the match, and here’s the speculative piece by a journalist to prove it.”

            Nonetheless, our players could use some rest. Pepe is more likely to kick Messi in an injurious way than anyone from Deportivo, or any other club we are going to face this season. He and Marcelo are back, and will almost certainly be spoiling for a fight. And then there’s Ramos. I just don’t think the potential gain is worth it.

          • February 25, 2013

            Look at Athletic Bilbao. They pressed, typical of Bielsa, and this season they are damn tired.
            Our team pressed hard, especially until the 2011 CL final, so we can understand this tiredness.

        • ibbe
          February 25, 2013

          I don’t know about you but I’m surrounded by madridistas. If we win the league while loosing to real, this would give them the pleasure of saying that the champios of Spain couldn’t defeat them. It doesn’t matter which competition it is, el clasico is always a must-win. It’s more than a game. Winnig el clasico gives you the bragging rights untill the next meeting. Another thing, this season we have been great, we have thrashed teams, we have made great comebacks, but we weren’t so convincing against the big teams. What defined Pep’s era was the legendary victories we had against the best teams in the world. If we lose the clasicos without giving 100% then I highly doubt that the boys will have the spirite to pull off a comeback vs Milan.

    • Messiah10
      February 25, 2013

      Kxevin, I like your thoughts on this. If we decided to go with your line-up for the Copa it’d be saying to EE, “We don’t value this because the Liga and CL are our ultimate goals.” However, if we Won with that line-up it’d be the ultimate slap in the face of EE! Especially with JDS starting! lol. I’d love it. I also like the line-up you have for the Liga because it’s another dig at EE by stating, “We know you aren’t catching us. So, why would we take this game any more serious than Getafe. Rest is rest and our boys need it.”

  30. barca96
    February 25, 2013

    Nah. This is what I would do.

    Feb’26 – Copa Clasico – 100%
    I mean, we’re already in the semi’s. Why would we risk losing it, to Madrid out of all the teasm.

    Mar’2 – League Clasico – 50%
    Priority is to rest Messi, Xavi/Iniesta, Busquets, Alba, Alves. Puyol can take a break in the following match after a 2 match in a row. Give squad players like Thiago, Song, Adriano and Montoya should start! We cannot risk our key players for injury in this meaningless match!

    Mar’9 – League Super Depor – 75%
    Same as League Clasico except our key players need to have some match time in order to have some rhythm and not be rusty for the all important season defining match against Milan 3 days later.

    Mar’12 – CL Milan – 100%
    Most important match of the season so far!!

    • Artur
      February 25, 2013

      This is what I think is going to happen… 100% for all the fixtures. it’s unfortunate but clasico has gained much more purpose other than just points in the league.

      • February 25, 2013

        I think you’re right, Artur. And it bums me out. People talk about morale and potential psychological damage if the team loses with a 60% lineup. What if it loses with a 100% lineup, AND somebody gets hurt? I know I’m being the doom-seeing cule, but I think this is a rare opportunity to not only rest players, but thumb our nose at our most hated rival.

        “We have bigger things to worry about that these matches with you lot, and being kicked and fouled. Ick.”

        • vdot16
          February 25, 2013

          Hopefully sense prevails and we rest a large chunk of the first eleven in the Liga Clasico. Honestly, even RM will field a pretty much second string XI in that game with OT coming up in 3 days after that. We shouldn’t go all in and tire ourselves out with a 16 point lead ATM.

  31. Laurentiu88
    February 25, 2013

    the idea of rest was largely discussed last season on Messi and a key point from there was that when games are gone then the pressure on training must increase. i assume coaches know very well the physical state of players and how to best assure top fitness for a game.

    the games with RM seem important now, maybe for the moral of the team but mostly – since Milan game has become the most important game of the season so far – as key tests for team and players to change the approach that clearly failed at Milano.

    • barca96
      February 25, 2013

      I’d rather have the boys especially Messi have a higher intensity training rather than risking an injury in an El Clasico.

  32. barca96
    February 25, 2013

    Alexis, Villa and Petroleum has to play in all this matches prior too Milan so that they have some goal scoring burden on them and if the you succeed, they will have their confidence up for the Milan match.

    Tello should get some serious minutes too to see if he can get money minutes against Milan. I’m still not convinced that he can be a starter against the big teams. It failed miserably last season’s home Clasico.

  33. barca96
    February 25, 2013

    Roura is not as good as Pep or Rito with the microphone. I don’t like the huge budget dig at Madrid at all, likewise with the potatoe field comments after Milan.

    I do like that he commenter on the referee, Undiano.

  34. nia
    February 25, 2013

    Roura: “Bad record with referee Undiano? Numbers aren’t good. We still keep in mind many fouls allowed in cup final. Hope he goes unnoticed”

    Yes Undiano, they world is watching you.

  35. February 25, 2013

    Oh, so the ref is the same one that referred the Copa final we lost? Eek, better be careful.

    Go with the full lineup for the Copa though, we here to win the Copa. Rest some key players in the league Clasico, and then give it all vs. Milan.

  36. simple_barcafan
    February 25, 2013

    People who are saying don’t care about Copa are forgetting something…Winning the Copa gets us money..Even financial aspects are taken into consideration, especially during these times…

    • February 25, 2013

      But the question I would wonder is whether player bonuses make that a wash. Recall that a significant part of the mojo that threw off the 09-10 season’s budgeting was all of the bonuses that had to be paid after the team won everything in sight.

      • simple_barcafan
        February 25, 2013

        I am pretty sure roSELL would have amended that…

  37. Blau-Grenade
    February 25, 2013

    I would like Barca to win tomorrow. It does not matter which competition Barca play the Eternal Enemy, they have to win it. I don’t care if they loose the Liga, Champions, Copa as long as they beat EE. For me, Barca’s season will be a success if they beat EE tomorrow.

    I loved the ending lineup in the game against Sevilla.

    The double pivot of Song and Busi, with Busi playing towards the right, which allowed Dani to move forward and essentially play as a right wing attacker.

    I would also love Tello with his burst of pace on the left, Villa as the central striker. That is the only position that I can see Villa being effective.

    Only two of Xavi Iniesta Thiago and Cesc please.

  38. psalmuel
    February 25, 2013

    @ kxevin (am having a hard time pronouncing that name). I coined psalmuel from the actual name samuel and psalms, so its basically samuel spelt as psalmuel (my nickname). Also seem like am the first Nigerian cule on the site and I hope the cule recordsmen (like kxevin) are keeping this record?

    • February 26, 2013

      Aha. I suspected as much. As for Kxevin, it was a screen name adopted in honor of former sporting ditector Txiki B., who I still think is coolness. It’s pronounced “chevin.”

    • nzm
      February 26, 2013

      There is a commenter called “providence” who (I think) was also from Nigeria. Haven’t seen him in a while, though.

  39. psalmuel
    February 25, 2013

    Am one of those fans gunning for the treble,so I’d prefer a ‘strong’ line up in the copa then an ‘in your face, EE’ (LOL!) kind of line up against EE in the liga

  40. Off the topic:

    How does the fans and members feel about the Qatar airways shirt sponsorship deal? It’s quite strange that you allow Qatar foundation to change the sponsor that too legally. Can someone from Barcelona throw some light on this.

    If this continues pretty soon we may have to change the motto from”Me Que un Club” to “Sponsored by Al-Thani”. Looks like they are everywhere in the club.

    • February 26, 2013

      That’s been haggled out in previous posts. Some don’t mind, others like me find it disgusting. It isn’t a question of this affecting the club’s “mes que”-ness, as that references the overall socio-political role. For me, it’s a simple question of identity. Barça has never sold the front of its shirt.

      Further, not only did RoSELL never present a compelling reason for the shirt to be sold, but he used the General Assembly referendum posted by the man that he thinks is crap, Joan Laporta, to backdoor this onerous deal. Then he crowed about record profits, which further makes one wonder if the shirt needed to be sold. Marketing guys …. pah!

      It’s also a bad deal in that not only has the club sold a chunk of its soul, but that chunk can be passed around by the purchaser. Probably a good thing there isn’t a Qatar trash company, or we might see “Qatar Waste Disposal” on the front of our shirts.

      Others will simply assert that it was a bad deal financially, particularly in the context of what United got for its shirt.

      Either way, the shirt sale is just a plank in the foundation of the reasons I loathe RoSELL and the way that he is running our club.

  41. Chiu
    February 26, 2013

    I think both team will field the strongest lineup tonight. For us, Copa would be a bit important now after a shocking defeat in CL from Milan, which reduced our probability to lift the big ears, though am still 100% optimistic we can turn the tie around. Liga is almost a guarantee, why don’t make it to final and add Copa to make it double silver.

    For Real Madrid, they kissed goodbye already in liga. In the CL, they have crucial fixture in Old Trafford next midweek, so the best for them to save enegy would be liga classico, not tonight copa.

    Same with us, next liga classico is the best moment to rest the pillarrs (messi, ini, xavi, busi, puyi ,pique, valdez). we have massive lead that should be maximised to get the optimum result in the end of season. In extreme way, am hoping the coach rest our first team for next two liga matches (vs Madrid and vs Depor) and treat it like the last time we prepare for 2011 Cl final in wembley.

    I remember before 2011 CL final, as liga already wrapped, we give our first team almost 2 full weeks of rest. And the rest we knew what kind of display we gave to Manchester United. I hope we could do the same for this Milan return leg. Am confident if we are at our best (fresh players), 2-0 aggregate is still very possible to be overturned, esp its Camp Nou game.

    Visca Barca!

    • February 26, 2013

      That rest and the subsequent display against United is my reason for rotating for this match and the Liga Classic, as well as the following weekend’s match. Rest. The biggest match of the season to date will be the Milan leg at home. Period. I wouldn’t care if Roura rolled out the Babies and they got squashed tonight, if we dropped a 5-1 on Milan in two weeks.

  42. Tsivoman
    February 26, 2013

    Another night in the “cage” for Messi.

    The above is the title of a short articles on Marca’s site. It’s not that it’s Marca that published this article that get’s to me but rather what it means.
    This short article highlight a growing problem with the Barca attacking system that we’ve all been debating on this site for a while now, and that is, it has become clearly evident for everyone to see and this includes the Barca coaching staff that all the opposition has to do is defend deep and mark Messi out of the game (cage him in this instance) and the entire Barca goal scoring threat is gone.
    I know some have made reference on this site about the fact that the system creates the goals that Messi scores, but we also cannot deny that when the system fails, Messi usually does what Messi does best and that is conjure a victory out of sheer individual brilliance.

    At times it’s frustrating to not only to watch the team just pass the ball sideways in from of the opposition penalty area with no end product but to also see Messi with no room to breath, being rendered anonymous for most of the game.

    For Messi to make reference after the Sevilla game “to the fact that he is able to operate more freely when Villa is in front of him”, should serve as a wake up call for coaching staff.
    If they persist with “False 9” against both Madrid today and Milan on the return, we are not going to win these two important games. Madrid will ensure that their thuggery is at full force against any move that Messi makes and Milan will “cage” him to the extremely.

    Just my thought after reading the article.

    • February 26, 2013

      But it was the coaching staff that made the decision to put Villa in front of Messi for Sevilla, so I don’t think they need that wake-up call. We will see what happens tonight, once RM’s press for the first 20 minutes calms down.

      • Tsivoman
        February 26, 2013

        Lets hope we can survive the fist 20min press without conceding because in the last few Clasicos, they’ve been very poor in finishing their chances during this initial onslaught.

  43. Tsivoman
    February 26, 2013

    My crazy lineup against Madrid tonight would be as follows:

    Alves Pique Puyol Alba
    Messi Iniesta
    Pedro Villa Alexis

    How’s that for an adventurous lineup, hey!

    • indiancule
      February 26, 2013

      Alves Pique Puyol Alba
      Xavi Iniesta
      Adriano Messi Cesc

      villa in for cesc
      pedro in for adriano

      Def EE will press us atleast for the first 15 mins… Adriano and alves will make sure ronaldo is kept quiet… cesc will ensure that we will have some control… once when we are in our ryhthm we can bring in villa and pedro may early in 2nd half …

  44. Tsivoman
    February 26, 2013

    Undiano Mallenco will be officiated tonight’s Clasico. Remember the Copa final will lost 1-0 to EE?

    The likes of Pepe, Marcelo(if he plays), Ramos, Alonso, Arbeloa, Coentrao & Khedira are all going to have a field day out there. I won’t be surprised with Mourinho deploying Pepe as DM, for the sole purpose of not only to nullify Messi but hack him to pieces. Scary really to think about it.

    What a contrast this current Madrid team is to the Madrid of old, it was always intense rivalry in the Clasico but what Mourinho has done with this current crop of players is shameful to say the least.

  45. Blau-Grenade
    February 26, 2013

    My Lineup:

    Pique Puyol Alba
    Busi Song
    Dani Villa Tello

    This is the same lineup we finished last match against Sevilla except there was Xavi in the middle instead of Iniesta.

  46. Artur
    February 26, 2013


    • Artur
      February 26, 2013

      I’d like more of Villa up front with Messi behind him action.

      • barca96
        February 26, 2013

        Who’s going to be on the wings if Villa is going to be in front of Messi? Alves can’t be up all the time as he has to deal with Ronaldo and Alba with Di Maria on the other side.

        • Artur
          February 26, 2013

          It’s funny you say that.
          If it was any other RB in the world, yeah, sure it’d be impossible. Alves? He can do it. It’s risky, of course, but if we’re gonna go 100% into this classico, I’d rather gain something from this match (in terms of learning more about ways we can play) against a quality opponent, because just winning 3 points will do .. well very little at this point.

          Maybe I’m subconciously thinking of the Milan game ahead fo time.

  47. February 26, 2013

    I will lose it if they bench Villa to start pedro, messi, iniesta up front

    • Artur
      February 26, 2013

      I wouldn’t mind Pedro starting and trying to get into form ahead of CL fixture.

    • nzm
      February 26, 2013

      Have you lost it yet? Because that’s what they’ve done!

  48. mic
    February 26, 2013

    Let’s think strategically and try to influence their form against United so we don’t have to play them again later in CL. Let’s field the best lineup and crush them physically and mentally 🙂 We have more than enough time to recover for the match against Milan.

  49. flyzowee
    February 26, 2013

    You know starting Tello in this game may not necessarily be a bad idea. I mean we all know what Madrid will do in the first half. They will press and hassle us high up the pitch and we WILL be forced into a more direct game in the early stages whether we like it or not.

    To make a very long post short
    Tello vs Arbeloa plus balls played in behind madrids backline equals a possible solution to madrids incessant pressing which we just cant seem to deal with recently.

    Sub tello off in the 2nd half for more intricate play when madrid are dead tired.

    • sd
      February 26, 2013

      This is an old report. I believe from the 2011/2012 season. It had already been reported on previously and is being recirculated again…just before two games against Madrid and a big one against Milan.

      • February 26, 2013

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but that old report was another one concerning spying, but more about board members and politicians. First I’m hearing about players being victims.

    • February 26, 2013

      Sorry, wrong lineup

      Correction: Barcelona line-up (official): Pinto – Alves Pique Puyol Alba – Xavi Busquets Cesc – Pedro Messi Iniesta
      (blame it on @barcastuff) 😛

  50. nia
    February 26, 2013

    Barcelona line-up (official): Pinto – Alves Pique Puyol Alba – Xavi Busquets Iniesta – Pedro Messi Villa #fcblive

    Yes!!!! MVP and Iniesta in midfield. Cesc on the bench

  51. February 26, 2013

    No, THIS is the official line up:

    Pinto – Alves Pique Puyol Alba – Xavi Busquets Cesc – Pedro Messi Iniesta

    No Villa, but you will probably see Iniesta in midfield and Fabregas ghosting around.

  52. February 26, 2013

    Ewwwwww and booooooooooooo

    Real Madrid line-up (official): DiegoLopez – Ramos Varane Pepe Coentrao – XabiAlonso Ozil Khedira – DiMaria Higuain Ronaldo

  53. February 26, 2013

    Barcelona’s bench (via @barcastuff): Valdes, Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Thiago, Villa, Tello

    No Alexis

  54. February 26, 2013

    Errrr…I hear cricket sounds. Where is everybody? No opinion on the lineup?

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