Barça 1, RM 3, aka “Inches make all the difference”


The Chicago area, and the county in which I live, is having a winter storm. And I’m pretty sure that it’s Jordi Roura’s fault. Almost positive.

I ordered some cycling shorts, and the order is delayed. I can guaranTEE that is Roura’s fault.

Curse him.

And now that the humor is out of the way, let’s get down to some assessing here, shall we? We have time, after all …. just a bit, before we have to line up against this same team again, the same team spoiling for a fight, thinking they kicked the crap out of us in our house, eliminating us from the Copa del Rey.

Whatever, dude. I just don’t see it that way. For me, this was a match of inches before it became feet, which turned into something that, when our sprites went to the well of magic, they found no solutions for.

Let’s start by saying congratulations to our opponents today. They came, they saw, they conquered and are now moving on to a Copa del Reig final that I won’t care about a whole lot less than I would have not cared all that much about if we were playing in it. But that is known. 1-3 and 2-4 on aggregate is pretty convincing, right? Right? Or is it.

Hello? Is this thing on? Come in off that ledge and listen. There are reasons not to leap.

When the best team in the world faces off against the second-best team in the world, execution is crucial. A football match usually hinges on dozens of little moments, moments that usually result in the best team winning. Look at the Capital One Cup final in which Swansea thrashed little Bradford. The first goal found a rebound falling directly to a Swansea attacker. That ball could have bounced any number of ways, but it fell directly to the Swansea attacker, who slid it home for the 1-0. From there, Bradford had to chase the match, and that was that, as when you chase a match you expose yourself. Always.

In the Copa del Reig final against them, it came down to execution. A ball wasn’t cleared, which led to a corner, which led to the winning goal. In a Barça win, a ball pinged to Xavi who got the luck of the rub, was able to control it with a dazzling bit of skill, and slot it home off the volley. Inches and execution. Players doing their jobs to the best of their ability, a task that also involves a little bit of luck.

We conceded three goals to them. I haven’t looked at the comments in this space yet. I never, ever do before writing whatever I am going to write about a match. But I can guess that people are saying “We need a coach,” and “Our defense is done for,” etc, etc. But here’s what I saw:

— On the first goal, Messi pinged a pass to Xavi that was weighted wrong and never really had a chance of getting there, given the way RM was defending. It was a pass that to have a chance, had to be a whole lot better than it was. But it missed by inches, got intercepted as it deserved to, and they were off on a break. A ball to a streaking Oil Can was spotted by Puyol, who stretched out a leg and just missed it. A few more inches, before that damnable Pique screwed the pooch. Or did he?

Oil Can has bamboozled far better defenders than Gerard Pique, who didn’t do all that badly, just missing getting a foot on the ball by …. you guessed it …. inches. And that was that, the first goal for them off the justly called penalty.

— On their second goal, it was Messi again, trying to find Xavi with an ill-advised pass (again), that was intercepted by an outstretched leg and fed on a rope, perfectly, waaaay down the pitch to a streaking Jughead. Alba saw the ball, and looked directly at Oil Can, streaking in behind the play. It was at the moment he looked that the goal was done for, because he figured that Jughead was going to smoke his defender and he should cover the line, instead of assuming that his teammate had that one covered, and he should, oh I dunno, maybe cover the most dangerous player on the pitch. Too late, he made the decision to get over, and missed. Again, not by much.

Execution, successful by them, sloppy by us. But their third goal was the most ridiculous, for so many reasons.

— When a team takes a corner kick, the first thing defenders should do is get between the ball and their attackers. But if you freeze the image when Varane is heading home for their third, he is unmarked. Puyol is looking at him, Alba is looking at him, Pique has given up the inside position and Varane is thinking “This is like taking candy from midgets,” as he headed home. It was one of the easiest goals he is ever going to score, easier even than the other header he scored against us.

But even after those three goals, or more correctly before them, there were other moments of inches and execution, slivers that define an outcome.

— Iniesta took a long shot that clearly caught their keeper off guard, but the force field deflected it, and that was that.

— Messi got a ball in a perfect place to score, in an area where he is almost automatic …. but with his less-precise right foot, and he rolled it just wide of the net. That early goal, within the first three minutes of the match, would have dramatically changed things, forcing tnem to chase the match, while we lay in wait to strike on the counter.

— It was Messi again, on what really was a remarkable free kick that anticipated the leap of their defenders, drove to the corner and made a right turn almost, only juuuuust not quite sharp enough to get into the goal, past a stone-cold beaten keeper. 1-1 at the half is very different than 0-1. Less pressure, less risk, less everything. Instead we had to chase the match, throwing increasingly risky efforts at their defense, and that was that.

— Cesc Fabregas took a remarkable pass in the box that was screaming, “Score me! Score me!” He missed, as things didn’t go right by …. man, y’all must be clairvoyant! Inches.

So whose fault is it, then?

— I guess we should start with cules, for having expectations so astronomical that disappointment is an inevitable as the sunrise. We always beat RM, and this time there’s silver on the line (which arrogantly assumes that the winner of this draw was automatically going to win the final). Things are different now, however, even if the expectation of cules is still intact. No? Okay, how about ….

— Jordi Roura, who clearly lacked the genius of Tito Vilanova or Pep Guardiola in handling his charges, and making the tactical shifts that would have resulted in a different outcome. I can see that, because he had so many different players to call upon, or did he? Tello came on, didn’t make a real difference. Thiago came on for a little life, but no real difference. The goal came from two of the players who had been on the pitch the whole match, but who finally were able to execute to a degree sufficient to turn the trick. Did Roura make the passes that were intercepted, get beaten in the box or fail to mark Varane? Nope. What tactical changes could he have made to help his players execute better? But wait …. it’s gotta be his fault. We don’t have a coach, dammit! Gaah! No? Um, let’s try ….

— The players. After all, they were the ones playing the match, right? They didn’t do what was necessary to turn the tie and get the result that so many cules expected. It’s THEIR fault, surely. But is it really their fault for, on this night, not quite being good enough, not quite getting the rub of the pitch that would have turned things in our favor. Look at the want in Puyol’s face above, and tell me that all of the players didn’t want this match. But still, we have to blame someone, right?

No. Not at all. Sometimes, we just have to say “Well played, now let’s move on.” Because you know what? Despite the almost magical period of the last four years, nobody wins them all, not even this amazing football club. Is this a sign of the beginning of the end of an era? Not at all. With a few of the right acquisitions, coupled with some hard decisions over the summer, all that this club will need to do is hit the reset button, and continue the success.

Just to remind everyone, Barça has a seemingly insurmountable lead in the Liga, and if it plays against Milan as it did tonight, that 2-goal deficit WILL be overcome. Yes, it was that fraught an affair. Really, the only two matches in this recent era that have been lopsided, no-doubt-about-it affairs were the 2-6 win, and the legendary manita. The rest have been tight, tight, could have gone either way affairs. But the difference was, as it was tonight, concentration and execution.

Tonight, a rarity occurred, a thing so astonishing that so many people don’t know how to deal with it: We came out on the wrong side of the scoreline. But you know what? It happened at key times last season as well, and last season, we HAD a coach, a coach who has become a Barça legend. This season, we are ahead of that game, because who wouldn’t give up the Copa for a Liga title? Not I.

It stings. Damn right it does for many cules. Get used to it. Understand it. And when you’re done whining and hurling verbal thunderbolts and blaming this player, coach, club president, voodoo shaman whomever, cleanse your system and celebrate your club. But tuck that feeling away in the part of your brain in which those sorts of things lurk, so that you never, ever forget. Because remembering that feeling, this feeling, will make the victories that much more memorable, that much more moments that are remarkable and should be cherished, rather than expected as some sort of divine right.

Visca Barça.


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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 26, 2013

    Great review.

    Everybody wants to sell Cesc and his mother. I thought we were by far the better team until the 2nd goal.

    Football is a game decided by moments. The moments did not go our way in this tie.

    • barca96
      February 26, 2013

      It was an even match although I thought we were slightly better even though Madrid had the better chances. People will look at the highlights and say that Ronaldo/Madrid played better as they had more shots but some of the shots were no threat at all (Ronaldo).

      Anyways. I don’t think Ronaldo should’ve taken so many speculative shots especially when most of the times he had better options and space.

      What I do want Barca to do is to take more shots because we usually don’t have space due to the bus parking. Take shots and we might get a rebound.

    • BA
      February 26, 2013

      nobody wants to see Cesc go; what we want is what is patently obvious: stop trying to shoehorn him into the side at the expense of the effectiveness of our 2nd best player (Iniesta).

      furthermore, playing Cesc in the position at which he’s been playing compresses the space that both Messi and Iniesta naturally play into. it forces Messi further into the opposition’s defensive line and Iniesta away from the wing, thus drastically narrowing our formation and making us even more easier to defend against.

      Cesc himself isn’t the problem; his positioning, both (apparently) tactically mandated and natural causes the side problems.

      • jordi™
        February 26, 2013

        Its not just though, Xavi is clearly rusty since his injury (maybe even before). Playing him and having not track runners is hurting us as much as playing Iniesta on the wing. We dont trust Cesc o Thiago to relieve him, meanwhile we are playing teams starting Varane or El Shaarawy. Thiago is having one risky giveaway per game but makes up for it with multiple tackles and interceptions which Xavi is not doing at the moment.Or just play alex song.

  2. KEVINO17
    February 26, 2013

    Pique shoulda stayed on his feet.

    • barca96
      February 26, 2013

      Definitely. No need to go down at all. He did alright by pushing Ronaldo out thus making his angle smaller.

  3. gvb
    February 26, 2013

    First time posting long time lurking 🙂

    Kxevin is absolutely right. The scoreline is a little flattering to Madrid. There was 10x more effort tonight than against Milan. Wakeup time for the rest of the year. I expect some changes and us to progress against Milan.

    Some thoughts. With Alves and Alba going forward, Song should start with Busquets in the DM spots. He would be extremely helpful in breaking up counters, and would allow our best wide players (alba/adriano/alves) to attack. Especially now that we are getting subpar production from the wingers, the increasing neccessity to play a central forward as a reference, and the difficulty Messi, Xavi, and Iniesta have playing defense.

    • Tsivoman
      February 27, 2013

      I have to disagree with you regarding “The scoreline is a little flattering to Madrid”. The fact of the matter is that they had a plan, which incidentally Barca is all too familiar within and they executed it to perfection.
      Besides the goal by Alba, and the free-kick miss from Messi, we had two shots on target, TWO SHOTS, Milan anyone?
      I mentioned on another thread on this site about the coaching staff “not learning” and in response was told to calm down.
      I have to say with huge disappointment that this was Dejavu once again.

  4. bhed
    February 26, 2013

    Ugh, I don’t think even Hleb should be associated with this February…

    Well said, but there are in fact some legitimate issues that deserve consideration. For instance, its not hyperbole to say playing 4 attacking midfielders plus Pedro, who is as direct and aggressive (usually)… as a midfielder, is not always the best idea.

  5. KEVINO17
    February 26, 2013

    RM’s backline spent most of the game standing on Barca’s toes, yet we did not even try one ball over the top.
    Further, when RM counter-attacked they sometimes had 3-on-3 or 3-on-2. Those factors, at least, suggest the team was unbalanced.

    • Messiah10
      February 27, 2013

      I saw quite a few balls over the top that came up short every time.

      • Doug
        February 27, 2013

        I agree. There were a lot of balls over the top. Unfortunately, they were either short, or defended well.

  6. nia
    February 26, 2013

    I think the bigger problem here is that, most cules are not used to losing(especially in the last 4-5 yrs). Last time we lost to EE handsomely was the 4-1 beat down they gave us at the Bernabeu 2008. Having played them so many times in the past 2 yrs , they know how we will play and granted Mou didn’t even need to look at the team sheet today to know who was on the field. Having met so many times, probability had us at 50% losing.
    Fair play to RM. I’m upset that my team lost but, they lost to the better team today. I’m sure the players are more gutted than we are. The team did try to play, fight and small details decided the game. We’re they poor as in the san siro? no. Were they unlucky like they were vs Chelsea? no. Sometimes things don’t go your way, just have to dust off and try again. Sure it would be nice to win a treble every yr but, life doesn’t work like that. Come on Barca, dust yourselves off and try again next yr. We still have two competitions to fight for, VISCA BARCA!!!

  7. Kimcelona
    February 26, 2013

    I’m just gonna suggest everyone read Zonal Marking’s analysis.

    There’s the link if its allowed (mods?)

    Read the part about Cesc and Iniesta and also the parts about Tito. My exact thoughts for the last two months now. Yet, the management continues to persist with the same failings. Its like they all said, “Hey they beat Getafe 6-1 so its no biggie they can beat RM and teams in the CL too!” Arghhhh

    We all point out defensive failings but the attack was just as toothless, imo. Its been years since BOTH attack and defense have been this the same time. Its a whole team probelem, that not even individual brilliance can bail us out now.

    Funny thing is, I actually thought we started out great but then after the penalty Pique gave away, it was like all the air got sucked out of the team. Its also the first time I’ve seen the team look so demoralized, especially after that second goal. The players’ heads dropped. Seems a reversal of roles. Me no likey 🙁

    I’m sad and disappointed but there’s more important things to go for. I hope we get back up and carry on. I also hope the coaching staff, somebody, anybody (!) can tweak a few tactical failings of the team. Please.

  8. Here we go again with the same attitude – everything is fine here, it’s just the matter of inches. Jesus. I used to be very much active in blog in the 2006-07 season, and that was what everyone kept saying when we said we have serious problem. The next season was torrid and took people such a bad season to correct what was going wrong with the team. I could see history repeating here.

    Let’s see how good we were yesterday. We had seriously two good chances. One the shot flashed wide of far post and then a heck of a free kick by Lionel Messi. Yup, had they gone in it would have been different. But you mentioned the “best team in the world”. Will the best team wait for things to go it’s way or make it happen. Don’t say the scoreline was flattering, it was pretty much justified. It could have been worse and I believe it should have been, otherwise Cules have a habit of sugar coating everything.

    Roura is in a rather unfortunate position. This was a year he get to learn about the life in the big position. Unfortunately he is thrusted into this due to Tito’s injury. So I have nothing against him. But I am getting convinced pretty much that Tito Vilanova is not the man for our job. He picks his first eleven based on how good it looks on paper. Cesc Fabregas is a fantastic player, but inorder to accomadate him we have to create a position of pure attacking midfielder who plays behind the strikers. Instead in order to acoomadate him

    • February 27, 2013

      Yeah, I don’t think the tagline “best team in the world” applies to us anymore. We haven’t looked like the best team in a while. Certainly not this or last season.

      • Jim
        February 27, 2013

        Until last night though how many commentators / pundits would have agreed with you. We are talking about two bad results against two very big teams. Not saying we don’t need to sit down and work out how we can keep cover at the back ( cos that’s all the first two were about). No point in blaming piqué or Puyol. They shouldn’t be left 1 on 1 with Ronaldo and Di Maria. The real question is what we’re the plans for cover for the CBs when the inevitable long ball over the top came. I didn’t see any. That’s not a matter of inches – although I largely agree with Kxevin’s analysis that on another night we could have got the breaks.

        Up front for me it’s about presence and movement in the opposition’s box whoever we choose to do it but they have to have lightning feet and be able to play back to goal. The final element for me is to reinstate Xavi and Iniesta fully to midfield. Don’t agree that Xavi has been playing badly but as I’ve been trying to say all year if we play a quick vertical style we take him out of it. Our control was decent first half. At one point I saw 68% . That isn’t an end in itself but it should be a platform for more chances which didnt materialise. Whereas against Sevilla I would say Xavi should have been tracking his man I didn’t see anything he did wrong or could have done much better last night. I thought Iniesta was our best player.

    • Messiah10
      February 27, 2013

      While I agree that at the moment we aren’t the “best” team in the world, one cannot forget that we started the year unbeaten in 18 games. We started the year with a chip on our shoulder and a directness that had everyone screaming from the rooftops that we were the “best”. I agreed, however, in light of present circumstances and an unwillingness to change what clearly isn’t working at the moment, I’d say we are far from the “best” right now.

  9. jordi™
    February 26, 2013

    People give Del Bosque a lot of criticism for his boring approach to knockouts but everybody knows that if Spain has a 2-0 or 1-0 lead its game over, zero chances for the opposition.

    We don’t have to morph into that extreme but there should be balance. Two attacking full-backs but only one defensive midfielder defies logic against a team with Ozil, Di maria and Cristiano.

    The sad thing is Spain can get away with it thanks to their double pivot and don’t try it but we say YOLO and do it anyway. Especially with a half fit Xavi and no left winger to cover Alba. Suicide. Cristiano has now 12 goals against our beloved team. He doesn’t even have to play well. All he has to do is stay alert since a gap, lapse or mistake will materialize. Heck even defensive players like Khedira and Varane are scoring against us for fun. Something has change systematically.

    What is worse is they will now feel like they have to try to win the league in Madrid this weekend so there is little likelihood of resting players.Its like being on a collision course you can see from miles away and the only thing stopping you from choosing a different path is pride.

    When there were 2 or 3 games Madrid per season you could treat them that way. Now with 20 per season and using the same line up every time, you can;t say beating Madrid is a successful season because there will be another 2 or 3 racing your way and if you lose them no one remembers the win. Such as the 3-1 result at the Bernabeu last year. That felt like a different season or year by the time May came.

    • February 27, 2013

      Jordi, I agree with everything you wrote 🙂

      I used to complain a lot about del Bosque for playing both Busi and Alonso, but after a while I thought it made sense. No oohing and ahhing, but Spain does get results.

      • KEVINO17
        February 27, 2013

        And, of course, we do have the world’s two best holding midfielders available.

    • Messiah10
      February 27, 2013

      This^^^^^. Another point is that the directness we’ve played with this season is exactly what Real want. It allows them Ferrari quick counters that we have absolutely no chance of stopping. Playing against Real requires much more patience and ball retention to negate those counters. I was sick to my stomach at the amount of space on the Left & Right side of the pitch CR had.

  10. andrecito
    February 27, 2013

    thanks a lot kxevin..
    i think i enjoyed reading this review more than any other..
    and i’ve been checking this site religiously ever since it started..
    i really appreciate how you seem to write with such a clear mind. i live in kyoto, and i could feel like this was written by one of the many zen monks i can see walking around town…

  11. nia
    February 27, 2013

    I think Mou was rubbing it in when he subbed in 3 defensive players. Didn’t they end up with 9 defenders? ouch.

    Team has to improve no doubt. I also think the more they talk about the ‘bad defence’ the more anxious the team is getting. Never seen this team so horrible in defence for a while as in this season. Graham Hunter and Ballague have always said if the team doesn’t attack well, they don’t defend well either. That’s been evident as the front runners don’t press like they used to which ends up being a domino effect. I know for one, I’ll be glad to rid of Hlebuary.

  12. Here we go again with the same attitude – everything is fine here, it’s just the matter of inches. Jesus. I used to be very much active in blog in the 2006-07 season, and that was what everyone kept saying when we said we have serious problem. The next season was torrid and took people such a bad season to correct what was going wrong with the team. I could see history repeating here.

    Let’s see how good we were yesterday. We had seriously two good chances. One the shot flashed wide of far post and then a heck of a free kick by Lionel Messi. Yup, had they gone in it would have been different. But you mentioned the “best team in the world”. Will the best team wait for things to go it’s way or make it happen. Don’t say the scoreline was flattering, it was pretty much justified. It could have been worse and I believe it should have been, otherwise Cules have a habit of sugar coating everything.

    Roura is in a rather unfortunate position. This was a year he get to learn about the life in the big position. Unfortunately he is thrusted into this due to Tito’s injury. So I have nothing against him. But I am getting convinced pretty much that Tito Vilanova is not the man for our job. He picks his first eleven based on how good it looks on paper. Cesc Fabregas is a fantastic player, but inorder to accomadate him we have to create a position of pure attacking midfielder who plays behind the strikers. Instead in order to accomadate him we take the second best player in the team and put him in a position where he is not that much of a danger. No other team in the world would do it. Why we? Because that idiot named Iniesta will keep on taking this shit. He never complain and hence is an easy target. Will we try that with Messi, try it and you will see him revolting. If we look in last few matches, we could see Iniesta starting in front left and Cesc in midfield. Then once the heavy pressing in midfield happens, Cesc goes “Missing in Action” and Iniesta is forced to come into midfield to get some order in the midfield. The same thing happened in the first leg of the semi-final and in Milan. This makes the left flank completely useless. But no one told that to Alba, so he stays up and eventually gets caught on counter.

    The argument “Why single out Cesc?” does not even hold. Iniesta and Xavi may have been playing below par in recent times, but what is Cesc doing. What merits removing one of your main player from a position so important to us and replace him with Cesc. What has he done to get into that midfield ahead of Iniesta. Try the same with Messi you will see a different reaction here. But still people will be faithful with Cesc and will never question him. But will immediately turn against Iniesta. For the record Iniesta did play well yesterday. Without any outlet of any kind in box, he can’t create magic. The only time somebody managed to get into the box, he duly found him and then the goal came. But obviously Cesc would have done that in his sleep. Yup, he was sleeping.

    No idea what is Tito doing with Villa. If he didn’t want him he should have placed him in market in January. Everyone expected him to start this match in center forward role as opposition were cramping the space available to Messi with worrying regularity. But Tito won’t worry. People say there is problem between Messi and Villa. I doubt that. But there could be some issue between Tito and Villa. Still it’s really worrying that people ask Sanchez to be given an extended run but not Villa. Reason is very simple Sanchez presses well and someone said in comment section , he has morphed successfully into a defensive forward. Considering that Sanchez nowadays only does the defensive part well, we could go with Song in his position. He could do the defensive part well and will offer some threat in corners at least. Anyway with a million dollars available Alexis could not buy a goal against good quality opposition. People will have no problem with that. Did we spend 30 Million+ money to buy a guy who does so well in defending? I don’t know.

    Unfortunately for us we will most probably win the league. People will be happy. No one will see the issues that are in the team. From a team which was feared by top opposition in Europe, we are becoming one which could become a laughing stock. In current form any decent opposition which will sit back and attack on counter will kill us. We will still boss about the amount of possession, like people are saying now how close it was yesterday. I don’t know about others, I seriously feared for a 5-0 massacre. When the event is over and look back the scoreline would have given some comfort. But at no point we had any idea of scoring two goals. We were expecting things to change once Villa and Tello came in. But before they came in we conceded the second goal and it was over by then.

    But still we will continue boasting how close it was. Get a grip, if this was close then Milan match also could have been close. I think Puyol missed a great header in there. So it was also close.

    • Also while pressing we are all over the pitch this season. Under Guardiola it was fun to watch us pressing. Under Tito we have no idea. The biggest problem is that there is huge gap between the midfield and attack and the same with midfield and defense. Hence if they go for pressing they will be completely at sea. I think that is the reason why Xavi does not press much this season, because he has to move a lot to start pressing. That is the reason our boys tire a lot than opponents this season.

      • jordi™
        February 27, 2013

        Isnt it important to differentiate between guardiola’s first 3 seasons and the last, which had many of the same flaws as today’s Barca? People keep saying “Under Pep…” as if the dreaded 3-4-3 or starting a much more raw Tello and Thiago in a must win clasico to prove a point to media who questioned the players’ usefulness etc didn’t happen. Under Tito before his cancer re emerged we also fought back more times than at any stage under Pep. Once he was able to stop having to play Adriano and Mascherano as a pair of CB the 3-2s and 5-3s ended. We went down to ten men at the Bernabeu and didnt get slaughtered but rather dominated the second half thanks to Tito’s switches.

        • Yes, those things happened. Also he took the unnecessary risk of experimenting away from home, which resulted in us struggling to keep pace with RM in the league and ended in losing it. But all those tinkering was done with a definitive purpose. The team still was the best in Europe and was really unlucky to lose the other two titles.

          Apart from the first Copa clasico in start of season, Tito’s team has struggled against RM and other big teams. Even against AM we struggled till that wonder goal from adriano after that they simply melted. Big teams in Europe does not do that. Milan came with a plan and gave us a real beating in San Siro. RM did the same yesterday at our own ground. Oppositions have learnt that if they afford less space to Messi in attacking third they could counter us. They are implementing it again and again and our coach is simply sitting there.

    • bedhead
      February 27, 2013

      It could have been close if the right players were selected in the right positions asked to do the right job. Im not enjoying this season at all because soccer is a thinking mans game, a game of chess, a game of tactics and we thow out the same team with the same subs every game. You can hardly analyze how well were doing as individuals or as a team because we’re not making changes and adjustments to test theories.
      My biggest pet peeve is asking our defensive wingers to be our offensive forwards. Yet, we load the midfield with non defensive mids like xavi, iniesta, messi and cesc. C’mon give me a break! To add insult to injury we do this against hyper counterattacking teams like Madrid just so that Ronaldo can show up unmarked at the corner of my TT screen just in time to nick one in. Hey! But kuddos to you Alba for trying to track back from your offenive duties. Shameful! What kind of 3 ring circus tactics are we witnessing?? Our true strikers (Villa) are asked to play out of their strengths on the left wing where he has neither the speed or foot skills to beat a defender. Tello is chastized for doing what he does best, shooting at goal. Iniesta, the 2nd best player on the planet, is moved out of his position so that Cesc can be accommodated, for what reason, I have yet to figure out.
      We play 4-3-3 We need 3 true forwards, Xavi,, iniesta and busquets in the middle and 4 forwards who dont make it their lives mission to go forward so often.

      • bedhead
        February 27, 2013

        *sorry, meant 4 defenders that dont make it their mission to go forward so often.

  13. KEVINO17
    February 27, 2013

    Alexis isn’t just a great defender. He is an elite player, full-stop. He’s not scoring many goals at the moment. But he didn’t score 15 last year (while frequently injured) because he’s a hopeless goal scorer.

  14. Rivaldo
    February 27, 2013

    To be honest, for me it isn’t just inches (at least not on overall play). We often think of possession as dominating but for awhile it hasn’t been. This trend started last year in Pep’s regime. When we dont score or get shots on target it is also down to teams preparing tactically and getting their tactics right.
    It is also not about appreciating the wins more for a lost. I mean who here would raise their hands for a family death t appreciate life more… but we are not playing that well. Maybe I am delusional and I think this team is capable or much more. Maybe I think the system could work better. Maybe there is a need for some transfers made with the head (not heart) and a lot of balls.
    But the overall point is, that we dont deal with “maybe” in life…. it is what could or could not happen. We deal with the result in life, and this goes for everything. Even when we say we’re not that only works because there is a long term goal(result) in mind. So the team needs to work on some things. Some stuff I’m seeing is not good; some systematic and some player-wise, even tactically.
    The results desired: wins (matches —> trophies) and great performance (beautifully played football at maximum effort… pressing, intensity and all even). At least give us one of these every match, then I’ll be satisfied.

  15. Tsivoman
    February 27, 2013

    The issue is not that Barca fans do not appreciate or are not grateful for what the team has achieved, you can best believe that we really do appreciate.

    Be that as it may, there are clearly issues/problems with the team at the moment and they are evident.
    Are we qualified or experienced coaching in the game? of cause not, but most of our observations as fans are clear for everyone to see.

    Surely the staff knew coming into this match that we were going to be up against the most deadliest counter-attacking team in world football at the moment. Was anything done to better deal with reality? No.
    against such team, you cannot play with both Alves & Alba, players that share the same attributes (attack first and defend second).

    Messi in a “cage”, again
    I mentioned in another thread on this site that “False 9” has served us well over the years but like everything else in life, nothing last forever.
    Whenever you listen to coaches of other teams, other leagues and football journalists alike, the consensus is the same, to minimize or kill Barca’s goal threat, all you have to do is “cage” Messi and you job is 50% done. Just to emphasize this point, you don’t even need to listen to anyone but watch the game for yourself, it’s clear as daylight that this system is effective more of the time and recently in the biggest of games.
    Messi himself has suddenly become an unofficial midfielder due to the “cage” tactic. Which makes you wonder why cold breeze towards Villa who seems to be only player on this team other than Messi who knows the “onion bag” as it were.

    Cesc Conundrum
    Despite the positive results early in the season (against La Liga team mind you), The Cesc/Xavi/Iniesta in the same starting eleven has always look disjointed with Iniesta more than the other two being sacrificed.
    The lineup should either be “Cesc & Xavi”, “Cesc & Iniesta” or “Xavi & Iniesta”.

    That’s my 2 cents worth (as a fan and observer).

  16. Bharath
    February 27, 2013

    As far as i have noticed,there seem to be a lot of subtle,but crucial changes in the system.The first one obviously being the presence of 2 attacking fullbacks at the same time.Now,if you want to do this,you need
    athletic midfield runners,or play with a defensive pivot.Otherwise,even second division teams can counter-attack successfully against you.Look at Madrid’s second goal for example:IT was a bloody clearance.Not an incisive pass or a raking diagonal,but a FREAKING CLEARANCE.Because of this,we had an extremely slow defender(Puyol)against an extremely fast Di Maria.
    This brings be to my second point:For Barca’s defensive to be successfull,because our midfielders don’t seem to very athletic,the gap between the midfield and defense needs be be very narrow.I lost track of the times Madrid played a very simple pass that led to one of their players receiving the ball between the lines.

    Another thing i want to mention is how we seem to have forgotten to play the offside trap,which is necessary if we play a high line.For all of Busi’s strengths,he isn’t your typical DM. His strength lies in his ability to read the game.But even he cannot cover 3 players at once,which is what he is being forced into.

    Now,the attack.The problem here is that if Messi is to play as a False 9,he needs other players to occupy the opposition defense.The False 9 only works against a team that doesn’t sit back and wait to counter.Yesterday,every time Leo came into midfield and collected,he got past his marker.BUT,no one took advantage of this.This is why playing a forward with his is vital.Look at Argentina now. Messi plays almost in midfield,but he has players that make actual forward runs,i.e,actual forwards that take advantage of his brilliant passing ability. This is why buying Neymar has a huge upside.He is a huge goal threat coming in from the wing,will force defenders to focus on him,and from what i have seen of him,he has very good passing as well.

    Finally,the last issue to be addressed here is Dani Alves. Those who call him a bad defender couldn’t be more wrong.People expect him to play as a winger and a RB every game.Since he provides actual width,he requires defensive cover when he goes forward.But these days,it seems like no one wants to do that.Even then he does quite a good job.Look at the previous match as an example:Both of Ronaldo’s goals came from the left hand side.He defended well against the best attacking winger in the world.But people use him as a scapegoat since it is convenient.

    What i’m saying is that the system we play requires players with profound tactical knowledge,especially the manager. Roura really seems to be out of his depth here.This goes to show how amazing Pep was.He constantly made subtle changes for every game to best utilize our strengths and exploit our opponent’s weaknesses.All Roura seems to do is play with a generic best 11 in the same manner without any changes.

    So,with a few additions,subtle tactical changes,and most importantly,Tito’s return,i’m really confident that we will go back to being the best team in the world.That title belongs to Bayern Munich at the moment.

    Apologies for the long post.Its the first time i’m commenting here.

    • bedhead
      February 27, 2013

      Spot on. My only concern about Neymar is that Barca will ask him to integrate into our system and the skill set he brings will not be utilized. Will he play in front of Messi and occupy defenders, create space for Messi and himself by making intelligent runs at goal? Will he be a spark in the front, cause chaos, take on defenders? Or will he be asked to maintain width at the touchline and asked to circulate the ball back through the crowded middle to get the ball to Messi.
      If Neymar is asked to do the later, he should re-think his decision to sell his soul.

  17. pr17
    February 27, 2013

    Brilliant review. it could have been easy to go ballistic and lose perspective but this is a very balanced review. Kudos man.

  18. doctor barca
    February 27, 2013

    Hi guys…!! I d posted here a while back …at that time I had my concerns about this barca not performing against the bigger opponents …my fears have come true …I am not one of those who is keen on radical changes but anyways here’s my two bits… Our central two def have no pace …puyol is 34 now chis last ditch defending cannot bail us out all the time ….piqué lacks pace otherwise no qualms but against the athletic forwards these guys stand no chance …xavi is past it v need newer ways of tackling the bus ..stagnant sideways passing ll get us nowhere with increasing tempo..mascherano has to come in cos he was brilliant last 2 years and has exceptional pace …I think song needs to start instead of xavi cos if xavi can’t provide creativity …and possession not helpin us ..songs the man ..if we stop evolving than we ll be left behind without a shadow of doubt

    • Jim
      February 27, 2013

      No defender should be left one on one with an attacker. If that happens the system has failed. That’s why you play four at the back. So not fair to blame Puyol or Piqué. The idea of Masch having any kind of pace, never mind exceptional, is foreign to me, I’m afraid but happy to look at examples.However, If he had been brilliant he would still be playing which he’s not. Song instead of Xavi would only be a goer if you give up all hope of controlling a match and move to a much more direct system but if you asked a panel of 100 journalists for their best midfielders in the world how many would choose Song over Xavi?

  19. February 27, 2013

    Sorry Kxevin, inches didn’t make the difference here. Miles did.
    Messi’s shots may have been just inches wide, but We were miles behind as a team. Players, Miles behind in terms of desire, intensity and aggression. Management, miles behind in terms of preparation, tactics and line-up selection.

    Chucking the 2nd best player in the world out of his sweet spot to the wings to accommodate a luxury purchase, and doing so repeatedly, irritates me so much, that I’d rather not think about it.

    But I agree with you on one thing.
    This pain. Dwell on it. Accept it. Internalize it and remember that the EEistas endured the same kind of pain for years, the kind of pain in knowing that your beloved team got outplayed. That the difference between the two lay in miles, not inches.

  20. February 27, 2013

    It was not a difference of inches. In fact, glaring problems which was apparent for some time now (also during some big matches in last season) are looking like open secrets for other managers. Nor do the coaching staff looking to do anything about it. It is alright to lose, against a great team like this RM. But we were no where near our best.

    After the first goal, we lost our heart. How can the best team in the world lose their heart so fast. Sure the coach is missing. RM really looked a better team from then on. The executed their plans very well and they deserved the win clearly.

    With two attacking full backs spending time in the opposition wings and two CB’s – both slow – even ahead of centre circle, makes it easy for a counter attack and there were some moments when our defence looked like headless chickens. We didnt even had a best player.

    I really hope Tito come back soon and make some little changes to our system.
    -There is far too much space between our 3 lines – defence – mfield – forward. This is making life so easy for every opposition.
    – Iniesta has to be in the centre, not fighting with Cesc for a path to the
    – When pressed well (by Alonso this time), Xavi is a different player. Better to sub him as early as possible
    – At least in big games, put Messi as an enganche or in the wing. Even Maradona didnt had to rub the shoulders of three players all the time. (contrast this with Ronaldo who is running into acres of space every time)

    I am really starting to doubt that somebody in the coaching staff or even in the club is the reason why Villa is not starting. If he was there, there were three occassions which would have made a difference (this is no inches – just a probability).
    – The Messi pass to Cesc – rather than shooting Cesc was more interested in a penalty – Villa?
    – The rebound from Busquets shot – Xavi was too slow to react – Villa?
    – Sometime in the first half – another Messi pass to box, but Iniesta was too slow to react – Villa?

    I do not want the club to sell any players like Alexis or Villa or Song. We just need little bit of tweaking, by the real coach, and we can get back to our best. With these group of players we can be the best.

    • Jim
      February 27, 2013

      Agree with a lot of this except that when two great teams meet small things can make large differences in the end. We weren’t outplayed, we were out thought.

  21. Tsivoman
    February 27, 2013

    Interesting post-match analysis from ESPN journos regarding this Clasico

    What is most alarming for me is the below statement from Roura in his post-match interview:
    “When you lose of course you think about changing things, and so we are thinking about playing in a different way against Milan, trying different things,”

    Three things comes out of this statement for me, right or wrong.
    1. Management(at what level is Tito actively involved during the game is anyone’s guess, though the club says he is) clearly has not learned not learned from the Milan game but Sevilla also.
    You do not play attack minded full backs against counter-attacking teams and not instruct one of the them to be reserved or at least have them co-ordinate attacks while maintaining defensive balance.
    2. Either way you look at this current spell the team is going thought, Tito is hugely missed and this cannot be understated.
    3. Lastly, I think the loss again against Milan has greatly affected the team. Notice all the press conferences since that loss, regardless of who we are about to play, management and players always try to emphasize how they’ll bounce back on the return leg of the CL.
    It’s almost as if any other game in between is of no significance.

    The next games coming before Milan should be used to try different lineups/tactics/things if management is really serious about the statement made by Roura.

    • February 27, 2013

      Thank you for that link. So at least there are some pundits who see the absence of Tito.

      We have lost the winning momentum. May be March will earn it back. I hope the players will get their confidence back at Bernabeu

  22. February 27, 2013

    Boy do I feel bad for Roura. Poor guy. Last season he was basically a scout. I read that one of his main duties was preparing videos of games for Pep! Now he is coaching the best team in the world in some of the toughest games of the season. Even a veteran coach would find it challenging and this poor guy has to deal with all the pressure and now the backlash from the media and the fans. I just hope they take it easy on him.

    I don’t think we can underestimate the effect not having Tito in the dressing room has, both mentally and tactically. As much as I love this team, for me the most important thing is that Tito gets healthy again. This is just a game. A game where millionaires kick around a ball for 90 mins. I think we forget sometimes that there is a man in NY fighting for his life right now. If we have to sacrifice a few trophies so that he can come back healthy then so be it. The league is wrapped up either way, we can come back and win the treble next season 🙂

    • HisR0yalFlyness
      February 27, 2013

      So the team should sacrifice trophies for the sentimentality of waiting for Tito to make a triumphant return?

      I wish Tito all the best, and hope for his speedy recovery and continued good health, but I think he should have stepped down in January, and agreed to let management bring in an ACTUAL interim manager. Not the Roura experiment we are seeing now where Tito is calling the shots via teleconference.

      The coach situation is only part of it but its one we could have dealt with more effectively.

      This is a crucial period of the season and we’re navigating it without an effective guide.It may even be too late to bring in someone else, so we’re forced to watch this tragedy as it happens.

      I keep wishing for a turnaround. I sincerely hope it happens.

      • February 27, 2013

        The fans should realise that there is more to life than football and that the situation with our manager is very sad and unfortunate and that the club and the fans should support him even if it means we dont end up winning everything this season.

        Oh and I would have been absolutely disgusted if the club had asked him to step down in January. That is not the club I support. If thats the type of club you want i suggest Chelsea.

        • Jim
          February 27, 2013

          Agreed. I’d be just as disgusted if because of the criticism of Roura he felt he had to come back early, though so we need to show a little patience.

  23. nzm
    February 27, 2013

    Great to see so many new people coming to the blog – thanks for taking the time to register and make thoughtful comments, even while the team (and we cules) are experiencing some difficult times.

    To all those who claim that commenters are “bashing” the team and the players – please stop – because you in turn are just “bashing” on others.

    Sure, some may get carried away in the heat of disappointment, but in this space it’s a rarity and most comments are usually backed with tactical reasons as to why some players just didn’t work as they should. If they aren’t, you should just ignore them in the hope that they’ll learn to rephrase their critiques so that they become more meaningful!

    This is why this website works because it doesn’t resort to generically calling others out for the sake of doing so. Please let it continue to be this way.

    • February 27, 2013

      any news from Barcelona nzm. There were lot of vacant seats in nou camp, yesterday, towards the end.

      • nzm
        February 27, 2013

        Lots of wound-licking going on, that’s for sure!

        People chose to walk out which is a great pity because nothing shows a lack of commitment and loyalty to the team more than walking out on them in times of trouble.

        Having said that, however, this is the first time that it’s happened in a long time. Even when the team lost to Chelsea last season, the crowd stayed and chanted until the game was well-over.

        I think that there is genuine bafflement as to why Barca is playing so badly at the moment, and even more concern that, even with a full squad, there is not enough rotation happening nor many changes to a line-up which tactically isn’t working.

        We just need to trust that the team will work its way out of the hole that it’s in before the sides collapse and bury it!

        • February 27, 2013

          Exactly, the same crowd who cheered while we were losing against Chelse, was leaving the stadium.
          May be they could see the lack of heart in the effort, or may be a 0-3 in an el classico with this group of players was too much to take.

          I am sincerely hoping, the team will get back their confidence in Bernabeu and come back against Milan.

          Is Rosell going to NY, to bring back Tito (I dont think so, but I really wish this hadnt occured with Tito)

          • nzm
            February 27, 2013

            I’m just hoping that Rosell isn’t going to pressure Tito into making a decision to either:
            1. Come back too early, or
            2. Resign.

            I’m just starting to get a bad feeling about Tito and his illness which may just be because of what’s going on with the team at the moment, but I don’t feel good about what’s happening with the man.

            First Zubi’s visit last week – ostensibly to discuss planning for next season (why so early?) – and now Rosell earning more airmiles. It’s not all happening as feel-good exercises.

          • Messiah10
            February 27, 2013

            Agreed nzm. There is a thing called the telephone, video phone, Face Time, text, etc. If they are going there to help bring his spirits up than that’s great, but they should say so. If they are truly going to discuss “next season” than that’s a waste of FCB money and they should be called out on it. If they are going for the reasons your speculating, then I’m getting worried and depressed.

        • February 27, 2013

          I am also getting really worried for Tito. What must he be going through now.

          No one in Barcelona have any sources to his exact condition now. I will feel like killing Rossell, if he forces Tito to resign, though.

          Just a thought, from the grand father of a friend – if Laporta was president, would he have managed to get Pep as interim manager, when Tito left to NY?

          • nzm
            February 27, 2013

            I don’t know if Laporta would have got Pep to come back, and I personally would not have wanted that with either Laporta or Rosell in charge.

            I’m not sure that Pep would have wanted to come back either.

            Can’t say for sure, but I don’t think that it was expected that Tito would be away for as long as he has been. Initially, it was said 10 days and now this has been revised twice to where it’s now said the middle of March is when he’ll return.

            Realistically, chemo and radiation treatment takes a minimum of 6 weeks and then recovery from its effects can take a lot longer. I think that Tito’s illness was more severe than initially reported.

          • Messiah10
            February 27, 2013

            I’m guessing that Pep might not have left if Laporta was still El Presidente. A lot of Pep’s exhaustion and stress came from Rosell & Co.

  24. chillipod
    February 27, 2013

    Confidence is contagious. So is lack of confidence (Vince Lombardi)

    Some will say it’s been coming, some might say it’s the end of an era, some will say it didn’t matter, some will say it’s Roura’s fault and some will clamor for wholesale changes. You can take your pick from any number of those or indeed any of the many other tabloid style reactions that are being banded about. Or you can take a more pragmatic response and conclude that if Messi’s right footed shot (following ridiculous control) early doors had gone in it may have been a different tale.
    The reality is that it was as bad a spanking as many of us have seen in recent years, mainly due to the excellence of the opponent. They came with the bit between their polished teeth, a clear and effective game plan and faced off against an opponent that has visibly wilted in recent weeks and lost a little of that precious ‘c’ word.
    I don’t imagine for a second that Tito didn’t have a sizable influence on tactics, personnel and preparation but when the whistle blows it’s down to the players to execute.
    Sadly for us only the EE’s XI did that.
    I think the worst aspects of last night’s game were:
    – our apparent inability to deal with the rather obvious EE game plan
    – the incessant passing out wide, only to come back, only to go out, only to come back at sllooowwwww…sssssppppeeeeedddddddddd.
    – the famous half touch passing has become 2 touch safety first shuffling.
    – The ‘full court press’ when not in possession was AWOL
    – the look of helplessness on Xavi and Puyi’s faces when it got to 0-3

    Every one of us could write vast amounts about how we feel it’s currently going wrong but I doubt any of that will make us feel better.
    If only there were/weren’t season defining games approaching at break neck speed to concentrate on…
    If we had to pick one competition to lose out on it would be CDR, but, it’s the fact that of the other baubles available, one is just about sealed and the other is casting admiring glances at other teams
    which means that CDR really was more desirable than anyone’s saying, and yet sadly, it just didn’t look like that from the moment Pique got left 1 on 1 with ‘him’ (after what had been a very decent opening 12 mins).
    I’ll let infinitely more skilled writers offer hypotheses on what went wrong tonight and instead offer my thoughts on what should happen next.
    Regarding Saturday. The points don’t matter but the performance does. Another crushing defeat will have an immeasurable impact. So, do we put out the trusted foot soldiers and hope they do what we know they can or do we let some of our other highly paid/skilled/motivated? employees take the strain?
    For me, the latter. Adriano should play, Masc, Song, Montoya, Thiago and yes, even Alexis should too.
    Xavi should not, Messi should not (but probably will) and Iniesta should not, under any circumstances, despite the fact that EE will smell blood, and now have a taste for it. We shouldn’t forget that they will have one eye at least on Old Trafford.
    More importantly we need a solution to our defensive woes. I realise that cannot be done in one game, but, if we can at least see a chink of light then it might just be enough to cling to as regards the CL 2nd leg, which looks now to be season defining. Restore that damn ‘c’ word again.
    What is key now, as we near the end of Hlebruary, is that the core of our team are protected and readied for battle against the Milanese.
    They should not be subjected to any further mental (or physical) scarring ahead of the CL game if we are to have a chance of progressing.
    We need solidity, solidarity, speed (of action and of thought) and movement back asap or this season which took us all by (pleasant) surprise in the first half of it’s existence becomes another chapter in the “what if” series.
    I believe we can do it, but the question is, do the players?

    Confidence… thrives on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection and on unselfish performance. Without them it cannot live.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

    Visca Barça

  25. flyzowee
    February 27, 2013

    What I am about to say really hasnt got much to do with yesterdays game but I would be pleased if barca just considered (even if its for a second) creating their very own variation of the 4-2-3-1.
    Look we do not necessarily have to use it as a flat template but this formation allows for flying fullbacks, full pitch pressing, a false9 and a striker. With this formation we can even choose to continue with iniesta on the wings a la Ribery.

    Im really keen to see what Pep does with Bayern next season. They seem capable of playing the possession and patient game because of the high technical abilities of their players as well the high tempo game because of their athleticism something we sorely lack. It may also be interesting if we look at diversifying the skill set of our midfield. They all need not to be playmakers.

    As far as transfers go, there is currently no space for Neymar or any inside forward for that matter in our current template. Sticking them on the wings with a false9 for just creates ‘artificial width’ which opposition defences have done well to realize poses no threat.

    I think these recent losses are good for self evaluation. We may very well have a bigger squad size next season. Something I would welcome.

    • ilie
      February 27, 2013

      I am actually praying that we bring Neymar this summer. He would solve a lot of our current problems IMO.

      I’m not sure why you think he would provide artificial width. If you’ve seen what Tello does when he comes in, Neymar is 100x. He’s as fast, a lot better with the ball, amazing dribbler, a better passer, a better shooter, can shoot with both feet, etc.. you get the point. And, contrary to some peoples beliefs, he’s quite strong and has the ability to help in defense due to his speed, body control and understanding of the game. He’s like Messi in that regard when he used to defend.

      If Neymar goes on the left flank, the whole defense will have to switch over. He is THAT good.

      The question is if he can fit mentally with the rest of the team and I believe he can, he’s had his fun in Brazil, now it’s time for more serious stuff, a bigger stage and bigger performances.

      I would let Villa go this summer, even though I think he wouldn’t mind staying, I’m sure he wants to be somewhere where he can be a starter every game and he’s also getting up there in age so I wouldn’t mind we get something for him while we still can.

      I’m not sure if there’s any room for Tello if Neymar comes, but I would keep Alexis because he can play on either side and also in front of Messi.

      I would love to see a



  26. February 27, 2013

    Whatever, now I am already over it. Atletico / Sevilla can still beat EE in a one off final game. If they don’t, EE would have fully deserved the CDR. What interests me is what we do from here.

    For the Bernabeu,
    Masch & Adriano to get starts in defence.
    Thiago, Song and Iniesta in MF. Alexis, Villa and Messi up front.
    There’s no harm in trying this dynamic and we have nothing to lose. But we do have something to prove. To ourselves and Milan. We anyway have a full week to recover before the next game against Depor, in which I expect rests for several key players.

    Now lets crash their house.

  27. Addaxpside
    February 27, 2013

    I pondered on this, why cant barca play Song & Busquets together in DM, at least to protect the backline. Sticking to philosophy is starting to kill the team. The club looks rigid IMO.

  28. Messiah10
    February 27, 2013

    Is Adriano still hurt? I can’t understand why he hasn’t been getting time if he’s not. His form earlier in the season saved many a game for us. He has a deadly shot from 25+ yards, one of the few. He needs minutes and now.

    • February 27, 2013

      This was the first game he was passed fit for since his last injury. He was on the bench.

  29. Enzo
    February 27, 2013

    Here’s our problem. The team plays possession football but every team we come across seems to put as many players behind the ball as possible when we attack they then play narrow so as to congest the midfield making playing through them extremely difficult.

    We can’t control teams playing narrow against us and we can’t control them congesting the middle of the park but logic dictates that if a team is playing narrow to congest the middle of the park then they are leaving space out wide. And the reason the feel comfortable doing this is because our strength is playing through the middle not wide play. Even if we stretch the pitch by pulling our wide players to the touchlines the opposition full backs won’t be drawn out because they know that even in the best crossing positions our wide players rarely have anyone to cross to in the box. But remember that while a wall may seem imposing from the front viewed from the side the same wall is rather narrow.

    In other words, in order then to overcome such a tactic you have to be able to adapt the current tactics of the team so as to improve the wide play taking advantage of the space freely given to us by the opponents tactics. If the team improves its threat from wide positions by improving the crosses and having a striker capable of getting on the ends of such crosses… Teams will naturally defend wider against us in response leaving enough room in the middle to exploit our greatest strength. I would continue on about how we need to improve our counter attacking ability but anyone who’s watched this team since the Guardiola era knows that Barcelona and the notion of the counter-attack are concepts that rarely coincide.

  30. pr17
    February 27, 2013

    i actually feel bad about roura now. this is a serious career limiting move. His face was a picture of agony yesterday.

    Our players couldnt even extract revenge / solace for his horrid injury at San Siro which ended his career.

    Come on, this is the time, barca regroups. Send players for a couple of days off. Bit of war room type planning for Liga clash on saturday. Reinstate pressing and high line. Some tweaks / experiments here and there. There isnt much to lose in liga anyway.

    Against chelsea @home last year, till pique wasnt subbed off, we used a high line and we were mighty effective. i rarely see a high line and as people said before, gaps exist between attack and midfield and defence and midfield.

    • nzm
      February 27, 2013

      The team has had more days off over the past few weeks than they have had in a long time. Even the Christmas break was the longest. The rotation needs to happen during the matches, not resting from practices off the pitch.

  31. nzm
    February 27, 2013

    And now for some light-hearted ribbing:


  32. Choba
    February 27, 2013

    Thanks for the review.

    The coach changing players or intercepting the ball or taking the ball with his hands and putting it into madrid goal, I don’t think that cules are that stupid to think that. But a coach that came with same players, same tactics, same nothing-new and anything-anticipated-by-rivals and wishing the result will be different ! emmmm I will make it simple, a lot is the responsibility of the coach or the new-assistant-becoming-the-coach or whatever.

    The others stuff in the review I don’t care that much, yeah it’s not the end of the world, yeah it’s just copa del rey, yeah we cannot win them all, yeah… but we should not lose this WAY, madrid wasn’t this good.

    Madrid wasn’t better, we were worse tactically speaking, it’s not the players that weren’t willing their hearts as some people said, I see the opposite, they were trying their best, but the coach didn’t give them options tactically speaking.

    • Choba
      February 27, 2013

      And oh, for me I don’t think buying or selling any one will resolve some of our problems

      • February 27, 2013

        Wait, so as I understand it, you read the review, but want to discard the stuff that doesn’t agree with your worldview so that you can sustain the narrative that you’d like to have? You’ll pardon me if I say that’s a little unfair to the team and the club.

        • Choba
          February 27, 2013

          I don’t care about the other stuff because there are facts that even the players cannot control even in the best of theirs shapes (puyol slide, Messi miss passes…), so my comment focus on the things that seems to me important not some “random” stuff that can happen anywhere, anytime for any club.

          In other words, It’s not just “the inches that make the differences” that it’s important in this game, it’s the lack of not giving tactical solution, and going with the same thing and hoping for the best that really we should discuss deeply.

          Just my opinion.

  33. barca96
    February 27, 2013

    Even though it was noticeable that many had left the stadium at the end but the noise level was still good. I still could hear them singing, loud.

    • nzm
      February 27, 2013

      That was mostly the Madrid supporters – singing rude words to Barca chants – followed by whistles from the Barca fans trying to drown them out.

      • barca96
        February 27, 2013

        Oh my god. Didn’t know that. Damn other. All this while I thought the fans were magnificent to sing till the end.

        I didn’t expect them to stay back like after the Chelsea match but at least sing and support the team until the final whistle.

  34. barca96
    February 27, 2013

    Now what would make me really go mad is for Messi to insist on playing this weekend. If I was Tutorial, I would do damage limitation and send out a weakened team.

    I don’t want
    a) our strongest team getting beat, again.
    b) player our strongest team and Madrona shows up with a weekend team to humiliate us psychologically.

    I can already imagine what people would say. We can only beat a Madrid B team. That is of course if we could win. If not our Liga win will lose some of its shine.

    But my heart says that we should not care whichever line up they come up with and try to at least draw.

      • mom4
        February 27, 2013

        It says that but doesn’t mention your name:

        Origin: According to urban legend, the term was coined by a member of the Barcelona Football Blog.

        • February 27, 2013

          “urban legend” indeed! Do I look like an urban legend to you?!?

          • Choba
            February 27, 2013

            hahahahha, you should be proud to be remembered as urban legend 😀

          • nzm
            February 28, 2013

            Dunno. Show us what you look like and we’ll tell you. 😛

    • Messiah10
      February 27, 2013

      That just made my day!!! Thanks for posting! 🙂

  35. barca96
    February 27, 2013

    Against Milan, it was too much tiki taka and no directness.

    Against Madrid, it was too direct and no tiki taka.

  36. barca96
    February 27, 2013

    That is so hilarious!

    Is it related to Barca and Hleb? I anti read that website whenever I’m on the phone (Opera Mobile Next on Android) . All I see is the word.

  37. htMillBay
    February 27, 2013

    Excellent review and great comments as always.
    I agree with the basic premise that these are the top two teams in the world and are on paper separated by inches. I do disagree with the review that last night’s outcome was separated by inches. In execution and spirit (and in the key metrics), RM was miles ahead. There are lots of credible explanations.

    We are coachless and therefore leaderless.
    The Mister may be teleconferencing from NY but he is fighting his own battle over there, one which is far more important than a game of footie.
    Roura is crumbling under the pressure and fully deserves the benefit of the doubt. There are reasons why head managers are paid millions of dollars – they don’t just roll out the ball.
    Tito’s absence in practices as much as matches is surely felt.
    In a team with a bunch of superstars, a single player can not just take over and play leader.

    Messi is (was?) sick. There are news reports that doctors visited him at home this morning and he missed practice.
    Xavi not yet physically fit is obvious.
    Those two key players are not fit in the same way they were not in last year’s Chelsea matches and RM Liga match. Same results.

    Tactically, a host of excellent analyses around the web have been pointing out the weaknesses even before this match and San Siro highlighted all of them. Yet of course, the biggest disappointment was that the interim coach and the players were unable to adjust and at least manage the flaws. Same old starters, same old Ini-Cesc confusion, same old FB too much offense/too little defense, etc., etc.

    FCB did not lose this game alone. RM also won it. In a season where they have coasted in LL after last year’s trophy, it is a team which is just getting back its mojo. They are peaking just now where FCB started out in a roar to avenge last year’s disappointments; then is going through the inevitable mid-season come down so that the team peaks again by May as planned.

    I think all focus must be on the Milan match in two weeks. This is the match that will define this season. The match that will mean whether the interim coach and some of the best players in the world can adjust and adapt and not just bang their heads against the wall in the same fashion again and again. So the next two Liga matches should be treated as experiments and training exercises. Provide a real break (mental as much as physical) to key high mileage players – Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Alves; a chance to get players to regain confidence and match fitness – Sanchez and Villa respectively; to give youngsters playing time – Montoya, Bartra, Tello; and trot out the bench to keep them match fit – Thiago, Mascherano, Song. A time to try out new tactics/formations: Villa in the middle, Sanchez behind the CBs; Song and Busquets as double pivots; Montoya as an RB that stays back while Alba bombs forward, etc.

  38. February 27, 2013

    Some interesting stuff today:

    — If you haven’t visited the site to check out the Iniesta presser quotes, do so. Ghostface is badass.

    — Graham Hunter today said pretty much the same thing I said, that it comes down to execution. That nothing is wrong with the system or the players, but they aren’t executing. Look, the reason that Jordi Alba goal looked so easy is because it WAS easy. The run dictated the pass, which was put where it needed to be. That is a Vilanova system goal.

    The tika-taka and all that stuff works if properly executed, and part of that execution is having a terminus, a place to put the ball at the end of all of that moving the defense around. Otherwise, it’s just possession without much danger. And that system is most effective if it isn’t Messi-dependent. That is too easy to defend. You don’t need Messi to score that Alba goal. You need a system that works, executed by some of the best players in the world.

    — This team NEEDS a good dose of adversity. People don’t want to hear that, but it’s all been so easy, so flowing, so lovely. Press accolades rain from the heavens, Messi scores a gazillion goals, etc, etc. But adversity makes a side stronger. Look at RM, who finally got tired of seeing us dancing around after scoring goals, and made changes with the precise goal of beating us in mind.

    And because of that adversity, that team is HUNGRY. Think adversity doesn’t matter? Look at how they started the season, and how we started the season. That isn’t all down to Vilanova. That was some angry sprites, saying “Just the Copa last season? To HELL with that!” While RM said “We’re back, baby! Let them see the white shirts and tremble!”

    The undefeated stuff and accolades seduced the players into thinking it was all easy again, it was 2008 and we were about to rule the world. Adversity-based hunger goes as quickly as it comes. RM wanted that match more last night. They will probably want the weekend’s match more as well, because they are trying to make a Statement, just as we did to start the season. It happens.

    But it isn’t Jordi Roura, or the system. It’s the players and how they are executing the system. You can get away with being sloppy against Getafe or Granada. You can’t against RM, or you will be punished. So those sloppy balls that got picked off, leading to RM breaks? That’s execution. Weight the pass properly and the stuff doesn’t happen. Look at the manita, and how that ball pinged around. That is the same team. It’s just that now, that team isn’t executing. That can be fixed, and the repair starts with the players.

    — We’d be fools not to admit that Xavi isn’t himself right now, that Puyol has lost more than a step. But they are still great players, and still part of a system that has brought extraordinary success to this club, and can do so again. Just work it.

    • mom4
      February 27, 2013

      It’s not the club, the system, the players, or the coach. It’s the tactics.

      There is a role for Fabregas in this system. It is just not a role with Xavi and Iniesta on the field( for most games).

      The system may not need a traditional “9”, but it sure doesn’t hurt to have a few forwards on the pitch.

      For every problem there is a solution. The system does not dictate that every solution be a midfielder.

      Why is Xavi always always always rushed back from injuries? ALWAYS!

      The system requires attack. The best way to score against us is the counter. If people are bypassing our midfield then use Song and Busi together. They’re destroyers, but they are very attack minded destroyers.

      If you have the 2nd best player in the world on your team, let him play his best position. DUH!

      Lately, the lineup has been counter-productive to this system.

      • February 27, 2013

        Remember, Pep used to make some changes in every game and almost always it worked (except towards the end of 2012)
        Using the same players in the same way for almost every game is not going to work, at least not against big teams, and anyhow not against teams who face us again and again. There wasn’t any specific tactics from our side for this particular game. The look on the players face, after the second goal was clear.

      • Choba
        February 27, 2013

        That what I am saying “It’s the tactics.”.

        the difference is I give responsibility to the coach about tactics.

        • mom4
          February 27, 2013

          Guess I meant it’s not Roura’s fault. Of course the tactics are the coach’s responsibility. As such the tactics failure is Tito’s (and I hate blaming him because he has bigger fish to fry right now). If I see that starting XI rolled out against Milan, I don’t think I’ll watch the game. Can only take so much stress at my age.

  39. Mik
    February 27, 2013

    Iniesta – “My natural position is in midfield.”

    Yes, we know. The only ones who seem to ignore this obvious fact are the Barcelona managers to appease the Catalan star signing at the expense of winning trophies. Sigh.

    I don’t mind the defeat, I really don’t. I have been convinced for a long time that we can’t win trophies without Messi. It is the total disregard from the coaching staff for the obvious problems we have been having for the last couple of years that does my head in. They refuse to address the issues and keep persisting with the same line-up although we got our asses handed to us a week ago by the 4th best team in Italy without Balotelli.

    Xavi, Puyol, Iniesta, Fabregas, Pedro – none of them covered themselves with glory yesterday. Sorry, I love them both, but Xavi and Puyol look a shadow of themselves and need to be benched for crucial games. Why is Mascherano out of favour these days?

    I knew benching Alexis early in the season would come back to bite us in the end, now we have a player who is low in confidence, who could have made a difference in these games. And the Spanish players who have been starting regularly are not playing well and fail to make a difference. So what do we do? Keep sending out the same line-up again and again.

    I feel for Roura. He certainly is not enjoying being thrust into the limelight. He commented yesterday that Vilanova is picking the line-up. If that is the case, then maybe Tito should stop tele-managing the team until he is fit and healthy? Because this arrangement is not working out well for both parties.

    • Jim
      February 27, 2013

      Not sure that there have been signs that Alexis could make any kind of difference. He has had plenty of chances.

      • February 27, 2013

        Sanchez has had plenty of chances to try to be the player that Barça want him to be, rather than the player that Barça bought. That’s quite a difference, and one that he is falling short of in the measurement.

        • Jim
          February 27, 2013

          That’s probably a more accurate way to put it. Despite everything ( and possibly before he goes) I’d love to see him let rip and see if he can actually be the player I thought we were getting.

  40. y2k156
    February 27, 2013

    Been a few years when Barca was at such lower level. Not that they got beat but they got deservedly so.

    In general, the defense if not working for the team. Everytime opposition breaks, they seem to fashion a good chance. Hard to blame only defense for this situation. As a team, there are systematic failures. Also, all teams are now crowding Messi & without good support strikers, that is making life really difficult. I was just thinking yesterday that last two times Barca won CL, Messi had two in form strikers who were supporting him. Right now Pedro or Sanchez are not threatening anyone and no matter how much i like Iniesta, he is no striker.

    Tbh, i do not have too much hope that things will change against Milan. I just hope that this does not result in a collapse.

    On other hand, am philosophical about the situation. We had great four years & it would have been nice to win maybe one more CL, we did win two in four. Team is till at a very high level. We do need at least one excellent defender & also a striker who can be genuine threat for scoring.

  41. February 27, 2013

    The team is going through it’s most difficult period of the season. This was expected physically due to periodization (Roura referred to that again).

    All that’s been made worse by Tito being gone. The tactical experiments going on early in the season have largely come to a halt just when the team needed adjustments and leadership.

    Those are issues which clearly influenced the outcome yesterday. Those are factors which should change. Though the big question is whether they can change enough prior to the Milan match to save the CL campaign. That’s an open questions.

    All that said, while there were those temporary factors which influenced the outcome, for me there are system level issues also at hand that need to be addressed that are concerning.

    RM were the better side yesterday & that was largely due to the fact that they absolutely controlled space on the pitch. Barca had the ball but RM controlled space. And that was the major dynamic in the match. Barca just couldn’t use the possession it had to break RM’s control of space.

    The temporary reasons for why that was will change. This team will absolutely play much better this season-hopefully in time for Milan. They are still very much in play to win the double.

    But the system has lost balance IMO in all three phases-attack, defense & transition. Those three things are connected so it’s difficult to disconnect them. But part of this issue is tactical & part of it is the team growing more homogenous in it’s skill sets. That’s a real concern to me.

    A few examples-the diminished attack via the flanks through the ability to dribble & beat players; the L flank transition defense being so weakened; trying to add more verticality tactically but not having players with pace to execute those tactics efficiently. All of these were major factors in yesterday’s outcome & part of why RM were able to control space so well & win the match.

    For a perspective into this system issue consider this. Both Milan & RM oriented their counter attack similarly in that both played their LW as the highest player on the pitch. Milan-El Sharaaway & RM-C. Ronaldo. Yet despite those LW players being the keys on the counter -both teams vs Barca predominantly attacked via the R flank. Milan-44% of their attack was via the R. RM-37%.

    So despite the focal point of their counter systems being stationed up high on the L each team looked to attack Barca’s transition defense via the R. This is how both opening goals were scored the last 2 matches. This has been a growing trend-it’s very clear teams are targeting the Barca L flank transition defense as an area of real weakness. And that has been the case since Abidal was lost. It’s now growing increasingly into a problem however.

    • G6O
      February 27, 2013

      What do you see as possible solutions?

      • February 27, 2013

        Complicated questions. There are short term issues & long term ones there.

        Couple of things short term – I’d start creating the option to have a player stationed in front of Messi as a striker. I’d play a more conventional LW. Probably try a backline with Puyol nominally at “LB” alongside Masche & Pique. Those are a few thoughts. I’d also have Busquets drop to the backline deep more vs teams that sit deep.

        Long term-think the team needs to diversify it’s skill set more. And this is just preliminary but I think the best shape for the team long term maybe a base 3-5-2 with related variants e.g. 3-2-3-2 in build up. This is just what I’m thinking now but that may be the best way to get a viable strike partner for Messi who doesn’t get shackled to a tactical role while still retaining width. That wouldn’t be the only system but I’d want the option of playing that way.

        • G6O
          February 27, 2013

          The 3-5-2 is an interesting idea..

          What do you think is the reason why Tito/Roura insist on playing the same formation even though it repeatedly fails? Certainly, they’re better tacticians than us who post here and if we see the problems, they do too. Yet, they keep putting out the same lineup which means there must be some rational behind it, but I just can’t see it…

        • I have been saying about 3-5-2 formation for sometime against teams which dig deeper. When we look at 4-3-3 and 3-5-2 formation, it looks like there is one defender less. But not against teams which sit deeper, we have one defender more in that case.

          I think the 3-1-4-1-1 formation would be good against Milan.







          This should give us a decent chance. With Alves and Alba as wingers we should have enough strength on flanks.

          But the key is the three man defense, if they sit back and counter we will have atleast 2 defenders on the guy who makes the break, rather than one defender as now.

        • February 28, 2013

          Watching Atletico against Sevilla, so impressed by Navas. Each and every time, he manage to send in a cross, irrespective of 1/2 players on him. Pedro manages this only once in a while, Alves a couple more.
          Messi behind Villa/Alexis, with Alves/Alba and Thiago/Pedro on the wings might be good for us in some big games.
          Playing both Alba and Alves at the same time is inviting trouble. Why dont we start Alba/Alves in different matches only, based on the opposition.
          If Abidal was there, Pique/Masch/Abi would have bought some stability to the back.

      • htMillBay
        February 27, 2013

        I’m not Euler, but one possible solution is playing Song and Busi together similar to how Del Bosque plays the NT.

        Busi is not as good in long balls as Xabi Alonso but in the few youtubes of Song that I’ve seen he was able to play the Xabi role in Arsenal quite well.

        That will also take care of the L flank transition defense pointed out by Euler as Alba can play more as a pure winger when we now have two DMs protecting the defensive line, and the space on the R flank can also be better protected.

        Iniesta and Messi can then play the middle while Alba and Alves maraud up the flanks when appropriate and provide the width. Meanwhile you can have Sanchez and/or Villa occupying the CBs; and the space between the CBs and the MFs while moving laterally in front of the Messi-Iniesta mid-field. Xavi can be brought on as a sub to kill the game assuming we have the lead or the necessary goals in the case of the Milan leg.

        This formation can lead to more goals than the Spain NT because we have the Messi and they don’t; and Alves is way more versatile than Arbeola. With the direct goal threats coming from Villa and Sanchez (or Pedro), Milan won’t be able to box Messi, and he can make runs at the defense when his finishing and/or assists are more deadly. I just hope Alexis gets his form back because he is definitely needed; if not Pedro is a proven big game finisher when he is getting the mid-field support.

        The San Siro game was so notable because this is the first game I can remember in the Guardiola/Vilanova era when the best mid-field in the world was outplayed by the opposing team’s MF. However, FCB does not have the best MF in the world when Iniesta is playing LW; Xavi is not fit and Busi has to cover for two offensive full backs.

        Alluding to Euler’s comment that FCB has too many of the same type of players, I think FCB can not play Ini, Cesc and Xavi together because the attack becomes too toothless and Messi dependent. Neither can FCB play Xavi, Busi, Alves and Alba together because the defense along the flanks becomes unbalanced and the high defensive line too vulnerable. You either have to play Montoya instead of Alves; Abidal instead of Alba or Song instead of Xavi.

        • pr17
          March 1, 2013

          Some merit in what you say.
          I would rather replace Song with Mascherano if one needs a double pivot. Both song and busi are slow and masche is faster.

          If it comes to long balls, i have not seen much evidence of Song spraying passes left right centre. He did give a lot of assists with chips to van persie but they werent long balls.
          Masche is renowned for his long passing from defence. I think whenever a team tries a forward defensive press, masche/ pique is best option. One capable of long passes to avoid the press and another capable of running with it.

          Mutiple ideas exist. Dont know which one will work.
          Defence – Montoya option, puyi as FB and 3 at back.

          Midfield – Back to Xavi-iniesta or double pivot

          Forward line – Villa / Cesc as no 9

  42. Archie
    February 27, 2013

    Hi all and, again, condolences,

    Barca start game having won the “tie” by being up on an away goal. They are playing a team that has been abysmal (versus their potential) when faced with a tactically defensive opponent. To win Barca merely has to avoid conceding a goal. Barca chooses an attacking strategy and proceeds to allow their opponent multiple chances to attack in the way that suites them best. Barca concedes three goals and loses the “tie.”

    The only way this tactical choice is conceivable is if there is a communal myth that a certain strategy and even roster is the best choice in all situations.


  43. Jafri
    February 27, 2013

    The Fabregas problem, from ZM:

    “At the risk of repeating what was said following the Milan game, Roura’s continued use of Fabregas and Iniesta in these roles was hugely surprising. Iniesta stayed nearer the touchline while Fabregas floated around in a more central position, but they often got in each others’ way, and Iniesta seems unable to influence the game significantly while Fabregas is taking up his space.

    There was one perfect example of the problem, after 10 minutes. Pinto claimed the ball and immediately chucked it long to Iniesta, for Barcelona to break three-against-three. Fabregas started slightly inside of Iniesta, but then made a lazy, casual run into the same ‘vertical’ piece of space as him. He needed to either burst through the middle to provide the potential for a forward pass in behind the defence, or charge to the outside (as Ozil would certainly have done) to stretch the play and allow Iniesta to come inside. In the end, he offered nothing, and Iniesta had to check back, winning a foul from Khedira.”

    • Jafri
      February 27, 2013

      Third paragraph’s relevant too:

      “That problem – two players on top of each other – would never have happened under Pep Guardiola. He was insistent on training drills involving ‘boxes’ which forced Barcelona to always cover space effectively – when one man came into your zone, you moved out into another zone. It provides the man in possession with a number of options on the ball, it stretches the play and therefore the opposition defence, and it distributes players across the pitch evenly so Barcelona can press effectively immediately (something also lacking this season). It’s far from unique, and in many ways very basic, but clever spatial distribution was a key part of Guardiola’s strategy, yet so absent here.”

      • pr17
        March 1, 2013

        That is a bielsa invention. Players not crowding each other through the box exercise.

        I miss the tactical tinkering of last season which was a bit too much but nonetheless exciting.

  44. Enzo
    February 27, 2013

    I agree with Archie

    The same strategy in all games is ridicoulus. We were leading on away goals but if you’d watched the first 20 min of the game you would have thought we were chasing the game.

    I will continue to call for diversity in play. There are many ways to score goals 1. Tiki Taka 2. Wing Play 3. Counter-Attacking 4. Set-Pieces. The team is absolutely brilliant at the first but the next three are very poor which makes our strategy predictable.

    As for the defence I really can’t give an opinion because its something I don’t understand. Individually we have some of the best defenders in the world but as a unit, they just don’t work what’s happening???

    • February 27, 2013

      But Barça is always going to attack. When that swashbuckling philosophy was winning piles of silver, nobody said anything except “Yay!” Now that it is being found out by way of opponents who are figuring out how to play it, it can’t suddenly not be the right system.

      Barça is never going to defend. Ever. The team, in its current iteration, believes that the best way to win is to attack. I like that. Usually it will work, and sometimes it won’t. That’s life.

      As for our defenders, people are mistaking limited numbers of goals being conceded for having a good defense. That isn’t quite correct, I think. In the past, our defense conceded (seemingly) less because of the pressure. So any balls that leaked through to our defenders, they would sweep up, or Abidal would knock away after doing some gazelle thing.

      At present, our defenders are being asked to be defenders. And they aren’t. If I am building a traditional defense, I’m taking some dude like Kompany over Puyol any day of the week. But this is a Barça defense, which has a very different set of requirements.

      • mom4
        February 27, 2013

        I keep hearing the word “system’. Where is our system? We haven’t been following the philosophy much less the system. We have a lazy, half tiki taka thing going on. People are passing but people aren’t moving. Our defense used to begin with players swarming the ball like angey bees whenever it was lost. We tried to evolve by adding “verticality” but at what cost? Our lineups are picked to clog control the midfield rather than facilitate passing and movement. That balance that Abi gave us when Alves went marauding isn’t there. It’s not that Alba isn’t capable, but maybe he needs to learn some defensive discipline.

        I don’t see problems with system or players. I see problems with how both are used. And that means tactics and coaching and no I don’t have an answer for that because I believe the right thing to do is to wait patiently for Tito.

        Our defenders would not have to defend if passes weren’t misplaced so often. Passes would not be misplaced as often if there were more movement. There would be more, better, more diverse movement if we didn’t have 10 midfielders bumping into each other. And the ball would seldom get to the defense if we got our hive mind, swarming presses going again.

        Also…forwards…it’s a concept!

        Rant over. Visca Barca1

        • February 27, 2013

          No. It is execution. All the things that you cite: half tika-taka, players not moving, no swarming, defensive discipline …. those all relate to execution. Tactics deal with where the players are standing before they start moving around. They are also reacting to the other team moving around, and what the scoreline is.

          The most sound tactical plan can be derailed by poor execution. Like any intricate puzzle, the Barça system needs execution to thrive. It is different from the RM system, which mostly needs the ball, a big foot and a running Oil Can.

          If the team started defending with 11 again, the defensive problems would go away. But that isn’t, for whatever reason, going to happen.

          • mom4
            February 27, 2013

            If the team started defending with 11 again, the defensive problems would go away. But that isn’t, for whatever reason, going to happen.

            But that is tactics.

      • KEVINO17
        February 27, 2013

        “My salute shall sweep all the stars away
        From the blue threshold! One thing without stain,
        Unspotted from the world, in spite of doom
        Mine own! And that is . . . my white plume!” (Cyrano, Act V)

        People don’t follow Barca because they defend, they follow barca because Barca plays with panache and always tries to dictate the terms.

        There is a great article in Chalkonboots which points out that RM are having a terrible season because they are tactically unable to break down well-disciplined defences that park the bus. They only have a chance against Barca because it is the only side that always tries to attack. So, in a sense, this game was an anomaly – something RM may well discover when they play ManU.

        Anyway, whatever the arguments for Barca sitting back in games like this, it was important to treat it as a dress-rehearsal for the Milan game when Barca will not be able to sit back.

  45. Doug
    February 27, 2013

    This might be a stupid question, but why not switch Cesc and Iniesta? Put Cesc out on the wing, and Ini back to midfield. Is it because we’re concerned Cesc is too slow to be effective outside?

    • Choba
      February 27, 2013

      He’s to slow and more important he don’t have the skill to dribble players in the wing, at least I didn’t see those skills in barça.

  46. February 27, 2013

    Something else that comes to mind looking over the comments-it’s good to see people generally focusing on the underlying dynamics of the match rather than singling individuals out to blame as so often happens after difficult losses. There’s been some of that but not as much as we’ve had here this season.

    And I hope people remember this after the next loss if different players happen to be on the pitch.

    If Mascherano goes to ground like Pique did or if he misses the ball on the slide or gets beat by Di Maria like Puyol did-I hope he’ll get the benefit of the doubt. Because many times in the past he hasn’t even remotely been granted that. Or if Alves has a poor defensive match like Alba did I hope people will consider the challenges of playing FB in this system, etc.

    • Doug
      February 27, 2013

      Euler – if you were to set a lineup that would include Iniesta, Xavi, and Fabregas, where would you play them?

    • February 28, 2013

      Glad you mentioned this. In fact, I was thinking Mach in place of Puyol, would have managed to stop De maria much before. He has done that many times too.

  47. February 27, 2013

    Messi missed training today, btw, and I have to say that pisses me off. The official club line is that he had a “fever”, but I think it’s fairly obvious he was just upset at losing. I don’t like that attitude. I’m sure all the players were gutted after yesterday’s game, but if they can haul their depressed asses out of bed and go to training, so can Messi. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with things like that, especially since he will likely be made 4th captain after Valdes leaves.

    (Unless he really was sick, in which case I take it all back.)

    • Jim
      February 27, 2013

      Why would you automatically assume that was the case ? It could just as easily be that he wasn’t well last night but wanted to play which might account for a below par performance. That certainly seems to be the case with Xavi.

      • February 27, 2013

        If he wasn’t well last night, he shouldn’t have played. That doesn’t make it any better.

        And as for why I would assume that, it’s not the first time Messi has missed a training session right after an important defeat. The club obviously doesn’t advertise it when it happens, but several journalists have mentioned it in the past.

        • rand
          February 27, 2013

          Why do you want to assume things when you don’t have credible information? Messi misses training after certain matches because he is usually in the gym doing recovery work. And it is not just Messi who does this. Other players including Xavi and Iniesta do it too.

          Seems like every single thing he does/doesn’t do is a scandal.

          • February 27, 2013

            He wasn’t in the gym. He was at home. Per the official site.

            And I am entitled to my opinion.

          • rand
            February 27, 2013

            Nobody said you weren’t entitled to your “opinion”. I just don’t understand why some people read too much into a fever and make up their own baseless “opinions”. But, hey, it takes all kinds.

            I didn’t say he was in the gym today. I said he misses training after certain matches because he is in the gym. I know the official line is that he has a fever. Got that information from barcastuff.

      • February 27, 2013

        And both JDS (the persistent little sod) and Pinto have recently shown up for training while running temperatures and been sent home by the medical staff. Commitment.

  48. K_legit in Oz
    February 27, 2013

    ‘Unless he really was sick, in which case I take it all back.’

    And yet you really can’t take it back, can you? You said all you wanted to say already with a little disclaimer as a relief valve.
    What if he is really ill and you outright questioned his commitment/work ethic- something he has oodles of?!

    • February 27, 2013

      Like I said, it’s not the first time he has thrown a sulk after losing a big game. Reputable sources have commented on it before. It’s not outrageous to think he has done it again.

      If I am wrong, I will apologize. But I’m pretty sure he will be fit and training with the team tomorrow.

      (And amidst all the questioning of his work ethic & commitment that has happened on this site previously, you may have noticed that I have defended Messi many times.)

      • Momo
        February 27, 2013

        To be fair that’s quite the accusation to hurl out there based on speculation. I mean you’re basically attacking his professionalism and dedication… You can’t just throw something like that out there and say you’re not sure

        • February 27, 2013

          The question I always ask, is “What if it were Player X, rather than Messi?” Are there players on our team of whom people would indeed think, “Shame on him,” or have reacted differently had blitzen thrown that information out there? Players who might not have sparked the instant rush to their defense as Messi did?

          “Unwell” is a rather unusual designation for the club to choose to describe a player’s missing practice. We get various flus, “discomfort,” “overburdening,” etc, etc. “Unwell” is a new one for me.

          blitzen has speculation, and it is her opinion. If something more comes of it, we shall see then. For now ….

          • Mik
            February 28, 2013

            And the question I always ask is, would blitzen have posted that comment questioning a player’s attitude if it was someone other than Messi? Say, Iniesta?

            Personally, I don’t give a flying one what wording they used to describe the illness. Why make a mountain out of a molehill? We have enough problems as it is, groundless assumptions based on baseless speculation is the last thing we need.

            And, that my friends, is my opinion.

          • February 28, 2013

            It’s not based on speculation, it’s based on the fact that he has done it before.

            And no, blitzen would probably not have posted that comment if Iniesta had missed training because blitzen would know that Iniesta has never been known to throw a sulk. Unlike Messi.

            I’m a big fan of Messi, but I hate this blind devotion people have towards him that makes it impossible to point out his human failings without getting jumped on.

          • February 28, 2013

            I just want the record to show that I have not hijacked blitzen’s handle. And I 100% agree with her last thought.

          • Mik
            February 28, 2013

            blitzen hates blind devotion, blitzen knows that Iniesta has never thrown a sulk (oh dear). blitzen also knows that Messi throws a sulk. blitzen maybe have to look at his own blind devotions before pointing fingers.

          • February 28, 2013

            Kxevin doesn’t like it when things get personal, either. Kxevin thinks that the comments work best when commenters stick to the topic at hand.

          • Mik
            February 28, 2013

            Mik doesn’t like getting things personal either. People disagree with disagreeable comments, there is nothing personal about it, it is the interweb after all. If you don’t like it, you know what to do.

          • mom4
            February 28, 2013

            Mom4 finds writing in the 3rd person tedious at best so we will be using the “royal we” for ourselves instead. 🙂

          • February 28, 2013

            But there IS something personal in the accusations that someone’s worldview is rooted in blind loyalty, and that such a thing might be coloring their perspective.

            As to your “if you don’t like it, you know what to do,” comment, no, actually, I don’t. Or more directly yes, I do:

            I will suggest that you treat people with respect in this space. We can disagree in a manner that deals with the issue at hand. Yes, these are the Interwebs. But that said, if you don’t think that you can deal with that very simple request, you know what to do.

            I trust that is clear enough.

          • Mik
            March 1, 2013

            I feel like I am back in school again. No, it is not clear enough. If someones disagrees with you and your pal, it is disrespectful? I am not the one who accused someone of blind devotion. So, why are you directing that comment at me?

            I suggest you stop treating people, especially the ones who disagree with you with disrespect. Respect is a two way street. You can’t expect to post a snarky comment based on some wild speculation and not expect some snarky responses.

            I also suggest you stop throwing around thinly veiled threats. And don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. Was that clear enough?

          • Baban
            March 1, 2013

            May not be a frequent commenter but following this space since fcbtransferblog days. And how frequently we have encountered the “show me proof” stance time and again in this forum, which I think is absolutely justified by the way. But why to deviate from that ideology all of sudden? What proof Bitizen have against Messi sulking and not having some physical problem or discomfort actually? Again, as we in the forum preach and try to respect another person’s opinion and individuality, I am not sure how it bodes well to question someones logical thinking, terming his/her opinion as ‘blind devotion’ when it is differing from the one of yours. He/ she should also be that much entitled to have his/ her own version of ‘speculation’ and ‘opinion’, for which he/ she should not be challenged to show proof or facts to back it up always.

            Small rant over. This is nothing personal or not to hurt anybody. I enjoy this space tremendously. But somehow felt off late its losing some of its logical consistency in one/ two occassions and this is my humble ‘opinion’.

          • Messiah10
            March 1, 2013

            Blitzen likes to refer to herself in the 3rd person. :O

  49. mic
    February 27, 2013

    I think this summarizes the problem nicely and hints on who’s to blame: It is now 12 matches in a row that the Barcelona defense has allowed a goal which would have been an unthinkable statistic had it happened under Pep Guardiola’s watchful eye.

  50. TITO
    February 27, 2013

    This team is living its own 15 minutes of glory for the past 5-6 years or so. Not many years are left for this assembled team to finish it with glory, and God knows when we will have a team of this quality again.
    That’s why they have to make additional efforts to make a bigger legacy in the history. The one now is already big.

  51. Chiu
    February 27, 2013

    Re Ini and Cesc position; I think one of the basis to keep Cesc and Ini together in the lineup was because we dont have anybody capable to slot in L forward right now, except Iniesta. Alexis as the “usual choice” in that position is not in form or perhaps injured last night. Tello is too young to start a game of classico or CL level.

    The best option would be to “sacrifice” Iniesta because at least his skill set would make our left contribute something, though the impact of Iniesta magic reduced considerably.

    Optional, I just think maybe we could try Thiago as Left forward while our “real forward” is not available . He has some dribbling skill and directness. Shift Iniesta back to middle. I remember we hv tried this in CWC and it worked pretty well. Cesc could still be useful as refreshment subs for Xavi role.

    • Chiu
      February 27, 2013

      And isntruct Iniesta to penetrate continuoulsy and drag as many players as possible. The probability of Iniesta would lose the ball is very small because his excellent ball keeping. We have to maximise that weapon.

      Let messi stay in CF position. Because Messi being there already keep the central defenders occupied. So oppossition will have two major threats from Messi and Iniesta to consider. Resulting more space for other players to utilise.

      the next two liga games should be made for rotation and experiment to prepare Milan game. Try as much permutation as possible to be ready for whatever might happen in 12 march. I still believe we can turn the 2-0 deficit. We can do it! Keep faith

      Visca Barca!!!

    • Momo
      February 27, 2013

      Good point about thiago on LW, he had a marvelous match vs santos in that position. Very Ronaldinho-like

  52. February 27, 2013

    Looks like another month before Vilanova is back. This is, according to media critters, “the most difficult part” of his cancer treatment. So, beginning of April, if he’s lucky.

    — EMD reporting that during the meetings with Bartomeu, etc, Vilanova discussed accelerating the Neymar signing to happen this summer, as well as players who can be sold (Villa, Sanchez).

    • Chiu
      February 28, 2013

      He keep extending the treatment hint something. Just hope everything is OK and the progress is positive.

      I think we need to appoint the “real coach” as interim manager (and its not Roura)for the rest of the season. Its not disrespect for Tito. I just want Tito to concentrate on the treament and forget about the job. Stress factor is one of the biggest stimuli for cancer. we still have next season for tito as he already fully recovered.

      Zubi and Rosell could find somebody that understand our system like Luis Enrique (not sure available of not) or somebody within the club that available. We dont need high profile manager at the moment, just manager that have experienced to manage a team. He can collaborate together with Roura to set more solid game plan.

  53. February 27, 2013

    “Moments” and “Inches” I feel this article was written by Alexi Lalas when he attempts to justify how badly the USMNT plays.

  54. February 27, 2013

    If Neymar does sign, I hope Barca don’t “clip his wings”. Would be great to have a player on the wings that can dribble by their opponents. Seems that we haven’t had that type of winger since Thierry Henry left and Messi moved permanently to the middle.

  55. KEVINO17
    February 27, 2013

    I could understand why Messi might be very, very pissed off right now. He came out and said that Roura should play someone in front of him, and they go back to the old strategy and he gets “caged in”.
    Barca obviously want another goal-scoring option. But Neymar’s not it. Barca clearly needs a back-to-goal striker who can occupy the CBs and give Messi room. Shoulda, shoulda got Llhorente. Technically good. Able to throw his weight around in the box. If Barca played him, they would not be sacrificing their pinciples. What’s the difference between playing a small central striker (e.g. Villa or Alexis) and playing a big one (Llhorente). Nothing, except that Llhorente would score more goals.

  56. People say about playing the double pivot used by Del Bosque. I don’t think it might be the answer, simple reason Bosque’s team always had the advantage of playing in a one legged knock-out match. Hence at some point the opposition has to come out and try to win.

    The 4-3-3 system with four defender we use effectively transform into a 2 defender system when we play teams which defend deep. This is because Alba and Alves move very much forward trying to exploit a weakness. Hence when a quick counter occurs, we suddenly id faced with a situation of having only two defenders against the breaking 1 or 2 players. Look at the second goal that’s the perfect example. The solution could be having play in a three defender system but also which does not take away the wing play. Something like this:

    I think the 3-1-4-1-1 formation would be good against Milan.







    So even if the opposition move into a much more aggressive tactic, Alves can drop back as RB and Puyol can switch to LB and sitll the system will work with a perfect 4-3-3 with Alba upfront on teh left wing. In Alba we have a beautiful asset which could fit into this system – he is a winger converted into LB by Emery, remember that.

    • Also remember it’s not a bad thing to have both wings attacking. But the chance of them getting caught out has to be taken into account and the system should be evolved to accommodate that.

    • Chiu
      February 28, 2013

      I partially agree with you.

      1) I think we need some solidity at the back to ensure not conceding goal. Optional, we can deploy 3 CB and only 1 full back. I think we sacrifice Alba and play Alves because of his experienced in CL, so Puyi – Pique and Masch can all play. We can still use 4-3-3:

      Alves – Mashc – Pique – Puyol
      Busi – Xavi – Ini
      Pedro – Messi – (Villa/Alexis/Thiago)

      Depends on circumstances, Alves could shift to midfield to form 3-4-3 or 3-3-1-3. At least i dont want to see Milan counter to face only two CB, very vulnerable for crucial game like this. Conceding goal would kill the tie instantly.

      2) The option for L forward is pretty tricky I think. Villa and Alexis is on/off in performance. Thiago could be a good bet too, perhaps for alternative subs. But if I have to choose, i prefer Alexis. For his tracking back and Seri A experience.

      3) I hope we dont rush thing, esp in 1st half. as long as we dont concede, those two goals to equalise the aggregate can come anytime.Just circulate the ball rapidly to make chaos in Milan defense and make that killer pass when the bus giving hole. Penetration from Messi and Iniesta. Win as many freekicks as possible and try shooting from outside the box. approaching the game like the 1st half against Chelsea when we led 2-0 (before ramires goal) could be a reference. Last year we almost made,very close. I believe we can do it again vs. Milan.

      Visca Barca!!!

      • Here is the problem. Against Milan you don’t need a guy to track back instead you need someone who can score. Sanchez cannot offer anything in that formation going forward. And Villa has proven that he is ill suited to be used as a winger. Also the formation you gave has one goal scoring threat and Milan could easily afford not to give him space. Villa has to play ahead of Messi as it could create space for Messi. Also doing that you could give the Milan defense a bigger issue – whom to stay close with – Messi or Villa. Both of them could create space for each other. In the formation I have given, if things don’t work out then you could easily replace Alba with Tello and increase the pace over there. May be you could start Tello instead of Alba also. But starting Alexis because he track back does not help. Can he create any kind of danger? With his current form, I don’t think so.

  57. mjtaba
    February 28, 2013

    For the next game


    Reasoning :

    GK: although pinto was not at fault but aginst RM we should always use our best keeper .

    DEF : montoya in for always to DEFEND not to attack because thats where that portugese oil can will be, mash in for puyol because quite clearly we need someone to handle speed more effectively , i am personally not a big fan of pique’s defending but thats all we got , and alba at the left .Alba should be instructed to play the left side alves though.

    DEF M : i really think after this match we have to express to the world that we can defend also , and sergio and song in these positions together with sergio being at the DCM position and song to be part of midfield whenever it seems fit will be a good.

    MIDFIELD AND ATTACK : obvious choices

  58. Benj
    February 28, 2013

    I recently commented on a post regarding playing Song and Busi at the same time, rubbishing the idea.

    After seeing this game, it made me wonder… Why not try to fight fire with fire.

    If, at 45 minutes, our tiki taka isn’t working (and lets face it, if we aren’t at least a goal up by half time, we probably aren’t going to win, such is the nature of the system), we switch to a double pivote…

    Bro-zillian – Wakawaka – Smasche – Chipmunk
    Soggy Biscuits – SingSong
    Pulga – Ghostface – Chileno
    Soul Patch

    That way, we seem to cover all the bases, with Messi playing his old position but rotating with Alexis and Villa, so theres plenty of pace and spark in the attack, Strength and passing ability between Busi, Song and Ini, with the creative/destructive pair of Pique and Masche at the back.

    I mean really its just our 4-3-3 with the midfield inverted (2 dms, 1 am as opposed to 1 dm, 2 ams) but it could work. Replace Song with Xavi, Iniesta with Cesc, Alexis with Pedro and finally Alba or Masche with Abidal when needed.

    I miss having Abi at CB…

  59. KEVINO17
    February 28, 2013

    If Barca want to beat Milan they MUST revive the fabled Barca forward press. There was a period for about 20 minutes in the second half against Sevilla when Barca basically just suffocated them. Every time they scrambled the ball away it went out to a Barca player. It was a bit like Custers last stand. That is how we must play against Milan (who are not technically very good at the back). That’s why we should play our best forward defenders plus Messi. That means Song, Alexis and Pedro (no Villa, I’m afraid, and definitely no Tello until late in the game). We must get right into their faces and break down their confidence and cohesion. Every time they clear, it must be a rushed clearance. Even Messi must put in a shift (which I think he will do).

    • KEVINO17
      February 28, 2013

      I also note that Milan has a young team. I doubt many of them have experienced the sort of forward press that Barca can deliver high up the pitch. Its going to be fascinating to see how they cope.

  60. Flippy
    February 28, 2013

    For the Madrid game this weekend, Barça should not start with Messi. The obvious reasons being that he deserves a rest, he’s “unwell” (if reports are to be true), and he’s already missed a practice this week. There are also tactical and practical reasons for this.

    Without Messi, the Madrid defense will not have someone to focus their efforts on AND the Barça attack will not always seek Messi. Now, players like Alexis and Villa who have changed their styles in order to be compatible with Messi can actually contribute a more direct and unpredictable attack. These players are skillful enough to do the job without Messi; it’s what they did before we bought them and it’s what they do with their national teams. If they can play to their own strengths and not Messi, the attack would be much more menacing than an attack completely reliant on Messi.

    Additionally, what kind of effect would Messi have on a game if he was a super-sub behind the attack, playmaking? Imagine if after sixty minutes, the Madrid defense has been dealing with an attack of Alexis and Villa, suddenly has Messi behind them.

    My proposed line-up for this weekend would be something like this:

    Masche Piqué Puyol
    Song Busquets
    Alves Alexis Alba

    Playing the fullbacks as forwards provides more width than having Pedro/Villa/Alexis out wide. The addition of Masche and Song fill up the holes of our porous defense. Iniesta can handle the role of linking defense with attack and Alexis can play behind the ‘9’, a role he is familiar with, and Villa can provide the focal attacking threat. Messi can be subbed in for anyone and play either where Alves plays with Alves dropping back to support the defense, or next to Iniesta, pulling the strings on the attack, or in place of Alexis.

    Of course, this scenario is highly unlikely, and if I have completely predicted the line-up, I might as well be able to see the future. I highly doubt Messi would accept starting on the bench for a game like this, particularly after the midweek loss, despite the fact that he needs a rest and that the attack should play without Messi for a change.

    What do you guys think?

    • February 28, 2013

      I would go even farther:

      Montoya Pique Bartra Adriano
      Song Mascherano Thiago
      Sanchez Villa Tello

      Now THAT is even more unlikely, given the opponent. I just don’t think that any of the starters should see the pitch for this match.

      Athlete psychology is very important. I look at Andy Murray as an example, who nibbled around the edges of the top three in mens’ tennis for years. This year, something happened and now he is beating the folks who used to beat him. The mind is a powerful thing. I think that another loss to RM by our “best XI” would be more damaging than the lost 3 points in the standings if a rotation lineup was out there.

      The other advantage to my lineup is midfield solidity in both defense and attack as Mascherano roams that space in front of the back line, and Song can shuttle back and forth between attack and defense.

      But I think that we are both kidding ourselves. We will probably see the same lineup that we saw midweek, with the addition of Valdes. And if that group plays the same way, the result probably won’t be much different. The Zonal Marking analysis of Fabregas and his movements is spot on, and it isn’t just Fabregas. It’s almost like the players don’t quite know where to be and how to get there. They look almost panicked against RM, which I think is another aspect of the psychology.

      We last saw severe psychological stresses against Chelsea, in that the way that Chelsea was defending led to poor finishing — there was so much pressure on the player who was looking for a defender sliding in, while being well aware of the scarcity of good chances that everything was rushed, rather than being calm and clinical. We know how that tie turned out.

      • Flippy
        February 28, 2013

        Exactly. Now that we play Madrid 6 times a year, the importance of one clasico, especially one in a La Liga where Barça is 16 points ahead, should be almost nominal, but that is not the case. Almost every encounter against Madrid, we always play the very best lineup, never truly using a reserve unless in the case of an injury. However, the very best lineup on paper has recently not been the very best lineup for a particular match. The fact that Xavi and Fabregas played through their injuries illustrate this stubbornness. We can only hope that the coaching staff realize this and make significant changes to the lineup this weekend.

        • htMillBay
          February 28, 2013

          If one wants to be Machiavellian about it, we could play our best eleven to force RM to play their best eleven so they’ll be vulnerable to being beaten by MU at Old Trafford mid-week. Unfortunately, I think Mou is too smart to be drawn into something like that. Of course, we could also shoot ourselves in the foot.

          I bet that RM won’t be starting Ronaldo, Ozil and Xabi at the least. But we will probably see Pepe – all the more reason to sit Messi to prevent Pepe injuring him.

          • htMillBay
            February 28, 2013

            The other possibility knowing that RM will be saving their best lineup and will be totally focused on the CL tie is to put a manita on them at the Bernabeau. That will be the mother of all comebacks!

    • htMillBay
      February 28, 2013

      There’s no need to go for a win at the Bernabeau this Saturday. Both FCB and Barca will be totally focused on their coming upcoming CL elimination matches. I expect Kaka to play, and Ronaldo to sit, which in Mou’s world means their B team. He’ll probably rest Ozil, di Maria, Xabi too.

      The Liga is as good as won. I think even if we draw all our remaining games and RM wins all its remaining Liga games we still get the trophy. AM as ever won’t be a real threat. If we get eliminated in the CL then Liga is the only remaining focus.

      So for the Clasico: I would go with Valdez, Montoya, Mascherano, Pique, Alba, Song, Busquets, Iniesta in the Xavi role, Thiago as a left winger, Villa and Sanchez. 4-2-2-2. I might not even bring Messi to Madrid. Bartra to sub Pique; Adriano to sub Iniesta (exchanging positions with Thiago).

      I would then totally rest the key players for the Depor game which is just 3 days before the Milan match. DC is at the bottom of the league table and even a babies team can beat or at least draw with them: Valdez, Montoya, Masch, Bartra, Abidal, Song, Thiago, dos Santos or Sergi Roberto, Tello, Fabregas, Pedro. Delofeau to sub Pedro. Of course, it would be the perfect first game for Abidal’s comeback in the Nou Camp. Adriano to sub him if 90′ is too much.

      For the Milan match: Valdez, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Alba, Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Sanchez, Villa and Messi. We saw how lethal Barza was in the CL final at Wembley after a two week break for the key players. Milan will be an immovable object so we will have to be the unstoppable force.

  61. Nik
    February 28, 2013

    Nice article by Marti Perarnau : Two points in particular caught my eye:

    11.- Toquemos este punto. En el modo de juego más ortodoxo del Barça, Xavi era el Campo Base. El equipo sacaba el balón desde atrás y buscaba a Xavi. Era condición sine qua non, fuese a mayor o menor altura del campo. A partir de ese punto empezaban los auténticos movimientos de avance colectivo, al estilo de una cordada de montaña. Y solo cuando cada pieza -propia y rival- estaba en la posición adecuada se apretaba el botón Messi. En ese punto, libertad para Messi.

    12.- El recorrido, por lo tanto, nunca era directo a Messi, sino con Xavi de cartero intermediario. Pero todavía con Guardiola en el banquillo el equipo empezó a saltarse el peldaño de Xavi. A veces por precipitación, por querer correr demasiado; a veces porque el propio Xavi no estaba en condiciones óptimas (ahora mismo sucede algo así). Por unas o por otras, el área de descanso, el peldaño intermedio, fue desapareciendo, haciéndose menos habitual. El equipo dejó de jugar para Xavi y lo hizo directamente para Messi. Y Messi dejó de ser el punto final para convertirse en principio y final de todo, que es la mejor manera de diluirse…

    • barca96
      February 28, 2013

      If it’s not too much to ask, could you or any other Spanish speaker translate this? Thanks in advance.

      • Nik
        February 28, 2013

        My Spanish is for too rudimentary for this. I utilized the magic of Google Translate lol. For what its worth, this is what it spat out for the two paragraphs that I quoted:

        11. – Let’s play this point. In the gameplay more orthodox Barca, Xavi was the Base Camp. The team pulled the ball from behind and looking for Xavi. It was a sine qua non, were to varying field height. From that point began the real movements of collective progress, the style of a mountain climber. And only when each part-own and rival-was in position Messi pressed the button. At that point, freedom to Messi.

        12. – The course, therefore, was never straight to Messi, but Xavi postman intermediary. But even with Guardiola on the bench the team began to skip the step of Xavi. Sometimes by precipitation, for wanting to run too, sometimes because Xavi himself was not in optimal conditions (something happens now). For some reason or another, the rest area, the intermediate step, was disappearing, becoming less common. The team stopped playing for Xavi and Messi did directly. And Messi longer the endpoint to become the beginning and end of everything, it’s the best way to be diluted …

  62. mom4
    February 28, 2013

    “Midfielders Xavi Hernandez and Cesc Fabregas are both reportedly carrying hamstring issues, with Mundo Deportivo claiming on Thursday that each received a painkilling injection before Tuesday’s game.” espn.con


    • htMillBay
      February 28, 2013

      No surprise. Xavi, Cesc and Messi did not look 100%. Though we don’t know if some of the RM players weren’t also carrying knocks.

      • February 28, 2013

        I’m sorry, but that is stupid, for so many reasons. We have qualified, talented players sitting on the bench. With a pain-killing injection, it’s difficult to know exactly when that point is where a player might be doing further damage. It’s absurd if true, and distressing/discouraging to boot.

        • Choba
          February 28, 2013

          100% Agree, I don’t understand whyyyy we put player that are sick/injured in the field, we have a great bunch.

    • teddy
      February 28, 2013

      And what does it says to the player on the bench? “No, I won’t play you, I would rather play cesc and xavi through the pain instead”. We have a quality benches and not utilizing it at all, until it was too late

  63. Archie
    February 28, 2013

    Have we thoroughly flogged the question of who is helping Puyol and Pique OTHER than Busquets? Playing slow if positionally strong CBs against DeMaria, Higuain/Benzema, CR, plus Ozil with 2 attacking minded and actually attacking FBs? 4 of 5 goals in past two defeats appear to be down to lack of defensive support from midfield (see Allas.) For Barca, who had won the tie in the first leg, to become slightly more defensive and attempt to neutralize the strengths of RMadrid, they could have started two different players and otherwise played their normal game but kept the ball deeper as a time wasting tactic. Fabregas and Alba could have been replaced by Sanchez and Montoya who is on DeMaria duty and is told not to attack (let Alves attack, he’s used to playing two positions at once.) Don’t attack unless RMadrid become front heavy trying to chase Barca around Barca’s half of the field.
    The first half against Milan looked abysmal, but I contend that it was a tactic to stall the game, assert dominance and exhaust Milan. Barca doesn’t always attack.

    • February 28, 2013

      I think the answer is pretty much “nobody,” and that’s the problem. It’s also worth noting that two of their three goals came from looong passes that took advantage of their foot speed, to get directly at the defense.

  64. barca96
    February 28, 2013

    I’m convinced we can still press. They showed signs of it all in a handful of matches this season, must notably in the first half of the season.

    Now I’m just worried that they
    1) don’t have the legs and fitness for it because of a different training drills and/or
    2) just plain tired (which can bring resolved by being rested more) and/or
    3) just are not bothered anymore

    • KEVINO17
      February 28, 2013

      The great beauty of Barca’s press is that it doesn’t require great amounts of energy because Barca players rarely have to run far to do the pressing. Thus Barca’s ability to press is the flip side of their ball retention and technical ability. Indeed, if Barca doesn’t press hard it is throwing away the greatest benefit that comes from its style of play.

  65. barca96
    February 28, 2013

    So Alba doesn’t have a driving license yet. How does he go to work (Barca) nzm? Bicycle? Bus? Cab? Or driver? I wouldn’t mind a single bit to be his driver 😉

    • Robert
      February 28, 2013

      He makes enough to afford the cab. There’s also the T3 tram line that stops nearby the joan gamper.

  66. February 28, 2013

    Looks like the club is in a bit of bother for the flare incident during the Copa semi-final match. The club is expected to be fined in the aftermath.

    The distressing thing about this is that it comes amid rumors that the Boixos are back in the Camp Nou, which is pretty emphatically NOT a good thing. Laporta put his ass on the line to get them out of the Camp. I would hate to think that the Camp would suddenly not a be a cool and safe place for everyone, again.

  67. faizal
    February 28, 2013

    I think this is the right time to change from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 with villa as our central striker, messi as our 10, helping by iniesta and alexis. For strong team, busquet and song as dm while put thiago for decent team in the place of song. Sorry for xavi and cecs, they did not play well recently.

  68. nia
    February 28, 2013

    Xavi will almost certainly not be available for the Liga game against Real Madrid on Saturday. News will be confirmed tomorrow. [onda cero].

    Don’t want to make excuses but, Xavi hasn’t played well for a while. Might be a blessing in disguise. Wonder who will fill in for him. Cesc or Thiago.

  69. KEVINO17
    March 1, 2013

    It seems to me that the only way to ensure that Messi has plenty of room in the middle is to get a plan-B striker (Mario Gomez, puleeez). The moment opponents realised that Barca is raining crosses down on Gomez’s head, their full-backs would have to shift wider.
    It’s absolutely nuts that whenever Barca are chasing the game they send Pique forward. But if Barca accept that necessity, why not do it properly and have a true target-man.
    Barca’s big man won’t even have to be very mobile (let’s get a crock for cheap, if necessary). All he’ll have to do is occupy the CBs and crash into the box.
    Instead, it looks like Barca are going to waste money on a fancy-pants like Neymar who will flatter to deceive and add nothing when it comes to breaking down parked buses.

    • teddy
      March 1, 2013

      We have big guy striker before, and it doesn’t work well

      • KEVINO17
        March 1, 2013

        Maybe during the false-9 era (or earlier). But that era is now over, because CBS just come out and press Messi. This is now the parked bus era. Barca seems to be accepting the need for a central striker in front of Messi (indeed, Messi has said he liked having Villa in front of him). But surely, instead of playing little guys (Villa, Alexis) in there, Barca should use a brawny centre-forward who will provide a real target.
        By dropping back, teams basically expose their neck to Barca, but Barca can’t finish them off because it’s blade is too rusty.
        Tactics against Barca are evolving so Barca must evolve.

        • KEVINO17
          March 1, 2013

          Or to put it another way, Barca cannot continue to let sides vacate the flanks because they’re not afraid of Barca’s crosses. There must be a serious penalty for doing so.

          • ooga aga
            March 1, 2013

            ibra was a major fail in this sense. he is not a header of the ball, he is afraid to stick his neck out. he is more likely to try a roundhouse kick when a ball comes in at head level.

          • March 1, 2013

            Ibrahimovic was not a “major fail.” He scored 21 goals for the club, turned the Arsenal Champions League tie and helped the team grab the Liga that year. I would hardly describe that as a “major fail.”

            The first half of the season, when Ibrahimovic and Messi were trading goals and driving teams crazy with their two-pronged attack, it was a stellar success. It was only when Ibrahimovic had that first injury, and returned to a team that had raised its level that the problems began. We have seen that before, as well, though.

            The problem with Ibrahimovic is the same problem we are seeing with Villa and Sanchez: Fitting into a system that requires a degree of regimentation that can be a bit stifling for players who like to wing it.

            Ibrahimovic is big, but he has never been a header of the ball, much preferring to play with it at his feet. He is still the most talented striker in the game today, even as he has an attitude that means I wouldn’t touch him with a 100-meter pole.

            Barça doesn’t need much in attack. If Neymar comes, and the coaching staff shifts the priorities so it isn’t “get the ball to Messi,” the attack will be fine with Neymar, Messi and whomever (would love it to be Sanchez).

            I think this situation is rooted in a bad run of form and poor execution.

    • nzm
      March 1, 2013

      In Mario Gómez, you have a forward whose only talent lies in waiting in the middle of the box for the cross ball to come in. That would put him off-side a lot if he played for Barca.

      He doesn’t defend, doesn’t tackle, can hardly dribble a ball and stands there for most of the match doing the best Macaroni Penguin impersonation that he can summon up.

      If Ibra was bad, this guy would be worse. At Bayern Gómez is falling down the pecking order in favour of hungrier and leaner Mario Mandžukić.

      I honestly can’t think of many well-known forwards who would fit into the Barca system without the system having to adapt to the forwards.

      Lewandowski and Reus from Dortmund would be the closest fits.

      I also really like Iago Aspas from Celta de Vigo. His forward playing style could be quite useful in the Barca system.

  70. KEVINO17
    March 1, 2013

    I like Gomez BECAUSE of his limitations. I don’t want him to run much. Against a parked bus you want a fairly immobile centre forward. Its not as if he’ll have to join a counter attack. He should spend most of the came in a fairly tight zone waiting for a header or to goal poach. Barca just needs a big unit who can hold his position in the box. Thats why Gomez might flourish at Barca unlike anywhere else.
    Its interestingcthat Barca usually play with a rotating centre forward, sometime Villa, sometime Alexis, sometimes Mess stand with the CBs. Why not give that job to one man who can physically intimidate the CBs.
    Wont happen of course, but just a thought.

  71. providence
    March 1, 2013

    forget about tomorrow’s classic …. is there any hope in the Milan game? I want 5 reason why Barca can still qualify

    • March 1, 2013

      1. It is only two home goals. People forget that and act like they have two AWAY goals.

      2. We have the best club in the world, recent results notwithstanding.

      3. It will be mid-March, when the team is out of its form dip due to its periodization schedule.

      4. It is illogical to expect the team to play as poorly as it did in Milan ever again.

      5. The coaching staff and players have watched the match video, and understand what went wrong. Solutions will be devised.

      • 1- it is three home goals against an intelligent bus – as long as we dont concede – our recent tradition is to not score against bus and concede too
        2 – sigh..
        3 – our true big hope
        4 – we almost did it in our home against Madrid, with a slight improvement – 2 shots on target
        5 – Watching el classico, it didnt look like any solutions were devised. in fact we lack specific tactics pertaining to specific match
        Anyways, we are without our coach. so all this is ok. Whatever happens, Visa Barca

        • March 1, 2013

          See, the idea is to come up with your OWN 5 reasons, rather than countering someone else’s 5 reasons. Go for it!

          I know we can be positive, folks! 12 and 16 points on our nearest rivals in the Liga, and two measly home goals that need to be scored to force extra time, 3 to win, 4 to win if they score one. As soon as we get those two (we will by halftime), they will have to come out and play. When they do, we got ’em. Pow.

          • 2 early goals in the first half and we will cruise to the quarters. We will then have our coach back and will be back to our best. This is what I am hoping for.

    • March 1, 2013

      Thanks for that. Very cool. Been bouncing around Twitter, too. Proud to love a team that can do that.

  72. March 1, 2013

    Vilanova is scheduled to return in early April.

    — Coaches ate considering putting Abidal in the squad for tomorrow, which would be a perfect match to do so. Quality opponent, meaningless fixture.

    — Xavi will not travel to the match. “Slight” thigh muscle tear.

    — Messi has apparently improved enough to train normally, and will be included in the squad for tomorrow. Sigh …..

    — Mourinho is planning to rest Oil Can for tomorrow, with Old Trafford in mind.

      • March 1, 2013

        Yep. Came from an obnoxious BeIN commercial featuring him, that mentions him changing the oil in the hair. And voila.

        • stefan2k
          March 1, 2013

          Haha! By the way according to barcastuff Abidal won’t travel to Madrid.

  73. Rivaldo
    March 1, 2013

    Barcelona have only played their supposed best team [the Gala XI] on six occasions this season [allowing for Jose Pinto as their Copa keeper]. These have brought just two wins [4-0 at home to Espanyol and 4-0 at Levante], one draw [1-1 in Copa at Madrid] and three defeats [3-2 at Real Sociedad, 2-0 at Milan and Tuesday’s 3-1 to Madrid].- ESPN

    Can anyone justify these facts? Just saw it and thought it to be interesting.

        • Jim
          March 1, 2013

          Don’t think Villa will have started many of those so as far as I’m concerned its not our best eleven. The ones that stand out there are the two Madrids and Milan. We won’t be judged over time by the others. It’s what we do in the big ones. That’s been the problem for me this season. It’s as if we didn’t realise this year’s habit of relying on Messi alone in a more vertical system wasn’t going to hack it against the quality teams.

    • March 1, 2013

      Which makes the rumours about him & Cesc playing on painkillers on Tuesday even worse, if true. He will amost certainly not be back for the game against Milan.

      • March 1, 2013

        We’ll see. Team says the goal is to have him back for Milan, which is on the 12th.

        • mom4
          March 1, 2013

          Oh good! So he can play half-crocked again and tear it more. Give him injections and send him out there so he can’t feel it when he’s wrecking his hamstrings. Sit someone who’s fit and wreck the bench’s confidence. We had that whole abundance of caution thing going on for Villa and we give Xavi 2 weeks to recover from hamstring issues…AGAIN!

  74. htMillBay
    March 1, 2013

    No one can orhestrate defensive possession football better than Xavi. No one in the history of the game and maybe not ever. So even on one leg he’s our best bet when we are leading and just need to finish out the game.
    Remember when Guardiola said to Xavi when they were watching a 15 year old Iniesta…..”he will retire us both.”…or something to that effect.
    Well, the time has come. Not to actually retire Xavi literally but to allow Iniesta to become the fulcrum of the entire system in certain games especially when Xavi is not fit. The few games I’ve seen when Xavi was absent and Iniesta played his role, I seem to recall us winning and the latter having an excellent performance.

  75. Dani_el
    March 1, 2013

    I wanted to share this video. It is from Cristian Pulina’s blog in Eurosport. I don’t necessarily agree with everything the author states, but he has good arguments saying that something else apart from inches, bad finishing and key players’ low form, had some influence with the result. Keep in mind, that the first thing he writes in the video is that in spite of everything Madrid was the just winner.

    Let’s discuss.)

  76. fiazhamsath
    March 2, 2013

    In football, memory is very short lived. No one remembers the Brilliant Barça that went unbeaten in the League a month ago, setting the all time record of most points in the first round of Liga. One bad week and the Sky have fallen, earth have split in half. People need to just calm down.

    Having said that, Barça need to play a little more tactical football, and stop with this “We play with our philosophy no matter what.” We were ahead in the tie with the away goal, it was Real Madrid who wanted to score. What did we do? Pressed high, with 2 full backs high up the pitch, with a single pivot, against a team containing pacy wingers. Is there anything more suicidal in football? We should have played little conservatively. A little is whole I’m asking for.

    Bulk of this team is young. To call for an end of the era is pinnacle of stupidity. But Barça should learn from their mistakes. Who doesn’t make mistakes. But make use of those mistakes by learning from them. Slight tweaks here and there, then we are right up there.

    And for the Culés expecting the same level of perfection of Guardiola era through out their life as Culés are just being deluded. That was a dream, no, that was more than a dream. The closer we get to that dream, the better. But Guardiola Era won’t be repeated again for sure. The harsh reality!

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