Barça 2, Deportivo La Coruna 0, aka “Signs, signs, everywhere signs”


First things first. It was “only” Depor.

That is a phrase that vexes me for so many reasons, not least of which is that it dismisses an opponent that earned its way into the Liga, even as it is most surely doomed to the drop. This is, despite the absences of a couple of players, the SAME Depor that we needed 5 goals to beat in their house.

But most importantly, people forget how much opponents (particularly keepers, sigh ….) are inspired to play when they come into the Camp Nou. So squash that “it’s only Depor” nonsense right now, and start looking for portents, for there were many today.

Was the way that Barça played today good enough to get past Milan? No. But Barça wasn’t playing Milan. It was playing Depor in a match that was something of a hassle for both teams. Depor didn’t want to drop 3 more points, and Barça didn’t want any injuries or fatigue to key players.

In looking at a match like today’s, particularly before a mid-week home encounter that is the biggest match that this club has played in a very, very long time, for me I wasn’t as worried about the score as much as I was how the team would play.

The club’s periodization schedule is well known, just as it is well known that we are going to be pretty bad in February, aka Hlebruary. The difference in this season compared to previous seasons is that we haven’t really had opponents that have the capability to expose our frailties in the way that the likes of Milan and RM did.

So what you look for as the team rolls into March and starts feeling better, is signs that the funk is being shaken, that the athletes are beginning to find their legs for the home stretch. This was the same thing that some of us were looking for in the Classic — not a final score as much as a drive, a willingness to compete and put out. In that match, there wasn’t much, which made it disappointing for that reason, and that reason alone.

Today was a different story, and let’s look at some of the reasons why:

Rotation lineup

Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Mascherano, Adriano, Song, Fabregas, Thiago, Sanchez, Villa and Tello rolled out to do battle today. This lineup was never going to sparkle. It’s subs and Hamburger Helper — players such as Puyol who are there to give real flavor to a makeshift assemblage. It wasn’t going to be sharp, or dominate, or lay a manita on Depor. But this group could very well set a mental template for the team moving forward, of willingness to work, to put out, to understand that every match was crucial, even a match against a relgation-doomed side as the team is holding double-digit leads over second and third place in the Liga standings.


This team, today, wanted the ball. The key to keeping a clean sheet is not letting our defenders defend. Seems weird, right, because if your defenders are best when they aren’t defending, what does that say about your defenders? It says the same thing that Guardiola said, which is we’re crap without the ball. Our defenders are best as sweepers or players that intervene at the midfield level. Stick them in the box and say “Now defend,” and you’re going to have problems.

This week, the whole pitch was moved up, particularly in the person of our own Captain Caveman, Carles Puyol. Notice how much of the time he was defending right behind the attackers, breaking up an attack right at the most fragile time, when it is first beginning. This means that the entire team has to defend, and press the ball so that an attacker is always scrambling, even when he successfully evades the defenders. Even when the first defender isn’t successful, this makes it easier for each subsequent defender. We saw this today, all over the pitch, but particularly from Puyol, Sanchez and my MOTM, Alves.

Once again, there was a timer on the opponents’ possession, and hustle was back. As a result, Mascherano was able to move forward to intercept balls, rather than running backward to defend balls. Adriano could keep the play in front of him, using his pace to resolve matters rather than chasing players who leaked through. An active team makes our non-defenders very effective as defenders.

Forward movement

The team, when it got the ball, was moving forward. There wasn’t tika-taka as much as “Let’s get ’em!” This resulted in excellent scoring chances that were spurned, but again, this was progress, given the desultory passing of the ball that we saw in recent matches. Sanchez was constantly running toward their goal, as was Villa and Tello. Thiago was passing the ball forward, Alves was bombing the right flank like he used to do against a tight midfield box that will be very similar to the one that we see against Milan. There has never been a better time for Alves to be on form than right now, because his play against Milan will be crucial in creating opportunities and establishing REAL width, rather than “tactical” width, in which some forward just stands around by the touch line.

The results of all this forward movement was that there was danger in their box, rather than in our box.

Dynamic movement

The players were playing like they had somewhere to be. Forward movement can be walking, or running. Alves and Sanchez were running like they had hot coals in their shorts, and the water was in the Depor box. Thiago, before his dramatic tail-off, was all over the place, owning possession and control of the midfield in a way that we have all been dying to see. And the dynamism of the effective players was even more dramatic in the context of the players that were absent or just plain terrible, but that’s okay too, because even those players were trying.

Physically, you can see the team already starting to feel better, resulting in a spring in their step that has been missing for too long now.


The opponent doesn’t matter

To use a basketball analogy, think of a great distance shooter who is in a slump. We so often hear announcers say that the athlete has to make the easy ones. This is true. Layups and free throws re-establish the success template. Those become short jumpers, which become long jumpers and before you know it, a player has his groove back.

A clean sheet was more important than anything today. I would have even taken a 0-0 draw, and been happier than with a 3-1 win, because the team learned today that it can play a whole match and not give up a goal, that their forward-thinking, aggressive play can make the difference in how an opponent can attack our team. Deportivo La Coruna was a gimmie, but an important gimmie because it allows the team to end the match on a mental high. “We won, we felt good again on the pitch and we didn’t concede.”

The opponent doesn’t matter in a team looking to get its groove back, because that team is also looking for signs. Even as people scoff and say “it’s only Depor,” it would have been easy for them to string some passes together, create a threat and score a goal. They did that four times in their house. But the difference in how the team approached this match minimized that possibility. This team, the way that it played today, would have done better in the just-passed Classic than the team that we rolled out there.

The Barça way of playing doesn’t CARE about the opponent. It knows how it wants to play, and believes that as the best team in the world, if it executes its Way properly, it will win that match. That is what happened today.

So what next?

There are people who act as though they don’t want this team to do well. When it was losing, it was “Jordi Roura was in over his head. He really shouldn’t have that job.” Now they have won 2-0 and it’s “It was only Depor. They were supposed to win.” Being 30 points better in the standings than Real Sociedad, we were “supposed” to beat them as well, but that didn’t happen. You aren’t “supposed” to beat anyone, even as you might be “favored” to beat someone. That is how upsets happen, and the Barça of a couple of weeks ago would have been in significantly more danger against this very same opponent than the team we saw today.

Form is temporary, class is permanent. In looking at the two goals and the way that they were scored today are more signs of encouragement, as both were goals that were aggressive and forward. One was the kind of goal you don’t see that much from us, a cross to the noggin of a dynamic player — in this case Sanchez, who seemed to exorcise some demons with that slam of the ball into the net. Simple and effective.

The second goal was more of a team goal, tika-taka moving forward in one of those mazy, crazy high-wire act goals that we used to score with impunity (yet another good sign). Sanchez fed Messi for a nifty chip that found its way into the net. In weeks past, that same shot might have rolled left or right of the goal, or hit the post. The difference today is that concentration was there.

"You know that's going in, right?"
“You know that’s going in, right?”

Big players show up for big matches

The match against AC Milan midweek is HUGE. If Barça fails to advance, that will mean that it didn’t make the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which means millions of Euros off the club’s bottom line, money that the club was counting in its fiscal projections.

But the players aren’t thinking about money, except in as much as they are saying “Hells bells cap’n, if we don’t make the quarterfinals, what happens to my Champions League success contract incentives? I have a new little mouth to feed!”

It also damages a success template that many say is already no more. Barça wins championships. Those same people saying that the club is in crisis, who are somehow forgetting the double-digit leads over the second and third-place teams in La Liga, that teams don’t fear Barça any longer would LOVE for Milan to advance. And players like nothing more than rubbing doubters’ faces in their success.

This is a big match, and we have big players. No, the Copa semi, or the Classic were NOT big matches. Sorry, but they weren’t. Nor was the first leg in Milan, because there is a different mindset in first legs of two-legged ties. Your life isn’t depending on it, assuming you don’t lose 8-0 or something crazy like that.

This return leg is different. There is so much riding on this match that it is impossible for me to imagine that our players won’t be as close to their best as is possible.

Which means what, exactly, against Milan?

Who the hell knows? I’m sticking to my 4-1 prediction, for the record. Why? Because I liked the mental and physical signs that I saw today, of a team ready to find its stride again, that is ready to bust out. I’d be a lot more confident if the match were a week farther along than it is, but you play them as they come.

But another thing is, you look at our lineup, and tell me that group of players, on form, isn’t good enough to put four goals past any side in the world, so I can laugh at you.

I have no idea who we are going to start, or what formation we are going to play, but what I do know is this: If the starting XI shows up with the same focus and concentration as was on exhibit today, the team will advance. No, the football played today wasn’t sparkling, dazzling or anything that will inspire sonnets of praise. Hell, it won’t even inspire the doom-sayers to move away from their comforting narratives, because people want this team to fail. They find comfort in it, the knowledge that beauty can be sullied, yanked away, that success is fleeting. Others are just sick of the club, its success and the reams and reams of effusion.

So those groups will say that Barça had to struggle to beat a doom-bound team 2-0, at home. They will say that this was done poorly, and that was done poorly. They will find every way in which to portray a very positive display as something negative, because of narratives. Snore. Whatever. Wake me when they’re finished, because I have a team to support.


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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. March 9, 2013

    Sky Italia said to be reporting that agreement has been reached between us and Santos for the transfer of NEYMAR!!!!, for (are you sitting down?) 92 million Euros.

    Now, the Sky networks are generally reliable, and I do believe that an agreement has already been reached. When the Santos coach says that his player is playing at Barça, you can count on that.

    But the number is patently absurd. I would start a petition to recall Rosell myself if that number were true.

    • nzm
      March 9, 2013

      Maybe it was 92,000,000 Brazilian Reals. 🙂

      • March 9, 2013

        That would make it about EUR36m, which isn’t at all outside the realm of possibility.

    • March 9, 2013

      No no no. Kxevin. Sky Italia is definitely NOT reliable. It’s just…not.

      • March 9, 2013

        I foolishly assumed that it was part of the Sky Sports family. But I see that it isn’t, which changes everything.

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 9, 2013

      Barca could definitely use another player besides Messi who takes on defenders, can play in tight spaces, and gets some room for Messi to play. Neymar would be a great addition.

      • March 9, 2013

        via quotes from the ever-reliable @barcastuff on Twitter:

        Neymar’s father says that Neymar is a Santos player until 2014, and that there is NO DEAL with Barça. He goes on to add that we and they are talking, because when a club like that comes calling, you can’t ignore them. He adds that another club has asked to talk to them before they decide, and once again, that club is too big to ignore.

        • barca96
          March 10, 2013

          Found this bit from;

          Fiaz Hamsath @ fiazhamsath 2h

          €92 million including 4
          years salary. Transfer fee around
          Now you can breath! 😀

          – must be the first time where transfer fee is including the salary. Doesn’t make sense. Sky Italia should’ve said the total cost instead of transfer fee.

  2. March 9, 2013

    (Moving comment to this thread from last to counter Kevin’s hectoring… And ability to write with absurd quality amd speed)

    The team’s finishing in the first half was obviously poor – but overall the quality of play was so much better.

    This is the kind of performance we see every yr from the team & it’s usually a sign that Hlebuary is at least starting to thaw away.

    Much crisper. Movement was much more fluid & dynamic. That created much more fluency which allowed the team to create penetration rather than only circulation/possession.

    Alves was just out of this world. 170 touches-most on the team. 134 passes-most on the team (87% PA). 6 tackles-tied for most on team. Just a beast. This 2nd half of the season he’s been Barca’s best player hands down. And even as good as Phillip Lahm has been this season Alves is back to playing at a level no other RB in the world can play at.

    The other player who clearly stood out today was Sanchez. What a game. Today we really saw the diversity & richness of his skill set. His runs & pace provided much needed vertical stretch when Depor tried to play what’s become standard vs Barca and troubled the team so much-a compact mid block (tello did a good job with runs also on the L but his play on the ball/touch wasn’t good today).

    Sanchez used space so well today to break Depor’s shape & create penetration. On that 2nd goal just go back and watch how disciplined he is to 1) stay in the R channel so Messi has someone to play off of 2) how he holds his position to make himself available for the pass and not be offside. He literally starts and then stops a run to stay on when he sees messi playing a pass.

    Thiago was also excellent. Very strong game. As was Adriano. He offered much better solidity on the left than Alba as he adjusted his positioning much better when Alves played high. Adriano’s ability to play on diagonals also added diversity to the attack.

    One of the things that we also saw today is critical to Barca’s potential success vs Milan & their longer term future-the ability to play someone centrally along with Messi.

    Messi needs some help shedding defenders off of him. This means that the player on the RW needs to be able to not only play wide but come inside both into the R channel & into the center to occupy the CBs to create space for Messi. That’s the role Sanchez played today. And I’m going to guess he’ll play it again vs Milan.

    It’s funny-last season Pep was so roundly criticized for playing 3 at the back with many blaming that for Barca’s “disappointing” season.

    But once Messi moved to the false 9 being able to play 3 at the back became a requirement-both for the attack & for defensive solidity. It was only a matter of time before the opposition made adjustments & it became a need. Pep was didn’t implement the system perfectly-but trial and error is needed to learn. And more importantly what he was trying to do was to keep the team ahead of the curve.

    And now vs Milan being able to play 3 at the back will be fundamental to their chances of progressing. What we saw today were multiple tactical experiments that the team will consider vs Milan. But the predominant system we saw was a 3-3-4 with Alves up high as a modfied winger/ carrllero.

    Without last seasons experimentation with 3 at the back they wouldn’t be in the position to play the way they need to now.

    And I think that’s what we’re going to see again vs Milan. It’s absolutely the team’s best hope of progressing.

    • Blau-Grenade
      March 9, 2013

      Alves was my MOTM. Hands down. Unbelievable match by him.

      At the current moment Milan have a big chance of progressing. We are currently the underdogs.

    • KEVINO17
      March 9, 2013

      Euler. Superb as usual.
      What was interesting was how potent the 3-3-4 is as a defensive shape. It means there are lots of Barca players near the ball when the ball is lost on the front line.
      Further, as you say, Messi desperately needs someone just ahead of him he can ping the ball at so that he can sprint past his midfield defender and get the ball back. We just didn’t have that in the first game against Milan, which is why we just went side to side.
      If it’s a choice between Alexis and Pedro on the right wing, it’s obvious who I’d pick. However, I love Pedro’s defensive ability. My memory isn’t too good of him playing on the left wing. Can he do it?
      Finally, one of the things I love about Song is that when Barca lose the ball, he moves FORWARD to defend and shut down the man with the ball, which is vitally important in the centre of the park.

  3. March 9, 2013

    Also, there were some “Rosell as Pinocchio” signs that were confiscated at the Camp Nou before today’s match, as well as one calling him a liar. Yikes!

  4. March 9, 2013

    Cadena SER, via @barcastuff:

    Barcelona are considering to play 3-4-3 against Milan on Tuesday, with Alves or Alba as winger and Cesc as false nine

      • March 9, 2013

        I agree there. Thiago was absolutely excellent today and Cesc was fairly poor.

        I know that Cesc works hard when he’s on the field, but I just don’t understand why there seems to be a “you must always play Cesc” rule in effect. He’s had good stretches of matches, it’s true, but for the most part I’ve thought he’s lessened the tactical versatility of the squad, not because he’s bad or because he isn’t tactically versatile, but because there are other players who offer more versatility for the roles Cesc is forced to play because Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi occupy such important roles and, specifically, they occupy the roles Cesc should be playing but do so better than he does.

        Sorry, Cesc, you’ll have to wait another year or two before you can take Xavi’s position permanently.

        • mehdi_barca
          March 10, 2013

          Admittedly Cesc is not having the best second half of the season. He seems out of touch and seriously lacking in confidence. It will perhaps take a long time for Cesc to fill the big shoes of our metronome-man-Xavi. After a season and a half of watching Cesc play in this team i feel like he still hasn’t quite adapted to our style of play. I consistently find him making instinctive passes which are not on and risky since they usually lead to counter-attacks. While many fans including me felt that Cesc had the Barca dna ingrained deep within him right now I seriously can’t vouch for that one.
          Thiago is still young and also a very different player to Cesc and Xavi. Last night he played well but form time to time you see him casually giving the ball away trying a fancy pass without reading the play. I still think Thiago should play against Milan since Cesc is creating problems of the dynamic sort…one we can’t afford in such a crucial game.

  5. KEVINO17
    March 9, 2013

    Is it time to convert Jordi Alba into a left winger, with Adriano just behind him? I’d love to see Alba pressing high up the pitch, with Adriano providing a solid anchor just behind him.

      • KEVINO17
        March 9, 2013

        Yes, I missed that trick. I think he’d be wonderful buzzing around the forward line, particularly when we lose the ball joining the press.

    • chop
      March 9, 2013

      True. Alba is probably our best winger and Adriano is our best defender.

  6. mom4
    March 9, 2013

    After Alves’ game today I changed my lineup for Tuesday.
    Masche, Busi(no really, it will be OK*), Pique
    Dani, Xavi, Iniesta
    Alexis, Messi, Villa

    *OK because if Dani defends like today we’ll be fine. Just look at the height we have in Song, Busi, and Pique for set pieces. Busi and Song can take turns doing the DM thing. Villa and Alexis keep defenders busy to make some breathing space for Messi. Dani rulesthe entire right side like a boss (shame he didn’t get any rest today) Cesc sits on the bench and knits cute pink baby booties.Pedro and Tello are super subs. Everybody swarms when we lose the ball so it never makes it to the defense.

    This will never happen so I’ll never know how bad a tactition I am . Oddly, that frees me to make such absurd (yet satisfying) lineups. 🙂

    Really, I saw some good stuff out there today. There may still be more questions than answers but we’re heading back in the right direction. If we could have the same Puyol on Tuesday as we had today he would have been in my lineup. Alas, I fear he can’t play like that twice in three days. Getting old sucks (but it’s better than the alternative).

  7. mom4
    March 9, 2013

    Dear Lord in heaven help us! Alex has been hanging around Dani too long. WAlking fashion faux pas.


    Pictures: Alex Song talking to journalists after the game [via @edupolo] #fcblive #fashion

    • barca96
      March 10, 2013

      OMG. That jumper style. Reminds me of primary school in 90’s. Super Mario Song.

  8. barca96
    March 9, 2013

    Like I said on the liveblog post, Thiago was on fire but let’s not get carried away. He was by no means excellent. I felt that for every 2 good things he did, he’ll screw up once.

    Usually he has 1 customary horrible pass in a dangerous area but there were at least 3 today. His turnover is way too high, for a midfielder.

    • That’s why we need to play him much higher in midfield. I would pick him to play the tip in a midfield diamond. That should insure us from the customary mistakes. Also he knows really well to unleash Tello on that left. And his long over head passes are a thing of beauty.

  9. barca96
    March 9, 2013

    When Messi scores a goal like that, he’s confident. I’m sure he’ll perform this Tuesday.

  10. Chiu
    March 10, 2013

    Great review as always!

    If the coach is considering to play 3-4-3 on Tuesday, with Alves as winger and Cesc as false nine, the formation should be looking kind of this:

    Masch – Pique – Puyol
    Xavi – Busi – Ini
    Alves – Cesc – Alexis/Pedro/Villa

    Messi could play in midfield behind the front three. Or Alves play as right midfielder; the front three with Messi, Cesc, and the other forward are exchanging position throughout the game; with Messi and Cesc could switch in false 9 position.

    On paper, this offered a balance system in attack and defense. We can be ultra offensive and shutting Milan in their box with so many offensive minded players, while at the same time provide solidity at the back with three natural CB.

    I think Milan have already decided how they will play. nothing else than ultra defensive cattenacio. If we are at our best, there’s no bus in the world that could prevent us from scoring in Camp Nou. Very excited for Tuesday. I pray hard we overturn the tie and cruise to quarter.

    Keep faith! Visca Barca Forever!

    • barca96
      March 10, 2013

      I like your line up Chiu. I would put either one of Adriano or Alba in place of sMasch or Puyol. We need at least 1 pacey defender. I prefer Adriano though as we need someone who can take a shot.

  11. KEVINO17
    March 10, 2013

    Alves – Pique – Masc – Adriano
    Xavi – iniesta – Biscuit
    Messi Alexis Villa

    Got to keep Masc for his long balls to Alves on the wing. Need two wingbacks (Alves and Adriano) so we can convert to three or two at the back in attack.

    Need Adriano for his ability to drive into the box.

    We need two forwards who can play back to goal and free up Messi to hunt for the ball in Midfield. That’s why Pedro shouldn’t play

  12. TITO
    March 10, 2013

    Without going into details but Thiago: He makes complicated things simple, and simple things complicated.
    I would still start Xavi from beginning and see how the game develops, and when necessary to be more adventurous then bring up Thiago.
    Milan is not Deportivo, so they will definitely benefit from some (if he makes them) of those silly mistakes.

    • March 10, 2013

      Thats so well said about Thiago. Yesterdays game was a good example. Just as many good things tehre were – the roulette and run into box, the dribble and troughball to Tello etc, there were also bad things like running straight into defenders, losing possession too often etc. I mean he is a fantastic kid and time will make him better. Remember Busquets in his first 2 seasons? Actually he gave away possession too many times and Barca conceded because of this. Not the case these days because he has matured a lot.

    • KEVINO17
      March 10, 2013

      He’s really a swashbuckling attacking midfielder, isn’t he. However, unfortunately for him, Messi has that role.

  13. March 10, 2013

    For me, defence will be key on Tuesday. The press and want we showed yesterday when we lost the ball was encouraging to see. We have to recover the kind of defensive intensity we showed in previous must win games like Arsenal 3-1, 4-1. That way 2 or 3 goals will be enough. In other words we have to outmilan Milan and not allow them to have a sniff at our goal.

    I’m really liking Adriano right now and he absolutely MUST play. I dont know why he played yesterday because obviously we Can’t play all alves, alba and adriano together.

    My lineup would look like this
    3~4~3 Formation
    Pique – Masch – Puyol
    Alves – Busi – Iniesta – Adriano
    Messi – Sanchez – Thiago

    Song, Alba and Pedro/Tello as Subs.

    • March 10, 2013

      Masch to be given the task of stepping forward to smasch any attacks. Messi drops deep into midfield to exert control. Sanchez to create hell for defenders up front. I’ve used Thiago cos I believe we’ll need his trickery to create some magic, which will be no doubt the difference maker in games like Tuesday. He will be all over the place. Adriano and Alves giving quality out wide.

      I hope Tito doesn’t disappoint.

    • March 10, 2013

      Forget about VIlla, Alexis, Iniesta, Tello…the real danger is Adriano, totally agree. He is one of those guys who can make something happen, is it a long range shot with either foot like v Valencia or A.Madrid, or the one-two with Alexis at he end of last Classic. Not to mention he could play in virtually every single position. I don’t know if he should start and if where would he play, but at some stage he MUST be on the pitch, he could be the match decider. What a player.

  14. psalmuel
    March 10, 2013

    We created more chances in the 1st half cos, we had 3 (including fabregas-make it 4) forwards i.e Tello,villa,and sanchez in attack who were occupying and making runs in behind the depor defence cos depor was parking the bus in midfield with a high line of defense. And as a result our through balls over the top were causing them trouble. Thats what we were lacking against milan. When you play ini,messi and pedro in attack,then its only pedro who makes the runs and its usually negligible. We need forwards occupying the milan CBs and WBs and we also need a player like thiago who is direct in style to be making those through balls over the top. Plus, don’t know if anyone noticed but yestaday Sanchez seemed to be playing a kinda messi role towards the end of 1st half with villa ahead of him. Look at the way villa drew defenders away for sanchez to nod in. He didnt do badly at all in the false9 role

    • replayed
      March 10, 2013

      Good post.

      I thought the team regressed in the second half when the formation switched to the standard false 9 arrangement around Messi. Yes, Messi scored, but I strongly doubt the Milan defense will be accommodating in that same way.

      However, I really liked what I saw from the team in the first half. If the team can (re)learn to measure their balls over the top in time for Milan, I’d feel bullish with that tactical arrangement. But somehow, I doubt that will be the starting approach.

    • KEVINO17
      March 10, 2013

      I noticed that too. Alexis was roaming back towards the midfield and Villa was staying high. Interesting.
      I don’t think they were planning to start Alexis against Milan. Wonder if he’s upset their calculations.

  15. Artur
    March 10, 2013

    My crazy line up that will never happen


    And Messi given free role to roam left right and Centre

    … one can dream

  16. barca96
    March 10, 2013

    Was that Song’s worst performance for us or what?

      • barca96
        March 10, 2013


        I just watched the match for the 2nd time. He was horrible in the 2nd half especially towards the end. Could be fitness issues since he hardly gets 90 mins playing time.

        He just looked knackered. His passes were all too short thus most of them were easily intercepted. And he just stood about after he loses it. Poor match by his standards.

        • TITO
          March 10, 2013

          He begin to bee horrible the moment Busi came in. Don’t know why.

  17. barca96
    March 10, 2013

    Since Puyol played the full match, I doubt he will play this Tuesday.

    I’d go with

    sMasch/Puyol – Pique – Alba
    Alves – Xavi – Busi – Iniesta – Adriano
    Messi – Alexis/Pedro

    I’m torn between Alexis and Pedro. On current form I prefer the former but Pedro has proven to be a big game player on many occasions.

    • Jim
      March 10, 2013

      I agree it would seem to point that way but I can’t believe we are going to willingly go into this match without Puyol’s leadership. Depends on whether its a 4 or 3 at the back but either way I’d have him in. Can’t see Alba as a winger which has been suggested. Not sure he has anything other than pace to offer. For me, if we’re going with three at the back he’s one of them as he’s the only one who can actually make up ground to cover.

      Although Pep’s experiments with it didnt really come off this is a different situation where I’d rather keep three solid defenders ( in terms of position rather than solidity I suppose ). I also think the double holding DM is a waste as this will be a pretty defensive setup. Key to not getting caught as has been said is better pressing which I certainly saw in the last game. I’ve said already I can’t see past Busi, Xavi and Iniesta in the middle, maybe with a wide player on one side. Up front I think Villa and Messi are a must but I’m not too fussed with the third. I’d probably play Tello if we decide to use Alves on the right but he’s going to have to have his chasing head on as well which hasn’t been too obvious at times.

      Still in with a reasonable shout I think, but bugger and double bugger ( forgive the language ) I have yet another Parent Contact evening on the night of an important Barcelona game so it’ll be the Sky Plus and no live blog for me. Have a good one and stay positive !

      • barca96
        March 10, 2013

        I also wouldn’t put Alba as a winger. He isn’t a threat at all (goals & shots). Adriano is and for that I prefer him to be ahead of Alba.

        Or Adriano could be ahead of Alves on the right. It depends which wing defender Tito asks to be more offensive I guess.

        OMG. Why does Parent’s Contact always have to fall on a Barca night? You should check the calendar in advance next year and make some noise if it falls on CL week 🙂

  18. Enzo
    March 10, 2013

    Really you want to play with 3 defenders? With the form of this team defensively you want 3 defenders? Knowing that if Milan score 1 we have to score 4, you want to play with 3 defenders?

    • barca96
      March 10, 2013

      I would take the risk. No risk no gain. And we actually have 5 defenders if you think about it. Adriano and Alves are a hybrid of wingers and defenders.

      I am confident that this tactic would work.

  19. TITO
    March 10, 2013

    It’s not the number of defenders, but rather what do you do with them. Or for that matter with the rest of the team when they need to defend.

  20. Enzo
    March 10, 2013

    Yes Tito you right but put that advice in context. Juventus do it because firstly they have 3 solid CENTRAL defenders Chiellini, Barzagli and Bonucci.. Emphasis on CENTRAL DEFENDERS. Secondly their wing backs Liechtsteiner and Asamoah do a a great job tracking runners and lastly they have box to box midfielders in Vidal and Marchissio playing around Pirlo. In essence their team is built to get the most out of that formation.

    The only feasible way for Barca to do similar is to have Puyol, Pique, Mascherano with Alba and Alves as wingbacks. Iniesta and Fabregas/Xavi/Song/Thiago around Busquets with Messi and Villa/Pedro/Sanchez as the two strikers. Don’t think that’s maximizing the ability in the team.

  21. Enzo
    March 10, 2013

    I’d say go:


    Alves – Pique – Puyol – Alba

    Fabregas – Busquets

    Alexis – Iniesta – Tello


    Required Back 4 with a doublt pivot to provide that extra cover and 3 players who can run at players, playing behind Messi.

  22. March 10, 2013

    The team is going to have to find a way to resolve the static quality that manifested itself in the second half when Messi took the pitch. The Scorer arrived, and everything stopped as everyone looked for him. That is wrong to my view, because it made the team more predictable. It’s also lazy. Messi is a part of this team, but not the only part. The players are going to HAVE to get over that, and fast.

    My guess is that during the film session, that will be pointed out.

    As others pointed out above, without the reference in there, everyone was trying to score, and Sanchez just went hog wild. Because without a reference, then everyone is a reference.

  23. The match was good and the pressing especially in the first half impressive. The defense looked good because the midfield was doing their defensive duties well.

    But for me it also showed enough signs of were we could get it all wrong against Milan. Villa may have missed two golden opportunities, but his impact on our movement in first half was brilliant. He kept the center backs always occupied and even for that Sanchez header he kept the two CBs occupied, which allowed Sanchez to smarty drift from teh defenders for that splendid goal.

    Coming to Tello, I thought he had a decent night which showed that how his impact will depends on how we use him. There is no point in hitting the ball to him. If he start then the key will be to release him with his speed on the left. In the first half Villa and Thiago was doing that.

    I believe we should start with Tello and Villa only if you are ready to use them in their favorite positions. There is no point to start with Villa on left as he will try to stay wide on left and that flank will be useless.
    As far as the line-up, I would go with








  24. Enzo
    March 10, 2013

    I agree we have to risk but you have to note that this team has a propensity to concede goals especially on the counter-attack so why would you play 3 central defenders and 1 defensive midfielder considering the lack of pace of all those 4 defense minded players. I just think people are suggesting this 3 man defence because their trying to fit as many preferred attack-minded players as possible. Not really thinking that Milan just have to score 1 goal to end the tie.

    • Why does our defense with four man always concede goal on counter with 4 men defense? Simple reason against team which sit back our four man defense easily becomes a 2 men cause our full backs are playing in advanced position to unlock the opponent decision. So teh solution could be to have three man in defense or use a double pivot in midfield (to help out defense)

  25. Enzo
    March 10, 2013

    Yeah agree with Kxevin on the point that the players look for Messi at every opportunity. I still think the most dangerous strike force we’ve had was Henry – Eto – Messi. Dangerous because opposition teams didn’t know who to pay attention to all were equally capable of finishing. But since then Messi has grown and grown to the point that he scores the goals of 2 strikers in a season, which is great for him but which does make the team predictable.

    And I fear for the coach who would have the balls to tell Messi to move back to the wing to make way for a proper 9.

  26. nzm
    March 10, 2013

    Celta certainly didn’t play like a team in a relegation position against Madrid tonight – great play and just unfortunate that they couldn’t get the draw at the end.

    Diego Lopez was a gem of a sign for Madrid. He saved the match for them, and Javi Varas was amazing at the other end. A tale of 2 goal-keepers.

    • March 10, 2013

      Celta were really good! Maybe they can avoid the drop after all. We play them in two weeks, we’ll have to be careful!

  27. psalmuel
    March 11, 2013

    When Song plays we rarely get caught out on counters and thats why I’d prefer song over busi for the milan game cos milan will be looking out for the counter definitely. And no matter what formation we’d employ,I just want adriano in that game (barca’s only unpredictable player right now)

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