The Return of Tito: PSG – Barça

Historical precedence is meaningless between these two sides. The last time they faced, on May 14, 1997, Barcelona’s starting lineup was  Baía, Ferrer, Couto, Abelardo, Sergi, Popescu, Guardiola, Figo, De la Peña, Luis Enrique, and Ronaldo. Amor, Stoichkov, and Pizzi entered as subs. PSG fielded Leonardo, among others. Two years earlier, the squads met in a 2-legged affair that featured Busquets–the other one: Carles.

To compare the meetings would be silly, though it’s likely several of the players remember those matches. Puyol and Xavi had just joined the B team in 1997 and Lionel Messi was a 10-year old who had probably never heard of PSG. Pique was no doubt pantsing someone, probably a 7-year old Bojan. And so, I will not compare the two meetings, unless it’s to mock both the away jerseys worn then and now.

What’s intriguing is that several PSG players played for Barça prior to their current club. Thiago Motta, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and Maxwell all plied their trade at the Camp Nou. Motta, in fact, spent 2 years in the B team, if you’ve forgotten, before wearing the first team colors for 6 years. He famously returned to the Camp Nou in The Great Busquets Peekaboo Incident of 2010. Ibra got a goal for Milan at the San Siro, while this will be Maxwell’s first return. There have been others who played for both PSG and Barcelona of course, most notably Ronaldinho who made the switch from France to Spain–a full rundown can be found here in Spanish.

This first leg will determine a lot about what Barça’s aspirations for the competition as a whole really are. Can this team, supposedly rejuvenated by their smashing remuntada against Milan, make good on that rekindled hope or will the team that has stuttered around the last few months continue to do so. David Villa mentioned in his press conference that doing so against PSG will earn them a hiding far worse than what Milan put on them. He’s unlikely to be wrong about that given PSG’s attacking strike force, but they haven’t been at their scintillating best either.

Busquets has some great things to say about Ibra, most of which are obviously things I agree with if you’ve ever read anything I ever wrote about Ibra, but the stuff about Beckham was interesting. He anecdotally drops that he was surprised by Beckham’s positioning in a recent match, which shows that he has preconceived notions as well, but not ones that become cemented simply by sitting around in his head. It also shows that he’s watching game tape of his upcoming opponent, which is simply always nice to hear about.

It does strike me as unlikely that Beckham will play tomorrow, though I’ve been surprised before. Denying Barcelona space is the only way to keep them from killing you and Beckham doesn’t strike me as the best defensive option available, despite his potential from set pieces. I admit to not having seen much PSG this year, but they have some serious talent that they can put on the field in very much the same fashion that Madrid has done recently with so much success. Milan too replicated that high double line with a midfielder in between to track Messi, so dynamism up front will have to be the key for Barça as it was in the second leg against Milan.

With Xavi and Jordi Alba both just coming back from injury, there will be added pressure on everyone to perform with discipline. Width will be required, so a decent performance by Tello would be wonderful, but a starting front line of Villa, Messi, and Alexis is likely to be the most dynamic at this point. Pedro’s exclusion would hurt the defensive side of the front 3, but that can sacrificed if Xavi really is 100%. Cesc should also be sacrificed, despite his ability to get into the middle channels. Control and tempo are the most important things and making sure that the team is in rhythm has not been Cesc’s forte so far this season. It’s not that it’s beyond him, it’s that it’s not the role he’s been asked to play up to this point.

With Tito returning to the fold, it will be interesting to see if the speed and verve from the first few months is returning along with the energy. The full squad: Valdés, Pinto, Dani Alves, Piqué, Fàbregas, Xavi, Villa, Iniesta, Alexis, Messi, Thiago, Mascherano, Bartra, Sergio, Jordi Alba, Montoya, Abidal, Song, Tello, Oier,  Deulofeu.

Personally, I’d love to see Abidal all up in that French business, but that seems like too serious a risk to take unless there is an injury. Let him return against Mallorca in the Camp Nou this Saturday. Perhaps I’m only saying that because I want to be there to witness it as I’ll be at work during the PSG match, but whatever, it’s true: let him return at the Camp Nou. Tito will, no doubt, get a massive ovation there as well, which will be just as emotional. Really, I’ll take a return by him no matter how it goes, but I’m trying to be a beggar and a chooser here, okay?

I expect this to be a cagey affair, with a couple of goals nicked at either end, but no resolution to the tie whatsoever. Everything to play for at the Camp Nou. Don’t be fooled by the picture at the top, though, this should also be a tough-tackling affair with several yellow cards. Mourinho is no doubt furious that Wolfgang Stark will somehow call a penalty in the return leg.

Official Prediction: 1-1. Goals by Messi and Lavezzi. Because Argies like to score.

Fact I learned tonight: Juan Pablo Sorin played for FCB in 2003, making 15 appearances and scoring a goal. Probably right before this picture was taken. He also played for PSG. He has big eyebrows.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. Last match (vs Milan) I knew that Milan will lose and concede a lot. Barca made a huge mistake in Milan but this time tie vs PSG will be resolved in Paris. They are not going to make any mistakes, CA doesn’t have real answer to TIKI TAKA.

    As a programmer I would said >=2:0 Barcelona.

  2. Loved the article quoting Busquets! It’s obvious to everyone that he’s an intelligent player, but it’s great how eloquent he is too. So often athletes, artists, and the like give amazing performances but struggle to articulate the nuances of their field. Guys like Busquets are great because they can do both. It doesn’t take a genius to predict that he’d make a great manager or member of the technical staff once his playing career is done.

    1. I have been so impressed over the last couple of seasons with the quality of interviews that Busquets has given. He really speaks intelligently and clearly about football. I feel like the trust that his coaches have put in him and his close relationship with Xavi have given him the confidence to speak about his game. I definitely see him as a future captain first, then a coach.

  3. On the last thread: I differ from Kxevin on how he judges players. His judgement is solely based on whistle to whistle. I don’t agree with that, most people don’t. (for good reason IMO)
    That’s why I don’t argue on his perspective. If someone is using a different yardstick then its obvious the measurements won’t match. No point talking about it.

    How I see it, players who cost alot or take a big salary, owe the club a high degree of performance. Players who have consistently performed well, are allowed more leeway if they fumble. Developing talent be it La Masia or otherwise needs more patience than established players.

    Kxevin probably disagrees on all counts. We can either argue on viewpoints or agree to have different conclusions on players. Having different opinions is not a bad thing as long as you understand why.

    1. Continuing from this last thread, I want to echo ooga aga’s comments and add the following:

      Absolutely ooga aga.

      The brother sometimes thinks we don’t know that, but behind these disagreements and all…there’s always love and respect, man.

      I think I can safely speak for most if not all of us that we love and respect the hell out what you do in this space.

      You are the soul of this blog.

    2. On the last thread, since there is a discussion here:-

      “I think I can safely speak for most if not all of us that we love and respect the hell out what you do in this space.,,You are the soul of this blog.” – I agree on this absolutely.

      I think it is not fair to use the same yard stick to value a forward and a defender. From my football times – it was clear that there is nothing wrong in an attacking player losing the ball in or around the opposition box, trying to take a risky move or pass. Nor is there anything wrong in an attacking player failing to defend a difficult situation in his own box. Like wise – there is nothing wrong in a defensive player losing the ball in the opposition half or even missing a good chance in the opposition box. However, a forward losing a put me in ball, or a defender trying to clear a lose ball in own box are all clear mistakes. But whatever, in Football a goal is bigger than anything else. (I played as a right back and also as a right winger. I didnt had any problem at all in our centre forward always camping around the opposition box, as long as he converted at least 2or3 out of 10 balls). And out of all the people shooting a ball in the pitch, it is the forward who should have the most energy – because he need to have the right power, precision and timing for his shot, all which could be perfected, only ONLY if he has the right energy at his disposal. This will not happen if he is running around all the time. It is quite clear why Messi, and even Tello – who seem to score now better than the rest(I still prefer Cuenca), press less than the others or press only in the important games. Just look at how Pedro fails in many moments when he gets the ball, he has been pressing around too much and doesnt have that last bit of energy many times.
      The above is my understanding, and because of that, I cannot understand Kxevins view point of picking up Messi, each and every moment when he has to say something. (this doesnt mean I deitify Messi or Kxevin hates Messi). By Kxevins evaluation, all most all the big name strikers of world football – or the so called no.9’s are all big failures – Batistuta, Nistel Roy, Raul, Romario, Ronaldo – brazil, all these goal scorers were big lazy stars because they did nothing other than scoring goals. Just look in England and Italy, how the fans and clubs give so much to their CF’s who save their game with a lone goal in match, after converting 1 out of 5/6 balls they had.
      Here, Kxevin just pours his ire on a player who is not just our best goal scorer (his conversion is way ahead of any centre forward past/present), but also one of our best creators of goals. (I simply cannot understand when he says any player in place of Messi will be scoring our ‘system generated’ goals. If yes, Villa,Pedro,Iniesta, all would have scored around 20+ goals for us. And none would have scored the goals like the first goal against AC Milan in 4-0).
      I dont dietify Messi, just like Kxevin always thinks, but I find it difficult to accept how such a player can be accused for not pressing over 90 minutes, and for losing the ball after trying a penetrating pass. Such reactions of Kxevin is routine here and still he comments that Alexis didnt had enough service in the last game.
      I am really hoping, we keep Villa, Alexis,Song all for one more season. I love everybody in our team. And I do agree that Kxevin have different view point, even if I might not agree with him.

  4. Ahhh Sorin, I remember him well. Massive eyebrows. Ok player though tbf 🙂

    On for the game, I’d expect a pretty cagey affair, with PSG doing the obvious counter-attack and hoping for a (likely) brain-fade in our defending. On that note, we need to see a smart, astute performance from Pique, and no stupid mistakes for Mash who has seen to be making very much rash challenges again.

    As for the 11, I’d expect: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Alba, Mash, Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi, Messi, Villa, Tello.

  5. Am I being moderated or something ? I have posted comments I the last three threads and yet they are not there. I haven’t said anything naughty, have I?

  6. I was reading the comments on the last post. Great analyses, great critique on all fronts.
    Based on that I want to say something to kxevin and the other guys, awesome views all.

    First of all, a great man once said, there are no facts, only opinions.

    1. Alexis…great player? Or great player?

    He’s a complete all rounder, and with vision. He’s a playmaker and winger, powered by stamina, speed and…hunger. There have been moments that led to fans criticizing him, and though it surely has by now gone to his head, how little that might be, each and every game that I see him playing, I see hunger. When he sometimes makes mistakes (that everyone does but his ones are more profound only because…ohh if it was messi it sure would have been a goal) he has that moment of frustration when he hides his face. And then he’s back giving his 100 percent. He’s a team player. And he is more of ”barca material” than the likes of ibra.
    I wouldn’t even say he’s off form. He’s been made to face every game as if it was an ultimatum and thats getting up to his head. We are the ones not helping him. If he leaves next season to juve maybe (where he’d be a hit again) it’d be a shame.
    There’s that age old adage, class is forever.

    And yes, tito is returning now, it is emotional, but it all lies on him. He needs to motivate him and utilize him. Alexis is a diamond of a player, a little bit of shine is hidden. It is tito’s job to polish him. Which, i believe, he will.

    2. The messi bias

    Kxevin you’re an outlier. When everyone was down with the 2-0. You came around, told us to believe. Told us we’d win 4-0. We believed. We won.

    The way you actually put the team before a player is praiseworthy. And yes, if messi has a bad game eighty five minutes, turns up for the last five minutes scores two, he shouldn’t be man of the match. The others who ran the engine for the 85 minutes should be given the credit. If they hadn’t saved the game till then messi’s two would be meaningless.

    But then again, football is a game of emotions. Now, for ninety minutes 20 players fight to put he ball in the opposite net. Sometimes the full ninety results in just one goal, sometimes zero. Thats how important goals are. Better than style, better than class, better than art, better than skill. It is just about goals. You score them, you win hearts. The better team doesn’t win, goals win. And sometimes five minutes of magic outdoes 85 minutes of discipline. This is what messi is made of. Why do people have that messi bias? Because people identify more with a person than with a team. Yes teams are bigger, and if tomorrow messi goes to rm, we begin hating him. But now, our emotions go towards what is human, like us. He becomes the face of barca. And 99.99 percent of the world works that way. They aren’t wrong. Nobody is.

    Kxevin, you’re more of manager material than fan material. You have tremendous vision without bias. Hats off. Your views are a joy to read.

  7. Our current group of players is so analytical, so tactically aware. That remark about Busquets being a great manager later on made me wonder what these guys will do once they retire. Xavi has been earmarked as our future coach, but what about Iniesta, Messi? I doubt they’ll end up as football pundits… Could they be future coaches? It’s hard to imagine, they’re both so shy…

    1. Exactly. I dont think messi should even think about coaching.
      And iniesta too.

      Xavi is surely a future manager. Busquets could be the futur del bosque.

      Alves. What could he be after football? 😀

    2. I think Dani is already setting himself up as a “lifestyle brand”. Clothing, accessories, ect. Also I can totally see him as a TV personality.

      Pinto has his music and production house.

      Abidal will join the coaching staff, do charity work, and he also does music production I think.

      Pique will undoubtedly be club president.

      Iniesta will retire to his bodega and never be heard from again.

    3. I’d love to hear from you about putol’s future. And do we expect messi to play for barca till he’s 69?

    4. Puyol will be forced to retire at 40– after having most of his body parts replaced by titanium and shark skin, FIFA/UEFA will decide he no longer actually qualifies as human. He will then take over the post of Sporting Director from Zubi.

      Messi will play for Barça until the age of 35, having gotten tired of breaking a record every time he sits down for breakfast. He will then move back to Argentina to play for Newell’s Old Boys. He will be part of the Argentina team that wins the World Cup in 2022, causing the end of the internet, as there will be nothing left to discuss.

    5. Puyol is like Jackie Chan. No body parts which havent had a surgery!!!
      I think Puyol will work for Barca in some capacity.
      Xavi and Masch are definitely coach material

  8. OMG! Those ’97 kits were hideous! I think their worse than our horrendous away kits this year! Wow. What were they thinking in ’97?

  9. As for the Kxevin debate, just wanted to add that i think that if a player has been doing nothing all match, yet pops up with two opportunistic goals in the last two minutes to overcome a one goal deficit, his overall player rating shouldn’t be high if it judges what he did all match, but he is definitely these of the match because of his impact on the result.

    The other thing that has been talked about is the masia vs bought players. I know that I personally get very annoyed at Sanchez for missing easy shots. As I do for villa or pedro. Yet when messi misses, it’s usually a reaction of astonishment, and it’s mitigated by a feeling that next time he’ll bury the ball in the back of the net. Am I biased towards messi? I suppose so, yet it’s a bias with precedent, reinforced by all the times he has done the job for us. Kxevin has argued before that the system is created for messi to score goals, that every other player is there to facilitate his scoring. But I wouldn’t expect Sanchez to convert the same number of chances if he played in that position. And the reason for that is that he converts about 17% of his shots. Like most other strikers. Messi on the other hand converts 30%. And so if he misses, I have faith that he won’t bottle the next one.

    If I were to compare Pedro and Sanchez though, maybe a fairer comparison, I would be harsher on Sanchez simply because i think he has more potential than Pedro. And so he should do better. I don’t think Masia and non masia has anything to do with it, we just tend to favor our established players. Iniesta could stink as much as Song, yet we’d support him more because he’s proven himself time and time again. The bias comes because we are seeing players who have influenced the system and performed so well that it has evolved to suit their skill set, and anyone new coming in must adapt and immediately be compared to the person he’s replacing. Yet what Song and Any other new signing must do is negotiate that tricky balance between sticking to the manager’s tactical constraints, while showing what skillset they add to the team. I think we shouldn’t be as harsh and impatient with the unestablished players as we perhaps have been on this blog, but those guys still need to step up when given the chance and earn our respect and admiration like Xavi etc have done over the years.

    1. I think song does his job well. I have had no complaints of him so far. His position isn’t one that catches attention. And as kxevin rightly said, song is song. He isnt meant to be busquets.

      Pedro or alexis? Definitely alexis.

      The biggest headache is the cesc fabregas issue. Difficult for him to bench the best midfielders.

    1. sorry blitzen, dont understand the connection between Kxevin and Thuram.
      Dont want to miss the thing here, and especially the fun.

      I am sure, he does not hate Messi.

    2. He used a photo of Thuram as his avatar last time when we still had avatars.

      And a few months back he posted a photo of himself on his bike and he did look like Thuram with a bigger frame 🙂

  10. Hey, folks. A few quick things before I return the focus to PSG and the draw that I suspect will happen:

    — I’m stepping away as a BFB mod. Isaiah and I have chatted about it, and it feels like the right thing to do. Like SoMa, I might pop up from time to time.

    The reasons are many, but paramount is that this is a mature space that I can step back from with a clear conscience. There are nzm, Euler, blitzen, Isaiah, Levon,Linda and others. Things will be awesome, because BFB has as awesome team.

    Want to thank everyone for the debates, and insults andal of the things that are part of being part of a family. This blog wouldn’t be what it is without all of you.

    Back in the day, and there are some of you who remember The Offside, we were few, and our beloved team was struggling. We gathered, commiserated and played team building in our heads. Isaiah decided to take the leap to this space because he felt (I didn’t, for the record) that it was time. Man, was he right. The team took off, and so did BFB.

    We are many many more than a few now, and it’s really, really amazing to see. Keep up the excellence, and support your team, no matter what.

    Thanks for everything, everyone.

    1. Well, I certainly hope this is just a temporary thing and that you will still be posting your insights in the comments section. I may not always agree with your comments, but I always find them interesting and contributing to the high level of discussion in this space.

      I know you’re pretty busy right now with your training and all that, and maybe you just need a little personal space. Come back soon, it won’t be the same without you! 🙁

    2. I am hoping that u’re stepping down as only a mod and not as a contributor (articles and comments).

      I really don’t think anyone, anyone could hate you. Maybe there were insults but this is the internet and you have losers and haters in the plenty. So we really look forward to more posts from you. 🙂

      We might sometimes have a difference of opinion, but not of interest. We’re all barca fans.

    3. Damn it man!! I already had a feeling this was going to happen (Kxevin, Levon & foto). I wanted to log on earlier to say that I hope no one gets too hurt until he wants to resign. We know each other for too long already. We always had and always will not always agree with each other. But don’t take it personally.

      Everybody makes mistakes once in a while (in this case I think it’s you. Of course I’m biased haha). In any case, please don’t step down.

      Same goes for Levon, foto and everyone else. Come back y’all!

    4. yo, I’m right here barca96. Sad like the rest of y’all because of Kxevin stepping down.

      I respect his choice yet hope that it’s temporary. The man’s reviews have been part of my life for years, now.

    5. thats not a good news – This blog wouldn’t be what it is without you.

      Whatever your reasons may be – hope all is for your good and all the best.

    6. Hey Kxevin, long time follower since the Offside days. Have been skimming through comments lately and have noticed lots of criticism/commenting on your rating and thoughts about players and such. Seems like the anonymity of the internet coupled with strong feelings certain people may have about players has made for some heated discussion. I always enjoy reading your posts, you can really tell that you write for a living and it would be a sad day if we were never able to read or dwell on one of your match reviews….. anyways, like others have voiced, I hope this is temporary and I wish you the best, thanks for making this space and the Offside space back in the day one of my daily rituals.

  11. On another note.

    Do you guys want Xavi and Alba to start?

    I certainly don’t!!
    Play with double pivot of Song and Busi or Cesc in Xavi’s place.

    Double pivot
    We don’t want another Milan-gate. I rather us be cautious and draw or grind out a win rather than having to have a historic comeback again.

    Montoya can play LB. He did OK.

  12. Hi BFBers!

    Got into BCN today around 2, had an amazing late lunch at a place called the Romesco (OLD school) , and scouted out a cool little bar to watch us kick Parisienne butt (1-1 predictions aside). Its called Bar Masia, fittingly enough, though not anywhere near the real Masia. Only been here 4 hours, and I’m utterly enchanted. We’re heading over in a half hour, and while its an away game, I’ve been practicing the cant and hope I get a chance to represent the community by singing it at the top of my lungs. If we win, I’m heading to the fountain in Placa Catalunya!

    Visca Barca!

    1. Ahhhhh, you’re in my favorite city.

      There are beautiful fountains in Placa Catalunya, but I think you will want to go to the Font de Canaletes for your celebration. Placa Catalunya is just at the top of La Rambla. Go down La Rambla and you’ll see it to your right. (prepare to be underwhelmed 🙂 )

      Enjoy it all! BTW, my favorite dive/hole in the wall is La Champagneria near the Barceloneta metro stop. Good cheap stuff.

  13. Just saw Kxevin’s post – do what you gotta do, but I love your posts and comments!

  14. Starting Lineup confirmed:

    Valdés; Alves, Mascherano, Piqué, Alba; Busquets; Xavi, Iniesta; Alexis, Messi y Villa

    Really really like the messi, villa alexis attack

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