Barça 1 – PSG 1, as we struggled independently

“Whether or not Messi plays is not our problem”
Carlos Ancelotti


So we rolled out on Saturday with a team full of superstars minus one and crushed our opponents with our little hand, four fingers of which we had wrapped tightly around their throat before half time. Cesc scored a hat-trick as a false nine¹ and got an assist to boot. Our defense hardly broke a sweat.

Ooooh how complete we look when every forward gets in on the attack.
Ooooh how dynamic we are when we don’t stand around watching him dribble.
Ooooh how vertical is our offense when we don’t have to play the ball at his feet.
Ooooh how not worried we are for our upcoming Champion’s League quarter final.

Yes, uhmmm, there might be a hitch.

Mallorca, bottom of the Liga. Estimated market value of the squad: €8,300,000.
Paris Saint-Germain, leaders of the Ligue. Estimated market value: €254,900,000

Not exactly a pauper himself, typhoon Tito took out his platinum-coated smart phone and dialed the following numbers: 1-Victor Valdes 2- Dani Alves 3- Gerard Pique 21-Adriano Correia 18-Jordi Alba 16-Sergio Busquets 6-Xavi Hernandez 8-Andrés Iniesta 17-Pedro Rodriguez 4-Cesc Fàbregas and 7-David Villa. Of course he kept emergency number 10 nearby, just in case.

Barcelona's Messi sits in the bench

The game starts well enough. Although the French kick off, we get the ball and Fàbregas provokes a foul almost immediately. Had Xavi aimed his free-kick 12 inches to the right we would have led the game from the get-go. On the other side we almost get caught out by Paris Saint-Germain, but luckily Lavezzi shoots the ball straight at Victor. Signs of an entertaining match to come. The next ten minutes inspire confidence where if we don’t get close to scoring we certainly do get close to creating excellent scoring opportunities.

PSG seem sloppy and give the ball away a lot. A couple of our attempts get blocked. Cesc fails to get power on a shot and somehow feels he earns a penalty for falling over. Ghostface tries from a good forty-five yards out. I think I’m gonna enjoy this. Little do I know the tables are about to be turned.

Your aerodynamic haircuts can’t keep up with my dazzling skill

Lucas Moura canons a shot at Valdes, who channels Kung Fu Panda-like inner strength to keep hold of the ball. The Brazilian tries again, this time from even further out, but the ball sails over. Ibrahimovic does likewise. Alba breaks the speed limit to prevent Zlatan from latching on to a pass that would have put him alone with the keeper. Relief proves only temporary – the Swede skillfully sets up Lavezzi (in some quarters also known as the Argentinian Alexis Sanchez² who proceeds to make a mess of the biggest chance in the match so far.

Slowly but surely PSG is taking control of the match. Well, control being a flexible concept, of course. The way to control the match when you play Barcelona is by letting Barcelona “control” the match. While more than 60% possession and mouth-watering Iniestanian technique fail to result in any clear scoring opportunities for the blaugrana, we are leaving space behind our defensive line for the nouveau riche to cash in on. Even with a limited offensive role for Jordi Alba we cannot prevent the visitors from being the more dangerous side.

Valdes saves us yet again when Moura towers over the Squirrel to head the ball towards the top corner of the goal. And again when he pushes away Alex’s header from the resulting corner. Dani Alves spends 2 minutes on the sidelines to change his shoes in order to stop slipping on the wet pitch. When the referee finally lets him back on, he slips. Javier Pastore, who has served as a constant attacking outlet for the Parisians, almost finds Lucas Moura for the opening blow. Alex gets his head on another corner but does not make enough contact with the ball. And boy I can’t wait for the first half to end. Neither can a certain left-footed miracle worker who keeps getting up and sitting down in the dugout, anxiously rubbing his leg as if to warm it up for the warm up.

Saving culé heinies
The Victorian Secret: saving culé heinies

And when the whistle blows I can’t wait for the second half to start. I have come to hate half time. At least in Holland I watched TV-analysts break down some key moments or developments of the game. As my motherland is blessed with sixteen million head coaches, the analysts were always good (with the exception of Ruud Gullit, he’s useless). They would always be ex-football players, and usually ex-internationals. Sometimes their names would be Johan Cruijff, or Louis Van Gaal (eat that, Tommy Smith). Guus Hiddink and Willem Van Hanegem know a thing or two, as well.  But on DirectTV in South America there is no half time analysis. Just some quick highlights, and a lot of commercials.

Right before they come back on to the pitch, the camera lingers on our players standing in the tunnel. A quick scan confirms that all three of Fàbregas, Villa and Pedro are still amongst them. No Messi. We haven’t managed a decent shot on goal yet. The half chances we lit up went out with a sizzle. Cesc started well but has faded as the first half went on. Villa tried, I guess. Pedro has been industrious throughout, the only keeper of the bunch. Xavi? Hmmm… Busi? Mweh… Iniesta was aces, though.

Our starting line-up is basically the Spanish national team plus two Brazilian internationals (minus Ramos and Alonso). You would think they can cope, right? We don’t need Leo yet.

min 50. Barça 0 - PSG 1
min 50. Barça 0 – PSG 1

Ok, now we do.

Ibrahimovic splits the defense with a lovely ball for Javier Pastore to run onto. Try as he might Dani Alves can’t catch up and the Argentine, who has been excellent so far, dinks the ball over Victor Valdes’ outstretched legs. We are down one nil and left staring elimination in the face. The Flea starts warming up on the sidelines.

Cue a nervous ten minutes for our beloved team. Valdes, who has been excellent so far with his hands and his feet, gives the ball away needlessly, but danger is avoided. Javier Pastore gets provided yet another opportunity by a certain big-nosed tae kwan do specialist but skews a potential second goal wide. Lucas tries from outside the box but his attempt is saved easily. On the side of the pitch on which we do like to see things happening Dani Alves receives our biggest opportunity of the game and blasts it over.

With half an hour left to play Messi enters the pitch to boisterous cheers. I’m wondering, “but he’s hurt,” and I’m thinking, “we have been here before with a fit Flea,” but I am hoping, and I am pouting my lips and nodding my head at the clock in defiance. Believe!

The game shall is no longer the same
The game shall no longer be the same

I don’t know if it is good or bad for F.C. Barcelona, but Messi changed the game completely. He gave the team confidence. He gave the crowd confidence. And he took a lot of the confidence away from Paris Saint-Germain. Almost immediately after he came on Villa and Iniesta combined for Andrés to unleash a dangerous shot at Sirigu. And a little bit later Leo wriggled his way past two defenders and passed the ball to el Guaje, who in turn laid it off to Pedrito who absolutely hammered it into the goal.

The most amazing thing? Messi was clearly not fit. While only ten minutes earlier I was upset with Fàbregas for pressing half-heartedly, our number 10 hardly even walked. On defense or offense. He watched nine out-of-their-mind teammates celebrate Pedro’s goal from a distance, pacing himself to not further aggravate his hamstring injury. But when we passed him the ball he made the difference.


So I don’t know if that is a good or a bad thing. I mean, it is obviously a good thing to have the best player of the world, hell, in my opinion the best player in the history of the game on your team. We are incredibly lucky. What is less good is that what should be one heck of a talented team³ was losing the game before he came on. A heck of a talented team was getting toasted by the French. In fact, we should be grateful to Wolfgang Stark for gifting our opponents an offside goal in Paris last week. Had they been forced to press us for a second we might have never recovered.

I left the game not quite knowing how to feel. Of course I was happy that we advanced to the semis, but to what end? Out of four clásicos and the same number of Champion’s League knock-out games this season, we have only managed one win – albeit a brilliant one. Three games away from a Champion’s League medal, our team needs to step up. Culé hearts are at stake, after all..

Visca Barça!


The best player of the world
The best player of the world

” He changed everything”
Javier Pastore


¹ It was the first hat-trick by a Barcelona player other than Messi since October 2009, the month of the Keiteee. Wanna guess how many hat-tricks la Pulga scored in between those two?

² I mean that as a compliment

³ On paper, I think only Real M*drid have comparable talent. Not even Bayern Munich do, although they might prove to be the better team this year.

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Written by:

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. Cule
    April 11, 2013

    One thing is for sure, Tito must rest players for the semis. We have a 13 point lead in the league, we can afford to throw 2 league games. If we manage to make it to the final we could have a healthy mascherano and a fit abidal, but to have any chance against Bayern or EE should we play them the players have to get rest.

  2. ooga aga
    April 11, 2013

    great review. question, any idea why tello left out of the squad?

    two weeks to rest our big guns for what will inevitably be a tough match.

  3. ElJefe
    April 11, 2013

    Relieved – this is really the way we needed to move on. No heroic 95th minute goal, but a defensively played, dull (for Barca) draw. That’s how Chelsea, Inter have managed to win Champions Leagues without being the best team, and we need to learn to do it more. Tito deserves good credit here.

    Frightened – we would likely not have progressed in this match without Messi, that is simple fact for anyone who watched. Villa, Pedro, Fabregas looked toothless until Messi entrance, only Iniesta looked like he really wanted this with Xavi in support. And we don’t have the line-up for any corner kick goals in the CL. I just don’t understand why Tello isn’t playing. I’d argue he’s the 2nd most dangerous player on the team right now when he plays, and that includes Cesc’s hat trick. Defense gave me a heart attack, we are tremendously lucky Adriano and Alba were able to play. Abidal anyone?

    Great heart by Alba in this match.

  4. Reto
    April 11, 2013

    Happy to still be in the competition after a rather average second leg performance. The fact that we only started playing our game when Paris scored and Messi was subbed in let’s me be not too euphoric though.
    Apart from our little argentinean wizard whoes pure introduction had a massive impact on the game, VV saved our ass with plenty of big saves once more and was my MOTM for sure. Think people will only realise what we had in him as soon as he isn’t part of this team anymore.
    Thought Alexis could have added something to our performance as well but maybe the knock he got against Mallorca was just a bit more serious than it seemed.

    Looking forward to the semifinal draw my favourite choice would be Dortmund.
    Other than that I hope to see our big guns rested in the league now to have them ready when it really counts.

    Last but not least: Welcome Lia!

    • Reto
      April 11, 2013

      Edit: Forgot to mention how impressed I was with Lucas Moura over this two legs!

  5. April 11, 2013

    Nice review Levon, before this match,I was worried about our defence and I wanted the team to win this match without Messi – I was both right and wrong.

    Valdes made soo many saves – of course most of them were routine and couple of them excellent – but that just shows how good our defence was. So thank you Valdes for saving us, during the 38% possession period of PSG.

    “but Messi changed the game completely. He gave the team confidence. He gave the crowd confidence. And he took a lot of the confidence away from Paris Saint-Germain” – My very rich friend, had gone all the way to Barcelona for this match and what you (Levon) wrote here is almost the same as what he mailed me after the match. He doesnt understand any Catalan or Spanish, but after 35 minutes of first half, he felt that the crowd was very unhappy and there were many ‘Messi’ on the air around him, which only increased after the Pastore goal.
    And see what the little genius did. He only had one major involvement, but that set up our equaliser, in a way only he could. Even his presence boosts the whole team, but more than that his presence has a negative influence on the opposition.

    In the first half, we had all our system working well, but the system goals didnt come at all. There were so many attempts, but hardly any tested their goalie. We went back to our pre Milan second leg state of having too many space between our 3 lines – attack/mf/defence.

    I dont know if I am happy or not, relieved for sure that we progress. Of the Semi teams, even Borussia have a better defense than ours. Beg to Tito to please rest Messi, Xavi, Busquets, Alves, Alba and Iniesta until the next CL match.

    Finally, PSG is a very good team. If the team stay together and if Ancelotti continues, they will be an even tougher team next season.
    Congrats to Cesc too on the birth of Lia.

    • ooga aga
      April 11, 2013

      i was at match and understand spanish and a bit of catalan…i didnt hear anyone calling for messi to come on right away. of course people did get excited when he came out to warm up and then subbed in.

      i did hear a lot of “Ostia! Vengase!” 🙂

    • April 11, 2013

      sorry about my English – it was what he heard from people talking/discussing sitting around him. Not anything from the whole stadium, I think.

      Glad that you watched the match.
      whats Ostia Vengase??????

    • ooga aga
      April 11, 2013

      hostia! (silent h) is like “damn!” or “bloody hell!”

      vengase is like “come on!”

  6. Tony_Montana
    April 11, 2013

    Hey guys I’ve been reading this blog for a long time now but haven’t posted a comment before. This is my first. Call me Lazy…but am impressed with the work you guys put in on here. Excellent work guys. Keep it up.
    As for the match, I thought it was a good game. Barcelona really didn’t push it till they conceded and thanks to the “Little flea” we got back into the game and went through. Bring on the germans I say!! And hey I love that #911 pic of messi. Dude is like “Can I go save us now?”

  7. hammeronmessi
    April 11, 2013

    Ooooh how complete we look when every forward gets in on the attack.
    Ooooh how dynamic we are when we don’t stand around watching him dribble.
    Ooooh how vertical is our offense when we don’t have to play the ball at his feet.
    Ooooh how not worried we are for our upcoming Champion’s League quarter final.


    The clueless and disorganized play (bar iniesta)Without Messi is unacceptable.
    Tito made mistake in selecting Cesc as a False 9 with DV,Pedro,it would have made sense
    if he picked Cesc along with Alexis/Tello with Pedro.

    MOTM VV.Iniesta,iniesta orgasmic play but for all his sorcery he lacks the final product,the most elegant
    beautiful and elegant football player i have ever seen.

    BTW nice review@Kevon

    • April 11, 2013

      Very true, Iniesta has so much grace on the ball, but often he ends up at nothing, which is a pity.

    • mom4
      April 11, 2013

      Sometimes I feel that Messi gets a lot of stick around here when he takes on too many players in a move of brilliance that ends in nothing, or worse, a ball lost, and yet Iniesta is giving a pass on this.

    • April 11, 2013

      My thoughts too.

      They both can do amazing things with the ball. The end product with Messi is just two levels higher with an assist or a goal or even drawing a big save or free kick. They are the only two players who try for something penetrative, when we face a tough wall of defenders.

      Iniesta however is less criticized here, like Messi is, for losing the ball or for not releasing the ball at the right time. May be it is because Iniesta is a mid fielder participating in defensive duties on our half and is not a super star of Messi’s stature, or simply because he is a Spaniard. I dont know. But you are right, I have noticed this too.

      We are so lucky to have both of them in our team.

      Michael Cox has written this on ydays game – Andres Iniesta’s surges from midfield aren’t as effective without multiple defenders being attracted to Messi – in the Argentine’s absence, Iniesta didn’t take enough creative responsibility, and saved his best moment of the night for a wonderful but ultimately fruitless piece of skill in the final moments.

    • April 11, 2013

      A bit unfair considering that Iniesta was the only midfielder who showed up, but yes, he lacked the final ball last night. I am not sure if that is all on him, though.

    • April 11, 2013

      No way I am a critic of Iniesta.
      He was the only player trying hard yday.
      But the above is only a general thought.

  8. ooga aga
    April 11, 2013

    official word out of barcelona is that messi did not worsen his condition by playing last night. he will continue with the previously established recovery plan and his future availability will depend on the evolution of the injury.

  9. mom4
    April 11, 2013

    “Ooooh how complete we look when every forward gets in on the attack.
    Ooooh how dynamic we are when we don’t stand around watching him dribble.
    Ooooh how vertical is our offense when we don’t have to play the ball at his feet.
    Ooooh how not worried we are for our upcoming Champion’s League quarter final.”

    EXACTLY! (and I won’t even say I told to so…oops)

    Without the flea we are a very good team able to go toe to toe with most teams in the world. With him we are world beaters.

    But we were the Spanish NT + 2 Brazillians!
    How many times have the Spanish NT stuttered through a game against high quality opponents only to eek out a 1-0 result with one moment of brilliance or a victory by PKs (Euro final against Italy being a pleasant exeption)? The NT has very little offensive production against world class teams when you think about it.

    Oh no, we need Messi to win!

    SO WHAT!

    Every team relies on their best player to carry them. RM would not have gone through without those 2 goals from CR and they were playing the “easiest” draw in Galatasaray.

    I’m not worried we rely on Messi, I’m grateful we’ve got him.

    What surprised me about last night’s game was that Sanchez didn’t get time. He could have helped a ton. I suppose that having to use up a sub for Adriano had something to do with it. Great sub at the end with Song.

    Finally, Messi must rest until the semis. Xavi should too. I doubt that Xavi has recovered fro the initial hammy and has several times forced an early comeback to save our butts and the NT’S.

  10. April 11, 2013

    Thanks for reading all & welcome@Tony_M

    A couple of observations that didn’t make the review:

    *Bartra came on together with Messi and played well. How he would have done had he started we don’t know, because PSG gave up, quite surprisingly so. We will find out over the next couple of weeks, though
    *Adriano came off with cramp, he is not injured
    *PSG is quite a team. If François Hollande’s brave choice of taxing 75% of anything over €1,000,000 doesn’t scare off future players they will be a force to be reckoned with.
    *THAT move by Iniesta at the end of the game almost made me fall off my barstool
    *I have possibly been more critical of Pedro than anyone else for quite some time now, but dayumn what a goal!

    “It (Cesc’s) was the first hat-trick by a Barcelona player other than Messi since October 2009, the month of the Keiteee. Wanna guess how many hat-tricks la Pulga scored in between those two?”


    • mom4
      April 11, 2013

      Did I see it reposted as 15 a few days ago?

    • mom4
      April 11, 2013

      reported not reposted

    • Reto
      April 11, 2013


    • April 11, 2013

      yes, 20!

    • April 11, 2013

      Thanks for mentioning Bartra. I think this was one of his best performances, in fact at times he was better than Pique. If Tito gives him regular playing time in the next few games so he gains confidence I would rather see him play in the semis instead of Adriano (assuming Masche will not be fit).

    • April 11, 2013

      If Pique gets injured we are completely and utterly

    • Eric THE EYE Wynalda
      April 11, 2013

      Shows the value of playing two CENTERBACKS. Barca’s obsession with deputizing midfielders into the CB position has left the defense with a feel of vulnerability for years now. Remember the days of Marquez? Maybe it’s time to go back to two bonafide central defenders. I know Masche is a quality player but there’s always a sense of desperation and risk in his play.

    • April 11, 2013

      Bartra did pretty good, I thought.

      It could be because of Adriano sub, we didnt see Alexis yday. Or may be Alexis was carrying a knock from the weekend.

      Iniesta’s move was simply brilliant. It would have been even more, had me managed to hit the target or pass it

      Whoever is bought or sold , Pedro will remain in Barca. I hope.

      And I loved your dial 911 caption for that photograph.

    • April 11, 2013

      This summer players will be sold that we don’t went to see get sold. Right or wrong, Pedro won’t be one of them.

    • April 11, 2013

      For me no other young player other than Busquets, understands the Barca game as much as Pedro.

  11. hammeronmessi
    April 11, 2013

    SAF on Zidane :
    “He does not hurt the opposition team enough”.

    Iniesta reminds me of this quote.IMO he is better than Zidane (in terms of consistency),but like
    Zidane he humiliates the opponents,does not hurt them.Have seen some of Laudrop’s videos
    have seen bergkamp live but there is no footballer who has the grace and elegance that inieta has.

    There are many people who are of the opinion that if Iniesta scored a little bit more,he could
    have won the BdOr,IMO thats not true,anybody who judges Messi only by his goals is surely
    misjudging him.Messi is 3 world class player rolled into one,whether Iniesta is a world class

    Still,to me he is the 2nd best player in the world.

    Regarding the match,i exactly dont know how we are gonna replace VV.people often criticizes
    him for his blunders,but i always remeber Paris 06 and SB 09.Excellent performance from him though i must say i
    though i must say i didnt like his hoofings of the ball.

    Bartra looked assured,alba was competent.
    Xavi was not 100%,Due to that Busi has to work twice as hard,which slows him down.
    Cesc again proved for the big matched he is still not suited.

    Ooooh how complete we look when every forward gets in on the attack.
    Ooooh how dynamic we are when we don’t stand around watching him dribble.
    Ooooh how vertical is our offense when we don’t have to play the ball at his feet.
    Ooooh how not worried we are for our upcoming Champion’s League quarter final.


    still giggling at this,but frankly Barca without Messi is not just bout Spain.International Football right
    now is not at the same level as that of UCL.the UCL surely supersedes WC in terms of Quality.
    if faced against Bayern,Real or even Juve(with a great 9)the Spanish NT will faulter.More over
    the Spanish NT’s philosophy is not to concede,they use Tiki Taka as primarily as a defensive weap
    weapon,Barca does not do that

    • mom4
      April 11, 2013

      Dude, I don’t even need to post here because you are typing everything I’m thinking.

      Bartra needs more starts. It was shortsighted not to give himmore playig time earlier. Stepped up to the challenge big time.

      Xavi can’t be 100%. Had great passing stats but couldn’t seem to bring himself up to his usual defensive contribution.

      VV saved our butts. Nuf said. The punts got to be annoying though.

      Spot on with Ini. 2nd best player in the world but sometimes there needs to be more end products. Blessed to have him, Messi, and Xavi (and Busi, etc) on our team at the same time.

    • hammeronmessi
      April 11, 2013

      in that case i am not going to post anymore.
      will be waiting for your post to see whether we have the same thoughts?

      Xavi’s 100% passing rate is nothing but a stat in this match IMO.never controlled the match until messi

    • barca96
      April 11, 2013

      There are many people who are of the opinion that if Iniesta scored a little bit more,he could
      have won the BdOr,IMO thats not true,anybody who judges Messi only by his goals is surely
      misjudging him.Messi is 3 world class player rolled into one,whether Iniesta is a world class

      You hit 2 nails right on the head.

      Messi is indeed 3 world class players in 1; Xavi, Iniesta, Messi or you could say, a winger + striker + attacking midfielder + central midfielder.

      Even if Iniesta scores 20+ goals a season, he wouldn’t beat Messi. I always said that if Iniesta scored more goals, he would easily be recognized as the 2nd best player worldwide. I think that he has been the 2nd best though for a number of years.

  12. Jason
    April 11, 2013

    Levon, great review!

    All I have to say is Mouth-watering Iniestanian Technique!

  13. barca96
    April 11, 2013

    How is that a 2nd weakest team in the CL? You mean in the quarters?
    Even then, Juve was shit, Malaga was so so, and PSG was by no means weaker than them.

    If not them that is the 2nd weakest team, please tell me which team is. Juve was shit? They are the undisputed kings of Italy. Don’t tell me that you preferred to meet Juve than PSG.

    Malaga gave us a lot of trouble just a few months ago.

    If we are talking about the quarters then Malaga and Juve were behind PSG IMHO

    Another one underestimating Juve and most probably because of their tie vs Bayern.

    I think people have under-estimated PSG a bit. They are a top class outfit with some very technical players. Indeed, technically better than RM.

    Better than RM?? Now you’re clutching at straws…

    PSG were so much better than Milan it wasn’t funny

    Not that much better to me. Milan in the 1st leg was one of the best defensive performance this team has ever met together with Inter and Chelsea and RM.

    In the 2nd leg, we were good so it doesn’t matter how the opposition plays.

    Dare I say, they are as strong as a Madrid/Dortmund/Bayern.

    Jesus.. So you.. Haha. Would you like to swap meeting PSG with either of those teams?

    In the previous post some of y’all disagree with me that PSG is the 2nd weakest team in QF.

    Now I would like to ask you guys who the 2nd weakest team is if not PSG. The weakest is Galatasaray without a doubt.

    And don’t tell me that you weren’t relieved that we draw PSG (a team that narrowly beat Valencia, not really lighting up Ligue 1 despite massive investments and some in the past said lacked chemistry) instead of Dortmund (who arguable is a top 4-5 team in Europe), Malaga (whom outplayed us twice just a few months back), Juve (undefeated last season and once again will be crowned Seria A champion without any challenger).

    It’s easy to say that PSG is a strong team now that we narrowly beat them. You wouldn’t say otherwise if we beat them easily. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that they were not the 2nd weakest thing just because we had a tough time. Heck we didn’t even beat them. We went through on away goals rule.

    It’s okay to admit that we were not good enough in the 2 legs.

    • hammeronmessi
      April 11, 2013

      that’s a very good analysis on the phenomenon.

      also agree that there are no weak team at this stage.

    • hammeronmessi
      April 11, 2013

      right now if i have to judge i would say that we are the least favourite team to progress in the fin
      final based on last night’s performance.if based on Milan performance we are the favourite to progress
      progress in the final.

      In the KO stage at this point every team has equal chance to progress,but if i have to pick my pick woul be
      FC Hollywood.wonderfully balanced team.

      I would like to draw Dortmund because.

      1.They are unfamiliar at this stage.
      2. FC Hollywood is the Bastia Negra of Real and for a long time.

    • April 11, 2013

      I agree with you completely. Our defensive worries, plus a lack of consistency in producing our A game, I am afraid, puts us in the 4th position.

      Barca vs Dortmund and Real vs BM, hopefully.
      But of course, I do not want to face RM in the finals, in a single leg match.

    • April 11, 2013

      Yeah, I agree also… Our track record against good teams is horrible this season.

      I was chatting with a friend (Interista) the other day.

      Me: “Barça is the most beautiful team in the world.”
      My friend:”The most beautiful, but not the best.”
      Me: “That’s okay, because it is the most beautiful.”

    • Cule
      April 11, 2013

      How do you compare PSG with Dortmund, Malaga or Juvenuts? How can you be so sure they’re inferior to these teams when they have not played them head to head?

    • rg23
      April 11, 2013

      No one said Malaga, Juve or Dortmund are weak teams.
      They are very good teams. But that doesn’t mean PSG is sh**.
      Being the “2nd weakest” team in the CL quarters counts for nothin.
      Every team is going to be tough and potentially knock you out.

      Galatasaray could have knocked Madrid out if the ref was competent. Malaga should have knocked Dortmund out and yet Dortmund were better than Madrid in the group stages.

      Sure we could beat any team 4-0 when we bring our A game like we did to Milan.
      But guess what… We could do they to anyone if we get into the zone.
      Including Madrid … Oh wait we have done that already(5-0) with Mourinho, Cristiano, Ozil, Alonso watching helplessly.

      Arsenal gave Bayern a royal scare in the second leg and were one goal away from a massive upset. The same Arsenal team that cant even make the too 4 in the EPL.

      We will never know, but i would be willing to wager that if Madrid played PSG and if the ref didn’t gift Madrid calls like its Christmas, it would have been a tight affair.

      Obviously, we all know we could beat anyone with a magical performance from our boys. But that doesn’t happen every week. And it certainly doesn’t make any team “weak”.
      Especially at such latter stages of a big tournament.

  14. kosby
    April 11, 2013

    The number of balls given away/not controlled by Busquets was apalling when compared to his usual standards. That probably helped making the defence look even worse than it usually is.

    I agree with the top post though…maybe all these guys need to rest

  15. April 11, 2013


    “frankly Barca without Messi is not just bout Spain.International Football right now is not at the same level as that of UCL.the UCL surely supersedes WC in terms of Quality. If faced against Bayern,Real or even Juve(with a great 9)the Spanish NT will faulter.”

    Interesting observation. You might very well be right, but I would say that the Spanish national team is a lot less stronger defensively.

    I love Ghostface. But I am possibly the only culé on this blog who thinks Cristiano Ronaldo is a better football player (as much as I hate to admit it).

    If it weren’t for Messi CR7 would have gotten more balon d’ors than Iniesta (and M*drid more titles)

    • April 11, 2013

      I agree that CR7 would have gotten more Balon d’Ors. That doesn’t mean he would have deserved them (over Iniesta, I mean).

    • April 11, 2013

      I think he would have.

      Just think M*drid would have won the last four Ligas instead of just the last one and how that would have altered your opinion of him as a player.

      He probably would go down as one of the all-time greats were he not chilling in la Pulga’s shadow, so to speak.

    • Jim
      April 11, 2013

      Well, you’re certainly not getting any support on that one from me. CR7 is a magnificent athlete. There is no beauty in anything he does for me – unlike Iniesta who exudes pure class and genius. Remember some of his best moves are nowhere near goal but do keep possession in unlikely situations. I would say he has made me laugh in disbelief more than any other player.

    • April 11, 2013

      Although Ronaldo is a great player, works hard, shoots from distance, great header of the ball, he never really has me scratching my head in disbelief. Take yesterday for example. Ronaldo would have never done what iniesta did. Iniesta is just a joy to watch and gives you more of a “how the hell did he think of that” moment. I think someone mentioned this earlier. But all that’s “missing” for iniesta is more of an end product. Just imagine if that shot had gone in.

    • rg23
      April 11, 2013

      Agree. Iniesta is the player that makes me go … “What the *****. I can’t believe someone could even think of tha movet, let alone execute it.”

      Not even Messi gives you that feeling as often as Iniesta, even though Messi is the better football player.

      Cristiano to me is an exceptional athlete… But frankly boring to me.
      I don’t get excited watching tap in goals or headed goals as much.
      His free kicks are great… But a lot of people take free kicks.
      He has tremendous speed, strength, etc… Which makes him such a great player… But nothing about him makes you fall of your chair.

    • hammeronmessi
      April 11, 2013

      Spanish NT is lot less stronger defensively.
      dont agree.

      A dream pairing of Ramos PK(complementing each other),Alba,Arbiol(useless though)+double pivot

    • April 11, 2013

      Ye Gods, what have I written. I absolutely agree with you i meant the other way around. All review and no sleep make me a sloppy commenter!

      “Well, you’re certainly not getting any support on that one from me. CR7 is a magnificent athlete. There is no beauty in anything he does for me – unlike Iniesta who exudes pure class and genius.”

      If you are comparing class and genius of course CR7 is no mathc for Iniesta. But it just that combination of athletism and talent that make him the exceptional footballer he is.

      I don’t see how you can seperate the “athlete” from the “player”…

    • Jim
      April 11, 2013

      For me, it’s a little like long drives in golf. They do the job but they leave me cold. A lot of CR7s goals come from just belting the ball hard time and time again on the premise that a few will go in. He could never go past someone like Iniesta does or thread a ball through a packed defence. He could never run a midfield as Iniesta does, knowing where all opponents are at any given time and could never ever turn like Ini did last night. How long have people my age remembered the first Cruyff turn ? Can’t remember what happened afterwards but I can remember jumping out of my seat and shouting “no, what was that?

      That’s talent, the difference for me between the athlete and the genius and why Iniesta is by far the better player.

    • April 11, 2013

      I’m sure a Scotsman understands golf better than I do, but if a golf player can’t hit long drives, won’t he end up with a rather high handicap?

      There are a lot of things that Iniesta does better than Ronaldo due to his talent, skill and vision.

      And there are a lot of things Ronaldo can do better than Iniesta due to his athletism and skill (you are selling him short by saying his goals come from just belting the ball hard, and I think you know this).

      To me it is not about which player I prefer on my team (Iniesta) or which I find more esthetically pleasing (Iniesta) or which is a better football player in the “pure” sense of the word, as in skillful…(Iniesta).

      If I were a coach and I had to pick between the two players, I would look at who would win me most games.

      Ronaldo scored 194 goals in 191 games since he arrived in Spain, while mostly starting as a left forward. That is unheard of (or would be, if Messi was not around hehehe)

      Judged on talent alone, Iniesta is the better player.

      But football players have more attributes than the ones that makes Iniesta great – vision, dribbling, passing, agility, first touch, imagination…There is also finishing, shooting, free kicks, speed, balance, strength, headers. It is the total of his attributes that make the player, not only the “talent” attributes.

      In my opinion, of course.

      By the way…You remember the first Cruyff turn? Nice!

  16. dl
    April 11, 2013

    I think the ways in which Xavi, Iniestra, Busquets etc. struggled in this game are a reflection of just how much of a finely tuned machine barca is — all the parts are needed for it to function well. This game was without messi, but if messi had been healthy and Xavi out, or Iniesta out, or Busquets… I think we would have thrashed about similarly. ZonalMarking had a figure showing Xavi and his 100% pass completion rate, and right next to it a figure showing how many of those passes were ‘killer’ passes (none). This might seem like Xavi’s failing, but he didn’t have Messi to pass to. An even more nuanced view of how their game works is many of Xavi’s ‘killer’ passes aren’t to messi, but because of his presence on the field it frees up someone else. So while it is convenient to say so-and-so had a crummy game, the fact is barca shines as a unit, and when parts are missing the individual pieces seem to be working badly.
    Loved to watch iniesta (never seen a player so elegant), but unfortunately he doesn’t have the taste for blood like Villa or Messi. No criticism of him as a player, just that his role is different.

    • genesfut
      April 11, 2013

      I think this is quite true. And this situation is compounded by the lack of our best possible back line hence added pressure on the players to do more to keep out a team that feels it has better chances with the makeshift defense

  17. Tony_Montana
    April 11, 2013

    My first post….I didn’t even get a welcome

    • April 11, 2013

      Yeah you did

    • April 11, 2013

      Tony, I welcomed you with my first comment of the morning at 7:42 AM (Venezuelan time)!

      I’m really glad you enjoy the site! Thank you for reading and posting!

    • rg23
      April 11, 2013

      Levon: you live in Venezuela?
      I used to live there too!

    • April 11, 2013

      awesome. where are you from, and where and when did you live in Venezuela?

    • TITO
      April 11, 2013

      Well, your name do tell us that we should be careful with you.

    • Miguel
      April 11, 2013

      Waaah :'(

  18. psqd
    April 11, 2013

    First, Whew!!!
    Second, thanks @Levon, fun read!

    as far as the nuts and bolts go…PSG came to barcelona like i think only RM have vis a vis a solid tactical template that included attack and defense in equal measures. they were, however, aided and abetted by injuries, both discussed and not. This was, obviously not a 2nd leg performance on par with Milan and fortunately if not coincidentally, it didn’t have to be. It was good enough, which could be used to describe many of the individual performances as well. The speed and intensity both in possession and out suggested a return to form with the 2nd against milan an aberration. How much of this is up to a makeshift(?) lineup? How much do to messidependency? how much to xavidependency? how much to psg?

    To pick up a few threads Xavi completed all 96 of his passes, which is first off ridiculous. However, he didn’t seem to exert the same match control, until messi came on. Also, as pointed out there were not the pass before the pass contributions we have become used to and frankly you’d almost expect over 100 passes for him. This was a xavi playing at, i don’t know, but 70%, not fit and most importantly not fit to press. I’ve looked for distance covered stats, but haven’t found ’em. My guess it’s lower for him usual. As pointed out this made Busi’s job tougher, but in truth it was a big contributor to breaking barca’s press.

    Busquets had a game that was just good enough. He was stuck in a gap that was much larger than usual. It seemed like he was often in a lot more space defending than is usual. I think credit has to be given to psg though. They put lavezzi and ibra in his space and they’re strength and speed bothered him. He was further stretched by the adriano pique partnership behind him. Lastly, how many blood vessels did VV have to burst screaming about open shots from central just outside the box? busi and xavi’s area generally.

    Iniesta tried his best to take the whole team and game on his back and produced some magical moments. Like cesc and villa he suffered form the loss of the extra half step of space that a messi shaped distraction provides. That ended in a ridiculous number of blocked shots by psg defenders. A huge portion of that story is that their were shots to block, meaning iniesta was shooting. Loathe as I am to criticize him, cause their is no other player i’d prefer to watch with the ball, he is as dangerous as a player can possibly be without scoring. He simply doesn’t finish as often as you’d expect from someone with all the other tools he has. It’s the weakness to his game that turns like the one he put on only makes more glaring. That said I applaud the effort and mentality and hope that he continues in this vein, cause he has to shoot more to score more.

    Cesc…i hesitate to criticize him too harshly cause his daughter was literally being born. So i’ll be much less critical here than I was watching when I didn’t realize what was going on off the pitch. Suffice it to say that he looked and shot like a guy whose daughter was being born. And many armchair managers, myself included, will cite his performance as foundation that sanchez should have started in his stead. Personally, i think this is true as much for the defensive energy that alexis would have brought. Because as much as xavi being unfit hampered barca’s ability to press substituting sanchez’s speed for cesc’s uh not-speed could have helped. Finally, cesc got in dangerous positions and had opportunities that were manufactured for him by the system, but he didn’t execute them. The blocked and off target shots from everyone helped deflate the team’s confidence, i think.

    I think Villa is another piece of the weakened press. I think he had to be on the field and was more likely than any to score, but even given his best effort, he can’t press like pedro or sanchez. He also suffered from less space than with messi on the field, as evidenced by his blocked shots.

    Alba frankly frightened me early as he had moments of not closing his men, but he grew into the game. His work rate was fantastic and I was impressed by his ability to step up.

    Is adriano broken again? cramps? Guess we’ll find out. He did admirably given he can’t have been fully fit and he was forced to mark ibra often at CB which isn’t close to his normal post. The biggest question is how did he accumulate enough cards to earn a ban? and when is puyol back?

    Pique had some scary moments and why couldn’t he have buried that shot?

    Bartra impressed me when he came on, but was helped immensely by coming on simultaneous to messi and barca refinding the game’s handle. That said, he made some important interventions and was very composed. It’s also fair to point out that he didn’t have to deal with lavezzi’s full energy and verve, all said he made an argument for getting the nod from the start.

    Alves was good but could have been better. Also guilty of wasting good chances. He had the most space and played good balls in, which is to say good balls if it wasn’t our midget against thiago silva and alex. So really good but unproductive balls, that he should have known would likely be unproductive. I think he more than most suffers when cesc comes on for messi. For him its less the space that messi affords him than that he can’t make the same stuff work with cesc than he can with messi but cesc makes it look like it could.

    Think we are seeing song is better suited to be a keita replacement than a cb. He’s adapting well and will make interesting contributions, but not some of the ways rosell sold him.

    Finally, I obviously didn’t like cesc as messi lite choice for this game. Cesc can’t do a few of the things that make messi so successful in a position that really shouldn’t work, especially against top organized defenders. His lack of speed and lesser ball control skills means he doesn’t operate well enough in the confined spaces to get the shots off that messi does get off. I would have preferred to see Sanchez. I also questioned putting adriano out when he hadn’t played any minutes lately. It seemed an odd gamble, cause even when he is seemingly fit you can hardly expect him to finish a game let alone coming back cold. You had to allocate a sub for him and for messi and you always have to hold one til the end for other injuries or to sub messi out after he pulled up lame again. So it really limited the sub possibility to influence the game.

    • Jim
      April 11, 2013

      I wouldn’t agree Fabregas has poorer ball skills than Alexis. I think he is undoubtedly slower but carries a lot more goal threat so for that position I can see the thinking. He did have chances but didn’t do very well with them. Maybe other things on his mind.

    • April 11, 2013

      Not to mention that Cesc plays the false nine position with the same teammates at the national team and does so quite well.

      I agree that both Villa and himself showed little appetite to press their opponents when not in possession and I theorized myself also on whether or not that played a part in our defensive performance…

      It is remarkable how unremarkable Xavi looked, because 96 out of 96 passes is just mind-boggling. I did not think he had a good game, but upon seeing this particular stat it is hard for me to imagine he had a bad one.

    • psqd
      April 12, 2013

      I know he plays it for Spain, but i don’t think it’s the same system or the same requirements. I also, think but can’t say for sure, that he hasn’t started there in the biggest games where the defenses would be of similar quality. I think in those games he has largely come off the bench, which is different. Spain can largely get away with 1-0 scorelines because they play a much more conservative system. Barca need to produce at least 2 goals, because especially this season, they are likely to concede. There is also far more pressure on the “messi” position to produce goals for barca, because of the tactical/defensive requirements placed upon the wide forwards/wings.

      I think that villa and cesc did have an effect on the pressing, but also xavi and PSG’s tactics did. In the first leg they very intentionally played the ball to beckham who tried to drive it long and wide or generally skip over the midfield portion of the field that barca were likely to dominate. In attack they kind of decided to abdicate and just skip over that portion. Much was made of how PSG was playing a 4-2-4 and how that was “brave,” but not much in how and why it was implemented. It seemed very similar to RM’s approach, but more effective in some senses. They used jallet on the right vs marcelo on the left, but both looked to get at the space behind or overload barca’s fullback. Generally, they looked to get numbers on a quick counter and use speed to render busquets less effective. They used ibra and lavezzi to harass busquets which was i think was more effective because of their strength and speed. They made it hard to press and they often made barca’s formation look and act broken centrally between the defenders and busi and xavi iniesta and the attackers.

      And yeah, it was the most bland “perfect” passing performance ever i’d recon. shows just how good at being xavi, xavi is. If he can complete all his passes when he’s obviously not fit and struggling a bit. Also reminiscent of last year when he wasn’t fully fit either. Unfortunately when he is not fully fit his game becomes more conservative, a touch slower, and less incisive. That touch of magic isn’t quite there and it’s needed in these games.

    • psqd
      April 12, 2013

      Sorry for the confusion. I didn’t mean that cesc had worse ball skills than alexis, but that he has worse ball skills than messi. And because he has worse ball skills and speed than messi he can’t get the shots off that messi does and scores. So against Mallorca cesc can produce because he has more space, but against better organized defenses like Milan and PSG he can’t. That said, he did get into a couple dangerous spots and didn’t execute, which is completely understandable given the circumstances. However, that too would argue for him to be on the bench. Feel like he is forced into the squad because he is cesc and arguably the 12th man, but isn’t the right choice to play up front against top level european defenses.

    • KEVINO17
      April 11, 2013

      Thank you – very good analysis. The lack of a good forward press created a cascading effect. Suddenly, instead of making smart intercepts, Busquets look beleaguered, and as a consequence, the back-line looked vulnerable, etc etc.
      Is there any suggestion Alexis was injured? If not, he really should decamp at the end of the year for more suitable climes. He will never get picked before Pedro, and that means there aren’t many spaces left, particularly with Neymar coming, Delofeu being promoted, etc etc. Terrible waste of a great playmaker. Think he would be sensational at Arsenal.
      Surely Song would have been better at CM if Xavi wasn’t fully fit. Song really strikes me as one cool dude. He comes straight on in a pressure situation and drops right into the rhythm of the team. Certainly defends a lot better than Xavi.
      Adriano was a necessary gamble because of his speed covering players like Lavezzi, Lucas etc. He also has a wonderful ability to step past any forward pressing him and make a telling pass. If he was fit enough, I would play him at CB all the time. He’s as quick as Thiago Silva and technically better. Maybe not as good in the air, but still a superb defender.

    • psqd
      April 12, 2013

      i saw somebody say that alexis might have been and he did come off with a “knock” vs mallorca. SO maybe he wasn’t 100%, but he was fit enough for the bench or tello would’ve been there.

      song was great, but i think they are still working on song & busi template, don’t think it’s ready to get rolled out for the whole game at this level. I think it will be a great variation to have for next season and beyond though especially if neymar comes. Right now this is still xavi’s team and largely xavi’s system as much as it is messi’s. that is one of the problems that thiago and cesc are facing. xavi is still able to contribute some much so often that the system isn’t going to be changed to fit them instead they have to fit into it. The transition through the period where xavi’s minutes and dominance wains will be hard but on the other side it’ll have to change to better accommodate cesc and thiago. I think we saw glimpses of this earlier this season and i’m not sure how much of the reversion has to do with tito being out or just a reversion to what is more comfortable when it’s tough cause it’s tried and true.

      i agree about adriano when he’s fit. too bad that’s not more often. it just struck me after the game how limited the options for subs were, if having the best player in the world on your bench is limiting. Just trying to show the gambles that were taken and how they limited the options.

  19. April 11, 2013

    Whoa! This from a piece by Lee Roden, on Marc Bartra:

    …That’s because Carles Puyol, Barcelona’s captain and talisman, could be fast approaching the end of his career. It was brought to my attention last night, via a source with good reason to know such details, that the defender’s right knee is now in such a bad condition following three separate operations that he is unlikely to be a first team regular ever again. And it could even be worse.

    • stefan2k
      April 11, 2013

      Couldn’t even imagine not seeing the caveman fight any more…

    • April 11, 2013

      Very nice to see a writer focus on Marc Bartra (and this coming from someone who had not even mentioned his name in my review).

      It would not surprise me at all if Puyol’s career ended soon. You don’t get to play like him and expect your body to hold up like say…Maldini. The writing was on the wall last season.

      Why do you (anyone) think Bartra has had so few minutes this season?

    • Jim
      April 11, 2013

      I think there can only really be one reason which is that Tito reckons he has better options available which, given that none of them are CBs, probably tells us at least a little about Bartra’s immediate prospects.

      Don’t have any opinions on him yet as I’ve seen so little of him.

    • Jim
      April 11, 2013

      I do remember being disappointed he wasn’t a little taller 🙂

    • KEVINO17
      April 11, 2013

      I think a big problem for Bartra has been the fact that experienced CBs like Puyol and Pique (?) had significant injury issues in the first half of the season, so Tito couldn’t graft him into the team with a veteran, which I’m sure he wanted to do.

    • psqd
      April 12, 2013

      That’s really unfortunate to read about Puyol, but can anyone honestly be surprised? The continued problems and scoping of his knee(s) suggested degeneration and there isn’t anything that can be done to fix it. Can it be managed? possibly, but he’d have a better shot and longer to play at almost any other team. The high backline demands too much fitness for him to try and do something like ledley king and no train just play one game a week. i don’t understand how that wasn’t understood at a sporting management level and acted upon. i know it’s been gone over and over, but they started the season with 2 1/2 seasoned CB’s and it turned out they only really had 2 1/4.

      I think they were trying to integrate bartra on the schedule they prefer. The first season you don’t get many minutes just ride along play in some copa games and some dead rubber CL ties. I think he didn’t get more minutes overall cause he didn’t get minutes early in the season for a few reasons. I also think that he was handicapped by fontas’ promotion last year. In hindsight it’s easy to say that fontas shouldn’t have been promoted last year, but had he not been around bartra could have been called up for the few opportunities fontas had and to travel with the team to CL games etc. Then bartra would have been further along this season and might have been in a position judged more capable of contributing this season.

      I know hummels is the popular name, but i don’t quite think he is the guy. And unless there is Neymar money like there was cesc money there are going to be problems buying the players required this summer.

    • April 11, 2013

      I thought Puyol has had two operations on the right knee and one on the left. I’d like to know who the source is, because I don’t think their information is correct.

      I don’t doubt Lee’s sincerity, but anonymous sources make me suspicious. Weren’t we hearing from a “source” a couple of months ago that Tito was in terrible shape and not expected to return as coach? And a year ago I think that most of us wouldn’t have placed a bet on Abidal coming back to play with the team.

      I prefer not to speculate on people’s health. I will wait and see what happens.

  20. Dave
    April 11, 2013

    IMO the team will need great changes this summer.
    Valdes replacement
    At least 2 cbs. 1 to replace Puyol and a younger player as backup.
    Kompany and Inigo Martinez. I say Kompany above Hummels because of his pace and aggression to complement Pique. Hummels and Pique are 2 similar imo. A stopper like Puyol is required.

    A midfielder to replace Xavi who seems to be fading physically. Both Thiago and Cesc do not convince me they can be that player.

    Pace up front. Neymar seems done, but just doesn’t seem the right player. We need a Eto-type to harass defenders and finish chances.

    • April 11, 2013

      I think that for our system Neymar is possibly the only big name forward who really makes sense, in that he can both fit into the system and add to it. Or fail spectacularly, of course.

      Iñigo might be a smart pick-up. His market value is around 5M, and he’s left-footed so he would partner up well with Piqué.

      Hummels would be a disaster imo (he is on “the list” but reportedly Tito is not convinced either) and Kompany does not have enough skill on the ball. If we are gonna break the bank for a CB I’d say get Thiago Silva.

      We would need to make some painful choices though (perhaps even sell two of Villa/Sanchez/Song/Tello) along with the loanees…

    • Dave
      April 11, 2013

      Kun ahead of Neymar.

      Also Barca has become obsessed wit choosing players on skill rather than cosidering athletic/physical traits- they’ve pushed the team to the limits skill wise, whereas athletically the team has regressed dramatically. This has led to a lack of variety in style and options as well as increased injuries..

      Power and athleticm should be the no 1 attributes for the signing and skill closely second. The team has enough fancy playmakers. Its needs menace.

      Forget Thiago Silva hes 28- Rosell screwed it up.

    • KEVINO17
      April 11, 2013

      Why not Song as the CM playmaker to replace Xavi? What’s he missing. Tremendously strong on the ball, great passer and strong defender.

  21. Huckleberry
    April 11, 2013

    Colourgiving FC Basel (ona) is also through to the semis in the Europa League, beating Tottenham in the penalty shootout.

  22. April 11, 2013

    UCL Semi-Final Preview:

    1) FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid(2nd leg will be at Santiago Bernebeu)
    2) Dortmund vs Bayern

    Final will be between Barca and Bayern.

    • April 12, 2013


      Bayern v Barça
      Dortmund v RM

      Final will be between …. good question.

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