Whither thou goest, confidence, aka “I need my No. 10 blanky!”


So Barça advanced against PSG. It wasn’t luck, as some suggested in the aftermath, nor was PSG the better side. The better side won the tie, and it won the tie without playing at anything approaching its best over two legs.

As the semi-finals approach, with the draw being held later today, that level will have to rise, but people should be proud of their sprites, even as once that semi opponent is known, too many will spend time drawing out the ways that we are going to lose, instead how we are going to win. As with PSG.

“Defense is bad,” “Offense is bad,” everything is bad. But our team gutted it out against a serious opponent with quality. But that opponent just didn’t have the absolute quality that we did, and that was the difference. They have Maxwell, we have the starting LB for the Spanish NT. Position for position, we are a more talented squad, and we advanced to a staggering to contemplate SIXTH Champions League semi-final in a row. That is absurd. Magic times.

But there were some troubling things in yesterday’s match that are worth commenting on.

On the weekend, Barça laid a manita on Mallorca at home. No, PSG is not Mallorca, and not just because of the price tag difference. They are stronger, faster and more aggressive than us. The difference is that in the past that didn’t matter, as that was true of almost every opponent that we played. The difference was in confidence, in teammates and in the system. There seems to be a lot less of those qualities now, and it isn’t just me that is noticing this. Iniesta admitted to Messidependencia in the pre-match presser. But it has gone from charming, something that we could all josh about, to something significantly more troubling for this cule, who wants the absolute best for the club that he loves.

Zonal Marking on the match

Excellent piece from Lee Roden on the match, and Bartra.

Sid Lowe hits the nail on the head.

Finally, some very astute observations from Miguel Delaney.

These pieces all say essentially the same thing, even as they draw different conclusions from that thing: Messi has become psychologically essential for Barça.

Having the best player in the world is one thing. But for me, being fundamentally unable to play to your capabilities without that player against a quality opponent is something else altogether. There were many other glaring deficiencies in yesterday’s match, on an individual and team level. But the best players in the world don’t stop being the best players in the world without their No. 10 blanky. That they seem to be now is distressing, and an ongoing bit of the psychic laziness that crept in as that last Guardiola season wound to a close.

Does opponent quality have something to do with it? That is, is our quality is so high that nobody in La Liga is capable of preparing us to face a strong European side? Some say that. I don’t think so. That quality gap has always been there, and it hasn’t troubled us before. Time and injuries contribute. None of our players, save Messi, Iniesta and Busquets, are the players they were when this run of excellence started (restricting this evaluative to players who were with us at the time). But it’s more than that. Preparation of successors is a factor, specifically in the cases of Thiago and Bartra, but it’s still deeper than that, and even outside of the match analysis from yesterday, there are problems. Against PSG at home:

Villa spent too much time standing around like a disinterested has-been.

Xavi had a 100% passing percentage to precious little effect. He is clearly not 100%, but we have no option in that spot.

PSG very intelligently attacked us in a way that isolated Busquets. Same as at their house.

Lack of pressure meant that PSG could run at our defense, which infuriated Valdes, the man who saved the day for us. Look at their goal. If you pause it when Pastore gets the ball, he is already behind the two players with the best chance to stop him. Alves and Adriano are chasing back, but it’s already too late. A more traditional team probably doesn’t concede that goal, because its defenders are closer to the box, but Barça isn’t a traditional team. Always risk. Pedro’s stray pass caught the whole team out.

Iniesta became the New Messi as the PSG defense switched its emphasis to him.

Alves had a dull match overall, but was not helped by being unable to take advantage of the space he was given because Villa and Pedro were too easily controlled by the PSG defenders.

The whole team played as if scared of something, snatching at shots and misplaying passes, including Villa’s first-half miss.

The players seemed afraid to shoot, as if they didn’t want to take responsibility. I can only speculate that overall timidity contributed to poor technical form, which is why so many shots went into orbit.

Fabregas’ companion was having a kid. During the match. He should have been with her physically. His head was.

The more time that Bartra gets, the better he looks. His play yesterday was very significant in the final result. The defense looked more assured and in control, and Valdes’ stress factor went down.

Despite all the problems, the team advanced because that is what great teams do. PSG played an excellent match, and we didn’t. That we still advanced speaks to the quality that this club has. But the loss of confidence when Messi isn’t on the pitch is at some point going to bite this team in the butt. Maybe akin to imagining everyone in the audience naked, as an aid to get over public speaking difficulties, we should imagine all future opponents in Mallorca shirts.

Was the difference between PSG and Mallorca as simple as saying that Sanchez should have started? Some say. I do think there would have been more movement to trouble the PSG defense with Sanchez as part of the XI. But that still doesn’t address the overall issue for me.

We seem like a bully who has a bigger bully waiting in the wings, when Messi isn’t playing. We can whomp on Mallorca just fine, and play the system and all. But when a bigger kid comes to the schoolyard, it becomes “Oh yeah? Just you wait until Leo comes in! We’ll fix your wagon.”

It is also absolutely true that while I am pointing out the dark side of Messidependencia, there is also the “Uh, oh ….” side that works on opponents, who have reverted to the psychological “The witch is dead” mode, who must now make the mental change. PSG didn’t, and the combo of Messi up front and Bartra at the back made a big difference.

It must also be said that Messidependencia isn’t Messi’s fault. He’s just doing what he does. It’s everyone else that is getting used to having him around, so much so that, as he becomes a more significant part of the team’s overall approach, seems to leave a Messi-less mess. This isn’t how the system is supposed to work.

To be sure, the system works better with a complicit opponent, but it doesn’t require complicity from its opponent to work. It does, however, require competence from its instruments. The spaces were there yesterday. Execution would have done the trick. It was like ultimate belief was lacking, and don’t kid yourself: belief is crucial at the highest level of athletics. Looking at a tennis player such as Andy Murray as an example, he has had the tools to beat the top players for some time. But now he has the belief, and his game is different because of that belief.

Overall, it struck me against PSG that our belief in the system seemed lost, as if so many moments of individual genius from one player has people thinking that it needs those to succeed. Messi is an awesome force who will go down in history as the best player ever. But he shouldn’t have been needed yesterday, and I find it very troubling, long-term that he was. Is some of it a coaching staff issue, as they said “We have this great thing, now let’s build around it?” Absolutely. But it is the dependence upon that great thing that can also be a hindrance.

Yes, you should want to have the greatest player in the game on the pitch. But players of the quality that we have should be able to function well enough to beat a quality side, without that player. The draw was a surprise. I was expecting a 2-1 win, but I will take it and be happy.

Now the team has time to rest, and heal. Messi shouldn’t play for two weeks. Neither should Xavi. Busquets could also use a break. Because whoever we draw in the semis (I would prefer Bayern) will be a handful. This team can win the Champions League, and I still think that we are the favorites.

But short of emergency therapy sessions, and I confess to not ever thinking I would say this, my ultimate confidence that our players can get this done even without Messi, is shaken to the core.

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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. ooga aga
    April 12, 2013

    emergency therapy sessions for the squad, or yourself? 🙂

    good piece. to restate,

    we had alba, adriano and pedro all coming off little injuries, puyol/masch gone, busquets and some others not playing at their top level.

    plus, we are simply unaccustomed to not having messi there, our focal point, we simply never HAVE to do it. mallorca aside.

    i like to think on another day we could have played better than we did. but we didnt. (and, we didnt play bad, as you say, but PSG played great) being able to bring messi on sure helped. doesnt mean that on another day we couldnt have whooped PSG without messi.

    i think i should also say, that maybe it is unfair to ask the question of any team: are you good enough to beat any other team in the world without your best player? requiring such a thing might be too much to ask. thats where luck comes in, you hope that at the business end of the season your top guns are healthy. if they arent, well youve been unlucky. we cant prepare for every contingency.

    buy a CB, though.

  2. April 12, 2013

    Let me get this out of the way.
    I have always felt that in the Barca ‘system’ a healthy dose of anarchy is every bit as integral to the system as selflessness and a team ethic. You see, ‘pass and move’ is not only easier to defend in the long run, as shown by some organized defensive teams, it also takes a lot out of the players. Just ask the brilliant Bilbao of last season who burnt out eventually.
    That is why, Pep Guardiola, the greatest teacher of this philosophy also paid big money to acquire the services of Dani Alves, Zlatan, Cesc and Alexis – all players, with that dose of anarchy in their style.

    Now, What went wrong in that PSG game? Not only were we missing players like Messi, Tello, Thiago and Sanchez who have that quality mentioned above, we were also missing the single most important factor that is needed for the tiki taka and the ‘system’ to flourish. FITNESS. Isn’t it also telling that the outfield player who shone the most was Iniesta, taking players on, creating chaos and displaying a bit of that anarchy.

    So what I’m saying is.. Yes it is distressing that we couldn’t get it done without the flea, but the team selection also wasn’t great in my opinion. We didn’t look that prepared. And I am sure this is something that can be fixed.

    And please, UEFA, can I have me some Dortmund next please?

  3. April 12, 2013

    Very nice to see you writing again Kxevin, and this is definitely one of your best, even if I cant agree with a one or two things.

    I have watched the match thrice now. I do think the team and the staff wanted the match to finish without Messi and they were confident too, even if they knew that they had a risk in the defense. But their confidence went down as Valdes had to come to rescue a lot even within the first 20/25 minutes. At the same time, our forwards were not able to find the target too. (PSG was definitely looking more dangerous than us) I think this gradually took the confidence of the team and they started thinking about , what if Messi.. The above is just my thought.

    I am sure, the next time we play a good opponent without Messi, if our defense look fine and if our forwards are doing what they have to, the team will not look as bad as it did on Wednesday.

  4. teddy
    April 12, 2013

    ah, it’s bayern then, bring it on

  5. April 12, 2013

    Who here believes that Dortmund can do it again?
    I mean, one has to consider the fact that early on in the season, EE were shit. They aren’t now.

    • April 12, 2013

      also Mourinho will find a way through. Against us Inter Milan lost in the group stage, but came back in the semis. This looks like a repeat of that.

      Not glad at all that we have to face Madrid in a single leg match, if both of us pass through.

  6. April 12, 2013

    Thank you to NistelRooy to express his disappointment in the way Malaga lost and hoping they can come back soon in the UEFA den.

    • April 12, 2013

      I meant, he spoke out in UEFA function.

    • dean
      April 12, 2013

      He hardly spoke out, the Chelsea’s representative was a bit less diplomatic if you ask me, I enjoyed his lil snide.

  7. barca96
    April 12, 2013

    Damn. Was hoping we’ll get Dortmund. Now we get a perfectly German engineered half man half machine 🙂

  8. mohit
    April 12, 2013

    Great draw! Love the fact that we’ll be heading into this tie as underdogs and with a point to prove. Always brings out the good in us!

  9. layibiyi
    April 12, 2013

    Good article…said it all

    Its just hard not to be that dependent on the ‘your great player’ if the great player never misses a match and always delivers.

    Hypothetically, it can be even argued that messi going really really off-form(I mean ‘NO GOALS’ :)) or getting injured for like a month or two(maybe around nov/dec/jan) would allow us discover the hidden world cup winning team within our club.

  10. layibiyi
    April 12, 2013

    With regards to the draw, this quote attributed to Heynckes says it all

    “If we do draw Barcelona, we’ll be ready. I know them like the back of my own hand, maybe even better than my own team … I know their philosophy, their system, their tactics and all their players.”

    Teams are ready for us and think they’ve got us figured out to such a level that they can fairly compete against, just like any other team. I hope Tito is ready and fired up too. There’s work to be done

    By the way, what is the potential state of the defence by the time the fixtures come around.

    • April 12, 2013

      It’s pretty bad. I believe Puyol will not be available, Mascherano is out of the rest of the season. Batra will get two weeks to claim his place.

      The crucial part in the build up has to be resting Alves(he is playing too much for my liking), Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets.

  11. mom4
    April 12, 2013

    Nice to see you back, Kevin. Great points.

    But all teams rely on their best man when playing the big games. PSG really needed Ibra (wasn’t it so lucky that card got overturned for them), RM needed CR, and we need the flea.

    We have World Cup winning talent without him but that world cup Spanish NT never generated many goals against quality opponents (execption Italy) and was a beautifully run tiki taka posession-based defensive machine. Put our version of the NT on the feild and you’re missing some really big defensive powers that the NT gets from “that Spanish team”.

    Now Xavi and Messi should go sun themselves on a beach in Ibiza for a week (send Juanjo down with them to take care of the PT), Alves shouldn’t see the business end of the pitch for several games, and Bartra needs reps (with Pique to build a good pairing,but balance it so Pique gets rest too). Ghostface and Busi should save it all up for the big games as well

    Can’t help thinking that things would have been better with Alexis out there.

    • April 12, 2013

      Have to agree with you. But our management team is making a fundamental mistake here. The reason why our starting eleven struggled because we used a system which only Messi could make it complete. First of all they have to realize that Messi is irreplaceable. We have to find out which is the best formation and strategy to use when Messi is not around. The idea of asking Cesc to do a Messi is very bad especially to Cesc.

  12. April 12, 2013

    Bayern Munich! This should be fun!!! And we have the home advantage on the second leg, very important. I know Pep will be watching the matches very eagerly.

    • April 12, 2013

      Can someone more motivated than I am please look up who is injured or suspended for Bayern?

    • Reto
      April 12, 2013

      Mandzukic is suspended, Kroos injured.

    • Reto
      April 12, 2013

      Add Badstuber to the list, who’s out since December.

    • Colby
      April 12, 2013

      So what does this mean for their starting eleven?

    • phillybirds
      April 12, 2013

      Long time lurker, first time poster. Figured it’s about time.

      I would guess Bayern will go with something like this


      Ribery – Muller – Robben

      Schweinsteiger – Martinez

      Alaba – Dante – van Buyten – Lahm


      It will be a difficult match up for sure. I have come to really admire some of Bayern’s younger players. Alaba has grown so much, he is quite a player. Extremely excited for the tie.

    • April 12, 2013

      Thank you for that line up. That double pivot can cause problems for our attack. And if Muller decides to stick on to Busquets, Busquets need to be at his best.

      Alaba is an excellent player.

  13. April 12, 2013

    Great article and great comments, too!

  14. psqd
    April 12, 2013

    Great read, article and comments!

    Like many people said in response to the last post here the intensity and pressing were missing. I think that was the single biggest factor in not being able to respond without messi. The subtext to that is fitness as was previously mentioned. Fitness limited xavi, which stressed busquets. Fitness forced playing cesc and villa which is not the best pressing lineup. Fitness meant that puyol wasn’t there to organize and harass and bring the volume up to 11. I’m not sure that technically puyol was missed, but his attitude was. VV took up the mantle getting on people when the ball was out of play, but I do feel puyol’s leadership was missed. When the confidence started to slip as shots were blown and blocked I think a dose of captain caveman would’ve helped.

    But to get back to the original point. Without messi barca are gonna score fewer goals and like the spanish national team need to be more defensive/conservative. However, for barca conservative doesn’t mean play a double pivot and tie down your right back it means control the ball, tiki taka, and don’t give them the ball, press! That xavi, though he completed them all, had less than 100 passes tells you that barca did not have the control of the match they wanted or needed in this match without messi. Had the intensity been there like it has been the match control follows and PSG have fewer opportunities. Maybe the chances are still missed, but likely PSG hasn’t had enough to convert one and the match is more likely even rather than down 1 without messi. Further, like against milan the opportunity to convert a chance is greater when it’s recovered while pressing and the defense isn’t organized. Finally, like a lot of people i think that sanchez helps that cause immensely. He can chase back like cesc can’t and his intensity is different more palpable. Anyway, think the team can get it done without messi, but not without intense pressing.

    The fact that the system wasn’t altered without messi is a little troubling to me. Generally the system operates with others carrying the pressing workload for messi. In a knockout game like this though, like the 2nd tie against milan, messi would have been pressing too. So to use the same system and simply plug an inferior player to messi was disappointing. I’d have preferred to see sanchez or even song a la keita to bring energy and drive, but that’s me.

  15. Jim
    April 12, 2013

    First of all, I’m glad we seem to be disabusing ourselves of the notion that others will step up and score the goals if Messi is missing. It hasn’t been that way for some time now. In such situations you need to decide who your best chance of scoring is and play to their strengths. However, I say again it is not enough to play forwards who chase but don’t score goals. You need three forwards who all carry a goal threat. In some ways it was unfortunate ( for him as well) that Cesc had an off night shooting wise as he can score goals. However, a bigger crime in my opinion is that he was slow in playing the ball up to Villa resulting in attacks slowing down too much.

    “Villa spent too much time standing around like a disinterested has-been.” There was a massive difference in Villa before and after Messi came on because Messi was more direct and hits harder passes which arrive quicker. However, even before that I think this comment is way off beam and a bit insulting, not to say wrong. Have a look at the first couple of minutes of the match. villa makes two or three runs which aren’t picked up. This happened throughout. If we don’t have Messi, Iniesta, Xavi and whoever else are going to have to realise that we need to play to Villa’s strengths a bit more. Apart from this however someone who had two decent efforts on goal deflected away, provided the two best assists in the match Imo (to Iniesta and Pedro) hasn’t done that badly.

    It might also be worth reflecting on who in our team in the two most vital matches of the season so far actually came through when the chips were down – TWICE !

    “The whole team played as if scared of something, snatching at shots and misplaying passes, including Villa’s first-half miss.” I’d agree but why single out Villa? It was also hardly a miss as in a great chance.

    “Xavi had a 100% passing percentage to precious little effect. He is clearly not 100%, but we have no option in that spot.” Maybe if you’d said to very little attacking effect I would agree but as it is 100% passing in that midfield is maybe worthy of a little more acknowledgement. As someone else has already said Xavi was tied up trying to sort out the gap between our defence and kids by giving Busi some help.

    “Alves had a dull match overall, but was not helped by being unable to take advantage of the space he was given because Villa and Pedro were too easily controlled by the PSG defenders.” Alves had (effort apart, which I’ve already praised) an awful match. On that night he hadnt a clue what to do with a ball, couldnt cross it had chances to play it quickly to Villa and didn’t take them and in numerous tussles with Maxwell ( he of the aged, useless an slow variety, remember?) couldn’t even get past him. He was also v slow to realise any danger at the goal continuing to jog despite seeing Ibra come deep to collect, Adriano getting sucked in and Pastore running into his territory from a long way back.

    “PSG very intelligently attacked us in a way that isolated Busquets. Same as at their house.” Agreed, but I thought we had long ago realised as a team that it is folly to send both FBs up at the same time – especially when we don’t need to? This was what happened on the goal with both missing and Busi having to cover Alba so wasnt in his position to tackle Ibra etc. etc.

    Agreed on Fabregas and I’m not sure on Bartra as PSG dipped considerably when Messi came on. Looking back again, what a weapon to have ! You could see their confidence drain away in front of a man with a bad hammy.

    I’m actually looking forward to the Bayern match. Not sure Bayern will be. They have pulled the only team who if they play to top form won’t be beaten and with the second leg at the Camp Nou. While we’re berating our team for playing below top form – myself included- we should remember that we have the league sewn up and are in the CL semis for a record amount of consecutive times. Who on planet earth wouldnt rather have our record over the last ten years or so than their own? Even if we don’t get past Bayern and i think we will – this has been an outstanding season – again.

    So now as everyone has said, rest. Can I put in a plea for Pique to be right up there in the rest stakes. He has played as much as anyone and with different partners just about every week. That takes a lot out of you – and he is our height !

    • Jim
      April 12, 2013


    • April 12, 2013

      Nice points, agree with most and disagree with some.

      “You could see their confidence drain away in front of a man with a bad hammy.” – I am wondering how a team like PSG, didnt decide to park their bus for the last 30 minutes. They had enough examples of how Barca suffers in front of good bus, but they didnt. For me at least, this is quite amusing and am grateful to Ancelotti for that.

      I am hoping Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Alves, Alba, Pique all get good rest, of course Messi will be resting too. But Pique and Bartra would need to play at least one more match together for some experience. If we have our A game, we can take a lead in Munich itself.

    • April 12, 2013

      I would say that, instead of disabusing ourselves of the notion that others will step up, many are accepting the fact that the system as it is currently being played is set up so that others aren’t really being set up to score goals. And maybe the difficulty is that it’s hard to go from “Look for Messi,” to “It’s my turn.”

      Re: Villa, note that I said “too much time,” rather than “all the time.” And Villa’s miss was a chance that in the past, he would have buried or at least gotten on target, rather than sending into orbit. It was also the team’s best chance of the half. I watched Villa and only Villa for the entire first half, whenever possible on the (very good) television coverage. We have all seen Villa when he was engaged and fully dynamic. He wasn’t against PSG until Messi came in and even then, he wasn’t fully Villa.

      As for Xavi, he’s been king of the side pass for some time now. Some of that is because of the lack of movement, particularly up front as Messi has been dropping deeper to receive the ball to run at defenders, and beCAUSE Xavi is deficient. Which doesn’t change the fact that Xavi’s 100% effectiveness didn’t do a whole lot.

    • Jim
      April 12, 2013

      The fact is that nobody mentioned that others wouldn’t step up until they didnt then it becomes the system’s fault. We were being told that it wouldn’t matter if Messi wasn’t there because players A,B and C were just waiting to score.

      What should our system look like without Messi? im not sure it would be much different because these are the players we have. We have suffered because we dont play with wingers who can both take defenders on and score goals ( neymar, anyone?) and because we have become used to playing without anyone in the box. We have some of the best technical players on the planet. Nobody is going to tell me that if we can pass he ball round at speed near their box and are a little more adventurous in our passing we can’t score goals. I’d be happy to see Tello and Pedro take the wings in the two games till th SF and see if we can get some success.

      With regard to Villa, he is being marked by two CBs. When he makes runs he will only be free for a second and the ball has to arrive precisely then. If this isn’t happening (and it wasn’t, or tell me when it did and he wasn’t up to it) then he is reduced to almost a spectator. He always offers himself for the ball. That isnt disinterest. Doesn’t require a huge change in the system . In top class matches you don’t get a lot of chances. The important thing is that when you get the chances you do something with one of them. Villa did with his two assists. Why do you insist on mentioning a half chance on his left foot as if that defines his game? He had another two shots on target which were deflected away and provided the two best assists of the game. I could just as easily say the “fact” is that Villa saved our bacon as we weren’t looking like scoring until he set Pedro up. Not to mention that the Iniesta setup was probably even better.

      Xavi does pass sideways and back most of the time. That’s as it should be when trying to control a game. If we can get him further up the pitch he will find the killer passes although I would concede that Tito needs to remind him that its not a crime to lose possession trying to thread a pass into a heavily defended box.

    • April 12, 2013

      No, the more valid question is why are you letting my comment about Villa’s miss define my view of his game? And no, Villa doesn’t always offer himself for the ball. I can point to you, along with the times that they occurred, many instances in which he doesn’t against PSG.

      Look, I don’t hate Villa, or love or hate ANY other FCB player. But the fact of the matter is that whenever someone says anything about certain players, it becomes this back and forth that can verge on endless. So let’s end this. Villa was brilliant, and I was a fool for ever suggesting otherwise. There. Done.

      And Xavi is every bit the player he has always been. His 100% passing percentage was flawless. Not sure what I was thinking. There. That one is also resolved.

    • Jim
      April 12, 2013

      I’m only responding to a comment you made where you appeared to me to single out Villa for criticism. Thought that’s the way discussion went….

      It would also be quite easy for me to give a sarcastic reply along the lines of “You’re right. You’re the only one who can decide what questions are valid”.

      Just like you don’t love or hate any player I try not to take any comments personally but don’t expect sarcastic replies and always try to add imo if I think someone will be offended by my views.

  16. Blau-Grenade
    April 12, 2013

    Bayern – Barca is my dream semi-final. That is because Bayern is the best team left out of the remaining. Yes, they are better than Barca at the current moment, and, in my humble opinion they are playing at a level above Barca. I am very torn between supporting either club in the semi final. I have to say that Bayern have won my heart with the kind of football they have played against Juventus and Arsenal.

    Mandzukic being suspended might be something that can give Barca some hope. And Barca should take full advantage of it in the first half. This guy can hold the ball and make plays like nobody’s business, besides scoring goals. He will win every single ball in the air unless he is fouled. Because his replacement Muller does not move very much in and around the box and it is easy to positionally defend against him in open play.

    Ribery can burn Alves, and Robben can burn Alba. Gomez/Mandzukich and Muller can more than occupy Busi and the two centre backs. That leaves Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez to orchestrate the game. Schweinsteiger is the most complete holding midfielder for me at the moment. Yes, he is a long yard ahead of Busi. His long range passing is something to behold.

    Then there is the backline of Bayern – Lahm, Dante, Van Buyten, and Alaba, and the keeper – Neuyer. This is currently probably my favorite backline among all the teams in the world.

    I do not see Barca getting past Bayern, not with the tactics they employ at the current moment, nor with the team they have at the current moment. Bayern have too many way’s to open Barca defence. Through the wings with Ribery and Robben cutting the ball in, with overhead balls to Gomez/Mandzukic/Muller.

    The thing that can make Barca stand a chance in the match against Bayern is if they play a double pivot of Song and Busi in front of Pique and Bartra. This four man wall gives some hope for winning the areal duel’s with Muller/Gomez/Mandzukic in the middle, and during the free kicks. And Alves and Alba will have to be very careful with Ribery and Robben.

    Anyway, I look forward to seeing some amazing football in the Semi’s.

    • TITO
      April 12, 2013

      I follow Bayern for a long time, so the current team as well. So i will disagree on some matters. Especially their defense: V Buyten is a huge liability, Lahm is no better than ALba, so is Dante. They have the best keeper in the world at the moment, and Alaba even with his age is great.
      We can absolutely beat them and advance to the finals, i was more afraid of getting RM because it seems we cannot find our mojo again to beat them.
      We will win in Camp Nou. It’s all up to the result we will get in Germany, which i think will be a draw.

    • Blau-Grenade
      April 13, 2013

      I have seen Van Buyten in two matches vs Arsenal and Juventus. Let me break down his review for you.

      Passing from the back – He never misplaced a single pass, even in open play. He was able to make pin point, on the ground and overhead passes across the field to attacking players.

      Headers – He won all of his headers in defence, his headed nudge from a corner allowed Mandzukic to score one of the goals in the attacking half at the Emirates stadium.

      Positional Play, this includes covering the attackers and passing lanes. He was always in the right place right time.

      All the goals that Arsenal scored against Bayern were from Corners and not open play. Van Buyten was not at fault for any of them. Juventus were not able to get a goal.

      I would give him a 9 out of 10 for both matches, mostly because 10 out of 10 is reserved for exceptional defensive displays like the one which Cannavaro did against Germany in the world cup, when the Italian’s won the World cup.

      Now Philipe Lahm, the Captain of Bayern. It is very very hard to quantify the effectiveness of somebody like Lahm. He is exactly like Daniel Alves. He runs up and down all match, tackles, provides playmaking through out the match, besides providing width on the right which allows Bayern to play with space in the middle. For me he played at a very high level in both matches, and was involved in key plays and providing width in both matches. He made key sliding tackles to strip attackers of the ball on the right wing.

    • Blau-Grenade
      April 13, 2013

      I noticed you mentioned Dante as well. In both matches, against Arsenal and Juventus, Dante was an exceptional defender for me. His passing, bringing the ball forward from the back, was absolutely outstanding. I am not sure I have seen a more dynamic(bringing the ball forward from defense, and moving the ball along the backline) defender this year.
      Bayern, a lot of times played a 3 man backline with Lahm supporting open play and moving forward. In those situations Van Buyten moved to the right, Dante covered the middle, and Alaba covered the left. When in doubt or in situations of pressure players passed the ball back to Dante, and he always found an outlet, either with his passing, or his movement.
      I would rate him a 9 out of 10 in both matches as well.

  17. April 12, 2013

    I wanted Bayern and said as much the other day. I thought that the Pep Continuum wouldn’t kick in until next year though, that odd syndrome that always has us facing teams with which we have emotional ties. But I will take it, because I think that of the three teams that we could have faced, Bayern is the one that we have the best chance of beating.

    Gomez will be much easier to play than Ibrahimovic, and Robben will cancel himself out by being selfish/silly. Ribery isn’t the player that he was, and Mandzukic being suspended for the first leg is lovely, as is the first leg being at the Allianz.

    Bayern likes to have the ball, and we like to have the ball. As Blau-Grenade notes, Ribery can burn Alves, and Robben can burn Alba. The revers is also true, and I don’t think that Bayern is going to have the ball enough to burn anyone.

    Bayern isn’t that same kind of crazy counterattacking side like Dortmund, PSG or Milan (when they chose to come out and play). I think this match will be more our speed, and I am confident of advancing. Why, because we are the best team in the world. Just as Bayern have ways to open up our defense, we have Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Sanchez and Villa. In space, we also have Pedro. We have the possession game, and we have something to play for: Greatness.

    15 different injuries. At present Puyol and Mascherano are out with extended knocks. Two key members of the squad have faced down cancer this season. Lawsuits, squabbles and snits. There isn’t anything this team hasn’t had to face, short of a Biblical plague of locusts. But the motivation is there: For this club to again hoist the CL trophy at Wembley, it has to beat two of the five best teams in the world. To do that, they will have to play two matches of the quality of the Milan home leg. They definitely have that in them.

    Let’s do this.

    P.S. I am not back, per se. But from time to time, I will have something to say. Now, to the weight room.

    P.P.S. It is unspeakably cruel that the first leg at the Allianz is four days beFORE I am going to be in Germany.

    • Alex
      April 12, 2013

      I agree Kxevin, I think Bayern is the best matchup for us. One thing is for sure, we are going to see two AMAZING games. The potential for a clasico final is just mind-boggling.

    • April 12, 2013

      Agree and above all, We will not be anyway relaxed like we were against Milan or PSG. I am hoping we will have our A game against BM at AA.

      I am more worried about Madrid.

    • Jim
      April 12, 2013


    • Blau-Grenade
      April 12, 2013

      Here is what makes Bayern especially dangerous, their full backs. Lahm and Alaba bombing forward. When you have two wingers who can overlap on both sides of the pitch with speed, it can catch the opposition, and badly, and that is what hapenned with Juventus.

      Because they play with the double pivot of Javi Martinez and Schweinsteiger, it is ok for the full backs to support attack. Because one of them will cover for the space.

      One more thing I noticed about Bayern is their shots from outside the box. Muller/Schweinsteiger have a rasping volley/shot from outside the box.

      Ribery was worth his money in the matches I saw. He is in top form. Technically adept with both feet and being able to take on defenders. Robben is undergoing somewhat of a resurgence in form at the moment. Both Ribery and Robben are two of the fastest runners with the ball in professional soccer, and that is a real cause of concern. *http://senadibrata.hubpages.com/hub/fastest-soccer-players. Besides Mandzukic, Ribery was the man of the match for me against Juventus in the first leg. He was everywhere, always taking on defenders, no matter how much they fouled him. Him being on the wing gave Mandzukic the space to create the goal for Muller.

    • Alex
      April 12, 2013

      Kinda like Alba and Alves bombing forward. I would like to see Song and Busquets playing together, to help on defense if needed, kinda like Martinez and Schweinsteger.

    • April 12, 2013

      Ya know, we have a few guys who are pretty fast with the ball at their feet as well. And boy, do we have FBs who like to bomb up the wing. They have Martinez and Schweinsteiger, we have Xavi and Busquets.

      But Barça seems to thrive on doubt, as they did in the Milan home leg. So keep on finding reasons that Bayern is better. I’m sure they help the team find strength.

      Juventus was an easy matchup for Bayern. Their weaknesses played right to Bayern’s strengths. So that they dispatched Juventus easily doesn’t impress me. Barça has faced the two worst teams they could possibly face (outside of RM) in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, and we advanced. Through all the doubt, and this that and the other, here we are.

      As I said before, whoever our semifinal opponent was going to be, there would be doubt, because people seem fond of doubting this club. Whether it drops a manita or someone or wins on away goals, it still won. History won’t record the style or quality points, simply the result.

      In many ways, Bayern isn’t that different from us. Aggressive wingers, pushy defense, like possession, have a dynamic playmaker, etc. Who do you want in that role, Ribery or Iniesta? Who do you want running your show, Xavi or Schweinsteiger? Who do you want getting on the end of passes, Messi or Mario Gomez?

      Offer all the “Bayern is scary” things that you like, I won’t be convinced. The only thing that will convince me is the final whistle going off in the home leg of a tie that is decided in their favor.

    • Blau-Grenade
      April 12, 2013

      Kxevin, I am not scaring anybody. But it is always a good idea to size up the opposition. I am also a fan of football, the beautiful game, and I like to give credit where it is due. Bayern are playing beautiful football. And, even though I have been a supporter of Barca for the last ten years, it is hard not appreciate the beautiful football they play.

      I am very very excited for this semi-final. For me one of the two teams Barca/Bayern, is the best in the world. And the final whistle after the second leg will hopefully tell us the story.

    • BA
      April 12, 2013

      it’s all well and good to talk about comparisons, player to player, our front 6 to Bayern’s; but the starkest difference is that Bayern have a defense and we don’t.

      Bayern’s defense has let in only 13 goals in the league this entire season.

      ours has allowed 33.

      it would be almost ridiculous to think that we can win the most tightly contested Champions League in years defending as we have against Milan and PSG. something has to change.

    • Blau-Grenade
      May 1, 2013

      Whats the verdict Kxevin?

  18. Alex
    April 12, 2013

    I think it’s pretty normal that a team that has the BEST player in the world in a certain sport is going to lose some quality when not on the pitch. We are talking about Messi, 4 time ballon d’or winner, smashed goal scoring record in a year, assist king…..

    Think about it, if the Heat lose Lebron, no way they go on a 20+ game win streak, if the Packers lose Aaron Rodgers, they are a shell of what they normally look like. If EE lose Ronaldo, they drop in form, hasn’t Ronaldo scored almost over half there goals in 2013?

    Yes we are a team, but when you lose someone of Messi caliber, that team is going to suffer, like we saw.

    • April 12, 2013

      I believe that is the case if the players are of lesser quality, which isn’t the case with us. We have the best, or one of the best players in the world at every position. It would be one thing if it was Messi, with Tello, Sergi Roberto, JDS, Thiago, etc, etc. But it’s Messi with Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Alves, etc, etc.

      So for me, the quality diminution in execution isn’t as significant as the psychological quality diminution that I noticed, and that prompted this piece.

    • April 12, 2013

      I also think that psychological quality diminution was pretty astounding given that there were eight players on the pitch who have won the World Cup and the European Cup together.

  19. TITO
    April 12, 2013

    Here’s the chance for the team to be hailed as Legends throughout football history.
    Beat Bayern and then destroy RM in the finals. Another Manita.
    After that the whole team retires from playing football.

    • April 12, 2013

      The team is already a legend throughout football history. It is extremely unlikely that Pep’s 4-year trophy haul will ever be matched.

      Name me one team that was better.

    • TITO
      April 12, 2013

      It’s not Pep’s or Tito’s team. Is this team, at least the core of it. We need a huge win against the best club of the 20th century in the finals.

    • April 12, 2013

      I am not that sentimental of a person, but a clasico CL final will end in tears. Whether tears of joy or tears of sorrow I don’t know. I don’t really care to find out, as I am not sure if I would survive the latter…

    • TITO
      April 12, 2013

      We will win, i’m sure of it. It’s like written all over the stars. 🙂

  20. KEVINO17
    April 12, 2013

    Excellent article. Barca already has an excellent replacement for Xavi. He’s called Alex Song, and his attitude is second to none.
    If Alexis had missed Villa’s chance it would have suddenly become a “golden chance”

    • Doug
      April 12, 2013

      You really think Song would be an excellent replacement for Xavi?

      I like Song a lot, but I don’t think he has the quickness, nor quick decision making skills that Xavi possesses.

    • April 12, 2013

      Xavi has consistently been considered one of the best 5 footballers in the world for the 5th straight year now.

      I like Song too, but that is asking a lot.

    • Nik
      April 12, 2013

      I also don’t think he has the ability to be the metronome of a squad by controlling the flow of the game with his passing. That’s just not his game from what I’ve seen.

    • KEVINO17
      April 12, 2013

      It’s all a matter of impression, I know, but I make the following points:
      1. Song is not particularly quick, but he is a very strong tackler. He would be better defensively in a vital part of the field.
      2. Song clearly has a great big-match temperament. The occasion doesn’t seem to matter. He never hides – always wants the ball.
      3. I think Song moves beautifully around the field and always (well, almost always) makes good decisions. He is an excellent, composed decision-maker.
      4. Song is enormously strong on the ball (just as strong as Xavi). He also has the tremendous ability to step pass a pressing player and make a telling pass.
      4. Song could be, from CM, a much bigger offensive threat than Xavi, who is, I’m afraid, becoming a very east-west, rather than north-south player.
      I thought Keita was an excellent player, but Song is, frankly, better.

    • KEVINO17
      April 12, 2013

      Watch the next time Song passes the ball. It always arrives in a very fresh and friendly state of mind.

    • April 13, 2013

      1. agree
      2. ehmmm…. based on which games, exactly? His former team was known for bottling it (I say “was” because they are now pretty much irrelevant) and the only big games I have seen him play were the CL match-ups between Arsenal and Barcelona which left me decidedly unimpressed with his performance.
      3. agree
      4. Just as strong on the ball as Xavi? Idk about that.
      5. Xavi has never been that much of a North-South player, but he is a bigger offensive threat than Song. He’s a better passer and also gets the occasional goal after a forward rush.

    • KEVINO17
      April 13, 2013

      Every time Song comes on (even for his debut) i have never seen him hit a nervous pass. Further, he never hides on the field, always making himself available, right from the start. i take those as pretty good signs.
      But i will upcthe stakes – I think he’s a better passer than Xavi, certainly with much better range. Xavi passes over any distance and players have to wait a beat or two for it to arrive. Songs passes seem a lot more frisky. I just love watching the guy pass. Its a real joy.
      I think he has about 14 assists in his last season at arsenal, from the holding middie role. That says a lot about his offensive capabilities.
      Xavi may be a better conductor. That has yet to be determined. But on every other box I would tick Song ( who is much younger) first.

  21. Huckleberry
    April 12, 2013

    Bayern is a very well oiled machine at the moment, probably peaking as a team. Great substitutes, that fit in without any problem. Barça is more fragile. But, as SAF said, Barça is unplayable, when Messi, Xavi and Iniesta are on song.
    I’m looking foreward to an interesting tie.

    • Jafri
      April 12, 2013

      I’m sure Song doesn’t appreciate those moments half as much though.

    • April 12, 2013

      Tiki WAKA!

  22. KEVINO17
    April 12, 2013

    What’s going to be fascinating about Barca-v-Bayern is whether Tito thinks the existing tactical system is good enough or decides that against a team as good as Bayern, Barca has to evolve some more to compete. I suspect he’ll go for the former. But is there a prospect we might see a double pivot (Busquets and Song) in the away leg?

  23. Kimcelona
    April 13, 2013

    Messi is a result of the system yet the system can’t function without Messi. People should make up their mind. Constant contradiction = not being able to be taken seriously.

    I totally agree with what mom4 said above, so I won’t bother to add more to that discussion.
    So, we get Bayern in the semifinals. Sigh, there is optimism and there’s delusion, I’d like to think of myself more of a realist.
    The reality is that:
    1. Bayern has been performing at a higher level over the course of a season.
    2. Based on the team’s showing in many of the CL games this season (those including Messi), barring the Milan home game, we have’nt exactly exuded dominance.
    Hence why its natural cules would be weary and even not confident going into the match.
    Thinking they’re the easiest tie for Barca is absurd to me( nevermind this is the semis and for the first in a long while there’s actually no easy tie). There’s different aspects of each team that can hurt us, as well as there are different weaknesses of each team which we can exploit, some more than others. For me, Bayern have the least weaknesses we can exploit, while Dortmund have the most. Thus, why I wanted Dortmund. And I just didnt want anymore darn Clasicos. (I hope to gosh there isn’t a final Clasico either)

    Alas, fate would have it that we get the toughest team in the semis (imo). Maybe its so we can get them out of the way from now or maybe its to bring our unimpressive CL ride to a tragic end. We’ll find out soon.
    I do know that many neutrals are intrigued and looking forward to such a match up. Me? I’ll be sucking my thumb through both games, hoping we make it out alive.

  24. Jafri
    April 13, 2013

    Happy birthday Puyi!

  25. Laurentiu88
    April 13, 2013

    if one reads the list of articles on goal.com one might think we are some kind of dying dinosaur awaiting to be put out of its misery. end of an era end of an era.. and i am sure there was a similar list with spain too… germany is so new and exact, refreshed … they will end spain’s era..

    i have only seen some of bayern this year against arsenal..of course they are a good team but i dont think we are going to be a walk through for them.

    we had a curious season so far, with doubts in the beginning and team fighting and searching for a new identity under tito.. and then we had 10 points over our rival. then there was tito’s departure, the loses to milan and rm… there are a lot of unknowns here on the dynamic of the team. i guess players and teams will play and force just as it is necessary and go for the clearest of alternatives. in liga we play to conserve our advantage, to move players over injuries for a plenty of games, in return legs we pushed as it was necessary, as bayern did too against arsenal.

    in the end the old cliche must ring some truth ‘no two games are alike’ …

    i am happy we face bayern, technical quick players… similar to us in so many ways… there is no better match 😉

  26. April 13, 2013

    Just to disturb everyone today, I had this dream last night:

    It was late at night in Chicago, and I was driving my car. But I was exhausted, trying my hardest to stay awake. In Chicago, we have these drawbridges that go up when boats need to pass under them. As they go up, bells start clanging, red lights flash and it’s clear that you shouldn’t proceed.

    But I was so tired that I kept rolling across this drawbridge, even as bells and lights were clanging, because I had fallen asleep behind the wheel. In the back seat, calmly requesting that I wake up, and giving instructions like a rallying co-driver ….

    was Seydou Keita.

    I woke up. And I woke up saying, “That was some seriously weird shit.” Because it was.

    • rg23
      April 13, 2013

      Wow. That’s some dream.

      Keiteeee. Miss that guy. But oh well.

      I wonder how people will react if we do manage to win the CL.
      Suddenly all the doubters will turn into pundits who will say… “Of course I knew barca would win. Just look at their team. How can they not win”.

      Lol… I for one have faith in my team. Yes I know all the problems we are facing, and all the Messidepencia talk and how good Bayern are, blah blah blah.

      People constantly question… Are we good enough to handle bayern’s best game?
      Well, let me turn the question around and ask this… Are Bayern good enough to handle Barca’s best game?
      This is the greatest team in the history of club football. We have destroyed other quality teams left right and center in the past… Madrid, Milan, Man United and Bayern included.
      Is any team good enough to handle THAT side of our game? May god have mercy on those teams if that Barca shows up.

      Question is… Can we still bring that side if our game. IMO, yes I firmly believe so. We just need to wake the dragon… And nothing wakes the dragon more than the entire world doubting this legendary team.

      Can’t wait for the tie. Visca!

    • mom4
      April 13, 2013

      Keita was always there in the back (of the midfield) camly trying to save us. MISS HIM. Miss his “Huh, what?” faces too.

  27. barca96
    April 13, 2013

    Kobe is out for at least 6 months. What a shame just when he carried them into the last spot for playoffs. What a shame shame shame. Kobe out Messi out.

    Usually I always applaud NBA style coaching where they rest their star players for the crunch time but Mike D’Antoni is abusing Messi like how we abuse Messi. Playing near or full games. This is no way to prolong a star player’s effectiveness.

    This is so sad. I kinda hope that Kobe will just retire from basketball. I rather him leaving on a high rather than trying to make a comeback at the age of 35 (or somewhere around that). I doubt he will be able to reach the same heights.

    • G6O
      April 14, 2013

      I watched it as it happened. Absolutely gut wrenching given how hard he has been working to be playing that well at that age and to just drag them into the playoffs.

      It should gives us some perspective on how lucky we have been to have Messi healthy for so long and playing every game, and also how dangerous it is to keep playing him so much – a lot of people say that a torn achilles is just bad luck and not caused by fatigue. That’s true in principle, but I don’t think it’s true in this case – if you watch the replay, that step he took was the kind of awkward step one takes when his muscles are giving up from fatigue and that is why his foot came under that much stress, i.e. had he not been that tired, this might not have happened…

  28. Brandoncito
    April 13, 2013

    I know we haven’t been playing well, but does anyone else think that there may be some psychological advantage in not being the favourite for once? I’m expecting a surprisingly good performance in the semis. Barca’s Spanish contingent has owned Munich’s German contingent for years.

  29. mom4
    April 13, 2013

    So Iniesta and Alba rest against Zaragoza while Xavi, 5 and 9 years their senior and clearly in need of rest, is in the squad. Perplexed.

    • Doug
      April 13, 2013

      I was thinking the same thing – Xavi should be rested this game.

      However, I did look at his recent play, and he hasn’t played in a La Liga game since 2/26. Since then, Xavi has played the CL games vs Milan and PSG, and the Spain friendly.

    • nia
      April 13, 2013

      I was actually hoping to see Alves rested as well. He and Leo always play for some reason unless they are injured. The guy has played like 12 or 13 straight games. Pique needs a rest too.

    • April 13, 2013

      Just because he is in the squad doesn’t mean he will play. Iniesta really needs the rest. With Busquets also out, I see a midfield of Song-Cesc-Thiago, with Xavi on the bench. Not my favourite combo, but they should be able to get it done. I would actually like to see JDS instead of Cesc.

      My boy Sergi Roberto is traveling as well, so I hope to see him get some minutes.

    • nia
      April 13, 2013

      I was just about to post that. Aww!!, he’s so cute. He looks just like Leo 🙂

  30. psalmuel
    April 14, 2013

    Everyone’s talking about The Barca Vs Milan showing up for us to win the CL but is not inviting Lady Luck to the party. I am not saying Barca’s gonna do-a-chelsea,if we win,we’d be deserved. Looking at our last 4 CL games,are defense has been crappy most of the time but, ONE of the reasons we’ve still be in it is to some extent luck: Niang’s post,Busquest’s/ Lavezzi’s post,PSG missing chances,then of late we have suddenly become the under-dogs… They are all similar themes to chelsea’s winning the CL… Just a hunch though! Lets hope Pique asks every fan that doesn’t believe to stay at home (that means,the-Barca-vs-Milan mode will be activated)

  31. stefan2k
    April 14, 2013

    Anybody knows how serious Busquets hernia is? Operation usually isn’t needed any more for those kind of things is it?

    • Laurentiu88
      April 14, 2013

      wow he has hernia? isn’t this what Higuain had 2 seasons ago?

    • Ryan
      April 14, 2013

      I remember his back problems were what kept him out for six months or so.

    • April 14, 2013

      There are different kinds of hernias. I don’t think this has anything to do with his spine.

  32. April 14, 2013

    Isn’t the club’s fitness regimen designed to ensure the players peak around this time? Bull.
    We seem to have only 2 fit starters right now.

    • Dave
      April 14, 2013

      The fitness regime hasn’t worked alright. But the main issue was the squad planning which has been an utter disaster.
      They have grossly overestimated the squad and the blames lies at the feet at Rosell and Zubi.
      Puyol, Villa and Xavi are in decline and frankly its understandable given the amount of football they’ve played.
      Adriano while I’m a fan seems to always be injured.
      Pique’s form has been questionable for 2 years now.
      Thiago’s not ready to make the jump and seems stagnating.

      I do think that regarding the young players thou, alot of them like some more recent fans of Barca have never had to experience tough times at the club which can be character building, because they arrived during the good times and are wrapped in cotton wool.

      I sometimes feel that some of them wud be better off leaving for another league and out of their comfort szone

    • mei
      April 14, 2013

      We have won the league in December and are in the semi finals of Champion’s league. Just because we are not obliterating everyone ,does not mean everything is wrong and that we are going to die. Grow up cules.

  33. barca96
    April 14, 2013

    The better side won the tie, and it won the tie without playing at anything approaching its best over two legs.

    They showed up but we didn’t. Football isn’t played on paper or capability, it’s what they bring it on the match. Clearly our players miss something.

  34. barca96
    April 14, 2013

    Hopefully Abidal will come in to replace Alves and Montoya shifts to RB. Alves needs a rest!!

  35. barca96
    April 14, 2013

    How does Rosell and Zubi get the blame? Do they decide who plays and rotation?

    If you want to blame them for not buying X player, perhaps the coaching staff didn’t really want the player (s).

  36. Jafri
    April 14, 2013


    – Alves Bartra Adriano Montoya
    – Xavi(!) Song Thiago
    – Alexis Cesc Tello

  37. psqd
    April 15, 2013

    bayern is going to be a wicked tie. some interesting stylist, situational, and statistical similarities between the teams. I am with Kxevin in thinking that if the draw had been next year it was a lock, but thought this year’s would be more about Madrid to be honest. RM facing either of the germans is a rematch and the potential for a madrid v Barca or bayern final is probably the most compelling reason for the draw to play out this way with the subtext of a semi rematch and the former and future pep teams.

    bayern have their league won and have the second highest percentage of possession in europe. The most interesting statistic, as has been pointed out already, is their defensive prowess. Especially because just looking at the names before this season i wouldn’t have guessed at that. Importantly, they’re conceding the least number of shots per game as well.

    There are some apparent matchup problems for barca. One can immediately jump to the wings where one can easily envision ribery and alaba and robben and lahm overloading and exploiting the space that can be found behind alves and alba. Or one could argue that gomez and then mandzukic are going to be tough for whatever the CB pairing ends up being. But I think it’s more important to consider the systems level conflicts than the individual. But before going there it’s important to point out that barca did get lucky with injury and suspension to bayern’s kroos and mandzukic. As great as the names are coming in for them are, there is a reason they had locked up first team places and I think systems level functionality is a large part of that. Robben, as intimidating as he can be, guy must have the lowest conversion rate in europe and can be a black hole. I think that having him coming off the bench late in a game with his pace and the change would be much more frightening. Gomez, about the same could be said for his conversion rate and his skillset is so much more limited than mand. Very fortunate to only have to face mand in the home with potentially more defenders available.

    But to put aside the individual clashes one of the important things to consider is how much does bayern’s advantage in possession contribute to their defensive record? Second how is the system set up? Well that 4-2-3-1 is largely set up for ribery, and fair enough the guy has been terrific. So a left leaning 4-2-3-1 is gonna look pretty familiar to barca. However, bayern wants possession, which historically has been a plus for barca. Bayern obviously have the players to capitalize on any chances they get, but how will they deal with being out of possession much more than they are used to?

    I think the most obvious concerns for barca are fitness. Are they going to be able to control the game to then extent they enjoy 75-80% possession, no, but match control is going to be paramount. To that end xavi and messi’s fitness are biggest concern. The CB pairing is going to be Pique +1 and they are going to give up a couple good chances. If VV continues on his current form it isn’t as big a concern as whether xavi can be xavi and press and get that extra zip and ping on the ball.

    Which brings up…WTF with the zaragoza? First like most I was disappointed to even see xavi in the squad let alone starting. Then it takes 25 minutes after the 3rd goal to get him off the pitch?!? I have some serious questions about that, and the rest of the subs to be honest. It was a flashback to pep subs where you make all 3 subs after 80 minutes, which does nothing. The guy coming on gets 10 minutes not any real time and certainly not enough to feel good about and the guy coming off isn’t saved much physical effect either. Barca96 was on point, how do you not sub xavi, alves, and adriano earlier? I mean you are lucky that adriano made it to 80 minutes. Alves is a freak and all, but why push it? and just to finish the point risking xavi right now is risking the champions league, period.

    anyway, if this week of lower workload is enough to rejuvenate some key guys I am confident going to bayern. Once again a scoring tie in the first leg away is a great result. think away goals are going to be huge.

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