Match Comments: Barca vs. Valladolid


The Purple & Whites are back at Camp Nou.

Team to meet them is: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Bartra, Adriano, Xavi, Song, Fàbregas, Alexis, Neymar and Tello.

Bench: Pinto, Iniesta, Dos Santos, Montoya, Pedro, Busquets and Sergi Roberto.

Valladolid: Mariño, Rukavina, Valiente, Rueda, Peña, Baraja, Rossi, Ebert, Omar, Bergdich and Guerra.

Have your say in the comments, but please keep it polite & respectful.


Visca Barca!

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155 Responses to “Match Comments: Barca vs. Valladolid”

  1. Jim says:

    Not sure why Tata is insisting on playing Xavi to death. For me Iniesta at home can play his role easily. I’m still twitchy about the lack of playing time Iniesta is getting.

    Anyway, we’ll see.

    • Messiah10 says:

      To be fair, Iniesta really hasn’t done much to warrant playing time. He’s had a couple of really good games and a lot of games where he’s been below sub par. I don’t mind him sitting if it gives us a chance to change our dynamic and play with lineups, however, I do think Xavi could sit as well. When Xavi has been rested he’s come on as a sub in every game me thinks. He’s just much harder to replace then Ghostface. IMHO

      • Jim says:

        Well people have been saying that but I’m not sure why. His passing stats have been as good as anyone’s – the only thing I’ve noticed is that he seems to have been asked to play a little further back , maybe to let Xavi go further forward. If it’s to play Cesc I’m not sure he has deserved it over the last few games. Sitting too often for me.

  2. Messiah10 says:

    Interesting lineup. I hope Tello shows something today because I haven’t been impressed in the appearences he’s made so far. He fails to find the open man to many times for me. As Kxevin mentioned in the last post he also doesn’t track back or press as well as Pedro, Alexis, or Neymar. If he’s not on goal scoring form it’s hard for me to see why he should get minutes at this point. Glad Busi is getting a rest. I have a feeling this is going to be a very direct game. 5-1 is my predicition. Alexis 1, Xavi 1, Cesc 2, Pedro(sub)1

  3. nia says:

    Wonder why Alves didn’t rest for Monty. Poor kid can’t buy a game at Barca. Either that or he doesn’t train well. If all goes well, hope to see S.Roberto. Kids got nice hair and pretty good game as well.

  4. Messiah10 says:

    What a goal to hopefully win it for Levante!

    • Messiah10 says:

      Geez. Morata gets the equalizer. Horrible defense. Let EE go right through the middle. They could still get the winner now.

    • nia says:

      Everyone who was not a Barca fan had a go at Levante for losing 7-0 to Barca. Not so easy is EE? 2-2 now unfortunately.

      • Messiah10 says:

        Wow. Thong boy got to take his shirt off for a deflected goal for the winner. Levante had the game in hand and just blew it.

        • Messiah10 says:

          Once they equalized it was inevitable they would get the winner. I was just hoping & praying they wouldn’t. Oh well. Now we need 2 go and grab the 3 points.

          • Jim says:

            Too many Levantes players lost their heads and started turning backs on crosses, shots etc. they gave the ball away in their own half far too often. Even a boot up the park would have been better.

            That’s the last time I’m gonna get suckered in watching a small team against RM . Watched about ten minutes in total and saw them score three goals !

          • Rami says:

            You jinxed it Jim!

  5. G6O says:

    How the hell did that happen…

  6. K_legit in Oz says:

    Madrid is so meh. We can take ’em.

  7. nia says:

    Anyone with a skysports stream?

  8. Messiah10 says:

    Nice run & strike from Bartra! Hope to see more of that.

  9. Messiah10 says:

    Wow! What a shot by Alexis!!! Wow!

  10. Messiah10 says:

    Tello. Will he ever learn to shoot with his left foot? I mean if you know your going to get time on the left, wouldn’t you work on it?

    • 86ed says:

      He waited far too long to shoot. Those are the chances he has to take with his limited time on the pitch.

      • Messiah10 says:

        Yeah. It’s because he wanted to pull it back on the right foot. Everyone & their mom knows he’s going to do it. So, learn something new and trust your skillz to bury it with your left. The near post had tons of space.

        • 86ed says:

          This is only exacerbated by his being pretty much useless on the right wing as well. His only trick seems to be pulling the ball to his right foot to curve it in the far corner. It has been so since 2011-12.

  11. Messiah10 says:

    What the hell is Alves doing there? Horrible defense. Just quit on it. He’s lucky Bartra came to his rescue.

  12. Messiah10 says:

    OH! so close!

  13. 86ed says:

    They`re crossing the halfway line a bit too easily for my liking, but our transition from defense to attack is rapid, which I like.

  14. Messiah10 says:

    Why is Dani over this? Neymar should be on it.

  15. Messiah10 says:

    Wow WTF! 2 shouts for a penalty! The 2nd one was obvious!

  16. nia says:

    If we can’t get a clear penalty like that in our own house then there’s a problem.

  17. 86ed says:

    Poor descision by the ref aside, we`ve played badly.

  18. ian_percival says:

    I think neymar have to move to the left

  19. PrinceYuvi says:

    Alright, Lets get ‘busi’ .

  20. Jim says:

    I don’t think the team have played badly at all. There’s a lot of movement going on up front. And we’re probing quite well.

    Annoyed at the goal though. Tata is persevering with the tactic of stationing Pique at the front of the six yard box. That basically men’s that any side can take him out just by hitting full length. I’m also gonna say it again- it’s yet another example of where we wouldn’t have conceded if we had someone on the post.

  21. Doug says:

    Wow – that was very nice.

  22. Jim says:

    Much better from Tello this half. Neymar is growing into the main creative role as well. Xavi is still amazing. It is still an absolute pleasure to watch him week after week.

  23. PrinceYuvi says:

    Why tello ? Why the crossbar ? See the space under it, when you shoot there, you score.
    Alright, I’m sorry:) Nice game. So far.

  24. Peter says:

    Dear God, what a great assist for Lexus.

  25. 86ed says:

    Ok. Take Xavi out and give S. Roberto some minutes.

    A far better game in this half.

  26. Doug says:

    Neymar needs to stop diving. He’s not going to get a single call going forward.

  27. G6O says:

    100% penalty…

    • Jim says:

      Maybe but he only has himself to blame ……

      • Serena Andre says:

        I disagree. The referee is the only one who is to blame. Referees are here so they make sure the game is played according to the rules. The rules that are the same for everyone. If there is a foul in the penalty area, they have to call a penalty. Regardless of the players reputation. Their job is to enforce the rules of the game and to be objective. Teixeira failed to do his job last night.

        Neymar did absolutely nothing wrong. His legs were taken out from under him and he should have earned 2, if not 3, penalties. When he didn’t get the call, he didn’t even complain. He got up, dusted himself off, and played on like nothing happened. He even shook the ref’s hand at the end of the match.

  28. Jim says:

    At last. A whole 12 minute rest for Pique :)

    • 86ed says:

      I don`t get that change. What`s the point of substituting a defender for a defensive midfielder while leading 4-1 and 10 minutes to goÉ

      I understand that Pique needs a rest. 12 minutes won`t do it.

      • Jim says:

        Yeah, although my main concern is another 90 for Xavi.

      • James says:

        If a whole 12 min of rest for Pique is so laughable what difference would 12 min make for Xavi in a game that’s obviously died out and won’t really cause much exertion?

        Pique has played every minute thus far and needs a rest as much as anyone.

        We’re just about to head into an international break as well, not in the middle of a 5 games in 2 weeks stretch.

  29. Jim says:

    Great result and pretty good display from the team. We roll on.

  30. PrinceYuvi says:

    Grande Tata !

  31. mohit says:

    I feel sorry for Iniesta, Fabregas, Sergi Roberto and JDS. Xavi refuses to give up. He meant it when he said that the club will have to kick him out.

  32. Messiah10 says:

    Great game for the whole starting 11. Xavi, Song, Alexis, & Neymar were the standouts for me. Tello had a great 2nd half, but needs to piece the whole game together. Thought Song was excellent again! Breaking up plays, picking out the right pass to get the offense started up the field. Closing down space and all together a machine out there! Neymar was incredible and Alexis was very assertive. I love this confidence he has and it’s making me lick my lips at the thought of Neymar, Messi, Alexis going against EE! Visca Barca! 8-0!

  33. elcapitan says:

    Some cules tho, they started from”we are playing badly”,then we won 4-1, pique gets a rest and questioned why he should get a rest or why its just 12 minutes instead of a whole year rest, just what can make us happy? I promise 2 get it

  34. Doug says:

    Very nice 2nd half. I’m becoming more and more impressed with Bartra – he’s playing well, and showing some speed/quickness.

    • Peter says:

      in the totalbarca chatroom we came up with some nicks and creative ways to show the appreciation for him. Examples include:

      “THIS IS BARTRAA!!!”

      “Teeenim un nom, el sap tothom,
      Bartra, Bartra, Baaarta!”

      “Cant del Bartra”, and

      Bartresi 😀

      He played awesomely tonight.

  35. georgjorge says:

    I could only watch the second half, but I was impressed. Lots of good developments here: No sign of being too dependent on Messi scoring…the counter attack being well alive again…Neymar getting better and better connection to the rest of the team…Sanchez finding his scoring boots…Song being rock solid in breaking up opposing attacks. And of course some Xavi magic, but that’s old news. And they even got to rest the last quarter hour of the game.

    Now if only that Iniesta contract could be signed right away…

  36. Puppet says:

    My MOTM was definitely Alexis. He played such confidence, he was even demanding the ball at times. Very refreshing to sre. Song and Bartra were excellent as well. Very good showing overall, from the team.

  37. PrinceYuvi says:

    Song completed all his 102 passes ? Oh my.

  38. simple_barcafan says:

    Main Points:

    NEYMAR..he was everywhere. And he was unselfish. Fitted very well in the middle of the field (“Messi’s position). Was always moving and creating chances. He has a wonderful understanding with Xavi..The one twos with Xavi were kept going on and on.

    Alexis. How did he become so confident this season? I have a firm belief that Tata has to have a hand in it. His runs were perfectly timed and his self belief is increasing every game. What a goal!! ..and that assist was really unselfish..MOTM along with Neymar (Nexis??)

    Song. I have to say I am one of the supporters who have questioned why Song was bought. Not because I am skeptical of his ability but because he was bought to play in the wrong position for Barcelona. He was a free-running-CM in Arsenal, and we bought him to be a Def Mid-Centeral Defender role, which need great tactical positioning as opposed to his Fabergas-like role in Arsenal. Hence his running-like-headless-chicken moments during a game. But today, he played a really really fine game. He defended very well, won balls, was like a rock. Thought it was his best game so far this season. (Did anyone notice his one-twos with Iniesta like how Xavi was having one-twos with Neymar)

    Barta. Impressive. His confidence is improving with every game. But as Kxevin perfectly pointed a while back. He looks good CAUSE we are playing the Barca defensive system. His and Adriano’s shots from outside the box are really adding another dimension for our attack.

    Tata. I really really want to find out what his half-time pep talks are!. Almost every match, the team has come back playing better the second half. And i am really happy with his rotation policy. And also kudos to making Alexis get his self belief back. Also has incorporated a bit of counter attacking style into our tika tika. Our style is morphing. Interesting times ahead indeed.

    Inesta. Please get your form back. I hate to see you off. It dampens everything.

    • nia says:

      Song completed all 102 of his passes today. That said, I thought he was awful in the first half.

      • Puppet says:

        How was he awful? When I think of the first half, all I really remember of his play was him running round, winning balls and putting out fires. I can’t think offhand of any instance where he was particularly bad.

        • swamidigital says:

          He didn’t look as comfortable in the first half. He was dispossessed twice in a row, and had a few passes that were a bit off but didn’t end up conceding possession. That said he was pretty fantastic in the 2nd.

  39. Once Alexis got that goal there was nothing stopping him! Great to see him score so early to get that confidence everyone wants to see. Neymar was excellent and should have had at least one penalty. The second knock in the box was more than clear. Bartra is playing great. I also though Song had one of his best games that I’ve seen. Good to see him in there.

    I agree with Xavi being rested, but I assume Martino has an idea about what he’s about, especially considering that he rotated a lot to being with. I’ll leave it to you experts to tell me what that idea is though.

    Did anyone hear Ray Hudson’s comments about Valladolid being as nervous as a herd of moose in Alaska around Sarah Palin?

  40. PrinceYuvi says:

    Really happy to see every one is gushing about lexis. That rarely happens.

  41. nia says:

    WHAT!!! Tello is expecting a baby, no wonder his game has been a little off. Congrats.

  42. Kxevin says:

    A few quick thoughts:

    — Song is where statistics can be deceiving. He started out strongly, then proceeded to degenerate into crap, before (apparently) getting a talking to for the second half. Kicked ass again.

    — Bartra. Eff me sideways. Third great match in a row. Thankfully, he wants to renew with the club. Would be MOTM were it not for ….

    — Neymar. Our YouTube sensation is simply an absurd player. I know that people STILL don’t rate him, call him a diver, etc. Fact of the matter is that all three times in the box, he received contact sufficient to put him down. Particularly the second one. It isn’t a question of reputation. It’s a question of a ref opening his eyes and seeing what actually happened. Appalling.

    Anyhow, passing, movement, first 10 steps …. I wondered how he would do in the center of the pitch, and got my answer today. He and Sanchez (and Xavi) were dynamite together.

    — Iniesta looked as good as I have seen him during his stint.

    — I am not sure why people are still so down on this club. All it does is keep winning, and scoring beautiful goals.

    — Dani Alves vexed the life out of me in this match, both on attack as well as on defense. In the “garbage in garbage out” theory, if he closes down on the Valladolid man instead of letting him make the pass into the box, no Bartra corner, no Valladolid goal. Adriano also verrrry weak on the header defense.

    — This team looks exceptionally confident without Messi, something that I really like to see. No team should be so dependent upon one player. Rosell got it right, it would appear.

    — Sanchez! Though he was playing much better with his shorts hiked up. He should just hire someone to permanently take them up for him before each match. Would take 10 minutes with a portable sewing machine.

    • 86ed says:

      Alves makes me want to tear out whatever hair I have left. There’s still a great fullback in there somewhere, but it’s become harder and harder to find him.

      Do you think he’ll be gone by next season?

      I thought Song was almost perfect throughout the . Never misplaced a pass. He ought to be a bit more dirty at times. There was one instance when Valladolid broke, where he had the opportunity to cut the counter by a simple foul; he didn’t. The result was set though, so it was probably wise not to earn a yellow.

      • Kxevin says:

        I don’t believe that Alves will be with the club next season, dependent on how Montoya develops, and whether Adriano can play a full season without missing giant chunks of it.

        It’s funny how few people mention Alves. For me, he holds the ball too long, then tries to force it in somewhere, inevitably to a defender’s feet. His crosses to nowhere are legendary. He trots when he should be running, etc. He is still, on paper, one of the best RBs in the world. But his showings of that form are becoming increasingly sporadic.

        He is still significantly better than anyone we could offer at RB, however.

        • Doug says:

          I like Alves. There are some games that he plays incredibly well. Unfortunately, it’s getting to the point that Alves is where passes go to die.

        • 86ed says:

          Maybe Montoya could pick up the slack a bit? Makes me wonder what he’s doing wrong on the training ground to be excluded so utterly. Alves has played all but one game so far; we’re into October.

          Sometimes, as with Bartra, injuries need to happen for the young to show their worth. Last year Montoya had his chance against Real and acquitted himself rather well.

        • mom4 says:

          Kxevin dear, I could be wrong and correct me if I am, but haven’t you been prophesying Alves’ imminent departure for several years now? There is a replacement problem. Montoya simply isn’t ready for the job full time and the pool of available, high quality right backs is pretty shallow at present.

    • blitzen says:

      I think you’re being a bit harsh on Alves. Yeah he was definitely off in the first half, but he was better than Song, for sure. Like Song, Alves improved immensely in the 2nd half.

      As for Montoya…if he doesn’t get any playing time, he’s not going to replace Alves or anybody else. VDB already said he won’t be calling Montoya up to the NT because he doesn’t play. I can’t decide whether Martino just really doesn’t rate Montoya at all, or whether he is afraid to play him at the same time as other “second string” defenders like Bartra and Song. I think it may be Montoya who will leave, rather than Alves.

      • Kxevin says:

        I think it IS a replacement problem, and apparently Montoya ain’t it. I watched some matches from last season just to be sure of what I was seeing. He closed down a lot faster last year, and didn’t waste as much time in possession when on attack. Not sure what’s going on with him, but it ain’t good.

        • blitzen says:

          There have been rumours before about Montoya being lazy in training. No idea if true, but that would be a good way to get benched. Kind of like Bojan in his last season (he has admitted that he just stopped trying in training at one point).

  43. IamXavi6 says:

    Great game today. Always refreshing to see a long range rifle shot now and then as opposed to us always dribbling it in (they are great too).

    Can’t fault the performance. My question is, who gets MOTM? Sanchez or Xavi? Xavi was a boss today and involved in everything. Sanchez speaks for himself with his confidence sky high.

  44. andrecito says:

    is this blasphemous?..i dont know..but for a few years i felt like i tuned into every match..kind of knowing what i was going to see..of course there was some tactical wrinkles here or there.. but the fc barcelona game ritual seemed kind of like a set thing..and for me, i could feel the team getting bogged down in having to produce that week in, week out..

    now… i have no idea what i’m going to see when i turn on the stream..guys seem fresh..fighting for their place on the pitch..goals are flying in from all kinds of unexpected instances..incredible link-ups are happening with new faces..and old faces are doing new things..tactics and personnel are habitually really liking it..

    • nzm says:

      Tata’s arrival is exactly what the team needed – fresh energy, fresh tactics, fresh ideas & a whole new approach to the team, as well as to the club.

      While respecting the club & its ideals (such as those may be right now – at least in the boardroom), Martino isn’t weighted down by the “Barca-ness” of the situation.

      He isn’t ingrained in the club, hasn’t had to suck up & breathe the club for years and years like the La Masia players, and people like Pep & Tito.

      Asking him a question, about the club, in his press conferences isn’t going to get you far – he just doesn’t concern himself with it. He’s not going to mince his words either.

      It means that he’s 100% focused on the team which is a good thing for the team. (But maybe not for the club as a whole, but that’s another issue.)

      When Pep left, it was because he was spent – exhausted. He needed a break.

      If you recall at the end of that season, we lost in CL to Chelsea, lost Liga to Madrid & won the CdR. In terms of success, it wasn’t that good a year, results-wise.

      The “lack of success” was masked by Pep’s departure. After he announced it, there was no longer much in-depth attention drawn to the fact that it was his least successful season in terms of won trophies.

      Tito carrying on as manager was what was required at that time – the team needed the continuity of a familiar face.

      If Pep left because he was tired, then so was the team. The La Roja players went on to win the Euros over Summer before coming back for the start of the Liga.

      Barca is also unique in that its core group of players does not change much from season to season. Other teams will replace & replenish players as they stagnate, but Barca doesn’t do this.

      Barca raced off to a record-breaking start last season & we could see that there was a purpose behind all this. They were determined to win La Liga back.

      We saw some exciting verticality coming into play, but before it could be fully developed, Tito’s cancer returned.

      After that, the team went into survival mode – regressing even – and the results started to reflect this. I feel that Tito came back far too soon, and unfortunately this may also have contributed to his relapse.

      The “bogging down” that you mention, may well have remained with the team, had Tito continued this season. Plus, I’m sure that in the backs of everyone’s minds would have been the fear of Tito relapsing.

      While I think that it’s horrible to lose Tito in the way that we did, Martino coming in has done wonders for the team.

      He’s stirred up a lot of things that had otherwise settled like sediment, introduced his way of doing things & nothing is sacred.

      You only have to look at Xavi to know that it’s working. In tonight’s game, he wasn’t quite clicking in the 1st half, but in the 2nd half whatever Tata had said or changed made the world of difference to Xavi. To Song as well.

      So – yeah – it’s not blasphemous – it’s exciting! I feel that we’re getting over the fear of change & starting to feel positive again.

      The team is starting to gel. We now have so many options up front now. Once all the backs have recovered, we’ll have options there too.

      Then I believe that we’ll start seeing some mixing it up in the midfield. Martino’s taking it slowly & surely.

      I love it!

      • simple_barcafan says:

        Also one more thing I noticed is Tata doesn’t have the emotional attachment to the players that Pep and Tito had (obviously…). That kinda alters things a bit. In my view, I remember Pep and Tito trying to accommodate Xavi, Iniesta Cesc and Busi into the team sometimes at the expense of Villa or Alexis and that sometimes unbalanced the team. Tata on the other hand doesn’t do that and instead is rotating the mid fielders instead of trying to accommodate all of them for sentimental reasons.

        Also, am I the only one who thinks Iniesta’s importance to the team seems diminished in this new game plan. Iniesta was the most important player on the left wing, responsible for ghosting past defenders, drawing them away from Messi (creating space_ and providing amazing through balls so that Messi or the other forwards can score. But now with the arrival of Neymar, it seems he does the dribbling and drawing defenders to create space. What we now require is midfielders who can pass to the wings (Neymar and Alexis) and bomb the box and make themselves available for the wingers to dribble past defenders and pass so that the midfielders can score. You can see Cesc and Xavi running into the box and score those goals. I have also noticed Xavi passing a lot to Neymar and running a bit more into the box. Iniesta doesn’t do that. He lays back and waits. I might be completely wrong. Hopefully I am and Iniesta is still an integral part of this evolving game plan.

        • Jim says:

          I don’t think Iniesta’s importance has decreased. I think there are two factors here. Tata seems to want Xavi further up the pitch which inevitably puts Iniesta back a bit. It might be that he wants him to have more experience of the “Xavi role”, one which he can play.

          The second is that at the moment we don’t really need our full midfield to control possession against most La Liga sides. The acid test for me will be whether or not he plays in the Clasico. Vertical is all very well against sides that are really incapable of hurting us for 90 minutes but we’ll be coming up against sides where control of the game will be vital and it’ll be very hard to keep possession till the game settles. (Not dissing the occasional quick counter, btw). If he doesn’t then I for one will start to worry, both about our chances at the business end of the season and also about Iniesta’s attitude to a new contract.

          What I struggle with is the view that Iniesta is somehow having a bad season. That doesn’t square with what I’ve seen. He is a really humble player and I’ve seen his like before ( at a lower level ) where a really good player is content to let the more high profile players hog the limelight and he just keeps things ticking over until he is needed. With Messi and Neymar taking on defenders it might be that Tata has to say to Ini that he wants him to do the same, given that his ball skills are at least equal to these two.

        • mom4 says:

          Ini’s performance, however short it was, yesterday was the first of the year that has had me hoping that the “old” Iniesta has returned. There was more ball circulation and less tilting at windmills from him this game. So many times this year and even last he would take on 4 defenders on a dribble, dazzling and amazing until oops, losing the ball again.

          We have a lot going on down the left side lately. There is going to have to be a transition time. Will Junior play more centrally? Will the squirrel develop anything remotely resembling defensive discipline? How will we have width on the left without everyone getting in each other’s way? Will Iniesta drop back and become more of a central midfielder, a box to box perhps? Will Adriano stay healthy enough to start at LB because right now he is rocking that position far better than Alba (imo)?

          There has to be a place to utilize all the talent that Iniesta has. It just needs to be directed. Tata will sort it.

        • nzm says:


          You’re right – Pep & Tito were more emotionally engaged with the players. It was hard to sit anyone out – especially the canteranos. There was also a certain pressure from the culers to favour homegrown talent.

          Martino doesn’t carry that stigma – he’s assessing purely on player availability, player performance & the right players for the tactics for each game, as well as having a solid rotation policy.

          At the beginning of this season, I identified Iniesta as the one player who would perhaps have the most adaptation under what Martino is doing with the team.

          Ini has struggled this season, and now it’s my turn to be blasphemous. Jim, cover your eyes!

          There’s no doubt that Iniesta is a fabulous player, and we love him for his timely golazos and his dribbling abilities.

          At the same time, in previous seasons we’ve seen him struggle when he’s been played out wide on the left wing, when Cesc has been played in midfield or the team ran out of left-wing options. Iniesta’s preferred position is inside left.

          However, under Martino, the wingers are now played out wide & it’s the fullbacks that pinch in. So now in the space where Ini usually plays, you’ll also find Adriano or Alba.

          In last night’s game, once Cesc came off & was replaced by Iniesta, that freed up the clogged channel caused by Cesc, Neymar (& Xavi to a lesser extent because of Alves pinching in) all trying to play in the same area of the pitch.

          Iniesta stayed left with Tello outside him & Adriano dropped back. It stretched a tiring Valladolid across the pitch & created space in which the forwards could then work, with help from the midfield.

          With space, Iniesta became indirectly more effective, and in that last play of the game, for what could have been Alexis’ hat-trick goal, he was the one who played the sublime high ball over the top to Neymar (I think? I can’t find the clip to verify) who sent it into Alexis to head.

          The challenge for Iniesta (& indeed our midfield) is how to become more directly effective in attack.

          Just concentrating on Iniesta for now. We know that he creates space by drawing defence. Where we’re seeing him recently struggle is in linking up with the other players in tight defences.

          He’s losing balls in dribbles/passes & turning over possession. When Abidal was on the pitch, this wasn’t as much of an issue because Abi was there in his traditional LB role to reclaim the ball. He had Ini’s back. But with Alba it is an issue, with Adriano a bit less so – as they tend to play higher up the pitch when the team is on the offence, and have to scramble to transition to defence when the ball is lost.

          The challenge for Iniesta is how to become a more direct player, because the way in which the team is developing now requires that the midfield has to become more directly involved in the attack on goal.

          Iniesta not only has to score golazos, he has to score normal goals too! Some football analysts have mentioned that if Iniesta scored more goals, he would be a regular Ballon D’Or contender/winner.

          Individual awards aside, Ini’s role in Tata’s offence system is to become more direct and to take more shots. He’s still struggling with this, as expected.

          But he’ll get there – just as we see how Xavi is now in the box a lot more, and Busi is taking punts that he never would have before!

          The more danger men that we have on the field who can shoot and score at will, the more trouble the opposition defences will have to mark them all.

          • PrinceYuvi says:

            Scary comment. Thanks so much.

          • nzm says:

            Why scary?

            Iniesta has a challenge which I’m sure he’ll take up.

            This relates to a comment that I made above about Barca being unique in that it doesn’t circulate/replenish players as much as other clubs.

            The core is the La Masia grads who want to make Barca their “One Club for Life”.

            Other players might find motivation by leaving a club for another. “A change is as good as a rest”, as the saying goes.

            The Barca stalwarts don’t do that. They have to find a different way to be motivated.

            Martino coming in to stir things up and to challenge them provides that at just the right time.

          • PrinceYuvi says:

            @nzm In case I run out of superlatives, I tend to label it Scary.
            Silly me.

          • Jim says:

            Wouldn’t agree with most of this assessment of Iniesta ( perhaps unsurprisingly !) To begin with Iniesta’s greatest ability isn’t either the golazos or the dribbling. It’s his contribution to our passing game and in particular keeping possession when we start to meet the better sides and they press us properly. He didn’t particularly star at LW because that’s not where he’s best – it was felt he was the best option.

            I’m not sure where you see the change in the wingers staying wide. That was one of the things that blighted Villa’s career at Barca, and caused us problems at the top level, imo. No change there other than that Dani – well it’s hard to see where he’s playing or what he’s trying to do at the moment and Alba is injured. Adriano doesn’t naturally like ending up at the byeline with a left foot cross.

            Back to Iniesta, he can be as direct as we like but if we have everyone dribbling at opponent’s defences we will turn over a lot of balls – we’d better be ready for that. We are ( rightly) praising Neymar for his performance last night but his pass Wouldn’t agree with most of this assessment of Iniesta ( perhaps unsurprisingly !) To begin with Iniesta’s greatest ability isn’t either the golazos or the dribbling. It’s his contribution to our passing game and in particular keeping possession when we start to meet the better sides and they press us properly. He didn’t particularly star at LW because that’s not where he’s best – it was felt he was the best option.

            I don’t mean to sound as negative as I probably have. In truth I have no idea what Tata’s long term thoughts are for the side. I do know that while all we can do is beat the team in front of us we can’t judge our likely success based on that. I remember cautioning last year that sweeping aside lesser teams with glorious attacking football wouldn’t hack it in the last couple of months. I kinda have the same feeling this year with what I’m seeing. In my view there was nothing wrong with our controlling approach to games. The only thing lacking was someone to help Messi add to the destabilising of defences which is why Neymar was the ideal buy. Possibly also a bit more thought about why we are going all out attack in away games in the CL.

            In the end a good side plays to its strengths and ours are controlling the ball. If we can’t win trophies that way I suspect we may not win many at all.

          • nzm says:

            You see what you see, I guess, Jim.

            The only elaboration I’ll make is that before Tata, our wingers would pinch in to allow the FBs to run down the side. Now the wingers stay wide and the FBs pinch in.

          • Kxevin says:

            But Jim, that Iniesta quality, possession maintenance, is one we don’t need/value as much the way the attack seems to be shaping up under Martino. So does the natural evolution become to make Iniesta a “defensive” substitution? Don’t think so.

            I mentioned in the Celtic match that Iniesta was playing much more of the Xavi orchestrator role, while Xavi roamed up and back. I think that is probably the natural evolution for Iniesta, whom I have long said is the most natural Xavi heir apparent.

            Iniesta’s natural role flourished when we were still slaves to “tactical width,” which was essentially Villa and/or Pedro standing near the touchline, hoping defenders would come to visit them.

            But as nzm notes, in that channel between the winger and midfield, Iniesta flourished. With a very active Neymar now in that channel, Iniesta’s role has indeed changed. He has the talent to evolve along with the club’s attack, but it has become increasingly clear to me that he will assume that Xavi role. He was brilliant at it, even if not the Iniesta we have come to know.

  45. swamidigital says:

    Alexis and Neymar have some great chemistry going too, which is really great to see. They were both interplaying and interchanging very well. Interesting to see if Alexis keeps his sky high confidence once Leo comes back. Hope so! I also feel like Bartra is finally being put into position to succeed. He’s getting that last little bit of royal jelly needed to grow from a La Masia potential to a first team performer, and it looks like he will be a hell of a performer. Hopefully we will continue to encourage him when he makes some mistakes as well. Overall great win.

    • Jim says:

      Reply to Kxevin above. Absolutely agree with the gist of your post and the acquisition of Iniesta as the new ( although slightly different ) Xavi may be our most valuable one for the next five years.

      However, I don’t agree that we can afford to move over to a non- possession based system. The old adage remains true that if you have the ball they can’t score. We are not the best in the world at end to end physical play so until we buy a set of physical specimens for midfield (Did anyone see CR7 when he took his shirt off? – something wrong with that ) we need to keep the ball and make them run to have a real chance against the top sides.

  46. andrecito says:

    wow..great response nzm..for me, everything you wrote was right on..thanks a lot..

  47. fotobirajesh says:

    The second half was like a performance.
    I would die to hear the ‘Tata talk’ at the break.
    Bartra and Alexis are gaining soo much in confidence.

    Cant wait for the Classico.

  48. Ultraculé says:

    If we were to play the EE now, we would kick the daylights out of them!

  49. TITO says:

    God, how i missed that brazilian magic when Ronnie left. Its’ back!!!!

  50. Jim says:

    Great headline this morning in the English press about Mourinho declaring war on divers and wanting to rid the English game of them ! No, really.

    On Sunday Supplement with the sports writers a great comment from the guy from the Sun ( and you won’t hear me use those words in that order very often ) where he described Pepe’s role in the Pep Clasicos as being that of a WMD controlled by Mou. There was general hilarity round the table which was good to see.

  51. ciaran says:

    Watching Atletico v Celta Vigo now and Atletico are a really impressive team.

    For us last night I thought it was a very good match from us even though defensively we weren’t at the races in the first half.
    The goal we conceded was bad. Firstly, Alves just strolled out to close down the cross, then Bartra gave away a corner when he didn’t need to. Finally Adriano didn’t even put the forward off his header whatever about winning the header.

    Our goals:
    Neymar to Tello to Alexis for goal no.1
    Neymar to Tello to Xavi for goal no.2
    Xavi to Neymar to Alexis for goal no.3
    Xavi to Alexis to Neymar for goal no.4

    So Neymar involved in 4, Alexis and Xavi involved in 3 and Tello involved in 2. That’s a fantastic team performance in my opinion.

  52. Rami says:

    After the half time result, And already having a bad feeling about this match before the start whistle, I embraced the high possibility of losing points, Kept saying to myself, It’s not the end of the world rami, It’s not the end of the world.

    I felt like a small boy shouting at the middle of the night for my mother, Afraid of the monster behind the closet, But then she opens it up, And tells me, “look, There is nothing to be afraid of”, And then i just feel silly “Well of course there isn’t a monster ‘duh'” then gives me a warm hug and and says “Everything is going to be okay”, Well that’s exactly what the team made me feel in the 2nd half.

  53. Hilal says:

    Holy crap… NEYMAR!! I always knew he was a talented player and I was very confident he would do well at Barca but I did not expect to see what I am seeing. Aside from his absurd talent he is also very intelligent on and off the ball. He seems to know when to try and hold the ball, when to pass and when to take on his man. He also is excellent at making runs off the ball and getting back onside almost immediately. He really impressed me in the middle yesterday, especially for a player who is basically just getting to know his team. Again something that comes down to his intelligence as a player. For a player as young as he is all these attributes together are quite remarkable.

    Dare I say this short injury to Messi has been a good thing for the team. It has given the other players confidence, has shown what we can do without Messi and his allowed Neymar to come out of his shell a bit. I also think it now gives the coach a bit more tactical flexibility knowing that Neymar can be so effective as a false 9.

    • nzm says:

      Messi being off the pitch helps a lot of people!

      Alexis thrived at the end of last season when Messi was injured.

      Now it’s Neymar’s turn!

      This isn’t to say that I hate Messi – good grief, perish the thought!

      But in his absence, other players are starting to find their own way, taking responsibility on the pitch and believing in themselves. Their confidence is growing.

      If they can continue doing this when Messi is playing, the team will be a lot stronger for it.

      It just won’t be MESSI & Co. It will be Messi & Alexis & Neymar & Pedro & _ & _ & _ &.


      Pep built Barca around Messi. That’s a lot of burden. Also a lot of risk when the team isn’t as effective without its key player which we saw when Messi couldn’t play.

      We now see Pep building Bayern Munich around a whole lot of options.

      It’s what needs to also happen with Barca. Martino is now making it so.

      Sit Messi out for some games? Yeah whatever, no big deal. Try saying that a year ago!

      • PrinceYuvi says:

        With no messi on pitch, opponents do offer us some space to work with, instead of sitting back & soaking up pressure.
        Not taking away the credit of lexis & co at all.

      • Kxevin says:

        Uh, oh …. nzm hates Messi. First me, now you. How DARE you suggest that Barça isn’t diminished to a status of a relegation side without Messi. (Hee, hee!)

        It’s so very true. Messi is a brilliant player, but he’s also a space consumer, which affects other players. That will be something Martino will have to resolve, if he wants the absolute best from Neymar and Sanchez. It’s no coincidence that both are markedly different without Messi on the pitch.

        I was also knocked out by Neymar in the middle. When I suggested a Neymar central/Messi on the right tactical wrinkle, some person on Twitter called me “naive.” I would, however, suggest that such a thing would mean that with Iniesta and Pedro on the left, it would be madness for an opposing defense.

        nzm’s comment about Guardiola is also very perceptive. We were his “starter club,” in that he learned a lot from us, from diversification of attack to the value of stopping counters. Martino has also learned from watching us.

      • Peter says:

        Call me a bit cynic, but I think there´s a reason why the players seem to play better without Messi. It’s because they all have to step it up on one hand, and on the other, opponents are more confident with Messi off the pitch, they try to pass the centerline, which means more space which means the Barcelona players can shine.

        • nzm says:

          I think that depends on the quality of the opponent, Peter.

          Certainly Valladolid tried to keep a tight defensive line in their half last night & were quick to press our players to shut them down. They just didn’t have the fitness, tactical discipline nor mental capacity to keep that up for 90 mins.

          But if you look back to the Celtic game, Celtic did have that ability, and it wasn’t until the end when they got tired (& a man down) that a fresh Alexis was able to blitz past them to put the assist in for Cesc.

          • Peter says:

            True, but I’m talking about something else. Do you think Celtic would’ve gone upfield to try and score, with ten men, if Messi was on the pitch? I don’t think so.

            Even so, I may be mistaken and that may be what Tata wants the opponents to think. I’ll have to watch the Celtic match again to be able to tell with certainty, but I think that in the immediate aftermath of Brown’s sending off Barcelona stepped off the gas a little bit, which gave Celtic the confidence to get up and try to score – and in doing so, their already tired players had to cover even more ground, which allowed space to open up. Again, that’s the impression I got, and I’ll have to watch the match again to be sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Tata seems like the gentle Daddy type in conferences and in training, but as the saying goes:

            “Beware the nice ones.”

        • nzm says:

          True, but I’m talking about something else.

          And what is that? :)

          Also, in the away game to Celtic last season, we saw them win going forward with Messi on the pitch.

          • Peter says:

            Key words being last season 😛 Besides it was the last game of the group IIRC. In any case, it was last season, there was no Neymar and no Tata and there was no red card for Brown.

            With Messi, Neymar, Tata, the team playing like they do now and a red card for Brown, I believe that Celtic wouldn’t have gone out of their half come hell, high water or a bunch of hot chicks wearing the colors of the Rangers.

            But we’ll see soon enough, I suppose. I just wish Neymar didn’t have to go to those friendlies, I’d want him and Messi to just kick a ball for two hours a day under Tata’s guidance.

          • nzm says:


            You seem to have shifted the goalposts within your argument. At first, you say that the absence of Messi encourages teams to play over the center.

            So when I give an example of Celtic doing that with him on the pitch, you nullify that by stating that it was last year, & now if Messi had been on the pitch this season with Neymar, Tata’s tactics etc, they wouldn’t have come out of their half?

            So, it’s not just Messi’s presence then, it’s also Neymar’s and the new tactics that would keep them contained?

          • Peter says:


            Sorry, I should’ve clarified what I mean. What I mean is this: This season with Messi off the pitch, four matches If I’m counting correctly, I’ve seen more confident opponents on the field than compared to the teams when Messi is on the pitch. Maybe it has to do with the quality of opponents Barcelona face when Messi is off, but I think his absence gives the opponent more courage and the will to actually attack and put bodies forward.

            They have to keep a lookout on Neymar, and the tactics of Tata as well, but with Messi off the pitch I’ve seen Valladolid actually attacking, Celtic going forward in numbers. If same conditions apply(Neymar on pitch, Tata’s gameplan in execution, red card for Brown) but with Messi on the pitch I don’t think Celtic would’ve gone out of their box at all. The pressure to contain both Messi and Neymar, with ten men, would’ve precluded any notions of going for the winner.

    • G6O says:

      Those of us who had been watching Neymar play for Santos in more than the one game he played against us in the CWC, already knew that he is not just a flashy player with tricks but also has tremendous football intelligence. He did a lot of that for Santos too – holding the ball, defense splitting through balls, etc. Also, he is often criticized for getting the ball and then freezing with it, but that can actually work out very well for the team – if you make the game freeze for a second or two then you have a split second advantage if you restart it quicker than the opponent and that can be the difference between scoring and having to recycle the ball back in midfield. We already saw that a couple of times when Messi was in the middle (who is the best in the world in looking asleep and then suddenly springing into action at the right time and the right moment)

      One thing I will not agree with is that Neymar played much better than without Messi – he played great yesterday but he played just as well when Messi was out there. And I expect them to play even better in the future when they learn how to exploit the space that each of them opens for the other even better

  54. IamXavi6 says:

    Diego Costa; an absolute great player for Athletico. 2nd only to Neymar for number of times fouled and scored twice again today. I hooe Spain picks him for a game so he can play for the national team over Brazil!

    • nzm says:

      Spain wants to play him but Brazil has lodged some paperwork to stop this from happening.

      Brazil doesn’t want Costa, but they don’t want Spain to have him is what is being interpreted out of all of it!

      The paperwork is with FIFA. It will hold up Costa’s selection for the team. It’s doubtful that he’ll be available for many Spain games before the World Cup which means that he either won’t play or VdB will select him on form alone, if the paperwork is sorted by then.

  55. 86ed says:

    Two of the next three matches after the useless international break will be huge. At Milan, where we lost last season, and vs the Real that has rather owned us since 2012.

    • Puppet says:

      Yeah, honestly I’m looking forward to the Clasico for the first time in a while. Not because I’m particularly optimistic (I think with the number of personnel and tactical changes both teams have undergone, the result could go an infinite number of ways, good or bad), but because how tactically fascinating the match will be. I think Martino may have some plans up his sleeve.

  56. PrinceYuvi says:

    Exactly. Opponents do cut us some slack if messi isn’t there. How he manages to cut open a solid block of 8 players every 10 minutes, I haven’t figured it out yet.

  57. Rami says:

    Neymar is perhaps not yet ready to play in the middle for us, He misplaced many passes under pressure, Which exposed the team to multiple counter attacks.

    Playing as a false 9 puts you in the middle of a wolf pack with your back turned to the goal, It’s not an easy job avoiding losing the ball, Specially when under pressure, Keeping in perspective that this match was played in camp nou, Outside of home where opposition will be putting enormous pressure and work rate. It’ll be a different scenario and not necessarily a prettier one, Every counter we concede will heavily count.

    Putting that aside, Neymar’s attacking ability as a false 9, Puts fabregas to shame, No arguing that, But i feel it’s not yet balanced with his ‘defensive’ side, So in an away game, Putting neymar back to the wing and cesc in the middle, Is the most balanced.

    Anyway, What i said is subjective, It can even differ from opponent to opponent, Nothing has to be written in stone.

    • Kxevin says:

      But that quality that you mention, the misplacing of passes and losing of balls leading to counterattacks, just makes him even more like his idol, Messi. The number of balls that Messi loses is significant. And when he loses them he shrugs his shoulders, and lets the others clean up the mess.

      (Not a judgment, just a chronicling of what happens.)

      Neymar was involved in all four goals yesterday, and scored one. It’s difficult to make a more eloquent argument for being ready to play a position than that.

      If we are going to count the lost balls by Neymar that led to counters and deem him unfit to play a position, who would pass that standard. Xavi loses balls that lead to counters. So do Messi, Iniesta and Fabregas.

      • Jim says:

        Whoever plays that position will lose more possession than anyone else in the team. That’s a given. I’m with Kxevin here. It’ll be much more than Xavi, Iniesta or an other midfielder. However, if you want to get a goal you need to take chances. We can’t berate anyone for lost possession on the edge of their area or dribbling and losing it.

      • Rami says:

        It’s not simply about losing balls, Cause everybody does at some point (Unless your name is song), It’s about how good some one in avoiding it when the environment is non-favorable, Which include things like, Constant pressure from opposition, Tall & uneven grass, Hostile crowd..etc, Because my main point was about the away games, Messi has tremendous ability in withstanding those factors, So is fabregas due to his exquisite passing and generally safer play.

        It all comes to down to benefit-risk assessment:
        Does the attacking contribution Neymar adds to the middle compensate for his less safe play and more balls conceded?
        Is placing Cesc in the middle to avoid counter attacks can disproportionately decrease our attacking capacity, And is it worth it?

        I really don’t know exactly how things will turn up, That’s why i said ‘perhaps’, I just made an early judgement, The real answer we’ll know against Osasuna, Weather Martino will stick to Neymar as a false 9 or revert back to Fabregas, And for all i know, Neymar can kick-ass in the middle again and prove me dead wrong.

  58. psalmuel says:

    A comment from a commenter in realmadridfootballblog, ‘Barcelona are looking like they
    could go on to win La Liga
    without losing 1 match, Messi
    or no Messi’. Now you are not gonna beat us simply by parking the bus infront of messi

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      Ha. I read that one, from Matthew.

      They know they’re being awful still mostly happy )

      Another one said : team like barca, man u, bayern treat their players nicely,
      they do not throw their misfiring players under the bus. [read ozil, higuain]
      Sanchez is prime example he said.

      Theirs is state of somalia, complete chaos but interesting )

    • PrinceYuvi says:

      It’s quite fun that EE supporters seem quite scared of us, messi or no messi. Not many of them are looking forward to classico.

      I’m not sure what to expect against a counter-attacking team with a few proven goal scoreres though.

  59. DianaKristinne says:

    I found this analysis of the tactical changes seen in the Almeria and Celtic matches and I think it’s quite worth a watch. Enjoy. :)

  60. lea_terzi says:

    There’s nothing like watching a team with club legends, world class homegrown players in their prime, well integrated and beloved internationals (leaders of Brazil, Argentina and Chile playing for us) and some of the best young talent in the game, all of whom seem to be decent human beings. Can’t think of another squad that’s as cohesive, fun and easy to root for.
    This season, we are following the narrative of 33 year old Xavi becoming the player with most games for the club and still adding new wrinkles to his game, the challenges Iniesta is facing in adapting to the tactical changes and staying one of the best players in the world, how it took Neymar all of two months to go from “unnecessary, overrated, selfish, troublesome, diving kid with awful hair” to an instant fan favourite, the evolution of Cesc and Alexis who look ready to make the next step into stratosphere, the emergence of Bartra as a solid and fun to watch defender, just when we needed one, and so many other compelling storylines.

    Of course, there will be losses, bad days at the office, doubts and endless (sometimes deserved) cule complaints, and we might not win anything at all, but nothing can ruin this team for me.

  61. Levon says:

    Nice comment, lea_terzi!

    New post’s up.


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