Barça 2, RM 1, aka “The boy has put away childish things, and become a man”


Narratives. Quite a lot happened in the match today, an event that pundits and ancillary critters have weighed in on and found wanting. Not surprisingly, I think they are dead wrong, and not just because I am a culer. Today’s match for me, the first time the teams have met in 8 months (as opposed to the frustrating regularity that defined the rivalry in recent seasons), signified that our sprites have grown up.

This was a man’s match, a calm, pragmatic thing that was exactly what it had to be when it had to be, a match in which one team in effect, put away childish things to potentially reach that next level. That alone made it fascinating to watch.

Without casting anything negative on the Guardiola years, I would liken them to the time when a kid gets his first bicycle. He rips, he runs, he rides faster and farther than he should, he has a blast. That was the first season, the year of the eleventeen cups. It was one big, giant “Wheeeeee!”

Then, that kid takes a ride that’s a little too far, gets lost, gets a flat tire, eventually finds his way home. He’s wiser, but still loves that bicycle of his. It isn’t quite as much fun, but it’s still awesome and he wants to learn to do a little more with it. Second year.

The kid progresses through learning to ride and race, when and how to go fast, how to use that bicycle to maximise his efforts, when to put out and when to sit in the pack, how to become a pragmatist. And more than a toy, that bicycle is now a tool.

In looking at the evolution of our club under its various coaches, Guardiola was the romantic. His successor, Vilanova, was the professor, the man with ideas whose teaching tenure was cut short. Martino is the pragmatist, the man who will do what it takes.

This is a weird notion for culers, in this time of residual romance. We ceded possession to an opponent but whomped them on the scoreline, and it was a shame. We nicked a couple of goals off the counter, and people wondered what the hell Martino was doing. Today we beat our bitterest league rival, and some wondered whether Barça has lost The Way, and again, just what the hell Tata Martino is doing.

But the answer is simple: He’s winning. Look at his substitutions. RM found a way back into the match as Barça legs began to tire, and the trap doors just weren’t slamming shut as they did in the first half. His substitutions, Song, Sanchez and Pedro, were fundamentally all defensive, fresh legs to deal with a counterattacking team’s massive potential to damage. And those three subs restored balance.


The Barça Way is this odd, constraining sort of thing that I don’t think Martino gives a rat’s ass about. And like a favorite blanket for the soul, that fact will keep my psyche warm at night. He analyzes opponents, watches film and figures out the best way to win a match, a Way that will vary from opponent to opponent. And today, he pulled off something extraordinary on many levels, that are worth having a look at.

Messi is awesome


I know. Duh. But remember that moment, late in the match, when setting up for a corner … the camera panned to Messi, and he was dripping sweat, his hair matted to his skull, shirt plastered to his soaked skin. It wasn’t until that moment, unless you had been watching him, that you were fully aware of how hard he worked for his club in that match. And it was at that moment, if you were at all on the fence about what a wonder he is, that it all became clear.

I don’t know if Messi was 100 percent for this match. What I do know is that Martino put him on the right wing today, and did so with the full knowledge (Messi had to know it too) that he wouldn’t have his usual influence on the match, that all eyes and cameras wouldn’t be on him, even as the eyes of all of the RM defenders would be.

That the best player alive and his coach decided upon that notion is staggering. Further, in making that decision to put him on the right, it was clear that it would open up the pitch for others, who were going to have to step up to take their opportunity. The match was going to be on them rather than Messi, and the star’s recent injuries had prepared this club for precisely this day.

And Messi worked. Like a dog. He ran, feinted, maintained tactical width, made passes and put the hell out in a way that had me thinking about the last time he looked that bedraggled, late in a match. It was awesome, and the ultimate proof that whatever anyone says about that man, he is a team player who just wants to win matches. He wasn’t anywhere near the best player on the pitch today, but he was one of the most influential.

It’s also another sign that our beloved club has come of age in the hands of its pragmatic leader, when it can take on an opponent that many people who know the game had us losing to, and win.

Neymar is almost ready


He even struck almost the same pose as Messi, after he slotted home a shot off an astounding setup from Iniesta, celebrating his first Classic goal as if it were his first goal ever. Even though he has only started his career with Barça, he understands the importance of this match. People speak of him as though he is a young player. Chronologically, Neymar is. But in football years, he is a wizened veteran of many a Big Match. So in the spotlight, he knew exactly what to do, and did it.

More significantly, it was a spotlight ceded to him by Messi, and I don’t want to ask what might have happened had Neymar not lived up to the moment. He had a hand in both goals, scoring one and assisting on the other, a glorious turn and pass to substitute Alexis Sanchez, who continued his evolution into something astonishing.

More importantly and once again, Neymar played football. In the face of the people who insist that he is something that he isn’t these days, he played football. He took shoulder to shoulder challenges and clips from behind, shrugging them off in the way of the pragmatist. And took the spotlight and shone. It made Martino look a genius. It probably sparked a rictus grin that is still frozen on Sandro Rosell’s face … and it helped to win a match.

He still dwells on the ball a beat too long, is still too fond of dancing when he should be passing. There are things that he has to fix, footballing culture things that will sort themselves out. It will be fun to watch.

Tactical fouling

Many a time when an opponent charged up the pitch to bang in a crucial goal against us, many of us have lamented the fact that our players won’t just stick out a damned leg and trip somebody. Those days are here. Adriano did it, Mascherano did it, Alves banged out two in a row, and it was wonderful to see, another sign of footballing pragmatism. Martino has talked about this, for good reason: it is a useful tactic that stops an attack and disrupts the rhythm and flow of a match. Yes, you make a play for the ball. But if you don’t get it, let the leg hang out there, or lean in with the shoulder.

It was beautiful to watch, and for people fond of signs and portents, yet another indication of a club that is putting away its toys to understand what is in its available toolbox.

The match


For me, the match was also about key moments, and the use of space. Key moments included the second Barça tally from the magical feet of Sanchez, a crossbar that is still shaking from Benzema’s near miss, five top-drawer saves from Victor Valdes. But space is the thing that just knocks me over.

Today was as close to defensive as I suspect you will ever see our club play, yet another sign of a coach who understands what he is doing. RM has always killed us in two ways: set pieces and the break. So give them the ball. What can it hurt, as they don’t appear to be good at building play and scoring chances from extended possession turns. They had 45% possession today, and did nothing with it. Their goal came off a turnover and a counter.

Bending but not breaking was a phrase of the day as we played them as many opponents play us, allowing them possession until they reached a part of the pitch that was a no-go zone, then the defense tightened and the pressure kicked in. The effect was often a turnover, a misplaced pass or a ball knocked back to the keeper, to reset the offense. And time goes off the clock, even as no threat is being generated. Because contrary to popular opinion in culer-land, possession isn’t everything. It’s what you DO with that possession.

RM didn’t use space the way opponents usually (and successfully) do against us, which is to press hard and heavy when we have the ball, with speed and physicality. Some of the reason that didn’t happen was because we let them have the ball a lot more than usual, watching them stroke it around the pitch. Announcers assumed from that possession that they were finding their way back into the match. Nope.

But the other reason they couldn’t use the physical pressure was because Messi was lurking on the right like a ticking time bomb, Iniesta was absurd and Xavi was a boss. When we had the ball there was a level of control being evinced that I haven’t seen since before teams figured out how to beat tika taka. And with Neymar on the left wing, a midfielder could just pass him the ball. He would feint, dance, run into the box and then pass it back to the midfield to hit the reset button.

Today, however, was possession football rather than tika taka, control with intent as our attackers used the space created by their setup. Messi was on the right and often lurking, which meant that unlike when he was in the center, darting and dashing about and the whole defense could keep in in easy view, he sat in a blind spot, forcing their back line to play a little tighter to keep him in view, which had an effect on how physically they could press our midfielders. Space management.

Big players, big match

This was billed as another clash of the titans, Messi vs Ronaldo, the two best players in the world leading their teams. One was left a sweaty, disheveled mess and the other reduced to a frustration-induced acting out. But this was a day for others. Neymar has been previously dealt with. Let’s look at how some other biggies fared:

Bale: He started, and had no effect on the match, as Adriano stepped up in a massive way.
Pique: Wow. I was among the folks whose eyebrows were raised when the XI was announced. Apologies.
Mascherano: Passes, interventions and space control. Yes, he had a few moments. Focus on those if you like.
Iniesta: He flicked a switch and became Ghostface again, right? Well, sorta. He also reverted more to his traditional role a lot of the time, darting into the box and functioning as setup man, rather than aggro Xavi.

Toss his, Valdes and Neymar’s names into the MOTM hat and I’m fine with whomever gets plucked out.


Xavi: Oh, man, it seems like whenever folks get to going on too loudly about how he’s a doddering old coot, he has a match like he had today.

Busquets: You know we’re having a good match when he is invisible, and it never occurs to you why nothing is happening for the opponent in the middle of the pitch. If he is obvious, that means we’re struggling.
Ronaldo: I can’t help it. Whenever he gets the ball and starts running at our defense, I get nervous. It took a village to keep him in check today.

More narratives

Ancelotti says that if the penalty had been called on the Mascherano/Ronaldo interaction, that it would have been a different match. Was it a penalty? Angle is significant. From one angle, it looks like Mascherano just bowled him over. From another, it looks shoulder to shoulder. From yet another, it looks like Ronaldo was anticipating the contact and ready to topple. What we do know is that it wasn’t called. It’s safe to say that when this match kicked off, I never suspected that we would be a significant benefactor of Undiamo Mallenco’s tendency to allow physical play.

But culers who want to scoff at their penalty claims should know that has Ramos done the same thing to Messi, our cries would be just as vehement and outraged as theirs.

More significantly, some suggest that Ancelotti is trying to shift the narrative from a starting lineup and tactical duel that he might have gotten wrong. I leave that to them.

WAS this a great match? Nope. But there are few great matches. The Classic is like the Super Bowl, in that it is rarely as good as the hype that accompanies it. This match had a lot riding on it, mostly psychological as the two teams met. But the players didn’t care a whit about outsiders’ burdens of expectation.

For me, it was a very good match in which two teams of very high quality knocked heads and tried to cancel each other out. In such a match, the tide will usually turn on a few moments of individual brilliance, just as today. Ours worked, theirs didn’t. And that’s that. When the two sides meet at their house, a different result might well be in the offing.

But I will not have this result diminished by anyone who wants to claim things such as “Well, RM weren’t at their best, blablabla.” Neither was Barça. This was a match featuring two excellent football clubs stacked with talent, both under new coaches who are still finding their way and wrestling with form. Even at that, this was a gripping, intense match packed with quality, and one that was most crucially, devoid of all the anguish and mayhem that defined encounters under the reign of Mourinho.

For now, it’s a six-point lead over the team that will most likely leapfrog Atletico at some point in the season, to set up what should be a fascinating duel. Round One went to Barça.

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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. KEVINO17
    October 26, 2013

    KXEVIN – A great and well-balanced article as usual. A few points:
    Adriano WAS immense.
    Tata is obviously giving Alexis the sort of man-management he started to get last year before Tito go sick. Alexis has said that when he heard they didn’t want to trade him a big weight came off his shoulders. That was obviously why he played so well at the end of last season. When he came on in this game, the air seemed to go out of RM’s game because of his ability to go in behind.
    Lovely to see us park the bus (though Cesc doesn’t have enough pace for the counter, which made relieved some of the pressure on RM).
    Surely, at the Bernabeu Tata will take his park the bus strategy one step further and play the double pivot (Song and Busquets). Think that would be fabulous with Neymar-Messi-Alexis ready to launch counter-attacks.

  2. KEVINO17
    October 26, 2013

    Oh yes, and if Barca are going to park the bus, surely Bartra should play. Pique was fantastic dealing with crosses. But it would be good to have another tall player in there.

  3. IamXavi6
    October 26, 2013

    and my weekwnd is now complete!!

    Game wasnt a classic but the result is what it is and we go into the end of the year with a nice moral boosting win over EE.

    Thoughts on Cesc today people?

    • October 26, 2013

      Cesc was actually very good, not that anyone will admit it. He worked like a dog, both in attack and defense.

  4. jsmf
    October 26, 2013

    A few thoughts from a non-partisan:

    Messi was great in the role he was asked to play, and I think it makes Barca a stronger team as the shift to Busquets being asked to play a more pronounced role as distributor as Xavi continues to age. Does Iniesta also move back in teh midfield and begin to run things as Xavi has done? The shift also gives space to Cesc to make vertical runs, which is key to Tito’s system and competing with the growing physicality of the other top teams in the world. All that said think we should wait a bit more than a single game to confirm Messi happily goes along with the shift in positioning.

    Valdes was immense. A great save from Ronaldo down to his right. Best Spanish keeper at the moment. Think De Gea might be second. Lopez was way too far off his line for Alexis’s goal, but the way he created the space against Verane and the touch on the chip was beautiful.

    Alves was great also. Pique looked like he did a couple years ago.

    Neymar. First step so quick, and once he fully adjusts to the pace and doesn’t take that extra second when he receives the ball or makes his move, he’s going to be immense.

    Madrid still needs time to figure out their system, if they are going to play with Ronaldo, Bale and Di Maria. Not a coincidence that they looked more fluid when Benzama came on. Carlo has a significant task in front of him.

    It was a penalty; not even arguable. If that’s at the other end of the pitch, or back in Madrid, is there really any doubt the whistle blows?

    Good match, not a great one. But with two teams in transition, not a surprise. Good to see the tempers have appeared to simmer down a bit and the focus can be on the football. Anything between the two clubs will always have a bit of spice and there will always be a bit of extras during the match from both sides, but as a neutral, it is fantastic to see the focus back on the football (as entertaining as the brawls could be at times.)

    Congrats to Barca. Looking forward to enjoying next Classico.

  5. October 26, 2013

    Toss Iniesta, Valdes and Neymar’s names into the MOTM hat and I’m fine with whomever gets plucked out.

    Add Busquets to the hat as well. All four were excellent today. I think Iniesta must have read your piece about his struggles to adapt to Tata’s system and decided to make you eat your words. 😛

    I too was less than thrilled when Pique was announced as a starter, and I also offer my apologies. His best game by far this season. Mascherano wasn’t perfect, but had several key interventions that justified Tata’s faith in him.

    I have to disagree with your characterization of the match as “calm”. OK, it wasn’t the hate-fuelled cauldron of fury of the last few years, but it was fast-paced, intense, and wide open. No one parked a bus, no one sat back and waited for their opponents to strike first. I found it quite riveting. But maybe you mean something different by “calm”.

    And thank you for choosing that pic of Alexis. I am now convinced that he has his shorts hemmed or pinned up specially. Look, you can’t see the Barça crest or the Nike swoosh!

    • October 26, 2013

      Oh, I forgot. Was it a penalty? Hard to say. Probably yes. CR7 definitely went down easily expecting to get the call. But if the same thing had happened to Neymar or Messi I would likely be calling foul right now. Somehow I can’t manage to feel much sympathy for RM, though, considering that Teh Ramos should have been sent off for multiple fouls.

    • yana
      October 26, 2013

      I think Alexis still tucks them up himself — in and up into his underwear elastic? — because you’ll see them slip down, or one side hanging lower than the other, and then later both legs are up high again. Though, no idea how the camera hasn’t caught him doing it yet. Nike *should* make him custom ones, though.

      Kxevin, thank you so much for your pieces over the last week, I’ve enjoyed them so much.

      • KEVINO17
        October 26, 2013

        No he doesn’t. I think he just pushes one side up his leg and then lets it naturally falls down. The big question is why he does it. Dr Freud, your three o’clock is here.

        • Peter
          October 27, 2013

          If his shorts got any tighter we’d probably be able to find out his religion. 😀

  6. yana
    October 26, 2013

    Okay, people, gif me with CR tantrums! I love to send them to my madridista friend (who freely admits he laughs as much as we do at CR). In addition to the flailing CR from the previous post, this is still my favorite moment: Twenty men on the field. Nineteen of them are focused on the ball. One of these things is not like the others?

    • October 27, 2013

      I’m curious. Which game is that from? The manita of 2009?

      • G6O
        October 27, 2013

        Must be. 2-0. 22nd minute.

        It’s absolutely priceless 🙂

        • barca96
          October 27, 2013

          Ronaldo’s reaction

          Alves nutmeg Ronaldo

    • endico
      October 27, 2013

      Just out of curiosity. What is C Ronaldo waiting for or what is he looking at?

  7. KEVINO17
    October 26, 2013

    As others have commented, so far Perez’s season has involved missing Neymar, selling Ozil and buying a counter-attacking weapon for 100 million just when every team (including Barca) is determined to stop RM counter-attacking.
    Indeed, Bale is a 100 million dollar message. It reads: Park the Bus.

    • October 27, 2013

      But I really dont think, you need a bus to stop Bale. Even our Pedro is technically better, for me.

      • KEVINO17
        October 27, 2013

        Pedro is technically better, but Bale does have after-burners, which can make technique rather irrelevant (in the right circumstances).
        Agree with you that Alexis came on five minutes too late.

    • October 27, 2013

      What makes it worse is that Ozil was one of the best (at EE) at creating space for the team with his movement and unlocking tight defenses. Maybe Isco can take that role over time, but he’s not yet at the level of Ozil, and has a fundamentally different approach to doing it. Oh well, I actually cheered their summer because I didn’t rate Bale terribly high, and now I can actually admire Ozil freed from the shackles of EE.

  8. October 26, 2013

    Kevin, I just wish you had also given a para only for Valdes, like you did for Messi, Neymar etc.. For me, Valdes saved us the points today. And we are SIX ahead in OCT!! Brilliant.

    Within the first 20 minutes, I was sure Messi was asked to play a tactical role today. But he looks hardly fit. Still, he worked out that magical run towards the end, I wish the ball had gone to Alexis instead of Alves.

    For me, something important has turned out from this classico. The goal of Alexis gets him even more attention, in the future. Which means, our forward line of Neymar, Messi, Alexis, whoever plays in the centre or wing, all three would require a LOT of attention from the opposition. I am hoping, this gives a lot of freedom to Tata, and also for other players.

    When I saw RM line up, I thought wow, Ancelotti has surprised, just that, our players are still superior, not just as players, but they are also tactically aware. I loved it how we allowed them to keep the ball, but got it back right when we needed it. This was, for me, one of the most controlled game of ours. Well done Martino.
    Just wish he had subbed in Alexis 5 minutes earlier.

    Well done Team.

    • October 27, 2013

      VV was on fire, just as much as any outfield player. I was actually surprised when he finally let one past.

  9. PrinceYuvi
    October 27, 2013

    A really nice, well thought out article.
    A great comprehensive win.
    Tata made EE look toothless, mediocre, boring.

    Our players were brilliant both tactically as a team & individually.
    They knew what they were doing & weren’t out of their depth at any moment.

    For once, there was no weak link in barca armour. We defended really well & xaviesta never looked this good in long time.

    A very satisfying display of calculated football.

  10. PrinceYuvi
    October 27, 2013

    Forgot to mention messi ) I quite like him in his ‘Beast without goals’ mode.
    At least our superstar doesnt beg for penalties every half second, gets nutmegged in spectacular fashion – instead, he clocks most successful tackles.

  11. psalmuel
    October 27, 2013

    Now, we are no longer that team who attacks no matter the score line and couldn’t be happier. We’d had been in the 2012 UCL final if only Pep did revert to a 4-3-3 and shored things up. There are times when the result is more important than style though am not advocating that parking the bus should become our main style. We could flick that tiki-taka switch at some poin and then flick the tiki-tata switch at other times. We now have a coach who actually ‘watches’ videos of our opponents so as to know how to set up his team… We can only get better… And hey! I thought we had the weakest defence when it comes to set-pieces and counter-attacks?

  12. DianaKristinne
    October 27, 2013

    Great article, Kxevin! I too am pleased by the fact that we had a different game plan. Besides the tactical modifications, with Messi on the right and Cesc in the middle (I don’t think he was a false 9, rather just the top of our diamond shaped midfield.), I enjoyed watching them struggle with the ball and us defending so well. That is what surprised them the most. Tata owned Carletto, with all his European football experience!

    The statistic that I personally found most revealing about the way we approached this game was this:

    “Barcelona duo Messi & Iniesta won 8 tackles during El Clasico, the same amount as the entire Real Madrid team combined.”

    • DianaKristinne
      October 27, 2013

      Also, this one is interesting:

      “Barcelona allowed Ronaldo to shoot only once tonight. It was only the 2nd time in 137 Liga games that he had 1 shot. [via @whoscored]”

  13. IamXavi6
    October 27, 2013

    This headline from some low-qual EE blog:

    “Barcelona 2-1 Real Madrid: Once A Cheat, Always A Cheat”

  14. raj
    October 27, 2013

    I started recognizing the tactical aspects of a live game very recently. I was reading all the threads and comments yesterday after the match in other websites and there was not much talk about defense let alone the way Barca didn’t try to ‘dominate’. Everyone was going about Ney and Lex but nothing much about how song was brought on, how messi defended more than attacked, how we let them have possession for more than 2-3 minutes stretches. I am sure we could have got the ball back if we really tried to, but the team was just challenging Real saying ‘so you want the ball, take it, now what?’. Given that we are a lot more comfortable with the ball, it was quite brave and must have been hard to cope with the idea when Tata instructed them to let go. But Xavi busquets and co did. It wasn’t your typical Barca match irrespective of the result. It was almost funny how Real couldn’t get anything right when they had possession after so many classicos of not having it. That was the most intriguing part for me. Real was specifically set up to counter and prepared for us to control the game. But when we didn’t play ball, they looked lost.

    And today I came here just to say how clever TATA is and here is Kxevin taking words out of mouths.

    Kxevin, you deserve a huge round of applauds for saying things which many like me can feel vaguely but couldn’t form into concrete concepts. People like you differentiate this blog from others.

    • raj
      October 27, 2013

      And since I am a romantic for critical analysis, I must say this (at the risk of being bashed): I wonder if the tactics of giving them possession and not trying to control with ball, and to play Messi on right, would have been applauded as much or even rejected if they did manage to get a goal out of the possession instead of counter attacks. I am sure some people would have gone wild with accusations of robbery of Barcas style on TATA for one. And playing messi away from goal would have been called stupid if Ney didn’t score the first or Valdes didn’t save them all. Also, remember how people were worried about Xavi Busquets and Ini being over played. People would have blamed TATA for the lack of rotations when it mattered this week. The players made TATA’s brave decisions look risk-free.

      • October 27, 2013

        Well in the end it always comes down to how players execute. A tactical plan is just a plan, the players decide in situations how to apply it effectively. We can only judge the two together, however, since what we see is the result.

      • Peter
        October 27, 2013

        True, it’s a bit hypocritical, but like they say, the difference between brave and foolhardy is the outcome. 🙂
        Lots of people and journalists are saying Messi was invisible last night, but give it a week and there will be some recognition. Not a lot, but some.

        But I have to say a lot of cules were actually hoping for giving the opponent the possession. Opposing teams could just stay back, park the bus and wait for Barcelona come to them. I have(not here, at totalBarça) asked for Barcelona to stop the incessant attacks. Give the other side the ball, let THEM bash their skulls against the Barcelona defence.
        I also find it very funny that people were complaining last night that Tata was scared and afraid, and that´s why he send Song in. The most common formations in football todal feature 2 pivotes(4-2-3-1; 4-4-2), and when Tata decides to use two pivotes and wins people/haters call it fear? “Where’s the Barca style?!” It’s reactions like these that tell you who’s really scared, who’s really afraid.

    • georgjorge
      October 27, 2013

      It also speaks a lot about the intelligence of the players that they have taken very little time to execute tactics that must have been quite new to them. They have played possession football for a very long time, and now have very well adapted to play a altogether different style (after the goal and then in the second half as well).

  15. October 27, 2013

    I have to say that this match was very important for another reason, which was touched on in the article. It’s pretty clear that while our players do have their views on how the game should be played, they are very pragmatic. They know they are judged on trophies won at the end of the day. And winning this match after buying into Tata’s tactics gives him even more buy in for implementing future ideas. I was worried before the season about how well he would be able to accomplish that, and get buy in from guys who have won everything multiple times. But he has shown a clear ability to persuade guys to accept different roles, and coax great performances out of others.

  16. raj
    October 27, 2013

    Where can I download the full match video with good quality? Is there a torrent source. Please let me know.

  17. TITO
    October 27, 2013

    On the piratebay. Just search for Barcelona.

  18. Nick
    October 27, 2013

    Kxevin, it’s tik[i] taka!

    Here’s a great picture of our maestro in action. That backheel half-volley to himself was simply amazing.×640/

    As for Messi, I actually think he was somewhat sick, in addition to not being fully fit. Did you all see his state when getting on the pitch for the second half? This may also explain (and I sure don’t doubt his work rate) why he was soaking wet.

    And penalties… Masch definitely fouled Cristiana but so did Pepe stepping on Cesc. The one I’m still not sure about is Adriano’s handball.

    • October 27, 2013

      Pepe was a 100% penalty. Masch on CR could definitely have been called a penalty but it would have been soft. At the time it happened the thought “penalty” did not come to my mind not even for a zepto-second and I fear Mallenco. Adriano’s handball was both involuntary and inconsecuential since there was no other M*drid player around. You can’t expect a player’s arm to disintegrate into the air now…

      Good point about Messi. I thought the same thing when I saw him get out for the 2nd half.

  19. October 27, 2013

    Guys… Where on earth does all this talk about “Barça parking the bus” come from?

    We lost control of the match for some time in the second half against a very good opponent against which we had not won in a significant game since I believe February 2012. We still ended the game with about 55% possession.

    • October 27, 2013

      Yeah that and we’d not be very good at bus parking. Us being pragmatic and defensive is a very relative term, it doesn’t mean that’s what we’re doing relative to other clubs but only relative to our own style of play.

    • October 27, 2013

      I know! We get less than 60% possession and suddenly we are a defensive team? Bizarre! We did lose possession more than usual (they have some decent players, you know, that Real Madrid), but at no time did we sit back and “let” them have the ball.

  20. October 27, 2013

    I just think it’s important not to listen to what anyone “says.” People are going to claim all sorts of things affected the outcome, from Ancelotti getting it wrong to sunspots and how the reflected off of Ronaldo’s hair.

    Fact of the matter is that our entire team elevated its game for this one, as did RM. On that day, we came out on top.

    There will come a time when people will stop doubting Martino. As with any coach, it will take some time. I do believe that he won’t get his full credit until the rose-colored glasses view of the Guardiola years relents a bit. Nothing against Guardiola. He did wonderful things for this club. But as with all legends, it is never as big or as grand as legend has it.

    The problem with legend is that it sometimes paints everything, as in WWGD? That’s where we are now with all the talk of losing the Way, etc. Folks need to get over that, and we need to stop fretting about them not being able to get over that, and talking foolishness.

  21. Jim
    October 27, 2013

    Still on a high !

    Just watched the second half again as that’s where RM had their best spell. The first thing to say is that for me they didn’t really. As some have said the difference was that we didn’t get anxious if they got the ball because we had numbers back and were confident we could handle them. During the half, well maybe apart from the last fifteen when we threw away possession a bit easily for me we played a lot of good controlled football and had equally as good chances .

    Maybe now I can put away the Pique fairness committee hat for good ? You won’t find a more intelligent controlled display of defensive football than that. ( leaving a lot unsaid here as it’s a day for enjoying 🙂 )

    We have Busi, Iniesta and Xavi all playing for us – no, really, how unlikely is that in the scheme of things? You can’t keep a big, fast talented side like RM at bay with our sprites unless you are technically superb which they were last night. It would be wrong to single out Ini as the whole midfield was great other than for some reason there were those who doubted.

    Last night I saw the first piece of skill from Alexis which I thought was worthy of a Barca forward !!! I’ve been one of his biggest critics through the sheer disappointment of watching mediocrity from him week after week. However, that was world class. More of that please. Interestingly, again that came from Neymar coming central….

    We largely kept Ronaldo, Di Maria and Bale quiet by having the right number of defenders available. Long may that continue.

    As has again been said, the win gives Tata confidence and esteem in the players’ eyes plus heaps the pressure back onto RM who will undoubtedly devour themselves for the next week.

    Some other things we need to think about as it wasn’t all positive but having learned from our inability to celebrate the record league win least season lets leave those to another day

  22. psalmuel
    October 27, 2013

    Its funny that Ancelloti wanted to do a Mou by playing a CB at DM,but unfortunately, Tata had other ideas. He moved Messi to the RW knowing that EE’s game plan would be to clog the middle cos of Messi. Now thats a practical and intelligent coach (no disrespect to Tito or Pep though)

  23. barca96
    October 27, 2013

    – Good tactic to not play a high line. Madrid with CR7 & Bale would’ve had a field day.

    – Busi wasn’t as influential and as a result our midfield couldn’t dominate the field. But I guess this is the trade off as he had to protect the back 4. We really missed him in midfield last night.

    – That Alves nutmeg on CR7. Just wow!

    – Messi is amazing at stealing the ball from someone’s feet. Lightning quick! I wish we could clone him and make Messi 2 a LB.

    – sMasch needs to sit and also someone needs to tell him that his passing is good but not great. Stop always trying to go for long balls especially across the field where there is a higher chance of it getting intercepted.

    Thing is that it hasn’t been working for the past couple of matches now. We don’t need to suffer a counter attack because of these risky passes from the back.

    Many here like his tackling but I don’t. Many of his tackles are high risk. Could cost us heavily. Like the one very high up the pitch last night. I scratched my head thinking why he went up so high making an unneccessary yellow card worthy tackle.

    And he has given up quite a number of penalties and was pretty fortunate last night. My main worry of him before his arrival was that he is a a ticking time bomb and a card magnet. Even though he isn’t like how he used to be at Liverpool, I still think he is a high risk player.

    • October 27, 2013

      Mention his tackles and key, key interventions for a balanced picture. For me, the “poor passing card magnet” ship sailed a long time ago. Others will share your view, I imagine. Doubtful Mascherano will ever get a fair hearing until, as with Valdes, he is gone and the void manifests itself.

      • Jim
        October 27, 2013

        Not looking to get dragged into another Mascherano argument but imo his second half was the poorest I’ve seen from a Barca CB for a long time. Haven’t re watched the first yet .

        • October 27, 2013

          Wouldn’t go as far as Jim, but I agree that Mascherano was terrible in the second half. And I don’t see how that is an unfair assessment. Defenders get judged on what they do wrong. I’m gonna watch the match again today or tomorrow but I remember at least twice that he needlessly gave up the ball in extremely dangerous situations.

  24. barca96
    October 27, 2013

    Oh. Ramos has got to be one of the stupidest player, ever! Exact same foul with the referee standing in front of him. Unbelievably stupid!! And of course with his typical “get up gesture after committing a foul”.

    • October 27, 2013

      It is the kind of foul we are going to see more of, with even culers playing into the “Neymar is a diver” nonsense. So players are banking on him being the boy who cried wolf, and will knock the crap out of him. Look at the pullback laid on him by RM’s fullback yesterday. If he gets loose to that pass from Messi, he’s 1v1 on the keeper. Ref wasn’t looking, RM players made the “get up, stop exaggerating” gesture. And that was that.

      On the other hand, Messi got a foul call when he wasn’t really fouled, over on the sideline against Pepe. So I reckon it evens out, or something …

      • ooga aga
        October 27, 2013

        messi was fouled in that instance not be pepe but by marcelo, who clearly (well, in the replay anyway) tripped him.

  25. lyd
    October 27, 2013

    Excellent views there, Kxevin! As always. The title resonated to one of my last thoughts before going for a peaceful sleep, last night.

    It’s really romantic for me to see this team go through this improbable metamorphosis for pragmatic purposes. Instances being Messi agreeing to play at a withdrawn role (Take that, Zlatan!) and Iniesta taking multiple shots from distance. He even hit a powerful left footed volley at one point! Xavi tracking back and sliding to recover possession.

    What I like about this current Barca is that they seem to have a plan where they collect stray balls, anticipates failed dribbles of teammates (Messi, Neymar) via cautious positioning. Little things that we could afford not bother before. Still, a work in progress.

    Not a flawless game but we don’t need to play that well against a team like RM that suffers from severe inferiority complex.

  26. lyd
    October 27, 2013

    Thanks VV, Busi, Pique, Masche, Adriano, Alvez, Song for the defensive work inside the half.

    Please add Busquetes to the MOTM list. : ) What a great player and an ambassador of the game. He sits in the middle like a monk meditating, like an all important center pawn that ultimately decide a chess game. As a overly demanding Cule, I would like for Busi to tweet while playing clasicos. Sure he can do that without affecting his game play!

    Too early to say, but we are inching closer to the stage where I guess we’d be able to drain out quality opponents by the hour mark.
    Like Kxevin wrote, “So give them the ball. What can it hurt, as they don’t appear to be good at building play and scoring chances from extended possession turns.” > Its like asking a bunch of nocturnal to hunt at day! Failing to create meaningful moves lowers the confidence in every aspects and affects every body! Still RM created chances, not due to their creativity, but only due to our lapses in concentration, but couldn’t punish.

  27. October 27, 2013

    Cesc: “Madrid more possession in second half? We learned. When they have space they feel good, when they have the ball they have problems.”

  28. Nik
    October 27, 2013

    A quote from Cesc via @barcastuff to support Kxevin’s assertion that we consciously gave up possession to Madrid at points:

    Cesc: “Madrid more possession in second half? We learned. When they have space they feel good, when they have the ball they have problems.”

    Great write-up btw!

      • Nik
        October 27, 2013

        Yeah, I really enjoyed it. My favorite part was probably this:

        Do we forget the human element, the pressure? Some people have the brains to understand, to appreciate that Bayern are a good team, that we got 100 points, that you can’t always win …

        Others are more fanatical and only complain, complaint after complaint, always going on. And there are a lot of them, eh! But, look, you need that level of expectation to ensure the club keeps growing. I’m glad we have that. It can’t be criticism for criticism’s sake, though.”

  29. georgjorge
    October 27, 2013

    Great post. I have to add though that Barca played pretty nice tiki taka, dominating in possession in the opponent’s half, up until the first goal. Only then (and even more so in the second half) did they mostly give up on the high press and let M*drid have the ball a lot of the time.

    Personally – as a bandwagoner rather than a fan – I’m ambivalent about the pragmatism. I watch and love Barca because they play beautiful football. So for me, it’s not only about the results but also about the tiki taka, the breathtaking passes, the dribbling skills of Messi and Iniesta. If Barca would become a team that played just like the other successful teams out there, maybe I would stop watching. Fortunately, they still played beautiful football yesterday so it’s all good for now.

  30. Rami
    October 27, 2013

    After the last time EE visited camp nou, Kevin put up a post about how ‘inches can make all the difference’, Well this time we fought for those inches, Latched on to it, The team in one voice screamed to madrid “Get off our goddamn inches!”

    EE are still maturing, No doubt they’ll be stronger later, But so are we, This certainly wasn’t the best we can deliver, Martino and the players fully know this, There were places for improvement almost everywhere, The potential of our team is something to be excited about.

    I’ll just have to suffice with this short post, Life had made me very busy unfortunately, And it will last for quite a while in my case.

    Speaking of inches, I could almost swear martino made a similar speech to this, Before the match:

    A must watch, Al pacino brings the chills down one’s spine.

  31. October 27, 2013

    Ah, Mascherano. From Jim: imo his second half was the poorest I’ve seen from a Barca CB for a long time.
    From Levon: Wouldn’t go as far as Jim, but I agree that Mascherano was terrible in the second half. And I don’t see how that is an unfair assessment. Defenders get judged on what they do wrong.

    I won’t get into the judging on what they do wrong, rather than what they do right, because I would argue that Mascherano (along with Song) is a special case. When he does something bad, it’s “A-HA!! See?” When he does something good, however, it’s the sound of crickets.

    But I thought that maybe I was just stupid for not seeing how terrible, and what a liability Mascherano was, so I just watched the second half again. Here is every last touch and intervention, etc on the part of Mascherano. Judge for yourselves.

    45:49- Playing RM attacker off.
    49:46- Closes down on Ronaldo to help force goal kick.
    50:50- Weak outlet intercepted leading to RM break, turns to face Ronaldo, then races back to cover Khedira. Made cross more difficult.
    53:23- Reads play, sprints to steal ball from DiMaria, start break.
    53:32:- Long pass for Messi falls short.
    53:45- Out physicals Bale, steals ball. Play led to great Neymar chance.
    54:22- Intercepts Ronaldo pass, plays to midfield.
    55:02- Aerial duel, wins ball, foul called on him.
    57:15- Reads play, moves to midfield to win aerial duel.
    (Gets in way when Iniesta gives ball away.)
    59:10- Another deflected pass out of back, Adriano snuffs out danger.
    62:15- Deflects Benzema cross.
    63:05- Formed triangle with Alves to play out from back.
    66:50- Long diagonal pass from back intercepted at midfield.
    68:02- Chases Benzema off ball.
    70:29- Shoulder to shoulder challenge on Ronaldo (this is the disputed penalty moment).
    77:44- Heads to Xavi who heads to Neymar, who feeds Sanchez, who … you know.
    79:46- Teams with Song to root ball out from back.
    85:21- Charged out to midfield, put Marcelo on his butt.
    87:45- Long pass from back, out into touch.

    The last time I did this was with Keita, who was another player that people, I believe, judged unfairly and harshly. It’s an interesting exercise, because you also see more favored players doing things that less-favored players would get pilloried for, but that is a debate for another day.

    • egcg119
      October 27, 2013

      You left out both the Ronaldo and Khedira chances that Valdes saved. On both plays, Masch’s first instinct on a break is to charge forward and cut off the option, even as there’s a player sprinting in behind him.

      In both cases, Barca had midfielders near the ball and could pressure well enough – the man on the ball is not the main threat. Tracking that run behind is imperative. First one: Iniesta is steps away from Modric, defense has to track both Bale and Ronaldo. Busi is out of position, sure, but Masch’s man in this case is Ronaldo. As the play develops, Ronaldo is on his right side, with Alves up ahead – he knows that’s his man. So when we lose the ball, that’s who he should be tracking. Second one: again, Benzema presents no threat, he’s far back and midfielders are closing him down. Moreover, any attempts at an offsides trap are futile, because it’s a split-second decision with four players all back in a line.

      There’s no rationale here, it’s just instinct, and that instinctive step forward is a midfielder’s reaction. It’s great at the half-way line, where he needs to make key interceptions and other people can cover for him. When you’re sitting back and absorbing pressure on the edge of our box, you simply cannot afford to lose that half step.

      These were the two scariest chances for me, where our defense was left completely exposed. Both could have very, very easily been goals, and both were Masch’s fault.

      • October 27, 2013

        I suggest that you are interpreting those situations in a way that buttresses your argument against Mascherano. It’s why I apply no judgment to the chronicling of what happened, only action and result.

        Someone else could watch that same play and suggest that the attackers in question were the responsibility of someone else.

        It’s similar to the “positioning” argument that is used to bash Song about the head and shoulders. We criticize players in a vacuum … a knowledge vacuum. So we say “So and so didn’t do this,” without having a clue what the coach wanted him to do, or what the play calls for.

        Further, if the players that people get on were as bad as culers suggest, they wouldn’t play precisely because they are a liability, and would be sold at the first available opportunity. Mascherano would fetch easily close to his purchase price, yet he not only still has a spot on the roster, but is part of the preferred CB tandem in a huge match.

        I’ll suggest that says something about the way that he plays for Barça, and the coach’s view of the way that he performs his job.

        • egcg119
          October 27, 2013

          I appreciate what you’re saying, and I really like Masch. I don’t think he’s the worst thing to hit Barca since the letters C and B were paired with each other, which is the feedback you seem to be getting from others.

          I simply responded to your chronicling of events, I found it surprising you made no mention of either incident.

          It might be unfair to look at only the moments where things go wrong, and I do my best to try to train my eye to notice positioning, etc, at other times. But you can bet that El Jefecito will look at the replays there and buckle down to improve next time. If I were him in that situation, I’d blame myself – as a defender, I have, many times.

          Don’t think he’s a bad player in the slightest, he’s superb at many of the things he does, and coach knows best. But there does seem to be an inconsistency to how he performs, and I’ve been trying to figure it out for a while. As much as I hate to agree with the cliches British announcers spew, I think there’s a real sense in which Masch’s lack of training as a defender continues to limit him at the highest level.

    • Jim
      October 27, 2013

      Thanks, Kxevin. As you know I’m sad enough to find this sort of analysis pretty interesting. I’ll have a look.
      Before, I do and because I’ve just watched it again to see if I was being harsh if we just take the penalty incident.

      When Benzema collects the ball facing his goal Masch is looking along the line, further away from CR7 than is wise, but at least covering him.

      As Benz moves back Pique steps up to stay with him. At that point you can clearly see Masch a good four yards behind our last defender creating the gap for anyone to run into.

      Benz plays it sideways to no.22, sorry not sure who, at which point CR7 starts his diagonal run. Masch lets him go. Madness! By the time he realises and starts sprinting the situation is dire as he’s not gonna get there first.

      However, he is in a position to block anything other than a first time shot, not easy as CR7 is actually heading on a diagonal away from our goal.

      CR7 realising this and Masch’s inability to stay on his feet turns his back and Masch duly obliges by coming into the back of him. For me, a stonewall penalty – if it’s shoulder to shoulder as you put it CR7 goes sideways not full on forward dive ( as was the previous one by Pepe on Cesc a penalty although at least there the ref might have thought Xavi was going to get a shot in ) but that’s not the point. The point is he doesn’t think like a defender and made several elementary mistakes in the one movement.

      A completely avoidable situation for any top quality defender.

      • bhed
        October 27, 2013

        I’ve been a supporter of Masch, but I have to agree with you here. Two shaky games in a row since his injury. He had looked quite promising at the start of the season as far as positioning, staying on his feet, etc. Hope he can regain that form.

      • October 27, 2013

        Looking at the first situation now: Ronaldo has the ball, Mascherano fronts him. He and Pique are the only two back, with others chasing. So you stop the ball. When Ronaldo releases to Khedira, Mascherano then sprints back to cover Khedira.

        Interpretation means a lot, but for me he made an error, then covered his own ass.

        In the second situation, the Ronaldo shot, when Iniesta loses the ball, you can see that Mascherano IS moving back, but he’s screwed, like all the other defenders. Pique is chasing the ball instead of marking DiMaria, who was running in behind him and wide open for the cross. No unkind words toward Pique, because … I dunno.

        On the Khedira incident, Mascherano did indeed move forward, probably thinking Alves would move with Khedira if anything happened. You can see him lunge, then stop. Alves relaxes, then lopes after Khedira. We would have to be Martino to know who erred in that situation.

      • October 27, 2013

        Jim, I will assume from your contention here:

        A completely avoidable situation for any top quality defender.

        That when Pique gave up a penalty to Ronaldo last year by sliding in, the same view holds?

        • Jim
          October 27, 2013

          Absolutely. He didn’t have a realistic chance of making that tackle. However, he didn’t cause the situation in the first place.

          I’m not on a crusade here although it must look like it. I just say what I see. I’m more concerned about Masch making the same mistakes again and again.

    • October 27, 2013

      Well, it seems like we watched the same player do mostly the same things, but judge his actions differently. Any defender for any team will do a large number of things right. Listing them does not necessarily balance out their mistakes and/or shortcomings. Like I said, for defenders, I lend more weight to the things they do wrong, because defender’s mistakes are often the costliest.

      I think I recall (other readers might correct me here) that two of the passes Masche misplaced yesterday led directly to counter attack opportunities in our half of the pitch against the opponent you least want to gift those opportunities to. I think that is a too much for 45 minutes of football.

      Also, if the challenge on CR7 had been shoulder to shoulder there would be no disputed penalty moment. Masche got there a fraction late and barged right into the striker’s back.

      Neither do I see why Javier is a special case, other than the fact that not all of us value him equally. I personally am very happy that he is at Barcelona, he is a very good player and comes across as a great guy, too. I have given him plenty of plaudits in this space over the last two years. But as our first-choice CB against the top teams of Europe I’m not convinced.

      Last but not least, it is okay for us to disagree here. It makes BFB all the richer.

      • bhed
        October 27, 2013

        Amen, on your last point. I’ve been reluctant to voice any concerns lately, for fear of getting bashed, which leaves me no place to bounce such concerns off of people who know what I’m talking about. Plus, the “we’re perfect” routine gets a bit dull.

        • Jim
          October 27, 2013

          Hope I haven’t been adding to any intimidation factor you feel, Bhed. I tend to be like a dog with a bone when certain subjects come up. I would have to say that I quite often find myself expressing an opinion contrary to the flow but never feel that folk are getting at me and try never to make it personal.

          It’s all just opinions here and just as in school with my barns it how to disagree without antagonising or intimidating others that is the key skill. I have to say that generally I feel It’s done pretty well here.

          Look forward to hearing you comment more 🙂

          • Jim
            October 27, 2013

            *bairns. Not my night on the old iPad is it? Maybe time to just enjoy the wine…

          • bhed
            October 27, 2013

            I actually really like your posts (although of course I don’t agree with all of them) precisely because you’re not afraid to voice an unpopular opinion (plus I have 175 bairns of my own). Thanks for the reply though.

      • October 27, 2013

        But where is the scorn for Iniesta, who gave away a ball that directly led to an RM counter, or Messi, who gifted a ball that led directly to am RM goal?

        That is my point. Mascherano is being slammed for things that “almost” happened, by a standard that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. For me, ANY player whose action leads to an opponent goal gets the exact same level of scrutiny. Iniesta lost balls that led to RM counters. But nothing. Why? Because the defense is supposed to clean up the offense’s mess?

        I don’t think it’s a question of judging the same actions in different ways. I think it’s a question of judging actions in a way that will support a view of a player. It’s why I just noted that at X time, Y happened. No judgment. To some, Mascherano is a mess who should be sold. Apparently to our coach (former and present), he’s an excellent player, so much so that he gets a start, even just back from injury, in the biggest match of the season so far.

        Personally, I am going to trust our coach.

        But the beauty of having a DVR is that you can pause a moment, do frame-by-frame views, etc. So it’s easy to see what happens, and when. And for the life of me, I just can’t find any evidence to support the supposition that Mascherano was bad in the second half.

        If people want to say that he is, I suggest they get on the phone to ZubiZa and convince him, because Martino and the board, who had offers for Mascherano this summer and lucrative ones, didn’t even think about selling him.

        I reckon I should have known that even objective “at this time, this happened” wouldn’t be sufficient. I guess I only bothered because I have this crazy notion that our players be judged for their actions, the actual happenings, rather than our subjective interpretations of those actions, based on a desired outcome.

        So all I can do is throw up my hands, and say “Have at it. My work here is done.”

        • October 27, 2013

          And bhed, pardon me, but if you are afraid to make any comment for fear of getting bashed, then why the hell am I writing articles, or commenting on this space? Why are any of us doing it? I am routinely called a fool, a biased jackass and a football ignoramus. By all accounts, I shouldn’t have anything at all to say. If we self-censor, what is the point of this space?

          It’s a question that’s been on my brain a lot anyhow. Nobody seems to learn anything from anyone’s comments or analysis. “He sucks, and that’s all there is to it.” Analysis, objective data, nothing matters to a worldview.

          Now, if you don’t want to be part of that kind of an environment, I don’t blame you. I have my moments, as well. But to say that you don’t have a desire to make a comment for fear of getting bashed runs counter to the work that we have done in trying to make this space precisely the kind of place where that sort of thing doesn’t occur.

          If people think that it still is, then we have failed.

          • bhed
            October 27, 2013

            Just lately, and just a little bit, but sometimes it’s good to think before posting anyway 🙂

            This space is still so far from failing! It’s still the best Barca analysis on the web, in English anyway, and apparently not counting twitter. You’re posts in particular are a treat, it doesn’t read like a volunteer site. I just want to contribute in a constructive, or at least an interesting way.

            It’s like the team, it faces bumps, slightly evolves, and is still the best at the end of the day!

        • October 27, 2013

          Well, I think that when you judge the penalty dispute to be shoulder to shoulder and I judge it to be shoulder to back then we are judging the the same action in different ways.

          Also, when defenders lose balls that lead to counter attacks there are usually less people behind the ball to defend the counter attack (and more people in front of the ball to pass to to begin with, btw). That’s one of the reasons why defenders losing balls and midfielders and attackers losing balls are not judged the same way.

          Although I admittedly was screaming my lungs out at Iniesta when he tried to play through three RM players in the center of the pitch and lost the ball (I am assuming that is the moment you refer to in the first sentence). That was a terribly play, too.

        • Mascherano’s problem is that people easily forget the fact that he in the end is a defensive midfielder placed in the defense. Regardless of where he is placed, his first instinct will be to think like a defensive midfielder. It has benefits and drawbacks.

          I agree with Kxevin about Mascherano’s performance in second half. He was good. The problem we faced was because the midfield was becoming less dominant. Too many times we were losing possession in midfield.

  32. Jim
    October 27, 2013

    Ok, I’ve only looked at the second half as that’s what my comment was about. Yes, ive missed out anything good he did and I’ve put my own perspective on the actions which folk can ignore if they see fit. I’m more interested in them looking at these incidents and letting them make up their own mind. To many he’s an action man saving us, to me he’s a liability to the rest of the defence. To be fair, he has said as much himself. I’m not sure what else folk need to see what is staring us in the face.However, by any objective view of just the actions I reckon it shows the kind of half Masch had and why he should never be first or even second choice for the position.

    Ok, here goes and apologies for the length.

    50.48. Masch plays careless and needlessly dangerous forward ball from just outside his own which is intercepted. He has at least two other options available. This leads to Khedira’s chance to set up Bale. For a header.

    53.30. Loses possession with long slow pass but probably worth trying.

    53.45. Pushes Bale in the back needlessly and gets away with it.

    55.00. Flattens CR7 with the same manoeuvre from the back and gives away free kick ten yards into our half. What was CR7 going to do with the ball that high in the air that was more dangerous than a free kick given our lack of height?

    59.05. Loses possession again needlessly under no pressure whatsoever. Luckily Di Maria is incompetent and attempts a poor pass or the break was on. I mean, genuinely look at this and ask yourself what was the best that could happen with that pass.

    66.48. With Busi about 15 feet away and open he plays a long diagonal ball to the giant Xavi and loses possession again.

    70. 20 the penalty incident which I’ve detailed elsewhere. Note though it’s the same impulsive challenge from the back which will almost always get you penalised.

    85.30. Completely ignores Khedira’s run to dash out and challenge Benzema who has both Pedro and Xavi bearing down on him already. Khedira runs through and should score. To be fair, Alves should also have realised the danger earlier but he was coming from the wrong side. Masch has a clear view.

    87.41. With time running out and possession vital, again under v little pressure he hoofs a long ball to Pedro which loses possession and goes straight out of play.

    90.00 the goal. No I’m not blaming Masch for this particularly but it’s another good example of how he could have possibly prevented it by making the right decision.

    Messi loses possession at the edge of their box. All night we’ve been fine because we have the numbers back. Shouldn’t have lost it and takes some blame but it is near their goal. Song stands and watches CR7 take off so to my mind he gets a piece of the slapped wrist as well. However, we still have numbers back. Oh wait, who’s that dashing into the back of Benzema to take himself out of the play. That’s right. Masch decides he has to close Benz down ten yards outside the RM box and by doing so for the first time in the move leaves us short of numbers as he gets now where near closing him down. What was he even thinking about?

    To be clear, as I’ve said all along I don’t blame Masch for this. Successive managers have either ignored his deficiencies, seen something in him I don’t or maybe just had to play him. He’s just playing there to help out the team. He is a top class DM and that suits his style of play much better than the specialism of CB imo.

    • Jim
      October 27, 2013

      Apologies. For some reason it looks worse because I appear to have duplicated the timings. Strange as I only pasted it once. Still, looks worse than it should . Mods feel free to alter or just Ignore everything after the first 90.00 entry.

      I guess I’m the Masch of. IPad usage 🙁

      • October 27, 2013

        As I said previously. I’m done. Have at it.

        On another note, there will be contributor slots open in the space very soon. You should bond with Levon here about filling one. Strong, closely held opinions are worth writing about.

        Your duplication has been fixed.

        • Jim
          October 27, 2013

          Kxevin, I hope you’re not referring to yourself when you say that about spaces. Firstly, you know that I’ve read and admired your pieces since the Offside days – I seem to remember being put in my box by you ( as it turns out rightly so) for suggesting that we should have done more to save R10.

          I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the chance to sharpen my opinions over the years but I’m one of the better examples of ” those that can’t, teach” I’m afraid. For that reason I am always interested by the articles people spend time over and have the courage to put out there. I’m sorry if that doesn’t always come over. What I would say is that I have always tried to avoid personalising things and hope that my views are taken that way- as just another opinion to throw into the mix.

          • October 27, 2013

            For me, things here are like when my grandmother said this guy was a thief. I calmly explained to her his virtues, and honesty. And at the end of it all, it was “That may be, but he’s still a thief.”

            When I started commenting at The Offside, and then writing posts, I knew about feck all except that I loved a football club. So I read, and learned, and listened to commenters such as Ramzi, and Hector, and other folks who had knowledge that I didn’t have. I learned to think about things differently and actually analyze the game, instead of just “Hey, he scored a goal. Cool.” There was why behind stuff.

            In an atmosphere of ideas and exchange of information, it becomes possible for everyone to learn, for the next group of posters to be born in a welcoming environment that features spirited and interesting debate. Sometimes one person ceded a point, sometimes the other person did. Other times people would just agree to disagree.

            But people aren’t coming to this space. And if they do, they aren’t commenting. People with whom I love interacting on Twitter and who used to people this space, aren’t coming any longer. I’ve heard why from various of them, and haven’t really understood it until now. And the grandmother analogy is a perfect one.

            It doesn’t matter what you do or say, an opinion is an opinion, and that’s that. So what does anyone learn, what kind of debate is really possible?

            Look at the Mascherano debate, for example. When I think I know something, and then discover something that runs contrary to what I thought I knew, that makes me curious. That’s the journalist in me. So I know, from having learned about the game, how Barça wants to play it and the kind of player that system seems to want, that I should understand more about what Mascherano does and how he does it.

            I get why Mascherano makes people nervous. And in understanding that, I also have come to understand (I think) why we didn’t buy a CB over the summer window. Because with the insane collection of skills that are required for a Barça CB, a world in which the prototype is a player who started as an attacker and then a fullback, anyone available wasn’t a lick better than what we had, and even a little worse. Including Thiago Silva.

            I still don’t “get it” fully. But I try. And then he blows in to stop a goal from being scored, or makes a tackle that makes the Camp Nou explode with delight, and I say “Man! Badass!” And in the way similar to Messi walking around until he decides it’s time to score a goal, I understand that sometimes, things aren’t perfect, even as they are really, really, good.

            Further, I trust in a trio of coaches … a sainted one who wanted him, the successor who came to rely on him and our current coach who has made him part of the first-choice XI as the others did, that things aren’t always as they seem, that there is something going on that makes a liar out of me and what I know.

            And I ask questions, look at stuff and gradually begin to understand risk vs reward, how our system doesn’t really want a traditional CB but rather a DM who tackles, and this stuff all makes sense to me. It becomes a point of fascinating debate.

            But a debate is two people, making contentions in a way that is based on logic and reason, a scientific argument that is a more eloquent version of “2+2=4, and here’s why.” The journalist in me grabs a topic, reports it out so that it makes sense and then understands it. I love debate, love dissent. But I hate arguments.

            These days, on these here internets, it is “This is how I feel, and here is all the evidence.” And as my grandmother with the “Yeah, but he’s still a thief,” that’s that. It’s an argument, and nobody ever wins an argument on the Internet. It’s an environment that isn’t fun, because there is no exchange of knowledge, just words hurled from behind fortress walls.

            And yes, I wonder what the point is. A post is a jumping-off point for debate and discussion. Or that is what it is supposed to be, in this idealized world that I have in my head. But what the comments are, mostly, is “This is what I think, and lalalala I’m not listening.”

            It wasn’t until I saw Dani Alves live that he stopped driving me crazy. I got it. I spent a chunk of time watching just him, and a got it. Same with Keita, a player who, like so many other Barça supporters, used to make me wonder “What’s the deal with him? Seems to just get in the way, and back pass.” Then I watched. And I got it.

            That’s the atmosphere that really gets me jazzed about writing pieces, and contributing in the comments. Acquiring knowledge. I learned from CuleToon, and DanielBCN, and nzm, three more names we don’t see any longer. And Euler. Oh, Euler, another name we don’t see.

            They are people who experience the club in a way that I could only dream of. And every time I came to this space, I learned something.

            That excitement has, of late, been replaced with an “Oh shit, here we go.” And I found myself having to fight the urge to self edit because I didn’t want to take any crap. It’s why I stopped doing match reviews the way that I used to, and how the Iniesta/evolution piece almost didn’t happen. And when I find myself self-editing, it’s time to take a hard, cold look at things.

            This space isn’t the same. But it isn’t the change. It’s the fact that, like Guardiola with Barça, it’s time to go when what you do isn’t working. Somewhere along the way, something got messed up. It’s my space, so it’s my responsibility. The writing is easy. It always has been. But the committment is hard now, because that jazzed feeling I used to have that made me write two pieces a day in The Offside days, is gone. Nobody’s fault, it just is. As with the shirt sale that I will continue to rant about, it’s a different world in which I am a lot less comfortable.

            So I can’t even say that doing all this for free is a great hardship. I love writing. Even better is writing about something that I love as much as this club and this game. But whether I am a luddite, anachronist or just a cranky old man, I am having a hard time in this new world, that I think should be so much more.

            So. Apologies for the length, but there it is.

        • DianaKristinne
          October 27, 2013

          I cannot reply to you comment below, so I am replying to this one.

          In the year since I have joined twitter and in the years that I have been reading this blog I have learned so much from you and nzm and euler and Ramzi and many of the others that write for this blog or comment here. I see things differently now than I did before when I was just watching football, but not getting it completely. I read everything, sometimes I think it’s a compulsion I have. Even the things I strongly disagree with. Because I want to take things in from all angles. I do not believe in absolute truths when it comes to football. It’s all opinion. So, to make this short, because I feel like I am babbling, I want to thank you for your work and ask you not to give up writing here.

  33. petog4realz
    October 27, 2013

    I get the dull part in saying”we re perfect” after every match,but is this is not your team?. But I have to give it to you though,you are probably one of the worst criticizer I have ever seen in my life.
    You even claimed madrid were gonna beat US at home just last month. Not trying to start a fight,just what I have been noticing in your comments since the beginning of the season. Peace

    • October 27, 2013

      I think that people have the right to hold whatever view they want. We can choose how we want to deal with them. For many, it means sighing and walking away, which is as valid a response as banging your head against a wall.

  34. DianaKristinne
    October 27, 2013

    We have been far too spoiled by this great team. By these amazing players, who, after yesterday, I am more in awe of then I have probably been in a while. They way they fought in this Clasico was a beautiful thing to watch. I think that we will never again (or at least in the near future) play the same way that we did up to the point where Pep left. And, to my view, that is a good thing.

    Barça got into the Paris final in 2006 defending like dogs against Milan in the second leg of that semifinal. Did it make the trophy less sweet? No. I know that people talk about The Way and how we should always play beautiful football. And with the players we have I believe it’s impossible for us to play ugly. Yes, there is pragmatism now. A pragmatism that I would have loved to see in the second leg of the Chelsea semifinal in 2012. But, we cannot change the past.

    What the team can do is adapt to its new surroundings. Teams have figured out the way to nullify tiki-taka? We move on. It’s really an easy decision for me. I loved the Pep years. Of course I did. But we just have to accept that, as other teams had evolved in order to beat us, we must evolve as well in order to be able to compete with them. I believe that we will win La Liga this year. I really do. I don’t know about the CL because I don’t think we have all the pieces that Martino needs in order to implement his thinking. Last night, after the game, being the normal and modest man that he is, he stated that his influence in the team has been small up to this point. That he needs more thinking time and to get to know the players better.

    I, for one, am terribly excited for this season. You know why? Because I don’t know in what way we are going to set up for the next game. And I get the feeling that the opponents don’t either. So, the most predictable team in the world, in terms of game play, becomes unpredictable. I love it!

    • October 28, 2013

      Yeah – the unpredictability is what excites me too! Suddenly we have that “Plan B” that was talked about for so long. Only it isn’t the “Plan B” that everyone envisioned, even though they had no idea what it should look like!

      I love that Martino makes defensive subs. I love that the team is making tactical fouls. I love that players will change their MO to help the team.

      Why should other teams use these tactics vs. Barca, but Barca isn’t allowed to use them?

      The Barca way? No, that was the Pep way, with a different team to what we see today. The Barca way is still present – it’s just evolving, as it should.

      • DianaKristinne
        October 28, 2013

        So many people get the 2 mixed up. “The Pep Way” and “The Barça Way”. Because they saw Pep as a disciple of Cruyff, the one that brought this style of playing to Barça. (As a side note, today marks the 40 year anniversary of Cruyff’s debut for Barça. Probably one of the most important moments in our club’s history.)

        The fact that the players did the things that Martino asked them to do, especially Xavi, who strikes me as being so strict in his views of football, means that they fully trust and support him. I believe that this is extremely important for our evolution.

        • October 28, 2013


          Xavi is smart – he knows that the team couldn’t continue to play as they had done before.

          Above all, that’s what I love about Martino’s appointment. He injected energy back into the team with fresh ideas. He woke them up again.

          Martino, (as well as Neymar), has shown that the team has so many options now.

          • kosby
            October 28, 2013

            The entire discussion you two had..Wholeheartedly resonated with me !

  35. ooga aga
    October 27, 2013

    i like masch, and i like kxevin, and jim, and im very happy we have all of em on our team. im also very happy to be a barca fan, lovin this year. and proud to be a reader and commenter of this blog since the offside days, this truly is the gold standard for barca blogs in terms of quality and civility — despite any occasional failings.

    and i usually dont like to criticize the team, i almost never do it on the blog, because it’s silly to, given all the joy it brings. and — what a match. we made RM look like also-rans in the first half, and they are an immense team. i think all our players had great games overall, including masch. so pleased.

    all that said, i was shocked when i saw how far upfield masch was to pressure benzema in the 91st minute, with no chance of ever really challenging for the ball, leaving pique totally exposed. we’re up 2-0. why is he up there? and as much as anything it was noteworthy because it reminded me of myself, on those few occasions during my playing days when i attempted to play defense. i rarely ever did, my true position was as lone or paired striker. in defense i was clueless — prone to wandering upfield and diving in early.

    visca barca and visca BFB

  36. Ryan
    October 27, 2013

    Thanks for your thoughts on an exciting game, Kxevin! It’s pretty amazing to think that despite the team not firing on all cylinders, we’re still undefeated and have finally beaten our main rival in the league for the first time in a few years. Visca!

  37. joshi
    October 27, 2013

    Kevin. I must have read 10 articles about the Clasico this weekend, but yours was the most thoughtful. This is definitely a Barca that is evolving, and evolve they must if they are to return to the glory of past seasons. Mes Que Un Club, and as you said on Twitter this club is far from dead!

  38. Nik
    October 28, 2013

    Given Cesc’s comments, I think it’s worth reposting this video:

    There are some interesting similarities in the tactics used for the Celtic game & Madrid: the ceding of possession to frustrate a team that’s not comfortable playing with the ball, Alexis coming on as a sub in the second half to stretch the opposition defense & hit them on the counter, etc.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the return clásico is in the spring. If Ancelotti is successful, RM will be more comfortable playing with the ball by then. I wonder if Tata will still risk giving them the ball easily, or if we’ll see a return to the more familiar ball retention of past seasons by Barça.

      • DianaKristinne
        October 28, 2013

        I believe I had posted it, but it’s very much worth a re-watch. What I found most interesting about the Cesc comments was the fact that Martino denied giving up possession in the second half deliberately in the post match press conference.

        • Nik
          October 28, 2013

          Ah, I see. That is interesting. I wonder if Tata denied it because he knew the media would make a big stink about Barça “betraying its identity” by giving up the ball.

          • DianaKristinne
            October 28, 2013

            I really don’t know where the truth lies. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the players were pretty tired from the first half effort and it was easier to let Real have the ball for a while. I wish someone had asked Martino about Cesc’s statement in today’s press conference….

          • Nik
            October 28, 2013

            Yeah, that would have been nice. I’m sure he would have answered it in typical Tata fashion: like a bauss.

            The fatigue issue is a fair point. I wonder if we’ll start seeing Song or Sergi Roberto feature more to give the other midfielders more rest.

          • DianaKristinne
            October 28, 2013

            I think both Sergi Roberto and Song will feature tomorrow against Celta. Might see many changes in the line-up, with the Espanyol game in 2 days.

        • Nik
          October 28, 2013

          Yeah, I can see Song and Sergi Roberto starting with Iniesta filling in as the MF orchestrator. I’m curious to see how Tata uses Song. To me, Song’s real strength at Arsenal was the ability to charge forward and join the attack from deep. I wonder if Tata will take advantage of that.

          • DianaKristinne
            October 28, 2013

            Only if we play Busquets as well. Without that Song has to be the DM. Sergi Roberto is more of a box-to-box type MF. I think that the starting lineup tomorrow will be: VV – Dani, Puyol, Bartra, Montoya – Song, Iniesta, Cesc – Alexis, Messi, Pedro. Sergi Roberto in as a sub.

          • Nik
            October 28, 2013

            Agreed on the Busi having to start bit to unleash Song. And yeah, I know Sergi Roberto isn’t heir to the MF orchestrator (Thiago 🙁 ). I hope he gets a good run out tomorrow. I’d expect him to come in for Cesc based on the similarities in that part of their skill set.

            I like the line-up!

  39. Dracko
    October 28, 2013

    This Barca isn’t as new as we all like to think, I see it as the completion of a masterpiece. Who best to complete it than Tata? The shortcomings of Pep’s Barca were always there but perhaps it will take a coach who doesn’t see the much-a-do about a Catalan football culture, attacking expectations or ideology to finish the work.

    Pep’s era didn’t just end when Tata took over… No, it had long outlived itself even before Pep himself took that one year sabbatical. It was over when teams figured out a way to stop Pep’s Barca…

    In the natural order of things there just had to be an evolution. One that we could only glimpse during Vilanova’s short reign. Thankfully Tata has dared to complete this evolvement with his pragmatic approach.

    Beautiful football, possession, high pressing and all that were aimed at one thing: WINNING. Tata figures out a way to win when it fails. So as much as Pep’s era is appreciated, Tata’s era should not be judged from its Lens. Tata supplies the missing links.

    Nice post Kevin. Just too nice for words.

    • October 28, 2013

      Yes, to all of this!

      To hell with the sentiment that maintaining style is above winning.

      Though I’d argue that the masterpiece will never be completed. Each coach and each team rendition just adds further layers of paint as well as painting on new canvas!

  40. ElJefe
    October 28, 2013

    First of all I love you all

    1) Perez – Keeping Khedira at the expense of Ozil, the only player along with Higuain who truly scared me against Barca. Muchisimas!!
    2) Pepe – We all hate him, but that was a top 3 MOTM performance. I’d take him in a heartbeat. He outran everyone. Keep the hair.
    3) Big Goals – These are the make it or break it games for Sanchez to see if he’s true Barca quality…welcome to the Camp! And Neymar hopefully the 1st of many. Great to get the Clasicos started properly, huge confidence builder for the season and future rivalry.
    4) Mascherano – Have to disagree with the reviews a bit, as much as I love his style and feel he is the only player after Messi perhaps with Puyol’s heart. He can hang in La Liga, but in UCL he is going to lose us a game, particularly against size and power. Almost happened 2-3 times. Calling #CapitanCaveman or BigTimeBartra Brazilians on D seem to be working out great so far, lets add D Luiz or T Silva:) Honestly I think Adriano could be a top 3 story over the last two seasons, arguably even over Cesc contribution.
    5) We won without Messi dominating! – Certainly Neymar helps, but this was one of those matches where our hero over-tries, turned the ball over frequently and tried to go thru people which he can sometimes do in the biggest matches when pressure is on. He scores on that breakaway 9/10 times. His hustle was 11/10 and not his typical position but I don’t agree he had a great match.

  41. Humphrey Bogart
    October 28, 2013

    What striked me in the reporting about the clasico is how large is the continuum in perceptions when judging a player / hin input on the game. At the end you really ask yourself if you and the journalist in questin has seen the same game. Here is what my german paper had to say about Messi’s performanace:

    Messi with an unbelievable weak performance. With 18 goals he is, together with Di Stefano, highest el Clasico goalscorer. After his 3 week injury due to a muscle injury the 26 year old gave the impression of being afraid on the pitch: “He was not really on the pitch” was the verdict of many spanish media as well.

    Did Messi had his best performance in an attacking sense? no. Did he work hard for the team, in particualr in defense? Yes. But it seems most media did completely overlook this part of his game today

    • DianaKristinne
      October 28, 2013

      People do not usually notice the “behind the scenes” work performed by players. That’s the main reason why Alexis was so hated last year. And why Busi was always underestimated. No decisive pass, no assist, no goal, no super fine dribbling? You were not on the pitch. Easy.

    • October 28, 2013

      I swear that these people have never been to a stadium and watched a live game to see how off-the-ball play is so influential to the with-the-ball play.

      Maybe then they’d be watching their TV screens with a little more scrutiny. Granted that TV coverage can sometimes do a disservice to entire team movement, but hell, even we as amateur analysts can see what’s happening.

      Maybe it’s simply because we’re not trying to sell papers, therefore we don’t need to create invalid sensationalism.

    • mom4
      October 28, 2013

      Sometimes a self-imposed media blackout can be helpful!

      BTW, did you recover from the Gin and Tonics?

      And why is nobody talking about Messi’s ball recoveries?

      • barca96
        October 28, 2013

        You don’t even need to be in the stadium to understand it. It’s on TV for everyone to see how Messi was hustling, tackling, stealing balls.

        But it seems that most these media people don’t really watch the game. They are not 100% focussed. I won’t be surprised if they are working at the same time or watching another match at the same time, I mean they have to, it’s their job to cover as many matches as possible. So their eyes are only on for the flashy, stats friendly stuffs.

        • DianaKristinne
          October 28, 2013

          I read one piece today that claimed that Messi’s focus is on the 2014 WC and that we should forget about him this season. People be crazy!

    • Ryan
      October 28, 2013

      That’s just part of the “mala leche” that comes with Busi and helps round out the squad. 🙂

  42. mom4
    October 28, 2013

    The game? It wasn’t beautiful, but it was exactly what it needed to be.

    Masche? He wasn’t beautiful, but he was exactly what he needed to be.

    Neymar? I was against his signing last year, resigned to his signing this summer, adopted a wait and see attitude when we signed him and now I can’t believe I was ever so stupid as to not want him. It’s going to be so much fun to watch him grow up here.

    Sanchez? Sanchez!

    Messi? It wasn’t his messiest game. And I’ve never been more proud of him!

    Tata? He’s not beautiful, but he is exactly what this team needs!

    • DianaKristinne
      October 28, 2013

      Completely agree. It was not about beauty. It was about getting the job done. And with Martino it’ll always be like that. First task: win game! If you can, pour some beauty on it. If not, it’s ok.

      In the press conference today he said that Saturday, before the game, he caught the “manita” Clasico on TV.

      “People set very high standards for Barça. We watched the 5-0 during breakfast on Saturday. I’d also want to play that way, but…”

      But that was 3 years ago and things are not the same anymore.

  43. Jim
    October 28, 2013

    I think one of the decent side effects of the team choice for the Clasico was that we don’t now have a top player feeling he is marginalised by being dropped from the first eleven. I was worried beforehand about the long term effect on the attitude of Cesc or Iniesta had either dropped down. Even Alexis when he came on scored a great goal to keep him happy.

    A good day all round.

  44. stefan2k
    October 28, 2013

    Great stuff Kxevin! Always enjoying your pieces…

    I did watch the game twice and it was awesome. Still can’t believe the Lexus goal

  45. stefan2k
    October 28, 2013

    By the way… leave Masche alone! A few games ago (pre injury) he was our best defender this season

  46. psalmuel
    October 28, 2013

    And there are suggestions on ‘some’ sites that, barça were defending in the 2nd half because madrid started outplaying us and at nou camp for that matter and still according to ‘other’ sites (here especially) and going by the Cesc interview, EE didn’t out play us, we just sat back and ‘let’ them have the ball. EE blog had an article stating that we reverted to a Mourinho-esque 4-2-3-1 and scored a counter-attacking goal, Mourinho style. For all I care, we could park the bus when and where we want. Why are other teams allowed to park the bus but we get stick when we do it? Inter, Chelski, Ac Milan, Pathetico, Bayern… The list is endless, these are teams that were heralded for beating us by parking the bus… So, there’s no way I’ll be ashamed if we park the bus and score mourinho style… Its 3pts in the bag and 6pts above that other team that cries about referee’s

    • DianaKristinne
      October 28, 2013

      I was never a fan of parking the bus. But we did not go into the match with that only desire. I believe that in the second half the players were tired from all the effort in the first one. Easier to wait it out.

      • kosby
        October 28, 2013

        Thats the thing I like about Tata. Its never just “Lets do this for the whole 90 minutes”. He plays the entire 90 minutes in stages/phases. He adapts.

        Sometime ago I think Alexis gave an interview in which he mentioned forwards to love to get the ball with some space before the opposition defence has time to get together, but it depends on the midfielders body language. If they feel this is a good time for attack they pass the ball first time. If they feel the match needs more control they take their time.

        Tata apparently call Xavi “Sheriff” or the spanish equivalent of that. I assume that is because he senses the rhythm/pulse of the game. He dictates as to when we should transition quick or when to slow down the game to gain control. And ofcourse Tata re-organizes the team when he feels the need.

        On saturday, with 2 goals up, there was no need to keep attacking. That is when we usually keep the ball, passing it around to run down the clock. Defend by keeping the ball. And not have 10 players in the opposition half.

        This was a complete departure from the first half. We did not play 90 minutes of just attack, neither did we play 90 minutes of just defence. And this is what Kxevin says, pragmatism.

        Tata is very intelligent. I give him that. Not many would have substituted Iniesta for Song. Tata had no qualms. Like someone said above, like a boss, well he IS the boss isnt he 😉 Playing Messi on the right – masterstroke.

        Someone said Mascherano has the midfielders instinct, he tends to go forward instinctively. Did anyone else notice Ramos’ movements in the first half when he was the DM ? He tends to fall back ! He has the defenders instinct. There were several occasions on which instead of pressing Xavi, he let him have them ball. When Illaramendi came on in the 2nd half, we saw more pressing from Madrid.

        I am very excited for our team this season. I expect Bartra and Puyol to start this weekend. And Messi back in the false nine.

        • DianaKristinne
          October 28, 2013

          First off we have a game tomorrow. In which I believe Puyol and Bartra will start. Piqué not in the squad. I think Xavi, Neymar, Busi, Mascherano will be on the bench.

          Nice comment from the Alexis interview. It is Xavi who has this role, that’s why I think that we will never really find his succesor. Once in a lifetime player. Busi is the one that comes to mind when I think of players with similar mental aptitude.

    • Rami
      October 28, 2013

      Not surprising that we lost control in the 2nd half, The team resorted to deep defending, Which is something we’re not particularly good at (Mostly due to the type of players we have).

      Yet it was necessary, Pressing is the best defensive tool we have, It’s the reason we were in total control in the 1st half, But when the team can’t press ‘effectively’ any longer due to fatigue, Pressing becomes dangerous and counter productive, You’ll simply be moving players out of their position without actually reclaiming back the ball and opening spaces for the opposition to exploit, Jese goal was an example.

      By defending deep you avoid creating big gaps and also remove spaces for the opposition to run into, As the team physicality improve over the season, We can maintain an effective pressing for longer periods and spend less periods defending deep.

  47. providence
    October 28, 2013

    Dear Kxevin : We prefer ” Cules” to ” Culers” . “Culers” make reading difficult. Lol. 🙂 😉

    • October 29, 2013

      “Culers” is Catalan, “cules” is Spanish. We’re preferring the Catalan! 😉

  48. IamXavi6
    October 28, 2013

    And Athletico smash another team, with Villa looking the goods again.

    I am exciting to think they can actually sustain a full season challenge this year…what an exciting league it’ll be if we can get pushed all the way! (I know it’s weird to say in respect to not wishing Barca to absolutely dominate it; but I for one would love to see a more competative league again!)

    Plus I dont mind Athleti!

  49. Don McCoy
    October 29, 2013

    Awesome match.

    It was so good to see Messi on the RW again. I remember suggesting that on my first post on this blog about 2 months ago.

    By the way, apart from Sanchez’s goal, the highlight of the match for me was when Alves nutmegged Ronaldo. That sight would always send warm feelings through any cule’s heart.

    Great article!

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