“Welcome back,” aka “Been longer than we know since we have seen That Messi”


So. Lionel Messi has returned, after 59 days away from the lineup of FC Barcelona. He scored two goals, capered about like a colt unbound, and many people had similar reactions to the spectacle, to the tune of:

“I had forgotten how good he was in the time he was gone.”

For me, however, it was easy to forget because it’s been a long time since he HAS been that good.

Messi’s best is staggering. But Messi’s good to really good is still pretty astonishing. Athletes talk about a success capability, the range of possibilities available to a competitor. A cyclist does sprints at 250 rpm so that if he needs it, the capability is there. Messi is good. So good that he can not be at his absolute best and still be the best, scoring goals, delivering passes and assists and being a wonder of a footballer. It’s more than enough to get by, but his level best really has only rarely been required. Yes, he’s that good.

Having Getafe as the next-round Copa opponent was rather fitting, since it was against them that Messi scored That goal, the one that many point to as his greatest. He essentially either faked out or outran the entire Getafe defense before slotting home and essentially continuing his run.

Messi was 19 years old when he scored that goal, and what people forget is that Messi used to run like Pedro. As time passed and he became not only the best player on the team but the best player alive/cash cow/most in-demand athlete, all that stuff slowed him down. But that wasn’t all.

The last proper pre-season that Messi, or the rest of the team for that matter, had was the year that Guardiola took over the club. There was no silver, which meant no extra matches, no Club World Championships, SuperCopas, SuperCups, promotional appearances or friendlies. Who the hell wanted to pay to see a club that had won feck all, right?

That Treble year, the season essentially didn’t end. For season after season, on it went as through it all, Messi wanted to play. He would get injured, rush back early, the dude just wanted to play. Guardiola came, adopted a preventive training regimen that kept Messi from getting hurt and it was great, because that means that he could play even more.

Lionel Messi became a fixture in the starting lineup unless he was injured, or on rare occasions. He played Copa matches, Champions League matches, Liga matches, friendlies for club and country, qualifiers for World Cup, charity matches … you name it, Messi played it.

His regimen was adapted so that he didn’t have to run like Pedro, so that he could play as much as he wanted, as much as the world and his coaches wanted. The adaptation so that basically, our little wonder wouldn’t break under the strain.

And, during all that time, complexities began to arise as the demands and the burden grew. He trained, he fought off little knocks, probably lied about other ones, and kept playing because more than anything else in the world at the time, Lionel Messi wanted to play football. That’s all. Give him the ball and he’s happy. And what coach isn’t going to include the best player alive in his lineup? Guardiola did it, Vilanova did it, Roura did it under the guidance of Vilanova.

Then, last season, Messi broke. It was inevitable, really, but break he did. He rushed back, helped the club, then broke again. He rushed back, helped the club, then broke again. He got better, just in time for World Cup qualifiers, friendlies and a crapfest of a pre-season that along with club and personal demands, left a tired, messy Messi.

And then this season, his first under Tata Martino, he broke again. At the time, people nattered about things that were being done or not done. Others said it was simple fatigue. Whatever it was, he broke.

More interestingly is that for a long time, Messi had been self-managing so that he could keep playing. But because matches are really the best form of training, as he walked around, stood and watched his teammates press, run and play, the inevitable fitness loss happened. Look at this picture from the 2013 season, and note the little “Villa paunch,” as I like to call it.


Compare that to the dude in the top image.

So when we say “Man, I’d forgotten how good Messi was,” it’s because he hasn’t been that good for a long time. I can’t think, even as we watched Messi score goal after goal to break the record, when the last time was that he was bouncy, running in that effortless way that used to see him able to leave any defender in his wake. We watched him instead get chased down by defenders who shouldn’t have been able to get near him. We watched him focus on a seemingly impossible record, lock his focus on a goal and go, grim-faced, about his mission.

The numbers, the performances were amazing. But for me, watching Messi in that match last night brought about a facepalm to end all facepalms as suddenly it was obvious: No, it didn’t take 8 weeks to heal a hamstring. Duh. But it did take 8 weeks to give Messi, for the first season in too many, a proper pre-season where all he did was train, eat right and take care of his body. And we are seeing the results, as we see Messi as he should be, should have been but couldn’t be because of the life of a global superstar footballer.

Look at the run that led to the cross for Sanchez, and the way that Messi accelerated away from people to find a clear piece of space. Look at the first goal he scored and how locked-down his control was of a difficult ball, the kind of control that showed a fully engaged player. And the second goal … all I could think about were the Pepe Le Pew cartoons, where the cat was running full speed to try to escape the amorous skunk, who just loped down the road, always just ahead of her. Those Getafe defenders were running. Messi just seemed to be loping in a pocket of space, in the middle of a green-shirted phalanx until suddenly, he stopped and detonated.

That Messi. For the first time in a long time, our superstar is mentally and physically fresh, and it shows. The challenge now for Tata Martino, will be maintaining and honing that edge. The best part about it is that the World Cup qualifications are over, and there are no friendlies, save one just before spring in Qatar. There is just FC Barcelona football, and training. Yes, there have been periods where that has been the case, but instead of trying to dig out from a mess, he is fit, honed and fully rested.

People don’t remember how good this Messi was because it’s a different Messi. So I, like everyone else will say “Welcome back,” but for me it’s been a much longer wait when I really think about it. All that it took to remind me was a couple of accelerations, a couple of runs and a couple of goals. Men against boys for the best player alive, which is how it should be.

Welcome back, indeed.

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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. PrinceYuvi
    January 9, 2014

    Wow, Kx. I honestly didnt know you liked him so much. Ha. Sorry. Nice article, many thanks.
    Forgive me for crashing the party, but I was too thrilled when I found the following article,
    Lionel Messi: Are Barcelona a better team without him? http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/25654224
    Is barca a better team without the best player in world ?
    There cant be a higher praise than this.
    After these 59 days, people had to stop and take notice. Not a one man team anymore. Fabulous work from Tata & co.

  2. egcg119
    January 9, 2014

    Martino is a genius. Actually, he might just be a very practical, level-headed man, but in the crazy environment of football, that’s a certain type of genius.

    But the man deserves WAY more props than he’s been getting. Consider what he’s done.
    1) As said above, he responds to a Messi injury by making our forwards more productive than they’ve been in years.
    2) Brings back Messi fitter than he’s been in years.
    3) Has Xavi saying “I’ve never liked missing even one game and that has taken its toll on me. I now realise that I have to save myself a bit…But sincerely, I have never felt better in my career than I do now. I feel more mature, more fit, and I am learning more than ever.”
    4) Eased Neymar into the team perfectly and gave him a bit of rest on either end of the winter break (partly due to other factors, but I’m being generous).

    He’s doing what a coach should do – taking care of his players as individuals. And it’s paying huge dividends. The veterans are happy and relaxed, the youngsters (bar Tello) are confident and improving, and the team is winning, well, pretty much everything.

    And that’s not even getting into the tactical changes. Amazing what simply being able to pay attention to the little details does for a team. Tito was a good coach, but it’s impossible to take care of a team when you’re taking care of yourself, fighting for your life. Guardiola’s stress and balding may have limited his ability to take care of the team in 11-12, but that’s perhaps a disservice to him. But the point is, Tata is showing the difference a full-time coach makes, and man, it’s wonderful to see.

    As Kev puts it, we have a Mister again.

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 9, 2014

      Since Tata took over, ‘Rotation’ is my favourite word.

      Was ‘Messi’ my favourite word before ?
      I wont tell.

  3. Dar_vincy
    January 10, 2014

    Spot on, Yuvi.
    Was about to highlight that Rotation has been a conspicuous and prominent element of Tat’s regime.
    And he has a strange albeit plausible pattern of making his subs- that’s by taking off the player making the most contribution and retaining the one with the minimal productivity. Alexis and Pedro are classic examples.

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 10, 2014

      Er Thanks )

      In 6 months Tata managed to convert a few stooges into Proper Sporting Stars who steal the Headlines from the God of football himself.
      No mean feat.

      Even Thong boy couldn’t achieve that in 4 years.

  4. January 10, 2014

    Now that Messi has himself said, that he had issues even before the PSG match, it is understandable that the ‘joy of playing’ was not there with Messi even before. Instead of a Joyful Messi, it was a worrying Messi on the field. Hopefully we have got back the joyful Messi.
    His run for that cross to Pedro was the real highlight for me, even above the second goal.

    • barca96
      January 10, 2014

      He said that? But by the looks of it from my eyes, his joy of playing disappeared way before the PSG match.

      I too find that his run and crossed to Pedro was the highlight.

      If you have the match recorded, watch how Pedro leaped. Looks so funny. He tried with all his might to jump as high as possible.

    • January 10, 2014

      Just read that article. How awesome is it that Zonalmarking used a BFB video in order to illustrate their tactical analysis?

    • January 10, 2014

      Possibly the most worrisome line in that article is:

      desde la Junta Directiva del Barça ya se anunció hace unos días que el club tomaría medidas contra Cases si como resultado de la presentación de la documentación ante el juez Ruz se hacían públicos los detalles del traspaso de Neymar.

      Loose translation:

      Barcelona’s board of directors announce a couple of days ago that the club would take action against Cases (the socio who brought the Neymar contract case to the court) if as a result of the presentation of the documents before judge Ruz details of Neymar’s transfer are made public.

      Yikes. Transparency, right, Sandro?

      • Jim
        January 10, 2014

        Is there anything unusual about a club wanting to keep details of contract negotiations secret, though ? I don’t want everyone knowing exactly what we paid or any other clauses that might be in the contract and I’m not exactly happy with any socio dragging us to court , possibly forcing us to reveal that. If the court case then goes against them I’m sorry but I’m all for them getting the boot.

        If anyone wants to get rid of the board they will get their chance at the elections. Judging by what I hear here nobody will vote for Rosell anyway ….. Or are we only getting one side here? I don’t confess to know anything about the politics and like others I don’t warm to Rosell but something doesn’t add up and this is not a time for one of our own to drag us through the courts.

        • January 10, 2014

          Idk, Jim. I think there is something inherently wrong with a board (that campaigned on transparency) to not only pay 40M to an undisclosed third party in a transfer deal, but also threaten a soci who wants the information to become transparent.

          • Peter
            January 10, 2014

            It’s not a threat. It’s more like a promise. 😉
            I think you think there’s something inherently wrong with THIS board. And especially its president. 🙂

        • I don’t think democracy is a dictatorship for limited terms by any definition. Just because you get elected, you don’t get the right to do whatever you want. If someone believes something dodgy is going on, there is a constitutionally allowed provision of approaching the courts. So the socio is perfectly correct in approaching the court. If there wasn’t any merit in the case the court could have just thrown it away. The very fact that it was admitted shows there is a reasonable suspicion regarding the deal. So the club will only emerge stronger from this ordeal. When I say the Club it means the club as a whole and not the management. And that is the great thing about democracy. And that’s why everyone should be proud of this club, because it allows each and every member to correct something which has gone wrong with the club. And the very strength of this club is that “The Members have the Power to take corrective actions” not that “Management can hide everything on the basis of clause”.

          I do understand that many complains and call the guy who try to expose the deal as a traitor. That has been the usual go to tactic for those who align with powerful guys who want to protect and hide their dealings at all the cost. I don’t think the Club will emerge bad even if the judgement goes against the Management. The club is bigger than the management and if their are rotten apples in the club they have to be thrown out. I don’ agree by exposing the truth anyone can harm the club. It only could help make the Club emerge more stronger and help introduce necessary checks and balances to make it is not repeated.

          “Truth never damages a cause that is just.”
          ― Mahatma Gandhi

      • Peter
        January 10, 2014

        I’m with Jim on this one. The club has promised one of the parties confidentiality. If that promise is broken, the club is open to be taken into court over a breach of agreement. And the club has all the right in the world to go pitchfork-and-torches after the one who caused it.

        BTW Levon, I get it you’re pissed with Rosell, but how many player transfers are made public? Not “here’s the rough estimate”, but all the tiny details down to the clauses that for example prohibit the player to bang more than one different girl on a weekly basis. How many. Dammit, Real Madrid still insist that Bale’s transfer cost was 91 million, not 101 as everybody else is going.

        Have you thought about the fact that if Sandro was less transparent, he could’ve said “We paid 17.1 m for the winner of the Confeds Cup.” and won the Kenobi Persuasion Award?

        • January 10, 2014

          I doubt that Barça can get taken to court over a breach of agreement if it is a court of law makes the information public. I also assume that if a judge orders the information to be made public, it is because he has a legal right and/or duty to do so. I think it weird for a club to threaten a soci depending on the outcome of decisions made in a court of law.

          • January 10, 2014

            A few things:

            — We don’t know if there is any sort of penalty for revealing the details. We DO know that there is potential damage to the club’s reputation in a case such as this. Many deals are confidential, etc. Could potentially make the club less trustworthy in a deal with another club. Speculation.

            — Mr. Cases, some would speculate, is being punished not as much for his seeking of this information and bringing the case as much as for being part of the Go Barça group and its failed recall referendum. Dunno.

            Peter and I discussed this situation a bit previously, so I won’t go on at length here. Yes, there are ulterior motives to the quest for information, in that the person seeking said data wouldn’t be at all unhappy if Rosell and the board were damaged as a consequence.

            Personally, a player transfer is not enough to bring down a president, even if there are irregularities, which is now a “He said, he said” situation.

            — Does it matter, really, if the deal made Neymar the highest-paid player at the club? Nope. But if that has happened, and the club wrapped it in layers of grey and legal-but-not-transparent stuff, or finagled some stuff to avoid tax complexities, it strikes me as information that deserves to be public, if such a ruling is found. I always like to flip the script and imagine what I would be saying if RM did a deal for a coveted player, and there was a question about 40m of club money.

            We have essentially said that Neymar cost 57m. Santos has said that they were paid 17m. Both are correct. The question of where the other 40m is, lingers.

            I don’t know of an effective-but-unmuddy way to find the answer.

            We should also remember that just because a case is potentially to be ajudicated doesn’t mean that all of the details will be public. The club’s lawyers could, as a request, seal the proceedings. Then only the decision would come out.

          • January 10, 2014

            “Does it matter, really, if the deal made Neymar the highest-paid player at the club? Nope. ”

            Hmmm, I can think of two problems here.

            First, it might upset the dressing room balance. If publicly the board announces that Neymar is on the third scale whereas in fact he received a 40M signing bonus, other players might feel that they have seriously underappreciated in comparison.

            Second, future targets might ask for similar signing bonuses as well.

            All in all, 40M is a way too high figure to be shrouded in a cloud of mystery.

          • Peter
            January 10, 2014

            As usual, Kxevin, you put it much more elegantly and eloquently than I could.

            I just don’t like the idea of giving La Central Lechera and the yellow sport journalism more ammunition. I don’t want to see Barcelona’s name be dragged in the mud just because the media can’t find something else to abuse for their smear campaign. And you can bet your internet access that this will be milked for all it’s worth, and then some.

            Ever since Tito Floren came from Brazil with empty hands and declared the grapes to be unripe and too pricey, the Meseta media have been trying to find the real culprit. As we know, one of the mainstays of EE ideology is that EE buys the best there are – and bugger the price. If EE didn’t buy the best, if the price was too high for EE, then there’s an ideological failure. Consequently, either Neymar wasn’t the best(which is what was the initial way of portraying things), or there was a more sinister reason – Catalan dishonesty and illegal dealings. Neymar being overrated has been proven to be as ridiculous as the latest Roncero article, so the reason must be the shady dealings of FC Barcelona(Humiltat i Valors!!! Putos catalanes!) and their president.

            I just think we shouldn’t be helping them.

        • Absolutely Not!

          Any law you sign is under the Law of the Land. It doesn’t matter whether you have got an agreement with anyone. If any court declares it illegal and void, then the agreement ceases to exist. So no one can ever sue.

          The club will not be in any position to take any action against the guy who went to court. He has a right to approach the court to deal with his grieviences. You may not like it but that’s his right. If the club expels him for that, it would probably end with another bigger lawsuit which could end with a millions of dollar in damages and also an order to reinstate him. So that argument is plain stupid. Remember he is exposing the deal via a court.

          Actually I would love to see a judgement which forces all member held Club to clearly make any deal which it’s make transparent to the members. I think it will only help transparency and accountability.

          • Peter
            January 11, 2014

            Remember that the socio is part of the management of the club. In legal terms he would be a representative of FC Barcelona. So it could be argued that FC Barcelona negotiated in bad faith. It doesn’t have to be annulled by court. If the details of the contract are made public – by any means available – then it’s a breach of trust.

            And just like in your logic that the guy can go to court to deal with his grievances, the club has the right to take him to court to deal with grievances. Plus, as a soci, co-member and representative of FC Barcelona, he has the obligation to further the cause of the club. And the club is a private entity – even if it’s owned by its socis. The club has the right to not accept an application for membership, and has the right to renege the membership of a socio whose actions have proven to be contrary to the well-being of the club.

            I’m not saying it will be done, but it can be done. IF it’s proven that the socio acted against the club. As Kxevin pointed out, the board is a caretaker of the club. It is not the club.

  5. January 10, 2014

    At Martino’s presser today, he sort of hinted that Messi wouldn’t start tomorrow, which I think is the correct decision.

    Physically, Messi himself said that he is returning to top form “bit by bit.” Atleti will be kicking the crap out of anything that moves. Juanfran: “Oh. Sorry, Mom. Then don’t come too close to our box.”

    But the more compelling reason is psychological. This team has, for the end of last season effectively and two months of this one, kicked ass without Messi. The wrong signal would be, when he returns, to say “Huzzah!” and shove him into the lineup in the biggest match of the season so far.

    Dance with the players that brung ya, as they say in ‘Merican football.

    Buzz is that the front line will be Fabregas/Neymar/Sanchez, which will hopefully line up exactly like that. And freakin’ Pedro and Messi coming off the bench? Remember when we weren’t deep, and nobody was scoring goals? Yup. Buzz is also that Alves “might” start.

    My lineup, assuming Alves starts:

    Alves Bartra Pique Adriano
    Busquets Xavi Iniesta
    Sanchez Neymar Fabregas

    • emiljorgensen
      January 10, 2014

      If you switch Fabregas with Pedro, I think we have the ultimate line-up. Hopefully Martino will start with Neymar in the center of attack. Fabregas has performed quite well as a false 9 recently, but personally I just don’t think he is “front-3 material”. He is at his best when he plays in midfield, making darting runs into the box from deep and getting into goalscoring positions that way. ‘Cause there is no doubt that he is a decent finishier

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 10, 2014

      Via Barcastuff, Lineup on training today :
      Alves, Pique, Masch, Alba,
      Xavi, Busi, Ini,
      Lex, Cesc, Pedro.

      What up with that defense ? Little omnious.

      • justdoit94
        January 10, 2014

        I am one of the people who gets nauseous whenever i see masch in the line up bearing in mind that the only two tall players in the entire team are Busquets and pique. Set pieces will not be fun to watch tommorow.

        Masch is not what u call a natural defender. He dives into tackles and that’s qualities for a midfielder.
        With that being said, in a game like tommorow, our centrebacks get the most time and space on the ball. Therefore, the centreback duo needs to be intelligent and creative so that theycan switch play from one side to the other and masch has that.
        **In the copa clash, David villa was deployed to man mark busquets while leaving the centrebacks free **

        • Serena Andre
          January 10, 2014

          Well considering that Masche was bloody brilliant the last time we played Atleti, I don’t particularly mind if he starts tomorrow. With that said, my favourite pairing would be Pique-Bartra. They work really well together.

      • Serena Andre
        January 10, 2014

        This lineup makes sense when you think about it.
        Although benching both Messi and Neymar seems risky (and kinda insane) at first glance, it’s understandable. Messi just coming back, Neymar has only played 10 minutes since mid December. Alexis, Pedro and Cesc are in great shape.

        Nothing to explain in midfield.

        As for defence, my preferred pairing would be Pique-Bartra, but Peter brought up a good point. Costa would probably target and ‘bully’ Bartra on purpose. I just don’t see that happening with Masche. Plus, he was a wrecking ball when we played them last time (I just watched the matches again). Although this could be a great test to see if Bartra is the real deal. I’m just glad I’m not the coach, so many decisions to be made.

        I wouldn’t normally like Alba and Alves playing at the same time since they’re both very attack-minded, but both Alexis and Pedro offer a lot of help in defence, so I can see why it could work.

        Basically, this team seems set up for an insane amount of pressing and probing in the first half, then when Atleti’s legs get tired, bring on Neymar and Messi to create complete chaos. Doesn’t seem like a bad plan, in theory.

        • PrinceYuvi
          January 10, 2014

          Nice points,
          Intense pressing and incisive passing is what we do Best & simeone will be expecting that.

          But what do we do in Free kick situations ? (Oh, atleti must have planned to cash the dead ball situations, if not – they’re idiots)

          Bartra can head. Adriano is strong(..er) & takes shots from outside of the box.

          Alba is fast and can cross. Where is he going to run if there is no Breathing space ?
          what’s the point of crosses if the atleti players manning the box are all 7 feet tall ? (Albeit, Ney scored a header in super copa)

          Good news is, Tata knows what we know. In Classico, he flummoxed Carlo. I wonder what he has in store for Diego.

          They’re calling Barca vs Atleti the Biggest match of Liga.
          Hoping for an extremely close contest & Barca as winners.

    • Peter
      January 10, 2014

      Why Busquets on the right?

      I just think Bartra may not be ready for this match. In my view Diego Costa could “bully” Bartra. The way I imagine Masche, he would respond to bullying attempts by rubbing his hands and grinning. After all, isn’t he the guy most willing to tackle in the entire team?

      I would also wonder about putting Fabregas on the left, even though it will leave much more room for Neymar in the center. Alba and Neymar communicate well and with Neymar being more used to facing two players he could liberate Alba. With Fabregas in the center I’d expect lots of direct play and intercepted vertical passes. On the other hand with Neymar in the center we could expect increased probabilities for free kicks.

      Not so fun fact: Koke, Juanfran, Arda Turan, Tiago and Diego Costa are all on four yellow cards coming in this match. Sevilla are probably hoping every single one of them gets a card, especially Diego Costa. 🙂

      • justdoit94
        January 10, 2014

        i love cesc but i absolutely hate the very idea of playing him as a false 9. In those sorts of matches, i would much rather see cesc slot in midfield while neymar as a false 9.

        Also, i am very curious as to how we can have access to the line-ups that the team is going to be playing with 24 hrs before the match. Are there some sort of scouts who watch the team train or does the media have someone from the inside spill’in.
        Same stuff happened before clasico in addition to another match.

        • January 10, 2014

          It’s a double-edged sword, really. He’s got the quality to do very well at that position against lesser opposition and thereby convinces his coaches to play him there against teams like Atletico where he will suck like a newborn piglet. Or maybe not. He can prove us wrong. Or, more likely, Martino will play Messi.

        • Peter
          January 11, 2014

          We don’t have access, we’re speculating based on previous form, matches played, opponent strengths and expectations.

          As for Cesc, when he plays as a false nine, he doesn’t play like Messi. His manner is more like an advanced passing node, an attacking midfielder that is capable of scoring goals, but his best is verticality, passing to the two wide strikers. The formation in this case becomes more like 4-3-1-2(wide).
          Cesc is put in that position not to score goals, but to draw attention to himself and communicate with the two wide strikers. Alexis managed to score a hattrick, Pedro as well. And Cesc is not too shabby himself.

    • BA
      January 10, 2014

      Fabregas would be next to useless as a False 9 against Atleti’s closed, narrow defensive shape. he’ll have basically no space to turn or play his little dinked passes; we’ll need someone through the center who’s more dynamic and makes runs all over the front line. Sanchez? more likely Neymar.

      my bet would be on Sanchez-Neymar-Pedro tomorrow.

      • barca96
        January 11, 2014

        Or maybe Cesc would drop deep into a false 10.

          • Jafri
            January 11, 2014

            Starts as a midfielder and comes forward to play as a striker. Exact opposite of a False 9.

  6. mom4
    January 10, 2014

    The suicidal(maybe) lineup I’d like to see tomorrow:

    Bartra**, Pique, Masche
    Xavi, Busi, Ini
    Alexis, Neymar/Messi*, P!!
    *one subs in for the other
    ** Dani would work here too if ordered to be more conservative, but he hasn’t played in a while…

    So crazy it just might work.
    If the ball never gets past the midfield we never have to defend near our goal.

    Just a thought!

    • Valdemar II
      January 10, 2014

      It is but a fantasy, yet it is exciting, playing three at the back with our best central defenders and playing with an ‘AM’. Cool idea.

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 10, 2014

      That could work.
      Atleti play 442, No wingers ;
      with two midfield destroyers and couple wide midfielders.

      Lets outnumber the bastards in the centre and bludgeon our way towards the Goal.

      But it’s a new system and it’s a crucial match.
      Awesome comment btw.

    • BA
      January 10, 2014

      also Dani was terrible last time he did play. hopefully he just wasn’t fit. i can’t decide if i want to see him tomorrow or not; certainly we’ll need *attacking* help down the flanks but i think Adriano would be a better option from what we’ve seen.

      Adriano-Pique-Masch-Jordi Alba

      looks like our most likely lineup.

      though i’d love to see Barta-Pique-Masch as a back 3; as Atleti will attack primarily through a narrow Villa/Costa a back 3 handles that excellently, if they tuck in and stay home. a 3-1-3-3 with the inclusion of Fabregas through the middle or, say, Adriano outside in the 3rd band would be very interesting; quick switches of the angle of attack and looking to overpower their corners are the keys. nice to have an exciting game between 2 teams at the top of the league that is ALSO a nice tactical duel as well…

  7. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    To me,the two players I don’t trust is MONTOYA and BARTRA,the latter is almost incapable of getting a cross into the box at first flash,always seems to stop the ball first,in the process blows the chance away.Thats not what I want against atletico. As for Bartra,he’s been convincing against weak oppositions and gets way too much credits than he deserves.I dont trust him, I’d take Nemanja Nastastic any day,real deal defender,Bartra is good,no doubt,but he’s more like a Stefan Savic to me and I wouldn’t start Stefan Savic against a team like atletico.

    • petog4realz
      January 11, 2014

      Are you seriously comparing our best defender this season to savic???

  8. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    ”Our best defender this season?” come on, He’s not. He has been good against weak oppositions, but its not enough to prove he’s ready,and he seems shaky when defending one against one

      • ibbe
        January 11, 2014

        I don’t know which games you watched but all the games he played this season he seemed great to me..and especially in 1on1 situations. Defense is the hardest position to play as youngster because you need a lot of experience. And bartra has shown a lot promise and potential. I wouldn’t mind him playing tonight at all.

    • justdoit94
      January 11, 2014

      You cannot outnumber atletico in the middle simply because their strikers occupy a position very close to their midfield that they dont act like strikers anymore. it will look like a 4-5-1-0 or 4-4-2-0. if they play like copa, then the striker will man-mark the crap out of busquets and a flat 5 who will be told to close down xavi and iniesta on either side.

      That’s the idea of parking the bus… 11 players behind the ball in a compact shape and turn this game into a physical ugly game against technically better squad.
      Also 3 at the back deprives from a much needed width.
      I am really concerned with set pieces as am pretty sure they did the sh** out of them on the training ground and our players are midgets ..

  9. Dar_vincy
    January 11, 2014

    Couldn’t agree more with your submission, Percval.
    If we all are to conclude that Bartra is our best defender so far, then, we find ourselves in an inglorious conundrum. Which is nothing to pride ourselves in considering the kind of status we command. Masch has been slighlty atrocious no doubt but he steps up in big games, which makes it pathetic that we are so quick to discard him. And, if we are to traverse this path, then Pique should have been long gone by now.

    • January 11, 2014

      Unfortunately it is precisely in big games that Masche steps up to show us why we so many people doubt him. Like when his horrid passes repeatedly gave M*drid the opportunity to counterstrike during the last clásico. Or when he completely missed the ball at the San Siro this season to let Milan open the score.

      Bartra shows promise, but I would really like him to gain some more physique over the next two years. He is still too vulnerable in the air.

  10. January 11, 2014

    In interesting things you are most likely not to see

    3 – 5 – 2


    adriano – pique – mascherano

    Messi – Fabregas – Busquets – Iniesta – Alba

    Alexis – Pedro

    sub : xavi for cesc, neymar for pedro

  11. Dar_vincy
    January 11, 2014

    Nice point made, Levon.
    However, if we could tolerate and condone Pique when he consistently was producing abysmally unsavoury performances, i see no why Masch can’t be accorded same. Masch’s mistakes, bad patch and happy-go-lucky passes (that you highlighted) do not have the frequency to condemn him to the bench considering other players have made mistakes this season and weren’t overly slagged off as Masch has been. I’m particularly a big fan of Bartra. He has the composition and requiste to be a world-beater. Like you rightly pointed out, he needs to muscle up, toughen up (varane comes to mind), be more dominant aerially, show more aggresion, awareness etc, etc. There’s no question he has alot work to do to convince us not to purchase a quality cb.

    • January 11, 2014

      I understand what you are saying about Piqué. Thing where he beats out Masche is that Piqué can actually defend corners and set pieces. Javier would arguably make a top CB if he could.

      • Jim
        January 11, 2014

        I don’t really at all I’m afraid. It’s about time we realised Pique is at the moment the only real defender we have . Bartra may become one but isn’t at the moment. The rest do not think as defenders and that’s an issue. Btw, the biggest difference between Masche and Pique for me is that Pique understands throwing yourself to the ground is only a last throw of the dice and that in a defence positioning is everything.

        Personally I’d have played Puyol last Saturday and rested him midweek to see if he was able to play tonight. Can’t beat two defenders who know what each other is going to do and where they will be. Given where we are I’d play Bartra. If he can’t hack it we’re as well to know now. Alba would also get my vote as Adriano is no defender and we’ll not have trouble going forward.

  12. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    Guys,am not saying Bartra is garbage,am just saying that he is not that fantastic to be reckoned on,i mean,Imagine when Varane came to light,his good performance was unignorable even amongst rival fans.Bartra is good but he isn’t that brilliant like Varane or nastastic when they emerged,and also considering Bartra was older than them.Thats my point

  13. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    sMasch is the safest bet to Tata as Pique-sMasch partnership has experience. Bartra lacks experience and sMasch is more error prone and it seems that Tata prefers to go with experience.

    Bartra is not great either but when you compare with sMasch or even Pique at times, that’s why people talk a lot about Bartra on the net. It makes him look better than he actually is, he’s good but not brilliant, yet.

  14. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    Basically, this team seems set up for an insane amount of pressing and probing in the first half, then when Atleti’s legs get tired, bring on Neymar and Messi to create complete chaos. Doesn’t seem like a bad plan, in theory.

    The Atletic players didn’t tire out the last 2-3 times we played them. They kept going and going. This tire out tactic might work against smaller teams but definitely not against the big guns and especially not a hard working tireless team such as Atletico.

    They out ran and out hustled us for the past few encounters. Bringing Messi or Neymar on later in the match would definitely be great, against any team. I wish we could do afford to rest them and bring two of them later on in the match to kill of the match.

    I have a feeling that Alexis and Pedro can do enough damage with Cesc providing the through balls. Both Neymar and Messi are not even 80% fit. Imagine the signals we’ll be sending out to the world. We can manage Atletico without Messi and Neymar.

    • Jim
      January 11, 2014

      They certainly won’t run out of steam on their own patch.

  15. January 11, 2014

    The board had opted for snuffling, spluttering indignation in the wake of the judge wanting to explore the Neymar contract more deeply.

    More developments await.

  16. January 11, 2014

    Kxevin called it. Pulga and Ney are starting on the bench. Gutsy from Martino.

    • stefan2k
      January 11, 2014

      What a lineup, Tata really got guts!

  17. Dar_vincy
    January 11, 2014

    Levon, are you coming up with the Live MBM? Cos i won’t be privileged to watch the game.

  18. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    I love you Tata! Draw or even a loss, I’ll still stand by Tata’s decision on his line up. No Neymar and Messi, mad respect!

    Form over name or fame (that’s not the word that I was actually looking for but close enough hehe).

  19. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    Mascherano already with a failed wild tackle. Why does he need to slide in all the time??! Poor poor positioning.

  20. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    What the fuck is iniesta playing,too slow!

  21. Bill
    January 11, 2014

    Fabregas is way to lackadaisical with his touches

  22. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    Jordi alba for gods sake! Can’t you run anymore?

  23. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    Nice shot pique! More of that

  24. Obii
    January 11, 2014


    This. Is. Football.

    What a match!

  25. Ryan
    January 11, 2014

    Great effort from Pedro, who stole the ball from an attacker, sprinted up most of the field and laid it off to Cesc and Alexis for an almost chance. Those 45 minutes went by quick!

  26. Jim
    January 11, 2014

    Pretty decent first half. Achieved our objective so far which for me is to stay level till we can bring Messi on. Worried about the abuse Iniesta is taking and not understanding the role Xavi has been asked to play. It’s almost as if Tata has asked him to keep an eye on Alves ‘ wanderings at times.

  27. ooga aga
    January 11, 2014

    well, i wont point out that the first 4 comments after the match began were negative/critical towards our boys, but i will say that we are playing a heckuva match. in their house, against an enormous atleti side that is one of the best in europe, we look far the better side. we are controlling the match and have only had a few short spells where they put us under pressure. pedro and iniesta, immense. yes, still 0-0, but consider they have their entire team in the last 1/4 of the pitch. and yet we have still given them several scares without our best two offensive players. hats off to the team and tata.

  28. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    Mascherano and Piqué came up big time. Alexis has to move more in order to be free and get a ball.

    Turan and Costa should’ve had a yellow card. Is this referee known to be lenient? Im not really familiar with the refs.

  29. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    Ouch that was scary on messi,easy diego costa

  30. ooga aga
    January 11, 2014

    anyone have a good stream? mine died!

  31. Jim
    January 11, 2014

    What on earth was Masche thinking about there?

  32. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    Mascherano should’ve gotten a red card there. Crazy guy. Tackling like that on the halfway line.

  33. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    And what on earth do we need s.roberto for in this match?

    • Bill
      January 11, 2014

      I can’t figure that out either. Song would’ve been a better addition

      • barca96
        January 11, 2014

        That is the only gripe I have with this match. Why Roberto? What was his job? He doesn’t really keep possession well. He doesn’t defend.

        Song would’ve definitely made more sense. And lately Tata has been playing Song and Busi together so why not?

        Oh well, a draw is ok and the players played good. More positives than negative.

        Messi looked dangerous every time he gets the ball.

        • barca96
          January 11, 2014

          One more gripe, I would’ve preferred to play Adriano or Montoya at RB. Alves just came back from injury and as we all saw, he was poor.

  34. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    fabregas is such a lazy player

    • Jim
      January 11, 2014

      He may be slow but I don’t think he’s lazy.

    • barca96
      January 11, 2014

      Lazy? He tracks back a lot.. Lazy passes yes but lazy in general, no.

      • January 11, 2014

        Lazy, not up with the pace generally. That was he meant, I think.

  35. Jim
    January 11, 2014

    What a tense game ! That goes down as a good result for me.

  36. georgjorge
    January 11, 2014

    I rarely post, but I didn’t want to leave all the comments for this match to the negative nannys…

    I was impressed by both teams today. Both of them were pretty good, and with the way it was playing out they countered each other for a good amount of time. Atletico is definitely one of the better European teams right now, and I hope they can maintain it for the whole season.

    Our centerbacks were huge today, and Busquets – after a scary opening – also did a lot to keep their attacks in check. Offensively, the team didn’t seem commited enough to really be able to get through most of the time – they didn’t NEED the win really bad, and were afraid of their counterattacks. I believe that when this changes (Champions League), we’re going to see some more dangerous (both for Barca and for their opponents) combinations and more exciting games. Oh, and Messi showed that he can still be the most threatening player to opposing teams in the last fifteen minutes of the match – if he can keep this up for longer, I really like our chances.

  37. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    Sandro rosell have finished us off with his stingy management,this is not us anymore,i miss my barcelona,we barely threatened their goal,we had few chances and that is not Barca.we need a total team reshuffle Am not saying this cos we did not win,I know we have been good against weak teams but this was a real test and we were toothless.we need a TRANSFER REVOLUTION and We are yet to win a single match with that catalan flag jersey

    • January 11, 2014

      Give some credit to the opposition, here. I don’t think we have faced this kind of intensity since the Copa del Rey final in 2011.

    • Peter
      January 11, 2014

      You realize this is the best defense in La Liga, right? The dirtiest playing as well – even Pepe says they’re dirty, playing at home, with the most lenient ref in Spain, and you think Barcelona playing without Messi and Neymar were toothless. Cool.

    • barca96
      January 11, 2014

      If I recall correctly, they won once already in that kit, last month.

      Toothless? Stamford Bridge ’09??!! I kid I kid. I know what you mean.

    • Ryan
      January 11, 2014

      I like this team just fine. We still have a fully fit Messi and Neymar to look forward to. Even the great Pep teams went to tough away matches and came home with draws, you know.

  38. ian_percival
    January 11, 2014

    Am so fucking Tensed! We just did Real madrid a favour,we really needed this match,WTF and we just handed man city a tactics video

    • TITO
      January 11, 2014

      You should really calm down. Don’t understand why such a negativity in a match that we played more than well.

  39. BA
    January 11, 2014

    Pique our best player, by a distance. Simeone countered our formation hard, stifled and harried, and neither team created much (his point all along, no doubt). starting with both Neymar and Messi on the bench was a mistake, and our only midfield option off the bench was Sergi Roberto; not exactly a game-changer. Cesc offered basically nothing in that position, as we assumed he would, and Masch could have been sent off for yet again throwing himself into tackles a real center-back would never make.

    all in all, a lackluster performance perpetuated by Atleti remaining very disciplined and sticking to their gameplan. we might (will probably?) win the league, but the idea that we’re going to win in Europe with the squad the way it is remains a pipe dream.

    • Peter
      January 11, 2014

      Starting with Neymar and Messi would’ve meant one of them would’ve been subbed at half time instead of Iniesta if you know what I mean.
      I wouldn’t call a gameplan “kick and stomp on them, the ref won’t call it”. With a favorable ref Stoke City could make Atletico cry for their mothers. But that is a pipe dream.

      But since Barcelona is in front, whatever helps the capital will be used. At this point it doesn’t matter whether it’s Real or Atletico, it’s important that it’s Madrid.

  40. barca96
    January 11, 2014

    I still stand by my word that we won’t be able to beat Bayern this season either. But of course Bayern is the undisputed King at the moment. We are only a top 5 team in Europe imo.

    You have Bayern at the top and then the 2nd group it’s us, Atletico, Madrid, Man City and then the 3rd group PSG, Arsenal, Juventus.

    I love my club but the club that I love doesn’t necessarily needs to be the best in my eyes.

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 11, 2014

      Well, that’s fair enough )
      Tata needs smart signings. Patch up work wont work.

  41. raj
    January 11, 2014

    The key to understanding the loss of control in 2nd half is simple: No Iniesta. He keeps the ball so well in areas which are dangerous for the opponents, it frustrates them and tires them out. Cesc isn’t that. So when we effectively replaced Iniesta with Cesc, we lost the dominant control. Also, when Xavi is under pressure he uses Iniesta as the outlet. That was the missing piece. I reckon With a healthy Iniesta in the 2nd half along with Messi, we would have won the match. Also, Song would have made sense in place of Cesc instead of Roberto in 70 odd mins. That way we’d have got that calm back in the midfield and then channeled it through for Messi. It was a shame to see the midfield not able to deliver the ball to Messi and Neymar when they seemed waiting for it. The guys just couldn’t hold 3 passes together from 55-75 minutes. It was surprising.

    On the bright side, great defending from us. We were supposed to be poor at set pieces? Not anymore I guess, there was threat from Athletic but the threat was cancelled out by good positioning, especially when under high pressure in middle of the second half. Masche was effective except when he went rashly into meaningless challenges. Pique didn’t do any mistakes that I noticed, so he was great. I just couldn’t track Busquests however I tried. Does that mean he had a great match? Also, good job by Pedro, he looked second only to Iniesta in the first half. Only Alves looked, I don’t know, out of touch..

    Athletico showed that they are the real contenders from Madrid. What a match, a win to either side would have been unfair on the other team. Real Madrid can laugh, or can they?!

    • January 11, 2014

      Well said, Raj, except for one thing. They might have needed the referee to still be in Liga contention, but I wouldn’t be so quick to discount Real M*drid. Assuming they win tomorrow they will trail by only three points after starting the season with five new players.

      • raj
        January 12, 2014

        We cannot write off Real Madrid yet, but I think the time is right to ask a question of them. The gap is only 3 points, but tonight they have seen what they are up against, a revived Barca and a hungry Athletic . I’d go as far as saying that if they do manage to come on top this season, it will be a surprise to many. Because until now they had Barca to beat which they did once out of some 4 or 5 seasons, and now they have a new club grabbing what they thought was safe, the 2nd place. If they think they have the potential, it is up to them to prove so! So, can Real Madrid achieve the unlikely and win the league by surpassing, not one, but two world class teams?

        Regarding the physicality of Athletic Madrid, yes they got a yellow card or two less than they deserved but the same can be said of us (Masche?). Truth be told, as much as I loved how Barca faced a tough physical opponent, I was also impressed by how they cancelled our skills.

        If I were in charge of Liga, I’d give some TV money to Athletic and help them maintain the level. A La Liga with three real horses means twice the revenue than the usual. Hope the white collar men understand the economics of it!

  42. Jim
    January 11, 2014

    Good post, Raj. Agree with all of this.

    Anyone heard about Iniesta? Is he okay?

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 11, 2014

      I heard its just a contusion. Waiting for the official report.

  43. PrinceYuvi
    January 11, 2014

    Apparently Barca is one the meanest defence in Europe this season.

    I’ll happily take that.
    Now onto Man city.

    Meanwhile atleti should humiliate EE once again and they better knock out Bayern outta CL.
    Oh they can.

  44. Peter
    January 11, 2014

    Real Madrid still have to go to Vicente Calderon and San Mames.
    Atletico still have to go to San Mames, Pamplona and Camp Nou.

    Barcelona have to go to El Madrigal, Santiago Bernabeu and Sevilla.

    It’s still up in the air, but I have my faith. Even one point can tip the scales, and Atletico won’t always have refs not willing to show them the cards. Diego Costa should’ve seen yellow, but he’ll probably get it against Sevilla. After all, after Sevilla it’s Rayo, it’s not like Rayo can win it.

    So don’t worry guys, there’s still half a season.

    Personally, I would lodge a complaint against the ref. If it works(hardly, but it’s worth a try) then he won’t be officiating matches of Barcelona, right?

      • Peter
        January 11, 2014

        And miss the match against Sevilla? That would’ve been contrary to the Plan.

  45. mom4
    January 11, 2014


    So much negativity.

    We have a patent on winning and playing well? This couldn’t be because we came up against an excellent defensive team?

    Reality check time.

    • mom4
      January 11, 2014

      Hit button too early:

      So proud of how we played. We can run toe to toe with the toughest. City better watch out!

  46. January 11, 2014

    We should start fining commenters every time they mention Bayern. Last season was a mess. The Vilanova situation was ongoing, our team resembled a hospital ward and we were without our best player. Defense was also shaky.

    This season, we have our best player, fit and healthy, the addition of Neymar, and Martino has our defense defending again. No team in Europe will see a more daunting defense than Atleti. They played closer to their maximum than we did, and we had some excellent semi-chances that lacked a final ball. Still don’t know how Messi missed that header …

    This was a dynamic, physical, excellent match that for me, showed that our team this season has exactly what it takes to compete in Europe. We can control a match, create danger and defend when we have to, including off set pieces, I hope folks noticed today.

    How anyone could take anything negative from this match is beyond me. It was a strong, gutsy performance as we faced off against an intensely physical team in their house, with one of the most lenient refs in the Liga, who was almost complicit in getting Iniesta slaughtered. Martino and the team did well today. It’s difficult to say how things would have, might have gone, but it isn’t easy for me to imagine that match being a loss last season, 100-point glories notwithstanding.

    Atleti isn’t just joint top in Liga. They are, for me, in Champions League with a legitimate shout at going far in the tournament. No shame in the game for us today. Not at all.

    Yes, it’s trendy to doubt Pique and Mascherano, but they demonstrated exactly why they are Martino’s go-to CB tandem right now. It isn’t often that you see Diego Costa bullied. Loved how Mascherano put him on his ass.

    What’s even more appealing is that our club is still improving. Can’t wait for the rest of the season.

    • BA
      January 11, 2014


      the Bayern event was a sea change in European football, and for our club. i think far too many cules *under*appreciated how badly we were beaten in those matches; the worst European loss in our entire history. we can try to excuse it however we want, but for the best team in the world (some claimed in history) to be humiliated in such a fashion, twice, in a European semi-final is a monumental footballing event. we still hear about the 4-0 to Milan in 1994, and we’ll hear about the Bayern loss for the rest of our supporting lives. get used to it.

      the more immediate issue, and the source of many cules frustration, is that many of the problems we saw in those 2 ties against Bayern haven’t been or have only partially been addressed.

      • ooga aga
        January 11, 2014

        no, it isnt that barcelona fans underappreciate how badly we were beaten. bayern and us arent that far apart. definitely not 7 goals apart. i think people are looking at the 7-0 out of context, a context which i cant be bothered to recap for you.

        i just think that people take the joy out of it when they whine after a match like this, which was a spectacle to behold, and one that i feel grateful for being able to watch on my internet stream. and i am also grateful for messi being back and looking as sharp as he does, after less than 90 minutes of play!

        dont worry about the rest, folks! enjoy what you are seeing! did you only become a fan to see your club slaughter everyone?

      • G6O
        January 11, 2014

        The 4-0 loss against Milan was very different.

        I am old enough to remember that game – we were heavy favorites going into that game, they had a lot of injury troubles, we had all our best players available.

        Nobody expected us to lose in such a manner and it was indeed a seismic shift in the football landscape of Europe at the time. It really ended an era.

        The Bayern games were very different – I don’t need to list again all the unfavorable circumstances. The numbers on the board were a surprise, but that we lost was not.

      • Peter
        January 12, 2014

        BA, since I need to be blunt, fuck the sea change. Check the reverse situation. If Bayern had had no coach, for half the season, if Bayern had Robben and Ribery injured, Muller and Martinez playing injured, and a second-string CB pair had been employed, the whole team exhausted by the hardest campaign in European football instead of having something like two weeks to train specifically for that match, what the result would be?

        Like I said, fuck the sea change. This is Barcelona, culés will always be reminded of the 4-0 final, the 11-1 Clasico, the SEVEN-UP!!!!1 and whatnot.

        What exactly hasn’t been addressed? Tata hasn’t bought four 7-ft tall defenders and hired The Hulk to act as a CF? You realize this is FC Barcelona we’re talking about, not some EPL sheikh’s toy, right?

        Let’s see what’s not been addressed:
        1. The team defends much better
        2. Pressing is back
        3. More direct attacking with more reliance on counters instead of constant short passing just outside the opponent’s box and waiting to be kicked.
        4. Change of set-piece defending that has resulted in the team having the second-best(by a single goal) defense in La Liga.
        5. Rotation of players so that players are rested, and younger players get to play(and gain much-needed experience on the pitch)
        6. Pragmatic coach that refuses to play his best players unless he’s sure they are fit.
        7. The majority of the team plays much better than they used to last year.

        So what exactly hasn’t been addressed?

        • BA
          January 12, 2014

          1. we had the 2nd-meanest defense last season too, in the league. i think we’ve reached a point, Atleti’s resurgence notwithstanding, where Liga stats aren’t a reliable metric. i certainly wouldn’t claim “La Liga = SPL”, but the level of competition due to financial inequality just doesn’t translate into European play.
          2. is it? the forwards press a bit more, but certainly we haven’t seen the ferocious concerted pressing of a few years ago. there are pros and cons to that.
          3. yeah we look more direct, and that’s an improvement; but it’s still a reactionary adjustment, as teams have to come out and let us play more direct. i think we’ve had more teams attack us this year than last, for whatever tactical reason.
          4. i’m still not convinced by our performances from set pieces. we conceded an awful lot of those earlier in the season, and so much of that potential to defend them relies solely upon Pique.
          5. rotation this season has been good and a big improvement from last season, but last season was dire. i still don’t think we have enough players, in total. we saw a bit of that against Atleti: our attacking midfield option off the bench, once the Neymar and Messi subs had been made, was Sergi Roberto. he’s not going to strike fear into the hearts of City, or PSG, or Bayern anytime soon. we had an excellent attacking midfield player who could change games, but we sold him to a major European rival for less than he was worth. a step backwards, in my opinion.
          6. Tata’s pragmatism has been sound, but i still wonder when he’ll have to coach, as opposed to administrate, if he’ll be up to the task. there are a few handful of games throughout the season where you need a real tactical change, to make something happen from the bench, and i’m not sure he’s been tested on that front yet. really most of these “improvements” are simply taking us back to level playing field after the clusterF that was last season.
          7. maybe? last season we won the league with 100 points. on the pitch, aesthetically we’ve been better this season. but is La Liga the prize we’re after? if so, the standards for winning that, *as we saw last season*, are rather less than the standards for winning in Europe. we can, and probably will, win the league. is that enough?

          our defense hasn’t been addressed. it looks, more or less, the same as last season. Dani has been playing badly, Pique has been better but still alone, Masch i remain (and probably will forever remain) unconvinced by as a center-back, Bartra still doesn’t have the faith of the coaching staff, while Puyol and Jordi Alba have been injured. it has not been strengthened by adding additional players, nor has it or more importantly the midfield in front of it been structured in such a way as to compensate. do you seriously think that we’d win over 2 legs against Bayern (the best team in Europe right now) this season? because i just don’t. Man City will be a stern test of that, and we’ll known soon enough.

          • egcg119
            January 12, 2014

            You have some good points, but are hiding them in a sea of pessimism.

            First off, our defense has improved, regardless of La Liga barometer -we were conceding more than a goal per game, this year we are not. Similarly, our offense is far better than it was last season, you can’t deny that – on form, it’s one of the best in Europe. Midfield depth is still a weak point, no doubt.

            “Masch I remain unconvinced by as a center-back’ – that’s your problem. last night he absolutely dominated one of the best strikers in Europe. And Bartra doesn’t have the confidence of the coach? Are you kidding me? It was not strengthened by adding additional players because it did not make any sense at the time. Martino came in and barely knew the team, so he waited.

            Barca don’t have to be the absolute best team in Europe at all times. We have our first non-domestic coach in 5 years, our last coach got cancer and left the team in shambles, and the team as a whole is aging and transitioning post-Pep. Those are problems which cannot be addressed immediately and through the transfer market without major transition period and backlash. IMO, Martino is playing this the right way – as opposed to Ancelotti, who came in and made an enormous tactical shakeup.

            I don’t care that Bayern is better than us right now, I really don’t. Martino has made enormous progress, taken everything that’s come his way perfectly in stride and should be fucking recognized for it.

          • Peter
            January 12, 2014

            1. Okay, since you want to look at it that way:

            Last season, measured against the defense stats of other domestic leagues, there were 18(Eighteen!) teams in Europe’s top five leagues(EPL, Bundesliga, Serie A, Ligue 1, La Liga) that were better or equal to Barcelona. Last season at this point Barcelona had conceded almost two times more goals, including four against relegated Deportivo.

            This season as of this moment, despite the numerous injuries and the new coach, Barcelona’s defense is the fifth best in Europe, joint with Juventus. Only Atletico Madrid, Roma, Lille and Bayern have better “goals conceded stats” – Atletico manage it by relying primarily on counters, Roma and Lille by grinding out goalless draws(goal difference +29 and +14 respectively) – and Bayern have played three fewer matches, and they play in the Bundesliga.

            2. It’s not the pressing of Guardiola’s years precisely because it’s been years since that time. But the pressing is still practiced, albeit in different form. Now it’s used tactically, in order to preserve the strength of the players.

            3. More direct play translates into more direct passes and more intercepted passes. Intercepted passes mean the opponent has the ball. Opponent having the ball has two choices: move forward and attack, or pass around the back and midfield. If option one, that means more space for Barcelona players, and more possibilities for counter-attacks. Option two means Barcelona can just press them and regain the ball in immediate proximity to the opponent’s goal.

            4. You will remain unconvinced because it’s the same defense as last year’s. Mascherano, Dani Alves, Alba and Adriano haven’t magically gotten ten cm taller. But I think it’s telling, that with the “awful lot” of headers and goals from set pieces conceded, neither Real, nor Atletico have managed to score from a set-piece or a corner – and both teams at that moment had seriour height and aerial advantage against Barcelona.

            5. That excellent player wasn’t sold. He was going to go no matter what. The question was whether to get 18 million or 25 million for him. Besides, the only reason why last night Tata had Sergi Roberto on the bench was because he had to start Cesc Fabregas in Messi’s spot and Iniesta had been injured – and Tata decided to play for the draw instead of risking it with Song.

            6. Tata is coaching. If Iniesta hadn’t been kicked out of the game last night, we could’ve been talking about the first victory over Atletico – Atletico, whose only loss of the season was due to a solitary own goal. Tata is coaching – he completely outmaneuvered Ancelotti in the Clasico.

            7. I’m not going to get into detail as to why the coach and club decided to drive for the record, but suffice to say, if last year the club had suffered the same amount of injuries, it would’ve been disastrous. And there is no question that the players individually play better than last year(with the conspicuous exception of Messi, due to self-evident reasons, and Iniesta’s low form in the beginning.) The only player who possibly doesn’t play better is Tello – but he just can’t get the minutes due to the form of the rest of the striker team.

            Also, I wouldn’t be that confident that Barcelona will win the League. Tempting fate and all that. Last season Barcelona was eleven points clear of Atletico(2nd placed) at the end of the half-season. This year it’s just goal difference.

            Last but not least, I remain more optimistic of Barcelona’s chances in Europe this season.

  47. G6O
    January 11, 2014

    I really don’t understand the negative comments. Sure, the results suits best a certain other team from Madrid playing in white, but it is not that bad for us at all either.

    Atletico is a much better team than people are giving them credit for, and one that is very well built to play against us. If anything, it is a positive we limited them to only a couple of real chances, and had we played with a proper referee and fit Neymar, Messi and Iniesta for 90 minutes, I am quite sure we would have won.

    As it is, we are still on top and I have a lot of confidence in our ability to collect more points than them over the next 19 games. I don’t even think the last game of the season (against Atletico at home) will matter.

    Remember that now we have the whole team fit and rested while we already won 50 points with our best player featuring in less than half of the games.

  48. Peter
    January 11, 2014

    I just need to say this before I start watching the match again: So proud of Mascherano and Pique! Bartra may be better in general, but there’s a reason why people call the Argentine “sMasch” and “Maschete” 😀 Diego Costa relies on bullying the defenders, but every once in a while he knocks on the wrong door… Like this time.

    I just can’t understand how Tata is managing to lift those players up. Is it just the fact that he is there to monitor them and guide them, or he tries to find the best part of each player and then implement that in the team? I found myself actually thinking “Song would’ve helped more.” If Iniesta hadn’t been injured, I think Tata’s plan was to introduce Messi for Fabregas, Neymar for Alexis and at some point Song for Iniesta or Xavi – and then use Song and Busquets to counter-press the Atletico midfield. The result could’ve been a late goal when Atletico hardly have the strength to attack back – and with two disruptive midfielders and Messi and Pedro coming back to press but ready to pounce on any loose ball the match could’ve been finished.

    Imagine that, using Song in order to win the match. Could someone utter those words one year ago?

  49. bhed
    January 11, 2014

    Start by fining me then. I hadn’t planned on mentioning Bayern, but how on earth can you expect people not to speculate how we measure up against the current best in the world, the team that, excuses aside, flat out humiliated us last year?

    I think we did ok today, not our best but not our worst. Athletico was very good, but our passing could have been a tad faster and sharper. Pique was great, Masch was also very good. Dani, well, I think we need a right back more than a CB. I have absolutely no idea what Sergi Roberto was doing out there.

    Looking forward to the second half of the season. I like our chances, but we’ll definitely have more setbacks AND injuries to deal with. Hopefully, so will the other guys. City will be a good test. If we can’t get past them with a full squad, then the naysayers and doubters will look more prescient than pessimistic. I still think we can take them.

    • January 11, 2014

      Because we have no idea how we stack up against that team. We know that last year, with injuries that hobbled key players, a coach battling cancer and our best player out, we got hammered. If an analog to that happens and we face them again, I rather imagine the same thing will happen.

      But every comparison made by a culer ends with the conclusion, “they are so much better than we are.” Not from what I have seen. With a full, fit squad, I like our chances against any club in the world, including that one.

  50. mom4
    January 11, 2014

    @ Peter and Kxevin
    I’m with you.
    Nothing gave me more pleasure today than seeing Masche getting, as Kxevin might say, up in that particular (Costa’s) *ss.

  51. ooga aga
    January 11, 2014

    SELL EVERYONE! the whole team. Tata must go. Messi, out! Valdes, sayonara! Adios adriano!

    I’ll only take it back if we win the triplete again!


    (That was satire…)

  52. Rami
    January 11, 2014

    A draw with a taste of win!, Calderon has always been a hellish ground, But to gain this one point on what can be easily called their ‘historic’ season, Is a point worth of gold, And to do that with our two best players sitting on the bench half of the match, And unfit on the pitch, WOW, I’m more than satisfied, More like Proud.

    Nothing to complain about from my part, Match went as expected, The team did a wonderful job, So did atleti, Maybe i lament the timing of this match, One week more and we would’ve had a match fit messi and neymar from the start.

  53. January 11, 2014

    Wow, some of the comments here! I am not sure what people expected to happen. We played one of the best teams in Europe tonight, the same team that beat Madrid in their own stadium twice in a row. They are a disciplined, fit, aggressive, passionate and very well managed team and you know what, we went there and we gave them one hell of a fight and we did it without our two best attackers. We did it without conceding any real chances to them and we did it with a ref who was happy to let pretty much anything go. I for one am extremely proud of the team. They pressed, they were aggressive, they were tough, they did not let athletico outmuscle or push them around. They defended well!!!! How long has it been since we have been able to say that, against the deadliest striker in the league at the moment. The best chances of the match fell to us and maybe with a bit more sharpness we would have walked away with all 3 points, but honestly Athletico earned their point tonight. They are an insanely fit team, although I have a feeling the intensity with which they play is going to catch up with them soon, especially considering the size of their squad and the number of competitions they are currently in.

    Martino really impressed me tonight by not starting Messi and Neymar. To leave one on the bench is one thing, but both. That takes balls. Not only that but it sends a very clear message to the players, and that is that Barca is a TEAM. Not reliant on a player, but on a set of players willing to work and play for each other and boy did they do that tonight. I cannot remember the last time the team played such an aggressive, physical game. This is EXACTLY what we lacked against Bayern last season.

    So well done. Its a great point. Now onto the next game.

    Oh and lets hope the other team from Barca can do us a favour tomorrow.

      • IamXavi6
        January 11, 2014

        Agree as well. happy with the 1 point away from home and we showed more than enough against a tactically tight and disruptive Atleti.

    • Peter
      January 12, 2014

      I don’t just approve of this message, I fully endorse it. 😀

  54. andrecito
    January 11, 2014

    well said..

    i had a tough time watching the game, as my streams were constantly shutting down..but i do know that a.m were scary..as were the fans..amazing that we play them on the last day of the season..

    i dont usually like to complain about fouls that were or werent called…but man, that first hit on messi in the box by costa was ludacris..ive watched it over and over and it just seems as costa’s total intention was to take messi out of the game. there was absolutely no play on the ball, he doesnt even break his stride or stick out a leg…just runs through him..granted, messi gets off a pass/or shot i guess..but i think if that would have happened anywhere else on the pitch, play would have been stopped and i free kick awarded..i lost all respect for costa on tha play.

    • KEVINO17
      January 11, 2014

      I go over to rojadirecta and download the game about half-an-hour after it has finished and then watch it on my computer without having to worry about any streaming problems.

  55. KEVINO17
    January 11, 2014

    Leaving both Messi and Neymar on the bench was much smarter than just leaving one because neither could then really complain they were left out.
    Iniesta was excellent during his time on the pitch. He seems to have gained a yard of pace from somewhere. But I recall how Pepe used to like playing Keita against the RM thugs. Maybe Barca needed a bit more muscle in the middle of the park.
    I don’t think Cesc is playing as a false nine. He seems to be playing more as a back-to-goal striker, being used to make wall passes. Tata seems to think that makes the team more direct.

  56. IamXavi6
    January 11, 2014

    I firmly believe that Atleti dont have it in them to last all season and go with us. 19 games to go and I believe they will drop points as do RM when Europe ramps up again. I dont doubt how good AM are but I dont believe they have the pedigree to last all season with us. Hence why a point away from home against them here is as good as a win and they dont get any more confidence from it. Ill take it all day everyday

  57. PrinceYuvi
    January 12, 2014

    Better take back what I said about Masch & Alba.
    Masch is a Bad-ass.
    Think I take the Height factor too seriously.
    & As Cesc said, it was a game for Wingers and Full backs.

  58. I think the match was a good one especially for us. We still remain top of table. I thought we missed iniesta in second half. He and pedro were bringing us hack in game in first half.

  59. I also don’t agree that atletico can’t last the whole season. I think they could. If I like to sign one of their players, it would be Arda Turan. He was a beast in attack and defence.

  60. ian_percival
    January 12, 2014

    Let me just be realistic about us. This is a bit like deja vu of last season,we kept saying our defence really stood up in semi-tough matches like atletico’s and then bayern comes to town,next thing,Bang! Bang! Its 7-0. We really need intensive Transfer signings in defence,yes, but not just in Defense only,but in every department.We have one of the fibble squad depths amongst top euro clubs,sometimes substitutions seems to weaken us.it was visible yesterday when roberto was introduced,yes Song should’ve been subbed in instead,but I don’t blame tata,he was working with what he had.Squad depth is very neccessary in every teams quest for success,and lets not mix squad depth with academy produce,they’re different.

    If we look back to our previous seasons,especially the ones we won the CL and La liga,there was a bit life in our squad depth. Take 2009 for example(if am correct)we had a good squad depth,we had Eto’o,Henry,gudjohnsen,bojan,messi,iniesta xavi,yaya toure etc.now thats a deep squad depth.I can even remember when Abidal was sent off against chelsea in the semis and had to miss the final,Sylvinho was slotted in and he played well. It seems That these days no player wants be a squad player at barca,everyone seems to want a starting berth pre-agreement before they join and that sucks,but we got find a way to fix that.Squad depth gives life-line to most teams during injury-hit periods.bayern for instance,stweinstieger,badstuber,robben recently,where hit by injury ,but they had solution,they had martinez,van buyten,shaqiri.Fellas thats what squad depth does,the same goes for city,juve,psg,EE,chelsea etc Arsenal had depth problems before but they fixed up by adding some more guns to their arsenal and look what its brought them,top of the league in january.The last time they enjoyed that was back in 05′ when they had similar depth as now. So I say why not apply that on our team and see what turns out,I mean look at where it landed borussia Dortmund and man utd.The latter lost Piszcek,hummels,subotic etc to injury and thei rseason turned upside down,man utd had almost the same issue but there’s was more to management though.

    Finally,I know we didn’t have our best players fit for this match,i know we’ll get to think that if we had a fit messi and neymar that the result would’a been diffrent,yes it may and it may not too,considering how determined atletico looked. Most people think playing atletico is the ultimate test,i say no.Yes they are one of the best in europe,yes they beat EE,but the truth is that it was domestic tie,playing man city an english team,with their media hype and pressure in CL is the real deal pals

    • raj
      January 12, 2014

      And after we edge past Man city, people will say “Watch out for PSG/ Bayern/ Classico, this was nothing”. But I do agree on the squad depth, Thiago hurts now.

      • ian_percival
        January 12, 2014

        Raj of course people will say that or would you think Uefa will hand us the CL after beating city.We’ve got to keep going step by step till we win,thats when it stops

        • raj
          January 12, 2014

          You know what I meant. People will not just say that Barca needs to beat other teams to win, they will say, like you said, that Barca can’t!

          But now I’m sure that if and when we do win the CL, you will have other complaints.. so it doesn’t matter..

    • Peter
      January 12, 2014

      You lost my respect when you called Atletico “semi-tough” match.

    • stefan2k
      January 12, 2014

      Come on! It was a draw against a very though opponent! Whats up with the negativity?

      Buying all new players … thats EE hogwash, not our mentality.

      I myself am very happy with the team and its performance.

    • Serena Andre
      January 12, 2014

      Atletico one of the best teams in Europe at the moment. Top 3 in my opinion. You lost me at ‘semi-tough’.

  61. psalmuel
    January 12, 2014

    one of the reasons I feel bayern cannot beat us again (like that) is that, first, our defensive weaknesses have been almost resolved (can’t recall when we last conceded a counter-attack goal). The spaces between def,mid,and attack has been narrowed down. We now move as a block thus, we break up counters more this days. Secondly, we can actually defend set-pieces now. Thirdly, our press button has been fixed. Fourthly, Tata is not that coach who attacks,no matter the result. Lastly,bayern won’t be parking the bus and be luring for the counter cos that isn’t Guardiola’s thing. With what we played yestaday,even without our 2 best strikers, am sure we can face any team now. And to those writing off Athletico and calling yestaday’s match a ‘semi-tough’ test, lets wait and see how other ‘TOP’ teams fare against them with this form they are in. We already know how EE fared against them

  62. ian_percival
    January 12, 2014

    Peter I may have lost your ”respect” but I meant no disrespect towards atletico,they’re no doubt a formidable opponent.But even if you really don’t wanna see it. Atletico can beat Chelsea anyday,even M.city or man utd,but Imagine us playing Chelsea,that clash alone is fierce,with its short ”history”,when ever we play them its a different story regardless of each team’s present form then or which team beat the team that beat each other,its the pressure,the hype,the non-domestic feeling,that foreign sense between the two,lol and also the Englishness.So bro,am not saying atletico isn’t tough,but they’re domestic,its a different ball game playing a foreign team,let alone from England,you know what the media is like there,and city will be looking to prove a point cos its their debut

    • Peter
      January 12, 2014

      I think you have no idea what “domestic” means for Spain. This isn’t just a domestic clash. In Spain, it’s all about The Capital vs Ze Catalans. Right now it doesn’t matter whether it’s Atletico or Real. What matters is it’s Madrid! not Barcelona!
      I’m struggling to find a suitable example, but possibly a similar “domestic” feeling would be to have Liverpool play The Sun(with “The Sun” team sponsored by “THE TRUTH”).

      You should read the first chapter of Fear and Loathing in La Liga to get a feeling of what it is.

      And yes, I know what the English media thinks about FC Barcelona. After all, there are only two English “top dogs” that FC Barcelona hasn’t kicked. When it’s Barcelona it’s not just an English club that’s playing. It’s about the prestige of the whole League.

  63. psalmuel
    January 12, 2014

    Winning 16 out of 19 is no fluke,neither is topping ur CL group. Give athletico the credit they deserve.

  64. psalmuel
    January 12, 2014

    The media doesn’t win you matches, matches are won on the pitch with players and a coach. Going by the english media hype thing, english teams would have won every UCL. We friggin’ won it at Wembley, their backyard

  65. andrecito
    January 12, 2014

    kevin017–i used to do the same thing..but now i found a site where you can watch streams of the games after they are finished. the site is matchhighlight. sometimes there are commercials..thats the only bad part..

  66. andrecito
    January 12, 2014

    oh–and theyre are some pop-ups too…

  67. ian_percival
    January 12, 2014

    Psamuel I rather embrace reality and think ahead than sit and admire the way atletico played,instead of finding a way to fix the mistakes in my team that denied me winning,for greater task ahead

  68. simple_barcafan
    January 12, 2014

    This was a delightful game of football. We played really well.

    – I would dare say Iniesta seemed the one who was most needed for this match as he held the ball brilliantly in the first half which made us win the midfield battle. Only when he was absent did we lose the (slight?) upper hand that we had and helped AM to gain more control of the midfield. No Barca midfielder held the ball to draw the AM players out of position.

    – I am not sure if people noticed, but Simeone made sure that Busi was neutralized. AM let Xavi have space and time, but as soon as Busi got the ball he was surrounded immediately by two (sometimes even three) players. Shows how well Simeone has understood our game.

    – AM seem to work tirelessly. I dunno if they can keep it up till the end, but the play compact and physical.

    -Just before the game, I saw commentators mentioning SMash should definitely not play this game..well..Take that!!!
    People seemed to have forgotten that one of the most important objectives was to make sure we neutralize the most in-form, physical striker in Liga. SMash made sure that the objective was achieved.

    – Hats off to Tata. He did something not even Pep, Tito or Roura would have dared to do. This was one of the most telling statement IMHO,in a long time that the team is bigger than its individual superstars.

    – Sergio Roberto sub was confusing. Even Tata would have known if he wants to gain better midfield control it would be Song, not Roberto and if needed a forward, it should be Tello. Maybe he wanted Roberto to gain experience in dealing with high pressure/intense matches. Way of battle-hardening him?..guess so.

    -Arda Turan played really well. MOM for me.

    -Valdes made a brilliant reflex save (even though it was judged offside).

    -Set Pieces.Defense.Effective.

    -Wonderful game, AM deserved a point, good case study for Baca’s coach to figure out how to break a physical, extremely compact, fearless well managed team.

    • January 12, 2014

      I am not sure if people noticed, but Simeone made sure that Busi was neutralized.

      Yup. I’m sure that Simeone sent his team out with the words, “If you do nothing else, sit on Busquets & don’t give him any space. That’s the key.” And they did it to perfection.

  69. January 12, 2014

    A few observatory liners after the blood bath.

    — sMasch did well, rash sometimes, but Tata doesn’t trust Batra. Selected Pedrito, Fab, and Alexis based on form, but applied a separate principle re Batra. More for a coach with balls, for me, certainly not a pack full.

    — Cesc is sterile when faced with a fierce block.

    — Alves and Alba also can form a balance between themselves.

    AND, most importantly

    What many didn’t actually notice …

    — Pedro did better than Alexis against a compressed defence.


    • Peter
      January 12, 2014

      I wouldn’t say Tata doesn’t trust Bartra, it’s more like Bartra lacks the muscles, confidence, experience and maybe cunning to neutralize the combination of a thug and prima dona that is Diego Costa, especially with a ref that biased.

      • January 12, 2014

        Exactly. When a player doesn’t play, with a squad as talented as ours, it isn’t a lack of trust, but that there is a superior option based on the opponent. When you’re playing a hard-nosed team, you need a hard-nosed player. That player is Mascherano.

        If the club is crazy enough to let him go in the summer, it will be a loss. Because he brings something to the defense that the club hasn’t had since Gabi Milito: attackers with second thoughts as they approach his part of the pitch. Why? You’re gonna get hit. The only question is how hard. Costa was reduced to falling down, rubbing his shin and doing the puppy dog face.

        When we have a match with a lenient ref, usually we are the aggrieved ones, as the other team kicks the crap out of us. I like having a player who kicks back.

        • Peter
          January 12, 2014

          Kxevin, you have no idea how many times have I imagined Barcelona players retaliating in some way for the brutal challenges and outright kicks and stomps. Something taken from the Mean Machine(Vinnie Jones movie) for example. Or Busquets losing his balance and foxtrotting on the shins of a particularly aggressive midfielder.

          Sometimes I just wish Barcelona had someone capable of Enforcer duties. It’s a pipe dream, of course, but one can dream.

  70. Dar_vincy
    January 12, 2014

    And it was particularly amusing that people were consistently rooting for Bartra to displace sMasch. We forget that Class is permanent and form is temporary. Though it doesn’t excuse the fact that sMasch has a strong tendency to be madcap in his decison-making and actions. But then again, who amongst our players doesn’t have his short-comings?
    That Masch was doubted was really beyond me.

    • barca96
      January 12, 2014

      If he had gotten a red card which he should’ve had and on many other occassions with his wild rash tackles, I think it’s a liability. One day, he will get a straight red or 2 yellows for it. I don’t think the other player’s shortcomings are as bad as always seeing sMasch play with fire.

      Imagine playing with 10 men.

  71. January 12, 2014

    My friends,

    I hope all BFB regulars saw our man out there – Masche.. I saw saw many negativity against Masche here, hopefully those cules will calm down.
    How I wish, he was 6 feet. We would not be talking about our defence at all.

    Excellent defence.
    Pedro and Iniesta was really really brilliant.
    Had Iniesta been there when Messi came on, I think we would have got 2 more points. It was a pity that with Messi and Neymar in, the ball was mostly moving around in our own half.

    Alexis, Xavi and even Cesc to some extend disappointed. But Pedro, oh dear, he was incredible.

    We must not be worried about this draw. Atleti is a team of 10 Simeoni’s, at their home.. Its allright.

    Just have a doubt – did Deigo Costa really meant to harm Messi…

    • Jim
      January 12, 2014

      Sorry, i was going to keep quiet as I thought Masche had a pretty good match but we seem to be going overboard again. I appreciated what he brought to it in terms of physicality ( like others I enjoyed his physical tussle with Costa who puts it about in every game I’ve seen) but we did all see the two footed tackle which is a red card three times out of three, two other bookable occasions, out jumped at least twice inside our box and playing them on again by standing too far behind Pique , didn’t we?

      As an example of how he doesn’t think as a defender look at 23 minutes in. He and Albea are a good four yards behind Pique and covering their men well. However, with no warning Masche suddenly jumps forward to play his man, Villa, offside leaving Alba looking stupid and Villa onside. Luckily, it was yet another decision the ref got wrong.

      Again, I thought he had a pretty decent match but he is not a long term option at CB imo and if we have no use for him at DM we need to move him on as all he is doing at the moment is masking our need for another top quality (tall!) CB , even if Bartra eventually makes the grade.

      Generally though, I thought this was a pretty heartening display from us and I can’t see how it could be regarded as a poor result – and Tata has improved our defending which was probably our biggest beef pre season.

      • January 13, 2014

        I was worried that you weren’t paying attention, Jim.

        Mascherano doesn’t think like a defender. And I hope he never will. A defender often stands, waiting to react. The strength of Mascherano is that he doesn’t think like a defender, but rather as a DM who is just sitting back a bit.

        Rash challenges? You bet. But he watched the match, saw how it was being called and ajudged that he was on safe ground for going in as hard as the Atleti players were all match.

        Nobody expects people who don’t rate a player to start. The subjective nature of this game and how people watch it precludes that. Heck, there were people who didn’t rate Abidal. I just think that what you consider a weakness, that not thinking like a defender, others consider a strength.

        • barca96
          January 13, 2014

          But he watched the match, saw how it was being called and adjudged that he was on safe ground for going in as hard as the Atleti players were all match.

          Going in as hard? So you endorse our players to play rough and dirty just because the opponent uses the same tactic? Would you have liked our players behaving like Madrid players in a Clasico like Pepe, Ramos, Alonso, Arbeloa, etc.? They weren’t punished then so it should be safe for our players to do the same?

          And I didn’t see any Atletic players lunging in with 2 feet on anyone.

          Have a look again;

          • barca96
            January 13, 2014

            He could’ve and should’ve gotten a red card for that challenge.

            We want to win by playing beautiful football and fair football, not playing like dirty like that.

          • January 13, 2014

            To my view, looked like he was trying to stop, just as Diego Costa was when he ran into Messi.

            And yes, I think that rather than getting kicked around the pitch, we should give some back. Absolutely. I’m not in favor of turning the other cheek when you’re getting kicked off the pitch.

        • Jim
          January 13, 2014

          Not a chance, Kxevin. 🙂

          Look, I think Masch had one of his best games alongside Pique against AM and I’m not going to have a go at him. Only reason I said anything is that some of the comments were to me completely overboard and only seem to judge him by the severity of his tackles. My views on Masch have been well known since he joined us and I fear he will now leave us without ever having the chance to get a run at DM which would be more suited to him than CB.

          I couldn’t agree that having a defender who doesn’t think Iike one is in any way a strength but it’s all only opinions, isn’t it ?

          • January 13, 2014

            I’ll buy that, but you see what I mean, right? I think that a defender who thinks like a back line defender isn’t as proactive as I think our system calls for.

            I do also think that at our club, Mascherano is indeed better suited for the back line than DM.

  72. ibbe
    January 12, 2014

    Great game last night. Very happy with the team’s progress. They just keep on getting better!

    But uhm…Xavi to NY red bulls? What? any truth to these rumors?

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 12, 2014

      Sounds Rodunculous. For Xavi, Barca is Home business.

      • IamXavi6
        January 12, 2014

        Doubtful. Xavi had a recent interview in a Magazine and stated

        “It’s difficult to finish your career here,””I don’t know if I will end it at Barca. I’d like to, but I don’t know what will happen.

        Of course, rumour went into overdrive. He’s off to NY, he’s off to United…blah blah blah.

  73. PrinceYuvi
    January 12, 2014

    For once, Nobody knew who the hell was going to win.

    Not even ghost of Paul the Octopus could’ve predicted the score line.

    This is a great season for La Liga.

      • barca96
        January 12, 2014

        Yup. What a great win. Adama, Dongou and Suarez all on the score sheet.

        • PrinceYuvi
          January 12, 2014

          They seem to be playing with one eye on Tata, the rotation guy )

          • IamXavi6
            January 12, 2014

            Sadly not doing too good in the league overall though. Still a nice win…I didnt catch the highlights 🙁

  74. DianaKristinne
    January 13, 2014

    I am very proud of our boys for their performance on Saturday. They showed that Barça is a team and that it can compete against one of team best teams in Europe. (If I’m not mistaken I think Pep himself said that Atleti is the best team in Europe right now). And make no mistake, they are up there in the top 5. I don’t know how far they’ll make it in the CL (surely into the QF because…. well, Milan) and how the European games will affect their La Liga results, but at this moment in time they are up there amongst Europe’s elite. Sure, they don’t have the money or glamor of others, but they’ll “beat” you into submission.

    Now, moving on to our chances for European glory: I don’t know what would happen if we face Bayern in terms of final results, but what I am sure of is that we will compete better that we did last year. And that is very good. This is what I have learned from the game on Saturday. If somehow we manage to win the CL without facing Bayern on the way to glory I am sure people here will still be going on about: “Yes, but if we face Bayern we’ll get killed.” I do not give a tiny rat’s ass! Right now, the only European team I am focused on is City. And I am not all that scared. Sure, it will be tough, but I think we can take them. Their defense is scary bad. Newcastle had about 5 HUGE chances yesterday of which I am sure our players would have converted at least 3. Yes, they won’t play the same way against us, but Pellegrini will never park the bus against us. He’s classy like that. So the games will be open and I like our chances. All I pray for is that Leo and Ney and Don Andres can get a good run of games together before that so that they can form a magical attacking trio.

    I had other points too, but, after reading the comments above *wipes brow*, I think they were all addressed pretty well.

  75. January 13, 2014

    Messi could have finished the game for us on more than one occasion.
    Still, I thought we played a pretty good game, defensively solid, could have created more, but am not complaining considering it was against one of the best teams in defense in all of Europe. Masche is a rock and I just don’t get the kind of criticism he gets on these boards. We are lucky to have him.

  76. Jim
    January 13, 2014

    I really don’t think I could dislike Ronaldo much more than I do. Not even a mention of the other nominees ?

    I’m a bad person, I know.

    • simple_barcafan
      January 13, 2014

      “I don’t care about the Ballon d’or”..”I don’t think I will attend the ceremony”..blah blah..And then he cries and says it means so much to him..

  77. barca96
    January 13, 2014

    So FIFA created an award for Pele and extended the voting period for Ronaldo. They sure need to do a lot of PR work in the coming months.

    I’ve always felt that FIFA really loves Pele and that Maradona is more of the people’s champion.

    I’ve never seen Ronaldo cry after winning any team trophy. It really shows how important an individual trophy is for him. Good for him.

    • G6O
      January 13, 2014

      Maradona didn’t get the Ballon d’Or either – expect to see him with that trophy next year. Then it’s Romario and so on.

  78. TITO
    January 13, 2014

    Can only imagine his face if they called for Messi’s name instead of his.

  79. barca96
    January 13, 2014


    Stats of the Ballon d’Or nominees.

    Pathetic really. 0, nil, zero, zilch trophies and yet people vote for him. I read a funny name on the Guardian, Cristiano “zero trophies” Ronaldo 😆

    • barca96
      January 13, 2014

      Should’ve been a close tie between Ribery and Messi to me with Ribery winning by a small margin. They at least were instrumental in winning trophies for their teams. In any case, this year’s trophy is forever tainted.

    • G6O
      January 13, 2014

      It was the correct decision – the award is given to the best player over the year, not the one who won the most trophies. Remember 2010? It was the correct choice then and it is the correct choice now – Messi was the best when he was healthy and fit, but that for for something like a grand total of three months over the whole year. Cristiano was healthy and at his best throughout. He deserves it.

      • barca96
        January 13, 2014

        True but contrary to popular belief, Ronaldo wasn’t in top form until the last 2 months of 2013 while Ribery was constant (of course you can’t judge him by goal tally as that would be unfair) throughout the whole year.

      • ibbe
        January 13, 2014

        Same with 2012 when Messi only won the copa while ronaldo won the league, but Messi was the undisputet best and that’s why he won it. It’s an individual award and Ronaldo earned it this year. Now let’s see messi’s response in 2014!

        • barca96
          January 13, 2014

          Messi scored 91 goals in 2012. It’s a no brainer.

        • Peter
          January 13, 2014

          In 2012 Messi won Copa del Rey and broke 43 different records.

          This year Ronaldo won nothing. Like absolutely nothing. He got the “La Liga MVP” award, the newest award, created and awarded by Madrid-based pro-Real Madrid “independent” newspaper MARCA. You’ll get better-looking trophies after filling your gas tank five times at Texaco.

          In 2013 Messi practically dragged Barcelona to the semi-finals of the Champions League and largely carried Barcelona through the campaign – from the first moment on. Just for his display against Milan and P$G he deserved to win it. Hell, he deserved it just for his goal against Athletic – you know, that one:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-j4qP9vtyE Cesc’s reaction is pure gold.

          • G6O
            January 13, 2014

            You have to do a lot more than that to win the award if you have spent 8 months out of 12 injured while your closest competitor has been healthy and scoring goals for fun. It has been done in the past – Van Basten got it undeservedly in 1992 and Sammer got in 1996 when Ronaldo should have gotten it. But that it has been done in the past does not mean it is the right thing to do.

            Also, it’s much better for the team that Cristiano got it – you can be sure that’s extra motivation for Messi to dominate this year.

          • ibbe
            January 13, 2014

            Well if it’s anyone’s fault it’s Messi’s really..he set the bar so high that he can’t afford to get injured anymore. 😛

            When he’s fit and playing he has no rival. If he hadn’t got that most recent injury he would’ve continued playing and scoring and probably went on to win the BdO. But by the time it was time to vote, ronaldo was grabbing all the headlines while Messi was in Argentina recovering, and that kind of affects the voters way of thinking.

            Nevertheless, Ronaldo certainly did enough to win it this year which is not a trajedy really. A player who scores 69 goals in a year definitely deserves the award IMO. If you have to score 91 goals to win a BdO then no one’s gonna win it except for messi.

  80. January 13, 2014

    Congrats to Ronaldo on winning the BdO.

    — In other news, AC Milan name Clarence Seedorf the new coach, replacing Allegri. Buzz is that he will be adding Edgar Davids to his staff.

    I wish that man lots of strength in a Serie A that has a hard time dealing with black players, never mind a manager. I also hope the team makes some buys, to equip him properly for his task.

    Big move.

    • barca96
      January 13, 2014

      But he’s been there for ages starting with Inter. So I think he wouldn’t have a problem there.

    • mom4
      January 13, 2014

      That poor soul just inherited one difficult job! Currently ranked 11th.

    • January 13, 2014

      If anybody can handle the louts with dignity and class, it’s Clarence Seedorf. I’m really happy for him. One of my favourite players, and a true gentleman through and through. Respect. I may even have to watch the odd Serie A game.

  81. PrinceYuvi
    January 13, 2014

    Messi didn’t get the golden thingy. Good.

    I hope media leaves our guy alone now and points their hatred spears at cry baby ronaldo.

    • Peter
      January 13, 2014

      As if. Fin de siglo! Since Messi didn’t win it, you know.

  82. olbucky
    January 13, 2014

    Ronaldo forgot to thank Messi for getting hurt.

  83. psalmuel
    January 13, 2014

    Ronaldo certainly deserved to win but we can’t deny that the outcome would have been different if Messi wasnt injured.

  84. Jafri
    January 13, 2014

    If only the journalists votes had counted, Ribery would have been the clear winner (that being the voting system used until 2009, before the merger)

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