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

getmessi

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.

messi2013

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.

218 Comments

  1. 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?

    • January 11, 2014

      Wait… Costa didn’t get a yellow card this game??

      • Peter
        January 11, 2014

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

  2. mom4
    January 11, 2014

    :eyeroll:

    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!

  3. 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.

    • Peter
      January 11, 2014

      Almost complicit? ALMOST?

    • BA
      January 11, 2014

      why?

      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?

      • simple_barcafan
        January 12, 2014

        Thank you.

      • January 12, 2014

        Peter absolutely nails it here.

      • Serena Andre
        January 12, 2014

        This. You nailed it.

      • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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…)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • January 11, 2014

      I approve of this message.

      • 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. 😀

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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.

  15. January 12, 2014

    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.

  16. January 12, 2014

    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.

  17. January 12, 2014

    Also just a thought- in matches like this it is better to use neymar play behind messi rather than on the wing.

  18. 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’.

  19. 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

  20. 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.

  21. psalmuel
    January 12, 2014

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

  22. 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

  23. 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..

  24. andrecito
    January 12, 2014

    oh–and theyre are some pop-ups too…

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

    TF?

    • 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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;
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jtLPHi8T63E

      • 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

    • PrinceYuvi
      January 12, 2014

      Barca B scored 5. Wow.

      • 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 🙁

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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..

  35. 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.

  36. TITO
    January 13, 2014

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

  37. barca96
    January 13, 2014

    http://t.co/DJZrQsjIof

    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.

  38. 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.

  39. 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.

  40. olbucky
    January 13, 2014

    Ronaldo forgot to thank Messi for getting hurt.

  41. 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.

  42. 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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