Categorized | Analysis, Statistics, Thoughts

Barça mid-season statistical review

"We're halfway there! Focus!"

“We’re halfway there! Focus!”

Hi, this is lea_terzi, a BFB reader and occasional commenter who hopped on the Barcelona bandwagon to watch Ronaldinho and was never able to leave, mesmerized by a million things that make Barça more than a club.

Something else I’m passionate about is statistics, which I occasionally use to make bets, play Football Manager (and win Graham Hunter’s book in a BFB contest last year). One day, I put together this review of the 2013-14 stats so far. It’s rather long, number-heavy and humor-thin but if you get through it, you might find answers to some fascinating questions (Which direction is Tata taking the team? Is he changing “our style”? Why does the team look more dangerous and less vulnerable than last season? Do we need an elite defender? Or a striker? Or maybe a midfielder? What to look out for? And, of course, why the repeat of Bayern fiasco is very, very, very unlikely?) Or you might come up with more questions, which I’d love to see in the comments.

Half-season stats review – how Tata’s Barcelona is different from Tito’s team.

levtata

Let’s not forget that, before illness, injury and Bayern struck last season, Barca was on a tear after a record start, which it converted into a record finish in La Liga. So, it wasn’t a bad year by any means – just a very, very unlucky one. This one is showing all signs of being better.

The end of Messidependencia and new attacking weapons

levsanchez

In fact, Tito’s Barcelona scored more in La Liga – 3 goals to this season’s 2.7. That, however, was mostly due to Messi’s brilliance – La Pulga accounted for 39% of our 155 goals in all competitions, and bagged a staggering total of 60. Only four others got into double digit scoring that season (Cesc, Alexis, Pedro and Villa contributed 33% of team’s goals), while the rest of midfield and defense pitched in 28%.

This season, things couldn’t be more different. With Lionel playing only half the available minutes this season, he “only” scored 21% of our impressive team total of 87 goals in 34 games. Pedro, Alexis, Cesc and Neymar are all in double digits already, shouldering 57% of the scoring load. The rest of the team accounts for 22% of goals. There is visibly less scoring (and assisting) from Xavi, Iniesta and the fullbacks, but then, it isn’t as vital with the forwards flourishing.

More proof of our front line’s success are the fantastic goal+assist/90minutes numbers. Last season, Leo stood head and shoulders above everyone at 1.72, with only Villa (1.0), Cesc (0.81), Alexis (0.82, but we all remember his long slump and scoring for fun after La Liga was officially over) and Iniesta (0.74) contributing steadily. This season, Messi’s influence on games is more subtle, and he contributed “only” 1.47 goals+assists per 90 minutes. But the world hasn’t fallen apart, because Cesc added 1.14, Neymar 1.13, Pedro 1.11, Alexis 0.90. Iniesta was asked to play a more withdrawn role and seemed in a funk to start the season, but we were seeing some great football from him before his knock against Atletico.

Whoscored rates players based on their actions each game, and while the rating has significant weaknesses, this season it is reflecting what we are seeing on the pitch – improved marks for Cesc and Pedro, Alexis and Neymar catapulting into the footballing elite, and an unfortunate decline in both minutes and performance for Tello, who suddenly finds himself an odd man out.

So, what changed? We replaced Villa (my favourite player ever) with Neymar, a much more dynamic, versatile and creative attacker, and it paid off instantly.

Messi and Neymar missing time, and Tata’s seemingly magical effect on players’ confidence, brought the A game from our other strikers.

A trend towards “verticalidad” – slight decline in possession numbers, willingness to attack in transition (we scored 7 transition goals, more than Real and Atletico, in La Liga this season), take on defenders (Messi and Alexis doubled their successful dribbles per game from last year, Neymar and Iniesta have been predictably great), mix it up with diagonal balls and quick ball movement from flank to flank also helped bring out the best in players like Pedro and Alexis, who thrive in space.

The result is more shots, more shots on target, more fouls won around the box. The challenge remains to develop the Messi-Neymar pairing, which we have rarely seen this season, share minutes and keep confidence high when all our attackers are healthy. Who do you leave on the bench? Another challenge is finding a central forward for Martino to experiment with, while Messi takes a more creative role for another tactical wrinkle.

Midfield malaise

midfield

The signs in midfield are, at first sight, not so encouraging. Busquets has been an absolute beast (Whoscored agrees, rating him higher than last season), but Song, while immensely talented, is still hit and miss on the pitch. Xavi and Iniesta have been less influential than we are used to seeing them, their scoring, assisting and passing are down, they are no longer team leaders in player rating, and sometimes look overrun in games.

Part of it is Tata’s effort to fix last season’s issues, as misfiring forwards led to midfielders shouldering a heavier load and getting further upfield in attack, while pressing and transition defense suffered. This season, forwards are doing a smashing job, and midfielders are asked to focus on their primary responsibilities, control midfield, clean up when the forwards lose the ball, then feed it back into the mixer and change the direction of attack with an array of short, long, through and diagonal balls. Due to the addition of Neymar, development of Alexis and Pedro who all require defensive attention, spaces are opening up in attack, so Xavi, Iniesta and even Messi don’t need to be close to goal in order to influence a match.

The other side of this has been referred to as “Martino having a plan but not the players for it”. Our direct competitors and elite teams we could face at later stages of the CL, like Real, Atletico, ManCity, Chelsea, Juventus and Bayern, rely on midfielders who are both physically dominant and technically excellent. They can at times run right through our more slight midfielders on attack, while kicking them out of games on defense. While Xavi and Iniesta, who many thought couldn’t play together, proved naysayers wrong in spectacular fashion, there is a lot of mileage in those legs, and using them for the bulk of minutes in all competitions could unnecessarily speed up the decline.

Just like last season, Xavi has played 68% and Iniesta 65% of available minutes. Thiago left a hole that hasn’t been filled – Sergi Roberto is no replacement yet, and Tata is unfairly criticized whenever Song plays alongside Busquets. Besides, Xavi and Iniesta’s greatest strength lies in controlling midfield through possession and short passing, while Tata asks for more directness in attack (thus, fewer passes are exchanged in midfield, and completion rate is down) – and consecutively, more pressing and defending is required from midfielders. Xavi and Iniesta are living legends who can excel in virtually any system centered on possession and attacking football, but when midfield turns into a field of (physical) battle, they might need help from someone like Keita who could slot in alongside Busquets and shut it down. Song could be that player, or we could try bringing in reinforcements from the B team or from the outside, but that option, a sort of a double pivot to begin or close some games, needs to be on the roster.

Defensive improvement

defense

It has been visible to the naked eye. While set pieces are still a menace, and will continue to be, we are no longer as vulnerable to counters, with our wingers and mids pressing in concert and taking pressure off defenders. As everyone is more willing to tackle and dish out tactical fouls to stop dangerous breaks, the defenders are more comfortable. ALL EIGHT of our defensive players have better Whoscored rating this season, Pique, Adriano and Bartra looking downright spectacular at times, Alba showing improvement after return from injury, Alves and Mascherano returning to their vintage selves. All that considered, we still concede the exact same number of shots per game in La Liga as last season – 9. However, we only allow Liga teams to score 0.6 goals per game, in contrast to 1.1 last season.

Part of it could be lower quality of shots we give up (46% of shots against us are from outside the box), but Valdes has played a huge role, saving everything at the beginning of the season, when the team was still adjusting to Tata’s requirements. Valdes has been, hands down, THE best keeper in the world by all metrics (although it’s devilishly hard to evaluate keepers independently of the defense in front of them, he leads the way in %of shots saved and Whoscored ranking by a country mile) and to the naked eye. If anyone thinks he can be comfortably replaced, I have a bridge to sell you.

However, replace him we must, and a new center back, while no longer vitally important, is still, well, very important. I love Mascherano to pieces but you cannot teach height, and for some matches we simply need that in our toolkit. Also, wishing Bartra a long career with Barca, but he needs another year or two of comfortable development before he can be an undisputed starter. The question is, do we bring someone in to form a partnership with Pique (in which case Masche would probably leave), or another backup to compete with Bartra?

The glass, at the moment, is more than half full. Before the season began, I said Real Madrid, Chelsea, Bayern, PSG and Dortmund can boast arguably better individual defenders than us, and only Chelsea and Bayern have better depth. Well, if you trust Whoscored, Pique has been the best defender on these teams, Bartra – the second best (both ranking a few decimals above, you guessed it, Thiago Silva), Mascherano and Puyol are up there with the best, while Barca has the fewest goals conceded in La Liga and is competing with Bayern for the least shots on goal conceded in Europe. How’s that for exceeding expectations?

Tata-ctical changes

betmartino

To sum up, this season we have seen a marked improvement in individual play of our attackers, defenders and goalkeeper, a more even distribution of attacking and defensive workload, integration of young(er) players and (more) recent signings, and this group of players coming together as a team.

The attack is more direct, with a faster route to goal, fewer passes being exchanged, a slightly lower completion rate and possession stat, but more dribbles, long, diagonal, through and chip balls that confound defenses, better movement into the opening space, more shots and better finishing from attackers who are not called Messi. Due to Messi limited or not playing for large part of the season, scoring is more unpredictable and evenly distributed among the strikers, more chances are created but overall finishing rate is lower. Because, well, no one can finish chances like Messi. To get something, you need to give something up.

Transition defense is also not the impending heart-attack it used to be, due to more players staying back to clean up, willingness to press, tackle and foul, better awareness and communication on defense, and having the best goalkeeper in the world. Generally, Barcelona looked competent in both transition and positional defense, but set pieces remain a problem. Not a huge problem, if you look at Atletico match in particular and our stellar defensive numbers in general.

There was also talk of rotation, and, with everyone healthy, it was happening. But due to injuries and a thin squad, Pique, Masche, Alves, Busi, Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc are playing a lot of minutes, just like last season. Messi’s injury gave Alexis and Pedro a chance to shine, but the minutes will be tight when Neymar returns. Bartra, Montoya and Sergi Roberto are getting more time, mostly due to injuries, as the latter two have not been entirely convincing. Tello’s minutes and production nearly disappeared altogether.

The challenges remain as to managing minutes, getting the best out of Messi-Neymar and Xavi-Iniesta pairings, as well as finding a center forward, physical+technical midfielder and tall defender (oh, Javi Martinez) for Martino to experiment with without upsetting this great thing we have going.

(All data used is from transfermarkt.co.uk, whoscored.com and Opta, retrieved on December 28.)

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64 Responses to “Barça mid-season statistical review”

  1. muttonhead says:

    Great stuff Lea, I love reading statistical breakdowns like this.

  2. Huckleberry says:

    On a sidenote: Barça made an excellent deal in the Sanabria case

  3. Dar_vincy says:

    I have an observation but would love if someone here can corroborate it. Most times when defending set-pieces, it seems our players are always reluctant to leap aside Pique and Puyol and when they do, it’s always sporadic. In some situations, we weren’t outdone because of height but because of what i just pointed out. At other times, we just didn’t apply sufficient pressure and disturbance to opposing players when they are attempting to jump and when they do jump making the task easier to score. And most criminally is the inattentiveness paid to opposing players’ runs and positions leaving them scoring unmarked; albeit it’s a general headache for most teams.

  4. fotobirajesh says:

    Well done Lea..

    @Huckleberry – didnt we really? Sanabria earning us the same or even more than one of the best strikers in world football, Villa.

  5. Ultraculé says:

    It is actually staggering to me, how Tata Martino hasn’t really put a foot wrong all season, inspite of acquiring a team with so much legacy and entering an atmosphere that is so damn demanding. This guy impresses me more each day.

    I think, from day one, he has shown that Catalan or not, he has the right attitude, the right approach and above all, the right priorities. The subtle way in which he has tweaked this team, whilst bringing back all those fundamental things we have pleaded long for – pressing, defensive solidity, verticality, rotation, benching messi etc is so good to see, right before our eyes, which gives a Culer the warm reassurance that, inspite of all the turbulence off the pitch and in the boardroom, our team is in very good hands indeed.

    I cannot wait for the Man City tie to see how we will fare. I also don’t know if Neymar should be rushed back in to the team for that tie, considering how well Pedro, Lexus and Cesc are doing. But then again, I trust that Martino will make the right decision and put out the best team to win.

    Visca!

    Oh, and here’s another stat that you might have missed Lea – Tata Martino’s team have averaged more possession that Vilanova’s Barca and GUARDIOLA’s barca. How about that eh?

    • lea_terzi says:

      I’m sure I missed a lot of things, but measuring possession is not at all straightforward. Having control of the ball can be defined in different ways, so possession stats differ from site to site. For example, in the infamous match against Rayo, Opta, Whoscored and ESPN has us losing the possession battle 46 to 54, Sport reported a 50/50 split, while Soccerway has us leading possession 52 to 48.

      So, Barcastat’s tweet you are referring to “Average possession: Guardiola’s Barcelona 68% – Vilanova’s Barcelona 66.5% – Martino’s Barcelona 69.3%” – is far from a certain thing. Are we talking about Guardiola’s last season with us or an average of his four years? In La Liga or all competitions? Is methodology used the same in all cases? What’s the source?

      Now, Whoscored tells a very different story about Barcelona’s possession in La Liga (the Champions League follows the same trend):
      2009/10 – 68.4
      2010/11 – 72.6
      2011/12 – 69.7
      2012/13 – 69
      2012/14 – 67.1 – the lowest it’s been in a while, but then, possession hasn’t been our main focus this season. Bringing some variety into our game has.

      Actually, this takes me back to something Kevin said – we look too much at the minuscule details of how the team plays, overanalyze it, maybe. Data and our own eyes tell us that, in terms of style, individual and team performance, there is only one team in Europe that could be slightly ahead of us. You know who they are. But the matches still need to be played, and anything can happen.

  6. KEVINO17 says:

    Lexus showed against levante what a wonderful false nine he is. Perfect replacement for Messi when he’s not available. And unlike messi these days, he really defends. So Tata, no more Cesc at false nine.

  7. Jafri says:

    Montoya: When he’s good,he’s really really good, and when he’s bad he’s horrid.

    • Messiah10 says:

      Jafri, for me, even when he’s really good, he still lacks the accuracy in his final pass or cross and the quick decision making skills in the technical area. I would sell him for about $5-10 million. Someone would pay it because he has promise and has been playing in our system for a while. Reinvest it in a more more athletic rightback with height. Dani is getting old. If we play Alba on the left we neeed a more defensive minded player with height on the right.

  8. Levon says:

    Great stuff, Lea!

    I do have a question that popped in my mind. What is Messi’s percentage of total goals scored in the games he did not play?

    • lea_terzi says:

      Zero, I would imagine :D
      When he did play, he scored 35% of our goals and assisted another 15% – still hugely important, but no longer our only hope.

      • Levon says:

        Uhh yeah I was a bit groggy this morning, hahaha! Thanks for your answer, though!

        35% and 39% are not that far off, actually (just a couple of goals, I guess). Still, having Lexus and P! on track to 20+ goals should do wonders for their confidence this second half of the season!

        Thanks for the article, it was a good read.

  9. lea_terzi says:

    Thanks for your support and interesting questions raised, guys and gals :)
    If you’d like a look at the numbers behind it, they are all in this spreadsheet: https://www.dropbox.com/s/9bejtx9z543gy6l/Barca12-14.xlsx

  10. mom4 says:

    So much good work here!

  11. amey says:

    Against Man city, may be tata should try using a double pivot. As mentioned, the influence of our midfield (except busi ofcourse) has decreased and against manc, we do need some steel in the midfield to counter them. Tata should play busi/song or busi/mash. mash in my opinion would be a better partner with his tackling coming good on most occasions meaning busi can concentrate on closing down spaces and interceptions and bartra/puyol replacing him at the back (puyol if he can prove himself in the coming weeks).iniesta/cesc can be used behind the striker with xavi coming on in the latter stage to bring some control once the manc players are a bit tired and can no longer press with the same intensity..

    • amey says:

      and a nice job with the article lea..

    • lea_terzi says:

      Thanks! Actually, if you look at the Champions league only, there are some players who raise their games on these big occasions – Whoscored and Opta say that Messi, Neymar, Iniesta, Xavi, Busi and Pique all play considerably better in UCL than in La Liga, while Cesc, Alexis, Pedro and Song for some reason get much worse. Form is temporary while class is permanent, or, in other words, tactical wrinkles and contributions from the whole squad are nice, but we need our best players on the field and at their best to have any hope against top teams.

  12. Ryan says:

    Very nice review, Lea! I know that stats can be used to argue multiple points of view, but the numbers here do seem to point towards a bright end of the season.

    And also, did anyone notice that Keita joined Valencia for the rest of the year? That means that we might see him face us in a few days, right? Or will he still be in transit from China?

  13. Jim says:

    Sorry if this has been mentioned but Mourinho’s rant after their draw at West Ham is priceless and Sam Allardyce’s response even better. Videos at

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2548381/West-Ham-play-19th-century-football-wed-need-drill-wall-Chelsea-boss-Mourinho-fumes-Big-Sams-negative-tactics.html

  14. Kxevin says:

    We face La Real in the semis, when Racing refused to play the match today in protest. They want their entire board to resign.

    http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/laliga/id/1354?cc=5901

    RM get Atleti.

    I don’t want to start squabbing about TV money, but if we don’t want to see Racings in the first division, those teams have to get more money. It’s as simple as that. As with the Prem, there are teams who have decided that their mission is simply to stay up. But the Prem has a vastly more equitable distribution of TV monies than Liga, and they are getting a big raise in that regard so things will improve even more.

    Meanwhile in the Liga, it’s still the big two, and the rest of you had better hold bake sales or something. It ain’t gonna work, long term, even as we understand that us and RM are the only teams that anyone wants to see.

    But the same is true of the Prem. Who doesn’t shriek, and start stabbing spasmodically at the TV remote when you see Stoke vs Crystal Palace, right?

    As devotees of one of the biggest clubs in the world, we have it very lucky. Messi is about to get his salary raised to a level larger than the entire budgets of some clubs, and we snark and battle over which expensive transfer we should chase this summer, having already added a mega-expensive one last summer.

    Even if you give some clubs more TV money, there is no guarantee that the idiots running it wouldn’t blow it away in a blizzard of mismanagement and corruption.

    But it’s worth a shot.

    • Levon says:

      From what I understand the next deal will be more equitable, but RM and Barça want to make sure they don’t lose money, meaning that the total amount of TV money must go up.

      • Peter says:

        The total contract is supposed to go up to 1 000 million. We also know that Barcelona’s wish is just not to lose money. If the current contracts of Barcelona and Real are maintaned, that would mean the rest of the clubs would get an increase of about 50% over the current one, with a median share of 40 million per each of the 18 others. It’s still an enormous difference, since the median share per club for the whole league would be 50 million per club.

        A somewhat different solution to satisfy most parties would be to lower the amount Barcelona and Real receive from the domestic contract and compensate them from increased share of the international one, with an upper limit of the combined contract that does not go over the current levels. If say the international contract is worth 120m Barcelona and Real could get 2/3 of it, with Athletic, Atletico and probably Valencia/Real Sociedad getting the majority of the rest. That would allow Real and Barcelona to get 100 million each, which would increase the median share of the other 18 clubs to 44.44 million each.

        Just a suggestion, of course.

  15. KEVINO17 says:

    I can’t remember Tello taking corners before, but he really does put wicked pace and curve on them. I suspect he’s got the most powerful boot on the Barca team.

  16. Peter says:

    Various tidbits from all over the football world:

    Sergio Aguero out for a month, misses Chelsea, Barcelona First Leg, probably League Cup.
    Transfer day madness in the EPL(as usual).

    Real have presented what their new shopping center with a football stadium tucked in the center will look like. It’s really beautiful, but almost as expensive as the planned reconstruction of Camp Nou. But it’s really, really beautiful. The grass won’t appreciate it though. From the presentation it seems the 360′ HD viewscreens will be best visible from the seats that already have the best view. The players will really appreciate not having to endure biblical deluges like the one that saw Barcelona score six vs. Levante and finish 5-1.
    People are already shouting “Don’t touch the name, dammit!!” And no, for the time being no such things are suggested.

    Affelay rumored to having said no to a loan to Villareal. Apparently the Camp Nou crowd and the speech he was made say to his fellow teammates, as well as Tata’s trust, have made him decide to stay. In other unrelated news, Marcelo suddenly started sweating profusely for no visible reason during training. Coentrao seen enter the offices of Real Madrid demanding to be transferred somewhere, anywhere. :P

    Tata has been asked to comment on a conversation with Messi at the training pitch. “It had nothing to do with Barca, I swear. Probably I would be able to tell you next week what it was all about.”

    • Jafri says:

      No thoughts on Santos possibly taking Neymar Sr. to court over the transfer?

      • Peter says:

        Over what reasons? Santos gave Neymar and his agent permission to negotiate with other clubs for the player’s rights from 2014. That was probably one of the reasons why Neymar agreed to prolong his contract until 2014 in the first place. That agreement was achieved, and when Neymar and Barcelona decided to make the transfer sooner, Santos accepted the offer. Under duress, but they could’ve gone Borussia over the matter and gotten nothing. They chose money. Besides, the only reason why Santos chose Barcelona was because Barcelona offered them more money. Yeah, Real’s offer was 20 million to Santos, which Santos had to divide among the parties that possess the rights of the player while he’s a player of Santos. As it is, Santos get the corresponding percentage of 17 million, plus 7.9 million, plus 2 million if Neymar makes it top 3 for Ballon d’Or in the next five years, plus one match against Barcelona, from which they get all proceedings. When you count it all, Santos get double of what they would’ve gotten from Real.

        The really screwed parties are the third-party investors, who in my opinion have no business in player possession and rights. They still got a whole lot more from the transfer than their original investments. Santos just chose a colibri in the hand instead of a Mountain Eagle in the sky. They have nobody but themselves to blame.

        Apart from that, Santos have no legal right over the money that Barcelona chooses to give Neymar Sr. Neymar Sr. is not an employee of Santos, so it’s not a case of bribery. Their president is just making noise in order not to get removed due to his management of the case, which was, as a matter of fact, exemplary under the circumstances.

        • Kxevin says:

          Santos and DIS are taking the auto accident approach: sue everyone, hope someone settles. DIS is one of the other parties with their hand out. They are going to sue Rosell, Barça, Santos AND Neymar Sr.

          There was also a nasty rumor from a Brazilian journalist with all the credibility of El Mundo (vs Mundo Deportivo) that Rosell snagged part of that 10m payment. Craziness, nonsense and foolishness.

          Another rumor is that Andre Cury and other parties offered DIS 4m to not proceed with the lawsuit.

          Ultimately, who the hell knows?

    • barca96 says:

      You left out one big news Peter, Munir El Haddadi renewed and with a whopping 35m buy out clause.

      I am still not sure which Moroccon kid a Barca youth coach told me that he is the 2nd most talented kid he has seen after Messi. This was in 2009 and at that time, the Moroccan kid was 14. I suspect it’s this one.

  17. Kxevin says:

    In other news, Chelsea signed defender Kurt Zouma, which apparently means that David Luiz is all ours. Someone says that a good source he trusts said that the Luiz to Barça deal is done, and he comes in the summer.

    Afellay and Cuenca might find forever homes today, but doubtful. 3M wants to stay, and nobody seems to want Cuenca at the moment. Stay tuned there.

    • lea_terzi says:

      That’s all still far away, but I just hope it doesn’t mean Mascherano will leave. He worked so hard to be a starter for us, at any position, and David Luiz just doesn’t instil confidence or seem like a good option to play alongside Pique. One center back who dreams of being a center forward, another one who thinks he’s a midfielder, and a 21 year old goalkeeper? I think I’ll pass.

      • barca96 says:

        Sorry, I’ll take Bartra over Luiz. Luiz is an upgrade now but I’d rather stick with Bartra for another couple of seasons until he becomes world class.

        I think I spoke about Kurt Zouma a few weeks ago. Looks good. Definitely good now since that Mourinho signed him. Mourinho has an eye for good defensive players.

        • lea_terzi says:

          Also, I somehow doubt Mourihno would ship us a defensive player if he was any good. Luiz has not been any good this season, and Bartra projects to be a better player.

  18. Kxevin says:

    Bwahahahahaha! Radio MARCA is reporting that the club has contacted Valdes to ask him about a renewal, and the matter is under discussion. The keeper essentially wants us to match the Monaco offer of 10m per annum, plus a 20 signing bonus.

    Not sure if there is any truth to them, but there ya go.

    • barca96 says:

      10m is too much. 2nd or 3rd bracket for him is ok.

    • Levon says:

      A 20M signing bonus? Is this the N&N effect? I shudder to think of what the Messi family will ask for.

    • Peter says:

      I’ve been reading for a long time that the real reason why Valdes wanted out was more money, due to a disastrous investment in real estate. Rosell would’ve hardly satisfied those demands, which would explain the cool relations between the two. On the other hand, it would explain the extreme reluctance(if we can call reluctance the fact that the player and GK coach started crying while talking about the matter) and statements of coaching staff that it’s external circumstances that are forcing The Wall to look for employment elsewhere.

    • blitzen says:

      FCB have released a statement officially denying that they have offered Valdes a new contract.

  19. ooga aga says:

    i gotta say i am very jazzed about the upcoming week of football. this wknd the big 3 all have good tests in Liga. then the semis of the Copa, i cant wait to see what happens in the madrid derby.and sevilla next wkdn for us in Liga. lots of exciting stuff.

    • G6O says:

      what happens in the madrid derby

      Hopefully a draw

      • ooga aga says:

        well, it’s copa, so i dont mind if it’s a draw or not…just want them to run themselves ragged.

      • Levon says:

        Excuse me, G60, but F that (lol). Hopefully M*drid loses. Especially in the league game. I want us to win the Liga but more importantly I want us to end above M*drid.

        • ooga aga says:

          all i know is that valencia-sociedad-sevilla is a pretty tough run for us. gonna be interesting and i cant wait to see tata’s man-management and rotation this week.

          • Kxevin says:

            At this point in the season, Xavi has fewer matches in his legs than at any other time in 6-7 previous seasons. How ’bout that?

            Hlebruary is going to be verrry interesting.

        • G6O says:

          A draw serves that goal best

        • Peter says:

          A draw is worth two points(one for each team). A win/loss is worth three.

          If we assume that all three teams have the same number of points from their non-top-3 matches, then here are the conclusions of the Madrid derby:

          If Atletico win, Barcelona would either have to win at Santiago Bernabeu and then draw on the last day, or draw/lose at Santiago Bernabeu and then obligatory win on the last day(which would mean trailing Atletico until the last day).

          If Real win, Barcelona would have to draw at Santiago Bernabeu and then at least draw against Atletico(that means the season ends with Real and Barcelona even at points, but Barcelona have better head-to head result and goal-difference)

          If Atletico and Real draw, Barcelona would go two clear of Atletico and three of Real. That would mean an obligation for Real to win vs Barcelona at Santiago Bernabeu, whereas a draw would suffice for Barcelona(who would then need a draw against Atletico in order to claim the title due to overall goal difference).

          So yes, a draw in the Madrid derby is the best outcome for Barcelona, it gives the best options.

  20. ooga aga says:

    meanwhile, looks like Aguero will miss the first leg against us. that makes our missing neymar seem not as bad…

  21. raj says:

    Martino did wonderfully until now, but it is still be open in terms of success or failure of his term. All can change in the next 3 rounds of Liga, semis of Copa and the City tie. So the run of games in Feb and March is the acid test.

    To his credit, Martino is fully prepared to face it. On the flip side, he will have no excuses to use for exactly the same reason. He officially said he doesn’t want a CB signing, so there goes that. If he gets us through on three fronts to the final battles, he will be a success irrespective of what happens in April/ May. If he can take us to Semis of UCL in his first term and keep us in fight for Liga till last rounds of Liga, he will surely get loads of support to continue for another season (Many might say he already earned it). But if he fails to convert on the City tie and we fall back in points in Liga in the next three rounds, he will be considered a mixed bag. So these 4-6 weeks can set the direction of this team’s legacy. As for me, I am more optimistic this time around than the last two seasons.

  22. barca96 says:

    Luis Aragones, thank you for making Spain team for around Xavi. RIP.

  23. Peter says:

    Starting eleven: Valdes, Alves, Pique, sMasch, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Cesc; Alexis, Messi, Pedro.

    I was hoping for Bartra, but oh, well, he did play not three days ago.

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