Barça 2, Valencia 3, aka “End of the world, blablabla, all gonna die, blablabla”

Miguel Ruiz/FC Barcelona
Miguel Ruiz/FC Barcelona

“The feeling was that the game was over after 30 minutes and we paid dearly,” Tata Martino said in a post-match Press conference. “When you can step on your rivals, you have to step on them, finish the game and win.”

Few things are more meteoric than culers during a Barça match. “Best team ever!” “Sell everyone!” And all points in between. Pique is brilliant, Pique is a prat. And so on. I have another suggestion, however:

What if our players are simply human beings, who are, at long last, showing exactly how difficult it is to be brilliant, to make people oooh, aaah and win match after match, week after week.

Football is a capricious thing. We see this in the matches that have crazy scorelines, as some third-division side rattles the cage of a first-division giant. Things happen. And when Valencia in effect sold the team, brought in a bunch of new players then rolled into the Camp Nou, many were predicting a slaughter of epic proportions. And for the first 30 minutes of the match, it looked like that was precisely what was going to happen.

When the cat doesn’t kill the mouse, the mouse gets up and runs away.

In the post-match rush to blame, lots came out: Martino, Pique, the Alba/Alves combo, the board for not replacing Abidal, Bartomeu just because. The two things that were mostly missed, however, were the players wearing Blaugrana, and Valencia, a team who had significantly more to play for mentally than Barça.

Want is a weird thing. If you look at the play that resulted in one of the Valencia goals, Alves kinda sashayed over to the ball, while Piatti, the smallest man on the pitch (which is pretty astounding when you consider our collection of wee ones) charged it, shouldered him out of the way and made it happen. Want.

On their first goal, Mascherano half-assed a slide tackle, then Busquets did likewise. Valencia, not believing their luck, charged forward to convert the gift that came from a team being sloppy in possession. And people see trends, just not the right trends for me.

Bill Belichick, head coach of the New England Patriots, is a ruthless bastard who keeps him team on top. They don’t always win championships, but they are always in the running in the American football league. How? Turnover. He discards, trades, jettisons, benches, never becomes too attached to a player who might become an albatross. You. Out. We need to move on.

Is he any smarter than any other coach? Some claim yes, but who knows. He certainly understands the necessity of keeping a team on top, that new blood that keeps a group hungry.

I had the delightful occasion to edit an interview with jazz reedist Branford Marsalis, who was talking about his fiftysomething self and what happened to his long-standing band when a 22-year-old was added to the mix. For many years he had been pretty damned sure his band was playing its ass off, was just about as intense as any band could be. Then that comparative kid rolled in and said, “No, THIS is intense,” and knocked them on their butts.

They are playing their asses off again, for real. Because you forget until an infusion of something or other makes you remember. Because humans become complacent. They rely on history and knowledge to tell them what they know, until they find out that they in fact don’t know, and the unexpected happens.

Would Piatti have shouldered Montoya aside as he did Alves? Interesting question. Montoya is, after all, playing for a job and a contract. Alves kinda is, but understands that his pedigree and history mean that he can pretty much be assured of another fat contract, whether he stays in Barcelona or takes his trade elsewhere. Does that mean Alves was lazy, or didn’t want to make the right play? Absolutely not. But Piatti had a lot more to prove.

You’d also be fair in looking at that goal and wondering what in the Blaugrana hell Valdes was doing. The only chance that header had of going in was if the keeper came off his line for some unfathomable reason, to present just the right angle. Valdes obliged, and there ya go.

It is worth reminding people that this is the same team that, at home, defeated RM 2-1, held Ronaldo without a shot on goal and would have had the clean sheet had Messi not turned the ball over, leading to a break that they converted. That team. And that team, I am sure we will all recall, didn’t suck. Far from it. That team didn’t have problems, or systemic this or that. It was a championship team who stared its eternal rival in the eye and didn’t blink, a team that left it all on the pitch and pulled off a stunning victory, made even more so in light of the fact that we weren’t even fully fit yet, weren’t even fully ready to rock and roll.

Wow!

That is the same team that lost to Valencia, essentially because it lost interest in the match. The players know, the coach knows, anyone who watched the match know, because you could see it. Valencia didn’t lose interest. Not at all. And for many, their MOTM was Jeremy Mathieu, a player who, when his name came up as a potential transfer to Barça and many thought the idea was interesting, drew laughs. “He isn’t good enough,” so many said. Maybe. But he sure was good enough to play a major role in his team pulling off a stunning upset.

Want is a weird thing. It is really, really hard to stay on top. It’s even harder without an infusion of new blood and energy. Look at the Neymar effect. Nobody told him that it’s time to be complacent. So he runs around, capers, tries stuff, does double nutmegs and scores goals. He runs around like the colt unbound that he is, because he’s new, he’s that infusion.

Cesc Fabregas said in an interview last week that Messi being back calms the team, makes them feel better about things. But given that since Messi’s return the team has drawn twice, won once and lost, maybe that isn’t the best feeling for them to have. Maybe that edginess, that necessity to prove something, that Barça is still Barça even withOUT the best player alive, counts for something.

Someone said something crazy on Twitter yesterday, about the notion of selling Messi. Is THIS what a loss does to culers? The team lost to Valencia because it got complacent. And lazy. And Valencia played its collective asses off, playing over its heads because there was something to prove, and our team played right into their hands. It happens. It happened under Guardiola, it happened under Vilanova and it happened under Martino. It happened because it is the core of a team that won everything under the sun and then won some more, a human team that can’t help but read its own press clippings, watch its own highlight reels, know that it has the best player in world football right now and, unbidden and inadvertently, emit a sigh of contentment.

And along comes a Valencia to make them understand that no, it isn’t that easy, that it never was even as it did indeed seem that easy.

The reason that team can focus for the big matches and play as it has the potential to is because the challenge invigorates, sparks that nebulous thing that activates potential. But it’s those other matches that win championships. I saw a few times yesterday that “In a 100-point league, you can’t …” None of the top 3 teams will be getting to 100 points this season. Count on it. There are many surprises yet to come in this Liga season, as a minnow rises up, a mid-table team finds the collective game of its lives from somewhere and things get interesting for one of the top three clubs.

So no, the championship isn’t over because we lost to Valencia. The only thing over is that however-many-match unbeaten run at the Camp Nou, and XX number of weeks at the top of the table. And both of those are okay, particularly if the collective slap in the face works in a manner sufficient to, next time, rouse the boys from their psychic slumber.

WhoScored had Messi as Man of the Match, for what reason is unclear. There shouldn’t have really been a man of the match in an overall performance such as that by a collective. Tactics? Sure, that’s part of it as it’s clear that the False 9 experiment has come to an end. A keeper standing on his head to keep his club in the match? Sure. Okay. That, too. A loss by a top club is generally everything all at once.

There is talk of Plan Bs and Plan Cs, right on down to Z, but the fact of the matter is that our players have the talent to beat any club in the world. The problem for me, the problem that they are evincing is that they don’t always have the motivation. Some players said that Champions League was the focus this season, which makes sense. From here on out, every match is Big. No time to look at a Levante or a fire-sale Valencia and think “Okay, let’s spank these boys and go to be … what just happened?”

And it’s Armageddon Time. And talk of this player and that player, and this transfer and that transfer, and the one player who will make it All Right. And all of that talk is, for me, misguided. Would Abidal have kept Alves from being out-manned by a shrimp? Nope. Might he have stormed to the rescue on one of the other two goals? Maybe. Or maybe the collective malaise would have swept him in. Would a big 9 to lump the ball to have turned the tide? Maybe. But our players running and making space would have done the very same thing, instead of going it one-on-one, and shooting or dribbling when they should be passing the ball.

I don’t see a trend yet. And the reason I don’t see a trend is because this team is in the running for three trophies this season. If there were such a trend, it would be out of the running for one of those bits of silver. Until that time comes, I’m going to take each day, each match as it comes.

Undoubtedly, people will call me foolish for ignoring the deeper problems of this club, having the wrong players can’t you see that, etc, etc. That is certainly their right, and their opinion. But what I see is a roster stacked with talent, more than enough talent to dispatch any club in the world. It just has to put its mind to it.

That loss isn’t the board’s fault. Sure, transfers could have been made, but to what end? What player is truly going to improve that side, even as we also know that no player is good enough for culers. And as Martino has a trusted XI, would a transfer have been the one playing during that match? Doubtful. Alves/Pique/Mascherano/Alba is his choice back line. It isn’t Martino’s fault. He can prepare his team as best he could, but he can’t play the match for them. The fault lies, clearly and completely, with the 11 men wearing the Barça shirts. They had the chance to finish the match. play as they can play for an entire match, rather than just 30 minutes, rather than thinking that brilliance is like a switch.

Smarter people than me will have ideas about this player or that player who can solve everything, but the only transfer that I really want to see is Focus. That player is cheap, effective and unrelenting if properly deployed. Focus has a way of improving even the most malingering player, so think what it can do for our world-class footballers. And as Tata Martino works on that transfer, it might be one of the club’s most complex operations, even as the payoff will be immense.

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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.

154 Comments

  1. dimartino
    February 2, 2014

    Messi “calming” the team can detrimental. Last season, especially in the CL, when everyone stood around and hoped Messi would conjure some magic was obviously a problem.

    I’m in total agreement about desire being the biggest reason for the loss.

  2. mom4
    February 2, 2014

    Mouse didn’t just run away. The mouse used the opportunity to take a big hurtful bite outta the cat. Now it’s incumbent upon the cat to pounce on every remaining rodent in the schedule. Keep the cat hungry, Martino, and ready to attack all who dare creep out of the respective mouse holes.

  3. colyhatch
    February 2, 2014

    I am a Real Madrid fan, but I really don´t see a problem in Can Barca. It is impossible to win every match. Yesterday Valencia played their best game in months, and Barca did not. As simple as that.
    Sorry for my english

    • G6O
      February 2, 2014

      It’s impossible to win every match but we live in a league in which you are simply not allowed to lose 7 points out 12 within a single month.

      We did this once back in the days under Guardiola. But we were 9 points ahead prior to that.

  4. Peter
    February 2, 2014

    As usual Kxevin can be relied upon to put it more elegantly and more eloquently than most of us could hope for.

    Complacency can be lethal. Complacency that you don’t have to run that hard, track back as fast, concentrate as much or be physical enough, but there is another type of complacency, which I haven’t seen talked about, and I think we should discuss.

    What I am talking about is another type of complacency, the thinking that the team will win and keep on winning. The type of complacency that makes probably 25 000 members with paid tickets not even bother coming to the stadium. The complacency that makes the 69 000 in the stadium start cheering only after the team goes behind. The complacency that makes what is known in the EPL as “The Library” seem in comparison like an Orc Army before the walls of Helm’s Deep.

    The board should do something, but even more importantly, the culers who go to the matches should do something. Now that the team is shaken into a rude awakening, the supporters should remember how to cheer. Because the players feed off it. Because when there are 8500 people on the waiting list, not attending or or at least making sure that someone else attends in your stead, that’s treason. And yes, the “free up your seat” system is to blame. With some of the lowest season ticket prices and highest single ticket prices in Europe, Barcelona’s season ticket holders have lots to gain, and not a whole lot(relatively) to lose if they free up their seats. And that’s lamentable.

    • Peter
      February 2, 2014

      I just wish I could convey that to the culers. I want the Camp Nou to be once again the wall of noise that shook my sitting room when Xavi scored with that ballet-like grace against Casillas.

      And now Barcelona are in the fight for it all. Real leading vs Athletic, after Atletico destroying Real Sociedad 4-0 earlier today.

    • kosby
      February 3, 2014

      I agree with you. Sometimes I get a feeling that the supporters/players/administration in general feel they are entitled to win every match. I doesnt happen often, but maybe there is this feeling of “we play well, we pass well and the opposition should succumb when we eventually get the first goal”…given our squad we should win each game, but doesnt mean we won;t have to fight for it !

  5. psalmuel
    February 2, 2014

    0-0 at San Mames. Hoping for the best but expecting the worst. Plus, its official! Athletico are the new league leaders

  6. psalmuel
    February 2, 2014

    I take that back. Real lead at san mames.

  7. KEVINO17
    February 2, 2014

    Well said, Kxevin. Messi seems to have calmed himself down too. It’s pretty amazing when he loses the ball in a dangerous position and then does nothing to recover it. Players like Pedro or Alexis would immediately take responsibility for getting it back and chase as long and hard as necessary. Messi is inert. Maybe he’s been told to conserve himself for when Barca attack. At the moment, I’m not sure that the good that he does outweighs the liability he has become as a defender. Maybe he will switch on in the CL games. But I don’t think you can have a defensive passenger against Bayern, Man City, et al.

  8. psalmuel
    February 2, 2014

    I take it back one more time. Athleti 1-1 EE.

  9. justdoit94
    February 2, 2014

    well, we are second. One of the weirdest decisions again ronaldo but who the hell cares ???
    I am rly worried about our trip to Sevilla. I remember that stadium was horrifying last year until we pulled off a classic comeback with tito’s substitions to the rescue.

  10. Jim
    February 2, 2014

    Really disappointing result and a pretty good analysis, Kxevin. I’m not sure it’s so much complacency as lack of thinking that the need to defend bravely is everyone’s task. I didn’t really see them slacking as such. I think we saw a lot of protecting themselves, half hearted tackles and a belief that if you didn’t do the defending someone else would. On second thoughts that is pretty close to complacency …. but you get the point.

    I’m gonna suggest that for the first goal you’re being a bit harsh on Mascherano – yes I know – but from what I could see it looked like it was Alba who missed the first slider. I could say it’s an easy mistake to make as it was a sliding tackle that should never have been attempted and we know who’s trademark that is but that would be unfair to Masch who I didn’t think did a lot wrong in any of the goals.

    The first was two lost tackles by Alba then Busi. After that we were toiling, number wise. Even then, stop the play at 43:11 and wonder how that ball ever gets between Masch and Pique. There’s about an eight inch gap !

    The second I’m gonna say Alba should have done better in preventing the cross, Pique is the right side of his man and challenges but to me if Valdes is gonna come for that ball he has to keep coming. You’re told as a keeper never to come out then stop. Ok, Alves was comprehensively beaten by one of the shortest men on the park and against us that’s saying something.

    The third, to me started with Cesc in Wonderland, a dreamlike state I thought he occupied for much of the match. If he is getting selected ahead of either Xavi or Ini he has to do a lot more for me. It’s his man at the throw in. He lets him drift behind him assuming someone else will pick him up. He then makes virtually no attempt to atone when the guy gets the ball. Masch, correctly thinks the guy is heading into Busi which he does but gets a lucky rebound. The rest is pretty good football.

    I don’t think this means the defence has suddenly gone south. They have a pretty good record this season. I do think we might need to think about the captaincy though. Xavi and Ini are too nice to be captains, I’ve never liked a goalie as one and Pique, although I think he’s a world class defender is no captain. We needed someone like Puyol to rant at those around him keeping the fire burning and leading by example. The club know the state of his knees better than me and no way he plays more than once a week if that, but if he is genuinely fit I’d be tempted to swap the cycle, leave him out of the Copa and start him against Sevilla. Only problem with that is I’m not sure who else we have for the Copa.

    However, we had thirty minutes after their third goal to get one ourselves and didn’t do it but that’s another story. I’m really not sure what kind of game Messi had, even having watched it twice. He is saving himself, he is capable of sprinting at the old speed so is it mental? Despite those misgivings everything dangerous came from him – as usual. I can’t remember anything Pedro did, although I’ve supported him in the past and for me, Alexis lost way too many balls, had the chance to take his man on in one on one situations and politely declined. If they are waiting for Messi to do something on their salaries we are paying them too much. I understand the arguments about work rate and they have some validity but Neymar is the only other quality forward we have for me.

    Still, with both to play, Messi back and Neymar soon I’m still confident we can keep improving and. Be in at the death in all three trophies.

    • Jim
      February 2, 2014

      I don’t believe I missed a red card for Ronaldo. The TV was on that channel but I was typing the previous post . Dang 🙁

      • Jim
        February 2, 2014

        Just watched the new Gillette razor ad. Thoughts on Federer for the new CB ? Probably more chance than Messi appearing at Wimbledon, judging by the ad.

      • barca96
        February 3, 2014

        That’s what I suspected too, that he used to be a defender. That’s why I asked him questions a long time ago on the correct way to mark an attacker during a cross as I’m not a defender. Jim always seems to comment more on the defending aspect of the game.

        So are/were you a defender Jim?

        • Jim
          February 3, 2014

          Not really. First of all, I never quite made the professional ranks as I wasn’t really good enough and had a fairly well paid job as a teacher. I played in midfield all my days until the last few years when I moved back to play sweeper ( does anyone still remember them? ) So trying to hold the line in the correct place and making sure nobody ever got caught deeper than me was fairly important as I had no pace left !

          The only reason I tend to dwell on lost goals is it really interests me how they happen and how blame is sometimes ascribed to someone who really imo didn’t do anything wrong. My manager when I moved back to defence said only one thing mattered in defending : positioning and the ability to re-position quickly as an attack develops. I’ve since come to agree with him.

    • lea_terzi
      February 4, 2014

      Who would you like to see as a future captain? There seems to be a lack of “warrior types” and vocal leadership in the side, isn’t there? We have Masche, but he doesn’t play in his ideal position. Messi and Cesc just don’t look like they work hard enough on the pitch to hold others accountable (and defenders usually make better captains, because on teams like ours, defensive effort needs more encouragement and communication, while attack comes naturally). Pique had potential, but he’s never quite developed in that direction. Busi, Pedro and the others work hard, but their best work is done in the shadows, not out in the spotlight. The collection of great personalities that we have seems to work against us in this.

      My wish would be for Messi to go back to full-pitch attacking and defensive menace, rest more and continue developing as a leader – because if the best player in the world can’t fire you up, who can?

  11. ibbe
    February 2, 2014

    Great piece kxevin.

    On the bright side we are still second..and hopefully this loss will act as wake up call. Now we need to not only win but also win big in order to stay closer to the top. I’m sure our boys will will react. Visca!

  12. psalmuel
    February 2, 2014

    On the Cry Baby redcard, what did he do? I didnt watch the match, anyone please?

  13. KEVINO17
    February 2, 2014

    Team should be:

    – Any three you like (but not Alves)
    – Busi-Song-Messi-Iniesta
    – Neymar-Alexis-Pedro

    Song is Messi’s bodyguard in the middle of the park
    Alexis and Messi can rotate when necessary.
    Alexis as CF because he can play back to goal, can head the ball and will press strongly on both sides of the pitch and drop into midfield to defend as well.

    • Jafri
      February 2, 2014

      We got shanked down the wings (LB all three times) in this match. You simply can’t have just three defenders. No width.

      • KEVINO17
        February 2, 2014

        It would be three at the back without wing-backs bombing forward so much which should (theoretically) mean more defence at the back.
        But this brings us back to the chicken-and-egg conundrum. Did we get shanked because we didn’t cut off the attack at its source (by pressing high) or because we didn’t defend well at the back. I’m from the nip-it-in-the-bud school.

  14. February 2, 2014

    I really just think that we lost that game due to particular errors that Valencia capitalized on. This happens a few times a game, but either Valdes, the CBs, or just plain luck helps us. I mean, I think another we need to get someone to replace Puyol for next season, and maybe we do need a refresh, but I really like the squad this season.

    Every team is going to have games like this.

    I do hate to see Messi walking so much, but then again, I want everyone to be like Larry Bird.

    and Kxevin, great read as always, I generally agree with what you have to say, all though, as a Patriots fan, I would defend Belichick.

    • KEVINO17
      February 2, 2014

      I’d be fascinated to see how much running Messi did in that game. I’d be surprised if he did more than 6-7ks (rather than the standard 10-11 per game for other players). Maybe the extra burden placed on the other players tired them out (something very hard to quantify).
      I’d love to know if Tata has told him to keep himself fresh for the attacking phase (and later in the season).

      • February 2, 2014

        Yeah, that’s probably it, at least it seems the general consensus. However, as much as I love Messi, I don’t think its ideal. Even if he is the most deadly weapon in our arsenal, it hurts us when he doesn’t track back at all, or when we are deep in the opponents half, and he doesn’t make a run, but walks around near the ball.

        I am not anything close to a tactician, and so I welcome an explanation, but some games he seems to play like he did in the second leg against PSG last year.

        My real point though is that, like it or not, he is a team leader, and often I don’t see him hustling, which, in a game like yesterday, seemed to hurt us.

  15. Nice article… Loved the parts where you effectively preempted any criticism of the same.

    I do agree that no match is easy and even with the massive difference in spending Valencia have always troubled us. But the problem is that we are clutching to this we have a great team, we can’t win all the games etc excuses especially at the crucial period of the league. We currently lie 3 points clear of Atletico, who for me are not any more talented than our guys, have at times shown a bit of complacency(but always rectify it in the same game). What worries me is that if we are complacent then we are the same way for the whole match. We went to the break at 1-1 and at least that should have kicked the complacency out, especially with the teams from Capital so close to us. But that didn’t, it became worse. As far as I know what we saw on the field cannot be called complacency, especially with the race being so tight. Everyone knew that we had no margin of errors and still we play like that, then don’t call it complacent.

  16. psalmuel
    February 3, 2014

    EE and AM get to play this week. I know that game will be exhausting for both teams and here is hoping that it does affect their liga chances

    • ooga aga
      February 3, 2014

      they play the next two weeks, midweek, i love it. but real sociedad will not be a walk in the park for us, either. we will need to run a lot.

      koke, arda turan , costa et al will get tired in next month. trust me.

      • Are we actually waiting for AM to drop their intensity or our boys to raise their’s? The first one is a pretty negative approach.

  17. wind1795
    February 3, 2014

    Increasingly, 2/3-8/7/6-0/1 or 2-8-0 variants are seen with the MF being extremely congested. Players are positioned to decrease the space not // but complimentarily like the game you take a piece out and everything falls apart. When the ball is in MF, teams start to press and squeeze the space as small as they can, decreasing each player’s relative distance, especially areas overloaded with opposition players. Space are mostly seen on the sides. The MF’s mid is often packed and lack of space. The space between CB’s are highly guarded by the 2/more DMs or other defender/defending players. Still sometimes, some space still exists in between CBs but between CB and SB. But that jigsaw puzzle effect is used to ‘trap’ the space. These spaces still exists, may be smaller sometimes.

    But most importantly, the attitude/mentality has to be make sense. Nobody wants to seen lowering heads after missing chances. But some really odd smiles..it’s not a friendly.

    Walls of players are set, the forward one advance, the tighter they back themselves up decreasing the space. Unless lots of long shots occured..[strange]..accuracy decreases. So better would be keep opposition doing what they like more intensively, a denser wall closer to opposition goal.

    Changing ball directions?Longer overhead/’sky’ passes, not entirely disregarding them. But its speed? A much larger space over there(much further for the ball to reach).. It gives the opposition more time to adjust to cover as the ball floats in air.
    Some shorter/mid-range chipped(vertical/diagonal) passes just over the opposition’s heads from a space to another may work even better.
    But again, pt-pt accuarcy are required, some drill work has to be done.
    But, wait.. any players to receive the ball/ wild crossing just for the sake of it even the ball isn’t going to cross the byline yet.
    Forgotten cutbacks? /
    Another problem: mobility..
    the wall is in front, no players in dangerous zones, surround them? No, ~ water, soak them up, no players to pass to ?
    >=1 player(s) must take the initiative to run into space/ pass the ball into space.
    Observe and react, the players do not need to synchronize during attack. Instead some dissonace creates confusion among opposition especially during attack. But mobility is essential and sudden change in acceleration/speed is crucial to cover the dissonance.
    If it fails, try another, just saw 2 obvious such attempts in dangerous zones(1 in each half),1 by Pedro and Fab, the other by Messi and Alves towards the end. Not enough attempts..
    Better than passing the ball to the player on the wing and pass back and around the wall for too long.
    A good area to target is the space just above jumping distances and between shoulders of opposition players and ahead them coz for short/mid-range chip passes.

    To avoid being crowded out, players who favours the middle a lot have to adjust to be situated more left/right to get space by increasing fitness and be more mobile.

    Dangerous zone player received the ball have to react faster or else he has to beat not only on average 2 players in front,but >=4 players surrounding him. Players who can and have drawn many players(e.g.>=4) may be even better passing to another dangerous zone player for better chance to shoot and score.

    For shooting, shoot at the space when MAX possible angle is seen.
    Even when the distance may be a bit longer, though force and spin has to be adjusted as situation presents itself. A possible chance is lost near the ‘key’ area in the middle by Sanchez. He certainly does improve his shooting this season, but he can be even better.

    For the defense, someone has pointed out. For the sideback combos. It depends on strategy and risks one willing to take. the Fullbacks are pushed really high in the MF to counter the 2-8-0 variants to avoid outnumbered(as somebody would say) to ‘compete’ for the ball. This leaves the DM and the CBs, all players should be concentrated and focused. But defenders have to mark the space and their man. the 3rd goal is an obvious error of ‘dreaming/sleeping’. That man is the closest to goal, pretty near to the goal’s center. That man is the closest to the man going to make the cross..The rest is the rest

    Another, when a CB is convering their man, why should the GK rush out and then sudden stops? either trust the CB or charge out at full speed to clear the ball in dangerous circumstances. 2 ~ happenings in 1 match.. It reminds one of the infamous match vs RM where Di Maria is involved.

    Strange things happen, the players are more motivated when down to 10 man. No, the motivation has to be present throughout the whole match.
    From then onwards, every game(except the Copa) is the final. Smile at the end, not odd smiles during the match

  18. February 3, 2014

    I agree Kevin. This is why a league win is the most difficult of the season as it is bloody difficult to keep that focus and desire in tact for all the games with variant difficulty levels.
    Strangley, I am at peace, I think this will turn out to be a slap on the back for our stars.
    Right now the first placed team has that want, that desire, dream and what not, which lifts them above a level beyond their talents. And frankly I dont mind if we end up only second to Atletico, as long as we beat them once in the league.
    But there is a long way to go, and there is hope.
    Exciting days ahead. I am hoping Camp Nou will help us better in the future games.
    Its funny to see reactions like sell Messi, though.

    • February 3, 2014

      I wouldn’t mind losing the league to Atletico, either. It would be GREAT for La Liga, actually. And as long as we end up above Real M*drid, I’m cool with it.

      • February 3, 2014

        Exactly Levon.
        I just want us to beat Atletico before our second place finish though. I think we might lose points again, and Madrid too, and even with a win against Atletico at the end, we would be second. All this, if and only if Atletico keep their momentum. I am afraid, they might loose it with the heavy CL matches. If he has to choose, Simeone will prefer league.

        • Jim
          February 3, 2014

          Agreed. Really interesting lineup coming up midweek from Atletico.

    • KEVINO17
      February 3, 2014

      Interesting that Zonal says Xavi and Cesc weren’t doing much defensively in the middle of the park. Also interesting that so many of the counter-attacks come through the centre of the park (then spread to the wings).
      Tata really has to stiffen the defence in the middle of the park. I think the Age of Song may be about to arrive – if only because, when there is a counter-attack, Song will get on his bike and get back to help the CBs.

    • February 3, 2014

      I felt, Deigo Alves got the slightest of touches on that ball.
      ZM also has mentioned about it as a save.

      If not for that terrible penalty call, it would have been 1-3 for sure. Nothing was going to go in.

    • lea_terzi
      February 4, 2014

      I also thought Diego Alves edged it out with the tip of his boot as he went down. It was that type of game.

  19. PrinceYuvi
    February 3, 2014

    I see a pattern. When things go awry, Kx dishes out the best articles.
    La Liga is crazier than Premier League this year.
    Honestly, that’s quite exciting.

    A league shouldn’t be a one team show.
    I don’t mind if minnows win against us, as long as we bash Atleti & EE !

    • Peter
      February 3, 2014

      You are talking about the coach who managed to held at bay Bayern Munchen with Guardiola for almost half an hour while a man down.

      But it wasn’t defending that won the match for Mourinho. It was the fact that Chelsea managed to impose their will on the game. City have been best when they are allowed to control the game – and Mourinho took that away from them. I need to watch it again, but it seems to me the key to disrupting City is almost the same as disrupting Barcelona – target Yaya.

      • PrinceYuvi
        February 3, 2014

        City players, they don’t track much, do they ? Kompany, silva, navas work hard amongst the lot.
        I like DeMichelis, he doesn’t even care. Hope fernandinho stays out for a while.
        It was a good game.
        I wanted Barca to derail the City Bus first. Now mou will hog all the limelight.

      • Now that Bayern was more or less an experiment by Guardiola. So can’t read too much into it. The best way to deal with any Mourinho side is to over power the midfield enforcer. But the double pivot makes it tricky. That’s why a 4-5-1 with two quick wingers will work against Chelsea. The best way should be to put one guy close to Ramires all the time. Or a midfield diamond also will. The key is to out number their midfield. Remember they will stay deep and defend deep, do not let them have an outlet.

        • Or may be a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 as we used against Milan at Camp Nou last season should work. It baffles me why we haven’t tried that against team which defends deep and try to counter. I agree that in the end against Valencia we played a three man defense, but why not from the start. In a three man defense we definitely need a fast runner, which we have in Alves and Alba. Just one of the have to stay back, while other had to move in to the midfield.

          That way shouldn’t we have a man advantage all the time in midfield and also two or more attackers, which means their defense also should be pinned back.

  20. providence
    February 3, 2014

    what are our chances against the current Chealsea? a block in Defense & midfield, playing quick counter attacks. our weakness?

  21. Nik
    February 3, 2014

    At least based on today’s match – I’d rather face City than Chelsea. The thought of Neymar, Messi, and Alexis running at that back line makes me excited. Hopefully, our back line will goof up less than theirs.

    • barca96
      February 4, 2014

      It’s the thought of Messi and Iniesta waltzing past Demeichilis that’s making my mouth water 🙂

      Let’s hope Pelligrini makes another blunder by fielding his coutrymen there or even at CB.

      • February 4, 2014

        Dint see the match, but am told Demichellis was bombarded with all the attack going through him, every one crediting Mou for changing the tactics on finding him in DM role.
        Demichellis always make stupid errors and thats why he is not called up any more for Argentina. Dont understand why Pellegrini likes him so much.
        Dont think Pellegrini will use him in the same position again.
        By the way, Pelegrini is Chilean and Demichellis from Argentina..

  22. Great to see Giovani being such an influential player in Villareal side. Had to say that after the initial set-backs, he had turned his career for the best.

  23. February 4, 2014

    So even a side with tall and physical players, and a standard no.9 in form, couldnt break the bus. For all the accusation against us lacking a plan B.

  24. Dar_vincy
    February 4, 2014

    In relation to Zonal markring’s tactical dissection of the game, i did point out in the previous thread that our midfield is quite vulnerable- not just this match but several others I have seen, just that we most times do get away with it. Issue is, Busquests isn’t quick enough to recover when being glided past, Xavi isn’t the strongest to dislodge a player of possession, same with Iniesta and Fabregas isn’t one that’s always willing to bully opposing players away from the ball. I might not be a tactical genius, but it isn’t exactly rocket science to see how vulnerable and generous our midfield is. Busquests is left with much to do when the other midfielders don’t fall back to help out. We all know once our midfield is breached, nullfying our defence doesn’t require you to be an Einstein.
    Point is, to avoid conceding avoidable, cheap and comical goals, the way the midfield defends needs to be restructured.
    P.S: about the first goal, Kxevin, i’m not surprised the guy jumped well above Alves; and it wasn’t just a case of desire but reluctance (not just Alves, most of our players when defending set-pieces)- something which I also pointed out in one of your posts (I guess).

    • G6O
      February 4, 2014

      That same midfield was doing more than fine in the past. And yes, Xavi has declined physically, but even then he was always much weaker physically than the opposition (same with Iniesta) and Busquets was still slow. There are more general issue that are behind this problem.

      • Dar_vincy
        February 5, 2014

        G60, keep in mind that it was a few years ago and under a different system as well. Xavi and puyol of those years aren’t the same as we have now and there is a limit to which they can function in certain duties. My concern is more on how we can curtail shipping in avoidable goals and comical gaffes.
        Were you gratified with the relative ease and access to which Valencia penetrated our midfield?
        The intention here isn’t to launch a scathing attack or unfair censuring of the team but to seek ways to make our team more sturdy and reasonably impenetrable in midfield by way of compact defending and relentless pressing in that crucial area of the field.

    • February 4, 2014

      Dar_vincy makes a very good point. I have said in the past that the way the team used to play, the job of the midfield was very different. Forwards pressed, mids nipped in and finished them off. Now that teams are bypassing the forwards (or they aren’t pressing) for direct midfield access (not to mention long balls over the top to get straight at the back line), the deficiencies of our players are being exposed.

      Increasingly, teams are attacking Busquets directly rather than Xavi. This hampers the former and isolates the latter, making movement up front much more crucial, to create passing lanes for Xavi. It’s even more acute when Fabregas is in, because of his molasses-like pace. Iniesta creates a different problem in that he is usually so far forward when possession turns, that he is all but useless in helping to deal with the counter.

      So when Busquets plays mostly for crap, as he did on the weekend, it creates all sorts of problems for the back line, which, lest we forget, is not a traditional back line, but rather a quartet of DM types playing defense.

      What used to happen was (when we lost possession) Eto’o, Henry and Messi/Pedro were like tigers in battling for the ball, because teams were still stupid enough to try to play it out of the back. Now they either long pass it or lump it over the top.

      If people want to stop conceding goals (never mind that this year’s team is much better than last year’s in that regard) a rather complete tactical rethink will have to happen. Messi will also have to contribute to the press. Barring those things happening, get used to conceding goals from turned possession or set pieces. It’s just the way of the world for us.

  25. psalmuel
    February 4, 2014

    Fact is that breaking a well parked bus has much to do with luck. There’s no certified method yet. Teams that beat Mou this season didn’t do it outrightly. They were teams that knew how to park the bus as well requiring Mou to take the initiative. If we meet mou in the CL with this squad, am afraid of the obvious. We might just have to buy our slow mids power bikes to aid them get back to prevent the counters

    • February 4, 2014

      I am hoping Madrid get Chelsea in the quarters. Madrid will find it tough to break a quality bus.
      At the same time, it would be very exciting. Pepe, Ramos etc against the man who made them most physical and ruthless.

      • February 4, 2014

        So. Chelsea defended and City, pretty much the diametric opposite of Barça, couldn’t penetrate. So now what? Maybe, just maybe, the reality that it is easier to stop a team from scoring than it is to score begins to rear its head.

        I find it funny that the “Barça can’t beat a parked bus” narrative persists, when were it not for poor finishing/keeper standing on his head/both in several of those matches, outcomes would have been very different.

        The reason parking the bus works is precisely because it’s easier to stop a team from scoring. The ultimate bus has no interest in scoring, only wants to preserve the status quo that existed, pre-match. Then it’s just 10 behind the ball, and there ya go.

        To break a bus, I don’t care whether you have a big 9 to lump it into or not, takes luck, execution and individual brilliance. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. But if there were a sure-fire way to beat a parked bus, the tactic would have died eons ago, because every team would, when faced with a bus, just employ that sure-fire tactic.

        To my view, Barça, with its movement and ball magicians, is in fact MORE equipped than any other team to break a bus, because a bus is broken by imbalances. A player has to move to cover someone, everything has to shift and an opening is created. That takes creativity, skill and individual brilliance of the sort we see routinely from Messi, Sanchez, Iniesta and Neymar.

        • February 4, 2014

          Well, somebody needs to feed this to all the people who find us bohring or lack of plan B or whatever. We face a good bus or a punctured bus almost every game, especially when Messi is playing, and still we win 9.5/10 of our games. It is in fact a credit that every team defends hard against us.
          I am fed up of reading the English press’s praises for Mourinho, as if he is a revolutionary.

        • kosby
          February 4, 2014

          I only wish the so-called ‘Barca supporters’ wouldn’t cry foul when we sacrifice possession to open up the spaces. I still cannot believe the hue and cry when we won 4-0 but everyone was talking about how Rayo had more possession than us. I wonder if Tata feels pressured into playing a certain way. Everyone knows our forwards are lethal when given space. I would love to see us give the ball to the opposition, draw them out and then hit them. Call it what you want..counterattack/adaption/evolution. And I’m not saying just do this in the whole of the match…but in certain periods…

        • February 4, 2014

          Yes this. Exactly this. The number of times I have seen teams struggle against the bus and thought to myself, you know what, we face much tougher buses all the time and while we may not always get the result we want we always create more chances than any other team. Chelsea didn’t even really park the bus yesterday, they played defensively, but they certainly did not stick everyone behind the ball like we see pretty much week in/week out. Chelsea experienced it themselves a week ago against (I forget who exactly) some EPL team. They barely got a single chance the whole game, against a very well disciplined side. I have to admit I have not seen Bayern play much this season so not sure how they have been faring against teams that employ this tactic. I assume they have come across the bus on numerous occasions in the German league. Anyone care to comment?

          I think our players, our system and our experience playing against these sorts of defenses give us the best tools to beat them, however it takes luck and above all sharpness. It must get so frustrating for the players to have to play against these sorts of teams so often, it is frustrating to watch so I cannot imagine actually playing against it. Especially when things don’t go your way.

          All that being said I do think we need a number 9, not necessarily because it is the solution to break the bus, but because I feel like without a true 9 as an option the coach is limited in the tactical variations he can employ and at the highest levels of the game that sort of thing can be crucial.

          Anyhow bring on City. I feel pretty confident we can beat them. Aguero is a huge loss for them, more so than if we did not have Messi. So much of their game revolves around his ability and movement off the ball. They looked very predictable and one dimensional yesterday, a hell of a lot more than we are when people call us predictable. Yaya is my biggest concern. When he is on, he is very hard to stop. Their defense does looks very suspect though. All the talk about our defense being poor, I actually think theirs is worse, the only strength they have in defense over us is height and that is not going to help them much with Messi, Pedro and Sanchez running at them. Lets see, but I am optimistic.

          Who do we play this weekend? Oh yeah, Sevilla away. I don’t wanna jinx anything but I have a feeling Sevilla are going to be on the end of a bit of a battering. The team and the players are going to come out with something to prove and that rarely bodes well for the opposition.

          Man do I miss Neymar.

  26. Tsivoman
    February 4, 2014

    OT:
    Can anyone help with a live stream of the Copa Del Ray matches?

  27. Jafri
    February 4, 2014

    So we’ve discussed the deficiencies in our squad. There are players out there that can cover them. Here’s a question for you guys; if you had a Madrid sized budget for the Summer, who all would you sign, and why?

      • gaspersm
        February 4, 2014

        Mathieu is not world class, he is old too

        • PrinceYuvi
          February 4, 2014

          Mathieu is 30, Cheap & Hardworking.
          We have Ini & Ney on left, already one of the scariest attacking combo there is.
          Do we really need to throw a diminutive wing back in the Mix ?

          Mathieu won’t be very Glossy but yet Effective.
          De Rossi can play in the Defence.
          Vidal can play anywhere.

          Versatility & Tenacity !

          • February 4, 2014

            I’m sure Mathieu giggled at the “not world class” depiction as he pulled off his sweat-soaked shirt, having just had a significant role in helping Valencia win.

            Every player Barça sign isn’t good enough, until they are. Mascherano couldn’t pass and was a card magnet. Pique was a cast off. Fabregas expensive and “not Barça quality. Neymar a YouTube sensation. Sanchez “good in Serie A, but La Liga is different.” Etc, etc, ad infinitum.

          • Jafri
            February 4, 2014

            I’d love to see a Lewandowski type player signed to play in front of Messi and lead the press, as well as a LB/CB hybrid, like an Abidal profile (why did we ever let him go??) but younger – not sure who fits this profile though… I think either Vidal or De Rossi are good picks for the midfield but we have so much talent coming through that needs to be groomed and it will cut into their minutes.

    • lea_terzi
      February 4, 2014

      Can we have Thiago back? He’s the type of midfielder who can both attack and defend that we need. Someone like Pjanic, Strootman, Pogba (although he seems to be a douche, maybe not), Veratti, Javi Martinez or Toni Kroos would make me happy too.
      For CB, a more experienced player like Vertonghen and/or a youngster like Marquinhos, Mangala, Zouma, Balanta or Doria (although we don’t have a great track record nurturing South American defenders, maybe someone else should take a risk on them first) would be welcome.

      This is all completely hypothetical, most of these players will go to some oil-rich club for prices that don’t match our budget or their ability.

      • lea_terzi
        February 4, 2014

        Oh, and Benatia is the absolute best defender not currently at a top club (with all due respect to Roma, whose backline and midfield I would raid in a second to strengthen our squad) 🙂

      • BA
        February 4, 2014

        Thiago ensured Bayern’s win against a difficult Stuttgart team last week; Cesc couldn’t take off his concrete shoes against Valencia this week.

        we saw the need in this game for a dynamic, mobile, creative player in midfield not named Andres Iniesta. Thiago is that player; Cesc Fabregas is not. i think it’s obvious we made the wrong decision there.

        i wonder how many of those advocating for Ter Stegen (and the deal does appear to be done on that) have actually seen him play? there are a number of young keepers with as much or more proven potential; chief among them Courtois and De Gea. the former undoubtedly brilliant, huge, good in the air and not satisfied with sitting the bench at Chelsea behind Cech for a few years (our purchase having the added benefit of weakening a Spanish AND a European rival), while the latter is both keen to move to Barcelona (his GF lives there and he just bought a house in the city) and will not be playing Champions League football next year. both already speak Spanish and are better in the air (our most pressing weakness) than Ter Stegen.

        hopefully with a new president our transfer policy will be renewed from the utter disaster it has been over the last couple of seasons.

        • Jafri
          February 4, 2014

          Utter disaster is a bit strong, especially considering what it was in the early Guardiola years. Could be a lot better, of course, and there’s no excuse for not having bought a CB for four years, but we’ve made some good buys.

          • Dar_vincy
            February 5, 2014

            I remember vivdly when Sergi Roberto debuted for the 1st team, he seemed a good prospect but he looks to have stagnated or retrogressed (i’m of the opinion a loan would benefit him). I hope Rafa Alcantara turns out from a good prospect to a great product. Though i won’t be getting my hopes up.

        • Peter
          February 4, 2014

          What wrong decision? Thiago wanted to leave. If Barcelona had resisted, he would’ve left nonetheless, just bringing seven million less to Barcelona in the process.

          Also, comparing Valencia to Stuttgart, classy:

          Valencia, 8th in La Liga, winner of its Europa League group.

          Stuttgart, 13th in Bundesliga, two points off relegation zone, eliminated in the Europa League play-off by a team that then finished last in its Europa League group.

          • Jim
            February 4, 2014

            Agreed. And if I recall Thiago hardly grabbed his chance in our first team. I remember a lot of flashy passes going astray and a reluctance to buckle down to hard midfield work. Talented player undoubtedly and would have had an extended run at some point but not worth losing sleep over.

          • BA
            February 4, 2014

            Thiago wanted to leave because he felt he wasn’t being valued by the club; in fact the problem began when the administration allowed the “appearances” clause in his contract to go unfulfilled, thereby allowing him to leave for much cheaper than was necessary. i’d wholly disagree that Thiago didn’t, for his age, grab his chance with the first team. he was certainly better than Iniesta at 21, and still very much learning. with the decline of Xavi we NEED midfield players who take chances, get creative, and sometimes as a result lose a ball; the opposite being Sergi Roberto who seems like a nice kid but never tries anything and thus offers no possibilities to change a game. Thiago does that, and will become a really tremendous player if allowed opportunities under Pep (who recognized his quality) and doesn’t get hurt.

            Valencia are a better team than Stuttgart, but Stuttgart were playing an excellent match they deserved to win; Valencia simply played as they were required to play. the difference is, one player from Bayern stepped up and made a difference, whereas his opposite number at Barça did nothing but slow the team down.

            utter disaster in transfers is not signing a center-back for 3 seasons running when every person who watches professional football knows we need a center-back; it’s forcibly ousting one such center-back capable of playing for no good reason against his wishes; it’s permitting an incredibly talented young player in a position we emphasize to leave for far less than they’re worth in the current market for trivial reasons; it’s selling then not signing a more orthodox striker to give our game some variability, then wildly overpaying for potential in a wide player through a shady, possibly illegal deal; it’s pushing out THE best goalkeeper in the world for our system and pre-signing a young project player to start when our backup is 38…..

            i could go on. our transfer policy is disjointed, ineffective, and hasn’t resulted in a squad that leaves a coach with options or even of sufficient size to compete on 3 fronts simultaneously, as a club of our caliber is expected to do. we’re winning, and could still continue to win, on the basis of the amazing players we’ve possessed for years, but the maintenance of that outstanding quality through the squad is being badly handled.

          • February 4, 2014

            Peter nails the Thiago situation pretty accurately. And when you look at the club’s transfers during the Rosell years, “disaster” is far, far from the word I would choose. No Henriques, no Cacereses, no Keirrisons, just players who have been useful to the team.

            Neymar, Fabregas, Sanchez, Song, Mascherano, Alba, Adriano … pretty tough to argue with.

            Is the lack of a CB signing sufficient to warrant the “disaster” label? Good question. I do believe the team erred in jettisoning Abidal instead of Puyol. I think they would, in a moment of honesty, admit that they did, as well.

            As for a CB signing, aside from Thiago Silva, who would have been a mistake at the price, who out there would have started ahead of the current first-choice pairing of Pique and Mascherano, that was in the Barça orbit? The system demands a certain type of CB, a beast that is rare. Javi Martinez would have worked, but don’t forget that he is playing midfield more than CB at Bayern. We already have plenty of midfielders.

            As Jim correctly says, Thiago didn’t exactly set the world on fire here. Yes, he is an immense talent. But he also had much more opportunity to displace a player there, than at Barça, land of the iconic midfielder. Is he going to sit Xavi? Nope. We saw the results of that last season. Is he going to sit Iniesta? Nope. Fabregas? Maybe, but he didn’t want to stay and fight for that spot. So he is at Bayern. History as far as I am concerned.

            I have seen Ter Stegen play. Not every week, but enough to understand that he is what this club needs: good with his feet, good with the ball at his feet, commanding of his area and tall with excellent reflexes. Essentially, a taller Valdes who is more controlling of his space. What’s not to like?

            Everyone talks about Courtois. Not sure why. Stationary, who works best with the kind of defense Atleti plays, more traditional than Barça. He’s closer to Casillas (who also wouldn’t work as well at Barça as he does at RM).

            This summer is going to bring a lot of activity, rumor has it. It will include some players that culers probably will not want to see leave, even if they probably should. We will have to wait until that time. The unfortunate thing is that the board is going to flail and make a big signing that the team might or might not need.

            I have some thoughts on that, that I will have to put together at some point.

        • TITO
          February 4, 2014

          Disagree about Cesc. His purchase had nothing to do with the stupidity selling Thiago. And they are totally different players.

          • BA
            February 4, 2014

            any players would be useful to the team, because the team is too small. Sanchez has finally begun to realize his quality. Adriano has been a brilliantly versatile player but injured quite alot. Mascherano is likewise an outstanding player overall but due to other deficiencies in the squad can’t play in his proper position and thus isn’t as useful as he might be.

            Cesc and Alba i put in the same category: equally helpful and detrimental, and there are strong trade-offs playing either. Cesc is great playing little passes around the box and has sharpened his eye for goal, but what does he bring to the rest of the pitch, or if we’re under pressure? he’s horribly slow, not positionally disciplined and offers even less defensively. he’s a great small-game player, poor big-game player.

            Alba is very quick and a decent if not spectacular defender, and can assist well going forward. but he also is worthless in the air and has a tendency to leave huge gaps behind him for teams to exploit (an issue that, say, 2008-2011 Dani Alves didn’t have). both players accentuate our teams’ strengths but do little to ameliorate its weaknesses.

            Neymar has looked good in his limited starts, but that would only be expected for a $100m player. he needs time to bed in, and only time will tell.

            Song has been meh. he was bought to play as a makeshift center-back, and failed at that. he looks perfectly fine in the Copa del Rey but doesn’t have the trust of the coaching staff to start against any respectable teams.

            of those players listed i would include only Sanchez and Adriano as unqualified successes, and a net none of our B-teamers brought up have been convincing. meanwhile, we STILL have yawning rifts in the squad sheet for our defense and soon our goalkeeper, while the fact that X, I and B are still by far our best midfield trio after 6 years is in itself a problem. our strikers are overall excellent, but again there is a serious risk for lack of variation (thus teams figuring us out and playing to counter the orthodox Barça, for this read: Munich, Bayern and C.F., Valencia). Pep understood this, and thus changed tactics constantly and initiated the Ibrahimovic experiment, which while a qualified failure was nonetheless an attempt to remedy a real conceptual problem with our system and squad.

            not sure about Courtois? you mean the gigantic, cat-quick goalkeeper who won the Zamora last year? maybe he’s an option and maybe he’s not, but his shot-stopping and performance from set pieces definitely fill in some issues we’ve had not just with Valdes but defensively in general for a long time. Valdes staying, of course, is the best option. if he does leave, we’ll be in the market for *two* goalkeepers in the coming couple of years and we should keep an open mind.

          • February 4, 2014

            That’s where different perspectives come in. The “not a CB” narrative with Song should have been discarded a long time ago. He is a very good midfielder who is best father up the pitch, playing one-touch football as he does. Hats off to Martino for figuring that out. He doesn’t start against bigger teams only because there is a gala XI that does that. Song isn’t part of it, just as other players weren’t last year or this year.

            Alba is about as useful as any LB squad player would be. Every player on the squad has deficiencies that would be easy to list. Adriano has overcome his injury complexities. There is another narrative that needs changing. He’s a top-quality LB who is for me, preferable to Alba.

            Neymar is an unqualified success. The team is already suffering from his absence. Can’t wait until he returns. Fabregas in defense has the same problems as Busquets, Iniesta and Xavi. Call one out, call them all out, right?

            And yes, Courtois is big and quick. But he still isn’t a Barça keeper for me, for the reasons I enumerated. We don’t need a keeper who stays at home as much as he does. It’s why Ter Stegen is a much better choice. Same tremendous up side, at a third of the price. Nice piece of business.

            And I don’t see any yawning rifts in the back line. The three spots rotate between Pique, Mascherano and Bartra. Puyol has become a Cup CB, but that’s okay. His status there saves a load on the top choice CBs. A guy to put pressure on Pique would be useful, but it’s difficult to imagine, as I said, a CB to be purchased at this point in time who would displace the style-trained CBs that Martino favors.

        • PrinceYuvi
          February 4, 2014

          Cesc could’ve easily left for 40M to lead an Easy life and double salary at Man utd.

          He chose to stay, scored bunch of goals, assisted plenty.
          Played as CF & got us results.

          Lets not trash the guy.

    • Peter
      February 4, 2014

      Personally I would probably sign Ter-Stegen and (confessing my ignorance here) someone who is in essence a younger version of Abidal. You get more height in the back, less bombing from the left wing(but possible if you need it). You get more options for corners and also less space for Busquets to cover. A second pivote (can be Song or Mascherano) lets Busquets more breathing space, less space to cover and would let him go forward more if needed. That also means more height and more physical presence in midfield.

      Find a good club for Dos Santos and maybe Cuenca, bring back Deulofeu(or exchange him for Dongou) and maybe bring back Rafinha. You still get a small enough squad that can be ensured playing time, while having space on the team to promote youngsters. Sell Tello. When all’s said and done, he will excel in a team and League where teams don’t close themselves that much. England would probably suit him.

      So, a team consisting of Ter-Stegen, Pinto(one more year), Oier; new guy, Alba, Adriano, Pique, Puyol, Bartra, Alves, Montoya; Cesc, Xavi, Rafinha, Sergi Roberto, Mascherano, Iniesta, Song, Busquets; Neymar, Pedro, Deulofeu, Messi, Alexis, Affelay.

      If really doing the Real routine, I’d probably buy Draxler as well, but that may be a bit of an overkill and a waste of money if minutes are hard to come by. But I believe he could be trained to be an alternative of Messi or just be converted into a striker. He is indeed tall enough to be a target man or just a point with Messi playing behind him. He is young and he can be transformed, plus he is an attacking mid, and he would be playing in the place that practically worships creative midfielders.

      • Jafri
        February 4, 2014

        Yes, need a tall conservative LB who can cover CB in a pinch. My thoughts exactly.

      • lea_terzi
        February 4, 2014

        To reply to the conversation above:
        Nothing could be done about Thiago not having patience and wanting to leave, I only brought him up because Jafri was asking about fantasy scenarios. If we do add someone to the midfield rotation (Gundogan and Rakitic rumors keep popping up), they’ll have to be patient as well.

        Ter Stegen is, by all reports, in the same top tier of goalkeeping talent as Courtois, but a much better fit for our defense and attack. Remember, we cannot use stats alone to evaluate a keeper, because he forms a unit with his defense. Courtois would feel very uncomfortable behind our defense because they are frequently stationed high up the pitch, and he has no passing game to speak of, would be of no use in triangles or initiating attacks, and is uncomfortable coming out of the box to sweep. He’s a phenomenal shot stopper, but not an 11th player on the pitch that we need. Both Courtois and his father recognized this, saying that Barca was looking for a different type of keeper (Thibaut mentioned he is still young and could learn to pass, but that’s not his game). Ter Stegen is great with his feet, both passing and defending one-on-one, has fantastic reflexes and is 8cm taller than Victor. His settling in period might be tough, just like Victor’s first years were, but he is simply the best choice available right now.

        On to the fullback/centre back discussion – Abidal really was unique, and the best in the world in his role at the peak of his powers. Quality fullbacks are hard to find, and four of them are playing for us already. Out of the rest, Alaba is the only one who’s clearly superior and has a fantastic future (with Bayern) ahead of him. Mangala, Zouma and Balanta can play fullback in a pinch. Oh, and has anyone heard of Serge Aurier? He’s a versatile defender/midfielder who’s playing very well for Toulouse this season.

      • gaspersm
        February 5, 2014

        Guys i have a question
        Wouldnt you think busquets would be an ideal candidate to replace xavi and then we get a good mobile dm to play the dm role and rotate him with samper until when samper is ready???
        The closest person to xavi in terms of passing genius is busquets. Yet he has defensive skills, good pressing and interpretation. Often he is left with too much to cover because the Cms we have a poor defensively. I wish for a stable tall Cb and a tall striker like jackson martinex, to have physique, speed and pressing in our line up
         
        To make this line up work i will put random names
                             Ter stegen
        C.martinez. Pique. bartra. Alba
                            Luiz gustavo
                    Busquets
                                               Cesc/iniesta
                              Messi. Neymar
                               Jackson martinez
                           
        This line up will kill the opponents in all possible areas. Busquets to rotate with xavi, gustavo with mascherano, martinez with Alexis, pique with the new cb preferably benatia

      • gaspersm
        February 5, 2014

        But right now alba offers more in attack than alves. I think we should get a tall defensive RB, to give alba the license to attack. He is younger and faster, we cant waste him like that.

    • gaspersm
      February 5, 2014

      Id say benatia, danilio, luiz gustavo, and jackson martinez. Busquets plays CM

  28. PrinceYuvi
    February 4, 2014

    If city sits deep. We’ll be doing all the running and they won’t get tired. I don’t like that.

    If we play solid, goal scoring chances will be few, as in the Atleti game.

    Cesc is needed, he doesn’t run much, but his runs are incisive.

    Ney is needed, he’s superior version of Hazard.

    Masch is needed, but we shouldn’t tie him to cb spot. How about a roaming house cleaner, who chucks away loose balls ?

    Unlike Tata, pellegrini didn’t keep his squad fit.
    They’re without Aguero, Fernandinho, Nasri.
    We have to kill the Tie in first leg.
    Oh, & we need someone to sit on yaya.

    • February 4, 2014

      Masch will be even more productive for us, if we use him as the first DM ahead of the back 3/4. Busquests playing ahead of Masche with more freedom, a la Xavi.

      • PrinceYuvi
        February 4, 2014

        Masch is very quick, great anticipation, breaks up plays even before they start, not very flashy but gets the job done.
        He’s flawless except, his height lets him down.
        He could definitely play as Midfield Destroyer if we push busi little up the pitch.

        • BA
          February 4, 2014

          just being able to play Busquets and Mascherano at the center of a 4-2-3-1 would add a tremendous amount of versatility and solidity to our game. the only reason this hasn’t been done is because there isn’t adequate cover for Mascherano in the center-back position (where he has still not fully acclimatized, and probably never will). Mascherano is a brilliant, intelligent player and it isn’t his fault our coaches have insisted, due to lack of other options in the squad, to play him away from his natural position (he IS a *5* in the classic Argentinian mold) where he excels.

          Busquets-Mascherano
          Alexis-Messi-Iniesta
          —CF (Pedro?)—

          would be a great option to have, but the team isn’t set up for it. we saw the effect of that lack of preparedness, on both the squad and tactical levels, against Valencia last week. should we stick to our Barça philosophy of quick ball movement, possession, dynamic passing? YES. it’s been very successful for us. but there’s nothing inherent in that philosophy that says we have to play balls-to-the-wall attacking formations when the opposition has figured us out (as Valencia did, and as Bayern did last season) and is cutting us open at will. it’s a suicide that can only be prevented by preparing the squad properly for the eventuality; and for all the talk of Tata Martino’s decisions this season i’m not sure that it has been.

          • PrinceYuvi
            February 4, 2014

            For a makeshift defender – He’s better than at least 80% CBs out there.
            When you think about it, that’s quite impressive.

        • Dar_vincy
          February 5, 2014

          OMG!
          Couldn’t be more glad that people here have great reasoning capacity.
          Suggested the same application when i used to comment in Totalbarca but the opinion was discarded and Masch was utterly condemned and given zero chance of performing as a pivote.

        • Dar_vincy
          February 5, 2014

          PrinceYuvi, Fotobirajesh and Ba, lovely thoughts. Same I have had from the get-go when he was bought for that purpose. But had to be repositioned because of a need at the cb and because of his passing skills (which i thought would improve over-time). The next step is to buy a good cb to replace him at the back. Then depending on teams, formations can be altered from time to time.
          But one thing we are guaranteed is solidity.

          • February 5, 2014

            Anybody doubting Masche, should watch how he plays for Argentina. Even with Maradona – when it was just 4 defenders and 5 attackers with Masche in between, if not for him Argentina would have been humiliated by Mexico and Germany would have scored even more.

            Argentina produces the best enganches and to counter these players they also have the best destroyers. Biglia is also doing good now, who could be in the WC squad as sub for Masche.

          • PrinceYuvi
            February 5, 2014

            We never appreciate something until its gone.
            Had he left, we’d have been lying allover the places.
            Gasping for breath.

            Not many CBs have wits enough to play in Barca system.
            The guy is holding the fort. )

            We’ll get screwed in Set Pieces, Yes.
            But, Advantages outweigh Disadvantages, so he keeps playing,
            Tata is not Idiot.

            As kx might say, ‘Name someone who can actually better our squad.’
            Those who are able to do so have ‘Families to Feed’ !

          • gaspersm
            February 5, 2014

            Thats why there are scouts. I am sure there are many CBs who can play at barca but we keep saying our style is this and that, while we play a lot less than that style nowadays. I dont see anything that different that our CBs do different from regular CBs. We are not the only team passing from the back. We are not the only team playing a high defensive line

          • Peter
            February 5, 2014

            Barcelona is pretty much the only great team in the world that routinely has two CBs guarding half of the pitch, who also go forward to intercept a ball(that’s pretty much DM stuff), have to be good in the air, good with their feet, very adaptive, great passers(for CB standards).

          • PrinceYuvi
            February 5, 2014

            As peter put it succinctly ) thanks for the rescue there.

    • justdoit94
      February 4, 2014

      parking the bus is not as easy as it sounds.
      It takes a hell of a lot more than just sticking 11 men behind the ball. It needs a great deal of physical and mental energy to controlling space and the team that does the defending is always going to work harder.

      Also, pellegrini didnt park the bus when he was in malaga so i highly doubt he would with man city.
      It will be an open game with a lot of physicality involved and their midfielders will try to kick ours out of the game like bayern did . I highly doubt that they will be able to pull off what bayern did last year tho but it will be tough.
      What worries me the most are set pieces ! I can see us conceding a couple of those

      • PrinceYuvi
        February 4, 2014

        Lets pass ball around until we find a small crack to massage ball through.
        Those days are past.
        Opponents learnt their lessons.
        Now they want us to attack.
        They wait for a missed pass & the Nightmare starts allover again.

        Sure, parking a bus is not very easy.
        But at least they remain cohesive, not Out-numbered
        & they don’t have to run all the way back to the net like Hapless Pique on his dainty toes.

        I think they’ll be forced into parking the bus.
        We’re Barca, so they don’t have much choice in that matter, do they ?
        We keep Ball, we always do.

        • Jim
          February 4, 2014

          Not sure why you say those days are past. Since when ? Who has a better record of success than us over the last three years? Doesn’t sound to me like a team that’s failing. And when we pass slickly (okay maybe doesn’t happen quite as often ) I don’t believe anyone can live with us, including Bayern.

          • PrinceYuvi
            February 4, 2014

            Days when speed of our passes made me literally dizzy,
            commentators simply shut up [including ray hudson]
            & the referees forgot to run.

            Nobody took more than a touch to pass,
            opponents were like,
            ‘Hey, there’s the ball, lets get it.
            Wait, a minute,
            where’s it now ?
            It was here a second before.
            *whistle* A goal ?
            When that happened ?
            What is this sorcery ?’

    • Jim
      February 4, 2014

      If you’re chasing the ball for 45 minutes believe me you’ll be knackered. Also, I think we’ll see a more cautious Tata for the remaining CL away matches. As long as we keep our FBs disciplined my only worry is set pieces. Yaya doesn’t worry me unduly. He’s not a great lover of running a lot side to side and he’ll be doing a whack of that against our midfield.

    • Jafri
      February 4, 2014

      I’m rather more worried about them pressing hard and playing in your face type football. We don’t have an answer for sheer physicality and speed either, which is what they can bring to the table.

      • Jim
        February 4, 2014

        Not sure they have the midfield to press effectively.

        • Nik
          February 4, 2014

          Their pressing against Chelsea was pretty poor, and they seemed unsettled to be pressed heavily themselves. I think we should be ok.

  29. gaspersm
    February 4, 2014

    Guys i have a question
    Wouldnt you think busquets would be an ideal candidate to replace xavi and then we get a good mobile dm to play the dm role and rotate him with samper until when samper is ready???
    The closest person to xavi in terms of passing genius is busquets. Yet he has defensive skills, good pressing and interpretation. Often he is left with too much to cover because the Cms we have a poor defensively. I wish for a stable tall Cb and a tall striker like jackson martinex, to have physique, speed and pressing in our line up
     
    To make this line up work i will put random names
                         Ter stegen
    C.martinez. Pique. bartra. Alba
                        Luiz gustavo
                Busquets
                                           Cesc/iniesta
                          Messi. Neymar
                           Jackson martinez
                       
    This line up will kill the opponents in all possible areas. Busquets to rotate with xavi, gustavo with mascherano, martinez with Alexis, pique with the new cb preferably benatia

    • BA
      February 4, 2014

      we already have a world-class, mobile DM to partner Busquets in order to allow him more freedom to create: his name is Javier Mascherano. we just have to buy a real center-back and let the man play where he’s born to.

      • gaspersm
        February 5, 2014

        I thought of adding more height in the midfield! Sell song and get a fast tall Dm to rotate with mascherano as the destroyer DM

  30. PrinceYuvi
    February 4, 2014

    @Jafri
    Not many Good strikers would like to sit on Barca Bench and watch Messi score hat-tricks galore !

    Thats why I mentioned De Rossi & Vidal.
    Jack of all Trades !

    They can attack, score, assist, defend,
    are physically imposing (imagine pushing Rossi off the ball), technically gifted, quite impressive at ranting,
    strong in the air, natural leaders,
    engine players who work tirelessly, can fit in most formations, (Rossi is capable of manning 3 man defence).

    Not necessarily only those two, but we should at least look for traits we need to make a well rounded squad.

    • Jafri
      February 4, 2014

      Well actually I think I’d like to see our current plan B (Messi as a playmaker, or just back of a 9) become plan A with the signing of a quality striker. And if there’s a repeat of a season like this where Messi has been out for so long, I’d much rather see a proper striker who leads the press up front like Lewa than our false false nines.

      • PrinceYuvi
        February 5, 2014

        Striker is best defence.
        I agree.

        A striker who can play as RW, Since LW position is pretty much na(ey)iled.

        He could soak up pressure in dead ball situations too.

        Xavi, Ini can easily dish out PinPoint Long balls into the box,

        nothing comes of it
        Since we don’t have Tallish striker.

        Also, Lowly Marked Messi as 10 would be Monstrous.
        It’s a win-win situation !

        • gaspersm
          February 5, 2014

          Why a striker who plays RW? I think we just need a striker who is mobile and aware. And if we get a tall striker he shoukd be at the front because he is supposed to be a goal scorer and placing him on the wing reduces effeciency. We need to place the best goalscorers closer to goal or else buy a true winger, because even sanchez can do that what you want that striker to do

          • PrinceYuvi
            February 5, 2014

            Sanchez ? Really ?

            Is he often Tallest player on pitch who can win Long balls & headers ?

            Can he often hold up play with his back to the net,
            without being out-muscled by defenders,
            until Team mates slip in scoring positions ?

            Oh, & RW ?
            So *new guy* & Messi could switch places.
            I don’t see midfield of Masch-Busi-Messi happening,
            since Cesc, Ini play there.

            At most, we could push messi to the Right whenever we need Chaos in the centre.

            I’m pretty sure, Messi can deliver far better crosses than Alves.

  31. PrinceYuvi
    February 5, 2014

    @Dar_vincy & Fotobirajesh
    Around World cup 10,
    When asked about his TeamSheet,
    Maradona as Argentine National Coach simply said,
    ‘Mascherano & Ten other guys.’

    (Few months later, he answered the same question as, ‘Mascherano, Messi and 9 other guys.’
    But that’s another story.)

  32. Dar_vincy
    February 5, 2014

    Nice to see such respect accorded to Masch by the legend himself, Princeyuvi. Shows you how indispensable he is. If you are quite punctilious, you’d observe that it is the little, unfanciful and seldom ‘dirty’ things that Masch does to thwart any potential threat at goal that makes him so crucial and revered (ditto Abidal).

    • PrinceYuvi
      February 5, 2014

      Masch & Busi can be bad boys. Alba is just petulant )

  33. ibbe
    February 5, 2014

    That’s one ugly game at the betnabeu..atletico are not invincible after all. But I’m having a hard time to decide who is the dirtiest player in Spain, arbeloa or pepe?

    • morph73
      February 5, 2014

      tonight it was Arbeloa for sure…

  34. Jim
    February 5, 2014

    Interesting lineup. I said at the weekend I hoped Puyol would be swapped over to the Liga cycle of games and he’s on the bench so for me that’s a positive. However, I’m less impressed by Iniesta’s presence on the bench. He needs minutes.

    • kosby
      February 5, 2014

      I think Iniesta might get subbed in later..

      Sociedad parked their bus yet ?

  35. G6O
    February 5, 2014

    Damn, that was almost the perfect free kick.

    Otherwise the same old story though in terms of overall play 🙁

  36. TITO
    February 5, 2014

    We are not playing bad, it’s not easy breaking up a 2 lines of 4 defenders (sometimes 5 + 3), but what worries me is our back line.
    Can’t believe how vulnerable we are sometimes.

    • morph73
      February 5, 2014

      Masche is looking like a red card in the waiting… Pique slow n dreamy… FBs up the field… I guess its become common story now 🙁

  37. georgjorge
    February 5, 2014

    I have to say, Alexis needs to find his mojo from the first half of the season again, and fast – he’s starting to get on my nerves with the old “fake a dribble, hold up play, then pass back to midfield” routine. Pedro on the other side doesn’t have much success either, but he’s looking sharp and capable of doing something relevant this game. Alexis isn’t.

    Other than that, the defense (all of them) still seems in need of sorting out their communication. The attacking is of course difficult – against such a tactic, they need to find a fine line between patience and aggression. Still, Messi is going to score this game, he’s looking pretty good in the first half.

    • morph73
      February 5, 2014

      Pedro has been a workhorse this half… He’s been covering the left flank and is defending as well… Though attacking wise not too effective..

  38. kosby
    February 5, 2014

    I would like to see us draw them out, let them have the ball for once 🙁

    • G6O
      February 5, 2014

      That’s not going to help – with Neymar missing and Messi sleepwalking, there is absolutely no speed in our game. So no good counterattacks can be expected

      • kosby
        February 5, 2014

        I think Alexis and Pedro are very good when given space..and Messi doesnt need to score, along with Fab he is probably the best in terms of creating an opportunity when breaking forward…anyways, lets hope we score more goals this match 🙂

  39. georgjorge
    February 5, 2014

    ONE time, Messi is tracking back and defending…and he’s promptly served a yellow. I guess that will teach him a lesson.

  40. TITO
    February 5, 2014

    We should have f.cking killed the tie tonight.
    Don’t know will 2-0 score be enough.
    We won, but again, we failed to capitalize the chances to do it.

    • georgjorge
      February 5, 2014

      Well, it was clear the team was only playing in third gear after the 2-0. Not too unreasonable given the schedule coming up in the next weeks, and I very much doubt Sociedad is going to win by two goals next week even when playing at home.

      • TITO
        February 5, 2014

        We’ll see if that’s enough. They need only one goal to get back in the tie and it will make us very uncomfortable and we know how we look a like when we try to defend.
        Anyway, when there’s a chance to score 5, do it, and then play with your reserves in the second leg.

    • G6O
      February 5, 2014

      It should be enough but it means playing the first team in the return game. Which is far from ideal – had we won this one 5-0, we could have relaxed a bit

  41. bhed
    February 5, 2014

    Unconvincing performance. Could have been that it was just one of those games, but I was hoping for a bit more something after the weekend.

    I think we’re going to need Bartra as a starter when it counts. I’d like to see him start getting more playing time soon.

  42. georgjorge
    February 6, 2014

    Fully agree about Bartra. And I hope we aren’t going to do another Thiago here and lose a young promising player partly because we show him our lack of trust in him time and again.

  43. chillipod
    February 6, 2014

    Morning All,
    here’s what Henk ten Cate said on SKY tv post game last night: (apologies for those of you that already heard it)
    “I think it’s the worst game I saw in the last 6 years. It was horrific to watch. Very slow tempo they played, touching the ball too many times, people coming inside, making it very easy for Sociedad…it’s horrible…it’s just not good enough”
    He then went on to say “Barca needs to build a new team, because this is not a Barcelona who can compete with the best in Europe”.
    Due to a lack of time Gaizka Mendieta was limited to: “They seem more like individuals and not a team”.

    For anyone that didn’t see the game I would say: Go through the starting XI and name the worst habit/trait of each player and combine it all into 1 game. Only Pinto and perhaps Busi are exempt.
    i.e. Dani – static as a right winger, crosses either too long, too low or too short.
    Alba – inaccurate passing and crossing. As static as Dani was. Clogging up an already congested final third of the pitch.
    Masch – Served up la Real’s first chance due to an appalling touch, got booked for a foul in opposition half and then escaped conceding a penalty (and red) due only to the incompetence of the officials (which was incredible last night!)
    Pique – focus, focus focus, ‘wonder what Milan is doing, damn, I’ve switched off and Vela’s clean through…’
    Xavi – Tonight I’m abandoning my half touch masterclass in favour of 5 touches before passing sideways.
    Fabregas – “Must pass to Leo, Must pass to Leo, Must pass to Leo.” Missed a sitter from 2 yards.
    Pedro – Commendable effort as ever but his control was AWOL and his shooting boots were too
    Lexus – Made half a yard on his marker(s) but then turned back inside, over and over and over again (into a Blue and White Basque Bus)
    Messi – It was like the injured version. Seemed almost disinterested at times. Given the ball in impossibly tight areas and couldn’t go anywhere. So dropped deeper and still made little impact. Could though have had a hat-trick but ended up with nada.

    Tata gets a C minus too. To echo Jim “OK Enough, where’s Iniesta?”
    It was crying out for someone to move the ball MUCH quicker and to make an incisive move and yet the greying, balding magician came on far too late.
    What did he think Sociedad were going to do when they turned up? Play 3 up top? After the media friendly snippets about putting things right after the w/e defeat etc etc the whole event was flat and the players just didn’t seem up for the challenge of solving the riddle of how to bypass 11 defenders. Were it not for a comedy own goal this tie would be even more alive than it is and our tactics against 10 men just didn’t work.
    Criticising when we win makes me a little uneasy, we don’t have a divine right to win every game, and I’m fully aware how fortunate we are to have seen the play of the last x number of years but to see so many of our pin ups fail to deliver leaves you asking questions. Plus I will concede La Real defended well, and their concentration was admirable. They played on our weaknesses and could/should have left with a goal. The ref was “poor”. Go look at the dbl team on Messi in the 2nd half if you want an example (1 failed shirt pull followed by a full on rugby tackle AND then a push down just to make sure!). 2-0 ultimately is a win and they’re down their best defender for the 2nd leg.

    The general consensus on the TV was that there’s something wrong, but nobody’s quite sure what it is. It’s like we’ve taken a step back from Tata’s change in direction and the players are confused. At times some of them go to press, some don’t. Years of training undermining the new blueprint? The balletic and hypnotising rondo style passing appears far too fleetingly, if at all. Messi’s return seems to have upset the relative harmony that we had up top. The centre back situation is confusing. Puyi on the bench, Bartra in the stands but we have a diving, sliding, fouling midfielder continuing to do his best instead. Another tarjeta roja is around the corner. Or could it even be as simple as the players are aware of Hlebruary??

    I’m not a coach or a tactician but for sure we miss Neymar, nothing Tata can do about that. But I also agree with Kxevin that Adriano should be the 1st choice full back. The centre half debate will rage on but it’s time for Bartra and Pique. The boy has to learn, we need to support him but Masch is a disaster waiting to happen/happening? at the moment, plus freeing him up would perhaps give Tata a chance to consider Busi trying out Xavi’s boots. Busi/Masch/Ini and not Busi/Xavi/Cesc.

    There is a must win game coming up (maybe the guys were already half concentrating on it last night?) and Mister Martino has a very real challenge on his desk this morning.

    We’re entering the age old critical point in the season, let’s hope Tata and the guys are as up for this as we all are.

    Força Barça!

    • Ryan
      February 6, 2014

      “Or could it even be as simple as the players are aware of Hlebruary??”

      Yep, this happens every year. Our training and physical conditioning is scheduled to dip around now and hopefully come back in force around the business end of the season.

  44. February 6, 2014

    Very disappointed with everything from yesterday..

    Atletico no where near their recent form, plus a ref, who seem to have sleep walked in to the field

    Our own play, which was one of the most disappointing , plus a ref who again shows la liga refs are sub standard

    There is something wrotten in nou camp,for us to play like this, after the week end slap we received.

  45. KEVINO17
    February 6, 2014

    Actually, I thought not too bad. Could have easily gone into the shed with three or four goals, but didn’t.
    People get annoyed with players like Alexis not beating their man, but he was up against a seriously quick dude and a side sitting very deep. That happens.
    I can also see why Tata might be annoyed with Iniesta. Brilliant dribbler, but he does tend to dribble too much and make the team static. Nor does he score much. Always nibbling around the edges. Has he ever got into the box and scored a goal with his head? Whereas slow-poke Cesc really does have a magical right foot with fantastic range which makes him far more dangerous.
    I actually thought Messi was pretty generous with the ball. But what worries me the most is Messi trying to dribble through the middle and coughing up the ball. Instant counter-attack.
    Oh, and Masch, let me give you some advice (one football philosopher to another), when you’re one on one, and you’re the last defender, just boot the frickin’ ball into orbit.
    Bartra and Adriano must play.

    • KEVINO17
      February 6, 2014

      Oh, and let’s not forget that Vela and Greizmann are exceptional counter-attacking weapons. They would cause any side trouble on the counter.

  46. Laurentiu88
    February 6, 2014

    i am sorry but i dont agree with ten kate at all, i think the game last night was quite decent. i do remember some games under pep where we would pass the ball to death and not create one single chance. we creates 5 6 huge chances with a team that stayed so deep…and we missed almost all the clear chances, if the score was 6 0 no one would claim this was even a mediocre game by us. that there was a lack of urgency, or will at times in our game is true, but then again what the hell happen to our supporters?

    on the other side, madrid’s game was so boring i can remember only maximum 2 chances. that they had a lot of luck has everyone saying how amazing their play was 🙂

    en fin…

    • gaspersm
      February 6, 2014

      You are looking through everything with rose coloured glasses I am afraid

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