Sevilla 1 – Barça 4: Doomsday Delayed

One of the biggest teams in the world is on a record breaking run this season. That sounds really good, doesn’t it? Well, it is not that kind of record breaking run. First time ever that they lose to team X at home. First time ever they lose to team Y. Team Z. Hell, if they keep this up I’m gonna run out of letters. And although they are defending the league title they won last year, as it stands right now, after 8 losses and 5 draws to their 12 wins, they won’t even make it into the Europa League. To put this into perspective, the last time they failed to qualify for the Champions League was in 1995 (back when you actually had to become a champion to qualify). They are out of both domestic cups. Yesterday, while they were very much on the way to break a new world record of “biggest number of crosses that aren’t going anywhere in a single game” (they managed 81) they were a goal down to a team placed firmly on the bottom of the league table… And as they were losing, their supporters, God bless their souls, sang and yelled and cheered them on throughout the whole debacle. No dissent. No boos. No whistles. Support. Their manager, who has recently been quoted as saying “I don’t know what to do to win” and “This is worse than I thought”, is still backed by a 70% majority of the club’s fans. There is even a banner at the stadium proclaiming him The Chosen One. Although I doubt he was chosen to run his club into the ground.

Not feeling all that Chosen.
Not feeling all that Chosen in Catalunya.

Elsewhere in Europe, on a cold night in Andalusia (with Andalusia dressing up as the most northern province of Scotland for the occasion), another doomsday scenario was being prepared. Culers the world over were scared – SCARED – of playing Sevilla, a team that had managed twenty something points less than ours during the first half of the season. A team that sold Negredo and Navas last summer. A team whose total squad transfermarkt dot com values at 114 million euros (Leo is listed at 120M). Yeah, but their fans are really loud, I would hear (I wish ours were). We always struggle there, others would say. The team is in terrible form. Messi is still playing hurt. They are saving themselves for the World Cup. And it’s raaaaaaining.

That’s right. Before we won yesterday’s game, we had already lost it. We lost it when, five days earlier, people tweeted words like “disgrace” and “embarassing” to describe a performance of a team that had 26 shots versus only three of their opponents, and possessed the ball an astonishing eighty-three percent of the time. And we sucked… why exactly? Because of the same problems in transition defense that we have had for more than two years now? Oh, you’re gonna tell me we never conceded from counter attacks during the Pep years? I guess that Ronaldo 2012 title-clincher in the Camp Nou was just part of a terrible nightmare, a figment of my perverted imagination. I have a video of all the goals we conceded last season, and it ain’t pretty. Don’t worry, I won’t post it. We wouldn’t be able to handle it. Our collective psyche is just too fragile.

A tough start.

So the scene was set for Barcelona to lose the league in the Pizjuan. And if the Gods had pissed down on the pitch all afternoon with furious anger to prevent our midgets from passing the ball for more than two yards, Martino played the role of their archangel by starting Song. Never mind the fact that the big Cameroonian is no slouch (well, apart from when he is running), in this decisive and hardly winnable match our coach decided to play him instead of Sergio Busquets, our best midfielder whenever Iniesta is not in blistering form. Doom and Disaster. Duh!

And it almost was. Sevilla started a lot fiercer than our blaugranas. They played like they wanted to be there. Within fifteen minutes they scored with a goal that can best be described as a goal that they scored because they wanted to score. And we sucked. The only one who was half decent was that African guy in the middle, and he was on a yellow card and a half already. Oh and Messi, whenever he had the ball, which was never. We played so subdued that our forwards were not even part of the game. Sevilla headed the ball on our post and Rakitic missed another chance to double their lead.

And then, when even the most positive culé (don’t you just love oxymorons) could not see the light through the raindrops, it happened. Just like in the previous two games, a referee completely forgot his allegiance to the capital and gifted us a possible game-deciding call in our favor. Messi took the free kick, and Alexis Sanchez headed or shouldered or backed the ball into the net. From whichever angle you saw the goal, how he scored was inconclusive. That he was offside was beyond a doubt. Whatever. We’ll take it. After that, Iniesta decided to grab the game by the scruff of its soaking neck and Lionel Messi started to play like only he can. 1-4 FC Barcelona.

Men of the Match
Men of the Match

Happy and relieved, I thought to myself, what if Barcelona were in Manchester United’s situation? Would the world survive? Would my twitter TL just say “fuck you” and blow up in my face?? Does Catalunya have enough mental institutions???  We love to say that ser del barça és el millor que hi ha but surely this is true whether we win, draw or lose? Maybe it’s a cultural thing. I don’t speak Catalan all that well, but to my knowledge Spanish has no equivalent to the word “supporter”. Sure, it has plenty of translations. Fanático, hincha, simpatizante, partidario, aficionado, but none that quite hold the meaning of “a person who supports”. Then again, our pessimism is not only cultural, it is also culertural. As if we are doomed to be doomed, or something.

Football is a game in which we can win or lose. Anything can happen, and it often comes down to a couple of key moments. A Victor Valdes double save, here. Two hundred and thirty-nine missed shots against Chelsea, there. Had we scored a couple of the unmissable chances we created in the first twenty-six minutes of our Cup game against Real Sociedad last week, very few people would complain about how “bad” we played. We created far fewer opportunities against Sevilla, but scored four. (Cliché alert:) the ball is round.

This summer I made two predictions: we will win neither Liga nor CL, and Cesc would finally step up. It seems our number four at least is proving me right, and the team can still prove me wrong. But regardless  of what happens, I am one proud culé. By all means, criticize your team and debate its strengths and weaknesses. We all do. But be grateful for what they give us, and don’t forget to enjoy the games. After all, to be of Barça is the best there is.

“If you touch the pride of the best player in the world, you’re in trouble”
Gerardo Martino

Categorized as Barcelona

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. I am well aware that you guys are doing a tremendous job for no pay in writing these articles, especially Kxevin now that some of the mods seem to have left. And I’m enjoying them. I just wish that every now and then I could read an actual match review instead of an article about how so many cules are too negative or non-supportive, just because I care a lot more for the actual games than for whatever things people say about these games on Twitter, on these forums or even in newspaper articles. Still loving this space of course.

    1. I used to do match reviews. Took a ton of time, and earned a ton of abuse for the writer. If I want to pay (time) to get kicked in the balls, I will hire a dominatrix.

    2. I wasn’t around for most of that time, but I guess I should have voiced my enthusiasm for your match reviews more frequently when I was. They were great.

    3. Agreed, with all the same caveats. It’s not so much the lack of match reviews, but in general it seems we’re spending more pixels discussing Cules reactions to the team, as opposed to the team.

      A thought – I doubt any of the players or coaches read this site (it would be cool if they did though!). So, if we criticize aspects of the team, nobody’s feelings get hurt, but if you we start criticizing the opinions of the readers/writers here, sometimes feelings do get hurt. I realize there is a difference between criticism and debate, but that line sometimes gets fuzzy. Often (sometimes?), the gist of the discussion seems to be – “you don’t appreciate the team enough, stop complaining!”

    4. That isn’t the intention. If you give the Barça Rashomon piece another read, the point is that sometimes, perspectives differ. There is even, in the piece, this sentence:

      And with Barça Rashomon, it isn’t fair to castigate anyone for their view, to call culers spoiled. All you can do is rely on your perspective.

      We react to not only the match, but the atmosphere around the team. We don’t talk at all, or consult about posts. So if two mods have the same “perspective is important” view, it’s because that is what is striking us at the time.

      The Valencia piece was a speculation about what brought about the result from a team worldview. Before that was a statistical review by lea_terzi, and before that were the Rosell pieces. Going back even further we discussed the stadium project, then was a Ballon d’Or piece, and me blathering about getting my new soci card and what it meant in the context of a renewed Messi also returning to the club.

      My point is that the perception that all we do is sit around and call culers spoiled isn’t accurate.

      Now let’s say that I did one of my usual, match viewing 3 times, slo-mos, analyzing goals, etc, etc deals and wrote the review. As has happened before, the comments section turns into “Man, X player sucked. The defense is terrible. Etc, etc.” Social media has also exacerbated that tendency, as a continuation of whatever mood is suffusing Twitter often finds its way into this space.

      At one time this space would react to the post in question. Now, a post often becomes just a new opportunity for someone to espouse a view. Obviously, off-topic is fine and dandy. But many a piece in this space has raised an interesting point only for that point to go ignored.

      So yes, it is easier to write pieces that react to aspects of a match or a mood around the team. If a piece takes me more than an hour, I am doing something wrong. Back when I did match reviews, they would take an 8-hour work day to do properly. That just isn’t time that I can spare any longer, but I don’t presume to speak for the other mods, only myself.

    5. Thanks for a thoughtful reply. I wasn’t speaking of the Rashomon piece, which I thought was very good (plus, I’m a huge Kurosawa fan), or any of your pieces (which are generally great reads), or any piece in particular, or even the articles in general (I’m including the comments in my very subjective impression) – just a subtle shift in the gestalt.

      I’ve been reading since the days of Hector and Humphrey Bogart (2007? 2008?), and while there were many impassioned debates on perspective (Henri, anyone), it seemed to be more focused on the team – their performance, strategy, strengths and weaknesses) than the attitude of the Cules. Maybe I’m just misremembering (Rashomon again?), or just being old and cranky. The only reason I even commented was because Georgjorge’s comment resonated with me.

      I still appreciate this community – mods and commenters – tremendously, and still read every word written here. And I still live this team, of course. The last part should go without saying for everyone here (except that one nice guy from the Madrid blog, and the occasional Gooner who comes by to troll).

  2. I think you guys do an excellent job of keeping up the blog. Maybe I haven’t said that enough but you do and you also give people a platform to have discussions. Sincere thanks for that !

    “Sevilla started a lot better fiercer than our blaugranas. They played like they wanted to be there. Within fifteen minutes they scored with a goal that can best be described as a goal that they scored because they wanted to score. And we sucked.”

    Probably something that bothers me. It kinda seems “wrong” that our side sometimes lacks that intensity when we start and then after a goal down or so suddenly wake up. I think we had an article about this sometime ago, about how players having won so much need that extra motivation to keep up the levels…

    Messi definitely looked like he had something to prove, guess what Im trying to understand is how come players who get paid millions every year don’t give their all each time they play ? We have seen several times, we just raise our game against the big teams, think EE/AC Milan…Pique turns into a beast..why not always play like that ?

    And how much is the manager responsible for motivating his team ? I hate Mou but how many times do we hear players from his team say they would kill for him…

    1. I think the focus required to perform at that level (positional awareness, constant movement, “5 second rule”, etc.) is extraordinary, and extremely taxing – mentally and physically – especially for 90 minutes. We won many games in the past because the other team couldn’t keep it up for 90 minutes.

      Maybe Pep’s greatest contribution was that he was somehow able to get superstars to just focus that little bit more. He wasn’t able to do it all the time, but looking at Bayern’s performances this year, maybe he never got enough credit for that.

    2. An excellent question, that anyone who finds the answer to will be Manager of the Millennium. Focus is a big part of it. Top-level athletes have the ability to find another gear, another level. We hear the cliche “big game player,” but it’s true. It’s also inexplicable.

      Some of it is limited energy. A player physically can’t give his all on every play. It’s why rotation is so important on a team that wants to compete for every trophy. But it’s more than that.

    3. Maybe Pep’s greatest contribution was that he was somehow able to get superstars to just focus that little bit more. He wasn’t able to do it all the time, but looking at Bayern’s performances this year, maybe he never got enough credit for that.

      And even after that first year, he couldn’t any longer. That’s why it’s so hard to stay at the top of the pyramid.

    4. Easy to keep players hungry for one / two successful seasons. Much harder to keep that going for four or five. Bodies get gradually broken and minds get tired. That’s when you need people like Puyol or Sir Alex Ferguson to keep you motivated.

      Jury for me is out on Pep at Bayern. They’ve done really well for a year and a half but just watch things get harder in Europe from now on. I actually think we are going to have a few of our major players pretty hungry at the end of the season and that’ll be good to watch. My only worry is the amount we are having to play Xavi. For me, last night was the perfect example of why we need him and Iniesta fresh at season’s end. Their movement, ball control and passing completely denied Sevilla any real chance to get back into the game.

    1. It is getting worse because we are in a new age of communication. Twitter explodes with a narrative, and suddenly our defense is “terrible.” A few journalists go with the “Martino has lost his way” narrative and suddenly, he has.

      As I noted to someone today, our team leads the Liga, is one of the Champions League favorites (by neutrals, not culers, who think our City tie will be like the Sack of Troy, only with little people) and should qualify for the Copa finals.

      In play for three trophies. I would not have predicted this at the beginning of the season, given how things were after the summer break.

      There is a coach who has ideas about how he would like to play, but he doesn’t have the personnel to do it. Even if he did, getting those personnel to play in a different manner at this point? Not likely. So he does what he can, but the result is erratic and will continue to be so until everyone gets on the same page, which will, in this season, be never.

      So there will be good performances, great performances, mediocre performances and performances where the team just scrapes by. But you know what? Our mediocre is, on most days, still enough to get by. That is the blessing and the curse of being Barça. Memories are a heavy load to carry around.

    2. There is some weird logic going on, it goes like this : We lost against bayern, so every match we play after that is automatically a bad performance.

      Somebody mentioned number of magic moments per game.
      Every time Iniesta touches ball is a moment of magic,
      so are cesc’s through balls,
      xavi’s rotating head on his burdened shoulders is a wondrous thing too.

      Everybody loves the club & they want this team to be world beaters,
      but we’re forgetting the basic thing : football should be enjoyable affair.

      This article made me sad.
      I don’t want Lev to lose his wacky sense of humour & tufts of his hair due to cranky cules.

      Anyway, Kx & lev, you guys are wonderful.
      What you guys do is damn much appreciated.

  3. One thing that really drives me crazy on this blog is the word “Culer”. All my Culé life I’ve learned that it is “Culé”, not “Culer”. Where does “Culer” come from? It is really weird reading that word. 🙂

    Anyway, back to the matter. I understand the sentiments on this blog very well. I used to be a member on a Barcelona forum and I’ve quit it volunteraly (as did many other senior members – greetings to allas btw. :pep:) because the atmosphere has gone down the drain, especially due to the newer fans who joined at the peak of the Pep era and thought this was going to be the norm for the next 20 years, but even from older fans who should know better.

    Barca lose 1 home game after gazillion unbeaten games and people start discussing whether to sell Messi or Iniesta to rebuild the squad with the money. Yes, I’m serious. Then Messi scores 2 goals the next game and the same people call him the best in the history of the sport again. I know knee-jerking is part and parcel of the sport but there is a limit. At some point you cross the borders of stupidity.

    The newest thing is now to say that “Tata doesn’t have a gameplan, he’s relying on individuals” because Messi and Iniesta performed against Sevilla. Duh. How did that happen? Messi and Iniesta performed? UN-BE-LIEVE-ABLE! I guess when Iniesta managed Barca’s first shot on target over 2 legs against Chelsea in 2009 or Messi dribbled past 2874 Real Madrid defenders in 2011 it was Pep’s great tactical mind that won the game and not the individuals “bailing him out”.

    The atmosphere among Culer … Culés has become toxic indeed. Anything less than the Manchester United CL final performance or La Manita Clasico performance doesn’t cut it anymore.

    Suggestion at this point: Why not install a forum on this space for general discussions all about Barcelona? You already have a domain. There is forum software for free. You would get hundreds and thousands of members. There is only 1 English speaking Barcelona forum that I know of and it’s really really bad. The likes of allas, migeru, euler etc. could help promote it via Twitter.

    So long.

    1. It’s how it’s spelled in Catalan, but it’s pronounced the same as the Spanish writing. Another example of a Catalan word where the R isn’t pronounced is “caganer,” those special *ahem* figurines that spice up Catalan nativity scenes. 🙂

    2. Pretty funny. A post about meaningless complaining that starts by complaining (“really drives me crazy”) about culers not using a Castilian word to describe fans of the great Catalan team, whose stands are full of the waving flags of their country! You couldn’t make this stuff up.

      Maybe we all need to calm down, including in one of our favorite pastimes: complaining about our fellow complainers.

  4. @georgjorge I am not sure your criticism is fair. My previous post dealt with tactics. The one before that was a news round-up. Before that a minute-by-minute report. Three, actually.

    @we are doomed I can’t speak for the other mods, but I for one do not want to police any forum. Maybe the format we have right now is more conducive to the family feeling many of us share?

    I’m not telling anyone how to support our team, what to tweet or write in our comment section, or how to live your lives, for that matter. Usually it is Kevin riling the troops. His reviews often help me reach a perspective at times when I feel like screaming my blaugrana lungs out.

    All I am saying is… enjoy the team and the football it plays. It’s not perfect but, damn, ser del barça es el millor.

    I count myself lucky to have fallen in love with FC Barcelona, because I can’t think of any other club that has given more enjoyment to their fans over the past 25 years.

    1. Lev, I will any time prefer an article on some specifics or a thought, rather than a full review, which is available a lot all over the net. BFB reviews are still some level above the others, still.
      However I would expect the full fledged BFB reviews for our real big games.

  5. Why Nontoya is better than Alves:
    1. He is one hell of a lot quicker (Alves is actually pretty slow);
    2. He doesn’t make stupid passes in his own half (like Dani); and
    3. He’s prepared to come inside and drive the ball through the middle.

    OK, he makes mistakes and gets shoved off the ball (who doesn’t). But, as they say, you can’t coach pace, and Montoya’s got it.

  6. Okay, I have to spoil our memories a bit, but here’s a thing: Pep’s Barcelona won the first season with 87 points. There were five losses that season – none to Real Madrid, but there was one to Espanyol at Camp Nou, there was one vs Osasuna, again at Camp Nou, one at Vicente Calderon.

    And that team was hungry. Lots of the guys, Puyol, Iniesta, Xavi, Valdes and Messi among them, had been forced to form a guard of honor to Real Madrid, at Santiago Bernabeu, for the newly-crowned La Liga winners. If that memory doesn’t make you hungry, then football isn’t for you. There was a real hunger, something which nobody expected after the leisurely last year of Reikard. Guardiola channeled that rage and that lust for glory and for revenge.

    Today’s Barcelona players, the “old dogs”, have won more Champions League more than some great players have won domestic leagues. Their trophies run in the low to high twenties. They won La Liga three times in a row, managed to win everything there was to win – and did it two times! How do they manage to get out and perform one any given weekend(and quite a few Tuesdays and Wednesdays) is a fairy tale made reality.

    Being on the top is very, very difficult. From a motivational aspect is easier to be Jack the Giantslayer than to be the giant. There are many would-be slayers and statistical probability holds that at least some would manage to slay the giant, or at least wound him. What then, do we proclaim a new king? No, of course not. But what happens with the cules often is they look at the fallen and say “You’re not worthy of my respect or admiration.”

    This is what I hate most. Cules spoilt of victories against all odds, who will as easily sing Hosannas as scream “Crucify him!” What’s even worse, that readiness to turn your back on the team the minute it trips or slips is seen as some twisted sort of virtue, whereas standing by that team through thick and thin is seen as blindness that doesn’t let you be fair or balanced.

    Being objective doesn’t mean you close your eyes to the failings, but it also doesn’t mean you blow every deficiency, real or imaginary, out of proportion to create the weekly crisis, while at the same time waving off successes as something not even worth mentioning. Being objective, and supportive is more about pointing your finger and screaming “You suck tonight, now go out there, do better and make us proud, because you do have it in you and we are with you, you magnificent bastard!”

    P.S. Levon, please, if you have the videoclip of all conceded goals from last season, could you please share it? Personally I would like to see it, because what I get out of it is this: the same teams that allowed those goals won La Liga by a record margin over the second-placed team, went to the Semi-finals of the Champions League despite enduring the sickness of the coach, despite the most grueling season of the whole of Europe, despite grievous injuries aplenty.

    P.S.S. This is a montage of “The year of Barcelona” made by the Spanish Canal+ at the end of last season. It’s in three parts, unfortunately not subbed, just in Spanish:

  7. Hello all, cranky much?

    Haven’t been around. But I must say that I was aghast to find so much criticism particularly after the Sociedad game. We put up some Pep like numbers in that one, and people still found reasons to complain. Amazing. I watched that one, and sometimes I don’t get if people are watching the same game.

    This team is actually doing something pretty great. This is not the squad the manager wants, a lot of revamp is long overdue, yet we are still winning games, even during a year of transition and maybe we will still find a way to win them all. Because that’s what this team is doing people. It doesn’t dazzle one with the exaggerated tiki taka, or recover lost possession in <6 sec, or post an average of 20 shots on goal per game. But it finds a way to win. I remember that during the Pep years, the unmistakable trend was that in the games that we did slip up, it was always a case of the superiority / dominance in terms of numbers not adding up to the favorable results. We are not as swashbuckling as before, but Here we are, winning games we apparently shouldn't be.

    As for Lev, your prediction is certainly consistent with the way mods here predict things. Which is basically to keep it safe, keep expectations low and say "we won't win squat". And hey, if we do, then that's great! The thing is I don't know how to measure this team yet. Even Before a Pep's Barca team took to the field, the game was seemingly won. The overwhelming feeling of superiority, while prevalent, did not always translate into results, particularly in European away games. But this team is slightly different. One just does not know what to expect. What do you know, Maybe we will end up winning the Copa, the league and the Champions league. Maybe we will not win anything. But considering the transition and circumstances, If we are competing for all three come end of March, We would have had a successful season.

    The upcoming summer will be very interesting in the kind of changes the squad will have to come to terms with. I am very sad about the patterns I am seeing with regards to Alves and the kind of crap he gets on these boards. People are so quick to forget his service to the team, and how integral he has been to all the success we've enjoyed the past few years, who in my mind is without doubt one of the finest RBs Barca has ever had. Is his Brazilian complacency kicking in? Good question, but I don't know yet. Let's not jump to conclusions after one or two games. Same with Mascherano, who is a breed of player this team of softies really needs, especially with the way teams play us these days. Apart from the GK reinforcements, This squad in my mind, is only one forward, one midfielder and one defender away from being the best squad in the world. Interestingly, reports surfacing that those are exactly the signings Tata Martino has called for in the summer. Good times people. Don't think otherwise.

    1. I’d say even less than three players, if we’re talking new signings. Personally what I would like to see is a left-footed tall and strong left back, more conservative going forward, who could also play as a CB. That signing alone would heal so much deficiencies it’s not even remotely funny. As of right now with two relatively short wingbacks the CB duo depends a lot on the holding midfielder slotting between them. The problem then is that this pivote has to cover a lot of space and also track back and forth, which in the case of Barcelona’s starting pivote limits his time in the zone where he is most valuable, and also makes him a target for the opponent’s strikers and midfielders as well, which limits further the control that the midfielders can exert and puts more stress on the central midfielders who need to rotate more in order to maintain their fitness, which does no favors to their synergy. This is nothing new, we’ve discussed this over and over again, but what’s important to me is this: the players are managing to play with the current system with 2.5 at the back and Busquets and Song covering that much space by themselves. If they don’t have to do that the control of their zones would be much better. The added versatility and height at the back would similarly increase the control during set pieces and would also allow the coach to devise more schemes. Since the players have learned to play practically outnumbered, the addition of a dedicated defender would allow at least one of the CBs to go forward and play merry hell with the other team’s defense and would limit the necessity of a dedicated CF, whose appearance would make opposing teams bunch up in their box. It’s a real butterfly effect.

      On the other hand a little less control in midfield and defense might just be what is needed, because teams that sense Barcelona is not so much in control would tend to open up more(open up relatively, meaning not having a double-decker with flat tires in front of goal), which helps the strikers and the bombing wingbacks do their magic. There is more than one way to skin a cat and it would be nice to have more than one knife for the task 😉

    2. True.
      I just don’t understand why we didn’t buy Mathieu in the summer.
      Would have been perfect. Cheap even.
      Sometimes I don’t get Barca’s seemingly deliberate negligence to keep themselves at a disadvantage in some way.

    3. Exactly.

      I think Bartra is excellent going forward and if he can make those forward runs with the peace brought out by this LB, it would be good.

      a little less control, might help us against these buses.

  8. It just occurred to me that maybe one reason Messi started pressing in the second half was because he got tired of watching Alexis run all of the way across-field (past Messi) to press the ball. Maybe Messi found that a bit embarrassing – as he should have.

  9. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if Messi doesn’t get embarassed when Lexus and co are chasing and he just stands there looking. There was a time that our defense was caught out on the break and it was Lexus of all people that tracked back to make this difficult for the attacker.

  10. My one wish is that Song starts the CL tie along side Iniesta and either of Xavi or Cesc cos of the physical nature of the tie. Although I’d prefer Cesc cos we’d need to score on the break too, then Xavi comes in to control the match when we are leading or better yet, busi comes in to pair up with Song.

    1. Wow. That is something. First time I’ve heard the suggestion that Busquets be left out for tactical reasons – that too in a CL match. No offense to Song but I don’t think we can manage against the best teams without Busi. In fact we need Busi with all his 6 legs in best form to have the best chance of winning.

  11. Appreciation comment for barca96, jim, peter.
    Thoughtful comments always, plz keep them coming.

  12. Prior to the alexis goal i had already given up hope, reasons being that we were losing to many personal duels…pique was being bullied one-on-one and bartra seem a little physically shy, and many comments emanating from social medias were very downgrading, the only joy i had on the night was that Song was playing…and even that left a sour taste as he got a yellow for body checking. But after the alexis goal it was punch for punch really and the second half was all about KO punches for us… That said, i would love to have a pique upgrade coz we are not hoping to replace mascherano in defence, but pique.

    1. I suspect that may not be a view of Pique’s ability shared by Tata and that as soon as our new CB is identified Masche may be on his way but we’ll see. I’d be interested in why you think that. Just a casual look at the stats from the last game tells us that Pique recovered the ball eleven times, didn’t lose an arial challenge and did all this without committing a foul. Song who did impress you ( and who I’m not having a go at as he was okay) recovered the ball three times, won two out of six arial duels and got booked.

  13. I actually had a lot of fun watching this match, and most of the other matches this season.

    There are several reasons I watch and follow football, Barca football in particular:
    *At the peak of the Guardiola era Barca football was an art form. Yes, it was frequently heart attack inducing and nowhere near as dominant as we imagine in retrospective. But it was beautiful. I remember a match in which player positioning, movement and passing were so well synchronized and swift, you could see perfect triangles form everywhere, turning the pitch into something like this:
    Our players got a bit tired, defenses treat us differently now, the tactics have to vary, but Barca is still about beautiful football, technical players, jawdropping plays, and joy of the game – as Iniesta, Messi and now Neymar suit up in blaugrana and Tata Martino prowls the sidelines, I can only thank powers that be for the spectacle.
    *I like watching teams score goals. Barca does that, and also concedes its fair share – a nil-nil result is rare, and excitement is always present. It’s easy to root for a team that neither grinds out results nor dominates everything in sight.
    *I like watching football of the highest quality, top teams going at each other, and Barca provides that year after year, competing in later stages of the Champions League, playing Classicos, Cup finals, and a multitude of exciting matches against technically excellent teams in La Liga. Man City, Bayern, Atletico Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla, Villarreal? Sign me up!
    *I like one-club players. I also like watching teams develop youngsters and integrate new signings, and not only do we have one of the most productive academies out there, our transfer budget is also nothing to scoff at. A team that starts legends like Xavi and Puyol alongside new faces like Bartra and Neymar has my full attention. Yes, age creeps up, form comes and goes, so do players, painful decisions are made (Abidal, Thiago and Victor all hurt in different ways), but to me, the core and the heart of the team is still there. It’s about combining the best in Catalunya with the best in the world, it’s about the long term, personalities meshing as well as skills, and creating a rare sense of unity and camaraderie.
    *In an old-fashioned way, I believe sports should not only be about the money and the spectacle, but also about serving the community, setting an example, about passion and loyalty on the one hand, sportsmanship, willpower and control on the other. Barca is mes que un club, filled with mes que players whose stories I find touching and inspiring, and no one trying to drag it through the mud can make it less.
    *And the main reason. I’m a Culé. By choice, not by birth, but that choice is irreversible at this point. And I’m pretty damn glad my team is bringing me so much joy, year after year. So in a way, I don’t get all the hand-wringing and doomsday preaching that takes place in Culeverse, but I guess it’s part of the package, just like everything else.

    1. I’ve been following this site for about 4 years now and could never sum up the courage to post a comment as almost everyone always share such insightful comments here. But had to give a thumbs up to your comment cause you pretty much summed up my reasons for following barca too. And a special thanks to all the contributors to this site, you guys are the reason I come to BFB as soon as a barca game is over to get some valuable insight, Visca barca, visca BFB!

  14. Erm thanks but I really don’t know what I did to deserve a shout out. I didn’t even leave a single comment.

    I would like to ask all of you something that’s really off topic. Perhaps I could save this question when there is a voting or protests in Catulunya but since there isn’t much to discuss now, I’ll open up now.

    If Catulunya gain independence, which league would you guys want Barça to join?
    a) EPL
    b) Ligue Uhhhh
    c) Serie A
    d) remain in La Liga

    I would prefer for Barça to join EPL. More competition, better run league and more exposure and thus more money in the long run.

    How about you guys?

    I remember a decade ago or even before that there were talks of Celtic and Rangers joining the EPL but if I’m not mistaken, the EPL clubs were against it. Cardiff and Swansea are in the EPL now. I was in favor of the 2 Scottish teams joining EPL. Could you shed a light into this Jim since you’re an old timer (I don’t mean your age lol but knowledge in football).

    1. Barça will almost certainly remain in La Liga. Otherwise travel and logistics become too difficult. It’s also the most logical option.

    2. I don’t see Barça in other league than the Spanish one. A Catalan league would be very unattractive and another league simply does not make sense. Besides. What is Barça without M*drid?

    3. Barca wouldn’t have a cats chance of joining the EPL. Celtic thought they were in with a chance because of their huge gates and travelling support. Plus they thought (although wouldn’t publicly admit) that the clubs wouldn’t see them initially as a big threat to the top of the table. However, they reckoned without the lower EPL clubs and those with aspirations to get promoted to the arPL who insisted they work their way up.

      Barca would be a threat to them all.

      My own take is that independence would cause Barca problems. Why would Madrid do them a favour by letting them stay in La Liga? Bound to be bad feeling after a break up and a desire to make them suffer. (We’re heading that way with our own independence referendum. ) There is no competition in Catalunya. Where would they go?

  15. Why can’t we have both of them at the same time? I know I know, we’ll look really defensive but I do think it’s necessary at times. Perhaps it could be done in the second half to protect a lead. This especially if Tata wants to play both of our attacking FB’s at the same time. I’d prefer Adriano to start at LB.

    It has to be Adriano and Alves or Alba and Montoya.

    But if both Busi and Song are playing, I think Alba and Alves can both play as they have an extra man in midfield.

    Iniesta – Neymar – Messi
    Song – Xavi/Cesc – Busi

  16. And, watching Rafinha last evening was a joy. He is almost there to compete for a starter in our team. Very encouraging, he carried his team all by himself.

  17. Oh. Jeffren lasted less than 15 minutes at his new club before getting injured. He was running, fell over, and bang.

    — Word is about 20-30 minutes for Neymar tomorrow, and more on the weekend. Everybody in the squad except for Dos Santos.

  18. so we’re at half time of atletico-realmadrid. 5-0 to the blancos. so, it will end up with a score akin to our loss vs. Bayern in UCL last year.

    does this mean that Real are that much better than Atletico? No.

    And does it mean that Bayern were that much better than us last year. No.


  19. Iniesta seems to be moving a bit more quickly this year. Maybe the last few years he’s been carrying injuries and couldn’t stretch out.
    Also interesting that:
    – Cesc doesn’t seem to get injured at all these days (compared with his Arsenal days);
    – Alexis has been injury-free for a long time.

    Kudos to the Barca medical staff.

  20. Whenever Mou loses, there is always an excuse or something to blame. Yestaday, he was blaming his players for parking the bus (insisting that was not their style). How ridiculous!

  21. @UltraculeRemember what happened in the summer – Tito resigned and Tata became the coach. He had had no time to get himself comfortable or find out the strengths and weaknesses of his team, never mind deciding what he needs. Apparently Tata does not want a big team. Instead, he wants a small team, which lets all be guaranteed minutes, and which makes them fight for the starting spot. Furthermore, I think that if you look carefully at his decisions, you will see a former player who cares deeply about his men, a man who has his feet firmly on the ground and refuses to be shouted into doing what the press and the fans think is the solution(which in general boils down to “throw money at the problem”). He decided to ease Neymar into the team, made him forget all about “theatrics” – and the result has been very, very good. Messi(and a whole lot more players) got injured, but in general the team kept on winning. Remember last year when Messi had to be rushed in again and again in order to push the team on? None of that this year. That man has helped Pedro and Alexis resurrect their careers, made Xavi declare he feels more fit than any moment in the last two years, and has managed to find the best of Song. Remember that Tata, despite being paid a handsome sum, comes from a league where budgets are really tight and you have to think very carefully when you decide which player to buy. The fact that he has a lot more money to sign players doesn’t mean he will suddenly abandon his principles. My personal opinion is that if/when he buys a player it will be to add versatility to the squad – and in the meantime Tata manages to squeeze the best of each and every player on the team and finding ways for those strengths to function together. And that saves millions that despite what fans and FIFA players think, don’t grow on trees.

    Second, personally I believe Barcelona have come to a moment when they have the possibility to have Busquets play more forward and play more of a creator than a destroyer. He is not Xavi, or at least not yet, but he is good enough to shoulder a great part of what Xavi does – while at the same time providing more than his fair share of interceptions and disruption. With Messi dropping a bit deeper when needed and with that jugadorazo Alexis tracking back to help the midfield and the defense, there is more than enough passing capability to compensate for the wizardry of Xavi(most of the time). What that means is that Barcelona could use a dedicated holding midfielder, be it Song or Maschete or someone else, who won’t have to do the insane workload of the current Barcelona pivote. Whether a new dedicated CB or a new LB/CB/DM hybrid will enter the team, I believe there is a chance we could see an “ultra-defensive” Barcelona outfit that is capable of almost the same offensive capability, but is much more impervious to counters or set pieces, a team that is capable of grinding out a bruising victory or draw. That would be a team that actually forces the opponent to come out and play – and at the same time can punish that opponent with counters. A team that is great with the ball and also quite good without it. Versatility.

    1. i like the idea of playing busquets in the xavi role with song behind him.
      I do worry tho that we have too many midfielders who can hardly fit into the xavi role and will therefore have to slot in the third position.
      sergi roberto box to box rather than organizing midfielder
      fabregas enjoys more freedom between lines.
      iniesta enjoys more freedom with safe knowledge that another midfielder is organizing the build up.
      rafinha havent watched him tbh but i think he plays in an advanced role.

      That’s one hell of a problem and finding an organizing midfielder like xavi is a real challenge.

    2. Iniesta is such a natural fit for that Xavi role, it isn’t even funny. His Sevilla performance looked like an audition tape for the part. Busquets is nice, but he doesn’t have the absolute security with the ball that is required. Iniesta does.

      Then Fabregas assumes that Iniesta role, with the added benefit of actually being able to score goals.

      Rafinha has played all over the place for Celta. His grooming for the homecoming has been excellent. He is ready.

    3. Can you expand a bit on Fabregas playing the Iniesta role? A key advantage of Iniesta for me is that he can play a defense-splitting pass AND take on a defender on his own, making it difficult for defenders to know what’s going to happen. Fabregas can do the first but the second not so well…I agree that Iniesta could play the Xavi role, but I would cry a little inside over the waste of offensive potential this would be.

    4. Fabregas has a knack for finding space, and uses open space very well. Also the defense lets Iniesta run because they know he isn’t going to score. Not so with Fabregas, who plays excellent balls through and over the top.

      For me, Iniesta doesn’t really have offensive potential. He has creative potential, which would be undiminished from the controlling position.

    5. Excellent review of Tata. Completely agree. Not wanting to criticize any manager, but looking at United…thats what can happen when a new manager takes over. I think alongwith Tata himself, whoever took the decision to appoint him needs to be lauded as well.

    6. Nice account of Tata, Peter.
      But I just cant imagine barca being ultra defensive. I dont see it.
      They can be highly stingy with possession and be defensively solid, but to be ultra defensive is another thing. Not our thing.

    7. Ultra-defensive by Barca standards. That basically means just one lateral bombing forward, with the other one being more conservative, and two pivotes, which most of the world would call “an offensive 4-2-3-1”, except it would be more like 4-3-Messi-2(wide). 😀

  22. Titulares
    13 Pinto
    22 Dani Alves
    3 Piqué
    14 Mascherano
    18 Jordi Alba
    6 Xavi
    16 Busquets
    8 Iniesta
    7 Pedro
    10 Messi
    4 Fábregas

    1. Looks like Martino wants to get in that ass today. First-choice lineup except for the recuperating Neymar and (debatable) Sanchez.

    2. no, remember how iniesta and fabregas were fitted in one line up last year ? altho this time its very obvious that one of the full backs hangs back while the other pushes forward
      It’s not really about penetration as much as its about breaking the world record for number of passes in 90 minutes

    3. why the hell would we play Pique in this game? he’s our one semi-reliable center-back and this is a dead rubber match in our least valuable competition. if this isn’t a game for Marc Bartra, he might as well leave in the summer.

      in the same vein: why is Xavi playing? why are we risking our first-choice midfield for a game like this? i know our squad is short, but Afellay and Song are both fit…. to not play either of them is simply mismanagement of our scant resources. that, or a disturbing lack of trust in our squad players.

  23. Even the Twitterverse is happy over this Barça performance. Can’t wait to watch the match. Martino made all the right moves, it sounds like.

    With Rayo at home, look for gobs of rotation before the City tie. Also look for Neymar to get some time and a very close look from the technical staff.

  24. Good enough game. Great control but not a huge amount of threat . Too many times we’ve one on one on the wings and can’t or won’t beat our man to create danger. That’ll change with Neymar’s return.

    Pique should have been removed after he got hurt, all control departed with Xavi and I can’t believe Cesc attempted that tackle in the 90th minute. So much also for playing with two DMs ! Neither got near a tackle in the whole move for the goal.

    However, a final and deservedly so, we didn’t waste much energy and Pique possibly aside it looks like there are no injuries.

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