Rodrigo’s Questions

Our reader Rodrigo sent in a couple of questions* through Without feeling the need to get into long-winded introductions…

Is it plausible to think Pep’s Barcelona to play a counter-attack strategy in order to have more space to pass the ball? If not, is it an attacking strategy more suitable?

I will start by saying that although the core of our current team has remained the same, it is no longer Pep’s Barcelona. Now that that’s out of the way, the only time I remember FC Barcelona rolling out with a counter-attack strategy, under any manager, was the first leg of the 2011 CL semi-final in the Bernabeu. Tactically it was, in my mind, Guardiola’s most impressive victory. The beauty of it was that although we didn’t manage a single counter attack during the whole match, we frustrated the hell out of our opponent’s game plan by being content to pass the ball around in our own half for large stretches of the game. A M*drid team that had been structurally, tactically and mentally prepared with the sole purpose of taking on Barcelona found itself absolutely clueless in their own house. I am speculating here of course, but one suspects that after 75 minutes of not knowing what to do, or rather, playing under instructions that we’re rendered utterly useless by Pep’s design, our rivals were psychologically drained to the point that their concentration dropped significantly, after which Messi’s late brace provided a logical outcome.

Mind you, this does not necessarily mean that a counter attacking strategy is more suitable. First of all, you have to keep in mind that the large majority of teams we play are happy with a draw. The onus is on us to attack while they can defend their hearts out. We want to win, they want to survive. There is a big difference there, and they would be content to let us pass the ball around in the back. Second, we are Barça. One of the biggest reasons we have so many admirers (let’s ignore for now all the haters who can’t stand the sight of our bandwagon of success) is our dedication to beautiful and attacking football. There is no way we will betray the identity of what makes our club great, and nor should we.

We can certainly incorporate more counter attacks in our play. Just because we refuse to sit back and soak up the pressure does not mean we can’t be more direct and vertical when the opponent loses the ball. Of course, everybody following the club knows that this is exactly what Gerardo Martino has been trying to implement ever since he took over the reins. And in big games it certainly is not a bad idea to spring a surprise every now and then from the get go. Too many big teams are only too well prepared to let us have 70% of possession knowing that they can do us as much if not more damage with their 30%

How would you define temporization? Less intensity? More intensity? People tend to look at Barcelona to play a lower intensity style of play with short passing, but I think Barcelona players apply different ones according to where on the pitch they circulate the ball: different zones, different intensities.

A simple definition of temporization would be “to control the tempo of the game”, and you actually give a pretty good description of the word yourself. Of course when compared to say, the EPL, our short passing style is certainly less intensive, regardless of the fact that we up the ante at different moments of the match. But we are not exactly sleepwalking, either, because even tiki-taka requires constant movement in order for it to be effective.  Another thing you shouldn’t overlook when talking about intensity is our team defense.  For example, the most intense match last season was our 4-0 demolition of Milan and it all began with our defense. The team pressed like a demon possessed. Had the game taken place in Italy Dani Alves would have probably been arrested for sexually assaulting his markers.

dani alves

Today we find ourselves in the curious and paradoxical situation that any rise in offensive intensity (through immediate vertical passes) directly affects our defensive intensity. Our players are not robots, and if they have to make more sprints to get to the ball while at the same time covering more space between the lines caused by longer passes, they cannot be expected to press as efficiently when they lose possession. This is not new to Martino’s Barça, by the way. It was already a hot topic of discussion when Vilanova was trying to make our team play more directly. In other words, it is a case of Tat for Tit.

This season we do press – sometimes – but the energy it takes, coupled with the energy consumed by our increased verticality, can make for a risky strategy. Against Valencia, one of the most intense thirty minutes we have seen under Martino, was followed by an hour best described as un-inspirational, both in attack and in defense. It was obviously going to happen, as there was no way they would keep up that killer tempo. Still, the team should not have lost control of the game the way they did. Which brings us to the following: have you ever noticed that people only talk about temporization when a team is winning? That is because it is used to control the match and not the other way round.

Also there’s a lot of speculation whether Barcelona plays narrow or wide, focusing passing through the middle or stretching the pitch

We are generally playing less wide than in seasons past, as Martino has given Pedro and Alexis more freedom to pinch towards the middle where they were previously told to make love to the touchline. Look at this picture, courtesy of AllasFCB via @allas4 on twitter:

wide or not

Another example would be Dani Alves. Remember his goal in the league opener against Levante? (And notice how La Pulga created the opportunity by making the defensive play first)

The advantages are obvious. Playing with more freedom to move towards the opponents goal, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez have (re-)emerged as very real scoring threats. But there is a huge drawback: Lionel Messi now finds himself with less space to make plays. Then again, his injury, Neymar’s injury, and let’s not forget our disastrous pre-season have not made it easy for the team to figure these things out. We will very likely require more time to find a good balance between wide and narrow, fast and slow, vertical and horizontal. And not all our squad members are well-suited for the tactical changes that might be needed. Some serious future personnel changes could be on the horizon, but that’s a discussion for another time.

Would you say Barcelona plays a very fluid football where defenders attack, and attackers defend, all with great creative freedom? Or is it less fluid and more disciplined football?

Gerardo Martino allows his players more freedom than his predecessors, to the obvious benefit to players like Alexis and Fàbregas. However, when things go wrong the previous complaints of “Barça is becoming too predictable” turn into “Barça is looking out of synch”.

That is not to say that there aren’t some serious issues with our defenders attacking, but these are very much inherited problems. Enough has been said in this space (and elsewhere) about the Dani Alves – Jordi Alba suicide combo platter over the last 12 months, but when you analyze our defenders, each and every one, with the exception of Puyol, likes to go forward with the ball at their feet. Piqué, Bartra and Mascherano as well as our full backs are all ball-playing defenders leaving us without anyone in the back who is first and foremost a natural stopper.

As a side note, fluid attacking football is actually the most disciplined form of football because the players have to not only be aware of their own position but of those of their teammates as well, and thus act and move accordingly. It is awesome when defenders join the attack, but when all stop defending a simple clearance can quickly lead to an all too easy one-on-one at the wrong end of the pitch (errr…remind you of a certain team?). The Dutch “total football” of Rinus Michels and Johan Cruijff is still today widely lauded for its free-flowing attack where strikers and wing-backs seemingly change position at will but it required a lot of training and drilling to get to that level. Rinus Michels was not known as “The General” for nothing.

Spanish Soccer - Primera Liga - Barcelona v Espanol

 Player roles are also very speculative, starting from behind whether looking at Dani Alves both as an attacking full-back, a winger or even a complete winger. Xavi is mostly seen as deep-lying playmaker, but what Iniesta ? An Advanced Playmaker ? an attacking Central Midfielder ? A BtB midfielder ? Then the advanced players, wingers or inside forwards ? Messi as a False 9, a Trequartista, Deeplying Forward, Complete Forward ???

Sometimes we simply label positions and formations too much. Coaches might give players different instructions for different matches, and the matches themselves all create their own circumstances which influence players’ movements and actions. And of course, there are plenty of tactical adjustments that take place over ninety minutes as well.

If you have to label them, then Dani Alves is definitely a wing-back, although in the majority of games his average position is up higher than the opposition forward (and sometimes up higher than our own forwards). Nevertheless, he still has his defensive duties. Xavi is a deep-lying playmaker nowadays, although I used to love his forward runs which we are starting to see less and less of. And what, I beg you, would be the difference between an advanced playmaker and an attacking central midfielder? Doesn’t the playmaker attack from the center of the midfield, and is the attacking midfielder forbidden to make plays? I don’t think those roles are mutually exclusive. As for Messi I have seen him described as a deep lying forward, complete forward, false 9, false 10 and a false 6. There are games where he is all of the above. And sometimes he moves mainly from the right wing to the center (does that make him a 79?). Still, the smaller the box you want to put a player in, the less chance he’s gonna fit.

There is one thing I am sure of: when a (section of the) crowd boos a team that has more than 80% possession and 26 shots for against Real Sociedad’s grand total of 3 as reportedly happened last Wednesday, I think we can safely label them a false twelve.





*All answers are mine, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the rest of the BFB team.

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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. K-cule
    February 7, 2014


    Sorry Lev, I will comment on the article after this. This was a response to deerwithwings:

    The term you are looking for the the itch irritating you is cule-syndrome .

    Cule-syndrome [ kyool – sin-drohm, -druhm ].


    1.Pathology, Psychiatry . a group of symptoms that together are characteristic of a specific disorder, disease, or the like that afflicts Barca fans when the team loses a game. Symptoms include negativity, idealizing the team, wholesale overhaul of the team and personnel. So far, no known cure has been discovered.

    2. a predictable, characteristic pattern of behavior, action, etc., that tends to occur under certain circumstances: the messi-does-not-track-back cule-syndrome; Song-is-horrible cule-syndrome, wait-for-RM-ATM-City-Bayern cule-syndrome; we-need-a-tall-9-syndrome; screw board-must-go cule-syndrome; Bartra-is- pretty erm better-than-sMasch syndrome etc.

    It’s all part of being a cule. We all react differently when frustrated by things – in this case the subjective differences in the team’s performance. For you, it’s Messi and use of Alves/Alexis axis. For others, the quokka. Others, the need for a 9. As Kxevin puts it well, it’s Barca Rashomon.

  2. February 8, 2014

    I am also going to re-list my reply to K-cule, as I made the same mistake.

    “totally agree with what you are saying, and moreover, I read this blog because I think that the voice here (maybe stemming from Kxevin’s positivism) seems a mature, thoughtful place, with great comments from a variety of people, yourself included.

    That being said, I really don’t think that my comment on Messi tracking steams from any apocalyptic-oh jesus we lost a game at home-mentality. I just can’t get over having a player (even if the player is the best) walk on the pitch. Believe [me], I really love to watch Messi. I think he is a gentleman, and I am not trying to call him lazy. I am really just trying to incite some discussion on why he is walking because I don’t understand it and it’s hard to watch.

    Personally, I do not expect Barça to win every game. Perhaps it is my American upbringing, but I think European fans are far too critical, and the press either incites this, or mimics it. How anyone could expect a team, at least a great team, (which, plays a season with sometimes two games a week, 3 subs, and a season longer than any other professional sport) to not lose a game or two is beyond me.”

  3. K-cule
    February 8, 2014

    I am sorry if I came across as directly lumping everything into my cule-syndrome premise. It was more of what someone takes out of the match (sometimes the view of messi as not tracking back becoming more of an issue than it should be – he’s so good that we should sometimes cut him a little slack. Think of it this way, we don’t blame Busi for not shooting when he gets a chance, and then say we end up drawing, because it’s not really his job. Same should apply to Messi if he loses a ball in the 18-yard box, there should be another 7 players behind him to clean up that mess – it’s their job). Note, I am not saying Messi should not track back, just that we should view it as a bonus and not their job. His duty is to score/create goals, and tracking back secondary to that. Tracking back improves our possession and defense in general, but for the input to the team, him being the reference point of attack, it should be OK to not track back once in awhile.That’s my general view on his defensive duties or what’s expected of him.

    With that being said, I never really focused on him in the previous game, so I don’t know if he did track back/didn’t.The player who got me wondering a lot was Xavi. I though he held on to the ball too much at times, ignoring incisive runs from Alexis, Alves etc more than once. I never saw him make a long pass/lob. Complete reverse of Cesc.

    I agree with you on everything else though, fans are too critical of this team. And it’s not positive criticism or general analysis. It’s the I-know it all, City is gonna munch us kind of view – hence my reference to cule-syndrome.It’s very inexplicable, kind of like a disorder, bordering on unhealthy you get to wonder which aspects of the team people actually enjoy. I like healthy discussions, born of some good reflection – not the reactionary ones we get all the time. I admire those who are consistent on their views though – because they have good reasons for that. Nonetheless, the wanes and waxes of cule-syndrome can be quiet puzzling.

    • justdoit94
      February 8, 2014

      I think the reason why this became a weakness in our game is because xavi’s defensive workrate is a joke. He’s 33 and yet he runs left and right when we have possession so when we lose the ball, i always find him closing down a second too late. Then if the ball finds its way through our first wave of pressure , i always find xavi between the halfway line and our gk in no man’s land. He’s not marking anyone.
      Is he waiting to spring a counter attack ? maybe …But that was a glaring weakness … (i think it was an allas vid highlighting xavi’s poor positioning in goals conceded last year).

      The real problem isn’t with xavi , it’s the fact that we do not even have a gameplan where xavi is not in the starting 11. You talk a big game about messidependency and what not but i honestly think we simply cannot operate without our aging maestro (ESPECIALLY the big games), even if his poor positioning can lead to goals conceded…

  4. Peter
    February 8, 2014

    One reason why Xavi and the rest were able to press wasthT opposing teams

  5. Peter
    February 8, 2014

    One reason why Xavi and the rest were able to press wasthT opposing teams played to win instead of playing not to lose(three busses, an Airbus and a medium-sized ferry). The opposing players were relatively closer to our mighty mites, which allowed for faster and more active pressing. Nowadays most team stand back, leave the initiative to Barcelona and look to react. This allows only minuscule possibilities to press, and these would require more time, better fitness, greater body strength and younger minds and legs.

  6. gaspersm
    February 8, 2014

    I am very surprised that people here think that Man city will play an open attacking football against us. We all seem to have forgotten that teams change their tactics to win matches.
    And unfortunately everyone knows what tactics to deploy to beat barcelona.
    Before the bayern game , we all were aware that bayern were a possession based side, who scored goals from great build up and that even moved the team into thinking that they will battle us for possession, even xavi said that they will have to hog the ball to win the match, we all saw what happened. Bayern used their strengths to expose our weaknesses. For any team that wants to win, style does not matter, tactics do. This was much to the dismay by xavi who complained that bayern didnot stick to their playing style, and we had more possession talk and some more blah blah .
    I think any manager with good wits will play in a way that they will win and so i think man city will play this way
    They will put more steel in the midfield, defensive physical midfielders who can harrass our weak players. Toure will play further forward just like he played vs real madrid last season to cause havoc. Their full backs will be more tucked inside, and they may not play true wingers, and so their midfield will be tucked inside too,
    They will use toure’s pace and physicality on the counter eith negredo’s runs, and silva’s key pass ability and milner’s pace and
    Zabaleta kompany nastasic clichy
    Javi garcia fernandinho
    Silva. toure Milner

    negredo will press busquets as much as possible, silva will be with the full backs and they will not allow us past the centre line, as they will start pressing from there.
    They will try to isolate our wingers, and overcrowd messi.
    Dont expect an easy game from man city. Teams out there do anything to win, and they do not have a signature philosophy and so they will play us ala bayern.

    For a team like city, playing different from their usual style is not a problem. I think barca is the only team which is dogmatic about the play style.

  7. justdoit94
    February 8, 2014

    City will not park the bus. You can be sure that much is true for any side led by pellegrini.
    Also , this is a very very different game from bayern’s last year.
    Unlike bayern, city do not have any “real” holding midfielders. Yaya is a box 2 box, even fernandinho even tho he is more conservative than he was before. The only one off the top of my head is javi garcia.

    i reckon they will play in a 4-4-1-1’ish style with the wingers close to the full backs playing a compact shape and a middle block. Their striker/ AMC will take turns marking busquets. I think it will be a very similar game to the one we had against PSG if y’all remember how lavezzi marked busquets.
    i do think that they will come out and attack us. They will be more conservative than usual but they will attack …

    Your line up makes sense that toure is right in busquets face but i do think navas will feature against us since his pace can shred our glaring weakness… Alba’s side of the pitch. Expect most of their attacks to come down our left hand side.

    I am honestly more worried about the Sevilla game especially since both madrids have easy matches at hand . (Yes villareal is good n all but its at bernabeu )

    • gaspersm
      February 8, 2014

      I believe that navas wilL not be as necessary, if they can use zabaleta on the overlap!!!! I think they will not use two wingers, because that means less defensive contribution. And if they use a winger, it will be milner who has good defensive play as well

  8. PrinceYuvi
    February 8, 2014

    Kx’s positivism ?
    We made a term out of it. Wow.
    It’s unfair to the guy, that he has to stop cule morale plunging into deep ravines every other monday.

    • February 8, 2014

      It certainly wasn’t meant to be a critical term, if I had disagreed with Kxevin’s approach I would have called him an apologist.

      If I hadn’t found this blog, I would be much more a pessimist due to the subliminal influence of the press. Otherwise, it’s nice that there is a space with some more level headed folk. The funny thing is, during the years that I lived in Catalunya, I don’t remember people being so negative – and Catalans can be some serious negative nancies. Perhaps it’s just a British thing, or perhaps I just sound like a racist.

      • February 8, 2014

        It’s funny, for me it isn’t even positivism, as much as applying perspective to a situation that I know to be isn’t what it is said to be. It’s the years of experience with and as a culer that has taught me that things are rarely as bad as they appear.

        Look at Arsenal today. Suddenly Wenger needs to be fired, Ozil is overrated, the team have no spine and are doomed to finish mid-table, etc, etc. A team that is top of table in the Prem, and didn’t just get there by magic and voodoo.

        So it is with Barça. If some of the folks lambasting this current side had to live through the two trophyless seasons (most recent ones) under Rijkaard, they might be flinging themselves from mountaintops or something.

        I think that much of the negativism is because there has been so little “adversity” in recent years. People have already forgotten that in Guardiola’s last season, it was only the Copa that kept the season from being silverless. You get used to winning all the time and even when you don’t win, you forget that you didn’t win because you’re so used to winning all the time.

        Fact of the matter is that this team has been in decline in the context of how the rest of the world plays against it since before the end of Guardiola’s last sesaon. It isn’t anything new, but has become seemingly more acute because of the newness of everything under Martino that makes it open season on everything from tactics to positioning.

        It’s safe to say that if Guardiola were here and the team were in the exact same situation, he wouldn’t be being questioned in the same way as Martino. Is that only reasonable given his track record? Maybe. But it goes back the psychic binding effect of history. He did, therefore he will, which doesn’t always follow, right?

        • selfie barça
          February 8, 2014

          Hehe, the last two Rijkaard years were still pretty good seasons in comparison to other disaster years. Truth is that we have been spoiled rotten over the last 25 years.

        • February 8, 2014

          That’s my point too. I find it to be very specific to fútbol – or even more specific, to the English press.

          I agree though that Barça fans are spoiled. There needs to be a trophy every year. We can’t loose at home. We can’t loose to another Liga team (aside from Real Madrid). Actually, we aren’t supposed to loose ever. Personally, I would find the sport a bit boring to watch if we never lost. I don’t really like the NFL, but it’s a much tighter competition. For the sake of entertainment (which, is exactly what sports are!), it seems to function somewhat better in that regard.

          But anyway, tomorrow is going to be a great game! I can’t wait to stress out for 90 minutes!

  9. barca96
    February 8, 2014

    My word… Arsenal are getting hammered by Liverpool. 4-0 after 20 mins and bow 5-0.

  10. psalmuel
    February 8, 2014

    My two weekend wishes;
    1. R. MADRID 0-1 Villareal
    2. Almeria 2-2 A. MADRID. And lets hope Unai Emery misplaces his bus’ key tonight

    • justdoit94
      February 8, 2014

      30 mins in and it’s already 2 – 0 .. Now we must win tommorow :@

          • Ryan
            February 8, 2014

            Yeah, I think EE usually wins when the game becomes a straight shootout. Nice to see Villarreal attack them though.

  11. PrinceYuvi
    February 8, 2014

    Ah, bummer. Is it farfetched to expect a debut hat-trick from Joan roman ?

  12. justdoit94
    February 8, 2014

    i prefer the madrid of the first half of the season. The one that lost at home to Atletico but that’s just me ..
    I am not looking to another nerve biting tommorow where anything but a win makes us outsiders for la liga this season

    • selfie barça
      February 8, 2014

      Unfortunately for us, with a squad filled with new players, the M*drid of the first half of the season got a lot of wins that could have been draws or losses. After five months to gel and figure things out, it is only logical that they are playing better.

  13. justdoit94
    February 8, 2014

    oh god ! real madrid are actually top of la liga now .. my worst nightmare has come true… idc if we lose out on the title race as long as madrid dont win !

    • G6O
      February 8, 2014

      We win tomorrow and we’re back on top, even if just by goal difference

  14. February 8, 2014

    Personally, I’d trade the Liga title for the Champion’s league. Not that I want to loose the Liga title!

    I can’t wait for the Man City game. I really think the squad we have is going to tear it up!

  15. raj
    February 8, 2014

    Thanks for quenching the pessimistic (and unreasonably critical) tendencies of this bandwagon follower.

  16. February 9, 2014

    City couldn’t break a bus at Norwich City yesterday. Guess it isn’t just us …

    — Puyol out of the squad with a bad back of some sort. That means no CBs on the bench, though that hasn’t bothered us before. Puyol wasn’t going to play except as an emergency at any rate, but don’t forget that Mascherano is suspended, so if anything happens to Pique or Bartra, it’s experimentation time.

    — I wouldn’t start Messi today, even as Martino would be insane to consider such a notion.

    — If we win today, three clubs will be joint top, with only goal differential separating them. As of now, we would win head-to-head with RM, but it would have to come down to goal differential vs Atleti. Crazy, ain’t it?

  17. mic
    February 9, 2014

    Thanks for the great thought out article.
    Regarding the criticism I think we need to make a distinction here. Among Barca fans there are many that value an approach to play more than or at least the same as the score or silverware.

    We had the best technical players and still our system was what was most admired around the world and what won us the trophies. Nowadays we still have the same best players but our system is not as ambitious. There is no some potentially great idea behind our play. Our great players are still able to win but something is missing.

    Many fans feels this but it is hard to put into words. Maybe we should add a new match stats that will count moments of ‘magic’ (even without goal) 🙂 . I believe that this stat is much lower after Guardiola departure than it was before. Without great ambitious system that, when clicks, produces these moments of magic, we are left to count on individual skills and athleticism, chaos, last moment tackles, lucky bounces and crosses and so on which is less fun and leaves fans frustrated even when we are winning.

  18. ooga aga
    February 9, 2014

    i want to repeat the other poster’s point that if we win today, we are in first place.

    i also want to point out that even if we lose today, we still control our own destiny in the league.

    nothing gets decided today.

  19. barca96
    February 9, 2014

    Bad weather. I suspect it’s going to be a very tough match.

  20. Jafri
    February 9, 2014


    Valdes – Montoya Bartra Pique Adriano – Xavi Song Iniesta – Alexis Messi Pedro

  21. ooga aga
    February 9, 2014

    the pitch conditions are definitely to our disadvantage

  22. TITO
    February 9, 2014

    Again, a team should just try to take a shot at our goal. There’s a big chance that they will score with the first try.

  23. G6O
    February 9, 2014

    The first 40 minutes were embarrassing

    1) Sevilla is not parking the bus yet we did not created a single decent chance

    2) The only reason we were level was a an obvious offside goal

    3) At some point we just have to call out lack of effort for what it is. 29th minutes, Sevilla sends a long hopeful ball forwards, where it is 1-on-2, the guy takes 5 seconds to control it, and when he does, all of a sudden it’s 3-on-2 and we’re lucky not to concede another one…

    Good that it’s 2-1 now, but if we win this one, we have to thank our luck, not how well we played from the beginning

  24. georgjorge
    February 9, 2014

    Messi is back.

    Don’t be too harsh on the team, these conditions are really unfavorable to their style of play. Controlling the midfield through short passes just doesn’t work out well here…in fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the game was stopped after the first half.

  25. February 9, 2014

    Yeah, but that goal by Messi was beautiful!!!

    I think that after the Sevilla goal we started to play a hell of lot better. When a team plays so far up on our side, we have to switch to the counter, and as far as I am concerned, with Pedro, Alexis, Iniesta, and Messi, we have one of the best counter attacking teams in the world.

  26. bhed
    February 9, 2014

    Montoya… I can’t stand watching his giveaways, his poor crosses, or his back passes anymore. He’s been awful all season.

    • bhed
      February 9, 2014

      Probably shouldn’t have said that out loud.

  27. TITO
    February 9, 2014

    What can you say about your defense when the most reliable man out there is Song.

    • K-cule
      February 9, 2014

      What’s wrong with Song having a great game, or a better game than his teammates? Are you implying Song’s absolute best is on the same level as the rest of the players’ absolute worst?

      • TITO
        February 10, 2014

        Nothing is wrong with him having a good, great, or excellent game.
        The defense should start asking themselves how come somebody who’s main task is not to be in our box is performing better than them in their main duties.
        And not implying anything.
        It would be the same as he performs better than our front line in creating havoc in opponents box.

  28. georgjorge
    February 9, 2014

    That’s why I love the team…they can play tiki-taka even und such unfavourable conditions (second half). First half was bad, but second was pretty good – beating a strong opponent under these conditions with a comfortable scoreline is not easy.

    • G6O
      February 9, 2014

      Second half was great.

      My comment above was written towards the end of the first when things looked quite bleak.

      • TITO
        February 9, 2014

        We played a great second half with few awful errors in defense, but we got lucky with the first goal. That was a meter offside.

  29. February 9, 2014

    Great game! Apart from the first 30 minutes or so. Nice to see Messi back in the swing of things. Iniesta in particular had a stellar match.

  30. lea_terzi
    February 9, 2014

    Iniesta was a joy to watch this match. His buddy Victor kept us in it. Messi looks like he’s going for that assist crown this season. And I’m just as surprised as anyone at where our defense has gone.

    • lea_terzi
      February 9, 2014

      Stats check:
      Iniesta – 111 touches 7 dribbles 2 key passes
      Messi – 66 touches 3 dribbles 3 key passes 100% conversion rate
      Pedro – 2 dribbles 2 key passes 2 tackles 2 interceptions
      Cesc only needed 15 minutes on the pitch to score a beauty
      Alexis – 5 goals and 4 assists in the last 5 matches, beating his previous season best with 16 goals already

      Aaaaand, ladies and gentlemen, this Liga is on!!

        • lea_terzi
          February 9, 2014

          I just checked, and we are actually one of the deadliest teams in Europe, scoring from 17% of our shots (on and off target). Man City and Liverpool score at a rate of 15%, Real and PSG at 14.6%, and Bayern at 13.6%. And still, we have matches like 2/20 against Valencia and 1/17 against Levante. It happens.

  31. justdoit94
    February 9, 2014

    Bartra was very good. Pique was beyond horrible, nutmegged for the first goal and almost cost us 2 goals on his own.

    Also, did any1 understand why tata replaced alves and busquets today ?
    Was their performance in the two previous matches the reason for such a weird and unexpected move ?

    • February 9, 2014

      A couple of Liga journos said that it was because of the second half performance vs Valencia.

      • justdoit94
        February 9, 2014

        wonder if that’s true
        you gotta admire the balls on that dude !

    • Jim
      February 9, 2014

      Watching different matches I guess…

  32. PrinceYuvi
    February 9, 2014

    That was a great game.
    Xavi Ini can keep ball even in such horrid conditions ? That was bloody impressive.

    Adriano is good for everybody’s health.
    Song was great, Physicality. Opponents must be like, ‘what’s happening ? Is he not barca midfielder ? Why can’t I push him into the grass ?’

    Great substitutions by Tata, keep chucking in those midfielders.
    Our pygmy wingers are gem of players.

    We’re going to miss the bald head between the posts oh so much.

    I don’t know what to say about Messi playing in ‘I don’t wanna be Messi’ mode.

    He certainly baffled commentators by refusing to glide solo into sevilla net.

    He could’ve easily scored more, I don’t think he was that interested in piling up numbers.

    Messi is not best at pressing but he’s a beast at interceptions.
    In short runs he’s even faster than ronaldo.
    Good night everyone.

  33. PrinceYuvi
    February 9, 2014

    Anybody watched Monaco vs PSG ?
    In dying mins of match, Abi tried to backpass (dragback ?) the ball to Goalkeeper, Ibra & lavezzi were standing right next.
    Barca defending : )

  34. February 9, 2014

    I thought in the Liga the tie breaker was head-to-head. Shouldn’t Atletico Madrid be in Second as
    they beat Real Madrid earlier in the season?

    • barca96
      February 9, 2014

      If I’m not mistaken, it only counts as head to head after they played each other twice.

    • Peter
      February 10, 2014

      It’s crazier than you think. Provisional ranking looks at points and goal difference. Final ranking takes into account points, then head-to-head points, then head-to-head goal difference, then overall goal difference and finally more goals scored. So if La Liga ended today Real would be third, but since it doesn’t they are second.

      • barca96
        February 10, 2014

        Ah, thanks Peter. You’re very knowledgeable about La Liga. Do you live in Spain or just speak Spanish?

        • Peter
          February 10, 2014

          Both, even though my Spanish would probably make Cervantes spin in his grave. 😀 It’s good that the spanish sport journalists in general don’t use complicated words.

  35. bhed
    February 9, 2014

    All the midfielders were very good, but special shout out to Iniesta.

  36. Jafri
    February 9, 2014

    So a three way tie for first. God help us.

  37. KEVINO17
    February 10, 2014

    Fascinating how, after Messi scored his lovely goal he suddenly decided to start helping with the press, and then the whole team joined him. Big psychological momentt.
    Alexis was a beast when it mattered. His pressing was incredible. What an engine.
    Song was fantasic. Watch how he sets up Messi’s second by dribbling into a hole in the middle of the pitch and then releasing Messi.

  38. KEVINO17
    February 10, 2014

    And Montoya showed why he should always play ahead of Alves. Much quicker, for a start.

    • Dar_vincy
      February 10, 2014

      Kevin, you’re being sarcastic, right?

  39. mooly
    February 10, 2014

    As they say … Long time lurker, first time poster here.

    First i would like to thank all the BFB admins for the fantastic articles they have been providing us, they have made following Barca so much more interesting and fun

    I remember when i first stumbled upon this site (years ago) i thought it would be just another barca fans blog with the usual troll comments following the articles. Instead i was pleasantly surprised by the fantastically written reviews, excellent discussion in the comments area, and the perfect mix of seriousness and humor. Hats off to the BFB community as a whole for not only creating this awesome internet space but for also managing to maintain it.

    I usually have all my questions answered after reading the articles and some of the comments but something that i havn’t been able to explain is Tata’s team selection for the sevilla game, im not sure why he went with adriano, monty, barta and song over the usual starters? don’t get me wrong i love watching the kids play, it also makes the win that much sweeter especially in a liga game against a pretty decent team that gave us some trouble last time around. also, keeping in mind the fierce competition for to spot on the leaders board.

    • February 10, 2014

      Alba, Masch suspended. Pujol ruled out with a back problem. That explains the backline. Not sure about the midfield. Some reports say Alves and Busqetes were benched because of the poor showing last week against Valencia, I think it has to do more with countering the physical approach from Sevilla and the box to box engines they have in midfield. Xavi and Iniesta together means, he could not play Song and Busquests. Between them why he choose Song, i have no clue. Can understand why Fabregas was omitted though.

    • Peter
      February 10, 2014

      Alba and sMascherano were suspended. It may be the fact that alves and busquets played badly, but it may be the fact that it would be their third game in seven days – and the truth of the matter is that the winger/wingback and holding MF positions in the team are the most exhausting. Personally I don’t know how Alexis and Pedro are managing. Hopefully they will get some rest vs Real on wednesday, and we’ll get to see Tello and maybe Affelay.

      For me Song was chosen for the same reason, Busquets had already played, and he’s more an interceptor, whereas Song is an enforcer. Busquets would’ve been a target for the sevilla strikers, whereas Song was a targeteer 🙂

  40. psalmuel
    February 10, 2014

    Given the physical nature of the CL tie, I’d rather Song starts along side Iniesta and either of Xavi and busi. While Adriano should start ahead of Alba. And as expected, talks of a total team overhaul has died down now cos the win. And again, what formation was Tata playing in the dying minutes? considering the fact that he was playing 5 mids

  41. February 10, 2014

    The first half wasn’t as terrible as many suggest, nor was the second as good. You could see our players confounded by whether the ball would roll or stop on that bog they were playing on. It was also windy, to boot.

    Once Messi decided to start playing football it wasn’t as much contagious as the hole created by him walking around and watching his teammates when he didn’t have the ball, was plugged. Made everything around him more effective.

    Iniesta and Xavi were exceptional. So was Song, who needs to take out an ad in Sport and MD to apologize for not being an expensive CB. Maybe then he will stop getting unwarranted stick. If he were a Masia product playing as he does, people would be fainting from the rapture.

    He is a 17m squad player. In the context of big club dollars, that makes him relatively cheap. I’m a lot happier with the 17 we spent for Song than the 17 we spent for Alba.

    Bartra was erratic like Pique, but mostly good. Didn’t like how Montoya and Pique got shouldered off balls by Sevilla attackers, like Alves last week. That is a trend I can do without.

    All in all, an excellent win in a difficult match.

    • February 10, 2014

      Not sure about Xavi though. Some (important ones) of his decision making near and inside the was not fitting the profile of Xavi.
      Our coach is talking about killing the game of, but it seems Xavi is happy to just pass around the ball, once there is a 1 or 2 goal lead (which is quite not good enough with our defensive display). I think, it was when we were at 1-3, there were couple of good counter chances and you could see Xavi calling for the ball and just slowing it down. I didnt see the match a second time yet, but if my memory is right, both our c.attack goals (2 and 3) didnt had anything to do with Xavi.
      Iniesta was brilliant. He can dribble even in that pool.
      Also very happy for Song. Hopefully now he will get more starts.
      Messi’s first goal had a psychological effect, it seemed.
      Very glad that Tata is using 2 DM’s towards the last minute.

      • February 10, 2014

        Because is what Xavi does, which is recognize when to press, and when possession as defense is required. The uncertainty about our defense that you mention argues even more effectively for possession as a means of defending.

        Xavi exerts match control.

        • February 10, 2014

          I have nothing against Xavi and for me only Riquelme can be anywhere near to him as the best ever CM.

          But if Xavi exerts match control, why didnt that happen when Sevilla and Valencia were attacking us like anything.

          Also if Xavi decides when team attack too – am just thinking aloud – he is not able to find those defence splitting passes like before- which are coming mostly from Iniesta/Messi/Cesc and it must be these players who are seeing those passes ahead of them, and hence surging forward or deciding that right moment. Is it right for Xavi to ask the ball back when the others are trying to counter. It is clear they all respect him and they will listen to him.

          (I have to say, I dont know at all if Xavi called out for the ball to return, but it did appear so for me) Since Sevilla was attacking well, there were many opportunities for counter yesterday.

          • February 10, 2014

            It didn’t happen when Sevilla and Valencia were attacking because everything was chaos. Xavi can’t exert match control when everyone is running back, desperately trying to defend.

            Defense-splitting passes are increasingly rare because our forwards aren’t moving like they used to, and teams are defending us differently. It happens. But when Messi is standing there, Sanchez and Pedro are respectively walled off by a pair of defenders, where is the opportunity for a defense-splitting pass?

            It is only when we have a goal or two and the opponent has to press to get back into the match that those passes become an available option. And as Xavi is playing deeper these days, it does indeed fall to others playing a bit more forward to make those kinds of passes.

  42. Valdemar II
    February 10, 2014

    What a surreal game! Likely because of the joke pitch.

    One of those days, Pique? You don’t need a defense when the opponents miss everything.
    I liked Song, Iniesta was fabulous, Alexis everywhere and Messi from heaven.

  43. February 10, 2014

    Bartomeu presser today, probably about the new stadium. Came out of the blue, though.

    — Neymar practiced with the squad today. Buzz is he could have played vs Sevilla, but Martino always cautious with injuries. Should get some time midweek, probably start on the weekend in run-in to the City tie.

    — Check out the American football warmup:

    • February 10, 2014

      Croatian mid, 17 years old. Looks to be an immense talent, very Iniestaesque, right down to the force field around goal for him.

      YouTube him. Plenty of highlight stuff. I think talks are advanced, and if the fee rumor is true, we could get him for what we were paid for Tonnnnnnny WantAway. But this kid is a much stronger prospect. Would go directly into B.

      Potential hangup is that his father wants a club where his son will be getting first-team football right away. Nobody is going to give them that, though. Not a top-level club. He’s good, but he isn’t that good yet from what I have been able to glean.

  44. psalmuel
    February 10, 2014

    Xavi does when in controlling a game but, there are times when I find my self shouting at the T.V for Xavi to play that damn through pass to pick out Alexis’s run. Instead, he turns back and passes side ways or backwards. As a mid, If you see a good run from ur forward, forget about match control for a second and pass the damn ball! Match control will come after ur opponent has picked out the ball from their net for a couple of times. Probably that is while if Cesc plays we tend to score more from through passes. Plus, watch what Song did on the messi second. Gets the ball, sees space, dribbles in to space, makes a spot on pass, few seconds later, Sevilla are picking up the ball from their net. Thing is, I think Xavi has forgotten how to make those passes cos, our forwards(especially lexus) still make those runs. AND WHO WAS THAT MONTOYA THAT WAS TRYING TO GET US KILLED, IN THE SECOND HALF?

  45. psalmuel
    February 10, 2014

    *oops, I meant, ‘was tha montoya…

    • PrinceYuvi
      February 10, 2014

      Thanks for the correction, that sounds much better now !?

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