Manchester City vs Barça, aka “The biggest, most giantest match EVER!”*

"I thought I was buying a house ... what IS this?"
“I thought I was buying a house … what IS this?”

*But not really.

Today, FC Barcelona will play an immense match, one of the biggest that the club has played in a looong time. In this Champions League knockout clash against Manchester City, the players return to the scene of a psychological crime, so to speak. Last year a bruised, battered, injured, exhausted team with a broken superstar and a cancer-battling coach got stomped by a German juggernaut, a hiding so decisive that it’s a wonder the club didn’t sell everyone and start over.

Fin de siecle!

Tika taka is crap, Xavi is past it, Barça can’t compete physically, need a Plan A, never mind a Plan B, the False 9 is dead, the defense sucks …

Over the course of two matches, a group of players about whom there previously was no doubt morphed into a bungling, inept passel of buffoons who were one set piece away from imploding and dissolving into dust.

And now, somehow, unfathomably, this team is leading its more difficult than ever domestic league, has made the Copa del Reig final and won its Champions League group to set up a knockout tie with a team of Goliaths from England.

This is the biggest match EVAH because nothing that this wonderful team has done or can do really matters to culers, prognosticators, journalists and assorted dimwits who are practically gibbering with pie-eyed relish at the opportunity to spit on this team’s grave. The ghost chains rattle and a spectral moan cuts through the Catalan skies: Bayyyerrrrrnnnnn!

There is an opportunity for redemption, for this team to say “Hey, we’re fit this year, our coach is healthy, and last year was an aberration of circumstances, just like we told you fools it was.”

The pressure must be insane … heavy … so weighty it’s a wonder they don’t all just curl into a ball, whimpering and clutching Barça binkies. “It’s okay, little Andres … Mommy will be here in a moment. We’ll call those big kids from Manchester and tell them we aren’t going to show up.”

And yet, in the bright, shining visage of a rotund, bespectacled little man who owns but two sportcoats, there is salvation. Why? Because Tata Martino doesn’t care.

He has a football team to lead. He doesn’t care about narratives, pessimistic culers or journalists. He doesn’t care about people who if his team wins 10-0 today would say “Well, City really isn’t that good, not as good as they were, wait til they play a real team or … Baaaaayyyerrrrrnnnn!

What’s more he can’t care, because here is what today’s football match really is: a round of 16 knockout tie first leg, an away leg in this year’s Champions League. Last year is over, this year is here and Martino, who is as pragmatic as any coach you will encounter, will play this match for precisely what it is … a stage-setter for the return leg.

Tata Martino doesn’t care because he knows better than anyone blabbering about what tactics he needs to use or he’s an idiot, what players he shouldn’t play or he’s an idiot, what formation he shouldn’t employ or he’s an idiot. He knows who is in form, he knows what Manchester City will most likely do, and he has expectations of the players he is going to start today. Like most disciples of Bielsabub, he has analyzed, worried, played out and tried to think of everything even as he knows that in a second, all of the plans can go haywire.

Today, Tata Martino has one of the worst jobs in the world because almost no matter what happens, he will be wrong.

And facing that mountain of doubt, worry, vicarious living through a couple dozen pint-sized millionaires, it is pointless for Tata Martino to care, because he has a tie to win. No, not a match to win, though if circumstances allowed such a thing, he would gladly take it. No, he has a two-match tie to win, and he has an idea of how to do it.

He rested Xavi on the weekend, so we can speculate that even though the old man is past it and should have been put out to pasture years ago, can’t defend, can’t deliver through balls, can’t really do much of anything except backpass or slide the ball laterally, Tata Martino will start Xavi because he knows the people who say such things are rather silly.

Martino, in yesterday’s presser, stressed possession. Possession is how Barça defend ultimately, and possession means Xavi. Possession will probably mean Pedro, even as culers snarl when he makes a little run at a defender then passes the ball back to midfield. He does that because that is the right thing to do in the context of sustaining match control. It will assuredly mean Busquets and Iniesta, men who can keep control of the ball in a hurricane.

It will probably also mean that the team will come out and play in a way that will inspire shrieking, accusations, whining and speculative bollocks as the match progresses. And though it all, Tata Martino won’t care, because he has a job to do: play today’s match and hope his plans work in a way that make the tie winnable, that set everything up for that return leg at home. Period.

Tata Martino isn’t a fool. He understands what has gone before, the pressure, the expectations of people who say that Manchester City will destroy Barça just as Bayern did, the people who actually NEED that to happen because it makes everything so much easier. He gets all of that.

But he is the perfect man for this team, and this job today precisely because he doesn’t care.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

168 Comments

  1. justdoit94
    February 18, 2014

    I am so ecstatic with this win tonight. Martino has certinaly outdone tito regarding away matches.
    If i am not mistaken, we have not won a single away match in cl last year and here we are boasting about a 2-0 win over the strongest english side and best of all not conceding a goal

  2. Peter
    February 18, 2014

    I will probably rue my syntax, writing and spelling come tomorrow, but I have rarely felt such pride at being a culé. Seeing 1.65m Alexis towering over ten-inch-taller Kolarov to claim another aerial duel, Iniesta, Xavi and Messi time and again shrug off challenges by guys who make them look like kids pretending to play a sport for adults, Mascherano securing the guy the English press are calling “La Bestia”, this, gentlemen, fills me with joy and satisfaction.

    I spent the entire game alternately clasping my hands in supplication to some unknown deity and drinking hurried gulps of Estrella Damm. Even at 0-1 it looked too close. Watching the men in red and blue and the ogres following them close by, it seemed to me it could not finish in any other way than a high cross and a player in sky-blue sending the ball in the net despite a double challenge by our CB duo. I needn’t have worried, but I suppose the wounds from the last semi-final were never truly healed, the scars were too raw and rugged, the blades gone too deep. El Clasico back in the autumn helped, but there was always this half-whispered refrain “Remember Bayern!”.

    I confess I am a very superstitious person, and the fact that for the last twelve hours almost the only sounds in my ears were the remembered cries of anguish and the notes of “Requiem for dream” can’t have helped. Yet, I took shelter in the the words uttered the first time I heard those tones, some thirteen years ago: “The defenses have to hold.” “They will hold”. Those words always have helped me. Apart from that, for some weirdly connected reason, other words, almost clichéd at this point, ringed in my ears, throughout my whole day: ¨We are in hell, gentlemen. And we can stay here, and get the shit kicked out of us, or we can fight our way back into the light. We can climb outta hell”… one pass at a time.”

    The truth is, we were in hell, for the whole of last year. How many teams do you know, whose coach can go to hell and back, deliberately poisoning himself in order to save his life, and not implode? How many squads have seen their star player, the guy they have relied on again and again get injured repeatedly, and not raise a white flag?
    My culers in arms, our club, our love and faith in the club, had been used, abused, stomped upon, ridiculed, subjected to rumors, insinuations, accusations, by a plethora of self-serving so called “reporters”, with a vested interest in the falling of the giant. They needed for Barcelona to fall, or be fallen, they needed and wanted for the integrity and values of our club to be dirtied and brought down.

    So I say this: savor this sweet taste of victory. If you, like me, have a bottle of cava left from a previous occasion, open the fuck of it. This is not only victory. It is a part of a redemption. It is the seed of a returning faith in our hearts. It is the balsam to our suffering, that we have hoped for, even though deep in our hearts we knew we didn’t really need it. It is the rude gesture in the face of those that sneered and predicted the end of an age, a gesture we may be slightly ashamed of come tomorrow, because we embraced this club not just for the victories it gains, but also for the message it sends and the valors it imparts. We needed that victory. They, the nineteen on the pitch needed it. It wasn’t just a victory against one of the greatest teams of Europe. It was a victory against all those who applauded our seven lash marks last year, against those that mounted a media shitstorm against the club, its president and its players, against those who sought to damage the club through all means necessary and available, a victory against the yellow-paged sensationalist sports journalims that serves its political and billionaire masters.

    It’s a victory for a soft-spoken, humble gentleman that accepted one of the hardest jobs in the world of football. It’s the victory of pragmatism through art. It’s the victory of the guy that knew nothing of European football, it’s the victory of “éste”. It is for the 57-86m “overrated” youngster, and the president that brought him. It is for the guy who had lost his passion. It is for the guy who had to be sent to pasture, and for the one with the bad knee. It is for the other guys who don’t know how to defend. It is for those “paquetes” that should’ve been sold to United and a Silva be bought with the money. It is for the irreplaceable wall that will go away in a few months. And in the end, it is also for Tito, as it is for Abi.

    As for those on the other side, those that doubted the team, those who will spend the night looking for excuses and “polemicas”, those who will post a “Villarato” and “Robbery!!!” headlines come the morning:

    Take that motherfuckers. Hopefully, fingers crossed, there will be more from where that came from.

    • DianaKristinne
      February 18, 2014

      This comment is just brilliant. Wow.

    • mom4
      February 18, 2014

      Preach!

    • fcbfinland
      February 18, 2014

      Respect Peter! This comment is awesome.

    • kosby
      February 18, 2014

      Raising a toast to Peter for these wonderful words and to Barca for giving us all a reason to live 🙂

      • icemel
        February 18, 2014

        Clink. Gulp…aahhh

  3. IamXavi6
    February 18, 2014

    Also want to say on Cesc…that’s now 14 assists to his name in Europe….repeat, leading Europe in assists AND scoring his haul of goals too…having his best year yet…but I still see on comments earlier certain Cules didnt even want him to start tonight…baffling.

    • Jim
      February 18, 2014

      I’m not clear where he got an assist tonight – or are we counting Pique’s disallowed goal?

      • IamXavi6
        February 18, 2014

        Sorry, I was counting his pass to Messi that caused the penalty. I don’t think that officially counts however as it wasn’t in free play… so he’s stll on 13..

      • Jim
        February 18, 2014

        I think that was Iniesta.

      • Doug
        February 18, 2014

        Yep – beautiful ball from Iniesta freed Messi.

      • IamXavi6
        February 18, 2014

        Correct, it was. He’s def on 13 still then. Still my point is, I don’t understand how people seem to NOT want him to start…especially on games like this.

  4. psalmuel
    February 18, 2014

    That is it! Or do we still have to wait till we meet Bayern? We could see Pellegrini adopting Simeone’s 2 compact bank of 4 with the striker and AM dropping deep and the ocassional long ball to the forward and to the wings. Good thing is that, we didnt allow Yaya a sniff @ goal. And I don’t care if the foul on Messi was in the dressing room, we got the penalty, we scored, end of discussion. The blatant Ibra off-side,the Zapata’s clear hand ball, bayern’s off side goals etc, we deserve our own share of advantage from refreeing

    • ibbe
      February 18, 2014

      It wasn’t an advantage though. According to barcastuff, if the foul continues to the line and inside the box, then it’s a penalty. And althogh we the reff “handed us” a penalty, there was a handball on Clichy and a legitimate goal ruled offside..

      Shoud’ve been at least 3-0 IMO.

  5. Jim
    February 18, 2014

    Don’t think City can have any complaints personally and it was embarrassing to hear Pelligrini . You have to think there is a lot more to come from us when Neymar gets match fit but it’s nice to know we can still tie down a game like that. Xavi with over 130 passes and 96% completed is ridiculous in that pressure situation.

    In other news ( and for the old timers here ) nice to see Maxwell with three assists from wing play tonight 🙂

  6. February 18, 2014

    Like I said … Tata don’t care.

    Neymar on the right, after Pellegrini made tactical changes to try to contain Alves? Are you kidding me? And Xavi. Not bad for a dude who is past it, and should be out to pasture already. Just think how awesome it would have been had Messi really come to play.

    Valdes was immense, the defense got the job done though not without a fright or two.

    Graham Poll, who analyzes matches (ex-official) said it was defo a penalty and red card on the Messi incident.

    Pellegrini … shame. He is usually classier than that.

    • IamXavi6
      February 18, 2014

      Pellegrini comments truely surprise me..comes across very rash and ‘heat on the moment’ stuff but what he said is very much sanction material… really surprised he ran with what he did when I don’t think many (if any) will back his comments up.

      Poll had his moments in the past as well so he isn’t exactly the oracle of these things but agree on def penalty and red card.

      Wasn’t it something like 140 passes to 40 10minutes into the game?…crazy good.

    • KEVINO17
      February 18, 2014

      Tata’s master stroke seems to be using the Don instead of a left winger. Guardiola often did that. But Tata is not as obsessed with width, so Iniesta plays an even more tucked in midfield role.
      Tata obviously likes that formation so much that he took off Alexis (and brought on Neymar) rather than taking off Iniesta and bringing on Pedro.

  7. ibbe
    February 18, 2014

    What an incredible performance from the team! Winning against City AWAY! we controlled the game so well that they only had a few half-chances. It could’ve easily ended 3-0 or 4-0 but hey, 2-0 away ain’t that bad. After all, we weren’t that used to winning away games in the CL KO stages even with pep. I’ll gladly take it.

    One of the most awesome things was to see messi pressure and harrass the city players. I think that’s part of tata’s plan. Messi doesnt need to press that much in league and cup games but in the big games (real and city so far) he pressed the hell outta them.

    Btw, Fab is proving his doubters wrong with these kind of performances. Great display in midfield.

    I’m gonna sleep with a smile tonight. Visca!

  8. teddy
    February 18, 2014

    via Barcastuff:

    “Man City had 31,6% possession against Barcelona, their lowest in Premier League and Champions League this season”.

    What happened to Pellegrini’s previous presser?, as quoted:

    “When you play against Barça, of course one has to always consider a variety of important aspects, but it is essential to remain the same team that is seen week-in week-out in the Premiership.”

    I guess everyone loves to write us off, but when they do face us, we can truly see how they really see us.

    Stat wise, a good win to improve our CL knockout away records, making it now 4 wins out of 17 away fixtures.

  9. andrecito
    February 18, 2014

    Holy $#!~ peter..i did the puyol against real madrid goal celebration after i read your comment…

  10. February 18, 2014

    For people seeking download links, you can get the match here:

    http://livefootballvideo.com/fullmatch/europe/uefa-champions-league/manchester-city-vs-barcelona

    I went there because in the U.S., Fox Sports 1 essentially ruined the telecast with their stupid crawl along the bottom, a huge score box and a big FoxSports1 logo that stayed in the upper corner the entire match.

    The ITV links are beautiful. HD, no logos and crap. Same team, so clearly Fox is just second-sourcing. Disgusting. But it gets worse … in the U.S. market, if you don’t have Fox Sports 2 or Fox Deportes, like so many people, you won’t be able to watch EITHER match tomorrow. Sheesh …

    • Messiah10
      February 19, 2014

      I had to watch the match on Fox Sports 2 yesterday. It didn’t have the bottom ticker feed. That’s to bad. I don’t get Fox Sports 3, so sometimes I miss matches. I wasn’t able to watch the matches today, so I don’t know which game was on 1 or 2 for me.

  11. Messiah10
    February 18, 2014

    Haven’t seen Pellegrini’s comments but I’ll be disappointed if he’s blaming the referee for the loss. Clear penalty. It was IN the box. It was a red card. It wasn’t a foul on Navas, who Alba locked r

      • IamXavi6
        February 19, 2014

        except it was a penalty…as confirmed by mr Poll and legal call if the tackle continues into the box..as per fifa rules and all.

        maybe a few inches out of the box..in a slow motion replay yes..thats not reality out there and hey..the call stands..joy for us..cue ther haters.

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        I wasn’t aware that there is such a rule. I thought it has always been where the initial tackle was first made, doesn’t matter where and how far it followed through.

        Joy for me but I’d prefer to win without these type of decisions. It leaves me with questions that I keep asking myself. Could we have won it without the penalty. I always ask myself like that whenever when we are awarded favorable calls.

      • teddy
        February 19, 2014

        well I don’t like it either, but then, like IamXavi6 said, the call stands, we got awarded a penalty, that’s it.

        Do mind that we also have a few calls against us, especially the handball inside their penalty area + legitimate goals from pique

  12. Messiah10
    February 18, 2014

    Down ! I have to admit I was wrong in wanting Adriano to start. Tata was spot on! Clear hand ball. Clearly Cesc wasn’t offside. Should’ve been 4-0. Legitimately! Crazy. What a game. So proud of our team!

  13. IamXavi6
    February 18, 2014

    Pellegrini slams referee Eriksson

    Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini launched an astonishing attack on referee Jonas Eriksson after the 2-0 defeat by Barcelona, accusing him of being ‘not impartial’ and suggesting UEFA had made a mistake in appointing an official from Sweden.

    The comments are set to land City’s manager in serious trouble with UEFA, especially after he suggested that Eriksson was trying to make up for making an error against Barcelona in a previous match against AC Milan.

    Pellegrini’s statement overshadowed a game which was decided by Lionel Messi’s penalty, which led to Martin Demichelis’s dismissal, and Dani Alves’s last-minute strike.

    The City manager said: “From the beginning I felt the referee was not impartial to both teams so he decided the game with a foul that he didn’t whistle against and a penalty with Demichelis that was not a penalty, it was outside the box.

    “He did not have any control of the game. He was on the side of Barcelona from the beginning until the end.

    “I think it was not a good idea to put a referee from Sweden in charge of such an important match, especially a referee who has made an important mistake against Barcelona in a previous match.”

    Pellegrini appeared to be referring to the 2012 UEFA Champions League quarter-final when Eriksson was criticised by then-Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola for failing to award his side two penalties in the first-leg’s goalless draw at the San Siro.

    “This referee whistled the Barcelona-Milan and he made an important error against Barcelona. Today he rearranged it,” said the City boss.

    Pellegrini claimed Eriksson should have given City a free-kick in the build-up to the move that led to the penalty award for a foul on Jesus Navas.

    He added: “I think that the referee decided the game because before the penalty there was a foul on Navas three metres away from him so he could see it without any problem.

    “The more important mistake is the foul against Navas and secondly the penalty.

    “Contact was outside the box – that is the foul, you cannot continue the foul. The first foul is outside the box.

    “Before the penalty Barcelona did not have chances and we were preparing the way to score.

    “Playing 40 minutes with one player less is very difficult against Barcelona. We played well and tried to draw and in the last minute they scored the second goal.”

    The Chilean was asked to explain his comments that UEFA should not have chosen a referee from Sweden.

    He replied: “More important football in Europe than Sweden. A big game with two important teams, that kind of game needs a referee with more experience.”

    Pellegrini confronted Eriksson after the final whistle to express his displeasure.

    “It was just to tell him that I was not very happy because he decided the game,” said the City manager.

    Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas was pleased the Spanish giant could ‘prove a point’ to some of its doubters after a dip in form over the last month and he was delighted it could ‘shut up’ its critics.

    Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho had called the Catalan side ‘the worst Barcelona of many years’ and former Arsenal star Fabregas told ITV: “Maybe we had to prove a point in a way and I think we did it and I think we did it in a style and very, very well, but this team has done so much and won so much to always have to prove a point.

    “But today was one of those days maybe everyone was saying Barcelona was not the same Barcelona … some people were talking a bit too much and as usual they will have to shut up for a few days.

    “We are top of the league, we had a good result and we are in the final of the [Copa del Rey]. There’s nothing else you can ask for.

    “But the fans in Spain in general put the most pressure on you as a team – the fans and everyone – and that’s what makes everyone feel so special to this team.”

    Barcelona head coach Gerardo Martino refused to get carried away by the first-leg result, pointing out that City had beaten Bayern Munich away from home in the group stage.

    He said: “I am not confident but we have had a good game away from home and we just have to repeat the same performance.

    “We must not forget that City lost to Bayern Munich at home and then they won away.”

    He also refused to be drawn on Mourinho’s criticism, saying: “What people say outside games is just a waste of time. We just have to play well in every competition.”

    • georgjorge
      February 19, 2014

      Wow, those Pellegrini comments are just stupid. So if the ref previously made calls against Barcelona, he will help them out this time…and I guess if he had previously made calls for Barcelona, he would definitely be on our side anyway? I like the Fabregas bit about shutting up a lot.

  14. February 19, 2014

    Must honor the first comment of this post.
    Hats off to you Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino!

    I am sure people have already found some things to whine about. But I am just completely ecstatic over this win. The last time we won in such a fashion in such an important game against such a quality opponent was our 0-2 win at the Bernabeu in the CL Semi Final in 2011. Yes, this game had our players determined to show who’s boss, that this is Barca.

    I was actually quite shocked to see the amount of people who believed that City were the slight favorites and I have people like Wenger and Sourinho to thank for talking trash before the game. This game could very well have ended 3 or 4 nil. We might have let them off the hook a bit.

    Visca! Slept so well last night.

  15. February 19, 2014

    The only sad thing in all this is that Man City is a team that I like. They are not a dirty team, have good technical players, a good style and a good manager. I would have liked them to progress far in the competition. Its their bad luck that they drew us.

    I am willing to cut Pellegrini some slack. It must be the pressure that is causing him to run his mouth this way. A lot of money and expectations later, this defeat at home, is going to hurt. Also his last 15 games against Barca reads 0W, 2D, 13L. That isn’t the kind of record a top manager like him would want.

    OT, I do some sports betting with a group. Occasionally.
    I had put some money in (i) Barca not conceding (ii) Messi scoring (iii) Barca winning and (iv) Neymar contributing directly to a goal. I am happy to share with y’all that I almost tripled my total bets of around 4k Euros. Woohoo!

    • stefan2k
      February 19, 2014

      Thats a sick bet, grats! 😀

      Agree with your thoughts on Pellegrini whos usually one of the classy managers out there.

  16. hammeronmessi
    February 19, 2014

    The Moments of the Match for Me

    1.Messi stopping the celebration of Dani & Neymar without giving any ammunition to the media,such an intelligent player.

    2.The Hug between The YAYA and The Messi.

    3.The take and volley of Silva and the subsequent save from Valdes.

    • barca96
      February 19, 2014

      Agree with all of them. My heart cringed when I saw them going towards the corner flag. Please no more dancing. Didn’t Puyol say anything to them last weekend?

      The hug was so cute.

      Heart in mouth moment for me. Nearly an amazing team goal, not by us.

      • Seyi38
        February 19, 2014

        What’s wrong with the dance please?

      • Messiah10
        February 19, 2014

        Where should I start? Firstly, it’s unattractibe and makes them look like idiots. They should keep their day job b/c they aren’t going to be in the next Foot Loose. Secondly, if you are on the road you generally shouldn’t try to rub it in the Home teams wounds. It can incite fans to do stupid stuff and things can quickly spiral out of control. Third: WE DON”T DANCE. It’s not the Barca way. We celebrate as a team, because it’s the team that matters most. Not 2 players celebrating alone because they think what they have come up with is cool. It’s not and I hope it stops.

    • February 19, 2014

      Right with you..

      Before Silva’s volley, may I also add, the touch by Zabaleta which gave him that opportunity, was excellent.

      I also appreciate the way Man City played after being down to 10 man.

      The tie is not over. I am sure we will win at home, though.

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        Definitely not over yet yes as they have shown that they can score 3 at a very tough ground away from home, at Bayern. I doubt that we won’t be able to put even 1 past them though at home.

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        Oh ya, the one touch pass from Zabaleta. Wasn’t easy at all as it came from a long over the air pass. Just a beautiful sequence. From the long ball, one touch from Zabaleta and control and shoot from Silva. Luckily Valdes saved us.

        It was Pique if I’m not mistaken who let Silva get away. In the first half when Negredo had a chance, Mascherano turned his back and lost Negredo.

  17. psalmuel
    February 19, 2014

    I think Iniesta wasn’t exactly playing LW, he was interchanging with Cesc between midfield and that LW (More like a free role) and I think thats what Tata has done differently from Pep and Tito.

  18. February 19, 2014

    The long grass, City playing very deep, Barca controlling the game, very few chances first half, City playing kinda dirty and gets away with it until the red card. Then the game opens up. After the game, Pellegrine blames the referee. Clearly we’ve seen this before…

    Anyway, I thought this was Barcelona’s best defensive performance in ages. I really hope people are rational enough to give credit for that. I said before the game that people should calm down a little bit about the Alves/Alba playing together. I don’t see a problem until Alba is the one who plays deeper and Alves higher. It has always worked that way, the best example is the Milan 4-0 game. Mascherano put his best performance in ages and dealt very well with City’s attackers, though that yellow card was a bit silly.
    Throw Pique a big game and he is the best CB in the world. Real Madrid, Atetico Madrid, City…Hard to imagine Barcelona without him.
    Alves in first half struggled a little bit when he gave away 3 fouls in a row got a yellow card. But he is mature enough not to do anything stupid and get sent off, I can’t recall anything. 2nd half he was the one who stepped up and took the game under control. At right back, who takes the game under control must be something very special, and he is a very special player. Without any disrespect towards Montoya, he’d be never able to replace Dani, I don’t get why people say that he is already a better player than him and should start over him.
    Props to VV as well, with these kind of performances he deserves to play in the world cup. He made 2 very good saves on Silva and Negredo and dealt very well with the crosses and set pieces. It’s huge to have a confident keeper in set pieces when you have a team full of midgets.
    If there was one thing I was very pissed about, it was the marking in set pieses. I don’t understand why Mascherano marked Yaya and Dani Alves marked Negredo. I think they are getting away with the man marking this season a little bit and sooner or later it’s going to bite them in the ass.
    As for Martino, he went to the game knowing that whatever he does, he’ll never get any praise or credit. I feel a bit sorry for him, the job he did was absolutely brilliant. It’s not his fault that Cules are so spoiled these days.

    • barca96
      February 19, 2014

      Agree with everything except the part about City playing dirty. I didn’t see anything dirty from them. Madrid a few seasons back and occasionally dirty, yes.

      I too noticed that the grass was on the long side when they showed the players warming up on tv.

      I wanted Alves-Adriano or Alba-Montoya. One offensive and one defensive FB. If only Alba and Alves could play this disciplined more often. Usually both of them will bomb forward without taking turns. Last night was perfect. The ex-Ausssie player on my tv station said that Alba didn’t offer anything going forward. What an idiotic remark coming from an ex-player!! Alba was told to stay back!!

      I still maintain that Alves is a key player. I do think that Montoya should be given more playing time. 1) Key players need rest once in a while and 2) Montoya is our future RB.

      Yeah, I also found it weird that Mascherano is the one marking Negredo. It looked really wrong. Pique is the one who should mark the striker. I noticed that Pique had a free role. I do agree usually but not when our opponent has such a tall, powerful striker. Only Pique can go man to man.

      Did you see how Kompany flattened Valdes? I was surprised to see Valdes jumping up to catch the ball right away. What a beast! If Casillas still is the no.1 for Spain, then something is really wrong with del Bosque. How can a substitute player week in week out be a starter for the defending champion?

      Pique was a rock. I didn’t find Mascherano too good to be honest. He did just enough. He’s a liability with his lunges in the middle in the park and his habit of turning his back on the ball.

      Btw thanks for finding that source a couple of weeks back.

      • Seyi38
        February 19, 2014

        Normally Pique would mark Negredo but Negredo specifically targeted Masch to take advantage of his size. You surely dont expect Pique to man-mark him, it’ll disrupt our defence

      • Jim
        February 19, 2014

        Exactly. Opponents target the space where Pique isn’t . As far as I can see Pique’s job is to avoid getting drawn to the near post and be available if the cross comes in. Very difficult to achieve but I have to say they do a decent job of what they have available. That was a big side we were up against with some guys who can deliver good crosses.

  19. Jafri
    February 19, 2014

    I’d really like to single out Victor Valdes for praise, he didn’t receive the toughest shots at him, but he showed great confidence and skill to not let anything get past him.

    This was also the most fluid frontline I’ve seen from barcelona, or indeed any football team in a long long time. Iniesta was LW, Fabregas was at CAM, then Fabregas was false nine and Messi was at the wing, then Messi and Iniesta were both tucked into midfield with Alexis as a 9/ solitary striker… Neymar was at RW, then 9… It was confusing, chaotic, and a joy to behold. Even Jordi Alba had a good game, with seven interceptions including that one near the end where he showed great anticipation to come clear from the middle of the box when a run had taken all our other defenders away and it was just him vs three city players.

    Messi sleepwalked through most of the match, but he did get his pressing gear out when the game was drifting nowhere in the seventieth odd minute, and that’s when we ramped back up again, and that period of initiative eventually led to the second goal. He has such an uplifting effect on the team it’s ridiculous.

    Great, assured play by the defenders, and the midfield settled into the tiki taka rhythm and stifled them really well. We weren’t dominating (nor could we against a team of City’s caliber), but we were more or less always in control. I got the feeling Tata just wanted the one away goal and hoped they wouldn’t score so it was a pretty cagey game cause we weren’t trying a lot of high risk high reward type of balls cause we didn’t want to overturn possession. I think we’ll see a very different Barcelona side in the return leg.

    Lastly, to Peter, Lea Terzi, and all the other commenters with their wonderful and well thought out comments – and most especially to Kxevin who is the spiritual father and eternal cheerleader of this place, thank you all for making this such a wonderful site to be part of.

    Visca Barca!

    • February 19, 2014

      I have used part of your comment – about the forwards – for my comment in Zonalmarking. Sorry to do without permission. Hope you wont mind.

      • Jafri
        February 19, 2014

        Not a problem, Rajesh. I rather enjoyed reading the comments on your post there in fact.

  20. barca96
    February 19, 2014

    Cesc was on but we weren’t shown enough replays.

    http://i.imgur.com/rMLTtM8.jpg

    Courtesey of TheGuardianista from the Guardian

  21. barca96
    February 19, 2014

    One more thing I would like to note. The Barca fans were awesome!! Where did they come from? Don’t they go to the Camp Nou? Or are they mostly British Barca fans?

    • February 19, 2014

      Barca fans have always been super amazing in away matches. Often out sings the home crowd, it happened many times yesterday. If only they would show such support in home games as well…

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        Now the question is, are those fans who traveled (I thought it was spelled with double L but it gave me a red underline = error) from Barcelona or are they fans from that country. Because I hardly see fans singing in Camp Nou or at any other away matches in Spain.

      • February 19, 2014

        I don’t know and it would be nice to find out. But I personally think they are from Barca, at least most of them, and travel for all the games. Why I think this is because they know all the chants, I heard at least 3-4 different chants, I doubt some random fans from England would know them to sing.

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        You made a great point regarding the chants.

        I noticed a familiar supporters club group last night. Their banner is blue and the writing is red but closer bright pink. I love their banner and scarves. Nice color combination. I’ve seen them around for quite some time now. In our last match, they zoomed on their section at the end before the broadcast ended.

        They’re called supporters club fidel or fitel. But when I Google them up, I couldn’t find a thing.

  22. Laurentiu88
    February 19, 2014

    few thoughts on the game…

    – what a player Alves is… i remember Zubi saying, when negotiations on Alves contract extension were under way, that there isn’t anyone close to Alves on the market there. i know he has had some bad games too, but still he is two players in one, a very very good winger and a respectable defender.

    – i think all the team was amazing, the passing was sublime. i wonder if this is not a tactic similar to Celtic game, where we are happy to control the game more first, and only later to look for mistakes of our opponent and force a little.

    – what a player Toure is!! but how amazing is our Busi!!!

    – does anyone remember how hard it was to score against English opponents in all those Pep years? when they will crowd their third and not give us any space? we just managed 2 away goals at city…. wow.

    – how exciting was this game, waiting for it… I was so nervous hours before couldnt do anything, my heart was beating so fast… i wonder if the big clubs make their own euro-league and these games become regular, wouldn’t they lose something from this magic? like how playing madrid so often at one point became…

    – so happy to see Cesc play so good!

    – only regret thinking at Barca is that stupid Valencia game! what would have meant now to have extra 3 points. i wonder if it hadn’t been the came with our team’s physical preparation? in past years, the team will go through a less than good shape right before reaching peak of form…

  23. February 19, 2014

    Is it safe to say, Tata didn’t read the Hlebruary manual?
    😀

    • February 19, 2014

      he started reading, sometime around the valencia match. Got bored and left it:P

  24. IamXavi6
    February 19, 2014

    Just on Alves…he has been the worlds best RB for many, many years now. He had a typical Brazilian brainfade for a bit…but hes been absolute quality for along, long time now. Make no mistake about it, he is crucial for our attacking outlet (and team harmony) – hes a kry, key player. Not many teams have an answer for him.

  25. Seyi38
    February 19, 2014

    Last night was a very rare one considering the fact that 1. Tata finally got the credit he deserved 2. The media (including the English press) praised Barca’s performance and were not in support of Pellegrini’s comments. 3. We kept a clean sheet against EPL’s finest attacking side. 4. Grabbed a good away win in England for the first time since 06. 5. We are almost into the next round. Also from what I’ve read from numerous sources, the penalty was the correct call.

  26. February 19, 2014

    Club being sued by Spanish government for 9m in taxes related to the Neymar deal. It never ends.

  27. barca96
    February 19, 2014

    A funny comment from a Guardian reader called Barney59;

    Couldn’t help but notice the number of crosses Barca made in the game. A sign that the Moyes system is starting to influence the rest of Europe’s best?

    In a Man Utd match against Fulham IIRC, Moyes told the players to cross the ball a lot. They had gazillion crosses in the match 😆 and drew 2-2 in the end.

    • Jafri
      February 19, 2014

      My favourite one from the Guardian:

      “Barcelona have just appealed Demichelis’ red card so that he could play in the second leg.”

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        Oh ya. I saw that one too. Pure gold. Those guys there are comedians!

        I know it’s fashionable over there to jump on Demechilis but he did better than I expected. A few others also thought the same way. And unlike some articles that I read from the British press, it wasn’t Demechilis’ fault that City lost. Kompany left a big space and played Messi on. His only mistake in the match. If Demechilis didn’t attempt to steal the ball, he would’ve gotten the blame as Messi would have most likely scored. But if I was him, I’d take my chance. Better to be 1-0 down rather than a man down.

  28. gaspersm
    February 19, 2014

    My take on the parking the bus technique
    I believe all teams like to play with the ball and not have to chase for the ball all around. But Barca is known to have midfielders who are best known for keeping the ball no matter what. The primary objective for our midfielder is to keep the ball for as long as possible and they are the best at it, but they are poor without the ball.
    For that reason no team wants to challenge barcelona and take the ball away from the players because it will be a futile exercise, they will pass you to the death until the match is over. That is why the teams resort to sitting back and defending narrow because that denies barca space and makes the players just pass all day. Some teams can carry on with that the whole match while some teams may get frustrated and start to come out which leaves space for barca to attack or forces them to make silly fouls leading to red cards, and so much hate from the british media.
    So people if we face the bus it is because of the style we play, to keep the ball no matter what and as long as we play this way we will face the bus day in and day out unless if it is pep which I surely doubt. As long as xavi, iniesta duo is playing as starters we will face the bus, because teams open up if we start giving them a few chances and lure them into attacking us. Otherwise we will have to resort to game changing moments like the red cards vs celtic, vs manchester city, vs real madrid at the santiago bernabeu.
    I was watching yesterday’s game at the hostel I am staying at with a lot of other university students and they were soooo bored by our style of play, they were bored with the passing. Well I said, get used to it, iniesta and xavi were trained to keep the ball first,
    Another thing i discovered is that we have openings in the second half because teams get frustrated of lack of seeing the ball when they are preoccupied in parking the bus in the first half. Examples are our game vs bayern levekusen in germany, they hardly saw the ball in the first half and decided to attack in second half and we won the game, man city started playing an open game before the red card.
    I really dont know what barca generation after this generation of xavi and iniesta, possession keeping midfielders is gone. But i am sure that we will not have players who are that good at keeping possession therefore we will be losing the ball more and surrender a bit more possession and so we will need players who have got great defensive skills as well. I have great hope in rafinha to take iniesta’s spot, with his own style ofcourse but i have not found the player who has the traits to play in the CM position who has great passing abilities but yet good defensive and pressing abilities. A cesc iniesta midfield is not as stable as people think and that is why tata seldom tries it. It works against small teams but against big teams you need better. Cesc and iniesta are both too attacking.
    Another thing is that, we still need that big striker, in the form of a tall and i mean really tall, mobile guy who can move just about anywhere in the front three and not a static mario gomez. A verstaile tall striker who can move to the wing, then back to the center and the next minute he is in his half pressing the DM when we dont have the ball. Cavani was that striker but we were never going to get him.
    Pique still needs a partner yes! Mascherano has been great but his defencies can be very costly, like that play against negredo where negredo ended up missing the net, and the set piece problem, for teams like PSG which play with two tall strikers I.e IBra and Cavani, pique can not be charged with marking them both for crosses.
    We still need to balance the height in the team, mascherano marking Yaya toure, and alves marking negredo in a set piece is not a good thing. Man city almost scored on that one of two set pieces they delivered into the box. We can’t have only two tall and aerially competent players only in the team.

    • Jim
      February 19, 2014

      I suffered a torrent of abuse today as well for the “boring” game last night. I give up on them. The bottom line is that people who can’t play football well, and even some who can, don’t appreciate either the value or the difficulty of a pass and control game.

      We are witnessing something in Busi, Xavi and Iniesta that I will never see again. I intend to enjoy and remember every minute until they retire ( and I make my long promised trip to see Ini at his winery) 🙂

  29. February 19, 2014

    Oh, the club’s official Twitter account was hacked yesterday, leading to a series of Tweets about Qatar blood money. Problem has been rectified.

    • February 19, 2014

      Those responsible have been given an exciting employment opportunity in Qatar, helping to build the facilities for the upcoming World Cup… 😈

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        Hahahahahahaha. I almost bought into it until I remembered that there are already 400 Nepalese who died there while working on the stadiums. Pretty serious stuff. They have an article on it on the Guardian.

  30. February 19, 2014

    I thought Man City was better than us in the first half. They created more danger. We looked toothless.

    At halftime I had to leave the bar I was watching the game at yesterday because government militia was shooting people in the street.

    Watched the 2nd half this morning. We were a lot better, especially once were down to 10 men.

    • February 19, 2014

      Stay safe, Lev.

      • justdoit94
        February 19, 2014

        that sounds bad, where r u from ?

      • barca96
        February 19, 2014

        He lives in Venezuela, where there has been unrest since last week.

    • Jim
      February 19, 2014

      Can’t agree Lev. They really didn’t create a lot for a great attacking team at home and spent a lot of time chasing and concentrating which diluted their energy levels. Despite pre match tension I really didn’t feel threatened. In particular I thought Yaya was the most focused and determined I’ve ever seen him and he is a world class player yet he struggled to see the ball much due to our control.

      • Jim
        February 19, 2014

        Meant to say – take care. Need you around to celebrate the treble !

  31. barca96
    February 19, 2014

    Kompany’s reaction after the match;

    “By no means did we feel
    they were superior to us. If they turn up at
    the Nou Camp in the next game and play
    like they’re capable of playing, then it’s a
    very tough game. If the game is the same
    as today and we manage to keep away
    from small fouls we’ve got a chance.”

    And Roy Keane’s response;

    “He’s obviously really tired after the game. I’m not sure he knows what he’s talking
    about.”

    Straight up talk this Keane. The guy is the same off the pitch.

    Kompany was superb though except for the mistake prior to the Demichelis tackle on Messi. He stopped Messi every single time and had 2 really beautiful perfectly timed steals, without tackling on going to ground. That’s the sign of a great defender.

  32. barca96
    February 19, 2014

    My goodness Lev. I just remembered that the protests that went on since last week was in the country that you live in. Watch the matches at home from now on. You got a partner and kid coming up. Take care vriend.

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