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.


  1. February 18, 2014

    I will take my hat off to the ‘mister who doesn’t care’ if we can keep them from scoring today.
    Lets do this!

  2. providence
    February 18, 2014

    nice preview!Kxevin Good read!

  3. providence
    February 18, 2014

    OFF TOPIC : can there be a twitter button for tweeting/sharing post after reading?

  4. Roger Evans
    February 18, 2014

    Kxevin has outdone himself: “… in the bright, shining visage of a rotund, bespectacled little man who owns but two sportcoats, there is salvation.”

  5. psalmuel
    February 18, 2014

    Always masterclass! Couldn’t stop giggling at the Iniesta part. And OT: Mou can’t just find a medication for his running mouth, now he wants to drag Tata into his childish mind games too. According to him, ‘this barca is the worst in many years’. Just hope Tata won’t get distracted

    • Peter
      February 18, 2014

      That’s actually a dig at Pellegrini and City:

      If City win – then “meh, this Barcelona is the worst in a long time”.
      If City lose – well, then “ONE BILLION EURO SPENT on players, coaches, stadiums, academies, and they lost AT HOME!!!! AGAINST THE WORST BARCELONA IN A VERY LONG TIME!!!”
      If City draw – “They couldn’t even win against the worst Barca in many years!”

      • February 18, 2014

        The Mou quote that I watched on video was that this Barça isn’t the team that it was in the past, which is what everyone, including culers, have been saying. So I can’t rip on Mou Mou for kowtowing to an existing narrative …

        especially when there is so much other stuff to rip him on.

  6. mom4
    February 18, 2014

    Have we ever in recent years been this fit and this in form in the middle of Hlebruary?

    Lord help me for this optimistic leap of faith, but I see only good things happening today.

    Nice work, Kxevin. I’d say let’s take up a collection to buy The Mister a suit, but he wouldn’t care!

  7. DianaKristinne
    February 18, 2014

    And tonight at the Etihad there will be another man who doesn’t care about all the stuff being said about him or his team: Leo Messi. Which is just perfect.

    Great preview, Kxevin. Some memorable quotes in here.

    • kosby
      February 18, 2014

      I think it might be opposite for Messi, I could be wrong of course, but I’d like to think that Messi thinks, he has a point to prove to all his prove that this is still the best team in the world, to prove that he has not “lost his enthusiasm”, to prove that whatever team is in front of him he wants to rip it from limb to limb..

      The good thing is, we already know all of that 🙂

  8. gaspersm
    February 18, 2014

    I remember last season xavi said we will hog possession to win. And we all know what happened.
    By the way man city are projected to start with a physical lineup
    Zabaleta kompany lescott kolarov
    Javi garcia fernandinho
    Silva. Toure. Nasri

  9. Dar_vincy
    February 18, 2014

    Nice post, man.
    The last classico gave me a reason to be confident; though the excuse critics gave was madrid were just adapting to a new technical phalanx and methods- interestingly, so were we.
    Replicating or superseding such assured and matured performance against City is crucial if we hope to get something tangible from this match.
    Just a few quick thoughts:

    (1) Concede less set-pieces-

    Madrid, dominant in the air no doubt, were inhibited somewhat from harming us from this channel because of the minimal set-pieces they had. So, however brobdinagian city players are and liliputian our players are in defending set-pieces, we don’t concede any if we don’t cede them any.

    (2) Watch out for the cut-backs-

    As a huge admirer of city’s destructive attacking play, i have observed this growing pattern in their games; a reasonable amount of which leads to goals- and Navas is the major architect. Ways to neutralise this is to deprive him the oppotunity of pulling those cut-backs and marking each city players once they crowd our box.

    (3) Limiting outside shots-

    In the last clasico, something unusual happened- Ronaldo had his least shot on target against us that i can remember. It was quite stupendous that his impact that day was curtailed considering his frustrating goal-scoring streak against us. For city, Yaya is the chief exexcutor of this. Often times, when the going gets tough, he pops up to belt of one his trademark pile-drivers- seldom accompanied by a bullish run. Form a wall in front of him and there won’t be any penetration.

    Apologies for the long comment.

  10. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    Although I find Adriano more suitable for our style if Alves is playing on the other side, I think it’s best if Alba start to track Navas.

    Xavi has to play this one. We don’t really have to go all out here. We still need to win but we have to do it safely, therefore, I’d pick Xavi over Cesc. In the 2nd leg, Cesc can run riot.

    I wish Puyol could play but there is no way he will as he played last Saturday and he has some discomfort.

    Mascherano was reported to be injured during training. I know it’s bad to say this but I do hope he won’t be available for this match. That way Tata has no choice but to select Bartra.

    • barca96
      February 18, 2014

      And Neymar shouldn’t start. He needs to get his touch back and of course his match rhythm. He should come on in the 2nd half as a super sub.

    • February 18, 2014

      Mascherano is fit and available. Expect him to start, as he should.

  11. flyzowee
    February 18, 2014

    Look the way I see it even if we lose 5-0 tonight especially with what happened with Bayern last year, I dont see any major changes happening. We are who we are.

    This game for me is about damage limitation. I have no problem accepting that approach if that is Martinos line of thinking. We hardly win Away knock-out matches anyaway.
    See the tie as a military operation divided into two parts. This will help you calm down.

    All we need to do is to come away from the game with a stable platform for a clean finish at the camp nou. We are under no obligation to ‘prove a point’.

  12. Archie
    February 18, 2014

    This game is T. Marino’s first tie where home goals count less than away goals, correct? Stopping M.City from scoring is Good result. Scoring away is Very Good result. Having away game first is traditional advantage where goals are even but disadvantage where away goals count more.

    This game will not be ANYTHING like Bayern drubbing because players are fit and playing well with real variety of tactics depending on how the game progresses.

    Also, even though high scoring teams, not likely to be many goals given the defenses will be very cautious. Which brings me back to first point: is it good tactic to play for 0-0 and hope for 0-1 on first leg away game in CL knock out?

    • Ryan
      February 18, 2014

      Actually at the beginning of the season he won the Super Cup on away goals vs. Atletico, so I’m sure he knows the value in scoring away from home.

      • February 18, 2014

        The other thing that people always forget about Bayern: In the first leg, take away those two offside goals and if Bartra doesn’t gag it up twice with glorious scoring chances, that first leg could have ended 2-2. Given the state the team was in it might still have gone down at home, but for me the Bayern beating was more circumstantial than actual. That is, they weren’t seven goals better than us.

        Today will be weird. Could be 5-0 either way, but more likely 2-2.

      • Archie
        February 18, 2014

        Thank you! I will now find something else to fixate on.

    • Serena Andre
      February 18, 2014

      In the Supercup and Copa del Rey away goals count as well.

  13. providence
    February 18, 2014

    from the probable XI coming out, it looks like City are no going to open up … Fernandiho, Javi Garcia, Yaya Toure … and it seems they’re targeting aerial duels/Set pieces as well .. Garcia, Lescot,Kompany, Yaya ..

  14. kosby
    February 18, 2014

    Thanks Kxevin for the beautiful article. Especially appreciate the timing – before the match.

  15. February 18, 2014

    Thanks for the kind words, everyone. It ain’t nowhere near as good as Levon’s match review of last week, and is actually (Note: not “literally” heh!) about 20 minutes of keyboard bashing at 5:30 a.m. Chicago time. So that it is even remotely lucid and enjoyable I consider an immense triumph that makes the kind words even more appreciated.

    • icemel
      February 18, 2014

      ’twas even good to read as a reheated post match morsel. Prescient wordsmith-ing as always. Regal us with your sunrise bashing anytime. First Thought-Best Thought

  16. February 18, 2014

    Oh, Rosell was cleared of all wrongdoing in the whole Brazil friendlies court business. Neener neener, he says.

  17. Archie
    February 18, 2014

    OK, I found something. The other way to play Barca, lately, is high line and much harassing in middle and advanced thirds. Then, retreat and pack the 18 if Barca make progress, or quick counter attack if messi loses ball at mid field. Kinda Barca tactics with quick long ball instead of the one-twos at a gallop, but R.Madrid and B. Munich? have had some luck with it. Manchester C. don’t seem to have the squad to park the bus, so maybe they will chase in middle? Anybody remember Pellegrini’s tactics at Malaga v Barca?

  18. psalmuel
    February 18, 2014

    From my observation, the antibarca tactic in vogue now is the Diego Simeone one.
    -2 compact banks of 4 with ur 2 strikers dropping back to midfield and harassing busi when he has the ball.
    -Asking ur back for to stay deep and compact no matter where play is so as to avoid counters.
    – Exploit the acres of space that may be left by our flying fullbacks
    -Long diagonal balls to strikers towards the wings so as to drag Pique and Smasch out wide. The striker the picks out a mid making the run to our 18yard box with Valdez all by himself.
    -Set pieces.
    This was the tactic used by Athletico, Athletic, Levante and Valencia and it yielded results. Teams that play high lines get punished by our through balls from midfield.

    • February 18, 2014

      Now note the new Iniesta role as bridge from midfield to front line, withOUT (this is the difference) going into the box. So rather than Messi having to drop so deep to receive the ball to be part of play, Iniesta is often doing more of that work, to fine effect.

      And the benefit of Messi being more involved in the defending part of things as he has been, is that he has more chances to touch the ball in all parts of the pitch, and make potentially destabilizing runs as he sees fit.

      This also means rather than standing there and waiting for a pass, Messi is running AT a defense that is backpedaling and saying “Oh, crap!” While they are saying that, Sanchez and Pedro are running to make themselves available for a pass from Messi, or making a space-creating run.

      I think the new Iniesta role is set up to counteract that new tactic, as is Fabregas in the midfield with Busquets and Iniesta, in a normally aggressive match. Today will be more conservative.

    • Archie
      February 18, 2014

      Both of these comments are very helpful! I don’t get to see enough La Liga to track this, but now that you describe it, it rings true. So, without K. Aguero, what will Manchester C. do to counter? diagonals to Navas? 91 crosses?

      • mom4
        February 18, 2014

        I expect City to go with a front line of Navas, Negredo, Silva. Not a bad little front line! Navas will probably be crossing into Negredo all night long. We need to watch for that! That being said, Our Spaniards (/Catalans) are better than their Spaniards and are intimately familiar with their Spaniards’ games.
        I’d rather see Adriano out there defending Navas than Alba but I fully expect Alba to start. He’d better not neglect his defensive duties.

  19. Cule
    February 18, 2014

    Please ppl, post links to stable streams if you find them. Thank you

  20. kosby
    February 18, 2014

    cant wait cant wait cant wait….

  21. justdoit94
    February 18, 2014

    kx’s words always manage to kick the pessimist in me right in the arse!

  22. Jim
    February 18, 2014

    Won’t deny this is big for me ven as I know it won’t settle anything. This is our first big test since the Bayern game and it’ll tell us a lot about whether our team still believe they are the best. Been taking a lot of opinions at work about how we are past it so it’d be nice for the little ones to pass it about well for the 90. Can’t argue if we lose one to a set piece but if we concede to a breakaway I’ll be hacked off.

    We can do this…

    • justdoit94
      February 18, 2014

      that’s right . we wont be having too much fun when the ball is at our left flank. i expect mc to overload that zone Navas + zabalata and the occasional toure run into half space against our tiny #18 man.

    • justdoit94
      February 18, 2014

      Here’s to hoping tata knows what he’s doing and will shut everyone up including myself…

  23. BA
    February 18, 2014

    Jordi Alba and Fabregas starting…. this doesn’t look good.

  24. February 18, 2014

    Our XI today: Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Mascherano, J.Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas, Sanchez, Messi and Iniesta

    Good call from Martino. The Sanchez addition surprised me.

    • Jim
      February 18, 2014

      Wouldn’t have been my call to play Alexis or Masche but hey it’s done and time to show them the quality of our game.

  25. Jim
    February 18, 2014

    What is hard about staying on your feet Dani? That’s a nightmare card.

  26. justdoit94
    February 18, 2014

    i did not expect city to play ultra defensive at etihad…
    at one point it looked like a 6-3-1

  27. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    Time for us to hit them on a counter

  28. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    Enough with the high crosses already!

  29. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    Oh no… Another red card. Another ammo for the haters.

    • Ryan
      February 18, 2014

      Pretty clear penalty from Dimechelis though.

    • barca96
      February 18, 2014

      I wish it was someone other than Demechilis who would miss the return leg. It’s fun playing against him 🙂

      • barca96
        February 18, 2014

        I actually thought the initial tackle was committed outside the box so it shouldn’t have been a penalty. Red card but no penalty.

        • G6O
          February 18, 2014

          Correct, it should not have been a penalty. But then we also got robbed with the Cesc offside call.

  30. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    I’d like to see Song coming on for Xavi or Cesc later on but now that we are a man up maybe that would be too defensive.

    • barca96
      February 18, 2014

      Haha good call.

      Kompany’s 2 tackles has been perfect! Clean and firm.

  31. Jim
    February 18, 2014

    There’s a shock ! What was the best that could happen?

  32. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    Yup. Another pointless rash lunge from the back from Mascherano. I think he thinks that every CB should make one in each match.

  33. barca96
    February 18, 2014

    I can see a City comeback. We’ve been playing poorly for the last 10mins. Lost control against 10 men.

  34. Messiah10
    February 18, 2014

    We were screwed on the Cesc offside call. Pause it on the pass and Man City player farthest from him on the line is on the box line. Look at Cesc. He’s a foot away. If that comes back to haunt us I’ll be pissed. That said, WTF is Dani doing putting it right back in the middle with a horible pass. Finish this boys!

    • barca96
      February 18, 2014

      Yeah that was a bad call. Would’ve been a beautiful team goal.

      There was another supposed to be a beautiful team goal but the ball got caught under Messi’s foot.

  35. Jim
    February 18, 2014

    And that, gentlemen, is what the control and passing can do away from home. Great result . Just a pity we lost our motivation to attack a little when they went down to ten. Our ball movement slowed right down and we started getting caught. I thought Cesc looked knackered for about the last thirty minutes. Not sure why.

    • barca96
      February 18, 2014

      It was strange for them to slow down after gaining a player advantage. It was ok for a while and then it went downhill.

      City was really close to making a comeback. Thankfully Joe Hart came out too far and Alves could hit it on target.

    • georgjorge
      February 18, 2014

      I agree, the team definitely lost a bit of focus after the first goal. Especially Messi for a lot of the remaining time reverted back to sleepwalking.

      Enough of the complaints…incredible result! Overall a very composed and patient performance, strong defense as well – of course City had their chances, but you can’t keep them from having some of them for a full match. Most of their attacks were in one way or another dealt with very well (first corner in the 89th minute!). And the team never lost their nerve while passing the ball around, which is hard to do if you’re faced with the amount of pressure the players are facing after last year’s Bayern defeat.

      Oh, and if – like me – you thought “oh no” when you saw Iniesta on the left wing – look at where the pass for the Messi run which led to the penalty came from.

  36. teddy
    February 18, 2014

    This is definitely a good result to bring home. With 2 nil down, they are certainly need to come out and play at Camp Nou, which could means a better attacking game for us.

    • IamXavi6
      February 18, 2014

      Very good point. This forces them to come out and play…. right into our hands at home…we score first…Tie is over.

  37. Valdemar II
    February 18, 2014

    0-2 vs England’s finest, excellent result.

    Performance was uneven. Great passing, great back 4, but City were beating their man/withstanding our pressure too easily IMO. Kompany was perhaps their best player, sharp tackling and skilled at using his odd skull. The performance of our fullbacks was a relief (Alves a bit too hot perhaps). Not the match I had hoped for, but we weren’t bad and killing the tie away is a dream scenario.

  38. KEVINO17
    February 18, 2014

    My recent criticism of Mascherano has been pathetic. Pique and Masch were superb tonight.
    Presumably, Tata went for Alexis at the start because he thought MC would sit deep and he wanted someone who could play back to goal.
    Think he should have brought Pedro on for Iniesta at the 70 minute mark when the play was being stretched.

  39. lea_terzi
    February 18, 2014

    The writing was on the wall for City. First, we were declared underdogs (by Mou-Mou and Wenger, among others. Thanks, mates). We’ve been known to play our best football as underdogs. Second, they decided to let us play our game. Didn’t anyone tell them that if you allow the little guys 140 passes in the first ten minutes, they might get into a hypnotic rhythm that’s impossible to defend against for 90 minutes? Pellegrini should’ve known better. Third, when Messi decided to play a full-pitch attacking, defensive, pressing and passing game today, giving us an extra midfielder and defender in addition to the best forward in the world… it was over. Demichelis sealed the deal.

    Don’t know what would have been if Nastasic and Kun were fit, if City didn’t play with ten men for most of the second half, but this should have been 3-0, could have been more, and we didn’t even push that hard. Just a kind reminder to the world that while form is temporary, Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, Victor and Dani are permanent.

    Our defense from the first half of the season made a very welcome appearance, Pique used all of his 1.92 meters (and even scored a legit goal), Alba and Masche had those games when you forget their lack of height and just admire the speed and cojones, respectively; Alexis took one for the team, Neymar created two chances (Dani’s goal and Messi’s shot) in 15 minutes, Sergi Roberto saw game time, Champions league is back, and so is Barca.

    • KEVINO17
      February 18, 2014

      Totally agree. Messi presses, we win; Messi pressed.

      • Dar_vincy
        February 18, 2014

        Kevin, i’m happy for your admittance of Alves and Masche.
        I couldn’t fathom your support of Montoya or Bartra over the duo. Madcap as they may seldom be, they however step up when it matters most and their wealth of experience shouldn’t be easily ignored in matches lilke this.

    • lea_terzi
      February 18, 2014

      And, of course, Tata did exactly what Kevin said he would. Managed today’s game, and just this game, the surrounding panic, doom and gloom be damned.

  40. TITO
    February 18, 2014

    I liked it more when we played against 10 men, we were more focused. But hey, to go at Manchester and take a 2-0 lead against the English finest, there’s no reason not to be happy. 😀

  41. IamXavi6
    February 18, 2014

    Perfectly executed game, ladies and gentlemen. Shut the crowd up early with some controlled possession, survive the first ~20mins and not conceed….

    Completely outplayed City and throughouly desererved 2 goals, not including Pique dissalowed.

    Everyone played well and did their part…but MOTM probably goes to Dani Alves IMO.

    Tie isn’t over but it’s very, very close. We score first in Nou Camp and it’s done.

    Great way to use possesssion to own and deny an attacking team any outlet against us (especially away).

    Kudos to Martino for getting the selections 100% right.

    • KEVINO17
      February 18, 2014

      You’re right. The difference between Barca and the other sides is not their technical ability, but their overall game-smarts (their patience with the ball and ability to know when the press the destruct button). How many teams to you see launch a counter-attack and then call it off when the right options don’t open up. Barca does it all the time.

    • morph73
      February 19, 2014

      I would actually say that Valdes was the MOTM… There were quite a few moments when he really saved us when we could have gone down… Just my opinion though 🙂

  42. flyzowee
    February 18, 2014

    I hope Martino gets the praise he deserves. Probably the best away performance in 7 to 8yrs. A special shout out goes to Alba who did an amazing job on Navas and Pique who was ( and needed to be ) an absolute Titan.

  43. February 18, 2014

    Are there people really complaining? REALLY? It is like people do not realise the quality of the opposition we were playing. City are no minnows, they are the best team in the EPL and at home they are quite frankly frightening at times. They have battered numerous top teams this season at their grounds. We went there, and we did EXACTLY what we had to do to win the TIE. Not the game, which we could have drawn or even lost and still won the TIE. This game has showed me how smart Tata is. HE knew exactly how to play this, keep the ball, do not commit too much, do not give them space to counter. Keep control. Chances will come, just take them. We did that.

    There are a lot of complaints that we didn’t “go for it” when they were down to 10. Again, there is no need. 1-0 away from him in the first leg of a CL tie is a fantastic result. We will kill the game at home, with our fans behind us and our players in their element. We didn’t need to push too much to kill the game and risk being more open to the counter attack. Yes, they were down to 10, but their key attacking players were still all on the pitch and pushing too much could have easily resulted in a goal on the counter. We were playing a team with some really talented players who can hurt you a lot if given the chance and I for one am very happy that we didn’t give them the chance. What i was most impressed with was the limited amount of set pieces we allowed them. They had one I think and it ended up being very dangerous. We saw a lot of tactical fouling away from box not allowing dangerous set piece situations.

    Well done Tata, who i think managed this game extremely well. Now they have to the Camp Nou and play, they have to come out. In 3 weeks, when Neymar is back in his groove and Messi should be at 100%. That is going to be a fun game!

    • lea_terzi
      February 18, 2014

      Great plan, great execution, fantastic result – if we remember Tata’s task was to get us into the quarters, not exorcise the demon of Bayern and allay all the Cule worries (which is impossible, anyways).

    • icemel
      February 18, 2014

      OK my habitual Culer moaning out of system…thanks for the cold water in the face!

      Is it too early or too sacrilegious to re-brand a phrase… ” In Tata we trust?”

      …it certainly helped calm nerves in the un-expected-lineups-but-always-winning Pep days.

  44. Dar_vincy
    February 18, 2014

    Roger that, Hilal. Spot on!
    My expectations for this game was drastically adjusted considering the attacking ruthlessnes of the opposition.
    We replicated what we did against Madrid- which was to play an assured and matured match.
    Slowing the tempo was crucial to not unleashing that destructive beast in MC.
    Could ask for more.

    • KEVINO17
      February 18, 2014

      Can see both sides of the argument. But away goals are SO important in CL action. So when you get a chance to cash in against 10 men, you should take it. Even a 2-1 win would be better than a 1-0 win.

  45. dl
    February 18, 2014

    Hey everyone: We’re all eager to call this one done, but there is still a game to play, even if it is at home. City (any team in the CL, at this point) is still very dangerous. We’ve won it when both games are in bottle.

  46. 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

  47. 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.

    • 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 🙂

  48. 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..

          • 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.

  49. 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.

  50. 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 🙂

  51. 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.

  52. 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!

  53. 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.

  54. andrecito
    February 18, 2014

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

  55. February 18, 2014

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

    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.

  56. 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 per fifa rules and all.

        maybe a few inches out of the a slow motion replay yes..thats not reality out there and hey..the call 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

  57. 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!

  58. 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.

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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.

  62. 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.

  63. 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.

  64. 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.

  65. 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.

  66. 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…

  67. 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.

  68. 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.

  69. February 19, 2014

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

  70. 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.

  71. 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) 🙂

  72. 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.

  73. 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.

      • 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 !

  74. 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

    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.

  75. 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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