Barça 2, Manchester City 1 (4-1 agg.), aka “Taking care of business”


So much doubt, so much worry, so much anguish all at the roots of a moment of collective human frailty. When Barça lost to Valladolid this weekend past, it was more than a loss. It was like the starting pistol in a race to establish culpability. Something is wrong, whose fault is it. And we know something is wrong, because a history-making football club lost to a relegation side.

Whose fault is it, and oh my, Manchester City is coming to down with “only” a two-goal lead to overcome. By cracky, they can do that in their sleep, especially with Aguero back to fitness and in the lineup. Oh, my!

FC Barcelona messed all that up by doing the expected and advancing to the quarterfinals of the UEFA Champions League. “Barça is back,” say some, an impossibility because Barça never went away. It is a team of great players that has always been there, players who did their job. And it almost certainly felt weird for Toure Yaya and Txiki B being at the Camp Nou, with that familiar feeling of seeing small, technically gifted players do what they do but having it done to, rather than for you. And Manchester City went down.

Some observers seemed almost surprised at this, but I confess to being surprised by their surprise because for me, the better team advanced, just as it was supposed to. And no, it isn’t smug or overconfident to say that. Barça can roll out an XI of some of the best players in the world, and the best players in the world at key positions.

When you compare that to Manchester City, it is an expensive team that was assembled with a fat checkbook. But those players were, in many instances, players who are already used to being beaten by Barça. Silva, Aguero — Toure Yaya used to be part of the Barça wrecking crew, so he understands. Jesus Navas came in late to his team losing the tie to Barcelona, and it almost certainly felt like home. Argan Oil

The better team won, so it’s kind of absurd the doubt and worry that permeated the air running up to this tie. Two goals wasn’t big enough, City will have Aguero back in the lineup and they can score two goals easy and Barça will be in trouble. They lost to Valladolid, after all, a team battling against relegation. And they didn’t just lose, they lost ugly — desultory, aimless football that found them unable to string a passel of passes together.

That team was supposed to be in trouble today, just as that team, even before any debacles, was supposed to be in trouble from the moment that it drew Manchester City. Rightly so, it was the most difficult draw in the round of 16, against a team that many believed had the equipment to find every weakness in a weakened Barça. Doom beckoned.

But in this tie and on this night, it was apparent that form is temporary and class is permanent. Barça has class. Despite what so many of the team’s supporters don’t believe, and doubt every chance they get, the team has class, even more class than doubt, as astounding as that might seem. And everybody who was supposed to be bad, who routinely earn the ire of culers, was good, from Pique to Alba.


Tata Martino started what is probably his gala XI: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Fabregas, Neymar.

And there were many ways of looking at that lineup. “Well, they have to play four mids to retain match control, given the limitations of the team.”

One astute observer said that Barça was going with its best 1-v-1 players. Another astute observer said that Barça had to rely on individual excellence to get a result. All were right, and what’s wrong with that? In a match in which Martino figured that City was going to press, bully and harass, the absolute right call was to line up players with brilliant individual skills on the ball. It isn’t a sin to have great individual players, or to rely on the talents of those players to win matches for you. Individual golazos count as much as 30+pass team goals. Both win matches.

Messi worked his way loose against Lescott time and again with individual brilliance. Neymar flicked, snaked and worked his way into a couple of very good changes with individual brilliance. It isn’t cheating, or the sign of a flaw. You acquire those players for that precise reason, so that when the team football doesn’t work, the best player alive can fake somebody out of their boots and make magic happen. It is supposed to work like that.

But today, there were three key differences from the Valladolid mess: Iniesta, Messi and urgency, that 12th man we really haven’t seen since the last time Barça played Manchester City. It is a single-minded focus that allows the team to play with greater effectiveness, to eschew nonsense. Fouls came, they got up and played on. A clear penalty shout came early in the first half, with no whining or swarming the ref.

Barça was sharp, alert and aggressive. and they were bullies. Lescott was identified as the weak link in that City back line, so players with absurd ball skills ran at him. Messi. Neymar. Alves. Time and again, and time and again he was found wanting. City got a set piece in the first half that was cleared with no drama. In another instance, a foul was earned as the smaller Barça player got into the space of the larger City attacker, so that the only option was to foul. Urgency and focus. Suddenly, they can defend set pieces. Imagine that.

It has been said time and again that the people who are going to solve that “crisis” was the players, and they could do it simply, by being the players that they are. Jordi Alba, for one of the first matches in a long time, showed exactly why he was purchased as the team’s left back. He wasn’t Abidal, but his range and absurd pace cast a massive shadow. Any loose pass, any bit of slop was pounced on.

Iniesta was absurd in the aftermath of heartbreak, as essential a player for Barça as Messi was, because of his role as that bridge between midfield and attackers. He makes Messi’s life easier, even as he knows that he is going to take a series of fouls in every match.


Xavi ran and capered about, helping the team exert control along with Fabregas, who wasn’t rated by many because he was for most of the time doing a Keita, almost invisibly exerting influence through movement and the right pass at the right time.

Pique was locked down, and Mascherano kept Aguero in his pocket. The entire team understood what the situation was, and it was magical to see them rise to occasion, even as it was expected for me that they would. Because it wasn’t rising to any occasion. It was doing their jobs, a presumption of professionalism that dictated only a fool would assume that the Valladolid Barça was going to show up today in a match this crucial, or that the Manchester City side that lost to a second-division side on the weekend was going to show up.

City came to play and was serious about wanting to win this match. The side came out to play because they had to, just as Barça had to deal with a larger, more physical team who like every opponent with intent this season, got in the players’ faces, pressed, harassed and fouled. But Valladolid did the same thing, yet City is a much better team than Valladolid. So why is there a comfortable win on Wednesday, and a most decidedly UNcomfortable loss on Saturday?

Urgency, and Messi.

Nothing sparks a debate by calling into question Messi’s work rate in matches, and everybody has a reason for why. He isn’t the player he once was. He must conserve himself so that he is ready to score goals. Even standing around, he is still occupying defenders. He will injure himself again if he tracks back, and shame on anyone who expects the best alive to do donkey work. Debates roil, and people like me are called a “hater.”

Then Messi plays a match such as he played today and makes a fool out of everyone because is it That Messi who messes it up for the Other Messi.

In the examination of what is wrong with a team that doesn’t really have all that much wrong with it, a few brave journalists were noting as a symptom of the malaise, Messi walking around the pitch, head down as if looking for lost change. Solo runs would result in lost balls as he watched the opponent run in the other direction.

Today, he laughed at us all, as Kun Aguero darted off on a run that would have put the defense in trouble but Messi, from the other end of the pitch, chased Aguero down, stole the ball and began a pell-mell run in the other direction. He trotted, ran around and moved, head up, keeping constant watch on his midfield in an effort to always be available for a pass. He got the ball more, closer to the Manchester City box. He made passes, made runs, had shots at goal. He was intense, focused and ready to play, energized by a big match and a big opponent.

A great player raises his game in the presence of a wannabe. Michael Jordan raised him game against Clyde Drexler in that famous “shrug” game, saying to Drexler, “You are a very good player, but I am a great player.” Messi chased Aguero down and took the ball not only because that was what he was supposed to do. It sent a very clear message to City and his teammates that this match is real, that the best player alive has come to play.

Foolish people like me stand on soapboxes and say “this isn’t FC Messi,” and we’re sort of right. But the way That Messi energizes and demands the best from his teammates also makes liars out of us. This is Messi’s team, and it responds to him. We saw it against AC Milan, we saw it against Paris St.-Germain, the electrifying capability that Messi has to elevate his team when he leads by example.

After the match a journalist said that the difference was simple, that when Messi’s teammates play better, Messi plays better, a notion that struck me as hooey. When Messi plays better, it elevates his teammates, even as we acknowledge those occasions when his teammates are engaged and getting it done in spite of his seeming lack of full involvement. Messi drives this team — with passes, with runs, with urgency, with competitiveness that makes him chase down the opponent’s best attacker. It isn’t want, because a team wants to win every match. It’s urgency, that sense of Now that allows great players to focus just a little bit more and play to their full potential.

It is when That Messi shows up that the presence of the Other Messi becomes so glaring, so noticeable. No, That Messi can’t show up every match. But when people take a match like this and scoff at anyone who dares question the times Other Messi shows up, it’s a tough sell because the difference is so clear.

So it was fitting that when the goal came it would not only come from the feet of Messi, but would be the kind of goal that he scores so capably, a goal that comes from movement and anticipation, running because of the possibility that something might happen. So he made the run, and was in the perfect spot to capitalize on a defender’s error to put the tie effectively out of reach. Done.

More elegantly it was done not by some absurd, jaw-dropping bit of magic but instead by work, by running, by being in the right place at the right time that comes from a magical player somehow just knowing. Fair? Nope. The most handsome guy in the class is also the smartest, and the nicest and the most helpful. Deal with it. But on days when that handsome guy is in a bad mood, it strains credulity when people make excuses for that mood.

Messi can’t be that player all the time. But when he is that player it is so astonishing that greedy, selfish football fans that we are, we want to see that player all the time even as we know that we can’t because the game is played by human beings.

But human beings sometimes take the form of great players. And when those great players decide that tonight is the night, that a message must be sent, it is something extraordinary. When you take a collection of great players and there is one who is transcendent, it is those moments that elevate the game from something played by humans to the province of seeming deities.


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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. teddy
    March 12, 2014

    I have no words for Iniesta. Showing the absurd level of professionalism and dedication after coming through such a horrific event in his life.

    The team play good, hopes that they can carry the same intensity in the league. The players do play like they want the big ear so much this season, perhaps a parting gift to our capita?

    On the other hand from Barcastuff:

    Victor Valdes completed the same amount of passes (13) as Edin Dzeko & Sergio Aguero combined.

  2. barca96
    March 12, 2014

    I would like to echo those sentiments on Kompany. He is certainly a great defender and great captain and all but he does seem delusional at times especially 3 weeks ago.

    After the first leg; Barca were there for the taking.
    And now: Manchester City won’t fear anybody next year.

    • PrinceYuvi
      March 13, 2014

      That happens when you score goals too many with head.

      You tend to forget its other uses, like speaking intelligently Or making sense.

      Sour grapes.

      After all that’s said and done,
      he’ll have to live with the fact
      that his Team is not on par with us.

  3. Seyi38
    March 13, 2014

    Team was great. Iniesta was something else yesterday, then Xavi, Messi, Busquets, Dani Alves, Alba and Cesc. Was really impressed by Alba last night, wish he had height to complement his skill set. He can be a real asset for Barcelona but it all depends on how the rest of the defence is set up especially at RB. Perhaps a tall right back or Bartra?

  4. March 13, 2014

    I always say when Messi runs, harries and presses the opponent, Barca’s chances of winning increases by 50 to 60%. That’s what happened last night. Now bring on Olympiakos vs Barca and Bayern vs Madrid.

  5. March 13, 2014

    And for some wishful thinking…

    Quarter Finalists
    FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Atletico Madrid, Borussia Dortmund, Real Madrid, Paris St. Germain, Chelsea FC, Olympiakos / Manchester United.

    QF draws & Winners
    Barca vs Olympiakos / United – Win : BARCA
    Bayern vs Real Madrid – Win : BAYERN
    Atletico Madrid vs PSG – Win : ATLETI
    Chelsea vs Borussia Dortmund – Win : DORTMUND

    SF & Winners
    Barca vs Dortmund – Winner : BARCA
    Bayern vs Atleti – Winner : BAYERN

    The Final
    FCB vs FCBM – Winner : Puyol, Valdes.

    • Roger Evans
      March 13, 2014

      Your final prediction almost made me cry.

    • March 13, 2014

      If we do manage to get into the CL final, I really hope Puyol can at least come off the bench and play some minutes. I can’t imagine him being left completely out of what would surely be his final CL appearance ever. It would be a fitting way to say goodbye to the best captain we have ever had.

    • FCBblaug
      March 15, 2014

      You want the easiest opponents?
      I want the toughest opponents possible. I am almost sure that against olympiacos, they will put those half hearted displays of theirs and we may even be shockingly eliminated

  6. PrinceYuvi
    March 13, 2014

    Ha. I love this article. Thanks kx.

  7. March 13, 2014

    I would like to congratulate Man city for how they played at our home. They are an excellent team and if Pellegrini stay with them, they could be an even bigger force next year. It is a pity they met us in the pre quarter. A special thanks for not parking the bus too.

    As Kevin says, when our team show that urgency, we dont need our players to be at their best, but very good, to beat the best. I thought the whole team was good, except for Neymar. He was like varying between poor and average. But he will only get better and better.

    Only 80000 in Camp Nou, that doesnt sound good at all for me. Hopefully they will fill it for QF. Liked what Alves expressed during his celebration.

    Messi is no where near his best. But still is miles ahead of the rest. Imagine if Iniesta also had some percent of Messi’s finishing and speed in decision making in the final third, oh dear, we would have got two Messi’s. Absolutely amazing players, these two are.

    • barca96
      March 13, 2014

      According to the official website, it was the second best attended game of the 2013/14 season which surprised me too.

      It was the highest attended game for Barça in the Champions League this season, ahead of the game against Milan (80,517) and Ajax (79,412).

      The only match that attracted more fans was the La Liga game against Real Madrid (98,761).

    • Messiah10
      March 14, 2014

      That is a touching story. I hope little Erik pulls through!

  8. barca96
    March 13, 2014

    Where is Blitzen? She’s been missing for weeks. Was thinking of asking here for a few days already. But after seeing this ice hockey fight, I thought better ask while Canada is still on my mind.

    Are ice-hockey players trained to fight? How do they manage to balance on ice and fight with good hits. Why is it even allowed?

    But I’d take these kinds of fights over football fights where they push, scratch, slap, tackle. Cowardly acts. I don’t condone fighting at all. It’s stupid but it’s better than trying to ruin a persons career with a wild tackle.

    • March 13, 2014

      I’m here. I was indeed away for weeks, visiting my parents in the ice-swept outback of Saskatchewan. I’ve been back since Saturday, but it has taken this long for my fingers to thaw enough to be able to type. Nice to know I’ve been missed.

      The “should fighting be allowed in hockey?” debate has been raging for years with no end in sight. Every year someone suffers a serious injury and it starts all over again–but injuries are not usually from the actual fighting, they result from vicious one-off headshots with the stick, or an especially brutal “check” into the boards. The kind of fighting you see in that video is mostly just for show and usually no one suffers more than a cut lip. It’s ridiculous that it is “allowed”, but the crowd likes seeing it.

      Hockey players aren’t “officially” trained to fight, obviously, but tips are given off-the-record on how to do it safely by other players and even coaches. Certain players are even designated as “enforcers”, whose job is to physically protect the star forwards, aggressively if necessary–and take out the opposing star players if they think they can get away with it.

      • barca96
        March 15, 2014

        When they first started ice hockey, didn’t they give red cards back then or was fighting already a part of it?

        I find it such a cheap shot when they push a guy that doesn’t have the puck to the wall. At least with NFL, I understand that they want to remove obstacles but with ice hockey it’s like out of nowhere. Used to watch a bit in mid 90’s. Wayne Gretzky with Rangers. And Detroit Red Wings. And the great Czech team in 1998. The GK.

  9. barca96
    March 13, 2014

    Jamie Carragher’s English has improved a lot! Or maybe it’s me that has improved 🙂

    I remember when I first saw him in 1998 or 1999 on a football show with Owen, I couldn’t understand a word. Maybe only 20% tops. Luckily he was only being used as a dummy by Owen on the tutorial show.

    In 2003-07 when I used to watch a lot of EPL, I could only understand 30%. And then I read that he took up English language classes in order to improve his English. I guess he made a lot of progress 🙂

    • March 13, 2014

      Lev is safe and sound, last we heard. Internet connection was spotty for him, but all is well.

  10. March 13, 2014

    I wonder if Tata has the balls/guts/support to say “screw the league” and just focus on Europe and CdR. I don’t think we have enough to compete on all fronts. Yesterday showed when we give a shit, we’re awesome. In a weird way, I wish we further behind in the league, like 7-10 points, which would make prioritization easier for Tata.

    Either way, Visca Barca.

    • ooga aga
      March 13, 2014

      This makes no sense. We will beat RM in their house, and they will drop one other point, and we will take the league. RM will drop points again in the league this year. We might too, but they will drop more than us.

      if tata says “screw the league” that would be the opposite of courageous, it would be cowardly. i dont see what you are trying to say.

      • March 13, 2014

        What I’m trying to say is only someone very secure in their position would be able to say “we give up on this competition”. But Tata is not in such a secure position.

        The point I’m trying to make is in going for 3 trophies we could end up with 0 because of our small squad (we could see at least 1-2 more Valladolid type games). But going for 2 we could get both.

        I don’t see why you’re so confident of beating Madrid in Madrid, right now week in week out, they are better than us. It is much more likely they beat us or draw than we beat them. It is also unlikely that they drop points in other games without us doing so (we have a much tougher run in, not to mention our last game is against Atleti).

        • March 13, 2014

          I think that he is confident of beating RM because of the faith that many culers have in their team for big matches. To be sure, there have been focus and motivation complexities, but not when it comes to the big ones.

          Manchester City was supposed to stomp us. We were supposed to lose the home match to RM, etc, etc.

          That said, no coach is going to give up on the league with just a 4-point deficit, and the first-place team is the next big match. First up, however, is Osasuna away, never an easy day. Win that one, then we can start looking at the meaningful qualities of the away RM match.

          • TITO
            March 13, 2014

            It’s Osasuna at home i think, it wont cause us much problems.

          • March 13, 2014

            Oh, crap! We’re HOME. That’s different. I can’t see us losing at home, not at this point in time.

        • TITO
          March 13, 2014

          We dont have a tougher run. They play Sevilla, Sociedad, Valencia, us…
          The only tougher game for us beside RM and AM, is Villareal away which still can be ours if we go for a win.

          • March 13, 2014

            Taking out the Clasico, our remaining 10 opponents have a total of 358 points. Their remaining 10 opponents have a total of 322 points. On average, our opponents are better. (You did not mention Athletic, who we play 2 games before Atleti).

        • barca96
          March 15, 2014

          Ahsan, you’re right. I also think that they have an easier run in and you just confirmed it by doing a lot of homework calculating the points of the opposition. Great stuff!

  11. PrinceYuvi
    March 13, 2014

    Thanks kx.
    Protests started on 12th of Feb, & Things still look bleak.
    Hoping for the best.
    Plenty of news circulating, at least No veil of secrecy.

  12. kosby
    March 13, 2014

    So This Messi was one of the big factors in deciding the game. I’ve been hearing that we cannot have This Messi play all the games because its physically impossible. I agree and not just because its physically impossible, its also because its mentally impossible to perform at this level.

    Now, doesn’t rotation address this exact issue ? Play a game and then rest for a while. I think we know by now that this team wins games even when Messi doesn’t play…he does not have to play each game in the league. This would ensure that whenever he plays, he would be able to give his best effort. And that games that he sits out, he could always be on the bench ready to come on if required. Because the Messi we saw yesterday was otherworldly…

    Also the same applies to other players as well – intensity/urgency or whatever you want to call it…we cant have that if the same players are going to play every match…especially Xavi. We need a backup for him not because he is old and cannot play at a high level, but because he cant play at that level every match, in fact nobody can..

    One more thing Ive been thinking about…the lineup we played yesterday was one to control the midfield, would we still play the same team if we were down by a couple goals ? If not, then it means that its probably not the team you would start with if both teams are at 0 – 0. It would be interesting to see the team that plays the quarters.

    Also probably now that Busquets is not playing at the indecently amazing level he used to, we need that one man more in midfield for control.

    And after all that, I’ll go back to basking in the performance we gave yesterday.

    • Jim
      March 13, 2014

      I’ve a feeling that the team we saw yesterday is now firmly established as the top team for the big games.

      Can’t really argue with that other than to say I’d still rather see Puyol given the last chance to shine in the CL games that remain. Not bashing Masche, just think the capi has two or three top games left and even if he doesn’t he definitely doesn’t deserve to sit out the rest of the season.

    • ibbe
      March 13, 2014

      In the Etihad we started with the same line-up except for Sanchez in for Neymar. It was also the same line-up for the home clasico. IMO for our squad, control brings goals and least amount of goals conceded. I think our line-up for upcoming big games will include 4 midfielders. All is left to choose is who will be messis partner in attack.

      • March 13, 2014

        It would take a coach with stones the size of Jupiter to sit a healthy Messi. It would also take a coach with unquestioned control of his team, and a full mandate from the board that was as unshakable as Gibraltar.

        Even if you have one of those three, and I think Martino has the first, he doesn’t have the other two.

        But resting Messi for some matches would be best for everything except his ego and goalscoring numbers. It will, however, never, EVER happen. You will see the occasional, very infrequent rotation. But forget about anything substantial.

        For instance, I wouldn’t start him against Osasuna at home. Wouldn’t even have him on the roster. Play Neymar central, flank him with Sanchez and Pedro and let’s do this. But on the weekend there Messi will be. Why? See above.

        — Neymar wasn’t at his absolute best because of being on the right, but he was still very good, and links up very well with Alves. He still has problems with overconfidence, which lets him get caught pinned against the touch line too often (becomes an extra defender). But that will come with playing time. I love that he always forces play forward.

        • ibbe
          March 13, 2014

          I agree on everything. Martino does have the balls like you mentioned and in order to get the behind him he needs to achieve something big. Like a comeback for the league or a CL medal. If he manages one of those the board will be more assured in giving him the squad he needs and also the backing for big decisions (like benching messi).

          But right now he has no choice other than playing his cards right. He has to please the fans, the players And the board to make sure he stays as head coach next season.

          Neymar is just awesome. He maybe wasn’t productive yesterday but culers must remember how many fouls he drew yesterday. He forced a few yellows which isn’t bad. Playing on the right side shouldn’t be a problem for him theoretically. He is a complete forward who can play anywhere on the front. But of course he is at his best on the left.

          He shouldn’t be judged this season. I believe we will see the real Neymar next season.

        • March 13, 2014

          I didn’t think Neymar had a great game, but he definitely worked hard, and he scored a goal (which should have counted), so I’m happy with him. I actually liked what he was doing on the right side–especially since he wasn’t getting in Iniesta and Alba’s way on the left. 😛 No, seriously, he seems to be getting back into his groove, and he has a good connection with Dani Alves on the right, so I hope we see more of that.

  13. March 13, 2014

    we are not the only ones in some shit.
    The president of Bayern, yes Bayern Munich, one Mr. Hoeness has been jailed due to tax fraud. Yikes!

    • Laurentiu88
      March 13, 2014

      same as our ex-captain, Popescu.

  14. barca96
    March 13, 2014

    From Cavalier@Guardian

    I know they think buying defenders is a waste of good resources that could be given to Neymars Dad instead, but there is no shame in buying someone who is just there to defend.

    He is spot on both counts 😆

    And Mourasaint the troll had another golden comment;

    They (Xavi, Iniesta and Messi) look like computer repairmen

    I was thinking something similar last week or so. Most (especially those from the academy) of the Barca players don’t look like footballers at all. I mean, they don’t have the typical athletic look that someone like Ronaldo, Falcao, Pepe, Pique, Song, Tello, etc.

    • PrinceYuvi
      March 14, 2014

      Are you ‘olebull’ from guardian comment section ?

      • barca96
        March 15, 2014

        Hi, no not at all. Olebull is one of my favorite bloggers though.

  15. March 14, 2014

    I’m fine Prince Yuvi, thank you for asking. There was like a two-week spell in which I couldn’t go to work because of the unrest and government militia killed a protester in my very own street, but I’m fine. Just not in the mood to write any articles for now.

    Wednesday’s game was awesome!!! A few quick thoughts:

    *Neymar was better on defense than on offense.
    *We gave City some huge opportunities to stage a comeback before we scored (Nasri, Zabaleta and I forget whose header Valdes plucked out of the sky)
    *I know we all prefer him in midfield, but Iniesta was excellent on the left wing. Really an amazing performance.

    • PrinceYuvi
      March 14, 2014

      It’s great to hear from you, lev ) Be safe.

  16. say2
    March 14, 2014

    Hey guys, i am thinking buying our home jersey. looking at the official site it ha 3 different prices
    1. match jersey – 90 pounds
    2. stadium jersey – 60 pounds
    3. stadium jersey with prints – 80 pounds

    doubts: what is the difference in the stadium and match jersey??

    • March 14, 2014

      “Match” jersey is also known as “authentic” fit, and it is the shirts that the players actually wear themselves. From the online store:

      NOTE: Tight fit, which means any jersey classified as Authentic will run small. The authentic is the actual piece that is worn on field. The authentic uses a performance cut for a snug fit. It also has a bonded crest. The authentic also features upgraded materials. The upgraded materials on the authentic result in a lighter weight.

      “Stadium” jersey has a looser fit for us non-athletes, and is slightly heavier (not something you would notice for casual wear, but if you are drenched with sweat for 90 minutes it makes a difference). Unless you are in absolutely perfect shape and/or have money to burn, go for the stadium jersey. It will fit you better anyway.

      • say2
        March 14, 2014

        Thanks Blitz..

        Stadium jersey it is then:).

        • barca96
          March 15, 2014

          I didn’t know the authentic jerseys had better fit on them. No wonder the jerseys always look “unfit” on me due to my small frame. I guess I’d have to fork out more then 🙁

          Thanks for the info Blitzen

  17. andrecito
    March 14, 2014

    Wow levon..keep safe..a few thoughts..did anyone catch messi during the pregame handshakes? He was chomping on a mouthful of something. I wonder what that was… neymars head flick to himself. It would have been awesome if he scored that. That move must have blown kolarovs heart was in my throat watching zabaletas hit on iniesta. Im so glad it didnt end up with a serious injury. Iniesta must be incredibly sore right now.. cant help to watch yaya with a heavy heart..i love that guy and would take him as a future transfer over any other player on the planet.

    One messi in line to become a captain next season?

    • March 14, 2014

      I believe Messi is already de facto 5th captain, so once Valdes (*sob*) and Puyol (*SOB*) leave he will move up to 3rd captain. I suspect Pique will be 4th captain.

      • say2
        March 14, 2014

        Or even fabregas? he has already done that job at arsenal.

        • March 14, 2014

          Personally I would prefer Fabregas over Pique, but Pique has been there longer. Cesc will likely be 5th captain, though.

          Eventually I’d love to see Busquets as captain, actually.

          • March 14, 2014

            Isn’t Barça captaincy awarded on the basis of first team seniority? Busquets, Pedro and Dani Alves have been there longer than Cesc.

          • March 14, 2014

            That’s the tradition, but in actuality the coach can appoint whomever he wants. Pep Guardiola being an excellent example.

          • Oliver
            March 14, 2014

            Pinto, Masche and Adriano have been on the club longer than Cesc, too. Well, and I suppose also Afellay, though he hasn’t been here continuously.

            Not counting youth players by their first call-up otherwise we’d have Dos Santos in there…. Though wasn’t Bojan captain once the year before he left?

            Xavi, Iniesta, Messi is a good slate of captains, and they’ll all be much more senior than the rest. Not sure if naming a fourth captain will be necessary, but if so Gerard will do fine. Masche could be a good captain someday if he’s not off to Napoli.

  18. Laurentiu88
    March 14, 2014

    in the process of re watching the game.. and wondering if this was j alba’s best game for us? pique didnt give the best of assurances, come defence, but that second half intervention in front of fernandinho was immense.

    • March 14, 2014

      This was far and away Alba’s best match for us. I was feeling like a douchebag every time he defended excellently for ever having doubted him, even though I know better.

      • barca96
        March 15, 2014

        And he did an Abidal style step over and then change direction. If only he was, 10 inches taller.

  19. March 14, 2014

    I still maintain that pique is not our current best DC that respect goes to masche, pique is greatly favoured and many cules will easily wish masche away just to see pique lead the back line, that thought is just flawed, you see that fernandinho block mentioned above? That shouldnt have been noticed if he does that every other matchday. I just wish he hits the gym a bit more regularly and becomes as disciplined as sergio ramos, to me, he will never stop being a ball playing CB…that said, it was really a good win for us and the level of performance means we are getting consistent coz i don’t see much difference between the valladolid loss and the city wins, we were just unlucky against valladolid as we were against chelsea at the camp nou, aside from all the cool points victory brings i spot no difference!

    I think that the most under-rated player in our team(or generally?) is cesc fabregas because of his pre-historic injury history, he really isnt slow or lazy, he presses the CB and falls back for passes, i am really glad we have him here. I still don’t get why Song didnt get a run-in against city.

    A bit off topic…CBs barca should be looking at to replace puyol and hopefully bench pique:
    buy 1 of;
    1. Eliquaim Mangala
    2. Dede Vital
    3. Benatia
    4. Gary cahill(not luiz)

    hot prospects;
    and 2 of
    1. Antoinne griezmann
    2. William carvalho
    3. Alberto moreno
    4. Doria matheus

    cash in on;
    1. Pedro rodriguez
    2. Ibrahim affelay
    3. Tello

    1. Alex Song(valuable DM squad player with professional ratings)
    2. Xavi hernandez( guarantee retirement for symbolism)
    3. Puyol(player coach appointment to toughen bartra and scold pique some more)
    4. Messi( with 400m buyout clause minus 70% person rights)
    5. Cesc fabregas(place importance on the player with buy out clause of 150m which is flexible and fallible to 79m)
    6. Pinto(really this costs nothing and also eases tension on ter stegen)

    and avoid this;
    buying a CF!(waste of money and destabilizes the team, hybrid or not!)

    • Jafri
      March 14, 2014

      becomes as disciplined as sergio ramos

      I don’t think we could survive two or three red cards a season 😀

      • March 14, 2014

        very true.
        But otherways, there is some truth here that Pique cannot be the main CB. He needs someone near him who will lead the back line. Often we can see Masche giving directions, during a corner or set piece. Shouldnt Pique be doing this as Mache is not a real CB.
        Pique is an excellent CB, no doubt, but he is not leader on the back line, it seems.

    • barca96
      March 15, 2014

      I agree with all your renewals. But how much have you seen them (the players that you want) play?

  20. Jim
    March 14, 2014

    That’s the problem for me. I’m in no doubt that he is the best defender we have by a mile and his positional sense is way better than Masche but Masche has the air of a captain while Pique still has the reputation of a joker. Might be taking a chance but I’d make him a captain and force him to get involved more or at least tell him he needs to be more vocal in where we hold our line. If we could somehow turn him into a snarling leader of men we’d be sorted ……… but I don’t see it happening .

    • Jafri
      March 14, 2014

      It’s weird tbh, at 27 years of age you’d expect him to have stepped up and taken on responsibility. Puyol was 26 when he became captain, Mascherano was 26 as well when he was Argentinian captain. They have an attitude, a presence that he lacks. And I guess that it’s too much of a stretch to expect him to change now; don’t see him becoming a leader at the back at any point in time.

      As an aside, Kxevin hit the nail on the head when he said we never said the backline lacked height with Puyol in it, and he’s fully 5-6 inches shorter than Pique. Presence. Doesn’t come with time, you either have it or you don’t.

      • kosby
        March 14, 2014

        Also Alexis, agreed he’s not a defender but its amazing how many headers he wins considering his height…

      • barca96
        March 15, 2014

        Cesc is captain quality but how can you be a captain when you can’t even cement you’re own position?

  21. Jim
    March 14, 2014

    Hunter gets it right for me over at ESPN. That’s not always been the case for me recently but he’s back on form.

  22. March 14, 2014

    Pique and luiz plus an inexperienced ter stegen spells doom for barca

    • BA
      March 14, 2014

      very difficult for me to disagree with this.

      • March 14, 2014

        Hard to know until they are a) signed and b) play together. Until then, it resides in the same bin of culer knowledge that had Mascherano as a no-passing card magnet, Fabregas as an oft-injured flop and Neymar as merely a YouTube sensation.

        We just don’t know.

        But if you look at Ter Stegen over the last couple of seasons, is “inexperienced” really the proper descriptive? No. 1 keeper for a first-division side, acknowledged to be among the best keepers in that league, and one of the best young keepers in the world. Strikes me as a far cry from “inexperienced.”

        Inexperienced in matters of the infighting, backstabbing cesspool of being a Barça player? Absolutely. That will be an unfortunate indoctrination that will occur once he makes his first error, at which point people will clamor for the return of Valdes, a keeper who many of the same people didn’t rate.

    • Jim
      March 14, 2014

      What an article. That’s going on my wall. Nailed it !

        • ooga aga
          March 14, 2014

          ha! they even got iniesta’s skin color right.

      • March 15, 2014

        He lost me when he said that Xavi has been the best player of the world over the last five years.

        • March 15, 2014

          Who has been better, for club and country, is the most effective way to deal with that quibble. When you honestly ask yourself that question it becomes less difficult to disagree with the assessment that Xavi has been the best player in the world over the last five years.

          Were it not for the goal-centric nonsense that defines the Ballon d’Or, he would certainly have had at least one in that span.

          He doesn’t score goals, he doesn’t even make that many assists given how much he has the ball, but he defines and controls almost every match that he plays. There is no other player in world football who, for club and country, over the last 5 years, has done that as consistently and effectively as Xavi.

          • Jim
            March 15, 2014

            Absolutely agree, Kxevin. He offers complete control of a game. I’ve never known a player able to do that. My only regret is that I’ve never seen him play live. He was missing both for Spain at Hampden and when I saw Barcelona at the Camp Nou. I guess I don’t have long to put that right..

          • March 16, 2014

            Football remains football because of this goal centric nonsense. Like one coach mentioned to an EPL player once, the most important thing in the game is goal, second its goal and third its goal again. Hence all this nonsense about goal scorers. for eg, that is the only reason why CR7 is compared to Messi, where as the latter is like a 3 or 4 in one player.
            I like the article very much, and I adore Xavi and do agree control and possession is all important and fine. But if control and possession would have decided games, between 2009 till 2013, we would not have lost any CL knock out match nor would we have lost the liga in 11/12.
            Messi or Iniesta would be able to play a Xavi game or even few minutes of that. But Xavi would never be able to do a Messi or Iniesta moment, and thats not a mistake at all, because Xavi is Xavi and he for me, is the greatest CM to have played the game. I still wish he would have had at least one BDor. But that would never happen, may be FIFA would once give him a lifetime award.

          • Jim
            March 16, 2014

            I wonder why you assume that Messi could play the Xavi role ? Just because he can pass a ball? That is to underestimate the skills that Xavi has in terms of mental discipline, the “wing mirrors” that Souness raves about plus the decision making and several other factors. I love Messi and Iniesta but of the two Messi is miles away from being another Xavi while I believe Iniesta could play his version of it.

    • barca96
      March 15, 2014

      Barney Roray always has good articles. However his use of English can be quite hard to understand for me. And he loves to refer to things that I am not familiar with. I also noticed that there aren’t much comments on his articles unfortunately. I wonder where and why the regular readers don’t comment on it. Maybe the articles doesn’t suit their views (troll lol).

  23. K_legit in Oz
    March 15, 2014

    Been a while since I commented here. Nice to see the space still flourishing!

    Re: The game, wonder why we never hear much when major decisions go against Barcelona but the minute one penalty is denied then UEFAlona amirite. Disgusting.

    • barca96
      March 15, 2014

      Perhaps because we win most of the times so it doesn’t matter in the end.

      But ya, even when we’re in the losing end, there is hardly any noise. And football fans like on the Guardian will surely bring up karma from the Stamford Bridge 2009 (ages ago) again.

      Ya I noticed you’ve been missing. Are you still in OZ?

      • K_legit in Oz
        March 16, 2014

        Yep still in Oz. Will be here for a while hopefully.

        Man Stamford Bridge was paid for when we were beaten by Inter when we shouldn’t have been.

  24. PrinceYuvi
    March 15, 2014

    Pique is down with ankle injury, puyi with something else.

    Can anybody tell me more about gegenpressing/ counterpressing ?

    Dortmund suffered with monstrous amount of injuries this season.

    Their style of play is culprit here ?

  25. Laurentiu88
    March 15, 2014

    watching bayern game… i suppose they must be tired after ucl because i see nothing from the scary team. their game is missing something, maybe some penetrating combinations similar to us.
    i can’t follow German, but did hear a lot of FC Barcelona 🙂 …

    • PrinceYuvi
      March 15, 2014

      Commentators were saying,
      Barcelona, a bunch ballerinas whereas,
      Bayern, a bunch of cheerleaders.

      Ok, i’m kidding.

  26. Laurentiu88
    March 15, 2014

    real managed a scrapy win as they do in the away games… some initial pressure, a goal and then defend and counter. ronaldo is such not a team player and look so frustrated all the time. at one point it became unbearable to watch his ‘crying baby’ face, and his game is so predictable… pass only when he is sure to get it back to shoot, if not to a bicycle move around the ball then run with the ball and shoot.

    also, pepe managed not to get a straight red card!

  27. Jim
    March 16, 2014

    Looking forward to a feast of games today and done most of my chores ! Just listening in the background to Jamie Redknap talking a lot of cobblers as usual.

    For us, interesting decision about resting Xavi or not. I would but we need him on the bench in case. I’d also play Neymar. He badly needs to get his confidence back before next week. With Pique and Puyol out it’ll be interesting to see if Bartra finally gets a start and how he does alongside Masch. I think Masch has been better over the last couple of outings and I’m looking to see that continued even though we are at home against one of the lesser teams.

  28. Jim
    March 16, 2014

    The Livepool keeper has just come out for a corner, punched Vidic, who got his head to the ball , on the sid of the head instead …….. And got away with it. You’ve gotta love the EPL for violence!

  29. Jim
    March 16, 2014

    Seem to have the place to myself today. Oh well, I’ll let myself know the official lineup.

    From Barcastuff: Barcelona line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Bartra Mascherano Alba – Xavi Busquets Iniesta – Alexis Messi Pedro #fcblive

  30. ooga aga
    March 16, 2014

    two very nice goals for us thus far, 2-0 messi and alexis

  31. Ryan
    March 16, 2014

    Someone forgot to turn on Iniesta’s force field… golazo from Andres!!

      • Doug
        March 16, 2014

        That was just a beautiful drive from the left foot.

  32. ooga aga
    March 16, 2014

    i feel we deserve to win more games like this. 🙂

  33. kosby
    March 16, 2014

    Beautiful movement and glad that we werent just happy with the 1 or 2 goal lead…

  34. Valdemar II
    March 16, 2014

    They let us have a bit of space, look what happens.

    • kosby
      March 16, 2014

      yup, nice bit of skills throughout the match…less impressed by Alexis though

    • Jim
      March 16, 2014

      Good, Tata. Also, fair dos to him for the shooting dictat.

      Wow, just wow! Iniesta and Messi. What the hell?

      • kosby
        March 16, 2014

        how what huh…Messi Messi Messi..I have no words to describe what just happened, I didnt even see how he moved the ball from his left to right back to Iniesta…

  35. Ryan
    March 16, 2014

    Another game, another record broken by Messi. Maximum goal scorer for our club – he just passed Paulino Alcantara!

    • Jim
      March 16, 2014

      Aha, that was the reason. For the bigger demonstration from Messi. I wondered.

    • kosby
      March 16, 2014

      haha even he cant believe how he missed that..

      • Jim
        March 16, 2014

        He was travelling far too fast to even try that. What a sprint from him.

        Huge difference in the quality of cross balls we’re putting in today.

  36. kosby
    March 16, 2014

    Messi really tired now…can see him panting, right time to substitute him..and bring on Neymar

  37. kosby
    March 16, 2014

    it might be “just osasuna” but loving the intensity in our play…

    • Jim
      March 16, 2014

      This does us no harm at all confidence wise. Reaffirms our belief in our style.

      Having said that , chalk and cheese with next week.

      • kosby
        March 16, 2014

        6 now…yup totally agree, good to see messi smiling again..

  38. Valdemar II
    March 16, 2014

    We’re in decent shape for next weekend (our rivals aren’t, judging from last game). Looking better than I’d hoped for.

  39. Jim
    March 16, 2014

    Yes, Pedro gets it ! Thoroughly deserved. What a game from him.

    • kosby
      March 16, 2014

      7, feeling sorry for osasuna…but nice dribble from alves and less crossing 😛

  40. Jim
    March 16, 2014

    I can hear the mowers being quietly locked away at the SB even as the final whistle goes.

    • Doug
      March 16, 2014

      Yeah – I agree. I just hope playing gives him some relief.

  41. PrinceYuvi
    March 16, 2014

    Not Masch,
    Not Pedro,
    Not Lex,
    Not Dani.
    I hope we don’t sell any of them.
    They’re family.
    This is just plain depressing.
    Besides those 4 are cornerstones of our defence.

    • Laurentiu88
      March 16, 2014

      did you notice how Dani passed the ball for messi’s 6th even if he could have attempted a shot himself? that is pure team spirit, family. i dont know what our managers are thinking, their reasons, but for me there isn’t anyone like dani outthere. maybe they will want to cash in on him this summer, and i can understand that too, but he will be immensely missed…

      • Doug
        March 16, 2014

        Thanks for the link Jim. This made me tear up a little:

        “The single image that I take from this match is Andrés Iniesta pointing a finger to the sky after his goal, in memory of the child he just lost. It was the briefest of gestures: Head down, innocuous, a small moment to himself before he leaped for joy to celebrate the goal. That moment made me weep, a mixture of sadness and joy that symbolizes everything I want to take from this game. Because Iniesta is more than the magic he does with a ball at his feet, more than the dazzling performances he puts in week in, week out. Iniesta is a shy, pale-faced, balding man with a heart of gold and nerves of steel. A man who endures tragedy off the pitch but is once again invincible when he steps back on the field, not because he doesn’t feel the pain but because he is a consummate professional.”

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