Champions League Preview: Barça – Atlético Madrid Leg Two at the Calderón

After a 1-1 draw at Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League (CL) tie, Barça and Atlético Madrid meet at the Calderón to determine who advances to the CL semi-finals.  As a preview for the match I did an interview with Outside of the Boot that we’re cross-posting both here at Barcelona Football Blog and at their site (http://outsideoftheboot.com/).  Outside of the Boot is a terrific general football site that covers the game broadly.  Highly recommend a visit if you don’t read it already.

 

OOB:  – Firstly, what are your thoughts on Barcelona’s Champions League campaign so far?

 Barça’s CL campaign this year has been an experiment of sorts with Tata Martino exploring how to balance the significant continuing strengths of the team while minimizing their growing vulnerabilities.  The team’s performance this year in the CL has been a clear improvement from how they played in the competition last season (particularly after the season was thrown into complete disarray by Tito Vilanova’s very sad recurrence of cancer).

Broadly the team has improved versus top competition this season, both in the CL and in the league.  And I think much of that has to do with Martino coming to understand and admit to what the team’s weaknesses are rather than trying to continue as if the team were still the same as it was back at its high point.

Perhaps key match for Barça in the CL this season was the first match versus Ajax in the group stage of the competition.  By key here I mean the most telling – I think that match marked a kind of turning point in Martino’s early thinking.  The first match vs Ajax was noteworthy as Xavi didn’t play.  Instead Martino looked to rotate his midfield.  Over the past several years Xavi has rarely been rested in any CL match so resting him was an important change.  Barça went on to win that match 4-0. But what was so striking about the game was how it was played.  The match was extremely open with Barça often looking unstable even while leading by multiple goals.

At the time Martino was still looking to implement a style of play incorporating more verticality.  But even when leading by multiple goals Barça struggled to retain match control in their usual fashion.  This has proven a major problem for this team.  Without match control Barça’s defensive limitations come to the fore.  Without control the limitations in the backline and the team’s reduced capacity to press, particularly in the midfield zone, are exposed.  In that first match vs Ajax leading by 3 goals Martino felt the need to bring on Xavi for stability.  Since then Martino has rotated players and experimented with different styles of play – but he has been extremely reticent to rest Xavi.  While Xavi is older now and suffers from chronic Achilles tendinitis, he remains fundamental with respect to control and it’s been difficult for three managers now to change the systems in ways that allow Barcelona to function without Xavi on the pitch.

This balance-control vs verticality-has been one of the major stories of Martino’s first season.  How to balance diversification of a template by adding verticality to a team whose goal prevention is extremely dependent on match control with the ball.  And that’s played out most directly in the CL.

Ultimately, Martino reduced the additional verticality he was looking to play with early on in order to augment match control, particularly in the CL and in matches versus top competition.  Without control there wasn’t enough stability to minimize the deficits in the backline and the pressing game – these were the problems that were exposed in the CL for Barca last year.

This came to the fore in the tie versus Manchester City where Martino elected to utilize four midfielders and remove a forward.  This was an acknowledgement that the team’s positional play and ability to enact control in the midfield zone was now dependent on explicit numerical superiority – a major break from its abilities in the recent past.  But acknowledging this limitation has been important to Barça’s success in the CL and versus top sides this season.  It also shows tremendous pragmatism by Martino has it wasn’t how he set out to play when he initially took over.

 

OOB: – With only two senior centre-backs in the squad, could the rest of the champions League campaign be defined by Pique’s injury?

 Pique’s injury is very problematic for Barça – both in the CL and in the league. No other player has his profile, particularly his comparative ability in the air.  In addition, just by sheer numbers the injury is very difficult.  Puyol is trying once more to rush back from injury but he hasn’t played in quite some time.  Another injury to a CB will likely mean Adriano will be forced into makeshift CB duty.  The loss of quality will be felt – Pique while perhaps not fully back to his top level of play has had a strong season overall – much improved from his form from last year.

Fortunately, the latest reports are that Pique hip fracture may not be as bad as it initially looked and that he may return within two weeks rather than four.  That helps with the league trophy race but still creates problems in this next CL match vs Atlético Madrid.

Marc Bartra came on for Pique in the first leg and played extremely well.  Barça will need a similar performance this match in order to advance.  Bartra has overall played well this season – particularly in 1 v 1 situations in space. But the areas where his game is less developed – aerially and in terms of strength- were precisely the ones that Pique provided to this Barça side.  The loss of Diego Costa’s presence will reduce the risks of using Bartra but it’s still a major challenge for a young and still inexperienced player.

 

OOB: – Atletico Madrid set up strongly as Simeone has embedded a clear tactical identity onto the club. What do Barcelona need to do to break them down at the Calderon?

 For me, Atleti execute what their template more consistently and at a higher level than perhaps any other side in Europe.  That’s not saying they are the “best” side – but in terms of pure system execution they are remarkable.  Almost machine like in the precision of their shape, pressure, and coordination across zones.

We often consider tactical dimensions of pressing and staying compact along the vertical axis of the pitch. What Simeone has done so remarkably-perhaps his most interesting innovation- is the way Atleti press horizontally and stay compact through dynamic coordination of their block and shape along the horizontal axis of the pitch.

Atleti play very narrow looking to overload the central zone of midfield.  Most sides that do this suffer from conceding space wide along the flanks.  But Atleti rarely suffer from the space they initially concede.  This is due to how dynamically they press horizontally.  Their ability to pressure from the narrow initial shape when the ball is played to either flank is extremely impressive.  It’s also a particular testament to how hard their players will work for Simeone-the strikers in particular.

Despite the movement and speed required to close down the ball wide, they still retain highly efficient shapes.  For example, when you watch them play notice how often they’re able to create defensive triangles wide. This allows them to create cover for two advanced defenders while only using three players.  The player at the deep apex of the triangle (usually the FB) is often able to provide cover for both defenders at the base of the triangle.  Just wonderful stuff.

Barça have struggled to break down due to this balance.  Atleti overload the central zones while still compressing space wide.  That’s their game.  Simeone isn’t simply overloading the middle as a reactionary defensive tactics.  He wants to overload the middle numerically to goad you into using the open zones wide where the two attacking FBs are generally stationed.  But once the ball is distributed wide his team closes down very rapidly and utilized the touchline as an “extra defender” very efficiently.  They make the pitch very small in that zone and are very effective at dispossessing the ball and starting their positional attack in turn.

I think the way to counteract this strategy is to try to break their shape in the middle by overloading that zone through diagonals runs from the FBs. Those runs should be directed at Atleti’s two deep midfielders.  Force those deeper midfielders to provide cover/support for “extra men” in midfield. At the same time, keep the two lateral forwards wide to create 1 v 1’s with the FBs. Drop them deep into the open space & then swing the ball wide to allow them to run at the FBs without the extra cover from the Atleti midfielders.  This can be augmented by having the striker draw wide as well to create 2 v 1’s.

 

OOB: – Under Tata Martino, Barcelona have adopted a more direct game at times, especially in the Champions League. Does this worry Barca fans in terms of their progress in the competition?

 Martino experimented with greater verticality and direct play earlier in the season e.g. first CL match vs Ajax.  But since then he’s adjusted and understood the vulnerabilities the team has when they lose match control.  Barça do play more directly but it’s less than earlier in the season when Martino was experimenting initially.

I think the major change Martino has made that he’s retained more consistently is in the positioning of the forward line.  Rather than having Messi drop deep to support Barca’s positional play in midfield he’s instructed him to play higher to act as a vertical outlet – either stationing himself on the shoulder of the CBs or in finding space between the lines.  Martino’s done something similar with the other forwards.  Instructed them to stay higher rather than drop to support midfield.  He’s also changed the dynamics of play and this is were the verticality remains most consistent.  Barça will break faster when Messi and Iniesta initiate play (Iniesta has augmented his role in the transition phase very effectively this season).  Both players can do so comparatively safely as both lose the ball so infrequently even at speed.

But in order to keep the forwards playing higher while still enacting match control through the ball Martino has been forced to play four midfielders and only two forwards.  This is the concession he felt he had to make.

He’s consistently used Messi and Neymar upfront along with the four midfielders in nearly all of the “big” matches Barça have played. In the first league match vs Real Madrid he used Cesc as a false 9 and Messi on the right (though that was influenced by Messi’s injury problems & fitness).

But since the CL tie with Manchester City he’s implemented a set up with Messi as the false 9, Neymar on the right and Iniesta as a hybrid LW/midfielder along with Xavi, Busquets and Cesc.  This configuration maximizes match control but also diminishes the vertical outlets Barça has available to it (and particularly places enormous burdens on Messi to create penetration and score) But it has obtained results.

With the reconfiguration of the team’s template for the Manchester City tie, a number of observers applauded this move.  Martino was purportedly re-implementing the “true” Barça model.  But it was anything but.  This Barça’s project at its best was based on a system of positional play that enacted a breathtaking level of precision in midfield.  This allowed the side to create a level of match control far exceeding its numerical presence in the midfield zone.  It allowed the team to dominate teams that were far more athletic and physical.

Much of this was based on the overwhelming impact Xavi had on matches – especially on the “biggest” matches.  In addition, Xavi along with Busquets were perhaps key players in Barca’s pressing game.  But with the chronic Achilles tendinitis Xavi has been significantly affected by since the middle of the ’11-’12 season and his aging, Barça’s positional play and pressing have diminished.

Xavi’s physical limitations aren’t the entire story of course.  Barca’s pressing game has also diminished due to Messi’s reduced work rate and the opposition altering the way it attacks Barça’s left channel.  But Xavi was the foundation of that team and system and his influence was staggering.  His positional play and pressing were the crystallization of what that side was. The influence is what allowed Barça to enact match control at that level.

Barça’s initial response to Xavi’s diminished play was to have Messi drop into midfield more and more to support the positional play.  But that was very problematic as it meant Barça had no true vertical outlet.  In turn the opposition could press out of a mid-block and “squeeze” Barça back into midfield.  These limitations were very evident and problematic in the CL last season.

Martino has tried to work between these two poles – how does he enhance goal prevention through match control while still enacting enough vertical outlets to create the penetration required for Barcelona to stretch the opposition block, open space and ultimately promote goal scoring.  This has been the central strategic issue Barça have tried to grapple with this entire season.

 

OOB: – What would your starting XI for the second leg against Atletico Madrid be?

 Barça need to score to advance after Alteti gained the advantage of the away goal in the 1-1 first leg at Camp Nou. But Barça also can’t afford to concede first away at the Calderon.  Conceding will allow Atleti to focus on retaining shape & pressing.  They will be extremely difficult to break down.

This second leg is very different due to Diego Costa and potentially Arda Turan’s absences.  Atelti are extremely dependent on Costa in the transition phase – there may be no player a team is more dependent on for a function than Atleti is on Costa in transition.  When he left the first leg of the tie Atleti’s ability to counter diminished significantly.  This will be even more amplified if Turan is unable to play.

Given this, I think Barça should take the risk of playing three forwards with Alexis on the right and Neymar returning to the left, where he’s more dangerous as a scorer.  Barça should be able tor enact enough control with three midfielders given Atleti’s diminished ability in the transition phase due to injury.  Cesc Fabregas’s recent run of poor form also plays into this decision. The rest of the line up picks itself. Pinto/ Alves/  Bartra /Mascherano /Alba/ Busquets/Xavi /Iniesta/Sanchez /Messi/Neymar.

All this said-I expect Tata to continue to elect for enhanced control and play Cesc rather than the third forward.  I think he’ll stay with the changes and the template that have worked for him, though he could rearrange the shape e.g. play Cesc as a false 9 rather than in midfield as has been rumored.

 

OOB: – We attempt to track the progress of the best young players as much as time allows under our Scout Reports and #TalentRadar feature. Which youngster coming through from Barcelona  are you most excited about?

 There’s a tremendous wealth of talent in the youth system for Barça right now, particularly at the wide forward and central attacking midfield positions. A few players have really rapidly accelerated their development this season.  Adama Traoré is a phenomenal talent.  His combination of technical skill and physical explosiveness is something to watch.  Though technically registered with Barcelona’s Juvenil A (u19) side he’s played most of the season with Barcelona’s B team in the 2nd division in Spain this year though he was only 17 at the start of the season.  He’s had a great season and has continued to improve rapidly.  He’s commanded double marking wide for much of the season.  By profile he’s been more of a wide creator in the past but it’s been a real positive to see his finishing developing this season.  Munir El Haddadi, one of the most promising players at La Masia coming into this season, has also continued his rapid ascent.  He too while registered to the Juvenil A side is now playing with the B team.  He’s the current top scorer in the UEFA u19 tournament.  Lee Seung Woo is another enormous talent.  He’s unfortunately been prohibited from playing in league competition due to prior FIFA regulatory rulings but has played in international youth tournaments for Barcelona and been brilliant.

While those three are enormously gifted, it’s a disservice in many ways to leave so many other players out.  On the B team Denis Suarez (who you’ve profiled prior while at Manchester City) has been terrific in his first season with Barcelona as has Sergi Samper.  Alejandro Grimaldo returning from an ACL injury last year remains a very gifted LFB.  All three of those players have a real chance to play for the Barcelona 1st team.  Edgar Ie a CB/RFB is a lesser known player but promising, though often injured.

The Juvenil A team is simply filled with talent-more so than even the B team-and have had an outstanding season.  Wilfred Kaptoum is a player I particularly like on that squad.

 

OOB: – Finally, if you were to make a prediction for the tie, who do you see going through? Any particular scoreline for the second leg?

This will be an extremely close match.  The two teams have played to one draw after another this season.  Either could advance.  I do think Atleti’s injuries will be particularly difficult for them to absorb if Costa and possibly Turan can’t play.  Both are so integral to their positional attack and defense.  But playing at home Atleti will be extremely difficult to score against.  It’s going to be a fascinating battle from two teams that play such different systems.  And I hope that’s what we’ll take away from this match – how wonderful the game is and how it can be played at such a high level in such divergent ways.

 

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132 Comments

  1. April 9, 2014

    Excellent! Euler is back. Thank you.

    I hope this is a good sign, and hopefully we will go through.

  2. April 9, 2014

    Euler! Good to hear from you.

    And.. it’s really good to know that everything I have been saying and my thoughts on the tactical tweaks necessary for our progress in today’s crucial match resonates nicely with what Euler says in this post.

    Atleti defend extremely intelligently and the compact middle is something I have been beholding with awe especially during the last game, where inspite of our amazing movement, we found it difficult to break down. I had called for Alexis’ inclusion in the last game along with moving Messi and Neymar to the wings to stretch Atleti and force them to break their shape. But Tata persisted with Cesc for the much talked about ‘control’ he has sought to add to the team in place of the all out verticalidad. This is a clever and useful tactic for away games. But at home, when we desperately needed penetration and goals, I thought this is where he made a mistake by being a bit too conservative. But that’s Tata.

    Tonight, make no mistake, we need a change in tactical setup to progress. Because we have already played Atleti four times with only 2 goals scored in reply to their two. Again setting up with Iniesta on that wing with a 4 man midfield with Cesc, and Messi getting clogged up in the center is NOT going to win us this game today. We need to create that constant feeling of danger. That second half performance for about 15 minutes against Atleti last game, and that 1st 20 minutes against arsenal in the 2-2 away game, are what me must need to channel in order to get some goals on the board.
    I really hope Barca bring on their best tonight and Tata has some ace up his sleeve. The Ref, Bartra, Messi, Iniesta and Neymar need to perform at their best For Barca to go through.

    I had predicted 1-1 in the first game and said Neymar would be involved in it. It was. And he was. For tonight, my mind says 0-0, but heart says 0-2.
    Lets do this. Visca!

  3. PrinceYuvi
    April 9, 2014

    An article from Euleri ?
    Freaking awesome.

  4. mazimi
    April 9, 2014

    Fantastic tactical write-up. On par with Zonalmarking… This is awesome. Thank you very much!!!

    • Jafri
      April 9, 2014

      On par? Haha, you should read some of Euler’s earlier stuff here. Blows ZM out of the water 🙂

  5. CuleToon
    April 9, 2014

    .
    Welcome back, Euler! You were missed.

  6. PrinceYuvi
    April 9, 2014

    Great stuff !

  7. providence
    April 9, 2014

    Good Read! Welcome back! Euler!

  8. providence
    April 9, 2014

    Dear Euler, Please unblock me on twitter ~ @Provyhernandez

    • PrinceYuvi
      April 9, 2014

      Just out of curiosity, what did you do ? )

  9. Original Soccer Product
    April 9, 2014

    Not an easy match for Barcelona. I am sure Pique will be missed. We deserve more than quarter-final, I believe.

    Atletico Madid 1 : Barcelona 2 my prediction

  10. flyzowee
    April 9, 2014

    I stand to be corrected but weve never lost a Big game that Mr Euler has previeved. Good Omen.

  11. Jafri
    April 9, 2014

    I’d really rather see Alexis starting and Cesc being brought on for control when we’ve hopefully scored before them. Instead of Cesc on first for midfield control and then Alexis when they’re tired, which is what I think is going to happen.

    • justdoit94
      April 9, 2014

      see the problem with introducing sanchez when they are tired is very obvious.
      Atleti will fall deeper and deeper as the match progresses because they cant keep up the same intensive pressing for the entire 90 mins.
      Sanchez loves to make darting runs behind a high line and a deep defense wont be fun for a pacy alexis.
      I honestly think pedrito would be a better option since imo he is a more clinical finisher and can deal with the confined spaces better.

  12. April 9, 2014

    Hunter offers a helping hand digging out ‘one’ ‘alibi’ for Barca to fight the ban

    Interestingly, FIFA’s own regulation on the compensation due for formation of a footballer states: “A player’s training and education takes place between the ages of 12 and 23… the calculation of the amount payable shall be based on the years between the age of 12 and the age when it is established that the player actually completed his training.”

    Twelve.

    FIFA accepts that it is utterly normal, perhaps even basic, that a professional player will usually have been getting vital vocational nourishment from the age of twelve. In fact, actually, from the age of eleven given that the compensation ratio starts from the season of the boy’s 12th birthday — which in theory could include seven or eight months of a kid playing from eleven.

    http://espnfc.com/blog/_/name/laliga/id/1682/burning-questions-about-barcas-impending-transfer-ban?cc=4716

  13. georgjorge
    April 9, 2014

    I have a good feeling about this game, but my feelings are pretty bad at predicting match outcomes (I felt good about Bayern last year and bad about ManCity this year, among others).

    Whatever the outcome, I’ll be proud of this team if they play like I know they can. They’ve worked so many miracles – I’m not talking about Champions League wins but the small miracles, Iniesta dribbling to safety in a tight spot, Busquets being where he needs to be at the right time, Messi taking on whole defenses successfully – that I just hope I’ll be able to watch them do that a little bit longer.

  14. kosby
    April 9, 2014

    Wonderful article. Really enjoyed reading the various aspects you mentioned of control vs verticality and Xavi’s importance to the team. Would love to know your thoughts on what Neymar brings to the team in light of the recent criticism heaped upon him. I personally feel he is an excellent player and expecting him to be the difference maker today as well.

    Oh and looking at your article, seems like even you are of the opinion that Tata has been excellent and willing to learn from mistakes…which for me is the most important quality in a manger 🙂

  15. ooga aga
    April 9, 2014

    cesc starts.no alexis.

    • ooga aga
      April 9, 2014

      Dorsal Titulares
      13 Pinto
      22 Dani Alves
      15 Bartra
      14 Mascherano
      18 Jordi Alba
      6 Xavi
      16 Busquets
      4 Fábregas
      11 Neymar
      10 Messi
      8 Iniesta

  16. georgjorge
    April 9, 2014

    Someone already give that Euler guy a job at FCB…

  17. ibbe
    April 9, 2014

    Guess that’s why you don’t sell quality players to direct rivals for pennies..

    What a horrible breakdown though. I didn’t see that coming. We can still come back, vamos barca!!

  18. G6O
    April 9, 2014

    We have been atrocious, and Fabregas has been among the worst on the pitch, but that should have been called. Still very lucky not to be down by more, and some hope for the second half (though not much)

  19. barca96
    April 9, 2014

    No way we can score 2 if we play the same way as in the 1st half.

    Cesc OUT! Waste of space in a tight match.

    • April 9, 2014

      We just need to score once. Then the tide will change as Atletico will panic because of the away rules. remember the away goal rules apply even in extra time.

    • barca96
      April 9, 2014

      We don’t look like scoring and they’re extremely dangerous on the counter.

      We need to stop with the long balls. Messi needs to get more involved. Cesc out but one clumsy for another.

  20. TITO
    April 9, 2014

    Awful, dreadful first half. Those first 10 minutes was like Men playing Kids. I can’t believe how immature we looked in moments. Iniesta, Dani, Messi, Jordi, Xavi, Busi, they all have to raise their game if we want to take something from it.
    Cesc (poor kid – not his fault for formation) is not even worth mentioning.

  21. Valdemar II
    April 9, 2014

    Easy to get chances when you’re allowed to foul yourself into possession. I wanna get my hands on that bald brit.

  22. georgjorge
    April 9, 2014

    Hmm, an insecure defense AND Messi losing his scoring boots? I don’t know what magic Tata can work, but at least one of these needs to change in the second half, or this is going to be not even close.

  23. ibbe
    April 9, 2014

    The fact that it’s the 70th minute and atletico are yet to recieve their first yellow says a lot about Webb..

    • georgjorge
      April 9, 2014

      Sadly, in this game it also says a lot about our chances of getting the ball into dangerous positions…

  24. barca96
    April 9, 2014

    Bloody Mascherano again committing a foul and acting like he’s fouled and hurt. We’re lucky once again. It was a 100% penalty. First half he got away with it.

    Not surprised Iniesta, Messi and others look tired and lacklustre. Tata unnecessarily played them last Saturday. No excuses as Atletico with a smaller and cheaper squad with 2 key players missing still can soldier on.

  25. barca96
    April 9, 2014

    Stop over complicating things. Pads and move, pass and move. Atletico will double mark and steal the ball. And they win all the 50-50 balls.

    This match feels a lot like Chelsea 2012.

    • ibbe
      April 9, 2014

      At least Chelsea 2012 we were by far superior and had over 40 chances in 2 legs. Chelsea were lucky, Atletico aren’t.

    • ibbe
      April 9, 2014

      Though it reminds me of Chelsea 2009. This time though Iniesta is not there to score a heart-breaker.

  26. faizal
    April 9, 2014

    Messi looks disinterested, perhaps saving for world cup…

    • G6O
      April 9, 2014

      And that has been a big part of the problem – Atletico played pretty much as intense a game as it humanly possible. You cannot afford to have players putting in way less than 100% against a quality team that’s doing that.

      Furthermore, the same issue that killed us last season was exposed now too – we don’t have the physicality to play against teams that press so hard, especially when the ref is lenient. We were completely outhustled and outworked today, every 50/50 ball was theirs, they scored, parked the bus and we were reduced to hopeless crosses to our mighty physically imposing forwards… Can’t hope to win that way. The goal came for the same reason too – first Mascherano was too short to intercept the over the top balls, then he was overrun for the header to Koke.

    • faizal
      April 9, 2014

      At least show your fighting spirit…shame when messi just standing and looking to the ball while alexis & pedro at least tried to pressure oppenent

    • barca96
      April 9, 2014

      I disagree.

      What do you say when Messi actually wants to play and score? Why is he not saving for the World Cup then?

    • HisR0yalFlyness
      April 9, 2014

      I say he should be benched. Walking around like that in the league against a small opponent is one thing. Totally unacceptable in a CL match. Flop of the match over both legs for me.

    • faizal
      April 9, 2014

      Totally agreed

  27. barca96
    April 9, 2014

    First time I clapped my hands for our opposition after we lost. Congratulations Atletico! Deserved it over 2 legs.

    We were better than them only for a 20mins spell which was after they scored in the Camp Nou. Atletico were either equal or better for the test of the tie.

  28. HisR0yalFlyness
    April 9, 2014

    Hats off to Athletico Madrid. Their players are hungrier and more motivated. Our defending was atrocious. Players were lethargic. Neymar was the only bright spark in the 1st half. The second they picked it up but still did not put out the required effort. Great players stamp their presence on a match no matter the opponent. Messi was marked out of the match and took it lying down. Fuck this shit. we deserved to lose with the display shown over these 2 legs.

  29. TITO
    April 9, 2014

    First impression.
    It’s on Tata this one.
    When you know that Costa and Arda are not playing, and you need to score at least one goal, what the hell is he still persisting with 4 mids?!?!!??!!?
    Congrats to AM, they definitely deserved it. True winners.

    And, to not forget awful, awful awful Iniesta. Dani’s crosses are a story on their own. Can’t believe how many balls those two lost.

    • barca96
      April 9, 2014

      I’m not a fan of the 4 mids either. It’s only useful if we’re defending a lead or there’s NO NEED to score.

      Cesc is simply not good enough. Tata is making the same mistake as Pep and Tito of shoe horning Cesc into the team.

    • mazimi
      April 10, 2014

      I thought Dani put a couple of great crosses for Messi & Neymar but they didn’t score. He was actually alot better with his crossing than he is usually in most other matches.

  30. Valdemar II
    April 9, 2014

    Yeah yeah they outplayed us, for 10 minutes out of 180. Scoring from their first chance, last game scoring from their only, but I suppose we really did deserve to lose this second game, those were some pathetic 10 minutes.

    • Valdemar II
      April 9, 2014

      I’m really unhappy with all the lost duels and scrambles for the ball. What was the rotation good for if we play like 40 year olds?

    • barca96
      April 9, 2014

      Rotation?

      Who was rested in the last match against a relegation team, at HOME? Cesc! Tata’s key player for the big games.

    • Valdemar II
      April 9, 2014

      Not my point, meant earlier in the season. We are so slow.

    • G6O
      April 9, 2014

      It wasn’t 10 minutes, it was at least the first 20 when they dominate completely. And they had the better chances after that too

  31. April 9, 2014

    Kudos to Ath. Madrid. They outplayed us and were worthy winners. Inspirational what Simeone has done with their limited budget and I hope they go onto to win CL. Hopefully the board realises the shortcomings of the sporting project and invest accordingly in defence…depending on the outcome of the transfer ban of course.

  32. Cule
    April 9, 2014

    Well, atletico were better but we had our chances to equalize. Neymar was 1 on 1 and didn’t shoot, messi took too long with the rebound too but Neymar was in a much better position to shoot.

    Neymar, learn to take an attempt.

  33. G6O
    April 9, 2014

    BTW, when we lost to Valladolid, I mentioned that Bayern went down 1-0 in an away game in exactly the same minute Valldolid scored. Today Bayern went down in the 57th minute and would have gone out had it stayed that way, but still won it 3-1…

  34. G6O
    April 9, 2014

    Also, today is the first time since 2007 we do not make the semis in the CL…

    • Messiah10
      April 9, 2014

      This is something no other club can say right now. It takes a lot of skill, effort, fortitude, & bravery to make it to the semi’s of the best competition in the world. An unbelievable run. I’m proud of our players.

  35. ibbe
    April 9, 2014

    We didn’t deserve to go through. I think betting on atletico to win the CL is a good idea since every team that beats us ends up winning. Though it’s tr first time we go out in the QF in 7 years or so.

    Not going through and atletico advancing is not going to have any effect on the league IMO. They will be just as fit and determined till the last day I the season.

    But we can still beat them at camp nou. I’m sure of it.

    • faizal
      April 9, 2014

      No way if we still play like tonight

  36. Cule
    April 9, 2014

    We deserve to lose because we haven’t learned anything from last year. Teams are able to do whatever they want in the air. Their goal was similar to 2 of bayern’s goals last year. The defense has a massive weakness, and we knew this last year. Can’t expect different results.

    The attack was the same as always, no plan b. Nobody audacious enough to have a go at target, just wasted possession.

  37. Xavi6
    April 9, 2014

    In my eyes , Barca players tried everything they could . and am proud with them .

    VISCA BARCA !

  38. April 9, 2014

    Initial reactions :

    1. FUCK YOU Messi. That wasn’t cool. At all.
    2. Congrats Atleti. You were a team and you deserved to go through against an unimaginative Bar5celona.
    3. We have lost the ‘system’. The kind of system where Barca babies beat Bate Borisov 4-0. We are relying on some freak magic to happen from one of our players. This is not the real Barca.
    4. Neymar’s start is totally justified and anyone who thinks otherwise, go get a clue. He and Iniesta was our most lively players. Neymar showed great promise, especially in the first half.
    5. Messi, take a look at Sanchez and see how he works like a dog. I am only asking you to put 1/10th of that effort. Atleast in a damn QF in the cL when we are about to get eliminated. Show some urgency and intent, if not execution. The failed execution can be forgiven, not the lack of desire.
    6. I really hope Atleti can go all the way and win it. But alas, that might not be glamorous enough for UEFA who will want to give it to either Bayern or EE.
    7. Sorry for you tata, your days may be numbered. But I hope we channel this disappointment and find it in ourselves to win the CDR and the Liga.
    8. Even if we dont win the liga, atleast beat Atleti once, on the last day.
    9. finally, yeah… fuck you messi.

    • Cule
      April 9, 2014

      Neymar wasn’t bad, but on two occasions he had a clear shot at goal and tried to dribble instead of shoot, one of these chances was a 1v1, IMO our best chance of the night. 1v1, and he didn’t shoot. He my be one for the future, but right now he is not a top player. He had to shoot.

    • G6O
      April 9, 2014

      It’s not such a straightforward situation as it might seem – he was not in a position to shoot first time and was surrounded in such a way that when he touched he was going to be easy to dispossess. Which is what happened. His first touch could have been better, but it was not like what we had to work with last week.

      Also, pretty much everything dangerous we created happened through him. There was another superstar out there who should shoulder much more of the blame for the loss if we are going to name call players

    • barca96
      April 9, 2014

      High chance his shots would’ve been blocked. But yeah, in hindsight, he should’ve just shot it first time. Who knows it might find a way to the back of the net.

      There is simply no time against Atletico. Can’t hesitate or dribble too much or over hit the ball. They’re everywhere.

    • Cule
      April 9, 2014

      Just watched it again, no chance any defender was getting to neymar, he had a clear shot and chose to dribble close to the goalie. That was a garbage play, it is senseless to suggest it was anything less than terrible.

      If you want to see it, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbXoCb_JpLw

      starts 11:30

      Just so bad, in this kind of match we were never gonna get a lot of chances. I just can’t understand how he doesn’t shoot that. Awful

    • mazimi
      April 10, 2014

      Fuck you Messi??? Really???

      You do know what Messi has done for this club, right? I know he was terrible tonight, but that’s just over the top.

      Last week he sent two great through balls for Iniesta and Sanchez which they should’ve burried, but they didn’t and it’s Messi’s fault?

      If you want to blame, you should blame EVERYONE. Don’t just single out one player. Busquets was terrible, absolutely terrible; same with Bartra and Mascherano and Alvez. The others were just as bad.

    • April 10, 2014

      So everything he has done for this club absolves him of this kind of performance? Sorry, but I don’t think so. Many others may have performed equally poorly, But I know Messi is on another league and people expect the best player in the world ‘ever’ to step up. This was unacceptable.

    • mazimi
      April 10, 2014

      Even if he is the best player ever (which I doubt – I will give that credit to Maradona), it doesn’t mean he has to “step up” IN EVERY GAME. He is still a human and will have his bad/unlucky matches.

      There is a difference between critisizing a player and saying “fuck you” to a player, who might be one of the greates to have every played the game in our colours. It just doesn’t look good for a club FAN to say this.

      As I said above, even this “poor” Messi still created two good chances in the first leg which we should’ve taken advantage of. But other than that, he was really below-par.

      Anyways, thanks for reply and hope you don’t get offended by my response 🙂

    • April 10, 2014

      Who is suggesting that he should “step up” in every game. Fans are not so dim witted to expect him to perform every game. Fans do however expect him to show some intent and desire in huge games that matter. Whether he performs or not is immaterial, only that the required ‘want’ is displayed from a player (weapon) that means so much and is so integral to a side’s success which I noted in my comment.
      Messi is a public figure. I am a club supporter and I will criticize my club’s players in a manner I deem fit just like the way I VENERATE and revere them. Which is more often.
      I appreciate you trying to school me, and Leo may be untouchable for you, not me. Also my comment started with the title “INITIAL REACTIONS” right after the game. It is certainly not some thought out deep insight which you want to debate.
      P.S > I dont care enough to get offended. 😀 cheers

  39. April 9, 2014

    First of all, over the two legs Atletico was the better team and deserved to go through. We never learn isn’t it? Against dodgy defense the false-9 doesn’t work. We learned it last time against Real, AC Milan and PSG. But still like religiously we follow that. What is the point in using a false-9 when there is no chance of the defender being dragged in to midfield. Atletico plays with a two man defensive midfield, hence expecting the central defenders to be dragged out of position is crap. And then we tried Cesc as false-9. This guy plays really well in situation where space is offered. But in tight matches he never performs. How many season will it take for our management to realise that.

    Why do we constantly overlook how we overturned that deficit against AC Milan last season? We should have tried the same here . We had luck on our side, otherwise it would have been an embarassing scoreline by half time.

    Now the fun part, David Villa may have missed a number of chnaces. But he was brilliant in the first half. Sold for 2 million and he is going to the semi-final. We had the same thing happening with Eto’o. Hopw he and Atletico wins.

  40. KEVINO17
    April 9, 2014

    Why against a brilliant pressing side did we try to play out from the back for the first 20 mins. Let them have the ball.

  41. barca96
    April 9, 2014

    Simeone lifts his team up. He pushes them on before and during the match.

    I complained about this last year too. We need a coach who has passion, fearless, not scared to have a go at the players, not scared to make changes, foresight in terms of resting key players and character.

    Tito and Tata are too passive. They just stand on the sidelines talking to the bench instead of pushing the players on, giving instructions, motivating them, pushing the crowd on.

  42. bedhead
    April 9, 2014

    Tata has put his stamp on this club and it’s starting to look less and less like Barca. These players are trained to one-pass, make triangles, pass and move, always have 3 outlet pass possibilities., play low. Slowly, all of that is slipping away. Alves seems to only be allowed to make crosses that no one can reach plus their keeper is so tall that he had a crazy height advantage. Why so many crosses? What happened to Messi-Alves tiki-taka through tight spaces? We are lethargic, without ideas, and playing a game where we look desperate, trying to kick and cross balls into the box hoping something goes in. This is not Barca.

    • barca96
      April 9, 2014

      Tata’s obsession with crossing is getting out of hand. Could it be Moyes who influenced Tata?

    • Messiah10
      April 9, 2014

      Why is Tata to blame for alves crossing? Tbh, we weren’t doing much else to create chances. He was hitting & praying. Tata has brought long diganol balls across the pitch from defensive backs. Not balls across the box. That was Alves taking the initiative.

    • G6O
      April 9, 2014

      Alves did not have many other options – he could pass it back (and he did that a lot), try to pass across the middle (most likely leading to a lost ball and a dangerous counter), or cross it.

      BTW, it almost worked – on another day either Messi converts that header in the first half or Neymar’s header in the second goes in. Those were very close.

    • BA
      April 9, 2014

      there’s no way Alves throws in that many crosses if he isn’t directed to do so; his first instinct is almost always to play a 1-2 (sometimes to his detriment). Dani Alves isn’t stupid, he knows his crosses aren’t reaching (can’t reach?) their intended recipients. Tata Martino, on the other hand, i’m starting to wonder about…

  43. Messiah10
    April 9, 2014

    Congratulations to Atletico Madrid. They played us off the pitch in the 1st half. I haven’t seen our team that man handled in a long time. Well, since the Bayern debacle. I think we missed VV & Pique badly. VV more so. We just can’t play out of the back & get a foothold on possession w/Pinto. Our height haunted us again on the goal allowed. Out jumped & out muscled on the header back across goal. It’s a shame. Messi moving to the right did nothing for us. I still think Alexis & Pedro should’ve started both legs. Time to focus on the league. It can only help that Atleti’s small squad has to play more games.

  44. ciaran
    April 9, 2014

    Congrats to Atletico, they fully deserved it. They were hungrier, worked harder and made the most of their talents.
    We were terrible. Messi was a disgrace and should have been substituted when Iniesta was taken off. 5 matches against Atletico this season and he hasn’t been decisive.
    Neymar was our best player again tonight, unlucky not to score and put in a lot of effort.
    Alexis deserved to start and I hope he does in the league match.
    Pinto frustrates the life out of me, he needs to go in the summer.
    Mascherano was again a hindrance in a big big match and should not be a starter in big matches for us.

    Last year when we exited the CL I hoped that we would learn from it and invest in the right players and we didn’t, this year we better if the ban is overturned.

    Overall what I’m upset with was the effort and the same mistakes being repeated. Some players can look at themselves and be proud but thats not a long list

    • Messiah10
      April 9, 2014

      He is going. Announced it today. We’ll need 2 keepers.

  45. flyzowee
    April 9, 2014

    Anybody who puts this on Tata M. Just makes me laugh. This is a man who has just been caught in the cross fire. We had our chance to react after the Bayern 7up but we did nothing except buy Neymar. Todays match (1st half) was a replica of that game last year. We have no one to blame than the people responsible for ensuring that player recruitment to the first team meets not only the requirements of our philosophy but also the demands placed on it by the changing approach of our opponents. Record Profits my ass.

  46. KEVINO17
    April 9, 2014

    As euler says, to maintain dominance of the ball and defend in the middle tata has had to play an extra midfielder. That means no Alexis out wide which means no triangles with Alves which means Alves has no option but to cross. Far more mobility needed in midfield

    • G6O
      April 9, 2014

      And, it should be noted, we were still overrun in midfield in those first 20 minutes, even with four midfielders

    • BA
      April 9, 2014

      that’s because Cesc Fabregas offers virtually nothing but “vertical running” from midfield; which is useless against teams as defensively solid at Atleti. he isn’t capable of playing the Barcelona moving triangles through midfield, his time in England ruined that for him. the idea that Iniesta is being wasted out of his natural position to make room for him and still putting in admirable performances infuriates me.

  47. ooga aga
    April 9, 2014

    hats off to atletico, i hope they win it all.

    we coulda done better but i am thankful for the exciting matches i have been able to watch. more to come.

  48. April 9, 2014

    Here comes the internet comment parade of “the end of an era.”

    Or, even more puzzling, the “Martino has no European experience” narrative. Tata has done a great job so far and I don’t think the game would have been all that different had Alexis started over Cesc, who, however, did not make a good case for himself today. I like him, but his lack of speed was definitely noticeable today.

    That was a pretty appalling display of intensity today, especially Messi. However, I think that these two legs tell a story about Atletico and not Barça. We didn’t seem like the protagonists. They wanted it more.

    That being said, there are still two trophies to play for, and if we can win the League, I’ll take the trade. I am happy for Atletico. They deserved that win.

    • G6O
      April 9, 2014

      I am fairly confident we will win the league, and I think we will also win the copa del rey.

      However, it will be very hard to swallow if Bayern repeat (first team to do it in the CL era) or, much worse, RM win the CL. And given who is left, one of those things is highly likely – I will be rooting for Atletico, of course, and I wish the good luck, but I somehow just don’t think they have it in them to win the CL

    • KEVINO17
      April 9, 2014

      On messi’s intensity it struck me that in previous years Messi was always making triangles with Alves and nibbling away down the right flank. He did none of that in this game (despite nominally playing on the right). Now he just lurks around in front of goal waiting for his chance (and then not defending when he loses the ball).
      Maybe he is completely and utterly burnt out and nobody (least of all himself) realises it.

  49. Dinkar
    April 9, 2014

    Hi ,
    This is my first post on the site but i have followed it for quite some time. I generally don’t like posting a lot anyways but am heart broken today. The reason is not because Barca lost but because i predicted they would loose and they did 🙁 … I know i might come across as je*k finding easy targets after a loss but the problem against team that defend with 10 players behind the ball is xavi.. don’t get me wrong he is great when there are players trying to take the ball of him higher up the pitch he protects it really well and i will say would have a great game in copa finals against real and i think we should win that match…. but against a defensive minded team we have a problem because he would not give a pass in tight space for the fear of losing posession … he tends to hold on to the ball longer killing counter attacks which are crucial against team with defensive orientation.. this way of playing will become common as teams and player get fitter….

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