A nou season, with hope and uncertainty, 2014-15 as foretold by …

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Barcelona 2014 – 2015 as foretold by Levon

Last summer I predicted we would be trophyless at the end of the season (I was a wrongfully disallowed goal off) but that it wouldn’t matter as we would have a transition year. Which we did, until we stopped transitioning halfway through. Since enough has been said about who’s to blame, this post is about looking forward to the 60+ games to come.

It’s easy to become optimistic after a transfer kitty excavation operation that rivals our eternal enemy’s most ambitious summers. Contrary to public opinion, Zubizarreta gets things right more often than wrong. This time round I’m not so sure. For the record, I think we’re idiots for letting Alexis go so easily and for wasting money on the likes of Claudio Bravo, Vermaelen and Douglas, money that would have been better spent on quality rather than quantity. Jeremy Mathieu could have been got for less than half the price 12 months ago, so there’s that, too. I’m on the fence about Suarez, happy for Rafinha and happy with Rakitic, a player I was against coming two months ago but already looks like the guy to watch this season. Marc Andre Ter Stegen and Alen Halilovic seem like the only transfers that were planned at all. Take from that what you will, but those last two have a Z for Zubi written on their foreheads. 

The most significant transfer of course is Luis Enrique. Much has been said about Tata, who seems like such a good person it feels immoral to criticize him too harshly, but he messed up the second half of last season so much I really want to use another verb instead of “messed up.” If nothing else, Lucho inspires leadership which is something that was obviously missing last year. Whether his tactical acumen is up to par with some of his more successful predecessors remains to be seen. People love to compare this upcoming season to Guardiola’s first, but La Liga has changed since then. Every draw didn’t feel like the coming of the apocalypse and Pep didn’t yet have to compete against an Evil Empire so studded with stars you have to glint your eyes when you look at their shirts (or Gareth Bale’s teeth). Still, I’m optimistic about the Lucho era, and even more so after his first press conference and especially after the way he sent Deulofeu packing. If Luis Enrique manages to infuse a team this talented with the fire of its leader there’s no telling what they can achieve.

Of course life, and even football, is about more than just results and trophies. The first Barça match I remember watching live was the 1989 Cup Winners final against Manchester United in which Mark Hughes scored a monster of a goal to seal our loss. That was more than 20 years ago and I already supported the club before that match, but it just so happens that this is the earliest game I remember vividly – where I was, who I watched the game with, how I felt and yes, that Mark Hughes goal. Here’s the rub. I was just a boy of, I guess, nine years old. Who ran the club didn’t mean squat to me. Now this was definitely a good thing since the man in charge Josep Nuñez. As far as I was concerned, Johan Cruijff was the boss. Mes que un club? Never heard of it. Heck, at nine years old I’d never heard of Catalunya either, for that matter. I thought Barcelona was in Spain. It wasn’t until much later when I learned about our club and its history that I fully understood how special Barça really was… and still is. I like to think that I felt this before I learned it. And I like to think the club is special despite of its directors rather than because of them.

Thank God we got rid of Nuñez and Gaspart. We should really thank Laporta, Johan Cruijff and Sandro Rosell (yes, Rosell). In this case God came in the form of a blue elephant, which I guess means that in some corners of this wondrous world people can say “see, we told you so.” The Laporta administration had more than its fair share of mistakes and who knows the state our club would be in if they had continued. But Sandro and Bartro have given us Johangate, Qatargate, Guardiolagate, Neymargate and Babygate. The biggest one of all is probably the new Camp Nou renovationgate except we won’t know it as such because the corruption many suspect behind this potential scandal will never see the light of day. Anyway, the idiots even flirted with Messigate and the next time our brilliant new striker sinks his teeth in a defender’s biceps we’ll have Draculagate. The only gates that have remained firmly closed are the ones a top notch defender was supposed to walk through at some point during the last four summers. Oh well.

2016 is, after all, an election year. If we don’t win anything this season the chronies will not survive. All of the “gates” for which they are responsible will come back to haunt them. But if we win the Liga (who knows) or the Champions League (even more doubtful, but who knows) they can play their favorite “poor us the whole word is against Barça but we are such great directors we still managed to give you a winning team” card and they will be re-elected. Whatever happens, I hope those in charge will keep Luis Enrique on as our coach for the foreseeable future. Nothing good ever comes from the usual hiring and firing. Besides, I like the sound of it, the Lucho era… The Lucho Era. Let the Lucho Era begin.

Barcelona 2014-15 as foretold by Isaiah

A season we will all fondly remember as the year we finally lost our faith in everything. Or, I mean, maybe not, but that’s certainly how it feels to me, going in. Let’s start here, where we should probably always start when we’re talking about mes que un club: the official sponsors list is nothing short of a list of kind of shady corporations that do pretty much the opposite of stand for Catalan identity or the concept of morality. Nike is a global brand bent on unifying everyone under the roof of similar footwear and viral marketing videos and Qatar Airways is the state-owned airway for a small country currently accused of killing thousands of workers in an effort to turn a desert into a preening World Cup resort destination. At least La Caixa is a local-cum-national bank that has an extensive social program and non-profit status including a charitable foundation, but the overwhelming sense is that Barcelona is not a club moving towards its motto, but away from it. Luis Suarez might be an incredible player, but then again, he’s also a violent racist. A club that once proudly boasted Lilian Thuram in its ranks has gone so far as to hire a guy who would call his compatriot a racial slur and refuse to apologize about it.

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If I sound somewhat depressed about all of this, I do blame Suarez and the terrible hangover from watching that slow motion insanity develop into expensive, court-case-laden reality. It brings back memories of the Busquets “mucho morro” affair where the club dodged all responsibility for what was likely a similar situation to what Suarez perpetrated. Or maybe Busquets did use an outdated term in the middle of a heated match. And maybe Luis Suarez really does mean his racial terms affectionately. And maybe I’m stuck in the past and this is just the new Barcelona, where social agreements are that I pay money and they let me watch Messi, with no consideration for the long-term investment in youth for the sake of youth (but for marketing purposes, sure, and for transfers later, sure). It’s not that Barcelona was ever the thing it billed itself as under Laporta, but under Laporta there was at least the homage to the idea. At least UNICEF made it onto the front of the jersey. I wonder what Oleguer thinks of the club he left behind. I wonder what Thuram thinks of the club he left behind. I wonder what Abidal thinks of the club that left him on the wayside, collateral damage from world conquest.

And Lucho. I don’t know what to make of Lucho just now. He smiles in the pictures he posts on Twitter. He bikes a lot. He was a glorious captain (who also played for Real Madrid at an earlier time that we should never mention again). And he seems to have brought some energy to things, but that’s what we said about Tata as well. Maybe I just miss Tito, maybe I just miss Pep. Maybe I just miss the days when it was all so unexpected, when winning was a thing maybe we would do and then when it would happen we were thrilled. Now it feels like there’s an expectation of success that doesn’t quite mesh with the reality of what it means to watch a team play. Imagine if we lose to Elche on Sunday. It wouldn’t be the groan of “Aw man, that’s too bad,” it would be the merciless cry of crisis, of Lucho fuera, of I told you so. And then imagine if we draw the next match. Imagine. 1-0 to Numancia would be absolutely unpardonable now. Sure, I mean, Madrid aren’t carrying the dead weight of Christoph Metzelder and Royston Drenthe around, but we’re not wondering where Keirrison fits in the plans either. I mean, this preview is hardly a question of how we bloggers (if I may still call myself such) think the season will go, but ratherhow many trophies will we win.Last yearI made no particular prognostications, which was probably for the best since I would have said we would win one trophy (and I would have been wrong, just to remind you), so this year I’ll go ahead and stick my head in the frying pan:

This team is stacked. Stacked like pancakes in a lumberjack breakfast hall. But trophies? None. Whatever, call me pessimistic or call me lacking in faith, but I don’t see this team being anything but what it was last year: fantastic to watch and overburdened with the needs of its fan base. But yes I’ll be watching whenever I can and I’ll celebrate every one of our goals. Except maybe the Suarez ones. I still haven’t come to terms with that and won’t have to until much later, thankfully.

Barcelona 2014 – 2015 as foretold by Linda

  1. Post-World Cup seasons are by nature unpredictable.
  2. I don’t like predicting things.
  3. But I’m here to try anyway.

I won’t pretend I have no doubts about Luis Enrique’s brave new world. Quite the contrary. But there are also many reasons to feel optimistic. Whatever Lucho’s flaws as a manager who is still developing and learning, his appointment is a step in the right direction. He knows the club, has allies both in the club and in the local media, and seems to be convincing the players of his ideas. I hope he feels supported, and free to implement his vision, and that the fanbase as a whole is kind to him if the team start slowly.

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Many things went wrong last season. There was a total breakdown in relations between the club hierarchy and segments of the fan base, the club and several important players,  the players and the club media, and ultimately, as a consequence, between the fans and the players. (Not to mention the club’s relations with the authorities.) All this just a few years after we all glutted ourselves on unprecedented success. It’s a very Barca story, going from one extreme to another. But lost in all that is the fact that there wasn’t that much wrong with the team. The squad was too small to cope with demand and injury, and wasn’t always used in the best way, but it had a reasonably good backbone. It just needed a jolt. And it needed supplementing.

Thankfully, the people in charge of the club have seen fit to do that. As a result, I feel much happier going into this season than I did last year. There’ll be injuries, and we’ll be horribly short-handed occasionally, but there are less gaps than before. I’d love to be proven wrong, but I can’t see all the new players integrating immediately. There will be mistakes. We just have to be patient, because I think we’re going to have fun this season. And yes, win a title or two.

But only if all of us – fans, media, club hierarchy, Lucho himself – refrain from turning every draw or defeat into a crisis. Otherwise, we might be out of a manager by Christmas.

Kxevin says …

We raise the curtain on yet another season of uncertainty. It seems like it has been a very long time since things have NOT been uncertain, so you’d think we would be used to it. Instead, besotted on a wondrous season of excellence, the ghosts of the past have become the burdens of the future, and everything is the “next” something … next Messi, next Puyol, next Treble. And culers turn on someone, anyone. It’s Martino’s fault, it’s the board’s fault, it’s Song’s fault, as if any one of those things was the complexity instead of all of them, and an additional set of circumstances to boot.

So people crack jokes about Song, who didn’t play all that much, instead of riding the folks who DID play all the time and who, as Dani Alves said in his Friday presser, didn’t meet standards. Because that’s easy, and who wants to kick the golden goose, even though the only player who was consistently at standard when it counted, and even he had a crappy first part of the season, was Iniesta. Last season was a mess.

It’s worth noting again that the natural state of a footballing club is to not win. Even the best sides don’t win everything, all of the time. Tito Vilanova stepped in after Pep Guardiola, who failed to meet his own lofty standards as the team started to slide downhill. Vilanova picked them up a bit, then fell prey to that awful thing called Life. Then Tata Martino came in to work his minor miracle of getting a damaged, mentally and physically hammered team to somehow, within 5 goals of being in with a shot at the Treble.

Martino’s feat last season speaks to the quality of the core of this team, an astonishingly talented nucleus that, like that flawless cut of steak, needs only the right garnishment and a well-chosen wine to be perfect. So the board, terrified at losing those posh seats in that wood-paneled office and facing the specter of a two-window FIFA transfer ban, went hog wild in the market this summer, adding (yet another) new coach and plenty of side dishes to accompany that tasty main course.

Which all means, of course, more uncertainty.

This club, and this culer, have a love/hate affair with uncertainty. Only a madman would predict championships galore at a club with a new coach and eight (count ’em, EIGHT) new squad additions. I am a crank, but not a madman. Let’s look at what has the potential to upset the apple cart, shall we?

Enrique: What does he want? How will he get at it? How will his charges react to his high-energy, high-effort style? He put the hammer down on Deulofeu, sending him off to Sevilla for the crime of not impressing and needing more time. That move also sent a very clear message to the squad. The pressure on him is immense, and it’s difficult to think of a hotter hot seat in world football.

Vermaelen/Mathieu: A broken-down has been and a chain-smoking derelict, right?. THESE are the players those idiots signed to fill our centerback slots? Fools all of them, right? Well, maybe. Mathieu has been very, very good this pre-season and a healthy, on-form Thomas Vermaelen is an excellent center back. Or they could suck, leak goals and the Liga will be lost by December.

What’s funny is that for all of the whining about inadequate center back signings that should have been somebody else, the real complexities with Barça defense have to do with a short, easily bullied midfield and more importantly, still no replacement for Eric Abidal, who was the key to that back line. He made Pique better, he made us all forget the times that Puyol was off being fireman and caught out of position. He saved Alves, saved Valdes, working beautifully as a human eraser. Forget about CBs. I want me an Abidal.

abi

Messi: We still don’t know which Messi we are going to get, the sulking dude out for a weekend stroll or the rapacious battler who reared his head some during the Gamper. This is Messi’s team. As he goes, so it will go, despite the steps taken to end Messidependencia. If he is on — not goals, necessarily — with committed, fully involved play and he stays healthy, look out.

Neymar: The Brazilian legal complexity is fit, stronger, more mature and based on the little we have seen this season, ready to be an even better and more effective part of this team, unless, driven to star cravings in the presence of Messi and Suarez he reverts to the occasional ball-hogging, attack stopping logjam that he was at times last season.

Suarez: The club paid 81m for a player who won’t be able to kick a ball in anger, or even moderate vexation, until the end of October. He misses not only pre-season, but match fitness, on-pitch sync and other complexities. We might not even get the opportunity to really see what the club has paid for until late in the season. Will it be too late? In four months away from the competitive side of things, you can train and train, but match fitness will be many, many weeks away when Suarez can finally play for Barça.

Reasons for optimism

Weaknesses have been addressed: Team speed is up, team height is up, strength in midfield is up and the press is back. Everything that caused complexities last season are, at least on paper, improved.

Iniesta: Swagger, style and a more than capable slot into the playmaker role are all the reasons that anyone needs to worry about getting your ass kicked by the team led by Iniesta.

Great players: On paper, a 3-man attack of Neymar, Messi and Suarez is devastating.

And so?

Despite all of that, I think that Barça will be out of the running for major silver this season, marking two seasons in a row in which that has occurred. It isn’t that they don’t have the talent — far from it, as this team is STACKED. But I think that with so much new, and a key signing not being able to play with the club until November essentially means that performances will be erratic, and the front three will have a difficult time gelling.

But, we will see some entertaining, at times remarkable football, and as with last season, the team will come oh, so close to something big.

blitzen weighs in:

So here we are again. Seems like we have been waiting forever, but finally in a few hours a whole new season begins. We have a new coach, a new captain, and practically a whole new team. This has been a summer of slash and burn, and although it has been painful at times, it had to be done for the good of the team. Our legendary captain Carles Puyol was finally forced to admit his own mortality and retired with honour. Victor Valdes was halfway out the door in search of pastures new when a devastating injury threw him out the window instead. Cesc was seduced by the Dark Side, while Alexis Sanchez went to fulfil his destiny at Arsenal, much to the regret of many. The club cut out some dead weight and loaned or sold players like Tello, Cuenca (dammit), Afellay (DAMMIT!), Bojan, JDS (OMG finally!), & Oier (you forgot about Oier, didn’t you?), and even our resident madman Pinto was let go (BOO!). For some reason we still have Song.

In terms of signings, the most important one is our new coach Luis Enrique. It’s no secret around here that I am a huge fan of Lucho, not just as a player, but also from the days when he was coaching the B team to a 3rd place finish in the Segunda for the first time in their history. I wanted him to be appointed as coach when Pep quit, and I knew it would happen sooner rather than later. People have doubts about his lack of coaching experience at a high level, but to me that doesn’t matter. Pep only had only been coaching the B team for a year when he was appointed. Lucho has the drive and personality to take this team to the top. He demands everything from his players, and I believe he will help this team recover the intensity they lost over the last 2 seasons.

As for the incoming players, I am happy with all of them except for Suarez. My objections to him are longstanding and I won’t go into detail here, but suffice it to say that I think he is unnecessary, overpriced, and in need of psychological help. I am encouraged that in his last presser Suarez mentioned that he is working with professionals in that regard. I hope it is true and that we see no recurrence of his reprehensible behaviour. So far the best signings seem to be Rakitic, who looks like he has been playing at Barça for decades, and Mathieu, who hasn’t put a foot wrong in his appearances so far. Ter Stegen is nerveless, and Rafinha is an absolute monster. Bravo needs a little time to calm himself, and Vermaelen is still unproven, but personally I think he will fit in well. We may also still have a “surprise” signing to come, considering that we will very likely not be able to purchase any new players until January 2016. I’m giving this transfer window an 8/10. Well done, Zubi!

To my delight, most of the top top top pundits have already written off Barça’s title chances for this season. This makes us underdogs for the first time in many years, and it’s really quite refreshing. I am coming into this season with no inflated expectations. It would be crazy to expect a team with this many new players, that has lost so many key components of their past success, to win trophies or even be really competitive for the major ones. And yet…I can’t help but be excited after watching how this team has come together in the preseason and how they are all working so hard for Lucho. I have an overwhelming feeling that I am really going to enjoy watching Barcelona play this season, which to be honest I didn’t most of last season. We may not win any trophies, but I am sure we will play attractive attacking possession-based football, and that is all I really ask.


My predictions:
I think we will come second in the league to a Madrid-based team, but it may not be the one you expect. 😛 But I think it will be very close again, like last year. I think we may very well win the Copa del Rey, but that will likely be our only trophy. I don’t think we will be anywhere near winning the CL this year–I predict a quarterfinal exit, with honour.

Player to watch? How about players, plural? This is going to be the year when Barça goes back to basics and draws on the cantera a great deal. We already know from the preseason that Lucho counts on the youth and is happy to give them first team opportunities as long as they work hard. With Suarez banned until the end of October and various other injuries bound to happen, players like Munir, Adama, Samper & Grimaldo are certain to get ample first team minutes, and I expect them to excel. Even Lucho’s most vocal critics have to admit that he has a special way of inspiring youth players to give everything for him, and this batch of B teamers are more than ready to meet the challenge. I believe that Munir and Samper especially will make their marks this season.

By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...

299 comments

  1. I see people are already constructing positive narratives on Douglas based on, what exactly? You’re telling me and everyone else to just ignore all the critiques about him? All the cheering from his fans at his departure? Their shock at our interest?

    We live in an age where I can have a DIRECT conversation with a Sao Paulo fan about his limitations and weaknesses. Today one can do research about any player, let alone someone already 24 years old. By the way, Marquinhos was 18 when he as signed by Roma, massive difference.

    There is no cloud of ignorance over him, there is no ” Hmmm we have no idea so maybe he’s a diamond in the rough? So saying we complain about never unearthing a ” diamond in the rough” and are now complaining about Douglas? Come on. I also do not the reaction from some people who are scoffing at the opinions of Brazilian fans. Whereas I’m looking at them as genuine sources of information on a player very much unknown, I’ve heard everything from ” They’re jus hopping on the hate wagon!” to ” They’re still delirious over the Germany defeat!” from others. The borderline arrogance shocks me.

    Why is it so hard for people in here to try and be realistic? Which does NOT MEAN I AM CYNICAL OR BEING NEGATIVE. That’s all Im annoyed at, otherwise you’re right it’s a small investment but it’s an investment I can still have a view on.

    1. People can have any view on the Douglas transfer they like, positive or negative. One side doesn’t get to label the other anything. If someone can say he sucks and will suck forever and it’s a stupid transfer that probably involves kickbacks to Traffic and board members, someone ELSE is allowed to say that he is a risk, a prospect that could learn to become a quality RB for Barça.

      So one group says that supporters are a “genuine source of information,” even as we can acknowledge that Barça supporters have said that Sanchez, Fabregas, and others are crap, even as they shine for their new teams.

      Another group, I reckon in this case the team’s technical staff, have their own sources, that have said to them that Douglas is worth the risk.

      So two views form: crap, or some sort of project. Both views are valid, and can exist in the same space. We should refrain from shouting another equally valid viewpoint down just because it doesn’t hew to ours.

      As for Douglas, “already 24” makes it sound as if he is an ancient, doddering old coot incapable of learning. 24 is still young, even in football terms. Dani Alves was 25 when he joined Barça. He learned a new system and adapted very well to the demands of a new club.

      The only fact in this matter is that we just don’t know. Everything else, including that he is a crap player, is opinion.

    2. Ok…

      I’ll use an example with what you said to show you your hypothesis is flawed.

      What say we ask three sets of fans about Cesc do you think you would get a clear idea of him and his abilities by speaking to a Arsenal, Barca and Chelsea fans respectively?

      Perspective is key.
      Also a fan isn’t a scout.

    3. Difference is Cesc was CLASS at some point (AFC) , Douglas never has been. It’s not flawed at all. He plays different roles at CFC and AFC suited more to him. His talents are undeniable, his FOOTBALL IQ stellar, he just didn’t fit here.

    4. you’re right; i don’t think even Cesc’s most ardent detractors here or in the stands would claim that he’s a bad PLAYER, just that he was the wrong player for our team and what we needed to succeed.

      Douglas, by contrast, seems to have basically nobody arguing that he is in fact good enough to play for Barca; even supporters of his club in Brazil who have watched him extensively are mystified. my guess is this is a buy with roots in backroom dealings with his agency and our “scouts” in Brazil. the same scouts who brought us Henrique and Keirrison. our Europe and Asia-based scouts seem to do outstanding work, but when was the last time we snatched a rising talent from South America? Messi, 15 years ago?

  2. In other news, real and rumored, Adriano is back training with the team. On the rumor side, Xabi Alonso to RM is apparently rather far along. There is also a rumor, also from Spanish media, that the agent of Reus is at RM’s house, and negotiations are going well, for a price of around 30m or so.

    We’ll see what happens with both rumors.

  3. And that they’re going for L.Gustavo to replace Xabi too. I won’t comment on Reus , that would crush me. Madrid is ours this year. They could’ve planted their feet and reinforced after La Decima but instead are dead set on embarking on yet another galactico age. Let them.

    All opinions on Douglas aside, this reflects poorly on Montoya does it not? That he’s been ” in the system” for ages and yet we’re bringing in someone of virtually
    The same age to try and learn it before Dani leaves. Ouch. I think , those people who view 24 as ” old” view it as such in Douglas’s case because of the unfavorable words following him ( though opinions as you said).

    I will say though that Dani before his transfer was already a stud with Sevilla: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2007/mar/05/europeanfootball.sport3
    Douglas doesn’t come with accolades like that^ though your ” wait and see” point is taken, all
    we can do is wait.

    1. Not sure what to think if I am Montoya. Probably the same thing Bartra is thinking, which is “Thank heavens I am Masia!”

  4. It’s hard to have an opinion on Douglas. The negativity to a player who, at 24, had never been linked to aby club with importance and all of a sudden signs for the biggest club in the world is understandable.
    I think too many Brazilians jump ship to eastern Europe or Japan too early in their careers these days. How many talents have been lost in Ukraine or Russia for only a very small few going on to ever make it big. It’s refreshing to a degree to see a Brazilian still ply his trade in Brazil in his early twenties and it could serve him well.
    Every Dutch player that delays his transfer outside his own country seems to do better than the younger ones that make the leap as teenagers.

    Thiago Silva, Miranda and others have left it til their mid to late twenties before making the jump to Europe so it’s not like he is old, and neither were particularly setting the world on fire at 24.

    Could this transfer fail? Yes but that doesn’t mean that it will. The closest comparison I think I can make is with Juliano Belletti. He had played for a couple of teams in Brazil and made the move to Europe and Villarreal at the age of 23 with virtually no fanfare. He had a reasonable first season and a better second season so we snapped him up as a squad player who went on to win us the champions league. Wouldn’t it be quite a fairy tale of Douglas could scale those heights…

    1. That so many young Brazilian players have been going to Ukraine and Russia at a very young age is a significant reason why Brazil has lost its flair. At 19 you are still developing as a player and if you go to a place with a very foreign footballing culture it is more likely that that culture will heavily influence you than that you will bring your own unique style to it. So it happens that Ukrainian and Russian football represent the second most antithetical to traditional Brazilian footballing values style (after god old route-one English football). Of course, the Brazilians have done a lot to abandon their style internally, and that’s a long story on its own, but it does not at all help them when their most promising players go to Ukraine at the age of 19…

    2. Interesting note on Thiago Silva from Wikipedia that seems to confirm those problems of shipping off Brazilians to fight on the Eastern Front:

      “After several problems breathing and injuries, there were few opportunities, and then was transferred to Dynamo Moscow, with Russia in January 2005 . However, in Moscow with the intense cold, health problems worsened and Thiago suffered from tuberculosis , leaving him hospitalized four months”.

    3. This is an excellent point! What might be an indirect result of the underage transfer prohibitions is that more Brazilian players will stay to play for the top teams in Brazil at least until they can be sold to Europe for a nice profit. No one knows, but it’s quite possible that Henrique and Keirrison would have had good careers had they stayed in Brazil for a longer period of time at a top club.

      On the question of the value of the opinions of fans of other teams, I think they are a valuable source for the qualities of their own players and the situation their teams are in. For example, this article from a fan site explains a lot of the context and reasons why Benatia went to Bayern for such a low price. It seems that Bayern was lucky to come at just the right time to get this player who was more or less making it impossible to keep him:
      http://www.chiesaditotti.com/2014/8/26/6069469/mehdi-benatia-transfer-bayern-munich-as-roma

      As for the Douglas matter, I am not expecting much based on what little I have read but would certainly like to be pleasantly surprised. One thing that might be key to it all the status of Dani Alves since he seems to be staying. I think he said in his press conference that he has a contract at Barca until 2016 so if nothing else Dani, Montoya, and Adriano will at least have some competition or backup until we are able to sign players again or have a prospect ready from the B team.

  5. Dear God, I just watched one of the most remarkable play-offs you could ever imagine!!!

    The Crazy foresters(Ludogoretz) made the Champions League group stage!!!

    1. 1. Equalize on aggregate in the 90th

      2. Have their GK sent off in the 119th minute

      3. Have no subs left so they have to bring an outfield player in goal

      4. Outfield player wins them the shootout

      This one will be remembered a long time for sure

    2. Trailing 0-1 on aggregate, Ludogoretz had to win in order to force extra time. After 90 minutes of missed chances that was achieved with a beautiful volley that left the Steaua keeper standing still.

      After another 30 minutes of extra time forcing the Romanian champions in their own half and box, all looked like penalties, when one of Steaua’s CBs latched onto a clearance and sprinted forward. The Bulgarian keeper rushed forward and brought him down, earning himself a red card, just seconds before the penalties… and Ludogoretz had used their three subs. One of the CBs, a Romanian named Moti, had to put on the shirt of the reserve keeper, try to save the free kick and hold on until the penalty shootout, and he did, Ludogoretz’s wall doing its job to deflect the ball to a corner kick, which Moti then punched away.

      Then the penalties came. Moti scored the first penalty, then conceded the first of Steaua, watched in horror as Ludogoretz’ goalscorer had his weak shot saved…

      And then he saved the second Steaua penalty.

      Nobody else missed, three more penalties apiece were taken, Steaua’s keeper coming tantalizingly close to some of the shots, Moti with his hilariously bad “technique” being wide, but all penalties were superbly taken.

      It came to sudden death penalties, both teams scored their sixths, Ludogoretz scored their seventh, before Moti threw himself wide to the right to make a brilliant save and went on a blind mad sprint towards the waiting crowd.

      Not even Hollywood can make such a script. Only football.

    3. I am Bulgarian, but I’ve been living in the Canary Islands for seven years now. 🙂

      Lots of co-workers told me today they had never seen such drama. 🙂 Canal+ showed the extra time and penalties right after Athletic dispatched Napoli.

    4. Not barca related at all, but i’ve been obsesaed with going to bulgaria and romania for many years. Ideally, i’ll be in sofia in the summer of 2016, but in general, i’d love some recommendations!

    5. And for their troubles they get a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu! Talk about starting their CL debut with a bang.

  6. Did anyone get a chance to watch Arsenal today? Two possible penalty non calls for Besiktas but Arsenal progress 1-0 on Alexis’ goal. He looks like he will do really well for them. Alexis may now even be their new striker since Giroud is out for a while unless they can quickly buy a replacement.

    1. Seems that Wenger uses him similar way to what he played in Barca. Not sure if that’s what Alexis was hoping for 🙂

  7. I absolutely adore the fact that Flo Flo can’t leave well enough alone, that RM has done not one, but TWO moves to weaken their squad in selling Di Maria and then Xabi Alonso. Ancelotti had a strong squad capable of playing in many ways, but those two sales changed that.

    Excellent.

    1. Does it mean that EE have just officially abandoned the catapult-at-Ronaldo as their main tactics?

    2. I can’t believe that they are so naive to not see the value that Di Maria and Xabi Alonso had in their squad. Granted they got very good money for Di Maria and Xabi is old but they were integral to the success of last season.
      Kroos and Modric as a double pivot is all well and good when they are in possession but offers no defensive capabilities. Add to that two rather offensive fullbacks and inconsistent central defenders I can’t see them beating the big teams this year, especially without Di Maria.

    3. Sure. Add their lack of penetration, and the fact that Benzema is about as useful as Pedro at this point; it seems that the troubles from their pre-season are far from over.

  8. Xabi Alonso could become a great coach one day, considering how many top class managers he has been (and will be) learning from.

  9. Barcelona, PSG, Ajax, APOEL.
    Real Madrid, FC Basel, Liverpool, Ludogorets Razgrad.
    Atletico Madrid, Juventus, Olympiacos, Malmo FF.

  10. So Barca, PSG, Ajax and Apoel.
    Not easy in any way but we’ll qualify. At least Ajax play football and Apoel are very beatable. PSG will be tough and should qualify with us.

  11. Our group (F) is the second toughest group:
    Barcelona(ESP)
    Paris(FRA)
    Ajax(NED)
    APOEL(CYP)

    EE group (B) seems very easy for them:
    Real Madrid(ESP)
    Basel(SUI)
    Liverpool(ENG)
    Ludogorets(BUL)

    Group E is the toughest IMO:
    Bayern(GER)
    Man. City(ENG)
    CSKA Moskva(RUS)
    Roma(ITA)

  12. I think all 4 La Liga teams have a excellent chance at qualification. The groups are really balanced with Group E the only stand out tough one. Barça should qualify in spades. PSG doesn’t scare me at all to be honest.

  13. Group stage time schedule:

    Barcelona:
    17.09 Matchday 1 Barcelona – Apoel
    30.09 Matchday 2 PSG – Barcelona
    21.10 Matchday 3 Barcelona – Ajax
    05.11 Matchday 4 Ajax – Barcelona
    25.11 Matchday 5 Apoel – Barcelona
    10.12 Matchday 6 Barcelona – PSG

    Real Madrid:
    16.09 Matchday 1 Real Madrid – Basel
    29.09 Matchday 2 Ludogorets – Real Madrid
    22.10 Matchday 3 Liverpool – Real Madrid
    04.11 Matchday 4 Real Madrid – Liverpool
    26.11 Matchday 5 Basel – Real Madrid
    09.12 Matchday 6 Real Madrid – Ludogorets

    In plain words, Barcelona plays Ajax at home on Tuesday, whereas Real play Liverpool away on Wednesday. Clasico at Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday/Saturday. The chances of it being Friday are almost non-existent, and Suarez will be available for his first competitive game for Barcelona.

    1. truly, i for one don’t care. he was a terrible fit, and almost certainly a waste of money. decent (not great) player, but nowhere near what we needed. and, yes, his acquisition is another example of the board short-shrifting the sporting project.

      hopefully he’s off to a team he can work well in, though my sympathy for him is limited given his far-too-big wages and behavior during the World Cup.

    2. Shame his wages are so high and he’s been underwhelming for years, two things making this transfer take waaay too long. Funniest thing I’ve heard all day is Falcao on LOAN for 20mil to Madrid. Laughing really hard at that, I hope they do it.

  14. WTF!!!! Can someone pls shutss CR7’s mouth up??? How dare him to talk about messi’s golden ball award? Someone should shut him up before I commite a murder, realy pathetic tbh uffffff.

  15. WTF!!!! Can someone pls shutss CR7’s mouth up??? How dare him to criticize messi’s golden ball award? Someone should shut him up before I commite a murder, realy pathetic tbh uffffff.

  16. Anyone watch Arsenal v Besiktas. Early days, but I get the feeling that Wenger is going to have Alexis playing the free-floating orchestrator/scorer role that he does for Chile, and he’s going to build a whole team around him. Certainly isn’t going to waste him out on the wing.
    If that’s the case, and Alexis stays fit for the next three or four years, I think he really is in the right set-up to fulfill his destiny as a player. Ballon d’Or? Quite possible. Be interesting to see what happens, anyway.

    1. I am definitely going to watch more Arsenal games since they have Alexis now. I wonder how Ozil and Alexis will play together. For those who know Arsenal better, is there a sense that Ozil just may not fit as well on the team as most Arsenal fans would have liked?

  17. Why do people bother getting worked up over stuff that other players say? What else do you expect Ronaldo to say when asked who the “best” is? It doesn’t matter.

    — Every big club got a bye to the next round, really. For all the talk about how easy RM’s group is, ours should be a stroll in the park, as well. They will have difficulties with Liverpool, just as we will with PSG, but the other two teams should be not all that difficult.

    Yes, we lost to Ajax last year, which didn’t matter a whit to the group result. Nobody should be worried.

    1. Ah, but with the group stages being as irrelevant as always, it’s still important to top the group, otherwise getting to the latter stages becomes that much harder because you have to face a group winner if you come second.

    2. I dont think the above comment was about – who the best is, but probably about the ‘prison’ reference.
      It seems media has wisely underplayed that part, as of now, for the sake of Ronaldo.
      I saw the comment by mr.undercover and didnt know what it was so called an ardent CR7 fan, who explained it, and even he feels bad about it.

  18. Some illuminating comments from Mascherano at his presser today:

    –“Barça attacks and defends through positioning and order. We recover the ball through positioning and order not individual duels.”

    –“I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feeling when I said that the club has self-destructive tendencies.”

    “But there have been things that happened in the club that instead of helping us, put up roadblocks for us.”

    “People have told me that it’s cultural, that it’s always been this way. I’d like us all to be pulling in the same direction.”

    That man is a Boss.

    — Douglas will wear the No. 16, most recently sported by Busquets.

  19. He was suspended for our first game and DB says it’s because he’s got ongoing discomfort but if he’s training with us I’m not inclined to believe that. Maybe he still feels he was the more culpable of the 2CBs against Holland ? Or maybe I’m just reading too much into it.

  20. Looking like West Ham on loan for Song. Can’t see them not keeping him, but he might have to kick around until his price is manageable for a club that can also renegotiate his wages.

    With that, the squad should be complete.

  21. Going back to CR7s comments, I just hope that this gives Messi some more motivation to prove his doubters wrong. Personally, I am tired that every person associated with Barca has to repeat the “Messi is the best player in the world” mantra.

    It’s great that this season we have so many players who must feel that they have something to prove. Gone is the complacency and predictability of last season.

  22. Okay. So Ochoa, the keeper who we were so stupid not to sign over Bravo, can’t even beat out Kameni at Malaga? That’s per the Malaga coach, btw.

    As I noted via social media, people are fond of calling this board and the club technical staff “incompetent.” But they are competent. Just not at doing the things that many culers want them to do. That gives them different goals (money, preserving power).

    I just don’t think someone can be called incompetent just because they don’t do what I or someone else wants them to.

    1. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks of Douglas, because they are going to think what they think about him, right?

      So the folks who dislike Douglas (which is almost everyone, the rest are merely confused by the signing), that “scouting report” is nonsense. Troll bait. My mind is made up, and Douglas is terrible. And that’s that.

      To those who want to think that maybe, just maybe, there was a reason the club bought him, it’s a different reaction. Again, that’s based in the response to the signing.

      At this point, he is going to have to play. People are saying that because Enrique didn’t attend the Douglas presser, that he didn’t approve of the signing, as if Enrique would be handed a player by anyone. But you have to believe that to fit the narrative you craft.

      It’s why nothing matters until he plays. At that point, we will see.

    2. This “Luis Enrique didn’t attend” stuff actually works if you want to paint a narrative of the board and the inept director of football signing poorly and handing the players to the coach. Luis Enrique hasn’t attended any of the presentations. Rakitic, Vermaelen, Bravo, Ter Stegen, Mathieu, Suarez, they were all with Zubizarreta on one side and Jordi Mestre in the center.

      Fits entirely the narrative:

      “If it had been Kroos instead of Rakitic Luis Enrique would’ve been there, right? Right?
      If it had been Benatia instead of Vermaelen Luis Enrique would’ve been at his side.
      If it had been Cuadrado instead of that unknown terrible Keirrison 2.0 Luis Enrique would’ve been there!!!
      If it had been EPL’s goalscorer Suarez instead of that racist biter Suarez Luis Enrique would’ve been there to… Anyway, the point is THEY DIDN’T SIGN CUADRADO, HUMMELS, REUS, BENATIA, COURTOIS, KROOS, MULLER, FALCAO, BLIND, DANILO, KEYLOR NAVAS, MARQUINHOS AND ROJO!!! Stupid intept incompetent imbecilic board/Zubi!!!”

    3. U know what. I love that everyone, including Barca fans think that we didn’t do well in the transfer window. It means that for once expectations are relatively low as opposed to stratospheric! Reminds me a bit of Pep’s first season, when we sold our best player and bought Keita (who?). Pep was an unknown who had “way too much to prove for a club as big as Barca”.

      Let’s see, but I have not been this excited about a season in a long time. So many unknowns, so many possibilities. We may win everything, we may win nothing, but I bet we have some fun along the way and that’s what it’s all about it isn’t it?!?

  23. Iniesta injured with knee problems. Doesn’t sound good. I guess we’ll be playing Rafinha – Rakitic – Busi midfield.

    1. Club says no real injury, but that the player needs rest. I reckon this is well timed for the international break as he will undoubtedly pull out of that match for the two weeks of rest.

      Luis Enrique: “Iniesta has some knee discomfort. We value player’s opinion a lot and together with the doctors we decided he won’t play.”

  24. Not trying to tempt fate, but here´s what I’ve noticed this silly season:

    1. The club signed mostly players instead of stars(In spanish it’s a very nice phrase, “Hombres, no Nombres” “Men, not names”), with the exception of Suarez and Rakitic, who are both Names and Men.
    2. For some reason most fans and fans of other teams really think that Barcelona has had a terrible silly season and has failed to reinforce its squad with Real Quality(tm). All evidence of the opposite must be the fruit of the trusting, naive, gullible and hopelessly hopeful wild imagination of old crusty conservative hardline culers, board fanboys and assorted scum living in ignorance of the wisdom of twitter and football punditry.
    3. Luis Enrique’s father is Amunike, and his only managerial success has been reaching 3rd place in Segunda División(renamed Liga Adelante to spare the feelings of the minnows duking it out in Segunda), followed by a disaster in Roma and an ordinary season of taking 17th-place Celta and finishing 9th with them(equal points with the 8th Valencia), in the process killing Real Madrid’s Triplete aspirations in the penultimate round of La Liga.
    4. Taking into account 1+2+3 follows that Barcelona are under less pressure than before.

    Nobody really expects this outfit of misfits to make it anywhere near what is considered “The Top”. As they say, “Lightning never strikes the same place twice”, right?.

    I wonder what the management of the Sears Towers would have to say about that.

    1. The trick to having a world-class nucleus is careful augmentation and filling in around the edges. On paper, it seems that the club has done that with the exception of right back, but I haven’t heard of any killer RBs on the market this summer at any rate, so might as well take a punt on Douglas.

      Transfer season is a simple case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. So “sign somebody, anybody” becomes “I didn’t mean HIM!”

      So the team goes out, plays very well even if nothing approaching full speed, takes a 3-0 stroll against Elche and it’s “Oh, well it’s Elche.” And that’s understandable, I reckon, as long as you forget recent history with that being the same Elche this team couldn’t score against at their house.

      The real proof of the pudding will come in May, when we know what this will have actually done over the course of the season. All the rest is bench racing, narratives and supporter favorites.

  25. Song to West Ham it is. Still no word on whether it is a loan or straight transfer.

    — Douglas took part in his first training today. The players joined hands and greeted him with a rousing cry of “Culers say you suck,” sung to the tune of a familiar Catalan lullaby. No word on how the rest of the session went.

    1. Mundo Deportivo has 14 minutes of the allowed first 15.

      http://www.mundodeportivo.com/20140830/fc-barcelona/primer-entrenamiento-de-douglas-como-jugador-del-barca_54414500041.html

      Barcelona’s youtube channel has the same training video.

      Three things:

      1. Messi, Masche and Suarez look like they get along together. Good.
      2. Rondos along the line of the central circle, with three players in the middle. Very good. While small rondos are mostly about control and passing accuracy, big rondos with three in the middle seem to be more about conditioning, fitness, pressing and teamwork. Not to mention most of those passes are about the average length of Barcelona’s passing. Good training.
      3. Ter Stegen recovering and training with a bungee rope tied to a goal-post. Interesting.
      4. SPORT is running an article about the firm that is in charge of repatching the torn surfaces of the training pitches at Ciutat Desportiva. Apparently the firm hasn’t had so much work since 2011. Nice.

    2. And if West Ham assume Song’s salary, Douglas’s signing has been amortized. 😀

      P.S. According to the declared details of his signing, each block of 30 games in which Douglas plays at least 45 minutes will mean 500 000 Euro, for a total of 1.5 million, which is the complete set of variables.

    3. Song to West Ham is a great deal for us. If we had sold him now then we’d get around €10m MAX. After a year of hopefully and probably playing very well in the EPL we should have a lot more suitors next summer and get a bigger bid. Just because someone doesn’t do well at Barca doesn’t mean they are a bad footballer and Song is certainly not a bad footballer.

      I find it amusing that people were happier to gamble 40 plus million on Marquinhos than €4m on Douglas. I’ve never been impressed with Marquinhos, not with Roma and not with PSG. Douglas is a risk but it’s a very small one.

      Just to clarify, if someone is registered with the senior squad they cannot play with the B team so those who have been saying that he’ll probably spend the season with the B team are wrong.

    4. Agreed, and furthermore Douglas is a much smaller risk both in economic and football terms. He plays in a position that is currently well-covered, so he will have time to both settle down, learn the Way and reach optimal fitness while not under the pressure that would’ve been the case of Marquinhos – lots of money + a very hard position to play in, as well as almost immediate need to start.

    5. I think the risk is quite high, considering that Dani Alves can leave next summer and we won’t have adequate cover for his position – unless either Montoya or Douglas unexpectedly become very good players.

    6. Dani Alves can leave next season, but he has a clause for an automatic one-year renovation based on games played.

      If Douglas doesn’t work out, Montoya doesn’t work out and Barcelona cannot sign anyone until January 2016, Dani Alves is still an option.

      Low risk. Actually very low, considering how many clubs queued in order to sign him this summer.

  26. Falcao just posted about his E.E. signing and deleted it afterwards.
    A forward step for them. Gah.
    It’s said, Falcao was offered to Barça earlier but we rejected him right away, but that’s none of my business.

  27. What on earth is going on at Goodison park? Every attack resulted in a goal for the past 10mins. Amazing stuff.

    1. Cesc is going crazy with his through balls.
      Freakish amount of space,
      Highlines galore,
      End to End footy with way too many transitions ; his Favourite hunting ground.
      That hardly happens in La liga.

  28. Oof. Negative reviews from neutrals for the Deulofeu performance at Sevilla. He has time, though. Suarez kicked ass as usual, apparently.

    1. The difference between them is that Suarez doesn’t think that he is a finished product and now the doors are open for him at the highest level. He knows that he is far from reaching that and he works, at least on the pitch, you can see it.
      On the other hand, Delofeou has his problems that most of us and all of his coaches have already identified. He needs to sort those out, if he wants to be somebody in the world of football.

  29. Today’s news from MARCA reveal that Ancelotti has the shortest squad since ten years: 18 field players and 3 keepers.

    From the composition of the midfielders it seems that Ancelotti mostly wants to play creative football: Illara and Khedira are the two true defensive midfielders, and while Modric and Kroos can help quite a bit, they are more about creativity and control. Isco and James are pure attacking midfielders and the striker team as of now consists of Ronaldo, Bale and Benzema(+ Jese who is recovering from his torn ACL).

    There are 36 hours until the end of silly season. In Britain the TVs are apparently going to cover it better than they covered last elections. 😀

    1. It’s a thin squad and not very diverse. They also have a very week cantera at the minute so it’s not like they have that to call upon. It looks like their game plan is to get it to their forwards and hope for the best.
      Their front four will have plenty of goals in them but Kroos and Modric are not the most incisive when it comes to through balls so it’ll be up to the sole attacking midfielder of Isco or James to create for the three forwards.

      I look at our squad and I’m happier.

  30. A draw is the most likely scenario today.
    When implementing new tactical ideas, And coupling it with the arrival of many new players, It’s seldom to escape the side effects, Against elche it seemed that the team lacked some harmony, And they weren’t as fluid as the coach could hope so.

    Villa real are always a very tough opponent in their home, And our team is currently in the process of adapting to various changes , So this isn’t the ideal time to face such an opponent.

    1. We should still have enough to handle them, especially if Messi is still in the mood. Pique will hopefully be keen to do well and I think he and Mathieu could be a good pairing. Disappointed LE hasn’t used Xavi instead of Iniesta. That was surely the most obvious swap. A lot hanging on Rakatic’s performance now.

    2. And now having just seen the pitch I can’t believe it can be in that state at the start of the season. What’s going on ?

    3. Villareal had to work for their 2-0 win vs Levante the other day, but still they remain a tough opponent. They will have to play on Thursday vs a Kazakh outfit for the Europa League group spot, but the game is at El Madrigal and Villareal won the away leg 0-3. The consequences will probably be a mostly rested Villareal team and an awful pitch come Sunday.

      See? Not to mention it’s Barcelona. If they could, opposing teams would have a herd of horses gallop about the pitch until fifteen minutes before the game.

    4. So far it feels like a draw indeed. We have watched that kind of game many times in the past – it’s an away game, the other team has parked the bus, we create chances, but not with the usual ease, and not of the usually quality and quantity, which means we need to be very efficient at converting them, but we’re not. At some point the other team manages to break up the flow of the game but creating a lot of 50-50 situations, and many fouls begin to be called. And so the game drags on and eventually we lose points.

      Hopefully Neymar and Xavi can change it in the second half when/if they come in.

  31. Well, if I were Xavi I’d be on the phone to Man U to ask if they want a decent midfielder for a season. If he’s genuinely behind this midfield in the pecking order there’s no point in him staying.

    1. Agree on Xavi.
      Of course he wont play all the games, but surely he can bring something when he’s fresh.
      Bthw, Rafinha so far is not the same one from Celta.

    2. This looks like more of a blooding exercise – can the new midfield do it under real pressure, in an away game against Villareal.

    3. Extremely glad xavi decided to stay with us, Even at such an advanced age, He still can be integral to the team, It’s easy to get overly excited about Ivan and rafinha and prematurely throw all the burden on them in their first season, Keeping xavi will help tremendously in easing the transition, And he still can kick-ass.

  32. There were times when Villarreal would actually try to attack, especially at home.
    I haven’t seen them so defensive against us, even when they played at Camp Nou.
    And that was a stone wall penalty for us.

  33. But man, we did miss a lot of chances tonight.
    Messi again shows the same desire and attitude from the first game. Great for us.
    Great team effort, i really liked how we played. For most of the game they were just afraid to play.
    And Dani, well, for the moment we have Dani 1.0 from Dani 5.0 when he arrived.

  34. Excellent match today. Villarreal played its butts off, intelligent defending rooted in midfield fighting. Calling that a parked bus does them a disservice, even as they were playing not to lose.

    — Key goals from Masia products have been the story of the first two matches. And the young shall lead them?

    — Neymar had some misses, but changed the match today from his entry.

    — That is exactly how Xavi needs to be used from henceforth. Brilliant. Control and calm.

    — Messi missed some chances, but the calmness and control to set up that Sandro finish was out of this world.

    — Mathieu got the stinker out of his system. Okay.

    — Everybody who was blaming the incessant Alves crosses on Martino … ahahahahahaha!

    1. Alves keeps crossing into the box even when there isn’t that much of a chance, Is because our wide forwards are offering very little penetrability, Pedro and munir are not ideal in 1v1 situations, And the only way to get the ball into the box is either by passing to messi so he can work out some magic, Or pass it to alves to cross it inside, When neymar came in it became easier creating chances and alves started crossing less.

    2. Liked:
      The result. At this stage of the team’s development that’s the most important thing.
      The way we stuck at it throughout
      The press … but it’s a very long season.
      Mathieu holding his hand up to one of the errors. He’s better than this and will show us it over the season.
      Messi’s attitude again. Not surprised he’s feeling it
      Pique telling Alves to shut up and stop arguing
      The way Sandro timed his run to get in front of his defender at the right moment. Some of his elders could learn from that. If Alves is going to pile in crosses someone needs to get across his marker
      Alba’s speed !

      To be improved
      Midfield never looked close to being right. Rafinha in particular looked lost and Rakitic seemed to think he was playing RB, obviously under instructions which was worrying.. He’s no use to us there. Didn’t think he had a great game overall If Xavi is here and fresh and Iniesta is missing it’s a no brainer for me he starts in place of Rafinha and then bring someone on for him if need be. We could well throw away a rotation luxury if we’re not careful.
      Munir discovered today the work still to be put in on physique and not relying on the same moves. Defenders at this level will suss him quickly. Still, he’s young and entitled to take time to learn.
      Pedro is becoming a real wory. I’ve kinda defended him for the last two seasons but I’m starting to feel stupid. I mean what does he do ?

      I do like the energy LE has instilled into the whole team so far. As he learns I reckon this could turn into a very effective outfit. As Kxevin says we do need to rest messi occasionally whether he likes it or not but that requires the others to step up and I’m not sure they’re up to it yet.

    3. Agree with Rami and Jim.
      The only way of getting the ball into the box is via Messi and Alves. Miss Iniesta. Neymer did it once too.
      Munir needs to understand that his physique is not good enough to fight with the best defenders, pass the ball.
      Some of Messi’s through balls are incredible.
      Neymar could have had a hatrick. two of them quite easy ones for a player of his caliber.
      Excellent win. Except for a few moments, we tried relentless.

  35. Great game, great bloody game. I thought we were excellent. I have heard some complaints about our play but people seem to forget there is another team on the pitch besides Barca and they played out of their skins. All credit to them. That said, we created plenty of chances, we passed the ball quickly and incisively, despite the state of the pitch and the press, ohhh the press. How I missed this part of our game. The energy and pressing today for me was the most important element.

    It is still early, the newcomers need time to settle down a bit, but so far I am very happy with what I am seeing. Messi is definitely back to his old self, Neymar looked great when he came on and Rakitic is going to be the man this season. Busquetz was all over the place, interceptions and key passes galore.

    The one player I really felt disappointed by was Pedro. It just seems like he keeps regressing season after season. Sure, he runs a lot and does his job tactically but so many times today the attack got to him and just died.

  36. MARCA top voted comment:

    “Who would have said that a guy called Sandro would do something positive for Barcelona?”

    I’m laughing with tears even though I disagree. 😀

    1. Great Victory! I was really impressed with Sandro too. He looks like a seasoned player on the pitch.

      Nice to know that playing away at Anoeta can be a nightmare for more than one La Liga giant.

    2. You actually bother reading the comments on these news sites….It’s like reading goal dot com, But in Spanish, And by using a Google translator in my case.

    3. No, not really, Goal is just troll fest at this point. MARCA’s comments sections can be ordered by most voted content and sometimes those are pure gold, in any sense of the phrase. 🙂

    1. You know, after both Di Maria and Alonso left, I am looking at Madrid’s squad, and they actually don’t have that much depth at the moment. Hopefully they don’t sign anyone between now and the end of the transfer windown

    2. They will probably add Chicharito to their front, but it wont solve them the problems that they have in their own half.
      They dont have problem scoring goals,the issue is conceding them. And luckily for us, they are few players with defensive duties short.

  37. Wow, Real Sociedad go from losing to tiny Eibar to smacking Madrid 4-2. I know home field advantage matters, but that’s quite a turnaround!

    1. We have our own bad history in their stadium.

      This is such a beautiful day, I’ll sleep like a baby.

  38. I thoroughly enjoyed the match, especially our pressing. The bad news is that Leo is already injured – his body might not be able to take the continuous 110% effort he displayed in the last two games, as has been argued by many defending his less than intense approach over the last two seasons…

    1. Errrr, it’s only been two, though. This can definitely become an problem as the season continues. It might already be an problem.

    2. He would have been a sub today, for me. I think he’s mostly fine, and this is just a precaution. He certainly wasn’t moving like he was impaired at all during that match.

    3. Jim, I would have started Neymar, with the plan to sub Messi if required, and moved Rafinha up. So Neymar/Munir/Rafinha. I wouldn’t have started Pedro.

    4. Actually he slowed down significantly in the last 20 minutes or so, I was watching and thinking he looked tired, but now it seems there was another reason

    5. Isn’t this just a international break ‘injury’? Similar to Pique’s? Please keep all the WC players with the club during the next two weeks.

    6. Practically it’s a sound idea. However, there’s a Germany vs Argentina rematch coming up soon and I would love to see Messi play. Not at the expense of his health though.

    7. Messi has done enough for Argentina for now. Physically he will need bouts of rest this season. Missing friendlies would be top of my list for ways to get it. Plus Argentina are needing ( a bit like us) to learn that others need to step up if he is going to get that rest. He’ll not sit on a bench and watch us go down.

    8. @Jim
      I understand now, how difficult it is being Messi. On the Argentina spaces, lots of them are swearing at Messi. That he looks back to his best in the last two Barca matches, have turned many against him. I am surprised, even people who sounded sane through the WCfinal loss, are now angry with him as they feel Messi dont want to play for Argentina.
      Right on time, someone also have started a rumour that hereon Messi will miss all friendlies with Albiceleste, and this injury happens.
      It is difficult to live his life.

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