Almeria 1, Barça 2, aka “We won, but we still lost … or something”

"What the hell ...?"
“What the hell …?”

“Worst game of the season. (The) second half was a bit better, but more because of the players’ desire than because of our game.

“I don’t know what happened in the first half. The result is the best thing, but the goals won’t hide the things we did wrong”

— Luis Enrique

Even in the aftermath of a narrow win pulled out against a brave, exceptionally good Almeria side, I am still not sure if Enrique was a genius, a jackass, or all of the above.

He started today’s match with a lineup that I confess to liking when I first saw it: Bravo, Adriano, Mascherano, Bartra, Alba, Busquets, Rakitic, Rafinha, Munir, Pedro, Messi. You get industry from Munir and Pedro, string pulling and attacking from Messi and more industry from the midfield. And if all that fails, you have Bartra and Mascherano, pace and tackling ability, at the back. It was also a lineup that made rotational and meritocracy sense.

What we got instead was a leaderless, rudderless mess that Almeria took advantage of time and again with the three things that have been the Achilles heel of Barça for years now: team cohesion, pace and physicality. Any balls that Almeria didn’t outrun Barça players to, they outmuscled them for. As with Malaga, Celta and RM this season, Atleti last season and the Chelseas, etc before them, you can trouble the handsome guy if you just punch him in the face.

But what made today’s first half such a mess was the complete lack of cohesion, logic or pretty much anything else. Nobody seemed to be sure where they were supposed to be, so everybody just looked to be running around. And that was on defense. In attack, it was “Here, Messi, you do it.” How much of that was the player taking it all on because that was what he sensed and Almeria removing options is interesting to consider.

If you look at how they played Munir and Pedro, it was clear that they took the superstar approach to defending Barça, which is “If Messi can beat us by himself, good on him.”

As with Celta, there were chances. Barça smacked the crossbar with shots 3 times today. There were those, as well as some excellent early opportunities from lovely sequences of play. And when those didn’t come off, Almeria seemed buoyed by failure and came on hard. The match seemed stalemated until something that was kind of expected happened, given how this season has been going.

Messi took a pass, turned, dribbled, dribbled some more before being dispossessed outside the Almeria box. From there, the rest was easy. There was no midfield presence, as Rakitic and Rafinha were functioning as attackers. Alba and Adriano were wide, Pedro and Munir also on offense. The perfect outlet pass to Almeria’s fastest attacker found his feet, and he slid a lovely finish home. 1-0 to the home side, and some blasphemers asked questions, such as what if Messi had passed?


Ignoring the full-on tactical shambles that meant essentially, nobody was back to try to control the fastest, most aggressive player on the pitch, that question lingers. I understand the desire of the most creative player on the pitch to make something happen. I also look at a moment in the second half where, faced with almost a similar situation, Messi took the pass, dribbled a bit, surveyed his options then passed back to midfield for a reset.

No, the goal wasn’t Messi’s fault. The goal wasn’t anybody’s fault unless you want to lay the blame at the feet of a messy team performance and seeming tactical clusterf***. But recall in the PSG match, when Alves was castigated for giving up possession close to our box, and when Luiz scored from the set piece, many said “Garbage in, garbage out.” It was a valid question then, and is a valid question now.

Messi is a phenom, who will almost certainly go down in history as the best player to ever play the game. Any culer who isn’t thrilled and thankful every day that he is playing for Barça is delusional. But he is also a player who is on the team at FC Barcelona. If you can’t ask a question about him, just as you would any other player, at what point does it become impossible to thoroughly discuss the team?

Apres le deluge

Barça went into the half down a goal and, frankly, a mess from to to bottom, from attack to defense. It looked like exactly what it was: a tired team coming off of a very difficult away match in Champions League into a very difficult away match in league play, with a new coach/staff and a bunch of new players. I understand that our wee millionaires are supposed to be fonts of boundless energy, capable of rising up and crushing lesser mortals. But maybe, just maybe, that fatigue played into the Enrique XI decision, holding his top players in abeyance in case the match didn’t go as he would have hoped.

For me, I can’t really excoriate Enrique for the initial lineup decision without taking a lot of other things into consideration. That’s the easy, seductive path, though. Such an atmosphere of doubt exists around this team and its coach that everything is up for grabs, and nothing makes sense.

“We want a fresh start that has to be perfect right now.” Guardiola tinkered with his lineups and the phrase, “In Pep we trust” was born. Enrique is just a clueless jackass.

Nonetheless, Suarez and Neymar entered the fray just after the half and immediately there were signs of life, mostly because suddenly the superstar defense tactic was no longer effective. Almeria had three weapons to worry about, instead of just putting 4 men in front of Messi and daring the others to be good enough. And maybe, just maybe, the coach kinda knew just a bit about what might happen.

If you take a player still coming into match fitness and throw him out against a fresh opponent that is full of energy at home, a player coming off a difficult away match, is that player going to have the same effectiveness as he would against a tiring opponent with a half of football already in his legs? And maybe, just maybe, that energy edge will be enough to turn the tide. Maybe.

Suarez generated two moments of individual brilliance for two assists, one to Neymar and the other to Alba, and the decision to keep him as a sub sure seemed a proper one. People can snarl all they like about how depending upon moments of individual magic means a system is flawed, the team shouldn’t have to, etc, etc. but Barça history is FILLED with moments of individual magic. Even in that Treble season, the one in which the team won every match 324-0 and nothing was ever in doubt, there were moments of stunning individual brilliance, because that is precisely why you have those kinds of players.

When Mascherano dons his cape and saves the world as he did today, yes, it’s a flaw because he shouldn’t have to. But the luxury of that world-class player is that when you need him to, he can. And that ain’t bad.


A messy Messi

And speaking of those kinds of players, it’s time to ask what’s wrong with Messi. Late in the match, Messi got a chance that you would have bet the house on his finishing. Making it even better was that Neymar and Suarez essentially cleared out the Almeria defense, so that it was effectively Messi and the keeper. Saved. And he missed two chances before that, moments that we have become accustomed to watching the ball nestle into the back of the net.

He had Iker Casillas at his mercy in the Classic, and didn’t finish. It’s fair to begin to wonder, as others have, where the finishing sharpness has gone. What happens with Messi is that people line up to defend him. “Hasn’t he suffered enough,” or “I don’t know why he stays at Barça,” etc, etc. And the person who asks the question is branded a “hater,” because that is easy. I get that, even as I don’t accept it. Because nobody hates Messi except his victims, and even they can’t really muster up a good hate. How can you? All he wants to do is cuddle his kid and cut your throat.

The fact of the matter is that Messi, who started the season in a manner that was brilliant even by his own lofty standards, has tailed off in dramatic fashion. Yes, some of it is that he is being fronted by armies of defenders outside the box. But on the line, in the box, goals that he used to score with style and precision he is now missing, or putting where the keeper can get at them. I remember a time when Messi viewed being dispossessed as a personal affront, and would practically assault the player with the ball, nipping at his heels to get it back.

It’s fair to question Messi, even as so many think that it isn’t. “Look what he has done for this club, you ungrateful bastard.” Messi doesn’t dive, Messi doesn’t make excuses. People don’t need to make excuses for him. When I observed that he should have passed, which might have prevented the turnover that led to the Almeria goal, the reasons why he didn’t pass were many. “Creative players don’t do that,” “He has to do everything,” “He wasn’t getting any help,” etc, etc.

But would beginning of the season Messi have made that pass? Even second half Almeria Messi made the pass, and you can’t even say it was because he had Neymar and Suarez on the pitch as seeming equals, because he passed back to midfield. Is it as simple as a great player not trusting the people around him to do it? Like any great player, Messi probably considers himself the best option, and figures if he takes a risk, his teammates will bail him out, as the midfield and defense should have after that turnover. But that didn’t happen and even if it had, would it be fair to ask whether a pass should have been made?

Our newest contributor, Barça Chief, called them “Messi goggles” on Twitter. I won’t go that far. But I do believe that like any other part of this team and any player, it is fair that Messi is part of the conversation. He isn’t at his best. Why? Many have had opinions recently, ranging from his former Barça coach and current Argentina NT coach to Cruijff. It’s all speculation. But it isn’t “hating” to ask the question.


Pending the results of the rest of this round’s matches, Barça moved top of the Liga table. Crazy. A terrible team with a butthead for a coach after an abysmal transfer summer, right in the thick of things.

Only a fool would say this was a good performance today. Only a fool wouldn’t wipe the brow with a sigh, relieved that individual brilliance could pull out a win. Only a fool wouldn’t admit that this team is, though showing signs of occasional life (Ajax performance midweek), is still coming together in a way that I don’t think anyone can yet predict.

But I don’t believe that the quality of today’s performance detracts in any way from the fact that this team won a match that it didn’t have the form or energy to today. And that, for this culer, is awesome. I can say that even having just penned, in effect, a tale of woe. Because I love when my team wins. Can’t help it. That win makes me smile.

Things have happened, in and out of the board room, that have this club in the situation that it is in. The problem is a more complex one, however: We don’t know what situation the TEAM is in yet.

Is the clean sheet steamroller team the real potential, or is reality the bunch that lost to Celta? The “big team” theory would appear to fall flat in the face of that Celta loss and the Almeria performance today, yes? What if it’s an simple as aging players, now that the matches are piling up, developing heavy legs? What if it’s a great many things, from a snarking press, supporter doubt, court battles and boardroom squabbles, all contributing to the overall picture? What if it’s a coach wanting to do things that he doesn’t have the players to do, thanks to poor personnel decisions? Club vs team. Can a board rip at the former board under which the bulwarks of this current team found their halcyon days, and not cause an effect on the pitch? Good question.

Transfer bans, marketing whizzes who aren’t sure what to do about those humans, “mes que un club” becoming “mes que un ho …” can all of this have a factor, almost as if the club is damaging the team? Gaaah! Fantasy football is pointless. We need this player, or that player, or the other player. Winter window is months away, and the club faces a two-window ban of its own making. That’s is reality.

Nobody should be afraid to call something what it is and say, “That sucks.” The danger for me is a rush to judgment. We know this team has talent. We also know the club bought some talent in the summer transfer window. What we still don’t know is how it is all going to come together. I don’t believe in predictions of doom any more than I believe in predictions of a rosy, shiny-bright future.

But there is something going on at Barça. And all of the things that are going on are exacerbating the seeming effect of what is in fact, a team that is still struggling to come together. And for the team that we all love to develop into this thing that it has the talent to become, it is going to take a hell of an effort, from the board that ignored it for so long to the players who make the millions to the supporters who are right now, so ready and willing to say, “This sucks.”

I won’t tell anyone how to support Barça. That’s silly. I won’t say we all have to pull together, because there are too many divergent (and valid) opinions out there about what is going on. But the atmosphere is a mess. It’s stultifying, and becoming increasingly poisonous. How the hell is anything good supposed to grow in such a world?


By Kxevin

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


  1. Why exactly does there need to be a reason why Messi is missing easy chances? Its a game. Not everything has some DEEP philosophical reason. Today he misses tomorrow hes back breaking records. No need to panic.

  2. The heck did I just watch. Thank god for Suarez and it’s time to really ask questions about what’s wrong with Leo…

  3. Barcelona didn’t have the energy to win this game. Well, one reason may be this:

    Instead of taking a nap in the plane after the Ajax game and then sleeping at home, and then training fresh, the team had to stay until 2 am in the plane, then go back to their hotel, have a 4-hour nap, fly during the day and go straight to training. Friday was training and then an evening flight to Almeria, due to lack of connections, when normally the team would travel on Saturday morning.

    All in all, Barcelona spent about 30 hours in Barcelona before travelling again.

    The team really looked worn out. Messi looked… lost, exhausted, like mentally drained. Maybe it was a compilation of all that’s happened so far, maybe it was the exhaustion of facing once again a wall of opponents, I don’t know, but the guy really needs a pause. Hopefully Tata and the international friendlies will give him that. Hopefully.

    This is something else I’m hoping for: Suarez in normal form for the next Liga game. Dammit, that man is a breath of fresh air, for everybody it seems. And also, an in-form Suarez will allow Messi to finally get some friggin’ rest or be restrained for his own good.

    1. It pleases me as well. Furthermore, if Busquets was fit and Mathiu instead of Bartra, that counter is saved, either by an intervention against Soriano, or an interception by Mathieu.

      Still, it would be easier if Messi doesn’t have to face three opposing players(apparently two aren’t sufficient anymore).

  4. On Messi, from my friend, over at Twitter.

    @FCB1mrankhan: Messi missing chances? Extra workload playing deep, towards end he’s tired. Tiredness = lack of composure. He’ll be burnt out in March.

    1. He’s missing chances early in matches as well.

      A player simply can’t play all the time for club and country and expect to be good.

  5. I still maintain that Barcelona really needs to start putting use to those corners. Yes, I know, from the in-form players Barcelona has the shortest squad, and currently the tallest players in the team are either injured or out of favor/shape. Still, if/when Barcelona starts aggressively pursuing corners, parked busses won’t help a lot. Suarez, Mathieu, Pique, Rakitic, Bartra, they are all capable of scoring, especially if they jump from the “second row”. Of course, that requires lots and lots of practice, but it helps if the play focuses the target men in the same general spot, or even if it is directed to a false target at the near post who re-directs it to a waiting head.

    Sevilla are vey good in that aspect. Just watch the replay against Standard Liege.

    1. 4 different coaches and still ineffective at corners, Maybe it shows it’s not a thing that can be fixed in training.

      Our deficiency isn’t just in height, But in athleticism in general, Puyol who is 178cm tall, Is miles ahead of the 192cm pique, And light years away from the 188cm Busquets when it comes to headers.

      One of my favorite examples that shows this lack of athleticism from our players, Is when sergio ramos while running out jumped a taller and a stationary pique, Who theoretically should reach that header and not ramos. (Away game in 2012-2013 la liga on the bernabeu)
      Our players are too whip y, As sad it is for me to admit.
      Mascherano is the only exceptions, It amazes me how much he resembles puyol in many aspects.

    2. You can always improve your defending at corners. We just haven’t had good coaching in that area. First of all, we have no height so we’re screwed anyway. However, there are things you can do to mitigate that. You don’t employ a zonal which has two of your tallest players (Pique, Mathieu) standing still guarding territory towards the front of the six yard box allowing others a run at us ( even a cursory glance will tell you that’s why our tall defenders are caught standing still) ) , you don’t leave the posts unguarded while you have midgets doing nothing on the edge of the fray ( most of the headed goals you lose are easily defended by someone on the line) and you tell your defenders they’ll be spending time on the bench if they don’t at least obstruct their man.

      I can’t believe you cite Pique for a single instance two seasons ago and forget about his performance in the air since then ( Bayern? But there are countless) and add insult to injury by praising Masche who has lost several goals over the last two seasons and almost again yesterday because, not just of his lack of height ( not blaming just don’t put him there) but also because he isn’t great at his positioning at corners ( AM end of last year ?). At least yesterday when he had lost position on his marker again he had the sense to push him past the cross. Pique doesn’t lose that aerial battle which led to Celta’s goal. Won’t change until we get those things right but it’s not hard. One of the biggest indictments of our coaching staff ( all of them ) I can think of.

    3. This is what I’m talking about when I say “second row”.
      A stationary jump is lower, and the header generated is weaker. However, it’s easier to connect.

      If you look at Puyol’s headers, they all had one thing in common – a running jump. That, and Xavi placements. 😀 They are all at the far post, either utilizing a diversion at the near post, which enables Puyol to perform a running leap into space, or placing the ball in a zone where there will be multiple target men.

      Puyol’s goals against Germany, against Real in the 2-6 and also last season in the CdR against Levante all included both CBs in the same spot. Against Germany if Puyol doesn’t connect, Pique will. Against Real in the 2-6 it’s the same. Against Levante it’s the same, but with Bartra.

      These are all headers from the “second line”. If you have played or watched volleyball, the most powerful attacks come from a player who gets a running start and jumps from the backrow, behind the 3-meter line. These attacks are more powerful, but also rely on a bit of a diversion, since the backrow player has to run.

      Anyway, that’s stacking the available target men in a small zone, creating redundancy and local numerical superiority. Other beneficial effects are that such a cross/corner kick can be directed too far from the reach of the keeper and the nodal defence, and also that it can generate a free header, due to the fact that one of the players can shield the other from defensive intervention.

      Of course, this requires practice. Lots and lots and lots of practice, which the current team cannot do for quite a few reasons:

      1. Lack of time
      2. Lack of tall players. You need tall and athletic players to rehearse the scheme, at least four, half of whom play as the opposition. Right now that’s impossible.
      When Mathieu, Vermaelen, Pique, Bartra and Suarez are all available it will be possible to create such schemes.

    4. Yeah, there was nobody like Puyol when it came to attacking the ball in the air. I reckon Pique could learn a few things there although to be fair to him he’s not shy about putting his head where it hurts. A good goal he scored a few weeks ago that way. That’s why I advocated a few articles ago bringing Puyol in to coach defending set pieces and attacking corners. Give him Pique, Mathieu, Rakitic, Suarez, Busi, Bartra and let him loose. There’d be a few sore heads afterwards but he might just be able to I still some aggression.

      However, the problem for me is that this has been true since Puyol stopped playing regularly . Since then the need has only increased as teams see it as a way of attacking us and we have responded by putting smaller and smaller players into the firing line and sticking to zonal which as you say is a disadvantage straight away. We’re not learning and that is worrying .

    5. Meant to say Pique is very good defensively in the air, the best we have. The combination was excellent because they knew each other’s games inside out. The shambles for their goal yesterday can come as no surprise if you keep changing your CB partnership. So, we’ll learn the hard way until LE has finished playing his macho games with him.

  6. Almeria seemed to have gone out and recruited a bunch of light-heavy-weight boxers and put them on the front line. Almost lost count of the time they pushed Barca (except for Masch and Bartra) off the ball.
    Seriously, I have no idea what Busquets adds to the team. He’s a neat passer. But so are thousands of other footballers. When it comes to scoring goals, assists, creativity, defensive coverage, ability to dribble into pockets, etc etc, he doesn’t add much. He was good when Barca were a side that pressed relentlessly. When they stopped doing that, the game passed him by. Mascherano must play DM.
    There seems to be this prevailing myth that he is somehow the invisible glue that holds the side together. I’ve never seen that, I must say.

    1. Didn’t see Ajax, and I probably am being (very) unfair. But when you consider the limitations of his game I’m not sure that he brings enough to the table for a side like Barca. Like most midfielders, he looks very good when forwards like Sanchez, Pedro, are pressing hard, because then they just have to intercept wayward passes. I wish, just once, he would really clatter an opponent – I mean, really take him out – the way Masch does. I really do think that Barca’s whole season will be determined by whether Mascherano plays DM.

  7. First about Almeria – I admire their team and the resilience they showed. The team was mighty compact and their counterattacks were lightning quick. Thevvy – this guy was very impressive, athletic and pacy. Each time I saw him skip/muscle/zoom past our defense, I couldn’t help but think how much we were missing Mathieu today.

    Messi looks like he could use a rest. Imagine a footballer who plays as an attacker on any team playing each and every match in Liga as well as CL. I don’t know how he’s expected to stay healthy and fit. And he looked the part – I’d say he’s earned a rest. Interesting tactic him playing almost as a creative right back. Seems like he may have also played with an injury – kept touching his knee area. Messi has missed a few chances this season hasn’t he. Suarez missed a one on one last match. It happens. I play striker on my team and I’ve noticed that it happens to me more when I’m trying extra hard to score instead of letting it happen naturally. Which leads to frustration, which in turn leads to trying extra hard. Vicious cycle. I dont have a solution to our striking woes but I do think that guy (Messi) really needs a rest.

    I am a little surprised with how the coach is using Rakitic. He’s obviously playing a role that he is not entirely comfortable with yet – still adapting, I would like to wait and see. Adriano, Rafinha and Munir all looked a bit rusty.

    Suarez looks like he still isn’t sure about his positioning when Messi is on one of his runs, but boy that guy has some talent. Rescued us today. Will be amazing to see him next season.

    I am still not sure I like Messi being solely responsible for creating goals. In the past we have been used to our AMs creating chances and forwards scoring them. But now it seems Messi creates them and Neymar finishes them – when both are actually strikers. Whereas AMs seem to be responsible for “width”. Maybe Iniesta was supposed to share the role with Messi or maybe he was being asked to provide “width”. Am curious to see how we play when he comes back. And Suarez ofcourse.

    We’re lucky to call upon such talented footballers to represent our club and Im glad we won today.

    1. I am not worried about Messi. When he doesnt have to shoulder the responsibility of bringing the ball up from the deep, his scoring will improve. I mean, when our midfield gets better, he will get better.

  8. I really like what Suarez did in the first goal, feinting to go in one direction and then quickly bursting the other way. Reminded me of the mindgames you play with your opponent when playing high level Super Smash Bros 😀

    1. And exactly what we need to break the bus – someone who can receive the ball in the box with his back to the goal, and then do something with it

  9. proud of the attitude shown in the second half against a very motivated team at home.

    first half problematic. what do people expect? it was a front 6 and a back 4 we have never used this entire season. and folks, please read Peter’s post above regarding the travel issues.

    Almeria had a full week to rest and prepare.

    I dont care if they are millionaires folks, our boys are human and the difference between good players (almeria) and great players (ours) is often very, very slim. many things can tip the balance on any given day.

    not saying we played well, by any means. but i think people need to be patient and chill. “i dont like the way this season is going…” i just dont get statements like this. were only a quarter way in and we control our destiny in league and in our CL group. we outplayed RM for good stretches in their house. they dont worry me.

    visca barca.

  10. Look, we just have stop with the excuses like “They had to travel a lot” and “Messi has been playing too much”. Other teams and players have to deal with exactly the same issues.

    When I say that I don’t like the way the season is going, that’s not hating or being too demanding of the team, I am just noting the fact the our greatest rival is winning more convincingly than anyone else has ever done in this league, while we struggle to win games against Celta and Almeria, and play horrendous football. Those are the facts.

    Sure, things can take a turn for the better in the future. I want that to happen. But right now it’s not looking good

    1. It´s not an excuse if it’s true. Madrid howled to the heavens that they don’t have enough time to recover between games, Mourinho does it on every occasion. It’s estimated that playing a game of football at that level is equal to running half a marathon. Now think how do you run two half-marathons in the space of less than three days, when you have had to travel two times by airplane, you’ve wasted one day of recovery due to travelling problems, the starting hour of the second half-marathon is the hour when you are getting ready to go to the stadium to start limbering up for training for the half-marathon. It’s true that Barcelona’s players are finely tuned athletes, but they are still human.

      G60, the fact of the matter is that few teams have to do anything close to what Barcelona does. In Spain right now it’s just Atletico, Barcelona, Sevilla and Real Madrid that actually manage to do it, and Atletico

      Last season Almeria destroyed Atletico 2-0. You know when? Between the two CdR ties with Real Madrid.
      Last season Osasuna destroyed Atletico 3-0. You know when?
      Just after Atletico’s away victory vs Milan in the knockout stage.
      This season Atletico were beaten by Valencia just after they won against Juventus. Atletico played that match away at Valencia, at 16:00.

      So yeah, if you think it’s just an excuse, you’re deluding yourself in the pursuit of objectivity.

      Real is winning, because Real doesn’t face parked buses. Nobody is crazy enough to park the bus against Real because as of this moment Real had gotten more penalties than any other top team, for a medium of 0.45 per match. That’s equal to the penalties in favor for Atletico, Valencia and Barcelona put together.

      In 2011-12 Real had an average of just under one penalty or a read card in favor per game for the whole La Liga.
      Last night Rayo got a cancelled goal due to an offside call by the linesmen(Leo Baptistao was just under 10 cm in front of the defence, some 35 meters away from the linesman), which is as borderline decision as it gets. The director of the TV transmission changed it to 2-2, and then turned it back to 2-1. Real Madrid scored in the next attack. The linesmen’s lazer vision deserted them less than ten minutes later when Benzema scored while being close to a meter offside in the area of Rayo.

      This is how Madrid wins.
      Real does have a fearsome team, which plays fearsome football right now, but it can be countered.

    2. “Excuses are for losers” is almost correct, though I would adapt it to “explanations can explain a lot of things.”

      Barça won yesterday. But the fatigue is real. As I note above, these aren’t robots. They are aging athletes. Bodies just can’t do what we supporters demand that they do, week after week.

    3. more good points from petee.

      it’s funny how after one spends enough time on this site, one begins to notice which posters consistently bring the pessimism and doom and gloom. that’s their right, i suppose, but it is noticeable.

      it’s a long season folks. i guarantee you Real Mandril will not be able to score 4 a game, the way they have in the last few weeks. (well, in league…in CL most recently they barely won against liverpool reserves, eked out a win againgst Ludogorets or whaetever, and did have one good game vs liverpool). not worried.

    4. Don’t get me started on Ludogoretz. The game was a travesty from the moment that Real’s chances of winning a million Euro and the three points were threatened by conceding a corner goal.

      Two penalties for Ronaldo because the first was saved, the majority of 50:50 decisions going to Madrid by default, Benzema committing a foul in order to get to the ball. Of course, UEFA needs to protect its money machine and the image of its valiant champions. From financial PoV giant-slaying pretty much sucks for the powers that finance the giants.

    5. Such factors can account for a single game. When the whole season with the exception of a few games is unconvincing, one is forced to draw more general conclusions

    6. Peter, any idea how RM managed to avoid Undiano Mallenco from officiating their matches. Ever since, he was the ref for the 4-3 win, I dont think I have seen him officiating a Real Match.
      IN fact, from the 2011 Copa final, Mallenco seemed to be their favourite ref, officiating almost every big match of RM.

  11. There is something I don’t understand, or fail to grasp the details.

    I am in on letting new coaches adapt to new teams, and giving them fairly good time to stabilize, then achieve things. But the Barcelona scenario seems to me a little different from other biggies, in similar circumstances.

    Chelsea. Trophyless, last season. But this season, got about 6 new players (in every departments). They play in a recognisable system, notwithstanding. And with brilliant results thus far, look like a team to hump on the European Big Ears. I know they have Mourinho, who has been with them since Jesus’ Crucification. But they also got about 6 new players, with most, first teamers, and still play in a structured skein. And produce brilliant results, too.

    Real Madrid. Got a totally new coach last season, after enduring a disastrous season-before with Mourinho; poor results and dressing-room boondoggle, et c. Their new coach was foisted Bale on. Sold Ozil and Higuain.
    At the start (last season), he played about 6 matches on experiments. Then got steady with the team from late October, and won the European Big Ears and the King’s Cup, playing in a recognisable structure. Basically, could have won the Treble, if he didn’t place less, less focus on the League. Their two fundamental players to that system were, Alonso and Di Maria.
    This season, the fundamentals, Alonso and Di Maria were sold against coach’s wish, and players’, too. Or other.
    Two new players to the system, plus a new goal keeper were added. James Rodriguez, to me, is a slight downgrade on Di Maria. Toni Kroos doesn’t replace Alonso.
    They started the new structure shaky and losing. Then steadied, and are scooting brimstones now. Significantly, they operate in a structure, while playing with no true DM.

    Barcelona. Got a new coach. And about 7 new players. Only 4 are first teamers, presently. Started with a budding structure, then weirdly imploded. And are playing in no recognisable structure now.

    Real Madrid picked up and are steady in a system, after fundamentally altering their European-Big-Ears-winning last season structure. Chelsea has 4 new first-teamers, and are playing in a clearly seen structured way.

    If it isn’t fair to compare our present team with Mourinho’s, it is fair to compare it with Ancelotti’s last season Madrid — mentally messed team, chaotic, rustled with unnecessary sales and buys — which came into form by October ending.

    But is ours a club where a coach is allowed to learn his coaching tropes on? Or has a special wait-period?

    Is it the management? Or is the coach not tactically efficient to manage Barcelona? Are the players in a tacky state? Or are they not properly utilised for the maximum good, which crops back to question 2?
    Because I am flummoxed.

    But compared to other afore-listed biggies, I don’t see how ours’ is really different from theirs. And they crumpled out well, and in good time, too.

    PS. By the by, I can attribute Lionel Messi’s form to our present amorphous structure, where he is almost the sole creative outlet, and is still nettled with the expected burden of scoring goals. You can’t be goal-poaching sharp if you are fundamentally involved in creating. Chirstiano Ronaldo is a diametric instance.

    1. Any system needs time. Ancelotti didn’t get it done last season, this season his team is playing better. New coach, second year with a new system.

      The biggest thing people have to resolve is this idea that Barça exists in a continuum. It doesn’t. Enrique isn’t Vilanova or Martino. So the stuff that they did doesn’t count. It isn’t “Why aren’t we winning, it’s been 4 years,” but rather what can Enrique do to instill the qualities necessary to make his system work. Next year will be the real display season as to whether it all worked.

      The “creation” theory for Messi missing chances and not being sharp doesn’t wash with me. I have no idea what’s going on, but something is. Up to him and the coaches to solve it.

    2. well ancelotti did get it done in the UCL…but if you look back and see where Madrid was at this point in the season, last season, it didnt look particularly good for them. meanwhile we hadnt lost in the league, this time last year, and look how things ended…

    3. Is it because Ancelotti didnt get time, he managed to win the CL last season?

      Kevin, I used to play both as a right wing back and as a right forward. My finishing was very good when I played in the front 3. But as a back, I was excellent in bringing the ball out from the back and crossing it to the box, But if ever, I got a chance to shoot, my finishing was like our Alves’s cross. You need some good energy left to be in your best presence of mind to be an excellent finisher.

      When Messi was receiving balls in his own half, for Argentina before Sabella, his finishing for Albiceleste was not excellent.
      When he gets the ball 25-20 yards around the box, like it used to be in Barca, his finishing should be better.

  12. Already tired of this LE needs time excuses, this is almost mid November and he still doesn’t know what he’s doing. Ancelloti got it done last season, yea! he did have Pep’s ass handed to him and won the champions league what other criteria are you using when you say Ancelloti didn’t do it? How re you sure LE has what it takes to lead this team? its one thing to keep up with the optimism but down playing other people’s opinions with respect to LE doesn’t cut it for me. Ancelloti didn’t need a next year to be his display season, so did Tata (considering his inexperience on the European stage and the other unfortunate circumstances). And what exactly are you going to tell us next season when he still fails? (considering that you have so much confidence in him). Barca isn’t trial and error club, you can go do that at Celta. How do you feel telling barca to wait till next season to start expecting trophies. I might as well quit following and watching our matches till next season(our display season )

    1. Just for the sake of reality:

      1. Last November after the 11th matchday, Real Madrid had 25 points and were in third place, six points off Barcelona. With Bale available from day one, mind you.

      2. Ancelotti got it done last season after remaining third in La Liga, winning CdR while playing on the counter against a Barcelona with Pinto, injured Bartra and Mascherano forming the defence, and won the Champions League after equalizing in extra time against a team which was physically finished around minute 70.

      Real are playing better, much better than last year, because then a team that knew to hit predominantly on the counter was learning to play with the ball and with a 4-3-3 formation, even though against good opposition that could gain him the possession he played with a 4-4-2 with a double pivot and hit on the counter(Barcelona, Bayern).

      Mind you, this is my main opposition against showing Tata the door, and this is why I fcking hate the entorno. The fabled “objectivity” and remnants of xenophobia, which is rearing its ugly head right now as a matter of fact.

    2. Tata with his long ball tactics, no rotation, no motivation from the side lines and lax training, no thank you.

  13. Uh, oh …

    Guardiola: “Luis Enrique will triumph at Barça. Things need time, football is a process. Just hope I don’t have to face them in CL.”

    Well NOW what?!

    1. Goes to prove he’s no longer a barcelonista.

      A REAL BARCELONISTA would never say that. A real Barcelonista, just like the first one to comment in the article in MD would say this:

      “‘I just hope I don’t have to face them in CL.’ Of course, he doesn’t want to humiliate Barcelona.”

      A real Barcelonista always finds a way to turn it in a negative light.

      This is why I hate BFB. Too many damned optimists.

  14. Here is a narrative:

    For the past two years we have peaked early and come February and March, been knocked out of the CL. Perhaps, just perhaps, there is something going on to combat this.

    And this: On Wednesday Messi scored TWICE! On Saturday he hit the post TWICE. Not too bad in my opinion.

    I’m with Jim though. The main tactical problem seems to me that we rely too much on RBs and LBs as wingers. I think we need a systemic change against this. Not fixing the Alves situation is problematic, but I still don’t understand why we don’t play Montoya there and allow Rakitic to work more offensively. Again, echoing Jim, when Matheiu returns, I’d like to see him with Bartra consistently, and Masch taking over for Busi.

    It’s not all doom and gloom though. Especially with Denis and Halilovic in the pipeline.

    And, YES, we need to give LE a season at least. Think about it: he is the third coach in as many years. The team is obviously out of sorts. I would have liked it is the club/squad had gotten behind Martino, but they didn’t and we have LE. Let’s not make the same exact mistake or next November we will be complaining about the same things.

    A win is a win, and at least we have a #9 for the first time in a dog’s age.

  15. I read elsewhere that Lucho asked Pique to warm up even though 3 subs were already made. Did anybody notice that to confirm? It could be that it was a mistake on Lucho’s part. But I don’t know, there was no need to sub a CB in in the 2nd half. Don’t know what Lucho was thinking to ask Pique to warm up.

    1. Not exactly. Xavi and Pique were both warming up, because both Busquets and Mascherano looked hurting. Then, according to the images, Pique knowing that Xavi is going to enter, tried to sit down, and Luis Enrique told him to continue.

    2. No, I didn’t see that and I’ve watched it twice, God help me ! Don’t think LE would stoop that low. Maybe the person was confused by the fact that Pique kept the yellow subs’ bib on even after the three subs had been used.

    3. Just read Peter’s explanation which makes sense. Didn’t see any of that on Sky though and Masche wasn’t feeling his knee till later on. Pique was certainly back at the bench by the time Busi arrived there so I wouldn’t read anything into it.

    4. It’s a bit complicated. I watched a low-quality stream and it seemed to me that Pique and Xavi were limbering up. It was actually Xavi and Dani Alves, but Pique had come out to jog as well, as announced by the Spanish commentator. Still, with Xavi about to enter, Pique went to sit down and Luis Enrique told him to continue. What we don’t know is exactly how much

      I wouldn’t read much into it either, because it’s not the first time a coach forgets he’s made two changes already. Pep certainly did do that on occasion.

      And like a poster pointed out in AS, you don´t stop warming up until the coach tells you to stop warming up.

      P.S. You know what’s funny, as in “smells funny”? AS first recorded the news as “Luis Enrique sends Pique to warm up with three changes made.” Then they changed it. According to the watch in the videoclip that AS showed, Pique was sent to warm up with the blue bib on at 64:20 minutes. 1:30 min. later he is with the yellow bib, speaking to Busquets, and he was there earlier at least 20 seconds earlier. So either Pique is very fast in changing his bibs(unlike Balotelli) or we may have a genuine photoshop from AS.

    5. It’s a friggin’ photoshop!!! It must be It’s either from the beginning of the second part, or from the first part, with the clock pasted pasted on, because here’s why:

      Pique starts jogging, and as the camera follows him you can see not even one player until you see one Almeria player aligned with the right goalpost, meaning that you can draw a line from the camera, which is situated some 20m right from the Barcelona bench, to the right goalpost on the far goal and there is not one single player. That is definitely not from the 65th minute. Can’t be.

    6. This is what I mean:

      You can share it if you want.

      This is the AS video:

      If you watch the video you will see the near linesman looking at the camera, and close to the center line of the pitch. It doesn’t correspond with anything even remotely similar from what was happening on the pitch.

    7. This is what I mean:
      You can share it if you want.

      This is the AS video:

      If you watch the video you will see the near linesman looking at the camera, and close to the center line of the pitch. It doesn’t correspond with anything even remotely similar from what was happening on the pitch.

  16. Now tell me how crazy is that?

    Barcelona with the crappy defence is the team with the least amount of conceded goals – five.

    After the loss against Celta Barcelona were in third place, equal in points with Sevilla but with better goal difference.
    After today Barcelona are second.

    Valencia, Atletico, Sevilla all did not win their matches
    Valencia drew against Athletic, who had just gone out of the relegation zone. At home.

    Sevilla drew relegation zone Levante. At home.

    Atletico went to Basque Country to play relegation-zone Real Sociedad under a caretaker coach, Real Sociedad who had managed only one win in the previous ten games. Atletico lost after going forward after ten minutes.

    Real Sociedad have now defeated the Champions of La Liga and the Champions of Europe, both times after going down and clawing back their way to victory, and now also out of relegation zone.
    Tomorrow the new Real Sociedad coach is rumoured to be announced. According to the rumours, it will be David Moyes.

  17. You hit on the head with the “excuses” caveat Kevin. Maybe it’s an American sports thing but every leader and successful player in my memory seemed to abide by the General maxim about ” excuses being for losers” at least outwardly. I’m well aware of the circumstances surrounding the team Peter, and while your numerous breakdowns are well done, I am not lookin at things in black and white.
    I said that because I am hoping to see a renewed attitude of ” cojones” from the team. If they haven’t yet found an ” indentity” fine, but as long as the attitude is on of fire and grit I’ll be reasonably happy.
    If we are being brutally honest, as it appears now, we simply dont have the quality depth to challenger for the CL and we have a coach who has yet to prove himself tactically intelligent enough to work around the lovely deficiencies the board has bestowed upon us. We are a couple injuries from being completely screwed ( yes we have some youth but they simply arent ready yet).
    Just look looking at this squad I think how completely far off they would be from a treble, let along a sextuple. Again, just being brutally honest.

    1. We can still win the CL. Chelsea did three years ago, and that team ‘shouldn’t’ have won. The year after it was Dortmund who almost almost won, and then Athletico. If we skip 2011, Milan won, and that was a fluke, and then in 2009 we did, but that was also a fluke. I actually fancy our chances in the CL more than in the league to be honest, we’ll see what happens with PSG at Camp Nou.

      I agree that there needs to be an attitude change, but I think the same goes for a lot of fans. You aren’t one of them, but the internet is crawling with 17 year old kids and that’s a lot of noise.

    2. That second sentence reads funny: Atletico and Dortmund almost won and that would have been just, but the bookies would have gone crazy.

    3. I should have specified “on paper” and ” on current form”, barring all the “flukes” and “luck” that comes with a CL, which of course is needed as well

    4. so trebles and sextuples are the measure of success…okay…thanks for making that clear….

    5. That’s not what I am saying at all, rather I am simply illustrating how far this squad seems from the “heyday” of where we once were.

    6. You know, I don’t see that. If I were a fan of another club in with a small shout of the CL, say a PSG, I would certainly quite happily take Pique, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Neymar, Suarez and possibly Masche – as a DM 🙂 and Alba. Add in a solid GK, Rakitic once he finds his feet ( and his role) and you’re left with the suspicion that this team can and will get better once LE works out how to stitch it together.

      For me, and this is not new, you
      Use a Pique and Mathieu as your starting CBs and dont change it for six matches
      Actually spend time working on defending/ attacking at set pieces
      Change your strategy slightly so you don’t don’t place all the creativity on the FBs and don’t let both go forward at the same time
      Use Masche/ Busi at DM so they both play rested, essential in covering ground
      Play Xavi sparingly but certainly for all the big games- Iniesta I’m still thinking about !
      Suarez gets the CF spot and doesn’t leave the box, Messi gets to wander but not back to his own half. He can score and be creative but not when he has thirty yards in his legs before he gets near the box. I’m not buying the declining Messi idea just yet. He is dragging three defenders everywhere and he’s the only player in world football who has yo put up with this. The answer is to increase the threat from the other two, occupy the CBs with Suarez, have enough midfield control to ping the ball about quickly just outside their box and Messi will find space.

      Do that and we cut out the daft goals we are losing, have enough physicality in midfield but still control and what should be the world’s best forward line. I’m not sure any of us can imagine how good this three can be if we get it right.

      So it’s not all bad for me. Confidence borne out of a comfortable structure and a few wins can come quickly.

      Biggest question mark for me is what is currently going on in LE’s mind? He knows the last two/ three games have largely been a nightmare. Does he know why and how to solve it ? If he comes to the right conclusions this ain’t over !

    7. Well that’s all well and good Jim, but this is all conjecture. My comment was simply what the team looks like NOW, and how dire things can be if things dont change. A lot of pressure on LE.

  18. As far as Messi goes, he’s not 22 anymore, he’s 27, yet he’s still playing 90 minutes, every, single, game. What would you expect to happen? If it keeps up, I’ll bet we’ll see a hamstring injury. At least I hope that’s what’s going on. If it is in fact fatherhood (which I believe someone mentioned in an earlier comment) … I don’t want to think about it.

    As far as why we’re not pressing consistently anymore, why the ball seems to be circulating so slowly, why the off the ball movement hasn’t been sharp, and why Busquets is playing so poorly – I have no idea. I’m inclined to blame Rossell, and his karma.

    1. For me, I reckon it’s the increasing, and incessant demands of international football for the top teams. You go from Euros, to the regular season, to the World Cup, to the regular season, to Euro qualifiers and friendlies, with Copa America coming up, and more friendlies and Euro qualifiers.

      Players are tired. It’s the air travel, then playing a match, then flying back home and training, then flying somewhere else for another match somewhere, then flying back to the club, where in the case of Barça, there is Copa, Champions League and Liga demands.

      Barça played Sunday, Wednesday and Saturday. Three full matches in six days, two of them away. Yikes.

    2. No no no G60, dont you know traveling and many fixtures only apply to FCB? I cant believe what Im reading. These are pro athletes and people are looking at their schedules to try and cut them some slack when EVERY top club in the world goes through the same thing, only they have the bodies to plug in (thanks board!)

    3. The board has neglected the squad for a long time, that is absolutely true.

      But in the case of Messi, Cristiano is the best (and really, only) valid comparison, because he also plays every game for club and country.

      And he has experienced no drop in from, quite the opposite.

      So there is an issue here, and we have to acknowledge it, instead of burying our heads in the sand

    4. Cristiano took a sabbatical two times in a row. While Messi was being hacked down by multiple defenders in Brazil Ronaldo was sunbathing next to Irina Shayk at a pool side in Cyprus.

      After the match vs Cordoba Cristiano Ronaldo went missing until the return from international breaks.

      Ronaldo is not the main playmaker either. Ronaldo falls under the slightest of touches, unless he’s beating or kicking opponents, especially if he’s in the opponent’s box. Spanish refs usually play advantage when a foul is against Messi, and unlike English ones, they discount the foul if they have played the advantage.

  19. Well, lost in all the disappointment regarding the club, is the fact that neymar has equaled last years goal total, in 11 games. This is remarkable.

    1. Yep. And I have to say that I don’t understand the disappointment around the club.

      BTW, we now sit second place, just 2 points behind RM. Go figure. The way some talk, you’d expect us to be somewhere around the relegation zone.

    2. I can understand the disappointment.. frankly our team hasnt been fun to watch lately.. as a consumer, we arent getting what were used to..

      Because of unreliable internet feeds, i cant always watch the games as closely as i would like to.. but i have noticed that our mid and long range shooting has been nearly non- existent as of late..we are back to trying to dribble the ball into the net.. without the threat of the outside shot, space in the box is hard to find..

    3. Exactly andre… it is not surprising how down everyone is on the squad. We should know by now it is not simply about the W/L/D when it comes to FCB. Being second is well and good but is simply (for me) overshadowed by the reality that week to week we have no idea what to expect out of the team, few concrete, lasting glimpses of what LE’s “project” is.
      Im worried about our lack of depth for the most part and the possibility that LE’s lacks a high enough football nous to get us through it.

    4. That’s subjective. I’ve been loving the matches actually. All of a sudden teams think they can win and it makes it a lot better for me.

    5. Oh yea I love watching the team run around without a cohesive sense of purposes, like headless chickens. Then again you respond to anything remotely negative with dissent so I shouldn’t be surprised.

  20. Just an update on the Catalan non-binding referendum:

    It was 80% yes from some 2.2 million voters.

    This was a non-binding, “illegal” vote that is being dismissed by the Spanish government as “propaganda.” So it affects nothing, prima facie.

    Long-term, we will see. Obviously, the fact it was non-binding means that those who voted are indeed those with skin in the Indy game, so to speak. Should things ever come to a full independence vote, the totals will be interesting.

    Anyhow …

    1. Not sure it was the wisest move, Kxevin. No chance of getting a real vote now. Only reason Cameron allowed a Scottish vote is that he was sure it would fail. Mind you, sentiment there seems stronger so it was maybe unlikely anyway.

      Any look at the fallout here would convince the Spanish Goverment it would be a poor move. The ref hasn’t really been accepted by the Nats and every region in England is now demanding the same, our funding allocation is being called into question and there is talk of Scottish MPs not being allowed to vote on matters largely to do with England. The Nats are also calling for another ref if the Rest of the U K votes to pull out of the European Union which is a growing possibility. A real mess caused in our case by a referendum which basically only confirmed the standings in the polls before it started.

  21. I have no respect for them and i dont care what they are doing but ancelotti found a team build by mourinio so his job was easy.So the royal bankia franco blatter(did u know that blatter is a member of madrid and florentino the only president in the world who is a member of fifa)madrid after spending billions won a liga and a cl!!!!!!!Wow!!!!And now the cules in twitter world are screaming”lets be like them”.Oh god how i hate twitter!!!!And something last for sid lowe and some other madridistas journalists who they are trying with smart writing to say that madrid and barca are the same.Good job but barca is a catalan team in spain and every trophy we won was fair and with justice not like the gifts from franco and the system after him

  22. And yes i want when catalonia will be independent we will play in another league away from the [EDIT] of spain.We made the idiots like ramos and casillas and the rest champions of the world and the thank you was a war by their system.It was not mourinio the reason it was perez and the [EDIT] system of madrid.

    NOTE (from Levon): On the rare occasion, we put up with swearing. Indeed, I myself have written articles laced with F-bombs and what not. In general though, try to keep it clean, guys.

  23. Hey all, just thought I’d poke my head in, see how Luis is doing, and it looks like he had a decent game vs Almeria, I’ll tune in to the highlights this evening. Really glad to see he is showing why he was so good and is so (I repeat, SO) missed by us Liverpool fans. The guy is capable of producing magic moments with Messi-like frequency. How we could use him this season!

    Also, I’ve been reading about Messi somewhat underperforming and as stated by a couple of other commentators, the guy is simply going to be burnt out by the time 2015 rolls around. We had a similar state of affairs with Raheem Sterling (a matter which was handled absolutely awfully by the England manager and press), and the kid is only just starting to regain form after looking very average for 4-5 games.

    Keep the faith Culers, you have an amazing team, the most mouthwatering front line in the world and an absolute legend of the game as your manager. All the best guys and gals, think of us Liverpool fans languishing in mid table…

    Peace, YNWA

    1. Benj, more Culers could use a positive attitude like yours. Thanks for the comments.

      Your boy Luis did well, 2 assists and there should have been a 3rd, but messi hit the post. He needs to get on the scoresheet simply to get the monkey off his back. Hoping the #9 curse finally broken.

      I would have loved to have seen you guys get a result at the weekend. and also in mid week. 🙂 still a lot of football to be played. keep checkin in…

  24. This may/will be seen as “burying our heads in the sand” by some.

    Here is the breakdown from this week’s action by Europe’s top teams in Champions League and domestic competition:

    Manchester City: defeated at home by CSKA Moscow, came from behind two times to draw against relegation-bound QPR away.

    Juventus: came back from behind with a helpful own goal to defeat Greek titans Olympiakos at home, then defeated relegation-bound Parma 7:0 at home

    Chelsea: Heroically managed to draw 1-1 against Maribor away, after coming back from behind to win against directionless Liverpool away(sorry Benj, it was painful to watch).

    Real Madrid: won at home against Liverpool reserves 1-0, then won against Rayo Vallecano at home 5-1(disallowed Leo Baptistao goal would’ve made it 2-2, Real scored almost immediately after for 3-1, then scored from a despicable offside for 4-1)

    PSG: Won at home against Apoel 1-0 in the second minute, then won at home against table leaders Marseille to close the gap to one point (it had been four), despite almost conceding three times in the opening ten minutes.

    Bayern: defeated Roma 2-0 at home, then destroyed Frankfurt 4-0 away.

    Borussia: defeated Galatasaray at home 4-1, then won 1-0 at home against the other Borussia after an exquisite 30-meter unstoppable chipped own goal by M’Gladbach’s Krammer to climb just above the relegation zone.

    Atletico: won away 0-2 against Malmoe, then lost away 1-2 to relegation-zone Real Sociedad after going forward in the tenth minute. The ref didn’t call two certain penalties in favour of Real Sociedad and Godin appeared out of nowhere to make a goal-line save after Agirretxe intercepted a backward pass and shot at the empty goal.

    What you may notice is that from the teams that played two away games (Chelsea, Atletico, Barcelona) Barcelona was the only one to win both games, that’s considering the fact that Atletico had almost three more days to recover.

    Is Barcelona in bad shape right now? Absolutely.
    Should we be worried about Messi’s form, the tactical scheme, the misses, the lack of pressing, movement, focus and creativity, the injuries, the supposed war of Luis Enrique against Pique, the intelligence of the coach or his vision, the lack of goals from corners, which reinforce the resolve of the opposition to park the bus and hope for a lucky counter or a set piece? You bet.

    Should you also at least do a portion of your homework before you accuse others of trying to find excuses or cut slack to the players, team, coach, staff, corrupt inept board, football director, physios, medical staff and probably also the person in charge of repelling curses, in order to justify your crusade for objectivity, fairness and balance?

    Of course not, what’s the purpose? What good could it do?

    1. Great. Whatever question or doubts people have, you always have a way to counter with facts. Not opinions but straight up facts. No answer to that.

    2. I am saying this as a precaution: be careful of the way facts are presented, i.e. the narrative. Everyone tints the narrative with their subjective color, even when using straight up facts.

      I’m trying to find the holes in my own narrative right now, in order to show you that.

      For example, one reason why PSG is second is because Thiago Silva was injured in August and was missing until mid-October. Another reason is Ibra’s injury. Now PSG have both.

      Real Sociedad underperformed in most of their games, but whether it was a question of honour or just sheer obstinacy, they played their hearts out. Celta played worse against us than Real Sociedad played against Atletico. We’d be well advised to remember that fact, and also the fact that visiting Anoeta has never been a pleasant experience for Barcelona.

      Chelsea could’ve won the game vs Maribor two times late in the match, but if I remember correctly Hazard missed a penalty and was defeated when he was one on one with the keeper.

  25. Glad we managed to win this kind of a match. But at the same time, I really felt Almeria deserved a point. They had a clear tactic, which their players understood. In our first half, it was quite clear, our players didnt had any idea of what to do.

    Kevin – Pep must have made absurd rotations, but his players seemed to be clear about what they should do. LE is rotating, for the sake of rotating, am afraid or to prove his authority or something.

    Our midfield was absolutely non existant until Xavi came in.
    Even their goal – of course Messi lost the ball (nothing wrong in a forward losing ball around the box), but it was like the other 9 players were ball watching. How could a ball lost around the box, can find such a free path, without any hoofing up?, which alone says the midfield was ball watching.
    I thought, if not for the grit of Masche, we might have conceded more in the first half. It is really time for Masche to play DM.

    About what happened to Messi – until Sabella came in, Albiceleste followers were asking a similar question. Barca used to find Messi 20 yards around the box, mostly, and in Argentina, Messi had to run with the ball from his own half. I think we are seeing that situation now in Barca. How many times did we see Messi playing so deep. A player creating and running in from so deep will never be able to find the perfection for finishing. Even for Neymars goal, its Messi who gets the ball to Suarez from the centre! It is impossible for him to get back to his previous finishing form, when he also has the responsibility to bring out the ball from the centre. Two of our midfielders are protecting the sidelines, while!!

    Am just hoping the arrival of Suarez will make us much better. He will help us beat the routine bus.

    I am getting worried about LE. He doesnt seem to give a clear picture to the players, and above all, wants to impose his macho figure by selecting quite risky ellevens for the matches. Rami’s comment on the previous post was spot on and it was what happened exactly.

    Rafinha, who seems to think he is INiesta, and Munir should not start, really.

  26. Okay. To recap:

    — Rest is for the weak. Our players aren’t allowed to be tired. That nonsense is for losers.

    — Enrique is supposed to be giving us clues by now of the way the team wants to play.

    — Winning is insufficient. Stardust must drop from the heavens as the gods weep with joy at the beauty of our football.


    Peter, with his breakdown of how the Euro contenders did, summed it up well. I would add that we are the only one with a new coach, staff, players and system. As an athlete, I understand the need for recovery. Hats off to the team for the win, and Enrique for the timely subs.

    What if Enrique is working on adapting a series of game plans, and using different tactics based on the opponent? What if the players aren’t yet executing as well as they should be, or those pesky opponents being uncooperative by having talent, and a plan of their own?

    If I can figure out what a team is doing and have a sense of its direction, then its coach is a fool. Because if a tactical newbie like me can get it sussed, then a professional coach will be giggling his butt off. Patience.

    As for the truth and beauty, it has been some time since Barça has consistently played beautiful football. Even in the Treble season there were some gritty, grind it out wins. The objective is to win. Beauty is a go-with.

    People wanted Suarez, a 9, then they also demand beauty from capering Sprites. Suarez did exactly what he was purchased for vs Almeria. He helped the team break a bus. Want a Plan B? You got it. But it strikes me that to crave beauty against a clutching, fighting, grabbing opponent with everyone behind the ball, is to express a craving for the impossible.

    We have talent. Not all the talent the technical staff wanted, but there is an excellent squad at Enrique’s disposal. That squad has not gelled yet, and sits second in Liga, with a chance to win its Champions League group.

    I understand being demanding and wanting the best for your team. I also understand that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

    1. — Rest is for the weak. Our players aren’t allowed to be tired. That nonsense is for losers.

      1) This is a gross misrepresentation of what I said. I repeatedly said I am not talking about this particular game, but the season as a whole

      2) The team had a full week of rest before the Celta game, and we know how that one went.

      Also, if you go back to the previous thread, you will see me pointing out how Suarez broke the bus.

    2. G60, thanks for the response, but I don’t talk around people. Had my comment been intended as a response to yours, I would have mentioned your screen name directly.

    3. ” The team had a full week of rest before the Celta game, and we know how that one went. ”

      yeah, we played well and did everything except win. unfortunate.

  27. I must made an apologie for the f word it was a mistake.I am just mad that despite doctor fuentes the doping master had business with madrid nobody said anything but when mr perez used a radiostation to say that our team used steroids people believed that.We cant win the war in spain because franco is dead but the system is and will always be against us.Remember maradona;They broke him because they dont want barca to be above them.They dont respect us thats why i will never respect them

    1. Actually, the “Butcher of Bilbao” broke Maradona’s leg. Basque country is not exactly a hotbead of anti-Barça sentiments.

  28. Hypothesis – the key ingredient for Barca success (other than the obvious individual talent) is everyone pressing like demons, all game, every game. With the demands of 3 competitions plus international duties, there is no way humanly possible that our starting 11 can keep this up month after month, much less year after year. The only way this might be possible is through a consistent rotation policy. The demands of of the press and fans in Barcelona make it extremely difficult to stick with a consistent rotation policy for all but the rarest of managers.

    Is this what we’re seeing with LE and the team so far this year? This is of course a gross oversimplification, but I’m just wondering out loud how much there is to this idea.

    1. That is exactly the problem, or one of them. But full rotation isn’t possible because of personnel inadequacies the team is suffering from thanks to neglect.

      Yes, you can rotate Messi. But then what? No coach seems to want to give that a go, though Martino broached the topic, to universal disdain.

      Messi is, frankly, the biggest issue. He is your absolute best player, so you want to play him all the time, even as you can’t and shouldn’t, because that just kills the golden goose.

      The club had a good transfer summer, but with so much still to be addressed, it wasn’t a complete transfer summer, which I think is the distinction that people are missing: the transfer summer was good, but not complete. You can’t fix four years of neglect in a single window, and we’re seeing the effects of that now.

      Some of it as well is the quality of our XI. With whom do you replace Messi, Iniesta, Mascherano, Neymar? In some ways what makes a team like Bayern work is that the quality of its talent is a tighter sine wave. Not to allege that the quality is poor, but there isn’t the immense quality chasm that we have, and only partly from neglect.

      So how do you rotate a group of once-in-a-lifetime players?

      It’s why I said above that the quality of play has diminished as the demands have piled up. And I honestly don’t see a way out of it except to continue the rebuilding process that is ongoing, in personnel, tactics and philosophy. But that requires patience that people don’t seem to have.

    2. I had a look back at the Treble roster, and man, was that team lucky. The XI was pretty much etched in stone after a while, and there were no key injuries at a bad time. And 4 CBs, but Milito really wasn’t much use.

      But Alves was rocketing toward his prime, Henry and Eto’o were making magic and Abidal was Abidal. In midfield were Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Toure Yaya and Keita. Hard to argue with that.

      The squad was not only balanced, but effective in its balance.

    3. That squad had wverything. Every ingredient you need. And best of all, they could play it slow or fast, either way they were deadly, the very best.

      Time to look into old HDD for old matches. Thanks for bringing it up.

    4. Yep, and yet people still constantly complained. “Keita was useless”, “Henry was old and past it”, “Eto couldnt finish anymore”, “Abidal was overrated”, “Busquetz over Yaya!?!?! Pep is insane”.

      Cules just love to complain, no matter how good we have it.

    5. Good points all.

      I was hoping with Suarez that we’d get a 2 out of the big 3 rotation policy up front, at least for most games, in order to reduce burn-out. This is where I think the pressure of the job (for LE) – from fans, press, and the players themselves – won’t allow it.

      With the jury still out on Rafinha, and Sergio Roberto not really showing the needed class after a season and a half, attacking midfield rotation is quite problematic at the moment. In theory, Iniesta, Rakitic, Xavi, Rafinha, and SR should be fine for rotation, but except maybe for Xavi, no one has covered themselves in glory so far this year (I think we disagree on Rakitic’s offensive contributions, but I am hopeful). At DM, we should have 2 of the best in the world to rotate evenly, but since Masch still seems to be our first choice CB (another debate for another thread) … so much for that plan.

      Obviously the back line is still a worry, but since CB’s don’t have to press as much, cohesion might be more important than depth. Who is our best CB pairing? Out of the four (including Masch), I don’t think it’s at all obvious. Pique is seriously off-form. Bartra still needs seasoning. Matthieu is good (not stellar), but for how long with a transfer ban looming? And Masch, while capable of greatness at CB, and with the ability to lead and inspire, is still prone to devastating DM errors at CB (although less-so), and I think we need him for rotation at DM. Vermaleen is not worth discussing.

      Our right and left backs DO need rotation, and lots of it, and here’s where I think our transfer policy (to your point) really let us down. There’s only one out of 4 (Alba) who I rate as a starter, and he needs more regular rotation as well. Adriano can be a good sub, but you can’t count on him being available when you need him. I don’t rate Dani at all anymore, and Montoya just can’t get the job done, and to believe otherwise is folly. It’s these positions, when I think of the transfer ban, that keep me up at night. They won’t win or lose us games on their own, but I don’t think we can be a championship team with just these guys as our backs.

      Ironically, at goalie, where we don’t need any rotation, we have two top-class choices!

      So, big picture, do we rotate more with who we have and get back to the intense press, fast passing, and constant movement, or do we play our best 11 and accept a more static Barca?

    6. A decent analysis, Bhed. I’d be interested in why you think Pique is seriously off form. I think he has actually had a great season so far. Before he was benched he took a lot of flack for maybe three incidents. One against PSG where he didn’t put the ball out and was robbed – but then recovered the ball himself at no cost to us , a similar incident when we were chasing the game against RM against Benzema but he recovered again to be goal side although Benz did get a shot off from outside the box which Masche blocked so some blame there but no cost and lastly the handball which wasn’t his mistake. His job was to stop the ball being hit across between himself and the keeper. Because of Iniesta’s lack of covering Marcello was already at the byeline so he had to throw himself to block it but it was cut back instead. If you lunge with your feet your arm will automatically be left behind and its pot luck whether it strikes you or not.

      However, (rant approaching but not aimed at anyone here. Was on a site debating Pique’s picture with Pep and the tone of the comments was very much good riddance and I think I’ve just blown a gasket ! )

      In the last three or four games Pique has watched as Masche followed Cavani in at a free kick, one on one and because he lunged in took himself out of position – cost, a goal. Against RM he intervened in a situation which was nothing to do with him and Iniesta had under complete control – cost, a goal. Against Celta he was beaten by about a foot and a half to a bread and butter hoof from their keeper which Pique would have lapped up all day – not really Masche’s fault as he has no height and the rest of the defence hardly covered themselves in glory but the cost of having him there was once again a goal. Finally at the weekend, again not a situation where he caused it but he failed to think as a CB. No real blame for me on Messi. You either want him to play the creator/ dribbling role or you don’t. If you do you cant say but only if your dribble is successful. So maybe a contributing factor but come on, it was ten yards outside their box !

      We only had two defenders back. Two ! Unacceptable defending and something I thought we’d left behind. However, even given that, look at the positioning of our two CBs. They are a good ten yards into the other half and about three double decker buses apart from each other ! . There’s a reason you don’t see any other team do that. You throw any chance of stepping up and getting offside away and straight away you’re into a foot race. Since neither Masche nor a Bartra have any pace that’s not a good idea. Even after that the one absolute is that you don’t allow them to play it between you. You force them wide but ours were oblivious to this. Masche is slow to react. Who did he think was the cover for Bartra given the ball was going down the far side, there was nobody else withing 25 yards and he had nobody to mark ? Bartra has a head start and loses it and is generally pushed aside far too easily. After that it’s all over, although it was a well taken goal.

      Ok, I feel better now but those who are waging war on Pique need to tell me the last time any error on his part cost us a goal. Especially with Mathieu out but really anyway he should be in for his aerial ability, his passing from defence and his positional sense. I’ve been hard on Masche and he didn’t have bad games overall in any of the incidents I’ve mentioned but he makes errors that result in goals and it can’t go on. That’s what worries me about LE. You can say he obviously sees something in Masche that I don’t which is fair but I have been saying Id like to harness his talents at DM where his aggression and impulsive play, plus tackling ability could be a boon. I haven’t even mentioned the fact that our opponents could well have chosen to use the aerial route more often but as it was there were two or three crosses which zipped across our defence resulting in us having to push the attacker before the header.

      Apologies for the rant. In atonement I’ll now make myself watch the first halves from our last two matches.

    7. To play devil’s advocate, Jim, there are many who would suggest that Mascherano has not only been our best defender this season so far, but pretty much our best player in terms of what he contributes to the effort.

      And the same things that allow you to suggest that Pique has been very good this season would allow someone else to suggest that Mascherano hasn’t erred in the ways that you suggest. Or more correctly, they would put a different spin to explain them, as you have with Pique.

      Yes, you should be able to give away a ball 80 yards from your own goal and be confident that it won’t result in an opponent goal. On the other hand, given how Barça defend, it’s always a danger and as such, should be constantly taken into account by attackers.

      Possession is part of the way that we defend, after all. Instead the CBs were misplaced and both mids were in the box, attacking.

    8. As you know, I’d be happy to hear such a slant, Kxevin.

      My main gripe was about the way Pique is regarded by fans who can’t really point to anything he does wrong other than he appears to be lazy, whatever that means rather than setting out to make points about Masvhe. He just got caught up as a comparison in my attempt to show the unfairness.

      I suppose It depends what you’re looking for in a defender. Yes, Masche will go hurtling in when he can and often he will make good tackles but most of his defensive work is stuff you’d expect any competent defender to undertake. I was at pains to say that he had decent matches in those I highlighted but there is no point in having a decent match if you then are implicated in the one goal we lose. As I’ve outlined his presence in the backline has consistently cost us goals not chances. You know how far back I think this goes, even beyond his gallop out of the middle of a three man defence against Chelsea to try to tackle Lampard just when Iniesta had scored and put us ahead.

      Happy for anyone to see it differently and explain for instance why he felt he had to intervene when Iniesta had Isco beaten but I just don’t see it. I’m just as happy for anyone to show me what I’m missing with Pique’s performance but for some reason posters resort to generalities unsupported when it comes to him. Nobody owes me anything in terms of offering reasons for their views but it’d be nice sometimes to see why someone thinks he is poor by pointing to, even one, example of him doing something as costly as the ones I’ve mentioned.

    9. Well now that you put it like that…

      Seriously, I’ve been a Pique believer (a Piliever?) for some time, and while I’d have to go back and re-watch games that are no longer on my DVR in order to give you specific examples, without being too specific, I’ve just gotten the sense that he’s been off.

      I’m not quite in the “sell him!” camp yet, and he still shows some great CB instincts, but he’s been too inconsistent to give the kind of assurance he did when he was paired with Puyol.

      At the moment, I’d have to say I’d go with an even rotation of Mathieu, Pique, and Bartra, with Masch battling it out with Busquets at DM. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mathieu has a drop-off in form next year (he’s no spring chicken), but if given minutes, I think Bartra could step up a notch. If Pique could even be at 80 or 90% of his best, I think we’d be OK.

      Again, I’m more worried about our fullbacks than our centerbacks.

    10. Main problem in rotating Messi is that these days we never seem to be comfortable enough to risk taking him off early enough. I’m sure LE would have him off if we were three or four goals up. I wouldn’t see a problem with that now that we’d have Zneymar’s and Suarez up front.

      You’ll not be surprised that I’d put Xavi pretty much at the top of that list and possibly also add Pique who has had to sit and watch comical defending for the last few games – crucially also costing us goals, which wasn’t happening earlier in the season.

      With regard to the press you have three options : to press every time you lose the ball which is too big an ask imo, have certain periods where you up your pressing for a reason or lastly you hold up the break and get numbers goal side which we were doing but spectacularly failed to do for some reason at the weekend. For me, players should have two options as soon as we look like losing the ball – press or get back goal side. Too many see it as someone else’s job at the moment.

      I do take your point about the drop in quality, however. It’s very difficult to blood younger players when your team is struggling.

    11. I will have a giggle for the moment, and suggest that the sales of the maligned Sanchez and Fabregas have kinda left Barça up a creek. Interesting.

      One solution, I think, is to unleash Neymar. He is our most dangerous attacker in terms of ball movement, movement and unpredictability, and pure hell with the ball at his feet. If the objective is to get Messi closer to a position where he can do damage, seems to make it makes more sense to have Neymar running at the defense while 3-4 players are marking Messi than the reverse.

      So you have a Pedro/Neymar/Suarez front line. Messi gets rest, and you probably get goals. You definitely get the ability to counter at pace.

      Rakitic also needs to find a role that is workable within the system. Strangely enough, the players argue for playing more like RM used to, but that would be considered blasphemy. For me, the talk about Barça way and loss of identity bore me. Kick ass on the football pitch. 2008-09 was an anomaly that has become the standard, which is ridiculous for me.

      This team absolutely has to resolve the problem of Messidependencia. It has become worse, not better, despite having Neymar and Suarez. Some of it is because nobody wants to see Messi rested, despite the fact that everyone says that in theory, he needs rest. Messi wants to play all the time, and nobody begrudges him that.

      But it creates a significant problem in that you have a team that doesn’t know how to play without its best player, and isn’t going to learn until that player isn’t there any longer. Look at the two months he was gone last season, and how diverse and interesting the attack became.

      Messi came back and things stiffened up again, not because of Messi per se, but because of the roles that everyone reverted to when he returned. For Barça to grow, solutions have to be found for Messi, Xavi and Busquets. If you don’t have the players, you have to devise a tactic.

      Let’s hope Enrique has something on there. People forget that his teams always start slow. Celta really took off after the break last season, and Roma improved as the season progressed, as well.

      P.S. Before anyone gets their knickers in a bunch, obviously Messi is Messi, but Messi attacks like a shark. Neymar and his back of tricks makes him unpredictable. No, I don’t hate Messi, or think that Neymar is better than Messi, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

    12. I’ve no problems with that front line and as you correctly say it’s about time we said to the rest Messi’s going with his family for a lie on the beach today. Earn your keep ! Best way to get them to take responsibility.

    13. The overlooked aspect of the press is coordination between the players. It’s not just about running – it has to be very well organized to be effective, otherwise you just end up with various players engaging in random semi-brownian motion chasing the ball, which is a disaster (as the old saying goes, one man pressing is one man out of position). There has been a serious drop off in the level of cohesion of the press since last season. Probably the last time they executed the press really well was against Milan in the CL 18 months ago; after that there were a few good displays but they were all against opposition of not that great quality and usually in the first games of the season.

      So is it because the team gets tired after a few games into the season and can’t press anymore, or is it because the movement patterns that were so well drilled back in the days are not practiced anymore, and with many of those who played in that system before gone, the team just can’t do it anymore? If true, that’s the kind of thing that would substantiate those rumors about LE not paying the same attention to detail that was the standard before.

      Also, if the press is effective, you do not necessarily run more. We used to discuss that quite a bit in the past. If you win the ball within 6 seconds of losing it and do so in the opponent’s half, you have to cover a lot less distance than you would have to if the midfield is bypassed and everyone has to chase the ball over more than half of the length of the field to stop the attack. And if you’re quickly up by 3-4 goals (which was often a direct consequence of the effective press), the you can pass the ball around for the rest of the game without expending much energy. We had a lot of games that were over by halftime in those seasons. That’s a very different situation from having to turn around games in the second half.

    14. That was the cool thing about the Ajax press, G60. It was so intelligent, and involved less running. Nonetheless, most of the time an Ajax attacker was confronted by a pair of Barça defenders. (As an aside, wonder if the effectiveness of that match and its pressing contributed to the heavy legs at Almeria, as well).

      Also worth noting that Ajax was, as a passing team as we are, easier to press than one that is more dynamic.

  29. Can anybody suggest articles/material which throws some light on what LE did with Roma and Celta in terms of tactics?

    Also I remember coming across a statement where LE wants his team to be unpredictable, is it trying to heap on too many tactics on the team and the team not able to execute any of them as expected?

    1. How often do you see any big journalists or any at all write about small clubs? I know Sid does it but it’s to few and far in between.

    2. @barca96 If it was that easy to find, I wouldnt bother asking this forum?! Was hoping someone might have stumbled or assessed.

    3. Too many complaints about him so I thought it was a rhetorical question. Sorry about the misunderstanding.

    4. I did a quick web search, Observer, and there doesn’t seem to be much. I watched Celta quite a bit last season and was impressed by their play in the second half of the season, but because tactics mostly give me a headache, I didn’t really glean much from those matches.

      Aside from that, not much I can find. Maybe worth asking on Twitter, if you’re on that forum.

  30. I read on Facebook yesterday that Ronaldo had 2 assists and kids on we’re boasting about it how he just doesn’t score but also assists and how he is not selfish and is a team player. I thought to myself that perhaps Ronaldo really has upped his game. Scary thoughts.

    I watched the highlights just now. One was an ordinary back pass after a failed dribble. Second one was a failed shot. Sometimes I wonder if those kids;
    -actually watch the matches
    -or at least watch the highlights
    -or they just can’t differentiate between a tough, nice assist and a simple pass like in NBA where every pass leading to a goal is an assist.

    1. There lies the dangers with statistics in football. They do NOT show all the nuances of the game.

      In statistical terms, Ronaldo’s assist off his “failed shot” is equally effective as Daley Blind’s remarkable, 40-yard, pinpoint assist to Van Persie during the World Cup. In terms of quality, they are worlds apart but stats don’t give a damn about quality.

    1. A good read and pretty accurate Id say. The one point I’d mention drawing the (incomplete) analogy with Rangers in Scotland is that the powers that be ( league, sponsors etc) didn’t want Rangers thrown out of the top division and in the end it came down to the clubs to decide their punishment. And here’s where it got interesting because several of the clubs didn’t want to miss out on a couple of paydays with Rangers but when this was leaked the fans got involved and warned their clubs they’d better not throw them a lifeline. The same happened to some extent with the second division clubs as there were whispers of only a small fall.

      So I’m not clear about how we are regarded in the Spanish league. Would other clubs look to block us playing in Spanish leagues? Would that mean a much larger share of a smaller cake for them ? Would they see it as a chance to punish us ? Would their fans make them take a hard line ?

    2. I rather imagine money would talk, Jim. The big two bring the biggest gates, and also who would be interested in a Liga that was only RM? Even as other clubs are more competitive, the reality is that the Liga is a perpetual duopoly. As a monopoly, I imagine TV revenues, etc, would be affected.

    3. We certainly had to renegotiate our TV deal down the way although interestingly only because we had agreed to let them cover the four old firm meetings live so they got us on a technicality. However, attendances in the top division at the smaller clubs went up and there were bumper paydays in the lower divisions as Rangers visited. Now we have the odd situation where Rangers, Hearts and Hibs are all in the second tier with accompanying attendances while there is an extra Euro slot up for grabs in the top due to their absence. As a sideline it also meant my hometown won the Scottish Cup against Dundee Utd which it’s hard to think would have happened with both the giants With top squads.

      However, the Barca situation is probably different in that it wouldn’t be a demotion but rather an inability to join at all. There might also be issues around a possible non EU status for Catalunya and I’m not sure how that would affect registering of players, participation in CL etc. whatever, I think you’re probably right but it’d be an awkward time. There would be a lot of people with an interest in at least letting Barca sweat over it, given the bad feeling that would erupt.

  31. Okay, so MARCA and AS both reported Cruyff’s view on Real and Barcelona’s coaches in front of the microphones of La Gazzeta delo Sport:

    “Ancelotti has worked in four or five different countries, knows his languages and is older, makes you see things better and direct better.”

    About Luis Enrique:
    “It’s just eleven games. In the first seven or eight Barcelona reached the heavens, now it’s fallen. New coach and players, they need to settle down. You can’t judge Luis Enrique after ten weeks. Still, he should get a move on, use the experience gained so far and get going”

    MD waited, heads are probably exploding in the offices at SPORT right now. Expect serious cases of “nerd rage” and virtual infarcts in the comments sections. 😀

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