Valencia 0, Barça 1, aka “Wait … WUT?!”

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FC Barcelona won a match off a set piece. Ball by Messi, from the right. In the 94th minute. Off a header rebound and a put back by … Sergio Busquets, that goalscoring machine.

If you wanted to draw up a more bizarre ending to a more bizarre day, I would challenge anyone to take that task.

It is facile to say that “Matches such as this one win championships.” What is not at all easy to say is that Barça showed something today. Luis Enrique said they didn’t quit, but it was more than that. For me, there is poetry in artists sometimes tripping over the easel, sending the canvas sprawling and landing in their own paint.

And today’s match was the equivalent of that artist rolling over on the canvas, and the smeared paint creating a work that a patron buys. Because sometimes, success ain’t pretty.

Portents and warnings

In Peter’s excellent preview, he warned us of everything that happened today, from a pressing, aggressive midfield to fast, tricky wingers and a team with gobs of energy who isn’t playing European football. Did we listen? Probably not, because this Barça exists in an abstract world. There aren’t opponents. There are people standing around while our players try to execute what they are trying to do, and shame on our players for not doing so. Shame on them for being tired, off form or distracted. Shame on them for being human.

And it’s easy to forget that great athletes are human, as they tally hundreds of passes, bang in hat tricks and knock off inch-perfect assists. If then, why not now, right?

Opponents.

Barça had to work its butts off to subdue an APOEL side in an away Champions League match on Tuesday. On Sunday, they had a match against a rested, well-drilled Valencia side who played its collective asses off. They hounded, fouled, pressed, harassed, clogged passing lanes, countered like fiends, ran, slid, blocked and did absolutely everything that a team fighting its hearts out at its home stadium is supposed to do. Valencia deserved a point for its spectacular performance today. At least a point which could have been more, were it not for a man of the match performance from Claudio Bravo, the man many didn’t want at Barça. His two brilliant saves not only kept his team in the match but kept it from losing that match and quite possibly, any shot at a Liga championship.

"I saved your butts. Did you see me? Huh? Huh?"
“I saved your butts. Did you see me? Huh? Huh?”

Cometh the moment …

And that magic just adds to it, squares the degree of difficulty of the means of conceiving an event so unlikely, Barça scoring a header rebound putback by Busquets. You can’t plan for that sort of craziness, so Valencia can be forgiven for being as stunned as I was. Its warriors slumped to the turf in disbelief. They did what they had to do, which was everything, like Atleti in last season’s Champions League final, fought as hard as they could, only to be outdone by a moment of brilliance buttressed by sheer effort.

“Messi picks NOW not to be poor,” their coach probably thought as the flawless pass found the oil-slicked dome of Neymar, who blasted a header that Diego Alves somehow parried. It fell to the feet of Busquets, who hit it as hard as he could and had to, because Alves got his hands to that ball as well, but couldn’t keep it out.

And to cap off a bizarre day to a bizarre end of a bizarre match, Messi got a yellow card for complaining to the refs that he was struck in the head with a water bottle. In theory, Messi was booked for time-wasting at the end of a match that was still in the balance, but still …

You can’t make this stuff up.

As the featured Liga match, Barça had the additional pressure of playing after all of its chief rivals, of knowing that they had all won, and to maintain that bridgeable two-point gap to table-topping RM, they had to win. As long as you win, the season, the league championship is in your hands, in your house. Drop points and you need favors, boons that are hopeful at best, foolhardy at worst. So each match is an opportunity for all the doubt to be justified, for all the people wanting the team to fail for the pleasure of being able to say “A-HA!” can have their day as men who used to be heroes are impaled on spikes of supporter fantasy.

Life is hard

It’s tough being Barça right now. In addition to the crushing doubt that permeates everything this team and its coaching staff does, there is a view that everything it does is wrong. A move by one coach is genius, that man not only redrawing the lines, but making the tablet on which they are drawn from scratch. “Brilliant, I tell you. Brilliant!”

The same move from Enrique, and he is a clueless git with pretty much zero idea of what he wants to do, or how. And so his starting XI of Bravo, Alves, Pique, Mathieu, Alba, Mascherano, Busquets, Xavi, Neymar, Suarez, Messi drew howls from the ramparts. And those howls found vindication in the result, without looking at the cause of that result.

Was the midfield a mess because Enrique got the tactics/lineup wrong, or because Valencia were working their asses off, playing like rejuvenated fiends. The latter raises its hand, because of the world in which Barça live, a world occupied by practice dummies and compliant opponents. And wins are suspect. Sevilla played crap. APOEL was shocking. Valencia wasn’t itself, and Barça was crap.

After the match, Enrique said that by and large his team played well, and people snarled. Because it’s easy to ignore that most of the match was played in the Valencia end, that there was a wrongly disallowed goal, and another goal that Luis Suarez wet the bed on. And the defense kept a clean sheet. Even if you presume that the keeper isn’t part of the defense, and the fact that he had to make saves means that the defense still sucks, it’s still a clean sheet.

valsuarez

Enrique is stupid because Messi isn’t touching the ball as much, people snarled, an effect that ignores the reality of Taxicab Messi, the dude who stands around as though waiting for a ride, or a ball to show up. There were times in the match where he didn’t even seem to try, once where he lost a ball and the defender ran right past him as Messi just stood there. After two hat tricks in two matches, all-pitch performances that strain credulity and have his supporters screaming “Suck it, haters,” at those imaginary beings who also kick puppies and hate cake.

Clunk and causes

But it wasn’t just Messi who was seemingly off. All of the forwards were seemingly relieved of the all-pitch duties that so enliven this Barça side and seem to sharpen their games, omnipresence that gives its danger men so many touches of ball and touches on the move, running to unsettle an opponent. But in the reality of a tired team facing a rabid opponent, what are a coach’s options?

The midfield looked a mess because it was missing a link. Busquets was forward, but his midfielder skills are as a mini-Xavi, rather than that bridge between a midfield and its forwards. Xavi needs movement and passing angles. What Xavi doesn’t need is a daisy-fresh opponent who is full of energy, pressing, running and fouling. Because that is what happened, it wasn’t until the inclusion of Rakitic and Rafinha that life and spark came to the attack, because that link was closed. If the forwards won’t come to them, they will go to the forwards, and danger came.

The three subs were Rakitic, Rafinha and Pedro, and two of them were very instrumental in the final result, applying movement, pressure and moving the ball more quickly to take advantage of a tiring Valencia. Enrique might be “clueless,” but he got that decision right, even as the match really came down to that thing that often makes football Darwinian in its harshness:

The big teams have players who can be poor for the entire match, do a single thing up to their customary level, and decide the match. Messi to Neymar slammed home by Busquets. Three of the best players in the world, given one last shot against a tired opponent with its backs to the wall.

Was it an ugly win? I don’t believe in such things. Did the aesthetics of the victory leave something to be desired? Again. Who says? The Messi pass was gorgeous, Neymar’s header was powerful and on target and Busquets knocked the stuffing out of the ball, roofing a quality finish of the type he missed against Chelsea in that fateful Champions League semi-final. Bang, boom, pow! Done.

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Hello, gorgeous

This win was beautiful. It showed resolve, showed the ability of excellent players to make magic, the power of a team working just as hard as its resolute opponent getting it done. “Quit” is one of those weird words that permeates sport. People use it without knowing what it means, without understanding it. This is true whether we allege someone “quit,” or “didn’t quit.” In either case, how can we know. Fatigue can masquerade as resignation. Nursing an injury can be the guise of a player giving up on a ball. Quitter!

Both teams played to the absolute end of the match because that is what they are supposed to do. It’s more than what they are paid for. Pay isn’t sufficient motivation to make an athlete run until his legs cramp, evince the thousand-yard stare that the Valencia players had as they were being subbed. Pay doesn’t make Busquets run and fight to be in position just in case.

It’s pride. Professional pride. Some players love their clubs. Other players are motivated by their own drive for excellence. Slugfests such as today’s match become about individuals deciding that they will leave everything on the pitch because, simply put, it’s a matter of honor. It’s the little sliver of fear that lurks behind greatness, the player who wonders how he will be able to face his friends and teammates if he didn’t do his absolute best. Fear is the spark that can ignite a transcendent moment. “I haven’t had a great match, but this is my last chance.”

It’s what makes sport so glorious. We love it so because we can celebrate the best in what athletics personify. Through all that, our team won! Right at the end! It’s a glorious feeling.

And that feeling is why I will leave the “buts” and “if onlys” to others, the tactical breakdowns and post-factor snarking about this or that. Because winning is glorious. I understand that matches have to analyzed, that answers have to be found to questions raised by a series of events.

But sometimes, I just like saying, “OMIGOD! Did you just SEE that!?” Then I want to run around the room and scream. Then I want to watch the highlights on the summary shows, and I want to grin all over again, because winning is like a supermodel feeding you chocolate ice cream. If there is a bit of tarnish on the silver spoon, so what?

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Written by:

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

82 Comments

  1. sudamabaraily
    December 1, 2014

    Thanks Kxevin for an interesting gist of the tense atmosphere of yesterdays match. I had multiple hear attacks during the match yesterday. Thats the biggest disadvantage of being a barca fan…..ur life span gets shorter (Thanks god!!!Pinto is not there anymore)…

  2. agar2515
    December 1, 2014

    Im curious, do you believe in “ugly” wins in any other sports? I think there is certainly such a thing.. most Mou wins 😉

    • December 1, 2014

      I think that “ugly” win is used to denigrate and somehow minimize a performance. Some wins are less aesthetically pleasing, but still a win.

  3. barca96
    December 1, 2014

    This is definitely not the first time Kxevin mentions supermodel feeding him ice cream 😆

    • December 1, 2014

      It is my most useful and enduring fantasy. Chocolate ice cream, to be precise.

      • Jafri
        December 1, 2014

        Any particular supermodel, to be precise? 😀

      • December 1, 2014

        Nope.

  4. December 1, 2014

    Those British commentators on Tv looked sooo disappointed we won. They didnt seem any bit interested about the wrong offside though. It is a pain to hear them discredit anything related to us.

    What brilliant 3 points. I had stood up ready to swtich off everything at the final whistle and get as much sleep, and then a gorgeous cross, a header and wham. wow. Was so happy couldnt sleep for the next 20 minutes.

    Masche was excellent,so was Bravo. I liked our midfield lineup, but gradually got a bit disappointed that they didnt really create enough chances.

    Kevin, this is not a bad question, if you feel so please forgive me. In all your reviews you seem to be taking shots at some anonymous guys, sitting somewhere in the world who are negative about all what is possible. Am sure there must be lots of 40 plus’ers like me who dont have twitters and facebooks. For me, I wait impatiently after every Barca match to come to see what you all say in BFB, and reading your review, it is like you are taking your revenge here for something that has happened somewhere out in the virtual world. It could be better without that, just the match may be, isnt it. Sorry if you dont like this.

    • December 1, 2014

      You aren’t on twitter, and if you don’t read Spanish newspapers you won’t feel the impact. I wasn’t on twitter until just before the Sevilla match, and it is indescribable and inexplicable, and I just see the fringes of it.

      This morning, I saw a tweet directed at Luis Enrique. Mind you, by default Twitter doesn’t have restrictions(filters it seems are manual for each user), so when someone tweets to you, will get that tweet. The tweet, from a person I followed due to very nice Barcelona videos, was this:

      “You still suck Luis Enrique”.

      Immediately afterwards I found how the “unfollow” function works.

      Our creativity in midfield was overwhelmed and chances were rare, because the front three seemed tired. Only Neymar was showing signs, but Xavi was just overwhelmed by the leniency of Fernandez Borbalan and the ferocity and velocity of the Valencia players. It’s a pity, but yes, Xavi is no longer just 30.

    • georgjorge
      December 1, 2014

      I agree somewhat, I too would like to read more about a match than about the reactions of some people on Twitter whose comments I don’t read and couldn’t care less about anyway. Maybe Kxevin also regularly tweets links to his articles to those people so they might change their ways a bit?

      But I stil like Kxevin’s reviews a lot, just the right mixture of storytelling and analysis and humour. Thanks!

    • December 1, 2014

      But my pieces are written in a vacuum, fotobirajesh, as nothing here has occurred yet, so to speak. Do I react to the general mood in the Barçaverse? Sometimes. But not in this case. Yet unavoidably sometimes, that mood these days, is defined by social media.

      We see echoes of that mood in comments below, however.

      I don’t view it as “taking shots,” as much as providing a different worldview of events, as related to that aforementioned mood in the culerverse. Ninety percent of this match review doesn’t take into account any external influences.

      All season, for many, Enrique has been clueless, with flawed lineups, in over his head, etc, etc. Here as well as in the social media world. So yes, I am going to speak to those perceptions because in my view they are unfair.

      Guardiola was lauded for being unpredictable, then picked at for being unpredictable, then picked at for being too predictable. Vilanova was picked at for being too conservative. Martino was just not good enough. And none of it makes sense, unless you view it from the perspective of the mere act of winning matches, absent of championships, being insufficient.

      That isn’t my view.

      You shouldn’t feel apprehensive about expressing your views, or worry that I won’t like. The reality is that it doesn’t affect me really, because when I sit down to write something, it is done without really caring what anyone thinks of it. I can’t. If I do that, then I might as well stop.

      So I appreciate the input, long story short.

  5. Tata2
    December 1, 2014

    If we keep playing like this, next time we might not be so lucky. It was obvious that creativity was missing in midfield with Busi at CM and that’s why we couldn’t create as much chances.

    • Nav
      December 1, 2014

      We had a goal wrongly disallowed. And what was lucky about Busi’s goal?

      • December 1, 2014

        Well, one could say that what was lucky about the Busquets goal is how the parried shot fell directly to him. But if you do that, you have to believe that his following the flight of the ball and progress of the play was random as well, which spawns a whole discussion about luck as regards sport.

        When a player gets a tap-in, people sneer, without taking into account what it required for the player to be in the position to make that tap in. There are some that just fall to a player. But you have to be there for the luck to find you.

        If you want to believe that things are gloomy, you will find solace in anything that you want. And that’s okay. There are many opinions and worldviews.

  6. we are dooomed
    December 1, 2014

    I get the euphoria and emotions after these kind of wins. Yet I’m following the sport for so long now that the adrenaline rush fades very quickly and I find myself analysing why the team didn’t play more convincingly than a 94th minute winner and how if we play like this against better teams we’re doomed. I can’t help it. Call me a realist. Or a boring person. Or a doomster. I get that no team can walz through all opponents. I get that Valencia at home is a force to be reckoned with and that it was never easy in that stadium. I get that Pepcelona between 08 – 12 only won there once and that was a rather lucky win as well with a perfectly legal goal disallowed for Valencia. I get all that. But damn, the slightest bit of adversary these days and it’s either a disappointment or an almost disappointment. If this were the exception to the rule I wouldn’t be mad. But it’s the norm now and stringing together 5 consecutive games that are convincing seems too much to expect.

    For the first time this season it looked like Lucho got it right in the past 2 games against Sevilla and APOEL and the team looked cohesive. So what does he do? OF COURSE he reshuffles and pulls out a completely new midfield permutation with players completely out of position (Busquets high up the pitch is a horrible idea, even in theory). Did it work? Defensively maybe. Somewhat. Although I have difficulties attributing this to Busquets-Mascherano as Busquets got dribbled high up the pitch quite a few times and almost cost Barca the game when he gave the ball away before Bravo’s heroics. Rakitic’s defensive work in that position is certainly no worse. Offensively there was 1 shot on target until the 94th minute. Admittedly Suarez had a perfectly legal goal disallowed but still, this is not the sort of midfield you want to pull out against better teams. What’s the use of Messi, Suarez and Neymar upfront when Mascherano and Busquets are the ones creating chances for them?

    Positives: We somehow survived all corners and set pieces.

    • December 1, 2014

      But Suarez didn’t just have an offside goal disallowed. He also shot directly at the keeper on a chance that he should have buried.

      Valencia kicked the crap out of Atleti, the team we couldn’t beat last season. Valencia at home is more than a “force to be reckoned with.” It’s an excellent football team that didn’t have to play in Europe midweek, was unscathed during recent internationals, etc.

      Enrique was wanting control, as in defensive control. So when you admit that the Busquets up the pitch move worked defensively, that’s the point.

      That midfield creativity didn’t exist because the attackers were pants. All three of them. Without passing angles, what is Xavi going to do.

      Euphoria isn’t a misguided sensation. It’s joy at a result, and that’s a good thing, rather than a bad thing. It doesn’t obscure that Barça is a team still coming together, nor should it. But just as people say, “Shouldn’t we be able to criticize the team,” I would wonder “Why can’t we be happy over a wonderful win?”

      Did the team play as well as it could have? Nope. If the coach devises a system and the players don’t meet standards, whose fault is that? Coach or players?

      Valencia is a very good football club. Barça should struggle against difficult opponents. All teams do, even Guardiola’s. It happens.

  7. December 1, 2014

    I actually thought Luchos starting lineup was very smart. Were we very creative? No, but I don’t think that was the aim in the first half. I believe the goal was to match Valencia physically and energy wise and while we did not create an abundance of chances we certainly matched Valencia physically. Going away to a young, rejuvenated and hungry Valencia after a midweek CL game where they had none was always going to be really, really tough. For all the reasons Peter quite rightfully pointed out in his last post and it seems like Lucho paid attention because the lineup was meant to counter some of these things. We were not as dynamic or exciting as in the last few games, but we were never going to be with Busi and Masch in the midfield. Did it work perfectly, no it did not, but for the most part it worked well. If Suarez finishes any one of two amazing chances that he had in the first half the game would have been very different.

    It also meant that in the second half, once Valencia started tiring we could bring on the likes of Rakitic, Rafinha and Pedro to liven things up a bit and get us a late goal, and it worked. It was a very, very late goal but it worked. We had a perfectly good goal disallowed which would have settled the game a bit sooner.

    All in all I think Lucho got things right.

    Bravo eh? Where are all the peeps who said he was a waste of money now?

  8. TITO
    December 1, 2014

    Sometimes i dont get it with our demands. We were screaming for a partnership with Busi and Masch, particulary in the games where a physical presence is needed, like the game last night. And when we finally got it, people are still unsatisfied. It wasnt meant to be creative, bus stroong. Our front three have enough of talent to create a chance or two on their own when theres no help from midfield.
    All in all, im more than satisfied how we played.

    • Dar_vincy
      December 1, 2014

      I agree with you, Tito.
      A need for more security, steel, and solidity surely must have prompted the use of a double pivot. The move worked, at least defensively.
      The reason for our lack of creativity cannot be entirely pegged at the choice to field both dm.
      The question not being sufficiently asked is the effectiveness of the role of Xavi as the Chief creator. At his age, he certainly won’t offer the needed mobility to precipitate creativity. Thrown in the fact that Valencia’s diligent pressing and defensive work ethic ensured that our seemingly careworn otherworldly frontline would not be basking gleefully in their elements. Would a fit and in form Iniesta do a better job rather than our aged legend? Good question.
      Perhaps a FFT: if our underwhelming display would be attributed to the choice of a double pivot (whilst ignoring the fact that a Suarez goal in the first half and/or 2nd half could have ensured a much more comfortable proceeding), then how much of an impact did the midfield of Ini-xavi-Bus have in previous seasons under Pep when we struggled to earn a point or scrape through a victory at the mestalla? This is where the opponent deserves a huge credit. Like they always merited in recent past..

  9. Zubs
    December 1, 2014

    Hey guys/gals.
    Long time Stalker….i mean reader, here, but first time commenter. As usual, awesomely written article Kev.
    Heres my thoughts on the match:

    As a neutral, this game was exciting. Scrappy and end-to-end. As a barca fan, this game was nerve-wrecking, or in other words, the perfect match for a fan.
    I liked the lineup. People wanted a double pivot, we got it (sort of). Valencia are quite physical so this was the right idea to have. The match was always going to be chaotic so Xavi’s calming influence was necessary. Everyone else chose themselves. The only problem i felt we had was that our midfield was slow and not very creative which would have starved the attackers.
    I thought the team were okay. Mascherano was bossing it, as usual. I felt Neymar was by far and away our best attacker today, always trying to run at the team, lead the counter attack on. Its just a shame no one kept up with him. IMO he’s been our best player this season after Masche.
    I admit it, Busi was killing me. He wasn’t offering anything defensively nor offensively, he was being run over far too easily and I just wanted him replaced by Rak ASAP. So when Mathieu came off, i was annoyed but he popped up at the end, so forgive me.

    As usual with Barca fans, after the match, Luis was being crucified time and time again. Sure, it might have been a bit risky playing this sort of team but this was Valencia away, a traditionally tough game. We were never going to have it easy but people are overlooking our opponent (which is a common theme when we play ‘badly’. Shocking, right?) and acting like we played Recrativo or something.
    It would have been interesting to see how the reactions would be had Luis scored/had his goal allowed. Knowing our fans, they still would have slaughtered him for ‘experimenting’, a thing they keep asking him to do.

    • December 1, 2014

      Welcome to the speaking part of being in the room. And you’re right about Neymar, even as he too was below his customary standard.

      It used to be that the result defined the worldview. With this Barça, that isn’t the case any longer.

  10. lala10
    December 1, 2014

    Damned if you do damned if you don’t. Thats the curse of being Luis Enrique now. Without watching its hard to pass judgement but i had say that we have not played as well as we did against Seville and Apoel. That cohesiveness was beautiful and since we have new players i thought it sensible to continue on that path inorder to create a better rythym. Alas. All in all the three points are that which matters at this stage

  11. G6O
    December 1, 2014

    Regarding the tactics:

    Away at Valencia is never a game that you can expect to be the same as home against Elche or something of the sort, where we have all the ball, create two dozen chances and score 5-6 goals.

    It has always been a scrappy affair, even (ahem) when Pep was coach.

    You play patiently and wait for your moment to score and open it up.

    Given that the first half was actually decent – they didn’t really have a great chance to score, while we had a glorious one that was more difficult to miss than to convert, and which came clearly from a play we had in mind (as we tried it again and again).

    The second half was worse, but I still wouldn’t call the tactics a failure. Tactics alone cannot put the ball in back of the net.

  12. Dar_vincy
    December 1, 2014

    I agree with what TITO opined.
    A need for more security, steel, and solidity surely must have prompted the use of a double pivot. The move worked, at least defensively.
    The reason for our lack of creativity cannot be entirely pegged at the choice to field both dm.
    The question not being sufficiently asked is the effectiveness of the role of Xavi as the Chief creator. At his age, he certainly won’t offer the needed mobility to precipitate creativity. Thrown in the fact that Valencia’s diligent pressing and defensive work ethic ensured that our seemingly careworn otherworldly frontline would not be basking gleefully in their elements. Would a fit and in form Iniesta do a better job rather than our aged legend? Good question.
    Perhaps a FFT: if our underwhelming display would be attributed to the choice of a double pivot (whilst ignoring the fact that a Suarez goal in the first half and/or 2nd half could have ensured a much more comfortable proceeding), then how much of an impact did the midfield of Ini-xavi-Bus have in previous seasons under Pep when we struggled to earn a point or scrape through a victory at the mestalla? This is where the opponent deserves a huge credit. Like they always merited in recent past..

  13. December 1, 2014

    Ballon d’Or shortlist is out: Neuer, Ronaldo, Messi. Neuer should win, even if he won’t.

    • Jafri
      December 1, 2014

      I’d vote Neuer, but based on the fact that the Champions League top scorer has won the Ballon d’Or for the past ten years or so, it’s going to be Ronaldo again.

    • G6O
      December 1, 2014

      I won’t win popularity points for this but Cristiano was the best player over the 12 months, so it would not be unfair for him to win it. I’m not going to like it, but that’s the right choice.

      • December 1, 2014

        Look at the big games he was in, and tell me in which he was decisive for the win or, hell for the point.

        For the point: Derbi Madrileño at Vicente Calderón I remember he scored the equalizer but can’t remember whether it was from open play.

        For the win: I can’t really remember.

        He went missing in both Clasicos, he was actually missing from the CdR final, he went missing for the Champions League final. Even when Atletico were so exhausted, cramping and out of breath to physically drag themselves back to their own box to defend, Cristiano Ronaldo’s only achievement was to trip himself in injury time of extra time and score the penalty to make it… 4-1, in order to set a record for champions league goals.

        Yes, he scored a lot of goals in the Champions League, he set up a record for goals in the group stage. That record was beaten by a talented but not awesome striker playing for Shakhter Donetsk named Luis Adriano, who scored eight goals against BATE Borisov in two matches, and one against Porto. And that’s it.

        Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against headless Galatasaray when the score was 0-2 for Real; scored three in two matches against Copenhagen, and two against Juventus(the second was a dubious penalty)
        In the knockout stages he scored 4 overall against Schalke 04(two goals, 4th and 6th in a 1-6 rout and the first and second in a 3-1 victory in the home leg); the 3rd goal of a 3-0 win over Borussia; two goals in the second leg against Bayern, when the result was 0-2 and Bayern needed to score 4 goals; and the penalty goal against Atletico.

        In La Liga he scored 31 goals, including the penalties against Elche and the one outside the box in El Clasico. If Messi’s wrongly disallowed goal had been given, that was La Liga and 29 goals for Messi. Still, even like that, Real finished the season in third place!

        In this season Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in La Liga, of which 6 have been penalties. In La Liga Real have been given more penalties in favor than Atletico, Barcelona and Valencia combined. COMBINED! He has 4 goals in the Champions, would’ve been three but he was given a second penalty after he didn’t score the first vs Ludogorets. In a group with Liverpool without Suarez, with Basel and Ludogorets. While having the most expensive team in the world to support him.

        Messi is in a group with PSG, Ajax and Apoel, and has scored 7 goals. One against PSG, three against Ajax, three against Apoel. And he led his team to the final of the World Cup was won the best player of the tournament, where instead of combining with a fit Aguero and fit Di Maria, he mostly had to create chances for Higuain, Lavezzi and that other guy, while being constantly marked by multiple opposition players. He sacrificed his attacking and opportunities so that the team had a playmaker to feed the strikers.

        When the time for penalties came against Holland, LvG had to elect three times the first penalty taker, because the first two elected stepped back.
        Messi was the first for Argentina. Took the ball, went and whammed it in.

      • December 1, 2014

        Peter has made a very compelling argument for Messi … to finish second behind Neuer. I’m with Platini in spirit. In a World Cup year, it’s hard to argue with a player who was a WC winner, has excelled in club football as is acknowledged by many as the best at his position in the world.

        Messi and Ronaldo score goals. Neuer stops them. All three play with style and flair, and are as influential in a match in their very different ways.

        So should the World Cup tip it, or the Champions League final? If it’s individual stuff, people love goals, right? If it’s team stuff, World Cup always trumps Champions League, and Neuer is a slam dunk.

        But it will almost certainly be Ronaldo, because people just count goals and say, “Ooooh, that’s a lot,” instead of noting when and how those goals came.

        I made a similar point about Thierry Henry back in the day. His scoring totals weren’t gaudy, but if you look at how many decisive (first goal, equalizer or lead goal) he had, it was impressive.

        Goals scored will always trump goals stopped. In this environment, 2006 BdO, where it was Cannavaro, Buffon, Henry seems almost quaint.

      • December 1, 2014

        Just like Ronaldo was overhyped due to his goals against Sweden, Neuer will be overjudged for the four goals against Real. It’s as simple as that.

        The fact is that Neuer is an awesome player and possibly the best stand-out player for Germany. But he isn’t going to win, because if Ronaldo can be given the BdO in an year when his only accomplishments were fighting through the play-offs after being the favourite to win the group, and reaching the semi-final in the Champions League, then I don’t think Neuer or Messi have a real chance of winning it.

        The fact is that if Ronaldo takes the award, it will be mostly because of the achievements of the collective achievements of Real Madrid, not really because of his own.

        Neuer is included because if you don’t include someone who had a real hand, figurative and literal, in winning the World Cup, the award will lose its value.

        Here’s a simple test: can you point out a vital or famous match in which Ronaldo has led a badly-playing Real to victory?

  14. Jafri
    December 1, 2014

    OT: BVB are rock bottom of the Bundesliga? When? How?? What is happening with that team?

    • G6O
      December 1, 2014

      That’s really unfortunate.

      It is expected that a team will slide given the style they play (we are very familiar with the limitations on the shelf life of teams that apply an intense press), how many key players they lost, and how many injuries they have had. But bottom in the table and it’s almost the halfway point of the season…

    • georgjorge
      December 1, 2014

      They have played better than their opponents in all aspects but actually hitting the goal for some time now, that’s how they lost their games. But now – understandably so – that run of bad losses seems to have taken their toll, morale and self-confidence is dropping, and now they even play badly in other areas as well.

      They are still capable of winning their Champions League group with relative ease though…must be something with their heads…they can beat Galatasaray 4-0 or Arsenal 2-0 but can’t even get a point against Bundesliga teams in the bottom ranks. Maybe they should move to another league like the Prem ;).

      • December 1, 2014

        It’s where the difference between the big clubs comes in. Bayern can have a run of injuries and keep going. Dortmund can’t.

  15. Jim
    December 1, 2014

    Not sure what all the kerfuffle is about, tbh. We won and could have won much earlier if we’d taken our chances which were way better than theirs. LE tried something people have been calling for and I was interested to see, even if only to chalk it out for future matches.

    Thoughts on what happened :

    Bravo had an excellent game, even as the saves he made were ones Id have been disappointed had he not. I’m liking him more and more, starting to feel sorry for Ter Stegen and dreading the day he decides this wasn’t what he signed up for, which might not be far off.

    This defence is improving ! I could be harsh on Dani in an attacking sense but I’d rather concentrate on the way they move together and cover for each other. It was particularly impressive given the slew of yellows early on which meant they had to be careful. I’m also liking the fact that at last Pique is starting to show some leadership in sorting out the line at set pieces and holding the line during play. You could see the difference when Masche was moved back and the floodgates kinda opened. ( Not blaming him as he was playing perfectly well at DM and his LB had decided to play too far up looking for the goal. ). Hopefully, LE has decided on his CB combo but I’m still not sure.

    Midfield – for me this didn’t really work although, like others, I was curious to see the two DMs. I’m still not sure why although the pressing of Valencia, Busi’s awkwardness further up and Xavi looking to play too far forward (for me ) all contributed. As has been said the kinda poor display by all three up front in terms of stretching their defenders at the right moment didn’t help ; nor did Dani’s usual use of the final ball. It improved shape wise when Rakitic came on and by the end we had them where we wanted them. I said in a reply to Peter about the 70 minute mark they had had it and you could see it in the way they sank back and were slow to trudge side to side towards the end.

    This, however, didn’t happen by chance. It was a result of the huge effort they had put in to close us down over the game and not just as has been asserted because of the arrival of Rakitic and Rafinha. I think it was the right decision to provide fresh legs in the midfield and take Xavi off when he did but you don’t then go on to conclude that it would have been better to start that way. I’m gonna say something else that might be a tad unpopular. I’m not entirely convinced by Rakitic, either in terms of attacking contribution or,actually, defensive work. I mentioned a few weeks ago how he strolled back chasing a counter and it kinda happened again yesterday when he played a difficult ball to Busi who was under pressure and rather than move back to create an angle for the return ( given that at that stage we had 8,yes 8! , players ahead of the ball) he sauntered into a position where he couldn’t be reached and glory be the counter was on against Pique and Masche and he was slow to react. However, as a new player, he gets this season to bed in, for me, and is cut some slack accordingly. To be honest, I don’t think with our defence improving we need the two DMs.

    Up front, I wasn’t impressed really by any of the three even as I don’t doubt their effort. Suarez fighting to get in front of the keeper, Neymar prepared to take on defenders time after time ( although he seldom runs aggressively at them, preferring to cut inside and across them) and the look of exhaustion on Messi’s face at the through ball late on when a last minute tackle stopped him all speak to me of application. I do wonder if they are swapping enough and if Suarez is trying too hard and moving too much out of the centre but in two or three months we will be raving about them, I’m sure.

    Again, a personal opinion, but I think LE is doing fine. He has tried a whole heap of things and is now sorting them out in his mind. Way back after the first couple of matches I asked for a settled CB combo with Pique and Mathieu, Masche out of the defence, Alba at LB and the FBs more mindful of their defensive roles, Xavi back in as the heart of the midfield and more movement from the front three to make the mids’ jobs easier. Maybe Sat wasn’t the best for the last of these but it’ll come.

    What LE can’t afford is losing ground on RM while he’s doing this – quite an ask but so far he is managing it. I personally really enjoyed the game, even as it was a close run thing. It is more fun for me when we are pushed by a good side and forced to show our fighting qualities and even better in that moment when just as I’m beginning to doubt, the wee man pops up with a ball like that and I’m out of the couch and incurring the ire of my good lady again.

    • georgjorge
      December 1, 2014

      Care to write some match reviews for this here site 😉 ?

      • December 1, 2014

        I was so beaten down by that match, I didn’t even think the ball had gone in until the players started running around … then I started screaming. Given the way the day had gone, I was pretty sure Busquets hit it over the crossbar.

      • Jim
        December 1, 2014

        I obviously wasn’t watching as closely as you, Kxevin. I was up in the air the moment Neymar headed it. I assumed it had gone in and was screaming when I suddenly noticed it had popped out again. Not sure what the level of disappointment would have led to had Busi not actually finished it.

    • kosby
      December 1, 2014

      With you on the analysis. Mathieu’s speed definitely proves why LE wanted him in our team. For me he’s an automatic starter. Pique was good yesterday as well. IMO whenever he’s in that aggressive mood (the jostling in the Neymar incident) he does well. And maybe thats why he’s been a big game player for us. Also LE’s substitutions of Rakitic and Rafinha had an immediate impact. Although I was calling for Neymar to be subbed instead of Suarez. Neymar was a little slow imo and was giving the ball away yesterday. Messi gave a couple of beautiful through balls to Neymar near the end which sadly he couldn’t do much with. But Valencia’s defense was immense – so credit to them. These scrappy kinda games are exactly why Suarez is so important for us. Although somewhere in the back of my mind I was really hoping he wouldn’t lose it and do something stupid. I guess thats the complete package we bought. I like how people are being patient with Suarez even though he’s missed a couple sitters now. Maybe because we;re still winning. I hope he gets his scoring shoes on quick !

      • December 1, 2014

        kosby, what’s interesting is that they’re being patient with Suarez in a way that they mostly never were with Sanchez in forming a view that mostly came to dog the Chilean his entire career with Barça. Glad to see culers are reforming a bit.

        Personally, it was absurd that he hit that chance that he had right at the keeper. But Barça do that a lot.

      • kosby
        December 1, 2014

        Yeah almost feel like he’s snatching at chances – if you look at Messi, he usually places the ball where he wants to hit them. There was a moment when he lunged at a ball that the Valencia keeper was trying to get to, but got there first himself (which was amazing btw) and then instead of composing himself he shot with his instinct. Having played bad quality striker for my local team, something similar happens to me when Im looking to score and putting a bit of pressure on myself to find the net. Guess its just a matter of time before he settles down. The thing is, there will come a time when we might draw or even lose a couple games on the trot and I am apprehensive that that is when the media may direct their ire at him.

        With regards to Sanchez, for me there were two goals that defined him that he scored for us – that lobbed goal against EE where Neymar gave him that assist and that insane goal (which I still cant believe he scored) in that final game against Athletico. But personally to me he never seemed like he was playing in his natural position – he played much much better for Chile when he played more centrally. Barca’s play has revolved around not losing the ball too much and although Sanchez’s improvement was phenomenal, he was more prone to giving the ball away than say Pedro. I dont think he was a natural number 9. And I think we made a good trade getting Suarez as his replacement. HOWEVER I very much appreciate what he sacrificed for us over 3 years, his work rate, professionalism and the goals he scored. He seemed a much better player under the system Tata wanted to implement. It was sad how he sometimes got stuck with the image that he did.

      • Benj
        December 2, 2014

        Re: your comment about Luis ‘snatching’ at the shots that he takes, if you look back at his days with Ajax and Liverpool, he actually did alot of those shots, and as far as I can tell, it was on purpose. He occasionally does the stagger/snatch shot to throw off defenders and keepers as it makes the effort very unpredictable. I’m quite sure Henry used to do this on occasion, where he would kick a half-second before it looked like he would, and it throws off the timing of a keeper who would have learned to react to a regular kick. It might just be that I wear rose coloured glasses that refuse to see the bad side of Suarez, his cultural phrasing, his teething issue (my puppy does the same thing, his teeth hurt so he bites, its a tough stage of life but people are so quick to judge) and of course the tiny springs that he kept stepping on that flung him around like a ragdoll…

      • Jim
        December 1, 2014

        I’ve been thinking about that as Sanchez plays well for Arsenal. For me, I think it was the difference between the player I thought we were getting ( admittedly from YouTube which was all I had ) and the player who arrived. With Suarez I think we have an outrageous goalscorer who sometimes creates his own chances but also plays for the team. I can see already that he looks like he can deliver on these expectations. With Sanchez I thought we had a player with great pace who could beat opponents one on one but ( again, for me) it never happened. He continually refused to attempt to take on even a single defender in front of him preferring to play it back. I could see his defensive work but as I say that wasn’t the expectation from either the vids or the transfer fee. Having said that, he is a wholehearted guy and I wish him well.

      • December 2, 2014

        Sanchez was never given a fair shot. And that’s a shame. He also, like Song and Fabregas, wasn’t used in his most effective role. Another shame.

        But water under the bridge now, as we have our 81m assist maker who we can hope will start finding the net in a manner commensurate with his extravagant price tag. Call it “The Henry Standard.”

      • Jim
        December 2, 2014

        I’m not sure I’d agree he wasn’t given a shot. He had long enough to demonstrate the qualities he possessed ( or maybe that we needed to see) but didn’t do it – at least often enough. He has left us with a couple of great memories but not much more. When we’re reduced to majoring on his defensive qualities he’s not going to last. Bottom line for me was that, like quite a few players the pressure of playing against packed defences with no space was too much for him. His first touch often let him down and that’s crucial. All this is a pity because when it comes to twisting and turning on the ball he was a winner. He also has that rare R10 ability to look to the east and pass to the west. However, the fact that he went to Arsenal is a sign of his status for me. They’re not one of the top clubs any more and no amount of spin about being suited to his style hides that. Are they any longer a shoe in for even top four in EPL, despite the fact that league is struggling ( for me) quality wise apart from Chelsea ?

        Fabregas also had enough chances and it saddened me to see him go because he did show what he was capable of. I’m also not sure atm that our replacements are an upgrade. However, he just also showed a side we hadn’t seen before which was his tendency to go missing in matches and lack of speed. I think his game also suffered last year from the lack of good movement up front and I have a feeling he’d have benefitted from this year’s front three. I’d like to have kept him but understand entirely that the insecurity led him to leave which must have been a wrench as it was kind of an admission of failure. Perhaps indicative of the difference in the two that he ended up at Chelsea despite Mou’s hate of all things Barca. It’ll be interesting to see how Cesc does at the business end of the season. He’s not your typical physical Mou player and with the period of bad pitches just starting over here Mou has a lot of less physical players in his side this year. That can quickly sap energy.

        I think I would agree that with both we could have swapped things around to give them the role they were looking for but which would have resulted in problems elsewhere in the team. That’s why I wouldn’t like Zubi’s job. You’re not just looking for good players. They have to fit a style/ philosophy as well as being up to handling buses and they don’t have long to do it. Not fair but it’s tough at the top.

      • December 2, 2014

        Good points, Jim. For me, the problem with Sanchez is the same problem that Pedro has now, which is space. It’s also that the best player alive is playing in his preferred role, and that wasn’t going to change.

        The Sanchez that we saw when Messi was injured was different from the Sanchez before or after Messi’s return. It was also hints of the jugordazo that he claimed to be. The problem is that you can’t stick him in a phone booth on the right and expect him to do what he does.

        He has great pace and can beat opponents 1v1 in space. Stick him in a corner and like Pedro, he’s screwed. Sanchez moved to Arsenal and instantly became their best player. In one match, in a 10-minute stretch he stopped an opponent break, led an Arsenal break. whipped a killer cross-pitch pass to White Giroud that really deserved a better fate. Then he banged in a goal. It was an absurd display.

        At Arsenal, he’s capering about like a colt unbound. Song at West Ham, in the role that suits him, is being the player that we thought we were buying, even as he rarely got a chance to be that player. And really, we were too deliberate for Fabregas. Even now, when the team breaks, it kills me to see someone stop, slow the ball down and pass it sideways.

        In many ways, Enrique’s Barça would have suited Song, Sanchez and Fabregas better than previous coaches systems. Ah, well …

      • December 2, 2014

        Well, first Song is on loan. Theoretically he’s available, unless West Ham or someone else makes an offer that’s too good to refuse.

        Still, Barcelona face parked buses about four out of five times, this hasn’t changed, so Suarez being there in the center to muscle away defenders in order to reach the ball is much better. Apart from that, he is being included in both the offensive and defensive dead-ball schemes , something which Alexis, despite all his impressive physique could not really do. In a way maybe what I’m trying to say is that Alexis and Pedro need space. Suarez is able to create space, both for himself and for others.

  16. Ratu
    December 1, 2014

    I like tap-in goals. I like scrappy goals. They may not be pretty but they are…. visceral. A lightning fast mini-competition that rewards the player who is the best at that moment at concentrating, executing and maybe… letting luck happen to him.

    They are no less beautiful because they still demand utter opportunistic concentration and reflex (which is trained by hours of practice). This is a skill, a very useful, admirable skill. Ruthless, unyielding, never quitting. Warrior like.

    If Busquests had been standing at the half-way line, and the ball had ricocheted all the way there to him and he’d though “I’ll clear this one into the stands hey-ho!” and then miscues that and the ball glances off him, loops back over everyone in a marvellously laughable arc that dips right under the cross-bar for a goal….. then that’s luck. Damning, still awesome, luck.

    But that’s not what happened.

    So I clap for Messi for having the skill to execute the pass that he did.
    I clap for Neymar for having the discipline and vision and skill to head that ball on target.
    I clap for Lopez for pulling off a save, even if it rebounded.
    And I clap for Busquests for having the concentration, awareness, positioning and reflex for cannoning it into the net. For giving himself the biggest chance of letting ‘luck’ happen to him.

    And that is a skill too. A necessary one. Something that counts on the points board. And that is now an ‘inconvenient’ fact.

    So let’s just rejoice that our players are capable of kicking butt this way too. Hooray!

    • BA
      December 1, 2014

      that was a clear foul, the defender’s studs clearly went right across the top of his foot.

      he’s definitely not in as much pain as the flopping around would suggest, but it was a yellow card offense.

      • December 1, 2014

        Was a foul. But had the defender inserted a cattle prod anally, flipped the switch to high and let fly, perhaps that would have been warranted.

    • Ryan
      December 1, 2014

      That goal line clearance was pivotal! And his pass before the Neymar almost assist sure deserved better from Suarez. It was nice to see all of his long passes from the game in one clip.

    • G6O
      December 2, 2014

      Well, there is only so much geometry to be explored before one ends up having to resort to horizontal stripe in the quest to sell more shirts, which mandates them being different every season. Does not make it right though 🙁

    • BA
      December 2, 2014

      the worst part of that remains the Qatar Airways logo (in WHITE) shat across the front of it. disgusting.

      i won’t buy a shirt with that on it.

    • December 2, 2014

      Why don’t they just reverse the colours and make them brighter?

      Right now the colours are a subdued blue with a tinge of purple and a subdued dark pink.

      Reverse the scheme of the current shirt and make the colours intense true blue and red, and if it’s so important, make the sleeves red as well so that the people don’t get confused. A V-neck in yellow if you have to put it somewhere.

      It doesn’t have to be a radically different design every year.

    • Jafri
      December 2, 2014

      Think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

      • BA
        December 2, 2014

        the more i think about this, the angrier i become. it fits a pattern of the current board shitting on the traditions of the club, and the things that used to separate us from other clubs. selling the front of the shirt, looking to brand the stadium, buying Luis Suarez, now changing the colour scheme of the shirt entirely? for what? to appease corporate sponsors? for MONEY?

        if that shirt goes out, not only will i not buy one (i already refuse to buy a shirt that sponsors a country like Qatar that’s rife with human rights abuses and intent on further corruption of the game) but it will seriously dent my long emotional investment in the club. i would rather us come 4th with unblemished kits and a squad i can be proud of than win the league with a pack of disreputable mercenaries and corporate stamps all over what used to be our colours. for me, that’s not even a question. Pride and Tradition are not things that I as a modern, liberal-minded young professional man talk about much, but they MATTER in football. tearing at their edges takes so much from the soul of the game, and nobody currently at the apex of the club now seems to have any fucking idea what that soul is all about; they’re just money-men and accountants.

        i for one am growing ever more disgusted with our club and the way in which it conducts itself.

  17. Tata2
    December 2, 2014

    The horizontal stripes one is ugly. “If you want to believe that things are gloomy, you will find solace in anything that you want. And that’s okay”. Just cos one thinks his team didn’t play that well and still won but might not escape another day with such display especially against a better opponent doesn’t make them believe things are gloomy. I love my team and am happy they won but I wish they don’t play like this in this next match…. where is the gloom there?

    • Jim
      December 2, 2014

      Nothing wrong with that to my view. I always sit down ready ( hoping ? ) for the fluid performance. Is there not a temptation though, which I also sometimes fall into, where we expect our team to turn up and steamroller the opposition no matter who or where ? Maybe a hard fought narrow win away is all we are capable of at times throughout the season, especially given the way the opposition play and their quality added to our continued CL participation.

      We have steadied our CL position, seen off Sevilla and Valencia, two potential banana skins and Messi is back among the goals. Suarez is just on the edge of getting his goal scoring going and I’m feeling good about the forthcoming PSG match. That’s maybe enough for just now and the fluid stuff will come later in the season when it’ll matter more.

      Much more worrying for me is that having seen Revista highlights last night RM are still getting oodles of space to run about in. Not sure what other teams are thinking about with them. It’s actually pretty disrespectful to them, when you think about it. 🙂

    • December 2, 2014

      Apologies if I misconstrued something, Tata2, but was reacting to the “next time if we play like this, we might not be so lucky,” and interpreting it, however correctly or not, as a hint of gloom. Your explanation makes your view clear. Thanks.

  18. Tata2
    December 2, 2014

    About the ballon d’or. Di maria was EE’s best player last season, not to also forget that benzema is just Madrid’s striker on paper and Rinaldo is actually the main striker with benzema playing more of a supportive role. If he wins it then it will be because of the million goals he in the champs league and the la liga. Its unfortunate that the ballon d”or now is about who scored the highest goals and that’s why players like Xavi and Iniesta couldn’t and can’t win it.

    • agar2515
      December 2, 2014

      Hear, hear and kudos to Peter and Kevin for their two cents as well, such a joke that this has become a default OffensivePOTY award and that CR is going to win it again with just numbers. Messi needs to lead FCB and Arg to glory by himself, if CR falters no one cares, he has his goal tallies

      • Valdemar II
        December 2, 2014

        Has he even outscored Messi, adjusted for penalties? I was under the impression that the race was pretty close, and since M*drid broke the world record for penalties per game earlier this season that tally is quite bloated.

      • December 2, 2014

        Fir me, if Neuer doesn’t win BdO, the award is the farce that we already know it to be.

        He won the World Cup as pretty much best player on his team. Decisive there as well as a period of sustained excellence at one of the best club sides in the world, and a league winner.

        Also plays his position in a unique, stylish way that advances the sweeper keeper template established by the likes of Valdes. Brilliant all around.

        People argue about Messi vs Ronaldo, but the BdO is about excellence, which has only of late come to be defined by goals. That, for me, is a limiting standard.

      • georgjorge
        December 2, 2014

        I tend to agree on Neuer as my candidate, if only because Messi was far from his best for most of this calendar year. An in-form Messi would have easily deserved the Ballon, but a Messi walking instead of running (for whatever reasons) and seemingly disinterested in the game half of the time (again, for whatever reasons) for me wasn’t good enough to win it this time. And as Peter described in detail above, Ronaldo didn’t do enough on his own as well.

        The Messi of this season, however…

      • adwivedi
        December 4, 2014

        Kxevin i think BdO is a very subjective award and who deserves it is left to the individual voters. Also all the clubs involved are massive and lobbying to get their points across to these voters.. even neur has made comments belittling ronaldo’s innerwear endorsements which i don’t think is very classy…

        Also if neur deserves this award predominantly because of his world cup performances he should have been awarded Golden Ball…

        BdO is for a full year of performance and i think all three have a reason to be there and win it. Neur is not the only deserving candidate.

      • December 2, 2014

        Someone asked for a comparison of penalties:

        In La Liga Cristiano Ronaldo scored 31 goals, of which 6 were penalties.
        In CdR he scored 3 goals, of which 2 penalties.
        In Champions League he scored 17 goals, of which 2 were penalties.
        For Portugal in the World Cup he scored one goal.

        Messi in La Liga scored 28 goals, of which 6 were penalties.
        In CdR he scored 5 goals, none penalties.
        In Champions League he scored 8 goals, two of which penalties.
        For Argentina he scored 4 goals and made one assist, and scored the first penalty in the semi-final shoot-out vs Holland.

        The result in official competitions for the 13-14 season is 52 goals of which 10 penalties for Ronaldo,
        45 goals of which 8 penalties.

        In this season Messi has scored 10 in La Liga(none of them penalties, because he missed one) and seven in the Champions League(none of them penalties).

        Cristiano Ronaldo has scored 20 goals in La Liga, 6 of which penalties, and 4 goals in the Champions League, 1 of which penalty (he was given a second one after missing the first.), as well as 2 goals against Sevilla in the UEFA Supercup.

        Totals so far Liga and Champions:
        Messi 17 goals, 0 from penalties
        Cristiano Ronaldo 24 goals, 7 from penalties.

      • Valdemar II
        December 2, 2014

        Thanks Peter. Where do you find these stats? I just did a quick check on whoscored and squawka, but couldn’t find an accessible penalty tally. I want to check the results for this calendar year.

      • December 2, 2014

        Wikipedia.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013%E2%80%9314_FC_Barcelona_season#Matches

        Check the info by clicking show and you will be able to see most info for the Liga matches. Rinse and repeat for CdR and Champions, then the same for Real Madrid.

        Fun stat: In this La Liga(13 matches) and Champions(5 games) seasons Cristiano Ronaldo has already shot the same number of penalties that he shot over the whole last season. Only about 1/3 of La Liga and just over 40% of the Champions League have passed. Let that one sink in.

        Real Madrid have as of this moment been given more penalties in favor(6) than Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico together.

        Here’s the complete La Liga list:
        *resultados.as.com/resultados/futbol/primera/2014_2015/ranking/equipos/penaltis_favor/

    • Rami
      December 2, 2014

      I just want to make it clear at first, For me personally it’s hard to think of anything that gives me more satisfaction than watching a RM player lose a trophy or an award, And specially cristiano, The euphoria is almost unmatched.

      But neuer winning the award will just be plain wrong, And it’ll leave the same bad taste in the mouth as it did to us with cannavaro.

      Not trying to undermine neuer in anyway, A phenomenal GK, But he was part of a dominant team both domestically and internationally, A part of an already powerful and almost perfect assemble, So trying to gauge him by winning an X or Y trophy with his teams doesn’t make sense, I mean for god sake messi was just 3 minutes away from possibly winning the world cup!, Should a span of 3 minutes get to decided the winner of ballon d’or, That’ll be too absurd for my taste.

      The jobs of a GK and a forwarder couldn’t be anymore different, Making the task of finding a reliable way to compare the two extremely difficult and likely to be unreliable, But one way to compare without having to resorting to numbers or make it a stat contest, Is to measure the gap between them and their fellow players in the same position they play in, And as much as high neuer is regarded, The gap between him and the rest of GKs is a tiny amount compared to the colossal gap between messi and ronaldo to the other world class forwarders.

      Look at Courtois performances with ateletico, Navas with levante and costa rica, If they happened to be Germans, Will neuer still be a ‘duh!’ choice for the ballon…….I rest my case.

      As much as it shocks me to say this, I’d rather see cristiano win than someone like neuer, And i can’t convey enough how much i despise ronaldo, Yet with that, At least this individual trophy will still hold some credibility for me, So the occasions where messi won it or any of our players win it in the future will still hold some value, Giving it to neuer means this award has as much value as a garbage can.

      • December 2, 2014

        But what is wrong with Neuer? People tend to think of these kinds of awards as the exclusive province of offensive players, but I disagree with that notion. There are other bits of gilded footwear that handle mere goalscoring.

        If the BdO is about excellence, and excellence as regards a player helping his team achieve its goals, a keeper or defender is every bit as valid as an attacker.

        The year that Cannavaro won, Buffon was second. Given their club careers and what they did for Italy in the World Cup, that made perfect sense. Just as valid an argument can be made for Neuer as Messi or Ronaldo. It isn’t about comparable jobs, but rather individual excellence and its effect on the whole.

        Courtois is good, but he isn’t Neuer. Nor are any of the keeper candidates that you suggest, nor did their teams go as far in the World Cup. Atleti won the Liga with Courtois, but a shot-stopping keeper, for me, doesn’t have the same level of individual play and potential dominance that makes a sweeper keeper like Neuer so exceptional. In the Roma Champions League match, Neuer had more passes than SIX of the Roma outfield players. That’s a bonkers stat for a keeper.

        And make no mistake, Neuer is every bit as exceptional a player in his own context as Messi and Ronaldo. Those three players are considered the best in the world at their position. And just because Neuer keeps goals out rather than knocking them in should in no way affect his candidacy.

      • Rami
        December 2, 2014

        Neuer in my view is simply a poster boy of a campaign that stems from a false notion, That the winner has a world cup winner, A phrase you keep hearing, And gets shoved own our throats, Without a proper explanation as to why, And if hypothetically we went along this notion, Who will naturally be picked for the front cover, That’ll be neuer or lahm.

        An honest question kevin and please tell me, In what way does a single game knockout tournament held once every four years is in any way superior or ‘special’ in evaluating and judging any player compared to a tournament like the CL that has double the amount of games, Or your domestic league that has 38 games, Both of which are held yearly!, The answer is….nothing.
        Statistically and logically the world cup is one of the least reliable tournaments you can find.

        Wouldn’t it make much much more sense to say that someone from atletico should win, Not only they were seconds away from winning the CL, But took away the la liga title from the two best teams in the world, And this notion will be based on the performances of over 50 games, Not 7, And i’ll nominate Courtois or gabi to be on the front cover of such a campaign.

        Bayern steam rolled bundesliga and won it by the 27th game, And they still would’ve won it comfortably even if Oier was their GK, They got knocked out by RM with a 5-0 aggregate, Argentina failed to get a single shot against neuer, And watched brazil get squashed without having to do anything, The only times where neuer was forced to make a couple of decent saves was against France and algeria, Other than that it was a holiday.

        Neuer overall and generally speaking is the best GK in the world, In the same way messi is generally regarded the best forwarder, But in terms of performances in 2014 ronaldo outperformed him, And courtois and navas were just as good of a performers if not better in my opinion that neuer in 2014.

        A false notion, That generates a false a campaign and hype doesn’t make neuer a deserved winner in my book, But that’s just my opinion.

      • December 2, 2014

        Because the World Cup comes once every four years. With that comes immense pressure, and not every athlete deals well with that pressure. It’s extraordinary when an athlete does. That elevates it for me.

        I, frankly, have no idea why Messi is on that shortlist. He was injured for 8-10 weeks of last season, walking around aimlessly for much of it as well. Was he better than a lot of people? Yep. But judged to his standard? Nope. Not all that hot.

        Ronaldo scored bags of goals, but if you believe that an athlete’s reputation is forged in the crucible of pressure, Ronaldo failed the World Cup test which, like it or not, is part of the voting parameter for many a voter I rather imagine.

        But because Messi and Ronaldo score bags and bags of goals, they are automatic finalists, and will be as long as they keep scoring bags and bags of goals. But it is s parameter that excludes excellence from players in other positions, such as keeper.

      • Jim
        December 2, 2014

        I’m not convinced by the World Cup idea either. George Best, for me the top player in the world for at least a couple of years never played in a World Cup. Would that have ruled him out ?

    • kosby
      December 2, 2014

      That was brilliant ! so inspirational..thanks for posting this !

  19. December 2, 2014

    Surgeon reports that the Vermaelen operation went very well, and he will be out for 3-4 months, then good as new … or something.

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