Barça 5, Espanyol 1, aka “The aesthetics of results”

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When people snark and caterwaul about the Liga talent gap, today’s Catalan derby serves as an excellent illustration.

More than a tale of two halves, it was as stark a depiction of haves vs have nots as you will ever see.

It’s a fairly easy thing to summarize this match, and the truth lies in that summation: Espanyol played a perfect half of football, while Barça was far from perfect. In the second half Barça raised its level, rendering what Espanyol did irrelevant. 5-1. Done.

Is it really as simple as it seems from that stark paragraph? Well, yes.

The brilliance dilemma

It’s worth repeating that Barça has an XI that is like if a kid found the FIFA ’15 unlimited budget cheat code and assembled a team. It’s a starting group that includes not only the best player to ever play the game, but the best 9 in the game right now and a winger in Neymar who is taking immense strides to becoming one of Those players. And those players are brilliant. They have gifts of passing and associative play, but they can also, at times, just decide to do something jaw-dropping.

So there was Espanyol, having capitalized on a stupid Busquets error to find itself up (deservedly, it should be said) 0-1, less than a minute from the break. They could be forgiven for thinking, “Take this into the locker room, guzzle some energy drink, and let’s DO this.”

Then in a bizarre, almost unfair sequence of events, Jordi Alba turned his marker inside out then nutmegged him, took the return ball from Suarez and pinged it to Xavi who slid it to Messi, who unleashed a strike that kinda giggled at the laws of physics. It was 1-1, courtesy of one of those moments that make supporters realize why teams spend all that money on players who can decide, seemingly on a whim, to be unstoppable.

The strike was so pure and crazy, there was a pause before I cheered. I didn’t believe it had gone in. Logically, it couldn’t. There were at least 5 Espanyol defenders and a giant banana of a keeper in the way, so … no. But as it nestled into the far corner, it was clear, and remarkable. It was pure. And there was no shame in it, because individual brilliance isn’t a crutch. It’s more like at atomic bomb that can destroy hopes and render game plans irrelevant. Recall Henry’s submarine header equalizer against Lyon in Champions League, or that crazy Eto’o toe poke goal against United in the Champions League final. Great players do what they do, and it’s crucial that a great team have great players like that.

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The shame of it if you’re an Espanyol supporter, is that the Liga is structured in a way that really allows only two teams to be able to reliably afford players of that sort, the magic makers.

Many noted on Twitter that it was unfortunate that Barça had to be bailed out by a moment of Messi magic. But that assertion means that, of necessity, it’s necessary to ignore the beautiful teamwork that went into setting up the chance. The ball pinged around in a way that left Espanyol all but helpless, unable to do much except watch as that crazy curler of a shot slid its way home.

And that glorious moment was the difference in that match, as it often is when an underdog is forced to have a moment of doubt. Long-term tennis devotees will recall that memorable Wimbledon match when Jana Novotna was playing Steffi Graf, who at that time was a juggernaut, unbeatable and unplayable. Novotna was up 4-1 in the decisive third set, serving at 40-30 for a 5-1 lead … and she double-faulted. There was that doubt, that little lapse that allowed the universe to set itself right. Novotna went on to lose the set 6-4 and the match. It is still the most historic collapse in tennis.

Espanyol didn’t cave in like that, but once that Messi goal nestled home, order was restored. Enrique no doubt blistered some ears and called players’ ancestry into question but a lot of the work was done by that bit of teamwork, capped off by the Messi wonder strike. The Espanyol players’ faces looked stunned as the players trudged into the locker room. “We did absolutely everything right, and this happened.”

That one goal made the second half a formality, as Espanyol never had a chance. The alert, hyperactive (and absolutely wonderful) Eric let Pique loose for a header. Another Messi wonder strike tallied. Pedro got behind a defense that was suddenly seeing threats from all angles, then Messi basically ran onto a hat trick-making third goal. It was smiles, control, 78% possession and seeming ease.

Was it the best Barça that we have seen, even in this season? No. Was there much to celebrate in this performance that made this culer giddy right down to his toes? Absolutely.

It wasn’t a manita with 100% possession but there are elements of a team coming together that are clear to see, if you choose to look. Jordi Alba is becoming a left-sided Alves. There were passages of beautiful play, pretty triangles and building play from the back in a stayle reminiscent of … dare we admit it … The Barça Way. The team got an opponent down and stepped on their throats, again finding many different ways to score goals. Espanyol wasn’t parked, but was defending aggressively and intelligently, but Barça broke them. In the first half I observed that only one team was working really hard, but it still went into the break even. Enrique said that Messi goal did something to Espanyol, and helped to decide the match.

espney

A moment that typified the match and the way the team and its best player approached things in the second half happened in the 87th minute. Messi lost a ball, hopped on his horse, sprinted and dove into a challenge to recover it. In the 87th minute, with a 5-1 lead, its best player didn’t even want to lose a ball. In a week during which England great Paul Scholes said that Barça looked “bored,” and a shadow of its former selves, that kind of effort, work that was happening all over the pitch, was exciting.

Reasons for concern

In every match, after every win, there are always reasons for concern, and this one was no exception. The conceded goal reminds us of how crucial possession is for this Barça team, a group that now as it was then, is crap without the ball.

Luis Suarez is showing signs of coming around, even as he also shows signs that he still isn’t with the program.

It is still too easy to score a goal if a team gets a break on our back line, even though that fact makes Barça no different than any other team in world football.

Messidependencia is as acute as it has ever been. Assuredly every team should rely on its best player, but not to the extent that Barça is Messi. It remains to be seen whether the team is one wrong foot plant away from becoming a psychologically hollow shell.

Barça is susceptible to being punched in the face, as last season a fist of an Atleti side put paid to Liga and Champions League hopes. This season, a fist of a Malaga side got a result. A fist of a Valencia side almost got a result and a fist of en Espanyol side made lives hell for 44 minutes.

With these areas of concern come a quandary, as we balance the joy of an easy, convincing win over a difficult opponent with not wanting to let results seduce us into thinking that everything is just fine and dandy.

The job of a team

It’s also worth asking what is the job of a football team, as we examine yet another win by this talented group of footballers. Is it to win games, win championships, thrill supporters, or all of the above. It’s easy to lay out concerns, even in the wake of a 5-1 pasting of a hard-fighting rival, a win that boasted some 78% possession and no credible threats on the Barça goal in the entire second half (and most of the first, really). But should those concerns leaven the joy of the result, allowing supporters to let some gloom seep into a happy, happy day. And what of the aggregate? Was Tata Martino a remarkable coach who got an exhausted, damaged, mess of a team withing a few goals of being in for the Treble, or a failure who didn’t win a championship?

What is a team supposed to do? If Barça wins no silver this season, is it a wasted season, or are we not to examine the moments of unfettered joy such as last week’s late, late show, or seeing today a team that is coming together slowly but surely and be happy for those moments.

It’s an interesting way to think about a team’s accomplishments. For big clubs, championships are the expectation. That’s why they have the big players and the big money. But is enjoying wins and results selling that expectation short?

It’s easy to wonder, even as it is difficult to conceive, how supporters of other teams feel, teams who are thrilled to get into European play, never mind dissolving into spasms of frustrated failure when a championship doesn’t come. Does their football team have a different job than that of a big club? Does “Just win, baby,” become “Just do okay?” That perfect game, that remarkable, elusive thing, is like a unicorn. It’s art, really, because it’s subject to subjectivity outside of the objective reality of the statistical chronicling of the match.

The team won, but did it win in the right way, some wonder. A goal scored from a long diagonal pass to a forward counts as a goal on the scoresheet, but sits as an aesthetic sin for many as a past playing template becomes an absolute, unwavering standard. It’s failure in success.

In baseball, there is a perfect game, in which a pitcher allows no hits or players on base. No runs, no walks, no nothing. Is a perfect game in which an outfielder makes a couple of amazing solo plays to deny the opponent a baserunner still a perfect game in every parameter, or is it flawed because the pitcher had to rely on his teammates to achieve that excellence.

Lots of questions, but there is a lot to think about as we watch this new Barça come together, seeking rewards in continued overall excellence.

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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.

96 Comments

  1. December 7, 2014

    In the aftermath of the match I saw some tweets, and comments here about the fact that Mathieu did not play, and Mascherano did play, as CB for 83 minutes.

    Here is why at a guess(educated one):

    Espanyol had scored only two goals from headers in 13 games, one of which was against Sevilla and involved a totally uncovered Espanyol player; the second was against Malaga from a corner by Stuani, who started on the bench today. Only one other Espanyol striker is a tall guy(the one who fouled Busquets for the Perico goal), and he’s a bit shorter than Pique.

    My point is that what Luis Enrique needed as a partner for Pique(BTW, four consecutive matches Pique as a starter) not another tall defender, but one with vision, tenacity, pace, physicality and leadership. Or simply, Smasch.

    A lot of culers don’t realize that Luis Enrique considers Mascherano very, very precious and important. Mascherano can play as a DM and a defender, often at the same time in the same match. Busquets cannot. Mascherano at CB allows Luis Enrique to play Busquets in the pivote spot and still have a pint-sized ogre of a DM coming from the back row to intercept balls, tackle strikers in their own half and nip counters in the bud.

    Mathieu’s height will be welcome against PSG, but if he had played today, the match against PSG would be his third in less than a week. There is no reason to exhaust the players if it can be helped.

    • Jim
      December 7, 2014

      I hear what you’re saying, Peter, but for me the bigger need is to get some playing time together for Pique and Mathieu. I would say Mathieu exhibits most if not all of the qualities you describe. If playing Mathieu last midweek was some kind of punishment which then leads to him sitting out today then I’m not sure of the benefit. If he is harbouring thoughts of Masche at CB for midweek then as we say over here the ba’s oan the slates !

      One bright point (among many) I thought was some of LE’s replies at his presser. Finally, lightening up with the press. That’s a good sign. You’re on a loser falling out with them.

      • December 7, 2014

        That line of thought hinges on the assumption that Mathieu played against Huesca as a punishment by Luis Enrique. Honestly, I haven’t heard of anything even remotely resembling such a rumour, so I’m chalking it to British Commentators using mouth noises to fill up moments when they don’t know what to say.

        When you check the stats, it turns out that all defenders have played, and quite a bit so far in the season.
        Mathieu has played 978 minutes in La Liga, 90 minutes in the Champions and 64 minutes in CdR, for a total of 1132 minutes
        Pique has played 765 minutes in La Liga and 270 in Champions, a total of 1035 min, while being “ostracised” by Lucho.
        Bartra has played 342 minutes in La Liga, 360 in Champions and 90 in CdR. 792 minutes for the third CB of the team.
        Mascherano has 808 in La Liga and 360 in Champions, for a total of 1168 minutes so far, between CB and DM spots.

        Pretty even rotation considering Bartra is the youngest and least experienced defender of all. So yes, I’m not really worried.

        Don’t worry about the press. Like Tata said at one point, there is a need of the weekly crisis in and around Barcelona.

  2. December 7, 2014

    Kxevin, I had a very similar reaction to his first goal. It’s like the brain rejects the message from the eyes and demands a second confirmation. And then a third.

    It is understandable. This is a description of what happened:

    “Messi launched a ten-inch ball trough a 20-inch shrinking tunnel formed by five opposing players trying to block the shot, on a trajectory that if bound by the laws of gravity would hit a spectator three feet off the left goalpost, the ball evaded the 1.9m tall keeper’s frantic lounge and went in. Nothing but net. Nothing but net.”

    How does a human brain process that in a fraction of a second?

    How does a human brain manage to see, plan and execute THAT in a fraction of a fraction of a second?

    • December 8, 2014

      I loved Kevin’s description of the goal, because it’s exactly what happened to me, I didn’t realize it had gone in until a fraction later than usual.

      I also loved how Messi burst past three players to get into the box. It was like having the old Messi back. Amazing.

  3. agar2515
    December 7, 2014

    With how much we all recognize and talk about social media moods, this upcoming game against Paris is a really crucial fixture
    . If we win we Control our destiny to top the group, lose and Paris is firmly in control for the top seed.
    More than that though, think of the reactions.
    When was the last time we failed to top a champions league group?
    Lucho would have failed in 3/3 “big tests” this year.
    The next 3 fixtures,no matter the result will probably be washed over because of the caliber of opponent (getafe, Huesca, Cordova) and we would potentially have to wait until mid January and AMadrid to see the fervor quelled…

    • December 7, 2014

      It’s the final match. Win and Barcelona finishes first. Lose or draw and Barcelona finishes second.
      It’s a binary choice.

      On the other hand, I’m quite sure that even a victory by Barcelona will lift the mood for about two to three days. Afterwards it would be “Meh, victory against the second team in France. Wait until (fill the blank) comes!!” to last us for quite a while.

  4. agar2515
    December 7, 2014

    I’m not saying these are my own thoughts, but I think this will be the general reaction should we lose to PSG. Heck, I don’t even go on twitter anymore, and I do appreciate how this space has definitely fostered and improved respecting back-and-forth discussion, especially when it comes to dissenting/differing opinions .

  5. luisthebeast
    December 7, 2014

    I believe we will beat Psg but i have no problem if we dont.I dont fear any team.With hard work and unity this team can do anything.

  6. Chiu
    December 7, 2014

    I really enjoy the match, so entertaining from our team

    – I love messi curvy shot for the 1st goal

    – I love neymar stepover in the build-up of the 2nd goal. Remind me about some of Ronnie magic move

    – I love seeing the celebration of Suarez jumping on Pique’s back

    – I love Alba long range assist for Pedro goal

    – I love messi turning and twisting to break the esp defense in the build up the 5th goal

    – I like seeing Mascherano with clean shaved head

    Hope we could see another great performance against PSG. Visca Barca. Thank you for the win last night.

  7. lala10
    December 8, 2014

    our best performance so far. It does not matter that it was only Espanyol. It has also been Ameria, Celta before and not impressive.

    It was not perfect and thats key. The full integration of Suarez should bring more rewards. His associative play needs to be honed and encouraged. He has to drop a little bit deeper sometimes and either allow Messi or Suarez to temporarily move into the advanced positions.

    Also Dani’s flank need a rethink. Time and time again rivals target it as the gateway to Barca’s goal. Acres and acres of space are usually vacant.

  8. barca96
    December 8, 2014

    I had to look back at Kroos’ goal to see which had more curve. Messi’s goal is slightly nicer and more difficult to execute.

    I loved the way Pedro scored agaisnt Huesca. It reminded me the ol Pedro. He pulls the trigger very quickly and did the same last night. Great news!

    • Obii
      December 8, 2014

      What I loved about the Pedro goal was the first touch. That was sublime.

  9. December 8, 2014

    I guess Masche should be among the first three players on LE’s team sheet. He is a super luxury player for us,right now. Enlighten me please, if there is any other player in world football today who can be shifted between CB and DM any time.

    Messi had a play makers hattrick. Almost everything about our attack is now dependant on him. All three goals were special in some ways, however the first, as you say Kevin, was unbelievable.

    It is difficult to analyze what kind of fan, one is. Watching us playing upto the 44th minute, any fan should have been screaming and you could not fault any fan to be over the moon for the second half display.

  10. lala10
    December 8, 2014

    first goal was pure. First thought for me was no way that ball ends up in the net without a deflection. I had to see it multiple times to believe that it followed that trajectory naturally.

    Marvellous goal and not to demean any other goals or start anything but the quality of yesterday’s goal had my memory trying to order his other goals in terms of beauty. Try though i might the Milan comeback goal flashes in my head constantly. I could watch that goal a million times.

    To think the goals were an icing on top of the effort. Serve us this football almost consistently and trophies and adulation should not be far off.

  11. senyera7
    December 8, 2014

    I was watching the game with two friends of mine; both staunch BPL fanboys ( one a Manchester United fan and the other an Arsenal fan). Espanyol were playing a brilliant first half of football and the two of them were rather mocking me about how Barca have ‘fallen’. When Messi’s first goal went in, their expressions were beautiful to behold. Shock, pure and total awe. That kind of goal executed with that kind of speed and precision. No other player could do that. Grande Lio!

    Aside from that, Lucho’s comments about how the timing of the first goal changed things are spot on. That goal doesn’t go in, and we might have been looking at a hapless Celta-style defeat. It coming just before half-time also shook things up. As Kxevin mentioned, Espanyol were just about preparing to go into halftime, refuel mentally, and prepare for another tight, organised half. More than anything else, that goal destroyed their confidence and they went from “hey we can do this” to “oh god this is Barca, we’re doomed”

    Regardless, I believe if we maintain our 2nd half level vs PSG, we should be able to take the 3 points( they’ve been really poor of late tbh). Onwards!

    • December 8, 2014

      They were on an even worse stretch of form before our first CL encounter. Either way it will be an interesting test of strength and a win against a CL contender will go some way to instill confidence in people’s hearts.

      • December 8, 2014

        If all that people got from that goal was the Messi shot, they should watch it again.

        As for instilling confidence, I am giving increasingly less of a damn what anyone thinks about Barça. Those who want to see doom will find it even if the team lays a manita on PSG, saying “French league, and they aren’t even leading a weak Ligue 1. Wait until Bayern or the next Classic, or whatever Champions League knockout opponent rears its unbeatable, world-conquering head.”

        If people don’t already have confidence in this club after what it has done this season to date, they probably aren’t going to.

  12. Zubs
    December 8, 2014

    to begin with, can I just say, I would turn gay for Masche if he even looked at me. I mean, i love the guy. Dude never puts a foot wrong. If he grew by 6 inches, he would be considered the best defensive player in the world. The challenges and recovery work he did yesterday was consistently awesome.

    As for the match. I missed the first 35minuets of the first half before Leo scored an inredible goal. The 2nd half was fun. Thought we played well. Maybe because i was watching it ;D
    Neymar worked hard, Alba played well again (if onyl he could improve his finishing) Rakitic quietly bossed it and Iniesta was decetn enough. Pedro, a player im not very fond of these days, put in a wonderful cameo. But i feel this might be his new role rather then a starter.

    Lucho traditionally always starts slow before ‘exploding’ in the second half. So relying on individual talent isn’t concerning me that much atm as we’re not in the ‘business end’ yet. Hopefully, we’ll function more as a team come the 2nd half.

    NP: Ronaldinho was arguably the reason i started supporting Barcelona so i’m sort of biased for Neymar because they’re both Brazilian etc. But yesterday was a joy to watch when he pulled the skills off. First, it was the step overs which left the defender for dead before he passed it to suarez who then passed to Messi for his 2nd Goal.
    Even better was the skills at the end with Iniesta. I mean, that was just pure filth. I needed a cold shower after he left a defener eating dirt.

    • Jim
      December 8, 2014

      Ok, Scrooge hat firmly ensconced on head here we go – and this is only ‘cos things are getting silly again. Espanyol had two maybe three great chances from breakaways in the first half; the goal, another decent breakaway and another clean through later, all in the first half. If you have a recording of the game power it up and have a look.

      The goal. Before looking at the play itself ask yourself if your LB is on his backside close to the opponent’s corner flag where you would hope your left sided CB would be. Now watch the play. They recover the ball and hit a hopeful ball – which bounces in their half ! – and takes out Masche. LUckily, the much maligned Busi is covering for him. Let’s leave aside why he is there and Busi is doing his work to look at what happens next. Masche has been marking his guy closely and is right beside him when Busi controls the ball. In years to come they may well ask what happened next. Well, we know the Busi part and not in any sense letting him off the hook here but watch Masche and his man. Masche completely ignores him and leaves him whereupon the guy moves up to put extra pressure on Busi and leaves Masche for dead. By this stage Masche is TEN yards off him and strolling. A simple ball into their half and already Pique is the sole defender with two attackers running at him. He stalls while Masche realising the error of his ways starts sprinting and once he gets back Pique can tackle but by this time the guy is inside the penalty area and any challenge has to be spot on or its a red. I’m gonna be hard on Pique here and say he offers the guy the chance to go right too much resulting in his body being the wrong way when he cuts inside him but that’s not major. Any defender’s job there is to show him that way so fair play to the forward. However, be in no doubt. It was the man Masche was marking (wrongly imo) who he left who ends up scoring the goal.

      Now fast forward to their next break on 27 minutes. First of all Busi and Rakitic show no pace whatsoever ( just watch Rakitic give up the chase on the man with the ball at the start of the move – I’m gonna say he already has previous on this ). Watch Masche as he back peddles all the way back letting the guy carry the ball to within ten yards of our penalty box. Eventually it is Pique who sees the danger and has to leave his man to come across to prevent the guy getting into the box. You can’t let a guy run forty yards unchecked. Alba is back by this time and it is Masche’s job to step up and stop the guy with the ball.

      Now move forward to 36th minute to see Masche showing how it is meant to work. A flick on could cause trouble for Pique but Masche is in perfect position to sweep up, because his starting position is correct ( ie. Somewhere in the rough proximity of the defence !)

      However, that’s the end of the good news. Now just before minute 41. Ball comes out of their defence and Masche is in good position covering his man. Again, at this point Pique is the sole defender back. I could weep. Masche clatters into the back of him rather than stalling him and the ball bounces into the path of an attacker and they’re off to the races on our keeper again. Pique has to leave his side to come across to block their path and its slipped to the extra man on the other side. Should have been a goal.

      Now I know Masche does a lot of things right as well and he certainly seems to be one of LE’s go to players but he does far too many things wrong that as I said in a (many?) previous post(s) cost us big time. No, he wasn’t the only culprit in any of those but he played a big part in them, something which somehow is never noticed whereas all you have to do is look. Our defence hasn’t looked as shambolic as in the first half in ages. We were getting somewhere then LE decides to put Masche who is in no way suited temperamentally to that position back in and this is what happens. He doesn’t realise that when he is playing CB there are eight already in the attack and just him and Pique back. They cannot be essential to an attack.

      Just to reiterate I have no problem with him playing his best position but please keep him away from the defence. I’m actually annoyed at myself now. This was a great display / result. I was hoping to talk about that but the Masche talk is getting out of hand again.

      • Rami
        December 8, 2014

        Well jim, I don’t want to sound hostile, Cause i’m not, But your examples are skewed, Cherry picked, And looked at through a very tinted glasses.

        Concerning their goal, Masch was correctly marking his player, And had no reason to rush into cover because at 12:36 (and look closely), He is clearly seeing that busi has a CLEAR line to pass to either bravo or pique, But for some unfathomable reason busi decided to over complicate things and attempt to dribble, which ultimately failed, Any other day busi would’ve done the right call and that is someone thing you expect from a player of his caliber, The only reason that will have made maschi running to cover is if had the ability to see the future.

        As for your second example, Again look closely at 27:28, Maschi is being forced to cover BOTH the player in front of him and the espanyol player to his left (After he saw alba is failing to catch up), Attempting to lunge to onto the ball holder will be a very risky move as he with a bit of skill can pass to his team mate for an open shot at the goal, Masch did the right thing, I could argue even pique made the right call.

        Your remarks about what happened in near minute 41, Is just nitpicking, He did this successfully numerous times against espanyol, In fact he does this many times in almost every match with great rates of success, Pointing your fingers on the few times it doesn’t go well is cherry picking, If pique or Mathieu had the job of pressuring the ball holder high up the pitch, How many minutes will pass until they fail to do so and mess it up?.

        If i decided to put on my tinted glasses and pay close attention to every little decision pique, bartra and Mathieu make, The same way you do it with Javier, I could write essays, It’s just not the right way to evaluate anyone.
        Maschi may not be perfect, But he is the most consistent defender we have, And the amount minutes he’s been given over the years even until this very day, Is justified, And earned.

      • Jim
        December 8, 2014

        No problem, Rami. It’s much more fun discussing something than writing a monologue. Just a few questions.
        The goal. Leaving aside the first bit and picking up your point, what was his job when he sees the man he was marking run away from him to make it two onto one ? Was it to assume everything would be fine and stand still ? If you think so, okay but football doesn’t work that way. As a defender you cover for the worst eventuality just in case. It wasn’t the man on Busi who did the damage. Busi was certainly fouled but it was Masche’s man who had the foresight that Masche didn’t who benefitted. You make my point however that it happened because he was imagining what might happen. Defenders don’t think that way.

        In a way I agree with your start on the second example. It was the right decision to cover for Alba until such time as Alba was back within reach. Then he should have advanced to the ball which he could do while cutting off the best angle to the man. If Pique hadn’t come across who was stopping the ball carrier going right throughout?

        For the 41st moment incident if you’re a regular reader you’ll certainly know that this isn’t the first time I’ve called Masche out for clattering into someone from the back when staying on his feet would have solved the problem. Don’t care if it works a hundred times because staying on your feet with the man with his back to you receiving a slow lob ball isn’t a dangerous situation and would work 100%. Masche has been at least partly causing goals for years doing this. I think this is my main gripe with the way some regard him. He makes headline tackles which aren’t always necessary but kills us in quieter ways that few spot.

        Fact remains that no matter how I look at it, specs or not, Masche’s man scored the first, he forced Pique to come across to prevent the guy entering the penalty area unopposed for the second and took himself out of the game needlessly on the third. All could have led to goals. You can’t have avoided noticing the difference this game from the previous ones where Pique and Mathieu have played. Again, I’m not against him playing at DM where recklessness matters less and ball winning skills are more appropriate.

      • Jim
        December 8, 2014

        Thanks.

  13. December 8, 2014

    Here is an interesting video from Allas, who is AllasFCB in this space:

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2c2kg7_barca-gols-espanyol_sport

    Now here’s a piece about Messi on the right and its tactical effects:

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2292331-lionel-messi-return-to-right-wing-bolsters-barcelonas-goal-count

    Both are interesting because when you look at the Allas video, despite people saying “Enrique is stupid for putting Messi on the right, he did all of his damage from the center,” it is worth noting that in both non-counter goals, he starts from the right.

    In the first, he gradually pinches in, finding himself unmarked and in space. It’s worth asking whether the same would have happened had he been hanging out centrally, where all the defenders were.

    The counter goal was just capitalizing on chaos, but spotlights a Messi trait we have been seeing more and more of lately, which is finding space not by outrunning everyone, but by trailing the play to capitalize on the ball focus.

    Note that Messi also starts right on the hat trick completer, where he starts right and slides in, again finding himself with running space.

    There is this increasingly common, increasingly pervasive notion that Enrique is some sort of tactical idiot, and that the team is having success in spite of him. But in looking at the little things, from the increased Alba role as he starts to activate the left side by making Alba the new Alves (in preparation for a more defensive approach to RB?), etc, I find the notion that Enrique doesn’t know what he is doing worth an intellectual challenge.

    • Benj
      December 9, 2014

      The way I see it, from a Sunday leaguer’s point of view, who would you rather Messi be up against? Marcelo/Pepe or Pepe/Ramos? Would you rather he be put in a position where he has to choose left foot/right foot or put him in a position where his preferred foot is usually the better choice? would you rather he receive the ball in vertical passes against the centrebacks, or that he has more movement in behind the lines? I’m only presenting a very basic tactical knowledge here (cos thats alls I got) but personally I like seeing Messi on the right… and wearing number 19… but we can’t have all our wishes. Plus it opens up the middle for Suarez 🙂

  14. lala10
    December 8, 2014

    Starting from the right for Messi is theoretically not optimum for Messi and the team. The main reason is because it reduces Messi’s influence because he is stationed on the right. Stationing him in the centre makes him more involves. More touches means more influence.

    In practice though Messi drifts inside looking for those spaces. Unlike Ronaldo he looks to combine more. The concern though is somehow jusitified. LE has hinted at the difficulties of getting Messi involved. The reason Messi has been put on the right is because on the few occassions Suarez was put there Barca have not convinced. Immediately after the switch normal service seemed to resume.

    As it stands things are not bad. Messi starts where of necessity he has to. The team’s duty is to find him as much as is possible and to integrate the forward and overall team play for the good of the team

    • December 8, 2014

      The piece linked article and video, taken together, are simply an interesting counter contention to the ironclad, and increasingly dogmatic view that Messi on the right isn’t good.

      These pieces, as a tandem, also form a view that asks the question, “Good for what?” Enrique seems to have taken a wholistic view of the team’s attack, which is refreshing, because the point isn’t and shouldn’t be any single player, and that includes Messi. We can’t want Messi to touch the ball as much as possible, be as influential as possible, then claim that the attack is one-dimensional. The two are diametrically opposed.

      Suarez is effective at creating space for our other attackers. If all of them were standing around in the middle of the pitch, it’s worth asking, as the writer does, whether that spacing would be as effective.

      But at the end of it all, I am not at all interested in debating or arguing about this. I understand that people have ideas, and there they sit. I like to explore many different ideas about the team and how it plays, and this is, potentially, one of them. So I am just throwing the idea(s) out there as something that is worth considering, an alternative worldview to the accepted, “Messi is wasted on the right.” People can discard it, consider it, somewhere in the middle. As they wish.

      • December 8, 2014

        Although it’s been weird to see him hugging the sideline during stretches of these last games, I saw an “average position” map which showed him in the middle slightly behind Suarez for yesterday’s match, which kind of surprised me, tbh.

      • lala10
        December 8, 2014

        The thing is not Messi per se. The thing is optimizing a team’s best player. The issue of Messidependencia is an uneasy subject for cules and a stick with which to beat Barca fans. At some point Messi may cease to be the team’s best player. Neymar may well then be. At that particular point the preoccupation will/should be about maximising the potential of that best player. That is why teams are bulit around their star players and why Ibra could not fully integrate.

        Moving Messi to the right can be explained thus. If the move fails to bear fruit LE will undoubtedly rejig the system. Does starting Messi on the right give him more space?

        Also as a funnel its important that Messi has more touches. More touches are not to assuage Messi’s stats or ego; its a necessity to Barca’s well being. Its funny that in an era where we encounter the bus more it is Messi more than most who holds the key. It’s uncomfortable and its not ideal but the reality. Not every move has to go through Messi, every goal has to be cherished and all sources explored.

    • Jim
      December 8, 2014

      The forwards need to interchange and inevitably some of the time Messi will spend on the right. We’ve never had a problem involving our right side in enough touches of the ball, it’s our left which has at times been neglected, although for that we need a stay at home left CB ( see above). Messi’s problem in the middle is that it takes him those first few steps to get going and then he can be unstoppable. On the right he usually gets those steps in, he’s coming across the defence and he has three options; to curl it wide to the LB cutting in as he did and Alba should have scored, to shoot himself which he did and scored or to hit a little reverse pass into the old inside right position for a forward making a diagonal run towards the right. You’re right that if he’s not getting the ball there it’s doubtful if he would linger there though.

  15. Jim
    December 8, 2014

    Ok, I’ve just seen the CR7 “penalty” incident on Revista. It wasn’t even an incident, never mind a penalty. This is getting ridiculous. He was never getting that ball anyway.

  16. luisthebeast
    December 8, 2014

    It was a dive,one of the worst i have seen in my life.

    (EDITED)

    • deerwithwings
      December 8, 2014

      that’s hilarious!

  17. deerwithwings
    December 8, 2014

    I don’t understand where the Sid Lowe as a Madrid fan occurred. I think he’s a great writer, and seems to write about different teams every week. He wrote a really nice piece about Messi a few weeks ago.

    As of now (and dives aside) Madrid hasn’t lost a game in a cool couple of months. They seem unstoppable, and until they are stopped, then the reigning champs are going to be the talk of the town. I, for one, prefer it. I’d rather be an underdog. I thought, that in 2012, we lost because we were supposed to win, just like 2010. If LE can get this team to peak in Feb/March, then I fancy our chances.

    Also, one reason the journalists love to point out Barça’s flaws is because the average Culé is the first to do so.

  18. even more Stradivariuser
    December 8, 2014

    Glorious day. I thoroughly enjoyed this match (warts and all) and for once just enjoyed the beautiful football moments rather than worry about the result (or worse, future results).

    Messi, back in defenders-are-irrelevant mode, bags a fine hat-trick. Ney with a movement like fluid lightning. Pedro looks a super sub that can ruthlessly (I know, right?) exploit an exhausted opponent. Alba is solid on both ends of the pitch and Iniesta doesn’t stink up the place. Best of all, my 5-year old daughter, who watches most games with me, remarks, “Yeah, Suarez was at least a meter offside,” demonstrating in one simple phrase a precocious knowledge of both the offside rule and the metric system!

    Long time lurker first time commenter. I really appreciate this community; mods, frequent, and less frequent posters/commenters. I wait all week for FCB matches and then spend the rest of the week getting my fix from BFB. Thanks especially to Kxevin for keeping up an impressive rate of high quality posts! Will we be seeing any Blitzen awards over the winter break? Kari analysis? Levon experiments in visual and literary styles? And the newer contributors! This place is special.

    Couple of questions: can anyone with more knowledge of defending explain why Pique looks so great with the play in front of him but so poor moving towards his own goal and/or defending 1v1?. Is it just pace? Foot speed? Technique? I cringed as he back-pedaled and then did that little tango for the goal. It seems like Masche, Mathieu, and even Bartra step into 1v1’s with more confidence, whereas Pique seems to wait and then dive-in too late. And shouldn’t he be showing the attacker the outside rather than the cut-in for a shot?

    Also, can anyone explain what determines if we are going to see (to borrow some phrases) waiting for a cab Messi, tilting at windmills Messi, or unstoppable, not of this world Messi? Rest and fitness? Quality of opposition? Lunar phase? Whatever it was yesterday, the man was unreal. In the seconds after the first goal, I 1) launched my dog off the couch, 2) re-evaluated everything I thought I knew about space and time (and space-time, for that matter), 3) made some non-verbal, Ray Hudson-esque baying sounds, and 4) grinned like a maniac for the rest of the day. And as good as the goals and the dribbling were, the medium-range passing in the final third was even more absurd. I could watch that ball he picked out that bent over/around the defense onto Alba’s foot day at a dead run all day. Truly a joy to watch.

    • December 8, 2014

      Thanks for the visit, and weighing in. For me, and others will differ, Pique is like all CBs in that he is less certain when on the move, particularly when a player is running at him. Notice how aggressive Puyol was in moving forward rather than back or laterally, because it reduced his chances of making an error of tentativeness.

      The more play is in front of Pique, the better he can read it. This is true of most defenders. What makes a defender such as Mascherano so good is that they have tackling and physical skills to react in a crisis situation. It’s why every good defense (and Barça has a good defense) has a player like that. Because people screw up.

      — Your Messi question is a good one, that I’m sure Enrique also wishes he knew the answer to.

      — As for the other mods, they have lives that are very busy. I always appreciate when they write, but understand the reality of commitments outside of this space, which is a labor of love, which is blogger speak for it don’t pay nuttin’. Barca Chief is the latest addition to the team, and we will have Peter contributing match previews as well. I believe he is working on a PSG dissection as I type this.

      Thanks again for the visit, and becoming a speaking member of the family.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2014

      Welcome. Yeah, you’ve mentioned Pique’s biggest weakness which is the ability to back peddle quickly. He did actually try to show the guy outside which you can see from his body shape but when the guy cut inside and actually took the ball back a bit before hitting Pique was struggling and you can see that in the late attempt at the block. Moral of the story? We should never be caught that short at the back. No need.

    • December 9, 2014

      I have been very busy with my work (soon to be non-work) situation, unfortunately. But I promise to put together a special bumper edition of blitzen awards for Christmas. Cheers!

  19. December 8, 2014

    Sid Lowe is an excellent journalist with impeccable credibility. He is my absolute favorite football writer precisely because he covers La Liga with balance and impartiality, even as he makes his affection for Real Oviedo apparent.

    We should be better than this, stooping to malign the integrity of a journalist just because from time to time, he doesn’t write what some of us think he ought to write. His latest column is every bit as laudatory of Messi as it is of Ronaldo. He has been accused of being a Barça fanboy by RM supporters, an RM fanboy by Barça supporters, and a slave to both big clubs by supporters of other clubs in the Liga.

    To me, when a journalist is doing his job with full impartiality, everyone whines about him. So hats off to Lowe, and shame on those who would malign his integrity to somehow make themselves feel better about something. It’s nonsense, and doesn’t become this space or the atmosphere that we, as in the mods AND the commenters, have tried so hard to instill.

    If people want to act like this is a space that condones and spawns that kind of behavior, I believe I can safely speak for the other mods in that none of us have ANY interest in that kind of environment. I will work to ban, and if I can’t ban I will delete posts of people who persist in that kind of ugly, aggressive, negative behavior. I have been accused of bias, and that doesn’t bother me as much as when a respected journalist, and one of the absolute best that I know, is accused of such a thing, never mind that it is borderline libelous, should someone decide to pursue redress against such action, on grounds that it is damaging to their professional reputation, thus harming their potential livelihood.

    What is wrong in here? we should be better than that.

    • December 8, 2014

      For that matter, the same is true of the “Ronaldo is this, that or the other” stuff. Why? He’s an excellent footballer who, along with Messi, is threatening to rewrite record books and standards.

      In 30 past seasons, Ronaldo’s goalscoring record at the HALFWAY mark would be Pichichi. And it’s only halfway. Yes, he dove on the weekend, and has dove before. So what. You think our players, including Messi, don’t have dives in their past?

      I can’t tell anyone how to behave, or what to think. But I can and will moderate this space in such a way as I think is necessary to keep it from becoming the equivalent of a crap-filled message board.

      Moderation here has been very loose in the past, but consider this an alert that those days are over. If people have an issue with that, I have absolutely no compunctions about suggesting that perhaps there are other places at which they will be happier.

      No, I am not in a mood and no, my knickers aren’t in a bunch. But I am very concerned about what this space is threatening to turn into.

      Apologies for seeming cranky. That isn’t the case, even as I am very concerned.

    • G6O
      December 9, 2014

      Since you mentioned Cristiano, I have a somewhat strange question but I can’t find an answer for it anywhere at the moment, so I will ask it here. Does anyone have the breakdown of goals for both since 2009, as in how many games with 0,1,2,3 or 4 goals? I would like to check something but I can’t find the information presented in that format.

      • TITO
        December 9, 2014

        I just know the info that since he moved to RM, Ronaldo have 200 while Messi have 202 goals for the same period. I might be wrong though for a goal or two, but Messi leads anyway.

      • G6O
        December 9, 2014

        I was talking about the distribution of goals scored in each game. But I actually managed to find it. I wanted to check the dispersion of the scoring – people have been talking a lot about how CR scores a lot of meaningless goals, which would lead one to expect a certain overdispersion of the numbers (i.e. more doubles and hat-tricks against weak opponents). But the Poisson fit came out as optimal for both, and the BIC scores were similar too.

  20. agar2515
    December 8, 2014

    I’m just going to tilt my head and wonder why the vehemence behind your words Kevin?

    It’s just a bit of banter about how I feel he often comes off as more pro-Madrid than Barça. That notion has been developed over years of following his work (on TV and in print) so you’re effectively telling me my opinion of him is wrong. You’re well within your right to do that but you seem to be reacting as if these little jibes were downright flagrant and libelous in nature….
    For my part I didn’t attack the man personally or call the quality of his writing into question ( I even bout Fear and Loathing in La Liga), unless you consider me believing he has a bias some sort of personal attack…?

    As far as CR goes I am under no obligation to treat any member of Madrid with respect, and even in his case it’s just a goofy spoof on his dive at the weekend nothing profane or toxic.

    This is obvious a modded space and that’s great but I think your reaction was a bit…much for my taste, especially the threat of banning people over, well I’m not sure really? I didn’t read anything terrible here. Forgive me for saying but, perhaps your twitter interactions ( or any personal relationship, however small, with Mr. Lowe) are causing these words to come ass harshly as they are? We here are no obligation to share any sentiments about individuals, it should be about free thought.

    Ifyou’re going to start banning people for something as small as believing a football journalist to be more in favor of one team over another…

    • December 9, 2014

      No vehemence at all. But a firmness, yes. I am not going to start banning people for, as you put it, “something as small as believing a football journalist to be more in favor or one team than another.”

      The problem is when those statements are made in a way that maligns that person’s integrity. ciaran says below that he thinks Lowe has leaned in a certain direction since his appearances on RMTV. I’m fine with that. Lowe would be as well, and would probably calmly explain why that isn’t the case.

      But for me a line is crossed when someone’s integrity is questioned in a way that isn’t respectful and further, legally actionable. Would someone bother to sue for comments made in this space about them? Probably not. Could they? That’s a risk that I, who is on the hook as main moderator of this space, would rather not take.

  21. psalmuel
    December 9, 2014

    wo! So, I will be banned if i called PK7 a diver. Hmm…

  22. agar2515
    December 9, 2014

    Now that I think of it Kevin I think I get what you’re saying. Now that personal attacks have been virtually eliminated you want to strive to clean up any sort of derogatory comments directed at others in general as well, foster positive discussion. Sorry for saying anything worth deleting, my mistake .

    • December 9, 2014

      Not at all. Derogatory comments as they relate to an impression of something are fine and dandy. “That ref’s call was bullshit.” Okay. No problem. “What a stupid mistake.” Excellent. People can agree or not agree.

  23. Jim
    December 9, 2014

    I don’t often intervene in these matters of moderation and I hope I have a record of not resorting to personal insults of anyone but I’m slightly twitchy about the inability of commentators to say that they think there is something wrong with a piece of writing. If they can’t criticise Sid, Kxevin, why can they criticise you, a working journalist ? Does that mean that referees are also beyond criticism because that is their career ? Are players beyond criticism because it is their livelihood – if so, mea culpa for my recent rants 🙂

    Are boards beyond criticism because they are elected leadership of the club ? Or am I missing a delicate distinction here ? Not defending aggressive language ever but this is a difficult path to tread. For me, better to deal with the tone of a comment rather than the area of criticism. Just my tuppence worth.

  24. luisthebeast
    December 9, 2014

    My comment edited because i said that ronaldo is not the second best player and that he is a diver????Really????

    • FCB16
      December 9, 2014

      LOL wow that’s hilarious if true. No idea where the blog gestapo vibe is coming from

    • December 9, 2014

      No. That is not true. Your comment was edited because it cast unreasonable aspersions on a player. If you had simply said, “He’s second best to Messi and always will be,” that comment would have been allowed to stand.

      @FCB16, your comment about the “blog Gestapo vibe” is unwarranted and uncalled for. But yes, I am taking a firmer hand in an effort to keep this place from becoming a basic Internet message board. It isn’t what we planned for the space, nor is it what the space has been in the past.

  25. ciaran
    December 9, 2014

    I have to agree with Jim there in that tone and language should get moderated but subject matter should not be.
    I think that a Ronaldo is a very good player but I dislike him both in terms of his style of play and the impression I get of his personality but calling him Divenaldo, Penaldo or Tapinaldo is pointless and brings down the level of discussion. If the point can’t be made without resorting to derogatory language then it probably isn’t a valid point.

    In regards to Sid Lowe, I’ve never thought of him as completely unbiased ever since watching him on Real Madrid TV. He is a damn good journalist but for me has always been more inclined to lean towards a Madrid bias than a neutral stance.

    Keep up the good work though.

  26. psalmuel
    December 9, 2014

    First, we are not allowed to criticize our team, anyone who does so is known as the one who chooses to see gloom out of everything. Now, we are not allowed to voice our opinions about any particular player and any journalist whose name is Sid Lowe. I pray we don’t get banned for proclaiming our undying love for Messi

    • December 9, 2014

      You know that isn’t true. Everyone criticizes Barça, so stop that. You also know that people are allowed to voice their opinions about players and journalists. My issues with the comments are clearly stated above. You may interpret them however you like, even in the extreme way you choose.

  27. December 9, 2014

    For the record, and to be clear about this, since everyone seems in a kerfuffle because of some presumed abrogation of free speech in this space, here goes, and I will try to be as clear as possible:

    If someone wants to call Sid Lowe or any other journalist out for something that he wrote, fine and dandy. But if they want to attack his integrity as a journalist instead of calling him out for what he wrote, not only are those statements libelous, but also slanderous.

    It’s easy enough to say that Lowe’s description of the Ronaldo incident doesn’t jibe with my own, and I think he’s full of it. Rock on. Or, “Man, Lowe’s breakdown of that Ronaldo thing is unmitigated bullshit. I expect better from him.” Excellent. No problem.

    The problem arises when someone says, “He’s just a Madridista, and biased. What do you expect from such a crap journalist.”

    I hope that line is clear. The one says that a commenter thought that what Lowe wrote sucks. The other impugns his integrity. Again, it meets the definition of legally actionable speech, in addition to being beyond the pale.

    As for Ronaldo, call him a diver all you like. Rock on.

    The kind of thing that I am taking issue with is, as ciaran states more elegantly than I can:

    calling him Divenaldo, Penaldo or Tapinaldo is pointless and brings down the level of discussion. If the point can’t be made without resorting to derogatory language then it probably isn’t a valid point.

    Further, anyone who thinks they will be banned for calling Ronaldo a diver hasn’t been paying attention. It is never how this space has been, and not how it will be.

    There is a standard of discourse here, and its foundation is in respect. That means that moderators have as much respect for comments in this space as commenters should have for each other. I hate to have to moderate anything.

    But without respect, this space is just a message board. We have all seen the comments after Goal.com articles. I don’t want that, and I don’t think that anyone else does, either. And that makes respect paramount, among ourselves but also as this space relates to the world in which it lives. The above example about Sid Lowe is, I hope, a very clear example.

    Respect is important. I use the word a lot. Everyone has different views, and those views have ALWAYS been allowed to exist in this space. Anyone who thinks otherwise is misguided in the extreme. But as a moderator in and of this space, I have an obligation to uphold the standards of this space, and make it somewhere that ANYONE can visit, not just culers, and not just culers who think a certain way.

    That, for me, all starts with respect. I trust this is clear. There will never be censorship, but we should be clear about “free speech.” If someone rolls in here hurling racist insults, I will delete the comments, and ban them. But even though other sorts of comments aren’t as egregious as racist comments, slanderous attacks on someone’s integrity as a journalist is just another kind of aggressive disrespect.

    The fundamental rule here is respect. I think it’s a very clear one.

    • December 9, 2014

      I guess we can say this space is heavily biased towards respect (ok, I’m running for the hills now).

      All kidding aside, I think Kevin’s last comment should be quite clear for all.

      • Jim
        December 9, 2014

        Sorry, hills are full …….

      • December 9, 2014

        My love of military history has made the value of the hills very clear, gents. See that smoke? That’s from the fire in my cave.

  28. lala10
    December 9, 2014

    Sid Lowe is a writer whose style i enjoy. Just like Hunter leans towards Barca, Lowe leans towards Madrid. I remember reading an article of his when Messi renewed. He found the renewed terms an aberration since Barca were not getting sufficient return value. That crystallized it for me. I was like what the …… He continues to write good posts and i enjoy them still. I just also feel that he takes pleasure more in EE’s work. And thats perfectly natural

    • December 9, 2014

      What’s funny is that I find Lowe to be neutral. I wonder if the truth of that is that everyone thinks that he leans in the other direction. Little clubs say he favors big clubs. Big clubs say he likes stories about little clubs, etc, etc.

      He has done pieces on Barça, and even written the definitive book on the rivalry that is the Classic. He has penned wonderful interviews with players such as Xavi and Iniesta, and has unusual access to members of all camps. That is something that you just don’t see in a journalist with an acknowledged, tacitly or otherwise, bias.

      I can understand how some might get the impression that Lowe leans one way or the other, as they would with Graham Hunter, who I think is also neutral. There are fair points to be made all ’round, I reckon.

  29. dl
    December 9, 2014

    A bit late to the ‘standards and politeness’ discussion, but I found Kxevin’s more complete description of what is ok vs apt to be edited interesting.

    I don’t have any links at hand, but it seems to me I have read many times in BFB accusations of one kind or another about AS or Marca. I can’t remember which is which, but one is supposedly a RM mouthpiece, and the other an FCB propaganda trumpet. Would that not fall into the same bucket as calling Sid Lowe a Madridista partisan? I understand that the site owners are potentially on the hook for legal action by an aggrieved party, but I think Sid must have a pretty thick skin. I’ve never read anything here that comes even close to the guardian’s comment section, btw.

    I very much enjoy the variety of perspectives and experiences that appear in the comment sections. I have learned a lot about the world and soccer reading this, and particularly enjoy the fact that it seems to be a pretty international site. Even when the comments get a bit childish (in my view) it doesn’t take long for them to even themselves out. That doesn’t seem to have been the consequence of BFB’s moderation policy (up till now there wasn’t really a policy) but rather the result of the general maturity level of the participants. Maybe we (the mods) are fixing something that isn’t really broken?

    • December 9, 2014

      Excellent points, dl. In this space, AS and Marca have been called “mouthpieces” for RM, just as Sport and Mundo Deportivo have been for Barça. For me (as well as corporate lawyers), there is a magnitude of difference, resting essentially in the fact that being a “mouthpiece” isn’t necessarily derogatory. It could indeed be successfully argued in court that in order to more capably serve its fans, that quality is something of a necessity.

      And yes, the Guardian’s comments are a mess. I would dig a hole and lay down in it if our space reached that level.

      Fixing something that isn’t broken isn’t really my intention. i think I worry more about the space than perhaps I should, but I reckon that’s part of my job. The best part about the BFB moderation policy is that we don’t really have one, nor has one ever been required. I hate to keep coming back to respect, but that’s kinda it for me.

      I do worry that people will think they can’t criticize or say that something is crap, which isn’t at all the case. Hence the “windbag” moment above, which I hope clarifies things.

      Thanks again for the excellent comment.

  30. kosby
    December 9, 2014

    Speaking of the game tomorrow – I hope Ibra plays. Will make the contest that much more exciting. If we play the way we played the 2nd half against Espanyol we should be the favorites to win. Wonder if we’ll play a somewhat more defensive right back given the improvement in Alba’s offensive play. Also it seems that for the last 2 games Neymar has been instructed to hug the touchline again, didnt really get to see him in goal scoring positions that often.

  31. December 9, 2014

    I missed whatever comments set off this discussion, but for the record I am 100% behind Kxevin here. Let’s leave personal attacks out of this space.

    And Sid Lowe is an excellent writer with thoughtful opinions. I don’t always agree with him, but he is generally up for a discussion as long as approached respectfully. I appreciate that. As for bias…everybody has one. If Sid has a bias, it’s towards constructing a nicely told story, which may not gel with my perception of the actual events. I don’t see any malice behind that.

    • deerwithwings
      December 9, 2014

      This is my view exactly. Thank you Blitzen.

  32. Manish
    December 9, 2014

    Firstly I see no reason to edit comments which calls a spade a spade rightly. Calling names is totally uncalled for but.. Ronaldo DOES cheat and Sid Lowe being a wonderful writer should have pointed that out..

  33. Jim
    December 9, 2014

    I read his columns quite often but am often left with the feeling, a bit like Blitzen I suppose, that he gets an idea to hang it on and that becomes key rather than reflecting the totality of what went on. He is a good writer of prose but a bit gentle for me when it comes to talking points, preferring to attribute “controversial” opinions to others in the story rather than offer his opinion. It’s quite a common style but I prefer Hunter’s more direct, if less pretty, prose. ( for me, neither come close to McIlvanney at his peak but that’s another story). Comes from being a Scot I suppose. It would have been nice if Lowe had done more than deflect the dive onto a newspaper’s opinion rather than taking a stance.

    Btw, is this Arsenal team really two up to Galatasaray as I write this ?

  34. December 9, 2014

    Enrique says “surprise” at RB tomorrow. Since Alves isn’t starting, it would have to be. Some say they have heard rumors of Bartra at RB.

    • agar2515
      December 9, 2014

      Glad we hashed out the comments issue , and what a wonderful surprise it would be to see Bartra tomorrow at RB, epic clash on the cards.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2014

      And tweet from Alves repeated on Barcastuff about the winning team from training shows Xavi playing for the ones who won’t be tomorrow so I’m guessing Ini gets the nod. Probably a good idea given Xavi’s exertions just a couple of days ago although he’ll be on the bench if needed. I’d worry about the ball holding/ linking play of a Busi/ Masche/ Rakitic midfield.

      Also wonder if LE might take Pedro’s goal as a chance to give one of the three up front a half off but I’m probably kidding myself.

      • kosby
        December 9, 2014

        I wonder if all 4 of them will start – Pedro as an advanced Alves with Barta, Pique and Mathieu at the back. That would make it interesting. LVG did something similar with Ashley Young for united. Although Young did play as a traditional left back.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2014

      Would Douglas count as a surprise? 🙂

      • deerwithwings
        December 9, 2014

        Yes he would Jim =)

        In truth, I hope it’s Bartra though, and I would like to see a midfield of Rakitic, Iniesta, and Masch.

        Really excited for the game, although I won’t be able to watch it live. Another day of abstaining from all news sources.

      • December 9, 2014

        Not as big as Bartra.

      • December 9, 2014

        The thought crossed my mind the other day that LE could try out Rafinha as a right back. That’s right folks, you heard it here first.

        Of course, whoever will play at RB, I hope Lucho doesn’t wait until one hour before the match to tell him.

      • Jim
        December 9, 2014

        Especially if it’s Mathieu. Wait a minute … Would he do that to make a point ?

      • December 10, 2014

        Rafinha is suspended for this game. Red card, remember?

      • December 10, 2014

        Right, good catch. When I thought about trying Rafinha out as a right back, it wasn’t necessary against PSG, though.

  35. deerwithwings
    December 9, 2014

    Did Madrid get yet another penalty? I am really not one for bias and conspiracy, but, really?! It’s getting crazy.

    • G6O
      December 9, 2014

      And a red card too, when it was 0-0 (note, however, that I have not watched the game so I have no idea whether it was deserved or not)

      • ciaran
        December 9, 2014

        I watched most of it. It was a deserved red and penalty but the referee should have just waited 2 seconds as Bale put the rebound in before anyone knew he had even blew the whistle. It ruined the match.

      • deerwithwings
        December 9, 2014

        I hadn’t seen more than a headline at that point. But, deserved or no, it’s getting out of control.

  36. ciaran
    December 9, 2014

    He could try to Masch at right back.

    • Jim
      December 9, 2014

      Better there than against Ibra.

  37. barca96
    December 9, 2014

    Why is there a need to make a surprise for RB when we have a natural RB in Montoya who has never played below average when given a chance?

  38. Chiu
    December 10, 2014

    – I like the idea of Bartra as RB. Remember Puyol used to be our “emergency” RB or options for more defensive backline. He was doing just OK and pragmatic there. Bartra could the same and worth a try against “weaker” opposition, in the viewing of long season where injury probably coming sooner or later.

    – But I bet Lucho would try Masch in the RB for PSG. He was played there once or twice during his time with Barca?? If am not mistaken??
    So our backline would be : Masch – Pique – Mathieu – Alba. It’s a safer options against attacking line consist of Ibra, Cavini, Pastore, Lavezzi and co.

    – In the midfield and forward,, there should be no surprise. I think of: Rak – Ini – Busi / Ney – Suarez – Messi

  39. simple_barcafan
    December 10, 2014

    What if there is NO right back? What if it is a 3-4-3?

    If not, how about Ter Stegan as RB? His long balls are really good. So at least we can have a RB who can put a good cross into the box.. :/

  40. agar2515
    December 10, 2014

    Anyone catch PK7 whining to the ref about wanting a handball instead of celebrating Bale’s goal? Main reason why he’s never a GOAT or near Messi for me, what an absolute tool he is on the pitch

  41. Dar_vincy
    December 10, 2014

    With no mention of Adriano, I’m assuming he’s either injured or suspended.
    If none is the case, his choice would be the most logical.
    Much as like Bartra to be experimented there, this game might not be the most appropriate to be given a trial. Bartra’s choice there is more or less touch and go. Ditto Mascherano.
    In some way, this game will tell us more what our chances of getting far in this competition are, particularly our ability to curtail an attack that carved us open time and again with minimal resistance.

    • December 10, 2014

      I think Adriano will play and LE just want to keep PSG guessing for as long as possible.

    • December 10, 2014

      Adriano is in the squad for the match.

      The problem is that Cavani is 1.88, Ibra is 1.95, Pastore is 1.87, Maxwell is 1.77. Adriano is 1.72.

      PSG use their height advantage to claim long balls from the defence, which are then nodded down so that they can take advantage of the pace of their attacking players.

  42. Fabian4Barca
    December 10, 2014

    Probably I am too late for the discussion on what kind of comments should or shouldn’t be allowed here.

    But I fully support what Kxevin is asking for. I have been to other so-called Barça fan sites and the language there really makes me feel even worse after a lost game. No, it even derogates my good mood after a victory. How can they call our beloved players/coach such names? Why do they even call themselves culés? We have to be better than that. That’s why I come here, to the BFB.

    I want to read your opinions on why the club/coach/players have done this and that – and how that makes you feel. I will get the hint that you don’t like somebody. Just don’t state it as if it were a fact. It makes a huge difference.

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