Barça 3, PSG 1, aka “Excellence is usually about belief”

psgenrique

The bracing, all-encompassing majesty of sport is that the best team doesn’t always win. What sells out stadiums as newly promoted teams face championship sides is precisely that, the belief that on any given day, anything can happen. From back when Goliath didn’t see it coming, looking down to wonder what that little dude was doing, giants have toppled.

And yet, the better team usually wins, and with soul-crushing regularity. Regulars gather in bars and living rooms to console themselves with the almosts and what ifs of the vanquished, the magic of retrospect, because that’s easier sometimes than saying that like death and taxes, the better team is usually going to whip your ass.

Paris St.-Germain understands that now, that what happens every now and again is what needs to happen for a lesser team to beat a better one: mistakes must be made, and the lesser team must play exceptionally well. This occurred in their house, the Parc des Princes, as Barça gave up balls, went to sleep on set pieces and the narrative was born that PSG kicked Barça butt as the latter looked a mess.

Only a few, foolish culers dared to say that despite looking at sixes and sevens for most of match, Barça still managed a couple of goals and it was only a heroic intervention on the PSG doorstep that kept a team that played kinda crappy from walking away with a share of the points.

So when that very same PSG rolled into the Camp Nou as the only unbeaten team in Europe, and with its superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic back, it took a certain kind of culer to worry. The others were divided into two camps of the same mind: Barça is going to win. It is going to beat a team that is isn’t supposed to and win a group that it shouldn’t, because what else would happen?

One side based that belief in success on the whimsy of the supporter. Of course my team is going to win, because I always expect it to win. The other side based it on logic, that Barça didn’t play very well in the previous match, didn’t have Luis Suarez, made plenty of errors and further, PSG is less well-equipped to defeat Barça with its talisman in the lineup. Further still a result should be expected because Barça is playing better and better, rounding into shape as gradually as would be expected from a team with a new coach and staff, 8 new players and a passel of doubt to overcome, but it is coming into shape nonetheless, and is a better team than the group that lost to PSG.

But another, equally important group of supporters have to also believe, and that is the athletes. Sport doesn’t leave room for doubt. In the milliseconds that can decide the difference between an outstretched toe poking a ball away and a defender arriving just a smidge too late, there isn’t any room at all for doubt. Doubt is a luxury the desperate can’t afford and make no mistake about it, FC Barcelona is desperate.

After a season at the end of which nothing of import could be reported, a season in which doubt was allowed to rear its head in a statement from a talismanic player, you wonder what really happened to bring the team that handful of goals short. Talent gets you some of the way, but belief gets you the rest.

Wednesday, at the end of 80 minutes, a group of players in blaugrana, stroking the ball around, keeping it away from a team of talented athletes that many expected to bring destruction, at the apogee of each one of those delicate passes was belief.

psgbartra

Barça has a coach in Luis Enrique, who by all accounts isn’t interested in doubt, or what anyone thinks of him. His belief is complete and unwavering. As people wondered whether he was the ideal coach to lead this group of athletes, not many gave any weight to that personal conviction, that ability to make capering millionaires understand that if they do what they are supposed to, the belief that if you follow my system, success will come.

After the match, Pedro’s words percolated with belief. Iniesta said Enrique didn’t allow them to doubt, to not believe, that he knows what he wants. In a world seemingly wracked with doubt and worry, the coach and the players knew, and believed.

So when the starting XI came out today, there was an explosion of sorts, because nobody quite knew what to make of it. Ter Stegen, Bartra, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu, Busquets, Pedro, Messi, Neymar, Suarez.

–Was Pedro the right back?
–Was Bartra the right back?
–Was this a double pivot?
–Wait, are they going to play a 3-4-3?

Brains hurt as people tried to figure out permutations, while others said this lineup was further evidence that Enrique didn’t know what he was doing. Some media figures suggested that the team didn’t practice with this lineup, based on the scant information they were allowed to gather during their supervised practice session visits — because yes, the team is going to work out its secret plans in front of the press.

Doubt and the necessity to lock Barça into a rigid formation created a carpet of doubt and worry, even as some were excited by the possibilities of a coach who looked at what he had and, whether out of necessity (Dani Alves was suspended) or inspiration, decided to shake things up.

The teams lined up and some screamed 3-4-3! The whistle blew and, because that is what happens when a set of variables is presented with a stimulus, formational rigidity became something like a bowl of marbles. On a team such as Barça, where DMs or CBs bring the ball up and forwards track back to steal and break up attacks, does it really matter what formation it takes before it becomes the inside of a supercollider, except for chalk talks and dudes with telestrators?

What matters to the players is belief and effectiveness. “Play my way, and you will succeed.” So the match started, a pell-mell fury of teams that were purported equals going at each other, but some knew better. Some predicted a Barça win, simply because Barça was the better team. But if you don’t believe that, if your coach, your captain doesn’t believe that, certain things aren’t possible. So when PSG scored an early goal from the precise same kind of mistake that allowed them to win at their house, Enrique calmly pulled aside his on-pitch captain and calmly explained what went wrong. And this time Barça just kept on doing what it was doing, what it was supposed to do, what it believed it could do.

They got chances, we got chances, and when the scuffed, bouncing sort of ball that Suarez will tell his grandchildren was an intentional pass effort fell to the boot of a charging Messi, suddenly it was 1-1. Barça ran even harder, the passes zinged even truer, and the doubt changed shirts. PSG looked increasingly tentative as Barça looked to get fully on the front foot. Possession was higher for Barça, and its players ran and ran. Its star forward ran almost as many kilometers as its hyperactive defensive midfielder. Everyone ran, everyone tried, everyone cleaned up after each other.

After the match, in the words of one seeking solace where it can be found, PSG coach Laurent Blanc suggested that perhaps the new-look Barça lineup confused our players more than his. Of course he chose to ignore the illogic of a team confused by its own taskings putting a 3-1 home beatdown on his team, because seeking solace and logic aren’t always compatible quests.

Belief is a shaky thing. It takes a lot to make it as firm as it needs to be to make a better team understand what it is, and for a purportedly better team to suddenly begin to wonder. Sometimes, it takes as little as a few seconds and a capering Brazilian’s wonder strike to do very different things to belief.

On Sunday, Barça withstood all but a few seconds of a perfect half of football by Espanyol, then a Messi wonder strike changed everything. Espanyol lost a bit of that doubt and suddenly, passes were easier to make, holes easier to find, movement hard to come by.

So it seemed in the aftermath of the Neymar golazo, a dipping piledriver that came at the worst time, just before the half, that PSG slipped a bit as Barça gained a bit. Being a front runner does that, but also looking at the Barça roster and understanding very simple things. They have Ibrahmovic, Barça has Messi, Suarez AND Neymar. They have Luiz and Silva, Barça have Pique and Bartra, home-raised players whose knowledge of how the club plays can bridge an ability gap.

psgney

Barça was the better team and played like it. So when the third goal was bundled home by Suarez, PSG almost seemed to accept its fate. It got corner kicks, but rather than the psychic walkabout that allowed celebratory backslapping at the Parc des Princes, alert defenders cleared danger. PSG went on runs, but tackles and interventions thwarted efforts as for some, Barça played exactly as they were expected to play, did exactly what they were expected to do, which was beat a team that they were better than.

Once again, some social media pundits snarled and scoffed at individual brilliance, as if there is a law against being magical, against top-class players doing what they do. There is a memory, a fading bit of burnished illusion that back in the day, magical midgets would pass a ball up the pitch, perfect triangles forming the springboard for an inexorable path toward goal as flawless little dynamos walked yet another goal into the net. That memory makes athletic wonder seem somehow base, beneath the expectations of the game.

But individual brilliance can also buttress a team, make its resolve even firmer as a genius does exactly what he is supposed to do.

The better team won at the Camp Nou today. It won despite sub-par performances from a few key players, including its best player of all. It won because that’s what it believed it would do. It won because its coach knew that it would, because he devised a system that if it was followed as it should be, would ensure victory. It won because its players executed that plan to a level that was not enabled by individual excellence, but enhanced by it.

And for now, the next test awaits as a team rounds into shape and hurdles mountains of doubt, leaping along with just a little more spring in its step because maybe for the first time this season, this is a group of players that is all in. It was as beautiful to watch as it was effective as it quelled doubt in all but the most committed, for a magical yet logical evening.

“Barça won.”
“Well, duh. That’s what it’s supposed to do.”

psgdef

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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.

70 Comments

  1. ibbe
    December 10, 2014

    Great review, Kxevin. The win is so much more sweet because a lot of people were expecting us to lose. I love it when we’re the “underdogs”. That’s why I hope that Madrid, Bayern and Chelsea keep on grabbing the headlines, and suddenly BAM! We are on top.

  2. Kd
    December 10, 2014

    Hey guys,
    First of all, Kxevin, what a brilliant prematch analysis u did. i think u got most of it spot on!! Knock downs, flank balls, everything. Man, u should apply for a scouting role a la Andre Vilas Boas. hehe
    Maybe u could have added Lucas Moura is madness. But u perhaps didnt wanna scare us. He was immense. Really made life difficult for us on the left flank and I was wondering LE would substitute maybe one of Busi or Masche and bring in Alba to counter the pace. But LE felt comfortable with Mathieu there.
    The right flank was bossed by Bartra. Nothing really came off the right flank. Love Bartra. Always loved him. But last night I thought it was the day when Bartra came off age. A la Messi in that 3-3 Classico. Suddenly the Dani/Montoya/Douglas situation doesn’t look so bad!! 🙂 And sometimes during the match I think one of the commentators likened him to Puyol. And that triple body on the line goal mouth scramble/clearance did remind me of that too.
    Anyways, great victory. I can keep goin on n on. But Visca Barca!!
    Love the pieces here. Keep up the good work.
    Cheers..
    PS: I had such a nice sleep!!

    • December 11, 2014

      That was Peter with the preview, but thanks for the kind words on his behalf. I agree with you.

  3. December 11, 2014

    Hehe, I’m still giddy. Thanks for the review!

  4. agar2515
    December 11, 2014

    No review of this game can go without mentioning Bartra. Henceforth he deserves a start in every big game, I don’t want to see Dani and his crosses and Douglas and whatever it is people think he can do besides pass backwards.

    He is not 100% a finished product but Barta today displayed the heart and desire of Carles and THAT is unquantifiable. He was immense.

    Also Kevin, though it’s a shame people can’t seem to praise our squad if it is individual brilliance that carries the day (unlike Madrid), it’s a price we are currently paying for the Tiki-taka ride we took world football on. I’m glad our front 3 are really starting to click it’s a sight to behold.

  5. December 11, 2014

    I can’t agree with this article more vehemently. Spot on. My biggest joy from this game was Bartra’s performance. He plays with such class, respect, and passion. However, having him as an option for RB scares me a bit for the future. He’s not the fastest guy in the world. His speed aside, I’m proud.

    Again, great article!

  6. Fabian4Barca
    December 11, 2014

    Well, that was only PSG. Too easy. Wait till we have to play against a real opponent! I am just so disappointed that Messi didn’t even manage to get a hattrick.

    scnr…

  7. Tata2
    December 11, 2014

    Come on guys, that was only PSG, let’s wait till EE comes to town again (Am running to the hills). Lol! Great performance, that Smache pass to Suarez was absurd! and the Messi anticipation for the cut back/scuffed shot was really mind boggling. I am/was one of the many people who didn’t want to give LE a chance but I guess we have to give him time and see. He has really learnt post el classico. Notice how our line ups are different for each game and the game plan seems to be different. I didn’t get to watch the match save the highlights but I am also a from believer that Bartra deserves to be a starter and has proven his worth any time he’s given the chance (unlike Mr. Montoya and that Brazilian Spectacular signing). I wish we just used Bartra sometimes as a defensive RB and use Alba’s wing more for our attack. We could also use a 3-4-3 with Pedro playing as a winger. Its funny that we had our wishes of Pedro or Bartra at RB granted yesterday. Now, I wish we peak at the business end of the season… Those people calling out for heads cos we won by sheer individual brilliance should go shoot themselves in the foot, why do we spend so ridiculous amounts on these guys? They are suppose to play for the system and bail us out when the system comes short. I love the unpredictability. Well done LE, you are starting to eliminate every doubt I had about you

  8. Zubs
    December 11, 2014

    I didn’t check twitter during the game, because i knew i get pissed off at, as you said, “Social Media Pundits”. So seeing the line up just before the match really surprised me but got me intrigued. I also knew that if i went on twitter, Lucho would be getting a shitstorm of hate, whereas had Pep done this, he would have been called inventive and bold etc…
    The match was enjoyable, I felt Alba was really needed to counter Lucas. And that Busi was having a poor game again (that knee ‘injury’ could be affecting him more then he likes to say). Iniesta was also poor, loose passes, bad touches, no penetrating runs, no sprinkling fairy dust, possibly due to only just coming back from injury, but he needs to shape up as this season he’s been below par.
    Masche, he may not have the captains band nor actually be part of the ‘4 captains’, but everyone knows who the real leader of the team is.
    Bartra bossed it once more. I think i can officially say that im jumping on the “Bartra to start” bandwagon.
    Neymar, once again our best attacker with a filthy finish. Its like he kept hold of RB and finessed that shot like it was FIFA.
    One thing that kept me down was that this was the formation we would have used a lot more had we bought Cuadrado (he would have replaced Pedro in this lineup). He would have been perfect for our team and we wouldn’t be fretting about the RB situation, but that ship has unfortunately sailed, unless we win the appeal, but oh well, you cant have ’em all.

  9. IamXavi6
    December 11, 2014

    Loved the game today and Love what Lucho is doing. Bartra was immense today and I’m glad he is moulding into the player we knew he could be. Future Captain and national captain too if he continues his progress.

    3things I’d like to really point out even more:

    1- Masch – on form and on playing to our style, he surely HAS to now start over Busquets. Busi has had a so-so season and Mash has been absolutely immense. Time for Busi to sit on the pine for a bit and let Masch start some games in row

    2 – Pique – slowly but surely getting some of his Mojo back after a less than stellar last 10months or so.

    3 – Bravo Vs Stegen – What a luxury problem to have. However, I wonder for how much longer Bravo starts league games…T Stegen probably shades him a bit now and Bravo would be more than looking over his shoulder. Can’t fault much of Bravo’s work either mind you.

    • Dar_vincy
      December 11, 2014

      Very hard not to acknowlwdge how invaluable Masch is to this team.
      Prior to our goal, he seemed to be the one most committed to sustaining the press which wasn’t functional sufficiently until the Neymar’s golazo.
      At that point (when the whole team started pressing as a unit especially the frontline), we became less vulnerable to their attacking forays. More crucially, we assumed a more compact shape that wasn’t evident in the early periods of the game.
      That goal somehow ignited something; something that upsurged the hunger levels of our players.
      I’m optimistic that Bartra, who was part of the back three, would perform even better when he operates more in a back four as he would not have to cover lots of ground and oceans of space that a back three is susceptible to.
      Glad that Neymar’s injury concerns in the first half was nothing more than a scare.

    • Roger Evans
      December 11, 2014

      Barra “future Captain and national captain”? Not national captain unless it’s the Catalan National Team. There’s no way they’re going to let a Catalan, Masia product captain Spain any more than a Catalan could be Spanish Prime Minister.

      • IamXavi6
        December 11, 2014

        Understand what you mean Rog, but I don’t know if it’s as clear cut as that for Spain. Xavi has captained Spain numerous times. Someone like Pique who is extremely outspoken, maybe more than Xavi and Bartra – I would agree with you, he will never.

        I am getting ahead of myself though. Lets just enjoy him developing.

  10. December 11, 2014

    Thanks everyone for the kind words. What’s funny is that I really only read the piece now. A bit about how I write: I get a notion, sit down and start typing. About 40 minutes or so later, I’m done, and I post it.

    There isn’t a lot of conscious thought or shaping. So in many ways I come to a review like you all do, which is weird.

    The choice to not single out individual performances, really, was deliberate. For me this match was about a team, doing what it knows how to do. It was really brilliant, particularly the keep away of the last 10 minutes or so.

    But for individual performances, there was a quip on Twitter that two-thirds of the Earth is covered by water. The rest is covered by Mascherano. It cracked me up then, and still does. The couple of times he flat-out bullied Mascherano were very cool, and he was wonderful, even as that PSG goal goes on his plate.

    Bartra. The culmination of all that training, and maturing, and learning, and waiting paid off. He was wonderful. His Puyolesque series of stops had me screaming and throwing stuff.

    And the team can be better. Mathieu was ropey, Iniesta still off and Messi was subdued. But had you told me going in that those 3 conditions would have existed and we still won 3-1, I would have laughed at you.

    This team is, as so many, not just me have suggested, is coming together. I still have no idea what the outcome will be, and still don’t think big prizes are in the offing this season.

    Next season, however …

    • December 11, 2014

      Amen. About Mathieu, a lot of people have criticized his perfomance of yesterday. Now I’m not Jeremy’s biggest fan, but I do wonder if they remember Jordi Alba got absolutely torched by Moura in Paris. Sometimes we have to recognize the team and players we are up against, too. I for one was very happy to see us to not only finally win against a top team this season, but also play well throughout.

  11. Lord Eddard Stark a.k.a. Brichimbrodvoken, the vulnerable one!
    December 11, 2014

    ~~ The MSN trinity of Messi, Suarez and Neymar is starting to come together.

    ~~ Suarez however is still carrying a heavy touch. EPlesque. When he silks it down it’s gonna start to look pretty.

    ~~ I always wanted Puyol’s number to be retired. Either that or be passed on to.. Yes, Bartra. Or Masch. Also because it was more convenient to spot Busquets on the field wearing the 16.

    ~~ Mathieu was good. But still feel we are strongest with him in the center.

    ~~ Neymar.

    ~~ I was (secretly) happy when Ibra scored. But then again, am a fan of his and never stop wondering what could have been, had the Zlatan Pep experiment worked out.

    ~~ Then it got me thinking that, a manager’s job is to not only build a good team, but also a good group. Zlatan totally didn’t fit in with the group. This makes me optimistic about the MSN equation. They are all huge stars, but there is a bit of selflessness in each of them. It is clear however, that Neymar will step up to be the ‘new Messi’. When, is the golden question.

    ~~ Out of all the next possible opponents in the CL, I would be happy with drawing any of them, except for Man city. Not just because we played them last year, I’d really like to see them further in the competition. They deserve to be after drawing strong teams continuously both in group stages and KO rounds, ever since qualifying for the competition.

    ~~ Even though I am slightly uncomfortable about it, I really like the fact that I can’t tell what our strongest lineup is. Or formation for that matter.

    .

  12. Dar_vincy
    December 11, 2014

    Your pro bono service, along with other mods’ and contributors’, will always be appreciated, Kexvin.
    A good observation made there, Levon. I would like to partly attribute our struggling to curtail Moura- who has a penchant for giving our defenders untoward daymare- and PSG’s attack to improper defensive handling. And this can partly be rectified by attentiveness to the little, often ignored details. At times I felt we were a bit soft and dare I say petrified in marking and bullying them. I mean Alba’s got the pace, Matheiu the same coupled with a a brawny physique…but none did what would have made life uncomfortable and less facile to frustrate him (and them)- bullying! I was hoping we could implement some of those rugged defending Atletico do depict against us, RM and others which undoubtedly has brought them colossal dividends. And i was glad Masch did that consistently especially against the brobdingnagian Zlatan at a point. It’s safe to say, our overall defending still needs to be specially monitored and burnished by a defensive coach (who would be part of the coaching crew) whose sole focus would be on setting up compactly an almost impenetrable defensive unit. Something like what Simeone does at Atletico. Heck, in the last 6 games we’ve played against them, we’ve had to go the extra length and at times do the extra-ordinary to carve out just a single chance.
    Point here isn’t to sour the victory and not enjoy the moment (gotta see how I was grinning in my dreams and playing that Ney’s goal repetitively in my head), but to see how we can make it tedious and laborious for our opponents to derive a chance. And that’s not say we would not be beaten, but no one would begrudge a team for a loss after a sturdy defensive effort and performance.
    We sort out that aspect of our game and we become an irrepresible juggernaut.

  13. December 11, 2014

    I am not into twitter or facebook. So Kevin, if you say people in social media are calling us out as a team who won with individual brilliance, thats really terrible. In many ways, this was an incredible team performance.
    Marc – I salute you for your heart.
    Masche – I mentioned yesterday he might be among the first three players in LE’s team sheet. I now think, he might be the first or even second. This MAN is our super luxury.

    I have only one concern though. It might have been a good idea to try such a line up with a low table liga team in our homeground, before LE tried this against PSG. Oh my,, PSG pass the ball so well.
    And Moura – do we consider bringing him here at all. I dont know how effective he might be against the routine Bus and cows we face. But still.

  14. December 11, 2014

    A rumor popped up from a UK tabloid that Everton is chasing a Douglas loan. No word on the veracity of said rumor.

  15. December 11, 2014

    Also, spare a thought for the two people stabbed after the match, one a PSG supporter. Circumstances are still being sorted, but one was a Barça supporter.

    Ultras are being blamed for both incidents. The PSG supporter, according to a story in AS English, was stabbed by a hooded dude who yelled “Visca Barca” as the act was being perpetrated.

    Again, all rumor and conjecture at the moment.

    • Jim
      December 11, 2014

      Coincidence that this happened after last week’s violence or copycat, do you think ?

      I suppose it’s a reminder that all big cities have an underbelly. Only been to one match at the Camp Nou but it was an uneasy experience getting back to the hotel. After my first couple of visits to the city I thought it was a really safe, friendly place ( which generally it is ) then one day on one of the beaches ( not the nudist one ! ) my wife asked me to translate the series of banners hanging from the balconies of the multis about half a mile back from the beach in a residential area. I was shocked to find that they were all exhorting foreigners to leave the city in no uncertain terms !

      Anyway, thoughts with those injured.

      • December 11, 2014

        Impossible to know right now, Jim. Barcelona is, like any big city, safe but you could wind up in the wrong place at the wrong time, just not as easily as some others.

        Not sure what hotel you were at, Jim, but when I hotel in BCN, it’s either at the Princess Cristina or the Spa Senator. Both are easy walks from the Camp Nou (though usually I rent an apartment).

        I have always felt safe, even at the wee, small hours, but understand that Barcelona is a big city.

      • Jim
        December 11, 2014

        On that occasion it was the Hotel Catedral in the Gothic quarter, Kxevin, a late night match and a simpleton in charge of our decision making who decided he knew the quickest way of getting back. it was a really nice beautifully placed hotel for us at that point, really still looking to see the tourist sights. However, now that I’m retired the good lady and myself are contemplating an apartment for about three weeks in Spring ( somewhere close enough to sample the delights of self catering with the Bouqueria not too far away !). We’re looking at Owners Direct and Friendly rentals. Any experience with either of these companies?

        I’ve promised myself I’m going to see Xavi one more time playing for Barca.

      • December 11, 2014

        We use and love Friendly Rentals. We have used them in Paris, Berlin, London and Barcelona. Never a bad place, and great rates. Many of the places they let are owned by them, and when they aren’t those apartments are carefully vetted.

        We usually rent spots either in l’Eixample (left) or in the Paseo de Gracia area. But that’s mostly because we get lost easily, and usually like to use Diagonal as a giant homing beacon.

        We have rented from them 5 times in Barcelona, and never a bad one. Friends have also used them in Barcelona, and have the same raves.

      • Jim
        December 11, 2014

        Thanks.

      • December 11, 2014

        My opinion of what is “safe” is heavily skewed after having spent so many years in Venezuela, but BCN is in my view even safer than other European cities of a comparable size (and I live in one of the supposedly tougher areas of the city).

        EDIT: Btw, I live pretty close to the Camp Nou, Jim. So if you need somebody to escort you to the subway station if the game is at night…

      • dl
        December 11, 2014

        Hadn’t heard of Friendly Rentals (kxevin). We were there in October and had a devil of a time finding a place before hand — we always use vrbo in north america, and have good results, but that site doesn’t seem to have much of a foothold in spain.
        Vis a vis barca and safety, it’s pretty tame compared to most large cities, though of course there’s plenty of bad luck to be had anywhere.

  16. phunky
    December 11, 2014

    Writing is hard, Kxevin, but you write well.

    Some points-

    – If only Mathieu adapts to that LB/LCB role well- we will have a solid backline in a 3 man defence.

    – Neymar is actually getting left out wide a bit more with Suarez on the pitch and in the center. But we do need width on that left, yes.

    – Bartra is a beast. He should maybe add a bit more muscle like Pique did in 2008-09 and he will be our best CB.

    – Ter Stegen still needs to work on his saves. The Ibrahimovic goal was let in on his near post. Probably short of confidence, but he needs to address his shot stopping.

  17. December 11, 2014

    I am wishing RM will get PSG on Monday. For once it would be nice to see them come up against a good opposition in the pre quarters.

  18. andrecito
    December 11, 2014

    i finally got to watch the match on my android at the gym 18 hours after it was over..and i am elated. for me..its messi, neymar, masche,bartra, and whoever else on the team sheet…i loved pedro today..and if it was up to sentiment, id put him on the automatic team sheet as well. im not sure how after messi and cr- hazard, robben, ibra…etc, are always mentioned as the next best..for me, its neymar, no question about it..the fact that those of us who have been watching messi’s every game, now get to see neymar’s everygame…thats just ridiculous..we are so lucky..

    that all being said..ibras goal was absolutely absurd. a world class team such as barca can never let that happen. i know puyol is long gone, but that doesnt happen with him on the field.

    and..im not sure where our midfield was today..and the commentators seemed to also enjoy pointing that out..so many times i saw the ball get to our forward line and it was 7 on 3 (or 4)..with the numbers in psg’s favor..i didnt like the looks of that..

    wow..i didnt hear about those stabbings..i wish the world’s hooligans would have a miraculous awakening and realize that the world is filled with far more desperate causes to fight for then football teams. even america (im american), with all of our guns and murders, doesnt experience anything close to the violence that accompanies european and south american football.

  19. December 11, 2014

    Official statement from Montoya that he wants out, effective January. Juventus rumored to be in town for talks (and ain’t THAT convenient). Under contract until 2018, buyout of 20m.

    Club supposed to also be making a statement today as well. More to come, I reckon.

    • Jim
      December 11, 2014

      No way we’ll get anything like that, surely ?

    • December 11, 2014

      This is a unique situation. I don’t think the club can afford to let a right back go with the transfer ban and all. But having a want-away player around can be counterproductive to the sporting project and scare off other youth players from signing up for long term contracts.

      • December 11, 2014

        I would suspect something around 15m, out the door. I just know that he should get gone.

        You compare his situation to Bartra. Both the same age, both nibbling at the fringes under previous coaches. Bartra worked hard, said the right things and took his chance. Now it’s going to be hard to keep him out of the lineup.

        Montoya has seemed to regress since his brighter early first team appearances, grumbled and mumbled, and now his agent comes out to say “We want out.” Okay. Get out.

      • Jim
        December 11, 2014

        I’m hoping in that case that a deal with Juve is further on than we thought because we (and he ) haven’t helped our negotiating situation by broadcasting to all that he is leaving.

      • IamXavi6
        December 11, 2014

        I don’t think it’s a case that Montoya has regressed. Sadly, he’s a victim of (successful) circumstances; and by that I mean the fact is. at Barca, only 11 players can start and the quality, competition in the squad and demand is (easily) unrivalled in any other club.

        Outside of Barca he would be a starter. The clubs interested in him (Everton, Liverpool, Arsenal) – he’ll start there for sure.

        He’s got the quality. Shame, he isn’t the first player to have to leave to get his chance here, again, it’s Barca. At the age he is, I don’t begrudge him wanting a move now. There’s a reason why other clubs raid our talent and we at times have to let players go – this is just another example.

      • ooga aga
        December 11, 2014

        There was news that came out a couple years ago, i think when Tito was in charge, that Montoya was having a bad attitude about not getting playing time, and this made the coaches want to give him time even less. Something is going on that we dont know about, he is not such a bad player to have gotten so few minutes this year. I can only guess there might be an attitude issue.

      • agar2515
        December 11, 2014

        I can only speculate that he was at his wits end waiting for Dani to move on and then OOP here comes Lord Douglas straight to the first team. No wonder he lost his patience, it must be his attitude because he is NOT less of a player than Douglas.

      • ooga aga
        December 12, 2014

        no, the attitude stuff was way before Douglas appeared on the scene. Im talking about when Tito Vilanova was in charge, if memory serves. Like 2 years ago.

      • December 11, 2014

        Can’t blame him…. Looks like LE don’t rate him much… otherwise he would have started when Alves was playing like crap…….. It’s better for him to take that risk and moved away…. After all Barca in not the end of the wolrd…. He has to prioritize his interest….

  20. Tata2
    December 12, 2014

    Chelsea set to offer Fernando Torres for free… That’s the end for my one time best number 9 in the world, I feel really sad for him…

  21. Tata2
    December 12, 2014

    After Monty, the next one to be sold should be Sergio Roberto. Can someone help me out here pls, did we sell song or we just loaned him out to westham? I feel he will be very useful in this squad especially at CM and would offer more than what Busi does there

    • Jim
      December 12, 2014

      Just a loan but he won’t be back Imo. He’s not half the player Busquets is, if Busi is fit, even in a more advanced position although I’d agree with you that Busi isn’t looking comfortable there atm. Song is playing well at the moment and good luck to him but didn’t perform to the coach’s satisfaction in our team last season obviously and when Xavi goes at the end of the season we’re gonna have Rakitic, Iniesta, Rafinha, Busi, Masche, Roberto, Samper, Dennis Suarez (?) just off the top of my head, all looking for playing time. If he keeps on playing well we might get some decent offers from bigger clubs for him that would bring in some money although does the ban mean we can’t sell loaners either ?

      Still, you never know in this business.

      • December 12, 2014

        Song was a loan, and would be a very useful squad player if used properly. But he won’t be because we don’t really have a role similar to how he’s playing at West Ham, a kind of Keita/Xavi combo.

        The club will get a good offer from a Prem club, that will hopefully match the fee paid, and off we go.

  22. Jim
    December 12, 2014

    Woah !

    From Barcastuff: Barcelona sources say they are surprised about Montoya publicly announcing he has decided to leave. The right back is not for sale. [md]

    His agent has also denied any contact with Juventus. All of a sudden it goes cold. Tell me this isn’t an incompetent effort to squeeze a decent sum for him after letting everyone know he wasn’t wanted.

    • agar2515
      December 12, 2014

      Lol, they aren’t fooling anyone. Should have sold Monty in the summer.

    • Chiu
      December 12, 2014

      – I think Montoya camp should show more respect toward the club. Just keep it internal with the club, no need to make a public statement individually, let the club handle and announce it officially.

      – I like Kxevin comparison between Montoya and Bartra. It’s about attitude. Even if you want to go, keep it silent and let the club work to find solution for you. Being grumpy and complaining to the media just make the situation worse. I always have impression our club treat all the players respectfully, no matter how bad their attitude or performance. I hope the players also being mature in reacting to such situation

      • lala10
        December 12, 2014

        Montoya has been silent for too long a time. He does not deserve this and if Barca do not want him they should have sold him before buying Douglas. What does it say about respect if an unknown player is brought in your place? And you can’t even get on match day squads. It should be a two way street.

        If they indeed sell him and the transfer ban is not lifted this will definitely rank with Wengerism. Deluded, short sighted thinking. Usually i see things in different shades and feel circumspect in adopting a firm stance because of the lack of perfect information. This i feel is pure myopic thinking.

        Look at Carvajal. EE quickly cut him loose probably whispered to him that all he needed was game time and included a buy back clause. Do you think with how he has been treated Monty will come back if he excels elsewhere? The club is in the wrong here.

      • December 12, 2014

        well said.
        am afraid, like they did it with Thiago, the club seem to ensure the player gets grumpy at the end, and will make it look like the player wanted to get out, when all what the player want is some playing time.
        If the club is not even giving him squad space, admitting the coach dont beleive in him, but still says they wont sell him, what does that mean, how would a player feel – he has to rot in our stands?

      • December 12, 2014

        Montoya “deserves” what he got. Because that’s football. He played more under Vilanova and Martino because of a greater number of injuries, IIRC. All else being equal, he wouldn’t have played as much under them, either.

        This isn’t some secret, scurrilous campaign to deny a quality footballer his shot. Enrique’s ass is on the line. It is fundamentally illogical to suppose that he would not play a player who could help him save said ass by helping the team win matches. A coach would play Satan if it meant winning a match. It is never, ever personal.

        Recall the Mourinho/Mata row, and how everyone felt Mata was being hard done by, “free Mata,” etc, etc. Mata transferred, and did exactly the same stuff at United that he was doing at Chelsea. And he isn’t an automatic selection there, either. For exactly the reasons Mourinho didn’t make him an automatic selection.

        Montoya isn’t good enough. He doesn’t attack well, and attackers have far too easy a time getting behind him. If I can see that when he plays, I reckon it’s like a neon sign to Enrique.

        There is always this supposition that when a player isn’t playing, it’s because someone doesn’t see the magic that supporters do. That is rarely the case. Usually, the coach sees something that supporters don’t, but that isn’t the case with Montoya. It’s plain to see that he isn’t good enough in attack OR defense. So why keep him?

        Douglas has a bigger potential up side, someone must have decided, which is true, as they already know what they have in Montoya.

        As for Thiago, the parallels are that neither one fully convinced their coach, but Thiago has a much bigger up side. Thiago also took advantage of a clause that his team jimmied into his contract to scuttle off to a better job. Nobody did Thiago wrong. He spent almost 10 WEEKS injured that season of his discontent, and still just missed making his minutes.

        What is true as well of both he and Montoya is that nobody done them wrong.

      • December 12, 2014

        Of course Kevin, he may not be good enough for the club. Just let him leave the club. They should have let him go in August itself as LE would have made his mind up by then.
        Some one told me, club sources say he is not for sale. Why block a player, if none of the past 2/3 coaches were happy with him? Earn whatever pittance Club can get from him and let him worry about his future. Not letting him play, and not selling him too, that is not fair.

  23. December 12, 2014

    It’s all becoming clearer now on Douglas:

    http://www.insidespanishfootball.com/139791/bartomeu-douglas-was-not-signed-for-the-current-season/

    Bartomeu said that Douglas was signed not for this season, but next, so that he spends this year getting acclimated to European football. Why did he say it now? Maybe nobody asked him before, maybe he, too, was like “Why the hell DID we sign this dude? Let me ask someone.”

    So the things we have seen that Douglas has are pace, passing ability and the first touch of a Brazilian. These things make him no less a project. At the end of a season of gradual introduction and learning at the feet of one of the best RBs in the game (still) and indoctrination into the Barça system, let’s judge him then.

  24. BA
    December 12, 2014

    which is even more stupid, because we needed a RB *immediately*; not a year from now. that’s an ex post facto explanation.

    • agar2515
      December 12, 2014

      Yea I still don’t get that people are convinced Douglas is somehow going to turn into something grand when he wasn’t even that in the Brazilian league. Im not buying this at all. So some player, mediocre all his life against mediocre opposition , is going to somehow burst to the next level against the best talent in the world? Not buying that at all Kevin , theyre just covering their asses, especially now that Montoya is leaving. For the umpteenth time, I still don’t know why the cautious words of people who actually know/habitually watched Douglas in Brazil are being ignored in favor of… Wishful thinking?

      • December 12, 2014

        Well, projects are precisely that, and priced accordingly. If Douglas was a sure thing, the price tag would probably have been a darn sight more than 4m+1.5.

        I know that the presumption is that people who make a living assessing talent and taking risks on transfers are stupid, but they aren’t always, even as a risk is precisely that. It should have been clear that Douglas was a project. It’s why I and so many others were saying give it time. So let’s give it time.

        The danger of assessing and writing off a player before we actually know what the player can really do doesn’t lead anywhere good, in my estimation.

        BA, in fact we don’t need an RB right now. Any signing would take time to assimilate into a very difficult culture. The only reason Alves didn’t was because he started at the same ground zero as everyone else with Guardiola. A new RB purchase wouldn’t be as lucky.

        Right now at RB we have Alves, who is still better than anyone we could have purchased, and Adriano, who does an excellent job when he plays RB. And now, if the PSG match was any indication, we also have Bartra. So we’re set on RBs for the rest of this season, even when Montoya takes his ball and goes wherever he is going to land.

        What if the “ex post facto explanation” is instead making clear something that people should have been able to figure out from the outset? Douglas is 24, and has leapfrogged on the depth chart a Masia graduate who has been with the first team for years. Not sure if that says more about Montoya or Douglas, but I reckon that if there hadn’t been so much bile, so much “He sucks already!” before he came to the club, people might be predisposed to a bit more patience.

        As it is, there is none, because his being terrible has been pre-sold. I know people do it, but it isn’t fair.

        It’s funny, when Phil Schoen said on Twitter that Douglas performed better than he did his first outing, you’d have thought Schoen blasphemed, such was the reaction. But Schoen was right.

        At the end of it all, Douglas might still end up not being good enough. But the club wasn’t going to spend 50m on Cuadrado, and anybody thinking Danilo would be able to just drop right into Barça and perform isn’t looking at the situation honestly.

        Barça is a hard team to break into, and a hard team to learn. If it took Thierry Henry more than a year to assimilate, one of the best attackers in the history of the game, if Abidal struggled for more than a season and a half before coming into his own, how can we expect anyone who wasn’t born and raised here to drop right in and be brilliant?

  25. lala10
    December 12, 2014

    this is meant as a reply to Kevin.

    Your line that LE’s ass is in line and so will make the correct decision assumes a perfect world. LE is a human who is susceptible to emotion, error and biases just like any other human being.

    Where is the conclusive proof that Montoya is sub par. Has he ever been granted a consistent run of games? Its a pity that we bring up the past years when he competed with a good/best Alves and he was also younger. For a defender 22 is young. The matches he played were too few to effectively gauge his true level.

    Would the heir apparent Douglas get in the B team? Who, among the Barca coaches, has gazed into the crystal ball of time and deduced that Douglas is going to pan out and Montoya is going to bomb.

    Sometimes just sometimes those who make decisions fail big time.

    • agar2515
      December 12, 2014

      Another current case in point, buying broken Vermaelen.

      • December 12, 2014

        And lala10, sometimes those who make decisions need time for those decisions to pan out.

        Montoya was brought up in the system, and understands it as well as anyone. And he still couldn’t get regular playing time. A player on the up would be in the rotation by now, allowing the coach to rest Alves for non-crucial matches.

        Montoya has played twice this season, and been poor both times. If I can see it, I reckon Enrique can. A player earns his match time in practice, by improving and standing out against his peers. Bartra did, and look where he is now.

        Montoya isn’t good enough. If he was, he would be playing. I know that it’s convenient to assume personal animus when a decision is taken that doesn’t fit the expectation. But sometimes, a player just isn’t good enough. Montoya has had four years and four different coaches to be good enough. It’s time to cut the bait on a roster spot that is going to waste.

        agar2515, Vermaelen was a risk, as well. It happens. As least Vermaelen played in a friendly for Barça, which is more than can be said of Keirrison, right? The club took a punt on a defender. Clubs do that. As with Douglas, we don’t know what will happen. Vermaelen could come back, break again and that’s that. Or his injury could be repaired, and he could give the club the season or two required to see how the likes of Ie and Diagne pan out.

        Again, we just don’t know. Do we need a CB right this moment? Nope. Pique, Bartra, Mathieu and Mascherano, who will have to play CB to stay on the pitch, and Enrique clearly wants Mascherano on the pitch as much as possible. That’s four CBs, which is right in line with any top club in world football.

    • December 12, 2014

      Sure, but you may also think about the fact that Luis Enrique has coached Monti before. If anything he should know him more than he knows Douglas or Adriano OR Dani Alves.

      Let me put it this way:

      Montoya has passed through every level in La Masia. He has spent, apart from that, two and a half seasons with the first team, meaning that the only players he hasn’t had enough time to practice with are Rakitic and Suarez. He has the confidence

      Douglas doesn’t speak Spanish yet, had never seen those players except on TV, never played in Europe, lacks the years of education in the system or the knowledge of the players.

      On paper this shouldn’t even be a contest. The fact that it is, the fact that Luis Enrique would use anybody BUT Montoya, is telling. The fact that Montoya reacted the way he did after getting this supposedly mediocre competition for the spot, that’s also telling.

      Here’s where I think your logic fails. You talk about being granted a consistent run of games. Why should he be granted even one game? All other things removed, you get on the line-up by virtue of what you showed on the training pitch and on whether you are suitable for the opponent at hand.

      • December 12, 2014

        Yes, LE knew Montoya even before and he saw him during pre season too. Why didnt he decide or ask the club to sell/ loan him in August? That would have helped the player to reach any club, and get more minutes in anyways, right?, rather than just doing training sessons for one whole season.

      • December 12, 2014

        Because decisions are not made on the fly or from first impressions. That’s first, especially when we’re talking La Masia. Loans are what’s usually considered, unless the player wants out, like what happened with JDS and Thiago.

        Now, Tello went on loan because his competition would be Pedro, Neymar and Suarez.
        Montoya wants out because his competition are Adriano and Douglas(because supposedly Dani Alves is leaving after this season). What does that tell you?

      • December 12, 2014

        “Now, Tello went on loan because his competition would be Pedro, Neymar and Suarez.

        Montoya wants out because his competition are Adriano and Douglas(because supposedly Dani Alves is leaving after this season). What does that tell you?”

        I’d say damn, that tells us a lot. Excellent comparison.

  26. lala10
    December 12, 2014

    Though the Thiago/Montoya cases are different they have a ring of similarity in that they both involve letting go a prospect in a key position that does not have a ready made replacement in the near future. And to let go the potential solution to that problem.

    • December 12, 2014

      Montoya isn’t a solution to any problem except who is Sergi Roberto going to play cards with in the stands. That’s why Guardiola, and Vilanova, and Martino used Adriano at RB instead of Montoya. It’s a simple question of quality.

      Thiago is a talent who got away. But he wanted to leave, and that’s fine. So get out. He wasn’t as good as Xavi, and was never going to be, the deification of him notwithstanding — even as we acknowledge that Xavi is a once in a lifetime player.

      Thiago did what any talented young employee would: leveraged a contract loophole to get a better job. No shame in that game, but the notion that the club somehow forced him out, weeping and clutching a Barça binky to his heaving chest, needs to end even as I know it won’t. Because the tale needs to have a villain, and the club makes for a convenient one.

      But the player took advantage of a contract loophole that he himself demanded.

      When Thiago played for Xavi, there wasn’t the same control or logic to Barça’s game. Not to say that there wouldn’t have been had Thiago decided to stay. Players learn a position, and Thiago had the talent to learn. But he chose to leave. Chose.

      Samper is ready to slot into that position at the base, almost. By the break, I’d expect him to be getting some first-team looks increasingly. So there is indeed an almost ready replacement, even as I wish that the club had planned better, without the necessity of relying on an aging veteran, no matter how brilliant, and his sketchy tendons.

  27. barca96
    December 12, 2014

    Ooga aaga can you give the source where you read about Nontoya’s attitude problem during Tito’s time. It’s strange that only now you mention this and no one else has heard of this even Peter or Culetoon who live in Spain.

    • December 12, 2014

      There were references to MD stories a while back that surfaced in social media, barca96. That’s probably what ooga aga was referring to.

    • December 12, 2014

      Affirmative, I vaguely remember it was an MD story or opinion piece.

      If you look back you will see something interesting – last season I defended Montoya, precisely because he is young and home-grown. But man, his crosses and passes in final third would drive Tata nuts!

      • agar2515
        December 12, 2014

        It’s ibtereing to me how much opinions are black and white on Douglad. Many people don’t rate him at all and think he’ll be back in brazil in a few years, some say give it time. Also Kevin, It’s not like Phil one BeIN has much of a sample size to judge him…
        Once was Malaga and once was Huesca. I’m sure people expect Benny Hill levels of ineptitude but of course he’s not going to be THAT bad, but that still doesn’t mean a thing to me as far as his future goes. I’m riding with the people who know him from Brazil (like lucasmmr on twitter). Then again I want Bartra as RB so I guess not having a big money RB waiting for dani to move on is a good thing.

  28. neilmehta87
    December 12, 2014

    Hey Guys,
    I dont normally post on any public forums.
    But I wanted to thank Kxevin and Peter for providing these wonderful summaries. The writing is top notch. Keep up the good work guys.
    Because of a busy work schedule, I cannot watch barca matches, which is what many of you go through, I am sure. Reading these summaries almost makes up for it. Thanks

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