Barça 3, Villarreal 2, aka “Is that all you got?”

"Boom!"
“Boom!”

What an extraordinary match of football, one that for me was most interesting in the way that it tested the mettle of this Barça side.

It’s easy to scoff and say that “It’s only Villarreal,” but this was a team that today suffered only its second road loss and was unbeaten in its last 10 before coming to the Camp Nou. It’s also a team of talented, intelligent, well-coached players that will be a handful in the coming Copa semi-final tie.

The challenge for a team is always, “What will you do when you’re punched in the face?” In 3 matches against Atleti, the last most notably at their house, and then at home today, Barça was punched in the face via a pair of goals that were a comedy of errors more than any sort of indictment of the defense, even as culers were waiting for the defense to concede, for Pique to make an error so that the shouts of “A-ha!” could begin, in a world in which even good things are suspect, failure masquerading as success.

The first was an excellent break. Mascherano gets a foot on the ball into the box, but doesn’t clear it far enough. The Villarreal attacker slams it at his teammate, who banks it home. There were certainly errors, and it’s worth asking what in the hell Busquets was doing, as he was closest to Cheryshev, but didn’t mark him. The second was Pique with a simple brain fart, and the team lost track of the trailing man. A better scramble means that not only is someone in front of the trailing man, but the cross gets picked off.

Neither one happened, and that’s that. But after each goal, Barça came back. The level of play is raised, and three excellent goals are the result, the first when Rafinha makes Asenjo stretch to parry the rebound, and Neymar slots a difficult finish home down the narrow corridor between the defender and the keeper, who was scrambling to get back into position.

On the second, Rafinha slots home after the rebound falls directly to his feet.

The third came after a dazzling sequence of football, and Messi saying “Have some of this!” With the right foot. From outside the box. Since the Belter at Anoeta, Barça is 8-0. It seems odd to say, even though I did in a video for fotlipou.com, that the team is taking on the personality of its coach, but it’s a nasty bunch that is suddenly uninterested in taking “No” for an answer. There have been strolls and manitas and comebacks, hard-fought matches and on-pitch training sessions.

Characteristics

But when searching for a singular characteristic, the team has stuck out its jaw, taken some shots and fought back. Hard and mean. And that is what I like more than anything else. Any team can win when playing Elche with a 4-0 aggregate lead at the start. But what does that team do against the defending Liga champion? What does that team do when a very good football side that is also defending excellently, goes up a goal. In the exploration of character, there is something to be read from those situations.

After the goals were conceded, people were, in the land of social media, saying things such as the Barça defense seems shaky compared to the likes of Bayern, who only the other day let in four goals vs Wolfsburg. Okay. You seek succor where you can, but as the adage goes, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. So you see the Barça that you want to see, rather than the Barça that is. Nits are picked with the club based on a past template from a different world, different time and different set of players. There is talk of control, and pause, and people say “Yeah,” as a notion comes to life on Barça Twitter, a notion that ignores what we have, which is a bunch of swashbucklers willing to play the kind of football necessary to win.

I will be the first to say that I sigh wistfully when I recall the days when our players danced around their opponents with dazzling passes and sublime sequences of play. I also sigh wistfully at the days when the rest of the world was interested in allowing such things to happen. But both times are gone, replaced with opponents who do what Villarreal did, which is contest for every last inch of pitch space, hurtling hither and yon to shut off Alba, double-team Neymar and put Messi in a cage. And when they didn’t have timely interventions, they had an alert, sharp whiz of a keeper in Sergio Asenjo.

But I have a hammer, dammit, and “Wham! Wham!” I will strike at the head of the nail that is embodied by what I want to see.

The match was fun and funny in reactions to an excellent set of substitutions by Enrique. When Mathieu came on for Busquets and Mascherano moved up to the midfield, again the hammers came down in the Barça world. And then Mascherano set about showing exactly why the sub made perfect sense as he did what he does, destroying with verve and industry, intercepting passes and releasing balls, making intelligent decisions and becoming exactly what Barça needed at that point of the match: a quick DM who can read the match and destroy stuff. And the Villarreal counters stopped.

Pedro came on for Suarez and it was, in some quarters, “Oh no, Pedro!” Then Pedro did what Pedro does, which is to be everywhere, making runs and breaking up attacks, intercepting passes and making a general nuisance of himself. The game was a lot more calm and in control after those two moves, which ain’t bad for a clueless coach who is crap at reading a match and making tactical changes.

The other Alcantara

vilraf

Nothing sparks a war like the mention of Thiago Alcantara, but it was his brother Rafinha who turned in an MOTM performance today in a walk, Messi’s match winner notwithstanding. Goals are seductive but even there, Rafinha had a hand in two, scoring one and influencing the other with a nasty curler of a shot. He passed, controlled, defended and intercepted, even destroying a bit of serious Villarreal danger by taking one for the team and picking up a yellow card.

His heat map today isn’t a map as much as a succession of brush fires, as it becomes difficult to find a part of the pitch where Rafinha didn’t touch the ball today. This was only only the best match Rafinha has played in the colors, but one of the best matches that a Barça mid has played this season to date.

He needs playing time, and should have earned more today. In addition to guile and Masia-bred craft, he showed strength when he had to. Is it coincidence that his longest run of being free of injury/sickness has resulted in a match such as he played today? It’s a question worth asking. Here’s another one.

What of Ter Stegen?

Claudio Bravo was an excellent pickup in the market, but both goals asked interesting questions about his ultimate suitability for the No. 1 slot in all competitions this season. On the first Villarreal goal, he seemed to hesitate just a second. The Cheryshev deflected shot was in a spot that made a reflex stab save possible, even as that brief pause made it impossible.

On the second goal, would a more active, aggressive keeper have played Dos Santos differently? There was a moment where Dos Santos was close enough to Bravo where had he been that kind of keeper, he might have made a play on the ball at Dos Santos’ feet.

Neither one happened, and if the displays from Ter Stegen are at all fresh in your mind, it’s worth considering whether a different keeper would have resulted in a clean sheet today, despite the defense giving up a couple of rather unfortunate goals.

Right now, Ter Stegen is the keeper in the Copa and Champions League competitions. This makes sense to me, and demonstrates the confidence that Enrique has in his “No. 2” keeper. But how long will it be before Bravo finds his way to the No. 2 slot. Ter Stegen is probably wondering the same thing, and the answer might not be as long as we suspect in coming.

Suarez in full

vilsua

“Augggh!” scream culers as Suarez fluffs his lines in front of goal again, or demonstrates a heavy touch, or fails to protect the ball as he should close to the box, allowing a defender to make a play on it. Suarez finds his way to the bench after being subbed and abuses his boots in rage. In a game that values goals, it’s nonetheless worth asking about the quality of Suarez’s overall game as once again, he had a hand in goals today even if he didn’t score any himself. He had a hand in them by making plays that only a player of his quality can make.

It’s easy to say that “Pedro would have scored that,” just as it’s easy to ignore the question of whether Pedro would have been in position to be there for the chance. Suarez has excellent movement in the box, understanding what to do and how to get there. He reads the game exceptionally well, which tends to almost always put him in a place where he can influence play. To be sure, he has moments once he is in that position, that make you want to pull your hair out. But as with Henry, Neymar and Sanchez, it would be erroneous to look at his goalscoring statistics alone and surmise that Suarez isn’t having a good year.

Statistics are lovely. A Twitter denizen, in labeling me a “Suarez hater,” threw a stat at me that compared Suarez goals/assists in his first 18 matches as a Barça player to Neymar and Alexis Sanchez. But because culer history has already branded the first seasons of those two players to whom Suarez is compared as woefully inadequate, that sort of statistical comparison doesn’t really interest me.

People say, in another for instance, that Neymar is much better this year popping in goals at a ludicrous rate. But part of that capability is being beneficiary of a front three that contains Messi and yes, Suarez. But Neymar is better this year because he is having a direct influence on matches, defending, tracking back and playing the sort of all-pitch game that makes him potentially devastating.

Hell, we all wish that Suarez didn’t have the yips in front of goal. He could easily have had a brace before the half, providing a degree of comfort that would have made the match less fraught. But if he isn’t on the pitch the match would have been even more fraught, without his direct contributions to goals scored.

On the first goal he drags a pair of defenders around as if they were on leashes. One of them would have, with a different player at the 9 slot, probably been free to stop Neymar’s shot. On the second his spin, control and cross are superlative, setting the table for the subsequent goal. On the third, he controls and lays off the pass for Messi in one fluid motion, putting the ball in the perfect spot for Messi to unload.

The game isn’t just goals, even as goals are how we keep score.

Winning when you have to

Barça didn’t have to win this match today. In many ways, situations argued against a victory. Villarreal was defending very well and attacking with verve. As a team, Barça didn’t have the best match even as the team played well enough at crucial moments to secure a hard-fought victory in a dazzling match for neutrals.

All five goals in this match were high quality, but also involved an element of luck. Rebounds have to fall to the right spot, errors must be made. But this was a match begging to be lost or drawn, and Barça chose to win it. People will see what they want to see: Enrique isn’t good, team got lucky, Messi bailed them out, Suarez wasn’t good, the midfield needs to do more, etc, etc. And while certainly a results-only focus is short sighted and intellectually lazy, an excessive focus on the journey taken to a given result threatens perpetual dissatisfaction.

This year’s club is something of a surprise package as it comes together. I intend to sit back, have fun and react, while making myself understand the difference between what I would like to see, what I see and what the opponent allows me to see. The fun is in parsing the different realities.

vilteam

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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.

59 Comments

  1. barca96
    February 1, 2015

    I feel sorry for Xavi. Still waiting for his 1000th match. I do think though that the 2nd half vs Atletico would’ve been better for him as opposed to this match. I can’t see him contributing defensively as Rafinha and Rakitic does. But I thought he could’ve come on for Iniesta last night.

  2. barca96
    February 1, 2015

    Sorry for the OT but I’m glad to hear that the Patriots won the Super Bowll. I became a fan when I saw the way they entered the 2001 or 2002 final. They entered as a team instead of one by one. It gave me goosebumps. Great team spirit. Gonna rock my Patriots Tshirt tomorrow. Doubt anyone in my country will know why though 🙂

    But as a kid in the early 90’s I liked 49ers. Mainly because of Young and fascination with the city.

    Speaking of fans, does the people in US support local team or do they support teams from out of city/state as well? In football it is predominantly geographic as well but it still scatters around. I know a lot of Englishmen who support teams who are not from their town. I know that doesn’t represent the whole fandom but just wondering cause when I watch American tv shows or movies they all seem to support their local team. Maybe there aren’t enough British content on tv to draw comparisons with. The last British show that I watched in a long time was the Invetweeners. Nothing there except for the West Ham trial “fwiend” 😆

    • Inamess
      February 1, 2015

      Wow, what a bizarre ending! The only sports parallel I can think of at this moment is Man U vs Bayern ’99: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

      I was a Raider fan back when the Pats beat them in the infamous “tuck rule” game so I will always look at that franchise with suspicion since their rise as a sports dynasty began on the heels of a controversial game almost like Chelsea-Barca in 2009.

    • bhed
      February 2, 2015

      Some people support non-hometown teams, usually because of exposure through a friend or relative in childhood. I grew up in Atlanta,and have lived in Boston and the SF Bay area, so I like all of those teams, especially when they happen to be winning! Boston and SF both provided a reason to root for the Pats (SF and Seattle are big time rivals), plus Brady is the man, and I wanted him to cement his legend beyond dispute.

    • IamXavi6
      February 2, 2015

      Was the pass the worst play ever in SB history at the end?

    • deerwithwings
      February 2, 2015

      Man! That was an exciting game! As an expat New Englander I am a very happy camper today!

      To answer your question barca96, in my experience most fans support local teams. However, contemporary culture, as is happening in Europe as well, dictates that many of us do not live in our home states or cities. Thus, you have a lot of people in other places supporting their childhood clubs.

  3. Inamess
    February 1, 2015

    Great review after a great win tonight and certainly glad I’m not a Seahawks fan! At this point I look at every La Liga match as a must win as I don’t think we can afford to drop any points on RM at this point. Were we “lucky’ tonight? Only in so far as the result of every close football game is partly down to luck. This one was a nice complement to our amazing victory at Villarreal last season in that we took advantage of the breaks that came our way.

    Some additional points:

    1) Fully agree that MAtS is now for all intents and purposes our top keeper. Bravo has had a great run of form in the league but certainly does not offer all the bonuses that ter Stegen can. That said, I would be shocked to see any changes at this point given the value Lucho places in loyalty as so far Bravo has not cost us any matches and was an amazing shot stopper in the first half of the season.

    2) Not sure about the depiction of the “Suarez haters” or if this is somewhat of a straw man. Most Barca fans as I see it have given him his due as an impact player but most are rightly disappointed with his lack of scoring, none more so, of course, than the player himself. The question becomes whether it is a simply a run of poor shooting or whether he is just not going to score nearly as many goals because of how teams play us. I think all Barca fans want him to succeed, but the questions still remain about just what the team will get for its huge investment.

    Maybe Suarez just needs to to score the decisive goal in a big game to get his mojo back. He hasn’t done that yet, though his unfairly ruled offside effort at Valencia may been a nice confidence boost. For me, he has to be a difference maker in our upcoming matches in the Copa against Villarreal and Man City, and I will not have any complaints.

    3) With the possible emergence of Rafinha as a viable starter now, it adds even more uncertainty about what our best midfield is: which three will Lucho start against Man City or Villarreal, for example. His choices might be telling in which players he really has most confidence in since his future at Barca will in large part depend on the results of these ties.

    • G6O
      February 2, 2015

      Regarding Suarez: I have not watched every Liverpool game, I have in fact probably watched him more playing for Uruguay, but I don’t think it’s the way we play – it is not a question of his chances being reduced in number, it’s a question of efficiency as he is just missing them. Which usually for a striker is almost entirely down to confidence.

      It is a very interesting question why this is happening with so many great players who join the club, which has now become a tradition (but a fairly recent one, it was not the case back in the 90s for example). It is probably a case of the player arriving at the club and finding out how much he doesn’t know about the intricacies of the overall system of play, which results in a hit on his confidence – if you are constantly overthinking where you should be and how you should pass (things that, in Suarez’ case, admittedly, he has been doing very well), that usually results in poorer finishing as finishing is still the most instinctive part of the game for an outfield player where overthinking has to be avoided at all costs. And that’s how we end up with clumsily missed chances like the one in the penalty box in the first half vs. the instantaneous thunderous shots he used to produce in the past such as the goal against England at the WC for example. By the second year, and with a preseason most of the rest of the game become internalized and automated so things come back to normal, hopefully this will be the case here too.

    • agar2515
      February 2, 2015

      If anything, who in their right mind would want Pedro out there instead? please

    • kneowell
      February 2, 2015

      We weren’t lucky, we made our own luck, the goals we scored weren’t own goals but were goals from concerted effort of the team

  4. ooga aga
    February 2, 2015

    Kxevin, great stuff in the last paragraph, and last sentence of the penultimate paragraph. Very much with you here. This is a fun ride this year. And I agree this was a fantastic match of football to watch.

    Regarding Barca96’s comments re: Xavi in the last thread and this one… dont feel too bad. I have a feeling the old man isnt 100% — in fact he missed a couple games recently due to injury (his lower calf muscle) just FYI. furthermore everything he has said in recent pressers show that he is very happy he stayed this year and that he has been playing more — injuries notwithstanding — than he thought he would.

    he will be playing many more minutes this year, including in important matches, i would put money on it.

  5. barca96
    February 2, 2015

    Peter thank you for responding kindly to the accusations and sharing the video of Neymar vs Damian. That was a good duel. Damian wasn’t innocent though with the childish push and kicks to the achilles. But other than that it was professional and they honestly respected each other.

    I don’t like to fake things. Like Diego Costa vs Liverpool. Costa stamped on Skretel and had a few ugly duels but at the end they embraced and was all smiles. I don’t get it, if you are nice are you acting like a total asshole and trying to injure me and my mates, starting fights, etc. just a few minutes ago? Good thing the English FA took action and suspended him. Why can’t the Spanish FA do the same with regards to Ronaldo and Turan and many others?

    • February 2, 2015

      “It was professional and they honestly respected each other.”

      That’s my point. They are both South Americans, from a culture which emphasizes winning. As such it is required that you do what you can to win. You are a professional footballer, often being paid more than heart or brain surgeons; often it is the job that will provide for the education and well-being of your children, give them and your family the comfort you may have been denied once; as such it is your job to do everything you can to help your team win. You have to leave the pitch certain that you gave it all, and that includes cynical fouls, some dirty play if the ref doesn’t see it. If you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying hard enough. The noble spirit of fair play is for Sunday seven-a-side when all that’s at stake would be a case of beer.

      That means you must get under the skin of your opponent, you have to make him flinch, make him angry, destabilize him.
      But at the same time there’s the respect for another professional, because you both play the same game. He tries to do the same to you, he uses his strengths to help his team, and that includes embellishing, includes complaining to the ref for the unseen dirty play, includes nutmegging you, trying to get under YOUR skin and drawing a foul. Because that is expected of him.

      With Atletico it’s different. The rojiblancos right now are thugs. They don’t just try to get under your skin. They don’t care if they scrape your ankles with their cleats as long as they can claim it was for the ball and “I fcking got a piece of the ball, ref, and this is just my fifth foul!”
      They will kick you, elbow you, and when you fall down they will tell you to get back to your feet, you fucking fairy. At the same time they will complain to the ref if you dare try to retaliate, and they will try to kick you if they can get away with it when the ref is with his back, and when everything else fails, they will try to physically intimidate you, by getting in your face and trying to make you actually step back.

      But here’s the key thing, they will try to do it only if they feel stronger on a physical level.
      My point is this, have you seen one of them try this shit on Masche? You seen them try it on Pique or Mathieu? They try to get Suarez angry, but they never really try to bully him. You will see it against Jordi Alba, Pedro, Messi, Iniesta, Neymar and sometimes against Dani Alves(although not very often against him, because he can give as much as he gets and he knows how to get away with it), but not against the bigger guys on the team.

      And that’s the whole point. This is why there is no respect at the end.

  6. February 2, 2015

    It would be harsh to bench Bravo in all three competitions. He has been great and didn’t make any ‘Goalkeeping mistake’ as such. Valdes has made hell lot of those mistakes in the past(timings and brain farts) and people have talked about ‘why pick a scapegoat blah, blah’. Let’s not analyze too much. Bravo is a great goalkeeper too. When the great Peter Cech is ok to play capital cup games, there shouldn’t be any problems with Ter Stegen.

  7. Tata2
    February 2, 2015

    Talked about shooting from outside the box and someone opined that it wasn’t our style but there you had it, Messi curled in a beauty from outside more so with his right foot. I guess Messi is an exception

    • IamXavi6
      February 2, 2015

      Yup, that was me. And yes, he IS the exception, and I’m glad Messi at least does it, because it’ll always do well to have some variety with the distance in which we actually score the goals… note, Neymar does it too (Iniesta tries but isn’t so good at it)

    • kneowell
      February 3, 2015

      Is shooting outside the box part of a certain style of Play? The only reason why we don’t try that often enough is because we often play against compact defence that gives no space for such, not because not a part of some bloody style of play

    • ooga aga
      February 3, 2015

      agree, hard to shoot from outside when there is a wall of bodies in front of you. hard to do much of anything.

  8. Jim
    February 2, 2015

    At least the games these days are exciting, even if not always in a positive way !

    Positives for me were the improvement in Rafinha – best game I’ve seen him play for us, the continued movement of the front three ( Kxevin, spot on in the contribution of Suarez. Not sure how anyone can watch us these days and not realise he is the missing piece. I couldn’t care less about scoring goals at the moment because he’s instrumental in everything we do up front and CBs must hate him.) I also didn’t think his finishing was particularly bad. Maybe that’s just me but which chances was he expected to finish? The only one I would suggest was possible was the one where with back to goal he swivelled and curled it just wide of the post. Not a bad miss for me as he had no time. Maybe still slightly guilty of trying to make sure rather than blootering it and trusting to luck but his luck is out at the moment – witness the hoot second half when the ball seemed to be falling onto his head and his foot slipped. Had to laugh at that. I just hope Messi and Neymar are seeking him out and telling him how vital he is.

    Wouldn’t really point a finger at Bravo for either of the goals. For the first he’s just adjusted then relaxed as the shot starts to go wide then it’s deflected the opposite way. If your weight’s on the wrong foot you can often look daft in that situation. For the second it was Pique’s error to start with but Bravo wasn’t helped by the shambolic defending which followed it either. For a start Pique allowed his man to turn back when a shot was almost impossible otherwise, Masche lost his man on the run back to goal and that brings me to my biggest beef with this display.

    What happened to defending in numbers and not getting caught on the counter ? We suffered five or six episodes where we were caught light and could have lost goals on any of them. FBs seemed to have regressed in terms of defence, midfield weren’t going with runners ( don’t ever tell me again Xavi was the cause of breakaways. One of the worst offenders was Rafinha who I thought had an otherwise excellent game, Iniesta has gone all invisible on me in that limited left sided position so I’ll need to have a look at what he was doing and Busi doesn’t seem to know if he’s coming or going. I suspect it’s because Masche keeps dashing past him to tackle stuff he should leave to Busi but either way he’s in no mans land. While I’m on the subject, Pique’s error was an interesting example of this. What is your right sided CB, who was in the correct position ten seconds earlier doing getting pulled wide on the left on his own as last man back? We need to sit the team down and get back to the things we have been doing very well. This wasn’t good.

    However, to finish on a positive. I agree absolutely with Kxevin that we could have lost this game in the past. There is fire throughout the team and that is good to see. A large part of that is Messi, for me. He just seems determined not to lose any game. He’s also, largely sticking to his “new” position, just drifting a little deep for me on occasion. This is where Suarez is so useful. On our first goal Suarez is occupying the CBs, Messi has two men on him but drifts past the girst as if he isn’t there causing Rafinha’s man to leave him which in turn gives him the time and space to get his shot away. The wee man is involved in everything we do, every week. I was out of my seat again at his goal. You just can’t, repeat CAN’T control a ball that well moving at speed into a crowded area in such a way as to be able to finish it in such a controlled way. Just phenomenal !

    We still haven’t put everything together at the same time in this side. If we do, I really struggle to think of who could beat us.

    • February 2, 2015

      And to add to all what you said,Jim, I thought for the second goal, Masche knew how Vietto was rushing in and if had at least used his shoulder on him, running closely for that last metre or so, then may be, I dont know.. I thought that shot wont have happened that way. Anyways. Pique was brilliant too, except that school boy moment.
      Yes, Messi is on a very different level these days. Creating a chance from almost everywhere, yet playing on the touch line and even behind some of the midfielders for long time in the match. How he created the shot opportunity for Rafinha is so ordinary for us, but it was brilliant. And his goal was somehow similar to the Milan goal, but with right foot, with less power. Looked like he caressed the ball, rather than shoot.
      I havent seen much of Suraez in EPL. Did he have a problem with his first touch then too, or it is just a confidence issue. Whatever, he is big reason behind many goals.

    • Jim
      February 2, 2015

      Possibly, fotobirajesh, but that’s maybe a bit harsh as he’d have risked a penalty and running at speed it’s hard to know exactly where the attacker running behind you is. . I’d rather Masche hadn’t been on the touch line in the first place with Vietto at all. That’s what Busi is at DM for and with his height maybe that flick on doesn’t happen. If Masche was going to use force Id rather that was where he use it to prevent the flick on header in the first place. Simple foul, no booking. Looking at it again, maybe Kxevin has a point about Bravo. The movement Dos Santos makes to turn back causes the ball to run away from him for an instant. Maybe just a slight chance to smother it then. Mind you, we had three defenders back, not counting Pique and mine saw fit to cover the one attacker who could damage us. I’m gonna say, like most of their attacks, apart from Pique’s error, it was really down to us being caught light at the back again.

    • Jim
      February 2, 2015

      *None

    • kneowell
      February 4, 2015

      What Header? Busquets Height? Where did it Matter I the goals against us? Which game are you talking about?

  9. February 2, 2015

    Cheryshev’s goal was not a deflection. You can clearly see him stretching his leg and connecting. I was very impressed by his speed of thought in doing that though, as the ball seemed to be hit with lot of power, wayward though, and most players would have let it go past.

    • G6O
      February 2, 2015

      Busquets should have covered him, however, if that was not a shot, this would not have been a goal. The shot was mishit, so he managed to deflect it into the net. But if it was pass, he would not have been able to do it as the ball would not have had sufficient pace, so he would have had to spend more time on it and might have been closed on time. So it was still a freak goal.

    • Jim
      February 2, 2015

      To be fair, the whole defence was at sixes and sevens so I wouldnt single out Busi. First of all, we were originally caught with only two against three. The rest came scampering back but never really got the marking sorted. It was actually Masche’s man originally who ended up scoring. Masche left him, quite correctly, as his place was towards the front post, Busi did well enough to see he had to come deeper into the back line to cover Masche but there were two free by that stage and the ball ended up going to Masche’s man who pulled out a bit. Could Masche have been a yard further out and therefore had an easier clearance? Possibly. Should Busi have seen that Pique was covering one of the two he was left with and stepped out ? Maybe. However, no blame for me and just one of those goals which stemmed from the start of the move when we were caught light and never recovered our marking.

  10. Cyclops
    February 2, 2015

    Hi guy’s…think i should state here and now, that i’m new here..been on other blogs tho’, but i guess i just got bored one day, and then decided to browse through the web for FCB blogs, and BAM, i found this..great bog really..got me wondering what i was doing all this while with my life when such a stuff was out here…kxevin..mighty glad i’m typing your name right now, and not pronouncing it..else i might just have ended up pronouncing something hideous, lol..still trying to get it right tho’…but i kinda figured, just as FCB has been on a roll this past few weeks, so you’ve been matching ’em pound for pound, lol..all great articles, really..thumbs up..as for the match, didn’t know which to do at the end; laugh or feel a lil pissed..to start with, was expecting a clean sheets(feel we’ve got this secret battle with bayern over europe’s best defence)…from getting that hope dashed, to the way this match took my ’emotions’ for a turpsy-turvy ride;one minutes getting super confused, ’cause of a goal i couldn’t fathom how it came about, the next, thanking my stars we managed to equalise a goal i never saw coming, and the next, nearly weeping when i was starting to think our winning streak was screeching to a halt(thanks goodness it didn’t!)..and other petty things i believe i’d keep to myself for now..any which way viva barca..forgive the long psot tho’, just wanted to get it all out in one breath..guess i’d just continue reading the stuff here for now

    • ooga aga
      February 3, 2015

      welcome! come back now ya hear! 🙂

    • ciaran
      February 3, 2015

      Welcome, to answer your query on Kxevin’s name… It started when Txiki Begiristain was our director of football back in the 00’s. Back then Kevin used to write with the offside another blog and took on Txiki’s X and became Kxevin. It just stuck.

    • BA
      February 3, 2015

      final report on the cost of Neymar’s transfer: €86.2m.

      that’s a HELL of a lot of money. even moreso considering our “broke” and “financially decrepit” club then went out, a year later, to spend €80m+ on Luis Suarez. while i enjoy watching Neymar and think he’s a great addition to the team; had we been properly informed of the real numbers, would we still have been as enthusiastic? i don’t think so. which is why Rosell purposefully misled the board and the socis (and the Spanish tax authorities), and hid the full payment until Cases made it an issue.

      in reading up again on this clusterfuck, i came across the news that Rosell’s sports marketing firm in Brazil has been accused of corruption and bribery, and had its offices in Rio raided by the police. the man is clearly a scumbag, and i hope the many socis who voted for him learn their lesson by this summer:

      http://www.economist.com/node/21530991

    • ciaran
      February 3, 2015

      The problem BA, is that the cost cost of every transfer is never revealed. Ever. Neymar’s transfer looks like a fantastic bit of business regardless of the figures involved. And also worth noting that Madrid would have paid more.
      Reports around the finances behind the Bale transfer put that figure much higher than that of Neymar’s along with the fact that he is younger, a better footballer and a bigger marketing draw.

    • BA
      February 3, 2015

      personally i think, even at the final revealed price, Neymar was worth the money. the kid is undoubtedly a star, he adds so much value to our attack and takes an enormous pressure off of Messi. he’s been brilliant this season and will only get better.

      ALL OF THAT SAID, however, as a supporter i still want to know the actual cost of transfers; or, at least, i don’t want to be told X transfer costs €50m when it actually costs €80m. and i certainly don’t want the club, through that process, to become entangled with the Spanish tax authorities. that’s not good for anyone. flouting regulation has become a feature of the last few years (through both previous administrations), and it’s landed us in more trouble than the potential payoffs. so not only is it crooked, it’s shortsighted, stupid and disgraceful. all terms that could be used to describe the administrations of Rosell and Bartomeu.

    • agar2515
      February 3, 2015

      For me it’s simply the utter embarrassment of the whole situation. What other clubs president has to stand before a judge due to accusations of FRAUD related to his club ( the charges against Hoeness of Bayern were unrelated to the club).
      Which is why I get so irked when people want to say ” well Sandro and Barto did some good…” Stop it already, they’re crooks that need to go.
      Also, look at the smear from Marca recently regarding Lee possibly leaving to Madrid. Thankfully false, but our brass is in such a position that we cannot simply hold a presser to refute lies, for fear of Barto getting skewered with questions about his fraud.
      Thus Marca and AS have even more free reign to publish their garbage against us.
      The sooner the club brass is gone the better.

    • kneowell
      February 4, 2015

      And Rossell did the dirty job of bringing the kid in and took the fall as Well? Then rossell is my hero, that’s a lot of sacrifice for the club, necessary one as it would appear. In fact rossell should be celebrated. Secretly though. Lol

    • kneowell
      February 4, 2015

      Agar2515, we will say it over and again, rossell did some good things, infact, a lot of it. If he had passed on the chance of signing Neymar a d let the kid go to madrid after we’ve chased the kid for years people like you still won’t stop pointing accusing fingers at him. Neymars case is not the first in Europe, we are only unlucky to have florentino perez and the press In madrid who would not mind their own business but do whatever they can to fuel the issue. Don’t forget that the madrid media house started the rumors that led to the full investigation of the case. Isn’t Neymars case one of the reasons FFFP was introduced. Rossell did everything possible to bring the good luck of a kid in, he probably saw the lawsuit coming afterall and that’s why he resigned without fuss. For me it’s a necessary sacrifice for the club with benefits outweighing the consequences, with this team who needs to sign players at the end of the season. Lol.
      Laporta was not devoid of his own fraud issues to. In fact I would share a drink with rossell on me if I ever get to meet him.lol

    • Inamess
      February 3, 2015

      Let’s face it corruption and secret deals are endemic in football. I don’t know all the facts, but I’m quite sure that if Real made an even sleazier deal for Neymar (the hottest football property since Messi and Ronaldo) they wouldn’t have had the same problems.

      In Rosell’s case, he created a lot of enemies and certainly Barca will always be a target for Madrid and the Spanish government as long as we are successful. So the whole thing ended up a giant mess.

      I’d imagine the transfer ban worked in a similar fashion: the club recklessly skating on the cusp of breaking the rules with enough powerful enemies to make them pay for it. In this case, I am more sympathetic since it seems that the law against bringing in youth players undermined the entire purpose of La Masia: getting the best young talent from all over the world. Once this was taken away, the club lost its greatest comparative advantage.

      For me the club’s ties to ties with Qatar have been a far bigger problem. Thankfully that may be coming to an end.

    • kneowell
      February 4, 2015

      I would like to know the problem with Qatar, enlighten me please. Besides how did we lose our comparative advantage? Not like we don’t have kids in all cadres in the academy, we were only banned for a summer, by next year June we can sign, not much of an issue to me.

    • Inamess
      February 4, 2015

      On Qatar: there have been several news items about its government recently that do not reflect well on the club given its purported support for human rights and democratic institutions. These include:

      1) Reports of some World Cup funds siphoned off to support ISIS.

      2) Exploitation of foreign workers, many of whom are building WC facilities.

      3) The recent imprisonment of Mohamed Rashid al-Ajami for his poem in support of the Arab spring.

      I definitely think we needed to get a sponsor to compete with the other big clubs, but wonder if this particular choice was a wise one given what we know now. Then again such luminaries as Pep, Beckenbauer, and Zidane are a big Qatar supporters, so fans can make up their own minds about the relative merits of the sponsorship deal.

      As for La Masia, the club has spent two decades to develop the best football academy in the world so the new rules prohibiting underage signings and the transfer ban have really hurt our club, including maybe losing the chance to sign young stars such as Martin Odegaard.

  11. February 3, 2015

    Here’s a question I’d like to ask:

    Forget about Barto and Sandro Rosell for a minute. I mean it, forget about them.

    How do you explain the fact that Messi is dragged to court over really bogus charges that he was somehow the mastermind behind a tax fraud scheme? How do you explain that after the prosecutor asked the judge to remove Lionel Messi from the list of suspects because there isn’t any evidence of his actually being aware of any tax fraud(which btw comes from the image rights that he gets from outside Spain), the lawyer representing the government asked the judge to include Messi in the list of suspects, “because he must have known”. How do you explain the fact(not rumour, fact) that the during the weekend of the same week when that happened, the lawyer and her husband were in the President’s box of Real Madrid? Here’s something you should know about those seats:

    When I did the Bernabeu tour, one of the visitors wondered aloud what the ticket price for those seats would be. The guide/security of the area overheard and said that those are impossible to buy, because they people occupying them are there by personal invitation by Florentino Perez.

    Here’s a second case: the tax authorities have accused Pique of unpaid taxes. Pique is taking them to court over that matter.

    Here’s a third one: Did you know that Xabi Alonso and Casillas were found guilty of tax evasion, due to not paying taxes on global image rights? When did they go to court? They didn’t, they paid the amount demanded, and the charges were dropped. Unlike Messi’s case.

    Here’s a fourth case: There’s an ongoing bribery and corruption scandal in Spain, the related cases Gurtel and Barcenas, the first involving corruption on a massive scale, estimated to have cost the country at least 120 million Euro in construction contracts; the second case is of Barcenas, the ex-treasurer of the currently ruling Partido Popular. It becomes clear, that all the bigger fish in the party, including current Prime minister Rajoy, were being given 5000 – 15000 Euro or their equivalen every month from private accounts. Those donations were financed by big construction business firms, from the early 90s to 2009, that is close to 20 years.

    The scope of the scandal becomes even more sinister when you realize that it was the boom, bubble and burst of major construction firms that plunged Spain into the recession..

    Currently none of the protagonists in the scandals have been found guilty. The judge Ruz presides over the Barcenas case. Barcenas’ bail-out was cited at 45 million Euro, but as of this moment IIRC correctly he is about to exchange a cell with an arrest at home for 200 000 Euro. He can’t leave the country because as of now he has no passport, but this could change fast.

    As the Spanish say with a sour smile “We call it Spain because Mongolia was already taken.”

    • February 4, 2015

      Peter, please write to those big guys like Sid and Hunter. I find it so difficult to accept that, these guys dont say a word about the case of Alonso, Casillas, Nadal etc.

    • stefan2k
      February 4, 2015

      Thanks for shedding some lights on these incidents! :X

    • BarcaSon
      February 4, 2015

      Wow! Just wow!
      I am not aware of the very deep love story and the fairly tale involve between RM and the Spanish govt.but if all these were true, were all very injustice.
      I would love to see the Catalan responding all these critics at Camp Nou before every match by showing banners and singing out loud. My hate for them have is limitless though I tried my best not to hate.

    • February 4, 2015

      There was the case with the “black cards” of Caja Madrid, in which highly-placed people from all big parties, functionaries, including RM directors, etc, were given “Black Visa” credit cards, the purchases of which were then assumed by the bank, and the spending was not declared to the tax authorities. The list of items is huge, because it covers a perood from 2003 to 2012, but just the personal purchases are for over 15 million Euro. Those losses were assumed by the bank and its users.

  12. luisthebeast
    February 3, 2015

    My country is the king of corruption in E.E.For 40 years our goverments always had the rich people behind them and the rest of us paid the taxes.Now that a new goverment try to change that and make the rich pay, the whole system here and in E.E are against.We have no hope.We are poor,the last 4 years i am working 12 hours the day and i am eating one time the day.Europe want us to die.Ok we had 5000 suicides the last 5 years but they want more.Every family here have a 300000euros debt.I am sory that i bother u but i need to share with u my depress.

    • Kd
      February 4, 2015

      Hey “Luis” really terrible, the state of affairs which you described. I wish you guys would do a Syriza!! Its horrible that the perpetrators of the crises still own “football clubs” and are their president while ppl like you and me get heavily taxed to keep their lavish lifestyles goin. There’s not much I can do from here (I live in India, btw) but i sincerely hope you’ll manage to keep ur head above the water and then flush these tyrants out as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
      Peter, love the facts that you gave in your post. Very enlightening stuff. It seems and I suppose it has always been this way, that EE gets away with eveything, while Barca being the Catalan symbol is always fighting against the system.
      The only glimmer of hope is the football we play and the results we achieve. I’m quite optimistic for this year now.
      Visca Barca..

  13. Cyclops
    February 4, 2015

    oh well, thanks for the explanations..
    To the neymar’s case, yall would be smart not to get fooled by all this shenanigans..its simple, a hidden hand somewhere is busy pulling the string for all this..i agree with peter, and just as knoewell said, what club havnt got traces(for lack of a better word)of corruption- heck what organization on this earth or individual can be vouch for as being corruption-free- expecially, when it’s got to do with organization..its really rare..cause when you’ve got a company, however unwilling you are, there’d be times when you will need to do those lil, dirty things, make those moves, if you want to remaing high up there..as far as i know, its only those stuanchly principled guy’s, who some how managed to keep their etablishment away from the murky hands of corruption
    point of all this, is simple, don’t get fooled..it would be foolhardy to assume that, all other clubs, especially the bigboys- manchester utd, city, chelsea etc,havn’t done one wrong- generally..whether its got do with transfers, players management, etc..peter mentioned the case of casillas- well, there yo have it…seriously, the human nature in us, will always make us to try to, gain a comaparative illegal advantage over others..some of them call it being smart..and football players are the last guy’s on earth, i’d want to vouch for their honesty..so if you’re being resonable you’d admit that there’ve probably been a lot of other cases, but none of them been as widely publicised as the messi case(messi of all people)..check this out; we displayed a masterclass against city, they didn’t know what hit them..the next day, the headline oddly instead of being about that, was about FCB being investigated for footballing irregularities..funny thing, it waited till then to rear its ugly head..but i’m no fool, so i just figure that someone was trying to kill lot of birds with one stone- take the spotlight from them, from their victory, stall their momentum, and instead lets the talk be about how corrupt there are..not once not twice, was this scenario was repeated last season..last season, messi sort of started underperfoming at one point in the season(just immediately after the tax case was revealed)..some people said the fraud case had a part to play in that-do you think some body some where wasn’t rubbing his hands together in satisfaction at that..cause me i belived, when messi went off form at a certian point season, the tax case had alot to do with it..now neymar’s playing great, and as a coincidence of coincidence, the case chose this time to come up again..like seriously ??..well, i don’t buy that…bottom line is, when it’s got to do with, big transfers of big players, sometimes finacial discrepancies happens..everybody should know that…the way, this is going on- especially when you’ve got a neighbours such as madrid, you won’t be doing yourelf any favours, by choosing to believe, this are normal occurence..

  14. Cyclops
    February 4, 2015

    lol, yall should forgive the long post( and grammatical errors) just that i’m really pissed about this, tends to get it all out randomly..
    don’t get it twisted, madrid ‘ve got their share of corruption case, most big clubs have..its either, how well you hid it, or when found, well, you just ‘reason’ with the government, and it all goes away..it dosn’t turn out like this, as we’ve got now with fcb..yeah, if you commit fraud you’ve gotta be held acountable, no problem with that..my problem is when thieving conniving lying scums, who havn’t earned an honest penny in their lives, connive with an equally conniving government, to take this case, from the reasonable to the ludicrous..i’ll suggset you listen to bartomeu speech- yeah, the elections, blah bla blah..but i think he’s on point this time with his speech..i don’t like rossel or bartomeu..but i sure as hell, don’t like ludicrous witch-hunting either..suddenly, we’ve hit top form, neymar’s great, teams great..and BAM, the case comes up again..it’s all a single action with lot of effect..stall our momentum, affect neymar’s form, give us a bad image, and if they can, convict our great team for what, fraud, well..someone suggested that LFP means, ‘liga florentina pezez’, lol..sure, i laughed at the time, but i’d be daft, not to consider that, as somehow true

  15. February 4, 2015

    I cannot believe that there are culers who think Sevilla is going to take some points from RM. I dont think so, will be glad if they can at least draw, though.

  16. ooga aga
    February 4, 2015

    Sergio Ramos leaves injured in the 9th minute. Huge blow for our rivals.

    • Jim
      February 4, 2015

      Doubt it will matter tonight but may for the weekend. Not sure if Pepe will be back and you don’t run off a hammy – as we know to our cost.

    • ooga aga
      February 4, 2015

      james rodriguez off injured in the 24th minute.

      bad luck stick hitting our rival. not that i wished for it. just reporting the news.

      then again they are up 1-0, but sevilla has gone quite close a couple of times.

    • February 4, 2015

      The only difference between the two sides has been the finishing. Also, never one to wish injury on someone but with Pepe,Ramos,and James injured it could really help Atletico take some points this weekend.

    • Jim
      February 4, 2015

      Not for me. Difference is in the defending. RM poor, Sevilla awful.

  17. Jim
    February 4, 2015

    Ooga, I have bad news for you. Sevilla ain’t, and never were, gonna beat RM at the Bernebeu, even supposing Ancellotti comes on as CB ! 🙂

    • Jim
      February 4, 2015

      Looks like the -5 degrees is starting to play a part with injuries.

  18. Jim
    February 4, 2015

    Ok, starting to get interesting. Am I right that Carvajal is struggling with injury, Peoe likely out with injury, Ramos out with hammy and Marcello now banned? James prob out and Modric unavailable ? Wow!

    • ooga aga
      February 4, 2015

      commentator on BEIN spanish speculated back line v Atletico would be

      Arbeloa – Varane – Nacho – Carvajal

  19. ibbe
    February 4, 2015

    After so much talk about the Neymar case I still don’t get what the actual cost was. Is it 57m? 86m? 100+m? I get cofused everytime the media sends a shit storm towards the club. Could someone with more info than me explain the deal?

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