Barça 2, RM 1, aka “A tale of two matches.”

mathieu

This is the part where the joy dissipates into a blizzard of muttering, whining and beating on unfavored whipping boys. But I am impatient with that kind of stuff, so permit me to present a wee bit of perspective at the end of a fascinating, tiring, fraught day.

As one of my favorite Twitter accounts posted, Classics are to be endured, rather than enjoyed. If you are a supporter, you don’t enjoy them. You can’t. There’s just too much in it. You fret, you scream, you pace, you sweat, the anguish is almost a palpable thing in the room. But this was an extraordinary match for so many reasons.

This was really a tale of two matches and two very different sets of tactics. Barça started out the match in the wide-open, let’s do this style that lets Messi, Neymar and Suarez do their thing. The danger in that approach, however, was multifaceted. That style of play takes a lot of energy, because there is a lot of running. Spaces are bigger, passes are longer, runs are more constant. The sharpness and awareness necessitated by this style means that if any part of the machine isn’t at all sharp, things are going to look a mess.

The other problem is that RM is set up to play excellently against that kind of a style. They love open spaces, love a midfield that is subordinate to the forwards, really existing just to feed the ball forward. You press the forwards, cut off the passing angles and their greyhounds are off and running.

In the first 20 minutes of the match it was all working, even with a subdued Messi and a rootless Suarez. Neymar was pretty much still off form, showing flashes of quality that ultimately fizzled, and things were pretty clunky but still, the match was in control. Then came the mother of all set pieces as Mathieu headed home, and suddenly there was a 1-0 lead, an advantage accompanied by a massive exhale, with the Ronaldo shot that clanged off the underside of the crossbar and out, still fresh in our minds.

Then after a brilliant sequence of play, Neymar found himself all alone with the ball and Casillas, and he pranged it off his knee directly into the arms of a waiting Casillas. Shortly thereafter it was 1-1, thanks to a piece of exquisite football from Benzema. People will lash out at various folks for losing men, etc, etc, but you just can’t account for that kind of assist or footballing quality. As I noted in the preview, form goes out the window when you have players who can do exceptional stuff. Ronaldo kept running, figuring maybe, just maybe … and damned if Benzema didn’t get him the ball.

Most interesting is the effect that the Neymar miss seemed to have on both teams. RM suddenly puffed out their chests and got on the front foot as Barça relied upon a different kind of individual excellence in the form of that poker-playing, pop star-loving playboy, Gerard Pique, who just happens to at the moment be playing football better than any CB that I can think of. He broke up play after play and chance after chance, emerging from the fray with his hair unmussed and that “next Puyol” potential still waiting in the wings like the echo of a word yet to be spoken. He was a battleship that, along with luck, kept Barça in that first half.

pique

When Bale pushed his shot wide with the net and Bravo at his mercy, it’s doubtful that a culer complained when Lahoz didn’t add any extra time. Get to the locker room, chug some Red Bulls and let’s do this.

On Barça Twitter and in this space, it was a mess of accusations, from “We’re doomed,” to “Told you so,” “How can you create without a midfield,” etc, etc. Memories are short in football, so the dismantling of Atleti without even bothering with a midfield is already lost to the sands of time. The difference in that match, however, was that the front three were rampant and rapacious, full of energy and danger as Barça bypassed the midfield.

Some will suggest that a strong midfield will catch this Barça out. I would suggest that while one of today’s combatants was fighting tooth and nail on Wednesday, running, pressing and being physical in a Champions League tie, the other was sitting at home, sipping libations and watching on television, relishing the moment in today’s match when the opponent’s energy began to wane and they could slip the knife in. It almost happened. Exactly why it didn’t is something that great minds will have to figure out. It’s more complex than “Bale choked.”

And favorite whipping boys aside, almost the whole team looked flat in that first half. Thankfully, Pique and Bravo didn’t. Mathieu was also exceptional as he not only scored the lead goal, but broke up attacks and set pieces.

The questions that I had at the half were, simply enough, would Messi wake up and what kind of individual excellence was going to decide this match.

People are and will offer all kinds of excuses for Messi, tactics this, isolated that. If Messi decides to be unplayable, he will be. He doesn’t need any help, or anything when he gets in that mood, as he was against Atleti at Camp Nou, and Manchester City. When he isn’t in that mood, it doesn’t really matter who is doing what. He isn’t in that mood and it’s as simple as that. Supporters can’t have it both ways. He can’t be an uncontrollable force of nature one week, then subject to the whims of coaching error or tactical missteps the next. Like any great player, he decides how his match is going to go, and I can only speculate that he figured he had one good half of football in him, and would make it the second.

In that second half, Barça looked different. The team wasn’t only on the front foot, but Messi was suddenly awake, running, passing, setting up teammates and raising the kind of hell that many had been expecting. Tactics, shmactics. He decided it was time, and time it was as he swiveled, ran, evaded, nutmegged and made a general nuisance of himself. This not only put RM’s midfield on the back foot but it made their defense tentative, which created passing spaces as they sat back more rather than pressing up.

messi

Seems simple enough when you really think about it, that one player could completely change how a match would proceed, but that is essentially what happened. Spaces also tightened up as the adjustment was made to remove the possibility of playing the kind of match that RM wanted to play. If they got possession, rather than winning it in the midfield it would be in their end, where it would take 4 or 5 passes to get at the Barça back line rather than 2 or 3.

Tactical fouling from both sides reared its head as players were willing to do pretty much anything to stop the other team, from sticking out a leg to hip and shoulder checks. Time passed, and the rampant RM of the last 15 minutes of the first half was a more tentative bunch as Messi made run after run, controlling and pulling strings as everyone moved around him.

The biggest beneficiary of this resurgent Messi was Neymar, who found himself making those shambling, darting runs of his at defenders who were suddenly a bit more tentative at the prospect of an active Messi, and Suarez lurking around. That Neymar should have had a hat trick needs to be said. But to lambast him and him alone wouldn’t be entirely fair, even as I am sure that people will. Should he have put the match away? You bet. But you know what? Everyone has those kinds of matches. When Suarez had them, it was “He will come good.” Neymar was scoring for fun in the first two thirds of the season, and will come good because that’s what players do. Let him be. He already knows that he owes us some goals.

Then came the moment that completely changed the match, a vindication of the new Enrique system, irrespective of how someone might feel about it, and the exact thing that Barça paid 82m for. Alves unleashed a bomb of a pass, call it long ball all you like, but it found Suarez in stride. After a pillow-soft first touch, he allowed the defenders and Casillas to move with him, all thinking of protecting the near post before sliding a shot that seemed to take forever to roll past Casillas and nestle into the far corner.

suarez

You have read in this space before about moments made possible solely by the expanded possibilities of a great talent. That goal was that. It was a pure striker’s goal, and a goal that very few players in the world would have even dared to try, let alone make. Consider the moment. It’s the second half of a colossal match, and the score is tied. And you score a goal like that. Could Casillas have done better? Maybe in a different lifetime. It’s about possibilities and percentages. 99.9% of strikers don’t have the skill set to stretch out time with an absurd first touch, or the audacity to go for the improbable. Most strikers control the ball, then try to blast it past on the near side. It was, simply put, an absurd goal that bookended the brilliance of Benzema’s assist. That kind of stuff happens when you have that kind of talent on the pitch.

And then, with the lead, Enrique made three substitutions that turned back the clock as Barça decided it was time for old school football. Xavi, Busquets and eventually Rafinha entered the match. Alves moved closed to Messi, Xavi probed the midfield as he used to and Busquets was the rhythm section. Suddenly, where in the first half Kroos, Modric and Isco were getting the ball and controlling play, RM wasn’t getting a sniff of it as it pinged around a midfield that must have brought back less-than-fond memories for those who remember the Guardiola days.

Time passed and passing numbers built along with possession percentage. In the Classic preview I mentioned possession without control. This was possession with full and complete control, and it was precisely the kind of match that the team needed to play to neutralize an opponent capable of defeating it.

For those seeking a sign of the pragmatism of Enrique, look no farther than this second half as he embraced a style that many suggested he kicked to the curb in his frenzy to hand the keys over to an attacking trio. This win was a combination of his way and the Barça way of recent tradition, an acceptance that if you have the personnel to see out a match and a team that doesn’t have the energy levels to do it the preferred way, coupled with an opponent who is ready to run and gun, possession football is the answer.

What we should take a moment to appreciate is that for all of the cries that Enrique has an ego that is too big to allow him to work successfully with this team, etc, etc, that second half showed that like most pragmatists, ego is subordinate to effectiveness. Enrique doesn’t really care how the team wins. Whether that makes him a hypocrite, or an impure apostle unsuited to the a Keeper of the Way is for others to debate. But that pragmatism lies at the core of the malleability that enabled a successful result today.

Was there some luck involved? Damn right. Good and bad, for both teams. Ronaldo hit the crossbar. Bale pushed his shot wide. Neymar screwed the pooch 3 times. Messi shot it right at Casillas. Stuff happens. At the end of it all, there is subjective assessment and objective reality. The former is that a tired team found a way to beat a fresher opponent, and the notions about how that happened are above. The objective realities are that Barça won, 2-1 at home, and now have a 4-point lead atop the Liga table.

And sometimes, that’s all there is.

team

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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.

39 Comments

  1. cuqui
    March 22, 2015

    Superb game review. Totally on point. There is really nothing to add.

    Thank you.

  2. agar2515
    March 22, 2015

    This entire team is built on class from the forwards, so when people moan that there’s no real creativity in the midfield it is because when the forwards struggle like they did in the first half, we look toothless and all over the place. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the observation.

    I also don’t know how much “credit ” Enrique deserves for Alves unleashing a world-class long ball ( which is what it was, somewhere Big Sam smiled) that may be a handful of players in the world could cushion first touch and finish like Suarez did.

    If Enrique deserves plaudits for anything, it is getting Piqué back to his best, what an absolute monster he is.
    We were clearly missing Sergio today, we sorely lacked his midfield composure and distribution, but we escaped thank goodness.

    And Neymar needs to make better decisions with the ball, and stop being so selfish, not even mentioning his piss poor finishing lately.

    • G6O
      March 23, 2015

      Neymar has had one play where he probably should have passed and people are quick to call him selfish? I don’t understand it.

      And it wasn’t even a 100% should-have-passed situation – Suarez was about to drift both offside and away from the goal while he had a good view of it too.

    • agar2515
      March 23, 2015

      Neymar seems to be forcing the issue too much, taking off on dribbles alone to compensate for his lack of finishing. His form has been quite off for some time now, look at his body language and face when he came off, he knows it.

    • G6O
      March 23, 2015

      I know, and that’s why he took the shot – had he scored after that run, that would have compensated for some of those misses

  3. agar2515
    March 22, 2015

    And big shout out to bravo with some really class saves, and I guess to Zubi
    Too for signing Luis and Enrique for asking for him. Also, stop the hating on Rakatic, he’s been playing well lately and, if nothing else, never stops running and never mopes around the pitch *cough* Cesc *cough*

  4. IamXavi6
    March 22, 2015

    Agar, if LE is the first man to be chastised for whatever the team does, then, he deserves credit for what positives the team does as well…he doesent kick the ball that Alves delivered, no, but nor does he give up a positional sense that Mash did to allow Ronaldo’s goal (watch it).

    May I ask, do you have an issue with LE?

    In any case, today is a day to enjoy and smile and just enjoy the next 12 hours or so, before back to business. We haven’t won anything, but we’ve come a hell of a long way..

    • agar2515
      March 23, 2015

      No issue, just worried that next time if we put a performance like we did in the first half then we won’t be so lucky

    • agar2515
      March 23, 2015

      I am ecstatic we won, but I m not going to pretend that their are ZERO issues from that performance. Just because I take issue with how flat and all over the place we were in the first half doesn’t mean I have some sort of grudge against LE, nor do I dislike Neymar because I’m critical of his recent form. Gosh.

  5. bhed
    March 22, 2015

    I don’t always give you the credit you deserve for your match reviews, which is not to say you usually don’t deserve more credit, but reading this one, I was pretty much nodding my head in agreement the whole time.

    While doling out mea-culpas, I’d also like to happily eat crow, and give all the credit in the world to Dani and Mathieu, for not just their roles in the goals, but for overall excellent games when it counted.

    I’m on my phone at the moment, so I can’t write too much, but I’d like to add, in true Cule style for a tight Clasico (as mentioned in the write-up, I didn’t exactly have fun watching that, but damn if I ain’t ecstatic about the result.

  6. March 22, 2015

    From the start you could see RM boys were pretty nervous. Had the BBC been any form like they were in first half of the season, the match would have been long over by half time. The tactical mistake Enrique made in first half was to ask Messi to stay wide. They refused to stretch the pitch wide and form some reason we were running everything through left. One of the reason I think was Rakitic drifting to the left at every given opportunity. That means Messi and Alves had no connection and Alves was simply exposed every time. Their best player was Marcelo and he was wrecking havoc. Once Messi started coming inside even Rakitic looked more positionally aware. May be this game should teach LE a lot, In big matches like this Pinning Messi to right will be a mistake, he should be asked to drop to middle always. Regardless Saurez and Neymar it is Messi who still catches the attention of multiple players. If he gets involved in the play mostly spaces will create.

    • georgjorge
      March 23, 2015

      I definitely agree with this. Messi didn’t do much in the first half when he got the ball, but he also was cut off from play a lot. Several people on here mentioned the battle for the midfield, and Messi dropping deep – at least in the beginning – is one of the best ways of having midfield superiority.

      However, if it were true that Messi just knew he had limited energy left, then it is another story. Messi playing both midfield and attack takes a lot of energy, so stationing him on the far right in the first half so he could at least draw some defenders while conserving energy for the second would be a rather smart move then.

  7. real_greatmind
    March 22, 2015

    I love seeing Pique in his current form, world class for me.
    Also, Iniesta has been playing ferociously for the last couple of matches.
    The way he presses and fights for the ball is so good to see.
    Lastly, what a golazo from Suarez. I think this is a very good example of why we needed a 9 rather than a false 9.

    • March 22, 2015

      I think in big matches we may have to go for a 4-5-1 formation instead of a 4-3-3. Something like:

      ————–Bravo/Ter Stegan—————-

      Alves—–Pique———-Masch———–Alba

      ———-Xavi/Rakitic———–Busq————-

      Iniesta————Messi—————Neymar——

      ———————–Saurez———————-

      May be we should try this against PSG or some…. I know Iniesta on right may not be a tried much. But still……. What this match showed us regardless of Number 9 or false 9, we need Messi to be in center to create space for other. Just watch Neymar’s transformation when Messi started to demand more of the ball. It may work…I think in this formation Xavi and Rakitic would be more comfortable. And Neymar will love having Messi around him mostly.

    • georgjorge
      March 23, 2015

      I liked the recent pressing from Iniesta as well, especially the header he won against Ramos (if I remember correctly) and earlier against ManCity bullying Yaya Touré off the ball in midfield.

  8. phunky
    March 23, 2015

    This game was exactly like Barca’s and Real Madrid’s current seasons.

    Barca started well. Madrid then bossed the first half. Barca gave Madrid no chance in the second half.

    If only we took better decisions in the final third. Right now the movement is there but the finishing still is lacking. I’m positive we will improve in that area though.

    Also, if only Neymar had finished that goal after his mazy run- we could shut them up about Bale’s goal last year.

  9. March 23, 2015

    At the beginning of the week I would have signed up for two wins (CL and LIGA). In truth, I really wanted to annihilate m*drid but a win is what’s most important. What a game from pique. He is again the world beater he once was. Also great turnaround by Lucho, has to be said.

    Congrats everyone!!

  10. Inamess
    March 23, 2015

    @Kxevin Thanks for addressing the role of luck in this clasico. Both teams could have easily won this game 4-1 and had Neymar buried that chance in front of goal or had the Bale goal not been ruled offsides it would have been a very different game.

    @AllAboutFC, I agree with most of your points. Our midfield was completely overrun in the first half and we were very lucky to get out of there at 1-1. Having Messi as an extra midfielder would have made a difference but playing each opponent requires its own strategy and formations will just be more effective against certain teams. How we will choose to play PSG without Alves is going to be interesting.

    Some additional questions and remarks:

    1) Mathieu and Pique were both exceptional and in these kinds of games against offensively powerful teams that like to attack. One of the reasons that Mathieu was bought in the first place was because he tore up both us and RM last year and today he certainly didn’t disappoint.

    2) The transformation of our team in taking and defending set pieces this year is nothing short of exceptional. So far it is the unreported story of our season. The only story on this I found in English is this story from Marca:

    http://www.marca.com/en/2015/02/07/en/football/barcelona/1423303814.html

    3) What should we make of Masch and Rakitic? I have been trying for four seasons to really appreciate Mascherano but have just got to come to terms with the fact that for me he will never be a great CB or DM at this club. He is a quality player at both positions and he brings a lot of dedication but also lot of deficiencies. Rakitic so far is a similar type of player. He is good at many things but so far is a liability in his passing and link-up play. This doesn’t, of course, mean that Masch and Rakitic won’t have great games, it is just that there are certain skills and qualities that they just don’t bring to the side that make each a liability against certain opponents, particularly a team like RM.

    4) Is La Liga over? Not yet. We have our toughest games coming in the next 4 weeks, so if we can keep our 4 point lead after Valencia, Celta, Sevilla, and Espanyol then I think RM will throw in the towel.

    • real_greatmind
      March 23, 2015

      The rest looks ok but you #3 point about Masche is so wrong in my opinion. “He will never be a great cb or dm at this club”…?? Seriously??
      After all we’ve seen from Masche?? I totally do not agree with that statement. He is a world class DM for us and obviously CB is not his natural position so I can give him a pass for that because that will be the manager’s decision to put him there. But give credit where credit is due sir. Masche is world class DM but if you like Busi over him at DM that’s your preference on the style of our mid field play but to say that he is not a great CB or DM?? I definitely do not agree with your statement there. With all due respect. ^^

  11. RKUMAR
    March 23, 2015

    One thing is clear without heavy pressing Barca is nothing… We lose earlier classico & today played 1st half badly coz we didn’t pressed heavily as a unit so this gave enough time & space to pass the ball. But when we started pressing heavily in 2nd half we can see the change they didn’t get enough time to think & space to move around & most important they started to misplace the pass..

    This game purely summarise Different vitue of Busi & Masch & their pros & cons as a DM.. Masch is like Bulldog as a DM & Busi irreplaceable DM for Barca style of play even Masch admit that.

    NO cule in his/her wildest dream would had think that Grandpa Mathieu would score the first goal… Give him trucks of Cigarette LE. Pique THE BOSS that tackle on Bale sums his performance.

    Messi has good game if not decent. In first half he barely had 5-6 touches (if m not wrong) coz of heavy marking & Rakitic.Generally alves & Rakitic play closer to Messi so that he didn’t get isolated.. But Rakitic was playing bit too far & he misplaces too many pass so messi was unable to play one touching passing. I think he was nervous for his first start in Classico. In 2nd half whwen he was playing centrally then barca attack look vicious.

    Neymar was average.In 1st he misplaces too many pass, awful dribbling, slow the game with unnecessary fancy skill. In 2nd half he was much better . I wouldn’t say he was selfish coz these players are ambitious like Messi, Suarez. Especially when player has run 30 yards with ball dribble past 3-4 player then any player would like to finish thing off.. He has ability to do that we had seen from PSG game.. More than selfishness it was awful finishing. He should learn from Ronaldinho how to be more effective from his skill.

    Suarez had to learn to make simple one touch pass.. Hope next year he does that. But one thing is clear He is beast as STRIKER what 75m touch & finish…!! Pure killer instinct

    We have to give credit to Lucho for atleast one thing the way he is handling set pieces..

    EL CLASSICO is won but not league.. Lot of matches is still to play & difficult one. So stay Tune team..
    VISCA BARCA…no game for 10 days feeling sad

    Xavi Last time seeing Him At Classico in camp nou. Feeling nostalgic

    • georgjorge
      March 23, 2015

      I agree about pressing being very effective against certain opponents, but I think this game wasn’t made for it. First because it takes so much energy and they had a hard match mid-week, second because M*drid seem rather good at bypassing the press with long balls to their forwards or offensive mids (which is the way they often play anyway).

  12. georgjorge
    March 23, 2015

    This is a great review – or put another way, I quite like the narrative about this game thought up by Kxevin!

    The fatigue from having to play a top team during the week should not be discounted. Both midfield and attack showed signs of it especially during the first half, luckily our defense didn’t.

    Individual brilliance from Suarez and Messi aside, this was still very much a team victory. From Jordi Alba outrunning Bale to Mathieu tackling away, from Iniesta winning a header against Ramos to Neymar making Messi-esque dribbles to at least caution their defense. Not everyone showed up with the energy and skill we thought they would, but everyone did their part.

  13. barca96
    March 23, 2015

    mourasaint

    Every time I watch Suarez play I rue the day we (Real Madrid) let him slip away from our hands. Best striker in the world by some distance, and regretfully, will only get better for Barcelona.

    soontomove>mourasaint

    Not me. Last player I’d want on my team.

    sombrerero>mourasaint

    He’s great but far too ugly to wear the white shirt.

    mourasaint>sombrerero

    Tell that to Gareth Bale, or The Artist formely known as Di Maria.

    Plus, you underestimate the allure that Vampires have with females.

    sombrerero>mourasaint

    Well Di Maria had to leave to hand the ugly shirt over to Modric.

    The Guardian commentors are so good with banter. I wonder why there are no good British stand up comedians or British comedies anymore (Pink Panther, Fawlty Towers, Are you being served, Little Britain, Inbetweeners).

    • March 23, 2015

      Oh , Fawlty Towers – I can watch that every day.

    • beansie
      March 26, 2015

      I lurk in the Guardian Football Blog Comments Sections from time to time. You can’t spend too long in there as most debates descend into the most childish trolling and name calling. Much like any blog where 4-500 comments are the norm, I suppose.

      The chief culprit in the La Liga section being Mourasaint, who is a bit of a Guardian Football Comments Section institution at this stage. An über troll who may actually believe Messi is little more than one trick pony who lucked out by playing for the one of the great club sides, while Ronaldo is a god amongst footballers. The Portugese can simply do no wrong. Even when he does much wrong, like his blatant diving at the weekend.

      He’s actually something of a blast, in a court jester kind of way. I look forward to reading some of his more batty pronouncements. Just don’t ever get into a debate with him, as you’ll only start tearing your hair out.

  14. barca96
    March 23, 2015

    tknees

    Both teams displayed a complete lack of sportsmanship and any type of fair play and instead would rather dive, play act and hack. Really tiring.

    Jordifromflix>knees

    I too find Chelsea’s game tedious, but it is what it is…

  15. barca96
    March 23, 2015

    Just when I thought Mourasaint has fnally seen the light…

    mourasaint

    If Messi had nutmegged someone we’d have at least three more Guardian articles on the Classico to comment on.

  16. barca96
    March 23, 2015

    Kaizer1

    I imagine Ronaldo will be absolutely over the moon. Real Madrid may have lost, but good old ‘CR7’ got himself on the score sheet – that’s all that matters.

    • March 23, 2015

      This was my thought too friend 🙂

  17. March 23, 2015

    For me, this should be among your best reviews Kevin. A very tense classico, and rightly so. Quite glad ending but with some concerns, that inspite going to sleep at 0330 am, I could not for more than an hour!!

    Pique was our MOTM.

    Our players are tired, may be from all the heavy pressing, just hoping we would not feel like a Bielsa team end of this season or even next.

    Rakitic is not quite consistent in big games.

    Neymar, my boy, please do not lose balls like this. I dont have any problem with him for that poor shot at the end of his good run, he had every right to shoot that one. But most times, he delays the pass, lose the ball trying tricks rather than making the best available thing to do – a simple dribble or short pass.

    Suarez finish was excellent. He didnt even look for the goal, before shooting. That was a killer. However, if he could improve his short passing and some first touches, that would be really good for us.

    What a gift to Ronaldo, that goal was. He was anonymous for the whole game, except for a couple of shots, but still is praised as their best by stupid(?) Madridistas.
    Modric is a wonderful player, so is Benzema. And am starting to like Marcelo, whenever he ventures up there is danger lurking.
    We were very lucky with that Bale offside, but so was Madrid with that Neymar finish.

    We have tough days ahead, especially Sevilla and Valencia. Rest boys, please. For some reason am not worried about PSG, but by the above two.

  18. SemperFi...
    March 23, 2015

    Doggedness was completely missing in the first half – looked like they were conserving energy due to midweek’s UCL match. Second half they realized they had enough energy to pressure quickly, relentlessly, & limit the (acres of) space they gifted Madrid in the first half.

    Madrid was allowed to make passes in the first 45. Those same passes & movement failed when they tried it against a high pressure Barcelona in the second 45… Just how much fitness/stamina this Barça team has i don’t think they themselves exactly know yet (work in progress)… Prob underestimated how much they had in the tank & were a bit cautious not to exert from the off.

    Credit to Enrique for improving their fitness – & with that their mental fitness from the slouches they became last season

  19. Jim
    March 23, 2015

    Slightly off topic ( because I’m still determined to celebrate for a while before getting down to analysis – a comment will probably appear in the middle of a post about the board or something similar !) but just a shout out to the guys at RMFB ( Bassam and co.) Their blog is closing down and I think that’s a shame. But what’s worse is that one ( not the main) reason cited is that social media has moved on and the market for longer considered comments is shrinking.

    Two points. First to Kxevin who keeps this place going largely on his own ( apologies to the other mods- talking mainly about the articles here). As someone who sometimes crosses swords with his point of view it’s a timely reminder to me that he doesn’t have to do this. He obviously has a busy life yet still has enthusiasm for writing which is great for us. If, in turn, there is something more we can do for this place please let us know ( I could be nicer to Masche ? )

    Second point. Has the world really come to this where an idea has to be communicated in 140 characters or else it has no place in modern discussion ? I am one of the old dinosaurs here ( I know, given my background If would be ) but I have a passionate dislike of Twitter for all but news dissemination. From the school point of view I never thought I’d see a worse vehicle for bullying, abuse and threats than Facebook but in my last year at school Twitter had certainly taken over that dubious mantle. You can still tell a plonker at forty paces on that medium but the problem is THEY can’t and nutters who would have been reluctant to post a lengthy comment for fear it would show them up will quite happily post an abusive comment. I like to think that here have time to develop ideas, read others’ thoughts as they should be rather than truncated and learn the etiquette of the Internet as well as suggesting a better way for anyone stepping out of line. I fear for the civilised world if RMFB’s thoughts on extended writing are indeed correct.

    Bugger ! I said I wasn’t going to moan about anything didn’t I ? Just thought it was worth mentioning as Bassam always struck me as a sensible, level headed guy.

    • Jim
      March 23, 2015

      As I re read this my excessive use of brackets is alarming. No use when I’m trying to hold the communication high ground. Note to self . . .

    • Doug
      March 23, 2015

      Wow Jim – great post. I agree completely (even with your excessive use of brackets).

    • March 23, 2015

      I back you Jim. Anything to make sure this space will exist, I would do anything I can..

      As one, who dont have a facebook or twitter (am younger than you Jim, still :)-) I would be so disappointed if this site is not alive. The moment a match is over, am so impatient to wait until I can get access to web, and see what all your thoughts are.

    • bhed
      March 23, 2015

      Several more reasons why I am a fan of Jim (in addition to his fantastic analysis, more than common sense, and overall good humor)…

      – his dislike of Twitter
      – his (over)use of brackets (or parentheses on this side of the pond)
      – well-placed ellipses

    • rg23
      March 23, 2015

      Great post Jim. As someone who posts very few comments, yet comes here so often to check what everyone else is posting, I really appreciate this site. It is by far the best blog there is and I would be devastated to see it shut down.
      I would even be willing to help out in anyways if that’s what I took. I am a busy guy myself, which is why I rarely get the time to post well constructed thoughts. I just can’t put it all in 140 characters, that’s not me. That makes me appreciate Kxevin so much for taking the time out from his busy life and single handedly running all the posts here and keeping the site alive.
      I enjoy reading his views, even though I may not always agree with it. I also like how he tries to give different perspectives to every view point. And then I enjoy reading all of the comments which really in many ways creates great discussions worthy of their own posts. And I noticed sometimes Kxevin does take certain noteworthy comments and makes an article out of it. That shows the quality of the blog itself.
      As far as this article itself, I could not agree more with Kxevin on the match review. I think it’s one of the best reviews he has done.
      Note to self: I will try to post more often here and hopefully try to share some of my thoughts going forward…

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