Espanyol 0, Barça 2, aka “Fully operational Death Star?”

messi

As an athlete, you structure a training plan. It begins with an ambition. Then comes the structure of what you need to reach that goal. Then you implement the plan. Usain Bolt doesn’t start his season running 9-second 100 meter dashes. So when FC Barcelona, under its new coach Luis Enrique, started the season clearly building something, why wasn’t the long view taken, why wasn’t the necessary time granted?

Rewards have been coming thick and fast from this football team, against Sevilla, Valencia, Manchester City, PSG and today, probably in its fullest flower so far, the Catalan derby against Espanyol.

I have knocked heads in debate with people who have said that Enrique’s Barça, even when playing well, has been not exactly right because there wasn’t the required positional play, the kind of player and ball movement that makes an opponent and what they do immaterial. My contention has been that you have to account for the opponent, blablabla.

I have never felt more wrong than today’s match against Espanyol, as Barça played theoretical football. To be sure, it was against a mid-table side in Liga, a side who even with the match of its life probably wasn’t going to get much more than a draw, but nonetheless … for the first time this season, Barça played sustained “To hell with you” football.

During the heyday of the exceptional San Francisco 49ers teams in American football, their coach, Bill Walsh, had a certain number of plays that he would start the game with, and he never deviated from those plays. His belief was if we execute these plays as we should, the people on the other side of the ball don’t matter.

As a positional ideal, Barça football uses spatial control to be successful. Whether the opponent is RM, or Sevilla or Espanyol or Almeria, if you take the ball and strike it so to this player who does exactly this in this way, something good will happen. The opponent reacts to you and what your players do with the ball and how they move. Properly implemented, positional football is as indefensible as the two Barça goals were, even as the second was “sullied” with a bit of individual excellence from Messi.

There were runs into space, pinpoint passes that accounted for the run of a teammate and one-touch grace under pressure, confidence rooted in belief built on the training pitch that a teammate is going to be where you put the ball. For the first goal, Suarez dummied a pass that he had an 80% probability of scoring from, because Neymar had a 100% probability of scoring. That was an extraordinary thing, a little tribute to our late Mister on the anniversary day of his passing, a man in Tito Vilanova who always emphasized team football and the whole being stronger than the individual. In a fitting bookend for this match, it also occurred on the birthday of Johan Cruijff, who brought a total footballing idea to Barça, an ideal on vivid display today.

What makes that Suarez dummy even more extravagant is that he is an 81m signing who was brought to Barça to score goals. He has been The Man wherever he has gone. At Liverpool, there is no question that he takes that ball, and the shot. At Barça, he dummies it for Neymar. When we think about the work that has gone into building an excellent football team by the coach and his staff, it isn’t just the movement and passing, the Xs and Os that define match theory. It’s the psychology of being part of a team: making the extra pass, trusting a teammate, building the belief that if you build it, they will come.

neysua

In no player has that transformation been more noticeable and electrifying than in Messi, who essentially played as a 10 today. Think back to the days when Messi had to score 70+ goals in a season, because that was what his team needed. Flash-forward to now, when he can decide what his team needs because he has players such as Neymar and Suarez, who are fully capable of allowing him to play as a 10, delivering otherworldly passes hither and yon. His cross-pitch bomb to set up the first goal wasn’t even his best of the day as he created chances out of nothing, putting a ball into a spot because of the confidence that he has teammates of sufficient quality to not only know what he is planning, but be there to execute the plan.

Espanyol is a good football team that was rendered helpless today as the two goals that they shipped could have easily, were it not for crap finishing by Neymar, been 4 or 5. A ball was spanked full speed to Suarez who just flicked it, one touch for Neymar who was in stride because he knew what was going to happen. That he skied the finish isn’t as important as what happened, as the fruits of the labors of the team and its coaching staff were on full display today. Espanyol didn’t even get a shot on goal until almost the 80th minute.

At the beginning of the season, with the rotations, and experimentation with different ways of attacking, and pragmatism and the gradual building of a program, even those who demanded that Enrique be given time to build his team, could not have foreseen what he was building. It’s easy to wonder what the “Lucho Out!” crew is thinking now, that Barça is playing the best football in Europe, but that isn’t what matters here.

What matters is that a team, a group of players have the capability of doing something that few teams have the capacity to do, which is make football theory into reality. “Okay. Neymar, you start running, because Iniesta is going to hit a pass to Suarez, who will be holding off two defenders, here. Luis, you will flick the ball on … now, a one-touch play is crucial here, or Neymar will be offide. Make sure your flick lands right at Neymar’s feet. Got it? Okay.”

It was exquisite play that, it bears repeating, makes an opponent irrelevant. The second goal was some sort of Druid ritual in the Espanyol box that resulted in a pass falling to Messi. Any other player in world football, receiving a ball at the far post, almost on a path parallel with the goal mouth, decides to reset the attack. Messi shot, and scored. The worst part about that goal is that he does that kind of stuff so regularly we don’t even flinch any longer, never mind falling off our chairs and muttering gibberish.

But as much as the goal, notice the buildup. A long pass is played for Suarez, who is surveying his options as the ball comes to him. He moves toward the box, still looking for options. And there is Iniesta. Suarez pings it to Iniesta, who uses his first touch to pop the pass up so that his next ball will be above the busy feet of the Espanyol defenders, then volleys a ball back to Suarez, who volleys a lob over for Messi. But because the keeper is charging out at him, Messi can’t just slot it home. He has to control the ball in a way that keeps it right on his feet, or the keeper will smother it, then hit a shot across the face of goal with just enough curve to get in, but not so much that a defender can clear it.

iniesta

On video, in real time, it’s just a Barça goal. But to think about and accurately describe what had to happen elevates into something that must make an opponent say, “You guys are assholes. No really.”

Barça has played the kind of football that it played today before during this season, but in fits and starts. More heartening for culers is that the sustained duration of this quality of play is building. Our culer paranoia is reduced to, “Oh crap, they made three straight passes! Doooom!”

Unlike the Sevilla match, even when sent down to 10 men thanks to a stupid Jordi Alba and a preternaturally inept Lahoz, Barça remained in control. Alves was excellent, Mascherano continues to laugh at the people who have to keep making semantic castells of contentions against his presence on the pitch. Suarez was omnipresent and almost always dangerous, and it’s safe to say that Neymar’s slump is over, even as he needs to concentrate in front of goal. He could easily have had a hat trick today, and against a top European side you won’t get many chances to score.

This wasn’t a perfect match for Barça, but such things are impossible. But it might have been the best match that the team has played this season because of the football, and the moment. If this team wants to win the Liga, every league match is a final, as there is no breathing room. Espanyol came into the match on a streak of excellent football, with clean sheets in 5 of its last 7 home matches. They were owned today, by a team whose playing style didn’t care who they were.

Barça did this under the pressure of the knowledge that there is absolutely no margin for error. It is extraordinary to think that the team is a bad Pique pass away from being able to win out the season. It is also extraordinary the way that this team has come into shape as a training and building plan has paid off. From Pique to Iniesta to a still-evolving Messi, this team is playing football at its finest. Even more correctly, it is playing Barça football.

"Hey! Hey! Pretty good, huh?"
“Hey! Hey! Pretty good, huh?”
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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.

58 Comments

  1. georgjorge
    April 25, 2015

    Thanks for that article (and the headline)! These goals were really something extraordinary with the amount of connectedness between the players involved required. Meanwhile, midfield was passing circles around opponents as if they were posts. If the team – especially Messi and Pique – can retain fitness (mental and physical) until Bayern those will be spectacular games.

  2. Cyclops
    April 25, 2015

    Okay, i’ve to say i’m impressed
    Nice articles by the way, vintage kxevin, just captured the whole thing perfectly, i didnt know i was grinning all through like a kid with a new toy, till i finished reading
    I was saying i’m really impressed- onsidering where we came from, and in the light of the seson long discontent with Lucho and his style- and i have to admit here, that yours truly was guilty of that…But then the consistent progress all season, the way the team seems to get better and better as the season goes by, its really, really commendable…I mean, even if you are a hardliner in your stand against LE, at this point you’ve gotta give him some recognition, you just have to…If not, i’m tempted to think your growse with him is probably unrelated with football( probably something along the lines of LE stealing your girlfriend ??)…I just find myself thinking, that probably with time, this team might just consistently start playing that beautifull football we all love to see- not necassarily tiki taka, probably something better, if such a thing is possible..Though i cant say i’ve been a proponent of LE staying on next season..But at this rate, my mind could do a 360 turn, faster than it takes my fan to do same

    Meanwhile i think the Alba redcard, was plain stupidness on his part…Footballers sometimes amaxe me, the referee is never going to change his descision, never..Further you’ve just been booked, and the referee woudnt consider it the biggest descision in his life to take, booking you for dissent, if he think you’re starting to crowd him a little too much for his liking….The ref fingers might have been a little too itchy for my liking, but why not just move on ?…And to think he’s supposd to be an experienced footballer, ha!…That just left a sour taste in mouth, really dissapointing

  3. Cyclops
    April 25, 2015

    And oh kxevin, nice to know you havn’t got any problem with barca playing the right ‘way’, lol

  4. luisthebeast
    April 25, 2015

    I am sure Tito watching the team and is proud as all the cules.We will never forget u.

  5. 42
    April 25, 2015

    Kxevin, reading your article after a beautiful match like this is like putting cherry on top of a delicious frosted cake.

  6. ciaran
    April 25, 2015

    The anti Lucho voices are few and far between these days. Amazing how a few weeks changes everything in football.
    Another fine performance by the whole team. Very little negatives from the match; Alba was petulant but not enough to get a red card in any way, Neymar’s finishing was a little off but he still scored the all important first goal in a match like this.

    Rafinha was more disciplined than previously. Lovely dummy from Suarez for Neymar’s goal, and another important contribution for Messi’s.

    Thoroughly enjoyed the first half in particular but playing over half an hour with ten men and still being dominant and keeping a clean sheet was really impressive.

  7. Chiu
    April 25, 2015

    – Great win! We’re getting closer to la liga title:). 5 games to go, sandwiched with 2 CL semis. Keep focus Barca.

    – Alba redcard is unneccessary from the ref, too harsh.

    – Bayern is 99,99% will win the league, so they have luxury to rest the whole team before Cl semis. Hope celta could steal some points from RM tonight, giving us some margin to rest players for the CL game.

    Visca Barca!

  8. Inamess
    April 26, 2015

    Incredible Preview: Barcelona vs FC Bayern München

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSadf-oCSBc

    Starting to get psyched!
    So which key player won’t start in the Camp Nou?:

    Masch
    Rakitic
    Mathieu
    Alba

    • georgjorge
      April 26, 2015

      I’ll have to watch this video right before the games start.

      For me, the most interesting thing about the games will be how the teams are going to play when they don’t have the ball. I think that high pressing is mostly out of the question as both teams are very good at playing out of the back, but do they battle for midfield possession or absorb pressure and try to hit on the counter?

      I can imagine the first leg being held at Camp Nou as a slight disadvantage – I think we’re going to see a lot of cautious probing and passing the ball around without going all out, so a draw or very close win seems very probable. The second game is going to be a very different thing, with a lot more reckless attacking, so I don’t like the fact that it’s going to be at the Allianz. Thankfully the team has improved upon its away record.

      We’re still going to win though.

  9. April 26, 2015

    Vermaelen got medical clearance today. Full squad, everyone fit in this most crucial part of the season.

    • April 26, 2015

      I was intrigued about player minutes and looked at some data, so far just in La Liga:

      In the previous 32 games of the season, Barcelona had 13 outfield players with more than 1200 minutes played, for an average of 2076 minutes out of 2880 possible.
      Take away Messi’s minutes, and the average goes down to 1992 min.

      In Barcelona those are Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Mathieu, Alba, Iniesta, Rakitic, Xavi, Busquets, Pedro, Messi, Suarez, Neymar.

      In Real Madrid there have been 12 outfield players with more than 1200 minutes played, for an average of 2176 minutes, or 100 min. more on average.
      Take away Ronaldo’s minutes, and the average goes down to 2130, or 138 minutes more per player.

      In Real Madrid these players are: Carvajal, Ramos, Pepe, Varane, Marcelo, Kroos, James, Isco, Modric, Bale, Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo.
      Modric, Bale and Benzema are currently injured, which means Isco, James, Kroos, Ramos, Varane, Marcelo, Carvajal and Ronaldo will probably continue to accumulate minutes.

      It seems a minuscule difference when you’re talking about basically two games more on average, but the problem is two-fold:
      Real have younger players, but there are fewer of them. Every time one of them gets injured, the rest have to carry a greater load, because the Ancelotti doesn’t use as many substitutions and when he does they don’t play as often. That greater load is both physical and mental

      The result is that Real are facing Celta, Almeria, Sevilla, Juventus, Valencia, Juventus, Espanyol in the space of 20 days, and will have to win each and every La Liga game in order to remain in the title Race, and will have to win against Juventus, who may be champions of Italy today.

      Players are not robots, and it’s possible that each and every game of this chain, with the exception of Almeria, could mean a lot of sweat and exhaustion. We shall see.

    • georgjorge
      April 26, 2015

      These are interesting numbers, and I hope they can give us the Liga title.

      Looking at the stats, I was surprised to see that Bartra – who I really think should be allowed to play more – already played more minutes than either Adriano or Montoya, about as much as Rafinha got (815 vs 821) in La Liga.

    • 42
      April 26, 2015

      While Lucho regularly rotates the midfield and backline starters, our MSN starts almost every game. I wonder how they managed to play 90 minutes (except sometimes Neymar or Suarez get subbed at the end of the game) for 2 games every week and still maintain that energy and vitality?

    • April 26, 2015

      To me it is a combination of factors:

      1. Messi is lighter and better training. This has allowed him to run less, walk more and at the same time be there when he’s needed. Furthermore, even though it was due to a swelling, he had around ten days of rest after the Clasico.

      2. Lucho is giving the players days off. At this point of the season the players need every bit of rest that they can get.

      3. The front three don’t play the same way. Neymar and Suarez do more running and defending, which compensates for Messi’s relative lack of movement. I also think that the movement of both Suarez and Neymar lets Messi first face fewer opponents, and in more space. In essence Messi moves slowly and deliberately while the opponents move up and down the pitch, which allows him to align in suitable moments.

      4. It’s not just about fresh legs, but also fresh minds. Mental exhaustion is a consequence of physical one. So what I have seen is Barça create chances in the first half, and once these are scored the team steps off the pedal, or, in case of a rested and motivated opponent, the team weathers the storm and then steps on the pedal in the second half. In any case Barça doesn’t play at the same level of dedication and energy-spending during the whole game. Only when it’s needed.

    • 42
      April 26, 2015

      Great points Peter, I particularly agree with your last point. It seems that in many games, our tactic is to play our absolute best in the first half and establish a convincing lead, then conserve energy in the 2nd half. Although it backfired in the Sevilla game, we managed to get through in most of the times and it contributed greatly for the players to avoid fatigue when walking through such a demanding schedule.

  10. Son
    April 26, 2015

    Hope he get the chance to play against Cordoba or Getafe if he’s match fit.

    It will be a big decision headache for Lucho next season provided all were fit and fresh.

    • Son
      April 26, 2015

      This was a reply to Kxevin about TV.
      Sorry to hit reply button.

    • Son
      April 26, 2015

      This was a reply to Kxevin about TV.
      Sorry. Fail to hit reply button.

    • barca96
      April 26, 2015

      I wouldn’t let Vermaelen start any match this season. It’s crazy to do that when we need 3 points in every match. If any of the starter CB’s needs to be rotated, it’s Bartra who deserves the minutes.

      The kid has been waiting for years to play a more important role and this season another setback with the arrival of Matthieu.

      Bartra is the future CB so play him. He needs experience and love.

      Vermaelen can play some minutes in the 2nd half once the league is wrapped up otherwise let him wait until next season. He’ll have a pre-season to prove his worth and not in a must win match (this season).

    • georgjorge
      April 26, 2015

      This. I fear that Bartra may leave in the next transfer window and we’re going to regret it some years down the road when we pay a lot of money for someone else while Bartra plays well in the Premier League or something.

  11. Tarek Arslan
    April 26, 2015

    Hello people,I’ve been a long time follower of this blog,but I haven’t posted here before. First off congrats for yesterday’s victory, I think it’s amazing how we stayed in control of the game even after getting reduced to playing with 10 men.

    Concerning the Barcelona vs Bayern match up:

    I find that football has crazy ways of starting scenarios or stories and our story with Bayern and Pep is still unfinished,the reason above all,we,as barca fans wanted Bayern was because the tie would provide beautiful football from both teams. It’s a tie that representes a clash between 2 teams that play with very similar philosophy. We also wanted to play Bayern to get our revenge on the 7-0, just like Bayern wanted their revenge in 2013 for the 4-0 in 2009, or just like Bayern wants revenge against Madrid for last season semi final defeat, this is very normal and nobody is disrespecting the other; both teams should be grateful since we will see which stronger team will come out a deserved winner,no parking the bus,no 180 mins of defensive football etc..

    I would also like to remind Cules and only Cules that when we lost 2 years ago, Bayern needed the help of the refs with 3 goals and no that is not an excuse,we had an off form Pique,we had a coach coming back from cancer,we had an inexperienced Bartra playing his first champions league game as a semi final, we had an injured Messi playing a whole first half, we also had a very tired team due to lack of rotation and an ineffective forward line with Villa past his peak and a Pedro half asleep. While this time around, we are mentally and physically stronger,this group of players represents Luis Enrique’s personnality. We are in our best form and peaking,we have the best forward line in world football and a very solid defensive organization. We are fitter and injury free against an injury ravaged Bayern Munich; and that is a fact.

    If you think that for a moment our players would get their feelings for Pep get in the way then you are mistaken,this version of barca has no mercy, our players will come to this game with a point to prove, we will give 110% because we haven’t forgotten recent history, and tactically speaking I don’t think Dante and Martinez/Alonso would last long against a Barca fighting for every ball and pressing high up the pitch, as we saw what happened for them against Porto.

    • georgjorge
      April 26, 2015

      Thanks for your first comment here, and welcome!

      I agree with almost everything you said, except for pressing high. But maybe that’s my inexperience with the current Bayern. I didn’t watch all of the Porto match, but in 2013 we tried to press Bayern high. The team didn’t do it badly, but Bayern was very good at playing out of the back and didn’t get caught in possession. Maybe taking the battle to midfield is a better idea.

    • Tarek Arslan
      April 26, 2015

      Thanks I feel welcomed already, I found the eventual reason for Bayern’s first loss against Porto was their slow building from the back, in the second leg they didn’t press as hard because they were more focused on defending their lead which gave Bayern enough time to execute their attacks.

      Look at our pressing against PSG in the second leg and you will notice that no team in the world would survive that kind of press, and even if they did..their midfield will have to drop deep which will force a big gap between their forwards and their midfielders.This is why in my personal opinion,Guardiola’s Bayern will suffer tactically against this Barca.

    • April 26, 2015

      Porto had a serious problem in not having their starting fullbacks, enabling Lahm to play in midfield on the other side of Thiago. It seems he didn’t have to run as much, and that helped. In any case, the wings and the press may turn out to be very, very important.

  12. 42
    April 26, 2015

    Just thought of something: could the next game vs Getafe be a good opportunity for Ter Stegen to start a La Liga game? There are 3 consecutive league games before the UCL game, so it might be a good idea to rest Bravo while keep Ter Stegen fresh. Getafe isn’t a strong opponent so there won’t be a lot of pressure for him.

    • ChaoticReaper
      April 26, 2015

      That’s what I was thinking before PSG, that Ter Stegen should start in the midweek liga games like Almeria but it seems that Bravo is going to start every liga game no matter when it is.

    • barca96
      April 26, 2015

      Good idea to get Ter Stegen r

    • barca96
      April 26, 2015

      Good idea to play Ter Stegen. It’ll get him ready and focused on the CL match and Bravo has already the Zamora wrapped up. I doubt we’ll concede much now while Casillas still has to face Sevilla and Valencia. Plus the less Bravo plays his percentage will be better.

  13. Son
    April 26, 2015

    OT. Anyone saw Arsenal vs Chelsea?

    What do u think about Mourinho’s game plan?

    Seems he’s playing onlyonot to concede. (I’ve watched only last 20mins)

  14. Son
    April 26, 2015

    So Bayern has sealed their league title. Their all focus will be in the UCL.
    It will be a super tight battle show down at Camp Nou coming May…

    • barca96
      April 26, 2015

      That’s a major advantage for them. Just like us vs Man United in 2011.

  15. Cyclops
    April 26, 2015

    Okay, so scott zuma was subbed on to ensure the “points are safe”, and its gets so pathetic that such a draw is celebrated, actually celebrated…Mourinho sucks, big time.. gosh!…The mere thought of it, just makes me want to puke…mtchew

    So much for Juventus wrapping up the league this week , apparently they seem more interested in dropping points, atleast for one last time this season..Very noble of them, i mean, its actually in the best interest of some points-needing potentials relegation candidate in the serie A…So, good job juventus!

    And, bayern finally wrapped up the league…..phew! wasnt expecting it to take this long… So, since it eventually took this long for them to win the league, the bundesliga is officially a very quality league after all..GREAT!.. *Cheers* to the budesliga, a freaking quality league, *cheers*….

    • Son
      April 26, 2015

      Imagine if Barca play like how Chelsea did today after securing a comfortable lead in league title race, the reaction of the fan base would be AWESOME. Am I wrong? I don’t think so.

      So we are more than a club.
      I can never consider Mou a great manager. He is a good manager but not a great one.

    • Chiu
      April 26, 2015

      Bayern already “half-champion” of the league before the season start. Bundesliga is just too easy for them, year in year out.
      Massive advantage for them before the semis. But dont forget, last season Bayern also already crowned Bundesliga champion before SF against RM.

  16. ciaran
    April 26, 2015

    Our fans went crazy when we took off a striker and replaced them with a midfielder, meanwhile Real Madrid have taken off three offensive players and finished with 6 defenders and 2 defensive midfielders.

    • Son
      April 26, 2015

      May be we have something to learn from their from their fans.lol

  17. ooga aga
    April 26, 2015

    Vermaelen gets the medical OK…

  18. luisthebeast
    April 26, 2015

    First of all another great perfomance from Matteo Darmian against Juventus.And he can play also as a LB!I hope there is already a deal with him cause if we lost him i will cry;-)Braida please bring him!Second Nolito was great against madrid,happy for him:-)Third winning La Liga is our Top Target.With Liga and Cup i will be very happy:-)

  19. luisthebeast
    April 26, 2015

    Also how cute that the ref of our game apologized to Espanyol players at HT for our second goal!Oh man he must be a very emotional guy,i am sure after the game he called Flo to give him another chance.Maybe away at Atletico??After all last season he cancelled Leo goal at Camp Nou and we lost the Liga;-)I bet Flo can accept that in the end of the season,he will have one(1)Liga in 7 seasons..!!!….

  20. luisthebeast
    April 26, 2015

    I wonder sometimes how Flo must feel:I got Pellegrini,i got Mou,i got Ancellotti,i spend millions and millions for every top player,i overpay a lot and that bastards from Catalonia let me win only one Liga.And if not for a Ramos header,now i would be the biggest joke of president.Thank god they have a bad board!!!!

    • barca96
      April 27, 2015

      Incredible isn’t it, only 1 league. That alone shows how tough La Liga is.

  21. 42
    April 26, 2015

    So Benatia will be fit against us, as will Robben and Javi Martinez. So unfortunately we probably won’t see Dante (what a shame!)
    I think Bayern’s strongest line-up then would be:
    Muller- Lewa- Robben
    Thiago
    Schweinsteiger- Martinez
    Bernat- Boateng- Benatia- Lahm
    Which is a good XI combining physical strength with Pep’s passing tactics. I don’t think Alonso will start as he is slow these days. I think Pep would give up partial possession to become more defensive and physical aggressive. If they focus too much on controlling the ball (as they often do these days) and play high up, they’ll be killed on MSN counterattacks; if they park the bus, we’ll completely dominate and beat them too.
    We need to be particularly careful about their right flank (Robben + Lahm). Last time we played Valencia, we lost control of the flanks too, thankfully our central defenders are solid.

    • April 27, 2015

      Valencia had had close to a week to rest from its game vs Levante and prepare for Barcelona, whereas Barça had played a rested Sevilla away and in midweek gone to Paris to beat PSG. It was going to be a difficult game in any case.

      Valencia gained the flanks to three factors:

      1. Busquets and Mascherano were occupying the same spot, due to the countless minutes played in that same spot. With Xavi upfield there was less wide cover of the midfield, which meants exposure on the flanks.
      2. With Rakitic missing, Dani Alves was isolated on the right
      3. On the left Alba’s absence due to potential injury concerns showed that there’s a reason why Adriano does not start as many games as we’d all like.

      Essentially, it’s a situation which will be difficult to happen against Bayern.

      1. Alba will miss this Getafe game and could also miss the away Cordoba game to be prepared for Bayern. With rotating Xavi, Iniesta, Rakitic and Rafinha the midfield will be ready to play, but the presence of Alba will help a lot, as will Neymar’s game.
      2. For that same reason Alves will have associates, hopefully a rested Rakitic, who will give him both cover when he goes forth, and support and assistance and outleft in defence and midfield combination.
      3. If Messi is fit to run and gun for at least 70 minutes, the left of Bayern will have to hang on for dear life, which means Gotze could end up isolated

      I am not saying it will be easy, not at all. However, key moments, key encounters could tip the game. Still, for me it’s too early to say who’s going to start the game for Bayern and more importantly, where. We could get some idea after tomorrow’s DFB Pokal(German Cup) semifinal of Bayern and Borussia Dortmund.

  22. Jim
    April 27, 2015

    Can’t believe the ref has come out and said he apologised to Espanyol at half time knowing that less than ten minutes later he awarded a largely unmerited red card. Talk about making life difficult for yourself.

    Great display from us though. Superb ball movement, great displays from the defence ( although, surprisingly, barely tested given it was an away game at Espanyol) and for me standout displays from Messi again and Iniesta. While watching I was gradually forming the opinion that both PSG and Espanyol were disappointing but then as I watched I realised that when we pass the ball like that we’re hard to live with

    • April 27, 2015

      The ref hasn’t said anything. It was an Espanyol player talking to the media after the game, when he was talking about the offside goal, he basically said for added emphasis that the ref was waiting for them at the door of the dressing room to offer his apologies.

      Yet, it’s not unbelievable with that ref. He disallowed a goal by the Athletic keeper in the beginning of the season, a completely legit last-minute goal that was giving them hard-fought points when their morale needed it most.

      That ref has no problem letting opposing players have a go at Barça players without calling a foul, but will give immediately cards if you disagree with him. This is the real BS, Barcelona are probably leading the charts in cards for dissent.

    • April 27, 2015

      What is funny is this is the same referee who looked straight at Cristiano Ronaldo while the Portuguese was grabbed his balls and yelled “Te gusta” (you like it) at him after being awarded a yellow card for diving in the clásico.

      I personally was in the stands for the cup game against AM where you could see Atletico players repeated yelling and gesticulating aggressively at Lahoz and he completely ignored it.

      In this light, giving Alba a straight red for simply saying (not yelling) “always the same” is scandalous. Also interesting is that in his match report he claimed to have given a second yellow card, whereas it was actually a straight red (after one yellow).

    • April 27, 2015

      It is always advised to treat Refs are ubiased. And consipiracy theories against them are always harshly dealt with or ignored. However, if Alba said those words, then it is quite clear that our players also feel the same that the ref is biased.

  23. April 27, 2015

    Before the presser of Luis Enrique BarçaTV showed highlights of the match vs Getafe in March 2011, and dayum, what difference…
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtJ_mFJnNW4

    During a Barça corner there are only five Getafe players(four Barça) in their own box and two more in close proximity to the corner.

    Getafe defend with six-seven behind the ball. Getafe create chance in front of Valdes and there’s a camera shot that displays the last Getafe players, who are at the center line…

    Honestly, I have to wonder whether that Barcelona would function the way we think it did against the way opponents play these days, packing their area and playing with ten behind the ball.

    • Jim
      April 27, 2015

      Absolutely. There were holes in opposition defences just waiting to be utilised. Much, much harder nowadays. It’s to our eternal credit that we still find some.

    • April 27, 2015

      But you can say that “times have changed” to people until you are blue in the face. No matter. “Why can’t it be like it was? It isn’t, so it is wrong.”

      Games, tactics and systems adapt. This is an extraordinary football team we are watching take shape … make no mistake, it is still taking shape. Even if it doesn’t win anything this season, it it STILL an extraordinary football team we are watching.

      It isn’t about tactics, or idealized notions of Barça football, even as the team is hitting many of those marks. It’s about devising the best way to beat opponents who spent years figuring out how to beat that Barça. If things progress as they seem to be headed, they will have a new target.

      No way in hell this team, right now, finished a match against Malaga without a shot on goal. No. Way.

    • Davour
      April 27, 2015

      Just consider for this day and age… Bojan and Villa instead of Neymar and Suarez. But on the other hand, you get Dani and Xaviniesta during their hey-day! Messi (the dog) is all over the place, refusing to let go of the ball (at least to Villa…).

    • April 27, 2015

      It isn’t just about the players you have, it’s about the way the opponent perceives you. Getafe players were playing against Barcelona, which has this young talent Messi. Today teams have to face FC BARCELONA, the legendary team that defeated the most expensive team in history 5-0, the team which was in eight Champions League semi-finals in the last ten years, the team which broke records dating from before any of the players on the pitch were born, the team that created new records!!! And in this team they have to face there are players who are legends themselves, but most importantly, they face LIONEL MESSI, THE goalscorer of La Liga, THE goalscorer of The Champions League, the player that scored 73 goals for Barcelona in a single season, the player that scored 91 goals in one year!!!

      I watch the opponent play that Barcelona, watch the slack marking of Messi and gasp, because nowadays Messi’s and the team’s magic is much less in the scoring of sweet goals or many goals, but rather “how the hell did you find the space to send that ball??????????”

    • Davour
      April 28, 2015

      Of course. It was merely a light-hearted comparison; I understand your point. There are, I think, not only downsides to the legendary status, however. Consider the effect when Messi entered the field against PSG some years ago – even injured, his mere presence evoked enough fear in the opponents to disrupt their game…

      But yes – that team was one to make us of open spaces; this team is one to break through barriers and create space where there is little. Then we had a brilliant midfield and intense full-team press, now we have a lethal trident and an improved defence.

  24. April 27, 2015

    Reports are trickling in that Alves has decided to stay at Barça. Duh.

    — Racist chanting at Neymar, objects being thrown at the players, Shakira slandering directed at Pique … ah, the Catalan derbi. We’ll see what the Liga does.

    Meanwhile, Deulofeu fail: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsUdU_wtleQ&feature=youtu.be

  25. April 28, 2015

    Have a feeling Getafe is going to park the bus.

    • georgjorge
      April 28, 2015

      …and I have a feeling it’s not going to work out for them ;). Not only because of the quality of our team but also because parking a bus requires a lot of concentration and mental strenghth and Getafe doesn’t actually NEED to get points out of today’s match from their standings in the table. But we do.

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