The Coach, The Player, The Enemy and The Treble, among other things…

Some of my thoughts of the last nine days for you to chew on. Click here for Kxevin’s latest.

1. The Coach (A)

Pep this, Pep that. Thank heavens I don’t have to listen to any of it anymore. I got especially tired of reading about people writing about being fed up with people talking about Pep. Even more so because I don’t even know that many people that keep talking about Pep in the first place. It will have been three years soon, and our victory over Pep has finally exorcised the deity. As he had gotten his tactics right on his return to Catalonia, regardless of what scoreboard journalism heads will tell you, culers got their priorities right. He might as well have been any other coach on the night, for the Camp Nou only cared about Barça. Nevertheless, Pep’s culer credentials, in case they could ever be in doubt, remained intact. Messi is the best player in the world? Check. Barça the best team? Double check. Now go win the final.

Of course there is that pesky detail of the distant coach who is no longer on speaking terms with the superstar he helped guide into greatness. Marca reported that after the semi Pep entered the dressing room to congratulate and to hug each player, including Messi.

2. The Coach (B)

He must be doing something right. Apart from that we can safely assume that Luis Enrique Martínez García knows more about football than us (minus Euler, of course, that goes without saying), Enrique sure has received his generous share of criticism this season. For a football manager that is on the doorstep of a treble, no less.

Barcelona Football Blog writers, among whom yours truly, have staunchly defended his rotation policy against early criticism. Nevertheless, to the sensible, plenty of technical decisions have seemed nonsensical. Not preparing Matthieu to start as a left back in the Bernabeu? Rakitic and Rafinha together in midfield against Celta Da Vigo? No Messi or Neymar at the Anoeta? Mascherano subbed on for Dani Alves during the Málaga home loss? Repeating the Mascherano / Busquets double pivote against Valencia?

Yet, here we are, alive and kicking balls into the back of a whole lot of nets. Of course there is that pesky detail of the distant coach who does not get on with his stars. Marca reported that after the semi Lucho entered the dressing room to congratulate and to hug each player, including Messi.

3. The Player (A)

The best in the world, according to Coach(A) and Coach (B) and anyone who has any sense. A popular narrative is that Lionel Messi needed that January bust up with Luis Enrique before, in, around and after Anoeta. It has also been said that the gauntlet thrown down by he of the sun tan during his Golden Balls acceptance speech have motivated the Flea to its core. This might both be true and especially the latter. They say that since then he is “back.” Hogwash. Unless they mean “back” from scoring three consecutive hat-tricks from November 22 to December 7. You know, one month before he came “back.”

Narratives be damned. Leo Messi has been playing a complete game since the season started: scoring, assisting, dribbling and defending. Yes, defending. He might not be the exact same player who ran through entire defenses during his prime, and some even wondered if the days would ever return when he would leave a defender on his butt before chipping a wonderfully delicate lob over an onrushing goalkeeper. Ha… ha… ha.

4. The Enemy (A)

Twitter and sports outlets, especially Spanish ones, have told you that Real M*drid really sucked this week. In my opinion they were very unlucky against Valencia (which makes us, the good guys, lucky by extension – ying, yang, we don’t exist in isolation) and they were this far from blowing Juventus out of the water in the first half at the Bernabeu.

Not that it matters one bit. I’ll enjoy watching them burn over the next couple of weeks. Can Ancelotti raise his eyebrow high enough to see the axe coming down on his neck? I wonder whether president Florentino Perez will make the smart move and hire Klopp – if he wants to come, that is – or whether he will usher in the Zidane era. I am not sure if Zizou has the chops to actually create an era, but I do know that, despite the ridicule we smear on their team like doodoo on sprinkly white toilet paper, they will again be a club to be reckoned with next season.

5. The Second Half

Hats off to Bayern for never giving up. Both their effort and their actual play should be stuff of legends, as they reduced what is the best team in the world on form to blindly booting balls out of the defence for 45 minutes. Without Robben, Alaba and Ribery. But of course, with Müller, Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Lewandowski. The fact that the blaugrana turned down the intensity button by half a notch does not take away from Bayern’s performance which, incidentally, may have saved their coach’s job. It also shows how important Luis Suarez has become to our team.

6. The Trident

Messi, Suarez and Neymar look really happy to play together and genuinely don’t seem to care who puts the ball into the net, as long as the ball goes into the net. Suarez passed to Neymar for Barça’s first goal in Germany from an awesome position because the Brazilian was in a really awesome position. In the dying minutes of the second leg Neymar broke free and could have scored a hat-trick which would have firmly established his reputation as an elite player in Europe. There wasn’t any good reason for passing the ball. He denied himself a Champions League semi-final hat-trick to try and give his friend a goal. Incredible as it may sound, the Trident might just get us the Treble. And the joy that they receive from not just playing together, but playing for each other is a big reason why.

7. The Enemy (B)

No, not the enemy. Our Opponent. We “only” have three enemies: Real M*drid, Esp*nyol and whichever team Mourinho coaches. Juventus have done an excellent job at eliminating our Enemy from the Champions League and are now, like us, in contention for the Treble. They know we are the favorites, but they have a very united squad and a coach who has played us various times while at his previous club. They are under no obligation to attack us and we should not expect an open game. As is often the case, an early goal can turn the final into an easy affair. If none is forthcoming or if, God forbid, they score first, expect to go through hell.

8. The Player (B)

There’s a picture of Pedro (remember Pedro?) in which he celebrates one of the goals scored in the Camp Nou against Bayern Munich. Here’s a man in the prime of his life who, after previously scoring in a CL semi final, a CL final and a Club World Cup final and after winning the World Cup and European Cup with his national selection has not only lost his spot as starter, but has hardly gotten any minutes as a sub this second half of the season. Nevertheless, when one of the star forwards that have relegated him to a bit part and who can’t stomach getting subbed even ten minutes before the final whistle scores a goal, Pedro jumps up and down the sideline with clenched fists and an expression on his face that would make William Wallace flinch. Praise be lavished upon the stars that shine, but it’s the ones that don’t that make a squad.

9. The Treble

Four games left. Three victories to an unprecedented second treble. We can afford to drop points at the Calderón, after which it is three games in three weeks. If there was ever a “business end” of the season, this is surely it. How will Luis Enrique keep his players concentrated during this final stretch? Or should he do the opposite? If we win the league, will he call for a three day booze fest to make sure the players blow off steam? Will the manager rotate, even if we don’t beat Atletico? Will the same eleven start the Copa final as the Champions League final? Will the trident? What about Suarez’s hamstring? We were at this point of the season six years ago and, incredibly, two years after six years ago, too. The first time it felt that we might never get here again. I’m not sure how it feels now. If you are a culer, rejoice. For we are truly blessed.

the player

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Written by:

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...

48 Comments

  1. lala10
    May 15, 2015

    Bravo Levon. Thanks for the balance. Damn fine season we have had despite some bumps.

    Hope we finish the job in hand.

  2. Benj
    May 15, 2015

    Great to see Lucho and his Barca doing so well, cules!

    Half the Spanish community in our fair city will be out on the town on final night, we are lucky enough to have the game televised live on Sunday 7th at 2:30am!

    Gonna be wild!

  3. May 15, 2015

    Jose Mourinho, FTW: “Philosophy is a beautiful thing, but football is more than that.”

  4. May 15, 2015

    Word on the streets is that Sunday’s match will be broadcast on the BeIN Espanol side live, and delayed on English. Schoen and Hudson will be calling RM/Espanyol because you know, it isn’t like a championship or anything is at stake in the case of the “other” match.

    • Barcathegreatestever
      May 15, 2015

      Thanks! Couldn’t find the game on Direct TV and hoping they did some late changes

  5. Barcathegreatestever
    May 15, 2015

    Pep was quoted as saying ” I’m glad you’re back” and Messi’s reply “I never left ” I thought he should have added “we’d have added another 14 trophies if youl’d have given me an organized defense and a forward that I could work with ”

    Sevilla, Juventus, Valencia, Juventus pushed Madrid over the limit, they just don’t have anyone that can penetrate to destabilize a defense. We have the trident plus Iniesta and Alves.

    Juventus has Tevez. They will look a lot like Mourinho’s Inter to me, super tight in the back for give and goes, dribble penetration, and unbreakable on crosses. Add a very physical fast break with Tevez and Moratta on form and they have a formula that can beat Barca on a given day. A lot of media talking treble without even smelling the roses or talking match ups. That makes me uneasy. Enrique still has big tests getting through these next few weeks.

    • May 15, 2015

      Juventus is tough, but I prefer them over M*drid. We played the merengues twice this season and both times they looked the better side for large spells of the game. Plus with Cristiano Ronaldo they have a player who pretty much ALWAYS scores against us.

      I’m not saying we will beat Juventus in the final, this remains to be seen, but from this season’s experience we don’t match up well against M*drid.

    • May 15, 2015

      Sorry for writing here, but i would like to know are you armo and if yes can we get in contact in another place fb/twitter/etc ???

    • May 16, 2015

      No, I’m not Armenian.

  6. Barcathegreatestever
    May 15, 2015

    I’m not sure that I could watch that game but I don’t do horror shows. Psychotherapy? Can you imagine? The 6 Classico season was too much,

  7. May 16, 2015

    RM didn’t scare me in a final, particularly if they are missing Modric. The Ramos injury just added to the comfort factor.

    Juventus is a massive worry. In addition to being a much better organized defense, they have Gigi Buffon, who is just about the last keeper on the planet you want to see in a one-match championship.

    Tevez is always capable of having one of THOSE matches, and Morata is a danger. Also Pogba is fit, and presents a complexity of the likes our midfield hasn’t really seen this season.

    It will be imperative that Barça score first. Otherwise it could be a looong day. People are underrating Juventus for reasons that escape me. They will be the first team, IIRC, that we have played this season that can successfully batten down the defensive hatches AND score. I think it will be a much more difficult and fraught final than one against RM, the hype and psychological anguish notwithstanding.

    — At the Enrique presser, he said that Suarez is still progressing, final decision not yet made on whether he will play tomorrow vs Atleti. I wouldn’t risk him. The team has two chances to win one match, and if it can’t beat Depor at home it doesn’t deserve to win the Liga.

    • Davour
      May 17, 2015

      I agree. It seems, to me, that people were less scared of RM as such, but could not stand the thought of losing the final to them, despite us having the upper hand.

  8. TITO
    May 16, 2015

    What’s interesting, is the fact that i can”t remember the last time we made the finals without the usual controversies in our wins or loses.

  9. Inamess
    May 16, 2015

    Should be a great game tomorrow! Would of course have been a massive one had Diego ALves not had the game of his life. Still there is much to play for and Atleti will certainly not make it easy. I mentioned this before, but this game could also be an potential preview of the CL final as Juventus and Atleti are pretty comparable in terms of how they match up with Barca. Good chance to argue about Pedro again as well.

  10. luisthebeast
    May 16, 2015

    I wish we will faced Madrid and not Juventus in the final.It would be so great to beat them in a CL final.We are so much better than them now.Juventus is a different story.Italian teams in finals are a pain in the ass.But we have time until then.Now we must win Atletiko…..And please mr Flo Flo stay forever there,spend money,buy whoever u want.And let the trophies for us;-)

    • barca96
      May 17, 2015

      Madrid were better or at least equal in the 2 past meetings. And form never mattered in el Clasico. I can’t even imagine the thought of losing to Madrid in a CL Final.

  11. barca96
    May 16, 2015

    I hope Suarez will sit out this match. There is no need to risk him with a hamstring injury like Simeone did with Diego Costa. Pretty much the same injury at the same time. Even against Deportivo we don’t need him. Like I said before when Messi had that foot injury, if we can’t beat small teams without Messi then we don’t deserve to be champions. Same case with Suarez or any of the key player.

  12. Davour
    May 17, 2015

    Suarez sits out; Pedro starts. Despite this, I hope Pedro will take the central position; Messi has been so much more effective from the wing. But I don’t see it happening… This will be a tough one!

  13. Jim
    May 17, 2015

    Well, here we go. Looking forward to this. Just no errors, please, and we should win this.

  14. Jim
    May 17, 2015

    Just having a look at how much they’ve brought the sidelines in to narrow the pitch.

  15. Jim
    May 17, 2015

    Wow. Bravo already magnificent.

  16. ciaran
    May 17, 2015

    Very little flow to the game. Both sides cancelling out each other. We’ve had lots of possession with only a couple of chances.
    I’m glad Suarez isn’t playing from my heads perspective but I’d love to have him playing.

    • Jim
      May 17, 2015

      Yeah, Messi having to drop very deep too early for me. Not much creativity.

    • Jim
      May 17, 2015

      Needing a bit more from Neymar, methinks.

    • Jim
      May 17, 2015

      Becoming a bit embarrassed by our diving and simulation. Oh, and bring on Xavi any time time you like . . .

    • Jim
      May 17, 2015

      That control was other worldly !

    • Ryan
      May 17, 2015

      Especially from that chance he just had on the counter! Uy…

  17. Jim
    May 17, 2015

    Yup. Matthieu and Xavi warming up. Those would be my subs.

  18. agar2515
    May 17, 2015

    One down two to go
    1/3 of crow pie eaten 😉 visca barça !!!!!!!!

    • dl
      May 17, 2015

      Hey agar, no offense but I hope you get a belly full! 🙂

  19. untoxgsd
    May 17, 2015

    CAMPEONES!!! Visca Barca!!

  20. Ryan
    May 17, 2015

    4 wins vs. Atletico – who would have thought that was possible after last year? Somos campeones!!

  21. Davour
    May 17, 2015

    Victory!!! Hats off to this magnificent team! Wonderful Messi goal, solid team. Thank you!

  22. ciaran
    May 17, 2015

    Congratulations to the Barca world. One down, two to go.
    Great La Liga season all in all. Special mention to Rakitic again in a dominant midfield display and to Messi for yet again making a match winning contribution.

    I’m glad that Madrid won in the end because our win was the determining result, nothing was a given.

  23. Jim
    May 17, 2015

    A well deserved title. Team has played some great football. Good to see Suarez and Neymar getting a title. We’ve come a long way since the start of the season. Credit to LE for the rotation as well. No let up now.

  24. Tata2
    May 17, 2015

    There you go, Ronaldo celebrating his pichichi award while Messi just cared and is celebrating a la liga title. Great game, for me we never looked in danger at any point. Now unto the copa and does anyone else like me wish Vermalen could play in the depor game?

    • Davour
      May 17, 2015

      Yes, and that pichini is basically the 5-goal granada game. Messi has 35 MoM (several in which he did not score nor assist, just dominated, like in the City game), while CR has 13. Says something of influence. Still, can’t take away from CR that 45 goals in 34 matches is well done…

    • Davour
      May 17, 2015

      Sorry, 19 MoM for CR; but still… Damn, the title feel good! Now for the next one. And yes, it would be interesting to see Vermealen and Bartra together… But must keep the team balanced, too – LE must decide wether rest or game will benefit players more.

  25. luisthebeast
    May 17, 2015

    Campeooones campeoones oe oe oe campeoones campeooones oe oe oe Thank u team thank u all u are amazing u are the greatest squad i m so happy so happy thank u

  26. ooga aga
    May 17, 2015

    So proud of this team, tan orgulloso de este equipo, visca Barca! Props to Pedro and messi for the sick goal! Wow

  27. Barcathegreatestever
    May 17, 2015

    Incredible composure maybe knowing one point all but seals the league. Full credit to Enrique whose defense was so solid all year using the same starters as the last 3. Bravo didn’t face a one on one breakaway all year and set piece attacks were dealt with with authority. The number of games where we conceded first must be a record too. What a difference he’s made!

    • Davour
      May 17, 2015

      Indeed. 19 conceded! We haven’t been close to that (ever?). Immensely impressive.

    • G6O
      May 17, 2015

      We let in 21 in 2010-11 and 24 in 2009-2010

  28. G6O
    May 17, 2015

    The forces of good won once again against the evil in white 🙂

    A happy day 🙂

  29. TITO
    May 17, 2015

    1/3

  30. ooga aga
    May 17, 2015

    Vamos a por el triplete!!!!!

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