Barca 4, Racing 0, aka “Here’s the key. Now take yourself to the woodshed.”

This one just HAS to go in ....

Here he is, our Man of the Match, scoring his first goal since the Iniestazo against Chelsea, Andres Iniesta. And truth be told, it was a shot that was far, far more difficult than it appeared on the screen. It needed to apply control, accuracy and body control to take advantage of the open net created by having a French wolf at the doorstep, looking to take advantage of a pretty darned perfect pass from Rafa Marquez.

It was also the early goal that is such a crucial part of our success, because when we score early, the other side has to come out and play. And if we are at all on form, it’s all over but the shouting.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this match with two prominent storylines:

–A deliberately depleted Racing side that was complicit in its own demise
–A redemption match of sorts for some key characters who will be essential if we are to do a double, or even a single, this season

Guardiola knew that this match was the time to give the old dudes some, so to speak. So he rolled out with Valdes, Puyol, Marquez, Pique, Maxwell, The Yaya, Busquets, Iniesta, Messi, Henry and Krkic.

And Racing came at us like a side that has watched other sides vex us by flooding the midfield, only they didn’t quite know what to do with all of the bodies they’d put out there, except foul. So apologies to any Racing fans, but without talent or a plan, that side just didn’t have a chance. The good thing is that it enabled us to remember what it was like to play pretty, elegant football, to try some things out offensively and defensively and get ready for Stuttgart in midweek.

There’s also a certain irony in the fact that this match had so many moments of almost indescribably beautiful play, yet our goals all came from odd duck moments and set pieces. Go figure.

–The first came when Marquez looked up and saw a streaking Henry, making himself available for a long ball that was beautifully provided. The defense was solid on Henry, who helped our cause with a little bit of a pick. The ball shook loose for Iniesta, who calmly put it away.

–The second came from a rather odd free kick situation that was sparked by some brilliant play from Busquets. Henry stepped up to take it, and threaded it through the Racing wall. Ray Hudson eviscerated them for punking out, but if you look at the goal, they didn’t move all that much. Is Henry’s goal any more or less delightful than the Ronaldinho free kick, that he rolled under a leaping wall? Part of taking free kicks is determining what the wall is going to do. So Henry popped it in, and that was that.

–The third goal came from yet another Busquets moment of brilliance, as he went from creating chaos in the Racing box, to recovering the ball and curving a deft pass to Iniesta, whose touch forced a hand ball just outside the Racing box. Up stepped Marquez, another of the Redemption Team, who laced in an amazing curler. Ray Ray can say that he was aiming for the post all that he wants, but there was a bit of luck involved in that goal, in which the ball smacked the inside of the post and caromed in past the keeper.

–Even the fourth goal, though it came from an exquisite sequence of play, was a little funky. Thiago plops in a lovely ball for Messi who, in cruise control mode and not really wanting to get the crap kicked out of him any longer, took it, bamboozled his defenders and laced the ball back to Thiago. The kid took, paused and smacked a shot that deflected off a Racing defender and into the net. Yes, the original shot would have been saved.

And that was that, a 4-0 scoreline that really should have been 4-1 after Racing had a perfectly legitimate goal taken away due to a ridiculous offside call. Perhaps Marquez was wearing his cloak of invisibility yesterday, which explained why his keeping the Racing player on side was ignored. Whatever. Racing didn’t really protest all that much, because they knew that they didn’t have a chance in this one, in the Camp Nou, in a match that we had to win, with key players on our side playing out of their minds football.

Collectively, we didn’t look all that sharp all the time, a fact made less surprising when you consider how many players were shaking off the bench rust, and how much we dialed it back once it was clear that Racing wasn’t going to be any real threat. And truth to tell, this match wasn’t all that interesting for a neutral. Yes, I enjoyed watching a win that was all but guaranteed, and perhaps the lowest amount of notes that I have taken from any match this season reflects that reality.

But there are some other things to celebrate:

–This was Guardiola’s 100th match in charge of us, celebrated with a wire-to-wire victory with ease. Very nice.
–This was Iniesta’s 300th match in the colors, and he celebrated with scoring a goal. Perhaps that milestone is why the force field was removed from the goal.

And with that,

Team: 6:. A little clunky, a little funky, but they got the job done, then coasted through the second half.

Guardiola: 7. The right lineup at the right time. He should have pulled Messi, however, even if he wanted to stay in. Once we scored twice, Racing weren’t coming back, no way, no how.

Valdes: 5. One good save, coupled with too many “WTF, Victor!” moments. If you’re going to come out to challenge for the ball, do it man style. Word.

Puyol: 7. Unfortunately, matches such as this one reinforce his belief that he is faster, bigger and stronger than he is, a Superman notion that sometimes comes back to haunt us against real opposition. But he had a fine match at right back, surging forward on attack and playing stalwart defense. Ray Ray’s impassioned defense of our Captain was heart-warming, if a bit misguided.

Marquez: 8. An excellent match capped off by a goal, an assist and a number of first-class defensive plays. And I gave him an extra point for chopping Canales down like a tree in the second half. “That’s for later, kid, when you’re wearing that ugly-ass white shirt.” Not sure if this is a sign that Marquez is coming back to himself, but I liked what I saw.

Pique: 5. His touch was a bit funky, and his uncertainty in playing the ball out meant that it spent too much time in our end. He didn’t seem to know what to do or where to be at times today, and he has to stop those rash divings-in for the ball. Studs up is never, ever a good thing.

Maxwell: 6. Very solid, moved forward with style and energy on offense, and controlled his side on defense. No, he isn’t Abidal, but he’s a first-class defender who will improve with reps. I daresay that by the time Abidal is healthy, Maxwell will have hit his full stride.

The Yaya: 7. Full-on man today. Busquets should say to Guardiola, “I want him out there whenever I’m out there.” He frees up Busquets to do his playmaker thing with his indomitable presence, ball control and ability to keep an attack moving. For me, the value of The Yaya came when Messi laid out a pass that said to Racing “Here, we’ll give you a goal.” The Yaya said “No, we won’t,” and destroyed the attack single-handedly.

Busquets: 9. Spectacular today, a sentiment echoed by Guardiola. Advanced playmaking mid certainly seems to be his role, and I’m not exactly sure about this, but I would be willing to bet my favorite Barca shirt that Busquets has had his best matches with The Yaya backing him up. His energy and intelligence were in full effect today, and his work rate was off the charts. And no stupid flopping about, which was nice to see. There was one point where he got whacked upside the head. The old Busquets would have fallen to the pitch, twitching like an electrified fish. Yesterday, he stopped, checked to make sure he wasn’t bleeding, and kept on kicking out the jams.

Iniesta: 10. Magnificent, magisterial, magical, mickeyfickin’ amazing, any adjective you’re willing to use to describe Ghostface, fit perfectly. This was a man shoved into the engine room of our attack, who ran the show as if he were manor-born. It wasn’t just the goal. It was the little runs, the constant working, the midfield pressure, the pass after pass that plopped in the right spots for our lads to work with the ball. Wow.

Messi: 5. Solid, and his passing was very good today. The lay-off to Thiago for his first senior goal was class all the way, too. Whether he was playing with a bit of a knock or not, show some enthusiasm, and celebrate a goal with your teammates. He and Jeffren seemed to be sharing a moment as they walked back up the pitch, with Messi all sullen-faced. Don’t know what the reason was, don’t care. If you want to be a leader, act like one. It was a great ball to him from Jeffren, and a great ball from him back to Jeffren. That goal deserved to be celebrated, and what cooler way than to have the team’s icon fete the event with him. I didn’t dig it. Not at all.

Henry: 5. I liked the all-pitch game, didn’t like the rust. He got some excellent passes, but he was let down by his touch. And he has to harden up in the box. People are going to whack you from behind. So man the hell up, turn on their asses and make them pay. Nice pick on the Iniesta goal, and nice free kick. He was doing things out there that made it clear why Guardiola’s “real” starting XI has him in it. But he has to do a lot more.

Krkic: 5. Excellent effort from CT, though I confess to having absolutely no idea how the hell he didn’t have a brace. Dude was on the doorstep twice, and both times couldn’t turn the trick. Amazing energy and industry, and for the first time in a long time, he looked confident on the pitch. It showed in his play. Guardiola is hitting the pipe if he thinks that CT is a “9,” but what do I know, right? But that one shot in which he froze his defender, made space and smoked that rocket at the keeper speaks to his immense potential.

Substitutes

Jeffren (for Puyol): 5. Good energy and flair on the attacking end, but Racing had given up by then, so we just don’t know.

Pedro! (for Henry): 4. Not much to do, really, because we were in a holding pattern and didn’t need to score any more goals. Was beginning to play his way into the match.

Thiago (for The Yaya): 6. Energy and industry, and I love his passing and aggression. That pass to Messi in the box was Barca-class. Yes, his goal took a lucky deflection. His future is bright, and Guardiola’s remarks about the differences between he and Dos Santos were very interesting. The latter sounds more like the Xavi type, and Thiago more the Iniesta type. Man, are we stacked in the midfield.

Finally ….

Sure, Adriano. Whatever, dude. Call me if you come to Barca.
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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.

78 Comments

  1. February 21, 2010

    There have been, by the by, many interesting issues raised, that deserve their own post.

    –Busquets making Fabregas irrelevant.
    –Krkic coming up too soon.
    –The differences in what we see when Ibrahimovic is on the pitch, vs other players.

    Should be fun.

  2. Ciaran
    February 21, 2010

    Just a quick one for you Kxevin, to be onside you need an opposition player AND the goalkeeper. Rules are rules

    • Hector
      February 21, 2010

      Exactly. That goal was correctly disallowed because when Valdes came rushing out, Marquez became the last man between Xisco and the goal. To be onside you have to be level or behind the SECOND TO LAST man when the ball is passed. Valdes went way forward so he was way behind Xisco. If Ray Ray or Phil whined about that then they should get themselves a rulebook. That’s why no Villarato cries have been heard on account of that call.

      The funny thing is that if Xisco hasn’t touched it, it still would have been a goal (and a valid one). 😀

    • Kecke
      February 21, 2010

      …agree. The rules says it is offside.

      (I’m picky now Ciaran, but but the rules says TWO PLAYERS…it does not have to be the goalkeeper…and another player.)

    • Jose
      February 21, 2010

      Yup. The goal was offside because Valdes was ahead of the attacker who redirected the shot. There have to be TWO defenders (usually taken to be the GK) to be onside.

      It would have been 4-1 if the attacker had not tried to redirect the perfectly good shot.

      • jordi™
        February 21, 2010

        And it was Canales’ shot.Ha!

        • Jose
          February 21, 2010

          Ha! Gotta get ’em used to Camp Nou failure early 🙂

  3. Cesc Blanc
    February 21, 2010

    As Ciaran said, the offside call was right as it was just Marquez and therefore only one player and not the goalkeeper around.

  4. Hector
    February 21, 2010

    I love how five of the six comments have said exactly the same thing 😀 . Some knowledgeable fans we’ve got here at the blog 😀 .

    • Jim
      February 21, 2010

      Certainly wasn’t knowledgeable when it happened at the time 🙂 Didn’t see the touch . . and was screaming about poor defending.

  5. Hilal
    February 21, 2010

    Off topic but Villareal are crap. How in the hell did we draw to them at home!?!?

    • Helge
      February 21, 2010

      How in the hell did we lose to Atleti? That’s because some teams tend to show up against us with their very best, whereas they usually (including against Real) play rather crappy…

      I wonder how Sevilla will do in Madrid in 2 weeks, they very crappy against us at home, so perhaps they’ll give RM a fight.

      • Hilal
        February 21, 2010

        Dont hold your breath.

        Pathetic refereeing in the game btw. Two crap pen decisions and soft fk for Ronaldo.

        Villareal should be ashamed of themselves though.

    • jordi™
      February 21, 2010

      They didnt have 19 year old Musacchio as a starting CB in that game like today unfortunately 🙁 ,Kid has had a baptism of fire.

      I fancy us outscoring Madrid if thats the type of game they play against us this year though ,It mught be 4-5 this year 😀

      • y2k156
        February 21, 2010

        madrid are dangerous on counters so it will be interesting when we visit them. i do hope ibra improves his positioning by then as madrid back 4 are not the best in business. villareal are being humiliated though.

  6. Jose
    February 21, 2010

    ‘And I gave him an extra point for chopping Canales down like a tree in the second half. “That’s for later, kid, when you’re wearing that ugly-ass white shirt.” ‘

    Hee 😛

  7. y2k156
    February 21, 2010

    Messi was some how slightly away from game yesterday, maybe pep did ask him to coast the game. About his not celebrating thiago’s goal, am not sure if that was his fault. thiago went running to bench which was over enthusiastic. i believe guardiola also commented on the fact that thiago should not have run to bench to celebrate with jds but should have celebrated with on pitch players.

    • Ilkish
      February 21, 2010

      not true though, he celebrated with maxwell and some other players and THEN went to the bench

      • February 22, 2010

        I’m relly annoyed with the way Thiago celebrated his goal.

        He celebrated with Maxwell, but didnt celebrated with Messi, who laid the ball to him.

        Just like i hate it when Bojan celebrated his goal last season, running straight to corner flag, ignoring Iniesta effort.

  8. Jnice
    February 21, 2010

    About the fks:

    -Sorry, Kev, but Henry’s wasn’t taken well at all. The wall isn’t supposed to part like that and it did. Had it not parted, it would have been your avg up against the wall fk. That’s why you saw Yaya and the rest having a bit of a laugh when celebrating with Henry. I’m glad he scored, but he wasn’t anticipating the wall splitting. It was lucky.

    -Don’t think Marquez’s ball hitting off the post is luck more than it is precision. He aimed for the corner and it spun off the post and in. To me, that’s just him aiming for the corner of the net. Sure he didn’t mean to hit the post, but the way it spun off of the post shows how precise he wanted it to be.

    • Jim
      February 21, 2010

      Agree Jnice about Marquez’s kick. That’s where you aim for – the postage stamp as we call it in Scotland. Hitting the post and going in is only a foot away from absolute perfection and doesn’t happen without huge skill.

      I’ve watched Henry’s a few times and it still puzzles me. My instinct is to say it was lucky. You’re right in that the wall shouldn’t have parted. However, it was so low that it does almost look deliberate. Henry isn’t so poor that he mishit it that badly. Can’t see what he was looking for though.

      Not as clear cut as Ronaldinho’s, however, which was magical.

  9. jordi™
    February 21, 2010

    Joan loves Celebration 😀

    *http://www.sport.es/vivo/recursos/fotos/foto_420/foto_420652_CAS.jpg

  10. Hector
    February 21, 2010

    OK. Now I can give my take.

    Like Kevin wrote, its hard to draw conclusions from this type of game but I’ll do it anyways given that this may very well be the lineup we play against Stuttgart.

    – Has anybody heard of a Gordie Howe Hat Trick before? Gordie is a legendary hockey player who played until he was well over 50 years old. The “hat trick” named in his honor is when a player gets a goal, an assist, and gets into a fist fight in the same game. Inspired by Gordie, I thus hereby propose the Marquez Hat Trick: a goal, an assist, and a thuggish ill-advised yellow card which could have been red in one single game. This was the quintessential Marquez Hat Trick. Except for a couple of his usual defensive missteps, the guy was vintage. With Xavi gone, it was Marquez more than Iniesta who in my view orchestrated the tempo of the game. He determined the direction of attacks from the back and his first half was perfect. He knew when to bomb forward to provide an extra man in midfield, when to switch the point of attack, when to try the long ball, and when to squeeze it through to Iniesta. I know a lot of people hate the guy apparently but give him his due when he’s on. At one point of his career he was the best passing centerback in the world and every now and then that still shows. I’m happy to see him returning to a semblance of where he was before his injury. People forget that it was him and Pique paired up at the back during the Lyon and Bayern ties. We did not do too badly in those if memory serves me right 🙂 .

    – Yaya and Busquets were excellent. I especially liked Busi’s aggressiveness in bombing into the box. He caused chaos with his crashing runs off the ball (something that Xavi frequently does and which I hope Iniesta eventually picks up on as well). His work rate was very good and his ball distribution was solid. Definitely not Xavi level but not bad. Good job in positioning himself although at times he left Iniesta a little too isolated for my taste. Yaya was vintage. The guys just did his job. He took his Yaya Stampede of Death runs a dribble or two too far every now and then but did his job.

    – Iniesta: We saw a one man army at times with Don Andres. He often had two or three defenders draped all over him but he somehow still kept the ball and was spraying passes right and left whiled occasionally schooling fools with his dribbling. However, I am going to nag on him a little bit. This is exactly why Andres still has a little more to go before he gets to Xavi’s level. A lot of his fending off three defenders single handedly while looking like a skinny pale bald Rambo was unnecessary. He often kept the ball for too long and he did not control the tempo with Xavi’s precision. That’s what I think that Pep meant when he said that we lacked rhythm and needed to add simplicity to our ball circulation. Andres was a little too aggressive and daring at times and disrupted our tempo. His work rate was off the charts as was Busi’s and their ball pressure and quick ball recovery masked some of Iniesta’s turn overs. Sometimes you need to add pause and keep command of the orchestra and its tempo. I never got the feeling that we had that for long periods of time. I think the widely hated Marquez made a bigger contribution to that than Andres did. I am not saying that Iniesta is not amazing but sometimes what makes a great #4 and a great orchestrator is keeping it simple and keeping control. That is still something that Andres has to work on doing when he is working without Xavi. There is no need to take on three defenders all the time. Just slow it down every once in a while. Variations in tempo work to our advantage as it adds the element of surprise. Andres has to dictate that in Xavi’s absence. If he keeps playing that flat out in that position, he won’t last another two weeks healthy. On the bright side, once he does and also learns to score goals more than once every 8 months then its game over 😀 .

    – Messi was definitely off or he woke up on the wrong side of the bed or something. During the first half he was keeping the width on the right and disappeared for long stretches. During the second half he was playing mostly as a false 9 but for a different purpose than the usual one. He was a decoy. Racing was parking the bus so there was not a double pivot to triangulate against. What he was doing was staying in between Racing’s backline and its second line. What this did is force the backline to back off anytime the ball got near Messi because they fear his pace. This opened up space between the lines as the midfield line was consequently force to scramble back and facilitated our passing game once we started getting a bit sloppy. I find it hilarious when I see five defenders backing off at once in a disciplined line when the ball comes within 30 ft of a walking, seemingly lazy Messi. This helped counter act the flooded midfield. Why did he not touch the ball more often? I don’t know but his off the ball movement was not active at all so a big part of that blame would go to him.

    -I liked our defense. However, there have been some comments about how we looked more fluid on offense with Henry, Bojan, and Messi. I would say yeah, we did…but we were also inefficient. The first goal was a long ball and a screwy defender/GK error, the two free kicks were well earned and well taken but could have easily missed, and Thiago’s goal came from a deflection. Other than that, what goal scoring opportunities did we produce? Messi had two shots on goal from outside the box of which one went over and the other, which would have been a golazo had it gone in, was spectacularly saved. Bojan had a sitter which he missed and his little shake and bake shot from a tight angle which was also saved while Henry only had a shot from a tight angle that he sent into the stands. Not exactly what I would consider high quality goal scoring opportunities. We have the quality to put a game away on those but it wasn’t an OMG We Looked So Much Better Without Ibra situation IMO. Just putting that one out there. It was a workmanlike performance. Again, like Pep said, good enough but not brilliant.

    • poipoi
      February 22, 2010

      andres is not a number 4 I think. He is more an interior, an 8. everything started to come into place when xavi and iniesta got rid of the “play as 4” heritage of mr pep as a player. having the yaya in the back (ealier we had davids, edmilson, marquez…) semi-orchestrating with them such is a good thing. Iniesta is all about dribbling going past four and passing, he’s one of the few players that can cause chaos in the blink of an eye.

      • Hector
        February 22, 2010

        I would say that Pep, the original #4 himself, further evolved the #4 by giving Xavi the license to play further upfield and become a complete midfielder. Its a position that I see as constantly changing. Its not about being a defensive midfielder (which Pep technically was) but about setting a tempo and controlling the ebb and flow of our possession game. To me that is the #4. There is a reason why every other team calls the defensive mid the #5.

        Yeah, Andres at this point is at his best when he can go from keeping possession to running and dribbling at defenders in the blink of an eye. That’s called a change in rhythm. However, who sets that rhythm to begin with? Xavi is not here right now so Andres has to assume that responsibility.

        I expect Andres to keep evolving and maturing even now because I think he is that good. When Xavi retires and Andres begins to lose his pace, I see Andres as the next #4 so I am always excited to see him without Xavi and gauge his progress on that account.

  11. Jim
    February 21, 2010

    Can’t agree about Marquez and Iniesta, Hector, but some interesting thoughts. At 3-0 the game was well over so it’s maybe a little hard to judge them when the pace dropped quite a bit in the second half. I’ll be happy if we keep the fluidity on Tuesday night. It would be good to have another 67% possession night.

    Any word on injuries from the game?

  12. CLUEless(John)
    February 21, 2010

    I think we should let CT start the CL fame, and depending on how we are doing, Ibra can come on as a sub. I am also looking forward to Messi in the European spotlight again, he has been good this year in the CL, and I don’t expect anything different Tuesday.

    • Jim
      February 21, 2010

      I think I’d still be tempted to start Ibra as we need him firing on all cylinders for the later stages if we are to have a chance.

      At the risk of being run out of town I was pretty impressed by the EE tonight.

      • Jose
        February 21, 2010

        I was more disappointed with Villareal, but I see what you mean. At least their margin of victory (6-2) will inevitably remind their fans of last year’s Bernabeu Clasico 😉

      • Jnice
        February 21, 2010

        I wasn’t impressed with them only because I wasn’t impressed at how Villareal played them. Are Madrid not a good team? Why not pressure them and harass them like Villareal did to us when they came to our place? Besides that, I thought both pks were not pks. First one was incidental, 2nd was blah. 6-2? Good for them, though. Looks like if we want them to drop points, we are going to have to be the ones to make them do it.

        • Kari
          February 21, 2010

          Or wait for them to play in the Mestalla (if they haven’t already).

          Still, the saying ‘if you want something done, do it yourself’ is what I prefer. We beat them convincingly last season, even when the fixtures gave them the advantage (they played the same opponent as us, just in the reverse).

          • jordi™
            February 21, 2010

            They won at the mestalla, but Valencia have been better away from home this year (which doesnt bode well for us as well it must be said).But yes we just have to handle it ourselves, though it would be simpler if we didnt throw away those points @ Osasuna and in San Mames.Those 4 points could be decisive in the end.

      • Helge
        February 22, 2010

        I gotta admit that I was impressed by Crynaldo yesterday. He was an unselfish(!) beast, dribbling past 2 or more defenders almost everytime when he got the ball in attack, he could easily have had 4 assists if the other players seized their chances…
        On the other way, poor defending by Real Madrid. I still think that Olympique Lyon has a real chance of eliminating them from the CL 🙂

  13. Rob Rev
    February 21, 2010

    I met the 2 guys in the pic in a lift along with Ibra in pre season lmao =]

  14. February 21, 2010

    Btw, Regal Barcelona smacked around Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey de Baloncesto final 😀

    80-61

  15. Kari
    February 21, 2010

    You know, I really think that Bojan could learn so much if Villa were on our team. I’m not advocating anything (my preferred signing is Silva btw), but they’re just so similar. He’d learn a lot from him. In this regard, it’s a shame that Valencia screwed him over like that last summer. I really would have liked to see Villa 🙁 …and Felipe for that matter.

    Ah well, we’d have had a relatively unchanged Barca anyway (i.e. Eto’o and Villa are pretty much the same height, have the same ‘harass the defenders mentality’, prolific, etc. )

    Besides, I like what Ibra brings to the team 🙂 He needs more time, but I like, I like.

  16. Kari
    February 21, 2010

    Oh, and who else thinks the WC will have a HUGE impact on who we sign this summer.

    If Fabregas doesn’t deliver, and say, oh, I dunno,… Silva tears it up–I wonder what el Presidente will do?

    Hmm. For the record, I should say that of all the possible candidates, I hope that Ribery DOESN’T come to us. Long story short, his lack of respect towards Bayern (to teammates, staff, directors, etc. ; constantly putting his future in doubt by hinting to the media; his ‘injuries’;etc) is something that I don’t like. What if he was acting that way with us?

    Abilities/talent be damned; I don’t want that kind of character in our dressing room. Doesn’t matter if he wants to play in a ‘better’ league/win things, keep it to yourself, and respect the team you’re on. If he was to play in Spain, then he’s better of dressed in white.

    I don’t want him.

    • DontPanicAM
      February 22, 2010

      I wouldn’t mind Ribery. But just for 2-3 seasons, so our cantera boys could grow before stepping on the big stage. After that Ribery can go whenever/wherever/however he wants.

      • Sid
        February 22, 2010

        Same here especially if he can also play the Iniesta role when required

    • Blow-Grenade
      February 22, 2010

      I would agree with Kari on this. Ribery needs to play more, and talk/get injured less.

  17. barca96
    February 21, 2010

    i fell asleep before the match so started watching at 67th min.
    the commentator was praising yaya and saying that he is a class above busi. and with this kind of performance he is baffled why he is being overlooked. so how come busi got a higher rating than yaya?
    i’ve always wanted to try busi as a CM. he has the qualities for it and he always wanted to show it to the world 😛

  18. Eduard
    February 21, 2010

    When Santander scored that goal I was a little bit upset because I was thinking “we don’t need the ref’s help”. But I’m glad it was the right call. I should read the rule book.

    I got distracted 5 minutes in because my dad called me just to tell me he was at Camp Nou with my 80+ year old grandpa, 20 rows up, midfield line. Thanks for the invited, Dad!!

    I was happy to see Marquez make a foul on Canales, glad he didn’t get injured though. I didn’t think it was a spectacular game, would have liked to see Puyol rest.

  19. February 22, 2010

    “Here, we’ll give you a goal!” “No we won’t”. Hahaha, nicely done-

  20. vicsoc8
    February 22, 2010

    It’s good to see players who haven’t been performing at their best having good games. My thoughts:

    Puyol doesn’t understand the notion of taking it easy during a match.

    Great to see Marquez playing well again. With the form our defenders are in, Pep’s going to have some headaches choosing our back line.

    I’m going to go on record and say Yaya will start playing more. Could anyone else see a lineup of:
    defense
    Xavi – Yaya – Busquets
    Messi – Ibra – Iniesta
    A very solid lineup for a tough Champions League away tie.

    I’m now convinced Busquets isn’t a replacement for Yaya, but for Keita. Keita’s 30 now, half way through a 4 year contract. There’s been no talk of renewal. I love Keita, but by age 32 I think he’ll be gone, and Busquets will fill his role. He’s just much better when he plays further forward.

    Henry was rusty, but he’s still world class. Henry is completely in Pep’s plans. We’re going to need his class to see us through the season, and he will step up when we need him.

    I’m happy with Bojan’s performance. Good to see Pep show some faith with the start, and I have a strange notion Pep is still grooming Bojan for the “9” position. From this performance you can see why he doesn’t play well when given a few minutes at the end of the game. The kid has so much energy he struggles to keep it under control, and it hurts the play at time. Compare him to a young Rooney – Rooney overflowed with energy, and it usually came out as anger on the pitch. Bojan’s extra energy makes him unfocused, he doesn’t have the discipline to curb his desire to be everywhere at once. If Bojan can harness his energy like Rooney did he will be a force to be reckoned with.

    Thiago is good. We almost have too many good youth players. How are they all going to fit in the squad?!?!

    • majatt
      February 22, 2010

      I can’t see him taking the keita role, he is still young. Maybe over the next 2-3 years we see him bulk up and become a better DM.

      • majatt
        February 22, 2010

        To expand, I can’t see him taking that role because keita still operates from the bench as a utility player while Busquets seems to be heading toward first team full time. I see JDS/Thiago -> LMF -> Iniesta -> RMF -> Xavi -> Retired.

        • February 22, 2010

          i think what visco meant was that busi could be a box-to-box player and i agree. he looks better and attacking than defending although he has defensive qualities but not enough for DM

  21. jnelson
    February 22, 2010

    I guess I should have been the first one to give Marquez props for a great performance, as I am the chairman of the I Hate Marquez Board. Well done, Kaiser.

  22. Helge
    February 22, 2010

    Have you guys seen this poor dive from Eto’o?

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRLOlubVqPQ&feature=player_embedded

    Best thing about it is Mourinho’s reaction 😀

    • Helge
      February 22, 2010

      Oh, and Crynaldo would most-likely have gotten his penalty for this dive^^

      • February 22, 2010

        i feel bad for etoo but it was a dive and he should’ve gotten another yellow for his reaction..
        where is the mourinho handcuff moment? didn’t see it

  23. Segun
    February 22, 2010

    Good u’re right, iniesta is not up 2 xavi levels. Wen alves & xavi is back our level of play wil improve.

  24. Segun
    February 22, 2010

    Guy u’re 100% right. I dont like is style of play & his attitude.

  25. Barcamaniac
    February 22, 2010

    I know Xavi is irreplaceable for now but did anyone miss him on Saturday?

    • Hector
      February 22, 2010

      Me. A lot.

      And apparently Johan did too seeing as how he described this as the worst game of the Guardiola era. I wouldn’t go that far but I agree that what I saw on the field did not deserve that score.

  26. poipoi
    February 22, 2010

    please, does anyone know any link to watch the full game online? I’m about to download it ’cause I can’t find it online in mysoccerplace.net , only the highlights.

    I want to see Iniesta if he got a 10 you know, and Busi! for what I’ve seen in the highlights all I can say is “curl it leo, please don’t break it”

    • Barcamaniac
      February 22, 2010

      *http://forum.rojadirecta.org/viewtopic.php?t=88689

    • Jnice
      February 22, 2010

      Sky Sports:

      1st half
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353541705/First_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part1.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353541708/First_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part2.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353541904/First_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part3.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353541906/First_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part4.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353541765/First_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part5.rar

      2nd half:

      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353541768/Second_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part1.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353542044/Second_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part2.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353547705/Second_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part3.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353542047/Second_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part4.rar
      *http://rapidshare.com/files/353542299/Second_Half_-_La_Liga_-_Barcelona_v._Racing_Santander_-_20-02-10.part5.rar

      or Mediafire links

      *http://www.mediafire.com/?sharekey=083f4a63779b1018ab1eab3e9fa335ca595a14279ff9f1cb

  27. Kxevin
    February 22, 2010

    I think that Cruijff is full of it sometimes. But as noted above, the goals came from weirdness, rather than excellent overall play.

    Iniesta isn’t Xavi, so he will play that position differently. It’s unavoidable. Xavi is a one-of-a-kind player, and anyone is going to suffer by comparison.

    Thanks to all for the offside rule reminder. I thought it was just one player. Sheesh.

    And on the Henry free, I wouldn’t be so quick to shout luck, and crappy defense. The hole that he shot through wasn’t that big, and any FK that geos through the wall requires luck. You have to guess right. Every wall, no matter how stalwart, moves. If you guess wrong, it goes into the wall. Guess right, and it’s a goal.

    Finally, I also have to quibble with Hector’s Marquez v Iniesta call. Yes, Ghostface held the ball too long, but he’s always going to do that. But he was huge in terms of space creation and midfield control. I also think that the difference in the way he played the position created difficulties for Racing. He moves forward a lot more than Xavi does, which creates a different set of issues for a ball-hawking midfield.

    • Barcamaniac
      February 22, 2010

      Well, a wall shouldn’t move and if it does, the keeper has leave to shaft every player in it.

      • Kxevin
        February 22, 2010

        But walls always move. Watch free kicks. Some players turn to the side to keep from getting emasculated, others jump because they think the attacker is going to shoot over the wall. They are guessing as much as the shooter is, and the keeper arranges the wall based on the available options (he thinks) for the shooter.

        What makes the guessing game fascinating is those times when it all goes right. I bring up Ronaldinho’s free kick under the wall because that was every bit as much of a guessing game as Henry’s kick was. Ronaldinho thought, “I bet they jump, so why not try it?” He could just as easily have been made to look silly for shooting at the wall’s ankles. It’s all part of the game, which is why I’m having complexities with the “Well, it would have hit the wall if ….” That’s true of most free kicks that I see. Rare are the ones such as Senna’s yesterday, or Simao’s(?) that beat Valdes.

        Most are a matter of luck, rooted in correctly judging how it is going to move.

        • Barcamaniac
          February 22, 2010

          I remember starting to pay attention to FKs (actions of those in the wall) after Ronnie did his trick, and I can’t recall a single one (in a decent league) when the wall jumped. Seems that players learn lessons or so they should.

    • Jnice
      February 22, 2010

      The point of the wall is not to break up like that. That’s why 90% of fks hit the wall and the other 10 either goes in or over the net. Rarely does a fk go through the wall. I maintain that Henry’s was the avg Alves wall hitter fk, and judging by the reaction of Yaya and the rest, they knew he lucked up. Either way, I’m happy Henry finally scored.

  28. Hector
    February 22, 2010

    Yeah Cruyff can be full of it at times. No doubt about it. He definitely overdid it in today’s column. However, his justification mirrors somewhat what I perceived when watching the game. I still would have put in Iniesta as MOTM and I don’t want to come across as an Iniesta basher especially when I love the guy so much but…
    The scary thing about Iniesta is that he still as lots of room to grow besides the obvious goalscoring part of his game. I know that he is not Xavi but I strongly believe that he has the gifts to eventually be even better than Xavi. I don’t expect him to be a Xavi clone because their styles are different but I want him to progressively show the ability to control the tempo and manage the team in Xavi’s absence. When he plays with Xavi’s, his runs and dribbles at the defense are effective in large part because they represent a change of rhythm. Xavi sets a tempo and has a seemingly telepathic connection with Iniesta so that Andres knows perfectly when to alter it and kick it to a higher gear. To use an analogy that I recently read, it’s a symphony but to me Xavi is the conductor while Iniesta and Messi are the first violinists. Now that the conductor is out, Iniesta needs to move up a notch and show some different qualities.

    As the orchestrator, you have to pick your spots to dribble at the defense. I thought Andres took too many touches at times before passing it off which in turn led to Busi doing the same often. He had more turnovers than it seemed because the whole team’s pressure was excellent and Racing had clearly surrendered and we recovered the ball quick enough to mask them or make them like less than they actually were. Henry and Bojan got almost no good service and we ran more than we had to. We did not notice this because the score was 3-0 quickly but that’s what I saw. Our guys were passing too slowly and keeping the ball a little too long. Somebody has to set the tempo and today that was Andres. He was at his super human best in the sense of dribbling, keeping control, and passing but he was playing like he had Xavi besides him. I know it’s a slightly abstract concept but he did not control the tempo like I expect our #4 to do. Granted, Messi did not help out too much although that was in part to Mess not trusting Puyol enough to cut in as frequently as he usually does in addition to an unusual lackadaisical game. I know it seems like niggling when we won 4-0 but keep in mind how we scored those goals, who we scored them against (and which players they were missing), and how many high quality goal scoring opportunities we actually produced in the run of play. I wouldn’t use Cruyff’s hyperbole but I thought it was below average. A score can be deceiving at times. I still think the Tenerife game was the worst 5-0 win I ever saw and Messi had the worst hat trick I’ve seen. Then again, that’s just Debbie Downer me 😀 .

    Andres is great enough to win games on his own playing like he usually does but we won’t win championships that way. It’s like Jordan scoring 40+ per game and willing his team to victory Rambo style. It will get you through some games against certain team but not all of them. Yeah, Xavi will be back but I have high expectations of Andres as to me he is Xavi’s successor and I want him to keep the evolution of the #4 going and take it to yet another level once he assumes the mantle. This is similar to when Messi single-handedly took on teams and served as playmaker and goal scorer pre-Guardiola. It sure as hell was entertaining, it did the job, and it showcased his immense talent but it was not necessarily the most efficient way to win from a team perspective. He has his style but he needs to adjust it to the situation at times.

    Feel free to disagree though. I know this is a bit controversial 😀 .

    • Kxevin
      February 22, 2010

      I think that overall, we agree in principle. It’s why the team only got a 6, despite winning 4-0. We just didn’t look that great.

      Ultimately, I don’t think that Iniesta is Xavi’s successor. I think that, in my ideal world, Dos Santos would be. He has those same qualities of stability, vision and a sense of the match. I think that Guardiola sees those qualities, as well.

      It’s also why Fabregas is a silly purchase. Some say that Iniesta becomes Xavi while Fabregas becomes Iniesta, or some permuations thereof.

      I say that Dos Santos becomes Xavi, and Iniesta keeps on being Iniesta. And when we add Thiago to the mix, the blend becomes that much more potent.

      • poipoi
        February 22, 2010

        we are lucky to have those two JDS and thiago. it is true that they can be compared with iniesta (thiago) or xavi (JDS) in terms of style but every player is different and xavi and iniesta are just too much to be compared to anyone else, specially xavi in terms or stability 😉 … those two look really good though

  29. JMo
    February 22, 2010

    Once again, it’s been too long since I submitted anything of relevance outside of the LiveBlogs, but this match was, how do I say… bleh.

    The win itself serves on a multitude of different levels…
    -Xavi-less Barcelona bag 4.

    -Henry and Marquez rejuvenated after goal.

    -Ibra-less Barcelona bag 4.

    -Bojan looks more like Bojan of 07-08 than Bojan of 08-09

    -Team gains confidence before heading to the Blitzkrieg

    Yet for all the spoils, I just felt bleh. It was semi-entertaining football, and for that, I’m appreciative, because it gives Peppy G something to work for.

    When he’s feeling triumphant on all levels, thats when the indecision about his future settles. So I say, anytime we win without playing sexy footy, is a good win, because it gives In Pep We Trust something to be laboring over.

  30. Mikel
    February 22, 2010

    Lukaku is the “pichichi” of the Belgian league being only 16 years old…

    *http://www.goal.com/en/news/755/europe/2010/02/22/1802258/anderlecht-wonderkid-romelu-lukaku-set-for-belgium-debut

    He is about to be called up to the national team, and he is 1.92 of height. One to look closely at. According to wiki he scored a bunch of goals in the Anderlecht junior teams.

    • jordi™
      February 22, 2010

      Check out how powerful his, like a mini Drogba, only not so “mini”

      *http://www.101greatgoals.com/videodisplay/4799620/

    • Jnice
      February 22, 2010

      He was great for me in Football Manager. Romeluuuu!

  31. Soto
    February 22, 2010

    Man, was I happy that Thiago gave me the chance to yell “Thiaa-goo!” in the middle of the bar, just like I predicted.

    Not our best game this season. Not our worst. Still, a lot of fun.

  32. eklavya
    February 22, 2010

    Yay! The picture I wanted for my Avatar is finally working! 🙂

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