Barça 5, Rayo Vallecano 2, aka “Another defining Rayo moment”

It’s impossible to know what to think about this football team. It’s either whistling past the graveyard or headed for a massive fall.

Rayo Vallecano always seems to bring out interesting things for Barça and today was no exception. Many probably have forgotten that Rayo was the team that ended the Martino Experiment as they lost 0-4 but won possession, causing a culerverse to implode.

Today, Rayo won every significant statistical comparison, starting with possession. Barça ended up with just over 43% possession. Barça was also outshot, had fewer corners, was a mess in just about every statistical measure except one: the final score.

Asking what that means leaves most folks at a loss. The team has conceded 11 goals this season. Of the five teams in La Liga who have done that, two are in the relegation zone. Only one is at the top of the table, and that’s the strange thing in a team that is confounding, during a confounding season complicated by injuries and poor form, both individual and collective.

Rayo strutted into the Camp Nou and played the exact match that it needed to play to get a result against Barça because sitting back and waiting to die isn’t the answer, unless you hope to play for a Malagaesque 0-0. If you can get at the Barça back line you can create chances. Celta Vigo knew this, Sevilla knew this, Rayo knew this. The differences between the three results were not tactical naivete, but rather luck and form.

Celta had remarkable finishing accuracy, rooted in the quality of its counterattacks and the space attackers found while making them. But Celta also rode some stanky finishing form from Barça, which was a necessary part of that result. Sevilla turned on a 10-minute blizzard and got the necessary margin to see a victory home but again, that results needed some poor Barça form as Sevilla rode some luck. Barça had 28 shots on goal, almost half of them on target, and hit woodwork a couple of times.

The difference that Rayo saw was Neymar is rounding into form, and Bravo made some excellent saves. On another day, or even a few weeks ago if Neymar isn’t in the form that he is in now, today’s match might have ended very differently, in a draw or even victory for Rayo, who played an exceptional match today. Full credit. People ask, “Why would you play like that against Barça?” Well, why wouldn’t you? They got 2 goals and really could have had a few others. By sitting back and defending, you eliminate the opportunity to get at the most vulnerable part of Barça, which is the defense. But Paco Jemez wasn’t counting on That Neymar. Who was? And the midfield was supposed to be a mess. Who is this No. 20?


Stepping up

When Messi went down injured, the consensus was that Neymar was going to have to step up. He began the process of raising his game, but today was absurd as he was involved in all five Barça goals. He created the penalties in two (which he then converted), he scored two others and assisted the fifth. It’s easy to nitpick his game, easy to say that in some situations he should have done this or that, easy to hold him to a standard of perfection that no player alive can meet. Reality is that he had an exemplary game on a day when his team needed him to. If he isn’t the player he is, Barça don’t get a result today. It’s as simple as that as chance after chance was squandered again. Rakitic, Suarez, Sandro. And when Rayo capitalized on atrocious marking and a flapping keeper to make it 0-1, the feeling was that one of Those days was in the offing.

Then up stepped Neymar, who worked some magic to win a penalty. Then, at the edge of the box he nutmegged a player and got loose, forcing a defender to take him down for yet a second penalty. Then he stepped up and converted both shots with ease, a nonexistent runup as he hit one to the left, and one to the right, leaving the keeper guessing both times with low, hard shots. Run after run, pass after pass, it was clear that this is his team until No. 10 returns to the starting lineup, and Neymar reveled in it.

That Suarez kept getting caught by the Rayo offside trap and couldn’t control the ball or hit anything when he wasn’t offside didn’t matter, as his distressing form continues. That Sandro was Pedro 2.0, all industry but no goals, didn’t matter either because this was Neymar’s day, and it had to be.

What a mess

The defense, right now, is kinda junky. Pique is going on mental walkabout, Alves has gotten his contract and checked out, Mathieu can only seem to summon a single half of focused, effective football and Alba has to scurry around like a squirrel on speed in an effort to plug holes. Even with all of that, the problems are happening in the midfield, with the second Rayo goal being a typical one. Suarez lost possession just on the Barça side of the halfway line and threw up his hands in exasperation instead of hustling to help the team. Rayo had numbers going forward, and a direct pass was deflected by Alba, but right to a Rayo attacker who was unmarked, and slotted home.

Making that goal worse was that nobody knew what to do, so they all chased the ball instead of finding a man to mark. Ridiculous.

And perhaps now that Bravo is leaking goals just like Ter Stegen was it’s safe to say that maybe, just maybe, the difficulty with the defense is everybody in front of the keeper instead of the keeper himself. Barça isn’t doing anything as it was last season. Busquets lost a ball, shrugged and casually strolled back as Rayo countered. That didn’t happen last season. Mathieu was sharp and alert, Alves was playing like the Alves of old and Pique was Lanky Puyol and Rakitic was a midfield sentinel.

Whatever you attribute the difficulties to is immaterial to their existence. Teams are getting at the back line and the keeper as Barça are facing more shots which means the team is conceding more goals. But things are also breaking down at the midfield control level as opponents are flooding that area to take advantage of pressing to work the ball loose, in the full knowledge that Barça doesn’t have traditional defenders, that their fullbacks are likely to be caught at the other end of the pitch during a fast counter. It’s no coincidence that so many goals conceded by Barça this year have come from wing attacks.

Last season, the team was able to get back, there were overlapping circles of pressure that didn’t allow opponents to ever get comfortable on the ball and set pieces were easily controlled. The result was reduced shots, shots on goal and danger, which means clean sheets abounded. This year is quite dramatically different.

Atop all of that, the attackers aren’t finishing chances.



Despite all of that, Barça is tied for the top of the Liga, which is inexplicable and if you are an optimist, a reason to smile and rub your hands together in glee, anticipating the day that this team gets its stuff together. Yet right now Barça isn’t a good football team by its own standard, statistically or functionally. The group is doing what championship teams do, which is find a way to win, a way to hang around until everything comes right, even as the unspoken question is what if things don’t come right? What if this is it?

That a team with the stats Barça has sits atop the table isn’t logical. And it confounds culers who understand that the team isn’t good right now, and want to cheer that it is doing well in the standings, and would if so many things weren’t so … poor. So we don’t know what to do, because even as people say, “Wait until Messi comes back,” the problems enumerated above existed before Messi was injured, something easily forgotten. Yes, losing the best player in the game was a blow, but the team was laconic, loose in midfield and leaking goals even before the plague of injuries began.

So the “wait til your father gets home” thinking, that solutions will return with Messi, Iniesta and Vermaelen doesn’t quite sit well if you really consider it. So what IS the solution? Rest, and less football, to start. Note how many days off training the team has already been given this year by its coaching staff, in an effort to stave off the concentration-killing fatigue that leads to dropped points. Those days off mean that the body is fresher, but the body and mind aren’t honed as sharp by the rigors of training, as a coaching staff hopes that collective quality and reflex drilled home by last season and those memories, kicks in. It’s a risk, but a calculated one.


The c-word is always interesting because it gets thrown around a lot. Last season the Anoeta match was a crisis, but it really wasn’t, because that stadium has always been a bogey ground and the only thing that match did was postpone the team taking over first place for a bit. External factors and misguided paranoia combined to make an ordinary occurrence into a crisis.

The c-word hasn’t been used as much this season, a time when the team is much closer to being in crisis than last season. Last year the team was playing very well, even if the theoreticians didn’t think so because it wasn’t meeting an academic ideal. This season, the team isn’t playing well by anyone’s standards, looks tired and can’t keep people healthy. Motivation and focus also look to be absent at significant times, as at too many times, members of the group seem happy to let someone else handle something as they back off just that little bit. This isn’t a full-on crisis yet but it’s close, and will be interesting to see how the coaching staff gets the team out of it because January and the relief promised by Aleix Vidal and Arda Turan, is a long way off.

On the up side

If anyone knows what Enrique did to and for Sergi Roberto, bottle it, because he has been brilliant this season. When he was promoted, Pep Guardiola was effusive about his talents, saying that he had the quality to play anywhere on the pitch. That was forgotten as Sergi Roberto underwhelmed. As this string continued, even his showing signs of beginning to come into the quality that so many suspected that he had was ignored.

This season he has been excellent at right back. But he has also been excellent at midfield, particularly in today’s match, where he sparkled. That is like a bonus signing, as a journeyman player who so much of the fanbase had already discarded has turned out to be Barça quality.

Thomas Vermaelen is another benefit of the season. His absence was the beginning of a difficult patch for the defense, so the news that he will get the medical green light for the midweek Champions League match against BATE Borisov is very welcome news.

Claudio Bravo has learned from watching his keeping competition Ter Stegen and is playing the ball out faster, and even passing with a bit of style and accuracy, if not anything like the Ter Stegen fluency and style.

Neymar is continuing to grow as a player. The Rayo display was just an example of something that has been going on for some time. He blossomed the last time Messi was out for an extended absence as he and Alexis Sanchez conspired to raise hell, but this Neymar is more mature. He is crashing to the ground less after challenges, seems less impetuous and calmer.

January will be here eventually. Enough can’t be said of the injection of quality and increase in options that two players will mean for the team. Suddenly, you don’t have to run Iniesta and Rakitic into the ground. Neymar also has a deputy as Turan is versatile across the entire front line. On the right, Vidal brings his immense quality to that side of the pitch. He can play RB while Sergi Roberto slides into that Rakitic position, to keep the Croatian fresh. When Rakitic is tired, his performance drops dramatically.

The midfield depth also means that Sergi Roberto can add a third position to his resume, as he can sub for Busquets, the midfield role at which he was best until this season, when he is now shining in attack, as well.

But for now, this team is going to have to hang on. It isn’t going to be pretty, and it probably isn’t going to always be effective. But it’s all that we have for a while.

By Kxevin

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.


    1. I don’t see the logic. Peter Schmeichel was one of the best keepers of all time yet anytime someone took a shot at him he would shout at his defense to get them to sharpen up.

      Who are you saying is an average keeper and who is world class? By my reckoning we are conceding the same goals with Bravo as we were with ter Stegen.

  1. Yep Neymar was the man today.But where is the problem with Suarez form
    ?4 points in CL by his goals,3 pts from Bilbao,3 from Las Palmas,3 with a magic assist against Atletiko.His numbers of assist is fantastic for a number 9 and if we compare them to Ney is day and night.He is our striker and he needs better creation by our midfield and the wings.So happy for Sergi Roberto.Up to next game.We need hard work.

  2. I believe in the next 4 games Lucho must rest Busi,Raki and call Samper.We play away Bate and a cup game and home Eibar and Getafe away.We need more solutions in midfield.From what i saw today Gumbau lack of playing time it s obvious.If Lucho trust Samper,and i hope thats the case,the games that played with b team will help him to start a game with first team.Not everything is perfect but not everything is bad.I still cant believe what happened to Rafhinia,he woulb be so crucial this season!

  3. I love Suarez! Two tap in goals ignored by Rakatic and Sandro and Surez shows how it’s done when Neymar was already on a hatrick and no one would have faulted him for trying to grab a goal for himself. His second was an exceptional combination with Ney flicking a long ball on then making a heartbreaking run and a fab finish. He epitomizes “Ambition ” like no one else

  4. Pressure on Madrid now as they must try to top PSG with Celta away and a hard nosed Las Palmas in between. Exciting season so far lots to like!

  5. I think last years goals conceded was an aberration, plenty of times where Puyi looked the fool and he’s a legend. But for a few goals like the garbage one today with Gumbau and co out of sorts we wouldn’t look bad at all. What is a better stat for me is the number of one goal wins we have which I think is very positive showing the teams mettle when points are on the line. Total faith that when we get to “the money ” part of the season our D will sharpen up.

  6. Yesterdays match was great, but am still having ambivalent feelings about our general performance,

    Positives from the match.
    1. Neymar was spectacular and felt the responsibility dumped in his lap (in the absence of messi)
    2. Bravo was electric and impressive as well, made some couple of saves in the 2nd half to keep our lead. He wasn’t at fault in conceding both goals,
    3. Sergi roberto is proving that he could be reliable day after day, I was among those who criticises him before, but now he seems to give me a round for my money, so am ready to eat my words,

    Negatives from the match,
    1. Suarez is still an issue in attack despite his predominant contribution to our attack, but sometimes his lack of composure in front of goal( the 1st half chance) can easily cost us, more ever his first and last touch is quite poor, and kills our transition sometimes, for now he is average,
    2. Rakitic performance has dropped dramatically, he is no more industrious as before, I guess its a fatigue issue because he needs rest,
    3. Matheiu lack focus at all, he seems to get cought easily due to lack of focus,
    4. Alves is disappointing in whole aspect wether in attack or in defence to put it mildly, roll on january so that vidal can displace him,
    5. Pique was a complete joke tbh, nothing impressed me about his game this season, I hope lucho can bench him for a couple of games maybe he could regain his focus and form.

  7. Out for a family meal last night so missed the game live but just watched it back, rewinding etc. Not sure if it’s better or worse that way as I knew there would be comments but couldn’t afford to come here to find out the score.

    We won. As we did last time. As we may always do against such a bonkers side. They basically played three at the back and more often than not had four in attack. So this is a match unlike any other.

    However, there can’t be anybody left who doesn’t see that we have lost our way. We can argue about why but it has happened.

    With regard to last night’s match, I’d like to start with the goalkeeper and work out the way. Bravo was immense. He did everything that could be asked and even as Kxevin said is obviously working on his passing out which is improving but clunky. However, he could have conceded. Five or six easily last night. Why ?

    Well, the two in front of him come under scrutiny first. Understandably because usually the ball has to go near them if a chance is created. I didn’t think either covered themselves in glory but rather than put it all down to bad play let’s have a look at what happened. How many chances did Rayo create which didn’t come from a cross ball from our right with the crosser under no pressure whatsoever ? For their first goal, even a Sunday league side knows that you have to allocate two players for any short corner. On the second you can see Matthieu gesturing to Gumbau to follow his man’s run to no avail so he has to step towards that option, leaving space behind him. For the rest of the crosses where was Alves – where was Rakitic for that matter ? Defensively, he’s the nearly man for me. He nearly gets to everything but never quite does in time to affect it. However, Alves has just completely forgotten any defensive duties. Rayo knew it and used it. The reason Pique looked worse than Mathieu was because his side was put under all the pressure and he was forever caught wondering which of two options he should cover. Alba got the runaround from the guy with hair but at least he stuck to the task making Mathieu’s job a little easier.

    Not excusing the CBs here. I thought they have had better games but this isn’t on them alone. If you ever watch Chelsea. defend they get bodies back quickly – we don’t. I can’t remember a time when the midfield, Busi apart, followed their man into our area and provided cover. So you’re left with a defence under constant pressure and no numerical superiority. No other team does that – well, apart from Rayo and we know what happens to them !

    Gonna skip to the front next. Sandro I’m leaving out of this. He’s young, not gonna be a top player but is giving us his all in a difficult situation. Loved his attitude when he came off and walloped the dugout. Neymar stepped up to the plate really well, as he had to. He created everything he got last night. Yes, he’ll never have an easier night in terms of lack of defence up against him but the way he created his penalties ( should’ve been three) was great to see. Suarez I didn’t think. Was nearly as bad as some have made out. Yes, he got caught offside at times from a suicidally high defensive line but he worked selflessly and tirelessly and his run for his goal should be watched over and over again as an example of his effort and what he brings.

    Which brings us back to the midfield. Again, I’m gonna exempt Sergi Roberto as he had a very good game for him . I particularly liked his runs with the ball. However, I said last year that we were ignoring the midfield at our peril and that we were only getting away with it because of our front three. You ( or certainly we ) cannot operate effectively with a disfunctional midfield, which is what we have at the moment. They didn’t stop Rayo getting at our defence, they didn’t create anything. for our forwards, they didn’t burst from midfield to break the very high defensive line ( traditionally your first port of call if your attackers are getting caught offside) and most importantly they offered absolutely no control of the ball.

    I appreciate the views of those who say we have injuries and. When Messi and Iniesta come back. Things will improve. Of course, they will but with Iniesta shackled into a pseudo defensive role and Messi choosing when or if he will drop back we miss the real problem. You improve both the defence and the forwards by having control of the ball. This end to end stuff will kill us often enough toe sure we don’t win any of the big ones. Can anyone remember anything Rakitic did in the game ? Can anyone remember he and Roberto or Busi even playing the ball around and making them run chasing us ?

    Ballague, not my favourite person but he sometimes accidentally gets it right, said after the game that the mids were the problem because there were far too big gaps between our lines for opponents to play in. Yup, absolutely. However, in the mids’ defence if the ball has to be hoofed up to the forwards at the first opportunity and the mids have to get up to support it you end up very quickly with knackered mids.

    That is the area which needs attention imo. Control of the ball . Everything else will flow from that. There is nobody providing the glue for the passing game. You could see in Xavi’s interview on Sky before the game that he sees this, even as he understands the allure of getting it to the front three as quickly as possible. Oh, for a so month loan. Failing that, can anyone think of a player who might have a possession, passing and Iinking game at the heart of his skills ?

    Sorry for the length. I’m not entirely despondent. There is time for us to sort this but LE needs to recognise what the main problem is and I don’t know if he sees it this way.

  8. Sorry, quite a few typos there but you get the gist. And what is it with my iPad thinking it knows more about punctuation than an English teacher ?

  9. First off, no thats not how you play against barca, are yo kiddin me? three at the back, with a riduculously high defence line? bayern couldnt even try that,,, when they attempted it, 15 min after the start of the game, they abandoned the tactics. Dont confuse counterattacking football against barca as a way of getting a results as opposed to just sitting back and hoping for a draw or maybe a win by the odd goal with what Rayo did. The last time they tried that how many did the match ended again?

    The team’s in a quagmire, and iirrespective of the final score, i think they got away with it, against an in-form barca it would have been more

    Next, jim, Pique is stinking, simple, no two ways about it
    Mathieu, i shake my head whenever i call that name. Granted he contributed somewhat to the treble last season, but really was mathieu the best player barca could have gotten last season? There was so many la liga CBs that were hot on form, who we’d have gotten without much fuss. If matheiu contributed a bit to the treble, a better CB would have contributed even more. An example of the perplexing decisions the club’s making

    And for this game, its just sad, i’d complained bitterly about deprioritizing the MID.
    Now its coming back to haunt us. Pep said it all, without the ball we’re crap. We can never out-do the opponent in trying to play extreme vertical football. Thats not barca’s game, i wonder why some person’s won’t realize this. Each time, the Mid is abondoned, and we try to go toe to toe with the opponent in disposing off the ball quickly, we get beaten solely. They do it better than us, and when they feel like, they add a bit of possesion football to it and make it more spicy to our chagrin. Forget the score, i would have been puzzled about that, if Rayo- irrespective of their passing football, weren’t a sorry team.
    Watching that match, its clear the players had instructions not to keep the ball, every player were simply looking to play the ball upfield as fast possible. The whole play was just sadly comical. As far i’m concerned one of their worst performance ever.

    And what do yo know, with a dearth of quality play by the team, the Coach thought it wise to bring in Gumbau. Yeah, players need to be rested bla bla bla, yet we all know they is a better player he could have brought on. I’m practically at a loss on how LE’s mind works really.
    Montoya was in the team, yet he treated him with utter disregard. Forcing the player to move on. And i was asking, even if you’d get players when january comes, how about the months preceding january? Thats a long time, how’d yo get through? yet yo dont have any qualms about letting the players you’ve got leave. Montoya is a good player, who just needed confidence-which given Alves occasionally crappy form, wasnt such a big thing to ask of. Now when Roberto can’t be played at RB, yo stuck with Alves, irrespective of his horrible form, If not the Coach goes for Doulglas, yeah, like Douglas?

    1. You make some good points, but I disagree that Barca can’t get results with vertical football, going toe to toe with the opponent, whatever you want to call it. That’s exactly what gave the team many important wins last season – I especially like to remember the wins against Atletico where the midfield was largely bypassed (compared to the draws and losses the season before where Barca tried to control the game by possession). There are many other examples.

      So two things come to my mind. First, the game yesterday was rather atypical as we all know how Rayo plays, and to my mind the tactics of bypassing the midfield to directly get at their three at the back was pretty spot-on – again, remember the THREE one-on-ones with their keeper in the first twenty-five minutes. The game could have been put away after thirty minutes with these tactics. Second, vertical football can work for us, but not the way players are doing it right now. I have a hard time telling whether it’s due to confused tactical commands or just fatigue, bad form and doubt from a number of players (Rakitic, Pique, Suarez, Alves).

  10. Meanwhile, Suarez is depressing, you want to dispute that, be my guest
    He’s hardly got ball skills, terrifying first touch, and the ones he’s recently added to his resume; Brittle stamina and an uncanny fondness for being offside
    He’s a great player, but the above is Suarez for ya

    We need ter stergen, like need him badly..
    Watching bravo, its dawned on me we really need that MAtS.
    The Rayo keeper just made me miss him a lot more. That was the perfect match for him. Problem with him is, he’s limiting himself with his dreadfull discision making.
    Aside from that he could be a very good sweeper keeper. Remember what happened when Bravo finaly decided to dribble? He lost the ball. Now a ter Stergen is capabling of dribbling a player effortlessly, he is the reason why he fails to do so most times. Put simply, he screw himself up by himself. When Bravo lost the ball, put ter Stergen in that position, he’d have conceded that goal.
    Such are whats making him look dreadfull.

    Up yo game MAtS!!

  11. Cyclops, it’d be easier to weigh up your points if you didn’t exaggerate them.

    If Suarez

    hardly has any ball skills,
    an awful first touch
    no stamina
    and is always offside
    how can he be a great player ?

    And what does “stinking” mean about Pique ? Did he cost us a goal? Have you pointed to errors which highlight his stinking game? Considering the defence were under the hammer for the majority of the game did he really not do anything right ? Who in the defence would you say played better ?

    Nobody thinks Matthieu is a world beater but to me he is the best option atm – or would be if he got a run of games. You just can’t keep changing a CB pairing like this. Maybe TV can come in and play a part – I’m an admirer of his- but I’m not kidding myself that he can stay fit for large chunks of the season and he only has a couple of decent appearances so far which a lot of folks are placing a lot of hope on.mApart from a couple of small errors in terms of keeping the line which could have,but didn’t, cost us I didn’t think Matthieu was bad. Happy to hear of any examples you can think of. Better first half than second, I’d say but to be honest we were being overrun everywhere by then.

    I made the point above that I didn’t think the defence got a lot of help from the mids. You’ve said you thought the mids were awful ( which I could go along with to some extent). Does that not mean you agree that they left the defence with too much to do ?

    Finally, I quite liked Rayo’s approach and it certainly caused us all sorts of hassle. I think their only mistake was in not parking the bus and frustrating the crowd when they went one up but in its own way that’s admirable too – batshit crazy but admirable.

  12. What is the purpose of grooming Gumbau? He looks like he needs to start his football education from the Benjamin years. What is the point of playing him? He won’t get much better. It’s been 2 months now, how much more time does Lucho needs to get to know him better? They’re cycling buddies now.

    What about the other B team players that does deserve a shot? Or does Lucho knows them already so they don’t need to be given a shot?

  13. Maybe Samper dosnt like cycling, dont you think ???

    ..Exaggerate my points?? huh? thats a new one,, Roger that thought

    I can’t remember how many times i had to curse, because a certain player did something comical or infuriating. Who’s that player? Pique.
    Now maybe we watching different matches but thats fine.

    That goes for most if not all the players; making abysmal plays.

    While i agree that upon collapse of the mid, opponents gets at the defence more these days, but that has its place.
    You cant blame Pique escorting his Man, as he race to our final third and takes a short at Bravo on the Mids.
    The team is having a dismal performance, but the players are also performing real poorly individually. Time to call out Players for underwhelming, lets them step up
    That’d take us to Matheiu, sure a good player, dont hate him, but rewind back to last season, i still think we could have gotten a better buy.
    Suarez? Its either he dosnt have ball skills, or he’s forgotten them. either way, its absent at the Moment.

    Really now, the point is he hasn’t got that much, not he dosnt have.
    And that can be the case yet a player can go on to be a great player. Excellent positioning, intelligent deciscion making, lethal finishing, and yo can easily be CR7. And thats what our Suarez is. You needn’t dribble like Messi.
    If i said he’s got little ball skills, thats not a coviction, simply pointing out one reasons he sucks these days
    BTW, how about the others? ( the recent tendency to fall every now and then, and that fondness for offside)

  14. Suarez is one of the top 5 number 9’s in the world easy. When you can score 10 goals a season at this level you’re a millionaire. When you can score 20 you’re a superstar. It’s the hardest job on the pitch lengthening the field to give your team space to work in and constantly man marked. He has an unbelievably high work rate creating space for himself and moving the back line under the most pressure. More often than not his first touch is accompanied by a body check, no one else deals with that and he’s one of the best in the world at it. The runs he makes one after another after another should be admired one of amazing attributes. And his touch is out of this world! No one is better at full speed holding off defenders and receiving a pass and creating something out of it. He’s going to be number two this year in the Balon D’ Or this year which includes his current form and he may well win it next year. If he does its for very good reason so if you don’t see what the world is seeing watch from a little different perspective, he does a very difficult job better than any number 9 out there.

  15. Oh well, i might just have to retune my T.V set( if such a thing is possible) Looks like its giving me false picture, and really bizzare ones as at that

    ..And while i’m at that, i’d just find a way of deleting(If possible) every other comments i’ve said here about Suarez, leaving only the ones where i call out his deficiencies.
    Seems like thats where everybody are concentrating on, while being Oblivious of other comment..

  16. I have a difficult job!!Here i am defending Suarez and in a Greek Blaugrana site i am defending Ney and Pique!!It s funny that like in twitter world also in that Greek site they say the same stuff!!It woulb be very weird if in May we win Treble again!!

  17. We just lack control, and we lack it in a terrible way. No wonder Pep emphasize so much on having the ball. To see Barca playing like EPL side is disappointing. One other disadvantage of playing this way, long passes, no control, chasing the ball a lot is that we get tired even faster. Anyways,
    I would have signed for our present points, looking at our tour liga schedule, when it was announced. Hopefully, we will start clicking by Jan.

    Cyclops, I understand your concerns about Suarez. I watched only very few games of his for Liverpool. I felt he was a very good dribbler. But I cant remember him doing a good dribble for us. 9/10 times his touches or decision is poor. But its excellent that the 10th time, he either manages a goal or an assist. He is definitely very useful, and is doing better than what Villa did. But, a no.9, for me, should not be applauded for his work rate, which is secondary. And recently, he also seem to have taken a page out of Villa on how to remain offside. But again, I still like him. His 9th of 10th chance is not going to be bad, I always think.

  18. This is pretty much how I remember Matthieu’s game for us – although I notice they have omitted the couple of times he made a small mistake in holding the line. Pretty good for me considering the constant pressure the defence was under. Just needs game time.

    1. @Jim and Foto.

      What’s your take on Gumbau? As a player and as the situation with him being ahead of Samper in the pecking order? Can’t remember reading opinions from you two.

    2. Hey, long time no hear!! 🙂
      I feel very sorry for Samper. I thought he was perfect to manage few of our current midfield issues. Hence very disappointed that its Gumbau who take the place instead. So far, I really dont see anything good, as to why he is playing for us. I simply hope Samper is not even in the squad, not because of some personal issues with the coach. Cant wait for him to be with the first team.
      I think Jim has mentioned few times,, Samper should be playing, right?
      To me, two of our loan players, Halilovic and Denis S looks head and shoulders ahead of Munir and Sandro.
      There were times, when I felt Sergi Roberto also was not good enough. But then I used to think about what everyone from Pep to Tito to even Masche – that he was a special talent. Cant remember anyone saying something about Gumbau. Have heard something like that about Samper though.

    3. The Samper case is a mystery for me. I’ve not seen him much so to go overboard on him would be mistaken. It also concerns me that there has been such an outcry for him to be promoted that he will get just one game to prove himself which is unfair. He’s far too young atm to carry the burden, with Iniesta, of restoring our possession game.

      All that said, the little Ive seen of him I’ve been blown away by his skills ( not just potential). He plays with his head up constantly, instinctively values possession, doesn’t shuffle off possession just to be clear of the attention of opponents and is a very accurate passer of the ball. Some have said that he might lack a little defensively which might or might not be true but either way doesn’t take account of the fact that if we can regain control of the ball our defensive problems are immediately reduced.

      I’m not sure I want to get into slagging Gumbau who is still very young. I merely note that I’ve not seen any great passing skills and he won’t be particularly pleased with his defensive skills for Rayo’s second goal. I can see why his physical attributes appeal to LE but that is more an issue I have with LE than any fault of his.

      So, in short, yes, Samper would certainly be in my squad given our position at the moment and I’m hopeful he will eventually play a big part in our midfield. However, I’m not sure that will be under LE where I worry that we’ll be heading even more down the physical, expensive, Pogba style route which I think would be a mistake.

    4. Well, anyone unsure about Gumbau and his passing ability should see his assist last week with a defense splitting pass from deep.
      Not being funny but Gumbau wouldn’t have gotten this far without being a good footballer. There are plenty physical footballers in the B team that haven’t gotten a look in with Lucho but Gumbau is getting it on a continual basis.
      It’s safe to assume that Lucho doesn’t watch every training session from the B team but instead relies on their coaches to feed information on the players to him.
      For whatever reason, the whole coaching team have identified Gumbau as being able to help the first team and so here he is.

      From what I’ve seen of Sergi Samper he looks the real deal, but so did Giovani dos Santos, Marc Muniesa, Oriol Romeu and Bojan Krkic amongst others. Promoting players too early, at least in part, ruined the careers of those players and I would hate the same thing to happen to Samper.

    5. But I did see the second goal, Ciaran. Have a look. If he’s in because of defensive abilities that’s a worry. If he’s a better passer than Samper fine but he’s not shown it . Look I’ve nothing against the guy. I was just asked to compare and from the little I’ve seen I’m just struggling to understand why he has suddenly leapt ahead of Samper. Do you think Gumbau has grabbed his chance ? Is Samper to sit in the B team all year as our control of the ball disintegrates without being given at least a shot. If it destroys a career it’ll be destroying Gumbau’s as well will it not ?

      My take on the list of others is that , maybe Muniesa apart, before his injury they didn’t have a killer skill for their position ( eg. Couldn’t see how Bojan would score at the top level without pace, a great shot or height). However, I do take your point about too early promotions being bad unless they’re ready. Just a strange situation for me.

    6. Well Gio had incredible dribbling ability for his age and was composed in possession. He had the world at his feet but signed with the wrong agent. The rest is history.
      Bojan was good at everything, he had good control, decent pace, confidence in front of goal and is a natural finisher, or at least he was. If a certain goal wasn’t disallowed his career might look mighty different now.

      I think Samper will be a better player than Gumbau from what I’ve seen but there HAS to be a reason that Lucho and his team aren’t playing him.

      Gumbau hasn’t grabbed his chance but how can a youngster come in to a team in disarray and change it by himself. Samper plays as a pivote, the same position as Gumbau or Busquets. Suggesting that he would come in and all of our problems would be lessened is as unfair to Sergi as it is for Gumbau. If Sergi was an interior, like Xavi then I would say that his introduction to the first team would be easier but the pivote is probably the most important position in our system, proven by the fact that Mascherano’s inability to play there.

      I would love to see Samper in the squad instead of Gumbau but I understand that there must be a reason that he isn’t.

  19. I agree he’d be hard pressed to play at DM but I don’t think Samper will end up there. His skills and awareness seem much more akin to Xavi or Iniesta’s. He will also have to bulk up a little I think.

    I’m not sure I ever saw the skills you did in JDS and Bojan but that’s history anyway. With regard to the coaches they may indeed have seen something negative I haven’t in Samper as they’ll see him every week but it would have to be a pretty big downside to preclude even giving him a shot in our current situation.

  20. Foto, indeed Suarez was quite immense at Liverpool, but like i alluded in my ealier comments, dont expect him to replicate such dominant performances here. FCB is different from liverpool, and from any other club…Meaning the nature of the team is so complex, that players who hitherto made had sterling performances for theur former team, when they come over here, their ‘brilliance is somewhat dimmed.
    Basically, yo can separate dribbling into groups; being good on 1 vs 1, and yo ability to just move with the ball while preventing opposing players from stealing it, breezing past players, and somehow keeping the ball stuck to yo feet
    Suarez belongs to the latter, he did that much at liverpool, and some couple of 1 vs 1 dribbles here and there…But here, there’s been hardly any reasons for him to make runs with the ball, he’s hardly done that anyways.
    In the 1 vs 1 duels thats mostly occurs, he falls short

    And basically, i think that lack of on the ball runs, has probably made him forget how its done. I mean at barca, Suarez hardly takes his man on the run without tripping up
    And i agree with yo, while its good and fine thats he’s got great work rate, that shouldnt be the all and all. When he start underperforming in other areas, he should be called out.
    Suarez had a full preason for crying out loud, unlike the rest of the players, he had no international commitment, hence he’s lack of form just baffles me

    1. I just wonder how Suarez and his 7 goals and 2 assists in 9 games this season is a ‘lack of form’ as you put it.
      In most games, Suarez has proven his class, scoring goals, assisting and working hard to make space for his teammates. He has been involved in the build up for nearly everything positive in our game but others’ finishing has left a lot to be desired.

  21. Good that atleast we can all agree that Halilovic and D suarez are way better than Munir and Sandro.. How the coach, somehow prefers both to Halilovic and co, alongside others in the B team is the 8th wonder of the world.

    People are always quick to point out how the coach, is interested in developing the B teamers, he has them heart. They run to the stats of how many minutes he’s given to B teamers as a way of validating that claim.
    But in reality, a large chunk of those minute goes to Munir and Sandro, indeed up to 90 percent of those mins if not more.
    So basically, the coach’s been developing just two guys for donkey years, yet with nothing to show for it. And thats while turning a blind eye to other prospects in the B team. So much for youths development

    And really, i can wrap my head around this talk of players promoted too early. Samper is around 20 for pete’s sake, is that too early ??
    And i’ve said it over and over again, nobody is talking about making Samper a first teamer, gives him playing time here and there, maybe UCL dead rubber games, matches against la liga minos( remember las palmas?), if you’re sincerely worried about promoting him too early. From there if he plays well he gets into the first team if not, well…

    But its common knowledge, that Samper has hardly been given any minute to show anything. Honestly i cant see any logical explanation on that one; that he cant even get little minutes, even against opponent like levante??

    For those of yo ‘worried’ about promoting him too early, or that he’d flop, Remember last season game against Apeol, yeah? i cant believe thats been totally forgotten already.
    In any case cast your mind back, recall his dazzling performance- on his supposed debut for the team( unlike a certain G named player) Remember ?? and he’s supposedly not ready for senior team football, yeah i totally believe that

    Its just dosnt make any sense really**exasperated**

  22. Maybe my choice of words was a little strong but i can yo assure that Suarez recent form is something very close to being totally off form. you wanted to still argue that, like i said yo have the floor
    I cant belive yo doing that, bringing a (measly) stats, to validate yo claim, come on now, i’m just dissapointed
    For one thing stats are the closest thing to lies in football, we’re the ones who lambast people for praising Ronaldo ‘too much’, claiming that goals aint the all in all.
    Indeed we’ve acknowledge at certain point or another that Messi wasnt in the best of form irrespective of the fact that he’s scoring goals.

    Yet yo bring a stat that’s nowhere compared to what Messi and Ronaldo do put up( yet we all agree that one or the other is not on their best form), to prove suarez is doing just doing fine? Thats something.
    Whatever happened to the ‘watch his whole performance’ mantra??
    In any case, go ask any relatively resonable barca fan on the street, there’d tell yo they’ve hardly been impressed with Suarez’s form and play.
    So he puts up a couple Goals and miss others, which by his standard is poor, give one or two assist and he’s doing just okay to yo?
    I dont believe that, i’d bet my money that you havnt been totally impressed with his plays at all, and for some weird reasons, he’s not being called out
    In any case, i must say y’all are quantumly patient, not getting pissed off by his plays, which- if my T.V set is relaying the correct pictures, is quite awful, irrespective of his meagre goals, assist or workrate

  23. Well everybody have an opinion about any player and thats normal.I am not a person who likes to judge our players one by one after a game.I look the team as a team.If U believe Suarez is crap ok.If someone else believe Rakitic is crap ok.Also if Halilovic and DSuarez are better than Sandro or Munir ok.Thats an opinion.Football is not mathematics.There are no 1+1=2.Sometimes it s fun to have that disagreement but in the end is boring all the time.

  24. Joint first place in the league with its best two players , including best in the world ,out injured

    Also a chunk of other vital players missing significant time due to injuries such as alba and bravo, also rafinha, and arguably our best centraldefender this year vermalen

    An insane schedule of away games after an insane summer of trAvel after a triplete

    And the bulk of your comments are about how the coach is wrong wrong wrong? Doing a bad job ? Lost the plot etc? That’s what you choose to go and on about? It doesn’t make any sense! Really exasperated!

    1. Im sorry that wasnt fair… You also mix in some complaining about the players too. It’s not just the coach you like to badmouth.

  25. I must say I have seen nothing of Samper in proper games, just a few highlight reels etc. But yes, I am impressed. Right now my point is, why doesn’t Samper play as one of the other midfielders, and not a Pivot. Pivot is taken, but I’m sure he can work alongside Busquests in a withdrawn Iniesta role. Plus being young he will have plenty of energy and enthusiasm to run as much as he can and chase and harry opposite midfielders. Now regarding Barca, what happened to the famed “Pausa”. It was something Barca had in abundance and now its just vanished. Like gone, poofff!! So what happened there? From an over abundance of midfielders, suddenly we are struggling to find one who has enough attributes on the ball and lead to at least some control! I think thats what most of us are trying to get our heads around. Neymar is doing well, so is Suarez more or less and apart from some lapses in concentration even our defense is ok. But the midfield, the midfield is where we want control and thats where we seem to be lacking. I dont like Barca games with my heart in my mouth cringing at my tele whenever the opponents have the ball. I like Barca with control. Last season after a long long time we seemed to have perfected both “the art of control” and “the bypassing our midfield” in equal measures. Based on our opponent we could decide to do either. And that to me was one of the reasons the treble became possible. This year we just seem to bypass the midfield all the time. No “chillin on the ball” from our players. I am a bit surprised I must say. And I dont think Arda is the answer. I dont remember ever watching him run the midfield. He is more of an attack minded split the defence pass player in my opinion. Maybe others here would have something to say. Once we sort the mid I think things would automatically fall in place. Thats my gut. How that happens?? well, we will have to just wait and watch!!

    1. Pausa is one of the things that makes me think that Munir will turn out to be a better player than Sandro. Pedro didn’t have it either and he did a good job for many years but Munir has it. If you remember the moment when Munir got past a few tackles then laid off the ball to Suarez for a goal a couple of games ago it was a great example of that half a second extra that he gave himself to spot the right ball that Sandro is missing.

      Our midfielders are all lacking it at the present.

  26. Oh and Foto, I am sorry for not replying to you earlier. So u from the land of “Motherjane”, the wonderful rock band of the late 90s early 2000s. We live in a land of EPL/BPL. So to have a Barca supporter from the ronaldo, rivaldo, Stoichkov era, is quite something! Would love to catch a game with you some day mate!! 🙂

    1. Yes friend, I live in their city now and my village is close by too. Frankly, I havent heard or watched them even once, sorry,life was very tough in those days.
      Actually, I didnt had the means to watch Barca during the Ronaldo/Rivaldo days. Cable tv, was affordable only for those, you know who and even otherwise was not available in villages. Football was followed by news papers (some of our local language news papers are really into Football. We have this weird league now, and Kochi has an average attendance of above 60,000 you see!) and a weekly programme which came in National TV those days. I actually looked for Barca news since Maradonas transfer. 🙂
      Thanks to internet, we could relive many old moments on the net!
      Its interesting what you said about watching footy together. I have always felt, it would be nice to be live at Nou Camp with all the culers here!!

  27. Cyclops, it’s just the standard that you are holding Suarez to that I have a problem with. Messi and Ronaldo are the only players in history that consistently average over a goal a game for long periods.
    Suggesting that Suarez is off form but still banging in 7 goals in 9 games is ridiculous. Over the course of his best ever season he scored 31 goals in 33 games in a team that was set up entirely to play to his strengths. This team is not. He is the central striker but is responsible for bringing players into the game and make space for others while still trying to score a large number of goals. Is he doing this? Yes, and without the most creative player in our team.

    Is his control perfect? No but it never was. He isn’t in his best form to which I’ll agree but there are a lot of people who deserve a sterner look when it comes to form.

  28. Time to move on, I reckon.

    Ok, my thoughts are turning to tonight’s game. How do we play it ? They’re not likely to do a Rayo and come at us in any great way. So how do we respond? Do we play our usual attacking style or do we play a bit more cautiously ? If we can’t control midfield, do we sit back and look to hit on the counter ?

    Who plays at the back and do we play both Busi and Masche in midfield ? What is our CB partnership ? It’s gonna be interesting. We can’t afford to lose this one or it changes the dynamic of our group.

    We know it’s TS in goal and a big game for him. Hope he does well although playing out shouldn’t be that difficult. Alves for me really hasn’t deserved his place this season but I’ve a feeling he will keep it at the moment. The big one – I’d prefer Pique and Matthieu to continue but have a feeling LE might go for Masche instead of Matthieu. If he does, I sincerely hope Masche has his stay at home head on or we’ll be in trouble.

    In midfield you have to play Busi at DM for me ( which is why LE will go for Masche in defence to make sure he’s on the pitch) so we’ll probably see Rakitic and Roberto in midfield. Doesn’t fill me with confidence but not sure we can do anything else. Up front, Suarez and Neymar pick themselves but I reckon Munir might ( rightly) get the nod over Sandro.

    My only wish is that we don’t get caught short of numbers at the back. We don’t have to chase this game so I don’t want to see three of them advancing on Pique. If Masche and Pique are the CB combo they need to cover for each other so the distance between them is vital when we don’t have the ball.

    Mind you, Arsenal vs Bayern is also on live. Do I switch between the two or just record Arsenal ? I’m keen to see Pep’s side put under pressure ( and they will be – Arsenal are smarting) and how they handle it. Anyway, a great night of European footie ahead. May go for a quick nap lest it’s a bit stressful. . .

    1. Interesting questions that you raise.

      Seems like it’s another chance for Bartra to prove himself. Also, the not-quite-double-pivote with Busquets in advanced position, and Roberto again! Can’t wait to see what they can produce together. Rakitic on the bench seems right as he looked rather tired (either physically or mentally) last game, and there’s not many other options for midfield at the moment anyway. Also good to see Vermaelen on the bench again, if Pique continues his form from the last game we might need him for the next few games.

  29. I’m really looking forward to Pique and Bartra at the back. I’d love to see Robero and Alba flank them but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon as our midfield is short so we need Roberto there.
    I think Munir deserves to start more than Sandro at the minute because he is more composed and talented but does need to bulk up a bit as Sandro is physically developed more than he is.

    I don’t like Busquets and Masch in midfield together but to be honest I don’t like Masch in defense either anymore which is a quandary because I love Masch’s attitude and leadership.

  30. Wow. Sergi roberto out injured in 18th minute. I can’t believe our luck. The wheels are coming off. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.

    Other than that it’s the story of our season…we’ve created several chances but having no luck in front of goal.

    1. Damn, that’s bad (couldn’t watch the first half). Not only for the team, but it’s just sad when a young player gets a really good run and edges his way into the team, then drops out with an injury.

      Also switched to Arsenal in the 80th minute, it looked a lot like handball, running circles around Arsenal’s penalty area without penetrating. Still, it’s just not comprehensible to me how you can not allow Bayern a goal in 90 minutes but allow Olympiacos three. Arsenal at it’s best.

  31. Fingers crossed for Roberto… apart from that, good for Raki, might make up for the lack of rest. Barca did what was needed, no more, preserving energy. Looked good, considering.

    Missed the final minutes after 2-0, switching to Arsenal-BM. When I watch Thiago I get two thought: you arrogant bastard, and: man, I wished he played for us still. Despite loss, BM looked solid, a little like a Messi-less Barca back when. Arsenal were fighting like animals; hell, even Özil was putting in a shift! Good for them.

  32. Very professional performance from our team, getting the job done away from home (i hate those trips east) and barely allowing BATE a sniff. Ter stegen had really nothing to do. And with roma and leverkusen tying we are sitting pretty. Crossing my fingers for SR20.

  33. Great result. Game was pretty boring but that was because of their attitude which was amazingly passive. Two great goals from Rakitic. Loved the second particularly. Took composure.

    Happy for Arsenal as well. Pep’s mob looked great in the first half but kinda ran out of ideas a bit in the second. Thought Thiago had a pretty good game but boy is he arrogant for a youngster. Seems to see himself as their only playmaker and everything has to go through him. Not sure how that will go down with the German players.

    Anyway, a good night all round apart from SR’s injury. Hope it’s not too bad although it was a pretty clear cut decision to bring him off immediately. Just when we’d finished our discussion . . . 🙂

    1. Hmm, this from Barcastuff isn’t great :

      Pique: “Physically, I’m fine. I have hip discomfort for a year and half now, but it doesn’t prevent me from playing.” #fcblive

      Apart from the obvious Shakira jokes which may follow this isn’t good news. Only cure for that is a lot of rest and it can flare up at any time. Makes his efforts to play for Spain despite the whistles all the more laudable.

  34. How easy is for some people to judge Lucho so easy but when Pep away CL record continue to be so poor the excuses are so easy to find.Meaningless game,injuries e.t.c.After so many games they must admit that in CL Pep is a v good HOME coach.And lets not talk about his SF CL record!Well enough with him,as i said in the summer we are the favorites to win CL!And with this Neymar sky is the limit!

  35. Arsenal 2: 0 Bayern ???
    but, but, bayern beat Dynamo 5-nil!!! **sarcastically perplexed**

    Good to see the Mid joining in and contributing to our attack, hopes it continues.
    Rakitic is like one of the finest and deft finishers we’ve got right now, that golazo expecially, was just what has been infinitely expected of Rakitic, hopefully thats continues also.

    Hopefully any comparison with bale to Ney11, has been crushed and buried. Hazard? dont even go there
    Boy, that was some beautiful feet Neymar showed last night.
    I for one particularly prefers him to infleunce a game that much, as opposed to just scoring goals.
    And anyway with such plays, the goals would definately come. Long and short, thats the destiny and path for Ney,, He wants to develope and grow faster as a player, he’d better (be allowed to) embrace that playmaking role and perform quite consistently there, irrespective of whether Leo Messi is there not. Heck, who says we couldnt have two playmakers, especially with the Midfield quagmire we’re in

  36. Well, that was a waste of 45 minutes of my life. Just watched first half of RM vs PSG. I thought PSG might be more of a threat this year but I reckon we can forget about them as serious opposition. I’ve seldom seen a team with less go about them and almost no pace. Other than a ball into the box can’t see them scoring. Cavanni and Ibra are way off the pace at the moment. Did someone suggest Veratti was a possibility for our midfield ? Sorry, but I don’t see it. He’s a petulant, slow thinker for me. He’s also under hit half of his passes this first half.

    Happy to say that RM aren’t much better but should go on to win this barring a roasting of his players from Blanc at half time. Now, which EPL team to watch going down for the second half ?

    1. Wow, huge stramash brewing over linesmen being pressured to favour Madrid in upcoming Clasico. Pop over to Barcastuff for details.

    2. This linesman complaint sounds like it could be quite important, doesn’t it? Maybe – just maybe – it will actually lead to something…

      Btw, what’s a stramash?

    3. Grand old Scottish word usually reserved for those frantic situations with the ball bouncing about in the six yard box and everyone thrashing about trying to clear or score. A confusing untidy fight involving large numbers maybe ?

      Try using it . It’ll grow on you 🙂

    4. Saw final 20 mins. PSG, for what it is worth, dominated. RM sat back and waiting, unable at times to break out of the pressure. But lack of final focus in the likes of Ibra. But from what I saw, PSG looked better. Though, as you say, too slow an inaccurate when the pace increased.

  37. The only other team in champions league — other than our barca — with a 3 point lead over second place in the group is Zenit.

    Not bad for a injury-riddled squad.

  38. Waow! 4 rakitic……de way he drifted nd was alone (positioned) on the right 4 de 2nd goal was messi-esque nd de chip? Wah can ah say
    Kudos tu roketic!….incredible stuff

  39. Well i dont believe that there will be any punishment for madrid,if the story is truth.They will find the way like every time.The same will happen with FIFA.And by just looking some sites and journalists there is silence.Imagine if this story was about Barca.Do u remember the game against La Coruna and a player who asked Xavi to calm the game and get a draw?A well know journalist in his article had that.But now he dont even say anything.Objectivity zero.

  40. My point and what i hate is that most english sites and journalists about Spanish football they have it easy to write something bad about us but not about madrid.I know that madrid is the capital and the power they have but i just hate the fact that in Guardian,BBC and other media they try to make us and them look the same.

    1. All those big English journalists are so far keeping mum on the subject. I dont think nothing will turn out, other than the said lineman losing his job.

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