Champions League Math: How the Draw Affects Us

Christof Koepsel (Bongarts/Getty-Images)

At the end of yesterday’s 1-1 draw with Stuttgart, I was struck by one of the commentators babbling on about how the result was terrific for the German club. That suggests, then, that it was the opposite for Barcelona. Perhaps what he was suggesting was that Stuttgart was happy not to have lost to us, but that, I think, is insulting towards a club that could very well have come out the winners themselves.

Still, is Stuttgart happy with this result? Are we? Obviously the match itself was frustrating for a Barça fan used to the squad turning in controlled performances rather than a first half filled with grievous errors that really should have been punished by Stuttgart–Die Roten, or The Reds, as they’re known–but instead a missed handball in the box by Pique and a missed handball on a goal line clearance by Molinaro kept the aggregate score lower*, which is a good thing for Stuttgart in many respects. A 2-2 draw would have given Barça the absolute upper hand because only a win or a 3-3 draw or greater in the return leg (March 17) would put Stuttgart through.

As it stands, Stuttgart still have to score at the Camp Nou, which means they can’t sit back and absorb pressure like they did throughout the second half. That the Camp Nou field is extra wide and isn’t a trash heap overlaid with some grass-like spray paint will also not make it comfortable for Die Roten, but they do have the advantage of knowing a 2-2 or greater draw and any win whatsoever will see them through. A far more likely scoreline than a high-scoring draw is 0-0, of course, but Barça will be looking to win the match outright and not leave it up to a bad bounce or unlucky call or play.

What was the only truly absurd call I saw throughout the match (see footnote for other thoughts on the ref) was Khedira’s yellow card at the end of the match, which should have been a straight red for a professional foul, a last man tackle, or a vicious tackle on Messi. Any of those three rules warranted direct dismissal, but it’s not such a big deal that they’ll have him and his awful facial hair in their lineup in the return leg. I’m not the least bit afraid of them, to be honest.

To the outcomes of the second leg:

If Barça wins by any scoreline, then we’re through.
If Stuttgart wins by any scoreline, then they’re through.
If it’s a draw then

  • 0-0 puts Barça through
  • 1-1 takes the match to extra time and possibly penalties
  • 2-2 or greater (3-3, 4-4, etc) puts Stuttgart through.

So the draw is a negative for Stuttgart in that they have no choice but to score. A goalless draw away does them no good at this point as it would put us through. However, that they didn’t lose gives them hope of either beating us outright or getting a high-scoring draw, thus putting them through. That they didn’t give up a second goal to us is huge for them, but that we didn’t give up a second to them is equally as big, I believe. In the end, this is a good result for us because, as has been mentioned before commenters, we have yet to win a Champions League knockout stage away leg under Pep Guardiola, but we have also never failed to go through after an away draw (1-1 Lyon, 1-1 Bayern Munich, 1-1 Chelsea). Hopefully the Lyon history repeats itself and we blast Stuttgart off the face of the earth in the first half at the Camp Nou.

What are your thoughts?

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*The penalty against Marquez that some (Marca) have been clamoring about was not a penalty in my book. Besides having already been bowled over by Cacau in his own box and it resulting in no call and a sliding effort by Puyol to get the ball away from Pogrebnyak’s lurking feet, Rafa barely touch him and he went down like a load of bricks tossed off the Empire State Building. Calling that a penalty would mean that touch fouls were being called and the ref (Bjorn Kuipers) wasn’t calling much of anything as a foul. It’s also probably noteworthy that Kuipers was the ref for the Barça-Dynamo match at the Camp Nou during the group stage and I don’t think anyone had any complaints about his neutrality then–0 yellow cards for Barça and 2 for Dynamo. I just think he had an off day in which he missed obvious handballs–though I will admit I saw neither of them in live action because I thought it had gone off Pique’s stomach as well and I actually thought Molinaro headed it clear. I should not be a ref.

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Categorized as Team News

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.

76 comments

    1. Aha! Not a trusted source in journalism land.

      Actually, technically, Stuttgart is Die Roten Die Schwaben, according to the club’s Facebook page. But Hannover 96 has also claimed the nickname. Go figure. Die Roten v Die Roten. Shit’s just wrong. Thankfully, there’s only one Blaugrana.

  1. And another thing: Stuttgart played the match of their lives in the first half, and could only manage a 1-1. Like the Lyon tie of last season, as a matter of fact, in that an out-of-favor forward snatched one in the second half. Then we crushed ’em at home.

    I think that the same thing will happen, particularly with Alves being back. As much as the long between-match layoff irritates us, it does give us time to get some folks back. Alves will def be back, and maybe even Keita.

  2. also, nobody has mentioned this. Stuttgart have nothing to play for. Champions league is their only hope for a trophy as they can’t win the bundesliga nor the German domesstic cup.

  3. We could have perfectly lost by 2-0 specially judging by the 1st half, so the draw is great for us I think. What I didn’t like was the image the team showed. Stuttgart made good counterattacks very easily and our attack was really still, no movement. These are the main barça demons no movement when the ball’s in our feet and suffering killer counterattacks against 3 or 4 defenders. We need to score more easily with ibra in the pitch so the team can concede some goals.

  4. Honestly I’m happy with the result. If they could only manage a 1-1 tie with us when we were in their house and we we having a collective case of forgetting how to play football – then I’m not worried about what will happen when they come to our house.

    That said, I’m extremely unhappy with the performance. It really was horrible.

  5. On a note concerning the makeup of this blog:

    Besides the fact that I’ll no longer be able to give 10 thumbs down to anyone who signs the first post with “First!”, I’m glad the thumbs up and thumbs down are gone.

    1. I think they’re pointless. If you don’t agree with what someone writes, man (or woman) up and disagree with them.

  6. Piqué’s handball was not intentional, not from such a short distance, plus his arms were close to his body, he didn’t wave around with them kind a like Molinaro did. The ball got to Piqué’s arm, not the other way round. And if that happens with a strong shot from short distance, you cannot call this a foul / penalty.

    And the “foul” from Marquez on Khedira (or who was it?) wasn’t a foul either: Valdés would have gotten the ball anyway, Khedira couldn’t reach it, and the theatrical way in which he fell down would have earned him a lot of jeers in England…

    I’ve watched the match together with a VfB Stuttgart fan, and even he claimed, both situations were not enough to be called a penalty.

    And Ibra’s handball wasn’t deliberate either, before he lashed a shot that was saved by Molinaro, the goalkeeper. Same reasons for me: His arm was close to his body, no unnatural movement, and it was an unexpected ball because usually, you expect the keeper or a defender to get / head the ball.

    1. Agreed. Good ref’s know that no calls are better than wrong calls, especially if the action happens in the penalty area, and it wasn’t obvious. Basically, let the players play, not the refs to decide the outcomes.

  7. The Molinaro handball was a blatant handball. his arm was well away from the body . straight red and we get a pk. 1-2 score after that and stuttgart play the final 20 mins down a man who know what would have happened. bad call by the ref.

    The pique handball was not even close. the ref did a good job of acknowledging that he saw it but explained with his hands that the ball played the arm and from a short distance. dont know how he missed Molinaro’s.

    Feeling pretty good about the return leg. especially since we won’t be playing on a crap pitch.

  8. Ive been waiting for Barcelona to crank up their engines into 5th gear this season like they did last season in many occasions, but they seem to be stuck in 3rd gear, with an occasional up shift to fourth and that rare 5th(only after losses or backs against the wall) whats up?

    Is this the complacency many feared about during the offseason? Or is it the mark of a cunning champion who knows what they are capable of, and therefore don’t display it unless they need to go for the jugular?

    Whats clear to me is that Pep has been tinkering with the line up a bit too much. Yes, rotations are important during the course of the season, but rotations need to have a formula to succeed. With the exception of the Eto’o swap for Ibra, not much should have changed in the overall play. But unfortunately, the offensive trident of Messi, Ibra & Henry/Pedro and never really been given time to even string together 3 games in a row to get used to each other, neither has the midfield trident of Iniesta, Xavi & Yaya.

    All Pep has succeeded in doing(IMO) is mess with players heads. Henry doesn’t know if he is the guy on the left anymore, Iniesta doesn’t know if his duties are in midfield or even secure anymore or if Keita will be picked. The Yaya constantly sees a lesser being than him frog leaping him in the pecking order. Abidal was worried a little at the beginning but that was quickly put to rest by the less than impressive Maxwell.

    Yes, competition is good for a team, but flipping back and forth every 2 games does no one a favor. I think you need to have your chore players that probably get to start every important game baring injuries and loss of form, and rotations should be clear cut, for example, you will get a bench role after 3 consecutive starts, or due to match-up problems with certain teams. Subs should also be done much earlier, like the 65th min, to give bench players valuable playing time and get them ready.

    What say you..

    1. People seem to froget the bad games we had last year. We weren’t always perfect. As a matter of fact we had a bad Febuary and we also let a 12 point lead over Madrid go down to two. And as Kxevin rightly pointed out we also tied 1-1 in Lyon, we lost in Bayern and tied 1-1 at Stamford bridge. I guess what bothers most of us is the manner in which we are loosing and or tying. But part of it is that we lacked play on the wings with the absence of Alves and Abidal, Xavi is playing with a knock, Ibra had just had a swollen ankle and didn’t play on the weekend. Messi is also in a funk and Henry has been out of form for a while.

      But I agree that the starting line up needs consistency. So that they get used to each other once more and so that they feel confidence from Pep. Wether it’s Yaya at CDM or Henry and Pedro on the LW.

    2. Yes, we had some bad games last year too, but like I said, we cranked it up to 5th gear on many occasions, and it left me with the confidence that if everything goes according to plan, we can play at an amazing level. Not sure about that this season, as I have rarely seen that flow

    3. Your absolutely right about getting to 5th gear. The only game Where I think we hit that gear this year was the Barça-Inter game which was a must win. We did win it and we did so in style. True it wasn’t 5-0 but it was a dominating performance a la Barça-ManU.

      I still have faith thy when the big games come againts strong opposition, not that sttutgart is a walk in the park, the team will pull through and win want them to win. Even with all the morbo that accompanies said games.

    4. Note that according to plan also means as little suspensions and injuries as possible. Something that hasn’t gone according to plan this year that did the last.

    5. True that Helge, Thanks. But it doesn’t invalidate my point. 8 points is 8 points and a tie isn’t a win.

  9. on a lighter note, Isaiah, I don’t know how the draw affects us, but the guys look like a million bucks on this trip. Check out their pics!

    //http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/english/galeries/futbol/temporada09-10/02/tornada_dxStuttgart/galeria.html

  10. On another note, I didn’t see Ibra tripping and falling like he was learning how to skate this time around. And he tried some nice back heel passes and other stuff, albeit unsuccesfull ones. In other games I just got the impression that he got a new pair of legs and just disnt know quite how to use them yet. He had no sence of balance and cordination and just seemed like Big Bird trying to play football and sucking at it.

  11. *http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/Galeries/futbol/temporada09-10/02/tornada_dxStuttgart/2010-02-24_VIAJE_15.JPG

    messi’s bad school boy look at the airport.

  12. Gollllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Milito!!!!!!!!! 3 rd minute!
    cheering for Eto’o and Inter now. oh wait, i am a blaugrana.

    1. Damn it, Eto’o!

      That was a great chance to practically eliminate Chelsea from the CL. I would prefer a final against Inter over Chelsea. Wouldn’t it be great if we meet Eto’o in the final, as everybody’s wish has been after the CL group match? 🙂

  13. Hey, the German press is myopically whining about our “unfair” treatment from the officials, just as the Chelsea-centric BritPress did after that match last season. HA!

    1. No. It’s Cech, Ivanovich, Terry, Carvalho, Malouda, Ballack, Lampard, Mikel, Anelka, Kalou, Drogba. No Essien and Malouda at LB.

    2. God hes a massive loss. He’d murder an italian mid-field. I know they’re (inter) italian but their playing way too deep, only a matter of time i think b4 chelsea score

    1. Ivanovic made a great fast long run from the back and slid to pass the ball to kalou at the end. kalou calmly smoked a low shot to the far post. julio ceasar looked to have it covered, but the ball slipped off his gloves and hit the net…

  14. Watching both the Ivanovich and Cambiasso goals, I’m so jealous as a Barca fan. We need more of our guys to shoot from outside the box, especially since they’re so accurate when they DO shoot.

    Strange substitution here. I would’ve thought Balotelli would replace Eto’o (who’s been off all day) but no, Motta is off. Interesting. 3 men up front, along with Sneijder in the hole? Mourinho wants a third goal, evidently.

  15. chelsea is nasty aren’t they? balotelli is on the ground, and even their goalkeeper is down hurting, they still wanna attack? are they so used to doing so in their league?

    1. ok now, petr cech is out, lets hope inter score some more before he can recover in the second leg.

  16. What the hell happened to Cech? Hyperextension or something?

    By the way, did Julio Cesar get in a fight or something? What happened under his eyes?

    And last question…did you guys think Julio Cesar should’ve stopped that goal? I thought he was the best keeper in the world, but I thought he could’ve done better with that one. Could cost Inter big.

    1. lol, i was wondering the same thing. did julio fell down from a motorcycle or got kicked out by his mafia gang?

  17. Yeah we could do with a long range striker, but yaya will now do it. There’ll have to be controversy as balotelli is on and Chelsea are sore losers

    1. Samuel Drogba was a wrestling match and not a footballing contest. Samuel is not all that great though.

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