This Beautiful, Silly Thing

The window above the desk where I write is big, at least by American standards. It’s more than 3 feet wide and it gives me a nice view of the other side of the street. The houses on the other side are 5 floors tall with an attic space that may or may not be a 6th. I think some of it is that “winter garden” thing that is like my “3 season room” where you can look at it 4 seasons out of the year and use it none of them because it’s either super cold or super hot, even when it’s 70F on the other side of the glass walls. The reason I love this window, though, is that it is also nearly 6 feet tall and when I look up, I can always see the sky. There’s something about looking up, about seeing the clouds or the blue sky or the dark of night that settles me.

Whenever I watch a league match from home, I’m at this desk and I can see out into the darkness (it’s always dark at gametime in Germany) and it can be nice to glance up during a that annoying moment before a throw in where whoever is taking it suddenly drops it behind themselves and jogs off and we get 15 seconds of re-setting the whole scene as the next guy gets ready to take it. In those moments, I can look up at the night sky and sometimes I’ll see the lights of a plane or there’s just the black nothing of space because light pollution is drowning out the stars. If it’s raining, I can see the rain streaking across the window or bouncing off of the cars parked nearby and I can know that regardless of where this throw in goes, I’ll be all right and tomorrow this sky and this space will welcome me back. If I stretch my feet out, I can stick them under the heater and it’s toasty there so I don’t even have to wear socks in winter.

What I mean is I’m excited about El Clasico. I’m listening to music and the game is tomorrow and I am so hyped right now because yeah, tomorrow the sun will come up, but in the meantime, there’s adrenaline to pump through this flesh ball I call my body. A big part of my excitement is that this could go all kinds of sideways and we’ll be, oh, hmm, behind on head-to-head. Worst case scenario it’s tied and we’re hosting them in the second half of the year. Best case scenario we’re glancing quickly through historical stats to see who has come back from a 6 point deficit after losing a clasico at home. What are you afraid of? If you’re a Real Madrid supporter—first, welcome to this space, I think you’ll find us rather cordial. You’ll find snacks and coffee in the back by the poster of the triplete…oh, no, not that triplete haha, no I mean the other one—worst case scenario is that your well-orchestrated return to the upper echelons of La Liga devolves into people making fat jokes about your manager and kind of ignoring the whole Benzema thing because it’s, well, you don’t want to pile on. Best case you’re only as good as a team that has played without the greatest player in the world for weeks and is gaining ground on you, overall. Your stars are kind of listless, so maybe this will kickstart something or other, but no one actually likes Rafa Benitez because he’s just sort of, you know, good. He’s not interesting enough in that infotainment way and maybe he’s even great at knockout tournaments, but the team just feels meh. With Mourinho you weren’t bored, per se, but rather every 30 seconds you wondered when the team was going to shit the bed or kick someone in the teeth or score or the manager was going to be entertaining in a kind of obnoxious, horrible way that made your skin crawl. Benitez is just sort of there, sometimes eating on the bench and scribbling furious notes that are either instructions to his team that no one really understands or stream of consciousness poetry that always makes mention of the Istanbul skyline.

Over at Futfanatico, Elliott discussed the match, basically declaring this a boring fixture. I disagree with that in my heart but agree with it in the way that the stakes just aren’t what they have been. It’s just that, for me, that’s perfect. I love that. I want a clasico where I’m just watching my favorite team playing my least favorite team and it could go either way. Sure, maybe Benitez is boring, but also maybe they could win anyway and that’s exciting in a way, right? Here on this very site, Kevin has suggested it’s a big, big match that is worth paying attention to for reasons outside of football, and that may be (and indeed may be far more important than anything else), but I think it’s also important within football. This match need only be viewed as a match of two powerhouses teetering into each other, both unsure of what they’re doing, but both equally capable of delivering swift hooks to the jaw.

Because it’s here. It’s really here. The drudgery of an international break is over and this is what we return to? That is fantastic. It’s a showdown, it’s a rivalry match, it’s a lot of things and those things can be, if we want them to be, fun. Whatever it is, whether it’s cathartic or not, it should be hyped enough to make us forget the world around us for a little while. Maybe we’ll get the dull bus parking that Elliott predicts or maybe we’ll find ourselves on the edge of our seats for 90 minutes. I hope it’s the latter and my excited is there. My hope is there. My expectation is there, perhaps to a fault. But we’ll see and like I said, the sun will come up tomorrow and even though it’ll be hidden behind clouds here in Germany, I’ll be sitting at my desk taking in that view of the sky in my 2006/07 away jersey while humming the himno and thinking fun thoughts about Messi returning.

Wait, Messi? Oh. Oh! OH! Well why didn’t you just say so in the first place?

hold on to your butts

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.

26 Comments

  1. luisthebeast
    November 20, 2015

    I remember the 3-2 win against Atletiko last season in Cup.We must play the same,a slow tempo and hit them in counterattack.We dont have enough energy with Neymar just with some training,Messi after injury,Rakitic the same,Alves and Mache like Neymar.They are well rested and a fast tempo would not help our tired legs.I cant make prediction,i have no idea how Lucho will aproach the game,how Leo and Rakitic are.But 6 points on top would be a great achievement so we will win;-)

  2. November 21, 2015

    Frankly, I cant remember another classico before which I felt so calm. May be it is because we are already ahead by 3 good points, when we least expected, and eve a draw will be an excellent result. This is also because I have this feeling we are going to improve in a big way towards the second half of season.
    And again, for once, I want Messi to not start this match. Let him come only at 60 minutes or so.

  3. raj
    November 21, 2015

    Great article.

    I am loving how the Clasico is driving the production of beautiful pieces by you and Kxevin. Four beauties in last couple of days. Keep them coming guys 😀

  4. raj
    November 21, 2015

    As for the Messi debate. I am selfish in that I want to see him the full match if he is game for it!

    But again, I remember Athletico Madrid earlier this season when he took the game by throat by coming in as a sub. I’d love reading the clasico headlines going ‘King is back’ when in fact, he played only for 30 minutes!

    But I will go with my selfish side (curse me) and hope he starts!

  5. Tommy11
    November 21, 2015

    I never considered Messi for this match. I really hope and wish he doesn’t start and even play , maybe 20-25 minutes in the second half. This is because with or without him, the match could go either way. The psychological advantage to EE if we lose with him is more than if we win with him. Whereas d psychological advantage to us will be multiplied if we beat them without him, putting into consideration that we’re actually three points ahead and ballon d’or voting closed yesterday, we could afford to lose, therefore, there’s really nothing we need Messi for in this match. I know it’s wishful thinking, we will see Messi play and for his sake I really want us to win this match.
    The Neymar discuss on superstar ego is worth mulling over but I feel with the harmony between the trident, I believe such egos are reduced; for sake of their friendship and squad harmony, I really wish Neymar takes whatever LE’s decision in his stride.
    Now, let FC Barcelona irrespective of her starting line-up or substitutes bench give EE a sound beating in their house. Visca el Barca!!!

    • Jim
      November 21, 2015

      Thank, Fotobirajesh. Great interview. I’d only seen snippets from it. Only saw your post after I had finished the tome below.

      I think there is something wrong with me. I could listen to Xavi talk football all day. I’m also not sure how Id react if I met him on a beach but you get the feeling he wouldn’t be able to resist if you were having a kick about. Funny to think of him sitting down now with us and watching the game. Kxevin, get his email and invite him to come along to BFB !

  6. Jim
    November 21, 2015

    Well, about and hour and a half to go. Golf was good today but now it’s back to (behind the) couch potato. Struggling with my no wine before six o’clock at the moment.

    Brief thoughts before the teams come out.

    Before I start I’ll be amazed if the game actually goes ahead. I’m afraid we’re in the position where all it would take is one hoax call to put it off. If you’re a murderous basket and want to cause disruption why wouldn’t you ?

    1. This doesn’t matter !!! Great position to be in.
    2. Following on from above, stick Messi on the bench but don’t use him. Not believing he’s ready for a match like this. Don’t care what the medics say. I’ve seen loads of players with minor knee ligament damage come back saying their knee is fine then in the match they have to twist out of control the one way that damages the knee again. If we lose, we lose but we shouldn’t. If we’re winning with two minutes to go stick him on just to give the regal wave to the Bernebeu 🙂
    3. Bravo in goal although I could see an argument for TS if they are gonna press us v high. Can’t see it with CR7 and Bale though.
    4. Please LE, just learn . Pique and Mathieu as CBs. We’ll come to Masche later but for me he should be warming the bench. If you think he’s tougher than Matthieu I hope you never have to see it tested. Matthieu is quicker, taller ( don’t want any more games where the sport is to drag Pique to the front post or wide then chuck in the cross to that from three) besides Matthieu knows how to play CB, Masche probably knows but can’t make himself do it.
    5. I don’t have as bad memories of Dani against RM as some and I want as many comfortable on the ball as we can get for this so he marginally gets my vote.
    6. Midfield. Of Busi, SR and Iniesta. If we’re thinking about keeping SR. Then we need to see him in this sort of game. I like that he is mobile and can also run with the ball. Don’t see what Rakitic offers over him.
    7. I’d be prepared to countenance a Masche at DM start to the game because we can always swap him and Busi or bring on SR if pressed too tightly .
    8. No Messi? Bears repitition . ..
    9. Not sure I care whether Sandro or Munir get the nod up front. I have a small feeling that Munir may just be a goal away from getting some confidence but Sandro offers some hustle.

    I’m really interested in how ey play this. Not much doubt that Rafa would like to be cautious but if they start off like that and we grab a goal he’ll be grabbing his coat. Yet if they don’t start at full speed and press us high up the park they can’t win this.

    Last plea to the FBs. We don’t have to win this. We certainly don’t have to lose it by getting caught awol. We have a good defence. ( Slightly worried about the abuse Pique will get and whether he can genuinely not let it affect his game. Hope he doesn’t try to show them with an unnecessary piece of footwork and if he gets a yellow the hunt will really be on ). Tbh, we’ll do well to end up with eleven but if we do I think we’ll win.

  7. Jim
    November 21, 2015

    Sighhh !!!

  8. georgjorge
    November 21, 2015

    I don’t really believe in either Sergi Roberto or Iniesta as a FORWARD. Hope it will come down more to clogging the midfield with four and hitting them on the break. Let’s go!

  9. Jim
    November 21, 2015

    Well, if we can’t enjoy that we are truly sad . . .

  10. TITO
    November 21, 2015

    Thats the best a team can give in terms of football. Almost, just almost perfect.

  11. Jim
    November 21, 2015

    Two small niggles.

    If they fail to press better than they did first half they won’t get out of the stadium alive. Look for a whirlwind first fifteen.

    Secondly, they are trying to isolate Alves by double teaming on their right offence forcing Pique to come away from Alves. We need an answer to that. Shouldn’t be hard two up.

    Lastly, how good is Iniesta. You just relax even when he gets the ball surrounded by three !

  12. barca96
    November 21, 2015

    Munir wasted 3 chances. Imagine if the score was tighter? The one I’m most pissed about is the one where Pique could’ve scored. That would’ve been a perfect manita with Pique scoring the last goal.

    • G6O
      November 21, 2015

      I am not so much mad he did not leave it for Pique – he had time to control it and then shoot, and this would have been the proper play. But anyway, as someone said above, if we cannot enjoy this because it’s 4-o and not 5-0 at the Bernabeu, we have serious issues as fans.

    • barca96
      November 21, 2015

      I never said I don’t enjoy the 4-0. My issue is with Munir once again missing and wasting chances left and right. How long can this go on? He is one heck of a lucky kid.

      It would’ve been so beautiful for Pique to get the fifth after all the abuse From their fans.

      This match is a classic. One for the ages. I Was surprised at Madrid though. They were so tame, They lacked drive and lacked leadership. It’s more or less the same team.

      What was up with Isco? Didn’t expect that from him. I was watching With my friends so I couldn’t really hear the tv but I thought I heard the commentator mentioning Neymar taunting or showing off. Please tell me I heard it wrongly.

    • georgjorge
      November 21, 2015

      I don’t care whether he taunted him or showed off. These things happen all the time on and off the pitch in football, they’re part of the game, but you don’t see players doing stuff like what Isco did to Neymar all the time. Isco knew the game was over for them, maybe even was frustrated about not starting the match, then Neymar ran circles around him and he took it all out on him. The only one to blame is himself.

  13. G6O
    November 21, 2015

    Around the 20th minute I was thinking — this is the most control we’ve had over a Classico since Guardiola’s 3rd season. And it ended accordingly. Too bad Munir did not have the composure to make it 5 — it is a historic win as it is but a manita at the Bernabeu would have been even more special 🙂

  14. Jim
    November 21, 2015

    Some memories for me at the moment.

    First I had a real lump in my throat at the beautiful piano version of La Marseillaise. Classy, Spain.

    Secondly I have no desire to nit pick with individual performances because this team gave a masterful controlled performance away from home against our biggest rivals.

    Bravo was simply immense.

    Xavi’s gone ( I hope he’s downed a few in celebration already in Qatar) but let’s just appreciate Iniesta while we have him. Loved the ovation from Madrid and fair play to them for it. Loved the way Messi stayed out of trouble. Foot on the ball then just as they’re zeroing in flicks it away. Btw, did anyone else see him out sprint Varane ?

    Finally, credit to LE for SR as the fourth midfielder. We had complete control and it freed Iniesta to roam a bit more.

  15. ooga aga
    November 21, 2015

    What an impressive match from our boys. Who cares if munir missed. Five is just a number and manita is just a word. This is a historic win no matter how you slice it.

  16. ciaran
    November 21, 2015

    I feel for Munir really, he’s getting into positions and used to be really composed but once one goal comes in sure plenty will follow.

    Great performances from so many players.
    Bravo was incredible when called upon.
    Alves calmed down to a solid match.
    Pique did everything expected and kept Madrid quiet.
    Mathieu made no mistakes.
    Alba laid the ball off for the last goal like a good old fashioned centre forward.
    Busquets showed again why he’s the best in the world at what he does.
    Iniesta was imperious, dragging defenders around, beating players and scored and assisted.
    Rakitic kept it simple and put pressure on the opposition.
    Sergi Roberto is becoming undroppable at present, another assist and driving runs from midfield coupled with always making the right decision.
    Suarez is the best in the world in his position too.
    Neymar’s probably the best in the world full stop at the moment, I only wish that Suarez had finished the chance that Marcelo cleared. The second goal off his foot and the third set up by him to finish the game as a contest.
    Messi must be dying to get involved with the connection between Ney and Luis at full tilt. Once the best of the best is back in his stride we’ll be unstoppable.

    Congrats to everyone

  17. georgjorge
    November 21, 2015

    What. A. Win.

    First Clásico I got to watch in a Catalan bar (in Austria). Couldn’t believe what I saw, expected the game to be much much tighter. M*drid had a few great chances (they will always get those with the quality of their players) but outside of that looked really tame, as if they were content for Barca to pass the ball around in their half even when they were two down. Ten energetic minutes from them at start of second half, ten more when our team got a bit arrogant after the third goal, some great chances when it was end-to-end but that was that.

    Let’s not talk about M*drid though. Let’s talk about Bravo’s reflexes, Neymar’s energy, Suarez’ ruthlessness in front of goal (in a good way!), Iniesta’s control and him scoring what seemed like his first goal since the world cup final 2012, Busquets almost always doing the right thing…

    Or to put it another way: When a collective of the world’s best players have not only a theoretical understanding of what the other guys playing with them will do but also feel like a real team…and when that team, and I mean everyone of them, comes to town full of focus and motivation…that’s what happens. Especially if the other team is lacking in any of these departments.

    Thanks for this evening.

    • Ryan
      November 21, 2015

      That was such a fun game to watch! Iniesta’s World Cup winning goal was actually in 2010, by the way, so it’s been even longer since he’s had a proper Iniestazo. 🙂

  18. Dar_vincy
    November 21, 2015

    If anyone had told me we would obliterate Real madrid like that, considering how balanced both teams have been since the last Manita, I’d have said such fellow was high on cheap crack.
    In a match of this magnitude, I don’t give a crap how many gazillion chances we bottled to create a special whatevs; screw that; what I do care is the 3 points….Any manner of win against Madrid is absolutely delightful.
    Madrid could likewise moan on how many of their chance they failed to convert. It all evened out a bit, I believe.
    To both Munir and Sandro, I don’t place much or any expectation on them, so I don’t get disappointed. Nothing horrible they do gobsmacks me… Anyways, wouldn’t even dwell his bottled chances ..
    Elsewhere, the biggest achievement from this match, for me, was us playing Madrid and practically defeating them…WITHOUT MESSI! Sergi Roberto…your maturity has both amazed me and debunked most of our perception towards you. Glad and proud to say I was wrong about you. You passed the biggest and the final test…in flying colors.
    I’m so delirious to the point of being unable to stop typing.
    I terminate with Visca Barca.

  19. raj
    November 21, 2015

    I was sitting in my office cafeteria at 2 in the morning on a Saturday night with a friend. And we were cursing Munir with so much passion that he might have well been an opposition player.

    That dude lost all his dreams today.. Yeah, you’ve gotta feel sorry for him in retrospect.

    And it sucks really. The joy of winning like this is negated by the quiet sadness of a budding star – most probably – not making it. He is going to fade away from plans of people at the top quickly, unless he manages to turn it around dramatically.

  20. realdox
    November 22, 2015

    there is no one I’m pleased with more than sergi roberto. from wright off player to top performer ,i hope he keep developing.

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