Espanyol 0, Barça 0, aka “Gifts for Parakeets”

“It’s tough to play against a side who play at the limit, but that’s the derby.”

— Luis Enrique

This was nasty, but anyone with half a brain knew that it would be, because the Catalan derby always is.

This wasn’t really supposed to be a match that was fraught with danger, but the signs were there: first match of the new year after all that holiday revelry. The superstars jet off to places while the local boys stay home, have dinner with their families and work out how they are going to be heroes on Saturday. And last year as well, Barça laid an egg in its first match in January, away to La Real.

If you looked, signs were there against Betis, despite a gaudy final scoreline. Barça doesn’t look like a tired team, but at times it does look like a complacent one, a group who thinks that one more chance will always come so it’s okay to squander the one that’s there — then they are looking, stunned, at the scoreboard and full time.

This was one of the first matches since the miasma of the early season, in which Barça looked like it didn’t have much of a clue of how to deal with what they were facing. Hats off to Espanyol for that. Usually what happens is one-touch football takes over as the ball and players ping around and suddenly, a player is running free to slot home. But, and we should acknowledge the elephant in the room here, the team hasn’t played as well after the return of Messi as it was playing just before he came back from injury. It’s like they have again settled into familiar patterns of waiting for magic. Neither ball nor players moved today, which is the only way to beat a team like Espanyol.

The 0-4 destruction of Real Madrid was, for me, the high point of the season so far, because Barça won that match on every level: tactically, effort, quality of play. It was beautiful even for neutrals, as an exceptional team performance. Then the big dog comes home, and people relax a bit. It doesn’t take much to dull an edge. In an ideal world, the team would have kept on being brilliant, while adding the best player in the game. Ah, idealism.

Adding to this is the mess of a pre-season, and a short XI that has been working hard to make up gaps and differences all season. Is the team tired? Fatigued? For sure. Haven’t kept track, but I’d wager that the number of rest days from training have been higher this season, as the coaching staff tries to get the group home without wearing out or getting injured. When you look at it all that way, is this result today really much of a shock?

Iniesta and Pique were both extraordinary today. The rest of the team played like there had been a bit too much partying over the New Year, matching the sluggish start against Betis. What made this match different was that Espanyol didn’t tire, working as hard to fight, close down passing lanes and stick legs in to deflect in the 90th minute as the first. They turned it into a real alley fight, like the brawler does against the boxer, wearing out legs just from the constant leaning, and pecking, and battling.

Barça played into their hands by reverting to “Hey, I’m a great player” mode, running at the mass of eight Espanyol defenders who just waited, then intervened at the last moment. Messi hit the post on an excellent free kick. Suarez inexplicably hit the post when confronted with a gaping net. Alba wet the bed off a great early chance that would most likely have turned this match into what many culers expected, a comfortable cruise to victory.

But it wasn’t to be. There will be much excoriation of the same referee whose incompetence gifted RM a victory against La Real. He allowed Espanyol to transgress the rules in a manner that made the mere 5 yellows that team received seem like an injustice. Gonzalez Gonzales turned the first half into a crapshow that favored Espanyol, because half-blind officiating rarely helps the better team. But even with that, Barça had chances to score that were spurned.

The bottom line is that Barça didn’t even come close to playing well enough to win. Raktic, Messi, Suarez, Neymar, Alves, Bravo, Alba, pretty much everyone was poor, chasing the ball and arguing instead of playing their game. Even Messi, toward the end of the match, received a foul and, as he was sitting on the pitch, made the “Card him” gesture to the ref. It was that kind of day. Messi usually takes those fouls, gets up, then cuts the offender’s throat.

The team has to understand what a derby is, has to understand that with a derby, positions in the table are meaningless. It does, but didn’t look ready for what came today and tactically broke down, becoming a collection of individuals instead of a destructive team. The vaunted MSN didn’t even touch the ball until almost 5 minutes into the match. Espanyol effectively tilted the pitch with pressure, never really looking like scoring, even as each foray into the Barça end meant that the ball spent less time in their end. The midfield was just a battleground. It really was an excellent performance by them.

Usually when an opponent comes at Barça with that much intensity, they tire, and some moment of high-quality play puts the knife in. But Espanyol was relentless today, and did everything right as Barça did almost everything wrong. Neymar tries some little bit of trickery but, confronted by three Espanyol defenders, can do nothing. Messi makes a brilliant run at the defense, but to where? There are eight Espanyol players in the box. Alves takes a ball on the right and, “Je pense … Je pense …” plays it too slowly and is closed down by an Espanyol player. Suarez was doing his Diego Costa impersonation, throwing his body around but coming up short when it mattered. His miss was ridiculous, particularly after he did all the hard work of beating the defender and the keeper. The he smacked it directly off the post. It was stunning.

Bravo played in a way that a better team would have taken advantage of, even Busquets was slack. Rakitic played as he always does when tired, and by the time Sergi Roberto came on for him, the rest of the team was dead or too busy arguing. Meanwhile, Espanyol was getting to almost every loose ball, winning almost every 50/50 ball, playing like a team that wanted the point that it came with. Barça played like a team that didn’t quite know why the poor kids weren’t cooperating, and wondering why management didn’t solve the problem.

The two shining lights were Iniesta, who at 31 is playing truly magical football, and Pique, who was a back line stalwart. Even late in the match, the team is arguing about something and Iniesta, seeing that time is wasting, walks over to push them away, to make them understand that the squabbling is all but ensuring the negative result for Barça. The team let Espanyol get in their heads, and suffered for that laxity.

For a bit of the second half Barça came out and played like it had a collective clue, and created chances, that all fell apart at the death, or a bad ball fell closer to an Espanyol foot than a Barça one. And tactically, Espanyol was able to effectively flood the midfield with its high pressure, which meant balls over the top, long balls and short passes that died on what looked to be a bone-dry cabbage patch of a pitch.

Frustratingly, the two players who could have made a significant difference couldn’t play today, because the LFP is on holiday, so the earliest that Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal can be registered is Monday. There really weren’t any difference makers on the bench. Luis Enrique tried to inject some energy into midfield with Sergi Roberto for Rakitic, but everybody else was cashed, so that didn’t happen. But on Monday, everything changes.

Culers will talk about conspiracies, nefarious black hands that rise up to slap Barça down, but the only thing that happened today is that the team wasn’t prepared for a derby, got punched in the face and had no answer. And they couldn’t go crying to Dad, because he wasn’t interested. This was a winnable match that turned into a draw because the team didn’t play well enough. Anything else is just an excuse.

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In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

55 Comments

  1. Davour
    January 2, 2016

    “Culers will talk about conspiracies”… well, no wonder when the ref comes off a game where he gifts RM two slack penalties, and then turns a blind eye to assault against our men. I completely agree the obvious reason for these points dropped is a horrible game by the team, but that does not mean one cannot criticise an element which made this task even harder. It was so blatant I cannot really believe he could stomach such a display himself, or that this will be accepted. It is a disgrace.

    But. Yes. We were shit. And we are back to the lazy movement from early season. Is this directly related to Messi’s return, or a coincidence? Perhaps over-confidence related to classic-win and the return of the GOAT made them feel too invincible, and shedding that hubris is difficult. the World Cup travel, New Years. lack of subs, Messi taking time to be fully fit, etc. etc…

    Anyway, it’s hard for Barca playing well when both FBs are crap. Neymar lacked concentration – maybe the player most likely to overdo New Years… or perhaps Messi’s return has been to the detriment of Neymar in the sense that he has less responsibility, and he seems to grow from having it.

    Let’s just hope LE can instill some humility, now, as well as adding Arda and Vidal to the team in an intelligent way.

    • Davour
      January 2, 2016

      Oh, and is this the same Espanyol who let RM walk all over their face without even attempting to stop the humiliation?

      Alright, enough gall. Just very frustrating.

    • ChaoticReaper
      January 3, 2016

      Messi weakens the team. Instead of having an eye for goal, Neymar and Suarez are looking across the pitch for Messi. Always looking to pass to Messi

  2. luisthebeast
    January 2, 2016

    First lets not make that Suarez chance an easy tap in!!!It was a brillant move,stay onside,beat the GK,dribble the defender!!!Ridiculous??Hell no!!Just bad luck!!But thats La Liga and those bastards always fight like crazy against us!!!We must move on,we have two games a week all January and we need rotation and i believe everything will be fine!!!

  3. Jim
    January 2, 2016

    I actually enjoyed this game, if not the result. It’s nice seeing a team test us by getting in our faces. We need this for later in the season. Yes, they overstepped the mark and should have had at least one sent off but to concentrate on that misses the point.

    As Kxevin says, this is a Derby and you need to expect physicality. So, you have to move the ball quicker. If there isn’t enough space in the middle you need to get the ball wide quickly and have the quality from the ball back in. That’s my first stopping point. Did we have any decent balls into the middle or a FB taken on and beaten wide ? Not that I saw. They were happy to see the ball go to Alves wide right or Alba wide left because neither of them were looking like sending in a dangerous ball. I’ll include Neymar here, marginally, because although he did carry the ball well I’d have liked to see him committing their wide men rather than coming inside all the time. Byeline and a ball cut quickly back is very hard to defend against. I’ll also include Rakitic as a I continue to be underwhelmed by his contribution on the ball. Literally he lays off about 80% of the balls he receives backwards or sideways. When was the last time he travelled with the ball ? Opponents notice this. It’s why SR looks good when h comes on. There’s an energy about his movement although I’m not a fully paid up fan club member yet.

    I’m not sure if there’s an implied criticism of Messi in the article. If so, it’s way off the mark, first of all. Because he is making his way back after two months out and will need another half dozen games to get to his peak. However, if others like Neymar aren’t continuing the good work they did then get into them, not Messi. Personally, Messi was still the one for me that was going to unlock their defence – by some considerable margin.

    It was a pity we didn’t make life easier for ourselves by taking one of our chances but these things happen. Thought Suarez was a bit unlucky after rounding the keeper that the ball sat better his legs rather than running neatly into either foot but he’ll still be disappointed.

    As has correctly been said, Pique and Iniesta were extraordinary. Iniesta kept the ball in some unbelievable situations , kept the passing flowing with good decisions about changing the angle of attack. Pique didn’t put a foot wrong all game. Remind me again why he’s not the best CB in Europe ? Thought Busi played really well and read the game beautifully. Masche …. ? Well, not for me but we’ve been here before. If you think he’s Spartacus resurrected I’m not gonna change your mind now.

    All in all, I don’t think we were as bad as has been said. There was good effort expended against a very physical side who managed to make the pitch look very tight. I liked Iniesta growing into the captaincy by developing his steely side (which I can’t imagine comes naturally ) and pushing our complainers away. I liked Pique roasting his defensive colleagues for their positional stupidity and I’m struggling to see what Bravo did wrong, other than maybe not coming for that ball late on but when Pique’s under it you can be forgiven for believing that he’s gonna deal with it. His passing game has improved dramatically over the course of the season. Of course, that creates a problem with the current TS rumours, (and I’d be disappointed if TS hadn’t forced his way into the position in a couple of years) but that’s not of his doing. He’s our best keeper at the moment and all he can do is keep turning in the performances.

    It must be my new year’s resolution to keep calm but other than the result I have to say I thought the team played okay. There’ll be more telling days to come and we’re now back into the swing with Messi’s fitness improving and two new, talented players busting a gut to get going. For me, Rakitic would be getting a good long rest with Turan bringing a bit of creativity to our right side.

    Btw, Happy New Year to all. Not always acknowledged but I enjoy visiting this site most days and hearing what folks have to say. I’d be nice if more of those who visit feel like putting finger to touchscreen occasionally to share their thoughts.

    • Jim
      January 2, 2016

      * between his (Suarez’s) legs

    • Davour
      January 2, 2016

      Jim! How dare you upset my ranting by being balanced and good humored? Happy new year to you, too.

      They did manage to make the pitch awfully small, didn’t they?

    • January 2, 2016

      If you aren’t sure that something is there, why criticize it? I have never, and will never veil or imply anything. I’m not that smart. Be consoled by the fact that the Messi Brigade on Twitter lost their minds, hurling accusations of “why you blaming Messi,” etc. One person said people who said that kind of stuff “should be killed.”

      If I mean to say something, I will say it. As it stands, the piece as written is very clear about the possible reasons for the stuff that I see. None of it is attributable to Messi, even as I think Messi has been playing a bit differently since his return from injury, but that is another story. Note that “different” doesn’t equate to “worse,” to nip that potential “He hates Messi” thing in the bud.

      Writing these things is easy. It gets more difficult when people start seeing things that aren’t there, then reacting to the things that aren’t there. I can only repeat: I’m not that smart. If it isn’t there, I don’t mean to say it.

    • ikool
      January 3, 2016

      Kxevin, ur reaction to jim’s comments seems over the top, just like when Messi asked for the yellow card.maybe u are frustrated by the Twitter folks? Jim’s one paragraph on the Messi issue felt very polite and was even shorter than ur reply.
      Here’s my own two cents-I read almost all ur articles and it would be highly delusional to think u are a Messi hater but in the past weeks some cules have been saying it’s Messi’s fault that we are not playing well. Honestly, I thought u were implying the same when u wrote “acknowledge the elephant”. I had to read it again and now my impression is that u mean the team has relaxed and is relying more on some Messi magic instead of stepping up as they did in his absence

    • Jim
      January 3, 2016

      Not looking for a disagreement, Kxevin. The way I read it some of the phrasing sounded as if the only difference ( and again for me the implication suggested not as good) between the team playing well and not , was the return of Messi. Maybe we use the phrase differently but “elephant in the room ” usually refers to something unwanted. I was, however, careful to begin by saying I wasn’t sure, despite having read it carefully. You’ve reassured me there was no such implication so therefore what followed in my comments wasn’t applicable to the article. I would suggest that in a subjective piece of writing even if you don’t intend any implications, inferences may well be drawn from tone, register etc. You’ll know in my other life I spent a fair bit of it encouraging youngsters to pay attention to both what a writer says and how he says it in order to fully understand his/ her views.

      I’m not sure why I would be consoled by your mentioning the fact some have gone after you for your views about Messi on Twitter. You’ll know my views on Twitter already and you know that in this place we deal with the views/ opinions and not the person. I’m not clear why I would be consoled by anyone having a go at you. Just to be clear – what you mention on Twitter is an unacceptable way to behave and I’m disappointed if you think I’d have any other reaction.

      However, my intention wasn’t to offend so in the spirit of the new year please accept my apologies.

    • January 3, 2016

      Jim, I am not looking for a disagreement either. It’s why I so rarely comment here. My reply to your initial comment was plain-spoken, apparently to a fault. My intention was to make my point above clear, and to simply ask about chasing something that wasn’t there. I don’t use emoticons or the like, so perhaps a battery of smiley faces would have made the intention, and lack of malice clear.

      The elephant in the room is, simply enough, the big thing that nobody wants to acknowledge. That isn’t necessarily Messi. My hope is to be able to discuss every aspect of this team, and if at some point that includes being critical of Messi, we should be able to do that, as well, though I’m probably silly in that regard, as people are hyper-protective of him, to the extent that nothing can be said about him that isn’t praise.

      But the bottom line is, I take enough crap from people here and in other spaces to never, ever have the intent to do the same. I’m not interested in anything beyond discussing the club and the team.

  4. lala10
    January 2, 2016

    Enter Your Comment… Iniesta is a tough choice for someone who played well. He is a good player but i disagree that he was good today.

    He had his moments in the first half. Second half he was invisible. In my book he is amongst the players who put a less than stellar shift especially in the second half.

    Agree on the not playing too well since Messi came back. Maybe complacency or maybe its readjustment to playing with him in the side again.

    Rarely does this team get on my nerves whether we win or lose. But today i was in a rage the whole game seeing the lack of effort and so many sloppy passages of play. Resting players for the Betis game may have long term benefits but i feel its one of the reasons the team struggled today. Those who came in were basically coming from the holidays.

  5. luisthebeast
    January 2, 2016

    Well i blame twitter for everything!If there was not twitter we would had here around 250 comments in every post!And with a lot of pluralism!!Alba cant make a 6m pass!Suarez always play bad!Busi is the worst DM!Our bench is thin,we need new play…..oh not him crap board!Atletiko Madrid signed a fantastic player from Celta but if we signed him he would be a crap transfer!Ter Stegen is average…oh Ter Stegen wants to leave,stupid Lucho!Next season i will support City enough with that average Barca!Frustrating game i am out of here why cant win every game 12-0!La Masia is dead oh my god we are going to Tercera!Oh my god that shirt is awful!Oh where is Pep??(2016 edition Pep Fanboys soon in a store near u)!Oh why i am supporting Barca??Just to COMPLAIN my son,just for that;-)

  6. luisthebeast
    January 2, 2016

    And can people just stop praising that shit of a team that Atletiko Madrid is?If Mourinio have enemies for his style of play then Simeone is one of the worst out there.I cant stand them.Dirty awful team playing a shit footbal.A disgrace for La Liga.

  7. bedhead
    January 2, 2016

    Excellent analysis Jim. Spot on!

  8. Cyclops
    January 3, 2016

    Didnt watch the Match, and you know what, i’m glad i didnt..Or else i’d have been Withering in Pain the whole Match, at the Chances being squandered…And that seems to be the latest theme in this team recent matches; Missed Chances..As far back as the Leverkusen game, i meant to bring it up, but folks were like; the game is dead rubber, they didnt need to try too much..Forgetting that the game before that, against Valencia, to say the team missed chances was an understatement,,they practically murdered Goal chances..I’m particularly picking out Messi(you want to call it Messi hating, that your problem)he’s been ridiculously squandering chances, its shocking..I mean just look at the Chances Messi has missed in Recent weeks, i almost feel like weeping…And he’s just a representation of the whole Team and their Knack for Mudering Chances..Suarez, what can we say about him, a brilliant Striker, but one that can make you literally bang your head on the wall by some plays he make- and you know what, if he dosnt makes one of such plays in a game, something is wrong….Neymar, he still has a lot to learn IMO- for instance as someone said, he would have tried stretching play to the byline, and then maybe a Cutback, rather than cutting in. Sometimes his dicision making just looks suspect to me..
    The rest of the team they just take a cue from their much vaunted MSN frontline and continue the Damage(negatively speaking)
    I’m mostly focusing on the Missed Chances here, cause pre-espanyol game, its looks like its been going unnoticed
    Blaming The Ref, is a waste of time for me- granted he may have been crap, buh i like to look at what the team could have done that it didnt do…Ofcourse i acknowledge he was wrong, but i dont dwell on that, its quite tiring

    Maybe its time SR fully get a starting place over Rakitic, just maybe
    So at the end we couldnt really escape a de ja vu from happening, after the anoeta debacle, we’ve got the Cornella debacle now. Alright then, Moving On…

    And who says Athletico are crap? bruh you havnt been watching them lately…Simeone has practically evovled his tactics…Or you think they bought all those technical players for decoration…they’ve moving on from their 4 2 2 and are trying to implement a really technical 4 3 3 system.. and i Rate Simeone way over Mourinho..he understands Football very well..Even with them employing their catennacio style couple seasons ago its works cause of Simeone Intelligence of Manipulating Spaces…So while im Pissed there’re at the top, you’ve still gotta give ’em some credit, unlike some guys in stained White

  9. Cyclops
    January 3, 2016

    And ofcourse the Espanyol debacle is more Than just Missed chances..Lotta salient Issues are thrown up with that much..How Roma match aside, something seems to be off about their performance since Messi Arrival( I hate to to say that now, considering that some lowlife were not just claiming but in their hearts were actually Fearfully Praying that Messi Arrival disrupt things) So i wouldnt really want to say Messi did disrupt the team chemistry, i dont think so,,in that case there other reasons out there for Limp Performances
    And what!?!, the Guys were actually Arguing!?!.. lol, what about ? Olympus really Have Fallen! Can i say one more time i’m glad i didnt watch that game? Its utterly disgracefull in my honest opinoin..thats one of the salient issues that needs discusing by the way…
    And just how funny does that Line Sounds; that LFP are on A Break, hence Arda and co, couldnt get registered…Initially i thought it was some kind of Jibe, until i realise the TRUISM of the statement..couldnt help having a really hearty Laugh.. So after The Ban, our newly acquired players couldnt still play, because…the LFP are on a Holiday. Oh right, who knows what it’d be next week…For Arda here a guess; the LFP( who were coveniently on a break) would take a Retrospective Dicision on Arda Turan hauling his boot at a Ref, and ban him for the whole season……

  10. Davour
    January 3, 2016

    Crazy game, Val-EE, 2-2. They rarely look fluid, and Valencia stood up well, most of the time, and really should have won (Negredo missed alone with Navas). I have to say I really like Modric, I can’t help it, but he is one hell of a mid… apart from that, I’m sure Benitez has some thinking to do, bringing on Vasquez instead of James or Isco.

    Sorry about EE-report, just elated that Val managed comeback twice, to make our dropped points less painful (no, I’m not forgetting Atletico).

    On to the Copa, where I’m pretty sure we won’t face EE… Hopefully LE figured out how to address the physicality of Espanyol. Very interested to the our new faces!

  11. Happiness
    January 3, 2016

    I too have noticed that both Neymar and Suarez seem a bit constrained with Messi – it creates an uncertainty; i.e. should I drive myself or should I pass? But the same it true for Messi; he seems of two minds also. He isn’t sure whether to offer up an excellent pass, or give it the old “Messi drives for the goal”. It isn’t always that way, but until they find their groove again, there is some uncertainty and confusion about how much to grab, or share, the limelight as an individual superstar.

    In a lesser team, there would not be such uncertainty for either of these three great players because they each would know for a certainty that things rested on their individual shoulders, to a great extent. In this blessed squad, they play too democratically at times, even though the situation could do with grabbing the gusto, and daring to go for individual brilliance.

    Just emphasizing that this dynamic constrainingly effects Messi as much as it does the other two points of the trident. And woe be our opposition when they get out of their heads, and stop giving second thoughts to their own time to shine.

  12. barca96
    January 3, 2016

    The elephant in the room is, simply enough, the big thing that nobody wants to acknowledge. That isn’t necessarily Messi

    So who is the elephant in the room or the subject that nobody wants to acknowledge or the cause of it?

    • January 4, 2016

      The elephant in the room is the basic fact that, for whatever reasons, the team isn’t playing as well since Messi’s return. Few have said it even as it exists, big as life, like … an elephant in the room.

  13. Kd
    January 4, 2016

    Come on!! We all know and so does Kxevin who or what he is referring to as an elephant in the room!! Quite simply its Messi’s return. Messi has been back for a while but still doesn’t seem to be integrated into the team ethos. Is that cos he’s still coming back bit by bit or maybe with theoretically weaker teams he just seems disinterested? I think its the latter. He just doesn’t seem to care that much. But in the 2nd half towards the end when our group of players realised that a draw is a very really possibility, they all seemed to make an effort including Leo. Now dont pull out those knives! I am a huge Messi fan but can’t help not writing what i observed. In fact the whole team played crap and rightly pointed by Kxevin, all the 50/50 balls were going their way. They seem to want it much more than us. Anyways here’s hoping that our 2 “new signings” would solve this particular problem of not turning up for a weak team. I hope Enrique gives all a Rollicking. They all took it easy lead by our front 3!!

  14. January 4, 2016

    oh, I typed this on the previous post by mistake.

    Well, I think, there is also one other reason why our players looked not competent – fear of getting injured. When a team plays on the edge and if the ref doesn”t really help, it is normal for players to get a bit worried to really go in, afraid of getting hurt. While playing this has happened to me, I dont see any reason why this cannot happen in the highest level.

    I hope something change from now on, a la last season. complacency is my biggest worry. If only they start dreaming about the repeat of a treble..

  15. January 4, 2016

    I really dont worry about this Elephant in the room topic here. If my memory is right, last season there were people here discussing about selling Messi. so.

    Am not really that upto date with the internet trends. Is Twitter such a big thing in the world now that something that happens in the twitter world should evoke responses here?If there were bad things on twitter, should not that be taken care of, or replied to on twitter itself.

    Anyways, after long, many commenters are back. Which is good.

  16. luisthebeast
    January 4, 2016

    Imagine if we had signed Mangala for 40m and Danilo for 30m.70m wasted and two joke players.

    • Davour
      January 4, 2016

      I heard Mangala is improving, no? Have hardly seen him. Still, hoping for a Spanish CB who knows the game. I agree Danilo does not look good at all, to me. Not yet, at least. Goes to show, it really is very hard to know.

  17. Cyclops
    January 4, 2016

    Looking at the Espanyol matches its just occurs to one how the outcome of that Match could Most Probably have changed, if we had and could bring on A very quality Forward, and Mid…
    Just bringing on a say A wide Forward, and a Mid- in this case maybe SR, could easily have turned that match on its head-most likely..or not, but point is, in such a games, such Subs could easily change things..And that Might have been the case, if we had such options..
    And when you consider that such options are not the most Luxurious in the world, you can hardly belive that we really couldnt afford it, that aside from The MSN, there’s nothing left(well, ofcourse thats a result of The Transfer Ban)

    The point is, we shouldnt kid ourselves, we Need a Fourth Forward- not pushing INi or SR Upfield, rather a player that genuinely can play there..Because such Matches we’d almost certianly come up, where Subbing in a Forward for any of one the MSN just kills the game…
    Now this is before Arda and co were registered, right now there are eligible to play, and i know of Arda’s mettle as a Mid, but as a Forward, i really dont know much, but going with Reports, he could be a Fine Forward, so maybe he could feel the role of a Fourth Forward- this is ofcourse barring any purchase of another striker

    Long and short of it is, the team needs another Forward, Games would definately come up where subbing ina deifferent Forward is a sure way of breaking down the opposition…That goes with a Midfielder too, but in SR, we’ve got that covered i think(along with the rumours? of a D Suarez come back)

    And talking about Rumours, whats all the Noise about MAtS leaving…Whats part of MAtS being the Future dont this guys understands? Its being said time and again that Bravo is just a Short term option, MAtS is like the future right now, i just wonder in what language that needs to be said for MAtS(who is likely aiding this rumours) and the guys who’ve reportedly slap a 20 mil transfer fee on him , to understand

    Taking a critical look at ter Stergen, while he may be the future, he’s definately been given the chance to prove his worth and displace Bravo but he’s spurned them, so i really dont get whats the basis for all this..
    Right now he can prove he’s ready by churning out solid performances each time he’s called upon, and in no time he could be made the firstchoice goalie
    As a goalkeeper i think he’s very talented, loads of potential, you would be hard put to Find another young Goalkeeper out there who is as good as him…
    And it’d be extremely ridiculous if he’s sold
    Bravo dosnt have More than 3 years in him for a Top club like barca IMO,, so after 3 years, you resume another belaboured search for a Goalkeeper-with the skillset to play for barca..Dosnt make any sense

  18. January 4, 2016

    They’re about to fire Benitez, with Zidane to take over.

    • georgjorge
      January 4, 2016

      You have to love those short-term decisions…how long did Benitez get to try, half a seaon? After they fired one of the most distinguished coaches in Europe, Ancelotti, for him (not to mention the team seemed to get along with Ancelotti very well)?

      Zidane said about one month ago that he “wasn’t ready for coaching the first team”. He must have learned a lot in the last few weeks.

    • January 4, 2016

      From Florentino Perez on Dec. 18: “If we thought Rafa Benitez was the coach for this, how are we going to tell him to leave after 3 months?”

  19. Jim
    January 4, 2016

    I don’t think for a minute Zidane is ready but he will get player buy in for the rest of the season and RM are better than their recent performances. If I were him, first or second match I’d hook Ronaldo to establish my credentials while I have the clout.

    • January 4, 2016

      The biggest question about this will be how much carte blanche does he have. “Pour encourager les autres” works when you have that. Guardiola jettisoned Deco and Ronaldinho and had a go at Eto’o, which made it clear that the players either had to buy in, or they wouldn’t be at Barça for very long. Ibrahimovic another example.

      Sell Ronaldo and Pepe and give Ramos the stinkeye, and I suspect that buy in would be fairly immediate.

    • Davour
      January 4, 2016

      Mid-season, this should be more difficult, I suppose. Still, seems Benitez is falling out with several players, and that can never end well… oh, wait, what happened at Barca last season around this time a year? Right.

      Hell, why don’t Perez take over himself, that should be a fun ride.

    • G6O
      January 4, 2016

      It’s a very bad time for anyone to start in January — you can only do large-scale changes in the squad in summer, not in the middle of the season. So whoever comes in, will have to spend 5 months with this squad, which will be plenty of time to lose the dressing room (it’s much more difficult to gain respect by making power moves such as shipping off key players who no longer perform up to the needed standard) after you have spent that much time with your hands tied.

      Also, Zidane might be around the same level of club legend as Pep was for us, however, that still means very different things in the two clubs. Even if he had won nothing his first season, it is highly doubtful that Pep would have been fired. Because we were already there in 2003-2004 — Rijkard did not win anything, and the situation was in fact very bad mid-season, but the club trusted him and eventuallyi t became clear we were on the right track. In fact last season it was a fairly similar situation and the club again had patience, which paid off eventually. I don’t think they work the same way in Madrid.

      Finally, and this is overlooked by most, Pep had a very unique footballing training, which Zidane does not have,. Zidane was a very intelligent player, who relied on his vision and inventiveness to compensate for his lack of pace, and was still able to dominate. This is the kind of player material that often makes a great coach. However, Pep had 5 years with Cruyff, and then 4 years with Van Gaal. This on top of coming out of La Masia. Zidane has never been coached by visionaries like those two. Has he implemented an amazing playing philosophy while coaching the reserves? I haven’t heard anything of the sort.

  20. lala10
    January 4, 2016

    Enter Your Comment…as good as we have been, and we have been very very good, our reign has surely been aided by EE having a clown of a president in charge. Prick beneath the gentility and money and respectability and Flo is basically incompetent and out of depth.

    The depth of the foolishness and hypocrisy is that he demands a standard of his coaches that he himself barely achieves in sporting terms. Any self introspection would have meant he was out of that club a long long time ago.

    Long may it continue though. We have a lot of ground to catch but one can’t fail to notice the irony of it all

    • G6O
      January 4, 2016

      I doubt it would be much better for them if it wasn’t Flo in charge but someone else. They won a couple titles while he was gone but that was only due to us falling apart.

      Our advantage is the footballing philosophy, which they don’t have. A lot of the organisational advantage we have (if we do have such an advantage, given all the screw ups we’ve witnessed over the years) probably derives from the commitment to it as that brings in an additional element of stability. And the advantage on the field definitely does — all else equal, the team that has players who have had literally decades to learn how to play in a system and with each other will always be able to do things that others cannot match. They don’t have that and show no signs of going in that direction, which means we will enjoy an advantage for the foreseeable future. It also means that the greatest danger to us is success making us lose track of what made us so successful and abandoning those practices. There have been many warning signs of that kind over the last few years

  21. G6O
    January 4, 2016

    P.S. If I were Zidane I would not have accepted the job right now. This is an absolutely no-win situation for him right now.

  22. mr.undercover
    January 4, 2016

    Zidane ended his football career disastrously as a player. And now he has a chance to ruin it as a coach as well by accepting RM job, I pity the man because he has zero knowledge about coaching and that what he evinced during his spell at the casilla Unlike pep who did remarkable things at barca B. And was tutored under cryuf, van gaal and the like of el cholo( bielsa). Let’s wait and see what he got, but am quite sure he won’t pull a guardiola as some madristas hopes

  23. luisthebeast
    January 4, 2016

    Thank god it s not Mou again!We relaxed with Carlito and Rafa and a comeback of Mou would bring back the mindgames and all that nonsense!I was not a fan of Zidane when he was a player,i believe his behaviour on field was not right many times.Very good offcourse but mostly with the great NT France had.Well what they do is their business and i dont care so much.But they must watch out because Villareal is only one point behind them;-)

    • Jim
      January 5, 2016

      I’m with you on Zidane, Luis. Of all the great players I’ve enjoyed watching ( and he was certainly one – loved that spin turn he used to do. If you get that wrong you get clobbered) he was the one I warmed to least. I suspect he was a product of his upbringing but it often showed itself in very negative ways. Mind you, as far as dealing with players is concerned, I doubt they’ll be in any doubt of the hard streak which he has in spades.

      Whether he is right to take the job now? For me, anyone who takes the job while we have Messi is heading for a fall. Add Neymar, Iniesta, Pique, Suarez and Busi and it has to be a supreme optimist or someone looking for a final large pay check !

      What will be interesting is to see what changes are made to the structure of their team. At the moment there creative players are either shackled like Modric or not playing enough like James and Isco. Kroos looks to me ineffective and neither Bale nor Ronaldo can operate against tight defences. However, there is a prize there for anyone getting the structure right as there are some outstanding players in their squad and they certainly aren’t out of it. Depends on who actually makes the decisions on structure, tactics etc. ( it won’t be Zidane) which I don’t know enough about.

    • Davour
      January 5, 2016

      Well, despite us having Messi, they can snatch a title or two along the way (like CL)… CR is a far cry from the threat he once was, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious, despite partly concealed by stats. What struck me when watching them against Valencia, was that they have plenty of good players, and these players ran at the defence successfully, creating danger (if not scoring) several times – Marcelo, Bale, Modric, Kovacevic – but there was little joint creativity in this; they did not work together properly. If Zidane can manage this a bit better (like using Isco, who’s a passer, and perhaps dropping Kroos who is slow at lacks creativity right now), they will be dangerous, obviously.

      And we must find our way back to fluidity WITH Messi. I would be intrigued to see an eleven including both Iniesta and Arda (and Busi, of course), where Messi stuck to his flank bit more, and Alves (or whoever) covered defence on the right. Could be blast!

  24. Jim
    January 5, 2016

    May my bones rot in an English teachers’ care home! * their

    • ooga aga
      January 6, 2016

      Aww jim your the best!

      See what i did there? 🙂

  25. ooga aga
    January 6, 2016

    Thanks kxevin for more good reading.

    I see arda and aleix are in the squad for tomorrow. Sandro and Adriano plus claudio bravo left out for “technical reasons “. Sergi Roberto left out with a contusion.

    • ooga aga
      January 6, 2016

      Luis enrique said that they have GPS data showing that both arda and aleix are fit for full 90 minutes.

  26. raj
    January 6, 2016

    I am really looking forward to today’s clash for two reasons

    1. How will the two new guys fit in? Especially excited about Arda, he has a higher ceiling than Athletico Madrid allowed him to achieve.

    2. How will Messi react to the mid-week ‘loss’, given that a lot of stuff has been said about his return?

    • raj
      January 6, 2016

      Oh, the hell! There is no broadcast in India today.

      They somehow forgot to get the rights for the Cup games of the league where three of the top five teams in the world play!

      The irony is, there are at least three channels in India exclusively dedicated to football. And if you look at the TV listing for these channels today, it is filled with highlights of some odd matches from god-forsaken French and Dutch leagues.

    • Jim
      January 6, 2016

      Tell me about it, Raj. Sky is boasting about having the rights to the Copa yet hasn’t shown a minute yet. Awful coverage. Still bummed about the demise of Revista.

  27. Davour
    January 6, 2016

    Well, that was a different ride, wasn’t it? Messi dominating, Ini showing class, Neymar back to initiating and Suarez plays bad cop. Fine debut by Arda; harder to judge Vidal at that point of the game, but after a few shaky touches he looked alright to me.

    Some very nice football this team can produce when inspired! Now hoping for some key players to rest in the return leg.

  28. Cyclops
    January 6, 2016

    Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold…
    50 freekicks hit the bar, 49 glances off the crossbar, and 1- a 35 yard screamer, finally storm into the Goalpost, YAY!! i’ll take it! couldnt have asked for a better script..Messi Rocks!

    As for Real, Lius you’re on point, i couldnt care less whatever they do with their Lives..The funny thing is that Uber-delusion thats seems to be pervading the twisted thought of every so called madrista- actually comparing Zidane with Pep, how unfortunately deluded can folks get, uh? if they sincerely think Zidane can match Pep they’ve got another think coming…well, cant say much about that because the whole topic sucks
    Buh whatever the case, they keep on changing Coaches, we Keep on Changing the Trophies..we couldnt have asked for a better Deal..May this Mutually Struck Deal live Forever!

    • G6O
      January 6, 2016

      Allow me to disagree.

      There is the fact that they are our biggest rival so we have no choice but paying some attention to what happens there..

      But much more importantly, one can learn just as much from observing how things should not be done as from watching those who do it right. We have been doing it right for some time, but over the last few years many things have happened that suggest the club is changing direction and not for the better. Thus the lessons from Madrid have to be learned by observing Madrid so that we don’t have to learn them the harder way.

      It was said above that as long as we have Messi, we will be fine. True. But that sentence does not have just the “we will be find” clause in it, it also has “as long as we have Messi” in it, and we won’t have him forever. Sure, it might turn out that the Korean kid turns out to be just as good as him and we have a smooth transition in which Neymar takes over as the best player in the world for a few years, then he passes the torch to him, and we’re comfortably on top for another decade and a half. But more likely it won’t happen that smoothly. So what do we do in that situation? The knee-jerk reaction is to splash the money on stupid transfers, and if the organizational crisis in the club continues, this is what will probably happen. And we’ll end up like Madrid. Or, what is perhaps a better example, because Madrid have been stupid for a very long time so that’s not news anymore, Man Utd. There you see it very clearly.A great club that was doing it right for a longtime — promoting from within, many smart buys combined with some more expensive transfers here and there, and most importantly, having a lot of patience and thinking about the long-term future — but now they’re a complete mess, just wasting money trying to buy success immediately. Which shows you how quickly things can fall apart.

      Finally, the reason the club is so loved right now all over the world is not just the success it has had and the fantastic football it plays, it is also that it stands in opposition to Madrid and the way they do things — being so arrogant and spending so recklessly, yet not being able to beat us consistently We, in contrast, serve as an example of how such amazing success can be achieved while doing things “the right way” (to what extent our practices are in true opposition to theirs is another story, but that is the perception). There is a lot of appeal in this. But if that difference disappears, we will be just like them, and that will be a disaster.

    • georgjorge
      January 6, 2016

      What the…? If this quote is real, then we have found the new Pepe of the Liga. Disgusting. I still wonder what he said to the ref (or was it Suarez?) though…

  29. luisthebeast
    January 6, 2016

    I like intensity in our games.I like the opponent to play hard and to fight.But this team play against us with only purpose to injure our players.That s not football.What their GK did,deserves the maximum games ban.Its coward and dangerous.Also Ney must stay in bench in the second game.It s a miracle that he is ok.All the Big clubs in Europe face derbies in a season.But that is out of limits.

  30. luisthebeast
    January 6, 2016

    And to answer about why i dont care so much about madrid is that cause i have faith in our team and if they play as they can,they can beat anyone:-)

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