The View From The Stands: Stuttgart-Barça

As with any first-person experience of Barça, we’re willing to publish your experiences. Reader Cesc Blanc had the good fortune to attend the Stuttgart match and was kind enough to do a write up. A quick disclaimer: the views expressed in this post are those of the author and do not reflect official BFB policy or position. Enjoy and thank you, CB!

Our intrepid man on the scene

The good people of Google maps said that the trip from Vienna to Stuttgart was exactly 666kms, quite a strange number. In the end, it turned out to be less for whatever reason, but that number should have been warning enough for me: we’re dancing with the devil. The trip to Benztown turned out to be 6 hours and 36 minutes exactly. As you can see, there’s a pattern with the 6, which we will come back to later.

Stuttgart is famous for its cars. Obviously, Mercedes Benz is from Stuttgart, but the Porsche factory is also in Stuttgart. It’s kind of like Detroit in that regard. They even have—or better said used to have—a strong German Hip Hop and music scene in general. Cars and music. Just that, while Detroit has an incredible line of musicians from the times of Barry Gordy and Motown, to the late great J Dilla and Black Milk, Stuttgart’s rap and music scene, consisting of local heroes Max Herre, Afrob and Massive Töne was never that great. But Stuttgart makes great cars, while Detroit still has GM and Chrysler. It would be a swell idea to make one city out of the two, but we’re getting off topic.

The trip to Stuttgart was really great as we enjoyed the Arts of German engineering. My friend with whom I was driving on the trip has an 80s Mercedes Coupe, so it was kind of like driving the car back to its home. Also, if you ever make it to Germany, you just have to hit the Autobahn, which is just as great as they say it is. In fact, I would go as far to say that the best thing about Germany and the best thing to see in Germany is the Autobahn, as it’s just thousands of kilometers of endless driving fun without any speed limits and is well built. Also, if you ever make it to Stuttgart, make sure you visit the Mercedes Museum, which is great fun for 4 Euros entry, but if you have to pay 8 Euros, you might feel a little bit ripped off. However, you get an awesome lanyard from Mercedes and you see a lot of cool cars. That is of course, if you’re into cars. If you’re not into cars, make sure to stay the hell out of Stuttgart, as you will probably die a miserable death out of boredom, as the city has otherwise not that much to offer.

The day continued to be a bit bizarre. Half of the away section was filled with Barça fans from Poland. Now, the bizarre part about this is that Catalans are called “Poles/Polakos” in rest of Spain and there are also two satire shows on Catalan TV called Polonia and Crackovia (as in Krakow). The experience got even more bizarre, however, once they started to sing Barça songs in Polish. As a Barça fan of Iranian origin living in Vienna, I obviously have no problem with international Barça fans. What’s more, just as German cars are a sign of quality, so to are “Polish football fans”, so if we should make it to Madrid, I really hope for a strong support from our friends in Poland. But still, that was a funny sight. However, nothing was more bizarre than seeing around forty-thousand German fans from Swabia sing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” before the game as their anthem, to be honest, is quite pathetic. [Watch VfB’s YNWA here; their anthem is called “Stuttgart für immer” or “Stuttgart Forever”. –ed] Even more pathetic was the announcement of the teams line-up, which was backed by a very loud Euro dance song—Get ready for this—that was frankly unbearable.

Isaiah has already touched on the stadium, which was still a construction site. But the field looked actually even more artificial and small in real life than on TV, which gave Stuttgart a real home field advantage. Further, for whatever reason, Team Pep decided to warm up on the field quite late, around 15 minutes after Stuttgart started and they concentrated rather more on stretching and dance moves, than to practice with the ball. I don’t really know how much they practiced on the field the day before but it would have been good to know the dimensions of it better, which takes me back to Stuttgart and their home field advantage.

Given the size of the field and given the fact that Stuttgart now have, in Christian Gross, a manager who actually knows a thing or two about football and certainly knows how to press, it was going to be a tough game for us, no matter the injuries and form. Teams that are daring and smart enough to attack us earlier and leave little space between lines, will always make us suffer, at least much more than teams who just don’t give a crap and do nothing for the game. Our team consisted of Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Marquez, Maxwell, Xavi, Touré, Yaya, Busquets, Messi, Ibra, Iniesta. Given the size of the field and the fact that Henry needs some space to run into, which he wouldn’t have in Stuttgart from the start, the line-up kind of made sense. However, we turned out to play without Ibra and with only 10 men because the players decided to do so in the first half, and that’s where we paid the price.

If the big homie wouldn’t have scored, he might have been blamed for everything and people would have asked Eto’o back on the spot. But the point is that poor Ibra in the first half got only 5 passes and none of them inside the box. While usually Alves and Abidal cross early and stretch the opponents defense by playing wide, Puyol as an example didn’t have a single cross on Ibra’s head in the first half and barely came close to the sideline. Even worse was the sight of Xavi trying to play through passes to him. Overall, Xavi was rather erratic on that night, which I can’t blame him that much for as he was coming back from an injury and obviously, with all the 6s involved, it had to be him. But his lack of movement, specially his usual movement without the ball into the box, the llegada, hurt our offensive game and also hurt Messi’s game. Messi usually has 2 players on the right side to play with who can also take off 1 or 2 extra defenders and leave him 1 against 1 where he is almost unstoppable or in case of 2 against 1, one of them is free to do something. However, with Xavi’s lack of movement and Puyol’s lack of offense, Messi was always trapped with 1 extra defender at least and had it difficult to be himself, as he lacked the support. I later saw comments that he lacked involvement. The truth is however that for 90 minutes, he was probably the one player most involved and active and really tried hard but he didn’t have his usual support on the right side.

Another player who looked bad on TV was Busquets. I received at least 4 SMS about him being useless and that he has to get subbed out. Far from truth, it was Big Yaya who had the stinker. Don’t get me wrong as I’m a Yaya fan since his days at Olympiacos, but in the first half alone he had 3 big turnovers in midfield, while the team was moving forward, because he kept the ball for too long. While The Yaya is great in Camp Nou, great against Madrid and one hell of a monster player, on a small field against a team playing pressing against him, he looks a bit out of the game as a pivot as his ball distribution is still slowish. The difference was clear as day once Busquets played in that position, as his sense for the right position and his quicker passing helped our game a lot. To prove the point on Busquets, try to catch a glimpse of him after the 70th minute, where the Stuttgart fans booed every touch of him because he play acted before. All cheers against him were for exactly 2 seconds, 1 second before he got the ball and the other second for when he had it and passed it on. It was mad funny seeing the fans boo him for exactly 2 second and be in a permanent start-stop mode, as if Busquets was intentionally playing with them.

However, I can assure everyone that Marquez was just as bad in the stadium was he was on TV, which is tough for me to say as a big fan of El Kaiser.

Overall, the 2nd half of the game was good football by Barça and although Henry obviously didn’t score, his introduction later in the game worked well, as he stretched the defense, worked well in transition and exploited the lack of speed of Stuttgart’s defense, just that his teammates made too little use of it. Further, this pushed Iniesta back into midfield, where he just plays a lot better.

I don’t really like to give grades [trying to take Kevin’s job, eh? –ed], so I will rather write a couple lines on each player:

For Puyol, Marquez,Yaya, Xavi: see comments above. For the rest:

Valdes: Great game and almost flawless. Don’t know if he could have saved the header but had at least 2 or 3 game-defining saves. Overall, he has turned into a goalkeeper who can win or draw games for us.
Piqué: A beast and the most impressive player to watch. Not the fastest but almost unbeatable due to excellent positioning. Cleared more or less everything that got through to him.
Maxwell: Looked better in the stadium too. Good sense of positioning. Crosses a bit sloppy and he is not Alves or Abidal, but is good.
Busquets: In the second half probably our most important player.
Iniesta: Bad game on the wing but excellent in central midfield.
Messi: Given the circumstances as mentioned above, a good game.
Ibra: The second half told us why we bought him. He is a presence and it’s incredible to see what he can do with the ball. One of those players who are more impressive in real life than on TV. Also, gets extra credit for shoving Cacau and Lehmann.
Henry: Good second half for his running, although it didn’t have the desired effect but he lacked the passes too. There were at least 2-3 scenarios where he was running himself to or from the second post off his marker and a simple diagonal pass by Alves would have led to a goal, but he didn’t play.
Milito: The sight that got me happiest probably. He was El Mariscal and didn’t allow a single player to get past him. He is definitely getting back in shape and will be of great importance.

The second half was promising and we should keep in mind that we had a similar rubbish game against Lyon last season, who were by no means stronger than Stuttgart is this season. If Stuttgart come with a similar game plan against Barça, then we obviously have a better chance for winning as we will have much more space behind the defense and between lines to exploit in Camp Nou. However, as Pep said, the series will be decided in the 2nd leg and the bear is not caught yet to sell the skin. [aka don’t count your chickens before they hatch

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

56 Comments

  1. Tyler
    February 25, 2010

    wow, thanks for this first hand account! I’m green with extreme envy. I have a question, “did you hear anything or what was the atmosphere like the moment Ibra came into shove that guy” it seemed very contentious on t.v. and I was wondering if the rest of the crowd saw it clearly.

    • Cesc Blanc
      February 25, 2010

      his first shove against Lehmann was visible and he got some Ibra Ibra chants from the away support. The second incident was a lot of incident at once so from what I got, they didn’t really realize it but the crowd had reached a point anyway, also thanks to Busi, that they were booing everything we did.

  2. y2k156
    February 25, 2010

    great review. it helps to have some one in stadium as tv cameras dont tend to show all the things all the time. maybe we should send some one to attend one of barca matches. i dont mind going to a game or two lol.

    • vicsoc8
      February 25, 2010

      I’m also willing to take one for the team and attend a match or two. If only I wasn’t so poor.

      • y2k156
        February 25, 2010

        🙂

        I shall be in Barcelona in first week of April. I see that we play Athletic Bilbao in Nou Camp so i will mostly go to see the match. Can add to this live report trend.

  3. Kxevin
    February 25, 2010

    This report points out a lot of what I saw when I was in Barcelona, then came home to watch the matches: it’s really different in person.

    Great report that was very cool to have. Thanks so much for the report!

    • Jnice
      February 25, 2010

      Hey, Kev, weren’t you supposed to post pictures and things like that of your trip to Barcelona for the matches against Inter and Madrid or am I delusional?

        • Kxevin
          February 26, 2010

          cough real life cough. 😀

          Actually, enough time elapsed where I didn’t figure that anyone was interested anymore.

          • Jnice
            February 26, 2010

            LOL, you were wrong! It’s okay, though. I understand the demands of a real job, even though I’m still a senior in college and don’t want a real job. 😀

    • Cesc Blanc
      February 25, 2010

      thanks mate.stadium is always a different experience in terms of seeing the game.

  4. vicsoc8
    February 25, 2010

    Great Report, always nice to hear from someone who was at the game.

  5. Jnice
    February 25, 2010

    Great report, man. Really interesting to read about the game from the perspective of someone who was there.

  6. Hector
    February 25, 2010

    That’s awesome, CB!

    Being a former kart/car racer who has an autobahn visit on his Bucket List that as of yet still remains unchecked, I am double jelous. 😀

    It is different in real life. Seeing the whole field simultaneously always helps. My sincere compliments on some of your observations. It took me quite a few viewings to catch a few of those. Interesting observation regarding the warmups and the size and state of the field. Great job!

    • Hector
      February 25, 2010

      I was saying the exact same thing during the game regarding Sergio. The booing seemed to amp up Biscuit’s powers exponentially. We should boo him at the Camp Nou if he reacts like that.

      • Kxevin
        February 25, 2010

        True thar, Hector. In the “bucket list” category, I was trying to explain to someone how flying in an F-18 with the Blue Angels didn’t compare to howling the anthem at El Clasic, from underneath a giant Barca banner, and he looked at me like I was crazy.

          • JMo
            February 25, 2010

            I’ve still never been to the camp for a match. It’s on my list of To Do’s in the next two to three years.

            can’t wait to go, especially if its against madrid or espanyol

          • Kxevin
            February 26, 2010

            Yep, and because the TV reporter puked, I also got her fuel, so I was up in the jet for about an hour. Resulted in my first Page One story.

            The banner was just this year. As I was singing the anthem, this thing whacked me in the back of the head, then covered it, before I realized what it was. 😀

          • Hector
            February 26, 2010

            That is AWESOME!

            I totally would have puked as well unless they let me pilot the F-18 😀 . I got sick in my own race car once when I let a pro drive it to see what tips I could get from his line. Never again.

          • Kxevin
            February 26, 2010

            And Hector, the pilot did indeed let me fly the plane. He had the pedals, but I had the stick. We did some barrel rolls, some loops and some other crazy crap. It was recompense for making me pass out at 6.5Gs. 😀

          • eklavya
            February 26, 2010

            You guys are crazy. Simply, purely crazy. 🙂

  7. Helge
    February 25, 2010

    Wow, that’s some interesting news about the Polish Barca fans. Maybe it’s no coincidence that there was once a blog member who bought a great set of Matryoshka Dolls in Prague with Puyol, Messi, Eto’o and Co. – which I’m still looking for, to put them on my desk 😀

    And I completely agree on the paltriness of singing “You’ll never walk alone” as your club’s hymn as long as you aren’t Liverpool or Celtic.

    • Barcamaniac
      February 25, 2010

      I can get you a contact that might have a set of dolls custom made and shipped to you depending on the budget. Let me know your email if this is of interest.

      BTW, matryoshka has nothing to do with Poland. It’s Russian. 😉

    • eklavya
      February 26, 2010

      The one who bought the dolls would be me … and I’m still around!!! 😀

      The weird thing about it was that it had last season’s jerseys but Messi still had the number 19.

  8. Barcamaniac
    February 25, 2010

    Thanks for your account, CB. Very interesting.

    Just remembered to point out that Pique keeps on doing those lunging tackles. Someone has to tell him off or else rojas directas are coming our way very soon.

  9. Cesc Blanc
    February 25, 2010

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    I have two theories for the reason the Polish friends support Barca. Obviously, their own league is crap so it’s quite usual for people from countries with crappy leagues to support teams from other countries. I have actually heard that they are quite big in general in support for foreign teams. Now, the reason so many of them support Barca, at least according to my theory, is the late Karol Wojtyla aka Pope John Paul II, who became Barca member in 1982 when he had his visit at the Camp Nou. So that’s my reasoning for the support.

    Regarding Pique and his tackles, it gets problematic when he is late but against Stuttgart, he was mostly on time. Also, some refs in Europe don’t give as many fouls as Spanish do.

  10. vicsoc8
    February 25, 2010

    Apparently Gerard Pique has agreed to extend his contract until 2015. This is excellent news.

  11. Cesc Blanc
    February 26, 2010

    btw. I don’t know how visible this is but the reason I took that picture was because of the awesome crane in the back(yes, it was a stadium with a crane on one end. Beats Braga!)

  12. eklavya
    February 26, 2010

    BTW, Christian Gross was also the manager of FC Basel who beat 5-0. I’m just saying.

    • Cesc Blanc
      February 26, 2010

      The difference is that Stuttgart has several national team players from half decent national teams like Germany, Russia, Mexico, etc. and plays in the German league, while Basel has maybe 3 Swiss national team players and plays in the Swiss league.

      Besides, they drew us 1-1 at home in the return leg. Just saying. 😉

      • eklavya
        February 26, 2010

        Yeah, it shows how a lot depends on the players you have and not just the coach. *Cough you are listening F.Perez cough*

  13. eklavya
    February 26, 2010

    BTW, Christian Gross was also the manager of FC Basel who we beat 5-0. I’m just saying.

  14. February 26, 2010

    Good stuff Cesc Blanc! It’s amazing that this blog has such a worldwide audience. It would be interesting to know how many fellow bloggers here are actually from Barcelona and how many people of different nationalities actually regularly follow this blog!

    Interesting insight again!

  15. Kxevin
    February 26, 2010

    ‘Tis a good day all around:
    –Pique renews until 2015, and is on record as saying that he wants to spend his entire career with us.

    –The Yaya has come out an called bullshit on all the Premiership rumors, saying that he is fully committed to us now, and for the foreseeable future.

    –Finally, Dani Alves came out to clarify his recent misinterpreted contract statements, saying that he, too, is fully in, and has no worries about a new deal when it’s time, but that he doesn’t believe in demanding new deals, or sweetenings.

    So nice to have a stable locker room, once agents shut the hell up (in the case of The Yaya).

    • vicsoc8
      February 26, 2010

      Not at all surprised with either Dani or Pique, but still good news nonetheless.

      Honestly I haven’t been worried about Yaya since he started giving interviews in Catalan a week or two ago. That alone spoke much louder than any words.

  16. Barcamaniac
    February 26, 2010

    Hey Hector, what is Messi saying on your avatar?

    • Hector
      February 26, 2010

      OMG Legos!!!

      Messi LOVES his legos.

  17. Fabian4Barça
    February 26, 2010

    Will anyone be in Barcelona for the Xerez match on April 25?
    A fellow culé and I would love to meet other fans for some tapas and a cerveza.

  18. Bill
    February 26, 2010

    Yeah I’m not surprised by the polish support anymore, I went there earlier this month for the first time ever (why I thought going from chicago to Poland in february for vacation was a good idea is still beyond me…one of my many bone-headed decisions I make!)

    But what struck me as interesting was the many Barca shirts I saw, plus the sporting goods stores in small towns like Radom and Drzewica that carried barca items. Quite a few Man U and Madrid items too. Just like in east africa where you see a lot of Man U, Liverpool & Arsenal kit wearing people walking down the streets.

  19. Bill
    February 26, 2010

    Cesc, is that a stadium or an open field with a roof on metal stilts? It looks pretty open from that picture.

    • Cesc Blanc
      February 26, 2010

      no, it’s an actual stadium. It used to have a track around it but they got rid of it and made the stadium smaller and obviously, it’s still in construction mode.

  20. JC
    February 26, 2010

    Hi guys, been a while since I’ve commented. Can someone tell Pique to stop with his 2 footed lunges? He’s gonna get himself or an opponent injured soon. And not to mention another red card….

  21. Cure
    February 26, 2010

    Hi, you have a cool blog going on. I have never been to a Barcelona game but I would like to some day. I just started my own blog on Barcelona. Check it out and comment.

  22. eklavya
    February 26, 2010

    So Piqué has officially renewed his contract:

    *http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/english/noticies/futbol/temporada09-10/02/26/n100226109542.html

  23. Tyler
    February 26, 2010

    Looks like Alves will be fit for Malaga too!!!!!!

    Isaiah please hector me with a preview!!!!

    • Kxevin
      February 26, 2010

      Was just thinking that very thing, Tyler. But there’s a big-ass power outage on the E. Coast. I hope Isaiah isn’t caught up in that, or you poor sods will have to suffer through one of my lame-ass previews. 😀

      • Tyler
        February 26, 2010

        Oh snap, I heard about that, something like two feet of snow in some areas I heard. Well I would empathize with him but I live in Texas and it is sunny and 60 degrees right now!

        Hope you’re alright Isaiah, and if need be, I guess I can muster the desire to read through a Kxevin preview : )

        haha, j/k, just feed my Barca appetite ANYONE. I hope Puyol is able to deliver a much deserved blow to Weligton this time around. I’m still pissed about what he did to Messi back in the fall.

  24. Kxevin
    February 26, 2010

    Nice quote from Guardiola:

    “When things are going poorly, I never, I repeat, never yell at them. I yell at them when we are winning 4-0. I told them that they were great players and that we were going to go forward playing well.”

  25. February 26, 2010

    Hello all, hope your day is going well!!! I have been thinking for a few days about our situation at right back and wanted the forums thoughts. For my money Dani Alves is an Iron Horse, who is one of the two best players in the world at his position. Equally important is how much he affects Messi’s success on on the right wing. The issue is, he is not indestructible and need some time of to heal from injuries from time to time. On the left back we have Maxwell as a perfectly suitble backup for French Greyhound, and befor the Sylvinho did his job pretty well. THe problem is, we really dont have cover on the right. Our chouces are a call up from Barca B or move our Capitan over. The problems with El captain are as follows, if he moves, we loose our anchor at CB, he looses his legs for a few weeks, meaning he is easier to beat for pace, he legs are so tired so he cannot jump as high to defend balls, and our right side offense grinds down to a screeching halt when the ball is at his feet,

    Now I am not saying we need to go out and buy a big time right back, as we have that already in Dani, and i am also not suggesting us going out and buying some cant miss starlet to groom into the position, that’s is what e=we are ‘hoping’ Barta will be. So now, we don’t need David Santon (it would be great to snag him though lol.)

    So I think we need a veteran, not to old, not to young, but someone who has succeeds and would know his role as a backup on our team, he also need to be fiscally attainable. So who do you guys think we could pick up to fill our ‘Maxwell role’ on the right.

    Personally I like Andoni Iraola of Bilbao, but I doubt if he would concede to being a bench/role player. Rafael of United would be a perfect fit for us, being groomed by Dano for 3 years or so. So if you guys could bring in s right back to backup Dani

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