Barça 2, Atleti 1, aka “Let sleeping Messis lie”

What a match. It’s easy to reduce football to theory, and say that for yet another match Barça didn’t play well, certain players were slightly off color, this happened and that happened.

We will get plenty of that type of analysis after the match, from pundits far and wide. What made this match exceptional for me was that Barça didn’t play well, faced a team that was playing a perfect match, and won by playing its game. Barça played well enough to win. Footballing sonnets are built upon a great team playing in full song, but championships are built upon a great team playing off key and still getting it done. It’s the leeway granted by extravagant supplies of talent.

The match kicked off to the blueprint of the previous Barça matches, only with a much higher-quality, more resolute opponent. Atleti was brilliant at compressing space, making Barça play off the back foot, getting to every last loose ball first and winning every 50/50 challenge. Only Pique and Mascherano were up to the physical task, as the team  looked slow and clunky.

Atleti took a deserved lead when Alba fell down, his usual trick of hoping to draw a foul after he gets undressed by an attacker. Undiamo Mallenco was having none of it, and after a folly of defending that saw Alves slack and Rakitic a spectator, Barça went down 0-1 at home.

Not content with that, Atleti kept coming at Barça, hard and fast. The complicating thing was that they were also being physical past the point of acceptability, and Mallenco was doling out fouls and finally, cards as the match teetered back and forth, Atleti pressing and Barça weathering the storm until the engine got warmed up. Then, an extraordinary thing happened.

Filipe Luis gave Messi a hard foul, one of his many cardable offences, and it woke up the Barça dynamo. He tracked back to break up an Atleti attack, fast strong and physical and suddenly, his teammates were awake. Messidependencia isn’t a thing any longer, but Messinspiration apparently still is. That defensive play sparked Barça into life, and the ball started moving quickly. Suddenly they were on the front foot, and Atleti was hanging on. The largest difference is that the quality of the players Atleti was trying to keep at bay would prove to be too much.

Messi went from involved bystander to electric, dominant presence. Atleti was set up to control Neymar, figuring that he would be doing all of the damage. Who didn’t, in the form that he was in. But Messi has not only footballing skills to call upon, but the power of inspiration. He started moving faster, and so did the ball and his teammates as things swung from a second goal for Atleti seeming inevitable, to a first for Barça all but certain.

When that goal came it was beautiful, a scythe of a goal with roots in creativity, pragmatism, beauty and power. A ball was worked loose and Mascherano, quickly seeing the available advantage, laced a long, hard, sharp pass to Neymar, who got the dominoes rolling. He sent Alba into space and the Barça left back, feeling the exact right moment, found Messi, who had gotten inside position on his defenders and smoked the one-touch shot past Oblak.

It wasn’t just 1-1. Atleti almost reacted as though that goal was worth two. For the first 20 minutes of the match they had been dominant. Barça played football for about 30 seconds and suddenly, the score was equal. The second goal was as exceptional as the first, even though very different as Dani Alves laced a seeing-eye long pass to Suarez, who bodied off his defender and stroked home past Oblak. It was a goal very similar to his winner against Real Madrid last season, and resulted in the same scoreline.

It was a different kind of violence, of the psychological kind, to a team that had done everything right and was, almost inexplicably, down a goal. It only made sense in the context of great players doing what they do. Atleti is a team, an indomitable, deep force. But they don’t have any great players, even as they have very, very good ones. Great players, however, can change everything.

The sad part about the resilient, dynamic display by Atleti is that it was sullied by a moment of reprehensible violence. When Filipe Luis went in, studs bared, HARD on the left knee of Messi, a red card resulted. It was the kind of challenge that can end careers, even if that might not be the intention. After having just watched, the night previous, the challenge that ended Rafinha’s season, it was a terrifying moment as a vile act brought down a gem of a player. The red was clear and warranted, and if the Liga had a shard of guts and decency, Filipe Luis would be facing a lengthy suspension. That kind of play can’t be rewarded, or condoned in any way. Not following up would be tacitly condoning it, and would be a shameful action.

Neymar was being kicked and fouled the entire match, in a league that realizes that it can’t play football with Barça, so it has to try to kick them off the pitch. Atleti came as close as anyone to playing head-to-head with Barça. They came out in the second half on fire, playing as if they had twelve instead of ten, very intelligently compressing space on the pitch to minimize their numerical disadvantage, and Barça played right into their hands, too fond of personal rondos instead of using the full length and width of the pitch to create imbalances as time after time, Atleti took advantage.

Then a pair of key moments decisively decided the outcome of the match. In the Barça box, some exceptional play by Atleti found Griezmann alone on the doorstep. He thought he could just touch the ball past Bravo, who called upon some kind of witchcraft to kick the shot wide, the goal that would have equalized the match at 2-2.

On the other end, another gem of a long pass for Suarez was played by Godin, who tried to make what would have been one of the tackles of his career. But he went in late and hard, and Suarez sold the contact. Godin’s second yellow was the result, as Atleti went down to nine.

What made this just from my chair is that you can’t kick a team off the pitch. If you build up fouls and yellows by trying to kick a team off the pitch, you’re only a foul away from a red card. Barça’s players are too good with the ball at their feet for any team to be able to survive a match like that, and Atleti was no exception. Physical football is one thing, thuggery is something else. Persistent fouling in an effort to put an opponent off of their game might be acceptable for many, but even if we weren’t head over heels for a team that only wants to play football, it shouldn’t sit well.

Atleti didn’t go down to nine because of any conspiracy. It went down to nine because it chose violence at key times over football and reaped the result of those decisions, moments that sullied an excellent match for them in all other respects.

When Barça went up two men, the team seemed to just stroke the ball around. The instinct that had me wanting to see them step on the throttle, wanted to see them destroy the interlopers, was tempered by the reality that this is a team that has been playing a match every few days, a string that will continue. Conservative and pragmatic? Sure. And those things can be unsatisfactory. Atleti got the ball back and made efforts, but the overriding feeling was that Barça had the match under control. A third goal would have been lovely, but the energy conservation might ultimately turn out to be even nicer.

This was a potential six-pointer, as Barça went clear atop the table by three points, and have a match in hand against Sporting Gijon. Notch that and the lead is six points atop the table. Barça had Liga leads in the season nobody wanted and Atleti kept coming back to remain in contention, but this team is harder than that. With Luis Enrique as coach, Barça has played Atleti six times, and won them all.

This was also a remarkable, compelling match of football that was probably much easier for a neutral to enjoy as the tension ratcheted higher with every Atleti foray in to the Barça end. Relief came with the final whistle, a tweeting that also sounded like the final call for a major, bitter Barça rival. The season is still plenty long, and all three of the top teams will drop points yet. But the win was decisive, not only for Barça but for those who dislike seeing a team kicked off the pitch.

By Kxevin

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


  1. Good review. We’ve been complaining about the refs, but this one got a lot right – from Alba’s fall to Luis’ criminal offence. The second yellow for Godin was debatable, but not unwarranted – silly to jump in like that when Suarez was running away from the box.

    Piqué was again masterful, winning almost everyone in the box. He is really the perfect Barca-defender when in form – how many other central defenders would manage to defend so well with so little support? He os often one on one and handles it well, or sweeping up from reading play perfectly. March was good, too, in his more erratic way, necessary against these physical teams.

    The schedule is absolutely insane, and this win from a team clearly tired and somewhat off form felt essential.

    Anyone else who could feel Arda’s radiating? He was far from comfortable, and at one point I could swear he misplaced a pass, thinking he was on the other team… I wonder how he felt, being on the kicking end this time.

    1. Yes, Pique probably would have gotten Man of the Match from me (despite not being called upon so much in the second half). Every time he went for the ball with a tackle or a header he got it or drew a foul.

      I would have expected a much dirtier match, like the matches against Bilbao or Espanyol. Still, all the cards were very warranted.

      Towards the end I was hoping and hoping for that third goal, and I think we would have gotten it if it would have been really needed to win. But Atléti defend just too well to score one against them without 100% determination to attack, and the team was – rightly so – more concerned with retaining possession. I think if Atléti play this well in the Champions League – and can keep eleven on the pitch – they might go very far this year.

  2. Pretty interesting game. The build up to the first goal was enjoyable. The intensity level of the Barcelona players had been raised and it was entertaining to watch. I particularly like the one time volley-pass from Mascherano-Neymar. The assist of the assist of the assist really kept Atletico pinned deep and on the back foot. Great intelligence and urgency to get the ball back into that zone.

    For everyone here what’s your take on Neymar’s mysterious meal in Madrid? Is the reporter really as Neymar describes? Full of $hit? I don’t know. Something doesn’t seem right. To fade back to Kxevin’s previous post: Things to worry off the field.

    1. Don’t know anything about that dinner, but I would be careful to place too much meaning in these insinuations – the media want us to believe. Neymar has been a bit ambiguous of late regarding his future, and we must remember that he is not Messi in terms of ties to the club. But he is also in the midst of a renewal, and surely want to erase any idea that the club should take him for granted…

      And yes, that Masche pass… it’s the kind of pre-assist that Iniesta often produces, and that one should remember when looking at the stats.

  3. This is the most resilient and most reliable in recent memory. This is the first barca in long while that will always get a result whether it is playing champagne football or sunday league football. This is the barca that will be playing bad all day and never look like scoring but wiould score 5 if it needed to. I recall the past barcas where going a goal behind always meant we would almost certainly drop points 90% of the time. But not this barca. Even when we were a mess in the opening minutes and conceded a goal and a Chelsea fan was assuring me that we would lose cos we were been outplayed, I turned and confidently told him that we were winning the match and I could bet my house(I don’t have my own house yet) on that. I was formerly in the #lucho_out camp but after last season, now I so much believe in him and this barca.

  4. Hi Guys,

    Some people at a Madrid blog were ‘discussing’ the Godin foul and thought Saurez should get an Oscar for it!

    So I decided to give them my opinion on diving vs. ‘Milking a foul’. The responses were, well, mixed. So I thought I’d bounce it off here.

    My opinion is that diving is cheating, wrong – legally and ethically.

    On the other hand, exaggerating a foul is a different case. A few classic examples like Saurez vs. Godin yesterday and Alves vs. Pepe in the CL semis (what a match!) come to mind.

    I think it is very important to differentiate the two.

    When a Neymar or CR7 dives when there is no contact, it makes me feel disgusted. Thankfully, never saw Messi do it, this knowledge makes it watching him more enjoyable. And even Neymar hasn’t been doing it lately.

    I think, when the opponent makes a contact without getting/ going for the ball, it is wrong – legally and ethically because that is not what the game is about, Rugby is about that. Those who want to stop an opponent using fouls should consider taking up Rugby then, or face the risk of punishment. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, right?

    Now, coming to the milking of the fouls. I think a victim of contact has every right to do it and is a smart move really. A quote comes which helped me shape a part of my attitude “Not everyone deserves your honesty”. Why does a opponent who wants to beat you by literally beating you deserve your honesty? He is cheating to gain an advantage. Doesn’t Saurez deserve to get back the advantage, even if he used some Hollywood acting to put forward his point of view? I don’t know whether it is legal but ethically, it definitely feels fair.

    If Saurez had got up after the Godin foul and walked away, Godin wouldn’t probably get a red, but is that the right way to judge whether a foul is bad or not? Based on how bad the player is hurt, or how bad, blatant and unnecessary the tackle was. But given that referees are human, it is possible that Godin would have gotten away with it if Saurez hadn’t milked it? And why does Saurez need to be honest about the effect – so Godin can stay and kick him some more? All I can say is Godin or a Pepe had it coming based on their decision to use illegal means.

    What frustrates me is a defender making illegal contact and then complaining to the referee that it didn’t hurt that much or that there is some acting involved. You made an intentional foul, mate, there ends your case. Now, the victim gets a chance to show how bad it is and then the referee will sentence. It really puts bad light some Atheti supporters when they boo Neymar for acting a bit on the ground. Your player kicked him, guys! Have some perspective!

    The best way to ensure that you don’t get a wrong yellow is to simply not foul. You can’t go about kicking people and expect the referee to understand that you didn’t ‘kick’ him that bad! I’d rather watch a match with minimal accidental fouls – and only because of the physical nature of the game itself, rather than fouls being used as a strategy to beat better players.

    1. I agree with you on this. But it remains a fine line. Exaggerating a bit is another weapon to keep the def from being too rough, maybe hesitating, just as the odd knee or shirt-pull, a slight nudge, etc. from the def might unbalance the attacker. Both use words for sure… My point is: there is more to it than we see, and Suarez might very well have gotten a few kicks before – and, importantly, Godin knows for certain that the tackle will be exaggerated. He took an unnecessary chance, a dive that was not needed, and he paid. Within limits, this exchange of dirty tricks is ok – all attackers do not have the ability of Ney or Messi to get back by dribble their opponent…

  5. RM-Espanyol, 3-0 after 16 minutes. A loss what inevitable, but what is wrong with them? A few weeks ago they seemed to have all the pride and honour in the world, fight to the death. Sure, the Barcelona rivalry, but what about the ol’ Franco team? jeez…

    1. Have to hand it to CR, his second goal was nice (while the first was a doubtful penalty). But his teammates seemed a bit embarrassed by his intense celebration, leading 4-0… I don’t care about his pointless scoring, only it would be fun if Suarez won the pichichi, just for a change…

  6. It’s only espanyol wait till they play a better team or better yet play away from home. We only depend on ourselves to win the liga and by the time we are 7pts + above them and 6pts+ above athletico their home thrashings of minnows would count for nothing. And with Athleti and them having a date, any result from that match will be in our favour.

  7. How hard is for a group of players to stay on top.Back in 2006 after we won CL and La Liga i had the belief that we will be the best the next years.And then happened all that chaos.After the treble last season and with the ban i was not so sure the players will have the gas to go again for a full season,game after game,with the same desire and commitment.And now they are 26 games unbeaten.What a group,what a team.It was a great football game and the way we make the comeback shows the quality but also the desire.It was obvious that Busi and Ini was not at their best after the flu,and Ney after the small injury he had.I am not a prophet but if Atletiko continued with eleven all the game we would played a much better second half than the first.Well now lets go for another very hard month.

  8. They played football for 30 seconds and pip Atletico, surely if they’d decided to play for 90 they’d have bisected them…well, thats just all in parenthesis, all lovely thoery-that unfortunately, remains in the realm of Assumption, despite the die-hardest Assertion.
    Point is, i’d have love to see them Translate that to the real life thing, and whip those guys some more.
    Not that i dont believe they can do it, but believing is not all there is to it, so much for believing, it still stays in the realm of Assumption

    But they did it at the Cauldron didnt they? so…? so, Atleti are ‘supposedly’ a better team now, reinvigorated-supposedly, and the naysayers will tell ya because of that Atleti are probably a better team(ridiculous, i know)
    But then, i’d sleep better if the theory is practicalise, and the gain-sayers confounded

    Already, i’d come across lame analysis, that claim Cholo at had the Better of Lucho- he deployed carrasco smartly bla bla bla…And i wonder so Carrasco made the guys played without intensity? lil imgaination?sloppy passes? dosnt seems likely to me..And just when they decided to abandon those misdemeanours and play football- as asserted by the Article, eveidently carrasco and co couldnt stop the football storm

    But then again, we’d always have the doubters, who’d claim doing it in 30 seconds dosnt guarranty doing it 90..
    In any case, i’d feel happier if its done in 90, i dont think its fun using 90mins of my time doing something useless, its sucks
    The redcard obviously didnt help matters, every time a redcard comes my reaction is one of disillusionment, dosnt give me much pleasure watching the guys put Twenty past a team, when on another day, with 11 men on the other side, they’d hardly put up a quareter of those goals…Imagine then when its Two Redcard?!?

    What marvels me is, so after all the hyped about that game, the players just thought to appear on the pitch and get handed the 3 points?!? Right from the 1sthalf no intensity, movements, effort, nothing..its shocking!
    This is like the first time in a while the team has not turned up in a big game, there were just not up for it- but its was Atletico coming to town? a potential six pointer? yet they came into the match like its was against levante, Ha!
    So much for great players doing what they do, if Bravo hadnt kept out the ball with his(100mil worth) foot, the players would have done some explaining….

  9. Neymar, dinner in madrid?..i wouldnt read much into that(fearfully).. These players are really cunning, he’s in the middle of a contract renegotiation afterall, and maybe, just maybe thought to put some chills into the Bug Guys to keep them in Line..
    Remember the infamous Messi Following Chelsea brouhaha, at the begining of last year- just when things were getting a bit messy for him? and yes, the Big guys-LE included, were kept in line after that

    i say this with humour, but honestly i dont think there’s anything humour-ish about these sort of Stunts, i totally abhor them..
    Just a sugestion tho’, a very shaky one.. maybe he just like his dishes better in Madrid(thats if he was ever there)

    Espanyol capitulating(for the billionth time) against Madrid, very much expected fact i’d have sued them at CAS if they’d gotten as much as a draw
    its needles to bother yourself about that score really, even the Great Benitez could pull of a ‘sensational’ victory against them..Carlo could do it also..Mou could do it too..oh wait, that reminds me, the last time Espanyol got points off RM was in 2013, that effectively handed us the league, since then they’ve postrated before them each and every time they’ve met..just maybe they got irked they helped us win the league and swore with their lives never to get any points from RM again…
    That kind of dandy then, i just hope RM be that team that gives them that last smacking defeat that effectively lands them on the segunda division..

  10. I cant recollect the last game in which a ten man team dominated us, even if in patches, until the second red card. Atletico is growing into a really big team. I was glad that Correa was missing this match. But while watching, I was really scared about Correa and Carrasco playing together against our sleepy team.
    Like Cyclops write above, we were milli seconds away between losing 2 points and Bravo’s legs.. Team in whole looked not in the mood. That second red card was the luckiest thing happened to us on Saturday.

    Raj, there would always be fouls in football. Its inevitable. Football, (I can only think about Chess as the other game which can make you feel like you have touched the bottom of your pride), which really hits the man’s pride, when an opponent does things right under your nose. So right away or in the very next available opportunity, you try to do something, if possible with the ball or you vent your anger/frustration with your body on the player.
    As far as diving is concerned, I dont know. We never played in these kind of good grass pitches, and were scared to fall down to those rough surfaces, so foul or not, we always tried to stay on feet. ha ha. Football is not really that gentlemanly. Once you start kicking the ball, you want to win somehow, right or wrong. Its just an anomaly that there are players like Messi and Xavi.

  11. I don’t really understand the sentiment that the team didn’t show up for a big game. They turned the game around before the first sending off, mind you, and were playing increasingly better after Messi woke up. Several players came off a flu on top of a severe schedule of physical, draining matches, and looking at more to come.

    I’m pretty sure there would have been a response to a hypothetical goal at that point in the game. It was obvious the team did not take chances or wanted to waste too much energy. Whenever Messi got the ball in the later stages, he slowed it down, seemingly wanting to establish a “siege” of their box, holding on to the ball.

    A risk? Sure, but surely a calculated one. And AM are not too bad a team, after all…

  12. Yeah, we really only played at our level for those ten/ fifteen minutes towards the end of the first half. Why, I’m not sure. I’m pretty sure that none of those who played had the flu. If you’ve had it you’ll know what I mean. The difference is that you can come back more quickly from a fever. Our first goal was crazy good in terms of timing. For once, Alba paused and looked up before delivering a beautiful ball to the only spot Messi could have made it in front of his marker.

    I think there’s no doubt we thought with the sending off we could conserve some energy and played like it but it was a long time to risk a single goal lead in a vital match. Surely the easier way is to give it twenty minutes top gear to try to get the goal that puts it to bed.? However, the only bit that concerned me really was the opening twenty minutes when fatigue shouldn’t have been an issue. Two requirements for me during that time; match the intensity of their pressing and stay solid at the back taking no chances. After that space will (slightly) open up. I didn’t think our hearts were in the press and we were pretty disorganised in defence.

    For the goal Alba ( not for the first time) gets too close to his man at the throw and involved in pushing. No need. He’s quick enough to deal with anyone in that situation, especially if he just stays close enough to make the guy pass backwards. No issue. I wonder ( again) what Masche was doing so far out when it is a set piece. Iniesta and maybe Busi were both there and left with nothing to do. So they stood and watched but because Masche was way out wide, Pique had to come across into Masche’s covering position which in turn meant that Dani had to come central. Again, no need to ruin our defensive setup when we have time to organise. Especially since Rakitic ended up ball watching on the edge of the area ( look at him – he sees Dani pulled way across but the first time he looks for trouble is as the ball passes his eye line). Not good enough. It was sloppy and throughout the first twenty there were three or four examples of sloppiness. I thought we’d start like a train.

    However, it may be that, as some say, there is a weariness about the side from overplay, and it ended well against our biggest rival for the title so congratulations to the guys for that. Maybe when they went down to nine it was difficult mentally for us to keep pushing. I don’t know. It really is an accomplishment to be challenging so many years in a row. We are looking at an extraordinary side with a particularly exceptional front three who can assist as well as they score and whose movement is a nightmare for opponents. You’d back us to score against anyone so for me our eventual success will come down to the defence and mids.

    With regard to faking injury – for me “milking” is a bit of a euphemism – I’m quite clear. You get up and get on with it , if you can, and leave the ref to deal with it. Any triple roll for me should just about be an automatic yellow for simulation and I loved the way the ref dealt with the Celta episode yesterday with the dive. None of this condones their violence towards us. The two reds were thoroughly deserved and dealt with well by the ref who I thought had a great game but he was already dashing to Godin’s scene before Suarez’ theatrics and Messi’s incident needed no exaggerating. No complaint btw about Suarez’ original leap into the air. That was self preservation and a reason why Messi’s incident was a straight red as it gave no chance to protect himself. I wouldn’t complain if that guy spent a long time on the sidelines.

    1. Thanks for that link Jim. But I thought it was a terrible video, like what is made by the school authorities in a boarding school. Felt bad about all those kids, including Messi, sitting out in cold.
      Well, we all know that right, we have an extra ordinary gem with us.

    2. I mean it without sarcasm when I say that you (Jim) should start a weekly series on this blog analysing the goals we conceded. You already do it after almost every match in the comments, and it often gives me some perspective on what went wrong in a certain situation.

      The team played in energy-preservation mode for the second half, maybe less because they were tired but because they knew they would be tired in a few weeks’ time. It worked well after a shaky start, Atléti had very little of the ball in our half, but of course a stray run from Carrasco or some great combination play could always catch the team unaware, and getting only a draw at home against nine men would have been a huge failure.

    3. Post-match, the analysts on BeIN particularly, were unstinting in their excoriation of Rakitic. It was his man who scored the goal, and he trotted back instead of keeping cover on him, only too late deciding that there would be danger. Nobody mentioned Mascherano. But he was over to provide top side cover for Alba on the loose pressure. Safe to say that nobody expected Alba to fall down and get smoked.

      From 22:29 onward at this link:

      The mess started when Neymar lost possession as the Barça rondo fell victim to the Atleti pressure, which had all outlets covered, leaving the team no choice but to play its way out. That didn’t work.

      From there the defenders were caught ball watching again, but do the right things: Pique covers, and Alves, albeit slackly, picks up the runner into the box. But even then, everything would have been fine had Rakitic tracked Koke. You can see the exasperation in the gesture of Busquets, who understands exactly what happened.

      Rakitic had a difficult match against Athletic midweek, so probably thought he could take a shift off. He was incorrect, and at the team’s film session (pretty sure there is one), Rakitic won’t have to be reminded again of his responsibility to the group. If he covers his man, no goal.

      The other complexity was Alba, which was where it all broke down. Once he tried the argy-bargy and failed, then decided to fall in the hope of getting a foul, everything was a mess. The way Atleti was attacking Barça, best explained by Sid Lowe and Graham Hunter, left the team in something of a tizzy. Their goal took advantage of that consternation.

    4. For me, this is the first nine minutes and we’re under the cosh. Do we really want a situation where three of our back four are out of position and within five yards of the sideline ? Again, for me, and it’s only opinion, Neymar should have been back on the thrower , Busi back on Ini’s man and Iniesta back in front of Alba’s. That allows Masche to stay as cover. If he was cover for Alba it didn’t happen. When Pique moves back to try to cover the low cross they actually have two free men at that side running into our box.

      If you defend properly you always have cover from a situation like this. We were down to bare bones defending from a throw in with one slip on the sideline. I’m not saying at all that the goal was Masche’s fault but I don’t think he should have been where he was. Busi was left with nothing to do. Btw, I’m not sure I’d blame Dani. He was obviously reluctant to come across so far until it was necessary.

      As a comparison, stop the video at 20:59. Exactly the same situation but with Pique organising the defence. Tbf, he doesn’t have to as Rakitic automatically takes up the right position and note that Pique doesn’t commit himself wide keeping our adequate cover.

      Sorry to go on and it’s all opinion but I really enjoy having a look at what could have been done better.

  13. Conserving energy? As Foto rightly stated its was a thin line between Bravo keeping that ball out, and conceding the equalizer..what then?
    Trying to lay a Seige to their Area? well, we didnt quite achieve that did we?
    I think a more indepth dissection of the game should be taken rather than just leaving it at ‘wanting to conserve energy’

    Its more agreeable if the problem was Fatigue- and taking into consideration the first twentyfive minute of the first half, i’d really want to belive its Fatigue, and that more because of Fright than anything else…Even down to Eight Men there still caused problems, that ridiculous..And that alone tells me something was not being done right, its cant get that bad..Masche said ‘The Team didnt play well’, nothing about conserving energy
    A little more Intensity alone could have pushed Atleti way back, so maybe its was Fatigue after all..or not
    But fancy an Atleti player claiming the guys were scared of their 9 man team?…well such vague performance give them license to put on Airs..maybe till the next time we meet…

    In any case, thats one match i might want to forget about in a hurry..

  14. Graham Hunter gets it spot on here:

    Luis Enrique also said, quite correctly, “We aren’t robots.” So far the pinnacle of the season has been the 0-4 demolition of RM. We saw the team throttling back to conserve energy last year as well, and the stretch of matches wasn’t as unrelenting as this one, a match every three days for almost three months.

    The players are going to be tired … heck, they ARE tired. We will have to be content with them playing well enough to win because sometimes, that’s all that a tired athlete has. And as Sid Lowe observed on Twitter, Barça looked in full control of proceedings, and probably could have scored had they needed to, but kept throttling back. They’re thinking about the matches to come. And Atleti have a brutal stretch coming up of 4 matches in 10 days, 3 of them against very tough opponents. The aftershocks of their Saturday effort have yet to be seen, but Barça got back in the match because they ran out of energy after about 25 minutes of all-out action.

    I thought about that at the end of my own hard building block of two weeks, with three two-a-days both weeks. At the end of it, a Saturday workout that should have been easy, took almost everything that I had. It happens to flesh and blood. I have watched the match three times now, and each time it makes me happier to watch them get it done, by hook or by crook.

  15. But if you’re right, The guys were conserving energy, then i’d want to think that maybe Fatigue has affected some people reasoning- so fatigue is still responsible afterall
    I mean, who in their right mind, would go into a Top of the Table clash(literally and figuratively) in conservation mode?!? Jim expected them to start like a Train, i thought they’d start like a Space ship(See the Speed difference there?)

    On the issue of Tackling, i think its fine and dandy to ‘Milk’
    tackles, provided its kept within the bounds of sensibility..

    Almost flying into the sky like an Airplane when someone tackles you dosnt make for nice viewing(suarex never flew as high IMO)..
    By commons sense, i know that no Tackle can make a human gain Rocket Propulsion…
    But then sometimes the challenge is just so Malicious that players can be forgiven for the “Triple Spin”. i’ve gotten such tackles before and trust me at rare times, its just the suddeness of the Tackle and the body automatic response to it that cause players to do the Triple Stunts..
    But when its Quadrupled, what can i say, brandished your yellow card Ref!
    These things are done to keep players and their tackles straight..Now we know that even caressing a player with your foot can make them dumble thumble, that simply means the Roughest tackle any player at a time thinks he can make, in reality is just a very soft tackle even my kid brother can take in a five-aside match and still go on as if nothing happened..
    If players were really letting their reaction to conform with the true nature of a tackle, Trust me it would have been common sight seeing players beeing substituted as balls and being punted here and there- and that mind you, would just be worth a yellow card, if at all a card…

  16. Ooops, that comment was a bit late.. i guess that settles it then, Its the Sinister Fatigue that was responsible!

    But Aftershock? thats spots on, its become obvious that Team who exerts monumental effort against us, are left with nothing afterward, and gets stuck in a quagmire
    Dont be Suprised if Atleti Regressed further..

    But isnt it sweet that Teams need to put such effort to even get a Loss against us, hehe..
    Madrid didnt do enough( cause they aint capable of doing enough) and see what happened- they lossed anyway, but with a higher margin..

    We Rock Afterall….!

  17. Basically, all of us are happy, very very happy, about the 3 points. But we seem to be pretty bit disappointed how Atleti managed to look better than us, even with 10 men, and threaten us inspite of being down at 9 men, and came inches away from equalising too.
    If tiredness was the reason for our patchy no-show, then in some ways we should still be content. Because a no show out of tiredness is better than a no show out of complacency. at least for me.
    What am hoping is that Ateltico gets a lot of confidence from this match, and rightly so, so that they can thrash RM in end of Feb.

    Am really hoping LE designs some training sessions for the defense and midfield on how to pass the ball out of intense press. Every team and their grandma will try their luck against us this way in the first half.

  18. Enter Your Comment…in my book the chief culprit is Alba for the 1st goal. The team was relaxed as the situation seemed under control. The back line may have been dozy but there was some justification as Alba should never have let the situation get such out of control.

    As for the misgiving that we slacked off after the red card i disagree. The team was in control of the situation. There was no time i ever felt that the match was in danger. The only thing that was in danger was our pride diminishing for not having killed the tie off. The only thing in danger was the ammo it presented to anti Barca people and the multiple what if scenarios they would posit. The only danger was fortifying Atleti’s belief that they can move mountains after matching us with 9. What most forget/ choose to ignore is that we had them under a huge cosh after 20 mins or so. What we also forget is that in our past 6 games with Atleti we have walloped them all systems out. That they have tried everything in their cook book to no avail as we swatted them time and again.

    Fatigue is an issue which may become an issue but Lucho knows a few things about endurance so it should be covered. Add the undimmed hunger and we are set for another potentially good season. We fret and fret because the team has set the bar so high.

  19. Of course, none of us know what happened, why the team did not respond more vigilantly. To me, it seems like a combo: preserving energy AND not being in great form (despite – pragmatic – winning streak). Koke said as much: neither of the teams are in great form, and perhaps should’t be, yet. The thing is to prevail despite this, and save the best moments for a little later in the spring.

    I have not analysed the conceded like you (Kevin & Jim) have, but spontaneously, Rakitic looked pretty guilty. I feel, though, that Masche has a tendency to try to do too much at times, no doubt from his DM instinct to run around putting out fires. Lacks a little discipline, there. But had Alba been cooler, it would all have been ok…

  20. Good sports news day. Sitting here watching Sky trying to dramatise everything by hand held cameras rushing around the studio. However, two stories caught my eye. The first obviously was the confirmation of Pep to City. Lock up your starlets, guys. I’m guessing he has at least two Barca names pencilled in plus probably the same at Bayern. Got to think Thiago might be on the move. I know he has said not but let’s wait and see. He has an eye for the main chance and a Spaniard at Bayern might not be so popular after Pep.

    It’ll be interesting to see who gets the heave at City. Yaya certainly but to me they need at least another six or seven to win the CL and if my name were Raheem I’d be feeling my coat was on a shuggly peg, as we say in Scotland.

    The other story was the cracking racing cycling one about the Belgian woman who concealed an engine in her bike. Way to go ! Now Kxevin knows where he’s going wrong with all that training . . .

    1. Am so glad that he chose City. Am going to watch some EPL matches now, I guess.
      Its quite incredible that there is a big buzz around who he will sell and buy. I hope he keeps Aguero.

  21. Well no Nolito then.Poor Lucho expected a gift from Three Kings but what he get was nothing.I am sure he is pissed off and he dont want to say it at pressers.What an unbelievable board.Without transfer ban and they cant get the player the coach wants.Why?Can explain us?What s their job?Last day and Bayern signed a player to help Pep.And our board with our brutal schedule cant.I had the stupid hope that they will do today something but i am a fool.Bartomeu seems to be just a continue of Rosell.Ok lets all pray now MSN to have the power to play the next 27 games.

    1. Luis, Bayern don’t pay the three best attackers and two of the best midfielders in the world. Also they didn’t pay ginormous bonuses for winning the treble. Add to that the fact that the club is under a self-determined limitation to lower the debt and is at the balance of breaking the FFP regulations.

      If the club had gotten the QA contract, it would’ve been ok at this point. Unfortunately (and you don’t want me opening that can of worms right now) the contract hasn’t been signed.

      It IS a money game. City are paying 25 million – after taxes – to Pep per year. That’s more than Messi gets right now. And while it’s a money game, let me ask you this:

      How would you feel about the board selling 10% of the club for say 700m? Would you agree? Do you think the socis would agree?

    2. Peter i know that we dont have a huge debt and that we had almost 560m euro income.The job of the board is to work so the club have a low debt and enough money for the transfers we need.I am not a hater and i said that in sporting project they did a very good job.Neither i believe that Nolito was the perfect signing.My problem is that Lucho asked them to sign him and they did not want to do it.Well now what happened,happened lets move on and we will see what will happen with Qatar and Nike and how much money we will have in summer:-)

  22. And Mestre said that they did everything and a bit more.What a clown.They asked Celta to loan them their best player and expected Celta to accept????And how Celta then could replace him without money from us???I am sure they had the money but inside the board there were people who were against the transfer that s why the stupid offers.Just to show Lucho that they tried.But Lucho is not stupid.I am sure he did not wanted Vermaelen or Mathieu or Douglas too.But they had 5m for a brazilian RB who now there is no team who want him on loan!!!!!Keep him and pay him now.

  23. Xo, afta readin de ESPN post (link pasted by Kxevin) de talk abt Xavi is hard to relate with it…cos dere must ve been a match or couple of matches in which smtn apend nd cos de reaction buh…tz immpossible to see dat due to how almost all de teams started lining up against Pep teams (which is abt to double anyway, afta is confirmation of mancity job)…..the match against arsenal where dey went 1 nil up nd de turn around was devastating tu win 4-1 on the day (Messi’s brilliance ah hear u say)….
    Atletico had tu do wah dey did anyways….dahz y tz 2 diff teams on a pitch (tz nt a training game) tz either dey hunt de centerbacks nd close down busquets (superbly done by malaga in de 1st half) or park de bus…..either way, dere z no way MSN wldnt ave found dere way….IMO, it was a game of tactics where ah was 100% sure we wld outscore dem
    De team is clearly fatigue nd it seems tu be be in sleep mode or reserve mode in de opening minutes of matches…or even 4 de whole of 1st half
    Pragmatism still had to set in durin de course of a full season….
    Oh! Messi; pls we need u in full-throttle mode

  24. For all this team has accomplished thus far and given the circumstances (fifa ban and injuries and the extra number of games we have had to play week in week out), I feel it’s only fair we cut them some slack. And inasmuch as its an assumption, I believe they would have still turned on the engine and nicked a goal or two assuming Griezman converted cos this isn’t barca ‘012. I don’t expect champagne football from them week in week out cos they are all human. We may not be playing well but most important thing is that we are still putting in performances that usually win teams championships. At the end of the day when Iniesta is hoisting another liga trophy, we will all forget a 9 man athleti bettered us at home. so I take the win and 3pts quietly and hope we turn on the style in the UCL where it matters most. Don’t also forget that we scored our 2 goals when it was 11 vs 11 and not 9 vs11 so I don’t know where the idea that an 11 man barca was scared of a 9 man athleti is emanating from

  25. Sorry, i wasnt the one said that, an Atleti player did…and like you I Dont Know Where That Idea Came From

    I wonder just how much justification can be given to the board for their failure in securing a signing
    Considering the fixtures schedule the team has got that dosnt look nice in any way, considering that we just came out of a game against Atleti were everyone is singing the song of The Team Was Fatigued, and i’m supposed to believe that there was abosolutely nothing, like nothing that could’ve been done to sign even one player? Denis Suarez? what is a couple mil compared to coughing up the league? potentially losing out on other Title front too?
    I see the point about Huge salaries, bonuses and whatnots paid to players et al, but to believe that really nothing could’ve been done is believing a bit too much, for me

    The one about getting Nolito on a loan is just hilarious, if its that kind of monstrous effort that was being put into securing singnings, then i think we’ve got ourselves some savvy buisness Geniuses up there..

  26. Wow…
    Re-watched that Bayern CL at the Nou Camp again. This teams is amazing. Yes we will give up chances but no way in hell is another team going to “outplay” us; and I do mean play as opposed to “outfight” us. We could’ve won that one handsomely and early too. That would’ve demoralized Bayern and Pep for sure. Yes there were injuries but Barca has been doing that for years. The last CL final is the only won where we’ve been fully healthy and not have to do patch work and we have the record books to show it it all turned out.
    Enrique has given this team a fighting mentality. Players like Suarez has helped in that area and Neymar too; believe or not. Suarez will fight with you but Neymar has this confidence in his heart and never backs down. Add this to Messi’s win it all mentality, Iniesta’s, Dani’s and Pique’s big game attitude, Mascherano’s tenacity, Alba’s engine, Busi’s command and control, Rakitic’s workman-like displays, Stellar keepers (Bravo & Ter Stegen), Sergi Roberto’s rise, and every other players contribution: Matthieu’s headed goals, Adriano’s assist, Vidal’s speed versitility, Arda’s maturity, Vermalen’s early season form, Bartra’s courage, Rafihna’s talent, Munir and Sandro (Masip and Douglas too).
    Here’s to a great finish!
    Barca Barca BaaaarrrrrCA!

    1. Oh…
      And for those lauding Pep’s tactical nous; he got that one terribly wrong as he has on most away CL ties.
      For those who can’t see what Enrique as his team has done in terms team tactics and the like go back and watch our set piece frailty and look at how we use our pressing along with the full backs.

  27. Just a casual comment, lazily watching Arsenal…. seeing Alexis play makes me realise how subdued he was a Barca, but also that his style suits PL much better. Playing at Barca, as Masch has revealed, is mental torture. You are not allowed one mistake, as the accuracy is so incredibly high. Now I see Alexis throwing his body around, failed dribbles and passes, some good attempts and overall influence surely positive – but PL is much, much more primitive. Bravo hoofing? This would never ever be a critique of a PL-golie (nor player). There is such a lack of control that one used to watch Barca is amazed. I supposed the audience enjoy the movement, speed and fight, but it is a different art. My god our team is good.

    1. Fascinating, the time they have, Arsenal, to start play; acres of space in their own half. And almost every pass in the third half would be unacceptable at Barca. And I’m not exaggerating. Of course, they have a different style, different environment etc. Just a weekday observation. With proper focus and press we should beat them, if they play like this, like a sloppy version of Barca!

    2. I agree on your general observations. However, they may look disorganized and sloppy in many matches, then they turn around and beat Bayern 2-0…but I’m not afraid either. I’ve watched a number of games by them, and their playing out of the back is not done very well, so I think some pressure from our front three will go a long way towards victory.

  28. Leicester City is the best English team all season.And there is no luck in it.It s the power of English football.The reason why they are so great in marketing.Stoke City signed Imbula and spend more money than all La Liga teams this winter.Maybe a lot of people dont like that run and gun game of PL but it s very enjoyable for a lot other people.Spain have a lot to learn from the masters of football industry.

  29. Imagine if Ranieri win PL!!!Whatever Klopp or Pep or anyone big manager do next season,cant beat that!!!!

  30. I’m expecting to be in Barcelona around 4/20-4/25 and then in southern Spain (Valencia, Granada, Sevilla) the rest of that month. This is my first time in Spain. I looked on the calendar and noticed a Sporting Gijon game at the Camp Nou on 4/24. This would be my first Barcelona game ever! My question is:

    1. Do you think I will be disappointed in the atmosphere of a bottom table game at the Camp Nou? This will be my first time live and I’m super excited but it is a lower table team, plus when we get past Arsenal (fingers crossed), there looks to be a Champions League game 3-4 days after. Also, should I wait to get tickets later and what’s a good area of the stadium to get seats? I’m not too budget conscious but want to get good value for my spend.

    2. If I go to another soccer game in southern Spain along the coast, what game/stadium do you recommend?

    Thanks all!

    1. Personally I’d wait for the CL match. The crowd would be bigger, the match will be higher quality and the visiting fans would be numerous and boisterous.. The seats would also be more expensive, of course. But the better value for your money is the CL game.

      Seating, I would suggest watching the weather forecast for the day. If there’s no real possibility of rain, then you may want to choose the seats in the “Mes que un Club” area. They offer great and close view of the pitch, you will probably see more socis around. These seats will be generally a bit less expensive than the ones under the roof. Don´t rush the purchase, most socis put their tickets up for sale in the last three days before the match.

      One last thing: Think carefully about the action. I´ve noticed that when they can, Barça plays left from right from the view of the master camera in the first half. So if you buy seats, you may want to be closer to Gol Sud, which is where the visiting team goal would be, even though the best area(and the most expensive seats) overall would be in the center.

      As for another stadium to visit… If you visit the other stadiums after the Camp Nou CL match, then the only real possibility would be Valencia – Villarreal at Mestalla on the weekend of 30-31st of April. The rest of the good teams would be away. If you do it before the CL game… Then(even though you may not be able to get tickets for it) the Seville derby is always a great atmosphere in the stadium. Still, with the current standings I’d say you’re better off watching Valencia and Villarreal at Mestalla.

  31. Apparently I’m supposed to be the business genius here, so let’s shed some light on why Nolito didn’t come:

    1. Barcelona are currently toeing the line in the (salaries+amortization)/income ratio stipulated in the FFP regulations. Any further increases in the salarial mass(like the pending Messi, Neymar, Busquets, Suarez contracts) have to be compensated by either salaries being dropped (that means players sold) or additional income. To put it into perspective. If Messi’s salary is increased by 3.5 million, the gross expenditure of the club is close to 8 million, which means that the club has to find additional 11 million in revenue to keep the ratio down to 70%

    2. Barcelona bought two years worth of players in 14-15, then bought Arda and Aleix Vidal in 15-16. No players left the team this season, which means no money from transfers entered the books and the revenue in this aspect DID NOT increase, nor did the salarial mass decrease from selling players.

    3. For good or bad the club has not signed the Qatar Airways contract, which stipulated a doubling of the current offer and another 15 million as a signing bonus. Had this been done (which many culers vehemently opposed back in the summer, but now are accusing the board of ineptitude for not signing the contract), then there would’ve been money for signing Nolito.

    4. The club has a regulation that the ratio of Earnings before interest,taxes, depreciations and amortizations (EBITDA) to net debt is lowered to 2,5 this year. This is made by either lowering the net debt, or increasing the EBITDA, or both. Increasing EBITDA is done by increasing the result of (revenue – salaries gross expense and operation payments). So the club can do it by either increasing the revenue and keeping the expenses at the same level, or lower the expenses. Since we all hope that the players will receive as great bonuses this year as they did last year, it means that the gross expenses will go up due to the new players (Arda and Vidal), their transfer fees and salaries. Increasing that further more by acquiring Nolito would mean that the ratio targets would not be met.

    5. The club has an obligation by Spanish law (and by FFP regulations) to present profits at the end of the season. That’s one reason why the club is property of the socis and isn’t a company (SAD in Spanish terms). And since the club has to present profits, it can do so only by keeping the revenue and expenses balance in check.

    5. Why is this EBITDA/net debt ratio regulation important? Because in the long term the club has to be sustainable. The club has to be capable of paying its debt if for some reason the institutions that the clubs owes money to demand their money. The club has to be sustainable, because that way it can present guarantees for loans (for Espai Barça, for loans to pay up front for players), it can attract better offers and it can have a better position from which to negotiate financial deals.

    6. Most important: For the time being the only way the club can increase revenue is by increasing the revenue from sponsorships, the number of sponsorships and the merchandising revenue, as well as advancing as far as possible in the CL. The income from tickets is frozen; The income from the La Liga TV contract is frozen until the total TV contract is above 1500 million Euro per year, and even then it could increase at a maximum rate of 10 million for every 100 million the total TV contract increases above that sum.

    I hope that makes it clear. It’s not a simple issue, that’s why there’s no simple answer.

  32. That’s was a great break down of the financial situation regarding the club. As peter mentioned earlier we need to settle our debt for further acquisition of loans to build the espai barca. Logical point tbf. I don’t blame the board for not going crazy to sign nolito.

  33. I blame the board for a few things, but having a 18m third reserve wheel is not one of them. Nor am I clamoring for the return of Denis Suarez. I want Rafinha back. Denis Suarez is better off making life difficult for Atletico and Real until summer comes, because he needs the minutes.

    Barça had Pedro last season, here’s a breakdown of his performance from the 1st of February to the end of the season:
    La Liga: 646 minutes in 16 games, 2 goals.
    Champions League: 72 minutes in 3 games.
    Copa del Rey: 12 minutes in the final

    I am not trying to diminish his effort or the goal that gave Barça the European Supercup. My point is that when you look at the bottom line, Pedro played when the Three Tenors couldn’t or were being preserved, which happened rarely, and his contribution when inserted as a sub was mostly to maintain the attacking potential of the team when the score was already established and prevent the opposing team from exploiting the flank he operated in.

    Furthermore, I believe that when some freak incidents aren’t occurring (read Iniesta, Arda and Busquets getting the fevers and flu at the same time), the midfield of Barça has enough attacking potential to perform the functions that were Pedro’s responsibility.

  34. Atletico has made excellent money with Jackson Martinez sales. quite surprising.
    They buy less expensive future talents and are selling big. And still are looking like a giant team.

  35. Thanks for the detail, Peter. Always great to hear your views. Hope you can keep contributing here.

    You have to love Marca. Prediction for tonight’s lineup.
    barcastuff ‏
    Possible line-up (vs Valencia): TerStegen – Vidal Pique Vermaelen Alba – Arda Mathieu SergiRoberto – Messi Suarez Neymar #fcblive [marca]

    1. That’s probably pretty accurate. No Alves or Douglas in the squad. Mascherano also being rested. Though where the Mathieu in midfield comes from I have no idea. That’s the only weird bit. I could see Mathieu at LB with rest for Alba.

      Again, Rafinha a big miss. He would be starting here due to rotation for sure. Could play he and Turan, with Sergi Roberto in the Busquets role.

    2. Yeah, it was the Matthieu bit I was referring to, Kxevin. Bonkers. Mind you, pace and tackling plus height at DM ? Nah, his passing isn’t up to it.

  36. Yeah, great analysis. I’d like to know if. It was from the bench or just Busi’s game intelligence but it doesn’t really matter.

    Some great vids on the club website. Showing practice for Valencia. Loved this one which shows 1. What a nightmare Pique must be. He never stops laughing or mucking around. 2. As we already know our rondos are other worldly. Loved the bit towards the end where Pique shows his skill as Masche slides in and misses from a considerable distance. Only hope when Pique leant over him to offer his “condolences” he added ” See what I mean?” Still the whole thing looks a bundle of fun which is credit to the players and the coaching team to keep that going after all these years.

  37. I know that I don’t post here very often anymore but the first 30 minutes of this match v Valencia has been the best individual performance that I’ve ever seen from Sergio Busquets. He has been an absolute animal.

    1. You are right, and the only reason it’s not obvious at first glance is because some of the others are also playing extremely well. But he recovered the ball, controlled the game, prepared an assist…over and over again.

  38. Ok, I guess the team wasn’t actually all that tired…

    All three of the goals were great, but the third one was – again – undefendable. The defenders had to focus on Iniesta, then Neymar, then Suarez, and finally Messi, all in the space of one second. It’s strange seeing the best player in the world with so much space in the box but that pass along the front three was absurd.

    Now they only have to practice penalties a bit more.

    I can also see why Jim prefers the Mathieu – Pique combination, although of course they weren’t tested much at all so far.

  39. I feel very sorry for Gary Neville, you’re away to the best team in the world, with the best strikers in the world in the form of their lives, three goals down and your captain has been sent off.

  40. I really dunno about wanting or not wanting D suarex, but what i do know is i want the Damn league- throw in the the other Trophies alongside, if its not considered being greedy
    The one about Fans who opposed the Qatar signing now berating the board for its failure..very amusing, i can only *smile*, we Fans are just funny….

    Valencia were shocking! they gave like the best script on how to Press your opponent…
    Neymar is better than C Ronaldo!- uh-oh, sorry did i said anything anyone didnt know?!?

    Feel sorry for Neville, when he closes his eyes all he sees is our Rondos, not good….

  41. .
    Most complete performance? Really?
    I thought Valencia was reallllly shite.
    We were getting the ball in the box way too easily.

    Busquets is so fundamental. So cheeky. So evil.
    Suarez was the striker we sorely needed all these years. All those failed experiments with ibra and Alexis and villa (to an extent) could have been avoided. This isn’t in hindsight.

    There was talk of Suarez being interesting to barca while he was at ajax. I really felt like he could be the one we need way back in 2010. Anyhow he is here and we are lucky to have him. Easily the best striker in the world.

    Backheels have become the new outside foot for our boys. We are really killing it with those half touches in the box’s periphery.

    Hope lady luck is with us this year as well in the cl. Barrig really bad misfortune, I can’t see any team stopping this deadly trident.

    Winter is coming. For arsenal that is.

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