Barça 1, RM 2, aka “The one that didn’t matter”

Here is the only reason that today’s loss sucked: It was to Barça’s eternal rival.

Beyond that, The Classic That Didn’t Matter well and truly didn’t. At the San Francisco Penya, where a horde of culers watched, a 1-2 final result seemed logical and predictable for many reasons.

— RM needed to win that match for so many reasons.
— Barça didn’t need to win that match, again for so many reasons.

RM worked harder, ran harder, was more focused and sharper than Barça, a team that was battling not only lag from its South American players, but a looming contest with Atleti in Champions League, the competition that is in actual play. Had this match been against any other team, Luis Enrique would have rotated his lineup, but for the Classic, only the Gala XI will do. From this chair that was a mistake, because you not only run your players around, but you do it for a loss. Hell, Munir, Vidal, Vermaelen, et al could have overseen a loss. You didn’t need your best troops for that.

In many ways, top teams must think like smaller ones at times such as this. A lower-table club, in a relegation fight, will have Barça come to town and decide to rotate, because they aren’t going to beat the big club. Might as well save its best soldiers, powder dry, for matches that can be won. Except in this case, the Classic was a match that could afford to be lost.

There were a few pundits who assert that the Liga is back in play. Barça sit, with seven matches left, six points ahead of Atleti and seven ahead of RM. Here are the matches:

La Real (A)
Depor (A)
Betis (A)
Granada (A)

For the Liga to be “in play,” a team that has just come off of a 39-match unbeaten streak would have to drop seven of 21 points over the Liga run-out. It would have to, in effect, either draw every match or lose two more and draw one, to have Atleti snag a one-point Liga title win. Atleti would have to run the table with its remaining seven matches as well.

Atleti have Espanyol, Granada, Athletic, Malaga, Rayo, Levante and Celta.

For RM to make the move, Barça would have to lose three of its last seven, since any tiebreaker would come down to head-to-head goal differential, where Barça have the edge courtesy of its 0-4 win at the Bernabeu.

Sure. Something catastrophic could happen. But even the most pessimistic culer would be hard pressed to conjure up a scenario by which Barça would somehow drop, in effect a point a match. The Liga is not in play. We know this because of how Barça played today. This isn’t to say that there aren’t things that are of concern, however, starting with:

— Jordi Alba’s form has been funky for some time now. He’s skittish and erratic, prone to chasing the ball. There was a time when he was in with a shout as one of the most effective LBs in the game. Those days are long gone.
— Messi has been in an odd run of poor decision-making with the ball. His brilliance obscures this, coupled with the fact that only blasphemers would suggest such a thing. But even on the play where Ramos tripped him outside the box, that ball should already have been passed to Suarez or Neymar. Messi lost balls, including one where a massive intervention by Mascherano saved the day.
— Suarez is in a funk. Video after video, angle after angle, still can’t tell us how he missed that shot early in the first half. He makes great plays, but then is unable to perform basic tasks. He has always been the best worst player in the game, but he’s even more so than usual.
— Opponents are figuring out the Neymar key. RM bottled him up today, putting Pepe over there on him and forming a triangle around him whenever he got the ball. When he is running free, Barça is faster, more dangerous and unpredictable. Opponents will take Messi running at them, choosing that risk. But cutting off Neymar makes Messi manageable (one or three defenders, when he’s on, forget it and when he isn’t, one defender is fine) and Suarez in effect rootless.

It would be blasphemous to suggest that if the standings were different and this match actually mattered, a sharper Barça would have shown up today. And like the crazy, intricate clock that is their game, if one of the cogs is lagging, the whole machine is off. Even at that, as Luis Enrique correctly notes, the match was under control except for a stretch of 10-15 minutes, where things got messy. Against most teams, Barça can get away with errors. Not against a team of the quality of RM.

Did Luis Enrique get the sub wrong, bringing off Rakitic for Turan? The Turk certainly didn’t cover himself in glory, but the system was clunky before he came on. Might Sergi Roberto have been better? Or Rafinha? Quite possibly. But defensive errors were a bigger issue than anything else. A sharper Barça takes the 1-0 victory, and celebrates. Not this team, not today. Baked? Maybe. Distracted? Certainly. Cognizant of the competitive realities of La Liga? Yup.

Now, let’s look at the goals.

1. A “my heavens, what was he thinking” pass from Alba for some dude in the neighborhood of Neymar went directly to an RM attacker. As soon as that first pass was made, I said to myself, “Uh, oh .. ” Here’s why. When Marcelo started running, a panicked Alba, interested in precious little more than making amends for his error, tracks the ball instead of functioning as a left back.

Now look at the run Marcelo made after he got the ball, up the center, from right to center left. When Marcelo cuts in toward the center, Alba is tracking the ball. Everyone has their people covered. All that need be done is to control any leakers. Instead, Alba cuts toward the center, where Marcelo and the ball are. Marcelo makes the pass to Kroos  in acres of space. Why? Ain’t no left back, that’s why.

The cross fell to Benzema, who pulled off a hell of a shot in smacking that goal home. At another time in the match, Rakitic is probably there to take one for the team, as he did previously. Everything worked right in the tracking back on that goal except for Alba, who sank to his knees in chagrin as soon as the ball went in.

Goals are team efforts, but they are also a matter of garbage in, garbage out. Bravo contributes in that he misreads the play, locking focus on the ball at the feet of one attacker, without fully realizing what was about to happen. On another, sharper day he tracks the cross to Benzema and makes a sharp reflex save. Saturday he was headless chicken as the ball flew past him.

2. Jordi Alba didn’t have a good day. He spanks another pass for Neymar, but his marker pounces because it’s a pass that should never have been made. Neymar compounds the error by not fighting for the ball, and giving up on the play. RM have four attackers running at the Barça goal, with three Barça defenders running with their backs to play in an effort to catch up. This wasn’t going to end well.

Two of the most dangerous men on the pitch on a counter, Bale and Ronaldo, are both in acres of space. Bale takes the ball, has plenty of time to pick a target before making the pass. He lofts a pass for Ronaldo, that Alves, for some unfathomable reason, decides he can head away. He leaps, comes quite short and Ronaldo controls, lining up the shot once Alves lands, out of position.

Bravo panics. Rather than just staying home and letting the defenders do their job, he decides, too late, to rush at Ronaldo to close down the angle. All that did was force Pique to scramble to cover the goal line, and open up a shooting angle for Ronaldo, who isn’t going to miss from there (unlike Suarez). If Bravo stays home, the near post option is gone, and Ronaldo has to try to bend a shot around the keeper and a pair of defenders. By coming out too late, Bravo made it easy. That second goal was a comedy of errors that wasn’t funny except to Ter Stegen, who probably contacted his agent to have him stand down, assuming any such rumors were true.

It’s easy to feel bummed that the unbeaten streak has ended, even worse that it was RM as the perpetrator and Ronaldo with the match winner. There is usually joy for the vanquished in winning a battle while losing the war.

As for Barça, next up is a match that does matter.

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. When only one of the forwards press and fight,and the other two just walk it s not easy.Neymar poor 2016 continue and Leo it s obvious that he cant press.What Neymar did in their second goal was a shame.As for their goals Alba and Alves….what to say.Bravo did well in second goal but was unlucky.He was solid.Well people expect from Suarez to run and press for 90 minutes for 3 players job and be able to finish every chance.Fatigue is obvious.We had our 52 game and they had their 40.Most of their players had rest and friendlies.Alves Messi Suarez Macherano Neymar had trips.Stupid break.

  2. We should have rotated the squad. It just wasn’t our day. Lately, Messi seems like he’s too preoccupied with dropping deep instead of staying on his wing and stretching the field and dribbling at defenders. I don’t see that extra killer spark of past seasons. To be fair, he ran his ass into the ground playing with the national team, and kxevin, I disagree. This match does matter, because now our upcoming opponents are going to have an extra harder go at us, because our aura of invincibility is gone. Suarez fought hard today but if he had finished that chance, it would have been a different game. I was very weary coming into this game. All my friends were saying; oh barca is going to crush Madrid. Now we wait for the CL quarterfinal. Atletico is going to go for blood. This is where Barca will show our true title credentials, because the best teams are the ones that don’t let defeat rock them, but use it to inspire them. The season is entering real crunch time. I have faith in our boys and our coach.

    1. We should have rotated, but that is not politically possible to do when facing RM – the players demand to play, and the fans want a win, etc. But I do agree that this match mattered for psychological reasons; hopefully we can shake the loss, since it really was a giveaway rather than a beating, but we gave RM an unnecessary boost. Would Suarez’ finish have changed the game? That’s how it feels, but we don’t know. We had the lead late in the game and blew it. I remember many games where an early goal for us was not a blessing at all, but resulted in the complacency mentioned by many. The possession game often worked in the olden days, but this team needs to keep running, not just recycle the ball. Raki has many qualities but being Xavi ain’t one (it is obvious the team often avoids playing the ball to him in attacking moves – and why becomes obvious when he receives the ball in tight spaces outside the box). Messi losing possession going deep was part of misguided tactics or decisions on his part – overloading midfield? He didn’t have the focus to play that game after exhausting qualifiers and jet lag. etc. etc.

      Hopefully Kxevin is right: this game did not matter much and the team know it and can now shift focus to AM. And thanks again for yet another fine article to help us digest an annoying, rather than catastrophic, loss. This space is a gem.

  3. A very lacklustre performance tbh. I could see that defeat coming since the match against villareall. It baffles me every time when our team scores the first goal they seems to sit back and relax then slow the paddle puting in mind that its over, look at the game against deportivo, villareal ans now real Madrid. This current team misses something from last season’s treble winners team, although its the same set of players but we lacked the ruthless of last season, we are too complacent. After piques goal I predicted that the team will slow the game and pass around untill full time and that what happened, they caught us napping and created chaos everywhere in the pitch, we undermined our opponent to the fact that we were just passing the ball around the middle of the pitch and unintrested to move forward and that’s was a big mistake, real madrid didn’t do anything to win the game literally and they were happy the match could end in a draw, then they realized that they can possibly clinch a win and that’s that. Pique and besquet were the only positive thing. But the rest of the squad are all to be blame, don’t want to point fingers but those who contributed in this defeat has been mentioned above by kevvin. Am sorry to say but If cryuff was alive and witnessed such awful performance he would probably die from heart attack and not cancer.

  4. I don’t quite understand Lucho at times. He has shown great faith in Sergi Roberto throughout the season but when he had a choice to make to when taking Rakitic off he chose Arda. This weakened our defence no end. Iniesta was also out on his feet seemingly and stayed out there.
    It shows a lack of confidence in his bench in times like these.

    We have one of the best first XI of any team in Europe but I don’t understand when people think that we don’t need to strengthen every line of our team. As you say Kxevin, only ter Stegen was watching and pleasantly surprised at what he saw.
    Alves is clearly past his best but Lucho doesn’t rate Aleix highly enough to trust him in a match such as this. In fact, Aleix has barely seen game time recently.
    Alba had a stinker to go along with most of his season.
    Busquets was left incredibly exposed in the final third of the match.
    Neymar was isolated and possibly in need of a rest.
    Suarez was way off in sharpness but at least threw himself around and made Pepe and Ramos have off nights.
    Messi played too centrally and deep to affect the match in a decisive way.

    Pique was easily our most committed player and scoring that Puyol type header was great to see.

  5. Not pleasant viewing, at any point really but I can live with getting beaten by RM. for the greater good. However, not for a minute would I buy that the players weren’t giving their all to win this game. So Madrid won it fairly and squarely. It may or may not matter. As others have said we gave it our best shot so these players are knackered and also down . Vital that that doesn’t turn into negative momentum or strange things can happen. They are also going to have to work even harder midweek. Not criticising LE for the lineup though. Not sure he had a choice in front of a packed house at the Camp Nou.

    Some thoughts in note form lest I go on too much (again)

    *. LE got it way wrong tactically. If I’d said to you before the match where will their attacking threat come from you’d have said to me breakaways and playing on Alves. You might ( correctly) have added that if we don’t tie down the right side Marcello will kill us. Well, he did. ALL NIGHT LONG. The right hand side of our defence was a mess. Into which Marcello strode happily on occasions too numerous to mention. For that you have to look at Messi, Rakitic and Alves. Now, unusually, I’m gonna say that Alves was at least aware of the threat and didn’t get caught Aeolus too often ( although Kxevin is spot on when he questions the jump for the ball at the goal. I mean what was the best that could happen against Ronaldo there ?) stay on your feet ! I’m also gonna give Rakitic a pass in a sense because the guy ran himself into the ground but he lunged twice at Marcello and was only booked once. He was way beaten for speed on that side. That leaves Messi. Now I’m afraid we had a Messi who tried but had little in the tank after his exploits for the NT so he wasn’t gonna tie anything down especially since it took him about three minutes to decide he wasn’t gonna tie Marcello down by staying wide and drifted far too deep far too early. So what was LE hoping for on that side ? Gonna come to Alba in a sec but how much trouble came down his wing from Bale ? No, that’s where we lost it for me and it was predictable.

    – Bravo. I’m sorry but I’m not seeing what he did wrong on either goal. On the first, which by the way, Benzema’s great technique aside, was a total fluke, he was positioned correctly . Rewatch it and see how he is continually changing his angle all the way through the move, ending just before the cross near the front post in case of a shot from Kroos. The fluke comes in the deflection off Alba which puts the topspin on it and takes it over Pique yet dips to a height just behind him where Benzema can get at it. ( btw, I wouldn’t blame Rakitic here. Check back and see the running he’d done. Like me, he thought we had it under control. ) After that you can blame Bravo for not stopping the shot if you want but it was a beauty and the more likely corner to put it in was the far one as its a hooking motion.

    On the second nobody but nobody was going to get to Ronaldo in time so Bravo had to come out. Again, with a keeper rushing towards you I think the fact it went between his legs was luck . You can give CR7 credit if you want but there is no blame attached to Bravo there. So, not sure why Bravo has attracted flack.

    – Alba. I didn’t think he had a great game but it wasn’t a stinker as some have said. He is becoming the latest in a long line of whipping boys so as with the last time when it was Masche’s positioning that got him flack it’s worth looking at the goal. I agree that the pass which started t was poor. The only thing I would say is that, as with the second Neymar didn’t make it easy. Leave aside the PoV that any ball lost is likely to lead to a goal which I don’t subscribe to , especially when again we have ten players level or behind the ball who presumably have positions they should be in. Alba, as Kxevin notes does move inward on his way back. The reason for that is that Masche is slightly drawn to the ball and the possibility of Bale with his speed running behind him into the gap. Between Pique and Alba is a big threat. Indeed, if you stop the game at 61:51. just imagine what would happen had Alba not moved inside. Look at Benzema standing all on his own. I just don’t see where the criticism of Alba comes from here. To me his positioning was perfect, the only problem being he couldn’t leave Benzema in time to get out to Kroos to stop the cross.

    For the second, again it was a poor ball from Alba, made poorer by Neymar’s failure to come short to make it easy. I’m gonna make another point here. When Mathieu plays at LB the usual criticism is about his passing. Now Alba’s passing has become poor. At what point. Do we agree that in our system it’s easy to always pass the ball back to the CB and that there is a responsibility on Neymar ( and others) to make the pass easier by creating the right angle ? Still, a dodgy ball. After that there are two running clean through on Masche so, yes, he has to go inside to cover that.

    – Last point on Alba. You can’t watch him feel his ankle three or four times throughout the match and not think that he’s carrying an injury and wouldn’t have been playing had Mathieu been fit. Despite that, look at the last thirty seconds. Tell me who is out of position and who saves the day with a 40 yard sprint. Watch Alba immediately after his sprint go down clutching the same leg.

    Enough for now. Tbh, I’m surprised as I said before the Arsenal game that more teams don’t deliberately try to use our lack of height in three out of the four back positions. If they did our lives would become a lot worse. You can bet next month’s mortgage that Arsenal’s three late chances in the first leg that way and. Madrid’s success here with the tactic won’t have gone unnoticed elsewhere. Suck Pique to the ball and play it far post.

    Midweek game isn’t any bigger than it was before this one but what is our physical and mental state ? The loss had to come sometime and as has been said , it would take a rare combination of events for us to lose it and I don’t think these players lack the bottle.

    1. I think the thing with Bravo here is the ongoing comparison to ter Stegen. This makes you highlight every dubious decision even further. I for one saw ter Stegens trademark approach with legs kept together and making himself look big. When rushing like Bravo did you have little control, and CR was in control and – admittedly a bit lucky – had time to finish. But in real life you make a decision in a split second, and Alves was the one who made the big mistake in that situation. Hence, less blame on Bravo.

      Alba might have become a whipping boy, but this is because he has not been his former self. He is beaten too often, relying perhaps too much on his pace, lunching at attackers, committing poor fouls, etc. Also, he passing should be more accurate as he is often in a good position to for an assist (after a sweeping Messi pass, for instance). Overall, he has perhaps not been poor per se, but he has been below what is to be expected of him.

      Agree on Messi; he crowded an already full mid, and left the right to be of no use to us. And as Ciaran notes above: I can’t see any logic taking off Raki and NOT bringing on SR. Take off both Raki and Iniesta (who were both in run down as well as in need of rest for Tuesday), then, at least. Arda is still not finding his way, and time is ticking. It seems he cannot find his identity; in AM he was AM… and with us he is either CM or winger. It’s like he doesn’t really know what to do.

  6. Spot on jim,

    The mid week game isn’t going to be easy, we have to run a lot, move the ball faster if we have any chance to beat atletico, but if we play the same way we played yesterday against madrid( relaxing immediately when scoring the first goal) then we are screwed and we can kiss good bye the CL till next season. The liga is ours to loss now, I have no slightest shadow of doubt that we are going to win 5 out of the remaining games if not all, but we need to adjust things very quickly. Alba was disastrous, what worries me about him is that he has been poor for majority of this season, usually cought out of position or making awful decision both in defence and attack, he is becoming our weakness point lately if you have notice, many opponent tries to counter attack his flank or initiate an attack from his flank. By the way can someone just tell lucho to never ever sub in arda as rakitic’s replacement?? The dude can’t defend at all, it seems like he threw away all his defending skills which he acquired from simeone the time he come to barca, heavy legs, wrong decisions unnecessary fouls, booking magnet, he looks like a rookie who hasn’t play football ever.

  7. Our front four, Messi, Suarez, Neymar and iniesta, were the real letdown, Sloppy passes all along, Either miss aligned, Or miss-powered, Overcomplicate things with fancy passes,, And as a result they continuously gave RM opportunities for counter-attacks, I find it unrealistic to think that our defense are supposed to bail them out every single time, Not only they were sloppy in possession, They failed to do their basic job, Which is to score goals.
    I’ve never seen messi get disposed of the ball so many times in a single match, He played as if he had not touched a ball in weeks, Suarez always has his funky moments but he always balanced then with brilliant ones, This time around we were left with only the bad, Iniesta was underwhelming both offensively and defensively, Neymar perhaps was the least bad of the bunch, He was tightly marked in many occasions.

  8. One thing good we can take away from this match, Is that it was a good ear tug and a slap to the team, To remind them that they have not won anything yet, And that their unbeaten record and past thrashing of RM means nothing when you’re inside that rectangular green pitch.

  9. Alba’s errabund form shouldn’t come as a surprise. Really. That’s what lack of competition does to a player who is pretty cocksure he’s gonna start in the big games regardless of form. Happened to Pique, too. I worry so much why we keep ignoring, or, rather, according minimal regard and attention to the biggest flaw of our game- systemic defending. We seem to obssess so much about our attacking game that it seems we care less about the defensive aspect. And It shows in our recruitment process. For all their attacking potentials, Alba and Vidal are not natural defenders. Granted Alba relatively puts in impressive shifts every now and then, his lack of rudimentary orientation defensively would always be exposed against teams like Madrid. Ditto Vidal. Which is why we can’t afford to have both concurrently against top quality oppositions. I know our defensive miscarriages extend beyond what I highlighted. Still, it was extremely unsavoury to watch how we were been carved and penetrated with EASE. That made me overly apoplectic. We don’t seem to have any layer of shield beside the defence (sigh) and the goal keeper. And this hasn’t only been evinced in the Madrid game. There is a reason why Simeone’s Atletico Madrid is the best defensive team on the planet. Rare is the goal that Atletico concede that is slack and charitable. Scoring against them basically requires enormous effort, which isn’t the case for us. Until we truly RESOLVE to model their defensive system, performances such as yesterday’s will never cease to occur.

  10. Bravo could have done better on the second goal, but had the ball knocked off one of his legs everybody would’ve lauded him for coming out so quicky. In the end Ronaldo is a very strong finisher, and he might very well have scored all the same if Bravo had stood his ground. I do wonder if the people who criticize Bravo for his errors criticize Ter Stegen as well. Never mind, that was a rhetorical question.

    On a similar note, for the life of me I don’t see how the goalkeeper could be blamed for the first goal (headless chicken?) unless one tries extremely hard to adhere to their well-established narrative in which Ter Stegen should be number one.

    I think more interesting questions are (mainly because I don’t know the answers):
    1) Will the team finally tire during the last stretch of the season?
    2) Will Arda Turan find his way?
    3) M*drid’s game plan looked like one Simeone himself could have drawn up. How will we fare on Tuesday?

  11. .

    Yes Lucho kinda let me down in this game. So far he had displayed his ‘bossness’ whenever necessary in terms of resting players, rotating intelligently etc.

    The most ideal lineup for this would have been
    Bravo, Vidal, Pique, Bartra, Vermaelen, Turan, Masch, Iniesta, Sergi roberto, suarez, munir… But…

    Yes, i understand this was a clasico and an important occasion, given cruyff’s tribute. but this was an inconsequential game which necessitated the rest for key players in view of the upcoming clash with atletico which happens to be the first real final of the season. As was so predictable barca has drawn the most difficult side while EE and BM have drawn the easiest ones. It is difficult to not think of these draws as beinig ‘designed’ so as to make the uefa champions league semis and finals the most glamorous spectacles – in other words to have the best teams out there. absolute bullshit.

    when mathieu got injured, i was pretty disappointed. Although many here dont rate him, i think of him as one of our better players. And his height, speed and strength would have come soooo much in handy during the clasico. wwell, thats that and he’s knocked. I have a dirty feeling that his loss for us might prove to be more crucial than we would like.

    Finally, the biggest concerns following the loss to EE are as follows.

    (1) The unbeaten streak had to come to an end at some point. It could well be that it has come at the right time (players wake up and focus to go on another winning streak) or at the worst time (players demoralized, doubts creeping in at the most crucial stage of the season)

    (2) I kept thinking that this game above all will be important for confidence. Before this game, many culers would have happily preferred to have drawn EE rather than atleti in the CL, such was the level of our confidence. Going forward, i do not know how this match will affect us and them. Confidence is everything and we have lost our first home game since Feb 2015. If we were to draw EE in the semis, it may not be as straight forward as before.

    (3) how will the atleti match play out as levon said.
    Another additional disadvantage is that we play the first leg at home. The last time that happened, remember? We played the first leg at home to atleti during that fateful year 2014, and went on to lose the tie.
    The thing is that atleti’s gameplan is simple to devise and everybody knows what they are going to do. which is to hold the opponent. Which also happens to be something that they specialize in.

    We however, have to score. And score lots.

    Hope we are up to the task.

  12. Shit happens, and this was such a day. They did not outplayed us, we just got lost for about 10-15 minutes. On top of this, they scored a legit goal which was cancelled for non existing foul and won the game with a player down.
    Mistakes can be individual or collective, it doesnt matter. What gives me unrest is the overconfidence in our players. Its ok to be confident but not to think that the game will be won no matter how you play, regardless the opponent.
    On tuesday we must not concede, at any circumstances. We will score, im sure of that, but i repeat again, we must not allow them to score and some of our stars will have to run more. These are the last 10 games or so, they have to give everything. Talent, skills and knowledge are there, what’s missing is running.

  13. What annoyed me the most was the lack of penetrating passing lack of creativity, every one was happy to circulate the ball and were afraid to lose it especially iniesta,
    On Tuesday messi have to stay wide on the wing,he could do more damage there than the likely packed midfield.

  14. A painful defeat, because of the arch rival, of course, also because it could have been 1-3. But above all, it has just shown that the team is hell tired at the most important part of the season with Mathieu injury looking like a sword hanging above.
    I wonder if Alba would have started this match if Mathieu was fit, knowing he had some issues after the Spain match, and also looking at his few moments when it looked like he was not happy with his leg.
    We are just at that point, when we realise the importance of a person only during his absence.
    And to top it all, we have Atletico coming. Everything set up exactly like how it was during the end of 2014 season. I hope this defeat has wounded the players and they will pay back.
    I dont understand those who say Bravo was poor, especially for the first goal.
    And while all our attackers had an off day, one of them deciding to play in the midfield, who knows for what reason, actually the whole team was having a day off. Questioning Messi’s decision making for just one moment, when he did everything right and went on to one of the most controversial moments of the match by which Ramos would have got a second yellow. The way Neymar and Suarez was off, there was no surety that they were going to finish it even if he had passed it.

    Towards the last 15 minutes, we looked like a terribly tired team, whereas RM looked much fitter than us. I would hate it if they proceed to the CL finals.

  15. And let’s not forget.
    It’s Sociedad away this weekend. Perhaps it will be a title decider game.

    1. Here is a small trivia, Over the past 5 years in la liga, Every visit we had to Anoeta, ended up in a loss, Ouch…
      But just like our unbeaten streak eventually ended, The Anoeta curse will, Hopefully….

  16. I had a very strong feeling we were going to lose this game. They had so much more to play for than we did, as well as a much easier game coming up midweek and far fewer key players who had to travel halfway around the world to play qualifiers.

    It always sucks to lose, especially against Madrid, and while the team did not play well, they earned the right to a night like this by not only thrashing Madrid earlier in the season but also amassing a 10 point lead over them. The whole point of having a big lead is that we can afford to prioritise games now. Obviously Lucho could not rest players, as much as I am sure he would have liked too, the classico at home following the tribute to Cruyff. He was only every going to start the gala 11. I am sure they were told not to kill themselves out there.

    This is the final stretch now and I am very optimistic the team will bounce back, not only do they have immense quality but they also have unbelievable character and as much as I hate to say it, we needed that loss. If I was a betting man I would put money on a very different Barca turning up on Tuesday.

  17. The biggest problem with analyzing any goal is the word “blame.” It’s a loaded word that often makes people defensive, just as debate sparks the need to be right or wrong. As Luis Enrique has often said, goals conceded are a team effort.

    Bravo doesn’t need defending. He’s the starting keeper for Liga matches. Nor does any suggestion that Bravo could have done better mean “blame.” It means that he could have done better. We know this because he has done better. But poor decisions in the heat of battle happen.

    Likewise, Jim suggests above that Alba has become a whipping boy in this match. Not for me. He had a poor game. It happens. He made two ill-advised passes. That happens, too. Recall PIque’s stinker v Sevilla last season. But “whipping boy” for me means Mathieu and Mascherano. It’s a persistent state of being.

    It’s worth considering whether reactions would have been different had Mathieu at LB had the match that Alba had on Saturday, or if Mascherano had made the passes that Alba did, with the same net result. (No pun intended.)

    Think back to reactions when Ter Stegen got chipped from distance against Roma and Athletic. The predominant view was that he erred, rather than got caught out by a situation. The rod wasn’t spared.

    Not sure the blame game will ever stop in football but I wish it would. Analysis can and should be bloodless. I’d bet my house that during the film session, Luis Enrique broke down both RM goals and made everyone understand their roles in them. I would also bet my house that he explained to Alba why those passes should not have been made, in the Barça context, without blame, just analysis. And Alba will have understood those points, in the same spirit.

    1. I’m quite happy to go with your definition of “whipping boy”, Kxevin, I said he was in danger of “becoming” such and went on to explain that this was because it was the second time in a few matches where I felt he had been harshly treated in the analysis of the game, not just by you.

      In this one, as in the last, I attempted to explain why I thought his actions at both goals , given that they were two poor passes as I said, were entirely appropriate. If you rewound the game to the 61st minute as I suggested it’s not hard to see why Alba didn’t do as you suggest leaving Benzema with a clear run in on goal. I’m sure LE would have also been clear on that point. That is no less bloodless analysis than anything else in the article. It is a point of view, no more no less, as is the rest of the article. What we can do after that, if we want, is discuss why someone thought that and an explanation can follow. Leaving that aside, I’m not sure on what basis people more generally are putting it down as a poor game overall and singling him out overall. Believe me, on rewatching there were quite a few other contenders for poor defending in that match. However, as a flavour,
      Alba completed 70/75 passes so his passing wasn’t that bad and about as high as anyone on the field
      Alba recovered the ball 6 times which was the third top on the field
      Alba made 3 interceptions which was the 4th highest on the field
      He also blocked two crosses.

      More important than that, aside from the two passes, which if Neymar had been alert might actually have been completed, are almost the only time I can find, on rewatching , anything to support a “bad game” Add that to the fact he was playing injured, then I reckon that’s a bit harsh of a bloodless analysis.

      A couple of other quickies lest I’m thought of as a perpetual moaner. I thought Busi and Pique had outstanding games, Ramos confirmed my low estimation of him as a defender by clattering into at least four unnecessary tackles and credit to both Ronaldo and Bale for their efforts in defending – for once in their lives !

      ( it’s also nice to finally see a little bit of overdue love for Mathieu now that he’s out – or is it because he’s out ? ) 🙂

  18. Pretty upset that we lost to our eternal rivals, especially with Ronaldo scoring the winning goal, but then I was expecting a loss or a draw. I was already prepared for the result.

    With most of the Barca players playing must win South American qualifiers, they ran out of energy in the second half. Messi was never in the game and Suarez was sleep walking. Neymar always seem to be crowded out. Never seen Messi and Neymar lose so many personal duels as this match.

    Ronaldo really surprised me. He was tracking back, playing defense and then making those lung bursting runs. Great game by him. Alba was pretty poor and the boss would have been better replacing Iniesta who was completely run over in the second half.

    Hope this is just a blip in the final run in and motivates the team even more.

    1. My thought before the match was, between great teams – matches are always a game of inches. A slight advantage will snow ball into a major one as the match wears on. If Ramos was given the second yellow early, our players wouldn’t have to be running around so much… now that this is over, it is time to train the canons to something more relevant..

  19. Enter Your Comment… Though the team disapponted us i am more disappointed in the fact that we are disappointed. Considering whats around the corner it was natural that they would take their foot off the gas.

    The Madrid media is awesome in its cheerleading, something they deserve credit for. Even if we had drawn it would have remained clear that our approach was not 100 percent focused.

    I am happy the team has been dobted, that EE are basking in some false glory because if we get past Atleti they are the team that would be waiting for us. That a match played for 90 mins is reduced to the last 30/ 15 is annoying.

  20. “When Cruyff came here in 1988 Barça’s challenge was to beat Madrid. Now the tables have turned. That’s his legacy.”


  21. First reactions to a loss to your biggest rival are often excessive. The problem is that attackers and midfielders will most of the time get away with errors. Defenders and especially goalkeepers rarely get away with even the slightest slips.
    There is a microscope on Bravo and ter Stegen any goal conceded tends to be greeted with the often incorrect assumption that the other would have saved it.
    Alba didn’t give away the ball often but both of the goals came from his giveaways.

    Guardiola, when Valdes famously gifted an early goal to Madrid by a wayward pass, said that he’d happily give up some goals in order to continually play out from the back. It’s all part of our game. Alba could have booted the ball upfield and we would have reset but that’s not us. Maybe it should be at times?

    I just keep going back to the Arda substitution and wonder what would have happened if Sergi Roberto was brought on. At least we would have maintained some balance.

  22. “I still think I would like Real Madrid in the Champions League final. As Cules we tend to be negative, but we’re in a great era and we have to have confidence in ourselves. It’s the legacy of [Johan] Cruyff. He came in as manager in 1988 and when Barça beat Madrid back then, it would be to save the season, but now the roles have changed,” he said, sending a message to Los Blancos
    I love this
    By Pique

  23. My only pain was Messi dropping into midfield and rendering our Right side attack useless. Messi stays there and Marcelo doesn’t venture that far forward to make the pass to Kroos and the goal doesn’t happen. And like we came to learn the hard way, playing Messi in midfield against teams defending deep insist a good idea. I hope LE learnt a thing or two from the match and yes we weren’t outplayed, we gave the game away. By now I thought we ditched the “we attack no matter the result mentality” come on at 1-0 up why did we have to push men forward and risk getting cut short of numbers at the back? at this stage they were 13pts behind and were the ones that needed to push men forward to get a goal not us. For me the logical thing to do was just to keep the ball and if they ventured out we hit them on the counter and this would have been the best way to save energy. Could anything be harder than this?

    1. I agree with most of your points. Barca isn’t a team that’s satisfied with 1-0. We have style and a strong drive for goals and combined with fatigue and errant passing can be a recipe for disaster against a extremely quick counter-attacking team. I personally think that sergi Roberto should have come in. He was extremely solid in the first Clasico. Arda Turan is garbage. He’s a foul magnet. Destroys the midfield dynamic. I would sell him in a heartbeat and bring in someone truly world class like verrati or pogba. Hell I think aleix Vidal could have been a better choice because he could have saved us with his pace. Arda doesn’t convince me. The midfield fell apart when he entered the game. I wonder how this Panama papers situation is going to affect Messi’s match tomorrow. I still think we can win it all, but we have to treat each game like a final. I don’t care if we Leicester it and win 1-0 for 5?matches in a row. As long as we win.

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