Barça 2, Sevilla 0, aka “The hearts of lions”

Heart. There are times when football comes down to which team has the greatest quantity. Baser scribes and pundits will take matters south of the heart, and pen odes to testicular capacity, but the Copa del Rey title was about heart.

History will show that Barça did what it was supposed to do in beating a Sevilla team with a few key injuries that just came off a cup final midweek. History will say that what else was a Barça team going to do, a group that had legends playing for it, along with expensive add-ons such as Neymar and Suarez.

And hopefully, we’ll be around to call history a jackass. Football matches are played on the pitch, where a resolute, dynamic, aggressive Sevilla wasn’t interested in rolling over for anyone. From the outset they played Barça as they played Liverpool, as a beatable opponent. After all, they had done it before, and were a better team now. The problem for them was that Barça was also a better team, in key areas that had nothing at all to do with footballing talent.

In the 107th minute, Iniesta fought a Sevilla player for the ball, and won. Earlier, Busquets worked some sideline witchcraft in dispossessing a Sevilla player that still needs to be seen. Pique, simply put, had the best 120 minutes anyone has ever seen from a defensive player. And Messi laid on a pair of otherworldly assists.

The heart of a team usually comes from an indomitable core, a group that makes everyone around it not only better, but a group that makes everyone understand what it is like, the importance of being part of that team. Pique, Messi, Iniesta and Busquets all came up through the Barça system, and the first three were reared in the bosom of La Masia. Today they formed the beating heart of a team that wasn’t going to lose, that played as if it found the very idea abhorrent, a team that eschewed beauty for grit and determination, a team forged in the mold of its head coach.

Sevilla was magnificent today, and had the best scoring chances of the match. Mascherano had to take a red card to keep Gameiro from being 1v1 against Ter Stegen, and Banega hit the post thanks to a key deflection by Pique. They pressed, ran and fouled when they had to, urged on by a coach in Unai Emery who had drawn up an intelligent, effective match plan.

Barça wasn’t great but a lot of that wasn’t their fault as Sevilla brought the precise kind of match needed to win this Copa final, picking right up from where they left Liverpool a defeated heap.

This entire Copa del Rey final seemed a fight, beginning with the club, which had to go to court to allow its supporters to fly the Esteladas, those vociferous, vivid banners that demand independence. It was a fight for free speech that roiled the pre-match days and turned attention from what was, on paper, going to be a brilliant final. And Sevilla made it a fight on the pitch.

On this day, the core brought the determination that its team wasn’t going to lose. A lot happened to Barça, from refereeing errors that were overblown by an expectant fanbase to a justly earned red for Mascherano and an injury to Luis Suarez, the dynamic core of the attack. And the only thing that Barça kept saying was “No. Not today.” They didn’t stress the Sevilla keeper, didn’t even threaten their area that much, but they fought, holding Sevilla at bay until the moment they could strike.

Much is made of Diego Simeone and the magic he wrought at Atleti, quite justly. He has built a team of heart and determination, a team willing to fight for each other to achieve success. But Luis Enrique hasn’t done too badly either. Want to see fighting? Watch an Iniesta run where he is fouled, falls to his knees and never loses the dribble, continuing to rush at the Sevilla box like a shark. Mathieu stuck his head in right where a ball was about to be kicked. Neymar took foul after foul after foul, and worked like a dog on defense. Everybody worked, and they took their cues from the core.

The two biggest giants were opposites, one all height and glamor with a pop star wife and wealthy parents, the other a pale wisp of a man with vanishing hair, a dazzler with the mien of an office worker or accountant. As individuals, they had matches that were almost career-defining. As part of a team allegedly in crisis at one point or another, they served as examples. Carles Puyol brought opponents down with fire and flying locks. Iniesta brought an opponent down with a calm, balanced a dribble, a moment of la pausa that made him a rock when the world around him was chaos and movement.

Crisis? Perhaps, if you’re the hysterical type. But when Barça seemed ready to topple, the team responded. It didn’t concede a single goal in its last six matches, and outscored opponents 26-0. The team won the domestic double for a second consecutive year, a feat not accomplished since the early 1950s, and they celebrated. This was a fan’s type of win, the kind of fan who wants to see a team put out for the colors, give everything and then a little more to ensure success. Yes, Barça has played champagne football and scored wonder goals, but today’s win was about the essential core of a team, that fight in a collection of athletes that unites them.

The first goal came from a Messi pass from about the halfway line, a diagonal delight that when it landed at Jordi Alba’s feet, you knew. He wasn’t going to miss this one, and he didn’t, beating a Sevilla keeper who had been excellent all match. The release was explosive, a fanbase went berserk and the players celebrated like it was the last goal they were ever going to score. They understood the fight. They knew what it meant, and knew they had a remarkable advantage that they needed to press home.

Barça played in a way that made the world forget they were down to 10. Every now and again, the graphic would flash, to remind us that something remarkable was going on, that a team went down to 10 and kept attacking as if it had 12. It wasn’t at its best and would have to accept good enough, if the quality that it had was buttressed with fire.

There are many culers who are as proud of this trophy as any of the others, not for the competition but for the way this team played. And it was the core that led them.

The second Messi assist was late in extra time, a slide-rule pass that was perfectly weighted and timed to eliminate Sevilla defenders but find Neymar in perfect stride. The Brazilian made no mistake. It was 2-0, and all over except for the medal and trophy presentation.

This year was hard. A short bench and key injuries blunted the fire of a team that was planned out, until people had to play more than usual. Stacking internationals atop that at key times, coupled with every last opponent playing the game of their lives against Barça, and this was a brutal season, one that required more concentration and mental strength than the wonder season of last year.

That concentration lapsed, and people thought the team would bottle it, come up empty-handed after winning everything last year, but this group wasn’t interested in that. Sevilla played a match that would have beaten a great many teams, but not Barça, not today. And everybody contributed. Ter Stegen was magisterial and Mathieu proved the perfect sub, turning in an excellent performance as part of a team that played with 10 until the 90th minute, when Neymar drew a red card foul from Banega.

But the greatest performances came from the players with the most at stake, that Barça core, and the three that shone brightest have been with the club since they were runts, faces glistening with the tears of a homesick child. They grew into killers who understand what Barça means, who reared their head at a crucial time in a crucial match, to help their team achieve glory.

History will say that the superior team won, and the underdog lost. But we will know what was at stake, how the match teetered on the precipice and what was wrought by a quartet of lions with blaugrana for blood.

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Written by:

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.

32 Comments

  1. May 22, 2016

  2. dl
    May 22, 2016

    Good lord! What a match! They showed their hearts are as huge as their talent. How many MOTM can one give, because it’s damn tough to single out just one person. I feel so grateful to be able to watch this team, and they really are that, a TEAM! Love ’em to death.

  3. TITO
    May 23, 2016

    It was a team win. Few wins have made me feel so proud of them, not because they won, but how they won. It reminded me a bit of the Chelsea game, with a man down.
    Emery had a perfect plan, and it was working in the first half. The ref could have given some yellow cards in that half just to calm things down a little, but he didn’t and in the end Sevilla ended the game with 31 fouls, contrary to our 10.
    Hard fought win, this is what we want from our boys time to time. It sparks something in individual (players). We have all the talent in the wiorld, all the experience, but this is what it lacked in some games when we wanted them to leave their guts on the field.
    Anyway, since it was a team effort, and when i say a team, i mean all of them, which is strange enough. It will be a Copa to remember.

  4. lala10
    May 23, 2016

    Enter Your Comment… Rival fans rave and rant about Barcelona playing against 10 men all the time. they wish we would also experience the bitter pill.

    last night was our riposte to that. hugely hugely satisfying performance. Run they did. To single out anyone of them is an injustice. But I am going to be unjust anyway and pick Messi.

    Not because of those killer passes. neither because he ran the most because he did not. but because he ran the most he has ever run in a long long time. So many times he ambles but a man down and with the tireless Suarez grounded he ran in a way he and we had forgotten he could.

    proud of them all. Ashamed of the numerous times I had feelings of disappointment in them.

    if it were possible they had all be preserved for posterity. Saluda

  5. May 23, 2016

    Oh dear,, what a team. The worst thing that could have happened to us happened with the Masche red card. And then the team showed its spirit, like we did against Chelsea in 09. But this Sevilla attacks even better than that Chelsea, still. And then the best thing happened to us, the Banega red. This most inconsistent best player of Sevilla, these days , is showing a lot of consistency and he was even excellent yesterday, even in their defence sometimes. The moment that red happened, I knew we were going to win.
    A big kudos to all players, but my hugs are for a few. Pique for keeping us in the game for long. Mathieu for placing his head right there in front of the ball with a feet arriving. And of course Messi for that pass. to Alba.
    Now Atletico win that CL, lets look back at a brilliant season.

  6. May 23, 2016

    Let Messi and Masche enjoy this win to the fullest. It will need a miracle for them to win something with Argentina under Martino. This coach is attaining new limits with his plans. When its sure AFA wont fire him and he will need to prepare the team for the 2018WC, he keeps on picking the old guns like Lavezzi, when there is Dybala and Correa. The defence and the goal keeping line up looks like guys picked from second division Argentina league. No idea what is wrong with Garay, Rulli, Musaachio.. Absolutely disappointing. Contrast this with the young guns selected by the Euro giants.
    Sorry for off topic.

  7. Davour
    May 23, 2016

    Messi showed up at celebration but was sent home with 38 degrees of fever. A consequence of that blow to the head? Or else the game must have rough on his body, with illness lurking. Another lion heart.

  8. ciaran
    May 23, 2016

    What an incredible match. From the moment Masch dragged Gameiro down it looked like it was going to be a difficult match; Sevilla weren’t there to me up the numbers, they were there for the trophy.
    Mascherano’s decision to take down Gameiro seemed a strange one considering that he didn’t yet have the ball under control and there was every chance that ter Stegen could’ve made a save.

    The Masia backbone of the squad is rightly getting a hell of a lot of praise. Pique was like an impenetrable wall, Busquets filled in all of the holes and Messi was decisive when it mattered.
    Iniesta, however, was on a different level altogether. He was absolutely amazing. Some of the runs in the middle of the park allowed the defense time to reset as well as keeping Sevilla on their toes.
    A very very special mention to Neymar, he must have covered 15km in the match. He was vital in winning freekicks buying us time as well as being the one who drew the red card foul from Banega. He dragged Coke out of position to allow Alba space to run into and then scored himself after seemingly endless energy got him to make yet another off the ball run.
    If he was Catalan everyone would be singing his praises but it’s not the in vogue thing to do for fear that he’ll leave.

    Ter Stegen was awesome also, he is undoubtedly the best goalkeeper in the world with the ball at his feet and with consistent football he should be the foundation of our team for years to come.

    As many changes as we’ll see this summer it is very likely that our starting lineup will be practically identical next season. Lucho has the utmost faith in those players.

    • May 24, 2016

      Truth on Neymar. He was exceptional, and did donkey work as well as his normal role, which yhese days is getting kicked as much as helping to drive the offense. As brilliant as he is, he is underrated and underappreciated. A key role in both goals, as well as the sending off of Banega. As Luis Enrique says, he never hides.

      I made the same “if he was from La Masia … ” observation the other day. He’s the second-best player in the world. Not sure why culers don’t laud him more.

  9. Jim
    May 24, 2016

    Still trying to take in that game . So many best of season performances in the one match and most of all complete and utter effort and determination. Sevilla were no mugs and riding a wave of confidence. Didn’t really show us much respect and had to be worn down by our refusal to give up.

    Top of the. Heap for me, as others have said, were Iniesta and Pique. If there has been a more complete midfield performance in Europe in the last five years I’ve not seen it but we know that because if there was it would have been Xavi. I reckon we can only imagine how disheartening it must be to have a 32 yr old cornered and him gliding out of trouble but also doing this until the end of extra time ! Ini wasn’t for losing as captain was he ?

    Pique was absolutely glorious but pushed to the absolute limit. He never goes to ground if he can help it yet he seemed to spend half the match having to lunge here and there. I’ll say it again. Best and most intelligent defender in the world by a margin and has been for some time.

    Alba had a great game. How he gets the energy to make those runs up and down the pitch for the whole game plus extra time I’ll never know. However, there was also more than a little skill in the way he shielded the ball from the defender for his goal. Maybe this will be enough to silence his detractors.

    Neymar I thought had a fairly ordinary first half but boy did he turn it around after that. Most energy he’s used in a match I’ll bet. I’m still not seeing where folks are getting the Neymar hate from. I’m not seeing it here although his form has undoubtedly dipped quite a bit in the last third of the season. However, he stepped up to the plate when we needed him when Messi was injured. He’s a youngster for goodness’ sake. He’s a brilliant ball player and needs to learn decision making. That’s what young players do. I reckon his body is also not as used as Messi and Suarez to jetting here and there in the middle of a season.

    Mascherano ? We’ve been here before and it was pretty much as before . He made a couple of good tackles but also a couple of mistakes which could and did cost us. What was unforgivable was leaving his teammates with an hour to play. With ten men when it was self inflicted. He didn’t have to take a red card, he chose to. His problem started before that though. He didn’t drop deep enough off Gameiro to start with. And lost even that by getting too close to him resulting in the guy running almost the proverbial complete circle round him. Drop another yard or two and the goal probably doesn’t happen.

    However, after that I’m not sure what possessed him to grab a red rather than take his chances with TS who had a great game. Worst case? We’re a goal down with an hour to get it back with a whole team. As Kxevin has often said, you’d take us any day to come back in those circumstances. I’m gonna put in two small caveats here for Masche. He was unfortunate that the flick on fell over his left shoulder. The other one he still had a chance. The other thing is , and folks will know I’ve supported Alba in the recent “witch hunt” , Alba could for me have done more. He was level wiith Masche waiting to see if he was going to move up ( which was an option albeit dangerous). However, when he saw the flick on and it was Masche vs Gameiro he should have turned on the turbo in support of Masche.

    After that it was a defensive masterclass and we didn’t put a foot wrong. Best display from the defence in years and I actually felt quite comfortable. A word here for LE in whom I’ve struggled to see a lot of tactical nous. To know that we needed more pace in the centre of defence wasn’t difficult , (and should have been there from the start,) but I was sitting thinking who I’d take off and I was stumped. I reckoned I might take off Neymar but I’d have been wrong. He got that call right and it took a lot of cojones to take off a midfielder . He figured rightly we needed Ini and Busi but could do without Rakitic and the whole team stepped it up. We’ll done to him and to Mathieu. Still beats me why he doesn’t start. He’s much quicker, better in the air, doesn’t wander – but as Ciaran says I suspect not much will change next season.

    If you have the luxury rewatch the match from that moment on. Two CBs who know their stuff positionally and can’t be pushed around, two FBs snapping at everyone’s heels, Busi making impossible ball recoveries and every time Iniesta willing to take balls in hopeless positions and coming out with it. Even Messi put in a double shift. I’ve had sickening head clashes like that playing before. They don’t go away and pound painfully the whole match after that. I would spend the next five minutes refusing to move while looking for blood then probably cry loudly for my mummy or at best wander about like a zombie. He was back in the groove instantly. I was surprised I didn’t see them checking for concussion but may just have missed it – or maybe the medics just knew that wouldn’t endear them to either Messi or the Barca fans ! Whatever, that slight feint then ball to Neymar for the second had me gasping.

    I reckon Graeme Hunter’s account is a pretty good one.
    http://www.espnfc.com/blog/the-match/60/post/2877654/luis-enriques-handling-of-barcelonas-dilemmas-sealed-copa-del-rey-crown

    So a great result and great way to finish the season. Much better than a simple win for me which would have left me still thinking about the CL defeat. This way its a positive memory to keep over the summer.

    Finally, great, strong message from Barto to the fans and it seems we’re finally getting the sort of money we deserve from our deals. Just as well really given our expenditure coming up. . .

    • May 24, 2016

      Mascherano took one for the team. I can’t know if he rightly sensed that goals were going to be hard to come by and things were better off 0-0 and 1-0, as I have no idea about his mental state. But he took one for the team and knew it, as he didn’t argue at all. Luis Enrique knew it, as well.

      That play was one of those perfect storms that happen,and not just for Barça. Everybody was pressed up. That long ball came and when Pique missed the header, that was that. It fell perfectly to Gameiro as if a giant hand came out of the sky and placed it there.

      What’s funny is that on Barça Twitter, all of the “not a CB” crowd came out. I found it laughable then, and still do. He spent all season bailing out teammates and saving asses to Stygian silence. But on an error, it was “A-HA! Told you. Not a CB.”

      No Barça CB is a CB in that traditional sense that people seem to be craving. Thiago Silva? No thanks. I’ll keep Mascherano. I wager he will be part of the XI again next season as well, because like Guardiola, Vilanova, Martino and Luis Enrique, I can see the other things that he does, rather than only the errors that he makes.

      But Neymar has the same problem. He was being ridden like a rented mule in the first half, even when he was doing things like tracking back and defending. When he also picked it up on the offensive end in the second, there was silence on Barça Twitter, as if people only have interest in an unfavored player failing.

      Mascherano does far more good than harm for the team. That’s why he’s an automatic part of the XI, and why Barça have been able to use giant wads of cash for Suarez and Neymar, rather than an expensive CB. I imagine that will continue to be the case this summer as well, even as the club would like to buy a young CB to groom, especially as Bartra and Vermaelen will almost certainly be leaving.

  10. Yaredinho
    May 24, 2016

    Jim,

    With all due respect, I only can say you enjoy hammering Mascherano! This is how i see it. What made u to say…”…However, after that I’m not sure what possessed him to grab a red rather than take his chances with TS who had a great game…” What did TS do up until that red card for u to claim Masche had to trust him, other than the usual mutual trust among defenders and keepers?
    And for some one who went that detail, it’s expected to exclusively mention Pique missed that ball in the first place.

  11. hong
    May 24, 2016

    I will say it like it is.. there is a clear bias in Jim against Masche. Like kevin said there is a reason why all the coaches past and present trust him, and they are all professionals.

  12. TITO
    May 25, 2016

    As others have already stated, and i dont want to repeat the same, i see no point of bashing Mascherano because of the decision he made.
    Anybody who at least have played some minutes of football knows that in moments like that you only have a split of second to think what you will do, and not always you will make the right decision.
    As the final score shows, IT WAS a right decision.
    We will never know whether TS would have save it, would Gameiro missed it, would we get back after 1 goal down. The’re all assumptions.
    And really, after a game like that, especially from the second half onward (cause the first half was poor from us) there’s no need to point out someones mistakes, but rather enjoy the win and another title.
    There will be games when we will discuss an X or Y player’s flaws.

  13. lala10
    May 25, 2016

    Enter Your Comment… I know Jim does not fancy Masche at CB but to anyone who says it was a good decision to take the red card is either biased too or lying.

    The decision was split second yes but it was the wrong one. how many times has this team come from a goal down to win matches. what was worse: going a goal down or a man down? Was the situation comparable in its direness to Banega’s? Who took the correct decision for the team between them? One in the 35th minute and the other with just a few minutes of injury time remaining.

    The funny part is that if you ask Masche himself he would say that he screwed up. he is that honest. People rail against Barca for playing with 10 against 11 most times. The reason is that this team has made an art of not making fatal mistakes. in general they do not shoot themselves in the foot.

    it grates a little because Jim often points where Masche screws but he screwed up there.

    • TITO
      May 25, 2016

      How did he screw?
      As i recall, we WON the game, with that decision, with a man down.
      For anything else, would have, should have, could have…we dont have a clue how the game would have ended. It’s all speculation.
      Bashing Masch should be justified if the end result was different.

  14. May 25, 2016

    I agree Jim is not a Masche fan, but he isnt some one who bashes for no reason too. I havent seen anybody here, may be other than Euler, who can so clearly point out the moments of a play like Jim does, especially for defensive issues and myself and Barca96 was wondering if he was a defender.
    Am quite a fan of Masche too, but still finds him as making tactical mistakes in CB, but makes it up with his grit and spirit, like a typical Argentine defensive player, in the mode of Simeone and Ayala. For this particular goal, lets forget all these ifs and buts. As Lala says, Banega takes a red with only minutes left and Mache takes it with an hour left. These are split second decisions – he is never going to think that moment that my team can win even without me – and the only thing you think is to foul or not to, and Masche is never going to say I wont do it, as thats not his personality. He went for it, whereas a regular CB might not have.
    Anyways, since we won, all is well. I wonder what all would be saying about that red, if we had lost with 10 man.

  15. TITO
    May 25, 2016

    Ok then, as SPORT writes, we wont have anymore Mash debates cause apparently he agreed a 3 year contract with Juve!!!

    • dl
      May 25, 2016

      Well, I sure hope that is just scurrilous muckraking (Masche to Juve). I have to agree with Jim on this one. He rightly points out, often, mistakes that Masche makes, and I have no doubt that M himself would agree it was the wrong decision. I think in his heart of hearts (and in his reptilian decision making brain) Masche is a defensive midfielder, and his instinct to pull down the striker would have been much less risky (he would likely NOT have been the last man) had he been playing DM. But all that careful logic is not available in the heat of the game when something so sudden and unexpected happens, and so, every now and then, he pulls a boner. Adds to his charm, in my view. Love the guy to death.

  16. Son
    May 25, 2016

    Really satisfied with these players. They never get tried of winning. All of them deserved praise. And I would like to shout out to Mathieu, he threw himself into dangers every damn time when necessary.

    From Mats to Piqué to Alba to Rafinha to everyone , You’ve shown us. Bravo.
    God bless Barça.

  17. Jim
    May 25, 2016

    Okay, take a day off at the golf and there’s loads to talk about. Great ! It’s sometimes a little quiet. In here. Much better if we all contribute.

    First of all, Masche. I know I’m characterised as hating him but. I don’t think, well I know that’s not true. I think he’s a great player, I’ve said in the past he’d make a great captain ( better than Ini and I love that man) and that I’d have no problem with him playing DM ( the only problem being he’d be up against the best in the world at that position ). I love his winning mentality and I’d be happy for him to stay if he was prepared to come on as sub. For a team that used Xavi as sub that is no shame.

    I don’t, and have never liked him at CB because he doesn’t think like a CB and doesn’t have any attributes which add to what Pique offers. In my opinion, and it’s all just opinions, Mathieu would offer over Masche much better pace, much better height, much better stay at home and on your feet sense. And he is no less a winner or tough.

    It pains me when match after match there are incidents caused not by the opposition but by our own errors. No, they aren’t all as obvious as this one and I’m still struggling to believe that anyone who has played football at any level would rather go down to ten men with an hour left than trust take a chance on their keeper stopping it or the player missing. However, being a saddo I do like to see. Both how goals have been scored both for and against us. I have the luxury of time, HD and inclination to do it and it affords me fun. I think when Masvhe has done well I’ve acknowledged it ( such as the last half dozen or so games for last year’s treble but I’m not a fan of any player who impulsively leaves his position or tackles when it’s not essential because you’re taking yourself out of the game for a minute or two. I’ve played, at low levels, with lots of Mascheranos who were loud, made bone crunching tackles which were seldom necessary, made tackles that any competent defender could and also went awoke at the wrong time chasing and missing a tackle out on the sidelines thereby weakening our defence ( didn’t mention it before because I was trying to stay positive but have a look at the lead up to TS’ block at the near post. The figure you see sprinting out to the sidelines rather than Alves is Masche. Now Alves was slow off the post but your only objective in doing that is to close down the man and slow him down. Watch what Masche does.)

    With regard to this match, I hope we can all agree that Pique didn’t miss any header. There was nothing there to miss. For a start the ball wasn’t there to be won as the big guy got his positioning right and was in front. Yes he could have barged into him for a yellow but there was no need. The giant in front of him lept beautifully into the air and flicked it up the way. How high exactly would Pique have to jump to stop that ? Ask yourself where would you want your other CB to be at that point. Can we all agree it’s about three or four yards deeper than the attacker to allow him to react to wherever the ball is flicked ?

    Depth is your friend here because he is facing away from the ball, still has to collect a ball and go past you, You’re able to see both where the flick is going and him at one glance and Masche is good at stopping in that situation. However, he got too close and the rest is history. Then ask yourself if Mathieu would be as impulsive and even if he was would Gameiro have been able to muscle him off the ball or beat him in a race ? That’s my issue. At times Pep, Tito and Tata didn’t really have a viable option to Masche so I can see how he was the best fit available . He’s not now and hasn’t been since we signed Mathieu who is the real deal there.

    The final point I would make is that one of the few bits of the post match celebration I didn’t enjoy watching was Masche’s face. He knew he’d blown it and was lucky the team produced a superhuman performance. I couldn’t agree more with Lala10. One of Masche’s best qualities is his honesty and. I know he’ll be the first to put up his hand at the team run over of goals lost . I also suspect he doesn’t feel comfortable playing at CB at such a high level and if he leaves I suspect a chance of a move back to DM might be part of any decision.

    Other quick answers :
    Yaredinho – for me TS is a great keeper and will be our number one for years. I’d back him soon as anyone to prevent that becoming a goal but even if he didn’t. It wasn’t the right decision to go down to 10 with that long left and no lead to protect.
    Tito, to a man I reckon the team would have preferred to stay with eleven and take the 50/50 of losing a goal one on one.
    Foto, I think I’ve said before that I was never good enough to play at a decent level. I played ( poorly at mainly amateur and then a couple of seasons at Junior level but had to give that up when I went to Uni. After that I played amateur In midfield till my thirties when, “Xavi like” folks decided that teams were running past our midfield and I was moved back to sweeper ! I have to say I found that much easier to play because most of it is about reading the game and the much maligned word ” positioning ” . I was also fortunate enough to play alongside an ex professional who made it clear that good defenders don’t go off their feet without a great reason ( which suited me as by that stage tackles sometimes hurt !

    Anyway, enough. I really don’t think I was pessimistic in my original post or at least I didn’t intend to be because nothing should take away from that performance which will leave a warm feeling all summer. And no, for those worried about it there’s no way LE will let Masche go without having first signed a top notch ( in his eyes ) younger CB but we do have to look carefully at the makeup of the squad. And we need our bench to offer as little downgrade from the top players as possible.

    • Davour
      May 25, 2016

      With his approach and background, Masche will always be a point to debate at CB. Still, while I agree he has many faults in this position, being too rash or running out of position, being short, etc., he also brings great footballing skills, and considering we have the ball a lot, this is important for the team. After all, he reads the game very well, despite sometimes suffering from not having the CB instincts, and brings grit and other intangibles. His a wager, I guess – some are willing to bet, others not; he’ll never be preferred by everyone.

      I feel, however, that Mathieu lacks in the precise areas where Masche excels: passing skills, drive and general influence. Jeremy rather has the air of a mercenary – quiet and effective, but sometimes aloof, losing focus and seems to lack engagement. His passing, to me, is inferior, and he too has lapses of judgement or focus. But what he IS is a traditional CB, and brings security. But risk also has its advantages. And this is what we’ll be discussing forever.

      The Neymar-bashing Kxevin refers to (not you, Jim), is idiotic. To me, he is brave playing alongside Messi instead of becoming king elsewhere. It shows character and real ambition to become better, best, rather than being advertised as the best. He has to suffer the comparisons to Messi who has shown unprecedented consistency for 10 years – and at times this season Neymar has been the better of the two. Look at Hazard and other stars who rise and fall. Nobody is even close to Neymar. This doesn’t mean he can’t improve, but he is two things at once: 1) great, and 2) potentially even greater. What he isn’t is Messi, and shouldn’t be evaluated as if he were; he brings other things to the table.

    • Jim
      May 25, 2016

      Some fair points about both Mathieu’s seeming distance from the squad and his passing ability. I’ve often noticed he seems apart from the rest although he was dancing around in celebration so maybe I’m exaggerating it a little. Long passing is not his strongest suit but it’s actually much better from CB as opposed to LB where the passing lanes are quite tight. I’d see pique continue to do the bulk of the forward passing but I’d like Mathieu to be encouraged to use his speed occasionally to break forward into midfield and draw players away from Iniesta and Messi, just as an extra destabilising tool at our disposal. It’s what I was hoping Arda would offer in place of Rakitic but hasn’t happened yet.

      Unlike others I don’t really see any real influence that Masche has on the rest of the squad. I think that’s kinda exaggerated. They’re mostly world class and don’t need any external drivers but anyway it’s about time we allowed Pique to stand up and lead the defence. Nobody knows the job better than him and physically, intellectually and age wise he’s ready for it. Still don’t think LE will let Masche go although as I said earlier it wouldn’t surprise me if the player wanted a move to return to his best position.

      Alves I can live without. It’s certainly time in his case although I’m not sure SR is a shoe in there. He’ll certainly get a chance but still has a bit of work to do for me in showing he’s up to it defensively. Hope he can as it’d be a cheap option and we need some cheaper solutions. I’m still not seeing our next generation of world class though. SR, Rafinha, Vidal, Dennis Suarez, new young CB … In three to four years we need a couple of world class replacements. Are they in that list ? Maybe. For me the only one who has a skill set to potentially achieve that is Samper and Ive not even seen enough of him to be sure of that.

    • Yaredinho
      May 25, 2016

      Jim,
      That is not my argument. What I’m saying is TS did nothing/asked to do nothing up until that red card for you to base ur argument partly on trusting German based on the performance of the day. FYI, I believe TS is not only the future but also the present.
      As for Pique missed the ball or not, for me it is very clear. Look at the footage from 1:24 to 1:26. While Pique, instead of attacking the space and then the ball, waited long for the ball to come to him Iborra came a couple of meters from the side and flicked the ball. As clear as that for me. Again, I’m not necessarily defending Masche, rather saying if we have to go that detail, then Pique has to take some of the blame too.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn_tOoi2yjA

  18. Davour
    May 25, 2016

    … and it seems we might be deprived of two main talking points: rumour has it that Masche and Alves both are off to Juventus. Makes sense for them both, I think. Masche will be a loss, to me. But it’s time to learn how to live without Alves, I’m afraid. Financial relief to be rid of his salary, too.

    Silly season is really taking off (Dybala for 90 m? Nah.), but I don’t think the above one is unlikely at all.

  19. luisthebeast
    May 25, 2016

    I cant believe some things.Macherano had a tax problem.If the next year he ll have another serious case with justice he will go to jail.Now people are panicking and crying.Really?So it will be nice for club image to keep Macherano and then what?Who knows the future?A Barca player in jail?That would be great for our club.Publicity.People crucified Suarez before he comes and now two seasons after,still are bitter about him.But they have no problem with a player ready for jail.Ok.Whatever.And Macherano say that the club did nt supported him in tax case.Really dude?The job of the club is to support u when u hide ur money?No.Thats ur life.Neither for Neymar or Messi must the club help.Why?Or if we had that stupid Benzema we could help him in his case?Why?And now they blame the board.Every time a player cry “i want more money,i want a lawyer,i need help,i was drunk and driving and killed 3 people help me club”.Kids 30y old.

  20. luisthebeast
    May 25, 2016

    Oh and i know.Macherano and Alves gave everything for the club.Yeah for some millions.Not for free.If they want out bye bye.

  21. luisthebeast
    May 25, 2016

    Alves will leave for free.Why?Because in his contract there is a clause.Why?Because Alves asked for this.Lets blame the boare then.Why they accepted that clause?Because they wanted to get rid of his wages?Or as out of respect for what he offered to the club?People screams that we have an old squad but now they are in tears that two 31+ players will leave the club.I respect both,they helped the club but we will survive.

  22. Yaredinho
    May 25, 2016

    Jim,
    That is not my argument. What I’m saying is TS did nothing/asked to do nothing up until that red card for you to base ur argument partly on trusting German based on the performance of the day. FYI, I believe TS is not only the future but also the present.
    As for Pique missed the ball or not, for me it is very clear. Look at the footage from 1:24 to 1:26. While Pique, instead of attacking the space and then the ball, waited long for the ball to come to him Iborra came a couple of meters from the side and flicked the ball. As clear as that for me. Again, I’m not necessarily defending Masche, rather saying if we have to go that detail, then Pique has to take some of the blame too.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn_tOoi2yjA

    • Jim
      May 26, 2016

      Sorry, Yaredinho. Only just spotted this as new article up and nobody usually comes back to the old one.

      First of all, I wasn’t trying to say anything about TS’ performance in this match. I just meant in general you’d always give a world class goalie a good chance of stopping a chance like this, especially if Masche was still snapping at his heels as he controlled the ball. However, even if we’d had a duff goalie I’d still rather go down and keep 11 on the park and it’s not even close. We have the best forward line in the world but not if we’re struggling a man down .

      With regard to Pique you raise a good point. In my days playing CBs used to take great pleasure in attacking a ball with huge headers travelling half the park and it seems to have died out. You just don’t see much of it at all, even in the EPL. Not sure if it’s the current medical knowledge about the damage big impact headers have on future brain injuries or just that they were always pretty low percentage. When you have a ball travelling towards you and descending with snow on it as here the last thing you want to do is add another variable by hurting towards it.

      To me it’s as they usually say with terrorism ; the forward only has to be lucky once and isn’t too concerned where it goes, the defender has to ensure the correct direction. In order to do that Pique would have to get high enough to be able to use his forehead rather than the top of the head as the attacker did. Didn’t get the replays on this video but if you watch them Pique did watch the ball all the way and make a huge leap so for me he did as much as he could. The forward took a chance at a flying leap and it paid off on this occasion. However, If Masche had dropped the few yards he should have to keep both flight of ball and player in his sight I still don’t think there was a chance on. Still a little hacked off at Alba caught ball watching though. He was the only one back there with any pace and could maybe have done better.

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