Valencia 2, Barça 3, aka “The Rage of Messi”

And it was all going so well …

Possession stats in the 70s, the ball pinging around in midfield, Barça attacking, Valencia defending, Barça resetting, Valencia defending again. Everything was headed toward the inexorable conclusion until something horrible happened.

Iniesta took a tackle of the type that players take all the time. Enzo Perez got the ball but came through the man to do so. In 99 of 100 of those challenges, the player gets up. Today was the hundredth, and Iniesta signalled to the bench as soon as he went down. Even he knew.

There was excoriation for the Valencia player but in reality, there wasn’t malice. It was a hard challenge, but not a butcher’s challenge. The bad luck was that Iniesta’s foot was planted and that was the leg that Perez hit after getting the ball. Dani Alves, in the Juventus/Milan match, laid an almost identical challenge on an attacker, who went down, grumbled a bit then got up to resume play.

What happened in the aftermath of Iniesta being stretchered off is a link went missing. When Rakitic entered the fray, the midfield was Busquets/Gomes/Rakitic. Absent was the associative kind of midfielder, that shuttle player like Iniesta, who can flit about the pitch with the ball to make space. What remained were a bunch of incomplete URLs, and Valencia took advantage.

Compounding matters is that the precise players needed for those roles were watching from the stands, as both Arda Turan and Rafinha were injured, and things were still a bit raw for Denis Suarez. The result wasn’t that midfield control was lost, but rather that open links weren’t closed as players who weren’t used to a certain job were forced to perform it. Injuries can come at good or bad times. Having a trio of creative mids all injured at the same time is luck of the worst kind.


Passes got longer, runs with the ball proliferated as the Barça attackers had to close the links somehow. This increased the danger because every lost ball meant a Valencia counter, and a man moving with the ball is less secure than a pass to an open teammate. Valencia began to find its way into the match, and then Messi happened, with a goal that will be controversial.

He took possession just outside the Valencia box, and fired past Diego Alves, who immediately ran to the referee to complain about Luis Suarez, who was in an offside position. Some contend that the FIFA “clarification” of the offside rule means that as long as Suarez didn’t make contact with the ball, he can’t be interfering. But the FIFA rules clearly state that interfering with an opponent can also be “preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball. For example, by clearly obstructing the goalkeeper’s line of vision or movement.”

Was Alves able to see around Suarez at the time Messi struck the ball? What is his obligation to move to find clear space? Suarez didn’t make contact with the ball, and Unidamo Mallenco clearly judged Suarez to be a sufficient distance from Alves so as to not clearly obstruct his vision. So the goal stood, and a brilliant goal it was, even if it was also a goal that Alves almost certainly saves if a big Uruguayan wasn’t acting like a duck blind.

The first half ended 0-1, and if things weren’t looking to be completely in control, they were feeling rather comfortable. Barça was having most of the ball and the lead, even if the physical play being allowed by Mallenco made the movement of attackers with the ball rather fraught. The trend this season (again) seems to be to kick Barça off the pitch, with physical, aggressive football. It doesn’t work, until players are actually kicked off the pitch, as in the cases of Pique and Iniesta. Valencia hewed to the current trend with a vigor that at times bordered on recklessness. Mario Gomez went into Gomes, studs up, making full contact with the front of the shin, a clear red card offense that didn’t even get a yellow. Montoya was willfully and wantonly thwacking Neymar about, something else that is all the rage this season, as opponents take advantage of the “He had it coming” worldview to kick the crap out of a player trying to play his game.

When play gets physical and messy, the natural reaction is to close ranks and for everyone to focus a little more intently. Someone forgot to tell Gomes, who lost the ball, then compounded the error by sashaying after his man, Munir El Haddadi, who used the open space to fire past a helpless Ter Stegen for the equalizer.

We can only imagine what Luis Enrique must have been thinking after than goal, because it wasn’t long after that Denis Suarez started warming up. For a team such as Barça that is so vulnerable without the ball and whose game is predicated on having the ball. such lackadaisical play is intolerable. Gomes was clearly and directly at fault for that goal, with sloppy play on one end and lazy play on the other. A player doing his job is never more crucial than in a difficult away stadium with an opponent clawing its way back into the match. Poor play can be a lifeline.

So can poor finishing. Rakitic and Suarez missed excellent opportunities to continue giving Valencia hope. The latter was 1 of 5 on excellent chances, including an open header that he punted over the crossbar. Yes, he made the run, made the play that led to the winning goal. Finish like he’s supposed to and such heroics aren’t necessary. Barça is a great team, but even the best teams have a hard time overcoming sloppiness and inexactitude. Bad decisions kill.

The second Valencia goal came from another poor decision as Digne, who had plenty of time to play the ball to feet and make the secure pass, headed it away. It fell directly to Valencia, who wasted no time as Nani laid in a perfect pass that was struck home for a 2-1 lead, and a berserk Mestalla.

Suddenly Valencia players were everywhere and Barça looked a mess. Did the Iniesta injury affect the team psychologically as well as tactically is a question only the players can answer, but salvation came in the form of a set piece. A perfect ball found the head of Rakitic, whose header was parried away by Alves directly to Suarez, who smashed home from an acute angle. Just as suddenly as it was 0-1, it was 2-2, but Valencia kept coming with a fantastic chance — only the selfishness of Nani and the determination of Sergi Roberto saved a third goal.

The match settled into a familiar pattern: Barça possession and probing, Valencia with the lightning counter. Rinse, repeat. And with only two minutes of added time, things looked set for a draw when one last run was the one. As noted previously, Barça just keeps doing what it does, daring you stop it one more time, to muster one more effort. An exquisite, high-speed interplay between Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez put the Uruguayan in perfect position in the box.

Valencia, given the match Suarez was having, would have been better off letting him shoot. But Aymen Abdennour, a sub at LB who had a brilliant match, cleared Suarez out. It was a sure penalty. Messi stepped to the spot, and drove home just under the hand of Alves, the penalty stopping specialist, who guessed right but was a fraction too late.

The players celebrated, and some savage Valencia supporter threw a bottle at the embracing pack, a stupid, reckless act that unleashed Messi, who strode toward the Valencia supporters, hurling verbal invective of the likes never before seen from him. Ever. His face was contorted with rage, righteous indignation and exultation, and it was glorious.

This was also a champion’s victory. Teams have a moment where things come together, where something happens that kick starts a fire. Was this it? It was an exceptional win that shouldn’t be marred by an abysmal refereeing performance. This week, Barça completed the comeback, showing the mental toughness and resilience that is a mark of this Luis Enrique team.

Solutions must be found to the aggression of opponents, and how refereeing laxity allows possession to be turned in dangerous areas. After the match, some were again lamenting about how Luis Enrique has let the midfield to pot, positional play, blablabla, but here’s something worth considering:

Luis Enrique’s Barça doesn’t play like that, and isn’t going to. So it’s probably worth putting those familiar tropes away, and understanding what this team — THIS team is doing, and how it’s doing it. You can’t hate chocolate ice cream because it isn’t rocky road. It is what it is. Luis Enrique didn’t “let” the midfield go to pot. He has his charges playing in a way that suits the skill sets of the players that he has. What does anyone reckon would have happened to positional play Barça had, say, Xavi, Iniesta and Keita been injured? Who remembers the chaos of matches that was quelled when Xavi entered? Few, apparently.

The Denis Suarez for Gomes substitution was excellent because it restored that linking player to the midfield and let Barça back into the match. Suarez was also more capable tracking back, and putting Valencia’s defense on the back foot with his movement and aggression with the ball.

It’s difficult to be calm and neutral in the face of such a match, that had me trembling for the last ten minutes or so, then giddy, jittery with nervous energy in the wake of the remarkable, last-second heroics. This is a magnificent football team That we have the privilege to enjoy, week after week. What’s next? Who knows, but some there should be some respite as the woeful Granada visit the Camp Nou next week.

Barça lost something when its Captain was struck down. But it might have also gained something significant in a single moment, that might go down in culer lore as the Rage of Messi.

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. Thanks! I only caught the second half, and was intrigued to read how it went down before that. I saw a slow and lack-luster Gomes, a walking Messi who couldn’t even both to track back when he lost the ball and opponents had 3 against 3, a bullied Ney, tired Busi, an Umtiti who was good but sometimes a little shaky in position, etc. Obviously, I caught the team at the worst moment! Great win in the end, possible boost.

    Iniesta’s injury was horrible, horrible news, and I suppose he will miss the clasico now (6-8 weeks, which scares me; it’s his turf). Similar to Messi last year (and let’s hope we’ll miss Iniesta as little as we missed Messi in the 4-0).

    I have hope for Rafinha’s continuos rise, and maybe Arda can contribute as well. Both should be back soon. Gomes has a long way to go, and I see Denis as a stronger option at the moment. We have many mids, apart from Iniesta, but they are all still struggling for consistency. And no one can give Busi a rest either.

    And Vidal looked like an obstinate child on the bench… unbearable. Perhaps better to bring up someone from B and let him go. This will only hurt the team. I understand he is bitter after waiting those 6 months to play, but this is the greatest team in the world; you are not given anything for free.

  2. What a close race at the top. It would be amazing if after Simeone’s Atleti, Sevilla could actually manage to be the fourth strong contender in La Liga!

    Watching Bilbao against RM, RM completely dominated the second half, creating chances by the minute (and somehow managing to scuff all but one of them). And even though I don’t like Ronaldo, it’s almost painful watching him – they serve him chance after chance on a silver platter and he misses them all, grimacing all the time. It would be funny if he won the Ballon D’Or this year because he hasn’t even been one of the better players in his own team, let alone La Liga, since the start of the season.

  3. So whats the news?La Liga the best league in the world?Thats how must be and last 3 years every season is better.Many great teams,away games tough,i predict the champions(us)around 85points.CL games killed a lot of teams,we played Wednesday and Saturday afternoon in one of the most eneny stadium historical and we won,so i am happy and proud for the boys.The team scores for fun but we have huge DM problem.Busquets form killing the team apart.Whats the solution?No idea.I start to think that Busi was good only for Pep Barca.This team would need more a Veratti.

  4. Gomes cant play different positions in each games or inside a game.Lucho must play him in a specific role.I hope he works the midfield and find solutions.This team,if Lucho find a midfield that can connect defense and attack with balance,is for big things.Leo is great but in this level a team cant afford more than one walker;-)

  5. As for Iniesta we can deal without him i believe and thats a great opportunity for Denis Gomes Rafhinia to shine.Well the truth is next year will be 33 so it s good to start working from now the future midfield.

  6. Well, it has been some week !

    I sat and watched the Man City game but was so frustrated by our injuries, “the we’re playing three at the back, no four, no wait a minute who was meant to mark De Bruyne ? ” systemic nightmare and the relentless riding of our luck that I spent the next day on the golf course calming down. Not good. Thank Goodness for Messi.

    So, after being away playing and staying all weekend I came home only knowing our result against Valencia ( what is it with golf clubhouses not providing Internet connection ? ) thinking great result, always hard there, even though they’ve been pretty poor. Then, just as I started watching this morning my wife came in and announced it was a shame what had happened to Iniesta and that they were thinking it was cruciate. I almost couldn’t watch it after that. That may actually have been the wiser decision as I hate seeing knee injuries and to see it happen to Ini, well . . . but also it was another pretty unimpressive match from us in many regards.

    Yet, as has rightly been said, nobody can doubt the will to win and effort expended by our players. That was impressive.

    The plus points.

    Ter Stegen. I’m thinking he’s started to learn the lesson and is hoofing it more , when appropriate. He has also made some great saves over the last two matches. Well done. Btw, notice how quickly teams have cottoned on to the non rocket science tactic of not pressing our keeper when he has the ball, thereby ending the much vaunted extra man theory ? But, well done again to TS. He has the makings of a great if he gets that right.

    The defence. I’m gonna cut them all some slack ( well, maybe Mathieu apart, for letting me down against City with a pointless tackle out on the touchline against ten men when he had done the ( really ) hard bit and matched Sterling’s pace.) The three morphing into four just doesn’t work and will cost us goals. All it does is throw up marking conundrums which weren’t there before and I’m not seeing the plus at the moment and only LE can decide the formation. The plus is that Umtiti is really looking the part ( although still not the finished article as could be seen from his decision to move out when marking two of them at Valencia’s goal). Yes, I was wondering who should have had the other as well.

    Did. I mention Messi ? Honestly, what do you think the scores would have been in these two matches had he been unavailable ? He’s just coming back from injury and look at the contributions. An exasperated McManaman summed it up at the end of the City game when he screamed ” look at him ! He’s never been in the game and he’s got a hat trick, an assist and won a penalty. “. In the Valencia game the set of his jaw in the last five minutes said it all, he was man enough to take the penalty, put up with alves’ rotten gamesmanship, sank it despite all his issues with penalties and it erupted on the crowd afterwards.

    The worries ?

    Main one for me is that we’ve ridden our luck a little too much in these games for my liking. That will come back at some point. Valencia were a bunch of thugs ( I’d love to say the tackle on Ini was a red, and in some senses it should be for tackling a national hero like that ! ) But it was probably only a booking. It is a reckless tackle to make. – amazing how many people still think it is a determinant that you got the ball in the process. If a tackle is likely to cause harm to an opponent it is at least a yellow and no way that knee on his knee plus the wraparound wasn’t. Other lucky episodes ? Umtiti’s blatant push in the back and Masche’s ridiculous two arms round the opponent at the corner should both have been given., imo., because I’d have been demanding them at the other end.

    Final worry is still the midfield. Once Iniesta departed there wasn’t a lot was, there? I’m gonna defend the currently much maligned Busquets here. – well, a little. There’s no doubt he could do with a rest but there’s nobody that really has that set of skills – well there is but as part of the club’s “great plan ” for him he has gone to a doomed side with 20 players on loan making up the squad and everyone determined to get the ball forward asap. The last plan that good was yesterday when I planned to hit my 3 wood over a 190 yard lake carry !

    The missing link mentioned above could just as easily have been solved by keeping ( recalling?) him – yes, you know who – and playing Busi a little further forward. Or resting him for a game or so. Any defensive worries that anyone has would go away with three or four games in a row and/or two stay at home CBs . You then do have a midfield which could almost play the passing game as in the days of Xavi. I know each has their own favourite from the new crop but I still find myself thinking that even when they’ve settled in what do they bring to the party ? They strike me as all good players but not outstanding.

    If you’re going to play Busi though , because my alternative ain’t gonna happen. then LE really does need to look at the workload he has given him. Busi covered every inch of the park on Saturday . He did everything from dropping in as extra CB to up on the edge of their box helping the attack. He played both touch lines regularly. That is too much for anyone. That’s sometimes what makes him look bad. It was summed up for me when Denis played a pass in to him from the touchline late on in the game . The commentator lambasted Busi for lack of control yet he had to slide along the ground even to make contact with it. Yet, Rakitic and Gomes sometimes stood around watching if it wasn’t their side of the park . For me, we need to look at the way the midfield is being set up.

    That was a huge result at the weekend. It keeps us right there and buys time to get some players back. Maybe, if there is anything to come out of Ini’s layoff it might be that one or more of the mids might genuinely step up. We could do with it.

    Finally, despicable though the action was at the end , I had to laugh ( through my rage ) when the bottle was thrown, clearly hit Neymar and at least three other Barca players clutched their heads and prepared to go down until they saw that everyone else was. Classic !

    1. Yup, midfield is worrying, despite any plan to suck up the pressure and get the ball to MSN. We need more control nevertheless, and I can’t see where this will come from in Ini’s absence – even WITH him we’ve struggled at times. I know voices, like Kxevin’s, have pointed to pragmatism and adaptation to players, and this is of course true. But Barca need some good mids who can hold on to the ball and be calm. Rakitik is not really such a mid, to me, but he is needed due to the attacking focus of MSN and Messi rarely tracking back. The second CM, however, must have that quality and I agree with your assessment, Jim: they all look good, or promising, but not great.

      Arda sometimes has this ability, but is not consistent enough (yet?); Denis has the style but perhaps not the solidity (yet?); Gomes has much to prove; Rafinha look to be the best option at the moment to shake it up from the mid. This could be his chance to step up and show he can run the mid at Barca. However, he would need Busi for this, and I don’t know what should be done about this. Roberto is the only one who can convincingly replace him and we all know the issue there. Perhaps Masch could manage the RB for some games? (Puyol could!)

      On a different note: the golden ball shenanigans continue. Piqué and Busi left out. Sure, Ramos won CL, but did they not see him at the Euros? And Vardy! I guess a nod for the effort, And Koke instead of Busi. etc etc. Anyway, as Suarez said, it’s all about marketing… It’s just funny, is all.

  7. A couple of great quotes about Ini . He really does transcend national boundaries in a way even Xavi didn’t.

    Cesar Luis Menotti (ex-Arg): “I keep waiting for the Ballon d’Or for Iniesta because he is the best player in the world.” [marca]

    Menotti: “Each football field is 7,000m2 and Iniesta has them all recorded in his head” #fcblive [Marca]

    I was amazed a few years back at the Spain vs Scotland game. Iniesta ran the midfield in the absence of Xavi. When the game ended and the players were leaving the field he turned round just a few yards in front of my wife and I and clapped the crowd ( he had been smiling along with Puyol after the rendition of the. Scottish anthem) . Immediately, it seemed like at least half the stadium , certainly our section, stood up and applauded him.

    Get well soon, Ini.

  8. Looks like that the Aleix Vidal situation is coming to an end. The player has no relationship with the coach. He has no relationship to his teammates. He didn’t even attend the golden boot celebration a couple of days ago. It’s a shame. But at the level that he plays it’s not a game anymore it’s beyond that he showed in the match where he let that attacker score against us by not tackling like he feels the shirt and the crest that rests over your heart. Barcelona as a team or you take your chances or say goodbye ask HLEB! Quaresma, Ibrahimovic (haha Mou), Douglas, Montoya, Assulin et. al. Bye Felicia!

  9. Lets face the truth.Do u believe that Busquets if he go to another top club would be a starter?I am afraid like Pedro he is another one who the system and Leo make him look better than the reality.Truth is that LAMASIA produced Xavi and Iniesta and people start to think every midfielder would be like them.Samper cant play at that level.maybe in 2-3 years.maybe.Shocking but thats for me the hard truth.Pep really trusted youths but in reality players like Tello,Cuenca were so average.And now u can see that at Bayern and City he made a lot of transfers and barely trusted from academy.We like it or not if every 3 years someone from academy can make it it s nice.People that are crying for Samper Grimaldo Tarin e.t.c are living in a fairytale.

    1. I guess Busquets is officially exposed as a system babby that is actually worthless and it was Messi’s divinity who made him look like the best defensive midfielder in the world, even in the last couple of seasons when he played great and Pep wasn’t there.

      RIP Busquets, it was nice while it lasted. Go off to Arsenal or wherever you can further prove your actual worthlessness. ;_;7

    2. I’m not sure they are the same at all, Luis. Pedro left because he couldn’t get into the side and even when he did he found the packed defences hard because he doesn’t have any killer skill like ferocious pace, great dribbling or indeed great finishing. He is good at all these but not great and that’s what it takes.

      Busquets is different entirely. In my opinion he would thrive at another club even more because he wouldn’t face the constant press on him and most play four or five in mdfield so he’d have a lot less ground to cover. It doesn’t take a genius to work out if you stop Busi getting the ball he can’t start the play. He’s followed everywhere especially when the keeper has the ball. Again, in my opinion, he’s not helped by our structure which dictates that the other midfielders stay higher up the pitch. I reckon he would walk into any other side in the world. He reads a game beautifully, has peripheral vision almost as good as Iniesta ( nobody comes close to Xavi in that area) and the control to go with it. His drawback is lack of pace but his reading of the game makes up for a lot. At the moment he looks tired and struggles with the area he has to cover but then nobody else in the team has to cover that much of the pitch. Remember, this is the player of whom Del Bosque said if he could come back as any player in the WORLD it would be Busquets !

      Can’t speak for anyone else but I’ve been fairly unimpressed by a lot of La Masia products over the years, from Bojan and GDS through Cuenca , JDS Tello to Bartra who I felt was close but just not quite . So I’m no La Masia fanboy.

      However the first time I laid eyes on Samper it was obvious to me that his passing game and vision are right up there with the best in our first team. I hear what others say about his defensive game at the moment and agree with some of it but most of that is stuff that can be learned by playing with good players. Samper has never been allowed to play in the same team as our firsts. You play him with Pique and Umtiti behind and you have a winning combination, imo. That is my only real beef with LE. If he had and didn’t produce then fine but you could shove Xavi into that current Granada team and he would give up the game within weeks. Waste of a huge talent.

      With regard to Pep at Bayern and City he needed instant results and I’m not sure how good their academies were so I can’t answer. However, he took a huge gamble on youth in buying Thiago who was still unproven with us and making him the heart of his midfield much to the chagrin of most of the German press. Here he took a huge gamble with Busi in benching Yaya. I wasn’t for it at first but even with his mistakes you could see there was a great player there who was picking up his craft quickly. And that’s the problem with Samper. Busi’s position is so crucial to our whole game that I’m guessing LE didn’t feel he could afford the few weeks to let him settle ( mind you how many games did he give Gumbau ? ) and in the long run any manager who would play Gumbau ahead of Samper worries me.

      Never saw Grimaldo play so I kept out of that argument, don’t know who Tarin is so can’t say but I’m not sure how you equate Samper who has played really well away from home in a largely depleted team in the CL against BL with Marlon who hasn’t played a minute and come to the conclusion that Samper is the fairytale unlike Marlon, whoever he is. Will have a look at the Copa game tonight ? to see though.

    3. Lucho spoke about Samper and his stay at Granada the other day. He’s definitely keeping up with his development at Granada, but also mentioned that Samper is in an unfortunate situation with the sacking of Paco Jemez. It seemed like they were debating whether they should recall him after Christmas, but I also got the feeling that Lucho wants to test Samper. I don’t know if it’s detrimental to his development to be playing in such an unstable club, but if he’s able to come out on top he’ll probably mature a whole lot as a player.

  10. I think there needs to be a good balance between academy youth and purchases. La Masia goes in cycles. The foundations for nurturing world class players are in place but it also depends on the player. For one Messi you can have 15 Assulins. I definitely wouldn’t want our club to lose that valuable asset that is La Masia. The cream will rise to the top.

  11. I have a feeling that until the end of season Marlon will be first team member.This boy is really really good.

    1. Watched just the first half hour or so last night, Luis. He looked decent although he was smoked as badly as I thought Mathieu was by that Espanyol attacker Caicedo. Have to think Mathieu was playing with a niggle just like Alba was rushed back. We need to stop that. That guy had some acceleration from a standing start, though.

  12. With Barça, everyone sees what they want to see. For me, every time Ter Stegen hoofs it, which thankfully aren’t many, I see a worthless paean to an archaic way of playing football, and cringe.

    We will always see what we want to see. So e say Barça rode its luck against City. I don’t believe that. City was basically Rayo. Some posssssion, but Barça had it under control.

  13. I’ll live with the cringes, Kxevin ! No coincidence for me his form has improved since he started hoofing it . . . when he has to . Nobody’s against playing out from the back. That’s our way. However, many of us are also against losing needless goals by overdoing it. It’s just about judgement as to when to do each. I think his balance in the last couple of games has been better.

    Anders, thanks for the heads up on LE’s thoughts about Samper. I’m just not sure what bit of sending him to a club in crisis where the vast majority of players are on loan from other clubs and who, under the last boss, played little no football either made sense as a loan for him. Now, knowing they are likely to go down, are playing virtually no possession football and he’s not even getting a game would seem to me to be a decent reaso for recall and not after Christmas. If you add in Busi’s current issues then he has to be worth a chance.

    If he’s left there it becomes his rather than the club’s problem and it’s pretty hard to play possession football on your own. I know as I try to do it every Monday night with my fifty somethings game. You are available but they all think hey can hit a long slow forty yard pass to a marked forward, you get the ball and play a short pass only to see the back of the recipient’s jersey as he decides that in his fifties he has become the reincarnation of R10 and sets off on a dribble getting faster and faster till you could knock him over with a feather. My favourite trick though is when you remind them of the advantages of passing ( ie more touches for all of us) and one takes you literally and moves towards you with the ball, only releasing it to you when they are about five feet away heavily pursued by six opponents and it’s then your fault you lost it ! So there’s little point in hoping Samper can turn a whole side around imo. No one person can. I hope he gets a game tonight but if he does I hope he gets enough ball to show us he’s wasted there.

    With regard to seeing what we want to see I suppose there’s an element of that in anyone’s opinions although the TS example above illustrates that sometimes it’s more that we see the same thing and react differently to it. I suspect that’s more often the case.. Nobody is completely objective but half the fun for me is in having opinions , backing them up and having them challenged by others. then rewatching to see if they have a point.

    Big bummer on my return from the golf today, though. My wife had let the Sky repair man in to fix a fault and he’s only swapped out my old box and taken it away. Gone are RM manitas, Ini’s WC final a couple of concerts I loved and several episodes of series no longer on catchup 🙁

    1. Are we watching the same game? Or are you referring to the other team?

      Granada indeed weren’t interested in anything but defending, but even so a game where the opponent get their first real chance in the final minutes while Barca created a good amount of great chances against eleven behind the ball isn’t “dross” for me. The only one who was poor tonight was Suarez (and I think he will shake it off soon).

    2. Certainly Suarez (whichever one) was better than Messi tonight. That is easily the worst Messi performance I’ve ever seen, nothing came off for him. He couldn’t even control the ball. If anyone else played the game that he did they would get annihilated in the media. He’ll be back though

  14. Not a bad game, though the important is the win and 3 points on our account.
    Indeed Messi was awful.

  15. Didn’t catch the game until now. Slow affair, wasn’t it? Tidy enough, but lack of focus and movement didn’t help. Luckily, chance didn’t punish us in the final minutes. Defence looked very good, Umtiti and Sergi especially, but all did very well. Messi had a strange game. He did create a few chances in the first, and ignited the play leading to the goal beautifully. But we were also reminded of the gamble of having him too deep, especially off his game. Some horrific losses (about 10 losses of possession overall for him) and a real lack of any purpose in the second half. That scoffed chance is proof he really no longer cares for golden boots…

    Suarez off, too, while Neymar at least had some fire and direction. I don’t really feel Denis impressed too much, nor Rafinha, but I guess it is more difficult if there is little to none movement from the front three. Raki did ok as a holder, but is often too slow is recycling the ball (a general problem today, together with weakly hit passes), as he is used to a different game. Would be fabulous if we could clone Roberto to play that part, too. He has become perhaps our most consistent performer of late! And finally, Gomes had another slow showing, but let’s wait with the pitchforks and torches… still, we are waiting for someone to claim Ini’s spot – Arda? Otherwise, I would still go with Rafinha.

    And Jim, I concur on the Samper issue. As things stand, he would be better off back home.

  16. I’m new to this site & yes from my name I’m a Batman and Barca fan. About the game, all minds were clearly in Manchester, Denis probably looks a bit forced in that Ini role and Messi terrible. Also, have you guys noticed Enrique sold wingers that play RW i.e Deulofeu, Alen and Adama

  17. This might be a bit overly positive, but the way Barcelona are playing reminds me of LE’s first year.

  18. Ok, really looking forward to this. As one of those who did think we rode our luck last time against City I’m keen to see a better performance from us , at least defensively. I hope it’s a straight back four. We need to be able to keep it tighter although paradoxically if Aguero plays at least it’ll be a more regular situation to defend. Curious to see if Pep trusts his side to press higher or whether he feels the flooding of the midfield worked last time in cutting service.

    You have to feel that Messi was saving himself at the weekend, though. That could be bad news for them.

  19. A complete control from us with some beautiful plays from the back and we should have nailed couple of more goals and maybe finish the game. One mistake from SR and it gave them a momentum. I hope we continue with the same atittude in the second half.

  20. Unlucky, and Roberto, too, who has been fantastic this season – he also committed another error closely after, almost leading to a second. Regardless, a very good half from us – started well, and regained control after a slight dip. If Suarez had looked up, it would be two for us. He is not in form at all, despite some good running; too sloppy with passes, too eager to score. Gomes is having his best minutes so far – just keep it up defensively, too. Willing to hold on to the all (Raki’s been sloppy, there), making good, deep runs.

    Overall, this is looking good, despite the drawback. 72-28 % possession against a Guardiola team…

    1. Well, how the tide can turn, and City suddenly found the mojo. Man, that was quite an eclipse, 1-3. Messi isolated.

  21. There we have it. A complete make-over and we never recovered. City have a pretty great second half of the game, classic Guardiola, winning the ball back early, pressing, winning deservedly. Still, Barca, again, waisted their momentum by not scoring.

    It looked promising, but I’m not sure it was. Messi played his energy game and we dominated; he will never do that the entire game, however, and we need more. Ney starts making things too complicated and Suarez is having a crisis, despite the fine should-have-been assist to Gomes. I can’t help but to feel there is something wring in the team’s balance, especially without Iniesta. Rakitic does not manage do the playmaking and showed a few moments of lousy control. Hell, even SR looked beaten after his mistake. Busi misreading, defence shaky at times. A really bad second half, that Arda did nothing to remedy (rather the opposite).

    Someone with better knowledge of tactics might be able to explain, but I can’t escape the notion that the midfield does not function as it should. we struggle too much with playing out from the back, and for me the reason (assuming intense pressure from opponents) is partly that the mids are not able to find space and receive the ball, and perhaps do not have the skill the manage the kind of pass from the back needed to break the pressure. Gomes looked the part on some occasions in the first, though. Furthermore, Messi is not always helping in this by crowding the middle (though he is the one able to receive the passes). How often have we turned games around when he has planted himself in his old false 9 position? Suarez does little good on the wing, and will always drift back inside before long.

    Sorry for the negativity, such a disheartening shift in the game; I know we are missing Piqué and Iniesta, and Busi and Suarez are looking for themselves, but I have to ask: is there something amiss in the tactics, or has the team just not settled, new faces and all?

    1. It seems like the midfield shape is completely off. It certainly was in the second half when City delivered the killing blow. I’m not sure if that’s down to a tactical flaw or not, but is certainly doesn’t help that the CMs often seemed to abandon their defensive duties. A lot of City’s attacks also seemed to originate from the wings. Messi obviously doesn’t track back, but I’m not sure I remember a game where our right back was as alone as Roberto was today.

      So far this season has felt a bit like Lucho’s first one. We’re doing alright, but the system just doesn’t seem to really gel. I’m not sure why that is, but the midfield seems pretty weak. Iniesta being out is obviously a massive factor in that both because of his incredible level, but also because the replacement inevitably alters the, already unstable, midfield a bit. Busi is also not playing to his usual standards. Whether that’s because he simply can’t find form or because his role has been tinkered with is a good question. He certainly seems to have been given more freedom offensively, but I’m not sure if that can tilt the midfield to the point that it’s as weak as it was today. He was late on a number of challenges today, and I guess that hints towards him just being a bit sluggish since the players could barely enter City’s half in those periods.

      The group should still pretty much be wrapped up though as 4 points from the last 2 games is sufficient. On to Sevilla where I hope the team can bounce back with a win. At the very least, the flaws today should be pretty clear to Lucho.

  22. 3-1 flattered us cos really, they should have scored more. We lacked total control, our mids for whatever reasons were lost, couldn’t even control a simple pass. I am scared of the el classico now especially without Iniesta. It’s obvious our midfield is the weak link in this team. Plus I wonder why Messi wasn’t been involved much in the game, everything seemed to go through Neymar who would always complicate things then eventually lose it. Hopefully we will win the group and this loss proves insignificant

  23. I am sorry but the joke with Busquets must stop.A top team must have a DM.Tell me whatever u want about Suarez or Digne or anyone that did nt play good but we play without a good DM so dont expect anything from midfield.Thank u for everything Busi but you are past.Thats football.If Lucho wants to kill the team waiting when Busquets will be good again bye bye season.We had that in past with Pique waiting 2 seasons to be great again.But Barca cant do that just because they are so many years here and the club must be nice.Enough.I am mad with him.

  24. And the worst Lucho did was that subbed Rakitic! and then our best player Andres and left Busi in.My god what did he was thinking?A DM that cant run in modern game?He cant shoot he cant make runs to the box he dont have a killer pass what did he offer to the team?To watch the other team counterattack and watch?

  25. And dont call me a hater.There are people that after every game say that Suarez was the worst as if our problem is the attack.Like if we scored the 0-2 then blah blah.So if we dont score the 2nd the team concede 3 lets blame the number 9.Or lets blame the number 9 that our attacking system is give the ball to MSN and they will do something.Without midfield we are dead.Both in defense and attack the problem is the midfield.

  26. And tbf we lost to individual mistakes like many said City lost in first game?Or now Pep is god again?Against the most expensive team in the world away without our best DF and MF?In a game that we really was not that important for us?So i am not mad for the loss and i believe we were not so interested but again i believe we lost due to our own problems.Teams quality we are far better but Lucho must work the midfield.

  27. And please can we never again play Macherano at CB?Just buy Mina in the winter or promote Marlon.To play without Pique is already a big loss.But to play Macherano in his place is a disaster.

  28. Firstly
    #Luis, juts relax, you are taking this too much to your heart. Almost nobody is attacking Suarez or LE.
    The only team that i’m not worried when we lose is City, and that’s when we already have 9 points in the bag, so a win against Celtic or Borussia will do the job. I don’t know should i point out the X or Y player defiance in the second half, but i’ll just say that it was a complete team failure. Something went wrong and it ended wrong.

  29. we played a great 1st half. but our 2nd half was utterly gross, they scored goals that could be avoidable like the 1st one and the 2nd.., the team looked lost and lacked control, we lost due to our individual mistakes. I blame mats for KDB’s goal he should have use his left hand to save the ball not his right hand, but I hope he learnt the lesson. lucho got it wrong in substituting Arda(he was disappointing) he should have left Andre who was our best midfielder there in.

    I m quite sure we will bounce back stronger against Seville. BTW I f*cking hate twitter, have you seen the meltdown there? simply outrageous. the melancholy and doom and gloom prophecy is out of proportion.

    1. Yes, Twitter is ridiculous; chose wisely who to read/follow… Gomes, to me, had faded after a fine first half – I can see the need for a change, there. But perhaps not a recently returned Arda. Denis too light-weight? Rafinha should have been on first. Not that I think it would have made a difference. Gomes scoring might have, though… but we lost that game when SR made a mistake, and that’s a fragile balance! On the FK, ter Stegen should have done better, but many keepers make that small movement, anticipating a shot to their right. KDB managed to get a wonderful dip on that shot, too. And we seldom complain when Leo scores in the “wrong” corner… it happens! (btw, what has happened to Messi’s FKs? He has completely lost it, at the moment.)

      Will be interesting to see how the team responds against a strong Sevilla! It’s going to the tough.

  30. ( Spoiler: crabby old git ahead. – but I’m fed up almost falling asleep during our matches and waiting for Messi to save us).

    Well, were we expecting that? Maybe not if you thought we outplayed them at home, Maybe not if you thought we didn’t have the rub of the green at home. Maybe not if you’re always comfortable that Barcelona will turn things around ( until they don’t ) but I was nervous before this game and my fears were realised.

    We needed a much better performance than we got from our side for whatever reason. The first thing I’m going to take issue with is the thought that we played our best first half of the season. What I saw was a fairly even half overall where we played quite well out of their press for most of the time and put some pressure on their possession. Good so far . We scored out of the blue and didn’t really threaten at all after that. If anyone can think of incidents where we got at their keeper please enlighten me. I only remember Messi’s slightly over hit ball for Suarez’s header. I do remember the calls for a penalty for Messi. Could’ve been ( Messi usually doesn’t claim unless there’s something to it) but. It wasn’t a stonewaller unlike Umtiti’s challenge earlier in the game. So for me, a fairly even half but not one where we played badly although no question they finished the stronger and something needed said at half time.

    Problem was Pep saw what was happening and made the difference. City came out a different side and we came out no different. We were well beaten and it could have been a genuine hiding. No, seriously six or seven.

    So what went wrong ? Well, you can look at individual errors – SR had a night to forget but for me the jury was always out on his defensive skills under pressure. Yes, he looks good on the ball going forward and I love the effort he puts in every game. Not saying he can’t. Just saying that he has never convinced me defensively. And the test was always going to come when teams pressurised our defence. He made three or four big errors – some not helped by others. Masche was no help on the goal. Should have dropped deeper as Pique would have rather than advancing, Busi was a tad slow going for another but bottom line there was a lot of bad defending in his play as there was in all the defence last night.

    At last folks are starting to talk about the midfield. I was shouted out of class last season when I said LE was neglecting the midfield and was told that the game had moved on. Well, last night it moved back ! Again, sorry Luis, I felt heart sorry for Busi and the amount of work he is being asked to do. He is getting no help from the other two mids – remind me of anything Rakitic did last night? I know he is another who you can’t fault for effort but without a joke I could play 90% of the passes he does. He adds nothing to our play. Gomes threatened to show some promise in the first half and looks not bad on the ball but he is a nightmare without it and died second half. You could bring on Suarez, Rafinha or Arda and I’m afraid the scene doesn’t change much. So much for our golden tinged purchases in the summer. They may come good and they deserve the rest of the season to do so but I’ve a feeling most will be on their way ere long. Is anyone really seeing a world class midfielder among them ? A Gomes with pace, a Rafinha with better passing ( Thiago), a Denis with composure and an Arda with some of the fire and trickery he had at AM would be useful.

    I , for one, am not blaming the forwards. They are hamstrung. We should have the ball at the opponents’ box and be pinging it about looking for little darts here and there not struggling to get up as far as it and when we do there are only three of them there. Yes, Suarez ran, yes Messi was brilliant at times when he got the ball, yes Neymar still looks every match like he could burst through an entire defence on his own but without backup and enough options it’s hard. Ideally, you want Ini with the ball looking up and seeing the three of them moving in the box. Not sure any of the three did as much defensively as they might have but that’s where their culpability ends for me.

    The manager. Is he responsible ? I’m not a great person to ask because I’ve not really taken to him completely . When he took over there was an improvement in our defending. If that was him then he deserves the credit. That has gone. I’m putting it down to continuing to play Masche ( how many of their chances was he involved in last night ? ) , and overloading Busi allowing the other mids to move out of helping distance. As someone said the number of times Busi was having to hit long balls to find a player was crazy. They should be at hand. So that’s down to him. What’s not are the mistakes. Both managers came out and talked about mistakes being a part of the game which is right but teams don’t win CLs making too many of them and we are making a habit of not making teams work for their goals. It’s the easiest thing in the world when you have EASILY t he best front line in the world to fall into the trap of just getting it to them a sap but that is a quick fix that won’t always work as teams suss you out.

    Nothing is lost yet. To some extent, it’s just an old git with a penchant for good football ( yes it exists) moaning about bygone days . We should go on to qualify. However, make no mistake. Parkhead will not be a walkover. We need to quieten Celtic ( not a great team) and take the sting out of the crowd by controlling the ball for long periods, without necessarily doing anything dramatic with it. They are capable of playing way above their level on individual nights at home. However, maybe the best thing to come out of last night, for me, is that folks, and hopefully, LE will start realising that all is not well in the midfield and that it needs sorted . How to do that. I m not sure. We will have great games this season where the front three will be enough and others where, with Pique and Ini back, we will improve our control but there is still something to be fixed there.

  31. Tbf i have seen games like that before.Against Inter in 2010,Chelsea 2012 and so.I was hoping that Lucho will stop the problem when we face counterattacks.But its 2016,Leo cant press,Busi is a shadow of the past,Iniesta 32.Lucho tried to build a new more dynamic team,more direct,faster,taller,stronger.And he was right football changes every year,possesion is not important anymore.Look at NZonzi,sevilla DM.He is the player that we believe Busi is.Tall strong great tackler great passing.Lets wait Sunday to watch both.I am afraid that with Busi in it will be a nightmare for him.Who knows maybe Carbonell from b team can help in as season goes.

  32. The only solution i can see is a 3-5-2.With 4-3-3 and without a world class DM in this system we are dead.Or maybe a 4-4-2.Neymar and Suarez as Fw Raki and Gomes Iniesta LCM And Leo RCM.

  33. come on Luis, besquet is far more better than Onzanzi, he is just passing through a difficult time. he will be back

  34. On Busquets: I accurately align with Luis’s thought. Since there has been a considerable shift from our possession style of play, where we rely on it as our defensive mechanism, Busquets’s presence in this rejigged system is proving to be more of a disadvantage and a misfit than a benefit. Granted the other midfielders aren’t entirely supportive defensively, his lack of pace (a MAJOR attribute a dm should possess), coupled with his lack of aggression, seem to somehow render him more as a liability. The part I find most exasperating about his game, that has not changed since he made his debut, is his constant predisposition to dwell needlessly on the ball, ignores the option to pass, until an opponent dispossesses him thus resulting in a goalscoring opportunity or a goal. As the shield of the defence, he has never really inspired in me that sense of security or protection, especially when faced against teams that played the way City played against us. His football intelligence was a great asset under the previous dispensation, no doubt. Time would tell if this is just form problem or something fundamental.

    On S.Roberto: His offensive contributions this season has been very impressive, no doubt. And it really was sad to see him have his worst game for us in that position. In fairness, he’s hardly had a bad game for us. Still and all, like Jim, my reservation has always been on his defensive competence. While his defensive shortcomings would most likely not be exposed against average teams, it should be absolutely expected that they will be gainst bigger oppositions, like we saw on Tuesday. In my view, he is the perfect back up for that position, but not a first choice against teams that have the capabilities to expose his shortcomings. That’s why I strongly believe a major requisite for purchasing fullbacks for the team should be aimed more at their defensive strength than their offensive ability. See where the Vidal experiment got us.

    On Digne: I initially felt he was more defensively capable than Alba. It appears he isn’t, so far. The only reason he can be cut some slack is that he is a new signing and a back up.

    On Gomez: Not only has he failed to convince me, he has not made any notable contribution or had a remarkable game for us till date. His crossbar effort against City has been the only major highlight in his time with Barca. Not only is he defensively indolent (which is compounded by his lack of pace), he is also a liability offensively. Why we bought him in the first place, I’d never comprehend. His purchase greatly boggles the mind and severely defies logic. With a Coutinho signing, you are least rest assured of getting value for money. I know he is a new signing, sure. I have however seen enough indications to know he won’t last long in the club. I would be more than happy to be proved wrong.

    Btw, victories or defeats, the above-expressed opinion of the stated players would still be the same regardless.

  35. I don’t think a single defeat, even a painful one like that one, makes many of our players instantly bad players (not responding to a specific person here). And it’s worth mentioning that in the first half the team did rather well, it all just broke down in the second half.

    Busquets got caught unaware a lot, Sergi Roberto gave the ball away far too much etc. But they have already proven time and time again that they can do very well at their positions. This game, it was a combination of Guardiola getting it exactly right (in the second half), City players playing like there’s no tomorrow, and our tactics not working against theirs at all. For instance, Sergi Roberto was completely isolated on the right side during the second half.

    I don’t agree with Jim that in these games we need a stronger midfield to pass the ball safely out from defense. We need a strong defensive midfield, but not necessarily an offensive one.I think the solution is closer to some of the league games against Atleti, where they also had five to six attackers press our defense, and Barca largely bypassed the midfield with long balls to the attackers. Passing out from defense with short passes under pressure can be done to an extent, but when the opponent commits as many men forward as City, at some point there is too little space available for any degree of safety. It became very clear towards the end of the first half that passing out the back wouldn’t work here, yet they tried it again and again and again, allowing City counterattack after counterattack. No idea how much of that is due to orders from Enrique (who certainly has shown that he can be very pragmatic when it comes to winning games).

  36. Btw one player that we really miss and nobody is talking is Alba.I read sometimes so funny things about him that he is not good for us e.t.c.For me he is perfect for our system.But sometimes i watch other teams and see that their fullback when the team defend have help from DM and MF or FW.Roberto have very little help and Alba the same sometimes.Our players must be more aggresive when they defend.We judge harsh our RB and LB.I believe both are great.

  37. Some interesting comments, guys. I always feel that this is where this space works better than Twitter in that there are big disagreements at times but handled in a respectful way.

    First, Georgejorge, I know you weren’t necessarily referring to me but I don’t think I change my opinion of players because of one game. Ive certainly been banging on about the midfield for long enough. With regard to aforementioned midfield I can see why you want a more defensive midfield but with a central pairing of Pique and Umtiti our defence would have been a lot more stable on Tuesday. The goals we tend to lose arent with our full defence back . We tend to lose to individual errors or turnovers in our third of the field. A stronger passing ( and moving) midfield would give us more options in terms of controlling the game and moving it forward. I have no problem moving it forward quickly but that is a low percentage game as, Suarez apart, they aren’t tall or good in the air so the ball can come right back.

    With regard to Busi I still reckon that half his problems would go away with a reigning of the midfield positions. It will be interesting to watch against Seville. when Busi gets the ball his standard reaction is to return it to the passer if there is any heavy pressure. Not really possible if he’s having to hit a longer ball to start with . That was the point of all those short passes between him Xavi and Iniesta. You pass back to the passer who is continuing to move then move again yourself and you have SAF’s carousel. I see too much standing around in one place from the other two mids. The next element in Busi’s play is receiving the ball and making a quick turn away from the on rushing marker. He has been poorer at that lately but I’m still not convinced it’s all down to him. That move works best when he has one or two other options which the rusher is aware of and has to hedge his bets for. At present quite often the easy lay off isn’t available so they know he will have to take it in. I could be wrong in this but have a look at the weekend and see what you think .

    Luis, I agree Alba is sometimes undervalued but you are also right that the RB or LB needs options as well. There passing options are limited , receiving the ball next to the touchline. They need an option back ( like SR should have had at the goal) , a GK option if applicable , a midfield option even just for a wall pass with them if marked ( like Alves did to perfection) and a longer ball for Suarez to run onto which he is great at. That is also not happening. My worry for SR is more defensive than use of the ball despite some poor passes against City. I’m confident enough in his ball skills . Btw, I would also argue that Iniesta has done more good defending this and last season than ever before. I remain to be convinced that that is the best use of such a talent when we don’t have a midfield play,maker.

    Finally, as a general point I don’t think we should be scared back into the needing big physical players to succeed in the ” modern game” mindset . That was exactly what Man U thought going into the CL final, it has been a prevalent thought at various times through the last fifty years and has constantly been shown up by teams and also small individual players. Think of players who have run games / teams over the last. number of years and how few were Pogba like in their physicality. What you do need is quality at the very top level and that’s where our thoughts should lie.

    I’ve depressed myself. Any word on Pique’/ Alba’s return ?

  38. BELLERÍN! – Now! Ahora! Gobs of pace. Good defensively. Excellent attackingly. Beyond Sergi
    Sergi Roberto back to DM or CM – he’s better in the middle. Good shot. Excellent awareness. Better pace than Gomes.
    Thiago needs to come back
    Lately Lucho has been baffling me with his tactical choices. Why not start Rafinha instead of Gomes. Rafinha would not have missed that open goal sitter because Rafinha shoots. Rafinha scores. Thiago A. Rafinha A. Sergi Roberto. That’s our midfield for the future. Keep it in the house boys.

Comments are closed.