Barca 3, Valencia 0, a.k.a “Pressure equals destruction”

Quick! Get me more relatives cousins!

Wow! Our Man of the Match, Lionel Messi, should decicate more goals to the daughter of his cousin. What a knockout match by our little wizard (eventually), and what a display by our team (again, eventually).

Believe it or not MOTM wasn’t easy. Could it have been Victor Valdes, for his three goal-saving efforts, including an absolutely massive 1-v-1 stop against Nicola Zigic? Yes. Could it have been Thierry Henry, for his injection of whatever in the hell it was that made the difference in the second half? Sure. Could we have broken precedent, and given MOTM to a non-player in Tito Vilanova, who either read the players the riot act, or put Guardiola on speakerphone in the locker room? Why not?

But Messi it is, because he played the kind of match we’ve all been expecting of him for so long, one that included defense, battling for midfield possession, timely passes, goals galore and timely one-on-one play. For me, it doesn’t vex me when Messi is self-possessed. Sometimes, he has to be. It’s when he’s selfish that I get all bothered.

The difference, is that self-possession is “There aren’t any better options, let’s see what I can do.” Selfishness is “I don’t care who’s open. My ego tells me that I’m the best option.” Huge difference. The former finds him getting a deflected ball in the box, seeing nobody moving to help out and having him swing into action. The latter finds him on a break with a certain big Swede, and ignoring him for a shot that didn’t have a chance.

But even more importantly than Messi, in the second half we looked like a team again. People will say that Valencia were undermanned defensively, and the red card really killed them, there were sunspots, whatever. Valencia were playing pretty darned good in the first half, and might have even deserved to be ahead. Fact of the matter is that in the second half, we took it upon ourselves to play the kind of relentless pressure-based football that made us the best team ever last season, a team that puts pressure on you whether it has the ball or not.

It just took a while to get there.

Guardiola (because let’s not kid ourselves here about this one) rolled out with a lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro!, Krkic. I predicted the attack, because there was no way in hell that Henry was starting, despite the comments from Guardiola about the excellent week of practice that he had, etc, etc. And so it went.

And we were awful, completely bereft of ideas on attack, content to let Valencia pass the ball around in the midfield, something that put our defense in grave danger. Yes, we had possession, but we didn’t do a damned thing with it, as our only decent chances on goal came through Valencia errors or deflections. We created nothing of our own, and didn’t look as though we would.

Because we had absolutely zero wing play of any consequence from the right of left, Messi was easy to mark out of the match, as we couldn’t devise a way to get him the ball. And even when he did, he was surrounded by defenders, because Iniesta was also pretty much invisible. Dude needs to understand that Ghostface means pale, not ghost-like as invisible. So Xavi was doing his thing to no avail, and we were all bunched up in the middle of the pitch. So when Valencia began to gather confidence and push the lines up, we obliged by making shitty passes out of the back and being generally lackluster. Maxwell was doling out atrocious clearances, Pedro! was killing attack after attack, Krkic was finding out what it’s like to play against full-size defenders, and everything was a mess.

All of the poor decisionmaking that had been manifesting itself this season, came to the fore. We were keeping the ball too long, there were no triangles on attack or defense, the entire club was a desultory mess that deserved to be down, going into the locker room.

Most critically, there was no aggression. Not only weren’t we creating good chances, we didn’t look all that interested in creating good chances. So we walked when we could run, and stroked the ball around as in practice. It was pointless, and annoying as hell.

So what happened in that second half?

For one thing, aggression. Just look at the posture of our players from half to half. In the first half they were on their heels, tentative and uncertain. In the second they were on their toes, constantly moving forward. Ball pressure both in and out of possession made a Valencia side that gave us such a difficult time in the first half, look much the inferior side in the second half. It was more than the introduction of Thierry Henry, though tactically, the threat that he posed in place of Krkic changed a lot offensively. But just look at the differences, on and off the ball.

First half, we stand around with the ball, with negative passes and dead in the water attacks by isolated players. Messi hardly has any touches, and none of real merit, in the first half. In the second half, with possession there are stacked triangles, so that every player with the ball has at least two attacking options. The number of negative passes were dramatically reduced, thanks to runs on and off the ball. Players were running into space and creating attacking options, rather than waiting for the pass, then trying to dribble down the entire Valencia defense.

And we were getting Messi the ball in areas where he could do damage, close to the box and on the move. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Messi is easy to defend when he gets the ball in the midfield and runs at the defense. It’s just a matter of stacking enough guys in front of him. Now look at the first goal, as he took the pass just outside the box, in an area that immediately sowed panic. They had to play honest on Pedro! and Henry, and you couldn’t play Messi that tight or physically in the box, lest he fake you out and draw a penalty. Sure, he faked Valencia’s defense out of its collective jocks and broke some ankles to boot, before smoking it past the keeper on the near side. But still you at least make him take the shot, right?

Defensively, we were still on our toes, tracking the ball and most importantly, doing it with triangles intact, so that there weren’t the same wide-open passing lanes for Valencia to exploit. They had to pass more quickly as the pressure was coming from everywhere, so we kept working ball after ball loose in the midfield, which also meant less distance for the offense to travel to reach the Valencia box.

We have looked good this season, and have looked much like our old selves. But this was the first match where I could honestly say “This club could beat any club in the world right now. Period, full stop.” And that was true even before Valencia went down to 10 men.

Tactically, there is a simple explanation, really. Iniesta moved to the left wing in place of Krkic, and Henry moved to the center, to give our offense a focal point. So we had three real points of danger (Iniesta, Henry, Messi) instead of one (Messi). The space created meant that we could run riot. But more than that, our attitude switched. We moved more quickly, and played more one-touch. Everybody started moving, and playing where the ball was going to be, rather than where it was.

The second half also came down to a key moment in the 68th minute, when Zigic was turned loose (even though he was offside) on Valdes for a one-on-one break. Valdes made a killer save, thanks in part to Zigic cocking it up and shooting too soon. But you’d better believe keepers can look in an attacker’s eyes and think, “Punk. Give me that damned ball.” Valdes did, and that was that. Because if the match goes to 1-1, maybe things are different. Maybe that aggression and confidence transmute into a bit of doubt.

But Valdes stonewalled his ass, and we went back to battering them with pressure, until Henry laced a cross-pitch pass to Messi, who controlled it and raced into the Valencia box, before smoking an exquisite curler into the far side. Suddenly he had a brace, and rather than it being 1-1 and Valencia feeling as if they had life, it’s 2-0 and the match is over.

And the goal was all Messi, right? Wrong. Yes, Henry’s pass was one that almost any Barca player can make. The difference, and what made it such a good pass was the situation and the timing. He dropped that ball right at Messi’s feet from the opposite sideline, in an arc that put it over the head/leg of a player who could have intercepted it, and in a spot where Messi could control and move. No, that was no ordinary pass. Yes, Messi did all the rest of the work to score the goal, but if that pass is lower, it never gets there. If it’s higher, a defender gets there at the same time as the ball.

Get outta my way. I have something to prove!

But damn, that shot was magic. The keeper didn’t have a chance. It was 2-0, and ESPN was busy reveling in the replay as Henry and Messi decided to team up again. Iniesta popped a loose ball perfectly to Henry, who controlled with his chest and stabbed a lunging pass to an on-the-move Messi, who doled out a cheeky little chip over the keeper for his hat trick. Henry had two assists, in addition to chasing that damned ball all over the pitch, and could have had two more, had Xavi had his shooting boots on.

It was as delightful a second-half display as it was a desultory first one, and we win. Yay! Most importantly, look at the goal celebrations, and the joy present in them. Football was fun again, at least for a half.

Team: 6. Would have been higher, had they played a whole match, the lazy bums. But when they started to play …. wow!

Vilanova (Guardiola): 5. Wrong lineup at first. How in the hell could you think that an attack of Krkic, Pedro! and Messi would do the trick against a real side? We need at least one grownup out there. Nice salvage with the Henry insertion.

Valdes: 9. Are you freakin’ kidding me? Dude looked like all-world today, making up for the frailties of his defense in an immense way. If he’s any less of a keeper, we’re walking into the locker room at halftime down by two goals, and life has immense suck. And stonewalling Zigic was gargantuan.

Alves: 6. Solid. Good defense, got better on offense. Has had rather a heavy first touch of late, leading to fouls or loss of possession. But overall, he played well enough.

Pique: 9. Leader. And I might be so bold as to suggest that our best center pairing is he and Milito. Blasphemy, I know. But I’m opening the discussion on that one. Intervention after intervention, and standing up to Zigic like that was all man, all the time.

Milito: 9. Wait, this dude was injured how long? Between heading balls to safety, covering for Maxwell’s well-toasted ass, clearing balls and standing up attackers, what a match.

Maxwell: 5. Played much better in the second half when Valencia wasn’t a threat, but his side was Route One for their attack in the first half. Dude was like a Camp Nou turnstile. At least make them pay on offense, but he didn’t even do that.

Busquets: 8. Busquets the Destroyer was in full effect today. He broke up more attacks, and worked more balls loose …. amazing. He tried to get a little fancy at times, which brought his aggregate score down, but what a match.

Xavi: 7. He’s been sharper, but he really picked it up along with the rest of the team in the second half, when he turned into the command/control monster. Sometimes, the way he controls the ball when all else around him is chaos, just blows me away.

Iniesta: 5. He just wasn’t very good in the first half, and improved enough to get him a middling mark in the second, with midfield effort and those little runs up the left wing that don’t amount to anything, but create much-needed space and width for us.

Pedro!: 4. Where good attacks went to die in the first half. In the second, he didn’t see the ball as much, which made his lack of tactical sense less of a liability for us. He holds the ball too long, and doesn’t know what to do when he meets resistance. Pass and move, dude. Pass and move.

Krkic: 1. He was just terrible today. People have been clamoring for pitch time for you, and this is what you do? No movement, no ideas except that weak drag dribble that doesn’t work against any defender, no nothing. You want time, earn it.

Messi: 10. Staggering match. He didn’t show a lot in the first half, but even then, every time he touched the ball, he was dangerous. He helped on defense and midfield pressure, made runs and was a full-on dervish. He’s now got a 3-goal lead in the pichichi race. And now I will bring a bit of downer to the proceedings. He has to learn to play with Ibrahimovic the way that he plays with Henry. Another point of discussion, that will be helped by the observation that no, it ain’t all Ibrahimovic’s fault.


Henry (for Krkic): 10. I can’t think of a recent substitution that has made such a difference. Not only did he assist on two of Messi’s goals, chase the ball, battle for midfield possession, harass the keeper, make runs and do everything short of emptying out the Camp Nou trash cans, but he made a case that for getting back into the starting lineup. Oh, and Xavi owes him two assists.

Jeffren (for Iniesta): incomplete. Not enough time to really do anything at all except run around and get loose.

The Yaya (for Messi): incomplete . The sub was just to give Messi a chance to get his well-deserved standing ovation, and the genuine affection that passed between he and our man mountain was cool to see.

Now, I’m not going to say that we are back to ourselves. We’ve said that before, and look where it’s gotten us. I’m learning to take each match as a little microcosm. I think this is going to be an up-and-down remainder of the season, and we should all just enjoy the beautiful footy when we get it, and hope that we can grit it out when we don’t. Next up is Stuttgart in the Champions League. Isaiah wrote a bitchin’ preview, then forgot to send it, and left his laptop at home. He sucks. So Hector or I will dole out some rather emphatically un pearl-like verbiage that will have to suffice. Word.

And finally, thanks so much to Yogesh for running the LiveBlog. I’m sure it all went well, because the family that we have here means that Isaiah, Hector and I always have surrogates who can carry on, and keep everything all smooth and stuff. It’s much appreciated, and I hope that it was a fun LiveBlog. Rock on.

Crap. These seats kinda suck. Why won't Tito answer the phone?

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. milito is looking good, i grew to love him really quickly during that disastrous season when he arrived. he was one of the few bright spots in the team.

    2. It’s a shame that what looks like the best defender combo does not include Captain Caveman. Even though he is the best fireman on the team, perhaps those fires do not even start when Pique and Milito are paired up back there.

    3. i think its a bit premature to say that pique + milito is the best combo we have, they’ve barely played together this season.

      puyol + pique is the strongest for me still.

  1. And I agree with Messi being the MOTM, but I wouldn’t have any qualms with Henry getting the nod either. Game changing substitution if I’ve ever seen one.

    Good on Messi to acknowledge Henry’s hard work and pressure.

  2. A bit of a history lesson:

    At the First Battle of Bull Run in the Civil War the Confederates were being decimated by the Union attack. As their lines began to crumble a cry went up: “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall.” And he was, Jackson’s brigade stood their ground and allowed the Confederate troops to rally around them and ultimately stopped the Union assault. Jackson rightfully earned his nickname (Stonewall Jackson) from this battle.

    Valdes must be Jackson reincarnated. How many times has he stood like a stone wall this year as our defense has crumbled around him?

    Stonewall Valdes – a true hero.

  3. My thoughts on Bojan:

    The kid couldn’t have been more disconnected from his teammates today. He held his width well on the left flank, but he rarely saw the ball out there. When he did he was often left alone – I can think of one situation when Iniesta passed him the ball and it was just him and a defender anywhere in sight. Bojan made some terrible runs that messed up the team’s rhythm, but he also made some good runs where his teammates failed to pick him out. He also didn’t pass when he needed to. The thing that upsets me the most about his performance is he was never able to be his man on the left wing. Just horrible.

    Absolutely a poor performance. Despite all that, I didn’t think he stood out as being particularly bad in the first half – he fit right in with how poorly the entire team was playing.

    The “Tale of Two Halves” can’t be solely down to the Henry for Bojan switch. We looked like a completely different team out there.

  4. Pique’s block in the 1st half was monumental, I was certain Silva would score, or atleast test Valdes.Out slides Pique from nowhere in Vintage Puyol style.

  5. nice to see the henry of last season show up, lets not forget he would have had a goal (or another assist to messi) had he not been wrongly called offside.

  6. Could somebody explain to me why Pep keeps pushing Messi to the middle so mush this year. As soon as Leo moved more to the right, he became alot more dangerous. In the middle he is always surrounded by opposite players and his runs aren’t as effective, but on the right side he has more space to run into and take a shot. But then again he is pichici at the moment, so what do I know.
    Also interesting read:

    1. He might be pushing Messi to the center so he gets better there and has more confidence for when he goes off to play for Argentina.

  7. Only 3 ahead in the pichichi, because Higuain also scored a hat-trick. But where was he again in the CL… ? 🙂

    I was in a restaurant for dinner and I came back to watch the match from approx. the 50th minute. My friend told me Barca played crappy in the first half, and I shut the ICQ program down because I didn’t want to hear such negative talk (sometimes he exaggerates because he knows best how much it annoys me if Barca doesn’t play well – after reading your preview, I maybe should apologize to him). I start wearing my Barca jersey and scarf, and the game gets going 😀
    As for Wednesday, I’ll certainly NOT go to any restaurant or something.

    1. I’d hope not 😀

      You’ll miss a “3-0 exhibition” (hehehe EE).

      Seriously though, the way we played in the second half fills me with soooo much confidence. Our slow starts have been an issue. We need to stop taking the first halves off. Now that EE are eliminated, we’ll come out firing…

      Ah! The Stuttgart match can’t come sooner!

  8. Yep, I raised that same point in the last post. I think they are our best CB pairing, currently. When Abidal comes back, whew! Look out!

    Tito said that Pep did the HT talk. He was sitting near Cryuff, wasn’t he? Maybe he got some advice?

    I cant’t argue with CT’s rating , but I will say that if P! came off for Henry, MAYBE it could have been different. Everyone knows CT plays well when Henry’s on the pitch…Still, no excuses 🙁 .

    Now, the CL tie will be VERY interesting. We’ve seen the team without Ibra. The first was a stinker; the second was vintage Barca! How will we start vs Stuttgart? I think the second half was the answer. The intensity is there; we just needed a little motivation.

  9. Kxevin,

    Just a minor correction, the third goal was an interception by Iniesta who fed the ball to Titi and then Messi did his thing.

  10. Bojan sucks dude. That kid needs to go back to Barca Athletic and get a little older and come back as a mature 22 year old

  11. Let me just say:


    “Back to the top”, my butt. How can they be ‘back on top’ when they never lead in the first place? It may seem arrogant but I consider head-to-head a point, so we are currently leading them.

    Goal difference can take a hike.

  12. Tito Vilanova on Henry:

    Vilanova, who gave the official press conference in place of suspended coach Pep Guardiola, claimed Henry gave Messi the freedom to cause Valencia problems.

    “He gave us more presence in attack and allowed Messi more freedom of movement,” he said. “With the introduction of Henry, we were able to play further forward and pressure Valencia more when they came out with the ball, and we pushed up against their centre backs – our positioning was better and that showed.”

    Vilanova felt Henry, who struck a hat-trick himself in the corresponding fixture last season, was just the right player to open up the match.

    “He allows you to play further forward and into space, and he is used to playing centrally, which showed tonight,” he said.

    Vilanova added Henry is more comfortable in that position and said the Frenchman benefited from the extra space which resulted from the Hedwiges Maduro.

    “When he plays on the wing he has less space and also with Maduro’s sending-off he found more space, which he was able to exploit,” he said.

    And Vilanova felt Henry has been looking like his old self in this week’s training sessions following a largely forgettable season so far in which he has scored just three goals.

    “All of his training sessions this week have been excellent – the lack of goals has perhaps eaten away at his confidence, but today he was outstanding,” he said.

  13. Another interesting thought I had is that the “we play much better without Ibrahimovic” crowd lost a plank in its platform today. We were just as stationary and sleepy in that first half without the big Swede in the house.

    I do think that Vilanova is being generous in giving Henry full credit. There was fire in their collective eyes, and it was good to see. Another thing worth noting is that goal celebrations have often been kind of grim and relief-laden, like “Whew!” Today’s were true celebrations, which also felt a lot like last season.

    Seems like Henry has to get a shot against Stuttgart, and if he goes back to sucking, sit him down.

    1. I agree. The celebrations are so vital for morale. Ibra’s only problem is his “Im doing my job” celebration. Eto can hit his arm and talk about his father after scoring a goal and Messi as it happened yesterday can celebrate his cousin’s daughter.

      MY only wish before I die is to see Abidal celebrating a goal at Barca!

    2. yeah but you are overlooking the glaring fact that we had the blackhole where attacks disappear into known as bojan on the left. he was so bad, so so so bad. if he doesn’t start its a different 1st half.

      also, pedro getting the ball statically on the right and then crossing = fail.

      same as iniesta getting the ball on the left just outside the 18 and crossing to the far post = fail.

      pedro, get the damn ball out wide, wait for dani to overlap and give it to him please. iniesta, forget that shit pass that you never do ANYTHING with and pass it inside to xavi and work something instead, anything but that pass.

    3. Not entirely buying that, Kxevin. I think the key is movement. We were never going anywhere as a team with Pedro and Bojan up front so the first half came as no surprise, to me at least but I suspect for most of us. Soon as Henry came on the old movement was back. Sorry, but I’ve never seen us move like that with Ibra up front because he doesn’t make the continual runs,his timing of them is much weaker and he’s physically slower.

      Interesting also that Vilanova noted that Henry played well in the central position. Is that a coded comment about Wednesday? Can Pep justify bringing Ibra in now?

  14. Ibra should be on the bench come Stuttgart. He’s been playing pretty bad for quite sometime now, getting provoked needlessly. It’s about time our big Swede know that he needs to earn his place in the starting line up. He’s no Messi.

    As for Bojan,I feel for him but I think his body is not suited to be a dominating striker for us. Competing with world class fowards like Eto’o and Henry also is an uphill battle too when he has to prove a lot in little time he got on the field. May be a loan will do him good.

    And IMO Pedro’s dribbling ability is, while good, not in the same league as our other midgets. He mostly rely on his finishing skill right now. Needs to improve a bit on this.

  15. Man it’s matches like today that I get so frustrated with Henry in other fixtures. Absolute class. I hope he keeps it up – such a sick sick cross.

  16. And Zigic definitely wasn’t offside when he broke through. That was some poor defending from us.

    1. He was indeed offside. I watched it frame-by-frame, slo-mo and any other way you can do it. He was just off when the pass was struck. My initial thought was that Maxwell held him on, but he was off. It was close, but he was off. And he was definitely more off than Henry, who was level with the last defender when the pass was struck.

    2. If he was close enough that we need to look at it frame by frame then he should really get the benefit of the doubt. It was a beautifully timed run and pass anyway either way.

  17. dare i say it? a match review to match the second half of the match?
    it seems the BFB staff write well only when the team plays well. wonder why?

    nah, just kidding. great review, K.
    can you make sure Messi gets your memo on Ibra?

    1. Just another example of the symbiotic relationship between BFB and our beloved club. 😀

  18. the comment under the last pic was hilarious!! I cant stop laughing..

    I hope that the first half display was only because we were over confident as we knew that Valencia were missing many key players beside the tactical weakness you have mentioned.. because if had played the likes of Villa,Mata,Juacin,Marchena and Navarro, they way we did the first half, they would’ve ate us alive.

    for those who didn’t watch the EE match, Valadolid were denied twice by the post and deserved two penalty kicks!! EE deserved to win althouh!! but their defense sucks.

  19. Many have mentioned Ibrah and Henry… lets say they are/were having a terrible season, but Ibrah had the SAME effect on the team as Henry did today during the first classico, do we forget? Man came in and gave us the win, and you could feel the change in attitude for the team (same as Henry did today). If Henry is back, we could have ourselves a great Trident upfront same (if not better) as we did with Eto’o.

    On a different note, I was awaiting this review just to see the ranking for Pique and Milito, GREAT game for both. First half wouldve been Valencias had it not been for those two. I won’t say Milito takes Puyols place though, not yet at least, but it grants some security come injuries.

    Where was Puyol?

    1. last caption is great, but i can’t see pep complaining about the seats, i’m sure those are the best seats in the stadium. He can probably see the field and whats happening much more easily from the higher angle, although it is much more difficult to give instructions from there. That kind of angle is why the NFL always has multiple coaches in the box.
      Don’t know if soccer teams do that stuff

    2. Allow a blogger some editorial license for humor’s sake, stowe! 😀

      Guardiola’s seats are actually a few rows down from where I like to sit. They are killer seats, close enough to see everything, yet high enough for the bird’s-eye view. He was probably more vexed by the rich folks fidgeting about, coming and going. You can see him shoot one lady a pretty dirty look as she won’t sit still.

  20. Hey did you guys hear? Apparently Wayne Rooney is the best player in the world! Honestly!

    Days like today remind me of how blessed I am and we are to be witness to the talent that is Lionel Messi. Yes, Pique and Titi were immense, and both deserve the plaudits. But holy crap, Messi was phenomenal.

    1. I’d honestly have to say Rooney is playing like the best in the world at the moment. Messi has oodles more talent but in terms of current form Ronaldo is blowing him away. If Messi KEEPS playing like he did in this game, well watch out world.

  21. we can’t really get too excited because we did play against 10 men for a large part of teh 2nd half, where we actually played football.

    but who really made the decisions? pep or villanova?
    if it was really villanovas decision, then it was really a genius move from him.

    i thought it was better to put muniesa in for messi instead of yaya.
    i would be quite hurt to be playing 1 minute while there is no need for me to go in. just hope yaya doesn’t take it the wrong way.

    1. Please somebody correct me if I’m wrong. It is the first game that we sub a player half-time. If that is right then it is all Villanova.

    2. It was pretty while they had only 10, but I think the happiness was that we played as a team while highlighing individual talent. Its good that they played and keep playing that well, an 11th man might make it tighter but not any tougher.

  22. Great to see Henry, Gabi and Valdes playing well, and Messi is still god. But this was a David Villa-less , defense decimated, 10-man, 8 La Liga Loss Sevilla. We’re going to need to start much stronger this week against Stuttgart.

    Anyone else miss Yaya and Keita? I feel much more comfortable of matching up with Champion’s League level quality with them in.

    1. I think Busquets is going to be first choice on the field, Guardiola seems to prefer him.

  23. It was predictable that if Valencia fails to take the lead in the first half, they will collapse in the second. They lacked the energy to play the whole game at the same level. One of the rare times where we are not the team that is suffering from games intensity. That was the main reason why we dominated the second half, they lost their legs, and a player. We were lucky that they didn’t score in the first half. I think the big question is not why Henry didnt start as I can -kind of -understand the idea of using him in the second half while he is fresh and Valencia players are tired, but my question is why not using Yaya beside Busquets in the first half, as it serves our objective better and prevent that amount of counters we suffered from. Starting Maxell and Alves together requires starting Busquets and Yaya together as long as Keita is not available (and again, we dearly missed him in this game). Regardless of Yaya form, he could have served us defensively more than Bojan served offensively. Simple math.

    And that’s where Henry gives his best. I’ve been saying it since day one. Just like he played and where he played in the second half. And that’s my big critic for him and Ibra when they play together, ibra does not open to the flank, and Henry hesitates to cut to the center.

    I can’t say I was as impressed as Kevin after this game, but there were some positives we can build a hopeful castle upon.
    Now to the serious Wednesday business…

    1. But it was clear that we were a different team from the outset of the second half. They were fresh out of the locker room, and didn’t go a man down until after we’d scored the first goal. I think that the Valdes stop of Zigic had much more to do with their mental approach to things than fatigue.

      And for the record, I was only impressed with half of the match. The other half was shit.

    2. True. I won’t be cheap by not giving any credit for the players. But we still have a problem that we had last season,which is one of the main improvements we need to make. When we get the chance we ruin anything on the way. Yet, we are still not capable of reacting to the situation when we are challenged for the game dominance. In such situations we do not create enough resistance to keep the game on the safe side (Valencia didnt win because THEY failed to score in the first half) and we do not show enough clinical and lethal efficiency to defeat an opponent (Zero threat). Thats an important factor to win titles on the long term. First half showed that we still lack it. Second half showed what we can do when we dont need it, when the opponent offer us the chance to do whatever we like. We are the best team in the world on the technical level. Some other departments still need to be tuned, urgently.

  24. Just re-watched the game, and damn did we put pressure on them in the second half. EVERY SINGLE TIME we lost the ball, we had 3 men surrounding, biting at their heels to take the ball away, and we did. WE fought for possession, and we worked our asses off with our pass and move/triangle game. Made our job for our boys much easier, and with the inclusion of Henry, it opened everything up, and with him putting in a great performance, we played how the real barca plays. And for the record, Kxevin is right, he was definitely offside, replayed over and over again, as well as when Titi was called off, when he wasnt off.

  25. I can’t figure out why Henry was not in teh starting line-up, especially since he trained so well this week. With three midgets up-front we looked very average. Pedro was awfull today, he is a super-sub and should stay a super-sub. Messi was very good, although I think vaencia defense were stupid. Bojan should noot play when pedro plays. Bojan links up with Zlatan/Henry better.

    And can anyone pleae explain to me why Busquets started instead of teh beast that yahya is?

    Overall, (Abidal for) Maxwell, (Henry for) Pedro, (Zlatan for) Bojan (Keita/yahya) for Busquets and we would have dominated the game in first half.

    1. Busquets started because he’s the better player and our midfield is so much more fluid when he’s playing. Although he may lack in sheer physical presence when compared to Yaya, he more than makes up for it with his passing, being able to hold the ball in midfield and his anticipation and work rate were exceptional too!

      I don’t rate Yaya very highly in this team and considering Xavi and Iniesta are sure starters in midfield, in order of preference there’s only one winner and that’s keita followed by busquets and then Yaya. Yaya would be a good deal when he come against the likes of a Chelsea when we need a physical presence. But on any other day I’d take the technique of Busquets anyday!

    2. That wasn’t a match for The Yaya. With the emergence of Busquets, we have two options to roll out there …. three, if you count using the two of them together.

      As cool as it is to see The Yaya’s massive forward runs, he doesn’t have the dexterity with the ball that Busquets does, when he isn’t trying to be too fancy. What The Yaya does have is that man-mountain quality, that makes him part of a preferred midfield with Keita against more physical sides, or that ultimate backstop paired with Busquets.

    3. not sure i agree there, i actually think that yaya is just about as good with the ball at his feet as busi. thinking of some of his marauding runs forward, hes essentially unstoppable because he can dribble around anyone and hes gigantic (preaching to the choir i know). he just doesn’t try as many high risk dribbles as busi does, which i actually don’t mind from either of them.

      the reason why people hate on busi is his willingness to try things that yaya wouldn’t do, which depending on the mood is why yaya > busi vs busi > yaya.

      there is no doubt however that yaya is the safer player.

    4. i don’t know about putting yaya behind those two. yaya has been off his game lately (probably the reason he didn’t start) but he is still better at the defensive mid position than either of the other two. the other two have more versatility and busquets is quickly improving and i hope he can get rid of his flashes of stupidity before the world cup. i’m getting really excited just thinking about the spanish team at the world cup.

    5. I’ve been quick to criticize Busquets in the past, but he was excellent against Valencia. He showed excellent lateral movement to intercept linking passes to the Valencia forwards on numerous occasions and when he obtained possession he was quick and decisive in moving the ball forward to start attacks.

    6. i think you are right my friend but i dont think that busquets is the kind of player that barca needs. sure he can intercept or start aggressive attacks but he lacks the sense of the game. he fakes fouls or etc. remember stutgart. but anyway much support for that boy. and i am also very sorry for Krkic although he has the same name as me, i think he needs to put a massive improvement of his play because he can stop the game at a times that, more or less are crucial. Salutes from Macedonia

    7. thus far, we’ve only seen busi playing good defensively against one big team=Inter.

    8. kinda ludicrous statement, hes been very good all season, also last year. his potential hasn’t even been reached yet.

    9. Well Busi is good when the team is good, that is when the Iniesta-Xavi machine is on full speed. Put Busi in any other club and he will look very average. In real madrid he woudl be benched, because Xabi Alonso and Lass/Mahmadou Diarra are better. At Inter he bould be benched, at chelsea too. he is just reaping the benefits of others work. He i sno game-changer, and he is never a DM, more liek a CM. On the contrary, Yayha would start in any team. People have a short-term memory, when we were raping every team last year and we played fluidly with all teh possession who was in midfield? And who raped Drogba last year? Do you see Busi do that?

  26. Glad that Busquets game is becoming more and more clear. Which makes it easier to see the quality he can add on the field. But again, lets not move from “Yaya is better”, to “Busquets is better” flu. Yaya is as needed as Busquets (or the other way around if you like). I look at the rest of the games we have, and the CL opponents we will play against (if we qualified) and can see clearly that to have any chance to win more titles, we need them BOTh in the right form. It’s a concern that it is not happening yet. I think thats what we need to think of more…

    Hope Henry’s second half performance is an announcement that he is ready to come back (and what a timing!), now Yaya is the one to cross fingers for. (And Iniesta still have more to offer).

  27. Unfortunately I was unable to watch the match yesterday due to an Orioles spring training session in Sarasota. (Got 7 autographs including future starts Chris Tillman and Josh Bell what what)

    Anyway, after reading what I’ve read and hearing what’s been said, I think I’m actually excited about Henry in this homestretch of the season.

    If he can capitalize on the Berkamp style and really utilize himself without trying to be something he’s not (the wicked-fast greyhound of old), Henry is really going to do some damage. And while we’re talking about age, here’s the next question…

    I having watched the match, so remember that, but how soon is too soon to begin talking about Puyol’s previously unquestionable spot at the back line. Usually, I’d argue right now that Pique is our best CB for reasons we can discuss later, but when do we start seriously talking about it.

    I still can’t bring myself to bench the captain because of what he did against EE in November, I mean that was insane, but it seems lately that Milito has his man pants on and is ready to do work. What say you?

    1. I prefer Milito to Puyol at this point in time. He has a better touch, sense of positioning and knowledge of when to intervene. Just look at how he would leave Maxwell on his own at the right time, while being there to backstop him at the right times. He understands the value of just booting the ball the hell out, as well.

      This isn’t to say that Puyol isn’t still our Capitan. He is. But I think that this is his last season as an automatic starter, and this is as it should be. A great side gets stronger through competition, at every position.

      By the by, I had a rather unpleasant thought cross my mind as I was noting how well Messi works with Henry: That it was because Henry isn’t a threat to him. He’s old, it’s probably his last season with us, and Messi could relax.

      Ibrahimovic is a different matter. Not saying it’s good or bad, just that athlete’s ego thing that makes you work well with the talented guy who isn’t going to be a threat to your position, and not so well with the one who (you think) might be.

      No player is going to displace Messi in his role for us. He’s from the farm, home-raised and nurtured into vibrant, thrilling excellence. But players aren’t always as rational as fans.

    2. Messi and Ibra did play well in earlier part of season though. I do not remember seeing too many glaringly obvious instances of Messi ignoring Ibra. And i have seen Ibra pass or try to pass to Messi quite often. But then, as you said, player and their ego’s are quite difficult to judge from far.

    3. expect to see alves – pique – milito – puyol (i dearly hope)

      maxwell has done well at times but his defensive lapses are going to hurt us one of these days and in knockout games its way too sketchy to play him.

    4. I think it’s natural to experience some nervousness when possessing two of some of the most talented footballers on the planet.

      I think we’re all longing to see the smiles and joy of last season. The poses with Henry and Samu, the cheesing of Samu and Leo after a beautiful interplay.

      I think that may come in time, but for now, Ibra still has his hard shell on because he’s trying to prove himself, and Messi’s just trying to keep us from losing when we’re down.

      I think once a big match roles around and we score something sexy, the smiles will come out again.

      I’m definitely hypersensitive to anytime Leo doesn’t pass to Ibra because I’m looking for something to appropriate my nervousness.

  28. I think it is easy to understand why Henry did not start even though he practiced well. He is now at a age where playing 2 games in 4 days is not that easy and hence is saved for the mid week match.

    The hattrick for Messi was sublime. For me, he will be the best player i have watched since Maradona. I have watched enough soccer in last 15 years but no one has added the touch of fantasy and genius that Messi has for me.

    I actually think that he has grown more effective and ruthless in last two seasons and sometimes i miss the lone ranger act he did early in his career. Then he was all imagination and daring while now he is more calculating. As a Barca supporter i am happy but as a football lover, i would like him to light up matches like he did early on in his career. After all there have been countless players who have scored tons of goals but very few who can light up the field by their genius.

    1. “no one has added the touch of fantasy and genius that Messi has”

      He is still behind Ronaldinho in that matter (comparing the two players peak performance within a two years scale). He will beat Roni if he keep his level (and improved) so he enjoys a long cycle of success. Thats where Ronaldinho flopped. Sadly.

    2. I don’t miss Lone Ranger Messi at all. It’s too destructive, and reduces the rest of the side to ball watching. Plus it was easier for him back then, because Ronaldinho was the focal point, so Messi was the wild card.

      Now, as I’ve noted in the past, he could become another Ronaldinho, only with real work ethic. You saw it a LOT in the World Club Cup match, with his driving and dishing. He’s never going to be the magician kind of dude with the trick passes and stuff, but he can be so effective, once those first 10 steps get just a little bit slower.

      What made Ronaldinho so amazing is that he didn’t need help. I think that Messi does, or at least he needs someone to get space for him, whether it’s Ibrahimovic, Henry, Xavi or Iniesta. But they’re different kinds of players, Ronaldinho and Messi. I don’t know that it surprises me that Ronaldinho’s game hasn’t aged well.

      And before I forget, not a Beckham fan, but freak injuries like that just bum me out. It was like Marquez’ knee injury. He was just running, came to a stop and Pow!

    3. All this talk about Ronaldihno, makes me wonder if he wants to work hard, stop partying and come back to the camp nou(playing on the LW) we would be soooo good.

    4. honestly i watch milan just for dinho, and his passing game is second to none including xavi. his way of playing these days is a little different that of a couple years ago. either way dinho is joy to watch. i agree with kevin about messi his unpredictableness is just crazy. in the last year or so he added shooting for the top of the 18yard to his abilities.

    5. Well, that is why i quantified the statement that i felt it so:). I was watching Barcelona when Ronnie was in his prime and even then, i used to look forward to Messi introduction. Don’t get me wrong, i did like Ronnie a lot but for me, he (even in his prime) was not the guy who made me watch the matches.

      I agree that it is totally subjective. For me, Messi of today is much more efficient then what he was back then. In beginning, Messi used to take the ball and run at defenders. It was not effective but it was exhilarating to watch. As a viewer, i preferred that. But this also depends on what sort of person you are. For me, enjoying the moment is more important then completing stuff. So i enjoy a nice match way better then a workmanlike victory.

    6. Agreed. Ronaldinho’s ability with a ball was second to none. Where he may score as Ramzi says is in his desire to remain at the top for longer.

    7. i’ve been watching football since 1995. late bloomer, yeah.
      but imo, if you take like 2-3 best years of a football player’s lives as the best time of the career, then i think it would be;
      1. ronnie(2004-2006)
      2. ronaldo( 1996-1998)

      zidane was just good through out his career but not extraordinary over some period of time, just very good all the time.
      and messi will be the same i guess but will slow down by 30.

    8. btw, ronaldo is my fav player of all time.
      he is actually even one of the 3 reasons i started watching barca along that my dad is Dutch( Cruyff) and their beautiful way of playing.

  29. I would give Bojan and Pedro the same rating.
    Pedro was pretty much invisible and killed attacks while Bojan was an outlet which disappointed. Bojan got the ball and lost it too but he was there, present, trying to do something while Pedro was pretty much not there at all.

    My 0.2 Peanuts… 🙂

    1. But P! had some reasonable runs, and threw in some decent crosses. He also helped in the midfield with pressure, etc. Krkic was just horrific.

    2. Pedro has a lethal right food, but a very weak left foot, that is something he should work on. he has skills but lacks speed. Dos Santos olso played well for some time at Barca, but when he left Barca he was nowwhere, I think Pedro is the same.

    3. imo, pedro is of the the very few players who are both good with their right and left foot. not ronaldo good but still good enough!

    4. yeah, no.


      pedro is one of the more two footed players in the team, have you forgotten some of the goals hes scored with his left? including a few screamers, well placed curlers and excellent first time shots.

  30. On other news, Espanyol lost 4-1 to Tenerife. I wonder what that does to the Yahoo!Fantasy guys and the Prediction Table.

  31. Messi has scored mnore league goals (76) for Barca than Ronaldinho (70) did. Messi is the 12th scorer in the history of Barca. I think that Messi will go on in history to become a greater player than Ronaldinho and it’s not unreasonable to think that he will considered the best player in history, as VV said today.

    I’m going to read now this item on “the 10 best strikers in the world”. In the list there’re Messi, Ibrahimovic, Eto’o and Ronaldinho.

  32. Who is excited about CL match? I’m expecting Messi+Henry combo to thrash Stuttgart. In the meantime I won’t mind Chelsea crashing out 😀

    1. “I wouldn’t mind Chelsea crashing out”

      That makes two of us! 😛

      I’d also like to see Sevilla go through. The tie is their’s for the taking. Unlike EE, and us for that mattter, they won their away tie. C’mon Sevilla!

  33. Hey, would you mind to post Isaiah’s match preview for the CL match when he’s back? I’d still like to read it, the CL previews are always special!

    1. Oh god, that was the dumbest article of the week.
      “Barca could have gone down 2-0 against Manchester United in the CL final last year”. I suppose the other 80 minutes evaporate.

      Seriously, Culés should write for Barca not stupid Madridistas!

    2. Oh, it gets better.


      The guy is trying so hard to degrade us, it’s actually hilarious.

      “However, Barcelona shouldn’t get too complacent as they take on Stuttgart at home on Wednesday evening”

      Ah, the sounds of a bitter Madridista 😀

    3. Misguided MADridista would be more apt, though I don’t know if it would make much of a difference..

      As one of my friends on orkut would say, “You’d never know what all things they believe”..

    4. Do you notice them basically calling us a 1 man team?Convenience isn’t it.When it suits them ,criticize Messi and say hes only good because he plays with us.And on the same token, say we wouldnt be where we are if he didnt play for us.They should be more consistent methinks.

      Also, Ewan Macdonald should write all of our articles.Hes the only competent one there.

    5. We don’t even need cules writing for Barca on goal, just someone who isn’t totally bias and someone with a little knowledge of football.

    1. My god, they’re so self-righteous. It’s only going to embarrass them further. If I were the head of the committee, I’d kept my mouth shut.

  34. FYI everyone’s I, Hector will be knocking out the preview for Stuttgart. And as I will be doing my sled dog thing for Mother Tribune, a volunteer for running the LiveBlog is needed, if someone would like to step forward.

    And my vacation starts this weekend, from 20 March to 30 March, so that’s two (count ’em, TWO) match reviews that Isaiah or Hector will be doing. Won’t you all miss me? 😀

    1. Kxevin – if no one else steps up reasonably soon I should be able to run the liveblog.

    2. Thanks, vicsoc. I’d say plan on it. I’ll e-mail you my login/password info, unless you’ve run it before and have Isaiah’s already.

  35. anyone know how we are doing with the yellow cards in the champs league? is anyone close to suspension through accumulation?

    1. ok here we go. now can someone tell me what the rules are regarding accumulation of yellows in the CL?

      yellow cards
      puyol – 2
      pique – 2
      marquez – 1
      pedro – 1
      henry – 1
      yaya – 1
      iniesta – 1
      ibra – 1
      alves – 1
      xavi – 1

  36. Here’s from the CL file cabinet.

    As a rule, a player who is sent off the field of play is suspended for the next match in a UEFA club competition. The Control and Disciplinary Body is entitled to augment this punishment. For serious offences the punishment can be extended to all UEFA competition categories.

    In case of repeated cautions, a player is suspended for the next competition match:
    a) after two cautions in two different qualifying matches, as well as after the fourth caution during the qualifying phase;
    b) from the first match in the group stage, after three cautions in three different matches, as well as following any subsequent odd-numbered caution (fifth, seventh, ninth, etc.).

    Single yellow cards and pending suspensions are always carried forward either to the next stage of the competition or to another club competition in the current season.

    Exceptionally, single cautions from the qualifying phase that have not resulted in a suspension expire on completion of the qualifying phase in question.

    Cautions and pending yellow-card suspensions from club competition matches expire at the end of the season.

    1. so from what i understand, all the cards listed above happened in the qualifying round, except for Pique (1) and marquez (1) who were carded in stuttgart. puyol must have served a game suspension that i forgot about. so only pique and marquez have 1 card and really they need 2 more to miss a game. thats how i read it.

  37. Anyone watching the Inter-Chelsea game?

    Eto’o missed a chance there.. With the likes of Turnbull in the Chelsea goal, you’ve got to hit the target..

    1. I am trying to steam but it isn’t fudging loading! Gimme a good link if you have one!

    2. For me, it is on TV:). Chelsea are battering Inter. Chelsea are still the drama queen though. It is fascinating.

  38. Hehe Chelsea-Inter is pretty interesting to watch. Both teams don’t give a sh*t about possession. Both play physical and both are always crossing the ball.

    A goal can pop out of anywhere 🙂

  39. Inter should take their chances.. One of those misses may come back to haunt them..

    LOL.. As I say this Eto’o finishes them off..

    1. Eto’o is just a goal monster in big games. still love watching him play, his work ethic on the field really is insane, and his combo with sneijder is amazing, they just run all over the pitch passing to each other.

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