Barca 4, Stuttgart 0 (5-1 agg), a.k.a. “The Messi show continues.”

Um guys, I think we're screwed.

So, I’m kinda speechless. I mean I know that it was Stuttgart and all, who aren’t going to be ranked among the world’s ultimate sides and everything, but I have rarely seen that comprehensive a destruction of a Champions League side. Sure, we handled Bayern, and put the wood to Lyon in exactly the same situation: rolling into our crib with an away goal off of a 1-1 aggregate scoreline.

But we just crushed them, thanks to the little genius you see here, Man of the Match for the second time in less than a week, Lionel Messi.

You run out of the superlatives that try to quantify the things that he does. Sublime, absurd, ridiculous, stupid, brilliant, magisterial, staggering, blah, blah, blah, blah. And what you’re left with at the end of it all is open-mouthed astonishment, and anticipation of the next time he plays.

We have watched Messi grow up before our eyes, from the mop-headed young’un who trotted onto the pitch and immediately set the world on fire with his skill, to the leader of men that he is today. The last two matches have shown another step in his progression toward being unplayable. He is now understanding fully the value of the pass, the slipped ball early into a match to a runner broken free by the fact that the entire defense moves with Messi. What choice do they have, really? So when he slid a pass to Pedro! early on, it facilitated the space for the goal, since Henry, Pedro! and The Yaya were as active as can be and storming the box.

And so he shot, and defenses around the world wondered: How in the hell do you play him, now that he’s passing to folks moving into space behind the defense?

Good question, and one that I don’t have an answer to, unless thank whatever deity you worship that he’s ours, counts as my offering of a solution.

Guardiola revealed that there would be an attacking surprise in today’s lineup, and we all wondered what it would be. So when he rolled out with Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, The Yaya, Busquets, Iniesta, Pedro!, Messi and Henry, you could be forgiven for thinking “What surprise? Henry played center against Valencia in the second half, yo!”

But it was The Yaya, unleashed. I’ve often said that good things usually happen when our man mountain moves forward, and today was no exception, as The Yaya slid into central midfield. It was kinda weird to see Iniesta pairing with a dude who could use him as a hood ornament, but there it was. And The Yaya reveled in the freedom with an assist, and what should have been a goal, but was just pushed wide.

Stuttgart rolled out just like they did at home, with high pressure, intending to disrupt our Xavi-less midfield. And Guardiola found the answer in, just as he did in the second half at Valencia, the “Baby Kxevin is crazy” 4-2-4 with Busquets playing the role of destroyer usually played by The Yaya. Henry and Pedro! were on the flanks, ready to burst loose at a moment’s notice, and Messi was going crazy in the middle.

Stuttgart had no idea what to do. After an early foray into our box that was calmly dealt with, we began command and control. But rather than everything flowing through Xavi, it became a team effort as possession after possession resulted in pretty much everyone getting a touch. Our defense was playing every bit as high a line as Stuttgart, but because of our relentless midfield pressure, it could afford to. As one announcer said, our midfielders were hunting in packs, displaying the tenacity and aggression that were hallmarks of last season’s glory days.

This reduced Stuttgart to playing too quickly, or making bad passes that were easily intercepted by a defender or the lanky gams of Busquets. And off we went the other way, toward a Jens Lehmann who was about to get smacked upside the head.

But first, I want to take a moment to applaud something that, if it is indeed a trend, warms me to the core of my Blaugrana soul: the professional foul. We’ve started taking the professional foul to stop attacks, or kill breaks. Alves did it, Maxwell did it, Messi did it, even Iniesta did it, little thwacks that bring a whistle and stop play, so that we can reset. Every side in the world does it against us, so why not, right? Cool. So unbelievably cool.

And so we kept pushing forward, moving the match into the Stuttgart half of the pitch. And when Messi took a ball and danced laterally across the front of the defense, because of the movement and aggression we had been displaying, they simply had to play Messi for the pass to a streaking attacker. So they did. And Messi drifted left, to his favored foot, and smacked a snap shot off almost a dead run, that didn’t leave Lehmann with a chance in hell. Just over 13 minutes in it was 1-0, and looking like it was going to be more as we parked the bus our own way, with possession of our own, or gangstering the ball back when they had it. And to boot, between players running into space and direct, simple one-touch football, how could we not win?

Stuttgart really seemed stunned by the goal, not because it came against the run of play, but because it came as a consequence of an unplayable player, made even more so by his teammates’ movement. When Henry and The Yaya made threatening runs into the Stuttgart box, nobody knew what to do, so Messi took advantage of the space. Sounds easy, but his strike was sublime, with power and placement. And we were off to the races, applying even more pressure to Stuttgart, in an effort to put this one away nice and early.

Everybody was everywhere, and after a sequence in which everybody on the side touched the ball again, there was a lovely passing sequence that ended with Messi popping a little lob to The Yaya, who knocked in a perfect ball for Pedro! to tap home. It was 2-0, and this thing was over.

Stuttgart were able to vex us so at their house because overall, we played like crap, but also because our fullbacks were static as can be. Maxwell fixed that, which gave the likes of Hleb something to think about, which kept them from storming up the pitch, unbound. But more importantly, we played something of the kind of football that we can play. And it was beautiful.

I said during the LiveBlog that there was no way Stuttgart were going to score two goals against us. No. How. Because as a talking head said at halftime, “They are enjoying playing football.” So the second half went along pretty much like the first, right down to a sublime Messi goal.

We roared up the pitch on a break that looked dead in the water, as Stuttgart got back to erect a wall in front of us. Pedro! played it to Alves, who just flicked a pass to Messi, who did a little spin, saw that Lehmann was leaning the wrong way, and spanked a shot past him. He shoots so quickly that it’s impossible to know if he will be going against the grain, or with a piledriver to the far corner. But you have to guess, and Lehmann guessed wrong. It was 3-0 us, and from that point the only issue was to finish off the match, and not get hurt.

But there was a fourth goal in the offing, and Krkic came onto the pitch and barely had time to get his cleats wet from the grass, before Ibrahimovic spanked a perfect pass to Krkic who, on the dead run past the defense, one-timed it past Lehmann. Yes, Ibrahimovic nutmegged the defender to make the pass. You did indeed see that one right. And it was 4-0. And Baby Kxevin was speechless.

Team: 10. It wasn’t that everyone played well. They didn’t. But the overall committment, sheer quality of effort and work rate were astonishing.

Guardiola: 10. The right tactical decisions, including the one to start with Ibrahimovic on the bench. And man, did he have them ready to play. Note how after bringing Ibrahimovic on for the injured Busquets, he then subbed Milito so that Pique could move to the DM role. Nice.

Valdes: 7. Kinda weird, because he just didn’t have much to do except cheer goals from one of the best seats in the house. Patrolled his box as usual, but was guilty of a couple of funky clearances.

Alves: 7. Bold and marauding at both ends of the pitch, with some crazy-good crosses for Messi that I thought would result in a goal for sure. Timely steals and interventions as well, including one Stuttgart pass that really could have been trouble.

Pique: 8. What an excellent match on both ends of the pitch, strong in the air and on the ground, strong in the box and when he slid into the DM role, he was resolute there, as well.

Puyol: 6. Our captain didn’t have a lot to do, but has been better and more effective. Pique was far and away our best defender today.

Maxwell: 7. Very good match, with lots of forward pressure that kept Stuttgart unbalanced. Very solid positionally, as well.

The Yaya: 9. What a match, from his central midfield position. One assist that could have been three, and intelligent possession decisions almost all of the time.

Busquets: 9. An excellent match as he teamed beautifully with The Yaya, making interception after interception, and was so smart with the ball. No word yet on the severity of his knock.

Iniesta: 4. Another clunker for Ghostface, with off positioning, poor decisions with the ball and general ineffectiveness.

Pedro!:7. He’s getting a much better read on the match, and understands the value of bombing into the box when you have great players around you.

Messi: 10. I’d give him an 11 if I could, as he did everything today from defense and possession to knocking in the brace.

Henry: 6. Had some nice movement and a very good all-pitch effort. Soft in the box was his downfall today.


Ibrahimovic (for Busquets): 5. Way to tease Lehmann, and way to pass a perfect ball to Krkic for his first Champions League goal. Not much beyond that.

Milito (for Henry): 6. Was playing to a higher rating, but the match was pretty much done when he came in, so it’s not as if he had everything in the world to do.

Krkic (for Iniesta): incomplete. Yes, he scored a goal, one that came after the match was way outta reach, but one touch, one goal isn’t that bad a day at the office.

So, we’re through to the final 8 of the Champions League, with every side being beatable. Messi is going batshit crazy on the pitch, our movement and aggression tend to be back, for now. I will celebrate when I think that it’s back for real, frankly. And meanwhile ….

But coach, I have to go REALLY bad!

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. my dvr only recorded the second half of the game, hence my antagonism. great to see the yaya doing ramzi’s “i told you so, toure should be an attacking midfielder”/keita crashing the box thing today. awesome.

      i’m so in awe of guardiola rocking the 4-2-blah formation again. i’m anxious to see whether gurdiola can fit ibra into the mix in this sort of a set up w/maybe iniesta on the right and ibra or henry on the left wing.

      do we anticipate teams man marking(a.k.a hugo sanchez’s signature move) messi now. too?

  1. Why is Ibra nowhere to be seen for any goal celebration??? Whether he’s in the game or not.

    You can thank me for Yaya starting offsensive mid. I told Pep to do that.

  2. Apart from the ‘WOW!’ result, this comment from a madridista really made my day. I found it at a madrid blog:-

    The comment then:
    250 million. Out yet again. As usual. But of course, it goes without saying, the ref and the whole world conspired against real. All the decisions went against les merengues. That’s why madrid lost out. As for barca, they probably bribed the stuttgart team. Messi was just shite, wasn’t he? He’s clearly no match for your “Player of 2009” higuain.

    Deepak, your unbridled enthusiasm for the club, your passion et al, is no doubt admirable. But to be disrespectful and overly vitriolic against barca, never listening to anyone else’s opinion, being extremely rude, and never accepting criticism is quite unsporting. Being an honest madridista, i naturally understand our barca stance, but it speaks volumes when you review the stuttgart-barca match (1st leg), but strangely ignore the match in which we went crashing out of europe.

    Yes, barca do get some decisions their way. But really, our team is no different in that aspect. The truth is most ‘big’ teams tend to get a bit of favoritism from the ref. I’ve watched both real and barca matches regurlarly this season. Perhaps i don’t want to admit it, but the fact remains, barcelona do get fouled a lot. For crying out loud, we ourselves hacked messi down systematically last year at the camp nou.

    A real madrid fan does not have to act as a real presidential candidate, and declare the opposition suck and are hypocrites at every possible oppurtunity. Let barcelona be. Let’s argue about them when the clasico arrives. Sure i want those cules to lose too, but i’m not going to fret over them non-stop, and proclaim that they are shite. Thing is, this barca squad is quite possibly the best club side in modern football. Accpet it. By forking 250 million in the summer, that’s exactly what our beloved club did: admit our rivals are currently on a different level entirely.

    There’s no shame in recognizing excellence, even if it resides with our hated nemesis. If anything, the extra motivation to outdo them should drive us on. Sport develops character in all those involved. Display that character.

    1. Lol…thats Deepak Israni again…..he got blasted out from bleacher report now the fool can rant on his own blog….how i hate the power of web sometimes….

  3. The 4-2-4 essentially creates a lot of space in the middle of the field. Yaya and Busquets played almost as double pivots, although Yaya was a bit forward. Iniesta and Pedro mostly stayed wide, while Messi and Henry stayed forward.

    This large corridor of space is interesting. We saw Yaya make numerous rumbling runs through the space, giving our attack a directness we haven’t seen in a while. Messi can also drop back into the space to run from deeper. Iniesta didn’t pinch inside into the space as much as he could have, and if he had he would have been more effective (provided Maxwell provides the width).

    Overall I like how this new look formation is treating us right now. Pep is a great coach, but who wouldn’t love to have the players he has. So many of our players are versatile, there are just so many options. Think about it, all five of our midfielders offer something distinct and useful, and all five have shown they should be starting.

  4. Good review, Kevin. Though it wasn’t actually 4-2-4. But who care? I think we can safely call it 1-10 anyway, as everyone was playing everywhere.

    And this Iniesta fan has to agree that Iniesta wasn’t at his best in this game.

    Lot of good things to take from this game. And if we are bouncing back to full power now in the last stretch of the season, hell of a timing.

    I have one critic though. I was angry when I saw Messi walking out of the field after the game finished. They need to carry the guy out when the game finish. Carry him home, carry him when he wants to go to the bathroom, carry him all the time between the games. He is only allowed to use his feet for football. Wasting the muscles touring around the city is something we do, normal people. Not him.

    1. LOL.
      i can picture yaya carrying him.
      btw, we did play 4-2-4
      that was when iniesta played a more central role.which is good.
      before that he was staying too much on the left side.
      pedro wasn’t really a LW either. he was also spending a lot of time on the right. really confusing.

    2. Count players behind the ball at any time during buildup stage in the game. It doesnt matter how it goes in the offense third as it depends on the offense setup. Example: Yaya was in front of Messi in two goals, will that make it 4-1-5? But Maxwell and Alves were in front of Busquets there as well, that doesnt mean it was like…2-1-7. Always focus on the buildup stage to figure out the tactics, not on set offense.

      Definitly and without any doubt, not a 4-2-4 πŸ˜‰ Oh, and never will be.

      Just for the official records. As I cant avoid mentioning it when I read it.

      We had more than 11 players on the field. As the performance showed clearly.

    3. but pedro was for quite some time on the right and iniesta was quite a lot on the left. that’s why i assumed it to be 4-2-4 at times.

    4. This is the closest thing to how we played:


      I said “the closest thing” because Yaya was playing more as a B2B than a DM.

    5. um no, we play with atleast one fullback behind, who stays to cover up for the advancing fullback on the other side. hence we always have atleast 3 defenders at the back and a DM in front of them, while the rest is building up the attack play.

    6. Don’t quite agree on Iniesta. Yes, he was quiet. However, don’t think he was bad in possession and his ability to get us out of a bad possession situation is second to none. Its just that at the moment he isn’t needing to run at defences because he’s getting help from all around. Just watch him go in the big games where we need him.

  5. Didn’t Bojan score against Shalke 04 or something two seasons ago?

    The Yaya was AWESOME today. I was screaming on the TV for him to get that goal … so close … he could have had more assists too.
    Messi almost had another hat trick too, he missed the last lob over the keeper.
    Henry should have scored that easy header or that tap-in goal in which he slipped or was late or whatever.

    Oh, yeah, I skipped the LiveBlog to go to a friend’s house to see the match in HD!!!! I don’t regret it!!! πŸ˜€

    1. yeah it was such a beautiful play from messi’s corner to iniesta and pass to alves. unfortunately alves’ header was too high.
      it would’ve definitely be a top 3 goals of the season, IN THE WORLD!!

  6. i’m just thinking on why we look so great in the 2 legs game of Champion league. similar to last season, when we have a game @ Bayern and lyon, we manage to score away goal and draw. then, when they came to camp nou, we push hardly to score an early goal. we managed to get it. they need to score to level the aggregate then we can see from there. similarly to last night…when we score, they look shaking. they open their game and push their midfield and defender forwards. thus it will leave space to our front runner…

    in la liga..our opponent have nothing to lose except RM / Valencia / Atletico Madrid and maybe sevilla. these team will still trying to fight with us. but the rest of the team…they just sit tight and thinking to concede minimum goal or get a draw with us..they didn’t have intention to play game…i think that’s why we have a lot of difficulties to break their defend..

  7. The Messi(ah), again!

    Wow, somehow i knew that The Messi(ah) will decide the game and simply it left me with out breath. It was simply a domination of force that Stuttgart’s nightmares. Once again Pep showed me his unquestionable coaching talent. He is simply mastermind of the attacking football phenomena. Also i must add that the Yaya-Busi duo left me with absolutely no comment about their performance. Especially Yaya witch i am very happy about he getting into the 08/09 shape because we really needed his powerful defending. Also not playing Ibrahimovic from the first half was a masterful move from Pep knowing that he will need a fast attacking game with no static players witch Ibra is used to. The team was mentally in nirvana and almost communicated with each other in a higher evolutionary level. The two goals from The Messi(ah) once again showed that the Barca Force is not showed his max intesity. I just wait for the Classico to once and for all determine that Barca is just non-stoppable, brute, extraterrestrial force that dominated the Earth’s football for many generations forward. Also i am happy that I (as i prefer to call Krikic) scored nice goal and showed that the Valencia game was just not a good day to Krikic. Viva La Barca, on to the next victory. Barca! Barca! Baaaarca!!!!

  8. Bojan should really play more only when Ibra is out there…He truly feeds of the space Ibra creates since most of Bojan’s goals has been with Ibra in the lineup.

  9. kxevin: I thought I’d never have to say this here but titi deserves more than a 6 for yesterday’s game πŸ˜€ he plays much better close to the center … maybe ibra can play lw lol

    pep is variating the system again ( yaya+busi this was CRUCIAL) and everyone was outstanding yesterday. everyone but the greatest himself, iniesta. he was really bad he starts to worry me. I love how pep is changing the 4-3-3 system but andres is suffering from it I think.

    greetings from the andres-is-not-a-winger-not-even-in-a-4/2/4 comittee

  10. I think Maxwell should’ve maybe gotten an 8 or 9, the man did great. He knew where he was the entire time, and he ran like a fool the entire game.

    Great review. I really hope we can be repeat champs, I almost want the Champions more than La Liga (keyword: almost)

  11. by the way, is it normal that Pep stands almost the complete 90 minutes on the edge of the coaching zone, heavily gesticulating, shouting and giving permanent instructions (no matter what the current result is)?
    I didn’t realize it in the matches before, but he probably ran as many meters as the keepers yesterday πŸ™‚

  12. Henry speaks:

    on the match:

    “I think Stuttgart are a very good team, but the one thing that we did well was to put pressure on them. I also think that Leo Messi scoring his goal so early in the game helped us to see out the game. But it definitely wasn’t a simple game for us.”

    on Messi being better this year than last

    ” I don’t know if you can say that, because what he did last year was just ridiculous. I think he is maintaining what he was doing then. I mean he’s playing at a level that….”

    “Well, look I just don’t want him to stop. Nobody at Barcelona wants him to stop playing like this. But it is kind of ridiculous what he’s doing. He is just so amazing. It is a complete joy to see him playing like this.”

    on the CL future

    “All the teams remaining are going to be very difficult to beat. If you are in the quarter-finals then you deserve to be there. And that means that you are going to be a tough team to beat.”

    on a desired next opponent

    “Let’s say there is one team that I don’t want to play and that is Arsenal. That’s because of my affinities there and because of my love for the club. But after that you know you can never tell. And you can’t say ‘oh I want them and I don’t want them’ because I think that shows a lack of respect for me to say that about other teams.”

    on his form returning

    “Playing in a team like this one does help. They move the ball quite well and so all I have to do is get behind the defence and create space for everybody. I am just trying to do my best. You know, I am not 20 anymore. I know what it takes to win some games sometimes. Yes, it was difficult when I wasn’t playing because of a loss of form, but slowly and surely I am trying to gain that back.”

    on next season in the Blaugrana

    “Its still not the end of the season. So that is not the decision for right now.”

  13. come on guys… this is a good and convincing performance. but no reason to blow it out of proportion. this is against stuggart on their bad day at camp nou… more than enough said.

    1. well if you say that this was a stuttgart bad day then barca had outstanding day at camp nou and bad day at stuttgart. That does not make any diffrence. This is the Champions League every match should be your day. Tell me something more prestige than the CL Champion. That’s why i think you’re wrong

    2. I don’t think that it’s blowing anything out of proportion to note that our club, and Messi in particular, played very well in an elimination match. Stuttgart didn’t play badly, they weren’t allowed to play well. That is more encouraging for me.

      When we score early, it puts clubs back on their heels. When they pressed harder, we moved the ball even more quickly. It was a master class. As I note in the review, Stuttgart isn’t a world-beating side. But they earned their place in the final 16, and put us in trouble at home. Then in our house, we stepped up like champions.

      I don’t see how celebrating that fact is blowing anything out of proportion.

    3. wow… i offended a few ppl here πŸ˜€
      i’m not pointing fingers at anyone, only those that felt they were being pointed (for blowing out of proportion).

      i recognize the tremendous effort the team put in to achieve such a result, but tougher times ahead πŸ™‚

    4. There were times when we criticized the team when they won (Valencia game is an example). The result -almost-plays no role in the overall evaluation.

      I do not know what you mean “its against Stuttgart”. I didnt get it. A europian team that qualified to the CL They have international players in all their lines. Talking about “bad days”, during their worst days at the beginning of the season, They qualified from a group that includes Sevilla and Rangers without losing any game on the road. They lost their first game last night 4-0 against a team that missed Abidal, Keita, Xavi, and Ibra (who failed in the fitness test just before the game).

      Their are many reasons to have a great feeling about this game beside the result:

      – When this team play with this midfield structure water carrier-Horse-Maestro(though Xavi was missed here) this team become uncontainable. I dont care who is the opponent, playing this structure with the kind of aggression we saw no team can have a chance. It was only 4-0 because we didnt really need more. Against any other team, it will be 2-0 at least.

      – Henry playing another good game, something he need and we need. In the heart of the offense, which is also an added value for the tactical options in the future. His moral is improving and he feels his importance in the team again. For a player of his age that’s a must to be productive.

      – Yaya Playing as a B2B midfielder. Do I need to say more? I had to wait this for two years at least. And he proved where his natural position is. This guy can double the destruction arsenal of Barcelona Midfield if he plays there more often. Mind you he wasn’t perfect, he can perform even better than what he did in this game (which was his best performance this season). But again, this is a game that will boost a moral he lacked and I will be surprised if this ended up being the last game he play that role.

      – Messi.

      And do not underestimate the value of creating a performance momentum. After the second half against Valencia there was a spark. it turned to a flame in this game, next?

      The fans of the other teams enjoyed the magical display last night. Why can’t we?

  14. Found this over at 4-2-4. Yes, we move around a lot into any number of formations which makes it, as I noted in the LiveBlog, pretty much impossible to define us as playing any system.


    1. again Pep showed master understanding of the football tactics. Pure attacking formation. Congrats Pep. Also we couldn’t define the formation because iniesta, sometimes pedro and messi were returning to help defending with leaving henry open and freelance for a counter-attack. Nice job Kevin

    2. Yes I passed on this one this morning, and commented on it there. Now imagine how the buildup will work in such positioning. Impossible. In fact we never had that distribution on the field at any moment during the game (defense-buildup-offense). Taking the Stuttgart positioning as plotted in that picture, if we are in defensive status (Stuttgart in possession), our lines will be more deep. If we will be in build up status we will not be able to move the ball forward to the four players in front because Stuttgart will have numerical superiority in the midfield and will easily intercept, If we are setting offense then neither alves nor Maxwell will be where they are plotted. So it is not realistic.

      That’s why I recommended that they (on that blog) call it 4-2-3-1 as the link I posted above from Football-lineups put it. Defining the tactical structure during the buildup stage makes it more appropriate to define the players involved in the play making before the synchronized repositioning take place.
      Tactical structures are not exact science. But they have to reflect to an extend the players actual positioning at least during one of the performance stages and from there the structure reshape itself to make a smooth transition and perform the different functionalities during the game. The 4-2-4 doesn’t satisfy that need. That’s why it is history.

    3. And I just noticed that the guy on that blog agrees with my points /in my comment there)but disagree with the “notation”. Which I didnt understand but he will write more about it later.

  15. FYI from sport this morning:

    “Following initial investigation, the club said that Sergio Busquets just has a severe contusion on his left leg. It is a painful blow, but should not impact his ability to play against Zaragoza.”

  16. I gotta admit i’m guilty of a lil’ blasphemy here. For the 1st goal, when messi streaked towards goal from the halfway line, i thought it was a dead end. Another one of his crazy-ass dribbles that would, well, just lose possession. El Pulga was facing 4 white shirts. I mean, c’mon man, release the damn ball! A second later, ball’s in the back in the net. Woah.
    Bless me lionel for i have sinned.

    Does anyone else find it super scary that after last season’s awesomenes, messi’s actually improving his game even further?

  17. Kevin,

    you mentioned Pep’s call for a surprise in the attack, and you say it was YAYA, but I don’t think that’s what Pep was revealing.

    The surprise was the exclusion of Ibra, not the inclusion of Yaya.

  18. What interests me more right now is the draw tomorrow. I think that the only two teams I don’t want to see right now are United and Inter. Which, of course, means that we will draw one of the two. πŸ˜€

    I’d love to get the likes of Bordeaux or CSKA. Hell, I’d take anybody except United or Inter, who I think are playing really well right now. Sneijder is on form. But I do think that Ibrahimovic would be super-inspired against them.

    So now, we wait and see.

    1. I really really like for us to go against Arsenal. That’ll be an interesting game, two teams with a similar philosophy and a big contender if we want to pass to semifinals.

    2. The only team I dont want to meet is Lyon. I can predict the media none sense before the game and I won’t like it a bit.

      If we are going to meet Inter anyway, I prefer to meet them now that Lucio (their best defender) is suspended. And now that the Serie A is getting closer rather than few months from now when they -most probably- seal the deal there.

      CSKA? Is it getting warmer in russia now? If so no problem. or else, thanx but no thanx.

      Bordeaux, I like. Not that they will be an easy opponent. But I have great respect for Blanc, one of the best technicians at the moment. I like to see how he will manage this game.

      Arsenal will be an exciting opponent. but again…We dont miss the Cesc will come…cesc will not headache.

      I want to meet Real Madrid in the following stage! What? Knocked Out?! Ouch! πŸ˜€

    3. Only two teams i don’t want are Inter and CSKA. CSKA because it will be long travel and the matches are around El Clasico so long travel is not exactly recommended. Inter because we already played them twice so if we meet them again, i hope it is in final. other then that, i feel fine against any other team.

  19. I know this may be blaspheming, but if EE lets Higuain go (if the latest rumours come true and if there is some ‘understanding’ between us and EE), would you consider him for LW for 40 mil euros?

  20. With Regard to elections, it seems like whoring out our jersey has become a popular concept.

    From an interview with Jaume Ferrer:

    Have you considered to have a shirt sponsor?
    The agreements with the organizations of the United Nations are crucial. We want to continue with them. But it is not required to have Unicef on the shirt. In the short-term I think it is, but we will study formulas to see if there are opportunities to promote this in another way and that we then can advertise something on the shirt, which could bring in 20 millions.

  21. Wow really tough question about the next opponent? Of course CSKA or Lyon will be easy road and i think the pressure from the media and all that non sense about them defeating Real will be huge. But there is one fact here that Real (by my opinion) is weak team. I hate Real with every cell in my body especially Ronaldo. And i liked Ramzi’s statement that he wants Real but they didn’t qualified. Ouch! hahahaha i can’t tell you the satisfaction i had when real lost. πŸ˜€

    About the upcoming draw i would really like Lyon or CSKA and let’s not get ourselves fooled, CSKA had lucky moments, and lyon just played better football then Real. Neither of them can stand the football phenomena that Barca plays. Bordeaux is good team and it’s also a good team but i would really like Arsenal or Inter. I am sooo confident that we can beat those teams no matter when. Sure Inter had good games but it’s fighting Milan for the Italian title and also they are not constant at their victories including the shaming draw with Catania i think. The weaker team we face in the final the better are the chances to confirm our CL crown. But anyway i don’t fear no team, they are just not up to the challenge. Trust me Arsenal faced far more inferior team than them, and Bayern had the luckiest win ever. So, my friends no matter what team face us, i insure you that it will be destroyed in a non respectable way. Viva La Barca!!!!

  22. The tie for the quarter finals is going to be Tomorrow. The qualified teams are in bold:

    Team___________Agg._____Team #2_______1st leg__2nd leg
    Bayern Munich___4–4______Fiorentina_____2–1_____2–3
    CSKA Moscow_____3–2______Sevilla________1–1_____2–1
    Lyon____________2–1______Real Madrid____1–0_____1–1

    Most wanted: Bordeaux, cause:
    -It shouldn’t be too hard
    -It’ll be a french team, meaning I’ll get to see it in HD!
    -It should be fun to see how Laurent Blanc manages his team. Like Ramzi, I also have great respect for that guy.

    Least wanted: Manchester United
    -I think it’s pretty obvious why.

    Other points:
    -I don’t want Lyon and Bayern cause we got them last year.
    -I want to face Arsenal in the semis. It’ll be fun! πŸ™‚
    -This comment kick ass πŸ˜€

  23. I dedicate the comment above to none other than our own Kxevin, who can now not only post pictures in comments, but he can also do whatever he wants cause he’s the boss (despite his poetic artistry sometimes not being understood). Ladies and Gentlemen, a hand please πŸ˜€

  24. The two David’s are shining against Bremen. But the defense of Valencia is awful (so is Bremen’s), this could easily have been a 4-4 (and it’s half-time right now) πŸ˜€

  25. I was lucky enough to be at the Camp Nou for this game, and I was just completely blown away by Messi’s overall play. In addition to the sublime first goal, classy second, and playmaking, his movement off the ball was superb – even when we were kicking the ball around deep in defence, he was making runs, dragging defenders around and opening spaces for breaks. He also really seemed to be assuming a leadership role, directing players and actively communicating all game. Henry also did a good job with communication, and during a very determined first half hour or so created some good opportunities with his hold-up play up top.

    Further impressions – The Yaya, aside from a few misplaced passes, did very well, Busquets was everywhere, and Pedro was a constant bundle of energy. Pique was fantastic in both defense and attack, and Alves, while a bit wasteful, was his usual productive hummingbird self. But Messi completely stole the show, and everyone in the stadium knew it. Unbelievable.

    1. I am so jealous of you. For being able to see them, but more for being there for an amazing game.

    2. Nice. These are the things we don’t see on TV. ALways good to have a first hand report.

  26. i think we’re undervaluing Pique and Alves’ contributions this game. both were defensively incredible, especially Dani who absolutely made Hleb his bitch AND bailed our center-backs out a couple of crucial times. Pique meanwhile added (and adds) so much to our defensive->offensive transitions AND owns everything in the air. once we get Abidal back, and assuming he plays to his previous level, we’ve got maybe the best back line in Europe in addition to the best attack and the best midfield. and regardless of how much we’re scoring, that’s a optimistic thought.

  27. I don’t want to get overconfident about this result, but really, how can I not be excited? The media is freaking out about Messi, and deservedly so, but what a team effort that was. I couldn’t help that swell of pride that rose while watching the game, thinking, “now this, THIS is Barca.”

    Going into the game, I was worried. Yes, the second half of the Valencia game was back-to-business, but that first half was abysmal. I didn’t know if we would carry over our momentum from the second half. And then there came the news that Xavi injured himself. He’s as much of a talisman as Messi is, and in some ways more vital to our form. Well, I shouldn’t have doubted.

    I thought the team was just paying lip service to the media with all of their “If Madrid can go out, so can we/ we have to be humble/ etc” lines. They weren’t. They came out to play a Stuttgart that was determined and had a fair bit of confidence after their strong first leg. Yes, it is Stuttgart, the lucky draw, who could not have expected to win, but they had hope, and certainly didn’t roll over in surrender.

    This game is a perfect example of why Kxevin’s given Messi low player ratings in some of the recent games. Because, wow. What I loved best was that when he got the ball, his head was up, looking around for his teammates. And he made some truly great passes throughout the game.

  28. On Zlatan:

    don’t know what ibra is thinking, but he looked kind of dejected in the game and on the bench. hope he is not feeling too bad when the team is playing so well without him (and without him in the starting XI).

    i have no idea why he is so uninvolved in the attack when he came on. but just to be fair, i didn’t think henry and pedro were very involved in the attack during the second half either. but time and time again, i see the ball go anywhere buy ibra’s position. including some crazy-accurate crosses that found messi all night, but not to ibrahimovic. maybe it was just messi’s night, huh?

    but i am not saying he was bad. just that the game was pretty much decided when he came on. there is one particular play which i think ibra is the striker we much needed. he received a pass from iniesta outside the box, loosely controlled it to his right side which allows shooting opportunity. confronted with a defender and out-muscled him with his strength to regain control, only to see iniesta rushed forward to shoot, resulting a corner. i was thinking, eto’o couldnt do the same, not messi, not pedro, not any of our striker, except if you count our man mountain The DestroYa as a striker.

    sure enough the movement of zlatan can still improve, but it is his first season afterall and i am optimistic.

    yea, the nutmeg pass looked smooth and easy, but he could easily put too much weight on that pass as the desire of nutmegging will make u overpower it. but he didnt. he is a playmaker, too.

    1. I thought he actually received a pretty good reception from the crowd. That must have been good for him to hear.

    2. What do you think of the chitter chatter on Sport and others that they will sell Ibra for Torres or Villa. I dismiss it as gossip, but I am curious about what other folks think. Ibra’s agent, Mino Raiola, is up to his same ole tricks. I really dislike that agent’s propensity to open his mouth. He loves to see himself in the media.

    3. It’d be way premature to get rid of Ibra at this stage imo. We wouldn’t recover our money on him but more importantly he hasn’t really had a full opportunity to adapt. For me at least the signs aren’t good but I’m not about to judge him fully on his first season.

      Btw, I’ve just rewatched the last 30 minutes of the game and iniesta played a stormer in that time! everything went through him, he didn’t lose the ball once, played some great passes and did a lot of excellent tidying up. 4 is way too low unless he was awful in the first 60 which admittedly i haven’t rewatched but I don’t remember getting annoyed at him. Especially as Ibra somehow gets a 5?

    4. I agree it’s premature. I am fully confident what Ibra can contribute. I just worry with elections, stupid things like this might occur, grrr…

      I am so not a player rater, nor a player hater, ok, bad pun, just always looking for the best in my beautiful Barca team.

  29. great interview with dani alvez by sid lowe(Sid’s favorite player) coming up in 442 magazine soon

  30. …ah to be cule is to always find a cloud in a silver lining. So I found this.

    I gotta admit the new style was exilirating…but was also disconcerting. I watched with a EPL-centric friend and he kept asking questions about the formation I had no answer for. At times it looked like a sandlot (is that the proper soccer term?) game with school kids running from end to end trying to create the next moment of group-assisted individual brilliance.

    So is any one else as worried as our fellow cule Pulina in the link above?
    Does the 4-2-1-3 (or whatever it was) make us more Messi-dependant and create a chaos which dooms us to not repeat?

    For me, I’ll take a few clouds with my silverlinings to see The Man Mountain rumbling into the box. But a cule must worry…

    1. I can’t say if we’re gonna win or not but with chelsea out it’s easier now πŸ˜€

      We have sooooo many players that can play different positions and an intelligent coach… busi can play up, yaya up, they can play semi-doble-pivote like yesterday, one of them with xavi or iniesta, xaviniesta, yaya-xavi-keita, the younsgsters haven’t played yet, keita, and the list is just infinite I’D GO FOR INIESTA ENGANCHE. Having and that besides having mr pep is ok I think, the guy has some credit and can do all he wants. We don’t have to play always the same. The team was looking kinda bad for some games with the 4-3-3 system this season and he fixed it maybe it is only momentary but it sure works.

  31. I know Stuttgart is mid-tier Bundesliga but to have that kind of possession against CL quality without Xavi and with Busquets in the game is amazingly good news. Our depth is really starting to help us.

    We also have the deepest defense in recent years, with PiqGod, Puyols, Alves, and Gabi (I count Maxwell as a mid). Not having to worry about Marquez, etc. is very reassuring. Will Abidal be healthy for CL quarters?

    Don’t be so quick to abandon Ibra. We’ll need his size against the Premiership teams. Have we already forgotten how ineffective our set pieces were in recent years without any size up front?

    Real losing? Chelsea out? If only thong boy gets a season ending injury, this could be the best football week of my life.

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