Barça 0, Getafe 0, aka “Work in progress”

Football is all about hopes and dreams. The game captivates us because it represents possibility. It’s why transfers are such news, why transfer season fills every supporter with hope. It’s why we watch matches, that hope of magic, of the perfect goal, the key result. It’s wonderful.

It’s also a lot of why supporters are super critical when things don’t go well — it’s the notion that everything is the worst. It’s brutal when dreams die hard, even when they don’t die.

Barça was supposed to have answers, supposed to be on the verge of making magic, supposed to be ready to vault its glorious way to the most unlikely treble anyone has ever seen. But that isn’t reality, even as it is fantasy. Reality is that Ernesto Valverde has found some answers, ridden some luck and was able to have his team take advantage of its chief rivals dropping points as they worked their way into something approaching form, just as Barça will have to do.

What’s missing. The focus in football is always what’s missing. “Well, yeah, the player passes, runs, builds in attack, but he doesn’t do this, and that is a big problem.” It’s always what isn’t there, what might be coming, the next transfer, the next season, the next match, when everything will be right, even as it never, ever is.

The Gefafe match was reality, the arc of a trend that began weeks ago, with matches every three days and a squad that is deep, but not as deep as it needs to be in key places. What we are seeing now is the manifestation of that. Getafe took advantage of that tendency, that form trend. When a team gets tired, it gets mentally lazy and stops doing what it should. “Here you go, Messi. Make it happen.” And the attack becomes central, which makes it easy to defend the attack. And opposition CBs look like geniuses instead of what they are, which is players for a lesser team whose lives have been being made easy by a team that isn’t doing what it is supposed to be doing.

Against Gefafe, the ball moved too slowly, there was no structure to the attack, just a bunch of people running around, looking for Messi to make magic. But Messi was also off, so that didn’t work, either. Nothing worked, and Getafe just had to kick balls away from ill-considered passes and crosses to nowehre. There were runs, but they were easily managed. Messi made passes, to players that were offside. Suarez was messy, drab and ineffective. As he is the key to a lot of the Barça attack in that he is the terminus, nothing is going to happen. When your forward is standing offside as opponents make runs, nothing is going to happen. So against Getafe, nothing was going to happen.

Two huge-money transfers played today, one in the starting lineup — Coutinho — and one as a sub — Dembele. Neither one was as effective as they will be in the future, because it is in effect their pre-season with a team that is very difficult to learn to play with. Dembele in particular was the target of post-match criticism, and heavy criticism. Because he didn’t play to his price tag. It’s as if people have forgotten that he’s a 20-yaer-old player who is right now mostly promise, who has spent the bulk of this season injured, that Getafe was his first outing in competition since his last injury.

Dembele has to learn to not only play with Barça. He has to learn to trust his body again, to understand that he can make those cuts and runs, control balls, be Dembele again. Right now, he’s a mess, but it’s mental. Not physical. Allow time to work that out.

Coutinho came from a team where he wsa the man. He drove the ball, controlled it, led attacks. He could make plays, then decide what to do. So he isn’t looking around as he should, as Barça players learn coming up through the academy ranks to always keep the head up, to always know what next to do with the ball.

Iniesta came in and the team immediately looked better, because he understands how to play in the Barça system. Coutinho doesn’t. Nor does Dembele.

Dembele and Coutinho are EUR300m. And by cracky, they are supposed to make a difference. Right now. Thati isn’t going to happen. Dembele and Coutinho are Gomes and Alcacer with higher price tags. In the same way Gomes and Alcacer are better this season after time to assimilate, to catch up the speed of play, make the right moves and anticipate, Coutinho and Dembele need to go through that same process, price tags aside. Relax, and let that happen.

Espanyol played Barça to a draw, using the same method that Getafe did. They were physical, clogged the middle and kept ten behind the ball whenever Barça had it. The usual Barça methodoology of quick ball and player movement, building from the outside in and the run dicating the pass, didn’t happen because the team has been playing too many matches. It’s the price of being active in three competitions.

The lead right now is seven points over an Atleti side that has mastered the art of the 1-0 win. They get a goal somehow, then close everything down. Atleti isn’t a team that is good enough to win Liga, unless Barça decide to lose the Liga — which could happen. The challenge for Valverde will be getting the rest for key players such as Messi and Iniesta, to keep the team active in all of the competitions while keeping the team reasonably fresh. He will also have to, in essence, have a preseason while the season is in full swing.

Were there up sides from today’a match? Of course. It’s difficult for the attack to play much worse. Yerry Mina is the business, smooth in attack and strong in defense. During the match, in the Twitter cauldron, people were more obsessed with finding fault in a player who put in an MOTM performance than in the attack, which was poor. Very, very poor. It happens. Form and fatigue are transient, they ebb and flow as a season moves through the various phases. This was true with Guardiola, but then people attributed to the team working its physical process through cycles, part of the building process.

But without that confidence in a coach, which Valverde hasn’t earned, the same ebbs and flows are signs of Armageddon, signs of a team ready to bottle. Because desire and expectation do that to a fanbase. Disappointment looms, and cynicism becomes the cushion that helps absorb that blow. That midfielder has a great match, but doesn’t do what a club legend did. A defender has a brilliant debut, but he doesn’t do what a Barça defender does — a worldview that means people didn’t watch how he played, but instead saw what they needed to see from a player who cost 8m, who nobody knows and therefore nobody trusts.

As a fanbase, we will need calm as the team builds. The good thing is that defensively, the team is more than solid. Digne was a very good CB sub. The problem is the attack. Before the Espanyol match I said that if Barça doesn’t win, the defense won’t be the issue, the attack will. Suarez had to have set a single-match record of offsides. On three occasions he was standing offside, stranding attackers, particularly Messi. And he missed one of the few clear scoring chances the team generated. Messi spent most of the match sleepwalking. The attack looked tired, and didn’t have normal function. It happens. What matters now is what happens next.

Football spends a lot of time looking for what isn’t there, and finding fault because of that absence. Optimism, or even neutrality, is hard. Reflex is misery. But Barça is building. Be calm, and let it happen. Expectation? Expect the team to do its best. Some days, such as against Getafe, that best won’t be very good. That’s part of it.

Hopes and dreams are awesome, but football is, at the end of it all, about what is and understanding what is. Barça is still unbeaten, with a seven-point lead in Liga, in the Copa final and aiming toward a key Champions League clash with Chelsea. We don’t know who any of that is going to go. So let it happen.

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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.

37 Comments

  1. Víctor
    February 12, 2018

    You have to understand the criticism against Dembele. Yes, he is 20 years old, yes, he is coming back from an injury, yes, he needs time to adapt to the team. Yet, Barcelona paid almost 150m euros for him. Not sure about you, but I can see why the supporters get enraged with his performance. He had a poor performance today and that poor display wasn’t just the result of “not getting adapted to Barcelona yet”… let’s hope that it is because he doesn’t feel confident enough returning from that injury and that, once he gets to feel confortable again, he becomes the player the team needs him to be.

    Mina, indeed, a good game. Albeit I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that we should consider that part of that “great display” is because he didn’t have much of a challengue against a side that came to rely on the ocassional counter attack opportunity and whose main goal in the game was to get out of this game with a point.

    • Davour
      February 12, 2018

      The thing is, he is human. He is thinking too much, following two injuries and an insane price tag (blame Neymar!) for a 20-year-old with one full season of high level football under his belt. Before the last injury, he showed great promise, but injuries matter, get to your head.

      Now, he enters a game where the team is not functioning, he is asked to challenge 1 on 1, he shows a few good moves and runs, then he misplaces a pass to Messi (which was made because it was Messi, which is another learning curve at Barca – pick the best option, not Messi by default, although he is often the best option…). After this he was a wreck, despite whipping in a fine cross to Suarez. Typical of a player who is normally instinctual but now considers his every move. Things just don’t happen for him, as they do when on song. And this has also a lot to do with adaptation – he is not yet used to this environment, it is not automated for him, there are as of yet no routines to fall back on.

      I saw a hesitant youngster, but with the step and movement of a potential great, and I would say that this is one of EV’s great challenges – to nurture that talent correctly.

      • squeen
        February 12, 2018

        Even though I am not sure I fully understand, I love this part,

        “…pick the best option, not Messi by default, although he is often the best option”

        • Davour
          February 12, 2018

          Cheers, Simply meant that many players look anxiously for Messi instead of assessing the situation overall, looking for the best team option. And I just meant that Messi often – but not automatically – is that option.

      • Víctor
        February 12, 2018

        Davour, totally agree with you. That price tag was just insane. Same with Coutinho. Neymar’s saga did leave that another negative aspect on the club,

    • February 12, 2018

      No, you don’t have to understand the criticism of Dembele. Unless it is in the context of impatient supporters who expect an oft-broken 20-year-old player to sparkle with the shine of his massive fee immediately. He was out for 5 months. Came back, and was out for another month. Of course he isn’t going to play with the same fire and vigor. Anyone who doesn’t see that, can;’t be helped. It will take him a while to come back from that. Then a stomach ailment today. Stress-related? Some say yes.

      As for Mina, again, people are talking crap about a player who had a great match, including some key challenges. Did you see his stats from the match?

      Passes 78/83 (94%), touches 97, tackles 3, total shots 3, on target 1, clearances 2, aerial duels won 5, interceptions 2, total duels 8/14, fouls 3, bookings 1

      It seems like people WANT signings to fail so that they can be right about something. Seeing the fear in Dembele’s face as he plays breaks my heart. Meanwhile people pile on him, most of whom have never had a succession of injuries and the constant pressure of a 140m fee weighing on them.

      I struggle to come up with a better depiction of that notion than it’s bullshit.

      We call for transfers. They come. Then they are too expensive or the wrong transfer. One plays well, and it’s well’ consider the situation. He started against Getafe, who had some quite good attacks, and kicked ass. After having not played all that much competitive football these past few months.

      The standards are absurd because they are malleable. Even with his poor display, Dembele almost had two assists. Take a second to try, to consider, just for an instant, the pressure that young man is under.

      Meanwhile, imagine Gomes having had the match that Coutinho had. Head-down dribbling, runs to nowhere. He cost more than Dembele, and didn’t have the injury problems Dembele did.

      Without being able to discuss this team calmly, without hysteria, reasoned debate is impossible. Doom and failure are everywhere. Messi was mostly poor. Not a word about that anywhere. Alcacer? Mostly adequate, fantastic interplay on the move in which Suarez should have scored.

      People are acting like the scoreless draw was on Dembele. The attack was shit. Laggardly, confused-looking shit. Some are blaming Valverde. For what? Not making players do what they were supposed to? That XI should have been good enough to win. It wasn’t because the attack couldn’t score goals. It’s as simple as that. Form and fatigue? Of course. But that’s too rational for a fanbase that wants everything to be the worst.

      • Víctor
        February 12, 2018

        OK, first off, I’m not blaming the scoreless draw on Dembele, Mina, Messi or anyone in particular… in fact, it was the team as a whole who should be at fault and, even then, I can’t really criticize it, because it is obvious that they are tired, they need rest.

        Second, sure thing, I do agree that many “Barcelona supporters” in general want immediate results, always fantastic team displays, constant thrashing of the opponents, a treble every damn season and whatnot… obviously, those demands are too damn high and impossible to meet. However, I can see why many got mad at Dembele’s performance yesterday. Once again, his transfer fee is a big factor on that. You don’t pay $150m for a player that miss almost half of a season and then comes back with a bad display. Is it an unjust and very hard judgement of a player? Well, it is, but you can see where they’re coming from. That price just doesn’t help the situation at all. Had he cost his “real value” ($20m~$35m, something like that) then expectations would be more down-to-earth. Countinho also cost a lot of money and, he eventually will feel pressure for that. That’s the dark side of these skyrocket-high transfers.

        Like you replied in this post: nothing wrong with aknowledging that he had a poor game and, at the same time, reckoning that he needs to recover and get his confidence back.

        About Mina, I didn’t say that he had a bad game, nor I’m saying that he is a bad defender. Just that he didn’t have an exactly a big challengue ahead, so it is normal to have those numbers. A defender having a +90% pass accuracy, against a team that played to sit deep and rely on the ocassional counter-attack is no surprise.

        So, yes, all in proper context: Dembele had a poor game, but he needs to fully recover and, all in all, feel confortable again so a proper judgement can be a made. His transfer fee is being an adverse factor on him and the expectations of everyone. The team must work on reminding him to relax and that he should focus on improving his performance, afterall, he isn’t really guilty of that massiva transfer fee he had.

        Mina had a great game, but we’ll need to see him against sides that play more offensive and put more pressure on our team to get a better evaluation of him. However, with this game and the little he played against Valencia: very good so far, looks that he is a fine addition for the team.

        • Femflexi
          February 12, 2018

          Victor I don’t know why you have to keep on on harping on dembele and Mina
          Dembele is young,coming back from a six months injury against a team that; 1: he got his first injury against getafe, 2:they are playing a very defensive game against his team and are probably ready to kick anybody with the ball, 3:the poor chap is learning how to play with his team mates and also learning about his body (he wouldn’t want to go back injured)
          On Mina issue what do expect the chap to do, make a mess of his first full debut? It seems as is you were expecting him to be a total fuck-up he made the necessary passes,interceptions,tackles,had good positioning,calm and tactically aware of his team mates. Even pique had to start from somewhere bro
          What you don’t understand is that he couldn’t played any better / worse than he did against a team that played like getafe did except you were expecting him to fail
          My motto is; ONCE A PLAYER DONS THE BARCA COLOURS, THEY BECOME THE IN THEIR POSITION NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS

          • Víctor
            February 12, 2018

            No, I didn’t expect Mina to mess up, I’m just saying that let’s not get all hyped up, can we? He has a lot of way to go in the team. Likewise, if he happens to make mistakes, we should be patient with him.

            Never said Dembele is a bad player, but his display was poor. Yes, his particular situation should be considered, but the fanbase of Barcelona doesn’t forget that he costed a lot and therefore expect a lot from him. Same with Coutinho.

  2. Hamid
    February 12, 2018

    I think that Valverde’s biggest challenge now is to decide which competition is winnable: La Liga or the CL. We are paying the price of investing a lot of effort and energy into the CDR, a competition that is losing its prestige each year. We don’t have enough depth and freshness for a treble this year, which is ok for a team in transition. I would focus more on the Eibar game (we need those 3 points) and rest Messi, Iniesta, Busquets and Suarez against Chelsea.

    • Jim
      February 12, 2018

      Sorry, Hamid. Just spotted this. I’d be reluctant to concede either of those. For the first time in a couple of years I think we have a squad which with a bit of luck could win it all. I’d agree that in future we need to relegate the Copa to the second stringers until at least the semis but if we beat AM at home the league should be ours. A week off will do wonders for the players. Hopefully the club will have a little fun involved somewhere along the line too as things can get rather serious otherwise and that’s when arguments happen. Just look at the fan base with one poor result . . .

  3. Jim
    February 12, 2018

    Yeah, I’d agree with this assessment of where we stand with relation to the treble but with this side it is possible to be optimistic about our CL chances. The team aren’t physically tired, this is mental fatigue and as Kxevin says only to be expected when we are still relying on the same core of players to do the business. However, if you aren’t going to give Pique when injured, or Iniesta who has played a lot a rest against Getafe home when are you going to do it ? A bigger worry is where, from now on, Suarez or Messi get there’s .

    I think Dembele’s poor performance was more down to game rustiness and not trusting his body than assimilation into the side. And that is completely understandable so he gets no brickbats from me. Can’t even blame EV for that as I thought when he came on it was the right call although in hindsight it was easy to see he really should have been brought back for twenty minutes when we were ahead rather than chasing a game against a packed defence.

    It’s right that the ball didn’t move quickly enough, especially near their box. However there were other systemic problems not down to that. As soon as it became obvious that Paco either was being anonymous or not playing far enough forward it should have been sorted. We’ve been here before with Suarez isolated up front. When you add in that Rakitic and Busi were still taking it in turns to play in front of the defence so neither got forward much you’re left wondering where the attack was going to come from . When you add Coutinho struggling a little to get into the game ( partly because of the lack of company going forward but not entirely) and Messi, at least first half, looking like he was waiting for the second half to come what do you end up with ?

    That’s right. You end up with Suarez looking messy drab and ineffective. Except that’s not nearly the whole story. Can we deal first with this standing offside business ? This is not laziness, this is how he creates space. The defence comes out, he’s behind them so either they need to keep looking behind them ( not as easy as you’d think during play ) to see where he is or they lose track of his movement behind them. This isn’t new. It started with the law change on offside and the best example of it was RVN who was never onside. Suarez never stays there if there’s a chance to get involved in a play.

    Secondly, you have to be careful with forwards as to when they are responsible for being caught offside.

    1. Any decent forward will live life on the edge of offside.
    2. Unless they are at least a couple of feet offside that’s acceptable, especially if they are moving at the time. Remember, the effectiveness of their run is also dependant on how well the defence move up.
    3. It is usually impossible to stay onside and wait for the pass to be played before you begin your run. You start off hoping that the ball will be played quickly at exactly the right time. If it isn’t you’re off.
    4. When, as we’ve agreed, the ball movement is generally slow anyway the above is exacerbated.

    I saw a couple of times when I thought he should have done better. The rest were matters of inches, max a foot , and balls not played anticipating his run. Last time I looked he was also razor sharp in his movement to the ball. The FK disallowed goal, he was only a foot offside and moving quickly. The defence might have all come out but they might not. That’s how you get goals. And a magnificent finish ! He showed amazing anticipation to get onto Paco’s stab through, had to throw himself full length and it slid just past the post. Great effort not a miss. When you throw your foot full length at something you’ve no idea where it’s going to go. You’re just trying to get something onto it. His header from the cross was from way out near the penalty spot, won despite the CBs being in attendance and had the keeper making a great save.

    For me, he was sharp throughout played really well and on another day could have had a hat trick. So no he’s not the reason we didn’t play well. He’s on the sharp end, largely on his own, and blamed because it’s easier. Not saying he had his best game but we need to look at support in the area. If you have two banks of four largely around a single player he ain’t going nowhere . . .

    In other news, I thought the defence played well enough under very little pressure really. Mina looked good in parts and could well be a keeper. Loved the way he attacked the corners and he will be a real threat there along with Pique. As the commentator said, he’d obviously been looking at videos of Pique because he looked to fit into the system quite well. No, he wasn’t close to MOTM for me ( although for this match that’d be damning with faint praise anyway ) but a good start. I was actually much more impressed by Digne who I thought had a great game considering he’s not used to the position. I’ve given him a hard time before so kudos to him for this game.

    The only real thinking point I’d take from this display is that EV must ensure that we have enough bodies up in attack, especially at home and especially against a packed defence. That was obvious all the way through the first half and some of the second. Could he have done a Mourinho and hooked Paco earlier or should he just have told him to get up front beside Suarez and never be more than ten metres away from him.? Dunno.

    • February 12, 2018

      When Suarez is offside as much as he was yesterday, that’s form and fatigue. When on form, he sees Messi making that run and darts back onside to be ready to at least receive a pass for the give-go, or something. Instead he stood there.

      Of course standing offside is how forwards make space. But they also have the presence to read play, and know when to get back onside instead of standing there, rooted like a ficus tree. If you watch Messi making that run, and you look around and see that the defense has you in an offside position, what do you do, hope Messi will be able to evade five defenders, pulling them back into the box so that they are behind you and you are suddenly open?

      The better Suarez’s form is, the fewer offsides he has, because he is sharp as he reads play and reacts to movement of the ball and teammates. He is the terminus of the attack. By standing there offsides, he strands the player with the ball. He isn’t the sole reason the attack was crap, but he is the sharp end of the spear. When that sharp end is, in effect, trapped in a closet, then what?

      He wasn’t the only one who was poor. The whole attack was. But we have all seen Suarez in better form, and more effective. He had two excellent chances that in sharper focus, he scores. The first chance from the Alcacer ball, he should have scored. Period. The header took a brilliant save, so full credit to the keeper.

      Some players get excuses, others get excoriation. The entire attack wasn’t good. Too slow and sluggish. Iniesta had life when he came in. Nobody else did. Getafe must have been stunned at how easy Barça was making it for them. “Just stand there, and kick it away, lads. That’s the spirit.”

      It’s okay to say they were poor and understand the fatigue at the same time.

  4. Jim
    February 12, 2018

    You’ll not find me disagreeing about the need for rest for Suarez. After missing the first couple of games he’s played through a knee injury and then almost every game since. Important we find a way to do that but with the poverty of alternatives I’m not sure how.

    The single incident you mention in the first three paragraphs I don’t remember but I did say that I reckoned there were a couple of times he could have done better so that may well have been one of them. The rest were marginal. To give you an example of what I was trying to say have a look at this highlight clip

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Rrupu0s23II

    At 33 minutes we have Suarez ending clearly offside where he’s through on the keeper. He watches the ball hit sharply to Messi, assumes Messi will take one touch to control and send him on his way. However, Messi turns full 360 degrees the other way before hitting it. In that time Suarez has run off. Not his fault. He has to assume and go because the defence are already backpeddling and the space behind them will be gone.

    The FK at 21.24 leading to Mina’s scuffed shot at goal also shows the value of gambling. Once it breaks down he quickly looks across the line, sees one of them is hanging back so he does too and uses the space to get to the ball in space while they claim for offside.

    The Paco incident is at 55. Suarez is offside for a fair whack of that move until the last bit where he is level. We’ll just have to disagree if you think that was an easy chance. It might look easy to the casual observer but have a look at the stretch just to reach it. When you lunge from that side of the ball you can’t open your foot which is what he’d have had to do to score. He did well to be alert enough to get to it but it was past the point for putting it away across goal from the keeper and again he wouldn’t have made it without flirting with offside. Not sure what the second excellent chance was as you mention the great save by the keeper . So we’re talking about him getting hammered for missing one (disputed ) chance ?

    I agree entirely with your sentiments about one player getting excuses and another excoriated. I remember the start of the season well. I would say what I did before. It wasn’t his best game but it was full of effort, great movement and danger and he is still only four goals behind Messi having played three full games less as well as playing through pain for another half a dozen which did hamper movement. His goals have kept our lead going and you don’t do that by lazily standing offside. If that’s out of form give me more of it. He’s probably our in form player of 2018 !

    Main problem is still lack of bodies beside him, whether with him up front or coming from midfield. We don’t seem to be seeing Paulinho getting up beside him as much for one, although he’s not always playing. A rest wouldn’t hurt though as with Messi. Tired players become injured players quickly and in Suarez’s case the problem wasn’t dealt with medically. The pain just went away with rest so could possibly come back with overplaying.

    I’ve probably more confidence in Coutinho providing more support to the attack than Dembele at the moment . The young lad may well have taken badly to his performance on his return. You could hear the crowd reaction at times. That could easily turn into a mental problem and we need to support him . It may be that our best formation till the end of season is 4-4-2 getting both Coutinho and Ini into the side and getting forward. Encourage SR to stay back a bit on the right allowing Rakitic to do his swap thing with Busi. That would allow Iniesta a freer role to come centrally and control the play a bit more.

    Anyway, didn’t see much from Chelsea that worried me tonight . . . which in itself worries me, if you see what I mean.

    • georgjorge
      February 14, 2018

      On your last paragraph: I am not worried about Chelsea either (a coach fighting to stay in his job there helps that feeling) – but then again, Chelsea fans watching us last Sunday probably aren’t worried about us at all ; )

  5. squeen
    February 13, 2018

    Speaking of exhaustion. Our flying squirrel, Alba, was playing some very bad crosses into the box last match too.

    In defense of Suarez, he was the difference maker the last few matches. Takes a toll.

    A midweek without an event should help, all around.

  6. Jim
    February 13, 2018

    Wow. The CL is back with a bang and it would seem that the English are coming. Spurs completely outplayed Juventus in their own ground and after going two down. I think I said before that this Spurs team impresses me with their ability to play through other sides. Their players are always looking for the forward pass through the lines and they do it well. Man City steamroller Basel. Both of these will take a bit of beating. The Spurs match was such an enjoyable watch. Hope the big one tomorrow lives up to its billing. Still not sure who I want to win. Not like me . . .

  7. Hamid
    February 14, 2018

    Our key players are tired. We lost 4 precious points in the last 2 games. Coutinho has not found his marks yet. Dembelé is in recovery mode (physical and mental). La Liga teams are on fire when facing us. AM is winning while being mediocre. And we don’t have the depth that we think we have. For me, the games against Eibar (A), Girona (H) and Las Palmas (A) are more crucial than the first leg against Chelsea. If we win those 3 games and beat AM in the Camp Nou right after, we will wrap la Liga and focus on the return home match against the Londoners. The calendar ahead is hectic, tight and demanding and I wonder whether Messi, Iniesta, Busquets, Roberto, Alba, Piqué and Suarez can survive the pace of the second half of the season.
    To be honest, I did not expect the team to be so competitive at this stage. Now that we a have shot at a sweet Liga + CDR double, I think game management is of the essence, particularly for a team which is “Work in Progress” with a reduced margin of error.

  8. Jim
    February 14, 2018

    Another great game. Madrid not great but PSG wobbly as ever. If Verratti is ever gonna be considered a great he needs to stamp himself on that midfield second half. Neymar looks good but has been already booked. They will rule him second half. More likely to depart, however, is that guy, Lo Celso. Where did they get him. He’s awful and could single handedly cost them this. Booked, then needlessly gave away the penalty and lucky to stay on. Need to get him off now.

  9. Jim
    February 14, 2018

    Well, I have to say I’m surprised by the lack of improvement in either PSG or Neymar. PSG just don’t have good enough players ( I’d give Verratti and Neymar pass marks but only just. The rest are average and MBappe looked awful). Neymar continues to disappoint me and I’ll repeat what I said when he left ; he learned nothing at Barcelona and left the same player as he arrived.

    On the other hand, how anyone could reckon Ronaldo had a good game is beyond me. He scored a penalty and had one bounce in off his knee with him barely in attendance.

    • Víctor
      February 14, 2018

      PSG just did a PSG. They showed, once again, that their team is not ready to really compete for winning a CL. Hell, even Leicester showed more composture in their CL run last season, LOL!

      Real Madrid did well, but they weren’t really impressive. My guess is that they’ll advance but won’t go much further into the tournament unless, of course, they get an easy opponent in the QF.

      Talking about easy opposition, man, those English teams did their job. Manchester City and Liverpool already on the next stage. Porto and Basel are already done.

      Juventus and Tottenham gave the most interesting game in this first round of R16. Never expected to see Juventus lose their two goal advantage. Still, that tie remains the most interesting one. Tottenham dominated Juve, but you can’t discount the possibility of Juve turning things around at England. Tie seems to be 50-50 for me.

      About Neymar: he is a great player, he is skilled, but really, he has never been one of the Top 3 footballers. He wasn’t at the Top 3 at Barcelona, let alone the world. Ramzi put something funny on twitter: Neymar went out of Barcelona to stop being “Messi’s shadow”; he ended up leaving Messi and keeping the shadow.

      And Cristiano Ronaldo: he had a just OK performance, in reality. Asensio was the man the made the difference in that match.

  10. PPos
    February 15, 2018

    Man, what a crazy two days of football it has been, and the best player hasn’t even played haha.

    Cristiano Ronaldo does what he does well. He sniffs around the box, and shows up. He’s never involved in build ups or breaks a defense with a pass like Messi, but when he’s off CR7 kinda becomes an extra in games, but today wasn’t the case. I didn’t think he was Madrid’s best player. Asensio made all the difference by injecting pace into a side that Isco tends to slow down. RM plays better when they’re more vertical.

    PSG need a real coach. Unai Emery subbed with a cautious but a loser’s mentality. When we go to the Bernabeu do we shut down with 20 minutes to go by subbing Suarez? NEVER! We pound them into submission because that’s the only way to kill Madrid. You gotta push them down, and throw dirt on them. Hahaha.

    The return leg is going to be a good one. Emery should start Diarra and Di Maria, more experienced players for a big stage unlike Lo Celso and Mbappe. Mbappe is grossly overrated. Yeah he’s fast and did create the goal but how many balls did he lose? More than 10 for sure.

    Juventus and Tottenham is the most interesting game this side of the draw. Dybala returning for the return leg could make all the difference. There’s no way he misses the penalty Higuain did, and one away goal could send Juve through. Harry Kane on the other hand. He’s the real deal I’d say, and he’s only 24.

    I hope we don’t have defensive drabs for the return leg, but I doubt Madrid can keep a clean sheet. They never do. Porto and Basel. RIP. Man City and Liverpool are pretty much through.

    Now, all we need is a Messi hattrick against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge so he can break 100 goals in the Champions League and send us home happy. Now, onto Eibar, that we really need to win. They’re 7th and are not going to lay down. It’s going to be a tough game. I wonder how EV approaches his selection, because resting Iniesta, Messi, Suarez, and Busquets would be a smart move, but we also dont us to drop points in the league. It’s time for Gomes, Alcacer, Dembele, and Denis Suarez to step up, or start packing their bags.

  11. TITO
    February 15, 2018

    I can’t remember the last time, maybe never, that i wanted RM to win a game and the tie overall.
    I’m sure that if we have to play either of them, RM would be easier to beat.
    That PSG last night is not the real PSG. What happened to them, i don’t know, maybe is Emery who for me should be nowhere near this team. To cautious for me, especially knowing how easy is to score against RM.
    To have Neymar, Cavani, Mbappe, Di Maria and who else on your ranks, and to play like that…it’s all on the coach.
    Anyway, if it happens, i know that i want to face RM in the next round if we are matched up. That 3-1 result was flattering.

  12. TITO
    February 15, 2018

    As for Chelsea tie, i know how it went for us the last time (i think) when they were playing poorly, changed the manager, we were happy for overall situation, and in the end, they were the ones that were smiling.
    So, we have to be very cautious, smart, intelligent and on the highest level cause it’s not gonna be easy. But first, Eibar.

  13. Víctor
    February 15, 2018

    People are saying that this first round of UCL games are showing why the EPL is the best league of the world. LOL, gimme a break, Man City and Liverpool thrashed Basel and Porto, not exactly the fiercest opposition right there. And while we are on it: yes, Tottenham did a great game against Juve, but their tie is far from over.

    Meanwhile, I don’t see Chelsea having too many chances against Barcelona. Not that it’s gonna be an easy match for Barça, but it’s gonna be harder for Chelsea, that’s for sure. And finally, Manchester United will have a tough time against Sevilla as well.

    So, no, my guess is that we still have to see further evidence before confidently saying that the “Premiership is the best league of the world once again”.

  14. PPos
    February 15, 2018

    Yeah I agree with you assessment. The english clubs didn’t exactly have first rate opposition Porto and Basel aren’t exactly world beaters, and Juventus is one goal away from classifying. All they need is Dybala to curl one in and play the catenaccio way they did against us at Camp Nou. Chelsea has the toughest opponent, and Mourinho’s United doesn’t really convince me.

  15. luisthebeast
    February 15, 2018

    PSG was the better team and in general they are a better team.
    The reason they lost is Bernabeu and the power it gives to madrid in all their European history.
    I can see PSG with 80% chance to qualify.
    I read a lot about PSG that they are bottlers.
    Well they dont have the mentality that they should but lets be honest,both times they played in Spain vs us and madrid,the refs did nt treated to them like a big club but more like a small one.

  16. Rivaldo
    February 17, 2018

    Hi all…

    Little bit of an observation that I have been making since the beginning of the season.

    Luis Enrique was often given loads of abuse for his lack of use and perceived lack of development of young players. Let me just say, in my opinion, I think Enrique was able to improve many his players – Sergi Roberto is the first name that comes to mind; and even the work of him and his team to stop Barca being vulnerable at corners. Okay.

    To my mind, Valverde has not been able to develop any of the young players he has – they have all dropped off – Deulofeu, Denis, Semedo, etc (players with plenty of ability but lack of continuity and not given the confidence after good performances). To my mind he is just as pragmatic as Luis Enrique was; thus the old guard has looked solid and motivated- Mourinhoesque type coaching manual.
    At this juncture of the season, it is my view that we currently have the to be careful of burnout and overuse – succumbing to injury, with the young replacements not quite ready or confident.

    Any thoughts?

    • georgjorge
      February 17, 2018

      I agree on this season in general (though Valverde’s term is still young), Valverde has gotten a lot out of the established players, some of which were already being tagged as “past it” (Iniesta especially), and not so much out of young or new players. I can’t help feeling that players like Denis Suarez or Semedo, maybe even Deulofeu, could have improved a lot more elsewhere. Of course, it’s Valverde’s first season as a coach here, so he’s got his hands full with all the other things that come with the job as well.

      I disagree on the comparison with Luis Enrique. First, I think Enrique wasn’t so good at developing new or young players either, as seen by the not too great seasons that André Gomes, Arda Turan, Denis Suarez or Douglas (heh) had under him, not to mention Grimaldo etc. from the B team. Sergi Roberto is the only clear success in getting a new player to the highest level.

      I think it doesn’t stop here. In the context of FC Barcelona in the present footballing culture, there probably is incredibly little room for ANY manager, pragmatic or not, to improve and introduce new or young players. However good the manager is, that process takes time and may cost points, and no manager is going to be allowed that luxury. It’s not only FC Barcelona – it is probably the same at clubs like RM, Manchester United, Chelsea etc. For a big club nowadays, a draw is considered a great failure, and not competing for the domestic title for one season is reason enough to sack the coach. Ironically, the team doing so well in the first half of this season – achieved in part by using the established players – is the only thing which might give Valverde room to introduce new players in the league.

      • Rivaldo
        February 18, 2018

        I agree that it is Valverde’s debut season with Barca and that might influence his choices; meaning he has had to make sure he has the backing of the dressing room and board – play and appease the old guard/starters and win “from the off”. What I am wary right now is what I see as a lack of trust in the “bench players”(I don’t believe in this term – each player should train/prepare/play/improve to put himself in a position to be the starter or uproot the current starter; not just accept his position/role – “growth always” is my motto…)… as I was saying… I don’t see the younger ones confident concerning their roles of play and with the mileage under our legs already and going into next season, I am hoping this isn’t Valverde’s trend. I do not necessarily want to see Enrique’s version of rotation but it is needed at this stage – maybe in small doses.
        For instance, if Suarez goes down right now does anybody like our chances of goals being delivered from Paco?
        And I wish Valverde would also reward good performances and not just revert. As a player this plays with your psyche – feels like it doesn’t matter what you do therefore part of your motivation disappears especially there are others playing poorly and you don’t even get the chance despite your good performance.

  17. TITO
    February 17, 2018

    Well, what matters is that we got the three points, because not much else was on a needed level.
    The strangest thing for me was that 90” th minute substitution of Sergi R with Semedo. What was the point??

    • Davour
      February 17, 2018

      To give Semedo the possibility of pulling off one of his little dribbles and regain his confidence! And to waste time…

    • georgjorge
      February 17, 2018

      Full agreement on the game. When Busquets misplaces relatively easy passes repeatedly, Iniesta stumbles over the ball, and Messi flings the ball far over the goal, no sense in picking out single players – that’s a collective breakdown.

      I really hope that this is due to the hard program of the last weeks, and the upcoming Chelsea match, and not the beginning of a harsh dip in form. Then again, I can’t imagine the form of today going on for more than a couple of games…

      • Jim
        February 18, 2018

        I wouldn’t be too harsh on the players for some of what happened. The pitch was tight and looked really uneven to me. Saw a great example when Pique under pressure near his goal line went to hook a ball away and it just didn’t bounce resulting in a corner. Iniesta was obviously under orders not to carry the ball too much as he was first timing passes more than I’ve ever seen ( almost backfired – what an awful tackle on him late on). Have to say I thought Iniesta was still the tidiest player we had on the ball. Messi was just taking NO chances whatsoever. Right decision from EV as Eibar were totally up for it, getting stuck in and we have a more important game in three days time. Even a small knock could see someone miss it.

  18. =EQUALIZER=
    February 17, 2018

    CL QFs :
    – AS Roma Vs Tottenham Hotspur
    – FC Bayern Munich Vs Liverpool FC
    – Real Madrid CF Vs Manchester City FC
    – Manchester United vs FC Barcelona

    CL SFs :
    – Spurs Vs Barca
    – Liverpool Vs City

    CL Final :
    FC Barcelona Vs Liverpool FC
    .
    .
    Please GOD! Please!

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