Barça 3, Chelsea 0, aka “Master and commander”

A former colleague, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, woke every day to take a picture of the sunrise. When asked why he performed this daily ritual, he said, “Because words fail.”

But even pictures don’t work. Once, driving through the Pyrenees on the way to (or from) Ceret, cresting a rise revealed the most astonishing sunrise. We pulled the car over, whipped out the cameras and popped away. Not a single image captured what we saw.

Without words, which aren’t going to do it, nor images, how are we left to describe Messi? The headlines on some alien planet read, “Diminutive resident masters spheroid, shaming Earthlings,” and higher life forms will smile knowingly, pleased at how well their experiment is working.

His goal reduced Rio Ferdinand, one of the best defenders in the history of the game, to a fan occupying a spot in the press box, screaming and pointing and making exclamations.

Last week, before the Malaga match, when another wee Messi entered the world, people Tweeted various congratulations. What crossed my mind was, “Chelsea is going to see a rested Messi, reeking of poop and baby powder.” And while we have no idea of the aroma, we know the rest. Messi was supreme, decisive without having played what would be considered one of his best matches even as it was one of his most decisive. He scored twice and assisted once, the 3-0 scoreline sitting like a burnished homage to the superiority of a man you might not even notice, were he to slide past you in a crowd in real life.

Sid Lowe, in his fantastic post-match recap, likened Messi to a puppetmaster as he described the defining moment in the match when Messi made five Chelsea players move in unison, starting, charging, then stopping in horror as they realized what was about to happen. If they knew, would they have made the same decision to charge at the best player anyone has ever seen? Of course. Because if you have your choice of a pair of assassins, do you take the master or the apprentice?

Thibaut Courtois will look back on that Ousmane Dembele goal, his first for his new club and a moment in an upward trajectory that seems as startling as it is satisfying, and believe he should have done better, could have done better. But this wasn’t how it was supposed to happen, on the ledger where events are written out. No. Dembele was supposed to smite that football with venom, every ounce of energy in those twig-like legs, a piledriver assisted by rage, and relief, and talent, and satisfaction. This was the moment, this was the goal. It had to go in. Courtois was the ornamentation as the greatest player ever passed to a glittering aspect of his club’s bright sporting future. Dembele wasn’t even in the picture until he was. Messi knew he would be there.

How else was that going to go?

It was the biggest crowd in the Camp Nou this season, 97,000 bellowing believers who stretched at the capacity of the venerated stadium turned mall, supporters there to see an exorcism, to lay the ghosts of 2012 to rest, now and forever. What other agent could there be than Messi? Chelsea had to know, even as they had to play the match, had to have hope. But they knew. Their coach knew. After the match, when asked about Messi and his comments to him after the match, calling him a “super top player,” as if he too, was out of words, choosing to stack superlatives like a game of linguistic Jenga.

But there were so many stories on this storied night: Barça’s record against Chelsea and that torrid history, Dembele and his struggles entering the starting lineup in the biggest match of the season so far for his team, Messi, Gomes in the wake of his comments about his time at Barça. The psychic deck was stacked. Chelsea hit the post twice. Of course they did. Those shots weren’t supposed to go in, because Fate had a better story in mind. Messi had to shame the prodigal son, caper past the player who gave Barça life in the first leg with a bit of footballing optimism, had to slay the giant in the most cruel way, the nutmeg goal.

Umtiti was exemplary, again at his normal level but on a bigger stage, his exploits seemed somehow even larger. Like Messi, he defends with influence. He isn’t a slide tackler, a defender that rarely leaves his feet or finishes a match with his uniform dirty. He’s a geometry calculator that views trajectory, takes into account mass and velocity to arrive at a conclusion. And he is there, and defender is separated from the ball, or the wave of an attack dissipates against a human bulwark.

Ter Stegen was knitting like Madame Defarge watching the blood-soaked blade rise and fall, until he had to swing into action with a key stop. Pique was Pique, back in form and unhindered by a knee that hobbled him for too long as we screamed at his heartless Mister, who kept playing him. But that coach, Ernesto Valverde knew, just as he knew Dembele would be ready, that Gomes was ready to turn in a performance that would have had the Camp Nou faithful cheering even if they weren’t acutely aware of the necessity of them showing love to a family member who needed it. Valverde knew that Paulinho, who has been playing football for a YEAR now, was over his bum toe and moving with alacrity again. And we smiled as Willian capered up the sideline, and Paulinho let him dance before stealing his soul.

And Iniesta, the beatiful sprite who brought gloom to the sunny day after with news that he is considering a huge-money move to China in the summer but who, against Chelsea, was lustrous control. There was only one way this match was going to go, on this night.

There is talk of Messidependencia this season as every other, but this one is different. Barça did a half-speed mastering of Malaga on the weekend, a romp that happened as Messi cooed at his new son. People didn’t really worry, because this Malaga wasn’t That Malaga any longer and this, more dour Barça had less of the grasshopper about it and more of the Ant. Silly goals are mostly a thing of the past, even as after Chelsea, people talked about the team being defensively “shaky,” as if Chelsea was some friendly opponent rather than the defending Premiership champions, possessed of a hefty amount of talent.

Every Barça team has a musical analog, and this one is a classical concerto, specifically the Shostakovich Cello Concerto. The soloist leads and defines the beat and melody, even more than the conductor. The orchestra follows, echoes, taking off on sonic flights from time to time, beautiful moments, before handing everything back to the soloist. This Barça needs Messi in a different way, in an approach that has adapted to the player that he is now, a player who when opponents play him for the run, already has the perfect pass in mind. True Messidependencia would need him to score the goal, need him to do everything. This team can assist with a lovely allegro passage that sets up a solo, or a cadenza that slides the melody to the first violinist, who punctuates the movement.

None of the Messi goals against Chelsea, when you watched the videos, looked like they should happen. Too many legs, too many normal-sized humans in the way. And still the ball went into the net just like everyone knew it would. There was certainty.

Maybe that is the best way to describe Messi, if you were forced to use a single word: certainty. Right action, right moment, right execution, everything right with such alarming frequency that when something that isn’t exactly right happens, even he looks confused, like something is wrong, like the sun didn’t rise today. But the sun did rise, and it was beautiful, an amazing thing that we presume to be normal, like the squat genius who makes the amazing seem so ordinary with such consistency that we forget the wonder. It happened again, and it was amazing.

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Written by:

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.

33 Comments

  1. squeen
    March 15, 2018

    Beautiful bit of prose Kxevin. My sincere thanks for the lump it brought to my throat.

  2. March 15, 2018

    Dembele must feel lighter now. I thought, he was in utter disbelief when that ball went in – first he might not have expected Messi to pass him and second he might not have expected to score – look at his first reaction – what to do, how do I celebrate or whatever and then turns to Messi’s direction. Kids confidence must have got a huge boost. Happy for him.
    I really really hope Busquets gets back to his best in 3 weeks. We are lucky its time for the international break, and of course Iniesta too.
    Please Iniesta, stay for one more season please!!! Am coming to Barcelona end of May and am ready to parade naked in la Rambla if that will persuade you to stay for another season or two.
    The whole team was good. It looked like we won without ever getting out of second gear. But every time Willian had the ball, I must admit, I was worried. He is not a typical EPL player. And Chelsea does know how to attack or is it that we are now so confident about our defense that we let them come at us. Am not sure.
    I also want to thank Camp Nou for what they did to Gomes and Pedro. I still miss Pedro.
    Messi, for me, has the fastest brain ever to grace the football grounds. In Guardian comments and all, PL fans have made Courtois the scapegoat. But Messi clearly sees what is ahead in 4K slow motion. He seems to have realised Courtois, not expecting him to shoot from that angle with his right foot, has his foots planted ready for a dive, so decides to nutmeg shot.
    And for the second again, he does it encore knowing Courtois wont expect him to try the nutmeg again..

    I still thought, by Messi standards, it was an average night for him, but his average is still above world class.

    I hope RM wont get Roma or Sevilla, please.

  3. March 15, 2018

    Excellent Kxevin, thank you again for another wonderful piece.

    This is spot on – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75u4GwQ7knA

    Barca controlled the game, maybe in a different way than we are all used to, but the game was controlled. Very similar to the way we controlled the AM game a few weeks ago.

    Bring on the draw tomorrow!

  4. passandmove
    March 15, 2018

    That Messi pass to Dembele. I once had a similar reaction to an outrageous piece of XaviVision. “No no, what were you think…oh. I see.”

  5. mvarfi
    March 15, 2018

    It must be my upbringing in a communist country, because to me Shostakovich is the epitome of anguished uncertainty, but I digress as I understand your point.
    I have daydreamed Dembele’s first goal would be via a Messi assist. I can die happy now. This Barca raises its level as needed. The better the opponent, the stronger the showing. The beauty of it is that it’s not Machiavellian. It’s earned.
    Thank you Kxevin for another wonderful tribute to Him and his team.

    • March 15, 2018

      Oh it is musically. Spot on in that depiction, but its structure is relevant here. Normally in the concerto, the orchestra accompanies the soloist, rather than having the soloist drive the melody. That the opening four-note motif defines and organizes the concerto is what makes it so interesting. The orchestra is almost conducted by the soloist.

      As an aside, Shostakovich is my favorite composer, especially in the hands of Rostropovich.

      • mvarfi
        March 15, 2018

        A brilliant composer, depressingly dark for me though. I love Bach, Brahms, especially in the hands of David Oistrakh.

  6. Snoopking
    March 15, 2018

    Kudos to kxevin for this article, yesterday game was totally different from all those of game we have been playing in this season, before the match i don’t know what will be the end of the game i was full of anxiety, but i have to pray for a good luck against Chelsea because since 2006 we haven’t defeat them in the game we have been playing. When the game is about to commence in camp nou; the stadium was filled with a lot of fans and remind myself about the greatest comeback against PSG last year what a memorable day on the heart of cules around the world. When i saw the banner that stated God save the king ♚ and messi was draw between the banner i was calm and feel the relief that messi will welcome his baby with a goal tonight, after 128 seconds messi scored an unbelievable goals against Chelsea goal keeper, the goal make me pleasant and happy that we are going to score a a lot of goals today. In this game Messi prove to Chelsea fans who he is and how great he is. he scored 20 goals against English teams a good stat in champions league record and the team generally work hard to keep the opponent team from scoring in the game and they all did well from attacking to defending.

    Enesto Valverde brought something different to Barcelona and i thought it was working and the team are improving their game day by day, we play against this teams juventus, Madrid, ATM second leg, Chelsea 2nd leg without conceding a single goals we make use of enough chance we created and utilize them in good way and we maintain our lead against those teams we defend well and come up in good form, this coach is 28 games unbeaten in the league, unbeaten in champions league and we lost a single game in all competition. No one expect this to happen in the beginning of the season when we lost of our most important player in the squad to Psg and we lost to madrid home and away in the Spanish super cup. But now see where we are with this coach, with his difference tactics, calm and with different philosophy. The team may not have a lot of possession like we had in the Pep era but we are winning in another way and making our way to leave our life, Barca have learn how to win without having the game on there side, in interview with Xavi he said madrid learn how to win against their opponent and that’s what football mean all this days no body cares if you dominated the game and you lost. But you will be praise if you win in the ugly way. kudos to the squad, coach and the management of the team. May we have a successful ending

  7. georgjorge
    March 15, 2018

    What a beautiful article.

    “Diminutive resident masters spheroid, shaming Earthlings” – hilarious!

    Messi makes the extraordinary seem ordinary. By now, I wouldn’t even be surprised if he stopped his aging process at thirty and kept playing forever, getting better and better.

    About the match – a big part of the match was played in our half, defending, which leads to questions about control and dominance, or the lack thereof. For me, there are at least two different perspectives on what the team does right now.

    The first is the context of how the opponent plays. Barca under Guardiola was the best and most dominant the club had seen for ages, yet in four tries they couldn’t beat Chelsea, who did very little but defend, even once. I have to assume that’s not only bad luck but something systemical, an opposing team finding the perfect tactics to thwart such a powerful force time and time again. Valverde had Barca play very differently, and win three to nil, with personnel which is arguably not better than that under Guardiola. Barca can still dominate possession and spend the game attacking, but maybe there are opponents like Atleti or Chelsea where it’s not what is needed all the time.

    The second is the fabled Plan B that everyone wanted Barcelona to have back under Guardiola, when it became clear that opponents were just clogging the middle of their penalty area. A big target man (Ibrahimovic) didn’t do much, and neither did making the pitch wide through forwards hugging the sidelines. Under Enriqué, the plan against that was to have the three most lethal forwards in the game finding a way through anyhow, Under Valverde, it’s a strong defense. However the opponent’s defensive strategy, Barcelona – and Messi – is good enough that they’re usually going to get one goal. In former times, often more than one was needed, which was where the problems arrived. But with a strong defense, that one goal is enough – no need for centrebacks in the opposing half if the team doesn’t NEED TO break down a ten-men-defense for another goal.

    So far, it works. Let’s see where it takes us.

  8. RT
    March 15, 2018

    Kxevin, what an article! I just had to comment here to let you know that your writing is so appreciated. Your descriptions of Messi are always lovely, and there are too many phrases here that were so amusing and clever to list them all. Particularly loved “linguistic jenga”. Your description of the incredible Umtiti. And Ter Stegen as Madame Defarge! And I loved the musical analog. Was really curious how you would describe this Barca side in musical terms as you have done the others, and was not disappointed. Your ending paragraph was sublime, and especially the last line: “It happened again, and it was amazing.” It just captures that feeling we get from Messi so, so well. I hate using the overused word “blessed” but I believe it applies here.
    And here I have written a review of your essay and nothing about the actual match! Just wanted to say it is always such a pleasure to come here and read your words after matches.

  9. Víctor
    March 15, 2018

    Dunno why, but I think that Barcelona is gonna draw Real Madrid. Maybe because it’s about time that a Clasico is drawn in UCL QF?

  10. =EQUALIZER=
    March 16, 2018

    Nice article.
    Now that the euphoria has settled, I do think that while this wasn’t Barca’s or Messi’s better performances by far, I will gladly take the win.
    During the Pep era, it was frustrating that most of the times the scoreline never reflected the dominance of the team. We would create close to some 20 chances consistently.

    I have long wished for Barca to win major honours like the CL without playing convincingly. Without having to shoulder the baggage of having to play crisp one touch champagne football just like EE have managed to pick up multiple European crowns playing like rubbish. Perhaps this year I’ll get my wish. People are going to misinterpret this and call me out but i know what i am saying. For once, i’d like to see my team getting the trophies through pragmatism and luck. It sure does feel good to be lucky. once in a while.

    And truth is we did get lucky. You see, i play close attention to all kinds of signs which tells me how a match will go. When alexis smacked the post with a chip in stamford bridge and pedro, puyol and busquets all hit the post in that 2012 1st leg, i some how KNEW that it was kind of written that chelsea would go all the way. When willian hit the post twice, i had the same feeling that barca has luck on their side this time.

    Lets face it guys, all our goals came from their mistakes. sure we were clinical, but we didn’t create much else. if you count those 2 post shots in 1st leg and the 2 post shots in the second leg, that is four goals on another day separated by just a matter of millimetres. It isn’t crazy to think that this tie could have ended up 4-1 in chelsea’s favour.

    Anyway I am extremely hopeful about the ‘portents’ and hopefully it can carry us all the way. Messi is simply running the show single handedly and this is certainly not sustainable. Not if we have to play 2 legs vs city etc. Lets see what is written for our CL campaign this season.

    Bring on Roma.

  11. Jim
    March 16, 2018

    God discussion guys, and an interesting one which goes to the heart of what we want (expect?) from our team. I finally had the chance to rewatch the match this morning and the first thing I have to say, partly in response to Squeen’s kind comment in the last article, is that it was over egging the pudding to say that was the worst display I remember. Probably tells me more about my memory than my analysis but no it wasn’t the worst. However, it was, for me, awful.

    If we go back to what I expected. There are no easy ties in the CL so this was always going to be difficult. What do we know about our opponents? Chelsea were champions last year but have been poor this year, partly because they lost key players and haven’t bought wisely ( Giroud ? Really ? I can’t even remember the name of the guy they bought for up front but have never played ). Conte has said they haven’t bought what they needed and results have shown it. In particular, they have struggled up front. Anyone who watched Hazard suffer up front on his own in the last few games has seen this for themselves. One very unhappy player and one who just didn’t show against us. So, they aren’t a potent attacking team.

    I therefore expected us to play it tight at Stanford Bridge and have a good go at them at home. I was disappointed with the way we defended there and felt we were very lucky to receive the gift at the end although Ini and Messi were awesome in the way they finished it. I could accept it though as it was important we took them back to the Camp Nou with a result. When I saw our lineup I was pleased. Dembele was always a risk but it seemed to suggest my growing concerns about EV’s possible conservatism were misplaced. I’ve always said that there’s not much he can do until we get the top players embedded so this looked good to me, especially as Chelsea have little up front.

    What we got in the first half, for me, was a bright start. We moved the ball quite well for the first ten minutes or so, with Iniesta and Messi in particular looking up for it ( coincidental that they were the rested ones ? ). However, for whatever reason we then allowed our ball movement to slow into that soporific across and back that said we thought that was enough. At a time when we had the goal we needed, they were on the back foot and we had the chance to play on the front foot we did the opposite. We held what we had and they came back into it. Alba stopped overlapping, Dembele moved back ten yards and Suarez was left alone up front again.

    We finished the half two ahead, taking advantage of two horrific errors neither of which you’d expect to see at this stage in the CL but with them able far too easily to work their way into our box. No, their last ball was poor but they got into our box far too easily. We had Umtiti and SR booked for professional fouls to stop dangerous breaks into our box, we had Iniesta making an amazing last ditch tackle.

    I remember Maldini being asked about his famous last minute tackles and replying that he didn’t regard them as anything positive because if he had to lunge he’d already failed. Well, that was how it was for me during this match. I counted five or six last minute lunges which may well have saved our bacon and while some regard that as great defending, to me that’s an indication of something wrong. If we had defended well as a team we would have seen Pique and Umtiti , who were both great, able to stay on their feet and see the danger off. However, Chelsea were way to quick and inventive for that.

    Second half I see no reason to change my opinion. For the most part it bordered on the embarrassing. We couldn’t get the ball out of defence, we couldn’t play through the midfield, we couldn’t hold onto it so it kept coming back and we couldn’t get service up to the forward(s?) . It didijt change until the last fifteen or so as by then Chelsea were becoming aware of their big games coming up and this was lost.

    I said before that this was a very particular set of circumstances. They were unfortunate ( four woodworks, a pen that could’ve been given as there was contact and more importantly he had managed to get the wrong side of our defence ), they were poor in their last ball, thank God, our last ditch tackles were all made to the inch – what a tackle from Dembele but don’t tell me he won’t mistime that more often than get it right and the two or three times they tested Ter Stegen he didn’t spill the ball despite being at full stretch.

    What did we do at home, against a side who were set up defensively, with no real forward line ? Over the two ties we scored four goals, every one the result of an error, what else did we create in open play ? Georgejorge rightly came back to me in the last article with some examples of what we created but even of those which, btw, were the only ones I could think of two were from set pieces, one was from yet another unbelievable bad error and one a sublime piece of skill form Iniesta.

    No, that’s not good enough for me. We benefitted from a particular set of events and we should be grateful for it. I’m even grateful that Conte is such a miserable defensive sod that he kept five at the back for virtually the whole game. Shove an extra forward on earlier and could even our impressive defence have coped ? All they needed was one break in any of those chances for a goal which would, had it come in the first half have changed the atmosphere dramatically. They got nothing to give them the slightest encouragement and lost goals to errors that they haven’t made before that I’ve seen and won’t ever make again at the worst possible times.

    If you’re sitting there thinking, yes but we won that’s obviously true. Nobody is happier than me that that is the case. Kxevin’s praise of Messi is not an exaggeration at all and beautifully put. Doesn’t mean I enjoyed the watch and don’t worry about our shortcomings. No, we aren’t the finished article but we have TS, Pique, Umtiti, Alba, Busquets, Iniesta Messi, Suarez and Dembele who would walk into any other CL side. Is that the best we could do ? That’s nine players and we created nothing ???

    Final thought and I know this is a hard one for us. Well, it is for me. Do you think City would have approached the game in the same way as us at home? Do you think they wouldn’t sweep this Chelsea side away ? Is this where we are ?

    Btw, Cante, motm by a mile for me ( obv apart from Messi ). Any chance of swapping Rakitic for him ?

    Discuss . . .

    • georgjorge
      March 16, 2018

      When you didn’t answer in the other thread, I just knew you were carefully preparing a full report (in book form) on the match ; )

      Very good point about those last-ditch tackles (and also blocked shots, I might add). Where I differ is that Chelsea played badly. Willian and Hazard in particular didn’t only run through our midfield because we were so bad, but because they are incredible players (Hazard’s performance in other games this season notwithstanding). And on their own “errors” for the Messi goals – every single goal ever scored takes one or more defensive errors. If every defender does everything right, no goal will be scored. The first goal was a bit of bad luck from their side (ball banging off their defender straight to Suarez), but the second one was an incredibly executed counterattack, and the third one very very well taken as well.

      The final point – and one where I’m undecided – is the tactics employed (apart from the quality of play). Two nil up, is it better to press for another goal, and risk running into a counterattack as the team did so many times against that very team? Or – and that depends a lot on the quality of our defense – is it better to absorb pressure and play for the counterattack themselves? People with better tactical awareness will surely tell us ; )

    • georgjorge
      March 16, 2018

      One more thought – Manchester City, as far as I know, played 2-2 and 1-0 against Chelsea this season. Hardly “sweeping them away”…

      • georgjorge
        March 16, 2018

        Damn, I need an edit function badly…

        • Jim
          March 16, 2018

          Yeah, is that possible, Kxevin ? We ain’t getting any younger . . .or sharper.

  12. =EQUALIZER=
    March 16, 2018

    Wow the universe seems to be giving me everything I want. Roma it is.

  13. Snoopking
    March 16, 2018

    Full Champions League quarter-final draw: Barcelona v Roma Sevilla v Bayern Munich Juventus v Real Madrid Liverpool v Manchester City

  14. Víctor
    March 16, 2018

    Barcelona got Roma and RM got Juve… we got one of the weakest sides (the one one being Sevilla) while RM got a difficult match ahead… but alas, I wouldn’t be surprised if some cules find a way to say that Roma is gonna be harder than Juve… and that RM got lucky again because this time Juve doesn’t seem as strong contender right now.

    Bayern got Sevilla, so far the germans are the luckiest team on the draws… two times they have been drawn against “weak sides”… and City vs Liverpool sounds exciting but kinda dissapointing… I didn’t want to see two EPL sides facing eath other in the QF.

    @Jim: I think that you are reading too much into the match. Yes, Chelsea had 4 posts, but that doesn’t mean that they could have gotten 4 more goals. In fact, even when in the first leg they got a goal and 2 posts, it was clear that they were looking for a 1-0, 2-0 (at most) scoreline.

    Had their first or second post been a goal they would have parked the bus even more. Just like they did after finally scoring.

    Barcelona’s goal over there it was, in fact, a product of their mistake… but I wouldn’t say that the 3 goals at Camp Nou were because of Chelsea’s mistakes… Messi nutmegged Courtois twice in a game, seems to me that it was more of a Messi’s merit than mistake from the GK… and Dembele’s goal, other than Chelsea leaving a wide space open, I fail to see any other “mistake” from them… it was brilliance by this team.

    Finally, yes, Chelsea got more shots on goal, yes, they dominated the game at the start of the second half and some moments after Messi’s first goal, but they didn’t look that threatening… Barcelona learned to defend better and that’s something that Valverde definitely did here, give the team a more solid defense… last season the team gave away several silly goals, this time, you don’t see that happening very often. However, I do agree that Chelsea did deserve to get a goal at Camp Nou, but hey, that’s luck… back in 2012 Barcelona deserved to pass to the final, but luck was on their side… not to mention that even when Barcelona had the required advantage (2-1 on agg and Chelsea playing with 10 men) the team didn’t play smart and gave them spaces that they managed to exploit for a PK and knock us out.

  15. Víctor
    March 16, 2018

    @Jim:

    “Final thought and I know this is a hard one for us. Well, it is for me. Do you think City would have approached the game in the same way as us at home? Do you think they wouldn’t sweep this Chelsea side away ? Is this where we are ?”

    Well, Man City defeated Chelsea twice in the EPL this season… both times with a 1-0 scoreline… of course, it’s a different kind of game (League games vs knockout tie) but it helps you give an insight on how Pep’s way wasn’t exactly the best way to seal the tie over against them.

  16. Jim
    March 16, 2018

    Thanks, guys. Georgejorge, no it was actually golf that intervened and I didn’t want to come back before I’d watched the match again. I was aware I was in a state of high funk about the match and may have exaggerated my response ! I didn’t mean to imply that I thought Chelsea played badly. I thought the only thing they lacked was composure in front of goal. Rest of the pitch I thought they were better than us for large parts of the match. I don’t think we chose to fall back into last ditch defence ( why would you?) I think we were pushed. Point taken about Willian and Hazard although Hazard can play way better than he did in both matches. He’ll be gone in the summer, he’s not happy. With regard to the errors we’ll have to disagree. Courtois came out after the match and admitted both the nutmegs were his fault. Messi was only a couple of feet from the byeline ! There was no angle whatsoever ( the keeper was actually outside the near post ) plus his shot was very weak. It had to go through the goalie and the only way that was happening was through his legs. I’ve never been a great believer that anyone can deliberately put a ball through a goalie’s legs from more than about five or six feet away. Whatever it shouldn’t have got past the keeper.

    For the second, Fabregas received a soft cushioned header straight to his feet and his first touch had it bouncing off his face (!) allowing Messi to nip in. I’ve often exaggerated saying my granny could have done something easy. Well, even she’d have been disappointed with that touch and Cesc has excellent technical skills. Either huge error or something I couldn’t see like a wicked bounce but unlikely from a soft header down.

    Btw, unnoticed in all of this for me was Suarez’ part in our goals. For the first, he’s never in front of his marker until Messi plays the ball in. His lightning reflexes and touch turned the unexpected rebound from the defender into a cushioned touch for Messi. For the second just look at how his diagonal movement creates the space and time for Dembele. The third was another assist but was really all Messi.

    The comparison with City isn’t meant to rile anyone. The point I was making is that you wouldn’t have seen City sit back at home against Chelsea because they back themselves to score more. At the moment we seem not to back ourselves as an attacking team which, for me, is a pity. If our defence is as good as we all ( now, I still remember trying to persuade the masses of this) think , especially if we’re almost at times playing a double DM it’s shocking that recently too much of the time we only have Suarez in the box.

    Anyway, Roma. I know nothing about them but if they’re Italian and if they have come this far they can’t be bad. We’ll have to improve if we’re to win this. On a more important note, I’m gonna miss the first leg as I’ll be in Vegas. Do we have any bars there that might show the game or does nobody care about soccer there ?

  17. Jim
    March 16, 2018

    Meant to say, Victor. of course I over analyse matches. It’s cathartic . . . and it’s not Twitter. Used to tell the kids in my English classes that we do extended writing to let them clarify and understand their own thinking about a text not just so I have the “pleasure” of marking it !
    🙂

  18. PPos
    March 16, 2018

    Yeah Jim, I’m sure you’ll find any bar in America showing the game. The game of football has become incredibly popular here. We even have CL games on Fox Sports 1 or sometimes the local Fox channel. It’s that big now. It’s nice. I remember the days of having to play for the specialized soccer channels.

    Well Roma. I saw them play this past summer against PSG at Comerica Park in Detroit. They are a good side. Tight at the back, with Manolas being a very fast and strong defender. I don’t know much about them besides that they’re 3rd in Serie A at the moment, and with Edin Dzeko being their best player, and Kevin Strootman being the one that pulls the strings in midfield. I think it’s a very favorable draw, but not jinxing anything after what happened in Turin last year at the same stage of the competition. If we go through, it’s going to be the first time in two years since we reach the CL semi-finals, which I’m praying for that we do reach the semis and eventually the final, and that we win and get our 6th crown to go above Bayern and one away from Milan.

  19. christembassykapo
    March 16, 2018

    Firstly for me it’s great to come here read incredible articles and awesome analysis from everyone, it really is and i totally appreciate that
    Thanks kxevin and every other commentator on this blog
    @Jim am amazed at your profound insights in our games, can’t say i totally agree with everything, but it’s pretty amazing and i enjoy reading them thanks.

    Well like i said before i think this team would eventually best guardiolas, and the reason i think so is because coaches have their philosophies. You can determine how good someone would be by how well they’ve done.

    I didn’t re-view our game, didn’t even.watch every part of it. But for me Chelsea seemed tough largely because over time and in history gone by they’ve been the bogey team for us, i guess it just gives them extra guts, i mean we finally beat real socieadad after about 7 years, something pep couldn’t but they are the only team i think this season to have scored twice against us especially in the first half, how come no other team has, or can do that, i would tell you its the history, i mean i was so scared playing malaga without messi, not because they are that good, just the history, same thing for Madrid the only team extremely confident enough to play barca come rain or sunshine, because of our history. Believe me if we meet man u, or arsenal, history would take its toll on them. I mean look at psg, those dudes have never beaten us, atleast not that i know of, yet we qualified, history. If we meet Chelsea again, it doesn’t matter how we play or how good our team there would be no guarantees, but Roma, well i needn’t say much.

    • Jim
      March 16, 2018

      Thanks, although it’s all just opinions really.

      I’m reminded of the great Steven Hawking who died this week who said ( although I’m sure it wasn’t original )

      “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge. ”

      Not entirely sure why that occurred to me when talking about my posts . . .

      🙂

    • Grindelwald
      March 16, 2018

      Exactly what I’ve been telling my friends, history is the exact opposite of form in a football match, it serves either as an encouragement or mental block for a team. Even in most of our wildest fantasy we didn’t expect to beat Chelsea 3-0 either by hook or crook, but judging by form it would be expected of us to beat them by minimum of 3 goals margin, even some mid table Spanish teams are on better form at the moment and could possibly beat them in a one off. Dunno if people woulda been happy if we had created 15 chances to them creating 11, a la EV era, where we know we can’t afford to do that to a more disciplined team like we did against Juve last QF!

  20. TITO
    March 16, 2018

    Can someone tell me what’s the story with Iniesta and his eventual ending with us? Is he moving in the summer? Is he ending his career?
    Wasn’t he given a blank check stay with us few months ago?

    • Jim
      March 16, 2018

      It was a two way street though. We keep him as long as he wants to stay, he goes when he likes. That’s a pretty ideal way for him to finish. The only thing that would disturb me is if he feels he needs to move for money for some reason. However, I suspect if he gets wind of anything like that Barto will be down the stairs in a shot to offer him even more to stay and I don’t think there’s a single player would complain.

      I don’t know him obviously but to me he seems a pretty humble guy who will constantly be plagued by thoughts of not being up to it or being past it. He needs folk to tell him we need him ( and boy do we ! ) that means not just Barto but EV, Messi, the kit men he’s known from way back and probably his good lady as well. For good measure, Xavi saying he left a year early would be useful. But mainly it’s gonna be down to whether EV still picks him as often as he can and whether he can stay clear of any more injuries before the end of the season.

      It’s gonna be such a sad day when he goes, for me even more than Messi. There’s a vulnerability about Iniesta that draws me. For no earthly reason I’m welling up just writing this. Not even sure I’d be able to watch his last match. I know that’s stupid but I’ve only seen him twice live on the pitch ( and once training in St Andrews of all places ) and they have been two of the happiest days of my life ( even though he destroyed Scotland single handedly on one of them. ). I’ve recounted before how the entire crowd at Hampden stood to salute him as he left the park. My wife said I was still smiling two days later !

      I take every foul committed on him personally and hate seeing the pain in his eyes as another injury forces him to sit at the side. I still harbour the silly thought, maybe years from now, of turning up at Iniesta bodega and having a few words with the little guy in the straw hat sitting on the patio just to tell him what he’s meant to a silly elderly Scotsman.

    • mvarfi
      March 17, 2018

      I have a feeling he’s ready for a new adventure, and I believe he would not leave unless he knew the team would be alright without him.
      I’ll miss his elfin finesse.

  21. christembassykapo
    March 16, 2018

    Finally, it’s really weird how every one seems to think we are lucky, with an aggregate score line of 4-1, i conclude that no matter what EV does he may not really be appreciated, times change and so should philosophies.
    But i want thing i guarantee and i can bet on, not even mancity would put 2 goals past us, the champions league is ours

  22. Grindelwald
    March 16, 2018

    Roma game won’t be a walkover imo, I’d be pleasantly surprised if we win by an aggregate margin of 3 goals. EV will roll out his conservative but safe approach once again to get the job done and I’d like to imagine the state of Culverse twitterati in the case of Barça loss at Stadio Olimpico!

    • christembassykapo
      March 17, 2018

      I wouldn’t want to imagine that

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