Barca 4, Athletic Bilbao 1, a.k.a. “Team victory, but an expensive one”

So. Happy. Right. Now.

So, rather than Man of the Match, we have Cuddly Toy of the Match, Bojan Krkic. 😀

Just kidding. Our CT is a full-on MOTM, as much for his overall excellence of play as the in-your-face spitting at his critics. Could this be the match that marked his full-on maturation as a Barca attacking force? It remains to be seen, as Athletic Bilbao seems to make The Kid’s nature rise. But I can pay him one of the highest compliments I can pay these days, which is that I thought he was Messi on many a play, such was his alacrity of movement, sense for where the ball was and energy.

But this was an expensive victory, folks.

We have lost Ibrahimovic for the next two matches with a calf tear that was suffered in warmups, and Pique for the next match, with a thigh strain. Of course, Pique wasn’t playing against Arsenal anyhow, but Ibrahimovic sure as hell was. Buzz is that he’s a doubt for El Clasic as well, so let’s hope that he heals quickly. We also lost Jeffren, with an injury of interminate status. Stay tuned for that one.


But we’re grimacing from behind big, giant grins as we kicked the crap out of Bilbao with a team victory that showed one really, really cool thing: As a unit, we are playing spectacular football right now, finding our collective way at the exact right time. Even as individual players are up and down, our excellence is a triumph of the system, one that allows Guardiola the programming luxury to roll out with interesting lineups that will work.

Today was no exception, as we started with Valdes, Puyol, Pique, Txigrinski, Abidal, The Yaya, Busquets, Maxwell, Messi, Jeffren and Krkic.

Man, was there doubt. People looked at that lineup and uttered a collective “What the hell?” Credit Guardiola for knowing his side, and having the advantage of being able to see in practice what none of us can, which is that we are on a roll right now. So The Yaya can function as the World’s Biggest Attacking Mid, Maxwell can roll out as a Brazilian variant of Keita, Messi can play midfield and Krkic can raise hell as a second striker, though I wonder how you can have a second striker, when you don’t really have a first one?

But those kinds of questions are always answered the right way when your club is rocking and rolling like ours is. As a manager, Guardiola rarely makes incorrect decisions, thus spawning the phrase “In Pep We Trust.” And we saw this right away, as during one early attack, we rolled into the box like a jailbreak, with Messi, The Yaya, Jeffren, Krkic and Maxwell all in the box, waiting to make something happen. This is different than usual, as someone commented during the LiveBlog, when there’s usually one or two people in the box. More people mean more options, more options mean more chances that something good would happen.

Midfield was on full attack, as having a defender out there (Maxwell) brought a level of stability to our offensive defense, and a verging-on-spectacular Puyol in the Dani Alves slot helped immesurably. But this match was all about fluency, and, frankly, showing off. But not showing off in an obnoxious way as much as showing off a system in which everybody can handle the ball, and everybody is comfortable with the ball at their feet, from the keeper, who suckered in some Bilbao attackers before dishing off a lovely, attack-starting pass, to Messi, who was making so many correct decisions in his striker/mid role.

In many ways it was a continuation of the Arsenal beginning, and a very heartening sign because the cast of characters changed quite a bit, but the result was the same: Domination. Yes, Bilbao were trying. Hard. But if you don’t have the ball, as the ultimate 65/35 possession stats crow, you can’t play. Yes, they had some danger moments, usually thanks to lax play on our parts, and they even scored a goal that came from a bad Puyol giveaway and the defense being caught up the pitch. But we got the swagger right back, and kept things well under control for the duration.

Another great sign for the club was the return, in full Monster mode, of Abidal, our French Greyhound. With two assists, innumerable stops and yes, an Abidal Moment that resulted in a very good chance on goal for Bilbao, it was one of his more typical matches. He eats up space in a way that makes the entire back line better, and partnered exceptionally well with Maxwell, who might have found his most effective role not as a left back, but as a midfielder as he hardly put a foot wrong.

There just isn’t a whole lot to say about this one, except that we kicked the crap out of ’em because of our movement, passing and top-to-bottom effort in a match that looked like last season’s all conquering side. So let’s have a gander at the goals, one by one.

1. This was my favorite, because it was a team goal, as a Maxwell pass pinged off Busquets and was picked up by Messi. Because of an earlier play in which he tried to take on the entire Bilbao defense, you could see them all playing him for the attacking run. But as Messi paused at the top of the box, Abidal darted into space in a perfectly timed break. Messi released the pass at the exact right moment, and Abidal popped an inch-perfect, one-touch pass that Jeffren slotted home. This goal was all touch and intricate movement of the kind that is impossible to defend. Abidal’s cross was just out of the reach of the Bilbao keeper, but within easy reach of Jeffren.

What this goal also showed is that when Messi makes the right decisions with the ball, it makes us a much, much more dangerous side. In his more midfield-based role, he saw a lot of ball, which in many ways helps quench his desire to play with it so much, which facilitates him making the right decisions, as he did time and again.

2. This was an example of Puyol’s excellence, as he anticipated and pounced on a weak Bilbao pass in the midfield, and made the exact right decision. I’ve often said that greatness is the right thing at the right time. Talent facilitates that, so when Puyol picked up the pass and charged forward, Krkic already knew what was going to happen, and broke for goal. Puyol found him with a flawless ball that Krkic smoked past the keeper on the near side.

This goal demonstrates the value of our high line, and how quickly we can move from defense to attack, because we’re only playing on half the pitch thanks to a compressing style. And Krkic gets his shot off so quickly that if he gets the right amount of space, it’s pretty much indefensible. He probably gets his shot off as fast, if not faster than Messi, usually with blistering pace.

3. This was a goal built from midfield attack and aggression, as a ball was worked loose for Xavi, who slid a pass to Messi. What excited me about this goal is that we all know there are times when Messi would have taken the ball and began a run toward goal, and 4-5 defenders. And sides are now playing him for that, so when he curled a little pass to Abidal, Bilbao were pretty much screwed, because Messi’s run also created space for Krkic. When Abidal found him, Krkic spanked another rocket of a shot into the upper corner for the 3-0 lead, and a brace that was justly earned. It was also the second assist for Abidal, who is working hard to make people forget those days when he was being slagged for not attacking enough from his left back position.

“I’m BACK, beeyotches!”

4. Another instant defense to offense goal as high pressure again broke the ball loose to Xavi, who played a perfect ball into space for Pedro, who played an equally perfect pass in for Messi. Now. With the entire net to shoot at, Messi decides that audacity is the best way, so he goes between the legs of the keeper, who was trying to make himself as big as possible, probably never suspecting that Messi would try such a thing. Craziness, and a 4-0 lead.

The goal that Bilbao scored was of the type that we will concede, unavoidably, that counterattacking classic that we also ceded to Arsenal. Loose possession+high line=a goal against. That’s life in the big city, and we really never looked that much like conceding another, except for an Abidal brain cramp in the box, that was parried by Valdes. So let’s get to some points, shall we?

Team: 9. A lapse or two, but pretty close to a perfect aggregate match. Most amazing was that no matter what player came in, things continued as they always did. This is a sign that the machine is firing on all cylinders, and it’s probably a worrying sign to Wenger. Lest we forget, Bilbao is 6th place in the Liga, and we beat them like they were relegation-bound.

Guardiola: 10. The right lineup, the right substitutions and a season-long system that might be culminating in us playing our best football at the exact right time, in the face of the two most important matches of the season. Confidence is at an all-time high.

Valdes: 8. Excellent match, though I’m going to suggest that had you charged the attacker, we might have kept the clean sheet. You’re usually more aggressive than that when confronted with one-v-one situations. But that’s a minor quibble as you had everything else well and truly covered.

Puyol: 8. You were headed for a 10, until that loose touch that gifted Bilbao a goal-scoring attack. Still, what a remarkable match, from your defensive aggression to the skill with the ball, as you constantly schooled Bilbao attackers on that side, with spins, flicks and an audacious sombrero. Glad you’ll be in the house for the Clasic, because we’re going to need you, probably partnering Milito.

Pique: 8. Piquenbauer in full effect today, as your attack-staring prowess was on full display. This was also as good as I have seen you work with the new dude, Txigrinski.

Txigrinski: 8. Don’t let the cules get you down. They’re always hard on new players, but you had a far, far better match than many will give you credit for. You showed surprising pace, alacrity in shutting down space, and made a few plays that showed such agility, you might have been mistaken for Busquets. And a great goal-saving stretch to put Llorente off a sure thing.

Abidal: 9. So last season when you came back from two months off, you were never the same. Nice to see this season is so different, as you owned a universe that stretched from midfield to the left sideline. From defense to offense, passing to calmness with the ball, what a match, and what a cross for that first goal.

Busquets: 6. Good match, and you are the most eloquent spokesperson for why you shouldn’t be allowed too much possession. When you keep it simple, you’re one of the most effective players on the pitch. But when you dick around with the ball, bad things often happen. Yes, you have good foot skills, but they aren’t as good as you think. Oh, and don’t fall down, grabbing your head, when you lose the ball. Man up and chase the play.

The Yaya: 8. Felt good to have the Camp chanting your name, I rather imagine. You did everything except bleed for the colors today. Yes, you threw about some wayward passes, but the gyroscope was repaired at halftime. Your committment and constant willingness to do whatever was necessary were an example to all. But have a care and keep your head. It was only a very good ref who kept you on our side for El Clasic, instead of gifting you with a straight red for the head butt.

Maxwell: 9. This, for me, was your best match in the colors, even bettering your one stint at right back. In midfield, where spaces are tighter, your lack of pace isn’t as great a deficiency, particularly when you have that Brazilian flair with the ball. Unfortunately, we’re used to passing to faster players, so forgive the balls that are always just out of your reach. Like Keita, who usually plays your spot, you had to really watch sometimes to see the magic that you were working.

Jeffren: 6. Too bad about your injury, but a very nicely taken goal should make you feel better as you recuperate from a very good effort that was full of pace and industry. As one of our more defense-minded attackers, your constant harassing of Bilbao midfielders contributed to our incessant aggression. You’re calmer with the ball than your canterano counterpart, Pedro!, and I hope that you don’t go anywhere in the summer. Just sayin’.

Messi: 7. Excellent work in a role that you should have been occupying once Ibrahimovic left the Emirates pitch. You work so well with Xavi (or pretty much anyone else) in the midfield, and your decision-making with the ball has been exceptional. As long as teams have the fear that you are going to make a run, you will always have passing space, as you so beautifully demonstrated today. Keep on keepin’ on, and we will have more silver this season.

Krkic: 9. Yes, you were a little loose with possession at times, but this has been your best overall match in the colors, since you became a full-fledged member of the senior squad. It was all confidence, movement and aggression, coupled with that telepathy that had you always around the ball. Nice brace. If you don’t see time during the Arsenal match, it will be a grave selection error on the part of Guardiola. You read it here third.


Xavi (for Busquets): 8. It was like you were never not in the starting XI, such was the effect of your presence on the side. You made the exact right pass in both our second half goals, and I’m sure you’re looking forward to a season or so with your new partner in Tika-Taka, Jonathan Dos Santos.

Pedro! (for Jeffren): 6. I’m glad you got some time, and you pretty much made the most of it, with an excellent assist to Messi. I do want you to slow your speed of play. You have the talent to play within yourself more, which will place you where the ball is, rather than just past it.

Dos Santos (for The Yaya): 7. Baby, please don’t go. You have a bright, bright future with this club. Your defense and midfield harassing are already exceptional, and that brilliant sequence of tika-taka that you were involved in was a stunner. I’m surprised and pleased that Bilbao didn’t just foul the crap out of you for the cheek. Very nice work.

And there we have it, a trouncing that puts pressure on the EE in the face of Racing, who will probably roll over like dogs and give them three points again. And that’s as it should be, since El Clasic should have it all to play for, by the two best clubs in the Liga. As with today’s Chelsea/United match, it will be a league-deciding (potentially) matchup. Guardiola is right in that it won’t decide the league, but the winner of that match will have an enormous boot up on things. But first, we have an Arsenal side to worry about. We are hampered, with no Puyol, Pique or Ibrahimovic, but so are they, without Gallas, Arshavin, Fabregas or (maybe) Van Persie. Still, it should be a good one.

“I love you, man! No, I love YOU more! No, I ….”

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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.


  1. stephen
    April 3, 2010

    Okay after bragging that i was first to comment (first time since ive been on the blog)…

    I have to agree with the Txigrinski 8, I think he was ready to be given a chance, after the long benched time he had. Is Guardiola going to pair him with Milito for the Arsenal match??

    Abidal !! Ive missed him, and today was the day when i realized why i missed him so much. Backline is filled with confidence when hes in this shape, and i think this brings a new level of confidence for the two “finals” we have coming next week.

    • simple_barcafan
      April 3, 2010

      Txigrinski is cup-tied..cant play in CL…Pep i guess didnt start with Marquez and Milito for the fear that if any one of them gets injured during the match then we will be without CB’s for the Arsenal match..

      • stephen
        April 4, 2010

        oo0o0 yeaaaaa completely forgot. my bad.

  2. Blow-Granite
    April 3, 2010

    Frankly I loved what Bojan bought to the table today. His passing movement first-touch and finishing were top class. I would love it if he started against Arsenal.

    What Pep is refering to as a when he says Bojan played as a second striker is that he was not hugging the offside line all the time and trying to fight for the ball with his strength. He was playing between the defense and the holding midfielder, the position that is normally occupied by a supporting striker.

    I thought this was one of the toughest matches in the league. It was amazing how hard Athletic were working, attacking, and all this till the final whistle.

    It will be very interesting to see Tuesday’s lineup. Here is my predicted lineup
    Alves Chygrinsky Milito Abidal
    Xavi Busi Keita
    Messi Bojan Maxwell

    Chygrinsky is needed in the centre back to counter the hight and strength of Nicolas Bentner. I dont see another option since Pique is out and Yaya seems to be injured.

    This might pan out as well:
    Alves Milito Abidal Maxwell
    Xavi Busi Keita
    Messi Bojan Pedro!

    We will see. In Pep We Trust. I know we are in for a surprise with his line up on Tuesday.

  3. April 3, 2010

    Without ibra, what are people thinking the linup will be against arsenal?
    I’m thinking:

      • Kari
        April 4, 2010

        Well, Iniesta returned to training today. I don’t want to risk him, but I guess he COULD feature . Maybe as a second half sub if our midfield control is iffy?

        After all, he played the CL final half-fit. Iniesta is bad@ss that way 😀 .

      • April 4, 2010

        I’d like to think that Pep is messing with Wenger for that “Ohh look Cesc is playing now” shit that he pulled the last tie.

        I also just like Iniesta, and hope he plays 90 every match…

  4. Jose
    April 3, 2010

    Força Barça!

    Loved this match. It was well worth the drive to get to ESPN Deportes.

    Now let’s keep our heads for the Arsenal match-up (talking to us as fans, I’m sure the team doesn’t need me to tell them that 😛 )… which I don’t see as being straightforward. Not because I don’t believe in our squad and in Pep, but because I know that Arsene Wenger is no dummy. He knows exactly what went wrong in the Emirates 1st half and we won’t see that kind of space again.

    I don’t see more than two goals total being scored, to be honest. We’ll see soon enough!

    • Blow-Grenade
      April 3, 2010

      I agree Wenger saw what went wrong in Arsenal in the first half. But I dont think he sees what will go wrong in the first half in in Camp Nou. In Pep We Trust!!!

  5. Manish
    April 3, 2010

    Thanks Kxevin for putting this up so quickly.. the first thing i did today morning was open up this blog.

  6. Bruno
    April 3, 2010

    JDS looked more comfortable out there today. I think Johnny’s time spent training with the big boys is giving him the chance to feel out the subtleties of the team. Good eye Kevin, I’m glad someone besides my incredibly biased self noticed his participation in the channeling of the tika-taka.

  7. Eduard
    April 3, 2010

    Abidal was SOLID, Maxwell was awesome and ALMOST had a goal, Messi out of his usual role played brilliantly, Yaya must have been SO happy after hearing his name being chanted, Dos Santos is the real thing(The mexicans should take advantaqe of him during the WC), the man of the match was Bojan, who took his chances and scored to beautiful…..the whole team did great, chygy, xavi, jeffren.. This was a better performance than we had against Arsenal, it was closer to a full dominant performance… Against arsenal we were superior for about 70 minutes, Against Bilbao we were superior for about 85. Almost there, I can’t wait to see a full 90 minutes of play

  8. inNYC
    April 3, 2010

    Whoa, Banjo scored 2!!? Sorry I missed it. For the record I feel that “Prom Date” is a better nickname for him than cuddly toy.

    Massive buzzkill about Ibra. I hope it’s not too serious.

  9. vicsoc8
    April 4, 2010

    The best thing I took from this match is that the players who don’t see as much time are ready to step up and give solid contributions.

    Pep is amazing. We look at this lineup and we go WTF! and then we dominate the game. Txig and Jeffren haven’t played recently, Abidal was just back from injury, Bojan isn’t a regular, and Puyol, Maxwell, and Messi were playing “out of position”. His man-management as well – he finds out Ibra can’t play, and he turns to Bojan over Henry. I’m just glad Bojan repaid him for his trust.

    Talking about Bojan, great game today. I’m not ready to declare this as his “break through” match though. It definitely merits him more playing time, but I think he’s proven that his growth as a player doesn’t really follow a straight line.

  10. Rakka
    April 4, 2010

    bit harsh when u gave leo 7. he created, he defended, he attacked, and he scored eventually. And a 7? pathetic I guess.

    • Mike in Africa
      April 4, 2010

      Yep, chygi got a high score even tho it was a very avg perfermance. I’d say his 10 is stil less than messi’s 5 by this standard. Simply ridiculous.

      • Liza
        April 4, 2010

        Well, Messi did whiff a couple of chances in front of goal that were, for him, essentially sitters. People were going crazy about Ibra missing those same sort of chances, so it only makes sense that Messi gets docked a few points. Each player is judged against a standard they set for themselves, so Messi’s is obviously quite high.

    • April 4, 2010

      Kxevin holds messi to a higher standard… hence a 7. The problem with Messi is when you give him a higher score for a game like this, what do you do when he does this:

      • Rakka
        April 4, 2010

        Well, at least u honored him with his job well-done at midfield area. Oh well let’s forget that he created those 2 goals eh?

        Anyway for Pep, we’re absolutely fantastic in 1st half but almost suffer in 2nd. I was thinking after we conceded, if Bilbao were Arsenal, we’d suffer. They could punish us with more goals. We were too much attack and forget how to defend. It’s shameful seeing how the Bilbao’s goal occurred. How weak our defense indeed. Hopefully We won’t see another ridiculous errors next time.

  11. barca96
    April 4, 2010

    i had tears in my eyes when i saw dos santos being involved in tiki taka. he really has a good future ahead of him. even as im writing this, i have goosebumps just thinking about jds.
    what more can i say about
    what did martinez say to yaya that got him so mad?
    ive never seen him lose his cool before.
    bojan is really showing that he is the future villa!
    too bad he didn’t have too much of the ball in the 2nd half.

    why did messi only get a 7?

    this is the what..4th or 5th time that we play without ibra and we look more fluid? it’s like when ibra is playing, midfielders don’t bother to join the attack but when he is not playing everyone get’s involved.
    now let’s see what pedro and bojan can bring to the table in his absence.

    • Bebop
      April 4, 2010

      IMO it has nothing to do with Ibra. Of course his confidence got on his concentration in front of goal. But the team fluidity, IMO comes with the new found confidence and concentration from All of our players, esp reaching the end stage of this season.
      IMO we played fluid enough when Ibra scored the last two of his goals 😀
      And I’ll quote Kxevin bout this: “As a unit, we are playing spectacular football right now, finding our collective way at the exact right time.”
      “Credit Guardiola for knowing his side, and having the advantage of being able to see in practice what none of us can, which is that we are on a roll right now.”

  12. jnelson
    April 4, 2010

    If Abidal had never been injured, I would so be advocating him as our MVP this season. I mean, DAYUM! He just OWNS the left. What pace!

    Puyol was AWESOME today! Take that Phil Schoen! You Captain Caveman hating douche. Who knew Puyol could play beautiful football?

    CT, what a match! Yet again you scored a goal, actually two, and with such terrific strikes. And what about the almost 0 angle shot at the corner just parried by Iraizoz? Henry? Uhh if CT plays defense like he did, Henry can keep his Arsenal loving bum on the bench. What I saw from the kid today was pace, shot accuracy, shot strength, solid positioning, and quick decision-making. What a match, kid.

    • barca96
      April 4, 2010

      who is phil schoen?
      i hear his name being mentioned a lot here.
      he sounds like an enemy of barca lol

      • Phil
        April 4, 2010

        He is one of the goltv english commentators alongside Ray Hudson. He’s known around here for being all up in iker casillas’ junk and hating on valdes.

        • barca96
          April 4, 2010

          oh i see. thanks phil!
          so he is a rm fan or just an iker fan?

          • April 4, 2010

            Neither, barca96. I just think that he’s a professional naysayer who doesn’t understand the game as he should, given his status as commentator. So when Valdes shows the slightest wobble, it’s “Uh, oh, see, Valdes sucks, blah, blah, blah.”

            Now Ray Hudson loves him some EE. Schoen is just an idiot.

          • Jnice
            April 4, 2010

            I’m sure he’s a Real fan. I’ve heard him wax lyrical on different podcasts and he does like to follow what his idol, Ray Hudson, says.

  13. Jim
    April 4, 2010

    Good review again, Kxevin, and it’d be churlish to argue with any of the ratings. The team is playing really well and it’s all great to watch. Have to say a word for Abidal being one of his less enthusiastic fans. He had a great game considering he was just coming back from injury. Let’s not lose sight of the fact, though, that against Arsenal it won’t just be a pace matchup. Arsenal will be looking to play the ball inside the fullback for walcott so our FB’s position and the cover are vital. However, I’m sure Pep will be working on that.

    Good solid games from all the “worries”. Bojan looked keen taking up some excellent positions. Hopefully this will lead to continued improvement but this is his first decent game of the season for me. Chiggy I’m less sure about than you – he wasn’t really tested but again didn’t let us down . I just feel that somewhere in our plans must be a pacy CB.

    With JDS let’s not overuse the superlatives but rather give him a chance to develop out of the limelight. A good game when he came on.

    Getting nervous about this week already. Wasn’t helped in that all the Sky sportswriters on “Sunday Supplement” this morning wrote off Arsenal’s chances. They’re never right 🙂

  14. Cesc Blanc
    April 4, 2010

    Match report said it all. Excellet. Just to say, Maxwell is more the Barca “Ramires” than the Brazilian Keite. Actually, Keite is the original Barca Ramires, but anyway.
    It seems that for whatever miracle Jeffren has nothing. At least no one mentioned anything and even on Catalunya Radio, they said Jeffren is fine, which didn’t look like it. But the first reports didn’t say much about him. Maybe too preoccupied with Ibra and Piqué.

    But what you just said about (maybe) Van Persie made me shiver. Van Persie against Marquez? Blimey.

    • Vj
      April 4, 2010

      Oh you mean this Diaby?


    • Ethan
      April 4, 2010

      hey gunner, did u not watch the game we did. we owned. we will own again, but for a full 90 min. we wont slip up like that again. glad ur coach risked ur players and now u dont have a shot at the cl or the prem. have a fun rest of ur season.

  15. Helge
    April 4, 2010

    Damn, I love this team 🙂
    Incredible how we have played without 5(!) regular starters, against a tough team.

    Bojan is still only 19 years old, then there are so many more talents in la Masia or on the pitch like Jeffren and Pedro. We really are blessed!

    And Maxwell, how much did we pay for him? 4mio €? That must be like the best cost/performance ratio ever. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in midfield besides Xavi and Busquets, and Yaya as CB on tuesday.

  16. Magickbender
    April 4, 2010

    Anyone got the season stats so far?

  17. Kari
    April 4, 2010

    Credit to waleed for finding this. “Playstation 3”


  18. Kari
    April 4, 2010

    Whoo! Iniesta back in training! Will he play as a second half sub vs Arsenal maybe?


  19. Kari
    April 4, 2010

    Kxevin, according to Pep, Bojan was playing behind Messi, so I guess the real question is: What the heck was our formation?!

    “What’s more, with this new system, with a supporting forward role, playing just behind Messi, he [Bojan] is able to further develop his [Bojan’s] attributes as a striker.”


    • Kevo
      April 5, 2010

      At times it looked to me like a 4-2-1-3
      Yaya and Busi playing deep behind Messi, who was playing as a CAM, and our trident of forwards (Jeffren-Bojan-Maxwell).

  20. SoccerMom
    April 4, 2010

    Head-slappin’ jaw-droppin’ gob-smackin’ joga bonito a la Barça baby!

    Not much time to chime in today must steal children’s easter chocolate (so keep yer powder dry, CP) but …

    Warms the heart to see Barçabuddy smiley faces after so many blogs bogged down in the London fog.

    Chill on Cesc. As Kxevin says, there’s something to appreciate about the professional foul. That means taking, making and yes even faking (cf. Dani, cf. Sergi, cf. yesterday Pupu, too). After all it’s not like Captains C and P don’t KNOW each other. Like since FOREVER. Like since TEAMMATES. Ya sticks out the boot ya takes yer chances. Besides the guy busted a bone and broke the Gunners’ hearts.

    SoMa hearts the weird. To paraphrase Mr. President, anyone can buy a pickup truck for 300 million euros and drive it into the net. There’s plenty of winners out there (including CR9 who actually told TVE yesterday that is how he defines himself. ‘A winner’. Durr). Chelsea wins a lot. EE is top o’ the table too. Whoo hoo.

    No the gig we dig is the barça bonita. Porteños on the street — on TV! — say ‘Messi is greater than Maradona’. The técnicos rise from the bench with their hands gripping their hair. Pitch-perfect Ibra passes with his left lat (sacar pecho, sí señor!) and scores with his insole. A slew of canteranos slide in to goal like the Rockettes at a water park. And who knew we could count on Puyi when Dani’s crosses started to look like Mr. Magoo’s? No Xavi. 3 pts. No Andrés. 3 pts. No Abidal. 3 pts. Pts. pts. pts.

    Then there’s lots of fun to be had in the trashtalkin’ mind games going round on the press ‘rondas’. And don’t press me for links ’cause I’m too lazy. Trust me and TVE. Dani saying – he’s just sayin’!- that Kaká would be happier now if he had come to Camp Nou. Milito saying it’s not humanly possible to play more perfectly than we. Pep saying the credit should be ours, because we do it better, faster and cheaper than the EE. Now even Arsenal saying, ‘Well we got it rough this week.’ Dig. Dig dig dig.

    Now off to next Tuesday, when we see which is truly the wooly Grassmaster!

    • Bill
      April 4, 2010

      i feel obligated to start a vote. Vote Yes or No, if you understand what soccermom is saying. I’ll start:


      Soccermom, you make me feel like i need to go back to school or sum’, your pieces go over my head like a xavi sombrero!


  21. Kxevin
    April 4, 2010

    That’s it. SoccerMom is this space’s official spokesperson. Done and dusted.

    –Messi got a 7 because he played to a 7. How much shit would be being talked about Ibrahimovic, had he missed the setup that Krkic put on a silver platter for Messi? Gobs. Messi made the right decisions with the ball most of the time, but he also screwed up, such as when he ignored an open Jeffren and Krkic to take on a shot himself, or when his heavy touch ruined a great goal-scoring opportunity.

    I am an equal-opportunity evaluator, or I try to be. That means that when Txigrinski has a great match (and he did. Not “average,” great. Watch it again.), I call it as such, and when Messi has a good but decidedly NOT great match, I call that, too. Messi doesn’t get a pass because he has most favored nation status, while Txigrinski doesn’t. That’s not how I roll.

    –The Yaya will play on Tuesday. I don’t think that anyone expected Iniesta before El Clasic, so that he won’t be ready on Tuesday isn’t a surprise. Frankly, we shouldn’t need him, or Ibrahimovic. Our system is playing really well right now. The great thing about Ibrahimovic is when the system isn’t working, he can take a long ball and work some magic, as he did at the Emirates.

    But the last two matches have shown us that the system is working. And Arsenal have to come out and play because they are down in the tie, thanks to our two away goals. We will have to stay tight early to handle their onslaught, which will come right out of the gates. If we do that without conceding, we’re through.

    The biggest danger, bigger than Arsenal, will be the guys looking forward to next Sunday, instead of the match in their faces.

    • Kari
      April 4, 2010

      The game against EE is on Saturday, isn’t it? I looked on the official site and Satuday, April 10 at 22:00 (4:00 EST) is listed. Hmm.

      • April 4, 2010

        Might be, Kari. I should check. I’ve been thinking it would be Sunday all this time. I know that the Camp Nou El Clasic was listed as being on one day for the longest, then changed less than a week out.

        • Jose
          April 4, 2010

          It’s Saturday at 2pm Mountain Time (so 4pm EST). Listed on official site and on ESPN (which is showing the match). GolTV is having a FOUR HOUR run-up to the match.

          La Liga has this annoying habit of setting only the match-weeks in advance then deciding the actual kick-off times only a week in advance. Must drive the networks CRAZY.

          That being said, it means that matches rarely have to be rescheduled (ala EPL or Ligue 1) due to other competitions. Notice how matches always end up being scheduled to give teams more than 2-days rest… If we have a Tuesday match in the CL, we’ll always play league games on Saturday. So there’s less chaos I guess.

  22. April 4, 2010

    Some friends and I were talking about this book, “The Talent Code,” over breakfast, and I got to thinking about Pedro!. We were talking about how some guys just know how to race their bicycles, irrespective of what kinds of wattage measurments they can put out.

    Likewise, some people just know, and have a sense for where the ball is going to be, rather than where it is. Pedro!, to me, doesn’t have that sense yet. It’s what I mean by his lack of tactical fluency. He isn’t a bad player, he just wastes a lot of energy chasing balls, so he’s either running just past the play, or chasing it.

    No, it isn’t a fair comparison, but look at someone like Xavi, who is always in such control because he just knows. He knows what defenders are going to do, what the pitch is going to do to the ball, and what his options are. Always. Physically, he isn’t a specimen of any sort, and he would probably lose a foot race to most players on the side. But when the match starts, none of that matters.

    Krkic yesterday showed a lot of that same sense, that notion that the match is coming to him, rather than him chasing the match. It’s pretty cool, and fascinating to watch. And that awareness is something that comes with time. Some players are just born with it, others have to get it. Pedro! is getting it, and I can’t wait for him to fully arrive.

    • barca96
      April 4, 2010

      what do you think that pedro should do to in order to change?

  23. Nick
    April 4, 2010

    I felt so much more comfort when Xavi was subbed on for Sergi. Simply because our maestro is second to none at orchestrating the game.

  24. Bill
    April 4, 2010

    I have been saying for a long time that Bojan has a lot of potential if given the chances. His movement, comfort on the ball and shot selections for goal are outstanding! I know he isn’t as tall, but this guy just might be the next Romario. All the instincts are there. I loooove how he strikes. He truly does ‘move like a butterfly and sting like a bee’. I love that guy.

    The game was great to see. To watch guys step up and play a dominant game when Xavi or Iniesta or both aren’t there shows definate maturation as a total team. My gloom earlier this season is beginning to lift…I think we will be ok.

    Abidal, laying down the gauntlet on Theo Walcott….I love this!

    He stated, “Football is a sport that is played with the ball. He [Walcott] may be able to run 100 metres in just over 10 seconds, but the aim is to reach the goal. I will wait for him and see what he can do with the ball.”

    • April 4, 2010

      Great quote, Bill. Nice find. I think that the team we rolled out yesterday can beat Arsenal, if it plays like it did, which was as a unit. In shuffling through the mental video file, it’s hard to remember a match in which we saw more examples of individuality being sacrificed for the greater good. Messi had a couple of lapses, but for the most part it was everybody on the pitch doing the right things, for the the right reasons. And the team benefitted as a result. That’s pretty hard to argue with.

      • Kari
        April 4, 2010

        Go Abidal!

        Now that Abidal’s back, I’m feeling confident for Tuesday. If anyone here watched Arsenal v Wolves, you noticed that Arsenal basically attacked through Walcott the whole game. While he beat his man with regularity, his crosses were pretty poor.

        Although it’s not a good idea to underestimate Walcott, in my opinion, he seems to be the type of player that doesn’t seem to play well when people are expecting something from him, or when the attention is on him; an inconsistent player that I think is only good/effective against tired defenses.

        He won’t have the same joy against Abidal as he did against Maxwell, that’s for sure, especially if he starts.

        • Jim
          April 5, 2010

          It’s not just about the FB. Although I’d be interested to see how Walcott’s pace shapes up against Abidal I’ll be even happier if I never find out.

          It’s about pressure on the person releasing the pass, correct starting position from the FB and cover from the CB if the ball is played inside. If we do those things properly it’s down to Walcott’s dribbling Vs the FB and I don’t think he’s that good.

  25. Bill
    April 4, 2010

    Speaking of speed, did you guys see the Yaya close down the bilbao player? The guy simply stopped running when he saw that big truck barreling down on him…Reminds me of Ribery last year!

    • barca96
      April 4, 2010

      lol he practically thought to himself oh shit!!!
      that’s one of the good things about yaya, he doesn’t need to pull the players shirt or throw the guy off balance or anything. yaya will just run past the player and steal the ball.

  26. Bojan
    April 4, 2010

    Hi guys how is it going?

    Well after the brilliant game when once again i couldn’t believe my eyes when barca played the extraterrestrial football i want to speak more of Krkic as how I see him as a player. And plus because we have the same name :)))

    When Krkic was introduced few years back when i first saw his name i said this boy is going to be a star because he has the same name as me :)) hahaha just a little joke, but honestly i did some googlein or youtubing and found some interesting vids of him at practice or at games or whatsoever. When you see some of his moves at first you instantly say this is a player! This is a star player! I know that Krkic will develop in a one of the best attackers in the world, and i stand behind that boy no matter what! (also for Pedro because that boy has amazingly fast legs in dribbles that is)

    Also Krikic like every other teenage player of whatever sport needs some fine tuning behind his talent. Krkic will develop in a stage where he can be better even than ibra or eto’o or definatly better than CR (i hate mentioning his name!) Both with Pedro and Dos Santos are young too young that gives me a joy that for no huge amounts of money spent we have a as i would like to say “an extraterrestrial” players. Also not mentioning my idol Xavi which i totally agree with Kev that he is all Mind Power. You don’t need anything else from a CMF than Mind. For me he is the best midfielders in the entire universe lets say 🙂 i worship that guy! Like Kev said Xavi knows what the pitch or the D will do, and he always manage to find the most unbelievable route to pass the ball to a goal opportunity situation. Praise that man!

    At the end i would like to say that Barca will have the best team for loooooooong time. Knowing the talents from the Barca Academy, no doubt that they will ever fell in crisis. Praise Barca!!!! VISCA LA BARCA!!!! Siempre con todo!!!

    On to the next victory!!!!

    • Bill
      April 4, 2010

      I agree with you on Bojan. Like I said, all instincts are there if you look. He is much better than that sergio canales kid. If he was playing for that team, they will be treating him as a major superstar

  27. April 4, 2010

    Goddamn these guys changing the schedule. I am supposed to be at a conference on Saturday the whole day. Crap. Where do you think I can watch the game after without knowing the score?

    • Kxevin
      April 4, 2010

      Well, if you have a home recording device, that’s what I would do. Being in the conference will help, as long as nobody announces it during the event. Then just plug your ears and run like the wind! It’s what I had to do for last year’s CL final. It was pretty funny, me yelling at people “Don’t talk to me!” 😀

      • April 4, 2010

        Thanks guys. Methinks I will have to go with Nabeel’s solution since I don’t have DVR/Tivo. Somehow I will have to tell everyone I know to not text/email/tweet/call me.

  28. April 4, 2010

    The observant will also note that these past few matches have been vindications for Guardiola’s signings. Maxwell has proven to be an invaluable squad addition, and all that Ibrahimovic dude keeps doing is scoring decisive goals. After the display that Txigrinski had yesterday, the circle is kinda complete.

    Yes, the Ukranian has a long way to do before he inspires the same kind of confidence when his name is is the roster as the likes of Pique. But if what we saw yesterday is representative of what he can do when fully fit and ready to play, I can’t wait to see more.

    And I’ve said it above but will say it again: Krkic just knocked me out. You could see flashes the last times that he played, but it all came together in this match. And the timing is great because we are going to need everyone if we are to do this deal. We have two Finals this week. Guardiola and Pellegrini are talking massive amounts of crap in saying that El Clasic doesn’t decide the Liga. If you examine the schedule, neither team looks likely to drop too many points. The winner of that match goes 3 points clear in the standings, with 7 matches left.

    For them, they have dangerous opponents as well: Valencia and Bilbao, but both are at home. Their only dangerous away fixture is to Mallorca, who are very powerful at home.

    Yes, we have danger matches away to Sevilla and Villarreal, but a 3-point cushion is going to be immense for the winner.

    This is going to be a loooooooong week!

    • Tajh
      April 4, 2010

      Not mention an away Derby against Espanyol who despite all there recent problems seem to step their game up against us all the time.

      • Tajh
        April 4, 2010

        Heck all of our remaining away fixtures are tough from now on!!!!

  29. Colby
    April 4, 2010

    In case anyone was wondering, our ref on Tuesday will be Wolfang Stark. He was in charge of our game at Lyon last year (1-1) and at home to Chelsea (0-0). I don’t really remember anything about him from those two games, which I imagine is a good thing. Does anyone know anything else about him?

    • jordi™
      April 4, 2010

      What i remember about those two games is he let extra physical play slide without yellows or free kicks, but i don’t think that should be a problem against the gunners.We’ll see.

      • Jose
        April 4, 2010

        I don’t want to hear that we’re facing an English team (even if it is Arsenal) with a physical-play-allowed ref the Tuesday before El Clasico. :s

        • Kari
          April 4, 2010

          Wolfgang Stark?! Aww man! 🙁

          He’s like that for every game I’ve seen him referee, jordi. He also infamously screwed up FIFA U-20 knockout match (Argentina v Chile) in ’07 and had to be shielded from the majorly pissed off crowd…

          Agree 100% Jose. But I give Arsenal the benefit of the doubt…

  30. Kxevin
    April 4, 2010

    Looks like a groin injury for Arsenal’s Alex Song. Jaysus, this match is going to need a M*A*S*H unit! 😀

    • Kari
      April 4, 2010

      Yeah, but he probably recover to play against us.

      • barca96
        April 4, 2010

        lol speaking of M*A*S*H, reminds me of a chris rock joke.
        but i better not post it before isaiah or kxevin get’s pissed off at me again lol.

  31. Alexinho
    April 5, 2010


    Kevin, I started a blog because I fancied myself a pretty good writer. I still consider myself a pretty good writer. But I can’t blog like you do. Some (one or two) might notice that I don’t put my blog link up. I stopped the current “El Blog del Barca” primarily because of a computer defect that took me out of my routine for literally almost a month, but also because I haven’t quite mastered the art of this business.

    Succinctness. When I think about the “watch once, analyze the second time” practice of mine, with the pause function on the video for the second time; when I think how long it takes me to write a post and how much I feel I have to cover; and how exhausted I feel over a too-long piece of writing, I come to this page and see the surgical Kevin-knife in action on any given Sat/Sunday. Keep up the good work; hopefully I will have some time to learn by example.

    Now. Let me just say, in closing, that I am the stupidest human being on Earth.

    Next Saturday is April 10th. A month ago, I thought that would be a golden opportunity to buy tickets to see the Philadelphia Union play its first game against its local rivals, DC United, in my first live, professional soccer match.

    It never crossed my mind that it could be the same day as…..

    • Kxevin
      April 5, 2010

      I would say nothing of the sort, Alexinho. And you’re putting yourself out there, which is more than a lot of people can say.

      I write for a living. It’s something that comes very easily for me, someone who was lucky enough to be able to make a living doing something that they’re good at. That isn’t true of most people.

      And if I were to show you some of my first stories, you’d laugh your ass off, as I do. The thing about writing is you get better at it, and you become more fluent. It’s like a language. And anytime you want help, advice or to bounce something off me, you can hit me up at I’d be more than happy to help.

      But everyone has strengths and weaknesses. The trick about writing is not to think about writing. It’s just storytelling, so tell the story. The best bit of writing advice I ever got was “first word, best word.” You don’t edit yourself in conversation, so why should you stifle your voice when it comes to storytelling in other formats. The more you think about writing, the more difficult it becomes, and the less it sounds like you.

      Most importantly, have fun. 😀

  32. y2k156
    April 8, 2010

    Well, I was lucky enough to be in Barcelona for almost a week and watched Barca v Athletico Bilbao in Nou Camp. This was the first time i saw Barca in person and it was a awesome experience.

    In person, the game is different than what we see on TV. The pitch is broad but not huge and the players are just awesome atheletes. The atmosphere inside stadium is fantastic.

    Messi was quite excellent that day or at least thats my impression from seeing it live. He did things with ball that were impressive. I do have to say that others in Barca line up were quite excellent as well with special mentions to Puyol, Abidal and Xavi. Only time i worried for a bit in beginning was when Chryggy had the ball.

    Overall, a fantastic experience and one i hope could be repeated in future.

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