For All the Marbles: Barça – Valladolid

I wanna hug toooo
This is what a *team* looks like!

Liga Preview: Barça – Valladolid, Sunday 1pmEST, ESPN2HD

This match is somehow under the radar, despite its significance. There are no Ens Hi Deixerem La Pell shirts being displayed, there are no slogans, no commercials, no gratuitous news coverage of the team’s every move. Yet this match dwarfs the Champions League semifinals because it is the match that will decide who earns the La Liga title this year. I know it’s just Valladolid, but we cannot take them lightly and we must beat them.

This is for everything. It’s easy to fall into the hyperbolic sewer of claiming each and every game is the most important one of the season. I’ve done it, of course, but at least this time I have the luxury of saying that I won’t do it again this season…which is akin to saying my favorite Zoolander movie was the first one. Which it was. Still, this match has become the defining match of the season for those who define seasons solely by trophy hauls. It’s either we win this and rise above the rest of the league or we lose and Madrid surfaces from beneath the murky depths to somehow claim our prize.

I want to say this now: whatever happens against Valladolid, whether we win, draw, or lose, whether we come out with a league title or not, whether there’s a goleada historica or an epic choke job, this team and this season are as far from failures as you can get. They are winners and overachievers, they are artists in a world of hacks, and they are successful through beauty despite the hard fouls, despite the bullseye on their backs, and despite the inclination of others to dismiss their grievances because they need to “man up.” Man up this, suckas.

So we await the arrival of Valladolid, the pucela, of Javier Clemente and his band of relegation-battling boys. They have the same personnel as they had before Clemente’s arrival in April (they started the season with Jose Luis Mendilibar, who they traded out for B squad manager Onesimo Sanchez two weeks after they lost to us in Jornada 19), but they’ve picked up the pace, going 3W-3D-1L (6GF, 5GA) and allowing various media outlets to talk about how good Javi Clemente is at this whole coaching business (and he is).

Thing is: we need to win this to win the championship and they need to win this to survive relegation. That is one of those things that makes you pause and go “hmmm” when you really think about it. Yes, they’re a decent enough squad, but they’re still fighting relegation and their leading scorer is Diego Costa. I can’t believe it isn’t Manucho…Diego Costa must have like 50 goals! Oh, he has 8? And Manucho only has 4? I guess he meant next season he’ll score between 30 and 40 goals. That’s the only logical explanation.

My whole point is that you can’t discount Valladolid, but you can say that we will probably win. The bookies, according to 101 Great Goals, are so confident in Barcelona winning the title that they’re offering 13-1 on a draw and 28-1 on a Valladolid win (unless I’m reading that wrong–I’m a terrible gambler), which is to say that Barcelona really is that much better than Valladolid. Guardiola, of course, is demanding his team not consider themselves champions yet, because, frankly, they’re not. 90 minutes against Valladolid could ensure or destroy that, so we have to play hard and we can take nothing for granted.

But I still think we’ll win.

Xavi is missing for this match thanks to his absurdly childish yellow card against Sevilla, which was his 5th of the season, ensuring his suspension against Valladolid. He got that card, by the way, for protesting Luis Fabiano’s goal instead of getting on with play–what stupid thing did he say to the ref? What could it have possibly been that mattered enough to say it despite the obvious consequences? Xavi is generally an extremely mature player, with his head screwed on correctly, but all 5 of his cards this year (4 during a match and 1 in the tunnel after the Villarreal 1-1 draw at the Camp Nou) have been for protest. Seriously, buddy? Come on. (And no, I don’t buy the blah-blah from El Mundo Deportivo about it being an unjust suspension. He committed the acts, he must sit. That the committee has unfairly rescinded suspensions against Kameni and Albiol merely means that the committee is bunk, but that doesn’t mean Xavi shouldn’t be suspended. He f-ed up, he pays the price. Fair.)

What could be the exultant return of Iniesta has been put in jeopardy by the fact that his injury is still an ongoing problem. It is possible he’ll make the bench for the match, but extraordinarily unlikely that he’ll make the starting lineup. Keita, too, has been hurting this week, but looks good to start. That’s obviously good news since Xavi is missing.

Predicted lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busi, Yaya, Keita, Pedro, Ibra, Messi.

That’s who I think will be out there. Busi is only included because, well, we don’t have anyone else who isn’t busted up. That’s how that goes, even if I don’t like it. We beat them last time with goals from Xavi, Alves, and Messi with a strange starting lineup including Keita, Xavi, and Iniesta in the middle fronted by Henry, Ibra, and Messi. Unheard of!

We’ll need tactical control of this match, which means stepping in and stepping up. An early goal would change everything, either way; if we score first they must come out and play because a loss is as good as relegation for them and that just can’t be from their point of view. They’ll try to hit us on the counter, but with Abidal back in the fold, we should be fine covering any wing attacks they launch our way. Expect Messi to drop into a more central role and try to spring attacks with his dribbles and undercuts while the “central striker,” be it Ibra or Bojan, trying to peel away for a through ball.

Official Prediction: 3-0. It is time we put this league away and I think we will. Goals by Messi (2) and Pedro to seal the deal. How hot would it be if it were Ibra, though? Yeah, I said it.

Time: 7pm local/Barcelona, 1pm EST, check your local time here.
TV: This match will be on in the US on ESPN2HD as well as ESPN Deportes.
Weather: ~63F (~18F), clear skies, 0% chance of rain. Perfect for some friggin football.

Just so you know: It. Is. Goddamned. On. Let’s do this, woooooo!

This is so hype-making I can barely contain myself.
He has a little Cap'n in him, that's for fucking sure.

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Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in Germany with his wife and daughter.

83 Comments

  1. May 15, 2010

    3-0 shellacking after Valladolid comes out about 15 minutes in and the counterattack destroys them.

    Goals by Messi, Bojan, and Xavi

    • Vj
      May 15, 2010

      Xavi would be suspended wouldn’t he? 🙁

  2. poipoi
    May 15, 2010

    with busi yaya keita in the midfield we wouldnt get scored against even in a basketball game vs the 1993 chicago bulls

    • Eklavya
      May 15, 2010

      We played them like that last season thinking the same thing and lost … just sayin’

      • poipoi
        May 15, 2010

        there arent many others to put there. Well, the youngsters or andres but andres HAS to play the world cup this summer and the youngsters havent played much this season. Maybe pep goes with maxwell alves or something interesting I dont know. Besides vs valladolid we won twice last year with the goals being 7-0 (6-0 and 0-1), we will win la liga tomorrow guys!!!

  3. we will win this match for sure. pls can anyone tell me any news about villa? cant wait to see him in our line up next season…

    • Eklavya
      May 15, 2010

      *http://www.goal.com/en/news/11/transfer-zone/2010/05/15/1925811/rumours-of-valencias-stars-leaving-are-becoming-a-reality

  4. Eklavya
    May 15, 2010

    3-2 goals by Messi (3).
    That’s right! The Messiah will surpass The Phenomenon.

  5. barca96
    May 15, 2010

    my line-up
    ———VV———
    alves–pique–puyi–abidal
    –yaya—busi—keita—-
    messi—-bojan—–P!

    this line-up means GOALS!!

  6. Euler
    May 15, 2010

    The squad, supporters and media have in many ways been living in the afterglow of six trophies this season. And that’s a light that can distort with glare rather than illuminate with clarity.

    Three more points, however, and Barca will have completed a very successful and satisfying season. They played up against enormous expectations (both theirs and those of others) as much as they did the opposition. But taking La Liga with a record point haul will be a remarkable cap to the season – a season that was disrupted with injury and required key contributions from younger players pushed into a very intense spotlight.

    I expect them to come out aggressively, particularly runs from Alves on the flank. This might make them somewhat open to a fluky counter but the back line and mid should have strong solidity. The backline has made errors in focus – they need to avoid those and I expect they will.

    How Barca maintains possession tomorrow will be interesting to watch given the absence of Xavi and limitations on Iniesta’s availability. Their capacity to press and win back the ball will be of particular importance as their capacity to hold the ball through passing may not be as crisp as it usual (fortunately the are playing a lesser opponent this week…)

    Tomorrow we’ll once again likely see Yaya’s flexibility and multidimensionality on display to fill in the gaps.

    Messi will also need to help fill in that gap in the midfield through his creativity and imagination. He may play at times in more of a false nine role. If so Alves’ ability to provide width on the right will be particularly needed.

    Taking the lead early will radically change the dynamics of the match. But should they take the lead through frenetic pressing they will need to alter tactics as the match progresses. They don’t have the depth to play that pressing game for ninety minutes and may open themselves up to errors later on in the match.

    It’s difficult not to be cautious given the players missing and what’s at stake.

    But then, this is a special squad, and it’s close to impossible not to be optimistic.

    Tomorrow we add another trophy.

  7. barca96
    May 15, 2010

    my take on the season.

    its been such a long and stressful journey. especially for the last few days i wasnt able to get a good night sleep. kept thinking how crazy i would get if we lose the league again on the last day.

    at least in 06/07 we didnt lose it on the last day. we lost it because of defensive lapses in the dying minutes against betis and espanyol a few weeks earlier. so if we lose on the last match day now…it would be 10times worse!
    that year we were being chased and then wwe chased madrid till the end but this year its the other way around. we were being chased all year.

    and i remember lazio lost to roma somewhere in the late 90’s or early 2000’s.

    its a possibility…sorry for being so negative. just cant get the events of 06/07..

    • Vj
      May 15, 2010

      Actually, we’ve won leagues coming from behind on the last day.. Thank Tenerife twice and then a missed penalty in injury time that would’ve won Deportivo the league..

      • barca96
        May 15, 2010

        oh which season was that?
        i only followed barca match to match live from 2004/05. no cable tv nor internet before that 🙁

        • poipoi
          May 15, 2010

          search “djukic penalty gonzalez” in youtube and youll see I dont wanna spoil it 😀

      • poipoi
        May 15, 2010

        oh the golden years the golden years… wait!!! these are the golden years we are living right now!! lol

  8. Kari
    May 15, 2010

    OMG! It’s the last freakin’ game of the season! Who else is kinda depressed? I have to wait ~2 months until I can watch Barca again 🙁 Thankfully there’s the WC to keep me busy (ESPANA! ESPANA! MESSII–I mean, AR-GEN-TINA!).

    LET’S DO THE BUSINESS! VISCA BARCA! Goals by Messi (3, because he has to break Real Ronaldo’s record), Ibra (because that would be freakin’ awesome and he needs it), Henry (to leave on a high note), Pedro (because he needs to score in the last game of the season), Bojan (because I said so), Iniesta (because he just came back and he needs to be in good spirits before the WC and his force field tends to drop when it’s an important game and because I want him to score, damnit!), Puyol (because he’s El Capitan), Alves (from a free-kick because, well, when was the last time he scored from a free-kick…or got it on target? (then again, “on target” = goal considering his technique), Milito ( because he hasn’t scored in years, and he deserves it, and that would mean that him and Puyol would score in the same match and that would be so bada$$), Pique (because he’s been a tower of strength this whole season and he deserves it and that would mean him, Milito and Puyol would score in the same match and that would be so bada$$) and Txigrinsky (because I don’t want him to feel left out).

    Yaya will make the above happen with his mind (although he’s conserving its energy for the purpose of crushing Thong Boy at the WC)

    P.S. The News of the Day posts have been soooo awesome! I haven’t been able to keep up with the news lately. Villa? To Barca? On Monday?! WHAT ABOUT SILVA?! LAPORTA, WRONG DAVID*, DAMNIT!!!

    *Not that I have anything against Villa. I won’t lie; I wanted him in the summer and was kinda bummed when we got Ibra. Since then Ibra’s won me over though (even though I occasionally get extremely pissed off at him, he’s still a Barca player, he’s scored 20+ goals and how many assists?, he scored important goals, he gives his all (in his own way) so he has my support, UNLIKE HLEB).

    • Kari
      May 15, 2010

      Ugh, the above post looks like a mess. Like Tony Stark’s house in Iron Man 2 (yeeeeeesh, I saw it! 😀 ) Sorry ’bout that, people!

      • Jnice
        May 15, 2010

        Haha I just saw that movie last night.

        • Eklavya
          May 15, 2010

          Hey, hey, hey! No spoilers please! Can’t wait to see her – I mean the movie lol 😀

  9. lovelymofo
    May 15, 2010

    Are you sure you have the right time for the match? TV says 10AM pacific time on ESPN2.

    • poipoi
      May 15, 2010

      what happened to the obscene iniesta pic???

      • lovelymofo
        May 15, 2010

        It wasn’t obscene! I went for the Messi-looks-like-a-Hobbit picture instead. I’ll put Iniesta back on once the WC starts.

      • lovelymofo
        May 15, 2010

        Haha, obviously my maths are off. That’s what I get for mocking my friend last night about not being able to add. 😀

  10. Stephen
    May 15, 2010

    We are going to win and claim la liga 🙂 !!!!!

    • Stephen
      May 15, 2010

      and I would LOVEEE it if Ibrah scored.

  11. Miguel
    May 15, 2010

    sevilla’s being overrun buy almeria. clear hand ball by stankevicius in the penalty area, too.

    ha! kanoute scores w/a header from a navas cross. 0-1.

    • Miguel
      May 15, 2010

      mallorca’s doing well vs espanyol but they’ve really got to put their foot on the gas now.

    • Miguel
      May 15, 2010

      mallorca score! goal by victor. great pass to set up the cross in to the forward.

  12. Eklavya
    May 15, 2010

    R10 scored a double linking up with Pato … the two who won’t be at the WC.

    • Miguel
      May 15, 2010

      ronny, huh? i guess i won’t just delete that recording in my dvr after all.

  13. BA
    May 15, 2010

    i disagree with the optimism in this post. if we were to lose tomorrow, however unlikely, and Madrid were to win the league that would be a huge loss not just for us but for football. we’re the bulwark in Spain against the new mercenaryism, we all know what kind of team Madrid are and how much they spent to make it. a victory for that team is a vindication, however incomplete, of the Madrid Model: money equals power. this might sound like extrapolating too much from a football league, like taking an existential stand is going over the top, but even from a purely footballing perspective let’s try this:

    *we’ve won 6 trophies in the past 18 months, but most were in 08/09. anything less than continuing our winning streak without our final remaining major trophy IS a failing, if we have more or less the same squad.

    *we’ve beaten our nearest rival for the title TWICE this season, after decimating them twice last season. that would be a huge advantage, both in points and psychologically, that we’ve blown if we lose tomorrow.

    *a loss tomorrow would likely mean that the single overriding problem that many of us pointed before before this season began, our lack of depth, has come back to haunt us in a serious way. no replacement for Iniesta and forcing Xavi to play with an injury, our significant reliance on Messi and his deputy Pedro (who saw THAT last part coming?) due to our primary central striker, the most expensive player in the club’s history, not settling in fast enough and our left forward abdicating all responsibility for the team would REMAIN worrying. and not just worrying; expensive. because it would mean we’re going to have to buy generously this summer.

    we have looked remarkable for much of this season, better than any team in the world. but we can’t lose sight of the possible and we can’t let the failings of the squad go unheeded. nor can we coast on the memory of 08/09, we have to, like Pep says, constantly demand refinement. if we lose tomorrow, it wouldn’t be catastrophic but i have to say it WOULD be deeply unsettling.

    all that said, i fully DON’T expect us to lose tomorrow, and for us to take the league in style. but i want to warn against the complacency that it seems like too many of you are already easing into.

    • Vj
      May 15, 2010

      Relax, we supporters can be complacent, not the players.. I’m sure Pep will be hammering down the importance of tomorrows game and I’m sure the players are fully aware of it.. No one wants to work their asses for the whole season and falter at the last stage..

      What I’m sure is of this, If Valladolid get something out of this game, it would be because we gave it our all and still came short (unlikely), because we’re that motivated to go the final mile..

      And I believe lightning won’t strike again, and we wouldn’t want to throw our advantage like in previous matches..

    • Jim
      May 15, 2010

      Brave post BA. I suspect that you may take a hammering in the thumbs down department 🙂

      However, it is a fair point you make. I’d echo what you say about it being unlikely that we will lose tomorrow. We should be too good for them but if we were to lose it would be only right that the club ( and us as an extension ) sit down and debate how we had gone from 6 to 0 trophies in a season. Despite the difficulty of maintaining success, Man Utd did it in the EPL just missing out on 4 in a row in an arguably more difficult league to win.

      Whatever, i wouldn’t point a finger at anyone’s effort over the season. I think the management and players ( all of them, including Henry most of the time ) have given their best and deserve the championship.

      • Miguel
        May 15, 2010

        0 trophies? i’m sorry, but the euro super cup, the spanish super cup, & the club world cup were all won in 09/10 not 08/09.

        • Jim
          May 16, 2010

          Yeah, but entry to them all was won by our efforts the previous season. We aren’t in any of them next season. If you prefer, we’re 3 trophies down next season already through our efforts this season.

    • Kxevin
      May 15, 2010

      It wouldn’t be unsettling to me at all. Guardiola had to take some risks to make changes that would set the team up for the future, rather than the present. Sometimes, to have to break eggs to make …. something …. cake …. whatever.

      Did anyone in their right mind really expect Ibrahimovic to settle in quickly? What Barca attacker has except for Ronaldo, whose task was simple: Ball. Goal. Go.

      And did our left forward really abdicate reponsibility? Really? Or was he old and injured, in part from putting out for the club when he was injured the previous season, and just not able to come back to where the club needed him to be? Huge difference there. I just don’t buy that Henry said “Screw those guys. I like it here on the bench, so I’m not going to do a damn thing this year.”

      Nobody is letting anything go unheeded, nor is anyone saying “If we lose, it’s Armageddon.” It isn’t. It’s a great club resetting for a long, fruitful future. It happens.

      We would have to buy players irrespective of what happens, because win or lose, the same significant deficiency of squad depth is there.

      But this club, with a short roster, has played it collective asses off, and came within a bad handball call of being in the CL final, and quite possibly winning the Liga. Hell of a season, period. Ibrahimovic is part of the refinement that Guardiola has been seeking. It’s the striker that he wanted. We’ll see next year whether he made the right decisions or not.

      • BA
        May 16, 2010

        i expected Ibrahimovic to settle in in a year’s time or be in serious danger of losing his starting spot. he hasn’t, and therefore virtually HAS lost his starting spot. his inclusion was always going to be a gamble; barring a major swing in form NOT JUST OF IBRAHIMOVIC, but of the team’s fluency and penetration in the final 3rd when he’s on the pitch, i think we can say that gamble has failed. the questions are: how long do we persist with him if he can’t start to mesh with our style? and can a slight, 19 year old kid really continue to lead our line if he doesn’t?

        as for Henry, well, i think it’s pretty obvious what he’s doing. he got what he came for at Barcelona: a Champion’s League winner’s medal and some real history to go with his name. so it makes sense that the following season he’s been saving his form and his fitness for his next move. we know that Pedro Rodriguez, for all his ability, is not a better player right now than Thierry Henry. the idea that Henry is simply, at 32, “too old” to compete with a kid who was playing with Barca B last season despite having returned to fitness months ago is ridiculous.

        a hell of a season winning la Liga after getting knocked out of the Copa and the Champion’s League after poor performances in each first leg? yes, we might have just edged a dogged, unkillable Madrid side for the title, but the way in which we were beaten in what were effectively our 2 knockout games leaves much to be desired. that’s not to say that many, even most, of our squad deserves massive credit for doing what they did (Xavi and Messi in particular), but you can’t look at those 2 crucial games (Home to Sevilla and Away to Inter) and not find some blame to mete out. the SQUAD, on paper, is there to have done at least a Double this season.

        that we didn’t, injuries notwithstanding, is a disappointment that could have been, in my view, rectified had at the very least 2/3 of our attack done what they were supposed to do and are capable of doing.

        • Jnice
          May 16, 2010

          Don’t get where you are coming from at all, BA. You seem a tad bit spoiled to me.

          Luck is a big part of football and had luck gone our way against Sevilla, ie. one of Messi’s shots of the post go in or Palop doesn’t make one of his 203340 saves, we move on. Against Inter, if Bojan goal stands, we move on.

          There’s a thin line between us and a shot at the treble again this season. I mean last season we had Iniesta’s goal and even in Copa, Pinto’s penalty save swung the momentum of the match in our favor and we went on to win. I wouldn’t underestimate this luck factor.

          You act as if we were smashed to bits by Inter and Sevilla and that our attack was trash all season.

          We still put up an excellent number of goals, still let in fewer goals and got more cleansheets than last season. We have had 1 loss in La Liga and 4 losses in all competitions. This is still a hell of a season and no we don’t have to win trebles every year for it to be so. Sorry.

          • Kxevin
            May 16, 2010

            But to say that Ibrahimovic has “lost” his starting spot assumes that Guardiola has a fixed rotation, and I just don’t believe that he does. Witness the voceferous Yaya v Busquets debates, right?

            I think that Guardiola understands that the system isn’t ready to adapt, and has to make player changes in light of that. He’s also fond of riding a hot player, and that player has been Krkic of late. Nothing wrong with that.

            To lay the team’s fluency and penetration, or lack thereof, when Ibrahimovic is on the pitch solely at his feet ignores a number of variables, not least of which is the consistent inability of people to realize how much space is available for them to run into as he moves defenders around. It’s why I say that WE have to be coached on how to play with such a player as much as that player has to be coached in how to play in our system.

            And I just don’t agree with your view of Henry. But I just don’t think that any player is that viciously cynical to, in effect, take a season when the club needs him. Nor do I think that Guardiola would allow it. He isn’t that kind of a coach. So we’ll have to agree to disagree.

            But this club wins or loses as a team. In two key matches, a 2-0 victory needed to happen, and it didn’t. In both cases, it was extremely close, being stopped by a goalpost and a bad call. If those two things don’t happen, it’s a treble again.

            Now if you look solely at results, then yes, this season has been a disappointment. But that isn’t how I choose to view it. If you do your best and come up short, that result doesn’t diminish the quality of the effort. It just means that on that day, somebody else was better. You congratulate that person, and come back another day.

      • Jim
        May 16, 2010

        Agreed on almost all of the above Kxevin. No team can stand still. However, Pep chose to take us in a particular direction with Ibra which was his choice alone and he must have/should have known that he was trying to shoehorn him into a system which didn’t fit his natural inclinations. If Ibra is still with us next season and I’ve no strong feelings one way or the other ( as long as Villa or someone similar ) is signed. You may be right about him but he’ll not get long next season to prove himself.

        Whatever, happens, though as I said above, I’ve loved the effort I’ve seen from this set of players this year and they’ve bottled nothing. Likewise with Henry – i think he has done the best he could this year – once he lost his yard of pace life became hard for him, although we could have done without him being a wuss about returning to Arsenal and the half hearted appearance.

  14. Miguel
    May 15, 2010

    oritz goal! almeria tie it up again w/10 to go.

    mallorca up 2-0.

  15. cliveee
    May 15, 2010

    Today and tomorrow are the most exciting days of La Liga. 2-2 now! Mallorca is on the way to CL!!

  16. Miguel
    May 15, 2010

    holy shit!!!!!!!

    last minute sevilla goal. whole mallorca team celebrating on the pitch watching the dying minutes of the sevilla almeria game. how fucking cruel.

  17. jordi™
    May 15, 2010

    WOw football is a bitch.I feel bad for mallorca atleast if Sevilla had won comfortably, it would have been better than a last minute dagger to the heart.Rodri insta-hero in Nervión 🙁

    • holy SHIT that was an intense game. i was rooting for you all against chelsea when iniesta hit that goal in the CL, but now i have a better feeling for what you all must have experienced then.

      if you guys could if at all possible be tying until injury tomorrow, and do that to madrid i would love you guys pretty much forever. i’m envisioning the close-ups of CR9 CRying after they win their game 7-0 and he scores all 7 goals. and it makes me so happy. that’d be great, THANKS!

      : )

        • ballbeav
          May 15, 2010

          great goal from the kid, wish the cameras didnt cut away before he did his celebratory flip

  18. jordi™
    May 15, 2010

    On the other hand if there is a goal to take you to the champios league, you’d want it to be that.Authentic golazo by the canterano.

    • May 15, 2010

      Yes, yes, and yes. I was all for Mallorca, but here’s the thing: Sevilla’s goal was inspiring. 19-year old kid scoring to send his team into the CL? AWWWWWEEEESSSOOOOOOMMMMMEEEEEE.

  19. Ramzi
    May 16, 2010

    Anyone who debate Ibra Vs Barcelona system need to watch Euro 88. As simple as that.

    It seems the only way to bash a player subjectively is to say “he doesnt fit the system”. Abidal didnt fit the system when he took Gio place as he is not offense oriented enough. Keita didnt fit the system once because he is not skillful enough, Henry doesnt fit the system as well (a player I wasnt convinced about his role in the first season till Pep customized him AND the system to each other), Hell Eto’o wasnt fitting to the system when we signed him and there were lot of doubters when he signed, even Iniesta had enough sticks in previous years because he is not a scoring midfielder which is something “the system” cant compromise. The only players who fit the system perfectly are the players we DIDNT sign.
    Some fans are already convinced that Ibra proved himself this season. Others are willing to wait one more season to see if he will fit the system or not. In return, I am looking at Pep to see how far he will succeed to benefit from such a forward who is one of the most complete forwards as a package of potentials. Its a challenge for Pep to succeed or fail, same as it is for Ibra (as long as Ibra shows the desire to do his best). I usually try not to make radical comments, but anyone who fails to see this player potentials either has to watch a different sport, or need to read less senseless blogging from across the globe (almost same bloggers who criticize Ibra doubt Messi’s qualities as well. just saying…). Its getting too much already. He was fitting the mother of our system when he played at Ajax. Then after one season of adaptation Capello succeeded to customize him to the italian football (he used some Marco van Basten videos in the process) and he ended up ruling Serie A and winning titles on his own . In England they used to say “he never score against EPl teams, so he is a flop” now the say:”he never scored against Liverpool and Man utd”. Some said that he do not score enough goals (in general) to be considered a good striker. This season by comparing the number of games he played to number of goals he scored, that complain is no more valid. Now they say”its not about scoring”. For a player who just arrived, starting the pre-season with inter in USA then playing for Barca in the league, being unlucky with injuries(which is my only concern even before we signed him), joining a team that achieved everything and being under the pressure of taking the position of a great great forward like Eto’o, with a damaged offense set up after Henry decline, Iniesta injuries and Messi being forced (because if Henry and Iniesta absence) to play deeper in many games leaving the forward isolated, he did a good job. I am not waiting anything in the future to decide how he performed so far. This season, Ibra was good. Ironically he is getting more sticks at Barca than Kaka at Real Madrid.

    Now reading to much in having him out of the selection recently means that Iniesta wll be sold this summer as well. Remember when Keita was scoring game in game out? Even when Iniesta was fit, he was rested.

    As for the team in general, People need to make up their minds, really. As a barca fan, is it about titles or general performance? If its about titles (count how many we get and decide the level of satisfaction) then lets go for mourinho. NOW. If we are welling to see the big picture then lets drop this counter and look at it from outside the box. The difference between this season semi final and last season semi final is not Ibra. Thats no sense. If Ibra was at Barcelona last season he wouldnt have performed worse that Eto’o did against Chelsea (watch that semi final again before you comment on this one). Its sick that I have to pick on one of my favorite barca players since I started following the team-eto’o, just to give credit where due.We had a “friendly” ref last season and it was a goal scored by Iniesta (how odd is that) that sent us to the final against a team that we can defeat any day (I noted before the season last year that Man utd is not a team that worry me, its Chelsea and liverpool that will cause us troubles). This season, if we had a ref performance similar to last season we would have easily reached the CL final. Against Bayern the win is almost a given . In the copa del rey we started our best 11 all the way last season. If Pep needed the cup this season as well, he could have done the same. Was it Ibra’s fault that we didnt win the cup this season? lets be serious now. The fact is that unlike last season, the cup was not an objective this season. . if you dont like that, you can give Pep a talk.
    Again, one or two more players would have helped. But if you rewind the season you will easily notice that we were more efficient against injuries than Real Madrid. We were not so comfortable regarding squad depth, but we were not so damaged as well. We won with and without (one or some) of Messi, Ibra, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol, Abidal, Keita, Alves, …

    Thats some of so many reasons that makes me fully satisfied of this season. And to wait till tomorrow morning to decide how far the season was good (making one game decide everything) is simply unfair. But lets hope we will end up having more satisfied fans than now. Though, its historically proven that its almost impossible to force a Cule to give some credit.

    • poipoi
      May 16, 2010

      that was a hell of a long comment man 😀

      you’re absolutly right about ibra potential but I thin his weak spot is speed although I’ve never seen him a face to face long run vs a fast defender. But one other thing has to be said, this team was the best in the world already and we kicked out, I repeat kicked out, our 9 to make the team even more perfect and deadly if that could be done. The tall swedish was meant to the final solution. It’s not like abi x gio to me, the 9 is always the “punta de lanza” as we say in spain, “the spike” I guess. We were lucky Messi went nuts this year and pedro! did the same thing ’cause the spike is not working by the moment as we all thought it would work.

      Everyone needs adaptation to a different kind of football I guess, besides he has to adapt twice… it’s 1-spanish league and 2-barça so it’s not easy. I’ll wait one for year for ibra to change NOT for the barça to change in order to make ibra fit. I want a 9 that runs and pressures apart from scoring of course.

      • Jnice
        May 16, 2010

        Great comment, Ramzi. This “blame it on Ibra” attitude is mind-boggling and sad, really.

        And how he is getting more slack than Kaka who only turned up for 2 games all season, I have no idea.

    • barca96
      May 16, 2010

      great post ramzi!

      what happened during euro 88?
      sorry for asking but im a mid 80’s baby so i didnt have the opportunity to watch football at that age.lol.
      are you referring to marco v.basten?

      btw a recent poll by el mundo deportivo suggests that 67& of the people polled wants ibra out. now i dont know how many were polled.

      count me in as the people who want ibra out too. he is 29, he is not going to change drastically. there is nothing much more he can improve on his game, he just need time to adapt to our system. i dont buy the argument that he needs a full pre-season to adapt. dont they train nearly every day?
      and lastly, our system needs a player like etoo, bojan and villa to be the #9.
      so id prefer us being a little bit madrista this summer and get another striker who can give us something different, a plan B, a bus breaker, someone who can head the ball in and have a good sense of positioning. and stick to bojan or get villa as a plan A which is our style.
      if we want to keep ibra, that means that in the pre-season pep has to find a solution on how to maximize ibra’s potential in our team, but imo he definitely cant play the fox in the box kinda striker as he looks more like a playmaker. if we play with 2 strikers up front i wouldnt mind that.

      sorry for the long post. got carried away.

      • Ramzi
        May 16, 2010

        Yes its v.basten for the team managed by the coach who created the system we play.more about it later may be.

    • Jim
      May 16, 2010

      Not a great time for this debate to resurface as I’m looking forward to the game atm but I would say that I haven’t seen a lot of “sell him now” posts. I think many are prepared to give him a chance but if what he has shown this year is his best then I feel his time here is limited. I don’t buy any of the “having to come deep” or “dragging several defenders all over the place” explanations.

      Also, the business of chasing titles needing Mourinho doesn’t really hold water for me either. Ferguson has rebuilt teams with almost no decline in performance as he did so, and in a more competitive league for at least part of that time. On the other hand some good managers can’t resist the urge to tinker with a winning setup. Don’t know which Pep is yet – time will tell but he has made a great start so he gets the benefit of the doubt. I would note that Pep himself has limited Ibra’s appearances at the business end of the season and wouldn’t do that unless he felt he had to.

      Personally, I would like a number 9 that has pace, can go past defenders if necessary or make his own space for goals, makes intelligent runs ( pretty much like those for Bojan’s last two goals and I didn’t think I’d be saying that a year ago) and can press defences for almost a whole game. Can I get that for my money from Ibra? The expectations come with the price tag and the position you are trying to fill and anyone playing 9 for Barca will face the same scrutiny.

      Will he play tonight? An interesting decision. It would be a good chance to let Ibra finish the season on a high by scoring in the last game to win the title but what if he had to bring him off with the score at 0-0? Also, to be fair Bojan deserves the start for the way he has played recently ( although for me he’s not the answer for next year).

      • Ramzi
        May 16, 2010

        “Ferguson has rebuilt teams with almost no decline in performance as he did so”
        I accept the comparison with Ferguson. What happened after Man utd great season in 1996? their best season afterward was 2 years ago. Yet after winning the EPL and CL in one year, still the experienced coach knw there is a change needed and he changed the offense setup totally offloading tevez-a key performer in the good season- and bought another striker. remind you of someone?

        After winning the CL+epl, he won the epl the followiing league. we are almost on the same level at the moment.

    • Bill
      May 16, 2010

      “I usually try not to make radical comments, but anyone who fails to see this player potentials either has to watch a different sport, or need to read less senseless blogging from across the globe”

      Dude, did you just insult this blog? Just saying… 😉

  20. Ramzi
    May 16, 2010

    And my selection for this game:

    ————Valdés—————-
    Alves—Piqué—Puyol—Abidal
    ————Busquets/ Yaya————–
    ——–Messi——–Keita——-
    –Pedro—–Ibra—-Bojan

    And Poipoi, we are still the best in the world, we were not as lucky as last season so we didnt show it in knock out competitions (Where luck plays a key role), yet in the competition based on points (where quality can beat luck) we showed an unquestionable proof, even compared to last season.

    We played with Eto’o like we never played with another striker before. We customized the system to get advantage of his good and avoid his bads. We did the same when we bought Abidal, Alves, Yaya, Keita, When we introduced Messi, Henry (Vs ronaldinho?). The same goes for Ibra. “The system” is just a menifist of key principles, not a detailed untouchable method. Methods were (and will always) customized based on resources to serve the system perfectly. The system failed when the methods were not modified as needed.

    • poipoi
      May 16, 2010

      it may have been luck what got us out and luck what got us in last year ( I just call it iniesta 😉 ) but it still looks like the tall guys bothers the rest up there, it is not just the results. Plus he is 29 year old supposed star and I don’t know if he has played his best matches already. The polls the critics everything is for a reason not just the results.

      • Ramzi
        May 16, 2010

        Is it better to have a 29 years old forward who count on size and techniques or a 29 years old who count on his stamina and workrate? where will age damage more?;)

        The guys up there (messi and pedro)had their best seasons so far this year. if thats bothering, i want more of the same.

        • poipoi
          May 16, 2010

          exactly what I’m saying… messi and pedro! … their best seasons and there’s more to come

    • Miguel
      May 16, 2010

      what about modifying ibra’s position on the pitch? i think he’d serve the system better on the left wing doing what henry did last year. you have bojan/villa or whoever play in the center & you have both your “plan a” & “plan b” in the same set up.

  21. ballbeav
    May 16, 2010

    i think the ibra doubters and the ibra huggers all agree we need another year. or at least another 10-15 games in the next season. so, we can save our breath until after the summer. and again recite: In Pep We Trust. im not a huge fan of ibra, and i have my (big) doubts, but look at how many points we have this year. not that ibra is responsible for that, but we still managed to set the record, “despite” ibra, if you will, which means maybe it is not all bad that he is with us.

    meanwhile, gudjohnson was at our practice today to wish us well. i think this bodes well. good to see that a player that was surplus to requirements is still coming and hangin with his old buds.

    **http://www.fcbarcelona.cat/web/castellano/noticies/futbol/temporada09-10/05/16/n100516111025.html

    • Jnice
      May 16, 2010

      The thing is, we aren’t all in agreement about Ibra getting another year. People are saying the “experiment failed”, “he has had a whole season, isn’t that enough”, yadda yadda. Some aren’t willing to give him a chance next season.

      And it’s funny because all this increased after the Villa speculation, but for me the best thing about the Villa speculation is the fact that we could have both Villa and Ibra. It wouldn’t make sense to sell Ibra after signing Villa.

      • ballbeav
        May 16, 2010

        im talking about the rational people here.

        anyway, after 15 games of next season, barring no injuries, i dont think anyone could say that there has been insufficient time for an adjustment (or for ibra to improve his heading, his work rate, etc.)

        • ballbeav
          May 16, 2010

          course, even if ibra doesnt show and prove after 15 games, people will say “we need to give him all season to adjust to villa.” i just want to see better work rate, attention to fundamentals and less cheeky bullshit, better positioning and runs, and more/better heading. otherwise, why keep him.

  22. poipoi
    May 16, 2010

    etoo was never a virtuoso and that could have been seen as a handicap for the team ok. now that we got what we wanted I was prepared for some crazy magic interplay “romario style” between the most talented 9 on earth and the best team, midfield, and wingers and it didn’t happen. no interplay, at all but he’s our player and we have to fix it.

  23. Hilal
    May 16, 2010

    The type of striker Ibra is means that he can keep playing into his early 30’s. He is not the type of player who depends on pace so age wont have too drastic an effect on him – unlike players like Eto, who do depend on pace and who will decline once they hit their thirties. Just look at Drogba, he didnt hit his stride with Chelsea till he was 30! Now he is considered one of the best strikers in the world – at age 32. I remember in his 2nd season for Chelsea how many Chelsea fans were saying exactly the same thing; at 29 he is not going to improve anymore, sell him. Now they all love him. I think Ibra is a better player than Drogba, will keep getting better and will go on to be one of our best players. His first season for us cannot in any way be deemed a failure. Sorry, but ANY striker who contributes to 30+ goals in 40 games IS NOT a failure and anybody who thinks otherwise should (as Ramzi suggested) watch another sport. What would have been enough? 30 goals? 40 goals? 20 assists? I suspect there would have been critics even then!

  24. poipoi
    May 16, 2010

    tank line-up with no ibra:

    Valdés; Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Abidal; Touré, Busquets, Keita; Messi, Bojan y Pedro

    • vicsoc8
      May 16, 2010

      This is our best lineup right now – besides the midfield and LB this is the lineup Pep has used the last 4 games, and its been working very well.

  25. vicsoc8
    May 16, 2010

    I’m going to go ahead and bet on a Yaya-goal. The way the stars have aligned it just makes sense.

  26. ballbeav
    May 16, 2010

    JUSTICS WILL PREVBAIL , WE WILL WIN

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