Atletico ****** 1, Barca 2, aka “What an expensive victory!”

"Uh, oh .... this is not gonna end well...."

In the journalism business, we call what is about to happen, “burying the lede.” It’s shifting the thing that everybody cares about to later in the piece. Sometimes it’s crazy, other times it’s to make a point, as it is now.

Finish your chances!

We had about 913 chances to get the third, or even fourth goal that would have put this match to bed, done and dusted, and precipitated the Krkic for Messi swap much earlier than it in fact occurred. A match that is in the balance, in a place at which we haven’t won in three years, calls for your best players. And one of those best players is Lionel Messi.

Early in the match, as here as the ball is going past the Amazing DeGea for our first goal (you can just see the golden boot exiting the frame), Messi was razor-sharp and raring to go. He gave his all for the club, and shouldn’t have even been on the pitch. Look at the 5 straight times in which he ceded possession. It was a tired player out there, a player who should have been subbed.

And if we finish our chances, he is, and we’re discussing another very good match from Messi, rather than how long he might be on the sidelines.

The best thing about this match is that we won at the Calderon, that cauldron that has, for the past three seasons, been a place at which we have fallen. And we did it with style. Despite the pressure, and effort, Atletico never had a real chance in this one. Think about the match, free of the pessimism of the LiveBlog, and how many real chances they had at goal. Even the goal that they scored was a fluke, when Valdes came out and fluffed his lines as the defense said “He’s got …. no, he doesn’t.” And that was that.

Guardiola rolled out with our best lineup (minus Abidal, off tending to his grandfather in Martinique) of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro! and Villa. His intention was to go down with his best troops, if going down was in the cards. And we started off brightly, generating chance after chance, and putting Atletico on the back foot. And when they got the ball, we got it right back, with a combo platter of midfield pressure and aggressive defending, as we played our usual defense with offense.

Essentially, we won the war because we won the battle for the midfield. Anyone who has the match available, should find a 7-second sequence that begins at about 50:03. A wayward ball comes to Xavi, who gets it under control with a back flip, steering it toward Villa, who was running away. So Xavi hits the jets to outrun a defender who we all thought had a head start, slides the ball under his foot, controlling and letting him slide past, fakes out a second defender who has the angle on him by just stopping with the ball, then flipping a pass safely to a waiting Iniesta.

It’s about 7 seconds, but it’s a time span that so clearly indicates why we had this match under control. Without the midfield, you aren’t going to beat us, and we have the best midfielder on this planet playing for us. So your options are long balls, which are easily dealt with by our defense, set pieces, which you aren’t going to get too many of, counterattacks, which we aren’t going to cede because of intelligent possession, or attacks up the wing which, when our right and left backs are playing as solidly and conservatively as they were today, you ain’t getting, either.

It’s pretty simple when you think about it.

The inevitable first goal for us came after Villa was set loose by an absolutely flawless ball from Messi, only to have his shot somehow hit the post. Off the rebound, Pedro! slotted in yet another flawless ball for Messi, who did what has become his usual control flip score, all with one touch. That goal was hard. Really, really, hard. And he made it look so simple. It was 1-0, and we were off to the races. Now, I know that we had a 3-0 lead here, and lost 4-3, but this match was different. We were much more solid defensively (except for a couple of Keystone Kops moments), Busquets is a man now, and we had the wings on lockdown, so Reyes (booooo!) and Simao couldn’t hurt us.

They scored, yes, but it was pretty much a fluke of a goal that once we tightened up the zonal marking, wasn’t going to happen again, and they weren’t going to score off us in open play, because our two pit bulls, Pique and Puyol, were on. So after they scored, we regained possession and set about operating in their end a lot more, winning a corner.

We should pause for a moment here, and realize that we’re talking about a center back who stepped back from a defender, took the ball softly on his chest so that it plopped right at his feet, and smoked it past a helpless keeper. Pique scored goal No. 2 for us, and it was a delight.

And who knew that it would be the last goal scored in this hotly contested, but fairly one-sided match. Let’s look at some of the chances:

–Pedro! bollixed one up on the doorstep with a horrid first touch.
–Xavi gets stopped by a great save.
–Pedro! gets stopped by a great save.
–Villa hits the post.
–Villa somehow sends a shot over the goal.
–Xavi passed when he should have shot, P! blows the chance.
–Messi, on the doorstep, gets stonewalled.
–Villa bad touches another one away.

If we deal with any of those, then this doesn’t happen:

He’s clearly thinking “Ball? I don’t give a rat’s ass about that ball. It’s the ankle that I’m after.”

And then this:

We’ve talked about it enough. But if we finish our chances, it doesn’t happen, because the Krkic switch is made 10 minutes earlier, when he was finished warming up, but the match was still in the balance. No, I won’t get into what this says about the confidence factor in Krkic. That’s another post, and another time.

Team: 9. Excellent performance, marred by that rather clunky goal that we gave up. But the passing and movement, and defense in depth were pretty amazing to witness, from a club that people think can’t defend. Oh yeah? Check out all those spearmint shirts in front of the ball when Atletico has it in our end. Everyone did exactly what they were supposed to do, unlike last time we visited the Cauldron.

Guardiola: 6. Great game plan, the right lineup, but a coach has to read a match better. Everyone could see how heated it was getting, and how the ref had lost control of things. In matches like that, you get your best player off the pitch, particularly when you see that he’s playing like a zombie. No way a fresh Messi gets stopped by DeGea on the doorstep.

Valdes: 6. If you come off the line for the ball, get it. Okay? Strong match after that, controlling his space in a commanding way, and making some very difficult saves look easy. Communication with the defense needs work, though. You could see Maxwell and Puyol confused a few times as to what Valdes’ intentions were. That can’t happen.

Alves: 8. Excellent match, particularly now that he has the range on his passes into the box again. He did get caught up, leading to the play that led to the corner that led to the goal. But beyond that, and a couple of loose touches, his play was hard to fault.

Pique: 9. Piquenbauer had a stunner, from bringing the ball up to timely defensive plays to scoring the winning goal. It’s pretty hard not to award him Man of the Match, except that there was indeed somebody who deseves it more. Is he even better this year? How is it that a center back can be as offense-minded as our marauding right back, yet still be omnipresent on the back line?

Puyol: 9. Another MOTM contender, with a leonine performance on the back line. He ran everything down, took fouls, headed balls away and brought balls up the pitch. It was the typical match from a man who is making a liar out of some dumbass who said that last season would be his last as automatic starter.

Maxwell: 9. What a solid, brilliant match from him, going forward at the right times, but always, always making sure that the wing was on lockdown, frustrating whichever attacker Atletico ran at him, be it Reyes or Simao.

Busquets: 7. Excellent match, marred by some “Bad Busi” moments of loose possession in dangerous spots. He bailed himself out twice, and made up for it with winning ball after ball, and making excellent pass after excellent pass. And anybody wondering why Forlan had such an invisible match should check Busquets’ back pocket.

Xavi: 9. My Man of the Match is so because this match depended upon tempo, control and midfield excellence. Those three characteristics embody the match that Xavi played today. If he doesn’t play as well, we have a much more difficult time. Both coaches realized that the midfield battle winner would be the match winner. Xavi was amazing.

Iniesta: 9. And speaking of amazing, you could argue that his ovation from the Cauldron faithful was as much for his wonder of a match as it was his World Cup-winning goal. He was beautiful today, from making the right run and always being around the ball, to pass after pass after inch-perfect, ball controlling pass.

Messi: 7. He played himself down from a 10 with that tired-out phase in which he lost the ball 5 straight times that he got it. But what a match, one that for me was epitomized not by the goal he scored, but by playing catchup with Reyes on the break, and making a perfect sliding tackle to knock the ball out for a throw. When the best player on the team also works the hardest, stand back.

Pedro!: 6. Played in fits and spurts, but those moments were fine ones. And he really came into his own when we were killing off the match, with his constant motion, always being ready to receive a pass and inevitably playing the right ball to someone. Great assist on the opening goal, too.

Villa: 2. Awful today. From the offside calls and static play, to not moving to passes to missed chance after missed chance, this is match that he will want to forget as soon as possible. We can only hope that his slow start means a fast finish.


Keita (for Xavi): 6. He came in when were trying to kill off the match, and won the day with his athleticism and fresh legs, as he chased balls down and harassed attackers. Having him as an option off the bench is so reassuring.

Mascherano (for Iniesta): incomplete. He didn’t do much, but giving that hard foul with the clear “This one’s for Messi,” was awesome. There was no real malicious intent, just a nice, hard professional foul.

Krkic (for Messi): incomplete. He didn’t have a chance to do anything at all.

And now we get to see if we can solve the problem of Messidependencia. If he’s out on the short end of things, we’re without him for three matches, two Liga and a Champions League. All should still be winnable, provided Villa stops playing like a dork. He gets a nice rest, and hopefully doesn’t come back too rusty. Even a month is still only six matches. I’d be a lot more worried if the club was, but all signs are very positive.

Krkic keeps getting chance after chance thrown at him. First we sell Ibrahimovic, then Messi goes down. Now we get to see, over an extended period, what our No. 9 can do. And boy, do we need him.

“Go get your own water! You’re going to make me cry!”

By Kxevin

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


  1. Busquets scared me a couple of times today, but I realized it was because he was playing even deeper than he normally does. Looking back, he was playing between Pique and Puyol for large portions of the game.

    What is really interesting is that Pep continues to tweak the tactics of the team. Athletico plays with two forwards and so Pep played Busquets deeper to be almost a third CB so we would always have numbers over the forwards. Then all of a sudden Busquets is getting called for being offside in one of our attacks. It’s all just really interesting total footballesque tactics.

  2. Ruled out for 2 weeks? It could be SO much worse. Thank goodness.

    Stupid long-haired pre-Madonna (Ujfaluši) better hope I never run into him in the street or we’ll find out how much his legs are insured for.

    1. I’m going to assume you mean because you would ask him. Because violence (which got us into this situation in the first place) is bad.

  3. Messi will be fine. Ujfalusi should be suspended for 3 games and have his pirate status taken away.

    De Gea is so damn underrated, he’s fucking amazing.

  4. Pray Messi gets out of this injury quickly.
    I fault Pep for this debacle, when everyone could clearly see that Messi is making bad passes, he should have subbed him. If only…!
    Also, as Kx said, this might be when we find out how good the team is without him.
    Atletico played a good and open game (well, for our standards, their play was more open!), still managed to finish at 1-2. Fault our strikers!
    From Isiah’s preview: “Ujfalusi will kick you” – was that a vision? Should we have warned Pep beforehand?

  5. What is really interesting is that Pep continues to tweak the tactics of the team. Athletico plays with two forwards and so Pep played Busquets deeper to be almost a third CB so we would always have numbers over the forwards.

    It is very interesting. And it wasn’t only this match. We’ve encountered a number of two striker attacks early. And Pep has played Busi this way very frequently to functionally form a 3 man backline.

    It was like that for much of the match against Racing and Hercules as well.

    It’ll be interesting to see how his evolves and what Pep does against 1 striker formations or against 4-3-3 variations. In those situations the extra midfielder may be able to better exploit the space between lines. Though this of course would require the other team to have the ball.

    1. Busquets shows his worth time and again here. By slotting back and becoming a “modern sweeper” or “center-half” as Zonal Marking might say, he allows the offense to keep the marauding dynamic from LB and RB and he provides another keen passing option in the back to go along with Pique.

      Other than Valdes’ shameful attempt on the goal from the corner, the defense was very good with Forlan having no impact on the game whatsoever. The only mistake I remember was from Maxwell early on, but even that wasn’t close to costly.

      All in all a much better showing except from Villa, who is probably still learning.

  6. Well guys reports are saying he should be back for the Mallorca home game and might even stay in Barca for the International break in October.At a max he might only miss at least 3 games ad hopefully back to full strentgh when Valencia comes to town, which is right after the FIFA Break!!!! Hope we get over this FIfa virus and win @ home this time!!!

  7. Thanks for the review, Kxevin.

    Was thinking of a 3 or 4 for Villa because of some pretty decent shots on target, but a clear no on second thought considering his real full-time job duty is to score, and how bad did we need that 3rd goal.

    More about Villa, I thought his movement was actually above average today. He wouldn’t get those chances to miss if he wasn’t moving correctly. But of course, we also need to consider how many other chances he had missed by not making the right run or to certain positions. But overall, I think he is very promising, and had he got a little luckier, he’d have shut our mouths. He only needed that inch or two to hit the side of the post and score.

    On Messi independencia, do you think people will give us a break? they won’t! when we win those 3-4 matches, they will still say “geez, u call those proves? they are only some nameless Spanish teams and a suck Russian team”. But we do need to win them, because we are the champs and we need to play like it.

    1. On Messi independencia, do you think people will give us a break? they won’t! when we win those 3-4 matches, they will still say “geez, u call those proves? they are only some nameless Spanish teams and a suck Russian team”.

      That’s too true. But f ’em. They will continue to hate either way.

  8. Nice review, as always Kevin.

    Have to disagree on the rating for the team though, i thought it was very choppy, we lost possesion cheaply at times and didnt have the general flow when we versed panathinaikos. id give the team a 7, good performance, but not incredible.

    My MOTM was between Busquets or Pique, both were rock solid and broke up many atleti attacks.

  9. Shouting out to give Pique the credit he deserved. He is my man of the match. Dude defended perfect, had a goal conceded above his head, but went forward to get the winner back by himself. understood about all the team effort, but I have been touched by his effort in both ends of the pitch.

  10. i can’t say that we should blame pep for messi’s injury. we were only 1 goal up. though we did dominate the game, atletico could have still equalized from a freekick, or a corner, considering how much the ref was blowing the whistle. pep new this, that’s why he put in keita for villa. he didn’t want to sub out the one player he knew who could take 2, 3 or 4 defenders, and score a goal. if atletico equalized, would we have blamed pep too for subbing messi out?

    i feel bad for messi’s injury, but i can’t say i would blame anyone. yep, i hate Ujfalusi for his tackle, but i am just thankful that messi didn’t suffer the same fate as eduardo, valencia or ramsey.

    great review once again kev!

    it really amazes me how busi and pedro developed as a player. they still have a long way to go, but damn!

  11. Kxevin. Thank God you said it.

    during the first half I tweeted that Pique, Xavi, Iniesta were playing well. Busi and Valdes were erratic. Messi has some selfish spells,
    Pedro!’s first touch was crappy , and that Villa was playing downright Krkic-y.

    I was greeted by accusations of overreacting and being overly pessimistic.

    I’m just glad that someone else was watching the same match that I was.

    1. Yeah, he did. I never said they were playing badly. I just said he was erratic.
      And Messi always has a selfish spell or two, which to a certain degree is actually good. What’s worrying is when he does it with frequency.

      The only player I ever went on record as saying was playing badly was Villa.

  12. Xavi should have shot instead of passing to Pedro!, but the scene in which Villa somehow hit the ball over the goal, he simply could have passed to Messi who was right next to him and could have slotted the ball into the net easily 🙁
    After that meanly wasted opportunity, I knew Villa wouldn’t score…

    My .02 on Ujfalusi’s foul:
    I know Ujfalusi from his time at the Hamburger SV. He has already been a controversial player back then, because he had this sort of aggressive, dirty style of play BUT he didn’t showcase it in the most obvious way. Nonetheless I can remember that he was usually one of the most disliked players from HSV on away matches and he has made several semi-malicious fouls during his Bundesliga career.

    Speaking of semi-malicious fouls: I wouldn’t go as far as saying he wanted to injure Messi deliberately. But he surely put up with an injury. And that is the difference between a semi-malicious and a completely maliciously intended, brutal foul. I want to remind you of Ryan Shawcross’ foul on Jack Wilshere (last season) or the one on Carlos Eduardo (2 or 3 years ago). That were deliberate, brutal fouls with the intention to seriously injure the player, to top it off, they were both absolutely useless because neither Wilshere nor Eduardo were even close to scoring a goal in that moment.

    1. Ok, after seeing more pictures of the incident, I have to admit it was not far less malicious than Shawcross’ foul on Wilshere.
      The difference is that Shawcross hit Wilshere some cm higher than Messi has been hit, and it lead to a broken leg. Messi could easily have broken his ankle, and if Ujfalusi had stepped onto his leg a few cm above, he also could have broken his leg.
      Thank God, we really had a blessing in disguise!

      PS: Sorry, it was Ramsey, not Wilshere who suffered the broken leg.

  13. Well, if Messi is out for at least 15 days, he will not play against Mallorca. Consequently, he shouldn’t be obliged to play for Argentina the upcoming week. So I’d rather have a completely fit and rested Messi against Valencia after the international break than a journey-stressed Messi coming back from internationals without full fitness. I’d even recommend the club to lie (if necessary) and publish an announcement that’ll keep Messi out of match action for 3 weeks.

  14. Wow, I guess Messi has really been lucky if he gets away with ~ 2.5 weeks, take a look at the wicked twist of his ankle:

  15. lol… don’t know if you wanna write it in english or spanish but “Atlético” does have an accent 😉 atleti doesn’t

    btw… now that we have to play some games without the messiah I’d love to see,

    alves pique puyi adriano
    iniesta xavi busi
    pedro villa

    the idea of seeing all three “power mids” at the same time on the pitch even crossed my mind, masche busi keita. Like… Would it ever happen? I’d bet something on the NO. It would be nice also to see all three of xavi thiago and iniesta in the same line-up with iniesta as false winger. It would be so good for thiago IMO.

  16. great review, as always. i really look forward to reading your notes after each match. my motm = puyol. first league game for the season, and i could see him barking his orders at everyone. made our backline pretty solid.

  17. Busi is the MAN!! The boy is going to join the U-21’s. The boy may be skinny but he has a heart of a lion.

    On another note, Eto’o claims that after his arrival we won everything instead of Ronnie.
    Here is the link. The title can be misleading but here it goes..

    1. IMO, we won the first final because of the introduction of Larsson – he set up those two goals and not because of Eto’o.. And I don’t remember Eto’o single-handedly tearing up the field in the second one either..

    2. ronnie with the pass eto’o with the run forced Lemahm’s redcard… and it should have been giuly’s goal also.

      true that after his arrival we won IMO, but all of them contributed, giuly larsson xavi iniesta deco etc…

    3. Eto’o said that he won with both Ronnie and Messi. Funny thing is, this was my stand when arguments about him were hot in summer ’08. It’s no coincidence that the team started winning when he joined barca, then went on a 2 yr trophy-less run when he was injured, won again when he came back, and ran into problems when he left again. It’s too much of a coincidence.

      But what he suffered from was bad Public Relations. Why is he saying now that he was never a locker room problem, and not in ’08 when people needed to hear that from him?

  18. Apparently, Ufjalusi is a big fan of Messi


  19. there was a great article on El Pais about our wingers. The most difficult job in the attack are the job of our wingers, especially when it comes to cutting in, finding a way to get through, attention of the ball etc.

    Villa still has to learn that but given that he had 3-4 good chances from open play, I see improvement. It’s bad that during his time of adaptation is reference point in attack Messi got injured, but let’s just see what happens. But it’s not easy for Villa, just as long as he shows eagerness to learn, it’s going well.

    The game against Sporting will be Bojan’s second chance of the season, to make Jonathan Soriano a first team player in spring.

  20. vv-5.5

    dani-7.5.good energy,some nice cross.but i think we have lost a little of him since messi moved in the false 9 position.the link up between him and messi is awesome sometimes.(though irrelevant in this match)

    pique-9.motm.simple as that

    puyol-8.keep simao at his pocket.

    max-6.5.solid display nothing xtraordinary.sent a poor cross across david de gea,if that cross is better i think villa would have scred.(i used would have coz of villas impotency 2day)

    busi-7.played in the centre of the defence.good display.a busi moment as usual but he cleared it (2 me in front of VV he should be less adventurous with the ball,he keeps the ball way 2 long time).forlan didnt have a sniff.

    xavi-7.5.keep things simple(whiche he always does)

    ini-7.nice link with max and xavi.could have done better though IMO.

    mess-7.5(messi standard).simple but quite a hard goal 2 score.gr8 pass for DV for 2 times.some typical messi runs.(my personal fav is in the 2nd half,when he loose the ball,track back reyes for 35 m,then a beautiful slide tackle that i think maldini would be proud of).was tired in the 2nd half.

    pedro-6.5.gr8 assist.good energy,first touch is horrible(ashamed 2 write this fr a barca player)

    villa-3.missed 2 sitters(hit the post when he should put the ball into the net).and still offside that freaks me sometimes.

    keita-5,simple things 2 do which he did.

    masch-10.i loved the retribution.(i m not a sadistic person,but masches foul clearly meant this one is for messi,nothing personal).

    bojan-0.coz no time 2 play

  21. Villa a 2??? That’s a bit harsh, bro, I would have given him a 4 just for keeping Atleti on their toes. Hopefully he will improve as has been missing too many chances since joining Barça.

    As for Leo’s injury and Ufahlusi (or whatever his name is) I hope he recovers soon. Being the best dribbler in the world, these kind of fouls will always be committed on him. We have to live it, and more importantly, so does he.

  22. Surprisingly positive review, Kxevin! I was sure you would somehow find a way to give Bojan a zero even though he only played for a single minute. 😉

    Although I’m a big fan of Villa, I can’t disagree with your rating of him this time. He played like ass. The thing is, he knew it, too, and he was getting more and more frustrated. He demands a lot of himself, and he is not going to be satisfied with his performance at all. I look forward to seeing how he plays without Messi on the field, as this will allow him to play as a Central Forward, his preferred position. He is going to be absolutely vital for us in the next few games.

    My MOTM is De Gea, he was absolutely brilliant! Oh. You mean, one of ours? Then I pick Pique, although it just as well could be Puyol. They were both immense at the back. I’ll give Pique the nod for his goal. He said that he controlled it with his chest because the sun was in his eyes, which makes it all the more admirable. Grande Pique. He even managed not to get hit in the face, to the relief of fangirls around the world.

    Latest word from the official site is that Messi will be out for “at least two games.” Which doesn’t sound so bad, really. Even if he is out for 3 or 4, it could have been so much worse. As Pep said, “He just wants to play.”

    1. I think Villa did not only get frustrated, but also obsessed with scoring, thus not looking out for his team-mates (Messi, for instance) in several situations. It was really a bad performance, pretty much with all the negative aspects for which Ibra has been criticized in the latter stages of last season…

    2. Agree, except that while Ibra was static on the field, Villa was moving all over the place. Unfortunately, he had terrible communication with the rest of his team and usually managed to move exactly where they didn’t want him to be. The most egregious example of this is the failed pass from Dani Alves. Dani had the ball on the right and made a short pass expecting Villa to run forward onto it. Instead Villa ran away toward the goal, expecting that Dani would intercept him with the pass instead of the other way around. Result: ball lands in dead space to be picked up by the other team, and Dani gives Villa a bollocking.

  23. Ha I was overly impressed with Masch standing up for Messi so quickly after joining team but then I remembered the Argentina connection…

    Still nice to see.

  24. Hi Kxevin, my first comment in this blog. I’ve actually been following this blog for a while thought I don’t comment.

    I just want to say I don’t quite agree with your ratings of Villa which is way too hash. Perhaps not outstanding in this match but should have been a passing average 5 or 6. He managed to penetrate Atletico’s defences and has several on target shots that could have scored but denied by great goalkeeping from De Gea.

    He’s still new and take time to improve communication with his teammates.

    1. lol, i don’t think Kxevin believes in giving 5’s…If he feels someone played bad it is an automatic 0, 1 or 2 lol. More important than the rating (cause let’s be honest it is impossible to agree on each and every rating) is his analysis,

      “Awful today. From the offside calls and static play, to not moving to passes to missed chance after missed chance, this is match that he will want to forget as soon as possible. We can only hope that his slow start means a fast finish.”

      which I pretty much always agree with. Kxev I am somewhat surprised that you always criticize Villa for his “static” play, which is something that escapes my eye. Then again I rarely have the chance to watch the match a 2nd time like you do – next time that I do I will pay attention.

    2. I agree! I see Villa constantly moving, albeit to the wrong locations in this particular game (see my comment above). Not static at all.

    3. I am rewatching it slowly up to 70 minutes, and I have to agree, Villa is not as active as the impression he left you. Most of the time he is just waiting up front, I only saw him come back to midfield less than 4 times, and if that’s not static, I don’t know what is.

      It escapes your eyes, Lev, because you just have to pay attention to find out. People only remember his scoring chances and how those thru ball find him, but most of the time, those chances are created by a combination of good movement and good positioning. I agree, he somehow found himself open and I’d love to see more because that’s how Eto’o managed to score for us too. But Villa needs more work and right now he is not working hard to defend which is part of the team requirements too.

  25. Wow, Kxevin, of all sites/blogs I visit, you are the most professional and dedicated. The reviews are prompt and dependable…Isaiahs previews too. Thanks for that.

    Masch getting two yellow cards in two games is a cause for concern. Fouling as a retaliation wasn’t useful in this situation. I would have liked to see someone…anyone getting all up in Ujfalusi’s face and letting him know what they think of what he did. No one did.

    As far as Villa, hope he improves soon. But I’ve said before, I like strikers who constantly put themselves in dangerous positions to score. All strikers miss. But taking 4/5 shots that could have gone in is very good. And yes, he may have a longer leash…because he is replacing 16 goals in the Liga, thats not hard for Villa to do.

    Messi’s injury was horrible. Ujfalusi should be suspended for a long time. But the silver lining is that Messi may now learn that sometimes Pep needs to sub him purely for protection in some games. Messi sulks alot when pulled out, but now he may see the larger picture, not just more goal scoring chances.

    1. Villa also has a longer leash because his price tag and salary were not as high as Ibra’s. It is no good being the most expensive and 2nd highest paid player on the team when in reality you are the 4th best – at best.

      Also, and perhaps more importantly, Villa’s attitude is better – we know he will do his best to adapt to Barça whereas it seems clear now that Ibra expected Barça to adapt to him.

    2. I think the issue here is that it was difficult to see during play that Ujfalusi wasn’t going for the ball….
      Also, when a ref hands another player a straight red, no hesitation, there is nothing constructive you can add that can’t wait until after the final whistle.

    3. Patrick, I would react simply based on how Messi rolled and clutched his leg. Messi never over dramatizes, so when he does that, you bet it’s serious. About getting in Ujfalusi’s face, it’s not supposed to be constructive. It’s supposed to let him know that wasn’t cool. I wouldn’t be against sending him to the locker room with a little shove and a kick to his shin while hidden from the ref. 🙂

    4. lol Bill you correctly pointed out that Masch fouling in retaliation was not smart, I remember regretting that Ujfalusi was already sent off when I saw that foul – I know I am going against the overall class of visitors on this here beloved website, but in this case I would have cheered loudly had he went studs out straight for Ujfalusi’s knee cap.

    5. haha, me too. I think something shouldve been done directly to Ujfalusi, but he was leaving, hence the need to get all up in his face. Getting a yellow for kicking someone else is pointless.

    6. Bill,
      First, the seriousness of an injury (result) is a poor indication of the mental state of the fouler (mens rea, if you will). Many a non-reckless or intentional foul results in horrible injury, it is the nature of the game. Thus, simply because Messi was hurt is a poor reason for another player to think Ujk committed as terrible a foul as he did.

      Second, constructive was a poor word choice. Lets put it simply: getting in someone’s face at that point can be a dumb way to get a yellow for unsporting conduct. As I tell the refs I train, and the teams themselves in the pre-season lecture “they did it first” is not an excuse for unsporting conduct in the laws. Here, because of point one I made, it would seem even dumber to an average Barca fan.

      Third, “a little shove and a kick to his shin while hidden from the ref” is something that is just as abhorrent to me as the actual foul on Messi. It deserves a red if caught, and a long suspension / fine by the league regardless of how it is disciplined on field.

  26. A bit off topic and to lighten the mood a bit but our boy Pique sure has good taste if its true:


  27. Kxevin starts at a 0 and works up with ratings. Do you really think Villa worked his way up to a 5?

    He’s been disappointing, and I didn’t think the gel period would take so long. I guess I’m the only one who thought Maxwell didn’t have THAT good a game yesterday.

    Also, Reyes is a flop machine, and the Pathetico fans and their wanting 5-6 penalties was pretty annoying.

    I also think I’m the only one that saw nothing wrong with Falusi’s tackle..until I saw that picture. I didn’t think there was intent, but man it looks like it now. It was nasty. He didn’t even go check to see if he was okay!

  28. Messi’s injury aside, what was the biggest take away message for me in yesterday’s match was that Barca won away in that house of horrors while still not being in top form.

    Barca played well but they also played like what they are – a team that plays a complex, interconnected system that is still very early in their season.

    Atleti due to their schedule and fewer internationals playing matches is further along in their preparation and game play form than Barca. And they are a very good team with a quite a bit of talent.

    Any time you can take a result against a talented team away, especially in a place like that stadium you have to be happy. But to me Barca still looks like what they are – a team that’s playing relatively early in the season and still not fully coordinated and together. They still aren’t as crisp and composed as they usually are and will be.

    And by lack of composure what I mean is that they are playing in a slightly different way this season than they were last. And the team needs to grow together to figure out how they are going to play now. It’s not huge adjustments – but it’s things like how best to play with Villa. How engage in offense-defense transitions if the wingers are going to push up high all of the time. If Messi’s going to play a false 9 how do he and Xavi share space?

    Despite the team still not being fully cohesive, they outplayed Atleti and took a result against at the Calderon. That’s a very good sign for the ultimate potential for this team when it is cohesive and in top form.

  29. I think Atletico was successful against us in the past because of their willingness to attack us and leave spaces in the back. And with glittering eyes, we always took the bait and counter-attacked. The adrenaline started to rush, and it became a fun back and forth game. When it worked for us, we would pump 6 goals past them. When it didn’t, we lost complete control of the game and they would pump 4 past us.

    For whatever reason, either we learned our lesson or we had too much at stake because of the hercules loss, we just didn’t take the bait. And the result was completely nullyfying their threat.

    1. It’s true–I forgot Diego Forlan was even on the pitch for long stretches at a time! Thet’s all down to our backfield focussing on their jobs.

  30. “Kxevin starts at a 0 and works up with ratings. Do you really think Villa worked his way up to a 5?”

    Mmm yeah possibly. Like I said I didn’t watch the game twice like our reviewer does, and the first view is intertwined with more emotion than analysis. While I agree with Kxev that he was often offside and at times moved contrary to where he should have moved, his movement was still good enough to receive at least 2 one-on-ones with the (outstanding) keeper, along with putting himself in a couple of other threatening positions one of which a wide open header. Now that I think of it, I don’t remember a game in which Ibra put himself in a position to score this often. His finishing left a lot to be desired, though, something which I commented earlier has been the case since he joined us. His passing was decent, though not spectacular.
    The only thing that upset me about his game was when he overlooked passing to a wide open Messi in the 2nd half, preferring to blast it over with his left foot. Had he passed that ball I might have given him a 6. As it stands I would give him a 4 or a 5 – a rating which in my mind is pretty poor. To receive a 2 he would have had to have constantly lose the ball, never pose a threat, etc. etc. etc. A 2 to me is piss poor, but that’s just my interpretation of ratings.

    1. The pass to P! comes to mind. He was one on one, and while P! was open, either fancy the chance for yourself or make a better pass! It was bad, and drew him out wide and the attack broke down.

      Sure he did get open for a few one on ones.. but what good are they if nothing comes from them? He hit the post one on one and passed wide on another.

    2. Look, Villa was shit. As cliveee noted above, when you watch the match, it’s apparent. The same standing around waiting for the ball that people were savaging Ibrahimovic for, Villa is getting a pass for. He isn’t flitting back to midfield for link-up and control play as Ibrahimovic did, and he isn’t tracking back as Ibrahimovic started to do.

      Now he’s new with us, and it is expected that he will take some time to mesh with the side. But what I mean with my long rope comments, is that Ibrahimovic got a rope that was about 2 millimeters long. The instant he wasn’t amazing, people were all over his ass. So apply the same standard to Villa.

      “Ibra misses too many sitters.” Apply the same standard. I do. If you’re shit, you’re going to get it, whether you’re Messi, Krkic, Xavi or Iniesta.

      Now, we can have a broader discussion about a striker’s job in our system, but I don’t think that it is to stand around, wait for the ball, make a run then miss the clear chance at goal. Henry did that and he didn’t get any love for it either, if you will recall.

      You can see people talking to Villa on the pitch, telling where he should have been and what he should have done. That’s cool. It’s the only way he’s going to learn, and he does indeed have a lotta lotta to learn. Most importantly, he has to work a lot harder. I want to see him, as poipoi once said of Henry, with a sweat-soaked shirt for once.

    3. thats why memory is sometimes selective and not dependable. Watch the away leg (1st leg) against Arsenal in last season CL. Ibra scored a brace, created chances and almost bag a hattrick.

    4. That’s it! cliveee gets to be the first guest reviewer! And I’m only partly kidding. I think that we should, and are going to open up the occasional review to a new voice. So if you’re interested, just drop us a note via, and we’ll see what comes of it.

      Oh, and cliveee is spot on.

    5. what?! to be writing in the same space as Isaiah, SoMa, you and other talents? Is it a dream?

      I will have to wait until you get very busy and can’t squeeze time or feel too frustrated by fans rants.

  31. De Gea vs us

    To be able to force Asenjo out of the first team, dude can’t be bad. He is a future Spanish #1 keeper contender.

  32. “To be able to force Asenjo out of the first team, dude can’t be bad. He is a future Spanish #1 keeper contender.”

    The moment that really, really impressed me on De Gea was his stop of that break Messi had towards the end of the game.

    De Gea is 19 but clearly he’s been studying his opponent. When Messi cleared on that run with the ball and approached the goal, the first thing De Gea did was to stand tall and make himself as “large” as possible by picking up his arms.

    Messi has been using that soft chip to beat keepers over and over this season.

    I think the reason why Messi missed that shot outside of being tired was that he wanted to use the chip again. But De Gea surprised Messi – rather than going down for the shot he made himself suddenly tall instead and took away the chip. That delayed Messi’s decision making for a second and allowed De Gea to interrupt a quality shot from being made.

    De Gea’s athleticism and reflexes speak for themselves. Couple that with the kind of poise and tactical intelligence he demonstrated in that moment to take the chip away from Messi – that’s impressive stuff.

    He has the look of being a major force in football both at the club and country levels.

    1. I just think that Messi was tired. He had about 4 different shots at his disposal: smoking it past him on the near side, a curler to the far side, a nutmeg (tried a half-assed one) or the chip. I just think that a less-tired Messi has De Gea dead to rights, and finishes the job.

      De Gea had a hell of a match, no question. Full credit.

    2. I think Euler nailed down the very important facts about goalkeeping in one-on-ones.

      De Gea made very careful decisions and reactions when facing Messi alone, one of the most important one is that he did not commit himself early.

      Vividly remembering the last season against Atletico in our house, keeper got dummied on the ground by Messi to give Messi an empty net to hit. Part of the reason is that Messi wasn’t as tired as yesterday, but also the keeper made the mistake of committing himself too easily.

      De Gea also kept a reasonable distance from the goal to make chipping a risky option for Messi. That’s why Messi hesitated, and then he slowly moved forward, closed down shooting angles, and more importantly, close the space between the legs. Messi found himself too close to De Gea because of all the factors combined. In my opinion, a Messi with fresh leg and mind would have made the decision way earlier to avoid being too late or too close to keeper.

      Didn’t look De Gea’s info! 19! Holy Cow!

  33. Ah, I can finally see the background picture! Now, I shall try to find myself…

    I’ll let you guys know if I do and hopefully thats before 2012.

    1. Yeah! You can “find” me at the lowest rightest-most corner with last season’s away jersey next to a barca poster and a Barca doll.

  34. Valencia plays Atletico Madrid on Wednesday. Am I alone in hoping that Valencia thrashes the living daylights out of AM?

    Also, I would like to go on record to predict that if the news about Iniesta becoming a father are true, and if it is a boy, he will be named Daniel. You heard it here first. 🙂

    1. In memory of Daniel ‘Dani’ Jarque.
      I for myself am not quite sure if naming my own child after my deceased best friend would be a good idea… too much memories perhaps?!?

  35. C’est vrai, mes amis: Iniesta’s gotta be a daddy!


    I giggle whenever I think about what he’ll say in his post-baby birth interview:

    “So, Andres. Congrats on becoming a father. How do you feel?”

    “I’m very happy and proud [to become a father.] It’s wonderful”

    “What’s your baby’s name?”

    “Well, we thought about it and it took a while to decide on one, to be honest. We wanted a creative name, but nothing too crazy. I think we picked the perfect name”

    “What did you and your partner settle on?”


    1. OK, I went to Iniesta’s website, and sometime when I wasn’t looking, it became AWESOME. He must have had some people working on it since the World Cup. From the “Loading robot gif” to the picture of him brushing his teeth to the 9-minute tour of Fuentabilla, it is the most adorably naive website I have ever seen. He thanks his lawyer, for goodness’ sake!

      “I hope you enjoy its contents!”

      This pretty much made my day (and it’s been a tough one).

  36. By the by, I think Bojangles could develop into a pretty badass second striker. Watching the Panathinaikos match again and his reverse pass to Messi was a beauty. By himself, unless he’s a tall and strong (Ibra/Torres) or a freak (Messi), he’ll have some trouble being a CF for Barca.

    That being said, I’ll continue support him and maintain my belief that he can make the grade here. He has a penchant for scoring in San Mames and against Athletic Bilbao in general. C’mon Cuddly! (I mention the Saturday match because I firmly believe we should brush Sporting aside at the Camp Nou. Basque Country scares me.)

    1. Bojan scored in our opening game of La Liga last season against Gijon .. Hope He does it again .. I believe he only needs a goal to get him started and maintain some confidence and go with the momentum ..

  37. Soccernet is saying messi will only be out two games, I would hold him out 3-4 to be, safe. Our Physios are bomb titties but you dont want to risk any player, especially messi coming back to early.

  38. After Henry’s accidentally Injuring The Goalkeeper .. MLS Fines, Not Suspends, New York Red Bulls Striker Thierry Henry

  39. I think Messi will be either a second half sub/subbed out after second half against Mallorca. I don’t think he will travel to Russia either.

  40. Hey guys I’ve noticed that since 2005 the Champions League has had a similar pattern to which club in a league will win it.

    Since 2005 the winners based on country has followed this pattern- English Club,Spanish Club,Italian club and then repeats that cycle.

    Based on that- Liverpool won it on 05,Barca in 06, Milan in 07,Man U in 08, Barca again in 09, and then Inter in 10. Following this pattern an English club is due to win it this time around. and restart the cycle…..unless we change that of course.

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