Barca 1, Shakhtar 0, “Champions of European Champions” edition (edit)

puyoluefa

This one took some time, folks, not only for our beloved Barca, but for me.

For them, the reasons were obvious: We came up against a side with next to no interest in playing football today. Their sole aim was to stymie our attacks, clog the midfield, have at least 5 men in the box and jam up the passing lanes. And, if a counterattack opportunity presented itself, they would be happy to take it.

Welcome to what we’re going to be seeing for most of 2010, so get used to more 1-0 or 2-1 wins, rather than 5-0 blowouts.

The picture that you see here is the epitome of truth and justice. The captain of the best team on the night is hoisting the trophy. It’s also a picture of my Man of the Match, Carles Puyol.

I can hear it now: “New site and already, Kxevin’s out of his mind.”

Whatever. Man of the Match is man of the match. The whole match. Other players (except for Abidal) came and went, going through periods of ineffectiveness, playing with the knowledge of a Monday Liga match, or a World Cup qualifier.

But from moment one of this match, Captain Caveman played as he always does, as if this were the last minute of the last match of the last season of the last year of humanity on the planet. His effort was constant, he was almost always in the right place at the right time, and the one error that he made, a wayward pass that became a Shakhtar break, he broke up inside the box.

On set pieces he lived up to his name of “Air” Puyol, leaping like a crazy man even late, late into regulation time, doing the Captain’s armband proud. For me, MOTM was a no-brainer. Even late, late into the extra time that was necessary to seal this deal, Puyol was playing as if daisy-fresh.

Guardiola rolled out with some semblance of our best lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Messi, Henry, Ibrahmovic. But what we saw is that in this game that we all love so, a determined defense can hold the best offense. Would Shakhtar have been able to hold us back two months from now, when everyone is clicking and at full fitness? No. But you also saw why the UEFA Cup winners had a slight edge in the overall competition, before we evened things up: While the Champions League winner is resting, the UEFA Cup winner is playing football. Shakhtar were fit, fitter than us, and it showed in their energy and industry.

Thankfully, they used that effort for evil, rather than good (in the playing football sense). We had the lion’s share of possession, epitomized in a statistic: At the 70th minute, we had completed 421 passes, to their 178. But if you don’t have the ball, you can’t beat us. Before anyone snarks about “anti-football,” they looked dangerous on the counter a number of times, and a coach will play the match that he has to play, so that his side has the best shot at winning.

And I’m not sure what they were playing for (penalties?), on a field that looked more like a neglected secondary pitch of a local high school, than a pitch upon which a world-class match should be contested, but I was never lacking for confidence that we would win. And so we did.

Recall that in the LiveBlog I observed that a moment of individual brilliance would be needed to win this one, because our team football was sorely lacking. Enter Pedro!

He charged at the defense, doing what he does oh, so well as Messi’s Mini-Me. His charge drew the attention of the defenders, as they moved to shut him down. This opened space for him to slide the ball to Messi, who was immediately surrounded by 5 defenders, including “Damn, that was weird” Chygnasty.

Messi controlled for an instant, and in that miniscule time span a number of things happened:

–Pedro! made the kind of diagonal run that just begs for a pass.
–The 5 defenders settled in on Messi, sure that he would do what he had been doing, which was dribble and shoot.
–The keeper made this same error, shading toward Messi.
–The 6th defender has to stay put to keep Alves honest, allowing space for P! to run into.

So when Messi controlled the ball, paused for that split second then slotted a beautiful, perfectly weighted pass for P!, the keeper was leaning the wrong way. Why? Because Messi continued his run into the box, which meant that the keeper had to guess that P! would slot it back to Messi, who would put the knife in.

Instead, Pedro! saw the lean and slid a beautiful shot past the keeper (who was helpless, really). And that was that, because except for a preternaturally stupid Busquets giveaway with less than a minute left that resulted in a long shot on Valdes, Shakhtar were not going to get that goal back. They began the day knowing that their best chance was in the penalty shot phase, and they played like it.

And still, we won.

So why the hell did this take so long?

Well, in part you can blame my making a 30+pound mountain bike travel 30 miles in about an hour and 15 minutes. Ouch! My check was cashed when I got home. Yours would be, too, so shut it.

But mostly it was because opinions on our various players were so galvanized in the aftermath of this match that I (however briefly) doubted myself and my own evaluations that were formed in the eye of a blurry, intermittent Web feed, and borne out by a viewing of the match.

So I watched it again, and still nothing changed. So off we go.

Don’t forget that this is still pre-season for our lads, and that our main striker is coming off surgery for a hand injury that has made him late, late, for a very important date. He will integrate into this club in a way that will make jaws drop. He’s already much, much farther along than Henry was at the same point in his first season with us. Henry isn’t fit, either, by the by. Excuses? No. Just reality. People are expecting us to drop the ball and play exactly as we did at the end of last season, in the CL final. Need I remind everyone that last year’s club began the season with a loss and a draw, and had to be more on-form because it had to play its way into Champions League group stages?

Just checking.

But most importantly, the club was collectively off in this match, in part because of the efforts of Shakhtar but in part because they haven’t really played competitive football. Bilbao rolled out a second-class side that didn’t really test us. We played Gamper at about half-speed. The pre-season friendlies probably weren’t even as hard as our practices. So. Not bad for our first real match of the season, because even though the side wasn’t at maximum effectiveness, we still played our game, which is you can’t beat us if you don’t have the ball. Guardiola didn’t look that nervous because he knew this, that Shakhtar were playing as hard as they were going to, and they still couldn’t even get the ball from us, unless we gave it to them.

We got the diet of the Barca Rules: packed midfield, packed box, tight marking on Xavi. It explains the emergence of The Yaya as an offensive force, and will make Piquenbauer blossom even more this season. And it won’t happen very much this season, but imagine a defense of Chynasty and Pique, flanked by Alves and Maxwell. That back line is as potent as most midfields!

As with the Chicago Bulls and the Jordan Rules (allow Michael Jordan to score his 30+, but don’t let the other guys beat you), we will adapt to the Barca Rules. Movement on and off the ball will be even more crucial, and dynamic wing play will be more important than ever, which makes me happy about a bit of news lurking at the bottom of this match evaluation.

And with that, the ratings:

Team: 5. They will improve, but the midfield pressure wasn’t there, nor was the one-touch game that opens up a determined side such as Shakhtar. Some was because of the crap pitch, some was just because it’s early days.

Guardiola: 8. The right starting XI, and the right substitutions, though I would have subbed Monument instead of Busquets. Youth and energy turned this match. But his short squad might bite him in the butt.

Valdes: 6. Dude. Next time you want to watch a match, buy a ticket. He had nothing to do. So maybe it was being shocked that a ball came his way that resulted in that absurd bobble, right on the doorstep, of the long shot that was precipitated by Busquets’ stupidity. Still, I was a little puckered on that one.

Alves: 5. Solid on defense, but man, what the hell is up with his crosses? One still hasn’t dropped from the Monaco sky.

Pique: 8. Full-on Piquenbauer mode today, as he quickly figured out that Shakhtar weren’t going to attack, and the congested midfield meant that he had space to become the attack starter. And what a glorious bit of keepe-uppe in the first half, including a Seal Dribble, to thwart a Shakhtar defender and start the attack. Shame about the haircut, though.

Puyol: 9. One wayward pass kept him from perfection. The rest of my effusion is above. What a majestic match, to show the new kid, Chygnasty, how hard he is going to have to play to displace him. Inspired? Perhaps.

Abidal: 10. A perfect match, right down to his time-killing inteplays with Messi, late in the extra time. Tackles and interceptions, and very intelligent moving forward on offense, including a couple of crosses that deserved a better fate than rolling impotently, across the box. People who say that he needs to play more offense just didn’t realize the kind of match this was. Alves was way up the pitch. If Abidal gets caught up as well, we’re screwed. His forays happened when Alves was back. I can’t say enough about the way he played yesterday.

The Yaya: 9 Man-sized. He was all effort, control and industry. He showed too much of the ball at times. Whether due to overconfidence or the pitch, only he knows. Massive individual effort in the pursuit of the victory. He was subbed when it was clear, on the Shakhtar counter that developed right in his face, that he was hammered.

Keita: 8. What a strong match, from sensing when to attack and when to defend, to intelligent passes (including one for Henry that was thisclose). This is the Keita that we signed, and it’s good to see him. I thought he could have shot long more (well, at all).

Xavi: 6. He’s been better, but he’ll never be worse, which is good. But his giveaways were uncharacteristic, and while his possession game was mostly right, his offensive game just wasn’t there. He usually sees the field better. Some of the blame goes to the attackers, who weren’t making themselves available in the right spots.

Henry: 7. People were ripping on Henry after this match and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. From tracking back on defense, to making passes, to shifting to the center when Ibrahimovic came out, his effort and scoring mindset were constant. Very good long-range effort that forced a save from the Shakhtar keeper, as well. It’s okay to dislike Henry, but you can’t fault him for the match that he played yesterday. He had his usual “soft” giveaways, but that he didn’t have more shot attempts is the fault of his service.

Ibrahimovic: 7. Again, people were all over BANGS, calling him lazy, saying now we see why Inter sold him, blah, blah, blah. But did you see him running up the pitch to break up attacks and harass defenders into bad passes out of the back. Did you see him running onto balls, chasing down long passes intended for him and trying anything to get balls into a danger position, including a crazy lob pass for Henry that I still don’t know how he got over the defense. Henry’s bicycle attempt was unfortunate, but the kind of effort he turned in, without full match fitness and still with a healing hand, can’t be faulted. Expectations are immense. But he isn’t shit if he doesn’t score 4 goals and notch 2 assists. Give him time.

Messi: 9. He didn’t play a whole match, but he was a constant danger. He intelligently held back when BANGS and Henry were roaming the box, sensing that they needed space to do their thing. But when Ibra came off and Henry moved to the center, Messi sprang into action. He picked the club up and put its offense on his back. All it needed was the effort of Pedro! to seal the deal. He was also very smart, in that he knew this would be a long one, and he should save his effort. He did, which also accounts for his being quiet early, and was able to play fresh in the late stages.

Substitutes

Pedro! (for Ibrahimovic): 8. What an impact player. His pace and movement, coupled with energy and ball skills made scoring only a matter of time. He and Messi are quite the danger tandem. And don’t underestimate his awareness in reading the keeper and taking the shot instead of trying for the dish. And I think that he earned the penalty, he just shouldn’t have tried to sell it so hard. But he clearly got Malachi Crunched by the Shakhtar defenders.

Krkic (for Henry): 6. Instant danger, then tailed off. His confidence appears to be growing. That run that he made, even though the shot didn’t have a chance, was exceptional.

Busquets (for The Yaya): 3. Played way too soft for what his role should have been. It’s why I would have preferred Monument in that situation, because he doesn’t screw around with the ball, then flop as Busquets does. He should have kept the ball moving on that late-match giveaway. If any Shakhtar attackers are in place, that’s a jailbreak going the wrong way. Man the hell up. The ref hadn’t been calling those fouls all match. He wasn’t going to start then.

And finally, look at the odd emotions on Chygnasty’s face in this picture. I mean, his club lost, but the club that he’s going to has just won its 5th trophy in 12 months. It’s very funny.

chyggy

A few more thoughts:

–Speaking of Chygnasty, he looked like a 25m defender to me, all match long. Hell, I almost wish he wasn’t as good as he broke up attack after attack, calmly controlling the ball and knocking off a long pass to start a Shakhtar non-attack. His positioning is already top-notch, and he is physical without being reckless. His performance, and the sudden realization that he’s our player now, was one of the delights of this match.

–We have, right now, the best club in the world. The match fitness will come, the one-touch game will return and the movement off the ball that creates passing lanes will rear its head. Naysayers should just calm down. Some Barca sites are already branding Ibrahimovic a failure in the comments spaces. Wow.

–More encouraging news came in the way we defended aganst Shakhtar’s set pieces. There seems to be less zone marking and more “Oh, there’s the ball” marking. Big difference.

In other news:

Contratulations to Jeffren, who will be staying up with the first team says EMD. Final Fantasy will get the chance to turn some real matches, and I’m sure that he will. He will be on pins and needles in the January transfer window. I don’t think it’s a full-on promotion, but he has until January to show why he should stay. Let’s wish him well.

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Written by:

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

188 Comments

  1. OhYes
    August 30, 2009

    GolTV has those Liga weekend recaps that are really nice. Forgot what’s it’s called, though. Used to watch it all the time.

    And yeah their news programs are so much better than anything else. Stick to them and skip fox for now.

  2. August 30, 2009

    the monument is leaving for monaco. henrique for santander (they do need some defenders, don’t they?). then, i am happy robinho won’t be coming. did we really offer 40 millions? for the bicycle guy? 😛

  3. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    BTW kids, the game tomorrow will be viewed by me on ESPN HD! i will see sweat beads drop from Ibra’s head in high-f’ng-definition. YES!, maybe if we look close enough, we can see an Energy Aura emanating from the YAYA

  4. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    speaking of… I’m sure Isaiah is cooking up a nice Preview.

  5. Eduard
    August 30, 2009

    i can’t find tommorrow’s game anywhere in the programming

  6. jnelson
    August 30, 2009

    FSC SUCKS!!!! after all the year old EXPIRED lineups, poor commentary, poor equipment, and poor well EVERYTHING, i am surprised anyone puts up with that ish…just saying

  7. jnelson
    August 30, 2009

    so the game will be on ESPNHD but not ESPN??

  8. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    its gonna be on both jnelson. ESPN and ESPNHD have identical programming.

    @ Edward. I have Cox Communications Digital Cable, and my guide has
    “Futbol Espanol: Barcelona vs. Sporting Gijon” from 12:55pm-3:00pm

    (this is Pacific aka San Deigo time, of course)

  9. Eduard
    August 30, 2009

    I have brighthouse networks and they don’t have Barca, instead its MLB baseball and for espn2 they have little league baseball…grrrr

  10. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    What time zone are you in?

  11. jnelson
    August 30, 2009

    ok thanks jason

  12. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    //http://sports.espn.go.com/espntv/espnGuide//

    try this, independent of any cable packages, this is ESPN’s broadcast schedule for all of their channels.

    Like my box says, the site tells me that on ESPN and ESPN HD, will show it at 1pm PST

  13. Eduard
    August 30, 2009

    eastern time, i live in Orlando

  14. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    it should be at 4 pm then, i think. definitely try the above site, and look for ESPN at 4pm EST

  15. August 30, 2009

    Hello Ish and Kevin. I finally made it over to your blog! It only took me three weeks or so…

    Anyways, great job so far with the site, it looks pretty good for starters. Im thinking of a move as I had told you earlier, so I might shoot you an email later to see what your set up here was. You know, domain name cost, Blogger page layout, AdSense account working or not, stuff like that.

    Good luck on the season too. No pressure or anything.

    Corey

  16. Corrine
    August 30, 2009

    uggggh TSN canada used to get ESPN’s coverage of the CL, but we’re not getting any of the PL or La Liga rights. we also can’t get FSC, just fox soccer world

    btw, and i the only canadian regular in here? i seem to be the only one ever whining about this haha

  17. August 30, 2009

    poipoi-
    I honestly was not referring to anybody in particular although your Henry hate does puzzle me at times. Then again, everybody has their quirks and opinions. For instance, my Mascherano love is definitely debatable but I stick to it 😀 .

    I actually agree that we are a little short compared to other squads. I really do hope Pep learns from last season and rotates more, especially in the Copa games. Hopefully JDS and Thiago will get time. Just not in a final. They are talented as hell but just because they are canteranos doesn’t instantly mean they are better than any other squad players and won’t make typical rookie mistakes. It was Busquets who gave away the ball in the final minutes that almost went in for them. Sometimes it seems that the American football saying “the most popular quarterback is always the backup until he becomes the starter” can apply to fútbol.

    What annoyed me a little were people jumping to irrational conclusions and judgments after what in effect was our first real competitive game. Keita’s game seems polarizing and its something that is easily understandable because he is not flashy and doesn’t score load of goals although he did score 6 last season which is not bad for a squad midfielder. What he does is dirty work and for some type of games, having somebody like that is vital. He doesn’t make you dream like Iniesta but, who does? The pitch in that game was not meant for tiki taka. Look at how ineffective Xavi was. Every now and then you need a tactical option and Keita did great last game. He broke up attacks, recovered balls, and distributed to Abidal, Messi, and Henry, while also crashing the box. Iniesta is one of the best players in the world. However, even his characteristics need to be applied correctly to succeed. Sometimes you need a little Xavi-Andres tiki-taka but sometimes you need some Keita directness, physicality, and defense. No, that doesn’t make us an EPL team but it also doesn’t make us a purely finesse team either. It depends on the situation. I expect more Keita/Busi next to Xavi/Iniesta this season in order to keep our two midget geniuses as fit as possible. I hope to see Iniesta handling the four by himself more often to see how he compares to Xavi and to rest Xavi. It will be fun.

  18. Kxevin
    August 30, 2009

    Hector speaketh The Truth.

    What I’ve learned is that people will see in a match what they want to see. But the fact of the matter is that Shakhtar, a very good team (even without Brandao’s big ass) came out determined to clog the midfield, passing lanes and keep 5-7 men around the box. Yes, that is very difficult to score against. Yet we did. And won the match.

    Were we clicking the way that we will be in a month or two? No. But we had the lion’s share of possession, and if anybody looked to score, it was going to be us, precisely because we had the ball all the time.

    –Keita is a player that is easy to misjudge. I did, but you really have to watch him. Ramzi’s advocacy of him helped make me take a portion of a re-view and just watch Keita. The man is indefatigable, and provides a lot of defensive cover when fullbacks go on the offense. He really is a vital part of the machine.

    –As for the Henry hate, it isn’t going to go away. That’s fine. The only real answer that you can provide is 25 goals for us last season, and as many fouls taken as any back line player, which means that he’s also fighting for balls. He had the key goals in the 6-2 demolishing of the EE, a hat trick against Valencia, and a crucial away goal against Lyon. His “bad” first season still notched 16 goals for the colors.

    Pedro’s time will come, but I just can’t personally advocate replacing what Henry does with a canterano, or anybody else offered up right now, including Ribery. Pedro is talented. Immensely so. But have a look at Henry’s goals from last season, and ask yourself if Pedro could do that. Ask yourself if any of the people advocated could do that. Sure, you haters can still hate on him. That’s your right. But ask the question.

    You want some Robben? 5 goals last season in Liga and CL. We’re 20 short, and has he ever played defense?

    Wait. Mata is better than Henry. 13 goals in all competitions last year.

    Ribery? When he wasn’t being made to disappear against us, 14 goals in Bundesliga and Champions League. And watch that Bayern match for his work rate when he wasn’t on offense.

    Okay, now what? Where do the extra goals, the midfield pressure, the defensive tracking back and the pace come from? Just ask the question.

    But this is Henry’s last season in the colors. You read it here first. In part because the players have to work like dogs in the Guardiola system. But also in part because Barcelona fans are tough on their stars. Then, and only then, will we see how good he was (is). Until then, people will hate on him, and suggest that everyone from Mata to Robben to Robinho are suitable to replace him. Rock on.

    Still other people already have Ibrahimovic as a failure. After one truly competitive match. Nothing to say. Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

    Meanwhile….

    –Gudjohnsen to Monaco tomorrow. It’s a free transfer, but think of it as a 4 million transfer, in that we get his salary off the books. He’ll be paid 3m per by Monaco.

    –Henrique’s loan deal to Racing is done.

    –Guardiola called BS on the Robinho thing, saying that our squad is done until January, when something might be considered. Note that the “report” came from Marca, an EE-centric comic book.

  19. OhYes
    August 30, 2009

    “But this is Henry’s last season in the colors.”

    Sadly, I agree. Worse yet, I’m afraid his departure will prove beyond a doubt why he is so important to the potency of our attack.

    The whole Robinho thing was absolutely ridiculous. There were even reports that ManCity had rejected an offer for him from Barca. Just pure craziness. Why we’d need him..who knows.

  20. Tutomate
    August 30, 2009

    Jason, I do believe that the game won’t acutally be in HD, though it will be on ESPN HD. It doesn’t have the HD symbol on it like Sportscenter does.

    Hector-Kxevin: I’ve been saying the same thing since the end of the game. Basically there is no reason to panic, I thnk we need an extra offensive midfielder, like that one guy from stturgat, Hleb? Keita performance was a bit weird. After wat hing the game for the 3rd time, in segments, I can see what you say he did, Transitioning the ball after, recuperating it, from defense to offense. But what I didn’t like was what he did on the ball once the offense was set up. He held for too long as did others. In the game againts Bilabo at the Nou, he did what he did inthis game (trasitioning) but he was quick on the ball when on offense. 1,2’s with Maxwell and Henry and just move the ball fast. Bilut he didn’t do the same this game. Everyone was off for long periods of the game, including Messi and Xavi.

  21. ElShowDeJason
    August 30, 2009

    @Tutomate

    that sucks. i was excited about HD… 🙁 but whatever. ESPN Standard def is 100 times better than streaming.

    oh, and as far as Keita being a better outlet against Bilbao, i think in this board its been discussed that for some reason, unknown to anyone, Keita plays better with Maxwell than with Abidal.

    Nothing against any of the 3 players, but Keita and Maxwell just clicked since day one, and the passing fluency between them and Henry is evident whenever all three feature on the left.

  22. Kxevin
    August 30, 2009

    True, Tutomate. I think that people were allowed the luxury of time, and took advantage of it, unfortunately, rather than playing the 1-2s that break open determined defenses.

    But I’m sure they’ve already watched the video, and had their collective ‘I’ll be damned….” moment.

    And as I’ve said before, OhYes, I would have given Hleb (though it was impossible after his behavior/comments) one last season to make his stand. Had he just kept his mouth shut, he would still be here, and we could use him. Or someone like him.

    Now we get to see what the likes of JDS and Thiago can do.

  23. Tutomate
    August 30, 2009

    True Kxevin, I was willing to give him a chance his year but he seems to be one of those people that rarely speaks but when he does he jut says all the wrong things.

    Sorry to busrt your bubble Jason, but I felt the same way. 🙂

  24. August 30, 2009

    Sport just published a special on Chygnasty. It seems the guy is much more interesting than he seems at first glance:

    – His nicknames in Ukraine are : Dima, Chyryk, Chyga, and Jesus Christ because of the hair (seriously).

    – His favorite footballers after whom he tries to model himself are: Nesta, Larent Blanc, Hierro, and Silvestre. Oh yeah, he also like Juan Sebastian Verón so much that at one point they also called him Sebo. Guess that’s where he gets his passing from 😀 .

    – His favorite foods are his mother’s potatos as well as sushi and sashimi.

    – He’s never had a drop of alcohol in his life but loves Coca-Cola which is his favorite drink.

    – He is also supposedly a rather sophisticated individual who always had good grades and loves to read, listen to music, and watch movies. His favorite movie is “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

    If all this is accurate, Chygnasty seems like our type of guy and the type of person who can adapt himself to a vibrant city like Barcelona and learn the languages. Seems like a cool cat.

  25. OhYes
    August 30, 2009

    Me too…he had a bunch of good showings.. too bad he had absolutely no patience. 🙂

  26. jnelson
    August 30, 2009

    well said Kevin, but now you have us worried about life after Henry! I guess that means we have to sub the Kid on the wing more? then we’d be swapping high expectations for more high expectations. much pressure for a left wing, don’t you agree?

    I have a feeling abidal will be leaving next year or the year after as well. And what about Marquez and Milito? Every Mexican national I have ever spoken to has dissed their captain calling him a stoner and a Dbag. They don’t care much for his long passes either. Odd isn’t it?

  27. BA
    August 31, 2009

    Maxwell / Pique / Chygrynskiy / Dani Alves
    Keita / JDS / Busquets
    Bojan / Ibrahimovic / Pedro

    that look about right for tomorrow, in lieu of Messi and Iniesta and with the Yaya, Xavi and Henry probably feeling a bit tired from the Supercup? i worry about playing Xavi too much, as much as we need his dictation from midfield. it is imperative (doubly so in Iniesta’s absence) that we keep him healthy this season. Yaya and Henry were both subbed on Friday so that could mean either they are fit because they didn’t play as much (which probably seems a bit optimistic, particularly in Henry’s case), or aren’t fit because they were feeling fatigued towards the end of the match.

    i don’t mind that post getting hectored when Isaiah puts up the new one.

  28. Corrine
    August 31, 2009

    i don’t think the new guy will take a starting spot over our perfectly fit captain on the first league game though. i think pep will roll out a stronger team than that and if not, i’m not so sure about ibra playing without the backup of the first team boys. he needs to work on finding chemistry with players like henry, xavi and toure who’ll be playing by him for the whole season. it’s too early to experiment and combine him with players like JDS

  29. Jnice
    August 31, 2009

    Don’t think Dima will start over Puyol, either. Has he even trained with the squad? I don’t think so. We will definitely see our strongest available lineup. Look for Pedro! to get the start on the RW.

  30. Kxevin
    August 31, 2009

    I’m with Jnice. I think that Guardiola will want to start the season with a win. Guys can rest during the week off (except for Henry, who has France WC duty, damn that Dumbenech).

    We might see Chygnasty the second game as a sub or something.

    jnelson, the reactions of the Mexican fans are in their context, in which Marquez doesn’t show very well at all. But it’s also just what I said about players and fan perspectives. It’s inexplicable to me.

    Life without Henry is a real worry, as far as I’m concerned. You’re losing pace, defensive pace (ability to chase down any attack), goals, passing and creativity. Having a great striker adapt to being a winger is a luxury, because it means that he can also rotate to the center when required. And his passing/crossing is so underrated, as well as his unselfishness and amazing first touch.

    Krkic is not that replacement. I’m not even sure that Henry, when he leaves, can be replaced. But the pressure is going to be insane on whoever is his replacement.

    Names such as Robinho and Robben keep popping up, but the next day either of those guys tracks back on defense will be the first. Mata? Good question. Not based on what I saw during the Valencia match.

    It’s going to require a rethinking of the left wing, because Henry is, frankly, one of a kind in our attacking context. The pace and play of a winger with the abilities of a striker.

    There will be people who will be happy to see him gone. I’m not one of them.

    My lineup:

    —————————–Valdes———————————
    Alves————-Pique—————–Puyol———Maxwell
    —————The Yaya———————Keita—————-
    ——————————-Xavi———————————-
    Pedro!——————-Ibrahimovic—————–Henry—

    Keita will be better cover on counters than Busquets, who isn’t filling my heart with song these days.

  31. ElShowDeJason
    August 31, 2009

    Ok, time to start the Busi Fairness Comitee.

    The kid is 21. He is technically sound, no technically very able.

    If you notice the mistakes he makes, they are the results of his lapses in concentration, his inexperience, or other things that just come with age.

    Think back and look at Xavi or Iniesta. When they were just entering the A squad, their talent and ability where there. But its the gametime and experience that made them the Precise and Dynamic, respectively, players that they are today.

    Messi as well always had the Pace, the Dribbling, the passing technique. But through experience he learned when to run, when to dribble, when to pass, which pass to use.

    So again, Busi is younger than Pedro and FF, and last year Pep saw that his technique was good enough for the A-team, the only thing Busi needs is to keep watching the A-team to learn the mental part of the game, and to keep getting gametime, to turn actions in to habits, and habits into instincts.
    _______________

    whew… feels good to get that off my chest.

    now… Henry, yeah, what’s with the Henry hate? As i reformed Henry hater (I’ve been clean for about a year now), i think it’s safe to say that similar to Keita’s case, or Marquez’s case, if you think they suck, well, you’re just not understanding what their role on the team is. Or, like everyone of us is guilty of, you have a predjudice against or for certain players.

    I think, like with Messi, Eto’o, Valdes, Iniesta, Yaya, etc, WITHOUT HENRY WE DON’T WIN THE TREBLE. that simple.
    ___________________

    I think we are simply spoiled, and we as FCB fans have rediculous expectations of players. We have a bad rep for using up stars, then kicking them out through the back door, but honestly, that is not the Presidents’ fault. He is only acting on behalf of the socios, and too many of us are trigger happy with our white hanky.

    So, everyone lets all keep enjoying the Treble, the SuperCup(s) success, be optomistic, and stop singling out our own squad members and saying that they are bad.

  32. August 31, 2009

    Yes i think so too Kxevin, one gets the feeling Pep doesn’t want to lose the first match of the campaign again. the only difference in the starting lineup for me would be busquets who would play instead of toure (is carrying a knock i think).

  33. August 31, 2009

    does anyone know if they are showing tonight’s game on espnstar in india?

  34. yogi
    August 31, 2009

    I think that Pep will want to start with strongest line up as well. One thing i have noticed about Pep is that he wants to WIN, always. That is the reason why he does not make early subs. He wants the strongest line up for as much time as possible.

    In context of La Liga, we have to be quick out of the blocks. If we are slow, this will galvanize EE. If we do sprint out, it will be fun to see how EE bear up.

    About Henry, totally agreed that last year he was great. And replacing him would be a challange.

    Mata, Ribery (though he seems set on EE next season), Aguero or even Zarate could be considerations though getting them in our system will not be easy. I like the kid Angel di Maria from Benfica. Plays on left and has good dribbling skills. Also packs a mean shot. I have not seen him enough to comment on his defensive abilities. In addition, we seem to have first option on him (as a result for Kerrieson loan) so he could be potentially a target next year.

  35. fcbfan
    August 31, 2009

    Chygrynskiy’s wiki says he takes #20 at Barce.

    and didn’t realise he made his CL debut against us at 17 coming on as asub, same game where Messi debuted I think?

  36. Helge
    August 31, 2009

    By the way, I like the Catalan version of Chygrynskyy’s name:
    Txigrinski

    Just like Txiki and Kxevin 😉

    And thanks Hector for the summary of sport’s article about Chygnasty. It makes me think positive of his adaption to the team and new culture. I think he might adapt faster than Zlatan. But maybe that’s also because as a defender, it is easier to adapt than as a striker. I assume that Zlatan needs to learn a lot more about the movement, passing ways etc.

  37. Pranay
    August 31, 2009

    Pep supposedly said ” Messi is the best player I will see in my life ” or something like that.
    Thats so fanboyish of him 🙂

  38. August 31, 2009

    Sorry for the delay, folks, the preview is now up.

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