Zaragoza 0, Barca 2, aka “Controlled excellence”

I have a suggestion for one and all: Batten down the hatches, because it’s going to be a terse, tense season. The glory year, and lopsided shellackings that were over by halftime seem to have raised a degree of expectation that this current squad can’t meet for any number of reasons:

–Teams aren’t so stupid as to play us as they did that year.
–We were coming at them with Messi, Eto’o and Henry
–We were daisy-fresh that season, having won bog all the previous two
–We were fit, deep and injury-free

And that just isn’t the case this year, as witnessed by Real Zaragoza, who played what has become a typical match against us these days: defend like crazy and hope the counter catches our pokey back line out. This precludes gaudy scorelines, while also placing a premium on finishing. When a side has had a Champions League match the previous Wednesday and here it is Saturday in the Liga, it’s understandable that things aren’t going to be as sharp as they would customarily be, except….

we were razor-sharp against Zaragoza, but played so thoroughly within ourselves that we seemed to know exactly how much effort to expend, when to shift from second to third gear to keep the match under control. It was a lot more impressive a win than it looked via one eye cast at a Web feed, the other at the LiveBlog screen. Zaragoza never had a chance. Yes, Valdes made three saves, if you want to call them that, efforts that never really had a chance of going in. Against a better side, we are playing harder, and those shots don’t even happen.

Can this confidence bite us in the ass? Yep. It did against Hercules, and probably will again at some point this season, as we parcel out effort in a way that is cognizant of a loooong season that will be contested on three fronts, with what is essentially a 19-man roster. So I’m going to suggest, here and now, that before people get to panicking, and nattering about how we don’t look good, that they reserve those cries for a calmer, more controlled viewing. Because I thought we looked great, and perfectly in control. As Ray Ray said, when asked about critics of our club, and how things might not be going as well, or the goals not being cooperative, “You can’t do anything else. You keep believing in your team.”

Exactly.

Guardiola rolled out with our “best for the moment” lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Busquets, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro! and Villa. And Zaragoza, to their eternal credit, showed some early bravery, coming out to play the game the way it should be played, before gradually regressing into the traditional role of an opponent of ours. And we passed it around, made some runs, played into their hands a bit by not using the full width of the field (as we usually do), and just kind of did enough to make sure they didn’t score, while setting things up for a moment of brilliance which always, always seems to come.

Our first great scoring chance came off a true counterattack, a comparative rarity for us. Villa’s pass for P! took a slight deflection off a defender before getting to Pedro!, who still should have converted the chance. But just like that, we grabbed third gear.

Then Keita stole a ball and fed it directly to Villa, who was off to the races with Messi also storming up the pitch. He laid on an amazing diagonal ball that found Messi in on the keeper with pretty much everything to shoot at. Messi was unerring, and it was 0-1, match over. Ray Ray, who must read this blog and the scoffing that we did at his blather, even fixed his Messi analogy, saying “He’d follow you into a revolving door, and he’d come out first,” which is a damn sight better than “You can follow him into a revolving door, and he’ll come out first.” Ha!

The goal was created by three moments of individual brilliance, moments that you can argue a club shouldn’t be relying on to win matches. But I say that if you need to conserve energy, you pick your spots. Keita stole that ball through sheer positional excellence and talent, feeding Villa in an instant. Villa’s brilliance was in moving in a way that made it clear he was the man to stop, sliding laterally so that more space was opened up for Messi then, off the dead run, slotting a spectacular ball to Messi. Messi then controlled the ball as easily as breathing, in a way that gave him all the time in the world to decide what to do. And he did the right thing.

Then we went back to just controlling the match, keeping them from scoring without working too hard, only bothering to really clamp down when it looked as though they were going to be a real threat. The only flaw in that approach was a typical one, in the lack of real width. When we fixed that, the second goal came as P! took a pass and slid in an exquisite feed to Keita, who forced a strong play by the keeper. The ball fell to Iniesta, who tried to spank it in, to no avail. Then it fell to Messi, who made no mistake (again), smoking a shot that their keeper didn’t have a chance at. It was 2-0, and playing with 10 men as they were, still deciding to play for the win, or at least honor, they didn’t really have a shot in this race, and we played out the string for a cruise control win.

I won’t argue with anyone who suggests that’s the kind of complacency that will get us in trouble against a better side. It almost did against Valencia, then we turned on the full power, and they didn’t have a chance. But only rarely have we decided to show how good we are this season. And yet, signs are there, if you look closely enough. When Villa starts scoring, look out. I don’t think he is going to ever stop. And if you note our Guaje closely, you will notice a significantly diminished paunch, which I’m sure has a lot to do with the energy that found him tracking back on defense today, and getting into position to make amazing pass after amazing pass.

I do, however, still think that we are one player away from being unstoppable. I’ve said it before, but we need a traditional striker. I go back to an analysis of last season’s Valencia match, over at Zonal Marking, in which the second-half insertion of Thierry Henry was huge. A few excerpts:

Henry is far from a classic hold-up player, but today he was happy to receive the ball with his back to goal, and lay it off for the three other onrushing attacking players.

Henry was, of course, an immediate threat to the Valencia centre-backs, and the main beneficiary of this was Messi. When Messi was on his own upfront, he was their only problem. With Henry on as more of a physical presence and a more traditional striker, he was their most immediate concern. But the most immediate concern is not the same as the main danger – and this was where Messi came in. With a slightly freer role, he was able to come deep and pick up the ball, before running at the defence to devastating effect.

In the here and now, we have to rely on smoke and mirrors to create chances, because when one of our midgets stops with the ball a defender bundles him off it. We saw it time and again today, as we have time and again this season. What that traditional back-to-goal player does is allows the ball to stop, so that our Wee Ones can make runs. ZubiZa has already said that we aren’t going to make any purchases, though we might promote a player (cough!Thiago!cough!Thiago!). But if I could make any squad addition, that traditional striker is the one that I would make.

Now on with the points.

Team: 6. Played only as well as it had to play, resulting in a few moments of clunkiness, and one distressingly free header that was easily dealt with by Valdes. Our defense in depth, from end to end of the pitch, is a joy to watch.

Guardiola: 8. Right lineup, right subs, right decision to rest Xavi. He understood exactly what his club was doing, and watched the match like a hawk, even letting Alves have it when he ignored Krkic in favor of an offside Villa.

Valdes: 7. Good match today. The saves that he made were more positioning saves, that lesser keepers might have made more dramatic than Valdes did.

Alves: 4. I didn’t like his match today. He wasn’t really tested on defense, but offensively he was a beat off. Missing that chip toward a wide-open net was crazy, and another time he waited too long to shoot. This was in addition to generally poor crosses, and the aforementioned ignoring of a wide-open Krkic.

Pique: 6. Calm and controlled, from bringing the ball up to winning headers. He still doesn’t have that ultimate knowledge that allows him to coast, as evidenced by a few funky moments.

Puyol: 6. Solid as can be, but he is getting done for pace more easily and consistently these days, something he’ll need to watch more carefully.

Abidal: 8. Another excellent match from our French Greyhound, including moments where his control had to be perfect as he was surrounded by Zaragoza attackers, and it was. There were also some key interventions to prevent any real danger, and the usual cross or two that warranted a better fate.

Busquets: 6. Solid, though with a heaping helping of “Good Busi, Bad Busi.” There was one sequence in which he gave the ball away twice in the same sequence of play. Of course, then he makes up for it with excellent defense. I wanted to see him in more of a forward role, since Iniesta was on the wing and Xavi was watching.

Keita: 7. Kick-ass match again, from the steal that led to the first goal, to play after fine defensive play and storming the box. He’s so reliable, and seems to know how to do exactly what the side needs.

Iniesta: 7. Ghostface is back, and in full effect. I still don’t believe him to be a wing player, but he was all danger all the time today, with well-timed passes and something else worth noting: his high-risk game has been reined in, making him a more consistent threat.

Messi: 9. A Man of the Match performance that had him as a constant danger. He was razor-sharp today with the ball, as regards passing, shooting and control. He knew exactly when to destabilize with a run, and when to gut with a pass.

Pedro!: 5. He didn’t get a lot of help from teammates who were ignoring him on the wing, but pretty anonymous today.

Villa: 7. One of those Henryesque stat-stuffer matches in which he created space for teammates, made brilliant passes (he shoudl have had three assists!), tracked back on defense and generally raised hell. Even his shot that hit the post had the keeper beaten like a gong.

Substitutes

Thiago (for Iniesta): 7. Wow. We can’t lose this dude. From steals in the midfield to passes that were always to the right person with the right weight, he was wonderful. Witness his pass for the post-hitting Villa. It was timed just right, with the exact right amount of weight for Villa to get it quickly and take the shot. Wow.

Krkic (for Pedro!): 5. Would almost certainly have played to a higher rating. What an amazing play to rush back, play defense on one end, work the ball loose then be in the box, ready and available for Alves to ignore.

Mascherano (for Busquets): incomplete. Not enough time. He did some nice things while out there, but he only had a few minutes on the pitch.

So. I was getting in my car after picking up dinner this evening, and whacked my ear on the edge of the door/window. I can’t even begin to describe how much it hurt. I was checking for blood, and looking for the trainer with the magic bottle of water. Did Alves sell the hell out of that contact with the Zaragoza player, resulting in a straight red? Yep. How much is only for Alves to know, but me whacking my own ear kinda put things in perspective for me.

In some ways, I view such things as self-defense, as teams try to play us more physically in an effort to throw us off our game. There are little extra shoves and kicks, little things on and off the ball that the referees should be picking up, but don’t always. I am not a fan of diving, and the other stupid crap that the likes of Alves and Busquets sometimes do. But as someone noted in the LiveBlog, if the Villa flickpunch was a straight red, then so was this one. I wish we played in a world where such things weren’t necessary, but we don’t. And I will continue to have mixed feelings about such things, making case-by-case calls.

Next up is the Copa del Rey opener, on Tuesday. Expect to see a B-fest, as it should be for an away leg in a tournament that if our minds are right, we won’t really care about all that much. Then the next weekend is Sevilla, a match that we will care very much about, and one that should see a return to action for Xavi, yet one more reason that the emergence of Thiago is such a delight.

And until then, keep the faith, and believe in your team.

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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.

88 Comments

  1. Kari
    October 23, 2010

    “..as witnessed by Real Zaragoza, who played what has become a typical match against us these days: defend like crazy and hope the counter catches our pokey back line out.”

    Like what EE is doing to other teams this season? 😀

    I think teams playing like this will benefit us in the long run. So far teams have been playing us the same way, what I italicized above. At some point, we’ll figure them out like they figured us out.

    Then EE is f*cked.

    • fp
      October 24, 2010

      what an ignorant post Kari , who did the “EE” defend like crazy against and then counter attacked ? the team averages 65 percent of possession a game ( except for today since Racing had their fair share of the ball ) and outshoots every opponents it has faced while reducing those opponents to virtually no chance against them , i know you hate the “EE” and thats perfectly fine but don’t talk out of your you know where
      you do the same thing you accuse other blogs of doing which is just talking nonsense that could not be any further from the truth just because you are on “your” blog

      Good day!

      • jnelson
        October 24, 2010

        whose blog is this?? oh, EE, right….

        • fp
          October 24, 2010

          it might as well be since all i hear about here is the “EE” 🙂

      • Kxevin
        October 24, 2010

        I will assume that “ignorant” refers to a seeming lack of knowledge, and not delete this comment on grounds of hostility.

        Your point is taken. We have acknowledged in other comments threads that That Other Spanish Team is playing good football this season, and is coming into its own. It’s worth doing a bit of nosing around before hurling accusations.

        I don’t comment on their play, since I can’t watch that club. But if someone in this space wants to make a comment about said club, however misguided it might seem, more courtesy is in order in re: your response. It’s easy to set the record straight without resorting to aggression.

        Dig?

        • Vj
          October 24, 2010

          Of course not.. You should see the amount of bile – from their own Madridistas no doubt – Corey and co. have to deal with..

          They had to close comments on more than a few occasions AFAIK..

      • Kari
        October 24, 2010

        Your point is valid; I don’t watch EE much, but it was a remark made in jest ( notice the 😀 at the end) to Mourinho’s typical tactics/style of play.

        They are playing good football lately. Kudos to them.

        • ballbeav
          October 24, 2010

          anyway their avg possession is more like 60, not 65 percent. heh heh.

  2. jnelson
    October 23, 2010

    The only not 100% negative thing i can say about the EE is they are dishing beatings on teams using the same type of play they try to install against us. Of course, we’ll see them play the same against us, but we see this week in week out. They can score all the goals they want. If we take care of business against them, there’s nothing to worry about. BTW I thought we dominated this match. For people stressed about goals: Ajax outscored opponents 106-20 last season, but Twente won the Eredivisie by 1 point, outscoring opponents only 63-23. Dutch, yes, but illustrates a point.

  3. vicsoc8
    October 24, 2010

    This is a repost, but for those of you who didn’t see:

    Bartra, Fontas, Thiago, Dos Santos, and Nolito called up for Tuesday, as per Barcastuff

    • Eklavya
      October 24, 2010

      I hope the lineup will be:

      Pinto
      Bartra Fontas Pique Adriano
      Thiago Masch JDS
      Jeffren Nolito Bojan

      • Diego S.
        October 24, 2010

        Bojan will be in the Center with Nolito on the wing me thinks.

        • Eklavya
          October 24, 2010

          Yeah but I wasnt sure if he [nolito] plays there so…

      • Jnice
        October 24, 2010

        I doubt Pique will play. And I think Bartra will play in the middle. That’s his best position.

        • Eklavya
          October 24, 2010

          Really? I thought he was a RB. I don’t want Pique to play either.

  4. October 24, 2010

    I’m not worried about Madrid’s gaudy numbers (yet). They haven’t played Valencia, Sevilla, Atletico, Villareal, us, or Athletic. In fact, the only side in the top 10 of the table that they’ve played is Mallorca and Espanyol. One was a draw, and the other was a 3-0 win at home.

    They play Athletic at home, us away, and Valencia home in 3 consecutive weeks in November. By the end of that run, we’ll know a lot more about their team, either way.

    On the game itself, I mostly agree with Kevin. I thought we played well without really stretching ourselves. And Leo’s goal scoring is a great, great sign. Villa looked sharper too — him and Messi look like they’re slowly but surely working out an understanding.

    • sheena
      October 24, 2010

      I completely agree.
      While they’ve been mauling teams like Deportivo, Malaga and Racing, we’ve been handing out defeats to the Atleticos, Athletic Bilbaos and Valencias of the league. And 2 out of those 3 matches were away!
      If EE manage to do the same when they face those teams, I will begin to worry about our title defense.
      Until then, I think being only 1 point off the summit of the league after the kinds of teams we’ve faced is a pretty fantastic result.

  5. barca96
    October 24, 2010

    No time to read the whole reviewl. Just checked in to see Thiago’s rating and Im so happy right now!!! THIAGO for the start in Copa!

  6. GREECE BARCA
    October 24, 2010

    fp i wish you go to E.E blogs and count every comment about barca.give me a break.kari s comment was ok…i am happy that barca made perez spend so much money only to build a team that can face us.if we will win la liga for me it will be a huge huge result..nice nice reviw btw!

  7. sab
    October 24, 2010

    barca played 3 3 1 3 today.interesting.

    with bus,kei and dani as the midfielders,messi in a free role.

    barcas problem are in this season.(in my view)

    1.lack of pace in the center of defense.
    2.lack of height.
    3.lack of another true goalscoring forwrad.(for all his brilliant play,ini is not a goalscorer)
    4.slow buildup play.(coz of low level of fitness and tremendous exhaustion).

    solutions:(in my view)

    1.sign bouate/kompnay from manchester city.
    2.sign either lukaku or caroll.(these are relatively cheap players who has height and speed and who dont mind sitting in the bench for a while).
    3.give JDS and Thiago more minutes.

    yesterdays game was an effecient match for us not an aesthetic one.

  8. Helge
    October 24, 2010

    I just don’t know what has happened to Pedro since the World Cup. He’s not as explosive, as fast anymore and where did his powerful shots from greater distance go?
    Villa might have played better than the last matches, but I still expect more from him. In quite a few situations when he was in the box, he tried too hard to score, from rather tight angles where a pass would have been the better option. Maybe he can finally score against AD Ceuta and that should help him… if not, it’s time to bench him and give Nolito or Soriano a chance.

    The current shape of all our first team attackers leads to a genuine Messipendencia, he’s saving our season so far but he will have some other bad matches à la Herculés.

    • Kxevin
      October 24, 2010

      What’s happened with P! is simple: He isn’t a secret any longer, so teams are playing him straight up, like someone who isn’t a B teamer with aspirations, but a legitimate scoring threat.

  9. GREECE BARCA
    October 24, 2010

    the only solution is the patience.imagine what many of you said if we were in a situation like bayern munich or united.10points behind E.E let.s say.and messi don.t score alone.all the team work for a goal.after hercules loss the pessimism is all over the place.

  10. GREECE BARCA
    October 24, 2010

    last season we saw to the world from what we are made.madrid won every game with 4-5 goals and in bernabeu we were the champions.we are the champions.and when they come in our house the november we will win them again.cause we are barca.we are a team.we are more than a team.this team is a soul a heart.not a group of individuals.

    • October 24, 2010

      Hi, I normally enjoy your comments but can you do me a favor and put a space ” ” after a period “.” Not doing this makes your comments difficult to read because your individual thoughts turn to mush when my eyes scan the lines. For some reason my brain handles poor punctuation a lot worse than poor English.

      Thanks!

  11. Diego S.
    October 24, 2010

    “I do, however, still think that we are one player away from being unstoppable. I’ve said it before, but we need a traditional striker.”

    Definitely. The presence of that player will increase Villa’s goals and He’ll score as well, He’ll take the focus off the other players.When we have the ball at the wing, Defenders know we won’t cross. I sometimes feel that we play Handball. We keep passing the ball around the area in sequence waiting for that moment.

    • stowe
      October 24, 2010

      and we loaned out a perfect traditional striker! aah, i wanted to see those three play together so badly

  12. sheena
    October 24, 2010

    If Liverpool keep spiralling downward, I’m hoping we can land Torres. He may not be at peak form at the moment, but he’s a threat who will draw defenders and create space for the other strikers.

    • Kxevin
      October 24, 2010

      I just don’t know that we need to drop a ton of dosh on a dude who can’t score as much as used to, and is always injured. If we’re going to pick up anyone, I’d fancy a more traditional striker. Is there a young, cheap Drogba clone out there?

      • Diego S.
        October 24, 2010

        The Vasc Drogba a.k.a Llorente.

      • Helge
        October 24, 2010

        Traoré from Cluj would be a really cheap player, but he’s not yet a Drogba clone. Though he has the potential and I would prefer him over Lukaku, who costs approx. 10 times as much.

      • Hilal
        October 24, 2010

        Yes Kxevin, actually, there is… *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33ld4WQoG40

        Not sure how cheap he would be since everybody seems to be after him, inlcuding Mourinho, Chelsea and probably City.

        • Clue(less)
          October 24, 2010

          See i dissagree, we needed a winger and have to trust villa up front. DI MARIA would have been perfect for our system, switching back and forth with leo.

      • Diego S.
        October 24, 2010

        Drogba’s younger brother Freddy, 17, is currently in the youth system of French side Le Mans.

  13. Spiro
    October 24, 2010

    the big question with Torres though, is he that type of player who would handle not being “the man” of the forward line?

    • Jim
      October 24, 2010

      I think at the moment he would bite your hand off for any suggestion that he might be able to come to Barcelona. I actually rate Torres more highly than some seem to although no argument that he hasn’t kicked a ball for almost a year now. He does play back to goal, he has some pace and scores both lucky and great goals. Not sure I’d be prepared to pay what we might have to though.

  14. TrueCule
    October 24, 2010

    I watched EE vs Racing and can only say that i’ve never seen a worse defensive performance than on show by Racing yesterday. It sounds a bit paranoid but has the whole of Spain decided to follow ‘Anyone But Barça’ policy? It sounds even weirder after what our players did with the National Team.
    Btw, Does anybody know how many times Villa has hit the goal-frame?
    I remember 1 vs Zaragoza, 1 vs Copenhagen, 2 vs Valencia, 4 for Spain. Any more? Plz reply.

    • Eklavya
      October 24, 2010

      Check out the previous thread’s comments.

    • Jim
      October 24, 2010

      I think what impresses me atm is the pace throughout their team. They are moving the ball very quickly and doing things at top speed. That’s hard for teams to deal with in terms of getting organised. although Racing did play a pretty high back line, a lot of teams, including us, do. And we don’t have a lot of pace about us. None of this means that they will beat us when we meet, of course . 🙂

    • Kari
      October 24, 2010

      Apparently, he’s hit the post 6 times this season for us [Barca] although I don’t know the exact games. Barcastuff says he’s hit the post 4 times, presumably the ones you stated.

      No idea how many times he’s hit the post of Spain.

  15. Eklavya
    October 24, 2010

    Apparently Piqueee created a Facebook page!:

    *www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=168375189845177&fc=f&fbb=r32952fb6&refid=0

  16. GREECE BARCA
    October 24, 2010

    kxevin there is a forward who play in saint etien in france.they say great things about him!you know better the france liga!

  17. GREECE BARCA
    October 24, 2010

    hahaha the cartoon of the day in sport are brilliant!villa as a nun!marvelous!i wanna meet that guy who make them!

  18. Diego S.
    October 24, 2010

    I’m so excited about the Copa match. It’s the B-teammers chance since they can’t enter the Copa. Hopefully Bojan scores and gains some momentum with others performing as well (Bartra, Fontas, JDS, Jeffren). 90 Minutes of Nolito and Thiago, this should be Fun.

    • Lou
      October 24, 2010

      Bojan actually looked pretty good in the 20 or so minutes he had last night. If I recall correctly, last year after coming back from injury he had another bad patch of form. He eventually made the most of the few minutes he got at the end of each match and by March he was in contention for starting places again. (Hopefully he snaps out of his funk a bit earlier this year).

      Let’s hope he can get some confidence playing in the Copa on Wednesday. (Cueta is from the third division, right?)

      I’m also really looking forward to seeing Fontas and or Bartra play. We need some depth at centre back badly. Puyol and Pique can’t play every game, and Milito has been injured for most of this year. At this moment our only cover is Abidal.

  19. Helge
    October 24, 2010

    Who is Sergi Samper?
    “Echoes Of Cesc Fabregas Coup As Arsenal Plot Move For New Barcelona Starlet Sergi Samper – Report” (a headline from goal.com)
    I know Gerard Deulofeu, Gael Eto’ock and maybe some more juvenile A players, but I’ve never heard of Sergi Samper. Does he really have the potential to become the next Fabregas?

    • Jnice
      October 24, 2010

      He is probably the best U16 player we have. He is a mid in the mold of a Xavi if you like. He was one of the best players in the that Nike Cup over the summer.I don’t think we will lose him.

      • Jnice
        October 24, 2010

        He is behind Cesc Fabregas to his right in this commercial.

        *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FLcEcyfAqEQ

  20. Jim
    October 24, 2010

    Good review, Kxevin. I agree with your assessment of the match but as I said on the Liveblog I can’t even begin to defend Alves’ actions. To me its not about the red card matching Villa’s which I thought was a tad harsh but you can see why the ref made the decision. It’s about how we behave as a team. He was hardly touched, it resulted in a sending off, it was cheating in a deliberate way which has nothing to do with the rough and tumble of a normal match and it contributes to a growing impression that we are a team of prima donnas and divers which may eventually come back to haunt us.

    To be honest, after reflection while writing this, I don’t actually like Alves much. If he weren’t such a driving force down the right I’d say sell him. His crosses stink out the joint as often as not ( don’t take so much time and how hard is it to get the ball at least past the first man?) and I’m fed up of his free kicks. I’m sure he’ll have a totally inflated idea of his importance to us which is being reflected in the current contract talks.

    The above is probably exaggerated a tad but you’ll get my drift.

    • Spiro
      October 24, 2010

      that is a bit harsh on Alves there,

      tbh his crossing on average are on target but it is not easy picking out players in the box when they have no real threat in the air.

      Selling Alves? are you kidding me, the amount of running Alves does on an average match is astonishing and yet he can still defend above decently, on top of the other jobs he has to do in attack. I think you should sit down again and have another think through before questioning Alves ability in this team.

      correct me if I’m worng, but Alves has played every single game in the league so far, and would i be mistaken if he played every CL game too? I don’t blame him for taking his time on the contract talks, his job requires a lot more work then any other player in the team, and he wants to make sure he is well motivated to keep that level e is right now.

      with regards to the ‘incident’, nothing is fair in the world, players generally like to aggravate their opponents, maybe Alves exaggerative, but again even if he didn’t, no one is going to call cheater on the player who actually hit Alves because he knew what he was doing was ‘slightly illegal’ he got caught and its a red card, a bit harsh but again the player just had to keep his hands close and nothing would of happened, full stop.

      • Jim
        October 24, 2010

        If you read my post carefully the one thing I’m not questioning is his ability to get up and down the park well.

        However, for me, he’s not a great crosser of a ball considering the amount of space and time he normally has. My real quibble with him is a personal one that I don’t like his diving, his trying to get opponents carded, his inflated idea of how good his free kicks are and, to me, he plays like someone who thinks he’s better than he is when we have so many more talented players who come across as much more humble.

        Just my opinion.

        • justsayin'
          October 24, 2010

          Alves leaves some to be desired because he’s crosses are usually not on the mark. I think he’s problem is that the doesn’t really look up before he crosses, he just kicks it into the box hoping he’s team-makes can make something of it. Also think he runs too deep and therefore he doesn’t have a good angle. But, our players aren’t the tallest bunch so anyone’s cross is going be tough for our guys to head in.
          I love Dani, he’s a beast. So aggressive and an integral part of our team. Finally, I think the card was deserved as it was an intentional smack in the face and unsportsmanlike – even if Dani made a meal of it.

  21. Hilal
    October 24, 2010

    On his day Torres is one of the best, if not the best, striker in the world. Unfortunately it hasnt been his day in a while, between injuries and the shitstorm that is Liverpool I am not surprised. As was evidenced in the world cup though, even an unfit and out of form Torres is the perfect foil for Villa.

    On paper he has all the attributes we are looking for in a striker. He is excellent with his head, can play with his back to goal, is much more direct than anyone else we have and some of the goals I have seen him score have been out of this world. My only concern is that he seems to be injury prone, but I remember when they said Messi was injury prone. I think if you take good enough care of a player you can always avoid, or atleast reduce, injuries. I dont even think he would cost as much as most people assume…

    For me its between Llorente and Torres, but I think we might end up with Torres. I remember reading a while back (not sure where though) that our esteemed president has some connection to Torres which would make us favourites to sign him. I dont think he would go to another club in England because of his affection for Liverpool and I doubt he would go to the other Madrid team. That leaves us or Italy.

  22. Lou
    October 24, 2010

    Great review Kxevin!

    I completely agree that there is no reason to panic yet. Even in the treble season there were a lot of pretty unimpressive away wins against not that strong opposition (2-1 away to Racing, 2-0 away to Almeria). Plus we’ve always struggled without Xavi. That we could win away with the team tired, and without Xavi playing is very good news.

    My biggest concern is getting Xavi healthy again. He’ll be needed, especially next spring when the Champion’s League gets tough. For now he should just be rested as much as possible and only be played in the big games. We actually have quite a lot of depth in midfield with the addition this year of Mascherano, Thiago, a healthy Iniesta and to an extent Maxwell.

  23. Diego S.
    October 24, 2010

    Spain U19 won 3-0 with Jeffren scoring two goals.

    • Eklavya
      October 24, 2010

      Meaning he definitely starts on Tuesday!

    • Jnice
      October 24, 2010

      Huh? Jeffren didn’t play with them.

      • Diego S.
        October 24, 2010

        LOL ! My Bad !

        The guy who scored the 2 goals was Alarcon Suarez. The site I used listed Jeffren Suarez, with Jeffren’s picture, and a link to his profile. I didn’t double check. I saw it now on UEFA.com

        • Mido
          October 24, 2010

          You used an Arabic site,No?I read it also today and I was shocked

  24. Humphrey Bogart
    October 24, 2010

    I’m getting slightly confused here: is the copa game on Tuesday or Wednesday?

    • Lou
      October 24, 2010

      Tuesday at 10pm local time according to the official site.

  25. Humphrey Bogart
    October 24, 2010

    Ah, thought so, but somebody in the comments talked about Wednesday. I’m looking forward to 90 minutes of my favourite young player Thiago.

  26. Soto
    October 24, 2010

    Nice review Kxevin.

    Iniesta definitely looked good out there, but I do not understand why Guardiola keeps putting him out on the left wing. With Xavi out of the Zaragoza game, I had hoped to see Iniesta in the middle controlling the flow of the game. This is a role that neither Keita nor Busquets could play, but is well within the skill and awareness of Iniesta. And I think Iniesta would ultimately be more threatening in a central role.

    As it is, Messi played so deep that he looked to be playing in Xavi’s spot. This left us with a sparse forward line that could be more detrimental against better opponents.

    In Pep I Trust, but I just don’t get Iniesta on the wing.

    • justsayin'
      October 24, 2010

      In Pep I trust too, but I’d like to see Andres in the mid field passing the ball to Messi, Villa and Pedro. Don’t get me wrong, this guys is great anywhere but with Xavi missing I think the team gels better with him in the center. More scoring opportunities and just a better flow of them game.

  27. Vicsoc8
    October 24, 2010

    I was also confused by Pep’s tactics in this game.

    To start at the back, we saw Abidal get the nod over Maxwell. As I mentioned in the liveblog they offer something different going forward. Abidal offers more driving runs, width, and the ability to get endline with speed. Maxwell is more of a midfield booster – he helps maintain possession, but is more likely to move inside and less likely to get endline. For that reason I expected Abidal to be making forward runs, but he was more subdued and often played like a third centerback (meaning Busquets wasn’t dropping deep to act like the third centrback as much). Interestingly Pique was playing left center back tonight, making him the middle of the three. Alves was off doing his thing, so no changes there.

    Without Xavi we seemed to only be playin two midfielders. I don’t count Alves (he is a full right side of the pitch guy). Busquets was playing higher up the pitch than normal (he wasn’t dropping in to the a centerback) but he was still playing deeper than Keita, who was moving all over the place on the left.

    You could argue that Messi was the other midfielder, but while he was dropping very deep to get the ball, he was really playing a very free role that has become typical for him.

    In the front you have Iniesta stretching play wide left, which someone had to do given Abidals reserved role. Villa was playing in the middle, a role I didn’t expect him to take on too much this season, and Pedro was out to the right (on a side note, I love the Alves-Pedro combo on the right. With their worn ethics, one of them will always cover back, but we also almost always have numbers on that side when we are attacking).

    What I don’t understand is why Pep decided to play this way. If you look at this starting lineup, you would think Iniesta in the middle, Pedro on the right, Villa on the left (cutting in as Abidal overlaps and provides width), and Messi through the middle. It also makes me wonder of Busquets dropping deep to play as a centerback is a tactic that will only be used when Maxwell starts over Abidal.

    Just when I think I had Pep figured out, he goes and completely messes with my mind.

    • Soto
      October 24, 2010

      Your proposed front line makes more sense to me than Pep’s, but hey, what do I know?

  28. Diego S.
    October 24, 2010

    Our upcoming La Liga match schedule is tough

    Sevilla (home)
    Getafe (Away)
    Villareal (Home)
    Almeria (Away)
    EE (Home)

  29. Kxevin
    October 24, 2010

    Some good and entertaining footy on today. The Arsenal/Citeh match could have been good, but that early red just killed it. It also points to what happens with a little more concentration and finishing your chances. Did Silva have to be as fancy as he did with that early chance? Good question. But going a man down against the run of play. Ouch.

    And I have to say that there is still a lingering feeling of bile in me toward Arsenal from this summer, not because they didn’t sell us Fabregas, but because of all the other nonsense attendant to that, from Gunners fans hurling vitriol to Wenger now crowing about his powers of persuasion, as if he won something. I used to really enjoy watching Arsenal play. Now I just can’t get rid of the ugliness. I’m sure they feel the same way across the aisle. Bummer, that.

    Stoke City almost pulled off a stunner, but United pulled one out of the fire. Villarreal and ATM are playing right now, but I just can’t watch, even with the great Marcos Senna plying his trade in the midfield.

    Oh, and the Bears still suck. Bad.

    • blitzen
      October 24, 2010

      Villareal are up 2-0 with about 15 minutes to go. They are looking really good. This will put them back in second place along with barcelona.

      • Kxevin
        October 24, 2010

        Now why doesn’t everyone play nice and open like that against us? We all know the answer: because they would die. But still, even questions with obvious answers are worth asking.

        • justsayin'
          October 24, 2010

          I know, it is something to see the teams we play against play another team the week after with a completely different style….time and time again. Makes for some predictable futbol playing and doesn’t give the Barca players a real chance to shine. Pep has to figure out how to play against teams that have figured us out. In the meantime, I think we’re playing at a slow and steady pace. Doing just enough to get us 3 points and move along. It’s a long season and we didn’t have much of a break. Pep’s thinking has to be along the lines of … slow and steady wins the race. Not a lot of flash, we’re not setting the world afire … but we’re getting the job done.

  30. Kxevin
    October 24, 2010

    And as of right now, EE gets U.S. television for its Copa match, but we don’t. I’m calling bullshite on that one, folks.

    • Vj
      October 24, 2010

      You do know they have a pretty good reason, if you go by results of previous seasons..

      • blitzen
        October 24, 2010

        Apparently Mourinho said in a press conference that if the “Alcorconazo” happens again he will eliminate those players who played from his list and they’ll be dead to him. Although I guess it would be a Murciazo? 😀

        • Kxevin
          October 24, 2010

          I an “Alcorconazo” happens, I will also be dead. From laughing.

          And I can totally get behind eklavya’s Copa lineup:

          Pinto
          Bartra Fontas Pique (Here)Adriano
          Thiago sMasch Dos Santos
          Jeffren Nolito Krkic

          But I suspect that Guardiola will play some real folks, to make sure things are done and dusted so that we can loaf at home.

          • blitzen
            October 24, 2010

            Isn’t Pinto’s disciplinary hearing on Tuesday? So he might not be able to play if he gets a ban. or will that only affect Liga matches, and not Copa ones?

    • Scotia
      October 24, 2010

      Espn3 currently have Barcelona’s Copa game in their lineup 4:00PM ET on Tuesday.

      • Kxevin
        October 24, 2010

        Great news! Wait. 2 or 3? 3 is the online-only ESPN analog, right? Or is that 360?

        My brain hurts.

    • justsayin'
      October 24, 2010

      Really not happy about that. Is it streaming live?

      • Kxevin
        October 24, 2010

        Should be streaming live on the Web version of ESPN.

    • Helge
      October 25, 2010

      Well, for Real Madrid, the only players that will be rested are Ozil, Alonso and Carvalho (not in the line-up), and Di Maria on the bench. Ronaldo, Ramos, Higuain etc. will play, those are big names and probably there are more people interested in seeing a mixture of an A and B team from Real than a complete B team from Barca…

  31. justsayin'
    October 24, 2010

    Thanks. I have every possible channel where anything soccer or soccer like is happening and yet I can’t get the CDR. Frustrating!

    • Kxevin
      October 24, 2010

      I KNOW! I’m with you. I even have Spanish-language packages. Hey …. wonder if TVE will be showing Copa matches? I have that channel, too.

      • Scotia
        October 24, 2010

        ESPN3 formerly 360 – online streaming. I am tv-free here, but doesn’t ESPN Deportes often run the same shows that are streaming on ESPN3?

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