Almeria 0, Barca 8, aka “This is the way forward, indeed.”

Wow. There isn’t a lot to say about this match, really. I mean there is, but there actually isn’t.

On the surface, we gave Almeria such a thorough hiding that they fired their coach after the match. Yes, he was already on the hot seat, but still. We put 8 goals on a Liga side. Other noteworthy landmarks: Messi cracked the 100-goal mark, and the club is off to its best-ever away record.

How did this all happen, and for that matter, how in the heck did EE thump Athletic Bilbao 5-1?

Because today’s matches weren’t about each club’s respective opponent, it was about next Monday, for an El Clasic that I cannot wait to witness.

We rolled into Almeria riding high, but coming off an International break, when usually we don’t see our best match. Guardiola came out with Valdes, Alves, Puyol, Fontas, Maxwell, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro! and Villa, a lineup that showed that he wasn’t taking Almeria lightly. And the home side got off to a bright start, charging into our end and forcing a corner, and a save from Valdes in the first minute of the match. But once we got on the ball, it was time for business.

The real question is, how do you play against a side in which every player is an attacker, whose best player runs like crazy just to pressure the defense, who, when up 3-0 has two players running full-tilt after a loose ball? Good question. Almeria rolled out with the Barca Formula: High pressure and flood the midfield. What they found, as our last few opponents have, is that when we are pinging the ball around as we are these days, that formula just doesn’t work. As long as the ball moves faster than the man (and it always will), if we are playing our game, there is no answer against it.

They weren’t making the error of chasing the ball, or doing silly things. It’s just that the ball was moving around with such alacrity, always with a player at the end of it, that after a while you just can’t shift that last time. And it isn’t just the passing, it’s the spaces that our players are comfortable in, guys that could seemingly play tika-taka in a shower stall full of defenders.

And on the defensive end, you have that same side, that views your having the ball as a personal affront, so every player then becomes a defender, going all out to win the ball back so that every player can become an attacker again. It really is staggering to watch sometimes. When players say things such as “Who wouldn’t want to go play for Barca,” opposing team fans get riled up. I will apologize in advance for the way this sounds, but right now, it’s true. This is a club with one of the best players in the world at every position, who makes the game look like a game, something played for pure joy. It’s movement, it’s passing, it’s goals and beauty, it’s highlight reel stuff that captivates. Rare is the club whose players, when linked with us in rumor or reality, probably wouldn’t think “Hmmm. Pretty cool.”

Masked by the ease with which we play the game is the hard, hard work. You have to run and move all the time, and this was ultimately the undoing of Almeria. You don’t run out of energy, you run out of options. Look at the first goal as an example, a goal in which Almeria pretty much did everything right. But Messi popped Villa a pass during a full-speed cut and Villa, with a defender in his shorts, side-foots a pass to Messi who, because he never stopped running, now has a shooting lane. Any keeper alive will play an attacker for the easier shot, which was the near side. So Messi slingshots a rocket on a diagonal into the far corner. The keeper didn’t have a chance, and it was another insanely difficult Messi goal that looked like he was walking to get a drink of water.

Other teams pass well, and move well. It’s harder to do it at full speed, to make the kinds of demands upon each other that our players routinely do. “Bet you can’t,” the passes seem to say. And they can. And do. And we win. The second goal is an example of this demanding kind of football, one of those crazy high-wire acts in which it looks like the opposing defense is running around like Keystone Kops, but what is there to do. Alves takes the pass and charges at the defense. You have to respect that move, so you cover it and he slides it to Messi, and the two of them bat it back and forth, always moving, before Xavi enters the picture to become that third option. He pops a pass to Iniesta that is blocked by the defender, right back to Iniesta for the rooftop finish.

Here’s something to notice when you watch the replay of this match: Our players are never, ever out of balance. So when the defender blocks the pass, Iniesta hasn’t stopped moving, and is right there to put in the rebound.

The third goal was on own goal, as if we needed any help. It was also typical of the way Almeria’s day was going. Pressure creates errors. Against a better side, Maxwell’s cross is a ball in which I am typing “Why wasn’t anybody attacking that cross?” And by the by, why wasn’t anyone attacking that cross? It also happened with a cross from Pedro!, in which Villa watched him, seemed to know exactly what he was going to do, and then stood there and watched the ball roll through the box. But this time, Almeria’s captain did the work for him, deflecting it into his own net.

It was 3-0, but Almeria were still playing hard, still trying, not because you never know, but because of pride. They never stopped working, despite the “How did this happen” looks on their faces. And then came a fourth goal, a beauty of a long, attack-starting pass from Fontas to Pedro!, that was put away past a keeper who probably should have stayed home. And permit me to say that Fontas, with that play and his play in general today, reminded me a lot of Txigrinski. And it was 4-0, with plenty of time to go in a half in which the fifth goal was almost guaranteed to come from us. We had the ball, we had the best players, we had all the goals, we had the advantage.

So when Messi and Pedro played a 1-2 that launched Messi in on goal, you kind of breathed a sigh of relief for Almeria when his shot was stopped. But where most players spank a shot that hard and get thrown off balance, Messi was almost standing still, waiting to see what would happen. When the rebound came off of Alves, he simply extended a leg across his body and volleyed it home. It was 5-0, and the ref can be forgiven for blowing for full time a few seconds early, with no added time.

The English-language commentators, Robbie Mustoe foremost, was blathering about how Almeria needed to put up a fight, get stuck in, do something, blah, blah, blah. But if you watch the match, they were trying. It’s just hard. Really hard when you’re playing against a side that is on form and the best in the world, and you aren’t. So the second half, they enjoyed better play because we really decided to sit back and play out the string, knowing that at 0-5 to the good, the match was over. So we stroked the ball around, and Almeria pressed, forcing a couple of saves from Valdes.

And then came number 6, courtesy of Bojan Krkic, a goal determined to say to his doubters, “See? I CAN play this game!” It really was a beautiful goal because it showed off his touch, quick feet and shotmaking fluency. Cooler still was the bench reaction. Everybody wanted to see him score, and were leaning around each other and going nuts when he finished with style.

Number seven came not long after, as Krkic slashed up the pitch on a forward run and spanked a pass to Villa, who smoked a shot at the Almeria goal. It was stopped by the keeper, but not caught, and there was Messi, who never stopped running, to tap home for his hat trick. Messi’s three goals might not have been the most beautiful goals on the planet, but they were typically Messi, goals made from movement and effort. Because you have to be there to score.

The eighth and final goal was just for practice pitch fun, as Messi made a dynamic, aggressive run with Krkic and Villa right alongside. It’s the kind of run that we haven’t been seeing much of from us. It’s also the kind of run that drives defenses crazy, because Messi has the ball, flanked by two strikers. He made the right decision, slid it to Krkic, and celebrated with CT after he slammed home his brace, and the final goal of the match.

This was a dominant performance that pleased Pep Guardiola, and it should have. What it also showed is that if you put your foot on a club’s throat right away, the match becomes a lot easier. Recall the missed early chances against Hercules, chances that if turned, has them thinking “We’re doomed,” rather than “We’re in this thing with a chance.” We’re an on-form side right now, folks. Enjoy it. I sure do.

Team: 10. A few missteps, but a dominating, unified performance that could have had more than 8 goals, frankly.

Guardiola: 9. Right lineup, he had them ready to breathe fire today, and made sure they didn’t slack off at halftime. Right substitutions as well, except for Messi. He has to get into the habit of protecting the family jewels.

Valdes: 8. A very strong match, including a couple of saves that were more difficult than they looked. And I have to, once again, note his much-improved distribution from the back. When your keeper can start play as accurately as Valdes has been of late, it’s like gaining another attacker.

Alves: 8. He just doesn’t look like a player who wants to leave this club. He was a delight to watch on both ends of the pitch today, an indefatigable demon slotting through balls on one end and sliding tackles on the other.

Puyol: 7. Strong match, and invaluable in shepherding the young’un through the forest.

Fontas: 7. Some early uncertainty, and a few wayward balls, but this dude’s future is bright. That assist to Pedro! was remarkable, and he has pace to go along with his size and ability.

Maxwell: 6. Erratic, but mostly good. People like to cite his seeming excess of back passes, but if you look around, he’s making just about as many as anyone else, really. And he’s a rock-solid defender who will almost never give you a bad match. What a pro.

Mascherano: 9. It’s worth spending time watching him. He makes everything so difficult for the opponent. A simple pass is contested, and the ball is loose. What should be a routine header becomes more difficult with a midget Argentine in your back pocket. During one amazing sequence he worked a ball loose and started the attack way up the pitch, but was also the first man by Valdes when our keeper needed a safety valve. Another excellent passing game, too. It reminds you of how stacked we are when a player of this quality isn’t starting every match.

Xavi: 8. He was brilliant, even making a sliding tackle on the defensive end. Again, he was all effort and virtuosity, running the offense and partnering with Iniesta in a way that facilitates our offense, and defense through offense.

Iniesta: 8. Some invisible-but-effective Ghostface moments, and a very well-taken goal capped off a fine performance from a player who is showing us all what he’s like when fit and on form. We haven’t really seen that for a couple of seasons.

Messi: 10. Man of the Match for so many reasons. He was involved in 5 of our 8 goals, and set a template for his teammates to follow with his work rate and effectiveness, the week after Internationals. He had his Killer Eyes on today, commented on by someone during the LiveBlog with a “Messi looks focused.” Indeed.

Pedro!: 7. Our RCG did it again, pressuring defenders and still running like crazy but doing so intelligently. His performance this season points out the value of being capped, and letting a player reach full maturity. Last year I carped a lot about his match IQ, and seeming inability to be where the ball was going to be. He’s fixed that, and how.

Villa: 6. In addition to his flagging energy late in matches, he has to understand that our wide players are going to cross the ball, and he can’t just stand there and watch it. On the up side, he has fully integrated into our offense in a way that makes it a joy to watch. He and Messi verge on telepathic sometimes. His goals will come, but I like the overall play from him.

Substitutes

Thiago (for Xavi): 6. A lot to like, but he’s still a little too loose with the ball. He will always be flashy in a way that Xavi isn’t. His energy and willingness to help out whereever are great. Recall the play where Alves held up the attacker, and Thiago came in for the steal. I don’t think he’ll be promoted in January, but he’ll definitely be told that he’s part of the first-team plans next season at that time.

Keita (for Iniesta): 5. Keiteee was a little off today, but still brought a dynamic, physical presence to the center of the pitch.

Krkic (for Pedro!): 8. I really liked his game today, from the positive movement to the constant effectiveness. Gone was the constant sense of trying too hard. And both his goals were beautifully finished, particularly the first one. Granted, coming in a 5-0 lead does a lot for a player’s confidence, but still. Let’s hope this is a stepping stone. I would love to be wrong about Cuddly Toy.

Before El Clasic next Monday, we have a Champions League clash away to Panathinaikos. If we win there, we are assured of topping the group. And then there will be the match that should, on paper, be a classic Clasic. Until then ….

P.S. For the record, Almeria weren’t that poor. They were playing to their ability, but as their club president said, there’s a talent chasm. They tried, they put out, they had their moments. Give them full credit. This performance by us shouldn’t be diminished by the opponent quality. When we’re playing as we are now, the only question is how much we win by. Let’s hope it continues.


“I’m telling you Kid, you’re getting a brace today. Just watch and see.”

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

107 Comments

  1. Parasite
    November 20, 2010

    I loved it when everyone went to congratulate Fontas for the killer ball before they congratulated Pedro!, the goalscorer. This is the reason along with the bench celebrating Bojan’s goal, that nurtures world beating talents 🙂

  2. Luke
    November 20, 2010

    So many excellent points to take away from this. We finished all our chances, Fontas looked very good, and Valdes’ new shirt blinded me.

  3. Goo
    November 20, 2010

    I love me some sMasch. Everything about the team was amazing, except for VV’s awful kit that should never be worn again. Plus it’s great to see an 8 from Kxevin for Bojan, I didn’t think that was possible 🙂

    The battle for the upcoming clasico started ages ago, and this weekend Barca and EE decided to heat things up even more with sensational victories for both sides. Both teams are playing to send a statement to the other: WE ARE GOING TO KICK YOUR ASS. I know EE’s no Almeria, but with the way Pep’s boys are playing recently I’m feeling pretty good. We’re settling into an amazing rhythm just in time for the big game.

  4. Kari
    November 20, 2010

    Awesome review as always Kxevin. I’ve got nothing to add.

    Question: “How did this all happen, and for that matter, how in the heck did EE thump Athletic Bilbao 5-1?”

    A: [From Graham Hunter’s twitter] “Athletic under Undiano Mallenco [the ref of the game] have three wins, eight draws and nine defeats in 20 matches. Decisions like that penalty [conceded after Di Maria was “fouled”] suggest reason why”

  5. Stephen
    November 20, 2010

    Thanks for the review Kevin, I must disagree though, at some point after that 3rd goal, I felt Almeria just let us go and do our thing. Yes losing 5-0 at half has to be hard, but they’ve got to run, you watch that second half some of them were standing just admiring us pass, Diego Alves in that Pedro goal didn’t rush to the ball. Not taking anything away from us, not being “negative” but for the sake of La Liga, teams can show more than this.
    Bojan finally scored, no pressure at all during this time on the field, game was won, so I can’t give him full credit, but I hope this does boost him to perform better when it really counts.
    Mascherano, awesome ! I almost see a Busquets – sMasch pair up for the CL game, save Xavi for the Clasico.

    • November 20, 2010

      Do agree that the game was probably over before Bojan came in. But remember he has been brought in similiar situation earlier in this season and has struggled. That easy tapin against Ceuta seems to have worked. He is no more chasing goals and with three already in his bag, he is going to be more relaxed. Watch his finishes, its always world class. So he will do us proud.

      • Blow-Grenade
        November 21, 2010

        The game was over at the 19 minute mark when the 2nd goal was scored.

  6. Jnice
    November 20, 2010

    Nice review as always. Good win, hope we focus on our match in Greece and not on El Clasico.

    Regarding Thiago, I believe the situation is he has to be told he will be promoted this season, otherwise he is free to leave in the summer.

    • Stephen
      November 20, 2010

      Oh yeah, who gets a yellow card winning 5-0? Thiago Alcantara ! 🙂 jk.
      Hope he stays.

      • Jnice
        November 21, 2010

        Haha, that was definitely a stupid yellow.

  7. Soy Culé
    November 20, 2010

    Excellent review, as usual, Kxevin. I really enjoy your ratings.

    I just have one thing to add, and it’s about the way Almería ‘contained’ themselves today. It’s very easy to lose your cool due to frustration when you’re being humiliated in front of your own fans like that.
    They could have easily resorted to childish antics like kicking out and fouling a lot. But they didn’t, and I think that’s very admirable. Of course they were hurting afterwards, but they didn’t walk off the field in disgust or refuse to shake hands with our players. They stayed on, shook hands, and swapped shirts. That was nice to see. I respect Almería a lot for that, and I kinda feel bad for Lillo. What a bad way to go out, eh…

    • blitzen
      November 20, 2010

      Agree. They never resorted to dirty play. Respect to Almeria and to Lillo.

  8. blitzen
    November 20, 2010

    Oooh, I didn’t expect this to be up until tomorrow! I’m rewatching the match right now, and have a few observations:

    –I must have watched the Pedro goal at least half a dozen times and probably will watch it many more. That pass from Fontas was a thing of beauty. I love our short-pass, tiki-taka game, but it’s nice to have a player that can make a long fearless accurate pass like that. I see a bright future for this boy. He must feel like a million euros right now.

    –anyone who says Villa didn’t have a good game because he didn’t score should go back and watch the first Messi goal. That was a lovely bit of work from Villa, and his partnership with Messi is growing better every game. They just seem to love playing together.

    –Bojan!!!!!! So happy for him. His confidence is back, he looks good. It’s just a shame Pedro had to come off because he is on such a hot streak right now.

    — you’re right, Almeria didn’t make any major errors (aside from the own goal). We just completely outclassed them.

  9. Soy Culé
    November 20, 2010

    Sweet, my gravatar is up. This place is the best 😀

  10. NeverEver
    November 20, 2010

    I’m really glad we won and did it so prettily, but at some point (around goal 4 or 5) I started to cringe each time we scored… I felt so bad for Almeria! Can you imagine losing at home 0-8, especially with your coach’s job on the line? :-/

    Anyway, I know that you have to play the game you play, and we didn’t hold back and I respect that. I guess this is why I never played sports in school… there always has to be a loser right?

    • NeverEver
      November 20, 2010

      “At the break, I told them the best way to respect our opponent is to fulfill our obligations to play well to win.”
      says pep

    • Nav
      November 21, 2010

      Yeah I just watched the highlights and I felt really bad for them. Ah well. I’d rather feel bad for them and win than feel bad for us and lose 😛

    • OSBAG
      November 21, 2010

      I must admit it did seem as if barca were cheating. How come nobody is mentioning that almeria made no changes?

      • Stephen
        November 21, 2010

        They had a lot of injured players coming into this, idk their starters vs their bench players, maybe they had nobody else to come in.

  11. blitzen
    November 20, 2010

    Does anyone know the significance of Pedro’s “mustache” celebration? Just curious.

    • Soy Culé
      November 21, 2010

      I did a little research on it, and someone suggested Pedro’s celebration could have been a homage to Manolo Preciado (for his spat with Mou, obviously).

      Pedro ha celebrado el gol llevándose el dedo índice en horizantal entre los labios y la nariz a modo de bigote. ¿Sería en homenaje a Preciado?

  12. Patrick
    November 21, 2010

    These are the matches I like to point to when ppl come & b!#ch about Kevin not giving Messi 10s everytime he gets a brace/hat trick. So fun. Video game score today, except no video game has a high enough rating to encapsulate what Messi can do.

  13. Nik
    November 21, 2010

    Awesome game by us, though I will agree with others that it effectively ended before the half. The third goal seemed to kill off any fighting spirit left in the team. Their surrendering made the match easier than I expected it to be, but whatever. A win is a win is a win.

    Can’t wait for the Clasico. After watching the highlights of the EE-Bilbao game, I have to ask: why do GKs expect CR7 to curl it around the wall into the far post? It seems that every goal he’s gotten has come from him just banging the ball straight into the near post. Bilbao’s GK should have done much better on that. Hopefully, Valdes isn’t fooled if this situation arises during our match.

    • Nik
      November 21, 2010

      sorry: “why do GKs expect CR7 to curl [a free kick] around the wall into the far post?”

      • barca96
        November 21, 2010

        Ridiculous goalkeeping!! Why the hell was he running left and right? If he had just stayed in the middle and he would’ve easily punched the ball away.

  14. stowe
    November 21, 2010

    Great review. was shocked to see an 0-8 win after so many expecting a tough 0-1 win. Good substitutions by Pep and I guess he left messi in to help bojan get a goal. VV’s kit was awful, what’s up with the tiger stripes? So Fontas is fast, eh? good to hear. we need some pace in our backline. It’s also great to see the amazing depth we have at midfield. just need more depth at CB and at striker(height too)
    also, why did iniesta try to pass just before he scored off the rebound?

    • Jnice
      November 21, 2010

      Fontas isn’t that fast, just average. Faster than Chygrynsky, though.

      • Jim
        November 21, 2010

        Tell you who impressed me with pace yesterday – Puyol. He had two or three major sprints for balls with Almeria attackers and wasn’t beaten once – just through sheer bloody determination. I was sure his hamstring was going to go. I also loved the affectionate pat he gave the Almeria attacker near the end of the game as if to say the guy had done as well as he could. Just class.

        I’d be tempted to leave him out for the CL midweeek. Give Fontas another run out, this time with Pique? I don’t think for a minute that’ll happen though.

    • barca96
      November 21, 2010

      All the Nike sponsored kits have tiger stipes this season. It’s just that the main color was different today.

      • stowe
        November 21, 2010

        yea, i knew the black one had it too, also awful

  15. barca96
    November 21, 2010

    I still think that it was a dream. Just amazing. All the attacks ended up in a goal. Imagine if that happened more often.

    -I wished Thiago asked more for the ball.
    -Maxwell really needs to focus. Keeps on losing the ball cheaply as always!

    Was giving the Bilbao-EE match a go. How on earth did they beat Bilbao 5-1 without even dominating the match? It’s amazing!!
    All the penalty calls were rightly given though.
    Di Maria works quite hard but I still don’r rate him highly. But I really didn’t expect him to defend as much.

    Casillas is such a class guy, he whispered to Pepe to go and look at the guy he fouled and eventually hurt his shoulder.

    • Diego S.
      November 21, 2010

      Agree on the Thiago point. Xavi drops and demands the ball, while Thiago stays forward and when he’s bored he drops to get the ball.

    • Jim
      November 21, 2010

      Sorry, Barca96, but I’ve just rewatched the whole first half to see if I’d missed Maxwell’s giving the ball away cheaply. first of all, have a look at how often he was on the ball. I’d love to see how many passes he made and who had more than him in that period. He is being used more and more as we play better to keep the field wide. Look how often he was the out ball for VV’s long clearances (that’s not happening on the right) and the great control he showed with them. Especially in the 41st minute when a poor clearance from VV meant he had to sprint to it, leap and still managed to direct the header down to the feet of our player. His great technique is making these possible.

      As far as I could see in the first half – let me know if he was much worse in the second and I’ll have a look – we lost possession after he passed the ball on three occasions. One was a poor short pass by him, the others were a blocked cross in their penalty area and an offensive pass up the line to Villa who was on a run. The defender slid in to stop it getting there or Villa was away. Unless you’re counting his cross which led to the own goal as losing possession 🙂 .

      To me he had a great first half, much more available for the overlap than recently – one o.g., one blocked, one poor pass from Messi just on half time or he was in. It was also good to see Villa at one point looking over his shoulder for Maxwell, knowing he’d be arriving round the outside.

      However, I return to an old theme of mine. There is more to be had from this guy. He will not take on and commit defenders. At the moment we are using him more to switch the play away from the right, forcing the defence to shuffle across with a view to creating the opportunity eventually on the right side through Alves and Pedro. That’s why he is playing so many passes across or back. I know he doesn’t have a lot of pace but he has great footwork and some tricks. I’d like to see him run at them when there is half a chance to do so.

  16. James
    November 21, 2010

    I hope you guys don’t get delusional. This result is expected and nothing to be so very happy or excited about. The opposing side basically drop dead for us. What a sorry excuse for a football club Almeria is. I do hope they got a better coach.

    • Spiro
      November 21, 2010

      yes, but the effort was there, we stuck to our game and never took our foot off, and in 20 minutes time we were 5-0 up. No matter how much you can describe how bad Almeria were, we were just too good, there is no way you can write that off.

      • Kxevin
        November 21, 2010

        And Sevilla, and Valencia, and Villarreal. This club is playing exceptionally well right now. I said during the LiveBlog and will say so again: This isn’t just about Almeria. Go back and watch the replay of the Villarreal match. They weren’t in that match.

        The exciting part is that this club is in form right now, Mascherano proves that he belongs and Messi and Villa are forming rather an impressive partnership. Iniesta also continues to play well. Form is form, whether against the top or the bottom club.

        So instead of cautioning us not to get delusional, I would urge you to understand what’s going on here, and what this club is trying to accomplish. It’s a pretty amazing thing.

        • barca96
          November 21, 2010

          Remember how tough we had it last year when we visited them?
          ANd they let in the least goals in La Liga after us and EE.
          SO they’re by no means push overs. It was just that we were too fast for them.

  17. Vj
    November 21, 2010

    Before El Clasic next Monday, we have a Champions League clash away to Panathinaikos. If we win there, we are assured of topping the group.

    Wrong! We are only one point ahead of FCK, we need to win both games/ win one game and hope they drop points in one of the two games they play to top the group..

  18. Eklavya
    November 21, 2010

    We need to work on our finishing! :O

  19. extreme barca fan
    November 21, 2010

    Messi looks focused, that was meeeeeeeeeeeeee, thanks for that kevin
    it was a good game, and regardless of the score and the opposition we are in red hot form right now, we showed how good we are against villareal which IMO was our best match of the new season.
    cant wait to get to the classico. Now we can play our hearts out against pana on wednesday and still have enough time to recover for EE.
    Visca el barca

    • barca96
      November 21, 2010

      I still think that our best game was in the 2nd half against Valencia. We made too many mistakes in the Seville match that was unpunished.

  20. Nick
    November 21, 2010

    Some shocking defending and goalkeeping provided for an extended training session for both teams before El Clasic.

  21. Helge
    November 21, 2010

    Damn, Messi’s goals tally is on 22 club goals, 24 including international friendlies this season. Last year, he’s had 21 goals in mid-January!

    Despite the 8-0 win, I get a feeling of how the EE must have felt last season. We’re setting up new records, but those damned ******* are still one point ahead of us. And this single point might be crucial, because it allows Mou to play his typical super-defensive tactics on next Monday.

    I’m also wondering if Messi should be rested in the CL. It’s impossible for him to stay fit if he continues to play complete matches on such a frequency.

  22. poipoi
    November 21, 2010

    I watched EE last night (I ussually do, at least start watching) and none of pipita, thongboy, dimaria or ozil defend very much. They hang around waiting for the couterattack, and they do good against most kind of teams. The team looks like split in two, it leaves alonso and khedira to do much of the midfield defense or real pressure. You could see DiMaria and Ozil walking back minutes after the play needed, they were lucky bilbao didn’t put that many men up. It’s 4 players that do that, too much IMO. Don’t know if mourinho will start all of those players in Camp Nou but it would be nice, I’m kinda sick of watching them behave like a little team when they come to Camp Nou. One of ozil-di maria maybe out for marcelo in the wing or even granero for more muscle defense and keeping the team together. AND still no lassana diarra IMO this time (thank god) he really can defend and foul the sh*t out of you I feel like we will be ale to play more than last clasicos in camp nou. But I’m so afraid!! only the thought of messi can calm me down 😀

    • soccermomof4
      November 21, 2010

      I’m a little (lot) scared too this year. But,
      Xaviniesta > Ozil
      Pique/Puyol > Pepe/ Carvalho
      Messi >>>>>>> CR7 (can you really call it a hat trick if two of the goals were pks)

      • Helge
        November 21, 2010

        It was one penalty and one freekick, which was actually straight at the keeper, but Gorka made a horrific error that has, according to goal.com, potential to end his number 1 status at Bilbao… 😀
        Messi scored a tap-in, I don’t think he’s >>>>>>> but more like >>> CR7.

        • HY
          November 21, 2010

          Though in general, gotta say that I think Messi’s >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>… CR7 in every way and on every level, as a player and as a human being.

          • Helge
            November 21, 2010

            Well, as a human being, you could put some more >>> to it 😀

            But as a player, CR is really at his very best these days, maybe even better than in his CL winning season with ManUtd. Plus he already owned Piqué and Busquets in the international friendly. I just want to make clear that right now, CR is really on fire. So if we beat Real and prevent him from scoring, it would be one of the best Clasico wins ever, from my point of view!

          • Jnice
            November 21, 2010

            Ronaldo doesn’t come close to Messi. You can put as many of >>>>>>> as you want. He may be hot right now, but Messi is hotter.

            Look at other facets of the game besides the goals and tell me who is involved more in the match with their respective teams when it comes to combining with players, pressuring defenders, and generally helping out the team. >> or >>>>>>>> Messi is better. Period.

            As for owning Pique and Busquets, he only did one move where he really “owned” them. The rest was temper tantrums and Ramos being afraid to put in a tackle on his club teammate, relying on Busi and Pique to his defensive work for him.

    • FP
      November 21, 2010

      You lost all credibility when you said that Di Maria doesn’t put pressure on players , that has got to be most ignorant comment I have heard about RM this year and trust me I have heard many , all the Madrid attackers help defend and put pressure on the opponents with eception of C.Ronaldo at times .
      I don’t know if all these laughable analysis are due to the fact that people here don’t actually watch Madrid matches or it is because you guys just want to reassure yourselves before the big game ?

      And Poipoi you claim that RM behaved like a little team by playing Marcelo on the wing ( which is his best position ) convenientely though you don’t mention the fact that Guardialo played Alves on the wing and puyol behind him at the Bernabeu , were Barca a little team then ?
      Lol since when is granero a “muscle” player ? If Granero is brought on it would be because of his ability to hold possession

      • ooga aga
        November 21, 2010

        i think you missed his meaning when he said “little team,” but anyway, have a nice day, we’ll see who plays as a team in 8 days’ time.

      • Stephen
        November 21, 2010

        You’re right ALL Madrid will be defending they have to, can’t be attacking without a ball can ya? 🙂 So Crissy will have to chase the ball to his own goal-line the entire game.

        • FP
          November 21, 2010

          Stephen from reading this blog regularly I have noticed that you are one of its most clueless posters , I find your arrogance baseless but all this will be settled on the 29th anyway so I’m out !
          Good day 🙂

      • poipoi
        November 21, 2010

        I suggest you watch the ath bilbao game again then. just take a look at bilbao’s goal for instance and take note of the posision of those 4. no.where.near. Only the classical line of 4+2.

        BUT I was talking about EE bus-parking like they have done before and stuff, constant position more than steals and help. EE plays with two def mids, khedira and alonso and the rest are more free that is more than obvious, even if they “help”.

        laughable laughable… Granero sure is tougher than ozil, and I was talking precisely about holding possesion when his name came up, marcelo for more speed and hustle… I won’t say di maria also looks soft like ozil, I think that was what got you like that. he is no defensive player if I’m allowed to say 😉

        believe me I watch EE a lot. maybe dimaria defends a lot from a fan point of view but… ozil??? oh come on, pipita does more in the 9 position IMO.

        AND last time madrid came: pipita cr9 and kaka NO SUCH 4TH SKILLED OFFENSIVE PLAYER. marcelo came in. say what you may but we have been going to bernabeu to attack and have the ball, in fact what the heck we have been winning and I can recall a 2-6 😉 can’t say the same about EE in camp nou lately… capello, juande, pellegrini and now let’s see mourinho, the special one.

        • poipoi
          November 21, 2010

          besides … how can you be so sure about the win on 29th? even if you felt superior anything can happen in a single football game. not even barça fans are sure and we are the better team. that is so typical and disgusting, dark side indeed

  23. GREECE BARCA
    November 21, 2010

    Nice review!I must say that i am not afraid at all.I am sure we will win with a great perfomance!Very sure!But first we have to win in athens so we top the group(kazan will win copenhagen).

    • Nick
      November 21, 2010

      Having watched Rubin’s last match against Zenit I wouldn’t be so sure about their CL performance. Firstly, they fielded the first team that could do with a bit of rest but they’re also fighting for the second place in the league. Secondly, they were 0-2 down and got lucky to tie it. Still, I’d obviously prefer not to depend on others.

  24. blitzen
    November 21, 2010

    The Yaya scored a goal for Citeh today. I’m vaguely watching. Is it just me, or do they not pass to David Silva much?

  25. Alexinho
    November 21, 2010

    I knew Bo-bo would do well before he came on. Did anyone see him smiling as he was changing his strip?

    I knew, also, that I shouldn’tve visited this blog until tomorrow. I was saving the downloaded RM-Athletic match for tonight, but there you go and spoil it Kxev! I spoiled the North London Derby for myself yesterday, as well. At least I still have the Colts-Pats clash to look forward to…

  26. Alexinho
    November 21, 2010

    Oh yeah. Best-player-in-the-world status aside, could Messi be, bar-none, the best pure SHOOTER in the world? That first goal was something of a signature goal for him, and yet it’s incredible. Blaze a shot at a million miles an hour, keep it on the ground, and place it so accurately in the far side that you have to call it a finesse shot instead of a pure-power shot? Outrageous! And yet so typical for him.

    • Jnice
      November 21, 2010

      Definitely one of the best and most accurate shooters. His shot has improved every year, too. He could hardly score outside the box when he first came up.

  27. Jnice
    November 21, 2010

    Anyone see Eto’o’s head-butt? He let his emotions get the better of him. Don’t think the referees saw it, but I think he will get a retroactive suspension.

    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PAAKsa460FQ&feature=player_embedded

    • Kari
      November 21, 2010

      Zidaaaaaaaaaaaaane! -esque, isn’t it? But yeah, he’ll definately get some kind of suspension/fine… Unless Serie A is as inept as La Liga.

    • Vj
      November 21, 2010

      Meh, watch Luis Suarez go Mike Tyson on Bakkal:

      ||http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxrcAT8iHoA&feature=player_embedded

      via Dirty Tackle..

      • Kari
        November 21, 2010

        Sh*t. I just posted that below. Well, whatever. Spread the hilarity!

  28. Kari
    November 21, 2010

    People will complain about the 0-8, but we hit 6 past EE before, while missing some guilt edge chances as well. Almeria were bad, but we weren’t too shabby as well.

  29. Kari
    November 21, 2010

    LOL Suarez bit someone during the Ajax-PSV game

    /http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zOd5kQ6PJc

    • andrew
      November 21, 2010

      he is the biggest wanker in football right now. i hate that man. just saying…

      • Jose
        November 21, 2010

        How can you hate the Hero of Johannesburg? 😛

    • Soy Culé
      November 21, 2010

      Wow, and we were actually considering buying that guy? No thanks, dude.

    • Vj
      November 21, 2010

      Watched too many Twilight reruns before the match I guess..

  30. soccermomof4
    November 21, 2010

    off topic…but gotta say it…I love my Baltimore Ravens right now! (I’m an equal oppurtunity football fan) —then on to watching DVR’d real football after the Ravens

  31. just sayin'
    November 21, 2010

    Well, if Villa is fully integrated into our offence, we’re in a heap of trouble. I wanna like Villa, … really I do. He’s happy to be here, gives a 100% (IMO, just not Barca quality 100%), gets along with the team mates, wants to do his best. But, you can’t say that he has flaggingly energy & doesn’t know where to be when the ball is passed or crossed and also say that he’s a joy to watch and give him a 6. Well, I guess you can say anything you like, but I just don’t agree. 🙂
    I think that your even finding it difficult to rate him. He’s likable, so you feel he deserves a high rating, but when you really watch him, your seldom fully satisfied.
    I would add, not being able to handle the ball, not looking up to make sure there is someone in a better position to pass rather than taking a shot on goal, an often times weak shot on goal, little creativity when he’s in the box as additional minuses.
    Yes, he has moments, I will give him that. Great back pass to Messi, and dragging defenders away from Messi as memorable moments. But, he does 10 consecutive bad things before he does something great. Just inconsistent IMO, and I’m hoping he is not just fully integrated with this teams playing style and will get better over time. Although I have not seen consistent improvement (as in Mascherano’s performance), instead he’s more hit or miss.

    • barca96
      November 21, 2010

      10 consecutive bad things? Wow. I’m not sure which match you’ve been watching mate. Not even in his 1st few matches did he ever made 10 consecutive bad things 😆
      He was involved in at least 3 goals last night, if not more.
      1 direct assist and 2 that led to a goal.

    • Kxevin
      November 21, 2010

      Wrong-o, just sayin’. Rating him was easy. It was even easier than Henry, because back in that day, when he got a good rating after not scoring, people would accuse me of luuuvin’ me some Titi. But everybody loves Villa, so it sits a lot better with them.

      Fact of the matter is that Villa had a good match, even without scoring a goal. He works very well with Messi, and also in the context of our offense. He makes the right pass more often than not, and is understanding how to play in the tornado that is our attack.

      And Villa didn’t do 10 bad things the entire match, never mind before he did one good thing. My quibbles with him are above: his feet aren’t quick, and he doesn’t attack the goal as he should, so crosses go begging. The latter is reflected in his rating, as you can’t really grade someone one what nature gave them.

      A perfect example is the Krkic first goal. Villa wouldn’t have turned that trick. He’s a hell of a striker, and one that is looking like a better psychic fit for our offense.

      When he first came, he got low scores in match reviews, because he wasn’t part of the offense. And people gave me crap about it. I’m okay with that. Now that he is becoming part of the offense, moving and playing better, when he does that he is rated accordingly.

      But never, ever question my motives or put thoughts into my head. I know exactly how to rate Villa, and every other player on the pitch. To me, they play to the ratings that I give them. Simple as that.

      If you aren’t a fan, fess up to that, without using a critique of my Villa rating as a red herring. It’s okay to not be a fan of a player. Poipoi, for example, hated Henry. No matter what he did. Others hated Ibrahimovic, no matter what he did. It’s okay. It’s part of being a fan.

      • poipoi
        November 21, 2010

        you’re just sad because people love villa more than titi 😀

        • Kxevin
          November 21, 2010

          Well, I just hope that Villa almost single-handedly beats down EE in the Bernabeu, as Henry did. Speaking of big shoes to fill.

          • poipoi
            November 21, 2010

            almost single-handedly is maaaybe a little too much, but ok lol

      • just sayin'
        November 21, 2010

        Wow. Kinda harsh. But, that’s okay. I like this board because we can discuss our differing opinions. First of all, I’m a fan. But, just because I’m a fan doesn’t mean I can’t voice my opinion and criticize where I see fit, right? Unlike Poipoi, I just don’t hate someone no matter what they do. I try to stay objective and my criticisms come more from a place of loving the game, the player and wanting to see improvement than just plain old complaining.
        I will give you that maybe 10 wrong things was an exaggeration. But, in my opinion, he does do a bunch of not so nice things before he does a good one. Just between you and I, we already have quite a laundry list. At this time, I cannot think of another of our starting XI that I can find as much room for improvement, can you?? I’d like to see him cross some things off the list and come into his own on our team. I think he has it in him, I’m worried because I haven’t fully seen it.
        Maybe I shouldn’t quibble with your ratings because I might not quite understand them.
        In closing, I would just say that the fact that Villa did not score is troubling as well. I mean even Bojan scored twice! (Just being cheeky and sarcastic here.) And I realize that Messi was feeding him passes to get his confidence up. But, I didn’t rate him any less for not doing so, as many times what you do on the pitch with and without the ball is more an indication of how you performed on the pitch than any ball you put in back of the net. However, this team had only won one game and if Villa (as our forward) can’t score in a game against a very inferior opponent, I find that worrying. Combine that with the fact that he had a game that you yourself rated him a “6” overall (lowest of our XI), I think I might just be a little more vocal in my hopes that he can play to the potential I have seen him play.
        Visca Barca!! Visca El Guaje!! (just in case you had doubts) 🙂

        • poipoi
          November 21, 2010

          hey hey, there have been cases of me liking how titi played. and not liking how iniesta played for example. hate and love are a part of the game, in fact i think they come from the game and behaviour of that player in my case… his salary and playing every single game when I think he doesn’t deserve it. I liked titi when he came same as ibra and villa. Maybe ibra a little less because of etoo and how people said he was better than him without even giving him two seasons.

          villa works a lot and is dynamite with messi unlike ibra, that is a good start point. I don’t care if he doesn’t score that much if he stays focused and willing to play behind messi

          • just sayin'
            November 21, 2010

            Sorry, didn’t mean to offend poipoi. For me personally, love has always been part of the game and criticizing only because I want to see our team succeed. It’s a gien that Villa works a lot with Messi, unlike Ibra and I too give him leeway in not scoring as long as he is working well with Messi and assisting. I don’t have as much a problem with his scoring as his level of play on the field. I think he hasn’t quite figured out our style of play. He’s not as quick with the passes in the tight spots in the box and that’s mostly where he has to do well as we tend to score our goals very close to the net. At about the 60th minute I’ve noticed him walking around with his mouth open, as if he is tired and winded. Is he having trouble keeping physically fit for a full game playing with this team?? And then to paraphrase Kxevin he seems to stand around and watch in the box because I don’t think he’s figured out exactly where to be. Hopefully, with time, it will all come together.

          • ooga aga
            November 21, 2010

            if villa bags 25 goals and gets 15 assists this year, plus does the other intangibles, i will be happy. and he is on pace to do that.

            he needs to work on being offsides less, he should use better shot selection, and he should maybe improve his stamina abit, (like i can talk i get winded after a couple blocks heh heh) i dont know what you can fault him for at this point. its so early besides and he is just learning to play with messi.

          • ooga aga
            November 21, 2010

            oh yeah if even 2 or 3 of his 5 shots off the post this season had gone in, how different would we sound now?

    • Helge
      November 22, 2010

      But doesn’t a 6 out of 10 regard the bad moments from David Villa?

      If Villa had gotten 8/10, I could have understood criticism on the rating, but this rating implies playing to 60% of your potential, which hits the nail on the head imo.

  32. barca96
    November 21, 2010

    Did you guys notice how Mourinho was simply talking to his assistants while serving the ban? How come the Spanish FA keeps quiet on this matter? What is the purpose of a ban if he continues communicating with his assistants?

    Poi poi, I watched EE’s match too but Di Maria certainly did a lot of running up and down. Was really impressed by his work rate.

    • Jim
      November 21, 2010

      I agree and no matter what happens they won’t want another defeat so they will all be busting a gut to prevent that happening. This will be pretty close, even if we play well.

      You have to feel after not getting one of the 8 that Villa’s name is on a crucial goal a week tomorrow.

    • Kxevin
      November 21, 2010

      For the same reason that Guardiola gets on the phone to Vilanova when he’s serving a ban. All coaches do it, some more overtly than others.

      • Kxevin
        November 21, 2010

        And here’s another thing about Villa: Like it or not, he has some big ass (or should it be big-nosed) shoes to fill. Ibrahimovic won El Clasic for us last season with a monster of a goal, one that frankly, I don’t think Villa has in him. But Villa has other skills that will need to be on display.

        This Clasic is massive. Last season, EE was a wing team, with offense that depended upon TB, or Ramos with overlaps or set pieces. This season, they have added the midfield creativity and pace that they lacked last season. They are a dangerous side. I think the match could end 4-0 either way as easily as it could end 0-0. I just hope we’re on the right end of the scoreline.

        p.s. Some will say that the defense, in particular Puyol, won El Clasic. Wrong. They just kept the scoreline at 0-0 until the offense could do its thing. Can’t wait, and if I can get a ticket in the soci lottery this week, I will happily pony up the couple grand for a plane ticket. I have a feeling this is going to be a very special match.

        • just sayin'
          November 21, 2010

          Agreed that villa has big shoes to fill. Just about anybody joining our team has to really step it up. I’m not saying it’s easy and Villa is not trying, I think he IS trying his best (I mean, it’s his childhood dream to play on Barca, I know he’s giving it his all) but IMO he’s still under performing. Maybe he needs a full season under his belt and I am more than ok to see him get that. Villa probably can’t score the Ibra goal, maybe as you say the Krick goal either. Probably not a few of Messi’s goals (but, who can?). As you say, Villa has other skill sets that will NEED to be on display and especially so on Monday. I hate to say that I think he will have trouble with RM back line, but I would love to be proven wrong and he comes into his own and explodes.

    • poipoi
      November 21, 2010

      ok I can take it, my thought is that xaviniesta against any team that won’t play really defensively/agressively against them is very cool for us. Mourinho has been plying the same 11 for some games and I wonder if against us he’ll play the same way. If the top two forwards are 1-pipa 2-thongboy the other two forwards/mids of the sorta 4-2-3-1 they play, the other two 3-di maria 4-ozil are really gonna have to defend against barça because if everything goes as we wish we’re going to have the ball more than 60% and attack. besides khedira and xabi alonso are good but not precisely the best pair ever IMO

  33. GREECE BARCA
    November 21, 2010

    Oh come on kxevin.You have said so much times that we won liga cause ibra.s goal against E.E.I guess we are a team and we win or lost as a team.But if you want like that,we lost C.L cause ibra was SHIT in 2 semi-finals.Ok now?

    • November 21, 2010

      No, it isn’t okay. He’s a flaming asshat, but you can’t deny what he did. And we didn’t advance through the CL final because Krkic pushed a wide-open header wide of the net, then we got hosed on the handball that wasn’t. If either of those moments go the other way, we advance.

      Recall your history. I sure do.

      Was somebody else going to score a goal had the scumbag not? Maybe. But we’ll never know, and nobody else did. So yes, his goal provided the winning margin in El Clasic in the Camp Nou last season. Deal with it.

      • ooga aga
        November 21, 2010

        we can also chose moments of history to highlight in order to create the story we wish to tell, but why we choose certain moments to highlight, that is the question

  34. GREECE BARCA
    November 21, 2010

    And if you want we won C.L thanx to eto!Or we won liga thanx to messi.s goal in bernabeu e.t.c..or..that conversation have no point.

    • November 21, 2010

      And if you’re going start something, you can’t back out by saying “That conversation have no point.” YOU raised it.

      –In the CL final, Eto’o scored, but so did Messi. So maybe if Eto’o doesn’t score, we still win 1-0. Who knows? But Eto’o’s goal wasn’t the lone goal in the CL Final.

      –Messi scored the first goal in the Bernabeu last season, but P! scored the second. Again, it wasn’t the lone goal.

      I repeat, know your history before you throw down challenges.

  35. ooga aga
    November 21, 2010

    look at the average position map from the almeria match. from the link that kevin gave above. note that it is mirror-imaged cos it shows alves on the left. couple interesting things, it shows maxwell was slightly higher up the pitch than alves, on average, and it also shows our attacking players slightly shifted towards the right, with pedro out wide, villa/bojan practically in the middle of the pitch and messi in between them and pedro. usually the forwards are spread across the pitch more…whats my point? i dont know

    *http://soccernet.espn.go.com/gamecast?id=302149&page=features&cc=5901&league=ESP.1

    • Para
      November 21, 2010

      I thought I was just reading the map wrong…the ‘average position’ map shows alves on the right, but the heat map shows him on the left. Is that because he tended to be on the right, but only got the ball on the left? I haven’t managed to watch the match yet, so I wasn’t sure if the maps mean something other than what I think, or…alves was playing on the left.

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