Levante In One Short Act

Happy New Year from BFB to you and yours. It’s 1-1-11 and you know what that means! It means, uh, um, er, well, I don’t know. I guess it means we’re starting a new calendar year and by the time we get back to this point on our constant journey around the sun, things will once again seem totally different. It’s been an eventful year and I expect nothing less from this one. Please see our poll! DO IT!

And it gets started quickly, with a January 2 date with Levante, who come waltzing into town on the back of being demolished by Real Madrid to the tune of 8-0. And speaking of demolished…

Scene: A field outside of Barcelona. Men stand around in a group, stretching.

Gerard Pique: Sheshush Chrisht.

Bojan Krkic: What’s wrong with you, Gerard? Are you sick?

Carles Puyol: Shick of being show bad at keeping up wish me.

Pique: Shounded like a goosh idea a sheh time… [rubs his stomach then head]

Puyol: Shot for shot wish sheh Pushi? Happy New Shear, Sherard’s toilet.

Bojan: Eeeewwww.

Pedro: Good thing you’re already suspended for the game tomorrow.

Pique: I am?

Gabi Milito: How come I didn’t get an invite to these festivities?

Puyol: We dransh liquor, nosh blood.

Milito: Oh, okay.

Bojan: Who’s going to start for them? We’re doomed!

Mascherano: I’ll play linebacker!

Pedro: What?

Marc Bartra: Hey everyone, I’m going to be in the squad this weekend!

Pique: Yoush better not shcrew up!

Puyol: Happy New Year! Drinks on Gerard!

Pique: Wait…wut?

Puyol: Awoooooooo! [he and Pique run off foaming at the mouth]


And that’s how the training went this morning for FCB. The rest of the world was too hung over to really notice what was going on and, truth be told, it’s College Football New Years Day and there’s not much I can do about it. Oklahoma is on, after all, in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl and I cannot be expected to pay attention to other things.

Levante is fairly terrible, but we can’t take them lightly. Bartra and Abidal are expected to start together and that should be enough to get us through as Levante doesn’t have an offense to speak of. Apologies for how short this is, but much more this coming week as I’ll be back in the swing of things and will have more time. Holidays are so harsh, you know?

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Written by:

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


  1. K(legit) in Kathmandu
    January 2, 2011

    happy new year to the guys at BFB from the top of the world (am near Everest as I type) ๐Ÿ˜€

    and crush levante, athletic etc

  2. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    I may be watching the worst match I’ve ever seen at professional level – Rangers versus Celtic on Sky Sports. You can just see the frustration building as they try to string more than three passes together . . . . then someone snaps and they hoof it up (or out of) the park. Simply awful. We are so fortunate. I may have to offer go do the dishes and let the kids off !

      • Jim
        January 2, 2011

        No it was the Old Firm derby but now watching the first 20 minutes of the Chelsea vs Aston Villa match I have to say I see your point :). it is a level above what I’ve been watching, ‘though.

        In the Uk in general there seems to be a terrible impatience to get the ball forward at any cost. They say they value possession but brains seem to fly out the window once the match starts.

  3. beeeef
    January 2, 2011

    looking forward to the continuation of BFB in the new year.

    so i’ve been out of the loop for the last week or so, but ive seen reports of O. Romeu going abroad to england or somewhere for a loan period. is there anything in those reports, or is it just the winter break transfer rumor mill?

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      Don’t think there is anything in those reports. Every week there are fresh reports of one of youngsters going to England or somewhere.

  4. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Anyone else watching Athletic Bilbao/Deportivo? Deportivo are really dreadful, but they are a goal ahead and hanging on for dear life. Bilbao is wasting chance after chance, I can only hope they do the same when we play them on Wednesday!

  5. Goo
    January 2, 2011

    Pep starts the new year with a bang, and starts Busi as CB.

    Line-up (official): Valdes – Alves Busquets Abidal Maxwell – Xavi Mascherano Iniesta – Pedro Bojan Villa.

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      Pep never ceases to amaze me. I love him. ๐Ÿ˜€

      • Goo
        January 2, 2011

        I want to see Thiago come in for Xavi, Vazquez for Villa, and Bartra for whoever. Not gonna happen though.

  6. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    Didn’t see that one coming ! Busi at CB? I’m assuming that’s because Pep doesn’t see much business at the back today? We play a very high line for a non-CB to be just plonked in there. My worry would be him getting left in and playing someone onside . . . but then you need a worry going into a game like this.

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      Should be interesting.

      I’m going conservative for this match and saying 2-0. Hopefully we have some fluidity to our game.

  7. vicsoc8
    January 2, 2011

    Busquets shouldn’t be a problem. He has often this season played a hybrid defensive midfielder/center back role, where he drops into center back when we have possession to give a 3 man defense with both wing backs getting high up the field. He should be fine there today, because we should have possession most of the time.

    Disappointed not to see Fontas though. I heard he posted he would be starting this match on some social outlet. If that’s true, could this be a slap on the wrist for him?

  8. January 2, 2011

    Would run a liveblog, if there was interest. Not many people seem to be around

    • Jim
      January 2, 2011

      I’d be tempted to sit back and enjoy the game, Vicsoc ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. blitzen
    January 2, 2011


    ESPN3 feed.

  10. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    I’m not particularly worried Vicsoc, as I don’t see a lot of danger. However, if they are going to score I’d see the biggest danger as being someone played onside by someone not coming out.

    We have Busi and Abidal as CBs both a little out of their comfort zone – Busi is used to hanging back when one of the CBs goes raiding rather than having to make hairline decisions about staying or going out while Abidal ( whatever your thoughts on his CB talents) isn’t used to organising the backline which he will have to do today. Still, no real reason to take big chances with offside when they aren’t likely to be attacking us much.

  11. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Jeffren left out of the squad…hmm.

  12. January 2, 2011

    Pique doesn’t look happy. No one for him to pick on sitting near him today

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      Afellay is next to him, he can mess with the new boy!

  13. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    Ibi also looks pretty worried. Think it has just dawned on him the team he has joined?

    Woah, Messi in the stands and not on the bench?

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011


      This one is great, but you may have trouble connecting as it’s very busy.

      I also have:


      • Culer_Than_Thou
        January 2, 2011

        Thanks blitzen.

        the second one works for me.


    • January 2, 2011

      not bad, in spanish


  14. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    –Xavi equalized Migueli’s record of appearances

    –Villa will have 150 top flight goals if he scores today

  15. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    If he doesn’t it won’t be for the want of trying. He is dropping back hoping to get shots.

    Wow. What happened there?

  16. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    I’m going for a 2-0 win, but this game has a 0-0 all—Bojan almost scores—over it.


  17. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    Boy, Captcha gets irritating in situations like this. Gradually warming up now. The ball is moving better.

  18. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    They’re defending the right wing really well. We need more from Maxwell earlier in the move on the left.

  19. y2k156
    January 2, 2011

    we have to use wings better. they are crowdng out the top of the box.

  20. soccermomof4
    January 2, 2011

    back from church and watching the game—why aren’t we up 3-0 yet?

  21. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    I really hate these ESPN commentators.

  22. Goo
    January 2, 2011

    When was the last time we scored from a set piece?

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      I will never forgive Abidal for not taking that chance to score! Come on!

      • Goo
        January 2, 2011

        Yeah, my new year’s wishlist included Abidal scoring, that was so close.

  23. January 2, 2011

    Their keeper can’t hold onto the ball today. Take more long shots and always have people crashing.

  24. Jnice
    January 2, 2011

    I’m sorry, but Villa’s movement that half was shocking. He thought he was a midfielder and when he wasn’t trying to be a midfielder, he was just standing around.

    I’m mad that actually predicted 2-0, when I knew we would look like this. I also said last week this wouldn’t even be close to a blowout.

    Iniesta is the only one that looks to have any sort of drive, the rest are static and off the pace. Hope we find a way to score.

  25. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Frustrating. This is why I freak out when we have games after the WB. Shades of 07/08 in our play today.

    Bojan was obstructed, but don’t think the ref has the cojones to call a pen right before HT.

  26. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    It’s that funny situation again which we’ve seen before where if we don’t score we appear to run out of ideas despite having complete control of the game.

    Need to keep the pace up, both of the ball and of our movement and get both Alves and Maxwell running onto the ball earlier in the move. However, at the moment a penalty for a foul on Iniesta looks our best bet!

  27. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Never mind Villa, what about Busquets? He looked like he wasn’t sure where he was supposed to be playing most of the time. I don’t think he makes a good CB.

    • Kari
      January 2, 2011

      I thought Busi did fine, consider this is technically the first time he’s played CB.

      Obviously when we have a LB and a DM playing CB, it’s not going to look as solid as a WC winning CB duo ๐Ÿ˜€

  28. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Iโ€™m sorry, but Villaโ€™s movement that half was shocking. He thought he was a midfielder and when he wasnโ€™t trying to be a midfielder, he was just standing around.

    You could replace Villa with a Gone Tall As*hole (not those exact words) during the second half of last season.

    I still think we’ll sneak a 1-0, probably 2-0 if Levante open up, but man, we’re in trouble if Andres looks the one most likely to score.

  29. BA
    January 2, 2011

    i’m not gonna say we look like crap….

    but we look like crap.

  30. Goo
    January 2, 2011

    We’ve had a gazilion corners, several chances and no goals. I’d be really happy if we get just one against the bus.

    I miss Messi.

  31. Hilal
    January 2, 2011

    I got a baaaad feeling this is gona be one of those games.

    Hope im wrong..

  32. January 2, 2011

    We don’t look like scoring at the moment. Only bright points are Iniesta and Pedro, and Busquets and Abidal look good when they are giving it away in our penalty box.

    This is the type of game we need a 2 year older Thiago in. Seriously, put him in now, he can’t be worse than Bojan atm.

  33. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    So, the winter break blues eh? Hope the second half is better..


  34. Euler
    January 2, 2011

    The story of the first half was Barca controlling the ball as usual, but Levante controlling space.

    They are playing 9 men behind the ball with 5 at the back. That extra man is allowing them to play the Barca width better and taking away the diagonal ball between the CB-FB that Barca uses to such potent effect.

    Real Madrid tried to play in a similar way at the back in the Clasico but they couldn’t maintain shape and tried to play higher up the pitch.

    Part of the reason why Barca can’t force Levante out of shape is the lack of movement and threat from the middle. They really miss Messi in matches like this because he forces teams to lose shape in the back regardless of how many men they play back there.

    Villa is doing well but Pedro and Bojan keep getting caught in the defensive traffic. Bojan in particular. He needs to understand that he cannot thrive by stationing himself against the opposition backline and playing as a more conventional “9”. He gets physically over run again and again and winds up sitting on the pitch. He’s not going to get that call at this level no matter how much he complains.

    They need to circulate the ball faster and move faster without the ball. Keep shooting from distance as they’ve generated some good chances.

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      “Bojan … needs to understand that he cannot thrive by stationing himself against the opposition backline and playing as a more conventional โ€œ9โ€ณ. He gets physically over run again and again and winds up sitting on the pitch. Heโ€™s not going to get that call at this level no matter how much he complains.”

      THIS! Exactly. Thank you.

  35. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Good thing there’s not liveblog. The mod would be up in arms with all the warnings they’d have to give out due to swearing. ๐Ÿ˜€

    Anyway, second half is underway!

    I say 2-0, Pedro! , Iniesta (or Villa or Bojan) ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    Hang on, we’re beginning to sound like the Liveblog. We’re still in control of the game, there have been chances and there’ll be more. I’m not panicking until we’ve seen the next twenty minutes.

  37. Kari
    January 2, 2011


    (Dani I might kill you someday.)

  38. jordi(TM)
    January 2, 2011

    OK that worked out but WHY didnt Dani shoot! Anyway thankyou Pedro

  39. Nav
    January 2, 2011


  40. January 2, 2011

    Pedro!!!!!!!!! (Deserves more exclamation marks now, really).

  41. Victor
    January 2, 2011

    Winter Break blues perhaps. Remember that Barcelona was kinda like this back in August/September… either way, I don’t like that we are already looking for a “villain” when the game hasn’t ended… Villa, Busquets, Bojan or Maxwell… come on… besides, almost the entire team is looking… well… kinda static… why just look for someone and say “oh, he’s guilty for this”…?

  42. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Dani just gave me a freaking heart attack! Luckily Pedro!! was on the scene to give CPR. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      I was about to kill Dani. I promise you.

  43. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Gimme some props, people. Gimme some props.

  44. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    THIAGO!!! for sMasch. I hope this doesn’t bite us back in the a**

    Or is sMasch injured?!

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      This is Thiago’s “prove you’re ready for the first team” chance.

  45. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago for Masche..

    BTW, Kari is a true cule’ heroine, if you didn’t already know..

  46. BarcaOwl
    January 2, 2011

    Hi, everyone. Happy New Year. Thought that was a nice goal by Pedro. Now it’s Thiago for Masch? This should be interesting. ๐Ÿ™‚

  47. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    FK for us.. Xavi and Villa over it

    It’s Xavi and the keeper handles it with relative ease.

  48. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    That’s where we see that Busi isn’t a CB. Nobody behind you to clear up in that position, my son. You needed to at least make an effort to go for it.

  49. Euler
    January 2, 2011

    Barca is no longer has a true holding player on the pitch against a team that has been dangerous on the counter.

    They need to score a second goal and do so quickly.

    Xavi is playing deeper now with Thiago in. But Xavi’s strength is not going to be defending the counter at speed.

  50. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    The ultimate crime now would be to concede.

    Woah, just as I type it Goooooal!

  51. Kari
    January 2, 2011



  52. Goo
    January 2, 2011


  53. Nav
    January 2, 2011


    ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

  54. jordi(TM)
    January 2, 2011

    That was a fantastic finish by P!

  55. BarcaOwl
    January 2, 2011

    Another Pedro goal! Excellent! Maybe he can get a hat trick? ๐Ÿ˜€

  56. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    Fair play to Alves. That’s what we’re looking for.

  57. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    I would just like to point out that this is the first time that both Xavi and Thiago have been on the pitch at the same time. And I LOVE it! This is working really well. ๐Ÿ˜€

  58. Euler
    January 2, 2011

    Both Barca goals have come through play out wide to Alves.

    Barca has finally forced Levante to lose it’s shape at the back. They are still playing 5 at the back but not maintaining space.

  59. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Villa looking so much better now that he is back on the wing. Thiago in the middle allows Villa to drift left and he is more comfortable there.

    • Kari
      January 2, 2011

      Nah, it’s the right substitution. Bojan was a liablity, it had to be said.

      Against a team that relies on defensive solidarity like Levante, he can’t be camping outside the 18 yard box like he had been.

      • Victor
        January 2, 2011

        However, one has to wonder if Pep actually told him to do that.

        • Kari
          January 2, 2011

          True, Victor. But I doubt that somewhat, because Pep stresses movement, especially off the ball. Bojan was basically in the same position the whole game.

          Out of the three–Bojan, Villa, Pedro!, I’d say Villa had the best overall movement (in regards to trying to open up space).

  60. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago, by the way, is the one playing deeper, not Xavi. Bojan is off for Keita. The right sub IMO. Not his greatest game, Bojangles.

  61. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    Keita for CT, and now we have the holding mid..

  62. BA
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago is the man.

    Pep’s subs have been perfect so far.

  63. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    Both Puyol and Pique’ went OOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHH! for P!!

  64. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago is so boss. P! almost gets his hatrick.

    And a counter for us! Dani runs, and runs and puts it a great cross~! Corner.

    Oh, and we have a FK outside the box. Keita taken down.

  65. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Oh, and Athletic Bilbao lost their game today. At home. To Deportivo.

    Tee hee. ๐Ÿ˜›

    • Vj
      January 2, 2011

      Depor scoring two was even more surprising..

  66. BA
    January 2, 2011

    Pedro’s run just then on that break was amazing. he made up 80 yards only to miss his 3rd goal by about 2 feet.

    welcome to football, i guess.

  67. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    Nearly an OG!! That would’ve been his hattrick..

  68. soccermomof4
    January 2, 2011

    It’s hard to watch the Ravens game on TV, The Barca game on my laptop, and type at the same time.

  69. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    C’mon, Pep. Gaby for Busi please (not that Busi had a bad game or anything). I’d like to see Milito

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      From your lips to Pep’s ears…except for Maxwell, not Busi.

      Nice to see you back, Gaby!

  70. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Ah, it’s Maxwell. Meh, it’s better than way.

    Pep’s HT team talk + subs give him an 11/10 in my book.

  71. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    Gaby for Maxi! Abi shifts to left I guess..

  72. jordi(TM)
    January 2, 2011

    Hmm, things getting interesting with that goal.

  73. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    OK, boys, only 10 minutes left, keep it together.

    Or better, score another goal.

  74. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Have no fear Villa will get on the scoresheet. Or Pedro! will get his hattrick.

    Don’t underestimate us, Levante! It’s not 07/08 anymore–we can hold onto a lead now! ๐Ÿ˜€

  75. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Dani has his crossing boots on. Where the hell were they last season?!

  76. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    THIAGO, I <3 YOU

    Villa off the crossbar. Sh*t.

  77. Euler
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago has immense potential to help Barca “break buses.”

    His touch and control in confined spaces is brilliant.

  78. jordi(TM)
    January 2, 2011

    all i can do is laugh there. WTF dani!!

  79. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    LOL. We get booked for timewasting.

    Xavi gets booked for owning the ref verbally.

  80. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Abidal is such a G. So calm under pressure.

  81. Jnice
    January 2, 2011

    Dani and Villa are criminals. Robbing Barรงa of a 3rd.

  82. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Nervy last moments…

    Oh sh*t FK to Levante.

  83. Vj
    January 2, 2011

    WTF was that? Stuani didn’t do anything ๐Ÿ˜›

  84. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Phew! We’re save.

    For a second, I thought the fudging ref blew for a pen…


  85. Kari
    January 2, 2011


    He equalizes Migueli’s record.

  86. soccermomof4
    January 2, 2011

    Not a great performance but I’ll take the 3 Pts.

    Now, GO RAVENS!

  87. jordi(TM)
    January 2, 2011

    Well that was exciting. Unnecessarily so, (*glaring at you Dani and VIlla*) but exciting nonetheless.

  88. BarcaOwl
    January 2, 2011

    Oh, that’s a nice banner. ๐Ÿ˜€ Wish I knew what Xavi said though.

    • Kari
      January 2, 2011

      “It’s an honour to wear this shirt and I hope to wear it for many more years. Visca el Barรงa! Visca Catalunya!”

      via barcastuff

      • Victor
        January 2, 2011

        He made two assists, almost scores a goal and… besides the mistake… had an overall great game.

        • blitzen
          January 2, 2011

          He made two assists, yes, but he squandered several chances in front of an open net and made some very strange passing choices. He wasn’t terrible, but in no way was he the best player on the pitch.

          I would say Pedro for sure, or even Thiago since the whole team seemed to perform better when he came on.

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      Alves was solid, but he ruined it for me with his decision making in the end. Even that pass to Pedro for the 1st goal was stupid.

      I’ll go with Pedro as MOTM.

  89. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago was definitely on fire in this game. I hope we see him on the field with Xavi more often.

    Pedro!! is made of win.

    And I swear Dani Alves is going to kill me one of these days.

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      If I knew where Dani and Villa lived, I would be waiting for them right now. Weapon in hand.

  90. jordi(TM)
    January 2, 2011

    Also Thiago did really well today…

    So that means pep hides him away again ;d

    • Jnice
      January 2, 2011

      Of course. See ya in April, Thiago.

  91. Goo
    January 2, 2011

    Barcastuff: Calm start of the year.

    CALM. Yeah, that was calm alright. I was on the edge of my seat in the last few minutes.

    Dani, you did not do good things for my heart today.
    PEDRO!!!!!! is a savior.
    Give Thiago the contract please.
    And Xavi’s a legend!

  92. y2k156
    January 2, 2011

    Feel so relieved about the win. The last 10-20 minutes were too exciting for my comfort. I can understand it being after break but am happy that we played levante and not one of the big guns.

    Pedro was the man today. He is proving at each match day what a good player he is. He has become one of the deadliest strikers in world.

    Thiago was impressive as well. Alves was literally everywhere from sublime to ridiculous.

    For my money, against teams like levante we need better wingplay and today we missed a good left wing.

    • blitzen
      January 2, 2011

      Once Thiago came on, Villa was able to move out to the wings more, and that made a lot of difference to his play (much better than in the first half).

      It will be interesting to see whether Afellay will make it easier to play against this kind of team.

    • Humphrey Bogart
      January 2, 2011

      I think they did okay, regarding the situation: our two CBs out, Messi not there and the trashing Levante got before the break, and so the players thought they could do in second gear. Normaly I am never afraid if we play the big teams because I know everybody will be focused 100% and start in first gear (like against Villareal, Espanyol, the EE,)I am worried about the Hercules, Mallorcas, Rubins and Levantes of this world, when they think they can do by 80%.

  93. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Guardiola: “Seeing how obsessed he is: if his tendons hold on, Xavi can play another 500 games for Barcelona.”


    —Pedro! is man of the match for me. We probably wouldn’t have won the game without Alves, but I’m still pissed at him for taking a billion years in the box.

  94. Euler
    January 2, 2011

    There’s going to be matches in the long season where you just have to be happy to take the full points and move on to the next match. This was one of them.

    Very disjointed match. The team looked much better the second half in attack.

    Taking Mascherano out of the match was a major risk and I don’t think that was the right substitution.

    It left Barca without a true holding player. And the lack of a true holding player was a major reason for the Levante goal.

    It was a great strike but the reason for the goal was that Levante found space between backline and midfield – exactly where the holding player is supposed to be.

    Xavi was playing too far up the pitch. Keita wasn’t back either. Busquets got caught out of position when he tried to step up into space and that let the ball through to Stuani who was left 1 vs. 1 against Milito. And Milito, understandably, looked largely off form today.

    Thiago was needed in this match. But not at Mascherano’s expense. The proper move would have been to take Bojan off (who had a very poor match) and sub Thiago in and move Iniesta to the wing.

    Instead Pep used two moves to do something similar (Thiago-Masch and Keita-Bojan). But in the end this left them worse off defensively as Keita is not a true holding player and did not play like one this match either.

    • BA
      January 2, 2011

      i’d have to disagree. i think we could chalk up their goal to any one of a number of factors: a fresh Levante player playing differently from his predecessor, a fresh Barca defender who in combination with the previous point wasn’t sure who to pick up, a perfect ball over the top or a one-in-a-hundred volleyed finish. probably all those things together. but i think it’s bordering credulity to say that Mascherano would certainly have been positioned to, and indeed intercepted, the ball that led to Levante’s goal.

      Thiago, Mascherano’s replacement, certainly provided more than Mascherano himself had up to that point; so in that very basic sense the sub was a good one. Pep choosing an positive option over a defensive one after the first goal, in order to force Levante open even further and keep them pegged back, both permitted our 2nd goal (along with a host of chances) and left Levante with far fewer chances than they’d had in the first half. that they ended up putting one of those, off a sublime ball, into the back of our net with a volley almost seems irrelevant.

      • Jim
        January 2, 2011

        Agreed. Bottom line was we had two defenders there, neither of whom was marking the man. Masch wouldn’t have been in between them. It was reminiscent of Jorda’s diving header – two defenders but neither taking responsibility. Not getting at either, just saying that’s the difference between players used to that position and fill ins.

      • Euler
        January 2, 2011

        I wasn’t trying to suggest that if Mascherano were playing that the goal would definitely not have been allowed. There’s obviously no way to know that.

        And as with any goal allowed, there are always a myriad of factors for why it happens. The finish was obviously outstanding.

        But the goal’s origin tactically was due to Levante finding a large gap in space between the Barca lines. Stuani was initially closed down by the Busi and Milito. The reason why Levante were able to maintain possession subsequently was due to Valdo being unmarked in the gap in space between the barca mids and the backline.

        An unmarked Valdo in that gap in space allowed Stuani an easy outlet for the ball as Busi and Milito closed him down. Initially the CB did what they are supposed to. In general you want to have the two CB double the opposition’s most advanced player – especially when he has the ball. Busi and Milito did that OK (not great but adequately – they forced Stuani to play the ball backwards, away from goal).

        And one of the reasons why Valdo found space between the lines to provide that outlet was due to the fact that there was no midfielder for Barca playing deep between the lines. That’s the job of the holding player. So while there’s no guarantee Masch would have been there to close down Valdo or to intercept the back pass from Stuani to Valdo, there’s a fair probability that he would have. That’s exactly what the holding player is supposed to do and Masch does that job at an elite level.

        Go back and look at the replay. As Valdo receives the ball to feet unmarked both Xavi and Keita are running back frantically to try to defend. Neither was in the traditional deeper holding position to start with. I think it’s much more likely that Masch would have been.

        When Valdo receives the ball unmmarked Busi is then forced to try to step up into that open space to try to close him down. That leaves Stuani on the inside of Milito, open for a diagonal ball through. Providing that diagonal through ball wasn’t very difficult for Valdo because he had time and space on the ball and Busquets was forced out of position when he stepped up.

        And outside of that specific moment, in general, when you are playing without your first two starting CB, the holding player becomes particularly critical. Neither Busi nor Milito played that goal well. But that’s not surprising and not unexpected. In general you want to provide them support by having a strong holding player shield in front of them. Neither Keita nor Xavi are that player. That left Busi and Milito more exposed than they otherwise would have been.

        The Barca attack was broken in the first half and needed to be fixed. But the attack wasn’t primarily broken because of the way Mascherano played or because the team was too defensively oriented. The major problem with the attack in the first half was that Bojan was terrible and added very little.

        Taking Mascherano off weakens the defense while at the same time doesn’t directly address the issue of Bojan not being effective,IMO. Taking off a defensively oriented player for another attacker doesn’t directly fix the problem of one of the attackers being ineffective.

        • BA
          January 2, 2011

          i can’t argue with either of the claims that a pivotal part of a DM’s job is to patrol and stifle the opposition between the bands of midfield and defense, or that Mascherano himself does this superbly. i’d probably even agree that he might have even gotten to Valdo before he had time to play that sort of ball.

          but your original claim was that the sub of Mascherano for Thiago wasn’t the right one. i’d simply argue in good faith that Thiago’s positivity, and hand in the 2nd goal as well as providing chances for at least a couple of others did more to pin Levante back *defensively* than Mascherano had been doing up to that point. for the sake of argument let’s say Mascherano gets to Valdo and nicks the ball off of him: then he hands it off to Xavi and we go back to doing what we were doing with limited results before. it’s difficult in this case to argue with success in the context of the whole game: Thiago came on, we looked more positive, got the 2nd goal that put us out of reach and eventually collected our 3 points.

          put as succinctly as possible: i think Thiago added more to the side, in balance of offense to defense, than Mascherano did in balance of defense to offense.

          • Tom_Johnson
            January 2, 2011

            “did more to pin Levante back *defensively* than Mascherano had been doing up to that point.”

            That is correct. By creating more chances (creative passing) for his teammates and being positionally aware for our trademarked pressing in the opponents half, he did help limit Levante’s offensive threat. It is just that he had not done in a traditional defensive sense.

            Now, why Keita (or whoever assumed the responsibility when Mascherano left, mid-filder and/or cb) was “not around” when the ball was being passed to Stuani, remains to be determined. Is it a blown assignment and was Pep wrong to trust Keita to be up-to-the-task considering that he played a similar role for Sevilla?

  95. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Thiago: “Happy with the game, not that much with the result.” [barcastuff]

    LOL Thiago. I seriously love this guy. So freakin’ confident ๐Ÿ˜›

  96. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    “Which player of the team is capable of coming to the stadium with shoes like this*????”


    Do I want to know, Pique?

  97. soccermomof4
    January 2, 2011

    Why do you think, at the end of the game, that VV was punting it up field like some EPL keeper? We lost the ball several times that way; it was annoying.

  98. Kari
    January 2, 2011

    Guardiola: “Bojan has still a big margin to grow. Now it’s up to him to fight for his spot. He has the talent for it. [barcastuff]


    • Vicsoc8
      January 2, 2011

      Some tough love for Bojan from Pep. It’s certainly necessary, as Bojan really does need to figure out whatever is blocking his progress and just ge of the and play well.

      • Helge
        January 2, 2011

        At least, Bojan played his part in the 2-0, it was a neat little turn, a perfect pass to Dani Alves and he still created space for Pedro by continuing his run and occupying two defenders. Surely, Dani Alves’ pass was great and perfectly weighted, but it was mainly Bojan who created the to pass into.

        I don’t want to say that Bojan had an average match, but he was crucial for the 2nd goal which gave us the 3 points in the end.

        • Jnice
          January 2, 2011

          Agree the tough love is necessary.

          Pep really is supportive of Bojan, but Bojan has to know he isn’t doing enough at the moment.

          And please, can he stay on his feet during a match for once?!

          • blitzen
            January 2, 2011

            Yeah, his constant calling for penalties is getting embarrassing. Take a page out of Messi’s book and stay up, OK, Bobo?

  99. January 2, 2011

    Regardless of the goal conceded, Pep should have subbed Thiago for Bojan and kept Mascherano. Taking Mascherano out for Thiago might sound an offense move, but then Keta was used in Bojans place (equivalent defensive move) and he had to do the job that Mascherano does (and was doing) much better.

    Pep feel guilt to sub Bojan. He tried his best to avoid it. But when he noticed the bad impact of Masche sub he tried to correct it. It shouldnt have happened in the first place, as it was obviously unpractical.

    • Euler
      January 2, 2011

      Completely agree and just posted something along these lines in follow up to my original comment made earlier this thread.

      Pep really tries to be supportive of Bojan. And that’s understandable given how young Bojan is. He tries to provide him with playing time and experience and to boost his confidence whenever possible.

      But today that goal of being supportive of Bojan conflicted with Barca’s need to win the match. Pep tried as hard as possible to stick with Bojan, but in trying to do so only wound up weakening Barca’s defense in midfield while still needing to take Bojan off the pitch later on.

      That sequence of substitutions was not ideal.

      So far this season Bojan is not delivering on Pep’s faith in him. Hopefully that will change. But Pep’s comments after the match on Bojan needing to get better were telling. He rarely if ever says things like that, especially right after a match.

    • Tom_Johnson
      January 2, 2011

      “Taking Mascherano out for Thiago might sound an offense move, but then Keta was used in Bojans place”

      then this: “But when he noticed the bad impact of Masche sub he tried to correct it.”

      Let’s look at the timeline for a second.
      47′ Goal! Barcelona 1, Levante 0
      49′ Substitution, Barcelona. Thiago midfielder replaces Javier Mascherano.
      59′ Goal! Barcelona 2, Levante 0. Pedro Rodriยญguez (Barcelona)
      65′ Substitution, Barcelona. Seydou Keita midfielder replaces Bojan.
      (a 15′ gap)
      80′ Goal! Barcelona 2, Levante 1. Stuani (Levante)

      Now, what exactly is this (obvious) “bad impact of Masche sub” you were talking about (team scored another goal less than 10 minutes afterward while keeping Levante’s offensive threat under check)?

      Could it be just as simple as that Pep opted to be proactive and go for the second goal to “kill the game off” instead of protecting an one goal lead?

      • January 2, 2011

        The answer is simple: I was not counting the goals. I was watching the match. Or else, based on the logic of your comment:

        – We scored one goal while Mascherano is playing. We didnt concede.
        – We scored one goal after the substitutions (with thiago playing almost the same amount of time), but we also conceded one. Noting that the opponent obviously had a mental breakdown after conceding the first which we can assume made their resistance decline.

        We conclude that the subs didnt add to offense and weakened defense. But Obviously, this is not how things work. Right? Right.

        Maybe, If Thiago would have taken Bojan’s place, Iniesta, Thiago and relatievely Xavi would have played more advance. The fullbacks would have been released to stretch the field (Which the team lacked) while the trio of Mascherano,Abidal,Busquets closing defense, maybe the team would have scored more, and kept a clean sheet. We will never know, but we know that the subs didnt make things better anyway.

        And that’s not a hindsight argument. I pointed that out on twitter directly after the first half.

        • January 2, 2011

          And BTW, this is not how Pep roll.I cant recall many times where he took a conservative approach after scoring twice. But if that’s the case, then He should have put Milito in -instead of Bojan- and moved Busquets forward to the Holding midfielder position, rather than using Keita there. So no matter how we look at it, Pep wasnt at his best tonight.

          Watch the match again, and you will see how far the lines were unstable in the second half;)

          • Tom_Johnson
            January 2, 2011

            “I cant recall many times where he took a conservative approach after scoring twice”

            Could it be that after the games like at Sevilla last year (3-0, 3-2) and after allowing Inter to score no less than 3 (0-1, 3-1), Pep decided to maybe try something else from time to time?

            Although, this game haven’t had that much at stake, it rivals the aforementioned two in a way that the team was “out of sync” (after a week off, something that has been proven to be a plague to this team in previous years) kind like the game in Milan when they had to travel by bus after the beating they suffered at Espanyol.

            (talking about the “unstable” lines) Who is to assign the blame to either manager or players? Could it be that Pep prepared them for the task and the player(s) himself just didn’t deliver?

        • Tom_Johnson
          January 2, 2011

          “We conclude that the subs didnt add to offense and weakened defense. But Obviously, this is not how things work. Right? Right.”

          I don’t think you understand what was I arguing about. The point was about the statement you had made earlier: “But when he noticed the bad impact of Masche sub he tried to correct it”

          So the focus is on the period elapsed from the time of the first sub, min 49 (thiago for mascherano) to the second one, min 65 (keita for bojan). The relevant is what happened during this period.

          I’m sure that while you were watching the game you had no problems noticing that not only our team scored, it looked more potent and Levante had not threatened us.

          Now, to try to establish the reasons (and whose fault is it, player vs manager) why the team allowed a goal and try to weigh the fact that the team, clearly, had more meaningful shots and generally looked more potent in the second half, is a separate topic.

          Hope this helps.

          • January 2, 2011

            No problem. I wasnt convinced by the sub. I thought Mascherano was doing a better job than Bojan. I do think the team didnt get better after the first sub (Thiago for Mascherano) as the fullbacks were not as commited to offense at the same time as the team needed (because one of them had to cover defensively). I do think it was better to take off Bojan and use Pedro and Villa as forwards with the support of the world coming from the flanks and center. And based on all that, even though it happened that the team scored, the substitution was wrong from my point of view.

            Levante were not Zero-threat in the first half. Everytime they put the ball on the space (the flank) They had their moments, and What I expected is that Pep will ask Mascherano to support defense. To make such a sub 4 minuted after the beginning of the second half is like shooting yourself in the leg. Did Levante threaten after the sub? Thats a hindsight argument. When Pep made the sub, he was not reasonable. Especially when you are one goal up. You wait for at least 10 minutes to see the opponent response. So unless if Mascherano had an injury or something, that was one of the weirdest subs. If he was injured, Milito would have been a more reasonable alternative (with Busquets moving forward to the holding midfielder position). Conclusion: I see no good in that sub.

            The next sub was Keita taking Bojan’s place to play Mascherano’s role. Something we wouldnt have needed if we did it right the first time. Simply put: What did Bojan do since Barcelona made the first sub? Iniesta on the flank in his place would have done more, right? You bet. So the two subs failed to meet the quality that one sub could have delivered (Bojan out, Thiago in).

            It was Levante. The players’ quality can cover tactical mistakes. Hope this helps.

  100. Eklavya
    January 2, 2011

    Did I miss something? I was at the Alhambra…:D

  101. vicsoc8
    January 2, 2011

    Has Pedro ever scored a hat-trick for the first team? I don’t think he has…

  102. Tom_Johnson
    January 2, 2011

    @Ramzi (since the reply option is not available at the previous thread)

    I guess it boils down to: “I do think the team didnt get better after the first sub”. An individual opinion about the (newly discovered) potency of our team and the level of threat Levante presented during the period between subs.

    I will watch the game again as soon as am able to do so. Maybe we should make a poll here to gauge the impression commentariat got , like the one last night ๐Ÿ˜‰

    “I do think it was better to take off Bojan and use Pedro and Villa as forwards with the support of the world coming from the flanks and center”

    If I’m reading correctly, you are merely suggesting this as an option (based on your preference). Another venue Pep could have explored. You are not making a guarantee that this would have yielded better results, correct?

    Also, haven’t we tried something similar just few days ago against Bilbao? Bojan and Pedro up being supported by Iniesta (of all the people)?

    “Especially when you are one goal up. You wait for at least 10 minutes to see the opponent response.”

    Do you allow the possibility that Pep had looked at the 8-0 loss Levante suffered against Madrid, looked at the succession of goals (6′, 10′ then 69′, 72′, 74′), then “noting that the opponent obviously had a mental breakdown after conceding the first” (as you have helpfully pointed above) decided to “go for the jugular”?

    Could have he assumed (based on performance from the practice ground this past week as well catalunya game) that the team is capable of doing so with Bojan on, cb with superior passing skills (busquets vs milito) and no extreme help from the full-backs?

    Note: I have no intention of declaring that my opinion is “the only correct one”. I merely am trying to offer a different point of view.

    • Tom_Johnson
      January 2, 2011

      Correction: The first paragraph should also have included: “and the opportunity cost of doing nothing (leaving Mascherano on the field and the team in the same formation).

  103. Nik
    January 2, 2011

    Today was definitely not a game to include in the highlight reel, but considering the timing of the game and the absences in the squad, I really didn’t expect it to be. Still, it was good to see us grind out the win and grab the needed points.

    MOTM was most definitely seรฑor P!!. His workrate is just fantastic. And I’ll have to agree with Euler and Ramzi regarding the subs. Thiago coming on was the right move; he definitely injected some life into the game. However, Thiago coming on for SMasch wasn’t (IMO). The right player came, but the wrong player went off. Still, we won the game, so eh. Good to see Gabi get some minutes.

  104. blitzen
    January 2, 2011

    Did anyone else notice that Bojan wasn’t wearing his snood?

    • soccermomof4
      January 2, 2011

      I tried not to notice Ct too much this game.

  105. Jim
    January 2, 2011

    Not sure about the rights or wrongs of taking Masch off but I really can’t see Pep working out a strategy at half time then changing it a few minutes into the second half. My immediate thought was that Masch was injured but Sky said that they had been watching Thiago warming up vigorously during half time by dribbling past the coaching staff so that implies that Pep knew he was going to put him on early in the half.

    The only conclusion I can draw is that Pep felt he didn’t need a DM but wanted to give Thiago the time and the pitch on which to warm up at half time so he’d be up to speed.

    With regard to the loss of the goal I’m putting it down largely to a slice of bad luck and good play from them. Our shape is good when the ball is originally played forward. The CF isn’t going anywhere but Busi gets a foot in and it then goes straight to one of their midfielders who is following up. (Yes you could argue that our midfield should have had it covered – Keita certainly let his man run from midfield unaccompanied.) However, Mascherano would have had to be standing no more than a couple of feet away to have any chance of stopping his one touch control and pass. The guy was only on the ball for a second! The only other bit of bad defending possibly came from Milito who chose to follow Busi towards the man on the ball instead of marking his man. After that you need to accept it was a cracking finish which had to be taken first time as he wasn’t getting a second touch. Even after watching it another 6 or 7 times I’m struggling to put it in the category of a bad goal to lose or to see how team shape / substitutions caused it.

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