1. Starting XI: Pinto Alves Pique Abidal Adriano Xavi Busquets Keita Pedro Messi Villa

    Bench: Valdes Puyol Milito Mascherano Iniesta Afellay Bojan

    Making it easy for myself

  2. I may make the odd comment, but don’t bother approving me, vicsoc, I’m at work and will have to leave early.

  3. Pitch is in bad condition, it’s raining and we’re playing in one of the toughest stadiums in Spain, it’s going to be a very difficult game.

    0-1 or 1-1

  4. Ahletic is going to be very tough today. They are likely going to play deep in defense and remain narrow.

    Iniesta would have been enormously helpful today against that kind of defense. I understand the need to rest him but losing his ball control skills and creativity will be difficult.

    This is another circumstance where having Afellay is going to be extremely helpful once he gets up to speed.

  5. Won’t be on the blog today. Might pop in to to hi at HT. So hi to everyone and good luck with your first official liveblog, Vicsoc!

    Now back to watching Arsenal/ City and Everton/Tottenham at the same time. Will be changing over to Barca at 4:00.

  6. Phew! Made it just in time for the game!

    No Iniesta? Well, he and Afellay–sorry Afellay and him–are on the bench.

    I think Pep thinks they’ll come out and attack like crazy for an early goal, so maybe that’s why Keita starts.

  7. Sevilla getting back to business (return of Navas crucial).

    Guess who get sent off today for Malaga? ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Am terribly disappointed not to be ale to watch but following some nice updates. I wish us all luck.

  9. I’m absolutely drained ! What a close game. Great to see Abidal get his first goal ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. and what a great way to top off his immense performance in every other aspect of the match!

      that coin (or whatever it was) from the stands was something you never want to see though.

  10. In the end I’m happy with the result against a very difficult opponent. Disgusting to see things thrown at Abidal, but you know what they say: “Piss off an Abidal at your own expense.”

    1. ^This

      And I’m temporarily taking off my Villa Fairness Commitee badge to say:


      with love,
      The Man-The-H*ll-Up Committee, formerly known as the Henry-Ibra Hate Campaign.

      /puts Villa Fairness Committee badge back on.

  11. That was a great game, full credit to Athletic, they played their hearts out.

    Abidal for MOTM, not only did he score the decisive goal, but he saved our skin countless times at the back.

  12. Puh, the next Madridista I meet who is telling my that every oponent is just rolling over for us, I will punch into the face. What hell of a fight, and from all our firepower it was “Big Eric” (like Roy Roy says) to come to the rescue. And I could not be more happy that today he will get all the spotlight.

    1. I won’t even argue with him. He may be charitable though. CT did get a 2 against Levante.

    2. I dunno, he surely is gonna get negative points for missing that chance, but how did he perform on other things like passing, defending and opening space?

  13. From Barcastuff:
    Abidal: “Centre-back, left-back, scoring, what’s next? Guess the next step should be centre-forward (laughs).” Maybe he can replace Villa?

    YAAAAYYY ABI!!! My first wish for the new year granted!

  14. That was butt ugly, but we’re through. Hope we get our form back soon; why did the break have to come when it did.
    MOTM= Abidal ofcourse (Kxevin won’t even have to justify it this time)
    Question: Don’t clubs get fined when fans through things at the players?

    1. Yes, clubs do get fined for crowd misbehavior. My guess is Bilbao will be playing without a crowd next game.

  15. Remember folk, for as long as Maxwell played that season, that was the duration we were missing Abidal.

    And don’t get me started on Iniesta

    Imma say it now: We’re doing the treble this year. (Hyperbolic? Yes. But why the h*ll not?)

    1. I wish I can like your comment right now because the Treble is truly realistic IMO…..

    2. I remembered those days, he was injured all the time, but he played the important games and STILL showed up ๐Ÿ™‚ he’s amazing. Hope he does retire with us.

  16. And poor Ibi didn’t get to touch the ball in his debut.. At least he gets of the scary atmosphere that is the San mames..

    1. I think his introduction was a clear “I dont care if Athletic tie this, Villa here’s who’s going to fight you for your spot, today forth.” .. from Guardiola. Sad he didn’t go in sooner.

  17. It was an intense game and we were surely not at our best, but I want to remind of something Kxevin said after the clasico: that this team has earned himself some credit with the fans and that when sometimes things are not going so smooth we should always remeber the 29. november 2010 and what this team is capable of.

    1. ^This.

      I just might forgive you, David Villa, but not today. I’m pretty sure I’ll go back to cheering myself hoarse for you in the next game though.

  18. Man what an intense game!!! Glad to see we can grind out victories when needed!!!

    Abidal what more can we say but renew him right away….From CB,to LB to scoring….loving him this season!!! It also seems he only scores in the MOST important league-cup games..

  19. Were they tired? Was the pitch THAT bad? Messi stayed in the bus? @barcastuff reported there was disturbance outside the hotel, was that it? Not sure, everyone had some “off” today, even Guardiola even Abidal. We are through, and let this be the only suffered game. (I wish). Villa if Kevin is kind gets a 1.

  20. I stopped watching after Abidal scored that magnificent goal. I went back to read the liveblog and everyone was cursing Villa. What did he do?

  21. all via barcastuff

    –Abidal: “When did I score last? Uhm, a long time ago.”

    –Ibrahim Afellay didn’t touch one ball in his debut game for Barcelona (so I guess it was P!! with skills at the 90th min on the right touchline)

    –This game was Guardiola’s 150th

  22. That was a chance that Bojan would’ve scored, Or He’ll probably miss it too but at least he’ll look cute. ๐Ÿ˜€

  23. Abidal MOTM goes without saying. He secured it over Keita when he scored. But those were the two players who were performing their roles almost perfectly today. Ironically, they were the players who served many roles during the match. The rest were so and so.

    During the previous match, Abidal wasted n easy chance to score, and on my twitter I directly wrote:”Never say never?Wrong.Abidal will never score!” So in a way I de-cursed him.

    Now use it for any player you wish he scores or performs better, maybe it works. I am not in the mood to call names, especially that all the players this season are popular and lovable.

  24. Absolutely brilliant game. In possibly the most difficult of stadiums and against a team playing far beyond its potential Barca produces the kind of game that differentiates the great from the historic. After watching this I feel profoundly happy, seeing the fire in these players eyes after having won everything there is to win, after 2 years of hearing that they’re the best in the world and maybe in history, they’re still hungry. This is what makes us powerful, dangerous, unique. This is the mark of Guardiola.

    I can’t understand why people in the liveblog were ripping Villa apart for that one miss at the end of the game. Yeah he should have put it in the back of the net. Yeah that’s why we bought him. But did you see the rest of his performance? Tenacious defensively, he never tired of making runs. After missing the shot he was the first player chasing the ball. Certainly not his best game, but there’s no reason to start claiming that we should sell him, or that he’s not fulfilled expectations. How quickly we forget the two gorgeous goals he buried deep into the EE. Or the other 9 goals he’s scored this season! Besides the fact that in his first season here he’s assimilated brilliantly, understanding the style, aggressive defense, and team-first ethic that Guardiola demands. We demand loyalty. Let’s give some in return. I feel very comfortable with Villa as our 9.

    That aside, Abidal deserves a standing ovation. What a match. I worried that without Puyol our defense would lack the courage to handle their pressure, but I was wrong. Even after getting hit in the face with some sort of projectile he was our steadiest defender, our only goal scorer, a quiet leader. Man of the Match, without a doubt. Although Messi’s assist was half of the goal.

    Visca Barca!

    1. I’m not thinking of selling Villa at all, it’s just when you have two golden opportunities and you put both of them straight into the keeper, you’re bound to piss some people off. Not to mention the fact that his last chance would have killed off the game and put us and Pep, who was visibly angry, at ease.

      You can’t not criticize a player because of his past goals or whatever. At least that’s not how I roll.

    2. I don’t think we should sell Villa, he’s still strong he has had a run of lazy games, yes he can put goals away, and that miss WAS crucial, but thats not the only reason he’s being criticized. Offsides, watching plays, losing easy passes, holding too long to the ball, those are the main things which IMO he should be adapted by now you don’t do at Barรงa.

    3. Villa is not a 9. He’s playing mainly as a winger. Agree about not going crazy against him for those misses. However, I never read anyone suggesting that Barcelona should sell him or loan him. I think that it’d be a bad idea, not to mention that, if Barcelona does that, it would set a bad precedent… Henry, Eto’o, Ibrahimovic, Villa… all those players not lasting more than a season with Pep (Okay, Henry lasted two, but still)… and it would be frustrating to see that forwards are going in and out of Barcelona constantly… let’s give ’em some continuity, shouldn’t we?

      Either way, Villa certainly needs to address the issue of failing golden opportunities. Specially at critical times.

    4. Stephen, I definitely agree with the offsides comment. If I had a nickle for every time I’ve lost it after watching a perfect pass by Xavi, Iniesta, Messi et. al wasted by Villa’s poor timing… he needs to work on that, bad. On the other points though, I don’t completely agree. He works hard on defense, he consistently makes dangerous runs, and he gives us as much depth up top as Eto’o did. I honestly feel he’s trying hard to fit into this team, and it’s not going to happen overnight. You say that he should be adapted by now to this style? Barca plays this way because most of these players have been together since they were teenagers, their vision isn’t in their eyes. You can’t produce this, look at Madrid and see what happens if you try. I hated Ibrahimovic because he didn’t even try to fit the mould. I think Villa deserves some credit for what he’s done so far, and I just wrote that because it pisses me off when people can turn on players so easily. The same happens with comments on Messi. It’s just about gauging the critique.

      Jnice, totally agree about being pissed off over missed chances. I cursed at the screen as we all did when he shot that into Iraizoz. Although let’s admit that their keeper was incredible today. The reason Villa missed that chance was because Gorka closed the space down so damn well. The goal must have looked tiny to Villa, and I don’t even think Messi could have buried that shot. I guess what I’m saying more largely is that these players, including Villa, deserve some respect, especially on their off days. Anyone can love a team when they’re perfect.

      Victor, I disagree that Villa is not our 9. It goes without saying that for this team the concept of a number linked to a fixed position on the field is irrelevant. He is not a 9 in the traditional sense, but he is our 9. He gives us depth up top in a way that none of our other attackers can, he is the middle of the trident, either making runs behind their defenders (often resulting in offsides) or playing with his back to them, and he is the main aerial threat when we’re on offense and the ball is on the wing. I agree that he often switches to the wings, but that’s just the Barca game, all our players shift position. You’re not going to tell me that Dani Alves isn’t a fullback because most of the time he’s alongside Xavi. I agree that he’s got to miss less golden opportunities, had he hit that shot it would have been perfect.

  25. I would give villa 0, alves 2 or 2,5. His game was simply shambolic for the majority of the game .
    Abidal topped of his high form of recent 2 months(lol :P) with his first ever goal for us! yay!

  26. Tough cup match. Athletic are second best team in cup history and showed us why.

    They were really good. I cannot fault too many of our players. Maybe Villa for the miss or Adriano/Keita, who for me, did not offer as much in the game.

    Abidal was quite excellent, Messi was good(as usual) and Iniesta was much needed breath of fresh air.

    Overall, very happy:).

    1. Keita was all over the place!!!! from Box to Box he was running his lungs out, winning balls and sharing them and even doing some of the dirty work no1 does anymore.

    2. Absolutely agree, Keita was a horse in the midfield today. Xavi would have lost his ankles without him.

    1. Is that supposed to be a compliment? I thought most people agreed that Bojan has the potential when he’s older to be amazing? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  27. Messi looked a bit off colour but I think that is always the case when he was in Argentina, like last year during the WC-Qualifications. He will come around in the next games like he always does.

  28. @ Ramzi, if you ever wanted to call Villa names, now is the time to do it. The miss is still fresh and some people are still seeing red.

    Look, I even took my VFC badge off for a moment, so no virtual objects will be thrown on you if you say it now. ๐Ÿ˜›

    1. No, I won’t call Villa any names. He is a striker and strikers pass through cycles. He is new to the team (though he knows the liga), so he need time to gel.

      He will definitely have the support and patience of the fans who like him since ever. He will get the support and understanding of his old friends in the dressing room whom he spend gloriuos times with on international level. He will get the board backing because…well…they have no reason to stab him. And he will get Pep’s support as he is an easy-to-handle player. Last but not least,he is settled to being an underdog in the squad which will help his case and make it easier for him to move forward.

      With time, he will -hopefully- deliver ๐Ÿ˜‰

  29. Some quick thoughts:

    -bad pitch
    -Bilbao defending in numbers
    -referee criteria
    -hostile fans
    -club more excited about the competition than we are
    -the annual drop in our form

    Not sure how many of you played competitively but is very hard to play against 8-9 men in good physical shape sitting behind the ball and with their backs at the edge of the box. There is not enough space behind them.

    Same goes when try to isolate the play/ball with 5 to the side/wing.

    Team controlled the game for the most part (stretch early on in the second half), a lot of possession, Bilbao’s threat was reduced mainly to set pieces until it got a bit chaotic (relaxation on our part?) towards the end

    Few opportunities on our part Xavi and Pedro with shots just outside of the box, Villa had not one but two golden opportunities (he had to score from that position)

    The situation early on had potential to be a game changing moment, goal scored that early can (and probably would) change the game dramatically forcing Bilbao to come out of their shell more

    Hats off to Bilbao for the amount of effort and discipline they displayed for about 60 minutes. Not so much for else. Especially fans. Not sure if it was just a coincidence that the object was thrown at an African player.

    Nice adjustment by Caparos, strikers are taking turns in dropping back to chase Busquets.

    Nice wrinkle during the set piece, passed to the side where the ongoing Bilbao player is taller than our defender, the ball is delivered to the box with a delay which messes up with defence’s timing and shape.

    Abidal very good, good positioning/reading the game and timimg his tackles well, confident on the ball. Except for that time (pass leading to the goal) when he got caught looking. The similar things happened in the first half against Espanyol. Luckily Valdes was up to the task.

    In the first half, Messi too far away from the goal most of the time he received the ball, it then takes him extra energy just to get closer to the box (his usual spot) where he can make an impact.

    Defenders (including Pinto) very confident on the ball at the back, especially when the quality of the pitch is taken into account

    Nice touch there of playing to defenders foot right outside of the box (almost every time to Pinto’s left) instead of punting it

    1. What had happened leading to the goal is what this team needs to do more often against clubs defending in numbers.

      “Post up” someone as deep as possible in the box. Someone who can hold on to the ball for more than a second and draw defender(s) to him. Pull them out of their position to open the space for whoever is making the run.

  30. Tw Pique: “Eric Abidaaal!! You are too great!! We’re in quarter-finals!! Moc moc!! A joy to play at The Cathedral! Great stadium and crowd!

  31. BTW everyone has to just love Pedro’s play nowadays his passing,his speed is really opening up games. Remember the times when people used to say he was like a headless chicken running around…just look at him now amazing!!!

  32. And selling Villa? Don’t be absurd. However, letting him have it after a bad game? I don’t see why.

    Overall, I get what you’re saying David_DP (welcome btw) and I totally agree. Sometimes, players are bashed for no apparent reason. Right now though, people have every right to lay into Villa.

    I’ll always defend Villa as a player for us, but today, he was horrible. If haters ever had a moment to lay on the hate, now is the time, because that performance was indefensible.

    Now, the game is still fresh in my mind, so I could be way over the top. El Guaje will have much better games, games where people will say “phew! Am I glad we signed Villa!”. Today wasn’t one of them.

    In any case, we’re through and life goes on with an Abidalazo and a haymaker to the face for Athletic fans.

    1. I am glad to have him on the team, but he had a stinker and deserves a low rating. Much better than BANGS. These strikers go through these funks.

      Good practice today at bus busting.

    2. Kari, thanks for the welcome! This blog is awesome. I guess we just saw the game a bit differently. Athletic at home are almost unplayable, and we couldn’t expect to see the usual Barca display. They have ridiculous energy, from a bus in front of goal into the most dangerous counter-attack I’ve seen all season in about 7 seconds. None of our players, with the exception of Abidal, were at their potential today. Iniesta lobbed balls into the stands, Alves might as well have worn red and white, and Pique was not the wall we know. In my mind Villa worked hard throughout the match, especially when no passes were getting through to him and he had to keep making run after meaningless run and then be the first player on defense. He was our most dangerous player for about 30 minutes of the second half. That aside though, I agree. How the hell do you miss that chance.

  33. I’m just happy we got through. If Bilbao had scored another one I’d probably need a new tv right now.

    1. No, but he does deserve criticism for missing those chances against Bilbao. Other than that, no one in here is suggesting that Villa is a bad player or that he should be sold or whatever like that… just that he does need to work out on those 1 vs 1… we certainly don’t want him to miss those type of chances at the Champions League or at crucial moments…

  34. @barcastuff
    Guardiola : Villa a bit uncomfortable? No, he didn’t score but worked hard and did his job.

    guys, I know Villa played horrible this time… Kxevin probably give him 0… maybe 1 if Kxevin is having a good day…
    but if Pep is still patient and support Villa, why shouldn’t we? ๐Ÿ˜€

    this guy scored tons of goals in La Liga, he’s an all-time top scorer in Spain NT,
    top scorer in Euro 2008 and top scorer (3rd) in World Cup 2010…

    IF he isn’t good enough for Barca, then who?
    Torres? Llorente? Tevez? Lukaku? Dzeko? Rooney?

    anyway, I’m so happy we go through…
    Bilbao did an amazing job… arguably the toughest game Barca has so far…

    and Abidal scored for the first time…. yeaaayyyy…. ๐Ÿ˜€
    but poor Ibi didnt touch the ball…. hope he’ll get the chance next match… ๐Ÿ™

    1. At this point isn’t about patience, i think he’s still a starter over the “option” (whose name won’t be mentioned), nobody wants to replace him, he had a non-brilliant game. Many more games, plenty more to see, hopefully more goals. Overall Villa is doing well, hopefully he does get a second season with us, and then he’ll be lethal.

    2. I think I’m just worried another BANGS drama will happen…

      yes, I do hope Villa get a second season…

  35. Yeah, Pedro is a delight at the moment. Great fighting display. I’m not going to have a go at anyone after that.

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