Hercules V Barca LiveBlog

Sorry for the mess, folks. This is the real one.

By Kxevin

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.


  1. Like the 5-0 Betis game, the scoreline doesn’t highlight how difficult this game was. Possession was ‘only’ 63% for Barca as well.

  2. Damn it. Where are we supposed to chat and comment?

    What a difference Alves made. Now give the man his extra million!!
    It is an investment not an expenditure the way I see it.
    This was probably the top 5 toughest game so far.
    They closed down our passing lanes so well, over and over again.
    That’s why so many passes were intercepted.

    1. Their pitch was narrower too, but yes they played very well. Tight on defense, deadly on the counter. Every time they had the ball my heart was racing.

  3. I understand that Messi wants to play everygame. But if he is gonna sleepwalk then what’s the point playing ? Why eat into someone else’s playing time. He was really tired and PEP should not have played him full time here and the cup match. This is getting silly. Either give your 100% or sit your ass out on Copa matches.

    1. Agreed. I brought up the same point 2 weeks ago. There’s no reason Messi needs to play all 90 minutes in a game that is maybe already decided in the first 60 minutes. We all know the fans pay to see someone like Messi, but playing him 90 minutes in all games, while you still have the Champions League games and some tough league games coming up is just not smart. And not to mention but Leo will also be playing friendlies with Argentina. We don’t want a tired Leo Messi by the time April and May roll around.
      And seriously, if he’s not hustling and seems not to be “in” the game, then sit him down and tell him he’s not above a benching.

    2. Messi really has to be rested the complete 90 min. against Almería.
      I suppose he wants to play every game right now and tries to take on 5 opponents albeit being 30m away from goal (never seen a match where Messi has lost as many balls as today because of selfishness and stubborness) because he wants to keep up with Crynaldo. Recently, he plays more and more on his own, which obvisouly nobody wants to see. We don’t want a 2nd CR…
      So somebody tell him that he’s way in front of CR, taking all competitions together.

      Pep has to show Messi who is the boss and needs to bench him, or at best not even include him in the squad for Almeria 😀

      Messi will be playing against Portugal, 90 min if he doesn’t get injured, I bet. So that will equal 15 full matches in 7 weeks for Messi, if he doesn’t get a rest against Almeria…

  4. If Hercules had tied it up…the fault would have been with Pep. Was anyone else thinking like me…as in, when is he going to match their substitutes? Hercules was still very much in the hunt, only down 1-0 and were playing tough, and their coach added 3 sets of fresh legs…and Pep meanwhile had added none! He made his first subs at the 85th minute mark.
    I think Pep is a great coach when we’re playing our game and have a 2 or 3 goal lead, but I don’t always trust that he knows how to counter another teams strategy if we’re tired or down. In my opinion, by not substituting earlier and adding his own set of fresh legs – as well as an aggresive stopper like Mascherano – he risked the win. Pep was lucky we got those last 2 goals to make it seem like it wasn’t a close match. But I feel it easily could have been a tie, and was worried the last 20 minutes of the game while our fresh subs were waiting on the sidelines.

    1. Good points. Agree with you. I think PEP is a bit confused what to do with the subs! Whether concede possession for defensive steel or just keep possession and play our game.

    2. Thanks BTTFCule. I thought maybe I was the only one having these problems with Pep from time to time.

    3. “I think Pep is a great coach when we’re playing our game and have a 2 or 3 goal lead,”

      Everyone is a great coach when their team has a lead of 2 or 3 goals.

      Don’t get me wrong, Pep is a very good coach, but he doesn’t really strike me as someone that knows a lot about tactics or about making subs to change the direction of the game.

      Of course, it’s hard to evaluate. Because Barcelona is rarely losing games by two goals or being dominated.

      My point is: Pep has been great at setting this team to win the games from the beginning and not need radical changes. And for that alone, he is a great coach. And I really mean it. Yes, he has great players at his disposal, but he makes them work beautifully and very effectively. That’s a great task, yo. I wonder how many coaches would be able to pull this off with this same players? Not many, I can assure you.

      However, if the need comes, can Pep make changes to change the direction of the game. Let’s say that (god forbids) we are losing 3-1 (global score) to Arsenal in Camp Nou with 40 minutes left. Two more goals and we are in and Arsenal out, but Arsenal has been playing arguably better than us… could Pep make the adequate changes to turn the game around?

    4. I wonder too, Victor, I wonder too.

      And yes, Pep has been fantastic with getting his team to be as dominant a team as they are, but I hate to say it…but I feel that Pep was totally at a loss last year when we lost to Inter 3-0 and even in trying to figure out how to score more goals against them in the second match. We had like 90% possession but couldn’t get another goal. That dick Mourinho gets all the credit, but I think it was more Pep’s inability than Mourinho’s “genius” that put Inter through to the final.

    5. Sorry but I can’t go along with any of this. First of all, it wasn’t even close – how many shots did Hercules have in this second half when Pep should have been subbing people? Second, one of the reasons they didn’t give us a harder time was that they were busy chasing us in the midfield. We would have lost that quality possession had we taken off Xavi or Iniesta. Finally, had Pep given into the “sub Messi” movement would we have scored the last two goals?

      Imo, and this is down to what ifs, this game beautifully illustrates that Pep is aware when he can and when he can’t afford to make substitutions.

    6. Don’t agree at all. First of all…it only take one shot to score a goal. A fast break for Hercules because of a lost ball – and how many lost balls did we have today…tons – could result in ONE shot and then there you go…tie score. You don’t need 12 shots to score a goal. all you need is one chance.

      Secondly is a tired and sore Iniesta or Xavi in minute 80 still better than a fresh legged 23 year old who finds himself with the ball at midfield with both of them behind him? Don’t think so.

      I stand by my statement that those late goals were immaterial to the fact that BEFORE getting them, PEP put us on dangerous ground by not making subs earlier.

      Believe me, I’m delighted we won, ecstatic…but so many Football games have been lost or tied because of poor or no subbing by a coach.

    7. I agree Jim, Pep did nothing wrong. We were in the lead into the 2nd half and Hercules was chasing the ball for most of the game. Yes, they had a few chances on counter attack but all in all, we had control. So, no real need to change anyone at the half and rock the apple cart. Xavi and Iniesta had to stay to keep reigns on the game and I disagree about subbing Messi as well. Messi, even on a bad day is better than let’s say … Villa, who gave away how many balls on bad first touches?? Part of Messi’s technique is to dribble pass 3 or 4 defenders and then cut back and strike the ball at an unsuspecting keeper, as he did today. Plus he positioned himself perfectly for the Alves pass. He can’t do everything right, but he comes damn near close.

    8. Well, his bringing on Henry last year against Valencia, I think, comes to mind in regards to a good change of tactics. A bit worrying how Pep has been reverting to his 85th minute subs though.

    1. Yeah. Did you see the game? He was not good. ESPN even showed a graphic showing that he had “lost” 12 balls. His first goal was a nice individual effort…moving to his left at the top of the 18 and then shooting it across the keepers left side…but his second goal was a gimme. Open goal essentially…pass across goal mouth from Alves, and Leo was smart enough to anticipate it.
      But yeah…he had a bad game.

  5. So sorry for the Farinos guy, dude doesnt play for 7 months and ten minutes into his first action , its a red card

  6. We’ve now completed a run of 15 straight victories and tied EE’s record.. We need to beat Atleti to break it!!

  7. Don’t get me wrong, Pep is a very good coach, but he doesn’t really strike me as someone that knows a lot about tactics or about making subs to change the direction of the game.

    I disagree with this strongly.

    Pep doesn’t like to make early substitutions. I wish Messi, Xavi, Puyol, etc. would get fewer minutes. But that’s largely to rest them not because they need to tactically switch the game.

    However, many managers don’t like to substitute much. Mourinho is widely considered to be one of the great tacticians in the world – he has hardly substituted at all this season, hardly rotated his squad and that’s while insisting on carrying 25 players.

    And Pep’s decision making has a real tactical logic to it. He has the best starting 11 in the world – it is one of the greatest starting 11 in history. It’s rare you need to take a player off the pitch for quality.

    At the same time, Pep has trained this team to be one of fittest in history.

    Every match we watch, we see fitness make an enormous tactical impact on the dynamics of the result.

    So he doesn’t need to substitute nearly as often as other managers might.

    Regarding specific tactical issues – this is said about Pep quite a bit. He’s not a great tactician. I completely disagree with this point.

    From my perspective, I think he’s not only a terrific tactician – even more importantly – he is a great, great strategist. And much of what Pep’s philosophy is is to construct a strategy which makes tactics secondary. He’s done that absolutely brilliantly.

    There hasn’t been a strategist in the sport as good as Pep since Sacchhi, IMO. Ferguson is in the discussion, but in terms of strategy Pep is better.

    1. I’m talking about making subs to change how a game develops. Once again, I do think that Pep has been great because, really, how many times are we trailing in a game? Very few. And how many times has been Barca dominated? Even less. In fact, I don’t remember a game where we have been dominated.

      However, if Pep get his line-up wrong or the opponent plans a great strategy that makes Barca play badly… can Pep make the adequate changes to turn the game around? That’s the aspect which I question.

    2. I agree with Victor. I brought up this issue about Pep because I felt he should have made a sub earlier and by not doing so, allowed Hercules to stay in the game. Look even if the 3 players another team brings on are not as good as the ones being taken off…they’re still going to be fired up to prove themselves to the world as well as certainly having more energy than the opponents team if they haven’t made any subs.
      I feel he should have put Mascherano and Keita in at the 75th-80th minute mark.

    3. I didn’t say that. You said that. Don’t put words in my email that aren’t there.
      Mascherano is an enforcer and would have been fresh and continued to try and shut them down, and Keita is a defender who moves forward so we get some extra help moving forward from him as well.

      You’re whole argument is based on the fact that we won. So you think – and yes, I’m putting words in your email – that because we won, PEP handled the situation perfectly.

    4. I know this may be a stupid question, but as a relative football-newbie, I wondered if someone could tell me what the difference between strategy and tactics is. I think I have a vague idea, but I’m not sure.

  8. Final thoughts on the art of substituting and how some get it, some screw it up.

    2006 World Cup. Argentina Vs. Germany. Argentina is up 1-0. Germany is frustrated and not looking impressive. 60th minute mark, Argentina takes out their best player, their playmaker Riquelme. I have no idea why. Germany doesn’t either. But thanks to the change slowly they get some confidence and the flow changes their way. Meanwhile a brilliant and thrilling 19 year who wants to get in the game and take the flow back sits on the bench. His name is Leo Messi. As the game progresses, Hernan Crespo continues doing nothing and still Messi sits on the bench. Germany plays with more and more confidence and doesn’t have to worry about some 19 year ld wunderkind coing into the game and scoring because Leo Messi will never get in the game. Eventually Germany ties it, and then wins in the penalty shoot out.
    Here’s my point. Germany was already playing scared and if Peckerman had thrown Messi into the game for Crespo in the 60th minute mark…Germany would have had to defend against him and there’s a damn good chance Argentina would have gone on to win. Either 1-0, or perhaps by 2 or 3-0 because Messi was like a horse chomping at the bit.
    Peckerman was fired 2 days later. He blew it. Don’t take off Riquelme – was he injured? – and throw Messi in as a threat. Had he done that, I believe Argentina would have won the cup that year. They had the best players and looked the best of all the teams.

    1. I completely agree on this and as a argentina fan, was pissed off to hell with that decision.

      But i do disagree that Pep is not a great tactical coach.

    2. Thank you thank you thank you. That game, that loss still drives me nuts because it didn’t have to happen!!

    3. Oh… how could you remind me of that darkest moment in Argentina’s recent history:(
      That loss was more shocking than the 4-0 demolition last year, because well, everybody knew from the beginning that Argentina had no chance. But 2006, they were simply brilliant, and Pekerman screwed it up with his substitution policy.

      But I’m happy that you also think Argentina would have won the WC. They deserved it more than anybody else that year!

    4. Really? Because Argentina wasn’t that great to me in that year. They struggled a lot with Mexico being led by LaVolpe. Hell, I’d even say that they got lucky to win that game.

    5. Well, we struggled mightily to defeat Chelsea in 2008-09, and were even lucky so does that barca was not good.

      As for Mexico match, Mexico are a good team and at that point, they had excellent players who played their hearts out. It was one of the best matches of 2006 WC. I do still think that Argentina was simply way better than any other team in 2006 and only if Pekerman had not lost his nuts, he would have taken the trophy. Bringing off Riquelme and inserting Cruz while leaving Messi on bench was one of THE blunders in recent years. Also i think it hurt argentina quite a lot that their GK, abbondanzieri, went off injured. He was quite excellent throughout the tourney and would have taken them through the PK’s. I shall stop now. I do not want my saturday night ruined thoroughly.

      I shall watch our highlights again to cheer me up.

    6. Not exactly an appropriate comparison: Chelsea is one of the top clubs in football. The Mexico National Team is good, but it’s not a top national team.

      And I should have been more clear: I do not deny that Argentina is a good national team, but I really doubt that they deserved to win the 2006 World Cup.

    7. No I agree with Helge 100%. I saw every single game – as i do every cup – and for my money that year, Argentina had the best team going forward – even with that tough against Mexico – and I beiieved then as i do now that the cup was theirs!

      I enjoyed watching them this year, but with Maradona at the helm, I always feared it was just a matter of time. HE lost the game for them because he had no strategy except to pray and pat them on the back with encouragement. Boy…for world class players like Tevez, Messi, Higuain, etc it must have been torture having Maradona as coach. Ugh.

      But seriously…I do feel the 2006 Argentina team was the best in the world. Stupid stupid Peckerman!!

    8. Well, I guess that we’ll have to agree to disagree. Argentina could have done better at the 2006 WC, for sure. In fact, yes, they could have thrown Germany out. However, Italy was another story, altogether. Yes, they play boring and whatnot, but they are hard to defeat.

      And there was France as well… in my opinion, the national team that should have won the 2006 WC. Of course, there is going to be a lot of disagreements on this statement, but I do feel that France were the best team during that Cup. Sadly, Zidane’s stupidity made them lose against Italy.

    9. Whoa, there, Victor. France lost that ’06 Cup match because of one amazing play by an amazing keeper, when Buffon stopped Zidane’s rocket of a header. That match was going to penalties, because Les Bleus really lost their chance with Vieira went off with a hamstring tweak/fatigue. At that point, midfield control broke down, and Dumbenech really had no tactical answer because he didn’t have the horses.

  9. Guys, I’m posting a brief comment on what the flip just happened today. Please rant/dump links there while waiting for Kxevin’s review.

  10. I of course meant MY final thoughts…please continue the discussion about Pep. I find it fascinating and informative.

  11. Regarding Pep, i agree with Euler that we have one of the best starting 11 and if there are no obvious advantages to be had, it does not seem that necessary to make changes. Today who could have we got to make the change for sure? The reason why we suffered was that Hercules played well and did really a lot to block the passing lanes. They made it difficult and still we won, i think this is great.

    I disagree that Messi was poor. And i do not base on opinion on goals. Messi worked quite hard through the match. He did not pressure too much but for me, did enough. There was another point about him losing balls. Well, he was taking percentage passes and thats what he does. He is not Xavi and does not play his role. Messi and to an extent, Iniesta go for lesser percentage passes and that’s who they are. Blaming them of having poor games just because opposition played well does not make sense to me.

    I do think that Messi just had a average match and that also goes for Xavi, Iniesta and Alves. In my view, Pedro, Busi and Abidal maybe had the better performance in this match.

    It was a good match to watch though. Tough and entertaining affair.

  12. This discussion is excellent, and if ever there was a time to reinforce the idea that a new post doesn’t kill its predecessor, this is it. With a 9-member blogging team now, posts are going to be coming with more frequency, but I do hope that great discussions such as this one don’t get derailed as a consequence.

    Hats off, everyone.

  13. IMO, pep is an amazing tactician, and maybe, and just MAYBE, he might not see everything right, but let’s all not forget that he’s only been in the business for 2 1/2 years (3 1/2 if you consider the B team)..PEP has still got lots to learn…so he will become better.
    Ferguson wasn’t the best in his first 3 seasons, it took him a while, and i’m ready to give pep that time, win or lose, if he stays with us that (hopefully) long that is:D

    away from the guardiola topic, a couple of interesting stats…
    – Pedro is the first barcelona player to score six in a row since THE ronaldo…
    -We have scored 401 goals in guardiola’s era (157 games) an average of 2.554 goals a game, with 116 goals against, an average of 0.738 goals a game. Therefore a goal difference of +285…MInDBLOWINGLY WTF
    -Out of those 401, Messi has scored 122 goals, and behind him is pedro! with around 47 (not so sure)
    -everyone probably knows 15 wins straight (equaled, not broken)
    -record for most consecutive away wins (10)
    -and just for fun, apparently, a world cup winner has scored a goal in each of the 22 rounds in LA LIGA 😀

    and one a side note…one of the things that made me jump was this…

  14. Pep came and immediately took risks in trading Ronaldinho and Deco. At that time there was no issue with goals it was goals against that was hurting Barca. Valdes was getting all kinds of crap. He brings Henry and Alves and Abidal his first signing and wins everything.

    He gets talked into Ibra by Cryuff and company cause of Chelsea and has perfect class in supporting the idea and the player until even your grandmother could say “WTF”

    Then he negotiates dumping Ibra and getting Villa in one off season, losing millions but restoring the three pronged unfreaking beatable offense while promoting the juniors and putting Barca in the front of every soccer think tank out there.

    I like the idea of bringing on a second defensive mid once in a while but questioning Peps acumen is crazy. He is brilliant. Just because results aren’t perfect doesn’t mean his strategies are wrong.

    Maybe just maybe with all the manitas going around the last month and the defense falling asleep a little bit here and there he wanted them to suck it up for awhile. Maybe he says let them have the ball some and you guys keep the 1-0.

    Brazil always comes out playing soft in the tournaments and then brings the hammer down in the knockout stages. Just sayin questioning Pep without knowing his agenda is treading on fragile ground. His teams are transforming the game.

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