Almeria 0, Barca 3, aka “Different faces, same result”

Years from now, when people are looking back on this club, irrespective of any silver that it might or might not have won, irrespective of any stars that don the shirt, it will be matches such as this one, the decider in a Copa del Rey semifinal that was decisively decided by a Camp Nou manita, that define the side.

It doesn’t matter who is on the pitch, it’s still Barca. It’s still a way of playing, a way of moving, of defending, of comportment, of winning. Almeria rolled out the same side that got hammered at our house for the home leg, hoping for a Betis — that is, a pride victory in a match that we don’t really care about. But unlike the Betis match, Guardiola rolled out the subs, players who don’t have to save anything for a weekend tie or looong season.

And it was 0-3, 8-0 on aggregate, and a trip to the Copa del Rey final to face one Evil Empire for the opportunity to grab our second piece of silver of the season.

When people point to our dominance of La Liga, leaving off the fact of whether it’s bad, good or indifferent, this match will be their evidence. Guardiola rolled out a side that featured only two starters, Pinto, Alves, Busquets, Milito, Adriano, Mascherano, Keita, Thiago, Afellay, Nolito, Krkic, but it still played like Barca. Almeria came out with its Liga-contending side, and got its butt handed to it.

The match wasn’t all that exciting, really, because we played like a club with a 5-0 aggregate lead in the tie: confident, willing to absorb some pressure and not work super hard because with a 5-goal cushion, there wasn’t any real danger. But it was definitely a chance for people to show what they have. Phil Schoen is usually a barely sufferable blowhard, but in this instance, he was right in saying that the lineup was filled with players who have a shot to shine, to demonstrate their skills. Nolito wants to stay, Thiago to prove his promotion wasn’t a fluke. Afellay is still settling in, but his pedigree has been proven. Milito stayed, and wants more time, Krkic is just trying to play his way out of an epic funk, Pinto wants another year as our No. 2 keeper.

So even though there wasn’t anything at stake or any real danger, there was incentive aplenty and they played like Barca. The passing wasn’t as precise, the tika-taka not as jaw-dropping. But make no mistake, Thiago’s through balls were every bit as incisive and thoughtful as Xavi’s, full of just as much danger. Milito charged forward like Piquenbauer, setting up attack after attack, and Almeria suffered. The three goals were all scored in very special ways, by people who all had reasons to be giddy with unalloyed delight. Let’s have a look.


Dude is getting some serious stick for not being Dani Alves, something that is profoundly unfair. He isn’t Dani Alves, he’s Adriano. Or more precisely, Here Adriano. He is his own player, a fast, physical jack of all trades who came up as a wing attacker, a skill set he demonstrated when he took the pass, dribbled and ran through four defenders, and smoked an angled shot past a charging keeper. This was his first goal for the club, and so fitting that the first one was also a memorable one. And in this case he wasn’t Dani Alves, he was in his own way better, while doing something that we all wish Dani Alves would do more often. And he exulted, as he should have.


Next season, Thiago Alcantara will be with the first team. But this season, because we’re so stacked at his position, he has been sent back down to the B team so that he can get the playing time that will enhance his development. And only a fool would say that the player likes it, so it’s easy to see this starting role as our midfield metronome as an opportunity for him to say “This is what you’re going to be getting next season, only better!” And here again, he’s being made out to be a player other than himself, The Next Xavi. Maybe we should think of him a a pretty darned good Thiago, because as Dani Alves lofted a lovely cross toward him, we were all thinking the same thing: a headed goal? No way. Way! And not just a headed goal, but a mid-air beauty of an angled header with power and placement, a stunner of a goal that sent Ray Ray into linguistic spasms of delight. And well it should have. It was a Barca goal, but a Barca goal of the future, less tika-taka and more swashbuckling. It was also a delight.


The new kid on the block started his second match for the side, in a role that takes advantage of his strengths as a direct player. In a way, he has the least pressure of anyone on the club, because he only cost 3 million. That means that even if he can’t take two steps without falling down, dude only cost 3 million, yo! Give him some time! Except he doesn’t need time. He has burst upon the field as if to the manor born, playing like a Masia graduate even though for the first part of this season, he plied his trade in the Eredivisie. His goal was also a thing of beauty, a dynamic, explosive run that showed what a direct player he is, and a bomb of a shot that smoked past the keeper. It was his first for the colors, and it won’t be his last. Not by a long shot, because this kid, who we have nicknamed 3M, is a keeper. And he scored a dream of a goal for his dream club, so why not be stunned and amazed.

Now for the rest:

Team: 7. It did what it had to do, and did it with style. The shutout was a matter of pride in a match where it would have been easy to relax and concede a goal or two because after all, we aren’t going to concede six, right? Instead the side rocked Almeria’s house, actually and figuratively.

Guardiola: 10. Yes, perfect. Who said he doesn’t rotate? Not only that, he rested his key players before a huge match, and probably said to Messi “I know you want to play all the time, but not today. You need a rest.” He rolled out a defensively offensive lineup that found a way to get Busquets, Keita and Mascherano on the pitch at the same time, in a side that he motivated to play well and hard in a tie that was a foregone conclusion.

Pinto: 5. Shaky distribution and positioning. He wasn’t tested that much, which was probably just as well.

Alves: 7. Despite his ignoring us when we said that he should never, ever take free kicks again, he had a very strong match on both ends of the pitch, setting up offense, including an assist to Thiago, and playing very strong defensively. Best right back in the world? Debatable. Best right back for us? No question.

Busquets: 9. Another sterling match from a player who is starting to get some of the credit that he deserves, but not all of it. He played center back alongside Milito today, as the roamer who has to account for an absent Alves. And he was amazing, stopping, stealing, harassing, defending and attacking, in a Man of the Match performance.

Milito: 7. This was the best match that I have seen him play in some time, as he showed off the ball skills and aggression that brand him as an Argentine defender.

Adriano: 6. A brilliantly taken goal, but he’s still showing some positional deficiencies that may never rectify themselves, as he continues to slot in wherever needed, so get used to it. His offense is stronger than his defense, it must be noted.

Mascherano: 8. The thug is in the house. Anything that came near him, he took, and not much came near him because Almeria’s attacking mostly came up the wings, or via long balls that tried to bypass the midfield. Nonetheless, from defending to passing, a wonderful match by a consummate professional.

Keita: 7. Speaking of professionals, Huh? What? again showed why Guardiola likes him so much. He was there in a thankless, glory-free role, as the guy who helps the guy who helps the guy — a human backboard, a simple linchpin in our possession game. Be physical, and hold the ball. “You got it, coach.”

Thiago: 7. A fine, fine match as he came out in a way that makes it clear that he isn’t the Next Xavi, but the First Thiago. His command and control weren’t as comprehensive as the Maestro, but his danger was every bit as acute. He has that same amazing eye for passing angles, to boot.

Afellay: 8. We see by now that the stiffness is just the way that he plays, a style that suits our club even as it adds something special: directness. 3M is like a shark toward goal, the midfield version of Pedro!!. He’s talented with the ball at his feet, and is fast learning a difficult, intricate system. He’s even tracking back and playing defense. Hard not to like.

Nolito: 5. A work in progress, and one who ultimately might not have the necessary skill set to stick with the club. He plays too fast, like Jeffren, and is guilty of trying to gild the lily, to get that perfect position instead of just making a play. Still adjusting to the speed of Liga defenders, too.

Krkic: 3. Started brightly, then faded into his usual ineffectual lack of even adequacy, leaving two goals begging, including one late in the match that he’s still probably wondering how he didn’t score. Whether it’s confidence that needs to be buttressed or a skill set that just isn’t going to cut in La Liga is for folks to debate. What I know is that for this match, it was the same, tentative Krkic who can’t hold his position, and goes to ground entirely too easily. And he disappears for long stretches of the match. He’s becoming the player that people don’t want to pass to, and that’s a fatal thing for a striker.


Pique (for Busquets): 6. He didn’t have a lot to do and he did it well, in a performance that would have been headed for a higher rating in a full match. He wasn’t as omnipresent as Busquets, but he didn’t have to be. He was playing a very different match than Busquets, as suits his role as pure defender. And we switched to command/control mode in the second half, content to keep Almeria from vexing us too much.

Now comes anxiety time, as EE took care of Sevilla, setting up a whole passel of Clasicos: Copa final, away leg in Liga and Super Copa. I don’t even want to deal with the possibility of a Champions League matchup as well. My brain can only take so much. And that’s what I know.

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Written by:

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


  1. Pyro
    February 2, 2011

    Excellent review Kxevin, I didn’t watch the match, because once I saw Thiago’s goal I saw it as game over, because we were dominating. Thiago has one bright future ahead of him. He has completely relegated Dos Santos to unknown status. I know we are going to beat the EE when april 20 comes around because the team we are watching week in and out is one for the ages. I am still very annoyed by Rosell’s policy when it comes to becoming a soci. But man Afellay was the bargain of the year.

  2. barca96
    February 2, 2011

    Haven’t watched the match and been out of the internet world for the past
    four days. But I guess we signed a player who is also called Thiago?
    Or is that an error? 😆

    I’m downloading the match from fbtz now. Thank God they are still up.
    TOo bad it’s from a broadcast from Nova sports and not Sky or Goltv.

    • complotGP
      February 3, 2011 has a GolTV Eng version, I’m downloading it right now 🙂

  3. barca96
    February 3, 2011

    Kari, please use this pic the next time you make a hilarious post about

    I haven’t watched the match but I can imagine him venting his anger like that. HAha

  4. February 3, 2011

    I watched the Barca game in the cup. Something about seeing new players play is fun. Plus i really wanted to see Thiago play. It is interesting to see if your management decides to go on and buy Cesc or decide to let Thiago Mature under the guidance of Xavi. Although in the current times of high demand for results, and since many of the fans of Barcelona, especially the new one, have gotten used to constant success, Thiago might not be given the patience that say Xavi had. I mentioned this to Kari when she visited our blog, but i was surprised how Barcelona did not snatch up Canales before us. A player that fits the Iniesta role very much and has a great connection with Thiago. I dont know if anyone here follows the Under 19 and 21 internationals but they have some real neat set piece work and connection on the field.

    I can relate to that with my team (Real Madrid), as fans seem to demand results and they demand them now. Also, fans have to remember that Xavi didn’t rise into prominence as the dominant force that he is until he was 26 give or take a few years. Many forget that Xavi did not play a big part of the Barca team that one the champions league in 2006 as he was out with injury. Not saying he wasn’t good then, but kinda saying that he waited till the system suited him (and Pep made sure that happened).

    Another point, its interesting to see how despite its awesome producing power, your youth system seems to have a huge weakness when it comes to the strikers position. I know i know, Messi and Pedro are good but thats not really what im aiming at. I’m kinda aiming at the Center forward position. Is there a specific reason behind that? Maybe no emphasis on that department much? I know that in Real Madrid Castilla, the team really lacks the ability to produce a quality central defender. We also lack the ability to produce a good defensive midfielder (Save for De La Red who unfortunately had his career cut short, and who i am a big fan off).

    Two Clasico’s in 4 days. Too much for the heart to handle eh? Would be interesting to see how far apart the two teams will be when it comes to that point in the league as it will really dictate how the two teams line up. I have been very critical of Mourinho’s system at my club especially when it comes to his rigidness to defensive flexibility. It was one of my main criticisms of Pellegrini and it persists till now. Safe to say though, if we line up with the same formation in El Clasico, we are going to get torn apart. A little kid strolling down “i dont know crap about football” Avenue knows better than put two midfielders only against Barcelona.

    I have been thinking about it a lot lately and prompted me to write a post about it over at my blog. Had Barcelona in the back of my head while figuring out all those tactical variations.

    Anyways, ive rambled on for too long for a Real Madrid supporter eh? Congrats on reaching the final (in style i must add) and see you in April.

    • cliveee
      February 3, 2011

      nice comment, hats off, classy too. thank you.

    • cliveee
      February 3, 2011

      you raised a really interested question which at some point we kinda discussed. The CF.

      My guess is that you are talking about Llorente kind of huge tall striker who is always the target man when you use this term CF.

      My instant reaction to this is : Why do we need one? I don’t know for sure, but La Masia follows this Total Football philosophy which requires a great deal of skills set on and off the ball. So, all players, including goalkeeper, defenders and coaching staff must be equipped with the same passing and running ability. And for sure, they all practice shooting. Notice Andreu Fontas (Defender) scored a wonder of a long range goal in last year’s preseason for example. So, to sum up my guess:

      They all do something similar and don’t have a separate department for a CF maybe.

      Another point is that the passing game’s idea is to be unpredictable. You probably have seen it enough, and might have described our game as boring at times, because we sometimes play ultra slow, and we are able to. Because we dictate the tempo, and that put us in a very unpredictable position, because you don’t know when our forwards will make a good run and then Xavi or Messi will pass that thru ball to make the goal happen. Can we do that with a CF? Of course, but can a midfielder do that too? Absolutely. See Pedro for example, he is a midget who just scored a header last week against poor Almeria. It almost gets a little old to see how many thru ball he has been receiving from Xavi, Iniesta or Messi.

      It’s true though, at times when we desperately need a goal, we want sheer directness. (that is to play that CF a long pass from way back hoping to produce result. ) But we experienced it with Ibra, which didn’t quite work. I think it has to do with the unpredictable nature of our game.

      I am all for making some big players who can play our game, because we have way too many small players, and variety is very much needed in all schools, including football schools of our scale and level.

      >on a side note: we had the chance to buy Oezil (who falsely proclaimed himself a cule) too, but we let it pass. Oezil is in many ways closer to Iniesta imo. I believe the management knows full well how stacked we are in that position, including those who are up and coming from La Masia. Allow me to lavish some praise on Oezil tho, he has been the most successful signing of your team so far this season.


      • cliveee
        February 3, 2011

        Trust me, I really mean you raised an interesting question.

        • barca96
          February 3, 2011

          I don’t think a tall, physical CF(the ones that are loved in EPL) would do well in our youth system, let alone in the 1st team.
          Kluivert was very mobile even though he was a straight up 9.
          But he had an advantage of playing at Ajax since young.

      • February 3, 2011

        Haha, thank you. I remember reading something about it, but probably didn’t pay much attention to it. My apologies for that.

        As far as i remember, i recall seeing a lot of Center backs being promoted to the first team from La Masia. But for instance, over the last 10 years or more, i dont recall a decent Center forward or even striker in that position. You would consider since the youth system relies on that striker that makes runs, you would get a decent return in terms of a striker option from the youth system.

        Bojan in an ideal situation fits the mold of striker from the youth system that I’m imagining, but i think his case is a totally different point that needs a whole different post to discuss. I remember the likes of Kluivert, Saviola, Eto and now Villa all being imported to fit the system.

        It is really interesting to see how some systems have success in one department and not the other. A lot of it goes down to chance, as you dont always get a striker that is worthy of starting for one of the top teams in La Liga and the world.

        What i realized most is that the team has adjusted greatly to not relying on a striker or a center forward. It has molded itself in the sense that runs that yield to goals are mostly made from the wings, which works very well as it catches the defense off guard.

        I am a big fan of Ozil. It is really interesting to see how he has evolved over less than one season. When he first started out the season, he couldnt play more than 70 minutes. Now he finishes most games. He has a lot more room to improve especially in terms of consistency and stamina.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      February 3, 2011

      nice to see you here, Bassam… 😀

      1. “It is interesting to see if your management decides to go on and buy Cesc or decide to let Thiago Mature under the guidance of Xavi.”

      we’re questioning it too. and no doubt most of Cules will prefer to give Thiago a ‘prize’ for his loyalty, unlike that “missing-child.”
      but we all know how much Pep and his boys love Cesc, so…we’ll see… 😀

      2. “your youth system seems to have a huge weakness when it comes to the strikers position.”

      yes. and it’s amazing to see how many goals Barça has at this moment, considering we dont have a number “9” player, (well, Bojan is no.9).
      but I mean the real number 9. you know, a big, tall, deadly at penalty box type of Center Forward..

      3. “Safe to say though, if we line up with the same formation in El Clasico, we are going to get torn apart.”

      Now this is a huge task for Mourinho. probably the toughest season in his career?
      I bet he has this question in his brain for days since El Clasico.
      “how to beat THIS Barça with my current team?”

      His plan A failed at Camp Nou, that we know.
      Let’s say IF Mou try plan B at Bernabeu El Clasico and fail again.
      what tactic/formation will he use in CdR final?

      meanwhile for Pep, if every player is available, (and I hope so 😉 )
      he doesn’t have to think that much about line up…

      hope our heart is big enough to handle 2 Clasicos in 4 days… 😀

    • mei
      February 3, 2011

      Actually , Bassam , CF position is a known issue for the cantera.
      I think Guardiola has said so many times. Or was it Zubi ? Im not sure.
      However , even if we had one we probably cut him loose.A pure striker.
      One of the major reasons krkic is having a hard time playing especially this year , is that the striker role has gone obsolete under guardiola ; and it pretty much seems so that thats his plan : having three fowards rotate with each other on the field , making it impossible for defenders to steadily pick each one of them and mark the hell out of .
      I know what kxevin will say , but a kid thats only 20 years of age should have time to grow. Especially the one that has to learn a new position alltogether this year.The one that has lighten us up many times in the past , and we are sure hes got the talent for it too.
      The funny part is that even he’s got huge pressure to deliver.

      We are all hailing affelay currently. He gives us things we pretty much luck directness , long shots , good stature and great speed.
      Lets not forget he is 24 years old and pretty much a finished product. All we are gonna do with him is polish some of his abilities , make him work in our system and use his skills.

      Something that makes your other point sound a lot more realistic too : if thiago doesnt cut it , fabregas evolution style , he will be probably shipped out. Success is a seductress , and a bitch for all those players. Due to this we might lose some players that were going to cut it a la xavi and iniesta style.

    • OSBAG
      February 3, 2011

      Pls whats the url for the real madrid blog

  5. Pyro
    February 3, 2011

    Always nice to see you here Bassam. I usually go peek at the Real Madrid Offside page after I visit Milan’s and Liverpool’s. La Masia does lack in making great center forwards, those are the ones we buy: Ronaldo, Romario, Kluviert, Eto’o to name a few.

  6. cliveee
    February 3, 2011

    Reviewwwwwwww! Thanks, K3evin!

    Oh, wait, i was too indulged in the 3M, sorry, Kxev.

    Need no more discussion, Afellay is looking very bright and we all want to see him thrive for us! He had way more chances to score more than 1 goal, and I’d love to see him shoot more! My guess is that Guardiola already knew, and now witnessed himself that Afellay’s directness will be a key to critical matches when the parked bus aren’t going to break. This 3M will come in handy to destroy them!

  7. February 3, 2011

    Also i want to add one more thing (a tad off topic, and for that im sorry Kxevin) but i hear a lot about some Madrid fans that proclaim that Barca’s style of play is boring. Obviously i dont agree. Holding up the ball and passing it around is an art in its own. But when it comes to my preference, i would go with a Villareal style of play of more direct one touch passes going forward. A little view of what I’m talking about is the Madrid of 1998 till 2003 that was coached by the master of that sort of football Vicente Del Bosque. It was a style that is installed into the youth setup as well, for those few few out there that have no life like me and watch Youth teams.

    Anyways sort off a glimpse of what im talking about:


    • cliveee
      February 3, 2011

      wowwwwwww Galactico! vs Barca!

      You are bringing up new joy here on our already stacked with awesomeness blog!

      Let me ask this: How do you think this 1998-2003 Galactico will play against, say, Athletic Bilbao who defended with 9 men in the box against us in Camp Nou in the last round of the Copa in 2011?

      Highlights are all wonderful, and I am not trying to take away anything from this already-finished-Galactico-team which is totally unplayable in many ways, but in the video, none of the team parked it. The closest one that has more defenders in the box, was finished with a Robinho volley, and off a cross. So that’s why I asked.

      Guardiola said it himself “we only want to pass the ball as fast as we can”, but sometimes you just need to wait, especially when the opposition are so determined to defend, and they are tackling so hard. But we are doing this kind of passing, just not goal-bound sometimes. 😀

      • February 3, 2011

        I totally understand. Highlight videos can make my Grandma look decent in that striker position.

        Its significant to see how the decade started with the dominance of the Galactico football and then the same decade ended up with the Barcelona “total” football. Two very different yet very efficient styles of play.

        The Athletic Bilbaos and Osasounas of La Liga have always stuck to their style of play. That tough sit back and hit them hard kind of mentality. If my memory does serve me right, the Galactico team, especially the combination of Guti, Zidane and Figo used to be able to squeeze a ball forward through the tightest of markers. Plus to be realistic, against that parked bus, sometimes you need a moment of individual brilliance to get started. With Barca it comes from Messi and back then it came from Zidane. Both i must add, in such a different way. Messi with speed, dribbling and passing through a rat hole kind of ability while zidane was more of holding up the ball, dribbling and anything else you might think off.

        Its interesting to see by the end of the current decade which team will be portraying his style the best. Currently, we are failing drastically.

        • Vj
          February 3, 2011

          And welcome to BFB, if that’s not already been said!

        • BarcaGirl_Indo
          February 3, 2011

          Messi’s talent and skill is absurd, that’s for sure.

          but if you want to compare Zidane role and his individual brilliance with Barça player at the moment,
          I think it will be Don Andres Iniesta.

          His first touch, passing, controlling, holding up the ball, dribbling, and he’s starting to produce goals too.

          What. A. Player.
          the biggest difference in this season than the last,
          it’s not Villa, not Masch, definitely not Adriano. 😀
          It is Iniesta.

          which Pep said —> Iniesta is the best ‘transfer’ this season, because last season he got injured so often.

          • February 3, 2011

            In terms of playing style, yes Zizou and Iniesta are most alike. What i was aiming for in my comment though was that for the past season, the player that is relied on for the most amount of individual brilliance in the Barca team is Messi. Same goes for the Madrid team back then as it was Zidane who handled that job.

        • outerspacedout
          February 3, 2011

          Gotta agree there about Iniesta being a player who can pull a rabbit out of the hat. With Iniesta fit we are so much harder to defend against than without him a la last season, because he gives us a whole new dimension.

          When both him and Messi play we have two players who drift across positions, are near-impossible to mark, can beat defenders and dribble past many players or make mazy runs, and now recently with Iniesta even score.

          Throw in that we have two other genuine goal threats in Villa and Pedro, and it becomes tough.

          As for Real I agree with what you said over at the Real Offside. If Mourinho can somehow cajole Ronaldo and the striker in pressing a bit up front at least for just the big games and they had more a presence in midfield instead of a huge gap between the back six and front four, they’d probably fare better against stronger opposition. Against weaker opposition the sheer amount of talent and speed etc in the front four overwhelms defences, thus their extreme consistency in the league.

        • mei
          February 3, 2011

          Two different teams , two wonderful brands of attractive attacking football.
          However barcelona wasnt always made to play like that.
          Back in the ronaldinho era we were a much more direct team; back in the galactico era we were more direct too.
          We were failing all over the place , but back in 2000 I enjoyed too the football we played. There was almost no request for titles back then because of that madrid team.

          Something that makes your assesment of your team “failing” unfair. Comparison doess the most part for it , im sure , but looking it from a more objective angle mourinho was not hired to play beatifully , he was hired to succeed. Hes coming close which is not enough, but I really dont think that thats because of the lack of trophies that he may end up with ; Since the moment you hired him, I always told my friends that real madrid faithfuls will never accept this kind of football in their own stadium. Even after winning trophies , just because of what you had in the past , you would opt for another coach. But thats just me.

  8. OSBAG
    February 3, 2011

    Yesterday, i noticed mascherano suppling alves wit the ball as xavi would, long passes to the wings.
    Am not sure but i think Milito’s forward run brought abt the second goal, dude has improved with more reps and repaid pep’s trust in him. It left to be seen if he gets the nod ahead of abidal on saturday.
    i hope thiago didnt sprain his neck scoring that goal.
    bojan showed some flashes of brilliance in the beginning but just sort went to sleep. Took too long to shoot that ball and when he did should have learnt from messi and not from villa by looping the keeper instead of shooting at him. I guess Benzema is EE’s bojan replica. Superb goal it was by adebayor, sevilla’s keeper seemed shot shy.
    PS. Wht were those symbols on goitom’s jersey.

    • K_legit
      February 3, 2011

      Apparently its Goitom in Tigrinya (the language of Eritrea) on the back of The Henok’s jersey

  9. soccermomof4
    February 3, 2011

    Great review as always. Thanks, kxevin. I was hoping that you’d give Pep a 10 just for resting our regulars if nothing else.

  10. blitzen
    February 3, 2011

    Nice review, Kxevin, but you forgot:

    Bench: 10 I mean, was that most amazing looking bench in the world or what?!?

    I can’t comment too much on individual performances, because I have only seen the game once and my feed had some issues. But my impression is that Afellay had a hell of a match! Not just because of the goal, either. His movement, his passing, his speed, his terrific footwork. For a full 90 minutes, he looked like one of us. For me he was the MOTM. Sorry, Kxevin, but I don’t think it’s fair to give it to Busquets, good as he was, when he only played for a half.

    Thiago also looked good, but not brilliant. I thought he wasn’t playing that well for a while, but I think he was hampered by Nolito’s overeagerness and Bojan’s clumsiness. His work with Dani, Busquets and Masch was much better.

    Bojan. Why you fall down so much? It’s almost like he is going through a second puberty, you know, the way boys suddenly turn into awkward lurching monsters with little control of their own bodies for a year or two? Like that.

    Funniest moment of the match: David Villa throwing his hood over his face when Bojan missed THAT goal.

    WTF moment of the match: Almeria goalkeeper going over to comfort Bojan after he missed THAT goal.

    • Lev
      February 3, 2011

      yeah I noticed your WTF moment too.
      a new low point for cuddly toys: being consoled by a keeper who has picked up 16(!) Barça goals from the back of his net.

      my favorite moment was the excitement of Messi and Pedro upon Afellay dribbling at the goal and only just missing (did anyone see that?). Dude is obviously integrating well 🙂

      • mei
        February 3, 2011

        the perfect moment was a bit later , while celebrating, valdes slapped villa who pushed him away funnily hahaha!

  11. stowe
    February 3, 2011

    Bassam, thanks for the great discussion and input. I haven’t seen enough of either team to really know, but the highlights from the galactico team reminded me a bit of Arsenals invincibles.

    and the older Ronaldo was so amazing. it was a joy to watch some of those goals

  12. Lev
    February 3, 2011

    I was wondering about Goitom too, but that is awesome!

  13. February 3, 2011

    Bassam, you are welcome anytime. Great conversations and thoughts. Now don’t get me wrong, if a pit to Hell opened up and swallowed your club and its stadium, I’d do a Snoopy dance of joy, but we’re all united in our love of this beautiful, heartbreaking, always amazing game.

    • February 3, 2011

      Thanks, Kxevin. I understand what you mean. Back in 2006 during that last game trophy win (you know what im talking about, im sure no one can forget it), I was doing the robot for probably 45 minutes straight. Whats surprising is that i had never done the robot before that time.

  14. Barcathegreatestever
    February 3, 2011

    Afellay has a first step that reminds me of Messi. He gets so much separation the first defender is out of the picture, a nightmare for the defense. Course its been against beaten teams so far, and that shot!. will do nicely. Problem now is where to put him cause he’s a legit starter sooner rather than later.

    Biggest fear for the Classicos is that Real turns them into crunch fests. Mourinho and company do their best work manipulating the Spanish referees. His job is going to be to get the boys to be nasty murdering bastards, not hard for Sergio.

    Keita got a dose of Bojanville. His talent effort intelligence and all around good citizenship just not quite good enough for the big minutes as last year. Now the spotlight, the pressure to show, the desire to get something more out of himself results in 70 minutes of bungling everything that came to him. At least no one is turning nasty, yet!

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