Barcelona – Athletic Liveblog

It’s been a while since I’ve brought you a liveblog. Let’s hope absence makes the heart grow fonder… and we get a win!

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101 Comments

  1. Ryan
    February 20, 2011

    FCB-ATHLETIC CLUB (LINE-UP/ ALINEACIÓ / ALINEACIÓN): Pinto, Alves, Busquets, Piqué, Abidal, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Villa and Pedro.

    Here’s hoping we can give our midfield some rest in the 2nd half, and that P!! and Messi find themselves on the scoreboard.

  2. blitzen
    February 20, 2011

    Osasuna spanked Espanyol 4-0 today. 😀

  3. Vj
    February 20, 2011

    The match is about to start and I’m getting antsy 😛

  4. mega_tajh
    February 20, 2011

    Man WHAT A GAME!!! NOT our best but certainly exciting. At least Pep now knows how Busquets plays @ CB

    • Ryan
      February 20, 2011

      Surely Abidal gets some flak for the pass?

      • mega_tajh
        February 20, 2011

        I wasn’t saying Busquets was good or bad just saying now Pep knows for sure how he plays CB in a high pressure match.

    • Nik
      February 20, 2011

      I wish SMasch would have started at CB. We lose a lot offensively by shifting Busi into the back line.

  5. Vj
    February 20, 2011

    Messi MOTM for those brilliant runs for me..

  6. jordi™
    February 20, 2011

    In other news, Depor’s keeper scored a header to tie the game in the 95th minute.

    • blitzen
      February 20, 2011

      I know! Amazing! Depor of all teams.

  7. jhargrid
    February 20, 2011

    A tough, tight match. I look forward to our return to maximum lethality, but I have to say it was exciting.

  8. mega_tajh
    February 20, 2011

    I’m just glad the team showed that spirit only champions can. The intensity at the end was all what we needed against Arsenal.Also glad to see Messi scoring again and Alves MOTM for me, to great assist from him.

    Or yeah great showing from Villa to…..

  9. Humphrey Bogart
    February 20, 2011

    I am normaly not somebody for crude conspirations theories, but what the f** is going on with refs in this country. How was that not a penalty on Messi? Di Maria just has to go down by the slightest breath of wind and it is raining free kicks and penaltys and you can kick, push or tug the shirt of Messi and it is nothing. Villareto, my arse.

  10. momo
    February 20, 2011

    Great game! Stuff of champions really!
    And congrats to Ade C. of the offside for the RayRay shoutout!
    My jaw dropped when I heard that!
    Now if only we can somehow get him to read this blog too…

      • momo
        February 20, 2011

        Ray Hudson mentioned Ade C of the offside and encouraged all Barca fans to visit it. He literally spent a full minute praising it. As I said before my jaw dropped…

        • soccermomof4
          February 20, 2011

          I missed that- maybe I’ll pick it up on the second viewing. But….but….but…. WE’RE the ones who love him 🙁

          😀

        • K_legit
          February 20, 2011

          Damn..I am really happy for the guys over at the offside..I’m there most of the time..should start commenting too I guess..I was a lurker too long when Kxevin and Isaiah ran the place

  11. February 20, 2011

    hey! dani! baby i got your money! don’t you worry. i said hey!…

  12. mei
    February 20, 2011

    so glad to see messi back in form.
    He was off form for what, 2 games? seemed long enough!

  13. soccermomof4
    February 20, 2011

    Not exactly the most comfortable game to watch, but exiting. Took Messi a while to get going, and I’m not saying he made all the right decisions in the second half, but it sure was fun to watch those runs.

    No game until Saturday so I hope Pep gives the boys a couple of days off!

  14. Goo
    February 20, 2011

    Can Puyi come back now please? I miss Barca’s best XI.

    Messi Pichichi!

  15. K_legit
    February 20, 2011

    Iniesta was playing in full God mode today

  16. blitzen
    February 20, 2011

    Good good game. Both teams played hard. The penalty was soft, but it happens. Everyone looked awake and hungry. I am voting Xavi MOTM because he was ON and consistent from start to finish, but Busquets could also be a contender. Pinto didn’t have a lot to do, but he did fine, aside from the penalty. Looks like we will ahve him for the next few matches, anyway. Glad to see the Plait of Power back!

    • soccermomof4
      February 20, 2011

      I don’t know what thrills me more, the 5-0 thumpings or these tight games where we show so much character. I think there’s a place in my heart for both. I hear you about the plait of power, the cornrows weren’t doing it for me :-D.

        • soccermomof4
          February 20, 2011

          I just don’t like it when players get too fancy with their hair. They’re athletes for goodness sake, not models (I do like Xavi’s spikes though—oh no, must not go into fangirl mode).

      • K_legit
        February 20, 2011

        The tight games all day all night

        The game against Malaga at the Camp Nou last season where Messi (again) scored the late winner of an Alves assist (again) ranks amongst my favourites

  17. mardia
    February 20, 2011

    wow, was that game nerve-wracking. We showed a ton of character to get that second goal, but dear God, I will be so so relieved when Puyol comes back to marshal our defense again.

    Also, I’m not one to get too worked up about the ratings that Kxevin gives (they’re good talking points even when I disagree with them) but I think Villa deserves quite a lot of credit for the first half alone–not just for the goal but also, unfortunately, because he seemed to be one of the players that was really awake and ready to play RIGHT THEN. I’m glad Messi got that second goal, truly, but it took him way too long to find his way into this match, and he wasn’t the only one who was absent for long stretches of it either.

    As for the non-call on Messi, seriously, what on EARTH was with the refereeing right there? Di Maria can trip over his shoelace in the box and it’s called for a penalty, but Messi gets taken down (and he WAS taken down) and we don’t get ANYTHING? PFFT.

    • soccermomof4
      February 20, 2011

      Much more of a foul than Busi’s (he got ball first!).

      • mardia
        February 20, 2011

        that was the part that had me gaping when I saw the replay–he got the ball first! If you’re going to give a penalty for that, then I just can’t understand how that foul on Messi wasn’t called. UGH.

  18. Blow-Grenade
    February 20, 2011

    Here is what hapenned. 1st half, no width on the left side. Athletic were very effective in cutting off the Messi Xavi Iniesta triangle. 2nd half, more of the same until Maxwell came in. We had the width, Messi Xavi Iniesta triangles, and we got our goal.
    Point to note: sMasch is a little slower in circulating the ball compared to the other Barca midfielders like Busi, Xavi, Iniesta.
    Lastly I enjoyed the game.

    • momo
      February 20, 2011

      I disagree with your first half comment. Pedro was moved all the way to the left to offer width there, while Villa was at his accustomed edge of the penalty box position. Messi on the other hand stayed mostly central. We had plenty of width on the left and even resembled a front four at times.
      Pedro–villa—messi—alves
      The biggest concern seemed to be that no one was exploiting the space between the RB and CB that alves was creating.

  19. mega_tajh
    February 20, 2011

    BTW did you guys see Rosell face when Messi penalty incident wasn’t called. He was shaking his head in-disgust as to what his team needs to earn one!! I’m just glad he shows emotions during matches as I always thought he was a stiff.

    • blitzen
      February 20, 2011

      Even though I dislike him, I have some sympathy with him during games. He has to sit next to the opponents president and keep a straight face, be diplomatic. Must be difficult.

  20. blaugranaDOOM
    February 20, 2011

    No panic today? 🙂

    Fantastic result.

    Interesting in the first half. I really liked the idea of just playing two in defense. Probably would have been better, but Messi was terrible in the first half.

    Second straight game that Villa has been awesome. It drives me crazy how conservative Barca play sometimes. They are playing a very high line. Villa is making a run from way onside. Play the ball over the top! That is the best way to stretch a team. If they know you won’t play that ball, then they can easily compress the midfield.

    Second half, we almost lost that game. We gave them ten minutes to play, and they got a penalty. Terrible pass by Abidal. Some kind of flick when we are backed into our own half. Pique ran hot and cold. He made some terrible passes that let them have the attack. He also snuffed out some great chances that they had. I am very happy about the cards that he and Alves got. Puyol and Masch are the only cynical (defensive) players we have, so it was good to see them stop the fast breaks.

    Messi really came on in the second half. If Busi’s was a penalty (and it was), then that was stone cold.

    Maxwell gave great width and opened up the center of the pitch a lot. If only we had a better left back who could take players on like Alves does, we would be unplayable.

    Alves, man of the match. If players we hustling from midfield more, his crosses might have found someone. Xavi, get in the box like you used to do. Keita always does.

    1 week rest! Arsenal has a replay! Come on!

  21. flyzowee
    February 20, 2011

    Man, missed da game, any chance pedro wins back his stunners(!!). Wat about Smash, good game by him?

    • mardia
      February 20, 2011

      I’ll leave it to others to give a more detailed recap, but for me, Pedro was basically invisible for so much of the game today. so no !! for him.

  22. blaunero
    February 20, 2011

    Game of the season, by a long margin. In the second half we played better than even in the Clasico. If only we had show half as much character vs Arsenal–the gunners wouldn’t have stood a chance.
    Alves, Iniesta, and, why not, Messi were simply fantastic today, Messi especially in the second half

    • K_legit
      February 20, 2011

      For me the game of the season was the one against Vilarreal in the Camp Nou

      • blaunero
        February 20, 2011

        That was pretty good too, but the submarines tend to sink in the second half, and I have a soft spot for Athletic B.

      • Ryan
        February 20, 2011

        Don’t forget the comeback against Valencia!

  23. Diego
    February 20, 2011

    There was so many individual skills in this match it was awesome. I can’t wait for allas14’s videos.

    Messi and Dani co-MOTM for me. Busi and Xavi were great but they wouldn’t have won alone.

    Pay Dani what he wants.

    I’m not going to talk about Messi’s penalty or the 3 half penalties we had on the first half. 😀

  24. Nav
    February 20, 2011

    Sounds like an amazing game, will download as soon as I get home. Glad the boys brought it home!

  25. PhepheSa
    February 20, 2011

    Wow! Didn’t know Ade is a she. FCB girls rule.

  26. Nik
    February 20, 2011

    My favorite stat of the night (besides the 2 goals scored to 1 allowed, of course) via barcastuff:

    “Xavi (129) and Busquets (105) have completed more passes as the whole team of Athletic (188) #fcblive [via @dsaura]”

    It’s crazy to think how much Busquets has grown in the short time he has been with the squad. At 22, he’s already won so much, improved so much, and yet still has so much time to get even better.

    The future is bright for this team.

  27. Sheena
    February 20, 2011

    Loved the game. Absolutely loved it.

    Just sort of sat on my sofa staring at the TV for a full five minutes after the final whistle before starting to celebrate the win.

    Reminded me a lot of the Valencia game, which will always rank as the best game of the season for me, by a large margin.

    Also: Messi is top of the Pichichi standings!!! (or level if you believe Marca)

  28. February 20, 2011

    Caparros (coach Athletic): “I’m laughing with people who say Barcelona is in crisis…”

    Guardiola: “It’s impossible I’ll ever have doubts about these players.”

    Guardiola: “Alves yellow-suspended? Well, didn’t know that yet. We’ll see this week how we solve it. Guess Adriano will play.”

    -barcastuff

  29. blitzen
    February 20, 2011

    Finally I can stop Hlebbing everyone! 😀

    • soccermomof4
      February 20, 2011

      I thought you were Hlebbing for all of Hlebruary. Goody, I can take down my doom and gloom avatars.

      • blitzen
        February 20, 2011

        I was going to, but I thought it was a bit harsh. Now that we have a victory I can have a nice avatar again!

      • February 20, 2011

        this mean i can put my malena costa & a shark avatar back up? wooo!

  30. BarcaGirl_Indo
    February 20, 2011

    yes, it was a very nerve-wrecking game…
    we didn’t play well (by our standard) in the first half and in the beginning of second half, IMO…

    after Bilbao scored and Messi didn’t get the penalty,
    I was so depressed, the world seemed to fall apart,
    and you can see it from Puyol and Rosell’s face…

    but then this team showed great great character,
    they came back to life in the last minutes…

    absolulety delighted… loved the game, it was stressful but exciting… 😀

    • blitzen
      February 20, 2011

      “didn’t play well in the first half”

      Seriously? Were you even watching the same game I was? Barca played really well in both halves, in fact this was probably our best game since playing Espanyol before Christmas. I wasn’t nervous at all, we just seemed destined to win. The penalty was a setback, nothing more. Everyone looked hungry and eager to win, and so they did. Despite the low scoreline, I am very satisfied with this game.

      • Para
        February 20, 2011

        I wouldn’t say I was ‘nervous’ per se, and I definitely enjoyed this match, but the fact that my internet cut out for fifteen minutes during the second half (during the time when messi scored) meant that I was pacing up and down my room, cursing the internet-fairies. THAT made me nervous.

      • BarcaGirl_Indo
        February 20, 2011

        Like I said, by their standard… and again, IMO…
        you know how high Barça standard is, we won 3-0 against Atl. Madrid and Pep said we didn’t play well…

        I kept seeing my twitter timeline during half time preview,
        almost everyone said that was not the “best” game from Barça,

        especially in the defence, they left too much space,
        luckily, Bilbao played with 8 defenders…

        even Sid Lowe said if we played the way we played in the 1st half against Arsenal,
        we will get destroyed… it’s Sid Lowe, not me who say that…

        • PhepheSa
          February 20, 2011

          Not directed at you BarcaGirl_Indo.

          I hate it when people say that, about any team not just Barca. Surely fans and the players know if they haven’t played well so there’s no need to keep telling us that “if they play that way against so and so then they will get destroyed”.

    • Nav
      February 20, 2011

      Yes. We need to win the return leg first. Also, why troll them? Most of the Arsenal supporters here have been very gracious.

  31. PhepheSa
    February 20, 2011

    @Barcastuff says Pep has given the players 2 days off and they return to training on wednesday.

  32. momo
    February 20, 2011

    RayRay loves the Barca offside!
    *http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6UbsNCfo2tU&feature=player_embedded
    Now to get him to read BFB…

  33. tntyau
    February 20, 2011

    That was extremely satisfying. As fun as the manitas are, It’s great to see the fight the team has in them, the iron fist in the velvet glove, as the saying goes.

    Interesting experiment, essentially playing without a right forward at all, with Pedro on the left and Messi and Villa staggered through the middle. Tacit acknowledgement that Dani is the right wing and the right back, all in one, astounding. (Dani, please sign that contract…)

    Unrelated to Barça, but OMGWTF Greece: http://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/blog/dirty-tackle/post/Olympiakos-fans-tear-down-goals-unleash-firebal?urn=sow-323986

      • tntyau
        February 20, 2011

        No worries. 🙂

        Completely insane. Fireballs!

        (Though I will admit I can’t wait to see what Brooks will make of this on Artur Boruc’s Rage Friday List. Right? It’s perfect for that.)

        • mei
          February 20, 2011

          fireballs? they probably meant firecrackers.
          Its typical stuff here actually , and to be honest in italy its even more brutal.

          • tntyau
            February 20, 2011

            No, did you watch the video? Around 0:36. Honest to God eight-foot fireball. Flares in the stands, fireball on the pitch.

  34. xavi
    February 20, 2011

    Biggest news is the boys getting two days rest… Thank Pep for that

    Winning 2-1 against the lions.

    Xavi the MOTM, what an incredible display. Those through balls were awesome.
    Next comes Alves, with his two assists and some times helping in the defense too. He was good today.
    Next comes Busi for me. What an incredible performance today. He was all over the pitch, rushing onto any attacker coming towards our box. And his passing was very good today. That through ball to Villa(which he hit the bar) and the diagonal pass to Alves were awesome. Guess some body is learning his trade very well from the master himself! AND no it wasn’t a penalty, he totally got the ball. Softest penalty decision that one!!

    Mascherano didn’t make no mistakes apart from the few mispasses in the starting of the game. Villa was fine, unlucky not to have scored another goal but I think his touch let him down again. Messi really came alive in the second half. Iniesta was brilliant through out the game. Abidal, apart from that silly pass was solid.

  35. BarcaGirl_Indo
    February 20, 2011

    hxxp://barcelona.theoffside.com/la-liga/la-liga-review-fc-barcelona-2-athletic-de-bilbao-1-or-a-test-of-character.html

    “Pep has innumerable virtues, and one of them is that, sometimes, very rarely, once in a blue moon, he actually sees that something isn’t working and decides to make an early sub to fix it. Which is what he did as Barça continued to flounder. Mascherano came off for Maxwell who stepped into LB, allowing Abidal to slide into the CB position and Busi to return, with a sigh of relief, to his usual DM position. A more normal eleven now, with players feeling more secure in where they were standing and what they were supposed to be doing there.”

    this time, Pep made the right subtitutions…

    • vicsoc
      February 20, 2011

      He absolutely made the right substitution. It came down mainly to having width on the left from Maxwell (even though he really doesn’t offer much attacking thrust), and due to the fact that Busquets moves the ball much quicker than Mascherano. Busquets is also much better at integrating himself in the attack. That’s the problem for Mascherano, he is a good defensive midfielder, but the team just plays better with a defensive midfielder who can move the ball quicker.

      • BarcaGirl_Indo
        February 20, 2011

        right? that’s the missing pieces in the first half and the beginning of second half, I think…

        Maxwell on the left (well, Maxwell didn’t play that good, but he offered width) and of course the most important, Busquets on the midfield…

        this time salute to Pep for the subtitution, he realized there’s something wasn’t working and made the right decision…

        I cant tell you how much I miss our CAPTAIN CAVEMAN everytime the camera shot him…
        even from the stand, he looked like he wanted to yell his teammates…

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      February 20, 2011

      I know… eeeeewww… RoSELL, that’s his name…

  36. barca96
    February 20, 2011

    I hope Kxevin finally gives Alves a good rating.
    There was so much space on the left. I find it strange that they didn’t exploit it more.

  37. poipoi
    February 20, 2011

    I don’t like games like these, goals min 3 & 80. Saves by pinto we could have lost points easily. Even caparros put toquero and then muniain. what I see villa masche busi going up messi xavi and maybe iniesta going going down. Iniesta was in god mode as somebody said but we were loosing too much already. When messi comes to mid you understand maradona was and will be el capo. He lost many balls today.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      February 20, 2011

      I’m not gonna hard on Messi, because eventhough he lost the ball many times, especially in the 1st half, you can see that he awfully tired…
      almost every game (except against Almeria) he played for the whole 90 minutes, including international friendly game…

      he came back to life after Bilbao equalized…

      I must agree with Ade C from The Offside,
      “He did more in the last twenty minutes of the match than other players do in a season”

      still love the great character this team showed in the last minutes anyway…

  38. February 20, 2011

    Dani Alves. It’s hard to even know what to say sometimes. He’s an absurd footballer.

    There’s no one like him in the world.

    His tactical impact on matches is remarkable. Just amazing to watch.

    In this match Pep pretty much tells Dani – you’re on your own out there. We need to fix the left flank.

    And Alves plays sublime football.

    This entire team reached deep inside to win this match after Athletic tied it up.

    Villa – was very strong today again. You get the sense that he knew the team was dragging and would need to up his game.

    Iniesta raised his game to a level that perhaps no other midfielder in the world can play at.

    Xavi – was tremendous throughout. It was only in the second half however when the movement from the other players became dynamic enough for his passes to start producing danger.

    Messi – he was electric in the second half. The runs were astounding. He knew that this was a moment in which he would have to take the responsibility to score. And he did.

    Finally, Sergio Busquets. He’s become phenomenal footballer. He’s now one of the 5 best holding midfielders in the world. IMO he and Schweinsteiger are the best.

    Moving Busquets back to DM reestablished the team’s capacity to build up play and shape possession.

    All that said – this team is dead tired. They needed to tap into a very deep reserve of energy to pull out this match. There are only so many times a team can do that.

    Puyol’s injury is a major problem right now. Moving Abidal to CB stabilizes the middle but hurts the left flank.

    I liked the idea of playing Busquets and Masch. But I think Pep needs to change the alignment. They simply can’t afford to remove Busquets from DM.

    It’s not even a knock on Masch – it’s what Busi brings to DM. His touch is just phenomenal – probably the best touch of any DM in the world. And his ability to play one touch football is almost unparalleled outside of Xavi and Iniesta.

    Masch may have less experience at CB than Busi does. But if one of either Busi or Masch need to play CB, I would much rather experiment on Masch at CB and keep Busi at DM to move the ball quickly.

    I think Masch could be an excellent CB in the Barca system. That’s the position in the Barca system where his skill set fits best in many ways. At DM Masch’s ball skills are fine for Barca but not great. At CB Masch’s skills on the ball would be a real plus. And his positional sense and pace would be real strengths as well.

    I’d like to see Pep experiment with Masch at CB and Busi at DM while Puyol is out.

    • mei
      February 20, 2011

      I think that his height is the sole reason why he was put in the CD position as an experiment ( this and some interesting position interchanging places with abidal in the first half).
      If we scratch that out , i prefer precise mascherano passing at CD and busquets creative one touch football in the DM place.

      • February 20, 2011

        Busi’s height at the back is an advantage.

        But that’s a much bigger issue if it were Pique out rather than Puyol.

        Puyol is only 4cm taller than Masch. It’s not that big a difference in height between Puyol and Masch.

        • mei
          February 20, 2011

          You’re right.
          But puyi is physically bigger as well , not just in height terms!

  39. justsayin
    February 20, 2011

    Iniesta – MOTM for me. He came alive in the second half, taking on defender after defender getting into the box and upsetting their parked bus. His consistent movement caused endless opportunities in the box. I gotta say that those defender seemed like some tall guys with long legs because no matter how many times we tried to thread that ball in, a long leg would telescope out and just knick it away. Either that, or balls would careen off their wide backs and headed away by their towering heads. We were lucky to get that last minute goal purely because of the size and width of those players! And what’s up with Villa? Last two games he’s really come alive, he’s at the right place at the right time, making good passes and fighting for balls. But, it looks like Villa has taken poor Pedro’s strength, because now that Villa is rocking it, Pedro is invisible. What’s up with that?

  40. soccerdadof4
    February 28, 2011

    That was a great game!! Well done lads!!

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