Categorized | La Liga, Review

Barca 2, Athletic Bilbao 1, aka “Hearts of lions!”

Um. Hmmm. Is anybody else’s heart still racing? Usually, a complex win seems less so after the second viewing, but not in this case. There were times that I almost couldn’t watch, and what the hell is it about Athletic Bilbao that makes them always such a difficult side for us?

I know. Some of it is their incessant fighting for every ball, every challenge, every inch of the pitch. Some of it is their remarkable keeper who, time and again, kept them around to have a shout in this tense, tense encounter. Some of it is our own waste. As Ray Hudson noted, we look a tired, tired club, one that will get no respite from the rest of the season, or from any club.

And one that is very, very happy to have Bilbao in the rear-view mirror for this year. Wow, what a match.

Words such as “indomitable,” or “unflinching” are often batted around in various arenas, but it’s rare that you see the definition of said terms on such vivid display. This was a match that we had to win. When EE dispatched Levante with ease yesterday, the pressure was on us to match them, and retain that 5-point lead in the standings, a lead that enables us to, frankly, get a little loose. And it was the wrong time for Bilbao, but at least we were at home, rather than their cauldron of a stadium. We had to win, and despite the tired legs, the passes that came up short, runs that weren’t made that boxes that weren’t filled, it took a remarkable bit of football in a match filled with such moments, to do the trick.

We were funky and clunky, helped as much by Bilbao’s lack of real pace compared to Arsenal, as anything else. But if the sign of a champion is winning when everything isn’t working the way that it’s supposed to, we sure as heck played a championship-caliber match today against an opponent that played its collective heart out. Much praise for Athletic Bilbao.

Guardiola came out with an interesting lineup, of Pinto, Alves, Pique, Busquets, Abidal, Mascherano, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro and Villa. Bilbao came out with the standard way of playing us now, which is to press like crazy high up the pitch, play physically and not allow us unmolested time on the ball. It was a game plan that lasted about 3 minutes, the time that it took Xavi to lace a ball to Alves, who one-touched it to Villa, who one-touched it into the back of the net.

As with the Arsenal match, we scored first, again from Villa, who has now tallied in his last three matches. So it was football time, right? Well, not so fast. Bilbao had to rein in the pressing a little bit, so as to not concede a second, but they never gave an inch of quarter, realizing that all it would take was one play, one moment of indecision or brilliance on their part, to get back into the match. And we were obliging them with giveaway after giveaway, loose passes and erratic play that are the signs of a fatigued club.

We see it mistakes of positioning, as Pique got owned by Llorente, who threw in a cross for a header that was just wide. Or Abidal serving up a pillow-soft pass that hung Busquets out to dry, resulting in a Bilbao penalty equalizer. Messi’s control was off, when he wasn’t slotting passes to the Bilbao defenders, and the movement in and around the box that is necessary for our game to work, just wasn’t there, with the exception of Villa, whose well-timed emergence is a thing of beauty.

Some say that our club can’t stand prosperity, but I disagree. I think that the intricate latticework of our game needs sharp players to work at maximum effectiveness. If one run is a fraction late, if someone’s movement is just a bit off, the pass results in a blocked shot or keeper save, rather than a goal. This is the wrong thing against a side that defends like Bilbao, that clogs every passing lane, challenges for every ball and doesn’t give a sliver of daylight as a team (well, us, let’s go ahead and say) approaches their box.

Our lack of width is also the wrong thing against a club like Bilbao, who was feasting on the runs up the center by just waiting, and sticking a leg or foot out. It’s worth noting that our best chances came from wide play that moved in toward the middle, with the Xavi/Alves connection working at impressive effectiveness. But the lack of width and frankly, silly shots from the likes of Messi and Villa, allowed Bilbao to make the match a lot more complex than it should have been. But again, fatigue is a brutal thing, but it can also be a beautiful thing, in that it forces a tired club to say, in effect, “We can’t lose. Not today,” then muster up the effort necessary to make it so. When you talk about fortitude, those qualities are exemplified in our second goal, one that didn’t seem like it was ever going to come.

And yet, from a moment of exquisite beauty, it came as Xavi once again laced a ball to Alves, who slid a square ball for Messi to chip high, beating the keeper and effectively killing Bilbao’s chances of winning that match, because of the lateness of the goal and the way we were playing intelligent possession football, defense our way. Messi held his run until late, so as not to allow the Bilbao defenders time to camp out and wait for him, and the finish was immaculate. Return to form? We can hope, from the man who rescued his club today as he has so many times.

Guardiola, who was out-subbed in the Arsenal match, made precisely the right ones today, bringing in Maxwell, allowing Abidal to return to the center of defense. More importantly, it let Busquets move his brilliance (maybe not in tackling) up the pitch, an incessant, harassing, passing presence that freed up Iniesta to roam, and gave Xavi a lanky doppelganger And Keita does what he usually does, after joining in the collective funk of the Arsenal Champions League match.

It also showed that Guardiola isn’t as stubborn as many claim that he is, with his admission that Mascherano wasn’t working in this situation. It wasn’t the giveaways, but the fact that he isn’t of the system. Busquets’ fluency with the ball allows him to function as another Xavi, which isn’t a luxury that Mascherano allows. Making the subs and shifts was his admission that he got the starting XI a little bit wrong. Could you quibble about a still-off Pedro coming off instead of Villa? Non really, because Pedro tracks back like a demon and has a much higher work rate in all aspects of a match than Villa.

Villa’s absence also seemed to allow Messi to come to life, perhaps because Villa was playing much more in the center of the pitch than he usually does, and the alacrity of his movements in and around the box were forcing Messi to have to compensate for them. But when Villa left, Messi sprang into life, and that liveliness, coupled with the width that Alves provided (teams are always going to let Maxwell have the ball and play on the left), coupled with the spirit of a team that wants it all, sealed the win and the crucial points.

Team: 6. It did what it had to do, and showed immense poise. The February-itis is still there, however, as we saw it a side that just isn’t clicking the way that it was when manitas were falling from the heavens like rain. This club needs a rest, but one isn’t likely to come, so we’ll just have to shake it off.

Guardiola: 7. Big props for taking a chance on the starting XI, and recognizing that it wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. Between Busquets unfortunate challenge in the box and Mascherano’s charity offerings, it was time for changes, and he made the right ones.

Pinto: 7. An excellent match today from a keeper who is suddenly going to be getting a lot more reps, if the reports are true that Valdes will require knee surgery and could be out for up to six weeks. His save off the point-blank header by Llorente was awesome, and he covered his box and line with assurance and speed. Nice to have a keeper of that quality when needed.

Alves: 8. He was brilliant today, offensively and defensively. He was always around the ball, and his passes that led to both goals were spot-on, and had to be against a ball-hawking defense.

Pique: 6. He’s had better matches, and worse ones. Getting owned by Llorente could have been a significant problem, and he sometimes is undecided about what to do with the ball, which always makes me scream at the television.

Busquets: 7. Close to perfect, but that challenge in the box was pretty silly, and the only reason that he isn’t my hands-down Man of the Match. When he moved into midfield, we gained a lot in assurance and control, as we were able to possess the match away. He was everywhere, and what an amazing through ball to Villa for a missed chance in the first half.

Abidal: 7. Didn’t put a foot wrong all match, then put a pass wrong, an effort that resulted in the penalty every bit as directly as Busquets’ challenge on the player. He was guilty of a few soft passes on his side of the pitch.

Mascherano: 5. Too many dangerous giveaways in the center of the pitch, the precise place that those things canNOT occur. He won a couple of them back, but if a team is off to the races because of one of his giveaways, they have a clear path to our back line. Which ain’t cool. He was also all over the place, often not in a good way. He’s been a lot better in the colors.

Xavi: 6. A subdued match by his standards, including some lost balls and mishit passes. And yet, his passing and movement were wonderful when they had to be.

Iniesta: 8. What a match from the man who benefitted the most of Busquets moving up. He essentially owned that left side of the Bilbao defense, and lacked only willing teammates storming the box to have a couple of assists. If that Iniesta shows against Arsenal, it’s a very different result.

Messi: 4. Way off for too much of the match, with lost balls, bad passes and selfish runs, before taking control with the kinds of plays that put the Bilbao defense on the back foot. And what a lovely goal, that too many players stuff right into the keeper’s gut (as Pedro did against Arsenal).

Pedro: 4. A stat-stuffer of a match, as he was everywhere except scoring goals. Between making runs, tracking back and facilitating possession, he played a solid match that was, yet, below his very high standard. His sharpness is off.

Villa: 8. Really, really good today, with runs and movement that were a constant danger. He’s getting much better at keeping himself onside as well, as he’s coming to understand movement and passing tendencides of his teammates. Top-class, perfectly placed goal, too.

Substitutes

Maxwell (for Mascherano): 6. Much better today, and was playing his way to a higher rating. He still needs to be much more incisive around the box, and attack more. Bilbao’s lack of team pace helped him, as well.

Keita (for Villa): incomplete. Not enough time to really rate, but he came in to do his usual thing, excellent work on offense and defense.

Afellay (for Pedro): incomplete. Barely enough time to do anything except run onto the pitch.

We have another week or so to go in this month in which we have won a scant 53% of games during the Guardiola regime. Hmmmm …. who knows why, but hopefully March will bring about a return to form. More on Valdes as we learn it. And meanwhile ….

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119 Responses to “Barca 2, Athletic Bilbao 1, aka “Hearts of lions!””

  1. justsayin says:

    Nice to see your post up so quick! Reposting …
    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?

    • Víctor says:

      “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?”

      Pedro is just having a low. Which is normal even on great players. He should be able to regain his usual self in a short time. He needs some rest and he will be Pedro! and !! again. Or maybe Guardiola’s tactics play a role into it. Maybe he is asking Pedro to try something new and Pedro is getting to understand it. Either way, let’s cut him some slack.

      Then again I do think that a 4 maybe is too low for Pedro. He was “quiet” today, yes, but not that bad, just so-so… At least in my opinion, though.

      • justsayin says:

        I’m sure you’re right. Pedro will be back in form … but, it’s frustrating because just as our front line begins to come together, we lose the spark of Pedro’s talent. Can’t wait to see the 3 forwards in top form working together.

  2. blaugranaDOOM says:

    Kxevin,

    Since you watch the match twice, did you notice Villa making run after run, looking for the ball over the top?

    When teams play a high line, passes over the top can really stretch a team. It’s definitely worth 2 or 3 attempts, but sometimes the conservatism kills me. That is a definite plan B for us.

    Xavi prefers playing angled through balls or keeping the ball switching through the middle (though 25 year old Xavi loved playing those balls). Iniesta is a dribbler who sucks the defense towards him then releases it.

    Side note. One player who consistently looks for that pass is Fabregas (like he does with Walcott a few times every game). Not really trying to start a Fabregas debate.

  3. Ryan says:

    Thankfully the team has some rest, as there is no midweek game to worry about. Here’s to everyone getting some R&R!

  4. blaunero says:

    Messi and Iniesta had fantastic second halves. They and Alves tore Bilbao to shreds.
    This was a great football match. We have won before by 5 goals, but these are the victories that set up a winning season. The true great teams stand up when the going gets tough, especially after a difficult loss.
    Hopefully the February blues are behind us now.

  5. ooga aga says:

    1-0 up, Pep made the same sub that everyone condemned when we played arsenal — keita for villa. after all the criticism it was great he made the same sub. shit didnt fall apart this time either.

    • ooga aga says:

      hate to say this, was begiining to really think the refs are against us, when both pedro and nmessi were fouled in the box and then busquets actually knicked ball and llorente totally sold that foul, you see his body jerk unnaturally, he was hamming it up and the ref bought it. thanks goodness we won

    • ooga aga says:

      oops, shoulda said 2-1 up

  6. ooga aga says:

    arsenal will have to replay that english minnow in th FA Cup March 2. Granted they will start mostly their subs but surely some of the regular 11 will play, then they will also have a game at the wknd.

  7. barca96 says:

    First things first, thanks Kxevin for not calling it a soft foul on Llorente. Yes, Busi got the ball but he got the man too! Any player on earth would’ve gone down. It’s natural.
    That said, how on earth wasn’t that a penalty for Messi? Javi Martinez lunged at Messi? WTF???
    Did you guys notice Villa jumping away? WHy does Villa always jump? It looks so hilarious.

    What would’ve been a soft penalty was the obvious push on Messi when he was charging to the goal in the first half. It was such a clear foul but to give a penalty for that would be really controversial.

    I don’t think Messi had a great 2nd half. Like Kxevin said, he only sprang to live after Villa left. The middle part was so congested. I didn’t understand why Pep instructed Villa to stick to the middle. That gave another reason for th Bilbao players to park a bus.
    Messi needs to understand that when that area is congested, there is no point in trying too many 1-2’s.

    The right side was so open. I wonder why they didn’t make use of that space more. Was Bilbao’s LB that good of a defender? I’m glad you finally gave Alves a high rating.

    I agree with Euler, Pep should experiment with sMasch at CB.

    If sMasch decides to leave, I would love it if we get Javi Martinez. That guy is a poor man’s Busi.

    • ooga aga says:

      i think it was iffier than that. messi, for one, would not have gone down. watch it again is slo-mo, llorente sold it big time. anyway, very happy with the win esp. the reaction to the PK

  8. outerspacedout says:

    Our next games are on the 26th (a week rest) then 2nd March (another week rest) then 6th we play Zaragoza before Arsenal on the 8th. We can pretty surely rest some regulars in the Zaragoza game. So all in all we’ve had an exhausting stretch of games up to now but I’m rather optimistic of our old verve and brilliance coming back- if it does with Villa keeping up his recent emergence, we could be blitzing teams left and right once March begins!

    • outerspacedout says:

      Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but what do we do to celebrate if we win the CL (assuming we’ll win the Copa and league, both of which are very very likely)?

    • outerspacedout says:

      The next two games with a week in between them are tough opponents in Mallorca and Valencia. Zaragoza are pretty awful so we can rest players for that game. We’ll be recharged and raring to go a week into March.

    • blaunero says:

      We have only 4 days’ rest after the Valencia match on 2 March. After this week’s rest it’s pretty much nonstop until the international break.
      The week off couldn’t have come at a better time. Now if only Puyol could come back soon…

    • Lou says:

      Actually, I think there’s only 4 days between the Mallorca game on the 26th and the game away to Valencia on March 2nd. It seems like there should be more (darn February only having 28 days…).

      Hopefully having a few days off this week will give squad extra energy for the tough games coming in the next month.

  9. blitzen says:

    Villa got an 8?!? APOCALYPSE! END OF THE WORLD!!

    :D

    I think you are a bit harsh on Bojan Messi. He wasn’t brilliant, but he was solid.

    I really enjoyed this game!

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      exactly!

      I have the biggest grin today when I see an 8 for VILLA! 8!!! :D

      in previous matches I thought Villa will get a 7 or 8 in Kevin’s review,
      but boom! It was a 4, 5, or 6…

      geez, I think Kevin doesn’t hate Villa anymore…
      he hate Messi and Pedro now…
      *just joking* :D

      Loved the review, Kev… cant agree more with everything you said…
      but I personally give Messi a 6…
      considering how tired he must be…

      go have some sleep for the next 24 – 48 hours, Leo!

      • barca96 says:

        If Kxev really hates Villa, then MVP combined wouldn’t reach double digit’s against Arsenal.
        But seriously, Villa has been the freshest attacker in our team for the past two matches. He looked the youngest :p

  10. Humphrey Bogart says:

    Yesterday was a game against all odds. Bilbao with still a chance of the CL and doing good in recent weeks (apart from last WE) and we really down due the fatigue and injuies to important players coming frow 3 very dreadful performances. Then the same script like Wednesday: we are taking the lead, we can not extend the lead, some very doubtful referee decisions (the penalty not given = our disallowed goal) and suddenly they are level. But this time, time the team came back, showed the spirit and aggression I so much wanted to see on Wednesday.

  11. tinymich says:

    This was a toughie – I screamed at my computer way more than usual, and was SO relieved when it was over. The mark of a champion is always eking out wins even when they’re not necessarily pretty, and Athletic being as tough as they are, I’m glad we pulled through on this one.

    I will admit to being one of the people who instinctively yelled “WHAT?! PEP, YOU BROUGHT KEITE IN FOR VILLA ON WEDNESDAY, AND IT DIDN’T WORK!” But looking at the clock, an 85th min sub of a holding mid for a striker is way more acceptable than doing it with 20 mins still to play. (And it helped waste a bit of time, too. :-P )

    No real quibbles with the ratings, although for the second match in a row I was pleasantly surprised by Maxwell, and he might merit more than a 6 — or maybe I just feel that way because his entrance enabled us to switch back to a more familiar, more fluid formation. Good call on that one, Pep.

    My feed kept showing Tense!Victor and Grrr!Puyi in the stands. I suspect Puyi might have been silently yelling at Geri the whole way through. I’ll be glad when he’s back, and fingers crossed for good news on the Victor front…

  12. outerspacedout says:

    Unrelated, but something I realized- we shouldn’t despair for a loss. We wouldn’t have had the 6-2 without the 4-1 (April 08). We wouldn’t have had the 5-0 without the 3-1 (to Inter). We wouldn’t have had this historic side if we hadn’t lost to United in the semis and made the CL final in 08/09, papering over the cracks in that side. Point being, always have faith.

  13. Nav says:

    If anyone wants I can post links to the full match.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      yes, please, if you don’t mind… :D

    • Nav says:

      Coverage from Sky Sports
      English Commentary

      All parts interchangeable.

      VIDEO: 624×352 ~1000 kbps / SIZE: 768 MB

      First half

      HOTFILE:
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/106361030/4cf8da9/Barcelona_v_Athletic_1st.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/106365408/f75f952/Barcelona_v_Athletic_1st.part2.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/106368432/ac8d5d6/Barcelona_v_Athletic_1st.part3.rar.html

      FILESERVE:
      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/TFrrPKg/Barcelona v Athletic 1st.part1.rar
      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/BkSmfXT/Barcelona v Athletic 1st.part2.rar
      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/AawhTkW/Barcelona v Athletic 1st.part3.rar

      FILESONIC:
      *http://www.filesonic.com/file/103167891/Barcelona v Athletic 1st.part1.rar
      *http://www.filesonic.com/file/103171211/Barcelona v Athletic 1st.part2.rar
      *http://www.filesonic.com/file/103172261/Barcelona v Athletic 1st.part3.rar

      UPLOADED:
      *http://ul.to/hj9rmh/Barcelona_v_Athletic_1st.part1.rar
      *http://ul.to/fdpc3a/Barcelona_v_Athletic_1st.part2.rar
      *http://ul.to/iwe8ol/Barcelona_v_Athletic_1st.part3.rar

      BITSHARE:
      *http://bitshare.com/files/cit4dg11/Barcelona-v-Athletic-1st.part1.rar.html
      *http://bitshare.com/files/34l75rni/Barcelona-v-Athletic-1st.part2.rar.html
      *http://bitshare.com/files/lh38gc7r/Barcelona-v-Athletic-1st.part3.rar.html

      Second half

      HOTFILE:
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/106372418/c40a06a/Barcelona_v_Athletic_2nd.part1.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/106375922/e5c6161/Barcelona_v_Athletic_2nd.part2.rar.html
      *http://hotfile.com/dl/106379298/323951d/Barcelona_v_Athletic_2nd.part3.rar.html

      FILESERVE:
      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/5taCQk4/Barcelona v Athletic 2nd.part1.rar
      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/M8kaeYe/Barcelona v Athletic 2nd.part2.rar
      *http://www.fileserve.com/file/CvdqHhV/Barcelona v Athletic 2nd.part3.rar

      FILESONIC:
      *http://www.filesonic.com/file/103217121/Barcelona v Athletic 2nd.part1.rar
      *http://www.filesonic.com/file/103307761/Barcelona v Athletic 2nd.part2.rar
      *http://www.filesonic.com/file/103427641/Barcelona v Athletic 2nd.part3.rar

      UPLOADED:
      *http://ul.to/mbwwmx/Barcelona_v_Athletic_2nd.part1.rar
      *http://ul.to/67lrx7/Barcelona_v_Athletic_2nd.part2.rar
      *http://ul.to/9454hm/Barcelona_v_Athletic_2nd.part3.rar

      BITSHARE:
      *http://bitshare.com/files/7dsb9kap/Barcelona-v-Athletic-2nd.part1.rar.html
      *http://bitshare.com/files/g80h2ul7/Barcelona-v-Athletic-2nd.part2.rar.html
      *http://bitshare.com/files/n6d3zg6u/Barcelona-v-Athletic-2nd.part3.rar.html

      All credit to Lewy from fbtz.com

  14. Extreme barca fan says:

    Good review kevin, thank you
    Wow this was a much needed win and we almost didn’t get it, for the next 20 minutes after villa’s goal we could have done much better, but we were being too smart or too elegant, i dont know but we could have killed the game then.
    The team is tired after all these games, god i wish we never take the copa so seriously, squad depth is very important if you want to go for the treble and we dont have that.
    When busi isn’t playing we are lacking a lot of fluidity, sMasch is not bad but busi is so good that he make s any alternative look bad.
    Strange, both our goals were almost identical, abidal-xavi-alves-goal scorer.
    We have 6 days before our trip to Mallorca even then i would like to see some of our starters getting a rest.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      “god i wish we never take the copa so seriously”

      if we didn’t take it seroiously, we might be not in the final right now… :)

      do you really want to give it to Madrid? I don’t think so… :D

  15. mei says:

    Brilliant review kxevin. Brilliance . Thats what I would like to read on a sport newspaper , not that crap that actually gets served to us.
    On the guardiola rating, its supposed to be change not chance, right?

  16. jnelson says:

    I was strangely calm during this match. Once Messi sprang to life with that insane slalom through the 18, i just kind of knew we were going to score at least 1 more. We were SHREDDING them the last 20 or so. Curiously, Alves was given so much space out right.

    Well, since we won and Arse n al drew to a L1 side, I guess we should do what Arsenal Lite fans are expected, and TROLL!!!!! just playin

    • tg says:

      One Arsenal player who started our match with you, started at Orient.
      Alex Song.

      Was a classic FA cup game btw. Tidy little ground, a team that worked its collective socks of without being dirty cloggers (they turn up Wednesday) and some great banter with the away fans.

      If you don’t have a terrace background this may mean little to stream chasers, but it was a great Sunday!

  17. Jose says:

    Result :D

    Valdes out for weeks :(

    Ray-Ray shoutout to Ade and the Barca Offside :P

    Two day’s rest :)

  18. y2k156 says:

    This was an exhilirating match and so happy we won.

    Atletic always have a go at us. We needed this win though and now finally the players will get mini break, which has to be good.

    Really happy about the way in which Pinto played. His distribution is not great but then, Valdes is not always on the money either.

    Our backline worries me. Pique is still good but no longer one of the best. He used to be able to pretty much always come on top in 1 v 1’s but nowadays looks likely to lose those battles. I do not think Smasch is alternative in defence. Looks like Abidal is shall be.

    Messi was spectaculer in second half. For me, he was a 8 yesterday. As for MOTM, i give it to Messi, Villa, Iniesta, Alves, Xavi and Abidal. I think all of them were immense and no one was that great for entire 90. What Messi did in parts of second half was pure fun to watch.

  19. BarcaGirl_Indo says:

    Valdes’ injury maybe a blessing in disguise…
    this will give Pinto some reps, and make him more prepare for CdR final…

    about Piqué, if we have two Abidals, with no doubt I will put Abidal A with Puyol and put Abidal B in LB…

    what the hell happened to Piqué, for God sake?
    maybe a brain damage? the bleeding against Hercules was pretty awful…
    for 2 seasons he was so great…
    2 years in a row nominated for UEFA best defender award, chosen as FIFPRO XI 2010, a World Cup winner…
    where is that dude?

    btw, I’m so looking forward to see video from Allas14… Barca skills vs Bilbao… :D

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      this is a reply for y2k156, btw…

      • barca96 says:

        In the beginning of the season I said that he was too busy with his Facebook and Twitter stuffs. And now he has Shakira. I can’t imagine what SAF would say to him.
        It is really tough for such a young guy to handle so much pressure.
        -In possibly the best team ever
        -Countless trophies
        -World famous GF

        All this is really getting into his head. I noticed it at the end of last season already. The moment where I thought that I wasn’t the only one who thought so was when Zokora of Seville told him that the success is getting into his head.

        I do think that he has improved a lot since the first half of the season but he still has those lapse of concentration now and then.

    • Mila says:

      Pique – Waka waka, fame, pretty face, twitter, and wasn’t he suffering from bursitis?

  20. poipoi says:

    4 to messi yes, and 8 to villa… I’m crying. Alves MOTM he had such an impact on this game.

  21. Helge says:

    For me, Xavi was MotM.

    Talking about this team needs a rest: This week is the first week in the calendar year 2011 without a mid-week game. I know it’s just a very little bit of rest, but maybe it’s enough to recharge their batteries!

    Dani Alves gets even more rest, because he is suspended for the Mallorca match. To be honest, the likely back-line of Adriano, Piqué, Abidal and Maxwell scares me a bit.

  22. Goo says:

    I thought the first goal was offside too, but this?

    http://www.lalibretadevangaal.com/2011/02/%C2%BFadonde-ha-ido-el-defensa.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    They apparently released an “apology.” I’m sure that’s what it was.

    • complotGP says:

      *facepalm* Oh, AS.

    • ooga aga says:

      whoa. did they airbrush the dude who was keeping dani onside? (if you ask me, `the camera angle is bad, look at the mow lines in the grass, dani is partly even with that guys body, if anything he is leaning a bit…but this is one of those where he is “even” enough that you have to “give the tie to the runner,” as they say in baseball, and reward the offense)

    • Mila says:

      This is such a b*tchy underhanded thing to do… Dismiss every Barca goals offside and blame the ref for being biased!

      Imagine what will happen when we win the second Classico and the Copa del Ray Hudson :) The papers will go crazy!

  23. PhepheSa says:

    Great game. Some heart-stopping moments but in the end the boys came good. Very sad about the Valdes news as I’m sure he would have wanted to make up for that Arsenal howler in the second leg. Hope it’s not that bad.

    Puyi says today can be a great day so hopefully they’ll announce that he’s coming back this weekend. That would bring me so much joy.

    Off topic, what the hell has happened to Villareal. At one point they were 6 points behind EE now they are 15! Was really hoping they could be another team besides Barca that plays beautiful football and actually win. Goes to show how much work our boys put in each and every game. It’s not as easy as it looks.

  24. soccermomof4 says:

    Thanks for the review, Kxevin, a little harsh on Messi though. It was good to see that the real Messi was still in there just waiting for the chance to shine(last 20′). Alves IS the right side of the field (pay da man!!!)!

    Best news of the day—2 days off for the guys!

    Worst news- VV :-(

    To all hoping for Allas’ video, it’s probably going to be a video about Messi for the game as he is leading Alves in the post-game poll over at totalBarca. WT_?

    @ BG_Indo- love the avatar- Where’s Xavi?

  25. cliveee says:

    winning games such as this win us the league.happy with the 3 points.

  26. mei says:

    hmm on other news wolves vs west brom ended in a row between the fans of the two teams. Another fiercely violent incident in a football match within a week.

  27. xavi says:

    Did Messi really score after Villa came off?!? I thought Villa was subbed off after we got the lead!!

    But I still accept the point that if Villa is playing more in the centre then that’s blocking Messi’s spaces. It happened when Ibra was here too

  28. Eklavya says:

    Goals:
    Villa (4′)
    Messi (78′)

    Substitutions:
    Villa out, Keita in (83′)

    Um, Hallo Kxevin?

  29. Kxevin says:

    Hey, so this mean that I don’t hate Villa now? It’s hard for me to keep track. :D

    Don’t love him, don’t hate him, just rate him according to his play and right now, he’s razor-sharp. Look at his movement. More importantly, look at how his offsides have plummeted. He’s sliding around like a paranoid fly now, terrorizing the defense by always being just off their shoulder. And if you watch him in yesterday’s match, he was getting back on so quickly. He’s been moving like Eto’o of late, with that same alertness and hunger. It’s great to see.

    –The reason that the Keita sub worked yesterday but not against Arsenal is because, as noted above, team pace. Look at how quickly Arsenal went from defense to offense, compared to Bilbao. That pace, coupled with tired legs, killed us. Keita works best if there’s someone to slow things down. Barring that, he’s chasing the play too much as the other team breaks.

    –I liked Pique better when he wasn’t our International Playboy of Fun. He will get a handle on things, but I think that right now, he’s like “I’m a celebrity?! Cool!” In the past, he was able to solve his pace complexities with positioning. He seems a little off of late, which has a lot to do with the absence of Captain Caveman.

    I deliberately didn’t do an MOTM. There were strong candidates, to be sure. As I said, it would have been Busquets, were it not for that silly challenge. Or perhaps naive is the best word for it. He’s used to playing against Messi in practice, a player who doesn’t go down. He’s an exception in a flopping world.

    Abidal also had a strong case, until the ridiculous pass. Xavi was too subdued for me, Iniesta a tale of two halves. Maybe MOTM was Guardiola, who ensured the win with his tinkering of the lineup, but even he erred in the starting XI. Interesting debate, and interesting how there are many different MOTMs for different commenters.

    • Camero says:

      For me it was Busquets for MOTM even despite the penalty. He has been consistently good this season that we loose so much when he isn’t in our midfield. Right now I can’t imagine how he can get much better, but he will given how many years he has left. I realy hop Pep finds a game to try Masch at CB. I get the impression CB is the hardest position(along with Xavis) to gain pep’s trust.

      • barca96 says:

        Villa was sharp as well against Arsenal with his runs.
        And…now he’s tied with..Oh nvm.

        Pique would’ve been talked to if his manager was SAF. A young guy like him can only take so much. There are way too many young footballers that find fame too hard too handle and in the end collapsed.

    • messi_fan says:

      “Keita works best if there’s someone to slow things down. Barring that, he’s chasing the play too much as the other team breaks.”

      I think this is an excellent point. I wouldn’t want to see Keita against the EE for example for this same reason.

    • Larm says:

      i would give man of the match to Busquets due to the fact he kicked out the jams in two different positions. Abidal would be a contender if it where not for that one pass to busi.

      Speaking of Abidal, yes he has been awesome but doesnt anyone else think that at times he plays a little to risky in the back?

      • ooga aga says:

        some of the autopases that he does (passes to himself) like in the second half of the arsenal match are truly audacious, but he usually (always?) pulls it off. he’s surprisingly quick.

        seen any games at the G&D lately? are there barca supporters turning out?

        • Larm says:

          no i haven’t been there in a while, but every time i do go there if barca is on their schedule their is a good number of people who prefer them to Madrid.

          infact the classico a couple years back where messi chipped iker to and pepe crashed into the post trying to clear it, the bar was at capacity and most everyone there was rooting for barca.

          im not surprised that in the Seattle area more people are barca fans than Madrid fans. Given how the sounders modeled the club after barca (to a degree) and that barca came to town more recently than Madrid has.

  30. barca96 says:

    Oh and who brought up the Wilshere rumors?
    Its going to give us a bad name once again in ENgland.
    Im sure it was the British press who kick started it.
    We dont need anymore bad publicity especially from English dailies as it will spread around the world quickly.
    I know that sometimes bad publicity is good but this is definitely not a good one.

  31. Kxevin says:

    The latest update on the Valdes injury is that there is no update. It flared up during the Arsenal match (wonder if it’s in INactivity-based injury?). No word yet on its duration, severity or whether surgery will in fact be required.

    The official site is curiously tight-lipped about the matter, which is usually a bad sign.

    • Extreme barca fan says:

      Speaking of which, how do you guys rate the official website, i think it sucks, always late with the updates to say the least.

      • jhargrid says:

        The English version seems to be a bit off on translations and generally poorly coded. Every once in a while they post a link that leads to literally nowhere. I imagine the Catalan and Spanish language versions are a bit better.

        • ooga aga says:

          in the last couple weeks they changed the format and they no longer have the little embedded videos of postgame player interviews, pep conferences, and entrenamientos. very bummed about this.

    • blitzen says:

      Guardiola said in his press conference that he doesn’t expect Valdes to be out for long. So there’s that.

  32. Humphrey Bogart says:

    Did anybody following the AS reporting of the Barca game following the journalistic code of independency and objectivity buy “removing” a Bilbao defender from a picture to “prove” a offside decision during our first goal.

  33. Josep says:

    What a match, what a resilient bunch. To compare to the EPL this is like Blackpool-United match, where they came back from 0-2 to win.

    This match gives me so much faith. What Barca really need is a sure way to break down a bus, and that is maybe to let them come into our half and WE counter. We need much more speed to some of our attacks. As noted a lot of the times, Xavi can maybe play an over the top ball but doesn’t in order to keep possession. We need those risky passes. Especially in their half, where we can regain possession soon after anyways. We need more quick attacks!

    I was surprised they gave a penalty to Llorente, thats just because I was angry. They attacked like 3-4 times before that and almost scored twice. What a save by Pinto. I thought Pedro before the half had a penalty that wasn’t called. But that Messi mazy run was amazing and was 100% a penalty. What a brilliant piece of skill from the flea.

    Alves was at his best again, but shoot Dani! he was thru on goal and was flagged offsides once and I had the feeling he’d pass hah. Maybe we need to switch our attack more, play Messi at RW again, and play Villa centrally, he flourished there today. In fact he’s been outstanding his last couple of matches, is he finally getting into the system? But meanwhile P has struggled. Where he struggles offensively, he makes up for with incredible work rate though on defense.

    I also love that Pep decided to finally rotate the team, against a tough opposition. Taking that gamble, and making the great sub. I think he now knows he can’t afford to play Busquets at CB the way he could the Yaya.

    But as I said if we win any silverware this season look no further than this match. This is the match championship seasons are defined by, getting those extra two points, forgetting the referee’s mistakes and playing our match. I loved AS’s (hehe) edited picture they did on accident. What a joke. made no mention of Madrid’s second goal where CR got to retake a FK and they then scored from it. And all the Arsenal fans trolling need a life. They came on Eurosport saying what a joke Barca could barely beat relegation fodder (aren’t they in 5th?) team, 2-1, when their own team drew with Leyton Orient (sounds like a Ramen noodle flavor).

    But alas, we get three points and onto the next match. Alves and masch are suspended. Perhaps Bojan will get a start ahead of Pedro? I really hope we sign a CB or someone to challenge Pique for his spot to keep him on his toes.

    p.s. come back jnice :(

    • Kxevin says:

      Yes! Apologies for omitting this thought from the review. What I most miss about Thierry Henry (Uh, oh….TOLD you he loves Henry!) is the speed that he got up the flank on our breaks, just waiting for the long outlet ball that always found him. That quality is gone. There were any number of times during the match where I was screaming, “Break! Break! Break!” and it just wasn’t happening. Messi is quick, but not fast.

      I’d say even more than a big “9,” I’d love a fast wing attacker.

      • blitzen says:

        That’s what Jeffren is supposed to be, isn’t it? When he is healthy, which is never.

      • Josep says:

        Perfect example is the goal he scored in the 6-2. Pure pace and a great pass.
        @blitzen
        Apparently Jeffren might be on the way out and they’re looking into talking to him about his wishes. Poor kid is just so injury prone. He needs more practice at wingback on both sides. If he can play winger and wing back on both sides he’s pretty valuable if hes healthy.

      • Ryan says:

        Ibi looks to have some pace and likes to run along the sidelines. Not that he’s ready to start such a tough game as one against the Basques, but maybe by next year?

  34. Kxevin says:

    This picture makes me sad. I want my unspoiled homeboys back!

    http://www.elmundodeportivo.es/web/gen/20110221/galeriahq_54118362415-1.html

    (Well, not that sad. It IS Shakira, after all!)

    • Helge says:

      I have to admit, she IS a true temptation :)

      If it didn’t have a negative effect on Piqué’s performance…
      I would be very happy for Piqué. He then would play in a different league than CR both on and off the pitch :D

      • Extreme barca fan says:

        This raises a question (to all the female readers on SoccerMomof4 list)
        some men when in love lose focus and their performance at work/sport declines dramatically, but do the women go through that also??, seriously this an innocent and sincere question!!!

      • Eklavya says:

        I don’t find Sharkira “tempting”. Infact, I don’t like her all that much. She wasn’t even in the scene before her song for the WC and her relationship with Pique helps HER much more than it does for him (more publicity).

        • Jose says:

          Your stock has diminished, simple Eklayva~!!

          Shakira “wasn’t even in the scene” before her song for the World Cup? Your ignorance is shocking, my good sir!

          Seriously now, Shakira has been huge for years. She was already one of the biggest stars in all of Latin America in the mid 1990s (her music was also somewhat better then, before the English transformation). She’s also been well known in the U.S. since the mid-2000s, when she broke out with her English albums.

          That World Cup song was a recent boost. Her videos have over a billion views on Youtube… Even without the Waka waka song, she still would have had 700 million views on Youtube.

          And now, I will stop defending Shakira. That is the last you’ll hear from me on this matter :P

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      happy for him and Shaki, but can I have my defender back, please?
      but he is more acknowledged as “Shakira Boy” than a world best defender at the moment…

      I remember in his book he said “thank you and I love you Nuria for stabilizing my life”

      Shakira is 34, but she can’t stabilize Geri, I suppose…

      he desperately need Puyol back on the field…

  35. Josep says:

    and god how could I not mention Iniesta! he was flatout AMAZING. His runs almost as good as Messi. his touch is the best in the world, its sickening!

  36. Humphrey Bogart says:

    Just rewatch Fulham against chelsea on TV, and I know that he gave away a penalty, but David Luiz as a f***** good young defender, so sad that we missed out on him. He phantastic ability to bring forward, good tackling, good heading and good positional awareness. And I like his hair, he would be such a phantastic couple with Captain Caveman from the hairy point of view.

    • Josep says:

      Could’ve had him cheaper I think 2 years ago when he fell out of favor and was a backup. He’s also been a good talent, and like you said his skills on the ball are immense.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo says:

      I thought David Luiz will go to Milan,
      cause he’s been linked with Milan for quite some times…

      him and Thiago Silva would make a great Brazillian duet…

  37. Josep says:

    Kxevin two things

    1. Explain the x in Kxevin
    2. I can’t find anything on Delta about the 400 dollar R/T fare to Barcelona you were talking about. any help?

  38. Kari says:

    Stupidity from me is coming your way in x amount of time. Heh heh heh.

  39. Alex says:

    Anyone see this article in AS.com asking forgiveness for posting a pic of the “offside” call on Dani Alves that according to AS shouldn’t have been. Apparently they photoshopped a whole Bilbao player out in the original picture, boggles the mind:

    http://www.as.com/futbol/articulo/pedimos-disculpas-error-infografia-1-0/20110221dasdasftb_3/Tes

  40. soccermomof4 says:

    Hey y’all,

    Somehow, Dani overtook Messi in totalBarca’s MotM poll! Hooray!

    So here Allas’ Dani v. Atletic video!

    http://www.totalbarca.com/2011/matches/man-of-the-match-poll-result-video-dani-alves-vs-athletic-bilbao/#more-68684

  41. vicsoc says:

    Regarding Valdes’ injury…

    I seem to remember reading somewhere that is was an issue one of the bursa in his knee (essentially a fluid filled sack that helps to minimize rubbing and grinding of the bones).

    The thing with bursitis is that it can be caused by lots of different things: an acute injury, a more chronic state (an analogy would be something like arthritis), or even an infection.

    Then there is also the fact that even if you can narrow down the cause of the injury, it doesn’t tell you much about how long it will last or how long it will take to treat it.

    Don’t expect to hear many reports about how long Valdes will be out, because although Barcelona has some of the best doctors and physios around, they may not even know how long the problem will persist.

    • PhepheSa says:

      Good call Vicsoc,

      “Valdes’ recovery time is today in the media estimated to be between 10 days and 4 weeks, depending on the reaction to the treatment”

      @Barcastuff

  42. Nav says:

    JUST GOT MY JERSEY OMG

  43. BarcaOwl says:

    Thanks for the review, Kxevin. A good read as always. :)

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