Mallorca 0, Barca 3, aka “Moments of individual brilliance”

Manel Montilla/El Mundo Deportivo

This is a rare one for me, in that it was a match that was fraught with complexity, that found us missing key parts of the engine that has driven our club to its status as one of the best extant — and yet it turned into a comfortable win that allowed us to punch the cruise control button, and ease into an important midweek encounter.

Who knew?

We rolled into Mallorca’s house as something of a mess (by our standards), and Mallorca were ready to pounce. They came at us with pressure, aggression and physical play, aided by a referee who decided (rightly) that the players would decide this match. So they were all over us, and we were struggling with plenty of nothing from something of a “best available” lineup from Guardiola, featuring Pinto, Adriano, Pique, Abidal, Maxwell, Busquets, Keita, Iniesta, Messi, Pedro!, Villa.

The problem was a decided lack of movement on and off the ball, which made us stationary targets for the Mallorca pressers, who clogged up the midfield and passing lanes, determined to not let us possess them to death. It was a side that played fast and slow, the former on the attack, the latter during stoppages in play, as they were cognizant of the fact that time was on their side, that we were less than we usually are. No Valdes, Puyol, Alves or Xavi, four crucial parts of our starting XI, and we were in their house.

There was no rhythm to the match or our possession, as risky passes, dwelling on possession too long and lack of movement conspired to yield 0 shots on goal for most of the first half. Mallorca charged at us as the home side should, applying pressure of the break and sparking last-minute interventions on the part of the defense. Villa was offside twice within 20 minutes, and this was getting the feel of a very, very long afternoon. A clean-shaven Guardiola looked worried, as he looked to be explaining those very things to whomever was willing to listen, since the players clearly weren’t.

We were even messy on the defensive end of the pitch, incapable of starting play from the back as is our style, in part because of the Mallorca pressure but also because we were just plain off, something easy to jugde by the number of long clearances from Pinto. Barca keepers don’t usually just boot the ball up the pitch, but it was happening far too often on this day from a club that was going nowhere slowly.

There were brief signs of life as Iniesta hit Messi with a remarkable pass in the box, only to have Messi somehow miss everything on what should have been a sure goal, but indicators were pointing up. We went from a side in which the setup men were having to hold the ball because our attackers were standing there looking at them to one full of danger as the players realized “Hey, I think we have to run toward that net-covered thing, and maybe something good will happen.”

And then, suddenly, it all came together. Having players such as we have is a luxury because when the team is off, sometimes individual talent allows something remarkable to happen. This season, our goals have usually been things of beauty, passes stitched together from a quilt of possession, inexorable assaults that leave teams with the knowledge, yet the inability to do anything about them. But Mallorca knew what to do, and they knew that we were off song, but the amazing gifts of individual talents are what would save the day.

Keita, Messi and Busquets just batted the ball back and forth in the midfield, and you could see Messi straining at the bit. As he broke for goal, my thought was certainly “Oh great, a Mallorca defender will get in the way of this one too.” But Keita’s pass was perfect, and perfectly timed. Messi pillowed the ball with his feet, then lofted it up so that he could head it over a stunned Aouate.

Just like that it was 1-0, and Mallorca were stunned and a bit frustrated. They had done everything absolutely right, and it was nothing more than individual brilliance that beat them and their keeper. What keeper alive would ever play an attacker for what Messi did? It was an absurd goal that had its roots in passing and off-the-ball movement, the very things that got us to our exalted position in world football. It was nice to have them back, but spare a moment for the Mallorca players, who were rocked by that goal as was I, frankly. I get used to seeing us, and I know how good we are, but to have a player who can score a goal such as that ….

If there is even a moment’s hesitation, a defender gets there, or the keeper does the right thing. The control has to be millimeter perfect, the lift has to be such that only Messi’s head can get to it. It’s a training ground play, really, something that you would never try in a match. But why not? Worse still, it’s the kind of goal that there is no psychological answer for. Yes, you can shrug and say “He’s the best player on the planet, so what do you expect?” But it never works like that, and you could see it in the faces and movements of their players, who were hoping to get to the half scoreless. Not to be.

And it really shouldn’t have been as Villa left at least two goals begging, including an astounding diagonal ball from Maxwell that found him all alone in space in the box, and somehow …. some way …. agggghhhh! But suddenly, we were in control of the match.

As the second half dawned, Mallorca were significantly more tentative. Tika-taka wasn’t in full effect, but excellence was, and it was high time for another display. Busquets took a pass, looked up and saw Villa making the run and smoked a long ball that found our striker in stride, right at his feet. Villa rounded the keeper, made it look far, far more dramatic than it should have, and tapped home. It was 2-0 and there again, it was the kind of goal that was just two players being remarkable. Villa ran offside, jumped back on and stopped. As the defense paused, he leapt and Busquets saw it all happening, with the kind of display that makes those who consider him as the next Xavi, seem not altogether crazy.

Mallorca was done for, but we had another sting in the tail ready for them, a goal that I will always think of as Kaboom, which was almost certainly the sound that was made when Pedro! struck the ball. He took a pass, ran toward goal, drifted a bit to create space and unloaded. Nobody expected the shot even as it was happening, and certainly not with that kind of power and placement. P! probably was, since he unleashed a similar shot against Copenhagen in the Champions League group stages, but hit the post. It wasn’t speculative, either. It was an attacker’s goal, that relied on every gift in the player’s arsenal, and even the ESPN Deportes match commentators were stunned into a moment of silence. “That went IN? Holy crap!”

And just like that, it was 0-3 in a match that was a lot tighter than the score indicated. If they had players of a little more quality, if we didn’t have Abidal in the back line, if, if, if. This one was balanced on a knife’s edge for too long, toppled by amazing talent. Three goals from four shots on target? That’s crazy talk!

Team: 6. Clunky and funky at times, achieving heft only when the match was decided and Mallorca had accepted its fate. The pace of play was too slow, with too much playing around with the ball. Lack of movement was stranding midfielders with the ball, and their quick counters found their way into our box all too easily.

Guardiola: 9. Right starting XI, right subs, and a great call on the start for Keita.

Pinto: 7. Never really had to make any serious saves, but played his role very well. Too many long clearances for my tastes, but some of that is on the defense. He’s getting better at reading play as he gets more time.

Adriano: 6. A much better display, though he still dwells on the ball too much. But his interplay with Messi continues to improve, and when the ball was played to him in a wide position, something good often happened. He’s also calmed down on the crazy-ass shot thing.

Pique: 7. Strong match, helped by the fact that Mallorca didn’t have big-time pace up the flanks. Won headers galore, and looked a lot more assured and leader-like on the back line.

Abidal: 9. Monster. The only thing keeping him from perfection were loose passes in the last few minutes that could have cost the club. It’s the second match in a row that he’s been too casual with these kinds of efforts. But what a match, otherwise, with key intervention after key intervention. He was even attacking up the right side!

Maxwell: 7. Excellent match from a player who improves with reps. He also showed more on the attack, which was good to see.

Busquets: 9. Wow. It’s worth watching the match just to watch him, as he was everywhere on defense, then facilitating offense in a valuable role, since Iniesta was rather withdrawn in his Xaviesque role. Yes, he still gets caught in possession, but once he learns control like Xavi, watch out.

Keita: 9. Hardly put a foot wrong the entire match, and was a bulwark during our messy period, almost single-handedly keeping control of the midfield as he challenged for everything, then made runs at their box to boot. It’s a Man of the Match performance.

"You can't do this to me! I am MOTM!"

Iniesta: 6. A curious match for him, with flashes of brilliance followed by donning of the cloak of invisibility. Late with a number of passes to players that were making the run. You can’t say “Xavi would have ….” because Iniesta isn’t Xavi. But our mids are supposed to make those passes. How he hosed off that pass from Afellay, I will never know.

Messi: 7. Strong and influential, and very competent at reading a match and knowing when he can turn the motor to idle. His runs and passes were always dangerous unlike recent matches, where he sallies into the teeth of 4 defenders. With more action from his front line mates, he almost certainly would have had an assist or two.

Pedro!: 6. He earned one of his exclamation points back with that golazo. His effort is endless, as is his aggression. Shooters try to shoot their way out of a slump. Pedro! tries to work his way out. You can see him returning to form, slowly but surely. And that blast from distance should change the way defenses play our front line.

Villa: 5. Solid, but too slow to react to passes, and decidedly unclinical in the box today. His passes are too risky, and resulted in lost possession far too often for my tastes today. Yes, he notched a crucial goal, the “Aaaahhhh,” goal. But that was 70% Busquets, with that amazing pass.


Krkic (for Villa): 2. I know he came on, but I forgot about him, so invisible was he. He just isn’t playing with freedom and flow. Everything he does seems tight, and forced.

Afellay (for Pedro!): 6. He looks comfortable wherever Guardiola puts him, on left wing today. Some excellent passes, including a sterling ball for Iniesta that really should have notched him an assist. Too fond of the dive for the end line/cross thing. Versatility in attack would help him.

Montoya (for Adriano): incomplete. Not enough time for a full rating, but our right back of the future showed flashes of the promise that marks him as the next Masia defensive wunderkind.

And hats off to Deportivo La Coruna, and the groundskeeper who painted their goalposts. Their holding of EE gives us a 7-point lead in the standings at a time when we are rolling into a very difficult stretch of matches. Valencia at home in midweek could be a very complex thing, so it’s very nice to have a cushion. Until then, I have to say that I don’t know what the hell is going on here:

Manel Montilla/El Mundo Deportivo

By Kxevin

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


  1. Ok so I didn’t get to see exactly 37 minutes of the first fact the first thing I saw was Messi heading the ball into the net from that Keita lob-pass..but the main thing that interested me in the game, specifically in the 2nd half was how Pedro was playing really wide on the left and stretching out the field but the stretching was asymmetric as Villa was playing pretty close to Messi on the right. This was a brilliant tactical adjustment by Pep as it denied Mallorca the option to defend narrow which exactly was the way Depor stifled the EE.

  2. Baby Bojan’s gotta go on loan, for his own development.

    i think we can all agree on that after this season.

    Busquets and Keita were both brilliant in this game, a game where we really needed them to step up. i’ve seen Messi’s goal like 12 times and still can’t figure out what he did with his first touch; i’m not sure anyone else on the planet at present could have scored that. we needed a resounding win against an obstinate opponent and we got it here, hopefully that (and coming out of Hlebuary) sparks us out of this little slump.

  3. bojan’s asking afellay if he want’s to take a picture with the mascot but the dutchman’s too focused on warming up, the poor sport.

    great review, kev.

  4. I know he came on, but I forgot about him, so invisible was he.

    Really? On first viewing, I thought Bojan was more involved in the play than he usually is. There was even one time when Mallorca had a corner he collided with a defender and stayed on his feet!

    But of course I would say that. πŸ˜›

    1. I agree with you, Kari.

      Bojan looked pretty determined to do something and he even showed an aggressive side.

  5. – Pedro gets his one exclamation point back! Kaboom!

    – PiquΓ© and Maxwell get a 7, alright! so they’re not as bad as people said..

    – Krkic gets a 2 and Villa gets a 5! *shocking!* πŸ˜€

    – damn, I should’ve watched EE match until final whistle!
    (or not, maybe my presence can give them some luck)
    Depor’s goalkeeper not just score goals, he saves a lot…

    – It’s amazing fact we managed to win 4-0 in Depor’s stadium without Alves, Busquets, and Xavi, while Madrid couldnt score with their full team…

    1. wait, I meant EE!
      my mistake, please don’t ban me… πŸ™

      and Kev, love your amazing review, thank you! πŸ˜‰

  6. Messi, at 42(!) goals, is 6 goals away from the all-time record of goals in a season (he equaled Ronaldo last season with 47).

  7. I just re-watched the goal with english (skysports4) commentary after watching the original match in spanish. One of the commentators says during Messi’s goal, “and a typical english finish for his 42nd goal in the season.”

    Good grief.

    1. Nah, he didn’t say that. I just played it back several times and he says “typical impish finish.

      These are British guys who cover La Liga every week (and believe it’s the best league in the world), they’re not into the English bias nonsense.

    2. I am very happy to have misheard that, in that case. I don’t usually watch the sky sports coverage and (mistakenly, obviously) assumed they shared a similar attitude to many commentators in england, which is that if a ball goes in the net after being touched by a head, that it is an english finish.

      Huzzah for sky sports, and I obviously need to listen more carefully. πŸ™‚

    3. One of the guys who works for ESPN3 certainly has a disdain for la Liga. During the 8-0 destruction of Almeria he went on essentially a 90 minute rant about the team and la Liga defenders in general. I much prefer Ray Ray & Phil.

    4. I actually don’t mind the ESPN3 guys. They seem to love La Liga. They can rant about the TV rights and the other teams not being able to keep up with the big two because of it.

      The one I don’t like is the color commentator( the play by play guy was OK…ish) for FSC that hates Dani!

  8. Kevin, re: Pep: some of us in the other thread were talking about how he doesn’t take Messi out after a game’s been decided. IMO The game was over at 2-0 and Messi should have made way for Bojan or Afellay then. Apparently Pep asked Messi if he wanted to be subbed and Messi said no. What the hell. Why would the manager ask?! Pep tells and Messi listens and that’s the way it should be.

    1. If you watch the game again, go to 74:25 and you can see Pep ask Messi if he wants the sub.

      When Messi says no, Pep says no? (then if you reading his body language it’s something like) “ahhhh, I already knew the answer to that” and smiles.

      I think if Pep really wanted to take Messi out, he would. No questions asked.

    2. I am not questioning Pep’s management of Messi and it’s this respect that Pep has shown Messi which has given him the extra confidence to play how he does which is so fundamental to our success. I also think that the fact Pep leaves him out there shows he has faith that Messi knows how hard to work himself and how to avoid bad challenges, so as to prevent injuries. That being said, this is a situation where I wish Pep was a bit more gently interventionist and just took Leo off, telling him in the process that there are greater challenges ahead or some other corny shit. Just don’t want some frustrated hack who has been chasing Leo’s shadow doing something wreckless – we’ve been lucky with injuries for a while now with Leo and though you should not live in fear of these moments, Pep must take advantage of moments when he can directly prevent them through a simple substitution.

    3. Thanks for this Jnice. I laughed like a drain πŸ™‚

      Y’know, it is what it is. Messi has this childlike quality about him of wanting to play all the time. I’d rather see him safe but if it upsets him then Pep is probably right to go along with it and keep it light hearted. He had a full week off and would be dying to play. As long as its not because Messi would get stroppy if he were subbed. That wouldn’t be acceptable and I don’t think Pep would have that.

    4. To summarise my take on this, Pep has many fundamental ideas which are apparent to most: an ego-free squad + intense, co-ordinated pressing + natty suits + tika taka. However, one which we rarely openly acknowledge because it is quite obvious and also, I think, sits uncomfortably with our notions of Barca being anti-galactico, is that Pep sees clearly has viewed from the outset Messi as first among equals. This is an inescapable fact as a result of his talent that Pep has been clever enough to indulge and exploit knowing it won’t affect the team dynamic, with this whole ‘thou shalt not be substituted’ thing being an irrational, wholly unnecessary side-effect, yet one that sides alongside the fact Messi seems to play according to his desires and gets to go the Olympics during term time.

      On the one hand this pisses me off immensely and Pep has got to stop it. On the other hand, I see that he’s an alien from out of space, so weird shit happens, I’m just relieved it’s the occasional reversal of the most simple expression of the age old coach-player power-dynamic, and not cocaine binges or adopting children he had with waitresses.

    5. It’s not just Messi. Pep has said before that Xavi determines when he needs rest. That doesn’t imply that Xavi tells Pep when to substitute him, but does mean that Xavi tells him when he needs a day off.

    6. I think the key is the way the rest of the squad regard Messi. They see someone without ego who works his tail off for the team compared with Ronaldo or even Ibra and I think they feel protective towards him. This allows Pep to give him a bit of license.

    1. hey kari, i m a new reader here, so you probably don’t know me but i know you
      anyway, just wanted to inform you that the other kari posted something on the EE Offside…check it out asap

    2. Thanks for letting me know, ak! Welcome to the blog! πŸ˜€

      Yeah, I saw it, but I’ve already said that it wasn’t me, and Snr. Bassam and co. know that.

  9. MOTM for me was Keita (and Abidal), he really took the team on his shoulders the first half, he was everywhere when Iniesta was nowhere. It was only natural he would be the assist in the goal, and what an assist it was.
    Maxwell I thought was really weak, the fact that the Mallorca attackers were off doesn’t earn him rights to just let balls get past him that easy. He was good in the second half, but so was the entire team so his pressure to defend was a bit less.
    Afellay, more minutes = more greatness. He’s lacking a sense of knowing his teammates more, and alittle spanish would also help, i sure hope he is learning in his offtime.

    Great match ! EE dropped Points !!! muahah Lets see what Mourinho blames it on now, cause he’s running out of excuses.

  10. Yay, Keita got MOTM! I called it during the LiveBlog! πŸ˜€

    I am very happy with this game, as it shows that the team is adaptable and can give a solid performance even without some key players.

    I mentioned in the last thread that playing Iniesta in the Xavi role stifles his creativity, and I stand by that, as he was good but not brilliant today.

    I really expected Pep to play Milito today. If he can’t get minutes in a game like this, I am pretty sure he will leave this summer.

    Abidal continues to be excellent no matter where Pep plays him.

    Pique much better than he has been for ages. Glad he had a good match.

    Bojan was better, too, although he didn’t have much of an impact on the match. He got outmuscled, as always, but he also had several nice ball recoveries. He was working hard, anyway, and that’s a good sign.

  11. β€œHey, I think we have to run toward that net-covered thing, and maybe something good will happen.” πŸ™‚

    P! gets a “!” back! Hope he’s not injured too badly!

    It was a good day! Barca win, EE tie, daughter’s team beats the undefeated team in indoor soccer (said it at the end of last thread but indulge me, I’m a proud momma), 7 point cushion, and Jnice made an appearance on the last thread :-). About the only sad thing was that we didn’t get Ray Hudson for our game. Mustoe and Healey are good,but they’re not Ray.

    The Messi thing: yes I want him to rest too, but maybe this is the best way to manage him. Maybe Pep knows something we don’t and it is necessary for his rythm or something. It’s maddening at times, but I still have to go with In Pep I trust!

    1. She prefers RB but can and has played LB, she’s not scared of her left foot. She is comfortable as a CB as well. Girls soccer is funny; it can go from fightng and shoving for the the ball to giggling in no time at all!

  12. Solid, but too slow to react to passes, and decidedly unclinical in the box today. His passes are too risky, and resulted in lost possession far too often for my tastes today.

    Totally agree.

    I was watching the game and thinking “why do you do some of the things you do, Villa? Why go for a hard pass when there’s someone open right next to you? Why do you take too many touches of the ball when it would be better to shoot or pass right away? Por que?”

    He does it every game. Sort it out, David.

    Oh, and for a split second, I didn’t think he would get around Aouate. Glad he did.

    As for the other players in the match, the standouts for me were, Keita, Abidal, and Busquets. All three consistent for the whole match.

    1. I was crazily impressed by Keita in tight spaces today. Played with a lot of personality today, which I never though I’d say for a guy who I normally associate more with being a reliable ‘7/10’ in every department kind of performer.

    2. “I was watching the game and thinking β€œwhy do you do some of the things you do, Villa? Why go for a hard pass when there’s someone open right next to you? Why do you take too many touches of the ball when it would be better to shoot or pass right away? Por que?”

      He does it every game. Sort it out, David. ”

      Guess he tries to bring up the surprise factor, do the unexpected or something… lolz… not justifying it… but bringing different things in the box is one of the characteristics of Villa…

      And yes, good that he has been scoring as of lately… and I totally agree that Busquets deserves lots of credit for Villa’s goal, but hey, Villa scoring those chances is a good thing as well.

      I hope that Villa gets even more sharp for the games against Valencia and Arsenal… specially Arsenal.

  13. Villa’s focus drifts in and out, yet another reason Messi is immense. His exceptional Arsenal performance, I’d hoped, was a harbinger.

    I also think that he can’t leave goals on the table against big clubs. He might never get a purer setup than that Maxwell pass. Think how many goals he would have if he was in statistical fact as clinical as people claim. He would be well into the 20s in goal numbers.

    1. He has 21 goals as a Barca player… 17 of them in La Liga… I agree that he isn’t being ‘clinical’ but hey, he has scored in 18 games of 34… not bad, I’d say…

    2. What’s weird is that earlier in the season he would shoot way too often and from whatever angle or location he happened to be in. Now he seems to have verged on the opposite end of that spectrum, when we still could really use his shots from distance when appropriate.

    3. Yeah yeah. There were two instances where he could’ve taken a shot but instead looked for a pass to Messi.

      My broadcast didn’t show us the replay to the Maxwell pass to Villa.
      But it looked like the defender got a touch to it didn’t it?
      It took a slight deflection to me.

    4. I agree as well. I think Villa is still trying to find balance. At Valencia he probably took all shots no matter what and that’s what he was doing in the beginning of the season. He then realized or was taught that Barca plays a passing game, so he has to adjust his style. He needs to learn when he’s in a better position to take a shot and when he’s in a better position to make a pass. To me, it seems he makes that decision BEFORE he gets the ball and sometimes you need to take a second with the ball at your foot and see what has either opened or closed up since the received the ball. Probably something easier said than done, but I’m certain he’ll get the hang of it.

    5. Crazy , crazy , crazy expectations.
      First he goes offside too much. (The first offside he got was a poor decision , two players covered him). Then he is not clinical enough.
      I still remember some people mentioning that he will be around the ibrahimovic goal tally. Well thats already passed.
      You need to make up your minds people.
      Do you want a forward coming off the left wing scoring more than 30 goals per season? Something the legendary T henry didnt do for us in his best season , during the treble year?

    6. you nailed it mei. expectations and excuses towards players are not doled out equally in this forum. i guess we have to accept it, lest our stomachs and jaws clench. because i still love kxevins reviews.

      what doesnt matter are the player ratings. what does matter: over 20 goals and 10 assists and still in february, first year on the team. ill take that all day.

    7. Hooey. Just because people point out flaws in Villa’s game isn’t any speculation about whether he is or isn’t meeting expectations. It’s a simple evaluation. 20 goals and 10 assists from about a zillion shots, which makes him “clinical” how? That’s a question that can honestly be asked, right?

      And he does lose many balls with too-casual passes. Neither of those observations negate his output for the club.

  14. Agreed Abidal had a great match.. but week in week out.. he gets a rating of 9 (even with the mistakes which have led to goals.. )…what’s up with that ??

    1. Wrong. Do your homework. Just last match he got a 7, downgraded because of the crap pass that killed Busquets and led directly to the penalty/conceded goal.

      Further, do your homework by watching matches. He has been the club’s most consistently exceptional defender, rarely putting a foot wrong. When he does, like any other player, he gets called on it.

      Or is he this season’s Henry, the player that people say I love? I don’t know if I yet have one of those. I know that my “hate” list is long and growing longer….

    2. Well he is a French international, so you may have a slight innate bias towards the man. But, unlike many people who run blogs, you are an actual trained journalist, who went to an accredited university. We are blessed to have someone with the journalistic standards and integrity that you have running this site. Simply put, you are the butter on our toast grand creator!!!! If Issiah was doing the ratings, somehow, Josh Selby would be on our team, and he would get a 10 every game lol (I kid I kid)

    3. No Kxevin . You are wrong on this one. I do not have a hate list. And even if I did it is impossible for you to be in it, since you write and write extremely well for the best barcelona blog.

      Just one thing I want to point out is that, when a defender makes a mistake it is a 10000… more grave a mistake than when an attacker makes the same. It is true Abidal has been super great this season but has he been playing close to perfection ? Can’t really tell unless I know what is perfection…

  15. Was it just me or did P! and Villa switch wings more often than in previous games? P! scored from the left and Villa seemed to spend a lot of time on the right wing.

    1. And it worked wonders!
      Man…Villa is just a master in finding space behind the defenders.
      It wasn’t that easy, his goal as you can see Iniesta played the ball too hard to the side and then the ball will most likely hit the outside of the goal. Villa took one more step in order to have a better composure and shoot. If he didn’t, there was a high chance that the ball would’ve hit the outside of his boot. Certainly doesn’t deserve just a 30% credit for that.

      Did P! goal touch anyone? It went up and under(not basketball style). It was really weird.

      I think that the 1st and 2nd goal was offside though..Luck was on our side this time thankfully.

      What pissed me off was when Pep casually asked Messi if he wanted to be substituted.
      What the hell??!! You are the coach. Its your decision.
      The next time Messi get’s hacked and gets injured, the blame is on you! You’re the boss!
      Pep will never ever learn from his mistakes.

  16. A little quibble about Kxevin’s description of Messi’s goal (“Messi pillowed the ball with his feet, then lofted it up so that he could head it over a stunned Aouate.”). From watching the replay it looks to me like he actually controlled the ball with his chest while running through and then headed over. Could be wrong–a stunning piece of timing and skill either way.

    Pinto had some poor moments in the first half (weak punching of crosses away and some indecision on a corner that Mallorca headed over). Not sure he merits a 7.

  17. P.S. I heard one tv commentator mention that Villa has now scored more goals this season (17) than Ibrahimovic did over the course of last season (16).

    1. Villa obviously is a more successful signing than Ibrahimovic, and let’s hope Villa won’t go into any sort of drought that Ibra got into last year. But I don’t think he will tho. His movement is a lot better and is starting to link up with Messi and Pedro well.

  18. it was a good win which shows our character because historically, Mallorca has been a team so tough to beat in their house. But even if we weren’t playing our A game, we could still snatch those 3 points with style.

    One thing that is really funky about Keita is that his work is almost always always hard to notice. You watch a game, look at the ball, the movement of players, but your attention is hardly on him. But the way Keita lock down the space and challenge every ball demands opposition to take every ball very seriously to do any meaningful harm to us. Hard worker, silent about playing minutes, always ready to perform, good attitude and does more than expected, and above all, very not flashy. I guess Keita deserves the praise Pep is pouring on him.

    Busquets! should earn that exclamation point too! What a match! We know Abidal is a monster but Busquets just turned into one after this match! hell of a game for the young dude, his game reading ability has reached a higher level. Love that Xaviesque assist that put Villa thru on goal. Hugely involved in the midfield battling crime with Keita as well. Hope his future will be even brighter!

    The squad wing back duets also meet the standard, which I think is also very important for this win. One wrong foot will cost us, just as Abidal’s rare funky passes.

    1. Finally a lengthy comment from you. You were really off for the past few days. And the last time you didn’t even start the sentences with capital letters. Really made me wonder if it was really you.
      I wouldnt be surprised because we have a Kari imposter lurking around.

  19. Good review kevin, thank you
    I find the rarings to be spot on except for Pep, he did everything right untill the time he didnt sub messi, YOU ARE THE COACH, you can sub anyone, no exceptions.
    Keita as the MOTM is also spot on, he battled the hardest and was everywhere.
    And we have a 7 point lead again, so happpppyyyyyyy wooohoooo
    Alves will be back for the Valencia game, thats a big advantage for us, the other advantage is that today Valencia play away to Bilbao, one of the toughest grounds in spain, and we get 24 hrs rest more than Valencia, hopefully we will also have xavi back.
    Also, guys if you can, watch the bayern-dortmund game, its a fire cracker.

  20. Busi my MOTM, although Keiteee has been good too he comes close second for me because he gave away few fouls. And I think Kxevin mentioned me when he said ‘people who believe him to be the next Xavi’ πŸ˜€

    Villa, shoot more god damnit!!

    Oh BTW I watched entire Super Depor match and man they did it again πŸ˜€ But I was really surprised by their manager in that he takes their best players(and performers of the day) off! I was surprised when he took off Guardado and I was shell shocked when he took off Adrian!! EE probably were unlucky not to win the match, hitting the post twice and Benzanzo getting back to what he actually is… but nicely served for Depor keeper being a superman and that cunt of a di Maria for play acting like that!!

    And since I’ve mentioned Adrian, I think he is way too better talent than Bojan. Both showed promise when young but I think Adrian is maturing himself because he plays week in week out while Bojan decides to just sit his ass on our bench. Adrian impressed me both against us and against EE today, although I do think he could improve on his composure. He holds the ball very well when played lone striker up front and involves really well in the play when played wide forward & he is not bad at aerial play too… Definitely fits to describe as the piece our machine is missing

    1. …di Maria for play acting like that
      i know right??
      and back here where i live, the commentator supports madrid so blatantly he was calling it a red card offense
      every tackle on madrid and he starts to moan
      thank god the barca game was on the same day today as the EE one or he’s usually the one to commentate on that as well

  21. oh and I definitely agree with Kxevin’s rating for Bojan… He although seemed determined to do some thing today, he was off. Easily bullied off the ball by defenders, slow on the ball and he even forgot how to make runs off the ball!!

  22. Oh and all the people who were falling over themselves praising Schweinsteiger, he got schooled by Nuri Sahin multiple times in the game Munich vs Dortmund

  23. I had a Barca Centric dream and I remember 2 things from it, one reality and one fantasy land. MVP are all in the top 5 in goals in the league this year with 25 (messi) 17 (villa and 12 (Pedro). I am fairly confident that the will all end there, baring any lengthy injuries. Llorente ‘Mr. Better than Fernando Torres’ (according to Ray Ray) has 13 goals, as an out and out striker, and his teams focal point. The fact that Villa is 4 clear, and Pedro only trails him by one goal is frankly stunning. I expect David to end up somewhere near 30, P! to finish with 22-26 and I think this may be the year that it really goes down and messi comes close to 40 goals in la liga. He needs 15 goal in 13 games. I think we can chal him up for one hat trick, and 3 multiple goal games in that span, giving him nine in four. Which means he would have 9 games to get six more. The crazy thing is, he has been in a mini slump of late, form wise, and has still caught and surpassed the gelled one. My bold prediction is he puts 38, 39 & 40 past Manuel (Levante keeper), giving him, what will be the greatest single season any liga player has ever had, all while cementing next years Balon D’ Oro. Much to Thong Boys chagrin!!!

    Now for fantasy time.

    I know that the only thing tighter than Sandros’ Batman underwear is his wallet (supposedly). But with the crazy money coming into the club from Qatar (who wants to buy Man U for 1.5 bil) I would love to project this lineup for the 2013/14 year. Remember it would be coming off a world cup year, so that, along with age, is why I would have Xavi on the bench. I assume he would have tired legs from winning a second straight world cup, cementing his status up there with Zidane an international icon, and having done so with one club his entire career.

    ————————De Gea——————-

    ——Alves——-Pique——–V. Kompany—–Mauricio Isla




    Sub List:

    Xavi- God
    Thiago- Mid
    David Santon- LB
    Afellay- W/AM
    J. Boetang- CB/D
    Fontas- DM/D
    Adam Johnson- RW
    Douglas- Costa AM
    Nilmar- Fwd
    Keirrison- Fwd

    Ok, rant over!!!!!

    1. If you really wanna talk fantasy then you’re missing out CESC.
      And what is Kompany doing in there? He never ever seemed to impress me.
      I would rather have Fontas in there which by the way played in midfield last night for the B team. I reckon it was at DM.

      And why are there no new youngsters from the youth set-up if it was really a fantasy? Never in my wildest fantasies would I have a player like Kompany, A.Johnson etc in my team.

      I like Pastore though. Very much. DOnt you want Kun with that?

    2. I really like Adam Johnson, and the reason it was Kompany, is because this “fantasy” is a few years down the road, and I think Kompany is showing strides toward getting a lot better. I wish we still had Chiggy, but can you think of a few more U23 or so really good center backs….like really really good? And if yog gave me Cesc of Pastore at the same price, I think I take Javier, he seems to be so confident on the ball he would slip right in, and he ha not been tainted by the EPL. I dont know if you have seen Mauricio Isla play, but dude is a freak!!!! He is a converted forward with good pace, solid defense (all our full backs really need) and crosses 37.5 times better than Dani!!!!! And I have been on here since the blogs inception pushing for Douglas Costa, another silly player with the ball at his feet. And what ever happened to Santon, he was supposed to be the next big thing a year or two back.

  24. I like todays game we started slow but got what we were looking for. Keita Busquets and Abidal in that order were the best.

    @Manish. The reason that Kxevin has been giving Abidal consistent 8-10 is because he has been our best defender all season. A total rock at the back, the man has been playing in absolute beast mode for a while now.

    Now everyone excuse me while I go buy my 15 Keite Jersey. And when I go to the next soccer game against my buds everyone will ask me who the hell he is….I’ll just laugh.

  25. Am eagerly awaiting Moaninho’s excuses and anger.
    MVP now have no has more goals than the whole enemy squad.
    I wish all these other games would come and go quickly for the Arsenal game.

    1. He said they played the CL match at Wednesday and He won’t blame his players. And they were playing against a GK and 10 defenders. He said his team came to win and was penalised for it. πŸ˜€

    2. Except that they played their CL match on Tuesday. So they got the same number of rest days as barcelona.

  26. Blitzen, Miguel, and co, I missed the Barça B match, how did Javi Espinosa do on his debut?

    I’ll probably download it.

    1. hit me up w/a link if you find one because we were completely dry when it came to streams. still pretty bummed bout it. i think fontas was playing dm looking at the starting line-up. i know soriano had a hat trick if not more.

      aren’t you on the east coast? what are you still doing up? insomniac. ;^) good to have you back.

    1. Exactly. he was checking in that Messi was feeling good, that’s all. He had just had a whole week of rest, no reason to sub him out.

    2. this is the best video of guardiola’s gestural communication for a good while! it also speaks volume about how Messi and Guardiola actually communicate with each other when they work together. The attitude the face and the response, ALL GOLDEN! wow!

      5 / 5 *****

  27. Good win.

    I have nothing against Maxwell, But He’s getting Old, We have Abidal and Adriano or possibly even buying a new left back, which turn Abidal into a full-time CB and I’m completely fine with that.

    Bayern-Dortmund match was Awesome, Dortmund is really a great team starting from their CBs to the MDs, Teams should take a good look at them and sign them when they can.

    You’re being a little hard on Bojan, Every Ball he got involved in, He got a foul. When 2 players sandwiched him, and when he was arguing with Ayoze I think about the foul he earned near the corner. He looked determinant and tried to make runs.

    Arsenal Line-Up

    Alves- Puyol-Busquet- Abidal
    Pedro- Messi- Villa

    As we saw in the Bilbao match Busquet won’t be a full time CB, He played a little as a back left and was really involved in the midfield. He’d move forward with Abidal shifting beside Puyol.

    1. Sorry, I vowed to myself not to answer any more unfounded Maxwell digs but this is too much. Maxwell is 29, Abidal is 31 and Maxwell is getting old but Abidal isn’t?

    2. Abidal current performance is amazing, He doesn’t need to step up his game. Maxwell on the other hand needs to improve, and We have Adriano who also needs to improve but He’s only 25.

      With the Rumors of us buying Coentrao or another left back, Maxwell seems as an extra player. Abidal can play as a CB but Maxwell can’t. I didn’t say that Keita, Xavi, Puyol, or Abidal are getting old because their performances are good as they are. I’m not saying Maxwell was bad in this game, He did very good, I’m talking in General because we’ll be having Aibdal, Adriano, Maxwell at the left. Adriano is the newest buy with 25 years of age.

      So that leaves Maxwell or Abidal ?

      Btw, Are you a Celtic or a Rangers fan ? πŸ˜€

    3. Okay, we’ll agree to disagree if we can’t even agree that Abidal is older than Maxwell πŸ™‚

      Btw, that’s an interesting thought about Maxwell as CB. I’ve never seen him play there. Have you? Pace would be a problem but his positional sense is spot on.

      Btw, neither Rangers nor Celtic – and proud of it ! I support one of the smaller teams in the SPL, St Johnstone.

  28. I think I’m in the minority about the Messi issue. I love watching Messi play 90 minutes (I know everybody does) and I think Messi is responsible enough to know if he should come out early. To play the game to rest players is one thing…to play the game because you fear a dirty foul is something else. Just not something I think Pep should employ when weighing heavily on substitutions. Messi is not so injury prone anyway (we have been lucky in this regard) and generally not going to go overboard and risk injury. Let the alien frolic in space.

    Also couldn’t help but love this article:

    Jose has played so much defensive, boring soccer in his career…he needs to shut his mouth.


  29. Also add the fact that Hummels outjumped Schweinsteiger for the game killer..My point being that Busquets as of now is streets ahead of the German

  30. If the guys that make personal decisions at the E.E were G.M’s for a team in Americas big four they would have been fired a long time ago…I did some math.

    The Dutch trio of VDV/Sneijder/Robben were sold in their prime for a net loss of €25m….Fire-able offense.

    The were pretty much replaced with Kaka/Ozil/Dimaria who cost a total of €53m more than them Dutch boys. Now I know Ozil/Dimaria were this years flavor of the month, which made them irresistible to Madrid, as their policy seems to be “Who does everyone want? Ok, lets buy them at an inflated price (Minus Ozil)”. Forget the €53m for a sec, as money is no object in Madrid. Given the choice, I take the dutch trio on talent alone. Robben is a top five winger, Wesley is coming off a career year, and has been lights out domestically and internationally, and VDV is the best playmaker in the EPL!!!!!! On the other hand, Kaka is playing like a 33 year old and is coming off serious injury, Ozil has been fairly disappointing this year, and was picked up on a good year at Bremen and a great WC, and Dimaria seems to have the potential, but is yet to prove it in Europe’s elite leagues and is nowhere near the player Robben is.

    FINALLY AFTER TODAYS FIASCO, SIR ALEX MUST BE LICKING HIS CHOPS, KNOWING BENZEMA CAN BE HIS FOR ABOUT HALF OF THE €35M MADRID PAID FOR HIM LAST YEAR!!!! Its like buying all that candy the week after Valentines day, Madrid just goes into 1/2 off fire sale mode too quickly.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Who would buy Benzema right now ?

      Only a manager who is so confident in his ability to turn him into a star and would only buy him at a cheap Price as no one will risk it.

    2. speaking of which, it really surprised me that Ferguson did not make a move for Sneijder last year. Manchester needed a playmaker so desperately. This year he could have gone for either Ozil or VdV, both of whom would have strenghtened the team, but Sneijder would have been the perfect replacement for Scholes imo. I guess he rather spends 9 million on an unproven striker which he didn’t need to begin with…
      Very strange.

      Awesome goal by P!, but am I the only thinking that the keeper might as well have stretched his arms out to make the safe?

    3. I think Pedro’s shot had a weird dip on it and looked like it was going over until the very last second.

      With regards to Ferguson, he was interested in Oezil but Madrid moved faster, and Van der Vaart spent most of the summer saying that he was staying at Real Madrid.

    4. I think it is pretty harsh to say that Oezil has been a disappointment at Real Madrid. I think he’s a player they really needed last year, an excellent technically gifted playmaker who can also play on the wings. Sort of a younger, pacier version of Guti without the attitude problems and an aversion to training. I was hoping Barca would sign him last summer, but now I think given price and playing time available here Affelay is a better fit.

      Di Maria, may not be as good as Robben yet but he is much less injury prone, and Kaka was very good last year before he got injured.

      I think Madrid’s main problem is the youth of their squad and the fact their first team changes dramatically every year. It will be interesting to see what they are like next year if Mou sticks around. That would be the first time they have had the same coach two seasons in a row for a long time.

      Besides our club can’t claim to be fiscally prudent in the transfer market after Ibra-gate, the disappearing Chygyrnski, and the purchase of two Brazilians who have never played a competitive game for the club.

    5. Disappointment? Ozil is one of RM’s best players right now. And cheap at the price. He is the one really good purchase they made this year, and he will only get better.

  31. Since I saw the Madrid game (Oh yes I did)
    I for one feel the Granero made hand-ball wasn’t a penalty for two reasons:
    1. The hands of the defender were close to the body and in the natural position ie down by the sides.
    2. The distance between him and Granero was about a yard which I believe is too small a distance to judge a hand-ball to be deliberate.

    I didn’t see that final (mis)kick by Benzema but heard the commentator screaming Benzema was taken down.
    The ‘tap-in’ that Benzema missed was tbh a pretty difficult tap-in as the ball bobbled a lot before it hit him

    Adebayor hitting the post was a pure mis-kick,,it hit his shins..that being said it was absurd luck for Aranzubia that it hit the post then hit the back of his head and then hit the post again before going out of play

    Atmosphere was awesome

    Oh and Ronaldo has 25 goals in La Liga and the second top-scorer is Higuain with (gasp) 7..that is insane and so is the fact that Carvalho and Benzema have the same number of league goals

    And Ozil has 5 goals in the league? strange I thought he had more.

    1. Benzema’s Final Ball was hard to judge as it was at the 94th Minute with no replay. He had to make a 360 turn to shoot the ball which usually makes the person unbalanced. He had a defender running at him at the same time. What Makes me think it isn’t a penalty is that Benzema didn’t Object or ask for a penalty, It was T.B and Ade asking for the penalty.

    2. definitely not a handball, since his arms were stuck to his body – one cannot make your arm disappear in thin air.

      however, Ronaldo might have been onside for his first-half goal…

    3. I post the same thing in a Madrid community adding that Di Maria is a diver too and I get the standard Messi dives blah blah Busquets peek-a-boo blah blah sprinklers bla to see them Madridistas clutching at straws πŸ˜€

  32. A player comfortable with both feet, to pass, dribble and shoot, who has pace with that body frame is a tremendous asset to have.

    I look forward to Pep helping Adriano’s development by giving him more minutes to grow in confidence and develop better understanding and timing with his teammates.

  33. Moaninho is one big clown. I had a good laugh reading all his comments. Wish i could see a video.
    Dude gets paid back in his own coin and he goes about complaining about 10 defenders!!! He is suffering from short term memory.
    Guess he could learn a thing or two from Pep and stop being arrogant. Actually he isnt helping his players and is only making a fool of himself

  34. barcastuff:
    Next season’s shirt sponsor ‘Qatar Foundation’ will
    from tomorrow on already appear on the team’s new training
    outfit. []


    1. That is so fugly! It looks like a plain shirt.
      I really wish that I could be the designer of Barca.
      Who is actually the person in charge of the designing?

  35. so after another performance for the ages from abidal, who would you say has the coolest head in the team??
    or someone else??

  36. Definitely not Iniesta. Remember when Ronaldo told him not to dive and he almost ate Ronaldo alive. It was so funny. I think the Qatar Foundation letters don’t flow well with the shirt. I find them to be too cursive.

  37. Also I think kxevin is wrong about the 70% busquets part on villa’s goal.Busquets gets the ball , spots villa running while the opposing defender is trying to form the offside trap.
    However , its not as if busquets dictated the run.
    Specifically villa starts deeper than usual just before busquets got the ball , and forces the defender to make a judgement call . Villa times his run , busi spots him and delivers a good ball.
    Did the pass make the run?
    Definitely not.
    Its actually the other way around.

    1. If Villa hadn’t been deeper than usual, he would have been offside once again, so it is a lot of credit to Busquets that he played an assist to an onside Villa who then went on to score.

    2. if if if .
      Im not taking anything away from busquets , he spotted the run , and made a good pass.
      But , if we look closely at the play of villa , he does that. A lot.Its why he gets caught up in offside positions so frequently. And thats the way of him playing in our team , drifting onside while a second previously was in an offside position. He provides width on the left flank this way, messes up the opposing defences and when executed gets away with a very good opportunity to score.

  38. Here is a good link to the Real Madrid Deportivo match highlights.
    I was very impressed with Kaka’s play in the video. Tiki Taka and one twos in congested areas, and with constant runs into space. The rest of them play like superstar’s, not footballers.

  39. totally agree, keita MOTM. the game he played coming from I don’t how many games without starting is class. That pass to messi was insane… AND messi’s control and finish even more, wow. Like he has a glove in his head. Maybe I’m not reading well but it says in the review “pillowing the ball with his feet”, didn’t he control it with his head? It was a never-ever-seen play for me. He tha best… in post match analysis on tv you could see pep contstantly asking messi if he wanted to be subbed out, messi of course said “nay”. Pep asked like 4 or 5 times. I don’t like that very much but pep is the boss. One can trust xavi IMO, but messi I don’t know he’s very very young.

    btw, can’t really say for the replay… was p! shot deflected? such a caΓ±onazo, a folha-seca if not deflected! villa 17 in la liga & counting… but looks like the force field is back up πŸ™

  40. Watching the English Carling Cup final…

    Birmingham just had a stone cold penalty and a possible red card on their keeper (he pulled a Lehmann) ruled out because of an very incorrect offside call. Absolutely brutal for them.

  41. I watched the game on ESPN Deportes and the commentators spoke rather confidently about Barca selling Afellay this summer in order to make a sizable profit. My spanish is a little rusty so I am hoping my translation was wrong or that they were only commenting on rumors. Has anyone heard rumors about this?

    1. Depends on the final score.

      But seriously imagine if Hleb was on the bench and came on and scored at the 92nd minute ala iniesta πŸ˜€

      Or a Cesc own goal..that would be funny.

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