Of Almeria, Must-Win Games and The Evil Empire (commonly, albeit mistakenly, known as R**l M*drid)

“We can lose at the Bernabeu in the league, we can lose against Espanyol at home, but there is one game we cannot lose: the one against Almeria.” — Pep Guardiola

Quite the quote Pep’s laid on us, eh? I agree completely. Seems to be happening quite often. In Pep We Trust, after all.

It seems like some people think the Liga is in the bag, and while I can’t blame them, there are still 8 games to go. To be frank and use a horrible cliche, this is one of, if not the, toughest match we’ll play this season, because  it’s a must win and Almeria are battling for the Liga lives; they are rock bottom with a mere 24 points.

Relegation threatened sides are the worst to play at the end of the season, IMO. Why? Because they have nothing to lose and everything to gain if they give it a go. Other teams may prioritize their matches, shrug their shoulders and say, “Hey. It’s not like we can win here at the Camp Nou. Let’s save some energy and focus on another, more beatable team”, and shut up shop. Not gonna happen with relegation sides, because they can’t afford to do that. They need to get points and get them NOW.

This is coupled with the fact our squad is thin. We already knew that, but it bears repeating. Messi isn’t fully recovered, we have a defensive midfielder as a CB because Puyol still hasn’t been released from the Caveman Hospital for Beasts and Other Football Hardmen, Iniesta is a father, we’re without Pinto, who would have stood in for the suspended Valdes but sprained his ankle before the Shakhtar match, and Busi, who is also suspended, which means we’ll probably see B-teamers galore on Saturday/Sunday. Which is why Pep follows up his comments by saying:

“We have to go to the Bernabeu with an eight-point advantage, not six or five. They [Real] have a great team, and it’s normal that they could beat us in the league and cup. It could happen, but not against Almeria. We can’t lose this game.”

For the sake of our short, streched squad; for our boss’ hair; for our cule hearts–we can’t lose this game.

After our Clasico in the Bernabeu (pronounced Ber-NAH-Bay-EWW–and “eww!” is right 😛 ), we have currently 12th placed Osasuna (H), 14th placed Sociedad (A), 7th placed Espanyol (H), 9th placed Levante (A), 16th (!) placed Depor (H), and 19th placed Malaga away for our last game of the season.

Now, the standings are a bit decieving here because only 4 points seperated 9th placed Levante (38pts) and 16th placed Depor (34pts). This means two things:

  1. All teams 9 through 16 need points. That’s a given regardless of position, but really, when so few points separate teams, it means they’ll be fighting hard so they don’t lose their standing, or they feel buoyed about the fact that if they do well, they could save themselves. Long winded explanation short: few points separating teams  = more hard fought matches, because every point counts.
  2. This ties in with the first point: the standings will change. I haven’t looked around to see who plays who, but one win for Almeria and suddenly they see themselves nearly out of the relegation zone. That’s huge.

Now, with all the doom-and-gloom that permeated this space before the Shakhtar match, many of you are probably thinking, “Kari, what the flip? Seriously. Why’d ya have to go and try to freak me out early? I would have done it anyway. Now my Thursday/Friday is ruined. Good job. I hope you get fired from this BFB job. In fact, I don’t know how you got this job in the fir[rest of the comment has been edited by admin Kari -ed].” Well, it’s a simple answer one, my good pessimist and nay-sayer: it gives us more insight to Pep’s view on our big matches (read: El Clasico) this season.

Pep is basically saying that he’s alright with losing to EE, because our point total win ensure the result won’t be costly. That is, of course, unacceptable and we all know he’ll go for the win, but when I read his quote on fifa.com earlier, I instantly thought, “We are so gonna rest players against them and look to blitz them in the CDR final”.

Think about it for a second, if/when we beat Almeria, we have a minimum of 8 points as a lead, which can become a max of 11, if EE lose to Athletic Bilbao in San Mames. Beating Almeria gives us much needed breathing room, and crucially, the chance to rest players.

We play the Evil Empire back to back –on the 16/17th and again on the 20th. Then there are the CL semis where they are going for their first CL win since the turn of the century. I love our team, but I don’t think we can win them all, realistically speaking. We may have beat them 5 times in a row, the last time being a 5-0 victory, but we only ever played them twice a season. This time? 5 4 times in one month.

That’s why I focus on a win in the CDR final. We can lose in the Bernabeu in the league.

But we can’t afford to lose against relegation threatened Almeria.

So you better get yo' ass in gear, Leo, or I'll do it for you!

By Kari

Just your neighbourhood Barca fanatic


  1. Kari!!! Please don’t break the long-standing tradition of not writing that awful name on the title of any posts.. we even black out the nasty part of Atletico Madrid when we play them. Just replace all the letters of the second part with octothorpes.

    1. I bit the bullet and did it for the newer fans, but in the end, you’re right.

      My apologies to the children who had to read it. I will reflect on my actions on the naughty chair.

    2. just to be clear, i had no idea who EE was when I first started reading this blog so I appreciate you thinking of the new guy.

      I think I eventually asked someone and I felt like such a friggin loser 😛

    3. What easier way to find the courage to post a comment than to ask what EE stands for?

      ….Crap. I think I foiled some lurker’s elaborate plan.

    4. yeah…nice post kari!
      and…what EE stand for!? a few months ago I even googled
      it! I found nothing .(

  2. Also, very good post 😛 I also think that Pep will focus more on the Copa del Rey final, which is more important at this point. How will this be expressed? Well, I would say that some players will be rested, but more so I think Pep is just not gonna play his hand. Pep is planning on how to beat RM but he knows we can’t have the same plan for every match or Mourinho’s is going to catch on. So I expect some crazy from Pep, like that last Clasico where we rolled out with that weird formation (exactly what position was Dani playing?), but I don’t expect it on Saturday. It’ll come midweek, and we’ll worry about the CL bout when/if that time comes.

    1. I say Pep should experiment in El Clasico; I mean, he can afford to, no?

      Adriano as LW? Afellay as a CF? Pique as a CF? Why not? 😀

    2. Clasico- spring ’10- Dani at RW, Puyi at RB, Was Milito at LB or am I thinking of a different game?

    3. Because you asked:
      Puyi, Pique, Milito, Maxwell
      Busi, Keita, Xavi
      Alves, Messi, P!
      Please remember that Abidal and Iniesta were injured most of the spring and I believe BANGS was injured for that game as well. Also, at that time P!! was only P!

  3. While I agree with what you’re saying, I have to admit you’re wrong. 🙂

    Yes, we can afford to lose at Madrid more than the CdR. However, I expect Pep to field as strong a team as possible for the clasico. Why else would he have Busi and VV pick up their 5th yellows?

    Please note that this is not me disaggreeing with you. But it was obvious that those 5ths were intentional therefore Pep ordained. And I can’t even disagree with Pep because I swore on the last thread that I would never(maybe) doubt Pep again. What will be interesting is what Pep does with Messi on Saturday. Does he play on 4 yellows or sit? That might be telling.

    1. Pep will tell Messi to keep celebrations to a minium, not say a word to the refs, not to stand in front of any free kicks, not to take any free kicks, until the ref blows his whistle, not to get involved in any skirmishes with players, no slide tackles, no playing after the whistle is blown, and no dives.

      That should just about cover everything lol.

    2. If he sits that means Pep is taking the clasico very seriously (or that he’s taking forcing the flea to finally rest very seriously).

      Regardless, I hope we don’t put out too weak a side against Almeria. They’re not Segunda B. They will have a new coach and isn’t there a Spanish saying about a new coach equalling a win? 3 points is 3 points!

    3. If pep leaves out messi in this one, then leo would submit a transfer request for not having enough playing time.
      I’m certain of it.
      (nevermind hes the most used player bar valdes)

    4. Pah..why bother telling him not to dive, you need to drag him down when he’s anywhere near net but he will tell him not to wish any members of his family happy b-day.

  4. Since there won’t be a “Pasillo” in the Berneb-eww(I’m still laughing at that one) what better way to say “fuck you” to Real Madrid than to play the B-team against them in a meaningless El Clásico? And what better way to tell the B teamers “sorry it’s impossible for your team to make the jump into the first division but keep on fighting” than by giving them a shot at beating Barca’s bitter rivals at their home turf?

    1. I think each team in the league must have at least a fixed number of players registered with the first team squad in each game , plus there is the obligation of each team to field their best possible team in each game.
      The latter rule may sound to generic , but so was the no provoking yellow cards rule that got applied to madrid because of their obvious ridicule of the officials.

    2. More importantly, is that the Dalai Lama and Puyol in your Gravatar? I <3 you, Miguel. You so crazy. 🙂

  5. Agree, agree!

    We have to win against Almeria. So we can afford to lose the Liga game (by fielding a B side or some weird formation) and win the the CDR and the first leg by 4. Yep! Win by 4. I want to think that by saying it, it happens 😀

    I would rather Messi sits out the Almeria game.

  6. If we actually win the Classico, how many more wins will we need to win the title?

    1. Err. My math has been failing all day, in all honesty. Assuming they beat Bilbao (though I’m not 100% sure they will–only 85%), we’d have 11 points with 6 games to go. So I’d say we’d only have to win 3 games. #pleasedon’tfailmemath

  7. it’s almost as good as a pasillo to have the league lead so comfortably in hand that we can start, for instance, maxwell at left striker (no defensive duties! run at em max!), fontas as CB, (trial of fire kid!), start bojan and thiago and jeffren, and puyol as a nice warm up for the CdR and CL….itll be like an exhibition match. /rofl

  8. Wait, wouldn’t we be playing RM four times in a month? Not that that is much better than 5, but still, if there’s an extra clasico i missed, i want to no now than get a surprise.

    Also, I too am for some experimentation in the second league clasico. Definitely want to see Thiago, Afellay, and other second stringers go out and prove themselves against The Hated Ones.

    1. Puppet! Are you implying that I can’t count?!

      …You’re right, of course. /quickly fixes so no-one else notices.

    2. No disrespect intended, i guess thinking in sets of five is the default when talking about barca 🙂

  9. I’d start the best available XI for both Almeria and Real Madrid to show them we aren’t fooling around.

    1. our “best IX” may not put 100% effort into the matches and players such as Thiago and Affelay will be motivated by the need to prove themselves. Not that I am sayin’ we should roll out the B team. We need enough 1st teamers to keep our shape while giving the young uns a chance.

    2. Against Almeria, we’ll see a mixture. I could see:

      Miño (if Pinto is still hurt)
      Thiago-Masch-Iniesta (over Keita b/c Iniesta won’t play in Ukraine)

      Something like that.

    3. I like that line up, it saves Villa and Messi for the second half in case things turn ugly, it also gives xavi a well deserved rest, and it tries Afellay in the left, and with Pedro there, maybe they get more motivated to press and run high like him!

  10. Hmmm…interestingly enough this might be the first clasico ever in which both teams don’t play their strongest 11

  11. When will Pinto be back? It’s kinda scary thinking Pep rolling out with B teamers and a 3rd choice goalkeeper for the match against Almeria. Also, not discounting Pinto’s ability, but against Real’s strongest 11 at CdR? Why not put Valdes in goal instead.

    1. Not fair to Pinto who has played every match in the competition. That’s really his only time to play. He deserves to start, IMO.

    2. Yeah I know it isn’t fair but I just don’t feel that comfortable as compared to Valdes in goal. Let’s hope he will be up to it, or better yet, the team can play well so that there will be few chances needed to be saved.

    3. Pinto certainly earned his part in the 6 trophy haul when he saved that PK in the CdR! I like that Pep is keeping him in for the final.

  12. I think Pep will field his best 11 for the Liga game against er…EE. In my humble opinion, It’s not a matter of “let’s throw away one game” so we can come back stronger for the next, it’s a case of maintaining momentum, getting that next consecutive win in place so the pressure mounts exponentially on Madrid with each win. To let off steam and let them get back into their groove might prove costly in terms of their confidence/approach for the CDR finals. Yes, there are four games back-to-back (most likely), and yes it’s almost impossible for Barca to win all four. But if they start picking and choosing which games they win, they are going to end up with a possibility of losing it all. Just saying.

    1. yes, it almost impossible to FOUR El Clasico in a month…

      but like I said before, we don’t have to win it ALL to win titles…

      if we draw/lose at Ber-NAH-Bay-EWW in the liga, still can win the liga…
      if we lose in one of two legs UCL, still can make it through the final… (like we did against Arsenal)

      the must win tie is definitely Copa del Rey final… 😉

  13. Against Almeria, I’d start Mino-Alves-Pique-Fontas-Maxwell-Masch-Thiago-Iniesta-Pedro-Messi-Afellay

    Messi because he seems to have the desire to win Pichichi and Golden boot, so what better time to take a step ahead than play Almeria at home while EE plays Bilbao away!? In fact I’d even ask him to get a deliberate yellow card(in case we are winning Almeria) so he can sit out the first Classico of the month. I’d actually rest as many first teamers for that match as is mathematically & legally possible because I won’t be risking any of them getting injured in that match. i’m sure Mou is going to play Lassana Diarra, Arbeloa and Ramos to serve just that purpose, injure our players! I don’t believe that cunt Mou for one second

    1. Nah, I would rest Messi, i.e. let him sit on the bench as a possible substitution.
      Ronaldo will be benched against Bilbao, according to AS.com

      If one of them deliberately injures Messi, we will just have to let Mascherano take revenge for it. He’ll destroy two of them with a single tackle ^^
      But I hope for 4 clean Clásicos!

  14. anybody please answer this, I want to make sure because my cule friends asked me…

    If both Barça and EE progress to semifinal,
    the 1st leg will be at Ber-Nah-Be-Eeeww or Camp Nou?

    1. First leg in Madrid, which is quite an advantage for us imo, because Real will have to play for a win at their stadium. That’s better for us than facing a defensive Real that tries to achieve a scoreless draw in the first game at the Camp Nou.

  15. 4 Clásicos in 18 days, that’s a 40(!) times higher concentration than usual (2 Clásicos in 1 year)!

    Before the first Clásico this season, there was already talk about the world will stop turning and possibly cease to exist after that ‘Super Clásico’ – so what will happen now?
    Can your body take 40 times higher adrenaline concentration than during/before a usual Clásico?
    Will not only our Universe, but all the parallel Universes explode?
    I won’t exclude anything 🙂

    1. Two scenarios are possible with so many clasicos (btw, there will be a 5th, the Spanish Super Cup, but not for a while:

      1) Spain implodes under the pressure
      2) Clasico fatigue sets in and people are like “Oh great another clasico, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ’em all.”

      BTW, do y’all think Iniesta get a standing “O” at the B-eww?

    2. Yeah, I guess they don’t owe him one then (technically tough, I think he ought to get one at every stadium in Spain for the rest of his life).

    3. That’s why Pep subs him in most of our away games (or even all, I’m not quite sure). Allas gathered them in a video, But got deleted with his old account, I can ask him to re-upload it if you want.

    4. Mmh… you really think 2) is an option? 😀

      That won’t happen, especially since the Clásicos become more and more important as time evolves. I could imagine there won’t be that much hype around the liga Clásico, but then hell breaks loose.

  16. Fontas, Thiago, and Bojan must play against Almeria and the likes of Iniesta, Keita, and Masch can protect them and keep the ball.

  17. Shakhtar isn’t a done deal, Yet.

    See how many chances they’ve missed against us, They can easily score 4, If they scored two in quick succession they’ll fancy their chance of advancing and things might get complicated, We can afford to play Semi-Best Starting XI against EE.

    1. Semi-best starting XI should be the theme of the month. Rest some players at each game as well as you can. Rotate! And for goodness sake, sit the flea occasionally (duct tape him to the bench and give him some legos if necessary)!

    2. Of course they can, Diego, but do you really think we won’t score at all? I liked Jnice’s comment about it not being fair to be worried by all their attempts without also taking into account all the others we could have had. One of the reasons they got humped was that they came out and attacked us ( where’ve we heard that before?) and they have to do that even more so next week. Last team to score five against us when we’re trying?

  18. You are brilliant Kari: “For the sake of our short, streched squad; for our boss’ hair; for our cule hearts–we can’t lose this game.” Naah Eeew, you are just Brilliant!!! This post made my day!!!

  19. Guys, Madrid play Bilbao away right before we host Almeria, before the end result of the Bilbao game is known we have to announce our lineup, so we will have a very strong starting eleven, adjustments will come later.
    The other thing is that Pep holds Barca more dearly in his heart than any of us, the last thing he will do is intentionally lose to Madrid, he will go after them like a mad man as he always does.

    1. When, at the latest, does the line-up have to be announced?

      Because IF Madrid rests some of their key players and IF Bilbao already leads by a goal to nil after the first half, we could assume that they won’t win the match and thus start with a weaker line-up.

    2. The line up is announced 1 hour before the start of the match, but Bilbao game only ends 10 to 15 minutes before our game starts

  20. hi! it’s my first time to comment after lurking for too long 🙂

    valdes was on andreu buenafuente’s talk show last night; buenafuente was telling vv about madrid’s record of clasico wins, and i just wanted to share his uber badass reply — “las victorias del madrid, ?eran en blanco y negro, o en color?”

    “madrid’s victories, were they in black & white, or in color?”


    1. “i cannot conceive of a barcelona without guardiola”

      he already said something like that before, but i still tugs at heartstrings 🙂

    2. jajajaja, that reminds me of an old, albeit way-too-mean joke:

      How is the Real Madrid trophy room like a flea market?

      It’s mostly filled with things that are either old or stolen.

  21. Who would play the first leg in semifinal if Barca and EE progress(which is likely)?I’ve heard that the match will be played in Madrid and then the second leg in Camp Nou.
    I dont get it.Both Barca and Madrid played first in the Q/F and should they qualify for the S/F,the team which played first will be playing the second leg at home.How can Barca play the second leg at home?Then I think Mourinho will now accuse of UEFA favouring Barca in deciding the schedules and where they would be playing.

    1. UEFA has decided on which team will play first leg at home for the semifinal when they did the draw for quarterfinal.

  22. Just back from a quick 2 day trip to Glasgow with the good lady ( who had to put up with two whole nights of me shouting at the TV first). Bored witless shopping until I turned round in a pretty classy mall and saw the sign “Barca Tapas and Cava Bar” . Hey, who said shopping was all bad?

    Anyway, back rested and ready for the run in. Missed most of the posts over the last couple of days but have just caught up. Thanks for the mention in the review, Kxevin 🙂 won’t go back over the game as we’ve moved on – just as well for Alves’ sake. What I would say – and this is said from an optimistic viewpoint 🙂 – is that we aren’t going to win the CL with this defence playing like they did. Yes, we’ll beat Shaktar but that’s about it. Alves really needs to get some discipline, both in when to attack not leaving gaps and picking his crosses. did I mention never going near another free kick as long as we both live? If Adriano is going to be LB they can’t both go forward at the same time or we risk Pique isolated vs someone who’s bound to be faster.

    Pique can’t get quicker so he and Busi need to do some work on not getting caught square every single time the opposition attack ( difficult with a high line, I know). Tbh, Busi isn’t a natural CB for me and the sooner we get him back into midfield the better. Adriano had a really good first half and then blew a gasket in the first 10/15 of the second, losing easy balls, poor positional play etc. before stabilising again He has had a run in the side. He now needs to calm down a bit and realise that the only acceptable place to lose the ball is in their last third.

    Not in the least worried about the Almeria game. Xavi will play as he has had a rest, Iniesta must play so the rest can be rotated as much as Pep likes, although if we’ve learned one thing it’s that he doesn’t naturally rotate much at all.

    Finally, can we steel ourselves now for the fact that we’re not going to win all the Clasicos and we might not even be able to select which we win – the law of averages being what it is ? This is one hell of a team to be able to follow and will still be even if we lose more than one of them. After watching us and the EE during the week it became even clearer to me that if I supported Madrid I’d be so jealous of what we have going at Barca ( style of play, best player in the world, humble players, best blogs – sorry, Bassam! ). I read someone ( English?) during the week saying that the reason he wanted Barca to win the CL was to reassure him that all was right in the Heavens and that the best team on the planet wins the biggest competition. Kinda liked that . . .

  23. I love that the last thread turned into chats about Ian Mckaye. and mei getting verbally owned by Kevin and calling a truce.

    I agree with Kevin on that side, and Kev your job is sick.

    1. hahaha don’t worry Mei, I got your back! When artists like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake are groomed for pop appeal by their parents and the industry since the day they were born (ok, since they were 7, 8 years old) there is an undeniable truth to them being manufactured.

      I would agree with Kxevin that this is nothing new (i am still nodding my head at his comment about the two only good Rolling Stones songs being ripped from old blues rifs!) but it seems obvious that it has been taken to a whole new level over the last 20 years.

    2. Yeah true, but he was calling the artists’ music trash at first just because it isn’t his musical liking. I don’t, actually I hate Gaga. I hate how people think they love her. I try to explain no, you don’t really like the music but they insist. I don’t like the specific artists at all, but I don’t hold it agianst THEM. I hold it against the fans who buy into the mess. Gaga’s music is terrible, but she’s a PR and Marketing goldmine. Gaga bothers me mostly though because she actually is a very talented and skilled individual, but relies on her ridiculous outfits for her fame.

      Beiber actually is talented kid. mei kept rambling about how he was a two-bit hack.

    3. Not wanting to wade into the whole music debate, but I feel it necessary to point out that the Rolling Stones, love ‘em or hate ‘em (I’m mostly meh), have never disguised their blues roots, that’s how they were initially marketed. So I don’t think it’s really fair to say they ripped off anyone.

    4. there is a difference between being inspired by or taking (a rif) from…

      I remember a documentary which showed that their song “tiiii-iiii-iiiime is on my side, yes it is” was actually an old blues song

  24. I don’t think it is time yet to do calculations with our formation. Almeria is fighting for survival and we need to gain the 3pts regardless of what Real Madrid does in San Mames. Going with an 8pt lead into the “Bernabow” can only be good, but we need to beat Almeria. If I had to be pragmatic, it’s the first Clasico that I’d save a few of our starters, especially with the CdR final 4 days later.
    Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, and Villa will have plenty of time to rest in the upcoming league games at home–but we need the 8pt gap.

  25. Blah ya’all crazy. Almeria is fighting for survival. At this point in the season a point isn’t enough, they’ll need to score. I figure they’ll sit back for the first 10 then slowly try to play out. If we score early its over. I’d start

    Alves Pique Fontas Maxwell
    Iniesta Thiago
    Bojan Messi Villa

    bench of
    Pedro (maybe start him)

    I can’t think right now it’s Friday. Iniesta is a given starter. Thats for sure. Pedro and Messi I suggest start maybe, to gain match fitness back. Same as Maxwell. Fontas will be needed down the stretch and he hasn’t started since the Almeria away leg. With suspensions, and Almeria being bad (I love Goitem though), he needs to start.

    1. Yeah we should rest him one of the next two games, probably. But I need to see him and Messi end their scoreless streak to feel good. I’d rest him in Ukraine and play him Saturday.

    2. It is better to rest Messi in Ukraine.
      The conditions are tougher.
      And resting him there means he will have extra rest for
      El Clasico.

      Lev, any update on the Ajax board vs. Cruyff situation?
      Im wondering what my opa is up to.

    3. I’d rather him play tomorrow too, and maybe not even be in the squad for the Shakhtar game. Or at least keep him on the bench for emergency use only in the Ukraine.

  26. Abidal just posted this on his Facebook:

    Reprise des soins en douceur pour moi…tout va bien !!!
    Encore merci à tous pour vos messages !!! 🙂
    I’m back in FCB to have cares, all in softness…I’m fine!!!
    I thank you all, again, for your messages of support!!! 🙂

    1. That’s not a very good translation of the French. More like “Back for gentle recovery care.”

  27. Off topic. What does everybody thinks of the recent ads of the manita in Barcelona’s buses? I think it could have saved everyone time and money without motivating Real Madrid even further. Now their media are going away with this…

  28. @barca96
    things are really quiet. The board resigned but the director is still in place. Either the director will bend to Cruijff’s will (which he won’t) or Cruijff will try to obtain the necessary votes to kick him out.

    The board threw a truck full of mud Cruijff’s way when they resigned and this is slowing things down a lot.

    Meanwhile Ajax has set up an investigative committee to examine why the whole thing escalated into a big dirty mess.

    Also Cruijff’s plans to restructure the youth setup have been leaked you can find them on the internet quite easily (you speak Dutch, right?)

    Part of his plan is for Ajax to colaborate with Barcelona and Arsenal.

    I think his plans are good, but one thing he has overlooked (probably because there is nothing he can do to change it anyway) is how so many of the Dutch academy players are taken by the big four English teams before they turn 16…

Comments are closed.