Never Fear, Bojan is Here: Barça – Almeria

Liga Preview: Barcelona – Almeria, Saturday 2pmEST, GolTV(HD)

Last time we met them in the league, we slaughtered them and brought the axe down on Jose Manuel Lillo, Pep’s old friend. Since they’ve earned 17 points from 18 matches and sit dead last. Colistas. And they were bounced from the Copa del Rey in the semis by Barça too. Aggregate? 8-0, of course. They got a new manager just this week, having fired Jose Luis Oltra. More on him in a minute.

And now they return back to the Camp Nou, where they’ve never scored a single goal and where they’ve never managed to earn a point (source). They’re 0-0-3 and from their performances this year, deservedly so. The thing is, if they’re ever going to do damage to us, it’s probably now, when we’re focused on other things and when we’re going to start either Ruben Miño or Oier Olazabal.

Those two youngster goalies get the call up thanks to Valdes being suspended through yellow card accumulation and Pinto being injured. I’m rooting for Oier to get the start, but only because I just added him to my fantasy team, though that was only because Miño, who I expect to start, isn’t included in the game by Yahoo. Ah well.

If you scoff at the idea that Almeria suddenly have a shot at this match because of the goalie, just take your blinders off and check out what was required of Victor Valdes over the last two matches. Without him we’ve got a 5 point league lead and are struggling to come back from down 1-2 in a Champions League quarterfinal first leg. You can also thank Luiz Adriano for forgetting his foot-eye coordination, but mostly I’m going to credit Valdes because that makes me feel better.

A good thing is that we have Pedro back, though it turns out that Bojan has scored 5 of his 25 career league goals against Almeria. That’s the hotness and something that I think we might want to take advantage of if it weren’t for the timing of everything. Do we start a big time lineup and ensure at least an 8 point lead going into the away clásico? Do we rest players now or during the Shakhtar match? Or not at all? We have something like 832 matches before May 4, so there’s no way we can not rest players…right? Ah jeez. Almeria-@Shakhtar-@RM-RM-Osasuna and then maybe 2 more clásicos holy smoking Brock Sampson. And 4 days after the second leg of the CL Semis? Yup: Espanyol.

But back to Almeria, who have appointed Roberto Olabe as their new manager. Olabe is a former goalkeeper, is just 43, and was Almeria’s sporting director in 2006/07 when they got promoted to the first flight for the first time ever (source). He has a tough task in front of him given that neither Lillo nor Oltra were earn more than 1 point per match on average (Lillo earned 11 points in 12 while Oltra earned the ever so slightly better 17 in 18). His strikers aren’t scoring—Ulloa is their joint leading scorer, but hasn’t found the back of the net in over 750 minutes (more than 8 full matches)—his midfielders aren’t midding, and his defense is porous—only Malaga has let in more goals, though Sociedad is tied on 51 with Almeria. The last team the beat was Hercules. Before that it was Espanyol on February 5. They’ve got 5 wins overall, their biggest a 1-3 away win over Sevilla. But they also lost 3-1 at Malaga.

This strikes me as the perfect time to let Messi go absolutely bazonkers on a defense and hopefully he’ll bag 30 and get this Pichichi race over with. No Puyol hurts, but we’ll probably put Milito out there to kick Piatti in his ankles…er in his shins…no, probably in his hip. Cause he’s short. That’s the joke. And then Busi back in midfield for a match, you know, just to mix things up and get some players in their preferred positions. Maybe we’ll even put Iniesta in midfield. How crazy would that be?

Oh wait, he was in midfield against Shakhtar. Anyone who says he wasn’t either forgot to actually watch the match or just assumed that when he disappeared he disappeared up the left wing, which he didn’t. Note the pass to Dani Alves and where he was on that and subsequent passes. And note even from minute 2 how he played through the center. And how on Xavi’s goal he was well behind the play as the deep-lying playmaker. So yeah, maybe we’ll just have Iniesta where Iniesta always plays. Or maybe we’ll have Thiago out there again. Or Bojan starting, which would be awesome because he always scores against them.

Whatever happens, I agree with Guardiola: La Liga is more important. Say what you will about the Champions League, but if I had to choose between the two, I’d choose La Liga every single time. Bar none. Even if the final were in the Camp Nou. On my birthday. So we need to win this match and then focus on other things. The Shakhtar match isn’t over yet, so we better get out there and bust ass, but we also need to go in on a high, which means crushing Almeria.

Lineup prediction: Oier, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Messi, Bojan.

Official Prediction: 8-0. Cause what the hell, right?


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Written by:

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater New York City area with his wife and daughter.


  1. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 8, 2011

    oh, so typical arrogant cule…

    j/k… 😛

    we will be okay as long as Bojan is here…

    thanks for the preview, Isaiah!

  2. culeZim
    April 8, 2011

    Any prospect of Thiago and Affelay starting?

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      April 8, 2011

      what about Fontas?

      and yeah, Busquets is suspended, LOL…

  3. blitzen
    April 8, 2011

    Biscuits is suspended, silly, he can’t play.

  4. James08771
    April 8, 2011

    I thought Busquets was suspended. In that case, Mascherano or Keita? I think it wouldn’t matter as both will likely start in the away leg at Donetsk.

  5. Miguel
    April 8, 2011

    I was already practicing the excuse i was going to tell my friends tonight on why I’d be bailing out on them tomorrow afternoon, but this match is on at 11am!!! Woo!

  6. April 8, 2011

    What do we think of Guardiola’s statement that the Liga is more important than Copa and Champions League? I think his statement dovetails neatly with the views of Isaiah on that matter, yes?

    • James08771
      April 8, 2011

      I think Guardiola definitely wants to secure the Liga as soon as possible. Given our current 8-point advantage in the standings, the Clasico looming (an opportunity to add 3 points to the lead), and Madrid’s Liga fixtures before and after the Clasico (away at Bilbao and Valencia), there is the real possibility to securing the Liga with possibly 5 fixtures remaining. That’s why I believe he won’t be resting players in the Liga Clasico to prepare for the Copa Final. Luckily the Liga Clasico is being played on a Saturday, which should allow for enough recovery time to field a similar amount of starters for the Copa Final. That’s why I believe he is, at this point, insistent on focusing on the Liga.

      • beeeef
        April 8, 2011

        My own sentiments echo both Isaiah and Pep on the matter. I believe the league title always takes precedence over other competitions. Of course we want the team to be competitive on all fronts, but I love the accomplishment of battling through many fixtures over several months and coming out on top. It shoes quality, character, and collective consistency on part of the team.

        To put things into perspective, we’ve only won La Liga 20 times in our over 100 year history. That might be less than some folks would expect considering our form in recent years, but it just goes to show how much of a feat it is to accomplish. This season the title is ours to lose, but that won’t always be the case.

        Losing a CL tie can suck, but in the end it’s only two games. What really sucks is getting 2nd place after playing 30-something games over the course of nine months.

        • outerspacedout
          April 8, 2011

          Ten of those twenty were in the past twenty years though. Since Cruyff became coach, we’ve won 10 leagues, Madrid has won 5, Valencia has won I think 2 or so, Atletico and Depor have won one or two I think. This year SHOULD be our 11th.

          • beeeef
            April 9, 2011

            OK, but my point still stands. And historically our potential 21st still pales in comparison to Madrid’s total of 31.

            I don’t know, maybe the dominance of Barca and RM in Liga makes things too predictable, and thus the competition less glamorous in some circles. I definitely feel that way sometimes just from looking at the rankings table.

          • outerspacedout
            April 9, 2011

            I wasn’t denying your point lol. I just love saying at every possible opportunity that since our current identity/system began we’ve been winning La Ligas twice the rate at which Madrid have 😀

          • beeeef
            April 9, 2011

            My b, I guess I wasn’t really sure what you were getting at.

            That clears things up though, and that’s a nice little state I was unaware of 🙂

    • April 8, 2011

      Gah! This is the nth time in a row I’ve agreed with Pep. Not that it’s a bad thing, but maybe I should start disagreeing for argument’s sake….

      Anyway, I want to win all possible trophies at this point, but the Liga is won over the duration of 38 games and we’ve been top since journada 14(?). It’ll be crushing to lose it after we’ve been so superior. CL is different in that one off day and it could mean adios Big Ears.

      Secure Liga and then focus on others. Which was (kinda) part of my spiel in my last post.

  7. April 8, 2011

    This is the most important game of the season. Until our next game.

  8. barca96
    April 8, 2011

    I know I’m late but I would like to offer you (Isaiah) some suggestions.
    I’m in Singapore right now. On a 3 day holiday. We drove down here from Kuala Lumpur ( Malaysia) a lot for holidays and especially when my parents were staying in Singapore.
    Singapore is such a beautiful place. We love it so much. It’s clean. It’s like the Monaco of Asia!
    The food is the best. Seafood paradise!!

    BUt if you’re looking for beaches and adventurous stuff, this is not a place to be.
    Thailand offers both but i’s not really a place to go with your wife.
    Perhaps Indonesia or Vietnam would be a safer bet.

    If you want to come down to Singapore or Malaysia, just let me know.
    I could help you out and perhaps we could meet up to catch a match.

  9. barca96
    April 8, 2011

    Valdes: “Justin Bieber played quite well. One of us tried to kick him but he was able to avoid it.”

    Hah! Take that you haters! 😆

  10. outerspacedout
    April 8, 2011

    I’d take the CL over La Liga, to be completely honest. I like the competition more.

    On the music argument. I’m a rather casual music listener who doesn’t really LOVE any band or have very strong feeling towards music. I listen to everything from Lady Gaga to heavy metal to classical music to All-American Rejects to pop to pretty much anything. I just like listening to music, I have very little feeling or emotional weight towards it- I feel that for books only, mostly, and that was just the past year or so. But some things I’ll mention, and mostly because I’m so so bored right now and have nothing better to do, are:

    – Even though the songs we remember from earlier eras are those songs we find great or classics, those are just the ones we remember and even long ago tons of the ‘mainstream, shallow music’ we lament this day and age being full of there were plenty of, and in the charts all the time too. It’s just the ‘great’ songs that people from later here and listen to now. Also, ‘greatness’ grows with time, where nostalgia can add to it and the fear of being hyperbole doesn’t take away from it- you can see how hesitant many people are to call modern-day football sides greatest ever, in any era, compared to sides of olden days, for many reasons- nostalgia, a better appreciation of the impact a side/band/song has had coming with time and not being visible when they’re still playing, the general non-conformist sort of feeling among many people that seriously following or loving something (football, music genres) is somehow something non-conformist and unlike the ‘masses’ that don’t love football/that genre as much like current music/sides/players, and the feeling that their superior knowledge of older music/football means they’re able to see/appreciate something the ‘masses’ don’t… Not saying this argument was said in the previous thread but just cos a lot of people say it nowadays in general: the whole ‘music back then was better’ argument a lot of people say quoting great old songs isn’t necessarily correct, I would say, because of how selective thinking back to ‘old music’ is. When you can pick and choose the greatest of an era and compare it to whatever is on the top of the charts this particular month, statistically the odds are stacked towards ‘older’ just because of the time frames involved (Am I phrasing this right?).

    – There DOES seem to be a sort of feeling that mainstream music does seem more and more alike, though. It might be because, like previous, selective memory only remembers the unique or great songs of previous times and even then there may have been tons of corny made-for-radio all-alike hits in the sound of that particular era which we just don’t remember when we think back to then as much, cos ‘then’ is defined by the flavor of those great songs we link to that age, while ‘now’ is defined by whatever we hear on the radio RIGHT now as in nothing of our selection in the ‘now’. I’ll only remember a handful of songs from 2000-2004 or so as in about five songs a year, maybe thirty or so songs a year from 2004-2009, and from the last two months I’ll remember almost all the songs that the radio has been playing a lot and are on the charts, which is about (forty)/(one-fiftieth of a year) a much higher concentration, which will inevitably have tons of stuff that are forgettable for me when I think about it next year but which I see now.

    Or maybe it’s just that the industry is becoming more efficient as hand-picking, promoting, and producing the exact template of songs the market likes most, in the charts? I still lean towards the earlier explanation, but that wouldn’t be illogical as well, I mean the mainstream music industry like any other industry should be getting smarter with time at creating a product, wouldn’t it?

    – On Justin Bieber. I used to find his voice really annoying, which is a simple enough reason to dislike. Now his voice is better, to my ears at least, so while I still don’t listen to his music I have less distaste towards him. While I do realize that the badass image of metal bands are just as likely designed to appeal to the market of devoted followers, or the provocativeness of major pop artists to make people talk and listen, or the image of indie bands designed to look undesigned and independent, I still dislike the Disney brand of doing it though. Namely Miley Cyrus and co.

    There is, for me, a difference between a metal band or a rock group or whatever that has been making the circuits or playing small shows and getting demos out and all in all had an identity and music BEFORE they were taken up, had an identity or a presence at their shows or a style or whatever that may have been funneled and touched up and marketed and modified by marketing execs, but is essentially augmenting or touching up an identity that was already there- and making one from scratch FOR the sole purpose of marketing it. Like taking a twelve or thirteen year old, designing her outfits, planning how she should act in public, telling him to dress in caps and hoodies, giving them catchphrases, writing her songs, running her through concerts- may be similar in principle, but still those specific things, creating a marketable person out of scratch, is something I have a huge distaste for. I think that is probably the ‘manufactured’ many people are talking about, but that’s what I think of when I say ‘manufactured’- the difference between starting sort of from scratch, and making an existing thing more marketable- both are not something I like, but I like the former a LOT less.

    – I’ll need practice to be more eloquent and less verbose. The art of saying something in a very short sentence that has the same meaning as something I may have written in a huge paragraph- where/how does one learn that? (Kevin? Soma? Anyone?)

    Okay back to football. I think we should rest many starters for the trip to Ukraine. It’s going to be very cold is my guess, which probably means increased risk of injury, and it’s really far away, which probably means tiring. I would drop some first-teamers out of the squad altogether, put some on the bench as insurance, and start some. Masch and Adriano shouldn’t be as tired as the others so they should start imo, Pique also. I want Adriano, Pique, Fontas, Alves, Masch, Keita, Afellay, Thiago, Villa, Bojan (Pedro comes on as sub, as does Maxwell). Messi needs rest, I don’t want to risk Xavi, and I want the midfield to be shut down.

    For the Clasico in the Bernabaeww. I would rather win the Copa final than this if I HAD to choose one match, but I do NOT want to lose any. So a shut-down game in the Bernabeu. Xavi HAS to play, of course, but I wouldn’t mind playing a slightly more solid line-up resting one or two starters.

    For the Copa final. Full-strength.

    For Almeria. Rest as much as we can. I don’t buy that this will be our hardest fixture, or that Almeria being desperate and having nothing to lose will really make it that hard. I think we have the motivation and the quality to put this to bed even without a full line-up. I don’t see them causing us much trouble either. Almeria isn’t physical or solid when they want to be like Gijon, Bilbao or Osasuna.

    • outerspacedout
      April 8, 2011

      Oh and about Cruyff and Ajax. Lev, I read you mentioned something about the plans being partnering with Barcelona and (snicker snicker) Arsenal? Any details on how exactly this partnering thing would work? Sending our youth to play with them to get experience in Eredivisie? Them sending their youth to Barca B to play at a higher level in the Segunda than they would in Dutch reserve leagues? Designing their new academies based on La Masia, or some partnership between them like making them sister academies? Any details?

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      April 9, 2011

      I agree that i like UCL more because it’s more glamorous and win it can lead you to another 2 trophies…

      but honestly, I think losing La Liga this year will hurt a lot more than losing UCL to our eternal rival…

      can you imagine after fighting for La Liga title in 38 matches and after weeks on top of the table, we end up only as a runner up?
      I’ll cry so bad…

      • outerspacedout
        April 9, 2011

        I’d be even more miserable losing the UCL were Madrid to win it. If it was between the choices of Madrid wins UCL & we win La Liga OR we win UCL & Madrid wins La Liga, I thiiiink I would plump for the CL. If it was ‘losing to them in the semi and then them losing to United/Chelsea/Schalke and especially Schalke LOL & us winning La Liga’ or them winning La Liga & us winning UCL, then maybe I’d choose us winning La Liga.

        • BarcaGirl_Indo
          April 9, 2011

          well, if we lose La Liga title but win the UCL,
          I won’t be so upset, I think…

          cause UCL gives you a chance to win two more trophies…

          but still, losing La Liga after 38 matches is just… meh…

    • soccermomof4
      April 9, 2011

      You forgot to add footnotes and references 🙂

  11. stowe
    April 8, 2011

    so what’s up with Bieber training?
    I don’t know if he was “manufactured” as much as discovered. At least he’s not Rebecca Black. She can’t sing at all and Bieber has a great voice (even if you don’t like it)

    Football: If we rest Messi in Ukraine then I think he plays the two following Classicos. I also think we play Iniesta in both since he will be out for the Ukraine game. great to see us have a great lead that we just protect. If we can get some nice Tiki Taka it will be no problem. If we don’t play Xavi in Ukraine should we play Keita? He seems to be much more effective beside Xavi. It would also be nice to see Busi play his normal position in the near future.
    I had a nightmare last night: Abidal to Arsenal in a deal for Fabregas; I couldn’t sleep after this. I was screaming for him to come back.

    • outerspacedout
      April 8, 2011

      Manufacturing: I personally mean the Disney school of things, dunno about the rest. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if he somehow miraculously got signed up to the Barca academy though? LOL imagine the ratings of our games. Barcelona games on GolTV- 20.2 million, Barcelona B games rebroadcast on E channel- 182.7 million. Hahahahaha. We would probably be able to get rid of our debt in a week selling the merchandise.

      Dreams about Barcelona: I hadn’t been on the internet much lately, and in one of my five(!) dreams last night, I opened up BFB and there was like NINE new posts. Six or seven of them by Kari. And I was trying to trawl through the comments for ALL of them… (the other dreams included one about it being Judgement Day, some other interesting one which I remember thinking about when I woke up and think had something to do with going out and some concert or something but can’t remember, something related to The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and don’t remember the fifth either).

      • outerspacedout
        April 8, 2011

        Numbers randomly made up for purpose of lame joke. I would think our games have ratings higher than 20 million though, by far.

  12. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 8, 2011

    just finished watching highlight vs Villareal and Shakhtar, again…

    it’s amazing that we conceded only 1 goal from two matches,
    considering our defense was scretched out like Spandex in Miami Beach, and VV was left naked… credit to Ray Hudson…

    I see in other forums the cules are starting to freak out and negative thinking about four El Clasico without Puyi and Abidal…

    and it is kinda sad that we have two natural CB’s on the squad (Milito and Fontas), but we must use our DM as a CB…
    especially Milito, whom Pep convinced to stay, but then dropped him on the bench…

    maybe we need to pray EE will have terrible finishings like Shakhtar…

  13. Eklavya
    April 9, 2011

    I am going to be a(nother) typical arrogant cule and say that I want all 3 titles served on my plate! With a roasted EE (4x) as a starter, thanks.

  14. 145culegirl
    April 9, 2011

    i font think Messi will star or even worse play in the game.I guess you forgot that he’s just one card away from being suspended and we certainly dont want to see a Messi-less El Clasico.Pep might not risk him.

    • Helge
      April 9, 2011

      Why not?
      Then he’ll be fit for the Copa and Sergio Ramos cannot tackle him to death in the Liga Clásico 🙂

  15. culeZim
    April 9, 2011

    could Fontas be worse than Busi in CB? and when is the last time Villa did something Affelay can’t?

  16. April 9, 2011

    Liga is the first, second, and third most important competition, CL is fourth, CDR is the 100th.

    Lack of pace at the back line is killing us. I still insist, we need to try a Pique- Masche combo with Busquets as a DM. I bet sMash would have tackled away lot of the Rossi and Luiz Adriano type of runs. Though against Almeria I guess we need to give time to Fontas, and maybe Milito as well.

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      April 9, 2011

      agree, wish Pep tried sMasch as a CB earlier this season!

      but again, could Fontas be worse than Milito/Busquets?

  17. Helge
    April 9, 2011

    My line-up:
    Alves, Piqué, Fontas, Maxwell

    Is Thiago in the squad, or did he play for Barça B yesterday?

  18. Eklavya
    April 9, 2011

    My lineup(s):

    Alves Pique Fontas Adriano
    Xavi Mascherano Iniests
    Pedro Messi Villa

    Messi plays today but not vs. Shaktar.

    Or else:

    Alves Pique Fontas Adriano
    Xavi Mascherano Thiago/Afellay
    Pedro Villa Iniesta

    • Jnice
      April 9, 2011

      You don’t think Maxwell has a chance to start?

      • Eklavya
        April 9, 2011

        He might, but I don’t want him to.
        Adriano > Maxwell.

        • culeZim
          April 9, 2011

          is Maxwell worse than he previously was or has Adriano improved?

  19. Extreme barca fan
    April 9, 2011

    If Pep Wasn’t a crzay person i would say the following:
    No player with 4 yellows should play, this means Mascherano and messi, Busi is suspended so Keita plays the DM, while Xavi and iniesta play in their usual places. and the lineup would be
    Mino, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell (or Adriano), Keita, Xavi, Iniesta, Pedro, Villa and Bojan
    If things are going OK we sub Xavi and Villa, if not Messi can come in and save our arse(nal)s
    But Pep is crzay so forget what i said

  20. mei
    April 9, 2011

    Agree with the 8-0 prediction.Well maybe not 8-0 but i will take a 6-0 as well.
    Mascherano will score tonight , you heard it hear first!

  21. April 9, 2011

    Yes, I don’t want to concede any title this year. Especially because a title conceded would most likely go to EE.

    Don’t want to lose the Liga cause we’re coming into the homestretch with such a big lead. Don’t want to lose the CL cause EE would have a big chance of winning the whole thing and they would be insufferable. Don’t want to lose the CDR cause again it’s EE who’ll take the cup. Wouldn’t mind losing to Bilbao or Betis (who played so well against us) in the CDR. Alas, neither one is in the finals.

    So really – we have to win against Almeria, win the CDR, win the first leg of the CL tie by a big margin. Although we can afford to lose or draw the Liga Clasico, we should win it as well as we don’t want to give EE a glimmer of hope. We should batter their confidence. Finally, with a big enough margin in the first tie, we can afford to…draw…the return leg. Despite our fragile backline and injury problems – I. JUST. CANNOT. THINK. OF. LOSING. TO. EE.

    • Helge
      April 9, 2011

      Me too, but I seriously doubt that EE will not win any title this season. They will get us, at least in one of the three competitions…

      On the other hand, if I am wrong and we beat EE to win another treble, this would definitely be the most awesomest experience a culé has ever had in his life! 😀

    • outerspacedout
      April 9, 2011

      Also, I found the suggestion by one of the commenters that the explanation for that famous/infamous picture of Pique and BANGS was that the other players got so sick of him that they paid Pique to harass him hilarious.

  22. soccermomof4
    April 9, 2011

    “Liga is the first, second, and third most important competition, CL is fourth, CDR is the 100th.” Ramzi

    I agree with Ramzi. Wholeheartedly!

    But I expect Pep to roll out with the best XI left standing for the CdR(Pinto instead of VV, but no biggy there, and he’s earned it) for the CdR because:
    1) Morbo
    2) the whole Catalan thing
    3) Nobody wants EE to hoist ANY silver
    4) we’ve worked so hard to get to this point let’s finish it! (as an aside, it is worth it to respect this title if for no other reason than to respect the work that the B teamers and non-starters did to get us here)

    I’m DVRing today (hafta work 🙁 ) so I’ll be watching Almeria about the same time as Kxevin will be rewatching it for reviews 🙂 But—
    For US viewers:
    GOLTV 2:00 EST—we got Ray 😀 and EE doesn’t ;D (they are on ESPN3 and ESPN Deportes at noon EST not that anyone cares except to root for the Basques)

  23. soccermomof4
    April 9, 2011

    Nice review as always, Iasaiah. Strange to read “never fear” and “Bojan is here” in the same sentence 🙂

  24. Helge
    April 9, 2011

    By the by, why does Barça B get so few attention in the Spanish media, and even from the Barça fans in Barcelona?

    I feel they are being treated unfairly, the stadium is never packed, indeed there are only about 5k viewers per home match, despite the beautiful football and raw talent that is exhibited there 🙁
    Sport and MD do not even make live text-coverage for their matches, it’s a shame!

    If I were living in Barcelona (or close to it) I’d go to watch as many matches as possible. The tickets cannot be that expensive, right?
    I even have to pay 30€ for a good seat to an Arminia Bielefeld match, my home club that is just about to finish with the worst ever amount of points in the German 2nd Division.
    I don’t think the match tickets for Barça B are more expensive, but they play 10 times more attractive and succesful football. Plus you get to see all those brilliant future stars of Spanish / Barcelona’s football.

    I simply cannot understand it, the B teamers, the coach Luis Entique, they deserve a lot more praise and in particular more attention for their historical season.
    Concerning the low number of spectators per home match, I would even go as far as Drogba, calling it a f***ing disgrace!

    • Batman
      April 9, 2011

      Helge, you absolutely have a point. Sometimes, i think that there are more passionate cules all around the world then in Barcelona (i’m not tryin go generalise, it’s just my opinnion…)

      And please would anyone tell me just how many yellow cards does Messi have? I read about 4, but the official site says 3:

      Let’s ask :))

      And… Pep’s statement towards La Liga is from my point of view just in order to keep them focused on La Liga, as far as the players are concerened. He doesn’t want them to get complacent over the next “easy” games in which we should walk on to the title.

      And as far as EE is concerned, Pep’s message is psychological trick. Because La Liga is most important, he says: EE, bring it on on 16th – which we all know, as we are physicaly superb, will mean that they will throw the Cup game on 20th…

      Ah, the future seems bright… :))

      I hope you understood my post-friday friday fun fun fun – english…

    • soccermomof4
      April 9, 2011

      The B team looked great yesterday(I felt sorry for Granada after a while, so many cards and playing down a man (could only watch the first half( hafta accomplish something during the day afterall))). Soriano’s the segunda Pichichi!I think the games are free to socis and only a handful of euros otherwise. If I ever make it over there it would mainly be to see the big guys play but I would definately go see the babies too!

      Wolves v. Everton is pretty fun right now. Howard just made 2 beautiful saves (I goot root for US’s #1 keeper !)

      • Helge
        April 9, 2011

        free to socis
        only a handful of euros
        Really ???
        That makes it even harder to understand the low number of spectators 🙁
        I DO feel pity with Luis Enrique and his lads. No wonder that Luis wants to leave… the numbers are equal to the ones of a 3rd division side placed in the bottom half of the table.

        • soccermomof4
          April 9, 2011

          That’s what I’ve heard. Maybe Kxevin could confirm.

  25. April 9, 2011

    Two things:

    –47 million for Neymar??!! His agent says that we are the “most interested.” You betcha. And I’m the Queen of England.

    –We have four Clasics coming up in the next month. This means that there are going to be visits by EE supporters to this space. Class, style and dignity, folks, not arrogance and responding to trolls. Never, ever forget that this game runs in cycles. Only two years ago, we were giving them the guard of honor at a match, and looking at something like an 18-point gap. The smack that you talk now can haunt you in the future. And if/when you visit their space, same rules apply: Do unto others.

    I haven’t been to, or commented at the EE Offside in a very long time, since I was attacked for simply being reasonable. And I can’t say that I ever will again. Not sure if the mentality has changed there, but Bassam is, from the last time that I visited, the exception rather than the rule.

    I think that clubs can hate clubs and fans can hate clubs, but when it comes to other fans, we’re all in the same boat: trapped in a pub or on a sofa, sweating, hoping every single week that our team has what it takes this week, to do the deed.

    I just don’t see any point in aggression or hostility. This place has, of late, regained its style. This next month is going to test that. Please keep that in mind.

  26. Blow-Grenade
    April 9, 2011

    My first choice for centre back pairing with Pique – Maxwell.
    Here is how the back four woud look like:
    Alves Pique Maxwell Adriano. Would like to see Pep pull this one out of the hat.

  27. Jim
    April 9, 2011

    I suppose we could try Masch at CB. Again though imo it’s wrong to think that tackling is the main attribute needed by a CB. In my book it’s positioning first by a long way, then pace, then tackling and height as you will spend a lot of your time jumping against tall forwards for balls you are expected to win 90% of the time. If we go with Fontas then Maxwell needs to play LB to help keep the back line secure and talk him through it.

    I’d like to see Messi sit both this and midweek out on the bench. He only needs a half to destroy anyone. Maybe also a game for Villa tonight and a rest midweek and give the young legs of Bojan and Pedro the task of running for 90 minutes and covering.

    Busi needs to get back to playing midfield with Xaviniesta both of whom should play both.

    • April 9, 2011

      Are you doubting Mascherano’s positioning quality? Hm… I am not sure how far Puyol is taller than sMach, too lazy to check now.

      The most important thing for me is that the center defense duet compliments each other. That’s how it worked for Marquez-Puyol before then Puyol-Pique. And thats why it did NOT work for Milito-Puyol (Even when Milito was at peak), while Milito-Pique at Zaragozza were pure perfection. And thats one of the reasons it didnt work for Chegrnskiy-Pique, and is struggling for Busquets-Pique. I bet if you put Busquets with Puyol in defense you get a 2 times better CB in Busquets than it is now. Identical mates rarely work in center back.

      I think Busquets is the closest to Pique when it come to attributes and sMach is closer to Puyol.

      • beeeef
        April 9, 2011

        I’m all for trying Mascherano at CB, although we have yet to see Pep experiment with the XI in that way. Which would leave me to believe that it both won’t happen (at least this season baring further injuries), and even if it did, the transition would be too sudden considering the gauntlet of difficult fixtures awaiting us.

      • Jim
        April 9, 2011

        Agreed on the pairing importance, Ramzi although I’m sure you wouldn’t ever back Masch against Puyol in going for a header 🙂 It’s more about determination and ability to leap, both of which Puyol has ridiculous amounts of.

        I’m not doubting Masch for CB. Personally I’d give Milito another chance but his time may have gone so Masch I’m sure will fill in for this game without incident. I do think it’s harder than most think to play CB,especially in our system where you can’t rely on cover from the FBs and you need the correct mindset for it. I would worry if he were CB against RM although he would give us a bit more pace which would be useful.

    • Lou
      April 9, 2011

      The problem with testing Mascherano as center back in today’s game is that he sort of has to play DM as Busi is suspended.

      If Pep really wants to check out his options he could try a Fontas-Milito partnership today, with Mascherano as DM, and a Pique-Mascherano with Busi playing DM against Shaktar next week. Shaktar might not be a bad test for Madrid as they are a very pacey team. That way if Pique-Mascherano is really not working at all Pep can just switch the positions of Busi and Masch.

      I’d be surprised if Pique doesn’t start today though, especially given that Valdes is suspended.

    • outerspacedout
      April 9, 2011

      But positioning in the different roles are different. Van Nistelrooy would have been a crappy centre-back. Positioning as a DM and positioning as a CB are different things, being good at one role doesn’t necessarily make a player good at positioning in the other does it though? I mean Busquets has even better positioning than Mascherano in the DM role, if we’re looking at positioning alone, right?

      But yeah, the fact that opposites go together best in great defenses is what I notice too. Ferdinand is the smooth one, Vidic is the battler; Carvalho was the smooth one and Terry the battler in the solid Chelsea sides of 2005 or so; Lucio the one with ability on the ball, Samuel the Wall; our very own Pique as Piquenbauer and Puyol as Caveman. In that sense Busquets and Pique don’t go together well.

      But for me, especially with refs in La Liga, I would feel apprehensive about putting Mascherano where he might be the last man in defense. Also, from the admittedly few games I had seen him so and from what Liverpool followers on the forum had mentioned, he was rather bad playing CB for Liverpool though he was quite good at RB. That and how as Jim mentions Puyol, even though he is only two inches taller, from what I see at least seems to be much better in the air.

      I’d like to see Mascherano get playing time at CB in a low-pressure game or one against weaker opposition to prepare for when we might need an emergency option, though.

  28. vicsoc
    April 9, 2011

    Hey guys, remember me? I’m going to come out from under my rock today to bring you the liveblog.

    I agree with Ramzi et. al that Mascherano needs to have some experience at center back, but I think in this game it is more crucial to get Fontas some first team minutes. Lou makes a good point that Busquets is suspended.

    This is a game that Afellay absolutely must start.

  29. footballfan
    April 9, 2011

    No alonso, ronaldo and ozil for Real’s starting 11. Higuain is playing though.

    • blaunero
      April 9, 2011

      I think it’s a smart move by Mourinho. If they win they will have managed to do so without their first team, and if they lose points, well he’ll be able to say the league was compromised anyway, and resting the star players ahead of the April rush with a possible four Clasicos is more important at this point.

  30. Barcaleya
    April 9, 2011

    Seems like Fontas will start, right? But no Affelay on the possible line-up of Barcastuff. It’s Alves Pique Fontas Maxwell. Xavi Mascherano Keita. Pedro Messi Iniesta. So far….

    I’m going to miss your liveblog Vicsoc. Will join Isaiah (if he goes) and the rest of the Brooklyn penya in a while. Goodluck to us! Visca Barca!

  31. outerspacedout
    April 9, 2011

    EE playing Iker, Pepe, Ramos, Albiol, Arbeloa, Garay, Kaka, Diarra, Granero, Di Maria, Higuain. Weird line-up, as predicted by Ed Alvarez in the Quiniela.

  32. Miguel
    April 9, 2011

    You’re fucking kidding me? Not that I saw it. I’m half asleep.

    • footballfan
      April 9, 2011

      Stupid decision by the keeper really. On another note, it’s nice to see Kaka scoring.

  33. blitzen
    April 9, 2011

    Of course they score from a penalty.

    • vicsoc
      April 9, 2011

      What are you talking about they never get penalt…

      Oh wait.

  34. Artur
    April 9, 2011

    Bilbao simply owning Madrid, but of course theyre gonna get a penalty .. sigh

  35. blaunero
    April 9, 2011

    What the hell was the goalie thinking?

  36. Jose
    April 9, 2011

    Totally stupid penalty to concede for Athletic Club. DiMaria definitely looked for it but Iraizoz took the bait.

  37. Barcaleya
    April 9, 2011

    Argh. Please win this, Bilbao. Just don’t concede any more penalties.

  38. blaunero
    April 9, 2011

    I have a feeling this won’t end well for Athletic.

    • Barcaleya
      April 9, 2011

      Blaunero, be negative for EE. Not for Bilbao 😀

      • blaunero
        April 9, 2011

        It’s just a feeling and I hope I’m wrong obviously, not only because EE would lose points but also because I have a soft spot for the Basques.

        • Barcaleya
          April 9, 2011

          Me too. I love the Basques! I love that they’ve insisted on this all-basque team (though loosened up in recent times) and have never been relegated despite that. I really should have visited San Mames when I went to Bilbao….

          • blaunero
            April 9, 2011

            The Basques are lovely people living in a beautiful place. I will visit La Catedral this summer, I’ve promised myself.

  39. vicsoc
    April 9, 2011

    Madrid looks like they are going to concede. I never thought I’d say this but they could really use Lass in the middle of the field.

  40. blitzen
    April 9, 2011

    Iniesta trained yesterday with personalized boots with the name of his daughter Valeria on it. It’s not clear if he’ll wear them today [md]

    Awwwww! Bless.

  41. footballfan
    April 9, 2011

    Athletic defensive line is so shaky. Over-reliance on offside trap almost costs them a couple of times now.

  42. blitzen
    April 9, 2011

    Man! if that was Barcelona someone (Pedro, probably) would have been there to knock that rebound in. You have to make that run.

  43. vicsoc
    April 9, 2011

    I have to say Bilbao is impressing. Aside from the penalty I think they’ve had the better of the game so far.

  44. blitzen
    April 9, 2011

    How do you say “es penalti!” in Basque?

  45. Artur
    April 9, 2011

    Here’s a very interesting stat

    Barcastuff Most assists this season: Messi 23 – Alves 15 – Xavi 13 – Iniesta 11 #fcblive [via md]

  46. Artur
    April 9, 2011

    Barcelona line-up (official): Pinto – Alves Pique Milito Maxwell – Xavi Mascherano Thiago – Iniesta Messi Bojan

    Is Pep resting Villa or lost trust in him?

    I can’t say i expected this line up at all.

    Although I’m kinda curious how midfield of Xavi/Iniesta/Thiago and Messi is gonna work out with Masch as well to keep solidity

  47. vicsoc
    April 9, 2011


    Alves Pique Milito Maxwell
    Xavi Mascherano Thiago
    Iniesta Messi Bojan

    • Helge
      April 9, 2011

      damn it!

      Why the heck has Fontas even been promoted?!?

    • blitzen
      April 9, 2011

      Jeffren didn’t even make the bench again. he is definitely leaving this summer. Poor kid.

  48. April 9, 2011


    “But positioning in the different roles are different. Van Nistelrooy would have been a crappy centre-back.”

    Ironically Van Nistelrooy started his career as a CB! 🙂

  49. Jim
    April 9, 2011

    Is Pedro still carrying an injury? If not, I’d have said he needs games. Can’t see the point of Messi starting myself.

    • vicsoc
      April 9, 2011

      Depends. I don’t mind him starting, what I’m worried about is that he will play the whole game.

  50. blitzen
    April 9, 2011

    Surprise! Di Maria down in the box! Es penalti!

  51. Miguel
    April 9, 2011

    Dive Maria again. Good call, though.

    • blitzen
      April 9, 2011

      Not even going to bother watching the rest. Going to get lunch before our game starts.

      Stupid Bilboners.

  52. Josep
    April 9, 2011

    I don’t know if I dislike di maria more or Ronaldo.

    I don’t think that was a penalty, he went down so, so easily.

    • blitzen
      April 9, 2011

      Definitely Di Maria. CRonaldo at least can do other things besides dive,

    • Jose
      April 9, 2011

      I’d say they both were penalties. DiMaria is good at getting them. 1) Kicking away the ball so the keeper only got legs was purely penalty fishing and 2) exaggerating the contact with Castillo (who was mainly just falling back). But Athletic Club still takes the blame for falling for those moves.

      • April 9, 2011

        It’s gonna bite him in the arse though. Once refs know he’s trying to get penals, they’ll be much more strict (eventually). Not to mention he’ll never get the benefit of the doubt in big games.

      • Josep
        April 9, 2011

        for me, with the way the ref has been calling the game that second is no way a PK. down at the other end a minute later the same thing happened someone went down when ramos blocked his path no foul.

        Bilbao have had about 3-4 penalty shouts turned down and RM get 2.

  53. Jim
    April 9, 2011

    Problem is Pep never subs before the 60th minute so he’ll be playing for an hour with a game in three days then a Clasico four days later. Bench him and only bring him on if needed and you might not need him at all. I’d do the same on Tuesday.

    What also worries me is that last week during the Shaktar game the commentators referred to him as having a niggling groin injury which the club were managing. I’ve not seen that anywhere else so I’m hoping it’s nonsense but it’s be good to keep him fresh for the run in.

  54. Josep
    April 9, 2011

    what the fuck why is our lineup so stupid, Pep doesn’t know how to rotate players at all.

    • Artur
      April 9, 2011

      But it always works lol
      We all wish we could read Pep’s mind, I bet this one revolves around Thiago. I think he wants to see creativity of Thiago with a strong midfield and defense (Maxwell and Mascherano) while giving him solid attackers and finishers for him to find final pass. However I still dont understand why he benched Villa for Bojan nor started Pedro

  55. Josep
    April 9, 2011

    Ramos misses clasico, Granero does too

  56. vicsoc
    April 9, 2011

    I got trigger happy and put up the liveblog a bit early. See you all about 7 minutes and 33 seconds before the game.

  57. Josep
    April 9, 2011

    di maria has gotten 7 PKs in the league thats more than most teams.

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