Barca 3, Almeria 1, aka “Why bother? Somebody else will do it.” EDIT

"Snoopy dance! Snoopy dance!"

In Pep We Trust

It bears repeating, I think, because nobody knows a team like its coach. All of his dire predictions of gloom and doom were scoffed at, as results made us look lovelier than we should have. But Guardiola knows.

–Who knows how the tie would have gone against Shakhtar had they taken that early chance, or the three others, and we hadn’t gotten lucky setup deflections on two of our goals.

–We can’t lose this match against Almeria, he said, cognizant of the fact that right now, his charges are on a down slope.

So somehow (well, we know how), some way, we got it done today to maintain the 8-point lead going into El Clasic, a match that isn’t completely meaningless, but it’s a lot less meaningful than it would have been with a 5-point lead. And this is good, because the phrase of the day today was “Somebody else will do it.” My memory strains to find a sleepier, more half-assed display by our players. What, did playing keepe-uppe with Justin Bieber wear them out? Has the quality of our side jaded even us? A star always comes to make a great play. Surely the same will be true today, so I’m going to trot instead of run. Yes.


Did Almeria deserve better? Well, you rarely don’t get what you deserve, so no. But they played a much better match than the scoreline indicates, in an evening that wasn’t the stroll in the park that many predicted. Yes, we put 8 past this side in their house last time, but we were on form then and they weren’t playing for their Liga lives as they are now, with each player desperately trying to impress a new coach. They played harder than we did, ran harder, defended harder, came out and played football in a commendable effort that justice didn’t see fit to award with anything more than an on-paper lopsided scoreline.

But this match was so fraught because we were so bad. Guardiola rolled out with a lineup that should have been enough to get the job done, with style: Pinto, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Mascherano, Thiago, Xavi, Messi, Krkic, Iniesta. That it was such a disjointed, lackluster mess had everything to do with the approach to the game. How often does Xavi find himself holding the ball with nobody to pass it to, as he was during too many moments of that first half? With no off-the-ball movement and real effort, it was a time that was screaming for a great individual effort, one that we got from Bojan Krkic.

For about 25 minutes, he was the player that all of his believers argued for: dynamic, aggressive, quick to every ball and always dangerous, far and away our best player on the pitch. His reward for that was to have his season ended by a lunging tackle that wasn’t even malicious, just the kind of tackle that you get from lesser players playing out of desperation, rather than skill.

This moment was typical of the day.

You could see it. Thiago was getting caught on the ball, or serving up a slow backheel that was just begging for an Almeria player to run onto it. Messi had a stupid giveaway that gifted Almeria a break, forcing Mascherano to have to take one for the team, picking up the yellow card that will rule him out for the next Clasic. That we ended the first half scoreless wasn’t at all surprising, really, because we weren’t playing as if we wanted to win the match. Off the ball movement? Why? This is Almeria! Width? Why? This is Almeria! It will happen, don’t you worry. That it did indeed happen doesn’t excuse this one, a match that Guardiola could see coming like a freight train.

So Messi did the Quixote thing and their defenders took the ball, or we shuffled and bobbled into their box, where their defenders took the ball. And when they put us on the back foot, with a bunch of possession and three corners in about 5 minutes, you could see the worry in the players’ faces. That worry wasn’t sufficient to make anyone actually do anything about it, and shortly after the start of the second half, we were suddenly down 0-1.

–Xavi knocked a pass to Iniesta that found him in acres of space, but on the wing, facing 4 defenders.
–Iniesta has control, but against two defenders on the wing and the end line as a third defender, the Ghostface Express is going nowhere fast.
–After Iniesta loses the ball, he kinda trots after it before deciding “Well, somebody else will do it.”
–Thiago steamed over as if to stop the ball, arriving at the same time as Mascherano. He didn’t do anything except put sMasch off, who took a futile lunge.

At this point, Almeria are off to the races and we are racing to the ball, forgetting that the ball moves faster than the man, so it might behoove us to mark someone. Like, oh, say that guy running off by himself, just waiting for the pass so that he could slot home. Milito was the last man back, stuck between the attacker and the free runner. As the pass came, he tried a desperate rearward lunge, knowing that if he didn’t pull it off, it was going to be a goal. He was right.

It was 0-1, and it was now crucial for Almeria to stabilize the match, to settle things down and get through the next 10 minutes without conceding. Problem with that approach is individual quality that can pop up at any time, even when the side is playing like crap. So Milito, as if to atone, bangs an amazing pass over distance for Villa that falls in the perfect spot for him to run onto. He does, getting there a fraction before the Almeria keeper, who takes him down. Penalty. Messi slots home, and it’s 1-1.

More crucially, the goal was a bucket of ice water in the face, sufficient to make us start playing as if we wanted the match, to stop playing like “Hey, it’s Almeria” and start playing like “Hey, it’s the league championship.” Big difference. From that moment on, we began to play, if not like our old selves at least like a side that wanted to win the match and complicate the math equations that argue against our winning the Liga.

We continued to pile on the pressure, grabbing a corner. Messi took it, and Thiago smoked it, making a run from the back that found him meeting the ball at full tilt, as he outfought and jumped the defender, glancing the ball past Diego Alves for the 2-1 lead. It was a brilliant goal, and one that should have found him texting Villa to say, “That’s how you head a ball past the keeper.” Because yes, the crowd was still buzzing after Villa wasted a brilliant Messi pass that dropped right onto the top of his head, to smash it directly into Alves’ midsection.

El Kabong

Still, it was 2-1 and we decided to take our foot off the gas, playing a possession game, looking for obvious openings if they came but most importantly, keeping them from scoring. That they almost did is a credit to how poor we were, and the stunning lack of pace present in our back line. Guardiola has repeatedly said that without the ball, we’re crap. These days, we seem bound and determined to prove him right at every opportunity, today in a match that was still balanced on a knife’s edge.

We had control, but Almeria were hopeful, bringing in quick and fast players such as Uche and Goitom, athletes capable of getting behind our back line and doing some damage with just the right pass as they pressed and hustled, seeking that equalizer. Then, suddenly, it happened, another of those moments of which there have been plenty this season, where a moment of astounding individual excellence makes things suddenly very different.

In this case, a pass toward the box was cleared off the volley by Keita, a full-legged swing that got some hip into it, a ball that was probably intended to do nothing more than let us reset by giving their defenders and keeper something to do. But who was figuring that, in the 90th minute of a hard-fought match, Messi would have the energy to chase the ball, running at the defender and causing him to just steal a look at the onrushing Messi. In that moment, suddenly what should have been an easy defensive header was misjudged and Messi fought off the defender and the foul attempt, controlling and quickly, before he could be fouled or stopped, lifted a delicate chip over the sliding Alves and into goal. 3-1, and we were done. And so was Almeria.

The 3-1 scoreline won’t reflect how difficult we made this match. Can a team be on form all the time? No. You pick and choose. We’re in a trough right now, and hopefully will come out at the right time. Nothing, nothing at all should be read into the hoops reversal of fortune that saw Regal Barca downed by EE in a close one, after the first hoops Clasic saw Regal Barca putting the wood to EE just like the footy side did. It’s been a brutal stretch for Regal, who were also eliminated from the EuroLeague by Panathinaikos. But …. nothing to see here, just move on.

Team: 4. At least try. Just because you’re talented, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t always try as hard as you can. It’s a long season, made longer by being alive for all three remaining cups, in addition to international duties. Yes, you’re tired. But the end is so close. Precious little support, precious little movement, precious little Messi, who bailed out the enterprise. Precious, indeed.

Guardiola: 7. Right lineup, right subs, but you have to have your side ready to play a match such as this one. They should have come out like rabid dogs, killed Almeria then cruised home. Would have saved more energy than having to fight almost the entire way.

Pinto: 5. Didn’t have a ton to do, except a few easy saves, long clearances and then picking the ball out of his own net. It’s hard to fault him for the goal. Any keeper would have been dead to rights on that one. I’m pleased that he’s renewed for next season. He’s a more than solid backup keeper, who deserves to get the start in the Copa final, Clasic though it is.

Alves: 5. His purple patch continues, as he sprayed balls all over the place. Solid defense, but the width that came with his attacking in quality positions and with quality efforts was sorely missed today. Did signing that new contract suck out his energy?

Pique: 5. Stop it with the long, diagonal passes. Just stop it. They never work, and just cede possession. And work on your pressure decision making. You had as good a chance as anyone to stop that goal, but chose the wrong angle to run at the attacker. Piatti got you a lot more than you got him, as well. A few excellent plays as well to balance out the accounts, sort of.

Milito: 6. I don’t think you’re washed up, just no longer able to fully cut it at our level. Solid match nonetheless, with flashes of quality that put the lie to the doubters. But it’s lack of pace that is the killer these days, as the only opportunities that sides are going to have against us is on the break. This requires pace. Love the long passes, and positionally, very solid as well.

Maxwell: 5. I miss Adriano. An okay match, but between overhitting passes and occasional uncertainty, it was a complex match for Maxwell. Then there was that 5-minute period where he just seemed to go crazy, running around everywhere and not getting anything done. And way to miss what should have been a relatively easy putaway.

Mascherano: 5. The usual command and control just weren’t there today, even against a team that did a lot of its damage through the midfield. Also loose with passes, and generally mediocre, like everyone else. Spent an uncharacteristic amount of time chasing play.

Thiago: 5. Sometimes, the hot dog doesn’t need mustard. What makes Xavi Xavi is that he makes the pass. No backheel, no flourish, just a tidy, simple delivery of the ball. Take notes. It must also be said that his was a man’s header, not quite Puyolesque in its quality, but certainly in its timing. Thiago will also learn to adjust his play to his teammates. When they’re off, he will learn to be more direct, and make it easier for them.

Xavi: 6. Positively brimming with adequacy. Some giveaways, and lacked much of his usual control of the situation, exacerbated by the fact that he was without his usual cohorts, Busquets and Iniesta, leading to a lot of “Now what?” moments.

Iniesta: 4. Don’t tell me that the late nights and changing poopy diapers are already catching up to him. Way off today, from his touch to his decision making. Not sure why malaise is always team-wide, but he seemed to be among the most affected. The ball at times seemed a foreign object for him.

Krkic: incomplete. The injury cut short his match, but he was playing his way to a high rating, for sure. He was our best player on the pitch, moving like a colt unbound. As usual, he was coming alive late in the season. His on-pitch stretch would be a solid 8, for sure.

Messi: 5. He wasn’t himself by any stretch of the imagination, and yet he is MOTM, and was involved in every one of our goals. That’s one hell of an accomplishment, and one hell of a personal standard. His individual runs played right into the hands of the Almeria defenders, every time. He really missed Alves, and the times that he tried to get anyone else involved, it was in a high-wire act in close quarters that didn’t have a chance of succeeding. And yet, two amazing plays provided the winning comfort margin. Impressive.


Villa (for Krkic): 4. Increasingly lost out there. He had a much better match against Shakhtar, and he looked exhausted today, bent over and panting. Runs not made, passes not completed as he slid into increasing invisibility as the match progressed.

Pedro (for Milito): 4. Still playing his way back, but starting to look like himself. Shame he missed that put-back chance, and when he’s on, he isn’t shooting directly at the keeper. Not as demonic on the defensive end, either.

Keita (for Thiago): incomplete. Keita came in and does what he does best: be there. He sometimes changes plays by just being in the way, paving the way for a teammate to make the play. Selfless, strong and still a quality, quality player. And we have to credit him with an assist, I guess on the Messi goal.

And now the lead sits at 8, functionally 9 points, since a tie won’t be sufficient unless they beat us 6-0 at their house. Insurmountable? Nope. Highly unlikely to be surmounted? You betcha. I’d throw out a B side in the Bernabeu and sit back, but that’s why I’m writing crap, instead of coaching the best club in the world.

–By the by, that club is leading La Liga over its fiercest historic rival by 8 points, and is all but in the semi-finals of the Champions League as well as in the Copa del NIT…. erm …. Reig finals. We have a starting XI that any club in the world would salivate over. Is there any real reason to be down on this group? Yes, they will play bad matches, but truth to tell if I’d been running that LiveBlog today, I would have shut it down. Ridiculous. We aren’t Almeria or Hercules, or even Atletico Madrid or Valencia. We are FC Barcelona. We gonna act like it, or what?

Sad Bojangles

Get well soon, and see you next season.

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. Srna picked up a knock and is reportedly not going to play in leg two the CL match.

    That means that both Srna and Rat would not be playing as Rat misses the match due to cards.

    Not having those two playing will make it much easier for Barca to defend. Much of their width comes from those two players making forward runs. They are also both dangerous on the counter.

    Sport is reporting that Bojan’s injury was a partial tear of his posterior cruciate ligament. As far as injuries go, it’s fortunate that the didn’t tear the anterior ligament as that bears stress on the knee. An anterior cruciate injury can often take up to a year to recover from.

    Let’s hope the tear isn’t too bad and they can avoid surgery.

    You could just see how disappointed Bojan was. He tried to stay in the match but there’s no way you can play through that kind of injury.

    They are very fortunate to have been able to pick up Afellay over the winter. He’s even more valuable now given that Bojan is out for the season.

    1. I really did feel bad for Bojan. Luck isn’t on his side, but hopefully he bounces back strong. I can see him using this as a motivation in the summer to strengthen his body even more than he has over the past couple of summers.

    2. This must be devastating for Bojan. Just when he was in form and playing really well. That run he made in yesterday’s game was terrific and should have resulted in a goal if Thiago had been just a titch faster.

      Poor kid. 🙁

      At least Jeffren might get a run-out now, though.

    3. Tough luck for Bojan, but he’ll bounce back!
      Anyone remember Messi and his run of injuries under Rijkaard’s era? Every year, he’d pick up some long-term injury. That brings me to the question – are players in the 17-22 range more prone to injuries?

  2. I’d rather have Milito at the back than Busi. My logic is that I’d rather have a slow true centre back than a slow makeshift CB + a makeshift defensive midfielder (e.g. Keita).

    And I personally don’t see the harm in keeping Maxwell around. We aren’t a very deep squad as is.

  3. Looks like Srna and Txigrinski will both not be available for the CL 2nd leg. And then there is another defender(?) suspended, wasn’t it Razvan Rat???
    Anyway, Shakhtar loses its captain and will have to make do with an irregular defensive formation, I think we can play a weaker line-up @ the Donbass Arena 🙂

  4. Kxevin, this isn’t a criticism by any means, but I was reading over some old reviews from last year (oh, procrastination, you are my friend) and you often wrote the player summaries as though you were speaking to the player. I’ve noted during the last few reviews (possibly much longer than that, but I wasn’t paying attention previously) that you speak about the players in the third person. I wondered if there was a reason you’d switched, or if it was unconscious.

  5. Keita as CB anyone? Pep has tried Busquets and Masch there. Then midfield will be the usual Busquets Xavi Iniesta and MVP upfront.

  6. We got the 3 points !!! it was fugly, but it worked.

    I know everyone is really concerned with the EE matches, but I’ve said this before and right before the 5-0, against Madrid it isn’t the players and their individual qualities necessarily that win, its our style. Some teams CAN play without the ball and chase it around and cut off our style, but Madrid players CAN’T seem to quite do it. They played their BEST team in the 5-0, Ozil was running around and tired at around the 20th minute mark, Xabi Alonso also tires quickly. If we can get past EE for their first 15 minutes, and just not allow them the ball much like the 5-0, we’ve got a win, they stop running, they don’t like to play monkey in the middle and Mourinho may have a plan, but its his players attitudes that he can’t change.
    Plus I am also okay with losing the Liga Clasico so long as Thong Boy doesn’t score.

  7. The way Pep’s mind works I reckon it’s almost a given now that Milito will play at CB along with Pique against RM. He won’t throw in anyone he doesn’t have to. The upside of that is that we will have our best three in midfield and along with Messi, a fitter Pedro and Villa that is as good a ball hogging combo as we will need. Remember last time they hardly got a kick.

    Only question is can we do that again ? you’d have to say that’s unlikely as we played virtually the perfect possession/ pressing match and they are unlikely to give us as much time as they did last time. That means we will have more to cope with defensively than last time which equals a few issues for us. However,

    Best back four? Adriano or Maxwell? Thiago or Keita instead of whoever ? (No wait, I’m putting the foot down at Iniesta playing the wing again )

    I haven’t a clue but I know a man who does . ..

    Last thought – I might be tempted to ask Keita to play at CB midweek, you know. He’s tall, can tackle, isn’t slow, is used to reading the game in midfield, has quick enough feet, can pass the ball. We could do worse. As I understand it the only reason it didn’t happen before was that Keita told Pep he didn’t think he could handle it.

    1. I think Keita told Pep he couldn’t play LB, not CB. I wouldn’t mind seeing how Keita does there, though.

      I regret us not having a bigger lead yesterday because that might’ve enabled Pep to tryout some different things.

  8. Thanks for the great review, Kevin!

    The game was terrible – made better only by the fact that I watched it with Isaiah and his crew who were so much fun. Yay!

    I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing in the first half. So many loose passes (including Thiago backheels) going straight to opponents. And in the second half, the sequence of play leading to Almeria goal was downright embarrassing. Our players stood and did nothing. No one even seem to anticipate it happening. Lack of pace can be remedied by anticipation. By being in the right position. Poor Milito – who was left on his own against two players.

    But we got the win which is what matters now. I was tempted to think that our team display at Almeria was meant to lull EE into a false sense of complacency. If only this were true. I found our players slow and dull yesterday.

    BUT I’m really thankful for the win. And I’m sure we’ll recover and play better in the Clasicos. *on her knees praying*

  9. 6 – Racing have now dropped the most points in Liga BBVA this season because of goals conceded in the 90th minute or later. Robbed
    -Opta Sports

    Poor Racing. Your little brother isn’t supposed to cooler than you are, Gio.

    1. As an Arsenal fan, I’m not sure how to react with this piece of news. I certainly hope there will be more money to be spent on transfer, but it doesn’t feel like a really good news.

  10. Does anybody have an English stream of the Villerreal/Valencia match? Preferably with Ray-Ray commentary?

    1. It’s Sid Lowe MC’ing. Watching on TVland.

      I’m gonna miss the second half. 🙁 Why do I have to play the role of the child in my friends’ shared custody battles? I don’t want to hear your marital problems. I want to watch Villarreal.

    2. Oh! Here’s Ray Ray’s twitter, though:

      3-1, Messi. “The North American Indians would call him ‘tatonka’ — buffalo — because he’s that strong. He’s got the dexterity of a flea.”
      about 21 hours ago via web
      Ray on Justin Bieber: “Canada should apologize.”

      Cool! It’s not really him, is it?

      Soldado stike puts Valencia ahead. Boo.

    3. I think it IS him, or rather, transcripts of his more memorable quotes. And bah, I’m rooting for Villerreal myself as well.

  11. Valencia is playing a very intelligent game. They are attacking Villareal up the flanks, especially on transitions and counters.

    This is a problem for Villareal because their interiores pull centrally when in possession to prevent villareal from being outnumbered in midfield while still playing a two striker formation.

    This leaves the villareal full backs all alone to defend the flanks on transitions. Villareal can’t press or put pressure on the ball wide as it’s only one defender by himself.

    And that’s made worse due to the fact that so much of villareal’s width has to come from the full backs. So they have to push up while still not getting caught 1 vs. 1.

    This is why villareal often look shaky at the back. They play that high line but if they don’t press really hard and run really hard to close down the ball that high line can get picked apart, especially off the edges.

    1. Valencia learning from us 😀 One-twos between Mata and Banega. Brilliant goal from start to finish.

  12. I know it’s dangerous to vet too far ahead of ourselves, but I just had a crazy thought for El Clasico. Afellay played as a defensive midfielder for PSV near the Ned of his time there, right? Do you think there is any chance he could perform there in the first clasico? Busquets at center back, Afellay at defensive midfield (probably with Keita in the midfield as well).

    It seems like a bit of a stretch and it would definitely be a gamble, but with the prospect of Milito starting at center back I think Pep needs to examine all of his options very closely.

    1. Vicsoc,

      I was just kicking that idea around in my head yesterday.

      Afellay did play defensive midfield for PSV for a fair amount of time last season.

      It wasn’t his best position but he does have experience there.

      In the Clasico I would probably try using Keita as the holding player with Busquets at the back. But using Afellay is an interesting idea.

      I’m concerned about Milito playing at CB. He just has very little recovery speed anymore. He just can’t cover for the mistakes the players in front of him make nor does he recover well for a mistake he himself makes. He just doesn’t have the pace.

      I think the team would be better served by introducing a player with more pace in the holding position and moving Busquets to CB.

    2. You’d be more likely to see JdS in a holding role than Afellay, I’d think. Fontas does a great job there, too, dropping back whenever needed to play as a third CB. We’ll probably see Keiteee there, though.

      3-0, Valencia. I’m outta here.

    3. Even though I suspect Pep will go with Keita as DM and Busquets at centreback, I really don’t like the idea of anyone besides Busi at DM. In my mind, that would weaken the midfield too much and put our CBs under even more pressure. Plus, like Kxevin said in another review, Keita is not good against players who have a lot of speed.

    4. I think the classico will all be about our offensive player’s performance.
      We will definitely be presented with an unfamiliar pick regarding the players that will form the defence and the middle : if busquets is not in the midfield and iniesta might be picked to play in a forward position if pedro cant play for the whole match its all about the pressure, effectiveness and the danger outlook of our attack line.
      If we press them hard enough and look quite dangerous , couple this with a goal then real madrid will instantly start to look more hesitant to go forward or to even counter convincingly and at any given opportunity.

  13. Villareal have just completely fallen apart.

    Having to play Capdevilla in an advanced position on the left flank has been a disaster.

    Over and over Valencia were able to play fastballs to the left flank which left Villareal exposed to 1 vs. 1 situation. That was their primary strategy.

    But on the whole this was a match where valencia intelligently exploited the weaknesses of the 4-2-2-2 and the transitions involved by playing at speed down the flanks.

    And like that Soldado scores again. Just a disaster at the back for the Yellow Submarine.

    Villareal’s system takes a huge amount of pace and fitness to play over the course of a season. And if their pressure at the top fades even a little their high back line gets destroyed.

    It just goes to show how remarkable Barca is in the way they defend and play on the pres.

    But credit to Unai Emery. He planned this match perfectly.

    1. I just hope our equally or even higher back line doesn’t get destroyed by Real Madrid in the next Clásicos…
      Nobody would have expected Valencia to win 5-0, right?

    2. When a high backline is not sufficiently supported by pressure across the pitch it can get very ugly quickly.

      That said, Villareal press is much more complicated than Barca’s and more fragile, especially on transitions.

      It’s a testament to how good Barca is defensively and what Pep has done tactically.

      Also – Madrid are fairly vulnerable to being pressed. Their players, particularly in the center midfield don’t feel comfortable being pressed. Both Alonso and Ozil really thrive in space but are susceptible to pressure.

      It’s the defense forward up the pitch which will be the key to protecting the Barca backline. It’s ironic but that’s how Barca plays. The advanced “attacking” players in many ways protect the “defenders.”

    3. Thanks for the insightful comment Euler.
      It takes away a little bit of my nervousness 🙂

  14. So on tv right now, they are showing El Clasico the movie (in Spanish). I’m not sure what channel it’s actually on since I watch football on DirecTV Latin America’s Sports Channels. Maybe GolTV? But the imagery is AMAZING. Seeing Messi’s dribbles in slow motion is really something else.

  15. Jim, thanks for taking the time to re-watch the first half and look at what Maxwell did or didn’t do. If you look at my argument, though, I included the second half in my assessment of him. I think you may find that he was worse in the second half than in the first.

    As for the type of passes he attempted, he’s attempting passes that I don’t think he has the quality to make. It may come off every once in awhile, but there’s a reason most of them never come off. Alves can do that, because I know that ultimately, he has the quality and that’s his game. Might be a double standard (for good reason), but when Maxwell does it, it seems to me that we are wasting possession unnecessarily.

    I didn’t criticize him defensively, so you didn’t need to include what he did on that end.

    And no offense, but IMO saying things like “Villa appreciated it – he gave it an immediate thumbs up” is stretching things a bit in order to boost his credibility. I’ve seen Villa give thumbs up for shit passes.

    But my feelings on Maxwell came without viewing the match a second time, so if you say Maxwell wasn’t that bad offensively, I’ll take your word for it. You have evidence- I don’t. I just thought he looked dire for stretches and nowhere as assured as Adriano has looked in recent weeks, but I could be wrong, no problem.

    1. Thanks for the reasonable reply, Jnice. I didn’t have the time (or inclination) to watch the whole match again – don’t know how Kxevin does it – and you may be right that he deteriorated as the game went on. i can’t say. I do remember a great low cross and a couple of good moves inside with the ball ( including ironically the one which ended up with Iniesta losing the ball and us losing a goal !) but not much else.

      I’ve begun to doubt he has the will to attack rather than the quality – you’ll not see a better pass than his reverse one to Iniesta but I do think he attempted a bit more last night until Pep gave him the word to play it tighter. We may never know if he has the quality as Adriano may now be getting the nod ahead of him. However, that wasn’t my original point which was more that he seems to become the whipping boy if things aren’t going well and the facts don’t always support that. He is rarely awful, just as he is rarely brilliant but he has never let us down.

    2. Interestingly, I just tracked Maxwell for the entire first half, and would be happy to continue if folks want. He had 40 touches, (including the fateful pass that Krkic kocked up — if his first touch is better, he doesn’t get injured, I hate to observe, but must), and it’s interesting:

      –Of his touches, almost half (16) were lateral or negative.
      –ceded one corner
      –1 straight-up giveaway, that he won right back (37th minute)
      –offensively, he had a few very good moments, including the pass-shot sequence that resulted in him missing a shot he should have done better with. He also had a very nice offensive header on the edge of the Almeria box to keep possession for us, and a nice run/pass sequence in the 33rd minute.

      His involvement picked up as we pressed more. Whether the perception that Adriano is more dynamic than Maxwell is probably a matter of personal preference, and how the match is being played. But if we revisit the Adriano single-match tracking, there are some differences:

      –Different match obviously, but the actions seem to bear out the notion that Adriano is more dynamic. He had 14 positive possession-changing interventions (over the entire match). He outran 2 players to loose balls.

      –He also had key giveaways that could have cost the club dearly. His risk/reward factor is higher, one reason Guardiola probably opted for the more secure Maxwell, who won’t get you as much on the offensive end, but he won’t kill you directly, either.

      As Jim notes, Maxwell is always solid. It’s also worth noting that the Adriano tracking was for the Arsenal CL Camp Nou tie, a match in which we were in resplendent form. Not so yesterday.

      I suspect that some of why Maxwell gets a bum rap is because he isn’t as active as Adriano. And fans want to see their players running around all the time, doing something. Maxwell doesn’t roll like that, another reason that Guardiola probably prefers him to Adriano in a “tighter” match, that is to say a match that we will be extremely wary of conceding.

      The differences are interesting. Whether Maxwell is a negative player where Adriano is a positive one depends upon interpretation, since there is no direct comparison. But there’s no question that he’s a less risky player defensively, because of the way that he plays.

    3. I did it anyway. Jnice’s impressions that Maxwell was significantly worse in the second half aren’t borne out by viewing. I will say this:

      –On the Almeria goal, we missed Abidal’s (and Adriano’s) tendency to make a play and return to station. Maxwell makes a pass, runs to the center of the Almeria box and stops, waiting for the attack to develop. When the giveaway happens, he’s out of position when a left back could have maybe helped Iniesta.

      Anyhow, another 31 touches, with a much lower percentage of them as negative/neutral. Worked a nice 1-2 with Villa, also had 3 interceptions and a dangerous header into the air in front of our box that could have been trouble.

      Almeria essentially ignored Maxwell, pretty much even when he had the ball, until he did something positive. Teams seem to treat Adriano as more of a danger man, supporting Euler’s perception.

      Hmmm ….

      Other general observations:

      –Milito gets a bum rap. As noted above, he had a very solid match. Bailed Pique’s butt out a couple of times.

      –Villa is too often lazy for me. On one occasion, he could have really tried to run onto a pass that he knew was coming, and half-assed it. And on the set piece that resulted in the Thiago goal, he barely moved. At least try to get open. Was the play designed for Thiago? Maybe. But what if it doesn’t work?

      –Pedro!! always runs. Not trots, not walks. Runs.

      –Alves never, ever stops. His man, Ortiz, was hammered, and Alves looked daisy-fresh, still running full-speed and raising hell.

      –Watch the Messi gamesmanship at 74:55, where he runs into the back of an Almeria player, then falls back as if he’d been elbowed. I don’t like that.

      Finally, a Ray Ray moment, describing Thiago’s header:

      He rises like a salmon out of a beautiful mountain stream!

    4. Thanks for taking the time to do that, Kxevin.

      I usually watch matches at least 2 or 3 times, but I didn’t get around to watching this one again yet, so I acknowledge that I may have been wrong in my assessment of Maxwell.

      Maybe it was due to my emotions during the match, but I just didn’t feel Maxwell was doing enough to help the team’s cause at the time. You and Jim have both pointed out evidence that says the contrary.

      Like I said before, no problem, I’m glad to be wrong in this case.

    5. No worries, Jnice. That’s why we’re here. I think that Maxwell’s “cooler” style leaves a bit of the wrong impression. Adriano is more Pedro!!, while Maxwell is more Villa, is the best way I can put it.

      What I can’t figure out is the seeming hesitancy to pass him the ball. He was out there by himself, hugging the sideline, but seemed to be a last resort many times. Maybe somebody has an opinion about that one. I found it interesting.

      I imagine some of it is the right-centric tone of our offense.

  16. so I see some of my milanisti friends are starting to beg for BANGS to be send back here…

    he just finished his 2 matches ban and played again last night…
    and guess what? he got another yellow card + direct red card, which can lead to another 2-3 matches ban…

    like always, Pep knows better…

    1. And he was having a good match before that, being involved in both Milan goals. But you could also see the petulance building in a player who seems to send the message through his off-the-ball actions that his teammates aren’t worthy of him. As the exasperation builds, his cork pops.

      Unfortunately for Milan, returning him isn’t an option, as I understand the deal.

  17. Valencia just totally copied our style. Pfft.

    (I’m so glad we’ve already played them this season 😛 )

    1. Meh. I’ve given up hoping that EE will drop points against the bigger teams. I had high hopes for Bilbao, especially with them playing at the San Mames, and EE just brushed them aside. They always tend to slip up when you least expect it.

    2. well tbf, that is exactly the same thing EE fans said, that Barça won’t slip against big teams…

      but as we all know, we lost 2 points against Sevilla…

    3. I will also say, having seen only the highlights, that both those penalty calls were flat-out ridiculous, Di Maria selling the lightest of touches with “I’m dead! I’m dead!” aplomb. Our defenders need to be wary of that nonsense.

      Athletic isn’t going to be the club that causes EE stress, because they are a more dynamic side than we are, meaning they get up and down the pitch faster and more directly. Our patient style lets Athletic set its defense, rather than a dive bomb into the box that puts the defenders into immediate danger.

      Valencia, however, is another question. Same for Sevilla. Villarreal will depend on Europa League action. Note how tired they were today.

    1. That picture is originally from the Clasico in November after Villa scored his first goal making it 3-0. I’ve got the high-res version of that as my wallpaper. I loves it.

    2. Yeah in an ideal world it would be perfect without the Qatar foundation.
      This would-be jersey would be the first since 06/07 that I would say; “I WILL GET IT AT ALL COST” before it was even released. After those years, it’s just ok ok.

    3. WOW, that jersey is really awesome!! Obviously, the sponsor spoils it a bit but still it looks cool 🙂

  18. 😆 @ people falling for Afellay rumors… Sure barcastuff reported it but come on guys Barcastuff’s Pep only ‘reported’ it there’s no confirmation! Also he’s no official source, he just translates different rumors emerging in Catalan media…does pretty good job at that though. Whenever he has proof that a rumor is total speculation he mentions it’s 100% fake but when he got no proof for that he just ‘reports’ it!! Take a blind eye on that speculation because just two weeks ago, after giving those glorious performances for the Dutch national team he confirmed in an interview how he’s enjoying his stay at Camp Nou and how lucky he feels to play alongside such a glorious players. He even got to start the most difficult fixture of our season, Villarreal away! Now that Bojan is injured and there’s such a tight schedule we have ahead he’s bound to play pretty often. So no worries really 🙂

    Oh on the Maxwell debate, I think this has been his best performance all season, he was best defender last match and I thought he’d get a very good rating from Kxevin too

    It sucks that Bojangles had to break his knee at such a stage. He must have realised that now that the league is almost ours he’d get to start regularly. The confidence showed in his play last match but it’s really bad luck that he had to get injured like that. I think this will either make him mentally very strong when he returns or he suffers another setback…hope it’s the former

    And regarding Botia rumors, I really like ’em. Always maintained we’d do well to bring him back next season. Regarding the speculation that he might be used in further transfer deals, I don’t think they are true. Because ‘Sport’ suggested that the club buy him back for peanuts and then sell him for higher money in order to raise funds for Cesc. Now that Botia is starting to turn the heads with his leap in quality and Preciado expressing his thoughts on the player that he is very much ready for Barca, ‘Sport’ are trying to clean their hands by reporting Sporting ‘believe’ Botia would be used in further deals by the club! I wonder how Sporting thinks so when their manager openly says the player is very much ready for Barca!!

    I’ll start Valdes, Alves, Busi, Milito, Adriano, Masch, Xavi, Afellay, Pedro, Messi, Villa for Shakhtar match. And start Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Maxwell, Busi, Thiago, Keita, Jeffren, Villa & Afellay for the first classico. I don’t believe losing the fixture playing the kids would kill the confidence. They themselves are going to start their reserves judging from their starting 11 against Bilbao… Also the thugs like Lass and Arbeloa are going to start that match so I don’t want to risk any of our starters ahead of the Copa final

  19. @jose

    thanks for the swiss ramble article! all things considered, it looks like a good piece of news for arsenal. cheers.

  20. Di Maria just broke the record of number of Penalties won by a player in a single season.

    1. Tim Stannard of LLL:

      The Athletic keeper was guilty of a foul that was so blatant and heinous on Angel Di María in the eleventh minute that the Argentine didn’t even have to attempt a dive. The winger made up for that in second half though with a double salchow to win Madrid’s second spot-kick of the game and keep up the penalty count that Marca and AS have demanding of late.

    2. Brilliant by Tim Stannard. So frickin’ hilarious!
      Thanks for posting that Blitz..

      p.s. Everytime I see your name, it reminds me of a drift car.
      Im pretty sure I’ve seen a drift car with a big Blitz sticker on it’s sides. Ugly! Not your name though 🙂

    3. What? You never heard of drift cars before?
      Have you watched Fast and Furious before?
      The movie sucked, I only watched it once but Im sure you would’ve at least seen ads for it…Hehe.

  21. Ah, seeing Snoopy Dance always reminds me of Xander from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

    Pique just tweeted/FB status updated that they were now in Donetsk and ready for the game tomorrow. Does anyone know which players traveled and who were dropped from the squad and allowed rest?

  22. The whole squad makes the trip to Shakhtar? Not happy with this development… not pessimistic, just not happy. Hope most of them will just be on the bench then.

    1. Why should this bother you? Pep always prefers to have as many of the team as possible, especially for important matches like this one. Firstly, it fosters team feeling. Even those who don’t make the bench will still feel involved and part of the team. Secondly, Pep likes to keep his options open until the last minute. He has a general idea of who he will pick for the game, but this way he can make last-minute changes based on training form, injury flare-ups, ect.

    2. Yeah I know I generally wouldn’t mind but we have a four-goal lead and its SOOOOO FAR! I’m worried they’ll be tired from the thousands of miles of travel. It takes me a couple days to get back in sync after just the Maldives-Malaysia flight even.

  23. The Squad list is out!

    The Bad:

    The whole squad goes. Well, we were excepting it. What we hope is that not everyone plays.

    The Good:

    JDS is selected!! Oooooh, moc moc! I hope he gets minutes!!

    -Iniesta isn’t traveling. Duh, but still yay!

    -There is also Thiago and Oier and Pinto. There will be someone dropped out right? The final squad is of 19 players. And since Valdes and Pinto are first teams, the person to be dropped will probably be Oier, meaning that JDS will not be dropped! Yay x Yaya!

  24. From the official website:

    Tuesday’s game against Shaktar will be just the second match in his career that Andres Iniesta has missed through suspension.

    That is nothing short of amazing!

  25. My XI:

    Adriano Fontas Milito Maxwell
    Thiago Mascherano Jonathan
    Pedro Villa Afellay

    I’d rather put Afellay in the midfield but then there wouldn’t be any JDS and Messi would have to play.

  26. Unrelated, but for the Arsenal fans making fun of us being in debt, I wonder if her article IS accurate. Namely, this quote:

    “Bayern Munich has become THE German football team, and one of the five biggest footballing clubs in the world; ranking 4th in the Deloitte’s index and 5th on the Forbes list. Only two clubs of those top 5, Barcelona and Bayern, are financially viable as Manchester United, Real Madrid and Arsenal are all upwards of 40 percent in debt.”

    Us and Bayern are the financially viable sides of those five according to Deloitte/Forbes, and also Arsenal are over 40% in debt?

  27. Silvio Berlusconi on Ibrahimovich: “He started off well, but he hasn’t scored for ages. Maybe I threw away some money…”

    So I noticed everyone saying EE rested players and dusted Bilbao. Did we watch the same match? For the most part, Bilbao looked far more lively in the first half. Di Maria gained an actual legit PK. Then cemented his performance later. I honestly can’t stand him now, and to think I liked him before.

    What’s worse is Bilbao had several shouts turned down and I seem to remember a Carvalho to llorente elbow to end the first half. Di Maria’s PK total from this weekend was equal to our league total before the match.

    And no one argues Milito’s rating? He did make two great plays, the pass to Villa, and the 2 on 1 he did absolutely what was needed and was an inch away from breaking up the play for the goal. I hold him responsible for Masch’s yellow as well as Messi though.

    So why was Fontas called up again?

    1. I’d suggest that you watch again. Milito had a host of interventions, including one where he saved Pique’s bacon and broke up what would have almost certainly been a goal. Milito is another player getting a bum rap these days. He had an above average match.

    2. All I said was no one argued his rating, I actually thought he played to a higher rating is what I meant. Did you interpret it differently because of the proposed Milito rap everyone gives him? Since its based on his average, he’s had his best game of the season.

    3. The context of your comment, founded in: “I hold him responsible for Masch’s yellow as well as Messi though,” makes the supposition that he didn’t deserve what he got an easy one to make.

      As for his getting a higher rating, no. He was in the wrong place as the pinnacle of the comedy of errors on the goal, and should have been more decisive on the play that resulted in the Mascherano yellow. There were a number of other occasions that found him wanting, as well.

      I’m pretty sure he’s had a better outing for us this season, but I do believe that he was our best defender yesterday.

    4. “And no one argues Milito’s rating? He did make two great plays, the pass to Villa, and the 2 on 1 he did absolutely what was needed and was an inch away from breaking up the play for the goal. I hold him responsible for Masch’s yellow as well as Messi though.”

      Hmm I was implying he made a great play, another great play, but I do also hold him responsible for a bad play.”

      Although I do understand where you’re coming from and what you’re saying. I don’t remember him having a better match, but still based on what he’s done all season this was his best match. That’s not saying too much..

    5. He definitely had his best game of the season and I was really surprised that he was taken off. But I guess we needed more midfielders so it was a tactical move by Pep.

      I guess Milito will play some part tonight.

    1. If hair gel lead to injury, half the Barcelona squad would be permanently stationed in the treatment room.

    2. Wait …. that isn’t a joke! They really are testing Jeffren for external causatives. Wow.

      Did anyone notice how Villa’s hair after his blown header, looked just like it did before?

    3. Did anyone notice how Villa’s hair after his blown header, looked just like it did before?

      Yeah yeah. They were that strong. I wish I could style my hair like that. TOo bad my hair is too stiff. No gel or wax would keep it straight up.

      FUnny story. Many many years ago two sets of my friends had a feud so there was a big fight. That’s not funny. The funny thing was that after the fight, my other set of friends were laughing that I was the only one who came out of the fight with my hair still standing 😆
      I was the mediator of course.

  28. Oh ya. Just a little suggestion to the BFB crew.
    In hotmail account or on some other forums, when that page is on your browser (Chrome for me), when you are not on it, you will get a notification on that particular tab.

    For example, BFB is on one of my tabs right now but Im not on it as Im reading something else in another tab. But let’s say somebody commented on BFB, so on the tab there will be a exclamation mark ( !! ) notifying me that there is a new comment on that page.

    Just a suggestion.

  29. So JDS included… I wonder if it is to try him out as defensive midfielder some time, while playing Masch at CB? That would evaluate the following situation… Remember Masch is suspended for the first classico while Busi needs to be tried out as CB at all costs in that match, so why not try JDS at DM position?

    Also we need to try out Masch at CB position too, because of the obvious loss of Busi’s quality in the midfield when he plays a defender… What better way to verify it than trying it against the second best attack in the CL(or is Shakhtar third now?)

    I reckon that we’ll start a full-fledged team against Shakhtar in Valdes-Alves-Masch-Pique-Adriano-Busi-Xavi-Keita-Pedro-Villa-Afellay (I only hope we rest Messi in this match but it is mostly not gonna happen though) but then some where in the middle we remove Busi, bring on JDS and also remove Pique, bring on Milito…that way Masch will be tested more 😛

    Or we might try Fontas too, because he already played a defensive midfielder many times

    1. We have Fontas who could play at DM so why should Pep play some one who has little experience in it? However Im not discounting of that option as you were right last time in assuming that Pep rested Adriano for the Arsenal match. Hehe. Still in my memory.

      I really found it strange that JDS was called up as he wasn’t even training with the 1st team today or yesterday.

  30. WTF??!! Messi’s brother’s house was shot!
    Gang style drive by shooting.
    Why would anyone want to hurt his family?
    Messi has done so much to help the poor people.
    Bunch of useless low life scum bags that who ever did that.

  31. JDS has played DM from time to time, maybe more than Fontas.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing masch get tested at CB with JDS as the holding mid. or go Fontas-Busi. Whatever we use tomorrow is what we should use Saturday.

    Also, I heard Luiz Adriano may not play now?

    1. MOre than Fontas?
      Not too sure about that cause if Im not mistaken Fontas started out at DM. If Im correct, definitely Fontas has more experience.

    1. If you keep clicking through, there are pictures of Thuram visiting Jerusalem. Keeping in mind the fact that I only started watching football recently, my first thought was “Kxevin!”.

  32. @barca96

    As Josep says, yeah JDS did play a holding midfielder a lot of times. He did so even even with the first team, but that’s a forgetable affair really. The 1-3 loss to Sevilla in the first official match of this season, although tbf to the kid had to be said there was like no first team player starting that day

    1. I missed it, but he scored again!

      They’re saying on Sky that Tevez’ injury looked bad…

    2. I didn’t really see the injury. I was making lunch. Carrol’s second goal was a header. Well placed. Don’t remember if it was a corner or not.

      Kuyt’s goal, Liverpool’s second, came after about 20 missed chances in or around the box. Nuts.

  33. liverpool playing some good stuff. Suarez is class. I so hope man city miss out on champions league football again.

    1. haha, me too. But they are practically still 4 points ahead of Spurs, due to goal difference. And Spurs still have to play Arsenal and @ManCity.

  34. lol, Balotelli is such a joke!

    He doesn’t show desire or work ethic, but he believes to one day being better than Crynaldo, his idol 😀
    How much did City once again pay for him?

    Dzeko is also a huge disappointment, they both probably only get outshone by Fernando Torres. And I feel lots of schadenfreude watching those 40+mio strikers fail *g*

    1. Ha! Was about to ask why so much hype surrounding the guy. Must admit i didn’t watch inter much last season but my god is he overrated.

      Oh my brother was asking laughing out loud asking “Is it even allowed to substitute a sub?” That’s how bad he’s been.

  35. I think we should start a rescue mission for David Silva to help him out of this terrible Man Shitty team.

    Phantastic stuff from Liverpool and I just adore King Kenny, he is just too cute.

  36. C’mon you lot aren’t serious when you say Balotelli is overrated. He’s really, really good. He just shows it when he feels like it.

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