Revenge of the Wookiees: Shakhtar – Barça

CL Preview: Shakhtar Donetsk – Barcelona, second leg (1-5 aggregate), Tuesday 2:45pm (Fox Sports Affiliate*)

They’ll have their own remuntada videos and t-shirts. They’ll have a nation-wide campaign calling for belief and supportive screams throughout the evening. They’ll demand the stadium be dressed in black and orange.  Or, uh, they’ll have their coach claiming it’s an impossible task. Whichever. I mean, it’s just the Champions League semifinal, nothing, you know, worth fighting for.

And of course Guardiola is going the cautious route: “I want to repeat, again, that the tie is not already won. Anything is possible in football, but we will work hard to prevent Shakhtar pulling off a miracle.” But him saying those things is like Mr. Rogers wearing a cardigan. It just happens whenever he’s in front of a camera. But something tells me this this 5-1 lead is insurmountable not simply because we’ve got Messi, Xavi, et al, but because we’ve got a different outlook from that disastrous 4-0 defeat to Getafe back in 2007. And no, I don’t blame Rijkaard for that, but it was the end of his reign and it was defeats like that which put a lot of people on alert despite the solid years. I freely admit I wasn’t one of those people and wanted Rijkaard to continue. Who knew that Pep would step in and smash all sorts of domestic and international records? Other than these guys.

Do we start Jeffren or go with MVP? Does Milito play or does Fontas get a shot at the big time? Given that our star-studded lineup in the first leg could barely hold them down for a little while, I’ll urge caution to start and leave the youngsters on the bench, but as I detailed over on Soccernet, Mascherano’s yellow card accumulation suspension for el clásico means we’re short a midfielder for a crucial day. It’s not that Shakhtar requires all hands on deck, but rather that not resting now means less fitness against Madrid over the next two matches.  This means we’re pretty much assured of having Busi-Pique in the back line against RM in the league and the Copa del Rey. Puyol can obviously slot back in immediately if he’s ever healthy again.

The squad list is: Valdes, Oier, Pinto, Villa, Xavi, Piqué, Sergio Busquets, Maxwell, Pedro, Afellay, Messi, Adriano, Alves, Keita, Mascherano, Milito, Jeffren, Fontàs, Thiago, and dos Santos.

My suggested lineup: Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Busquets, Xavi, Keita, Villa, Messi, Pedro. We need to go out with energy and make sure they don’t get into it with an early goal. That would be terrible. We can’t look beyond this, but we also have to be aware that there are some serious weeks ahead. Mascherano has to play at least one of the clásicos and I’m choosing the Copa del Rey because, well, because I have to choose one. You could conceivably start both Busi and Mascherano to really shut down the midfield given that Iniesta is suspended, but I think that’s where Keita comes in more effectively.

With Srna and Chygrynskiy listed as doubtful, Shakhtar is less dangerous, but still capable of hitting us on the counter. We’ll need to slow the match down, but continue to attack methodically and never let go of the ball (except after we score and before we get it back 2 seconds later). I do think they missed Chygrynskiy, the king of their wookiee contingent, and I think they’ll miss him again because they’ll get caught out again. They’ll miss Răzvan Raţ a lot on the wing too, but they’ve got enough fast counter players to do damage if we ever take our foot off the gas.

Official prediction: 2-2. Goals by Messi (2). They’ve never lost in their new stadium, but I suppose it’s time they failed to win…

* A note on the channel: in the US, the match will be shown live on your local Fox Sports affiliate. In the New York area that’s MSG+ (48 and 748 on TWC). If you know what channel it will be on in your area, please list that in the comments for others.

But you wondered about the city, didn’t you? Well, at least reader ooga aga did and I’d be remiss if I didn’t indulge a bit in my own love of history and geography. So here goes:

Founded in 1869 by a Welshman not named Gareth Bale, the city was built around the steel and coal industries. While seeming to retain the air of an industrial city, perhaps akin to how Pittsburgh is viewed here, Donetsk also appears to have a large university population–there are some 16 higher education institutions in the city (Source). It’s also the administrative center of Donetsk Oblast, which has some really gorgeous stuff going on in it.

There are still massive spoil tips outside the city and and Rinat Akhmetov, the chairman of of Shakhtar, is involved in the coal business. Akhmetov is, in case you’re knowledgeable about the American coal industry or interested in it, owner of the United Coal Company through his investment company, Metinvest.

Shakhtar Donetsk was founded as Stakhanovets in 1936 as a coal mining union team, changed its name to Shakhtyor in 1946, and then FC Shakhtar (Donetsk) in 1992.  Their new stadium, Donbass Arena, holds just over 50,000 and is going to host several Euro2012 matches, including a semifinal. It’s also gorgeous and was designed by the same people who designed the Bird’s Nest in Beijing and Allianz Arena in Munich.

By Isaiah

Isaiah is a co-founder and lead writer for Barcelona Football Blog. He currently lives in the greater Philadelphia area.


  1. You may want to recheck me on this, but I do believe they lost to Obolon (?) this past weekend at home. 0-1 was the score.

    1. Good new is – yes I think they did. Bad news is, I remember reading it was also because they were resting a lot of players for the game against Barca tomorrow.

    2. Yeah, looks like it was only 3 regulars in that starting XI.

      Their potential defensive injuries may cause them problems, though.

    3. Oh hey Stephen. How a big dose of YOU BE QUIET NOW.

      Dammit, I should have checked, but totally forgot to do so. Stupid preview checklist didn’t get filled out this week.

    4. You’d kinda be wrong about that. I definitely had to look it up to make sure there were 2 E’s.

      I don’t actually know much about Star Wars. My dorkitude goes in different directions. I don’t even like Star Wars very much.

  2. You don’t think Mascherano is a guarantee to start? Away match, he can’t play on Saturday, and he’ll have a full week of rest after this game. I think he’s a guarantee.

    I feel we might see Mascherano in the back for this one or at least I hope so. I don’t think Busquets/Pique is that good of a pairing. Certainly not against Shakhtar.

    Given that our star-studded lineup in the first leg could barely hold them down for a little while, I’ll urge caution to start and leave the youngsters on the bench

    I agree with this. Pep can’t get too reckless with his lineup selection considering the trouble they caused our “strongest team”. And I also agree that it’s crucial not go give up an early goal.

    I think this one may be a draw.

    1. I wonder if it’d make sense to rest Pique. He’s been under a lot of pressure of late without both Puyol and Abidal. Also, like you say, considering Masche will get some rest anyway as he is out of the next game, might be a good idea to start him against Shakhtar. It’s somehow reassuring to have Masche around if Gabi Milito is also starting (though Gabi has been getting better).

  3. @Shakhtar history: The name change in 92 was basically a language switch from Russian (“Shakhtyor”) to Ukrainian (“Shakhtar”) due to the fall of the Soviet Union and Ukrainian independence.

    @line-up: I’d go with something like this:
    Valdes, Alves, Pique, Milito, Adriano, Busquets, Keita, Xavi, Afellay, Messi, Pedro

  4. Lineup prediction:
    Alves Pique Busquets Adriano
    Xavi Keita
    Pedro Messi Villa

    Still think Busquets/Pique will be the CBs in El Clasic, so more practice for them.

    Keita will be vital in this fixture. Hopefully he will close things down.

  5. a Welshman not named Gareth Bale

    This match will be on Fox Sports West in Los Ángeles.

  6. The priorities for tomorrow’s match will be to retain possession and defend the counter to prevent Shakthar from eating into the 4 goal lead and to try to sneak an away goal.

    As such, what they really need are fresh legs that will be able to press, particularly high up the pitch.

    Villa looks very tired to me and I think that’s part of why he’s been so off form. I don’t think he should play.

    Messi also could use a rest in this game given how much he’s played and the upcoming schedule.

    Pedro could use more time on the pitch as long as he’s healthy.

    Afellay and even Jeffren may be particularly useful in this match. Both are rested and will be able to exert maximum effort to close down Shakhtar on the press and defend. Unfortunately, with Bojan’s injury they are going to need to use Jeffren.

    I would like to see Masch play at CB. Playing Masch at DM and Busi at CB is putting each player in a position where their relative strengths are lessened and their weaknesses enhanced.

    Masch has much more pace than Busi. As a last line of defense at CB Barca would benefit from Masch’s pace deeper on the pitch. Busi is a better passer and is better at retaining possession. Those skills aren’t utilized as much at CB compared to DM.

    As long as Masch is paired with a taller CB partner the team will be ok. Masch is 1.5 CM shorter than Puyol. That’s just not a lot.

    Busi only gained experience at CB by playing there. Masch was fine there against Almeria even while being on a yellow when he dropped back.

    They may not be able to count on Puyol playing heavy minutes next season. They are going to need to find the right partner for Pique. I don’t know if Fontas or Botia have enough pace to pair with Pique.

    I think Masch could make an excellent CB in the Barca system. And his qualities such as positional sense, steel, and pace make him a potential strong player to substitute for Puyol’s absence.

    To win the treble I think they would benefit from having more pace at the back. It’s a real risk given Masch lack of experience at CB.. But I think it’s worth exploring in a match where their first leg performance made it very likely they will advance.

    Busi himself does not have a great deal of experience at DM and his lack of pace has been an issue when he’s played at the back with Pique. In a sense, Pique and Busi’s strengths and weaknesses are too similar as a pairing at CB. Ideally you want a CB pairing where each player complements and makes up the for the weakness of the other.

    This is why Puyol is so immensely valuable. His skill set ideally complements the more technical attributes of a player like Pique. The same for Abidal. Of all the players left on the team, Masch is the one IMO who comes closest to providing that kind of complement.

    1. I think Botia would work well next to Pique. From what I’ve seen, he definitely has the pace and is more aggressive than Pique.

      But yeah, I want to see Mascherano at CB instead of Busi, too.

    2. That’s good to hear. I just don’t remember being struck by his pace from his youth team days but can’t say I was trying to pay a lot of attention to it.

      And this season while I’ve been very impressed by watching him play for Sporting they so often defend deep that it’s also hard to judge his pace.

      But hopefully that bodes well for next season.

      We just need to make ends meet for this season!

    3. While I agree that it would be nice to see Mascherano at CB, I would much rather see Milito start at CB tomorrow. The only reason I want to see Milito is because I think we will see him in the Clasico, and that means he needs to get some minutes. Pique should start next to him, as an extra 90 minutes playing with Milito will give them a little bit better idea of how to play together (aka will give Pique a better idea of how to cover for Milito’s mistakes).

      I’m not looking forward to Milito playing in the Clasico, but as much as I would like him to I can’t see Pep taking any other route. Fontas would have started the Almeria game if Pep was considering him for the Clasico, Keita isn’t patient enough to play DM, and any other option seems less likely.

      On a side note, the Milito of yore would have been a perfect complement to Pique. I also saw Milito as Puyol’s backup because they have similar styles.

    4. I’m a bit wary when it comes to starting Milito in this match because he will probably play against Madrid on Saturday, which means he would’ve have played 3 times in 7 days.

      I’m not sure he can handle that anymore.

    5. I share Jnice’s concerns also with Milito. I really don’t know if he’s going to have the fitness to play tomorrow and then turn around and play in the Clasico.

      At the same time – you’re right. Milito would benefit from more time on the pitch with Pique if that’s the direction Pep wants to go for the Clasico.

      And I can’t see Pep doing anything other than Milito and Pique for the Clasico. I agree with you there as well.

      I’m actually still very worried about additional injuries at CB. I don’t think we can be surprised if Milito gets injured again as he starts playing once more given his recent history.

      That’s partly why I think they need to make some kind of provision for getting Masch minutes at CB. If anything happens to one of Pique or Milito they will be in a real bind.

    6. On a side note, the Milito of yore would have been a perfect complement to Pique.

      He was, at Zaragoza.

    7. Milito Pique was a great combination against Real in the Clasico at the Bernebeau last year..They are a perfect combination at centreback but I dunno why Milito has a sudden drop off in performance level…maybe the injury he suffered earlier against Ceuta hampered his play this season…

    8. But if we had a way to scale back the years, wouldn’t we just do that to Puyol? 😉

    9. Here’s my crazy line-up, maybe not that far away from yoursm Euler 🙂


      Unfortunately, Soriano is not even in the squad^^

  7. I think it’s very likely that Villa will be give some rest. Guy needs it. If things go our way by half-time (and recently they have not despite our wishing for it), I’d rest Xavi and Pique and Messi as well.
    I think Lucescu is trying to catch us off guard with his comments. By repeating that Barcelona has already qualified he hopes to convince our players that the tie is over. It is not. Milan knows something about this from their visit to La Coruna 7 years ago.
    Valdes, Adriano, Pique, Milito, Alves, Xavi, Mascherano, Busquets, Afellay, Pedro, Messi. That’s the XI I`d go with.

    1. Wow really cool! Did the federation build it for the Euros next year or did their owner pay for it, i hear he’s super rich.

  8. If Pique and Milito are going to be the Clasico pairing then like the others I’d want to see them get at least the first 45 minutes together tomorrow, probably with Masch at DM. Then at half time bring on busi and put Masch back to CB.

    As thiago is unlikely to play on saturday I’d put him into the midfield with Xavi and Keita. Keita looks to me like he needs more minutes and he will probably play a part at some point on saturday. Agree with those who would rest Villa although I’d probably bring him on for the second half. That shouldn’t stretch him too much – maybe to replace Messi if we still have our lead intact.

  9. I just read that Zlatan Ibrahimovic has not scored since January for Milan. It wasn’t our system that wasn’t working. It was the player. The guy has anger issues. He is now banned for three matches and that could de-rail Milan’s Scudetto chances. Let’s auction him off to the highest bidder this summer. We do not need men like him in our team. The rumors about him thinking he was better than Messi judging on his character are probably true.

    1. Moreover, the way he got got banned is ridiculous from what I heard–he just comes back from suspension and then gets sent off with a straight red (after already getting one yellow card) for mouthing off/cursing at a linesman? Are you KIDDING?

    2. The thing I can’t believe is that he didn’t pull any of this nonsense while he was playing for us. Sure he ran his mouth after he left, but we never had the pleasure to see any of his antics.

      It also puts a whole new spin on that picture that was floating around with Pique holding Ibra up against his car. My bet is Pique was giving him a gentle reminder to be respectful.

      Everyone says Pep didn’t manage Ibra’s ego very well. I’d say the fact that Ibra wasn’t being a constant source of discord throughout the season indicates that Pep didn’t do such a bad job after all.

    3. So very true, in hindsight i think Pep did very well managing Ibra. Don’t know if the players were telling the truth about not knowing what was going on between Pep & Ibra but if they were then Pep did well to not let this whole issue affect the team. And in the end Ibra showed what a complete jerk he really is(not that we didn’t know about it mind)

      In Pep we should Always Trust

    4. I’m with Isaiah on this one. It also isn’t coincidental that Pato’s exploding links with Ibrahimovic’s waning. He was also involved (with key passes) in both of Milan’s goals yesterday.

      Without question, the guy is a full-on jackass. But I don’t see why we can’t exist without ripping him, or any other players of the past, down. His slaggers should note that for his 21 goals compared to Villa’s, Ibrahimovic has a slightly better goals per game average, and as Villa evinces greater and greater futility in front of net, that average isn’t exactly improving, is it?

      The fact remains that he helped this club win the Liga. Did he tail off, scoring-wise, necessitating a Boy Wonder to the rescue? Yep. So is Villa right now, which means what? Maybe something to do with our system and the demands that it places upon its forwards, which wears them out late in the season? Maybe. Maybe not.

      But I think we can separate performance from personality.

      And no, this isn’t an Ibrahimovic vs Villa comparo. But it is a plea for perspective and respect for what a former Barca player did.

    5. Okay, I’ll bite. “It wasn’t our system that wasn’t working. It was the player….He is now banned for three matches and that could de-rail Milan’s Scudetto chances.”

      How do those 2 sentences really go together? I’m not defending Ibra’s mentality, but the fact of the matter is that he’s gotten a bum rap from the cule fans. The point is that you can’t have your cake and eat it too: either the player isn’t good enough or his disciplinary failure can derail a title challenge.

      I hope that makes sense.

    6. A bum rap from the cule fans?

      I think that the home cule fans at Camp Nou were more than polite when it came to their disapproval of Ibra. I was there when he scored his first goal and what a celebration it was in the crowd. It was with a great sense of anticipation for the good things that this guy would do with the team that gave the cules a bigger sense of optimism for the new season.

      However, as the season wore on, it became evident to those watching the games at the stadiums, that this guy wasn’t going to be a good fit.

      He was like a giraffe among the gazelles.

      He didn’t play a short-passing game, wasn’t in control of the ball, couldn’t play one-touch, and (although Villa has been caught offside a lot more than Ibra), Ibra would constantly stand so far off-side that even his team-mates could see that he was unplayable and would not even consider passing the ball to him. He was slow in defence in a team that prides itself and builds its reputation on every man being a defender or, at least, striving to get the lost ball back in the <2 seconds that they train for at practices.

      I can't remember which game it was in, but there was an instance where a right cross came into the box towards Ibra, and Henry was quicker than Ibra to run in and score the goal. Ibra's negative reaction to this was enough to sour a lot of cule hearts. He is not a team player, but an individual glory-hunter.

      The final nail in the coffin came from his astounding lack of play in the 2010 CL semi against Inter at San Siro. It was fair to say that Barca played with 10 men that night while Inter played with 12 if you include the ref on their side!

      Sure there were flashes of brilliance from Ibra, but even his goal celebrations were not team-focussed as he constantly glared and gestured at the bench (Guardiola?) after scoring – as if he was trying to prove his worth, but failing to do so in the humble Barca way.

      After Barca crashed out to Inter at Camp Nou, Ibra and his manager lost what little respect they had from Barca fans with their behaviour.

      I think it would be fair to say that, in this case, Ibra's performance wasn't good enough, (or wasn't a good fit for Barca), AND his lack of discipline, modesty and humility was influencing the team.

      He had to go.

      Just thinking outside the square – do you think that Ibra's recent behaviour is a deliberate action from him, trying to remain on the Barca payroll? If the guy isn't wanted by any team, what better way to sit, do nothing and collect a few million for it? ;.)

    7. Wow, nzm, thanks for this! With all the discussion there has been on here about Ibrahimovic, it is good to hear from someone who actually watched him in person playing at the Camp Nou. It answers a lot of questions for me, anyway.

      like a giraffe among the gazelles

      Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    8. I also watched him play at the Camp Nou. Where he hustled, passed, defended and scored the only (and winning) goal against EE, and a very nicely taken goal at that. So again, I caution against limited sample sizes.

    9. blitzen: it was disappointing to watch the Ibra saga unravel when there was so much promise at the start.

    10. Well I think your sample is more limited than nzm’s, since she actually lives in Barcelona.

    11. It would be more limited if I didn’t pay any attention to the club, its players or how they performed on the pitch as I watch matches (in whatever city) in preparation for reviews, you are correct.

      But I will argue for fairness and a lack of revisionist history for as long as I am a a part of this space, for any and all players who aren’t getting a fair shake. It’s why I re-watched the last match with an eye on Maxwell alone. Fairness.

      It’s also why I don’t and never will support, like or dislike any player. It gets in the way. As I note below, Villa is every bit as guilty of the exact same sins as Ibrahimovic. Every last one. But people don’t want to see those, because it’s Villa. That’s fine, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.

    12. I’m just saying that you can see things at live games you wouldn’t see on TV, no matter how many times you watch them. Cameras tend to follow the ball, not the player. So if someone who has seen Ibra play in several live games tells me he had a bad attitude on the pitch, I will tend to believe her.

      (And I call bullcrap on not liking/disliking any player. Everyone knows you love Keita!) 😛

    13. I think everyone will agree that Ibrahimovic has a bad attitude. What I am saying is don’t let perceptions of an attitude color what a player does on the pitch. To me, Villa’s failings aren’t more acceptable because he is a nice guy.

      And watching matches in person is different, to be sure. It makes it more difficult to follow an individual player. But with the God’s-eye perspective of football coverage, particularly because of what the Camp Nou forces TV cameras to do, it’s easier.

    14. Villa also lines up offside. Villa also has a dodgy first touch, gives balls away like tourists flip change to panhandlers on La Rambla, and when he defends, it is so rare as to be noteworthy. Usually, he hangs in the other team’s half, and throws up his hands when the right pass doesn’t come.

      As in number of goals and scoring droughts as well, there is no discernible difference between Villa and Ibrahimovic, except for revisionist history. Sorry, but there isn’t.

      Villa is all cute, hair-gelled and Spanish, so he’s “better.” Not so far. So far he’s different, and struggling with fitness and adaptation, like any first-year forward with us.

      It’s why I urge the separation of the sporting side from the personality side. None of us wouls want him anywhere near the colors. Ever. But that is different from his on-pitch accomplishments.

      By the by, re-watch that Inter match. Messi was no great shakes, either. We can dislike people for being egotistical jackasses. For sure. But be objective in the on-pitch evaluations.

    15. I completely agree with you, Kevin. I’ve been here every day reading all the posts, but have gone missing with comments for reasons aligned with this thread. Too much negativity for me to get involved in a sparring match with words. To be honest, having you and isaiah are what keep me here. As a supporter of this club, and everything that goes with that, it saddens me to see people so reactionary against our beloved club. The whole Ibra issue is just silly. I also saw him play and score his first goal at the camp, as well as other games throughout the season as i visited my sister. When talking about former players, respect needs to be given, regardless of the personality that accompanies such player. He gave a lot for our club and helped us to win 2 trophies last year. I am happy that he is gone, but that doesnt mean I need to keep putting a former player down just because his attitude sucks. It is true that Villa’s performances are not much different than his, yet everyone is not up in arms against him. I believe, and this is my opinion, that to be a cule, it means to support this club, not individual players. Greats such as Messi will come and go, but the fact remains, this club will still be here. That is what we should support as lovers of this club. Anyone willing to give blood, sweat and tears to win trophies here, regardless of anything else, should be given a form of respect. I understand this club is going through an amazing few years, but that doesnt mean we have to throw our arms up in protest and complain every chance we get. We as fans of this beloved club need to remember what it is we are supporting, instead of being so fickle on a day to day basis. I love this blog, but we as supporters need to remember what it means to be a cule. Perspective is all i can say, we need to keep perspective here. That is all. Visca Barca.

    16. Kevin: in my comments, I have never said that I dislike Ibra – my evaluation was about his on-field performance and I only commented on his on-field behaviour – apart from my remark about what happened after Barca was out of CL 2010 and he left for Milan.

      As far as separation of the sporting from the personality side, when the player allows his personality to show on the pitch as Ibra did, then there can be no separation – it taints everything that he does. The wide angle cameras at Camp Nou do not capture everything that the crowd can see at the game.

      The topic was Ibra – not Villa, although if you do re-read my above comment, you will see that I did bring up his numerous off-side occasions. He also causes many grey hairs for the cules at the Camp Nou. He frustrates me no end because, apart from his behaviour, his performance is too close to Ibra’s for my liking! (Although most of his offsides can be called “just” offside whereas Ibra sometimes stood so far offside that you could swear that he was trying to be the opposition goal-keeper. The mutterings from the usually polite Catalans were getting noticeably louder as time went on – as much as it was against their nature to diss anyone in their team.)

      Ethan: why do I get a “Reported Attack Page” message when I click on your link?

    17. The deal is structured so that he will not return. Guardiola wouldn’t allow it, no right-thinking supporter would allow it. Not after the statements and actions.

      Now had those statements and actions NOT been made, I couldn’t think of a better Plan B to have coming off the bench. Flawed? You bet. As all our strikers have been for as long as I can remember. Messi as false 9 renders a for-real 9 irrelevant for us. What we need is a sub forward with size and the ability to put the ball in the back of the net.

      It’s why the Llorente rumors are nonsense. Why would he come to us and sit? That’s the problem with almost any striker. The reason Henry was so perfect for us was because he just wanted to win Champions League, and didn’t mind doing whatever he had to do to get it. He was also in the twilight of a career. Players such as Llorente aren’t, and wouldn’t take kindly to sitting.

      This is the most painful part of the Krkic injury. If he was making his usual late-season, displace the expensive starting striker move, it’s now derailed, and Villa can breathe easy where Ibrahimovic couldn’t.

    18. “The deal is structured so that he will not return. Guardiola wouldn’t allow it, no right-thinking supporter would allow it. Not after the statements and actions.”

      Thanks, I needed that reassurance ’cause I was wondering. I feel better now.

    19. Hooray! nzm is back! Long time since we heard from our Barcelona resident.

      Now what ever happened to Merge and Poipoi?

    20. Thanks! I’ve been reading BFB, but not often commenting. Still feeling like a stranger in a room full of friends!

      We’ve been out of Barca for the past 6 weeks visiting friends and family in New Zealand and Fiji. Had to watch the games on livestreams, but we did time the Fiji trip in the non-playing week. Talk about dedication! ;.)

      Now we’re back in Spain in time for the clasicos!

    21. I don’t think missing Ibra will have such a massive impact for Milan. Judging from their recent derby against Inter, Pato-Robinho combination is much more fluid and dangerous. I think the coach has known how to line-up a Milan without Ibra. It’s a blow, yes, but not that big a deal.

  10. Thanks Isaiah for the preview. Don’t know much about tactics and stuff but i do know that our defence right now is giving me a headache. I honestly don’t know who to play so that we can have Busi back in DM cos we are really going to need him to play the possession game comfortably. I also doubt Pep’s going to play sMasch there, he’ll probably want to play the pair that will play this weekend.

  11. Great preview, Isaiah! I am predicting a 4-1, or a 1-4, whichever one means we win.

    I read this on Barcastuff:

    Mazinho (father Thiago): “People are wrong about Thiago’s character. He and his brother are group people. He knows very well what he wants.”

    Can anyone tell me what he is referring to? I haven’t heard anything bad about Thiago. He definitely has a lot of self-confidence, but he seems like a team player…

    1. People used to say he was cocky, too confident, tried to do his own thing on the field too much, etc. That was around 2 years ago or so.

      Don’t know if all of it was completely true, but their was certainly some truth to it. He’s definitely matured now.

    2. He and his brother are group people. He knows very well what he wants.

      Was it a typo? Shouldn’t it have been good?

    3. Wow JNice. I know you got mad love for Thiago but please don’t tell me that you made that website 😆

    4. Barca96, I don’t think it was a typo. He was most likely saying that his sons are team players and committed to the group, rather than complete individualists.

      I’m sure they’re good people too tho. 🙂

    5. @Ryan.

      Thanks for the explanation.
      Now I just learned a new meaning to the word; group people.

    6. Definitely did not make that website. I’m more of a fan of his play rather than his looks lol.

  12. Milito has to start along side Pique. Considering we will be using both of them in Clasico, it is a must they both start together. Their combined lack of pace drives me crazy. But still this should be a good warning and test for both of them ahead of next week.

  13. This post by Euler really got me worried.

    They may not be able to count on Puyol playing heavy minutes next season. They are going to need to find the right partner for Pique. I don’t know if Fontas or Botia have enough pace to pair with Pique.

    I really didn’t think it would come so soon that we would have to see less of our Captain. So soon before we could even groom anyone to replace his leadership skills.
    Even though I liked the idea of getting Botia back, we need to give him time to settle in like we did with Pique.

    If you guys had a choice, would you choose to
    1)play Puyol for the remainder of the season but risk him for next season?
    2)Let him sit out for the remainder of season to let him be back at 100% for next season?

    I choose the 1st option. We are on course for a treble. That doesn’t happen every season.
    Better to give us a higher chance of winning trophies now then have him 100% for next season when we can try to get an adequate replacement in the market.

    I just don’t see us winning the treble with Pique-Busi/Milito pairing. It is different than having Yaya who was very trustworthy. We knew that he had the qualities to be a CB. I think if we compare them now, Yaya vs. Milito, Yaya would make a better CB.

    1. Well, what’s clear is that Puyol won’t play this unless he’s completely recovered and pain free. So I don’t think that if Puyol plays this season he will be risking himself for next season.

      Apart from that, there are no major tournaments for Spain this summer, if he were to play again this season and somehow suffer some type of injury, he’ll have plenty of time to recover in the off-season.

      And like I said before, I don’t think we’ll see Puyol again this season or certainly not in any of the clashes with Madrid.

      As for the treble thing, I’ve learned to trust this team in difficult situations. I may get nervous and freak out from time to time, but ultimately I trust Pep and the squad.

    2. If our offensive line and midfielders are doing their jobs, Pique/Milito won’t have much to do. Refer to Arsenal home leg.

    3. Well, what’s clear is that Puyol won’t play this unless he’s completely recovered and pain free.

      I would play Puyol even though he is not 100%! I’d rather have him at 70-80% rather than playing Pique-Busi/Milito at CB. We have lost all sorts of leadership on the field. No spirit. No one to spur them on. No one to direct them.

    4. True, but the point is Pep is obviously not going to do so. So it’s not really an option, otherwise he would’ve been on the field already.

      The other ‘leaders’ on the team are just going to have to step up during this critical stretch we’re about to embark on.

    5. I think he learned from Iniesta, as he was played while injured and while he helped win the treble, he was sidelined for so much of the following year. Imagine if we had him vs. Inter…

  14. High five Jnice. Always just trust in Pep and the squad. Especially in difficult situations, which is where we step up most.

  15. I just heard some great news though unconfirmed. It appears my country would be hosting Argentina in a June international friendly.
    nigerian super eagles vs messi
    I hope it would be played in my city so I can get to watch in the stadium…

    I asked a questionn in the last thread but no one answered.
    If messi picks up a yellow in the league against EE, does it move on into the cup final?

    1. Thanks but I think I have read of a players suspension in the kings cup carrying on into the league.
      aanother example is Rooney’s two match ban affecting both league and fa cup

    2. I think if he was to get a straight red, he would be suspended for the cup final. Yellow card accumulations don’t carry over.

    3. Yes, a straight Red means suspension in the folowing game, be it a cup or leage one, but accumulation of yellows in the league is irrelevant to the cup competition.

  16. Not related to Shakhtar-Barca match.
    Barca B are in third place in the segunda standing and if they maintain this form then they’ll be promoted to the primera division,right?.How can two Barca teams play in the league?.I heard that the rules won’t allow the club and its reserve team play in the same division.So what will La Liga decide?.As far as Barca B,they have to be promoted to the first division for all the hard work they have done.
    It would be lovely to see the Barca derby then.Seeing our first squad taking on the B squad would be superb.

    1. I heard that the rules won’t allow the club and its reserve team play in the same division.

      That’s right. There’s nothing to decide since those are the rules.

      Barça B definitely deserve more for all of their hard work, but the rules are the rules, and in this case, they make sense.

      Too many complexities, the opportunity for dishonest matches between the two teams, etc.

    2. It’s not just in the same division that bothers me but even in CdR.
      At least in Holland, there were a number of times where Ajax A(their B) almost got to the same stage of the Cup. If I’m not mistaken, once the youth team even went further. Semi-final I think.

    3. I don’t think the Liga B teams participate in the Copa.

      Alcorcon wasn’t even in Segunda when they humiliated EE 😆

    4. Then this means that Barca B have to play in the Segunda division and won’t be promoted to the first division until the first team gets relegated(That’s an horrid thought!!!!!!!)?.

    5. Yeah the reserve team and A team cannot play in the same division. For obvious reasons of conflict (for example, imagine Barcelona were going in on the final day of the season with the title on the line, to their reserve team).

      If the A team is relegated into the division the B team is in even, no matter how well the B team did in that division, they would also be relegated. For example if Villareal were relegated, Villareal B could be seventh in the Segunda but would still be automatically demoted.

      I hope though, if Luis Enrique takes charge of a La Liga club as expected, that they could become our reverse Getafe lol. As in instead of youth not getting opportunities and leaving the first team being offloaded to Getafe, the most talented youngsters from Barca B could play there on loan and get used to first-division standard of competition.

    6. There are rumours that he might be appointed Getafe coach next season. Which would mean that he would sort of be coaching Madrid’s “B” team.

  17. Off-topic, but could have an influence on Messi’s performance – his brother’s house in Rosario was the target of a drive-by shooting. At least 6 shots were fired at the house by a man on a motorbike. Apparently, his brother and mother were in the house at the time, but there has been no report of them being injured.

    Messi must be beside himself with worry, given that he is so close to his family – especially his mum.

    1. Actually, from the report that I read on the Barcastuff FB page says that it was unclear whether or not anyone was at home. Did you see another report somewhere?

  18. My fantasy XI:

    Adriano Fontas Mascherano Maxwell
    Thiago JDS Afellay
    Pedro Villa Jeffren


  19. I dont think Pep will rest anyone, Masch is not playing on saturday so he will most likely play the 90 minutes tonight, Next week the craziness begins, so there will be no resting also, but i guess we can have some rotation against Osasuna, not a minute before that.
    Score prediction we lose 1-2. they score a very late winner when the tie is dead and buried.

  20. Since a team and the youngsters team can’t play in the same division, Does that mean that we’re Un-Relegat-able ? 😀

  21. i don’t want any players to be rested during any of the Clasicos. 4 matches with 3 cups in the balance and a chance to make sure Moudrid wins nothing this season sound as good reasons as any to play our best team.

  22. “If you want to play showy football and be noticed, then mine isn’t the position. On a tactical level, the defensive midfielder in a 4-3-3 is just about the most demanding position there is. I’m a team player who needs to work a lot and sacrifice myself for the success of the group.”

    That’s Busquets’ statement, I love’s comment :

    Of course, if it were not for Daniel Alves, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Eric Abidal, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Lionel Messi, Pedro and David Villa, everyone would hail Sergio Busquets as the best outfield player for Barcelona.

  23. As far as the worry about Puyol, I said this would be his last season as a full-time starter anyhow. Pace complexities and age catch us all.

    1. This season, he was already noticeably slower at getting back and tackling before his injury. I think that his age and a strenuous World Cup has not helped him. He’s my favourite Barca player – it will be a sad day when he hangs up his boots.

  24. A viewing note for those of us in the HD-inhibited Comcast territories. Shaktar-Barca will be shown on Fox Soccer (channel 84) at 5:00 pm. If you want to see it in HD (on channel 576, CSNMA), you’ll have to wait until Thursday at 10:30 pm. As a consolation, Man U-Chelsea are on live in HD at 2:30 today on channel 576.

  25. We have a Fox HD affiliate kevin?

    A couple things, Messi’s brother. apparently his mom and brother were home, and apparently they weren’t.
    newest reports say no one was home.

    I skipped most of the Ibra chat. Our lineup? If Milito plays he won’t play Saturday. I’d like to see.

    Adriano Pique Mascherano Maxwell
    Xavi Thiago
    Afellay Messi Jeffren

    That front 3 is almost a certainty. We can’t afford to have Afellay in midfield. Maybe Keita for Thiago. But honestly, who else would play up front?

    1. Pedro still isn’t 100%, so I would prefer him not to start. Bring him on for the last 30 minutes, maybe.

    2. It’s cold in Ukraine, too dangerous for Jeffren 😆
      But I would start him rather than bringing him in the 2nd half only for him to get injured again. Worst scenario is when we don’t have any substitution left.

  26. OK, OK, are we excited? Are we ready? Once again I will be unable to watch the game or join the liveblog, but I will be following the FFT coverage at least. Here is my lineup, which will of course bear no resemblance to what Pep actually rolls out with:

    Alves Pique Milito Maxwell
    Xavi Masch Keita
    Messi Villa Jeffren

    Subs: Fontas (Milito), Afellay (Keita), Pedro (Jeffren).

    Yeah, that’s right. Jeffren starts. Or at least plays a good 30-40 minutes. With Bojan out for the season, Pep absolutely must give Jeffren minutes tonight because we are going to need him in the weeks to come.

    I have Busquets on the bench, but Pep may very well start him at CB. I hope not, personally. Milito was OK in his last game, and Fontas needs minutes.

    The key to this game will be scoring a goal early. Cancel out Shakhtar’s away goal and put them in a position where they would need to score 5 to go through. It’s just not going to happen.

    1. When was the last time Busquets played? Last week? No way he gets a 10 day rest thats a long time broseph.

    2. But Busi will be playing on Saturday and Masch can’t play in that game. Masch deserves the start, and so does Milito.

    3. You have Milito starting saturday too? Isn’t that like 3 games in 7 days? For Milito?

    4. Milito will have to start Saturday, who else is there? That’s why I want Fontas to get minutes today. Experience for him, and Milito doesn’t play the full 90 minutes.

  27. Anyone else feel weird about today? Usually I have the normal omg we could screw the pooch feeling. But I’m just meh. I think its the looming clasico’s that I don’t want to deal with. I have jury duty during the CDR final. 🙁

    maybe its cuz I broke my nail last night hitting a pinata 🙁 🙁

  28. According to Pep in today’s press conference he will play best available line up and will not rest players if they are fit.

    But I agree with comments above about giving Jeffren minutes on the pitch especially now that Bojan is injured. I actually think his pace would be tremendous on the right flank with Dani considering danger of Willian and other very pacy Shakhtar attackers that took advantage of our right flank and Dani getting caught up the field.

    1. True talk.

      With shakhtar actually looking to give their fans something to shout about in today’s game, it would be nice if we could do some counter-attacking today with lots of pace on the wings. Surely afellays gotta fit somewhere in 2days starting 11 (preferably on the left wing).

      We only have up to this summer to decide if afellay has got the goods to make it at barca. We dont want another Chygy case on our hands where we sell an assest when not fully tested.
      In terms of importance and pressure, this game will (hopefully) be a relatively easy one.

      Im hoping pep gives him a look-in.

    2. Yes, i guess ur right.

      Maybe the difference in price tags and the disadvantage of him not having played pass and move all his life (like afellay) has factored in to this.

      But the point is that peanut playing time doesn’t do anyone any good. Especially sum1 looking to impress (and has impressed to an extent).

    3. Wrong. More revisionism. Txigrinski made errors, but he also made excellent plays. And he was (already) a better long passer/attack starter than Pique. Would he have been better this season? Almost certainly. He was learning the system, learning Catalan and making a real effort to make it all happen.

      Again, I don’t know if anyone keeps DVD compilations of matches. I do. Txigrinski wasn’t anywhere near as bad as he has become. But it’s the price tag, just as it was with Ibrahimovic, though I’m not sure why people aren’t as bothered by the 40m Villa and his struggles right now.

      Afellay has been delightful, then clunky, then anonymous. It happens with first-year players in our system.

    4. Even though i never closely studied chygys performances the few times he got on the pitch, i personally only remember one game where i felt totally confident with him in our back-line and that was his first game (i think) against getafe. He was really nice and his ability was never in doubt.

      But i feel he was terrified of playing in such a high line. I dont think hes ever played that high. it was like he was scared and he couldnt even tell anyone on the pitch because everyone spoke catalan.

      I feel he would have made it, i really do.
      But IMO, what ultimately killed him was peanut playing time even in games like the one we have today where starters are begging for a breather and i got a feeling that this is whats gonna happen to afellay.

      And what sucks even more is hes gonna go to the premier league and totally owm some teams left wing, while we’ll lose depth in that area and then go snooping around santos for some overated teenager.

    5. Oh and the thing about villa.

      I don’t think that people were just bent on hating on Ibra like u make it sound. Its just that when your a striker and u cant score, you gotta somehow find some way of being productive without necessarily performing your main function.

      I’ll admit that Ibra tried with the pressuring and defence on set pieces but it just wasnt consistent enough to appeaese fans for his lack of goals.
      Not just that, he was also just too static (Most of the time).

      Whats weird is that villa is also guilty of these things, and he should be slammed in the same manner. But hes doing these all to a lesser extent.

      Take movement for example, remember how few the chances were for ibra when he was here?
      Now compare that to villa who is wasting chances left right and centre. But point is, hes getting them.

      Id be lying if i said some people weren’t giving villa a long rope, but its not too hard to see why.
      At least not for me.

    6. But that’s what I mean, flyzowee. Ibrahimovic was also missing sitters, left and right, just like Villa is, and like Eto’o was. Strikers do that.

      And I don’t think that people are bent on hating Ibrahimovic. I do think that, like Txigrinski, he is getting worse with time, so to speak.

      Few forget how good Ibrahimovic was at defending set pieces, for example. It’s an easy thing to forget. Or his rocket free kicks that he wasn’t allowed to take as often as he should have been. Or the touch that let him work give/gos with every bit as much fluency as Villa.

      Villa is every bit as static as Ibrahimovic. Watch him sometime. Just him, not the ball or the run of play. Sometimes it’s astounding.

      Again, this will bring out the “Kxevin loves Henry” crowd, but Henry was the last import forward we had, who got it. That you run forward AND back, attack AND defend, all the time, not just when you have the energy.

  29. I agree with everyone that we have to take this game seriously. They came out quick last match and could have been up. However, they did not take advantage of that. Not we should not be naive and say they cant do it again. BUT we have madrid twice in 3 days and I think we should give some people a rest. I think we should also have faith in our guys on the bench. Like Isaiah said over the weekend, Gabi is not washed up but hes not at our level. Agreed with that, but I think Gabi can handle todays match and give sergi a rest. I also think Masch has to play today because he will not be playing this weekend. I think we should play pedro to give him some more fitness before the weekend and possibly rest villa who looks a little out of sorts. I think rest may be what he needs. I feel pep will only play him 60-65 minutes anyways and if he does not score than he will feel more pressure on him. I also dont think it would be an awful idea to give maxwell a run and let dani possibly have a break. Besides messi, dani is never not playing and I dont know if we need two right wingers today. I know maxwell is not the fastest and has been short of confidence but i think maybe this would be a good game to play him. I also think we need to start showing our 11 some love. I think we have given a lot of time to Afellay who i think is a good player but i dn think he fits barca. He gets to the end line and plays crosses into the box in the air. That works for a lot of teams but not for barca. I also feel jeffren will take more players on which will open up more spots for our players in the box. I would start


  30. According to Marca (actually it’s their cover story!) Pep said that we’ll be in the finals of the CL if we beat Shakhtar.
    That doesn’t sound like Pep at all, usually he’s such a humble, respectful and cautious guy. But apparently he has said it during the CL press conference.
    So what has happened there, or was it ironic?

    1. Marca always, always tries to change things.
      How did they even become journalists? They can better work in gossip magazines.

    2. It was a slip of the tongue, nothing more. Of course Marca is going to raise a hue and cry about it.

  31. Thanks for the preview, Isaiah. Revenge of the Wookiees? Sadly, that is right up my alley in turms of “dorkitude”

    My wish list:
    Alves Pique Milito Maxwell
    Xavi Busi Keita
    Messi Villa Pedro!!

    Busi-When was the last time Busi played DM? He needs some practice at that position for the clasico.
    Milito- like it or not, he’s our best remaining option at CB if Busi must play DM for the clasico (the only people I trust at DM (personnally) are Busi, sMasche, and Xavi, I don’t mind Keita there at the end of the game after we’ve done offensive damage)
    P!!- needs some reps to get back in form, Jeffren should sub in for him if possible since we’ll be needing him for the run-in, seemingly.
    Messi- you know he’s going to, why even try to argue, it’s futile
    Subs: Fontas (sub in for Milito),Afellay,Jeffren, Pinto, Thiago(love for him to get some time), Adriano, JDS.

    for DC metro area Comcast, the game starts at 2:30 on channel 7 (Comcast Sportsnet)

  32. I would blow it out:

    Adriano Pique (needs minutes) Fontas Maxwell
    Thiago Keita Mascherano
    Pedro (30 minutes or so) Afellay Iniesta (play out of his funk)

    Then sub Jeffren, Busquets and Villa.

    Play super tight, hence the “none shall pass” midfield, and keep everybody fresh for the weekend.

    1. You’re leaving Messi totally out?
      Unless he is 99% injured, I don’t see Pep playing him.
      I would love to leave him totally out but we all know Pep.
      We could survive at Villareal without Messi and Villa, Im convinced we can do it in Ukraine without Messi alone.

      But Xavi has to play in the 1st half.

  33. emmm . . Kxevin. Iniesta’s not even there. Think the tension’s starting to get to you? 🙂

    1. Oh! That’s right! Look, you can’t expect me to remember a dude who gets yellow cards once every eon, can you? 😀

  34. Tbh, I never thought Pep would do other than play his best team so no surprise if that’s what he does. However, he MUST be looking to get the key players off at half time by the latest ( and he won’t do that either – 60th minute anyone?)

    1. Last season he would only take out key players (IF) on the 89th minute even when the match was settled by half time. I used to pull my hair in anger whenever he did that 😆
      BUt this season he makes quit quick substitutions..

  35. Tomorrow is our Captain Caveman’s 33rd birthday. You know what would be a good birthday present? A slot in the Champion’s League semifinals and a green light from the club doctors, that’s what!

    A quote from Xavi:

    “Puyol is the key, not just because he is one of the best defenders in the world but because of his character. He never lets up.”

    1. Oh, so a goal celebration or a heart shaped sign made with the hands pointed towards the stands would be for Puyi, not Thiago, today. Brazilian got gypped.

  36. Guys, would anyone know if Barcelona sends its full squad for friendlies? Just wanted to know as I’m buying tickets now to the Barca-Man U friendly in DC and the seats I’ll get will depend on whether I see the first team or not. Appreciate your immediate reply as the tickets are running out fast.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Those things are somewhat unpredictable, although you can probably expect maybe half the first team… but I wouldn’t count on Messi, Alves, Milito and any of the other South Americans (or JDS for that matter) to play, as it’s barely a week after the end of the Copa America.

    2. and I think for friendly usually coaches start subbing players on the halfway mark. expect to see more kids playing.

    3. Japan confirmed they were going to play after all like an hour ago. CONMEBOL still says Spain were never officially invited to the Copa America.

    4. I just bought my ticket!

      Regardless of who plays, I’m studying in Maryland and can’t resist watching the blaugrana play. 😀

    5. Yay! We should meet up! I asked who might be there as I was thinking of getting these tickets that let you watch practice the day before and access to an event before the match….I ended up with bleacher seats for now. Just wanted to make sure it will be worth the price. But yeah – am happy with watching any of them. Even the B team.

    6. You are very unlikely to see the full first team. Undoubtedly there is a contract clause requiring a certain number of first team players to be there, but not all of them. B players will fill in the gaps. Remember the uproar last summer when Pep tried to keep Messi out of a friendly game in Korea?

    7. I’ve looked everywhere, but I can’t find the tickets to that game on sale. I’m almost positive they haven’t gone on sale yet, as even the official sites don’t have a definite date they go on sale.

      How are you buying tickets now?

    8. Hi vicsoc, it’s a presale. I don’t think tickets are sold to the public til the 20th. My friend in DC was given access to presale tickets so it’s not a lot and they sold fast too. In fact, I was so slow in deciding that the lower deck tickets were gone and we ended up with bleacher ones.

  37. oh and the whole pique and zlatan picture.

    apparently Pique was at a book signing or charity work or something, and Zlatan was in the crowd, being a complete ass (no joke), and just yelling things, or giving him the finger and being childish to get his attention, and Pique pulledh im aside.

    Just what I remember hearing.

    1. But they were outside. And I do’t think Ibra would let Pique handle(being pulled aside) him like that 😆

  38. Phil Schoen from his twitter:

    We’re putting together shortened games from recent Clasicos GolTV. Really interesting thinking back to all of the Real-Barca storylines.

  39. If any of these RM players get a yellow card tomorrow, they would get a one-game suspension: Cristiano, Raúl Albiol, Di María, Sergio Ramos and Carvalho.

    Not including Iniesta, none of our players is on more than one yellow card in CL competition—except Pique, who is on three and should keep his hands to himself!


    Valdés, Alves, Piqué, Busquets, Adriano, Mascherano, Xavi, Keita, Afellay, Messi and Villa

    1. Yeah, lol, I didn’t even read it. Just coped pasted it from Twitter as soon as it came out hehe 😛

    2. although the RAC1 announcers made it sound like S-Masch was gonna play CB….. who knows, masch and busi will prob switch out throughout the game.



  42. why the hell hasn’t Pedro started in the last 3 games, his facebook says he is fine……

Comments are closed.