Barca 2, Osasuna 0, aka “Clunky, funky and expensive”

So here it was, our first match after the meaningless loss in a worthless Plat del Reig final, in which we saw the lineup that we should have seen in that match, with the exception of the keeper. Osasuna came into town, with shirts that are the same color as our hated rivals, but precious little of the talent. So we knew what kind of match this was going to be, really, one in which they would defend for a while until a moment or two of class broke open the lock and that would be that.

This was, yet, a dangerous match not only because of the opponent quality, but an (also expected) lack of focus. The Liga is won, and there’s a big midweek match coming up and your opponent is playing for its Liga life. This means lunges, dives and efforts that, while not made with malice aforethought, are made with the desperation of a battling side featuring players of lesser quality. Simply put, that’s how folks get hurt.

So the objective was to move 3 points closer to the Liga crown, and not get anybody hurt. In this case, 1 of 2 is pretty bad.

Guardiola stepped out with Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Milito, Maxwell, Keita, Busquets, Thiago, Afellay, Villa and Jeffren. Clearly his objective was to get Villa a goal, and not concede. We were 2-for-2 in that regard, as Villa took advantage of something that we haven’t seen in a very, very long time, a goal scored from open-field pace and creativity. We used to see them all the time in the days of Henry and Eto’o, two gazelles who could race from end to end at a moment’s notice. But of late, our more deliberate style has robbed us of the fast breaks that a player like Villa thrives on.

But not today. The passes at pace strung together beautifully, as it went Valdes to Alves to Thiago to Busquets to Afellay to Jeffren to Villa to the back of the net. And spare a moment for the exquisite final ball for Villa from Jeffren, that curled around the onrushing Osasuna defenders to find Villa, who slotted home with style. Was it a duck-breaker? We can only hope. Villa sure is happy about it, with the relief that comes from an interminable, agonizing drought.

There were other bits of news from a desultory match that couldn’t end quickly enough for me:

–Maxwell has a groin strain, the extent of which will be discovered on Sunday.
–Milito has a muscle injury of some sort, the extent of which will be discovered on Sunday.
–Messi (note the M theme here?) scored his 50th goal of the season, a fact that I want you to take a moment to wrap your minds around.

50 goals! Are you freakin’ kidding me? He breaks the Spanish record set by EE legend Ferenc Puskas, after having tied it against that very club. And the way that he broke it was typically Messi, as he started the play with a perfect ball and ended it by taking a pass from Alves and slotting home nice as you like, through the legs of the keeper and strolling to the corner to celebrate as nonchalantly as you like. You wonder if he even knew of his mark, so casual was the finish and stroll away. He didn’t want the ball, just wanted to keep playing, the quality that will ultimately come to define a player who with each mark broken and milestone reached, silences debate about who the best player in the world is by any rational person.

This was also a match that left us with more problems than solutions, as we lost two defenders and the illusion of any remaining depth as we limp to a Liga crown. We have an 8-point lead with 5 matches left. It’s over. Even as clubs like Valencia belly up, taking a 3-6 trouncing, it doesn’t matter because time and numbers are on our side. We haven’t officially won La Liga yet, but we’ve won La Liga.

Which brings us to Champions League, a looming specter that explains the cobbled-together lineup that faced Osasuna today, a side that tried its best and actually had a few solid chances, including one that I still don’t know how Valdes parried away. A last-ditch challenge by Maxwell helped put the attacker off, but it was still a remarkable save from a remarkable keeper. One reckons at some point, Phil Schoen will stop riding him like a rented mule, but who knows? Until then, he will be our keeper, one who even if he isn’t the best in the world, is best in the world for us.

Valdes, and Mascherano’s Man of the Match performance were about the only highlights for some time, as we couldn’t seem to string passes together. Yes, lack of focus and familiarity had much to do with it but don’t discount Osasuna’s intensity and energy. Afellay looked good, Thiago looked lost and Villa looked hungry, but the sharpness wasn’t there, seen in the play of Alves and Busquets, who were, respectively, mishitting passes and giving the ball away whenever he could. It was a team with no real center, no home base that allowed it to pause and reload. This meant quite a few negative balls to gain that pause, as Osasuna pressed up to challenge in the midfield, while keeping their defenders back and tight. We’ve seen that one before, right? It will become the Way to Defend Us until we prove that we can beat it when it is implemented by a quality team.

What Jeffren taught us is that pace and precision can beat that kind of approach. It’s direct play that can defeat a defensive system, as our first goal demonstrated. Yes, player quality has a lot to do with it, but the principles are the same: Direct running at a defense will destabilize it. It’s worth noting that the best chances were created by the most direct players on the pitch, Jeffren and Afellay. We won’t see Afellay against EE, except as a sub for one reason or another — time-killing or desperation, and I think that’s too bad. His directness might be just the ticket, particularly with the hell-raising midgets running around.

This also seems like an appropriate time to ask whether Mascherano can play at left back? This would have been a valid question even before the Maxwell injury, as a certain coach and his star player must have been watching Maxwell’s badness today and thinking “He’s ours!” We need a solution at that position, and Mascherano has answered every question asked of him this season. Is “Can you play left back” another one? We’ll see. Meanwhile, we have some points to deal with.

Team: 5. Disjointed, messy and uninspired, knitting together at key moments to make good things happen. Both goals were products of excellent team interplay, even as individual brilliance carried the day.

Guardiola: 8. Right lineup, right subs, excellent decision to start Villa in the hopes that he would find the back of the net with a quality goal, rather than some cobbled-together bit of garbage. Getting key players legs loose before midweek CL also tip-top. But man, were they not ready to play from the start today.

Valdes: 9. A bad pass or two, but what an extraordinary match. Yes, some will say that had he been in nets during the Copa finale, they might not have scored. Whatever. That was then, and this is now, a day in which Valdes made all the right moves, showing increased growth in how he reads play. The best keepers have these math brains that tell them “If this, then that,” which they then plan for. Valdes’ last-ditch parry of Osasuna’s best scoring chance demonstrated that quality.

Alves: 5. His heart and mind weren’t in it today. He got badly snookered on the play that led to their great scoring chance, threw passes hither and yon and smacked a joke of a free kick. But typically Alves, he also had some beautiful interplay and provided Messi with a brilliant pass for his goal. That’s Alves.

Mascherano: 10. I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that without Mascherano, I don’t know if we win this match today. He won, stole or gangstered every ball that came near him. He wasn’t just a physical presence on the back line, he was also a fast one, with sideline-to-sideline range. It’s worth repeating his most amazing quality for me: He just stops the ball, and doesn’t care what a player does. We saw it so much today, and I do hope that we see it on Wednesday. MOTM, and nobody else was even in shouting distance.

Milito: 7. A very good match today. His passing (short and long) and positional defense were in full display. He still plays like an older player who doesn’t realize it, so he makes errors that a few years ago he could solve with pace and physicality.

Maxwell: 3. Giveaways, positional errors and bollixed-up attacks were his calling card today. I can’t think of a poorer match for him. His goal-line challenge helped Valdes get enough time to save the day on Osasuna’s attack that looked dead certain to result in a goal. At his core, Maxwell is always a solid player. Never great never bad, just solid. Today he was bad.

Busquets: 3. On Sant Jordi day, you aren’t supposed to give people footballs. Nobody told Busquets this, apparently. When he dwells on the ball, he always gets in trouble, even against Osasuna. He’s an excellent one-touch player, but caught in possession, he’s a counter-attack waiting to happen. Worse still, he falls down to wait for the call. He was awful today.

Keita: 7. This is the kind of team that he thrives against, and he did so today. His positional play was excellent as he does that “in the way” thing that he does so well. He also served as a link between back and front, when he wasn’t destroying Osasuna attacking efforts.

Thiago: 5. Young’uns will be this way: brilliant one day, mediocre the next. He still has the tendency to play quickly and dangerously, in an almost self-centered way that can cost his team. Witness his little run and backheel flip to Iniesta, whose on-pitch reaction was “What the …. ?” as he recovered the ball and continued the attack. Thiago isn’t Xavi and never will be, but when performing a Xaviesque role, he has to be better. There is a precise moment to make a pass. Thiago is too often early or late, trying to compensate for that chronological complexity with trickery.

Afellay: 6. A good match in which he showed off his directness of play, touch and shot from distance, including a first-half effort that was a hair from going in. Then he turns around and misplaces passes, or hits them too softly. It’s sometimes hard to remember that he’s still a young player who is learning the game at the highest level, such is his quality.

Jeffren: 4. Some sparkling moments dragged down by all the signs of a player who has essentially spent the season on the injured list. His first touch wasn’t there, and he only has one move, the dive toward the end line. But against a defender every bit as fast as he was, it rarely worked. He’s gone this summer, and he certainly should be. Still a driverless Ferrari.

Villa: 6. As lively as he’s been in a while, even as he’s had better overall matches. And here’s hoping that beautifully taken goal will be the kick-starter for him, at just the right time. He’s making the right runs, it must be said. He just hasn’t been doing the right things with the ball. Jeffren’s pass was such that Villa had to rely on instinct, and his instincts are good. It’s when he has time to think that the scoreless streak became a burden, leading him to almost always do the wrong thing with the ball. Today was a very good sign.


Iniesta (for Jeffren): 6. Very solid in doing exactly what he was supposed to do: not let the side screw up. He became that ground, and suddenly midfield play was a lot more tidy.

Messi (for Villa): 6. He was playing his way to a higher rating. When Messi plays directly as he did today, he goes from danger to menace. Teams love when he gets the ball around midfield and makes a run. It’s easy to deal with. When he moves, takes a ball, dishes and moves again, forget about it.

Xavi (for Milito): 6. When the Maestro entered, things calmed down even further. Hopefully Thiago was taking notes on how to play quickly, without hurrying. There is a precise moment to make a pass, and Xavi knows it.

And now, we wait for Wednesday’s immense Champions League encounter at their house. And whatever back line we have will involve something makeshift somewhere. It’s difficult right now to guess at the extent of Maxwell’s injury, but Milito looked a lot more comfortable with his than Maxwell did. Granted, Maxwell’s knock probably had chagrin as an exacerbating factor. I said it above and will say it again: I love the idea of Mascherano at left back. Let’s see what Guardiola does.

–Note: I hate that Shakira nonsense. You get the feeling that she’s constantly looking to make sure the cameras are on her. And Pique looked embarrassed as she planted one on him after the goal. Our players are footballers, not celebrities.

Finally, some Sant Jordi joy ….

"Here's a rose to replace the shirt that I sold."
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Written by:

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. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 23, 2011

    “–Note: I hate that Shakira nonsense. You get the feeling that she’s constantly looking to make sure the cameras are on her. And Pique looked embarrassed as she planted one on him after the goal. Our players are footballers, not celebrities.”

    THIS… Shaki was totally overreacting and Geri’s face was like “wtf, girl”…

    Thanks for the review, Kev!

    • Jim
      April 24, 2011

      Not that I care really at all but my first thought on seeing her was a positive one. She was dressed and made up for the football not for a celebrity outing with her hair scraped back instead of the usual flowing tresses and this knowing the camera would be on her. She’s also maybe trying to leave behind her Madrid connections so she gets full marks from me. I did think Pique looked as if he’d rather be discussing the game with Puyol though.

      • Xingxian
        April 24, 2011

        I couldn’t hate on Shakira for acting the way she did. I behave more ostentatiously at games (both live and televised) and if the cameras were on me there’s no way in hell I’d let that stop me from pouring my heart out and behaving in accord with how I felt. I don’t personally know Shakira and I think because of that it behooves me not to chastise her for motives she may or may not have had.

        Also, my friends tell me that in ways both good and bad I am rather shameless, especially in public (sense of propriety LOLWUT?), so that might skew my feelings on the matter.

  2. OSBAG
    April 23, 2011

    Five of seven defenders out!!!
    Who plays LB now?
    Kxevin would you step in?

    Shakira was just showing off unnecessarily. It was obvious that all that was for the camera.

    Eagerly and apprehensively awaiting Wednesday

  3. Víctor
    April 23, 2011

    Yeppers, I hate that Shakire nonsense as well. I mean, yes, she is Piqué’s girlfriend. So what? She already has a lot of attention, stop making a fuzz because she is attending at Barcelona’s games.

  4. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 23, 2011

    “So here it was, our first match after the meaningless loss in a worthless Plat del Reig final, in which we saw the lineup that we should have seen in that match, with the exception of the keeper.”

    my dad will completely disagree with you…
    we had an argument last night, because he said Pep played Pinto is a sign of disrespect to an opponent like EE…

    he’s still upset for the loss and blame Pinto…

    oh, well…

    • April 23, 2011

      I’d blame Messi for the goal. Garbage in, garbage out. If he fights for the ball that he lost, they almost certainly don’t score.

      As for Pinto, Guardiola will never do that. It’s respect. We got there with Pinto, and live or die with Pinto. I like that.

      • BarcaGirl_Indo
        April 23, 2011

        yup… I said exactly that to him… it started from Messi’s fault… it’s a team collapse… Pep respect Pinto…

  5. blitzen
    April 23, 2011

    Three comments and tbey are all about Shakira? Guess it’s working.

    How about some football?

    I vote Keita as emergency fill-in LB. He might not like it, but he will do it if Pep asks him to.

    Fontas should have come on instead of Xavi.

    • April 23, 2011

      Mascherano all day for me. I think that he also scares TB with his physical play and tackling. I just don’t think that they are going to be able to get away with all the crap they did in the Plat final match. I don’t usually carp about refereeing, but that was ridiculous.

      • blitzen
        April 23, 2011

        I would say Masch, but we may very well need him at CB.

        And yeah, I’m not going to say anything about the refereeing. Not. A. Single. Thing. Nope.

  6. Víctor
    April 23, 2011

    In response to: BarcaGirl_Indo

    about the referee, I think maybe it’s the right thing Pep made an issue about it…?
    to give a ‘warning’ to the referee, that we know he’s a Portuguese, and we’re watching him…

    this whole “the world against us” campaign from Mou definitely worked… EE players had license from the referee to stomp, kick, push, pull our players…

    On a second thought, maybe he did the best thing. Put pressure on the referee (to, you know, actually ref the game as it should be… fair to both sides) without blaming refs for the loss against Madrid in CDR.

    Sure, it’s not (and it shouldn’t be, ever) our style to bitch about referees… but that doesn’t mean that we should just let the other teams pressure the referees to their favor.

    • Jnice
      April 23, 2011

      I think it’s good that Pep said a word about the refs. It’s silly that a Portuguese ref will be in charge of the game.

      Mourinho always gets to have his say on the refs and over the past couple of matches, I would say his b.s. is working. It’s time we were in the refs thoughts as well.

  7. April 23, 2011

    “Here’s a rose to replace the shirt that I sold.”

    It doesn’t fill the voooooid. 🙁

      • barca96
        April 24, 2011

        what’s that supposed to mean Jnice?

        • Eklavya
          April 24, 2011

          He’s trying to rip off Peanuts but it’s not working! 😀

  8. April 23, 2011

    Very unfortunate we lost Maxwell, not that I trusted him against EE anyways. I think Guardiola can place sMasch in that position, hopefully we can have Puyol (havent heard if he’s entirely out or just a “doubt.”
    i didnt give two craps about today, La Liga is ours and hopefully the next one is also.
    I think UCL midweek is going to be a battle of attack. We have to attack, they’ll be missing key players (Carvalho, Khedira) and I think we exhaust that.
    Today is to be placed in the forgotten book of matches, except for sMasch’s greatness.

    • Jnice
      April 23, 2011

      Today is to be placed in the forgotten book of matches, except for sMasch’s greatness.

      Indeed. I won’t be watching this match again. Mascherano is a beast, though.

  9. OSBAG
    April 23, 2011

    Alves assist for messi was the precise kind of pass we were lacking in the elclassicos. Villa made that type of run a number of times without him been given the ball. sometimes we just have to leave the patient buildup and go for the direct approach.

    It was good watching sMache and busquets together at CB.

    Alves . Puyol . Pique . Mascherano for nxt match?
    Sure pep is capable of that

  10. Obii
    April 23, 2011

    To be honest, and I may come off as negative, I am scared ****less about the Champions League tie. Our team is just straight up exhausted. We always knew depth was going to be an issue, but didn’t think it would hit us this badly. I just hope whatever Pep does, works well.

    • Obii
      April 23, 2011

      Also, is it just me or does Afellay look like he’s been told to hold back on his long range shots? I could swear I saw him in good positions for one of his crackers, but he hesitated and the moment(s) was/were gone.

  11. Ryan
    April 23, 2011

    Uhm, Shakira has been a global icon for years, I don’t think she was seeking the attention. Some folks get pretty excited when watching soccer and just do stuff – I kissed my girlfriend after Iniestazo #2, hehe. Folks do have different takes on PDAs though.

    As to the game, it was such a pleasure seeing that cross from FF and Villa there to finish it. It’s the sort of cross I’ve seen Silva do for Citeh’s forwards. More of that next Wednesday, please!

    Valdes just can’t do any wrong it seems; he refuses to concede a goal in open play! I have no idea how he stopped that certain goal by pushing it to the post. With Abidal’s unfortunate situation I think Valdes is our player of the season. Or I guess it’s Messi, but he’s most likely to have that title for an entire decade. Where’s the fun in that?

    • April 23, 2011

      I would label her a global pop star, reserving “icon” status for the likes of Michael Jackson. And pop stars still do things in calculated ways to keep their names in the limelight. I liked that relationship much better when it was secret.

    • April 23, 2011

      Silva? As in, David Silva?

      Why do you mock me so, Ryan! I’m still trying to forget. 🙁 😀

      I’d give VV our POSTNM–that is, Our Player of the Season That’s Not Messi–too. ….But Abi is such a boss, so I think it’ll be a tie.

    • Ryan
      April 23, 2011

      Fair enough, Kxevin. I’ve listened to her songs for ages now, so I’m probably more likely to give her the benefit of the doubt. In any case, I bet Pique is enjoying himself. 🙂

      And Kari, sorry about that! I do like seeing Spanish outfield players succeeding in England as it discredits the whole “Messi could never make it in the Premier League” nonsense.

  12. April 23, 2011

    Note that we finished the match with Mascherano functionally at left back. I think that might give some clues about what Guardiola is thinking.

  13. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 23, 2011

    Guardiola: “We finished with Keita as centre-back and Mascherano as left-back. We’re lucky to have a versatile player like Mascherano.

    a clue?

  14. Jnice
    April 23, 2011

    I think our defense for wednesday will be:

    Alves-Pique-Puyol-Mascherano or Alves-Mascherano-Pique-Puyol.

    I don’t really see anything other than that.

    • Whatever
      April 24, 2011

      Yeah, one of those two, definitely.

  15. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 23, 2011

    Pep were just asking for justice on the field…

    while Mou is trying to get license for his players to go all Karate Kid against us…

    big difference…

    Mou, CR, Pepe, and Carlvalho (he wont play anyway) are Portuguese…

    so it’s ridiculous UEFA point out a Portuguese referee to be in charge…

    isn’t UEFA supposed to be Barça biased? *sarcasm*

    • Jnice
      April 24, 2011

      I don’t think it’s so much the players who are Portuguese (can’t help that), but the fact that last season there was controversy over that Portuguese ref who clearly aided Inter with some decisions against us.

      Mourinho has been talking a lot about referees the past few weeks and I don’t see why UEFA couldn’t have appointed a referee with a different nationality to do the game.

      Pep is clearly annoyed by this otherwise he would’ve never felt he had to stir the pot a bit and put the spotlight on the referee for the upcoming match.

  16. Dani_el
    April 24, 2011

    I hope we have Mascherano on the left on wednesday, I think everythings happens for a reason, maybe it is for the best, I think maaaaybe, Mascherano would play a better rol on the left than Maxwell, he’s faster, and has learned much of the positioning and anticipation we require. So it may be:
    Alves Pique Puyol Masquerano

    Xavi Busi Iniesta

    Messi Villa Afellay

    So we may sub Pedro for the second half, what do you think about it?

    • Jnice
      April 24, 2011

      I would rock with that, but like Kxevin, I think Afellay will only feature as a sub, and that’s a shame.

      • April 24, 2011

        I can only think that Guardiola is thinking that very same thing. Having Puyol on the left, as some have suggested, leaves him vulnerable to their pace out there.

        Mascherano is a fast learner. I recall many saying that he was going to be a card magnet, with his man-style tackles on the delicate, flopping flowers of La Liga. In fact, he adapted and has learned to gangsta the ball without harming the environment. This will come in handy vs “I’m dead! I’m dead!” TB and Di Maria, two players I would have a lot more respect for if, like Messi, they just manned up and played the game.

        And I freely admit that Mascherano brings the like-for-like possibility. If one team decides that it wants to get stuck in, there are few players I’d rather have on my side during such a contretemps than Mascherano.

      • culeluvr
        April 24, 2011

        Agreed. The problem is Guardiola doesn’t give him enough minutes to get some experience. It’s one thing to practice with the team and its another totally different thing to actually play with the team for more than 2-20 minutes(as is the usual case with Afellay)during a game. It’s a pity and a waste of talent, at least in my opinion. How is he supposed to grasp the “philosophy” and adapt if he is not allowed sufficient play time? I don’t like to question Guardiola or his tactics but this is extremely perplexing to me.

      • Para
        April 24, 2011

        I don’t remember what point it was during the match, but there was a loose ball floating down the left-ish side of the box, and Mascherano absolutely BEASTED it over to get rid of it. I had no idea he was so speedy!

  17. April 24, 2011

    If Pep would really have faith in Afellay, this lad would be working far better with the team. Pep needs to shed his loyalties when they’re hurting us.

    anyway, good review, and ahah, especially Pique looking mortified when Shakira kissed him after that goal, i caught that too.

    but she’s trying (too hard) because of that sorry ass photoshoot she did with Zidane and a piece of white rag, at least this is what i feel.

  18. April 24, 2011

    Keep the perspective right, Cule…

    Afellay is showing good signs of quality for a player who just signed for the team, but so far he didn’t deliver anywhere close to the level that makes him a worthy starter in big games – and specially in the most important game for the rest of the season.

    We can evaluate him fairly by the end of next season. So far, Pep will be crazy even to consider counting on him over Pedro. And I doubt he is THAT crazy.

    On a brighter note…Mascherano give me goose-bumps week in week out, while Barcelona fans gave me the creeps last night after the multimillion so-called RM-B won against sleepwalking Valencia.

    As for defense crises, Maxwell’s injury is an upset. Mascherano is an option, Pedro is another -crazy yet worth considering- one.

  19. Louis
    April 24, 2011

    I just wonder if the media is still calling the sMasch signing a bust like they have been all season?

    I for one, am all about the thug back line-up of him and Alves.

    If we we were not so injury stricken, sMasch at the very least should serve as a hockey type “enforcer”. You mess with our genius (Gretzky = Messi), you’re gonna pay for it.

  20. K_legit
    April 24, 2011

    Colour me strange but for some reason I thought Iniesta was playing very beow his standards yesterday..instead of him playing on the left it seemed Thiago had been stationed there which did not help young T at all…

    Villa’s goal was a proper poacher’s goal and also one of the major ways in which I used to score ’em in FIFA 09 that makes it 22 for the season for Villa with 18 in the league with around 6-7 weeks of footie left? hmmm

    Very impressed with young Afellay..his movement and passing was integral to the first goal..

    I miss Puyol ;(

  21. I think the Maxwell injury is the best thing that has happened for us. He was total crap and we cannot risk to put him out in the field at Bernebeu. This is my starting line-up for the match at bernebeu.

    Victor Valdes

    Pique Mascherano

    Alves Puyol

    Xavi Busquets

    Pedro Iniesta



    Puyol in the left of defense is good. Xavi, Busquets, pedro, Iniesta should play in midfield, that should give us the numerical superiority in the midfield. Messi should play in centre, what it does will be pin Pepe back as there is no Caravalho available in centre of defense

  22. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 24, 2011

    Pep’s press conference :

    “We accept the fact that Real Madrid is seen as the favourite for having won the Copa against us. It is not me that says it but everyone else.”

    “In fact, some can already see them playing in the final at Wembley. That is understandable considering they had just won the Copa, been doing well, and has one of the most complete squad. It seems we have everything going against us, and few are able to see us eliminating them.”

    we are clearly the underdog now…

    about the Portuguese referee :

    “If that is so, I’m sure Real Madrid coach is going to be very happy. Last year it served him well, and this time it is going to be like that again. That is, if it is confirmed as such.”

    you can read more at totalbarca… 🙂

    • Humphrey Bogart
      April 24, 2011

      Hah, let the mind games begin.

      I am very happy for Smash, I was never against his signing, quite the contrary, I always really liked him and was happy that we got him. And Diego may be a crazy-overweight-macho-lunatic as a coach, but he got one thing right: may team is Smasch and 10 others. Since the WC 2006 I was really impressed with Jefecito and it was so dreadful to see him and Messi so exposed in this WC due to a luck of tactial knowledge of their coach, I mean in ghe game against Germay it was 4 at the back, 5 upfront and in the middle a big hole which Smach tried to fill.

  23. barca96
    April 24, 2011

    His goal-line challenge helped Valdes get enough time to save the day on Osasuna’s attack that looked dead certain to result in a goal

    That was Kxev’s take on Maxwell. First of all, it was his fault to let his man get in front of him. He was caught ball watching.

    What is up with UEFA? Can they change referees now or not since it will bring a lot controversy?

  24. Jim
    April 24, 2011

    Agreed, Barca96. He let his man go and it was one of his poorest games for us as Kxevin correctly said. However, he did at least recover to make a challenge that stopped a full blooded shot, possibly injuring himself in the process. Also, MOTM Masch ( and I agree with that – he was awesome at times and has my vote at LB for the CL as long as he has Puyol to cover) also let his man have a completely free header from a corner which could have resulted in a goal so to single Maxwell out unduly would be unfair. The whole team was a step off the pace. I can’t think of anyone of the replacements who stepped up at all. Also, after that challenge Maxwell wasn’t moving well at all and probably made the injury worse by staying on to allow Pep to make the changes he wanted. He was in serious pain by the end.

    Not a night for judging our team. We got away with a poor display and move on.

    Btw, Villa’s goal is even better when you watch it back. He feigned to go inside the defender then pulled across to the outside leaving him lost.

    • messi_fan
      April 24, 2011

      Yeah it was a great goal, wasn’t it?

  25. Humphrey Bogart
    April 24, 2011

    Right Now: our young guns against Betis.

  26. messi_fan
    April 24, 2011

    I agree with the review, particularly the part where you say “backheel flip to Iniesta, whose on-pitch reaction was “What the …. ?” That’s EXACTLY how Iniesta reacted 🙂 Though I think Thiago’s trickery can help unlock defenses (once he isn’t tricking our players as well).

    I too would like to see Smasch at left back. I’d also like to see Villa, Messi and Pedro interchanging positions throughout the match. (Pedro should start on the left and Messi on the right though). I also wouldn’t mind seeing Afellay instead of Pedro but I think that’s doubtful.

    In terms of Shakira though, I simply think she gets very nervous when watching matches, as this vid from the Copa Del Ray shows

  27. footballfan
    April 24, 2011

    I just hope that Puyol will be fit. Anyone we play doesn’t really matter if Puyol is on the field 😀

      • flyzowee
        April 24, 2011

        Listening to the tone in peps press comference. Its quite obvious Pep is trying to get the team to thrive under our new found ‘underdog’ tag.
        Feels weird.
        When was the last time we went into a match not being favourites?

        • Jnice
          April 24, 2011

          With the way everyone was talking about Madrid in November, we went into the 5-0 as slight underdogs, IMO.

          • Para
            April 24, 2011

            I don’t know about the Spanish media (which appears from the outside to be so partisan that it may be a non-issue), but it certainly seemed that way in the english-speaking media to me.

  28. messi_fan
    April 24, 2011

    Heh. “We’re going to train at the Bernabeu on Tuesday so we can adapt better to the very tall grass.” – Pep (source barcastuff)

    • footballfan
      April 24, 2011

      Looks like Pep is having fun making semi-sarcastic remarks 😀

    • messi_fan
      April 24, 2011

      Yeah. Except for the last line 🙁

  29. soccermomof4
    April 24, 2011

    To all who celebrate it:

    HAPPY EASTER, y’all!

  30. Whatever
    April 24, 2011

    So we are the underdogs now? They are the favorites? I love that. I’m sure Pep will use this to motivate the players.

    As far as the lineup is concerned, I see:

    Alves – Pique – Puyol – Mascherano
    Xavi – Busquets – Iniesta
    Pedro – Messi – Villa

    • soccermomof4
      April 24, 2011

      Seemingly we are now, and I can’t help but think that underdog status suites our cule mentality better.
      I like your lineup but has Masch ever plyed LB? Puyol has. Nevertheless, we can’t feel too badly if we are actually able to field a back four like that. There’s speed on both flanks. If Villa or Pedro aren’t giving us the width we need we bring on 3M or Jeffren. Other than that, Keita is the ONLY other available/uninjured/experienced first teamer on the bench. Scary but doable.

      my wish list:
      Alves, Pique, Mascherano, Puyol
      Xavi, Busi, Iniesta
      Pedro, Messi, 3m (Villa as impact sub(good to have one of those!))

      Thanks for the review, Kxevin. It was a scary game. We are so tired and hurt. We are facing EE, whose players all got healthy at the right time. We are facing teams in the league now who are well rested because they play a good 20 less games than our guys each season. But we still had flashes of brilliance and that’s where my hope for us lies: that we string together enough flashes of brilliance to take the CL.

      • ElJefe
        April 24, 2011

        Seems like the only sensible line-up assuming Puyol is healthy and Villa is back with confidence. In that case, the key to the match, which is pretty scary given recent performance and not being 100%….is how PEDRO! plays. Who would you play in place of Pedro is Pep knows something we don’t?

        Despite all the heat on Villa I think Iniesta is in equal need of a kick in the ass and more shots on goal…we need the Don Fantasma of 2nd half of last week’s game.

  31. flyzowee
    April 24, 2011

    Thats the line-up almost everyone is banking on.

    Its quite obviovs that we have been heavily outnumbered in midfield these past two games.

    All im hoping for is for villa and pedro to just hug those touchlines.
    We seriously need to (decentralize?) this game and stop making EEs work easier by forcing all our plays down messis throat in the middle.

  32. Humphrey Bogart
    April 24, 2011

    Just watch Gijon against Espanyol and the comentator just said that Preciado lost his father this week in a car accident. How tragic is that as he already lost his wife and one of his sons?

  33. Josep
    April 24, 2011

    I’ve always liked Wijnaldum but damn! Two great headers to make the Eredevisie race even better. Why not look at him? still young, can play the two wings or midfield, he’s just like Afellay too.

  34. blitzen
    April 24, 2011

    Watching Arsenal/Bolton and trying to guess what new and novel way Arsenal will find to lose this one? I’m going with three own goals.

    • Humphrey Bogart
      April 24, 2011

      How about an own goal, a goalkeeper blunder , than they come back to equalise just to loose to a stupid penalty in the last minute of injury time. I think this would sum up their season perfectly.

      • blitzen
        April 24, 2011

        Add either Cesc or RVP finishing with an injury, and you’ve got it spot on!

      • Miguel
        April 24, 2011

        I’ll credit you Nasri’s clearance straight to Sturridge as an own goal.

    • Miguel
      April 24, 2011

      Does Song have maggots coming out of his head?

        • Miguel
          April 24, 2011

          I always thought Rigobert’s dreads were awesome. Alexandre’s just trying too hard.

          • Humphrey Bogart
            April 24, 2011

            Seriously, he did look much better with his dard dreads one year ago, now he is looking very clownish

    • soccermomof4
      April 24, 2011

      Such pessimism! And yet, I find it hard to argue with you! 🙂

    • BarcaGirl_Indo
      April 24, 2011

      Bolton 1 – Arsenal 0…

      I guess my friends are right, there is such a thing as CULE CURSE…

  35. BarcaGirl_Indo
    April 24, 2011

    Guardiola: “It seems few people are still behind us but I believe in the strength, the spirit and the honour of this team.”

    so Pep feels some fans are leaving them and only a few left? because we lose in Plat del Reig?

    • blitzen
      April 24, 2011

      Pep must have been reading our last LiveBlog….

      • Para
        April 24, 2011

        And perhaps the comments below Isaiah’s last post as well.

    • Jnice
      April 24, 2011

      He means that people are starting to doubt the team. RM now being seen as favorites by the media, some fans, etc.

  36. Miguel
    April 24, 2011

    Anybody catch Little Barca play Betis this morning? Luis Enrique’s child soldiers lost 3-0, apparently. Betis is becoming Barca’s bogey team. I can’t wait for them to play in the top flight next year.

    • blitzen
      April 24, 2011

      No shame in losing to Betis, they are an excellent team.

    • Humphrey Bogart
      April 24, 2011

      Yeah, we started really well, but did not convert our chances (sounds familar?) and then just before the break Betis did land 2 sucker punchs.

  37. Humphrey Bogart
    April 24, 2011

    Ah, seems we have a change in the script.

  38. Ahmad
    April 24, 2011

    The thought of Mascherano AND Puyol playing together on wednesday should make any opponent pee their pants. You do not want to pick on Messi when those guys are around.

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