Racing 1, Barca 4, a.k.a. “Almost there. Almost.”

Did we kill them, or what? Who's next?
Did we kill them, or what? Who's next?

It was a perfect match, played perfectly with a full team effort, and everybody doing what they were supposed to, then Rafa Marquez had to go and screw it up.

So, imagine this: Both clubs wind up tied at the end of the season, in the league and head-to-head, and it comes down to goal differential. We’ve given up 3 goals in two matches, none of which were supposed to be. Pardon my sounding like Guardiola after the 5-2 win vs Atletico Madrid, but this can’t happen.

“Oh, we’re still up by 3” is not a viable consideration, to my worldview.

And more importantly, we saw something of the high-wire act that every top-level club faces, of a wrong foot plant derailing the season. Ibrahimovic, our brilliant Swede, has a sprained ankle. More will be known over the next couple of days. But he is needed, with Henry having a case of the shits, and Iniesta not back to full match fitness or pace yet.

Wow, quite the Gloomy Gus opening in the aftermath of as thorough a dismantling of an opponent as we are likely to see this season, eh? The possession stats were absurd, as Guardiola made it abundantly clear how he viewed this match and our struggles at Racing, by rolling out the Best Possible Lineup of Valdes, Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal, Keita, Busquets (hence the “best possible” qualifier), Xavi, Messi, Henry, Ibrahimovic. The idea was to put the boot in, get the match over early then have a nice little kickaround.

Which is precisely what happened, though truth be told this one started a little clunky, with bad shots from both Henry and Ibrahimovic, and Xavi being slow on the draw in jumping on a pass in the box. Racing were defending resolutely, determined to keep us in front of them, with 10 behind the ball, their two attackers playing high …. not really pressuring, just kind of hanging in case anything shook loose.

Problem with that is that you don’t put any pressure on Xavi, allowing him to control and command, as we inch closer and closer to your goal. Keita was pushing up with impunity, aware of how Racing were playing, a club that would have been perfect content with a draw. We conceded some possession in our own end, playing with 10 men thanks to Pique being off with a head gash for a bit, leading to the hilarious line “Welcome back to the game, Mr. Fawlty.”

You could see us getting closer and closer, and then it happened, a foul on Messi that led to a set piece. The passing was as calm as could be, as Messi drops a perfect ball onto Ibrahimovic’s head, and he victimized our own Adriano at the far post. It was 1-0, and really, the way that Racing were playing, that was that. But then, Ibra broke loose into the box for a second, forced wide only by some excellent goaltending.

And let’s take a moment to say, without fear of offending any fans of any recently employed Barcelona strikers, that we don’t score that goal last season. Because it was height, positioning and strength that scored that header. He got on the defender and stayed there, making sure that the ball found the net. As goals go, it was a pretty simple header over a shorter, weaker defender (sorry, Adriano). But as possibilities go, our color palette just got a little more vivid.

But we had the ball and kept the ball, for minute after minute, as the Racing fans whistled at their side but really, what could they do? What fascinated me was that they seemed to keep playing the same game plan, as if they said “Well, we won’t give up two, that’s for sure.

And yet, they did, thanks to Messi, who was out of his mind. It was an innocent play, really, us just kicking the ball around until a one-touch from Messi to Xavi, followed by Messi charging toward the box, led to a perfect return ball from Xavi. Messi was able to weasel his way in, and snapped off a shot with precision, placement and pace, that he hit while he was running. I’m sorry, but that’s just crazy. It was like he was striding to continue his run, only it was a snap shot.

Suddenly it was 2-0 and we were off to the races, because at this point, Racing had to come out and play, right?

Well, sort of. They were still tight at the back, and on a set piece, there was a scramble. A Racing defender heads the ball away but Alves is already tracking it, and darts in to toss it back in to Ibrahimovic who, surrounded by 5 defenders, not only controls the ball but notices that Pique is charging in. He knocks off the only pass he had the option for, a backheel into space, which Pique buries.

Whatever you do, don't mention the war.
Whatever you do, don't mention the war.

At this point it’s 3-0 and if you’re Racing you are wondering what the hell just happened, and what can you do. Your game plan is out the window, and the better team still has the ball, chipping away at your resolve, frustration and fitness, wearing you out with ticka-tacka passing in the midfield. You can’t really pressure Xavi, because Messi, Henry and Ibrahimovic are there, not to mention a very active Keita and a calm Busquets. So you chase and chase, hoping for a lucky break or something, just a little ray of hope to let you back around.

Or at least a goal that would salve a bit of your club pride. Pedro! came on for Ibrahimovic, and the difference was very obvious, not only in the type of player that Pedro! is, but also in what his possibilities are.

We were playing at about 60% throttle, just content to knock the ball around and play keep away, then Racing started lunging, fouling and evincing the frustration that comes with being a professional, and having your ass handed to you. On a silver platter, sure, but still …. it’s your ass, and there’s some guy in red and blue stripes saying “For you, sir.” And the ref was letting things get a little chippy, which must have vexed Argy Bargy. Because he took a pass, cut on a run across their box and, when everyone was thinking he had run himself out of the angle, he bent a shot back into the upper 90, that ripped the heart out of Racing. It was yet another amazing Messi moment, because he was somehow running laterally with his body facing the goal, ready to bang off a shot as his first available opportunity. It came, and he buried it.

Messi is better than last season. There, I said it. As someone pointed out, last season he just made runs to make them, with this improvised sense of “Let’s see what happens when I get there.” This season, he is all purpose. When he runs, it’s because he’s seen something. When he doesn’t have options, he usually dumps off to Xavi or Alves, and waits. He has 5 goals for us this season in 4 matches. We’re paying him how much? Sure. Whatever.

And then it happened, a bit of sloppiness that really started with a loose Puyol header. But still, we recovered and were looking to clear the ball, when Marquez chested the ball down, directly to a Racing attacker. He took the ball, and Marquez compounded his error by sashaying after the dude in the most casual of ways, just kind of trying to get in the way. He snapped off a hell of a shot that no keeper on the planet would have stopped, and we’d conceded another stupid, stupid goal. As with Busquets’ header against Atletico, Marquez had time to play the ball to his feet and deal with it.

Recall that Cruijff said that our defenders need to be more ruthless, and just clear the damned ball out. Take possession, and boot it up the pitch. There. Done. Instead, silliness happens, raising the aforementioned spectre of losing the championship on goal differential.

Could this happen? Almost certainly not, but is anything really outside the realm of possibility in this crazy game of ours?

Team: 8. Lost points for getting sloppy for a stretch there, but this is the kind of overall team play that Guardiola was howling about. Midfield pressure was there, as was the constant possession battle when the other side had the ball. And the help defense and set piece defending was nonpareil.

Guardiola: 7. Points off for making the Marquez substitution instead of Txigrinski. Why? Because Marquez was fine, as long as he wasn’t needed. But he came up short twice on the goal. Yes, his calling out of the players had them ready to go, but given that Racing were going for balls over the top, height should have been the prescription.

Valdes: 8. Excellent match, with lots of movement that epitomized the sweeper keeper aspect of our defensive approach to the game.

Alves: 9. Only wallowed once today, and knee-on-knee contact was probably a legitimate cause for wallowing. But from defensive play to cross and pass after excellent pass, he was on form today, as he has been this Liga season.

Pique: 9. Excellent play, though he got a little out of sorts on a couple of occasions. And he scored a goal. How ’bout that?

Puyol: 10. Monster. He was everywhere that the ball was, proving that he’s still a killer in the center of defense.

Abidal: 8. Got a little loose with the ball on a couple of occasions, but overall, brilliant. His sense of positioning, coupled with his pace, make him one of the best defensive left backs in the world.

Keita: 9. Keiteee! Excellent match on the offensive and possession control end. You can see what Guardiola means about him getting it working right this season, and understanding what we all know, which is that the box-to-box attacker is impossible to account for.

Busquets: 6. Laid in a strong start, with calm play and no mucking about, then returned to his old habits in the second half, holding the ball too long and wallowing on the pitch. Had a terrible giveaway that gifted Racing an attack. Thankfully, the defense was on the spot.

Xavi: 8. Generally excellent, but had some uncharacteristic lapses in control, and a few passes that were short and slow, putting teammates in harm’s way. They’re called hospital balls for a reason.

Messi: 10. Man of the Match, going away, from scoring goals to demonstrating an understanding of his teammates and tracking back on defense. He’s about due for a raise, right? πŸ˜€

Henry: 4. Just didn’t impress today. Should have shown more committment on that perfect pass from Alves, and not much beyond that except some nice work in the midfield and on defense. But we didn’t buy him for that.

Ibrahimovic: 8. Another excellent match, but he has a tendency to be stationary at times. And dude, we’re up 4-0. Get the hell off the pitch if you sprain your ankle. Sometimes, that extra running can make a Grade 1 into a Grade 2.


Pedro (for Ibrahimovic): 6. Nice movement, but holds the ball too long. Way to stay up, when he could have flopped and gone for the penalty try.

Marquez (for Pique): 4. Quite the downgrade for the position. His sins have already been chronicled. That goal was all his.

Iniesta (for Messi). 5. He’s still playing his way back into the side and match fitness (and pace, more importantly). His passes were off, and you could see him getting on himself. He’ll be there, for sure.

And now we wait for word on Ibrahimovic’s ankle sprain. But know that in 4 Liga games, he has 4 goals and 2 assists. Very impressive. The busy period continues, with 3 matches in the next 7 days. Luckily, Almeria and Malaga shouldn’t be that difficult even without BANGS, who I think we need for the Champions League match in midweek.

Forca Barca!

p.s. Wasn’t the HD purty?

p.p.s. Here’s a little souvenir for Adriano.

Good thing you're out on loan, dude. Man up next time.
Good thing you're out on loan, dude. Man up next time.

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. I actually liked the Busquets I saw today. For the most part, he kept it simple, forming nice triangles with Xavi and Keita, and was ready to support. He got stuck in several times as well. Good job Sergi.

    Oh and Kevin, that Ibra chance directly after his goal actually hit the post rather than saved by the keeper.

    1. I know Jnice, but by the keeper diving out at Ibra’s feet, it made the angle a lot more difficult, and almost certainly saved the goal.

    2. busquets was giving the ball away again in the second half; our midfield just feels a lot of more solid with yaya.

  2. Henry was shit and virtually anonymous when switched into the center for the final 30 minutes, and Pedro needs to grow a pair and run at defenders or at least to the goal line if he wants to play with the 1st team. i worry about our lack of depth in our forward positions, a worry agitated by Ibra’s ankle tweak. apart from that and the well-taken Busquets criticism, spot on. we played wonderfully today for about 35 minutes then just went from 4th gear to 2nd and cruised it out. i’d like to see us really go for the goals this season in case it comes down to differential with the Evil Whites but the same voracious hunger isn’t there like it was last season. still all the ability and the pressing tactics are absolutely right, don’t get me wrong, but it’s a psychological impediment that obviously dictates you can’t stay desperate for trophies if you just won everything there is to win.

    1. Tie-break:
      1. Head-to-head.
      2. Goal Differential.
      3. Goals Scored.

      “So, imagine this: Both clubs wind up tied at the end of the season, IN THE LEAGUE and HEAD-TO-HEAD, and it comes down to goal differential.”

    2. Being tied head-to-head isn’t really that much of a surprise, is it? Knowing that it’s likely to be RM who we are going to be tied with at the end of the season.

      So yes.. goal differential is very important.

      Though I prefer another 2-6 πŸ™‚

    3. first of all i agree that henry looked sluggish and lazy and i would have pulled him earlier. i miss bojan.

      secondly, i think its a bit crazy to be worrying about our goal differential now, i mean, remember how many goals we scored last year? we were miles ahead, plus, it would be pretty bizarre if we tied EE all the way to goal diff.

  3. yah agree, Titi wasn’t performing well today, but again last season he also started a lil funky then sprung by mid october or something up to a point that we could see the difference in our game when he wasn’t playing.
    But i want him to score some goooooalssss so he can get up there with Ibra and Messi and start our goal-fest again!

  4. Great review, Kevin!

    One thing though, Messi stats correction:

    He has 5 goals (1 v Getafe, 2 v Atleti, and 2 v Racing) and 2 assists (1 v Atleti to Keita and 1 v Racing to Zlatan) in La Liga in only 3 games (Getafe, Atleti, and Racing), one as a sub and another being subbed off. He did not play against Sporting. According to Sport that translates into one goal approximately every 35 minutes. That’s just absurd. Also, he’s pichichi for now at least until Llorente, Villa, and Thong Boy have their say tomorrow.

    Take into account his game at the second leg of the Spanish Supercup (2 goals) and the European Supercups (game winning assist), and you have:

    7 goals and 3 assists in 5 games played of which one was as a sub and in another he was subbed off at the 65th minute.


    1. “But know that in 4 Liga games, he has 4 goals and 2 assists. Very impressive” – I believe Kxevin was talking about Ibra, not Messi.

      and he does mention Messi’s 5 goals:

      “He has 5 goals for us this season in 4 matches. We’re paying him how much? Sure. Whatever.”

    2. Hector was saying that Messi scored 5 goals in THREE matches not FOUR. and the Getafe one was as a substitute.

  5. who are going to replace BANGS when visiting Malaga…bit worry on his absence..henry was totally out of form. not like last season…

    1. I’ll concur with that one, but expand on it. I think that Henry was given several roles throughout the match and while not fulfilling all of them in superb fashion, he facilitated the right to left switching (did you notice how much more room Messi had than Henry? How about how much more room Keita had?) and could very well have scored on several of Alves’ crosses.

      I would have given him a 6 or 7, but at least no one can accuse Kevin of being partial to Henry now.

    2. Henry was sluggish and anonymous. To my eyes, the 4 was generous. I appreciate his whole-pitch effort, but he’s playing too soft right now. And when Alves drops a ball in a spot where all you have to do is lob it over the keeper and you screw it up, I’m just not on board with that.

      I know he’s a slow starter, and I’m sure that people will have ample opportunities to say that I love Henry, at the expense of all others. The season is long.

  6. Malaga isn’t a great team, and the midweek CL games in pretty important, so I think that we will go with


    Ibra or Henry will come in for Messi.
    Iniesta will come on for Xavi.
    Marquez will come on for Pique.

    It would be great to rest Xavi and Pique, but I don’t think Pep is ready to start Iniesta or Marquez.

    1. I badly want to give Xavi a rest but I just don’t think it can be done. I wonder what’d happen if we put Yaya, Keita, and Busquets on the field at the same time…we’d almost have a Chelsea-like feel…maybe. It’ll never happen.

      I also want to give Alves a rest.

      In any case, Jeffren and Pedro on the field equals maybe one goal.

    2. It happened last year during the Copa Del Rey. I think against Majorca away. But it would make sense to play them to rest Iniesta and Xavi.

    1. “So, imagine this: Both clubs wind up tied at the end of the season, IN THE LEAGUE and HEAD-TO-HEAD, and it comes down to goal differential.”

      yes… i think he remembers…

  7. Is anyone listening now to my original prediction that the Ibra move’s primary benefit to the team would be set pieces and his passing? My god, I don’t think we had this many goals off of pieces & headers all of last season. And Henry and Fantasma are only at 25%!

    Things are shaping up for some of the best El Clasico’s in the history of the rivalry.

  8. Very good review and ratings/comments mostly spot on.

    I disagree however on Henry’s rating besides the last 30 minutes and even then I don’t think he could have gotten to Alves his cross (4yrs ago he could). In the first half he was tracking back, tackling and winning position and sprinting back. At least no issues on motivational side. Furthermore, he would have gotten an assist should the linesman kept his flag down for Bangs, who was on side. He’s a striker and in dire need of a goal, he was not great but I would give him credit for his effort.

    Busquets on the other hand was good the beginning (my stream sucked, so cannot be 100% on the first 15-20min), but he doesn’t goes in hard enough imo. Often he loses out against physically less gifted players, or he seems not to give everything going into it. Furthermore his passing was off in second half for sure. Finally, he doesn’t seem to run as much without the ball as Xavi/Yaya to get open or he just is not as good in positioning as Yaya/Xavi is.

    Keita = excellent. But he needs to get his shooting together or instead look for other options if you know your shooting sucks.

    Messi was extroardinary.

    Defence (Rafa excluded) splendid. Loved it (probably Cruyff too) when Abidal ruthlessly kicked ball away (around 75th minute) after it had been difficult to get it cleared the normal way.

  9. BTW… i dunno if anyone heard, but Jonathan dos Santos was called up for next weeks friendly between Mexico and Columbia. This is his first cap to the senior team.

    I hope he plays.

  10. I enjoyed the match as much as Garfield a lasagna!
    It was joy for my eyes (with the exception of a few minutes of discontrol. But that is getting better).
    I can only be amazed by the following things:

    1) How many goals have they scored with the head so far? My bro and me cannot recall a season with as many as this one (Barca has never been good with the headers since Alexanko or Salinas stopped playing for us).

    2) I can only drool when I see that in many corners / free kicks they start talking to each other as if getting ready to put to practise some strategy awesomeness.

    3) Once more, Keita and Abidal (it was about time) have found the confidence to play in this team. And the only reason they are not MOTM is because they play along the likes of Messi, Ibra, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Pique (Alves, The Yaya, Henry when he is inspired…). I cannot believe what my eyes see coming from these lads lately!!

    4) I completely agree with Kevin. And that is why I was so upset after Atletico’s match. We CANNOT allow to concede such goals!! We would have so far 3 goals less against us had the defence been focused. At the end of the season, we might need a better goal difference (though I don’t think so, as EE only has the Portuguese and a bit of Benzema, whereas we have Ibra, Messi and a bit of Henry).

    5) Did you guys hear Pique shouting “Ibra, Ibra!” to warn him of his presence behind him before the third goal?

  11. hope he doesn’t get burned too fast, but it sounds very promising. Apparently his brother might jump ship to Depor. And other rumours have us interested in Mario Balotelli. Tons of potential, but very raw according to me, like the source.

  12. Taking in consideration Ibra history with knee injuries it was a relief that it wasnt the case last night. That stretch usually hurt the ankle but it can even damage a fragile knee, taking his body weight in consideration and the fact that he was still warming up for the second half.

    Now we need to wait for another good news hopefully. The moment Bojan started to get the tempo, he got injured, and now same goes for Ibra. Last night performance was a glance for why I was desperately dreaming to get this guy since two years.

    As I mentioned yesterday, it was a clever decision to start busquets in this game after his bad performance against Atletico. We cant afford losing this guy and last night starting role was an antibiotics against mental drop. I don’t think Marquez substitution was a mistake as well. We need all the guns available to hit their form as soon as possible. it only happens by getting them involved at any chance. It was better getting him in after a 4-0 rather than starting him a game. Its more likely that we lose a title through gathering less points than scoring less goals and being head-to-head, specially with all the scoring machines we have.

    And Kxevin point regarding Xavi not being marked is gold. I am not sure if Racing coach was enjoying the barca show to an extend that he forgot which team he was responsible of.

  13. And Jason, congratulations for hunting JDS to play for Mexico. If I understood properly it was your wish from the beginning, which I also share. Mexico needs him more than Spain. He will also guarantee a better international career with Mexico than Spain as well.

  14. Well yesterday we were linked to Balotelli, today in EMD Luis Suarez said he dreams playing for Barce interviewed on RAC1.

    1. luis suarez would be a great great great signing to ease the transition of henry becoming too old to hack it.

      henry is actually playing well in my opinion and just getting into gear, but suarez is a top class player.

  15. Having a player like Ibra makes everyone on the team play better including Messi, imagine that! soon Even Abidal will score.

  16. Just a few things
    On Ibra:
    Kxevin, you said that Ibra was stationary but it was reported that Guardiola asked Ibra to wait for the ball to come to him rather than go looking for it like he did with Inter. Apparently, he wants Ibra to be more of a spearhead, leading the team from the centre to give the defense something to constantly think about.
    Ibra was immense last night. He is still not at 100% fitness and is very dominant in Spain. Last season we would not have scored the first or third goals. Just saying

    On Marquez:
    Let’s face it, he is our 4th choice central defender now, so expect a little clunk. We need him ready just in case, and if you can’t ease him into action when you are 4-0 up then when can you?
    It is probably his last season here though, Pique has retired him.

    On Busquets:
    He still doesn’t inspire the same confidence as the Yaya, in me, and I’m assuming, in his teammates. When he keeps it simple he is good, but then he has these “I’m Messi” moments when he thinks that the centre circle is a good place to try to beat someone in a 1-on-1.

    On Pedro:
    I miss Bojan. That is all.

    1. True, Ciaran. But I think that he doesn’t move enough (at times) when he isn’t part of the play, so that he can become part of the play. And you’re right about the first and third goals, but we can’t say that (or at least I can’t) or we’ll be accused of Eto’o bashing. πŸ˜€

      My only point about Marquez is that it was inexcusably casual. As with the Busquets error, he had plenty of time to do the right thing. I kept thinking of Cruijff’s “when in doubt, blast it out” observation. I know that we like to play the ball out, but when you’re trying to kill the match. Abidal got it, and was just knocking the ball out of there, because the time necessary to re-set the defense was paramount. Marquez’ heart was in the right place, as was Busquets’. But there is a time and a place for that kind of fancy stuff, and when it can get you killed is not one of those times.

      Pedro! has been unconvincing of late, hasn’t he? I wonder if it’s because the side is clicking into high gear, and his abilities are being found wanting. Or if he’s just having a blue patch.

    2. Pedro may be unconvincing right now, but let’s face it, when he looked good it was just the preseason. He’ll have his good stretch later on in the year.

      And as for missing Bojan, except for the game he got injured in, weren’t we all kind of bashing him for his performances?

  17. Haha, Fawlty Towers. What a great comedy series!

    I’ve watched it ages ago during English lessons, thanks for bringing up this memory again. Gotta go and buy me some Fawlty Towers DVDs πŸ˜‰

    Hopefully, Ibra’s gonna be ok for Kiev. This guy is pure ownage. 4 games, 4 goals and 2 assists (and hell, these assists can only be played by 1 out of 10.000.000 football players). And we should not forget that he missed almost all the pre-season. Take this, you Ibra critics!
    And now get well soon, Ibra. Ibra and Messi is simply the most deadly duo the world of soccer has ever seen.

    1. Yep, i would rest him anyways, just in case. Stick Henry in the middle and Iniesta on the left. Hopefully we can put the foot in early and have the game done and dusted by halftime and rest the big boys second half…

    2. It’s weird that there’s no word on Bojan’s recovery. It’s as if he disappeared during the last two weeks. I’d feel a lot better about Malaga if it weren’t for his absence, though I think Pedro! and Jeffren could start.

      I’d like to see the entire front line rested, but that seems unlikely given the current injury to Bojan limiting our options. We could just put Pique up there, though, right?

    3. Dunno about that. The Jeffren/Pedro! combo yielded very few quality chances last time we saw them. I’d rather see Pep stop treating Iniesta with white gloves and give him the start on the left with Henry in the middle and Pedro! on the right. It’d be nice to give Xavi and Messi a bit of a rest. Although if Xavi is rested and Iniesta plays on the left who takes over for Xavi? Hmmmm.

  18. Not sure if it was Sport or EMD, but thought I read few days ago that Bojan will be out for another 2 weeks.

  19. So, the Ibra back heel was all over Sports Center this morning, and not just because ESPN is supporting their Liga telecasts. That was just a sick ass play.

    Okay. Here’s what I haven’t heard in a while now: Is Ibrahimovic worth the money that we paid for him?

    Just saying.

    It’s early days yet, but if he continues at the pace he’s going (4 goals and 2 assists in 4 league matches), not to mention the new possibilities that he brings to the offense, it will seem as though we’ve underpaid.

    5 defenders, everyone. He drew 5 defenders in the box. Somebody had to be open, right? And how many strikers would have still blasted the shot at goal, in the hope that it would somehow squirrel its way through. Further, how many strikers have the talent, presence of mind and array of skills to think “Back heel to the trailer….sure, why not?”

    Yes, I am dazzled with our new bauble.

    1. I was pretty neutral about Ibrahimovic, mainly because I never watch Serie A and so I had really never seen the Swede play. So I have been supportive from an “In Pep We Trust” position, and nothing else.

      After seeing that assist last night, now I understand. Now I understand why so many were excited by what Ibrahimovic brings to the team. Ibrahimovic made an essentially blind, back-heeled pass to Pique while being assaulted by five defenders. Wow. I mean, Wow.

      Now I support Ibrahimovic from a “Ibra plus ultra” position (or “Ibra mas alla” if you want it in Spanish).

      And kudos to Pique. That was great offensive thinking from our center back. Seeing the space and opportunity and then acting on it was the kind of smart playing that I am beginning to just expect from Pique.

    2. As I said on a previous comment, we will start knowing at the end of this campaign whether Ibra is rising above Eto’o or not. And whether he was worth the money.
      Some opinions are already changing: if you have a look at “La Gazzetta”, a few Calcio fans are already stating that Barca has made business with the players swap (of course, none of them was an Interista). It will be a week to week argument (the same as Messi and Ronaldo as top scorer I guess).
      If Ibra keeps this outstanding rate and shows up in the big matches, Moratti will start pulling his hair, biting his nails and talking on his own. And so will Mourinho.

    3. Honestly, I would rather not compare Ibrahimovic to Eto’o. I do not see any value in doing so.

      I was particularly annoyed that the ESPN announcers, Derek Rae and Robbie Mustoe, insisted on making Ibrahimovic vs Eto’o comparisons every time Ibrahimovic did anything. They are just feeding an artificial dichotomy.

      Oh, and I don’t think Mourinho’s ego will ever allow him to regret trading away Ibrahimovic. That’s just not possible in the Special One’s world. πŸ™‚

    4. You are right. But fans cannot help comparing the achievements of a football team, a player…
      Eto’o’s and Ibra’s story is and will always be linked by the same transfer (a swap). So it is natural.
      Why not? We are human beings and miss what we don’t have. If you trade a sports car for a family one, it is because this one gives you more benefits (as you might have just become a parent, let’s say). But you will always remember the speed or the looks of the first car, and you will compare. It makes no sense, I know. But you will eventually compare…

    5. Comparing the two strikers is an exercise in futility. They are so completely different that there is no point comparing. Zlatan could score half the goals Eto’o did and still contribute more to the team in terms of offensive dynamic, assists and link up play. Eto’o was a legend, he scored more goals than most strikers could ever dream of. Lets leave it at that. Zlatan is not eto, he will never be eto and visa versa. The question isnt whether or not Zlatan can rise above Eto’o or not, the question is whether or not Zlatan can find his place in this team. So far the signs look good…

    6. In the 5th game of the season Kevin….the 5th game!!! The potential of what he an Messi can do together just boggles the mind. They both require sooo much attention from defenders. Its just not possible to defend against. You could see it in the game yesterday, the defenders just dont know what to do…who to mark..what to expect. You cannot let Zlatan turn and shoot, because he is so good at it, so you have to mark him closely and in numbers (at least 2). With the second goal, watch how the defenders follow Zlatan and that just opens that little bit of space for Messi to shoot. Wait till Zlatan starts shooting from distance as well, that part of his game we havent even seen yet.

      The back heel was class for sure, but what has impressed me the most is his movement off the ball, simply because I thought that would be one of his weaknesses. So far though, i have to say, he has been very good in that department. He is not the constant livewire that Eto’o was (who is??) but he knows when to move and where to move. There was one point yesterday where he and Henry combined in a lovely move. He headed a long ball down to Henry, who played it back over the top and Zlatan, having made a perfectly timed run off the defenders, should have been left with only the keeper to beat. Unfortunately, yet again, inept refereeing cost us what could have been a lovely goal, as it was called offside.

      I really cannot wait to see what this team will be like in a months time when he should have really settled in. I just pray for no injuries….

  20. So, the quality of reviews and comments by Kevin, Isaiah, and Hector actually inspired me to take notes during the game. Amazing. And I spent time watching their positioning as much as specific play. Thanks, Hector.

    Generally, I agree with Kevin’s review. This game was the kind of improvement we needed after last weekend’s weak effort. But in the second half, during the 50th to 60th minutes and during the 70th to 80th minutes, we had momentary mental lapses in the defense that led to a Racing shot on goal, saved by Valdes, and a second Racing shot that became their goal. The mental lapses were spread out team wide, from valdes up through the mid-field. We really can not afford these moments when playing better teams, e.g. Real Madrid, Inter Milan, Chelsea, etc. Hopefully, Guardiola’s next step will be to take this week’s improvement and get the team to make it last the full ninety minutes.

    I have to agree with most people’s assessment of Keita: he has really improved and become a threat on the field. I think the most important thing about this is that he will now draw a mid-fielder/defender who would otherwise be focusing on our front line. This will continue to spread our opposition, which is what we always want. Keita’s play is making me a lot less worried about our depth in the mid-field. (It’s also great to see a talented player willing to take criticism and advice from a coach in order to improve their play.)

    Finally, Iniesta looked a bit hesitant and out of place on the pitch. I have to agree with a comment made above: Guardiola needs to take the gloves off and just play Iniesta. I am sure Iniesta will come back to form if he just gets in there and plays some serious time. And I think that the Malaga game is the perfect time to start Iniesta, preferably in the mid-field, where he is most at home.

  21. Though he’s no RayRay, I did enjoy it when Robbie Mustoe delicately described a Racing player as having a “low center of gravity”. Backhanded compliment, anyone?

    1. Doesn’t have to be a backhanded compliment.

      I guess it depends on the context but, for example, Messi has a low center of gravity..and that to us has proven to be a great thing.

    2. I generally think that people often over focus on height and size in this sport. Yes, height can help with headers on set pieces, but it’s not essential.

      I thought that Mustoe was really just trying to avoid directly saying that the player was short. Backhanded compliment was the wrong phrase on my part; “euphemism, anyone?” was what I should have written.

  22. here’s a vid from cuatro that shows barca keeping possession for 2+ mins straight


  23. Comparing Zlatan and Eto’o at this point is rather foolhardy and, I think, should no longer be done. I understand the desire to do so, but, like others have said before me, there’s no point. I’ve done statistical comparisons of the two in the past and I think they were useful in the run up to the transfer, but I also think that continue to cite them as context for today’s games mires us in the past, disrespects both players, and lowers the level at which we should be discussing the game. At the end of this season, someone should feel free to reprise what the two have done, but I probably won’t read it and I certainly won’t write it.

    What I will write, however, is a discussion of what Zlatan has brought over the last season and what I hope he will improve on in the future. Samuel Eto’o will not be mentioned.

    That’s not because I hate Eto’o (I don’t, I have been one of his biggest supporters and wanted him to stay), but rather because I feel it’s important to move on as a fan and as a commentator on the game. It’s one thing to say that Eto’o did this or Ibra does that and it’s another thing to analyze the game as it currently is. Make your own judgment about whether the deal was a bargain or not–for what it’s worth here’s my final assessment: Ibra was overpriced. That is not because he doesn’t bring a lot to the club, but because I don’t believe in paying that much money for anyone. Ever. Dani Alves was also overpriced. I understand that there’s this thing called inflation, but I don’t see why we have to have such an obvious hand in it or bow to it, whichever way you’d like to look at it. No one is worth the kind of money we paid for Ibra or Alves. No one. Period.

    But now they’re on our team and, of course, I support them wholeheartedly. Because I’m a fan and because I’m not above being enchanted by the mesmerizing moves of the world’s tallest, hardest ballerina. Or the fish-out-of-water flopping of a half-joyous-half-anger-management-needing Brazilian midget.

    1. Agreed.

      Zlatan = Overpriced
      Alves = Overpriced
      Chrgynsky = Overpriced
      Kaka = Overpriced
      Benzema = Overpriced
      Alonso = Overpriced

      Pique = Bargain basement πŸ™‚

  24. Really missing Bojan right now, because Henry is playing crap. With the Ibra ankle injury, I agree with the calls for Iniesta to play a full game. I think he’s had 3 games now when he’s come on as a sub, so he should be fine. Play both Pedro and Jeffren, and get Messi as a supersub if necessary. Play Yaya in Xavi’s spot and ask Keita to be more box-busting against Malaga. Busquets gets another game. In the backline, we can give Pique a rest and play Chygryinski and Puyol.

    1. I agree. I think Bojan would have been a better sub than Pedro! since Bojan could have played the center forward. Henry was having a terrible day and moving him to the center was not going to improve it.

      Ah, the plight of injuries. . .

  25. The official site is saying that Ibrahimovic “might” miss Malaga. I think you can pretty much count on that. What the “might” tells me is that the injury isn’t that serious. Never mind that it came while battling with Adriano. (Dude, that is no way to ingratiate yourself to your club.)

    As far as Ibrahimovic and Eto’o, everyone knows how I feel about the situation. Announcers in consecutive matches have said things to the effect of “Eto’o doesn’t score those goals.” And as I said in the Atletico review, that’s true. Just as Eto’o scores goals that Ibra can’t. That’s why they’re different players.

    One is an Inter player, one is ours.

    Do I think that he was overpriced? I don’t know yet. In the context of the current player market, and what players of that caliber cost, no. Yes, people have principles that say no player is worth more than X amount, but I think that the modern game with its mind-boggling sums have laid waste to any normal notions of player value.

    We won’t know how much Ibrahimovic cost until the end of the season, but I do know this: Last season, we struggled at Racing, and needed the Messi Show to stage a comeback. This season, they weren’t even on the pitch. And this club isn’t even at full song yet.

    Was Alves overpriced? Good question. I view it in the context of, would we have won the treble if he wasn’t our right back? No. So if the question is framed as “nobody is worth that much,” he was overpriced. If you look at value to the side, we probably underpaid.

    1. However, in all fairness consider that Racing lost all four starters of their backline from last season as well as Zigic the giant.

      They are a different team than they were last season.

  26. 1. Does cristiano know he can take bigger steps while running so that he doesn’t look like a cockroach?
    2. Are there internationals before the valencia match? because it seems there is a week of vacancy between almeria and valencia..

    1. yes, we have another round of those annoying world cup qualifiers again

      i don’t even know why i watch these matches they just make me angry

    1. Busquets played half of a very good match against Racing. Then the old Busquets returned, and he went off the boil. It’s as simple as that. Or does the “Kevin hates ….” list get a little bit longer now? Pretty soon, it will encompass every player on the side.

      Had Busquets continued with the match he was playing in the first half–not dwelling on the ball, not flailing around, not just spraying it around, he would have been rated higher. But he didn’t. That’s life, and it’s why we’re talking about buying a DM for when we lose Keita and The Yaya in January. They’re about as comfortable as I am with him in the main DM role.

    2. Who’s Henrique? I only know some dude named Adriano, who got sent out on loan because he still couldn’t cut in our back line. He gets his real name when he plays like the player we thought we were buying. πŸ˜€

    3. guess we’ll have to disagree, i thought busquets played 90 minutes of good football against racing. as you said, the blemish on the game was rafa’s division 3 quality challenge on serrano, that was the only real period of the game were racing did anything at all.

  27. “For you, sir” HA!

    Good post, I’m also frustrated with the goals we concede. But I must say, I think in the last match’s post, perhaps the one before, you noted the thing you liked about Txigi (maybe it was Pique) was that he didn’t just clear the ball, he passed it to someone upfield from the back, so I must call some minor BS on your claim that we must take possession and clear it, “done.”

    But to go on about the goals we concede, well, if Messi is better than last year (he is), the goals we concede this year we did not concede last year. Last year we conceded only perfect assists for perfect goals, but this year we seem to sometimes adopt that Arsenal habit of just hitting the self-destruct button. We have to fix that soon, because we don’t want to be like Arsenal (“when Man U, Chelsea, or Liverpool play well, they win; when Arsenal plays well, you never know”).

    I was wondering if that was our Henrique.

    1. Alexhinho,

      I can see from the review where a misunderstanding can happen but I believe Kevin (and Cruyff for that matter) did not mean to say that we MUST clear it out all the time. They said that the ability to recognize when playing the ball out is not feasible and a “boot it out” clearance is called for is vital for our CB’s. They did not say we should do it every time but that we have to know when to calmly play it out and when to boot it out. You will get both situations during games. Its a fine balance and it takes a high football IQ to achieve it. It is quite possible to get too cute at times and concede opportunities.

    2. Exactly, Hector. Our back line players always try to play the ball out, even when they shouldn’t. Abidal is the closest to understanding (oh….wait….I love Abidal, so I would say that, right?) when to do each one.

      Most of the time, our defenders get the ball with plenty of time and space to make the play. But if attackers are nipping at their heels, just bang it out. There is nothing wrong with that. Would anyone have not preferred Marquez to just hoof it up the pitch?

      Just checking.

      Obviously, defenders playing the ball out is a crucial part of our attack. It was under Cruijff, and is right now. Only a crazy man would abdicate such a fundamental tenet of our system. And I’m not crazy. Unclear sometimes, but not crazy.

  28. ronaldo scored in the 2nd minute and villareal is playing with 10 men — gonzalo sent off in minute 35. shit

  29. Whenever the EE plays a somewhat decent team the get help from the refs. That was a very bad call on the second yellow for gonzalo. From what it seams though, they’re dominating the game. This could get ugly.

    1. Ugh, I knew it was a bad idea to watch EE. Shouldn’t it be against Kaka’s religion to celebrate with Crynaldo? It’s just WRONG.

  30. Damn Villarreal is playing with one man down??

    I was going to watch the game but I decided to take a nap 5 minutes in, haha. Still, Villarreal doesn’t look too bad.

    And unfortunately I was awake to see CRon’s goal, though it was nice..

    1. Ugh. I was thinking of trying to watch this match, but maybe I shouldn’t. I just get mad.

      Villareal isn’t doing so great this season. They’re a talented side, they need to start winning some matches. Like this one against EE.

    2. I get angry too, which is why I never watch their games unless I think there will be an upset.

      Teams always go through slumps; unfortunately, Villareal is going through theirs now.

      They’ll pick up after this game.

  31. actually, the 2nd half has been quite much dominated by villareal.. hope it pays off, not ends up in a false impression from a spree of goals near the end..

  32. so, you wrote “they’re not doing so bad” and so I went to check it out, they’re showing the replay of a hand ball in the area and Kaka soon proceeds to calmly sloting it in the goal from the penalty spot…

    1. Also it didnt look a deliberate hand ball, could have gone either way, of course its RM so it goes their way. If it was us im pretty sure its not given. Last few games I think we have been due a few pens. There was one against Zlatan that was as clear as day and a few against Messi and Pedro that could have been given.

  33. Almeria just tied Ath.Madrid at the death, hularious…Forlan is probably saying “FUCK” should have joined BArca

    1. Haha poor atleti..they deserve better…but im still sure they can manage in the top 4 at the end of da season!

    2. OMG. The Madrid Torch and Pitchfork Co. is going to do good business today. Aguero and Forlan have to be going “WTF am I doing here?”

  34. Valencia? heck no way
    Barca and EE are “guaranteed” on the top and sevilla is strong with fabiano,negredo and co. I’d say villareal or atleti for the 4th spot…


    1. once valencia gets rid of baraja and albelda they will be stong as hell, they have some of the best strikers out there.

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