Operation Win And Don’t Get Injured: Villarreal vs Barcelona Liveblog

Well. It seems we haven’t got any forwards left with Pedro picking up a small injury, forcing Alexis to travel and possibly play with painkillers.

At first glance, this is terribly unfortunate. And annoying. And thought provoking. But mostly why is this happening I hate hamstring injuries screw it all to Madrid and back arghhhhhh!!!112!1!

But then you stop and realize the truth behind the madness. That we actually have 32 first team players when you really think about it.

Xavi is worth 12 players*, Abidal is 7 players, Busi is roughly worth 3[10^2974*(x-3 + 71)] + 2 – YAYA + y players, and Puyol is worth PUYI players. Messi is worth ∞ players.

*Where 0.12452 player is equal to approximately 3 million Pepe-s.

So have no fear, our lineup of heroes are here. The only kryptonite is yellow cards, as if Busi and Messi pick up one [both on 4] they’ll be suspended for the next match (vs. Real Sociedad)

FCB lineup: Valdes Alves Puyol Pique Abidal; Xavi Busquets Mascherano: Cesc Messi Adriano

Bench: Pinto, Thiago, Alexis, dos Santos, Roberto, Tello, Cuenca.

Posted in La Liga, Liveblog140 Comments

Just Enjoy Them

After everything that’s happening, the giant throwing of toys out of the pram by that another team, the hypocrisy and false equivalencies and video leaks, I just decided to (temporarily) stop caring.

Earlier today, I Tweeted:

I just appreciate what we have now. It’s not going to last forever. So enjoy this man while you can. So proud:

And link this video (must watch by ElAlonso14):

Then someone [nick (@vossbrink)] replied: I had to click on that to see if you were talking about Xavi, Pep, Puyol, Iniesta, or Messi.

Think about that for a second.

The fact is, we have a once in a lifetime team. One that’ll go down as one of the best, if not THE best, in history. For me, it’s better to focus on their merits, appreciate their achievements, and thank them for taking the high road.

Don’t think for one second this doesn’t bother the team as much as it bothers us fans.

It does. A lot. How could it not?

But they don’t feel the need to make excuses, abuse referees, or create a fuss in public. They do their business and move on, probably ranting among themselves.

I’m also extremely thankful for such a classy manager whose love of the club and respect of its values transcends his own pride.

Other people would kill to have a team like ours. I mean, really. A team of classy, ridiculously talented individuals who respect the team they play for and see past their own self righteousness? Who wouldn’t be jealous of that with the way modern football is now? Don’t let the opinions of others distract you from what we have.

Make no mistake, there will be a post written by someone eventually calling out all the false equivalency, hypocrisy, double standards, potential conspiracies, and the overall turgid behaviour. [That someone will not be me, by the way]

Just not now.

There’s a bigger picture, which is: they lost. It’s over.

We have a tough game against Villarreal at the Madrigal, one where we could drop more points (just 15(!) first team players). As of now, I don’t really care if we don’t win any (more) titles. Just so long as the orgasmic football continues, I’m satisfied. (I’d be over the moon if we became the first team to win back to back Champions Leagues…)

It’s impossible not to care [especially if they give the ball away cheaply or silly goals are conceded] but whatever additional titles – don’t forget we’ve already won the SuperCopa, European Super Cup, and the World Club Cup — we end up winning or losing, I’ll just enjoy the ride.

As Xavi said last year:

“Other teams win and they’re happy, but it’s not the same. The identity is lacking. The result is an impostor in football. You can do things really, really well [..] but did not win. There’s something greater than the result, more lasting. A legacy.”

Som-hi Barca

Posted in Thoughts71 Comments

Through to the Semis

We’ll analyze everything later. But for now.

Posted in Copa del Rey74 Comments

The Barcelona Alphabet.

A is for Alves Continue Reading

Posted in Dictionary, Thoughts111 Comments

Malaga 1-4 Barcelona: “Lack of Hunger? Leo Laughs At You.”

(Insert reference to Lio, lions, and roaring here)

Pep’s notes before the game must have been:

  1. Give Messi the ball.
  2. ????
  3. GOLAZO
  4. Repeat 1-3 until sufficient scoreline is achieved.

A simply remarkable game from the world’s best player. But the thing is, this is him being “back on form”. That’s the incredible part.

By his standards, Leo Messi has been a bit lacklustre in away games. Despite being the focus of the opposition team’s defense, a minimum of three defenders on him at all time, despite the fact that that means that the rest of the team has much more space to operate, he only scored one goal in away matches in the Liga this season. (Compared to the 18 goals scored at Camp Nou).

And that is poor. By his standards.

By his standards.

Those are the key words and ones I would repeat ad nauseam.

Because the standards this man has set is higher than Mount Everest and it only continues to elevate as he plays. A standard no other human can ever reach and maintain.

Because Messi to me is like a footballing superhero. Except it’s not Superman, it’s Argentinaman! (His Argie blood gives him strength, don’tcha know?).

He is the team’s greatest offensive threat. He’s been carrying them offensively. The real story this season is not that he’s only score one goal away from home, but that the team itself has had problems scoring. Even if he himself doesn’t have a direct impact, though assist and goals, the indirect influence he has is priceless. He forces a team to change shape and makes sure the opposition can never really relax just by being there because they know that one false move, and BAM. Destruction. Goals. Mayhem.

That’s why Pep doesn’t sub him off.

And as the mister said today: “Messi’s main quality is his consistency; for being decisive in so many games, for such a long time.”

But if he doesn’t dominate the game as his often superhuman, Argentinaman self does, doesn’t shine the way he’s supposed to – the way us Barca fans are used to – then he’s had a bad game. He looks uninterested, unmotivated and has to be subbed off.

If that were me, I’d be weeping at the unfairness of it all.

But not Messi. Because he knows. He knows the standards he’s set. He knows that he has to keep improving, that he can’t just rest on his laurels. That the fans and the club are demanding and expecting and will not allow that. And if he wants to stay, he’ll have to keep pushing himself.

He told Don Balon a couple of weeks ago:

“I’m at the best club in the world, no other team could fulfill me as much as Barcelona does. I grew up at La Masia and I became a man at Barca. I hope to stay here until they get tired of me, which is hopefully never.”

This is our player. And today, he showed that hunger that never left.

Target: Locked

We rolled into Malaga’s stadium with Valdes; Alves, Pique, Masche, Abidal; Busi, Iniesta, Thiago; Adriano, Messi and Alexis. It was an interesting one. No Xavi, Fabregas, or Puyol, and Adriano starts as LW.

The game itself stated with a battle for possession. Malaga weren’t interested in sitting back a la Madrid and going for a counter attack. But unlike many games this season, we got into a rhythm early, passing the ball around, getting into a groove.

Or rather, Messi got into a groove. As early as the 7th minute, he went on one of those classic runs, dancing past Malaga defenders, before slotting the ball to a wide open Thiago on the right who first times the cross for a diving Alexis header in the box which was saved by the excellent Malaga goalkeeper.

But the onslaught was just beginning. Two minutes later, another lovely dribble from Messi ends with a powerful shot deflected JUST past the post for a corner. Iniesta was wide open in space to the left of Leo and he probably should have passed to Ghostface.

Barcelona were really dominating now. But Malaga then decided to try and get something out of the game.

Now Victor Valdes must have the hardest and easiest job ever. The ultimate paradox. He has to be alert to the danger, which is often meager. But if he’s not focused, the goals will pour in like locusts.

In the 14th minute, Valdes produced three successive goal denying saves from Isco to keep Malaga shut out before the Messi show took over.

Messi was once again on a run but the ball is tackled away (he gets accidentally kneed in the head for his troubles). Malaga counter attack. After a nice one-two on the left, Isco unleashes a shot that’s headed for the top right corner, but he is DE-NIED by a flying Valdes. From the resulting corner, Boo! Wellington the pesky Isco directs a header towards goal but that man Valdes saves again. The rebound is smacked goalwards yet again by Isco but no ball shall pass the Wall of Valdes. In the first half anyway.

You shall not pass!

Regular service resumed from there as Pique had a free header in the 17th minute which was poor. Decent chances from Thiago and Adriano followed. The break-through only a matter of time.

Déjà vu hit in the 29th minute when Messi floated an incredible pass to a wide open Abidal. Very reminiscent of the winning goal last Wednesday. But Willy Cabanero was alert to the impending catastrophe and forced Abidal back. Abi passes back to Messi who is lurking in the box. Leo spanks the ball towards goal but Demichelis clears off the line.

But Messi’s wasn’t finished. He lays an incredible pass to Alexis which is saved. The Malaga GK, desperately trying to relieve some pressure, launches a counter attack through Eliseu. He curls a wonderful cross to Ruud van Nistelrooy (yeah, he was playing) who puts it wide.

Fantastic game and still only a half hour in. You’d wonder how it was still 0-0.

That would change in the 32nd minute when Adriano puts in a fabulous floating cross for –who else?– Leo Messi to head in. He may be the second shortest player on the field, but the man can head the ball. I’ve always thought so. The placement was spectacular. 1-0 to Barca.

Eat it, Pele! With a side of paella.

I’ll take the time to say Messi’s passes are just incredible. I mean, really. Nothing flashy, just simple perfectly weighted passes that are so, so deadly.

The half ended with two more half chances. The first comes when Alexis wins the ball at the edge of the Malaga box and play a brilliant pass to Iniesta, but he miscontrols (!) and the danger is cleared. The second was Messi passing the ball through the legs on a Malaga defender to Abidal, but his cross is gathered by the Malaga GK before Alexis could get a head to it.

Halftime. 1-0 Barcelona with 70% of the ball. Ole.

The second half started as the first half ended. Barca camped out in the Malaga half.

Wonderful play by Iniesta would be the instigator for the second goal. He sets up Thiago at the edge of the box, but his shot was saved. The danger for Malaga wasn’t averted as Adriano picked up the rebound and squared the ball to Thiago but he is once again saved by the outstanding Malaga GK. He wouldn’t be able to stop Alexis, as the Chilean manages to put in the rebound. 2-0 Barcelona.

Would we let poor Malaga catch their breath?

Answer: Hell to the no.

Just three minutes later, good pressure from Iniesta Busi Leo in the Malaga half wins Barca possession. Busi slides a short pass back to Messi. Surrounded by three players with another two blocking his path, the genius jinxes his way through, drifting to the right before cutting back to his left and slotting the ball past the keeper. 3-0. Game. Set. Match.

But we’d spend the rest of the game looking for a fourth.

Striker Pique would come out of the long grass around the 70th minute, but the team ignores him he doesn’t get any service.

In the 73rd minute, after Pedro comes on for Iniesta, Messi hits the underside of the crossbar. To describe my feeling, I go to the wonderful Ray Hudson:

“Damn that crossbar! Damn it all to hell! A hat-trick would have been deserved. Look at this, the witching way. I think it crossed the line.”

Aye, sir.

Thiago would get two good opportunities to net the 4th. He’s put through on goal by a great Abidal pass, but he tries to set up Cuenca instead of going for goal. A couple of seconds later, he has a header saved.

The fourth goal would come eventually and to describe it, I will consult my notes from this match:

81st Busi wins the ball in Malaga half. Messi. Dead. 0-4. Hattrick. &#^(@#&@)*#@)*#)!(

Argentinaman. I’m so glad he plays for us.

Match ball is yours!

The End

Make no mistake, Malaga were a dangerous opponent. They had very good looks on goal in the first half. In the second half, substitute Rondon was very lively. He scored after Valdes saved the initial shot from a Malaga player, but pushed the ball into the path of Rondon. That man Rondon would get anther look at goal int he 86th minute, dragging his header wide after a great cross from the left.

He himself would provide a cross in the dying moments of the game but the resultant header was poor.

So it’s not like Malaga were parking the bus — we forced them back and put them relentless pressure. So much so that they couldn’t get into the game (until we dropped off towards the end). Important distinction.

Also, Santi Cazorla is a wonderful footballer.

Thoughts:

Team: Easily the best away game of the season. Some frenetic passing in the first half, but calmed down in the second. Was just dominate for 85 minutes and a sensational day between the sticks by the Malaga GK is what kept the score down. No matter who plays, the level doesn’t drop much. Almost scored a goal from pressing in the 26th minute too. This performance was coming, but it was also much needed. Riding the momentum of the Copa win. Keep it up!

But that being said, those last 5 minutes… no me gusta. You can’t just switch off like that. Stay focused for the whole match.

Pep: Made all his subs before the 75th minute!! Also, he had the team ready to play but also rested some key players. As Josep Capdevila, a Spanish journalist, noted on Twitter: Pep is still rotating even with 15 squad players (and a couple of B teamers). This is awesome. Well played, boss.

Valdes: “Without Valdes’ saves in the first half, you don’t know what can happen. Details are decisive in football.” – Pep Guardiola post match. Some really sensational saves Victor. It’s a shame that we couldn’t keep a clean sheet for you. Can’t put too much blame on the Rondon goal, maybe could have push it out, but even then that’s asking a lot.

Alves: Seemed like he was dying in the second half with all those hits. Glad to see he’s okay. Malaga attacked his flank most often in the first half, to be expected. Got up and down the flank with his usual energy. Nice line up play with Messi and Alexis.

Mascherano: Full on man. Fantastic defensive play towards the end of the first half, where he just ate up the ground and blocked van Nistelrooy’s path to goal.

Pique: Getting better. Did some great covering jobs, particularly in the second half. Tried to be a striker, but alas, had to slowly make his way back when it became apparent that a) the team wouldn’t be entertaining that idea, and b) he probably wouldn’t have scored anyway.

Abidal: Maxwell said after he signed for PSG: “Abidal is the best left back in the world. He’s in spectacular form.” Couldn’t have said it better myself, Maxy.

Busi: Really loved the game he played today. Always available as an outlet, always keeps it simple. Just a great footballer. That tackle by Camacho in the second half was just awful. Ripped your shorts and everything. I bet some will still call you a diver afterwords though. :roll:

Thiago: Wonderful match. He’s putting in that workman like performance that tends to be a thank less job. Keep possession well, make some great runs into the box. The interesting thing with Thiago is that people are still expecting him to play a looser, flashier match. But he knows that for the team to win, he’ll have to make sacrifices and do the dirty work. I love that.

Iniesta: Another strong match. I love his chemistry with Messi. Their link up play is just a joy to watch. Got some well deserved rest when Pep subbed him off for Pedro.

Adriano:
He loves to attack doesn’t he? He didn’t make as many runs that I’d expect him to. And sometimes he had the defender’s reflex in the box where he cleared the ball away from the Malaga goal instead of towards it. Fantastic cross for the opening goal. Shame you got a cramp towards the end. Let’s hope it’s not serious.

Alexis: El nino maravilla! Movement was good, had great chances to score and eventually put away the second goal. Good day at the office, chileno.

Messi: See above. At the halfway point in 08-09 season he had 11 goals, in 09-10 he had 15, last year he had 18 and now he has 22 [Jafri during LB]. Only one two from a penalty (compared to another player who has 22 goals, 10 9 (!) for the spot). And he’s still expected to do more, to be even better. He wouldn’t want it any other way.


Substitutions

Cuenca (for Alexis): Came in when the match was pretty much decided. Good run out for Isaac.

JDS (for Adriano): Yay! JDS got to play and it wasn’t at rightback! I always love seeing Jona on the pitch.

Pedro (for Iniesta): Looked good. Gain some much needed minutes and had nice touches on the ball. Here’s hoping he comes back to form soon.

So we’re still improving. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be more…unfortunate… results in the future. But the team will keep trying hard to win this Liga. I couldn’t ask for more.

Away form: hopefully fixed.
[All images courtesy of fcbarcelona.cat]

Posted in La Liga, Review71 Comments

Let’s Fix That Away Form: Malaga vs Barcelona Liveblog

Getting right to it:

Barca lineup: Valdes; Alves, Pique, Masche, Abidal; Busi, Iniesta, Thiago; Adriano, Messi and Alexis

Bench: Pinto, Puyol, Jona, Xavi, Cesc, Cuenca, Pedro. In the stands: Sergi Roberto.

Posted in La Liga, Liveblog72 Comments

The Normal People Are Back

Sorry, not the review, but that’s Euler territory anyway. And you can’t rush greatness.

Anyway, I was working on the Barca alphabet [which I give a teaser of below] and I was planning to use the video below to show how irresistible the call to wilderness is for Puyol, but as I was watching it, I almost forgot all about the potential comedic effect. [Though, I definitely lol’d every time I saw Puyi standing alone in the forest and field]. It made me feel so many things. So many happy things. The only depressing part was them constantly showing the fourth cousins together, in their Masia days. And Xavi and Messi’s injuries. :(

Note: at the beginning of the video BarcaTV uses Pep’s comments to refer to the whole team, as a good lead in to the video, but in that specific presser he was talking about Iniesta. He says, and I’m paraphrasing, that Iniesta is an example to the younger generation, the Masia players. He doesn’t dye his hair, doesn’t wear earrings and hasn’t got any tattoos. He never complains and not only does he play for the team, but he always plays well (in general) at that. People like him are priceless.

I agree.

——

And now for the teaser:

C is for Captain Carles

The vine swinging central defending artisan,

Who I am sure role plays as a Catalan Tarzan.

He has heart, he has luscious curly locks,

but most of all, he’s a master at those timely blocks.

At 34, some wonder how long he’s last for,

Which I ruefully shake me head at, senor.

Because he’ll be our Maldini forevermore,

Until he can resist the call to wilderness no more,

In which case he’ll be inducted into Barca forklore.

The indomitable Puyi,

El Capitia of yore.

Posted in Videos105 Comments

Post Clasico: Where I Spam You With Awesome

I give you the greatest picture in the history of EVER:

THAT IS ALL.

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.
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OKay, the pretty epic cover from Mundo Deportivo is worth a post too:

As it comes from this:

Also a great time to repost this video:

And Mezut Ozil must hate Busi. Not only does he constantly and consistently neutralize him in every Clasico, he also does this to him.

Also, Ray Ray Highlights! [Gracias to FCBHighDef1]

El nino maravilla, que brilla, que brilla…

(Yes, that is a song written about Alexis by a Chilean band).

Alright. That’s it. Really.

.
.
.

IKER FACE

Oh, heck yes.

[Also, for those who get this:

via @agusfochefcb

Posted in El Clasico, Videos164 Comments

Camp Nou – Where Teams Come to Die: Barca v Betis Liveblog

We’re looking to cut it back down to 5 points! Visca Barca!

…I don’t jinx my own team, okay?

Betis will no doubt be a tricky opponent–they’ve always given us trouble — but we’re playing in Camp Nou. CAMP NOU. No matter how much fight you put up, you’ll die eventually.

FCB lineup (official): Valdés, Puyol, Mascherano, Abidal, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Messi, Cuenca and Alexis.

3-4-3, no Alves or Pique.

Posted in La Liga, Liveblog80 Comments

The Burden of Expectation

I like to think of Barcelona as a car (a fancy one) and the season as a journey, like a road-trip. Or a really long race. Continue Reading

Posted in Thoughts52 Comments

Another Clasico?

That’s all, basically.

Posted in Thoughts38 Comments

View From The Stands: Barcelona’s Open Training Session – 5th January 2012

BFB reader Michele aka nzm was lucky enough to go to Barca’s open training last week. (Yes, I’m green with envy too). She tells us all about it after the jump! Revel at her mad photography skills! Continue Reading

Posted in Thoughts, View From The Stands57 Comments

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