The Championship in Stills

Kari posted celebratory photos yesterday. Here is another photo memorial of the entire game. We hope you enjoy. I’m sure there will be a review up later, but does it really matter through the champagne anyway?

The prize




Team pictures, Messi's mom ordered ten sets


A little English flair


A worthy strike


Hug it out


Rooney slides home after a worthy strike


Valdes had about as much chance as you or I


Busi watch out, there's a carney on your back!


Van der Sar deserved a better final game.


Dancing with myself


Shooting gallery


Insert easy MESSIah joke




Relief and a deserved title for Villa


A wonderfully refereed game, a welcome sight






United acquitted themselves well, but there was no stopping Pep's boys


Honorary captain, heart of the squad, trophy lifter


A better team picture, Shakira bought 10 sets


I think I've seen this before somewhere


A deserved kiss: man of match, tourney, year

Photo credits (in order of above): Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe; Clive Mason/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images Europe; Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe

Posted in Champions League126 Comments

BFB Staff Predictions (EDIT for Euler!)

Iniestazo please.

Two days hence the biggest event since we were nearly Raptured away is happening. I know you were sitting in your home, office, shantytown, and thinking to your self: “self, I wonder what the writers for this blog that I read religiously predict for the final on Saturday, I wish they would compile them all in one location.” Well, have no fear reader, because after scouring the emails and waiting on certain people who take forever to reply (read: Isaiah), we’re finally ready to go. Feel free to agree, or disagree as you will. Linda was unable to take part unfortunately.

Isaiah-Founder, overlord, jive turkey: 2-0 Barça

“The game itself should be fun. The questions leading up to it are all about United’s formation and Barça’s back line health, but when kickoff happens, we should see some serious fun and some seriously talented players having that fun. Goals by Eto’o, err I mean Pedro and Messi. Valdes saves well from Park early on, but then Anderson in the middle screws up and Iniesta torches him and provides the assist. From there, it’s all over except the trophy ceremony and the lauding from the journos. Greatest club team in history? Can they repeat in Germany next year? Which Icelandic volcano will keep them from doing it?”

Kevin-“Editor,” talking head, floor general: 2-1 Barça

“If Villa is as (Kevin said a naughty word) as he’s been of late, we’re screwed. Can’t beat them with just Messi. Pedro isn’t going to be the difference maker. You can cover him with a single man. He CAN be the difference maker if Messi and Villa are on. Rooney is the wild card. He’s a freed man with no more Thong Boy in the side. And Chicharito is a pain. Possession will be more important than ever before. Personally, I don’t think that straight up, they can beat us. But if somebody gives the ball away in the wrong spot (cough! Zambrotta! cough!) suddenly we’re down a goal, and the wagons are circled.

The side will be rested and full-strength, and neither side will have the fully honed match fitness, which means that natural talent starts to carry the day. We have the most talented player(s) on the planet at a few positions. I don’t see a 3-0, but I can easily see a 2-1, with goals by Pique and Iniesta.”

Luke-Honey badger, wisenheimer, naked & famous: 3-1 Barça

“Goals by Messi x 2, Iniesta, and Chicharito. It’s not that Manchester United is such a weak side that they will or can be easily manhandled or that Sir Alex is some bush league tactician who knows nothing about the game, it’s that they have already stated they have no real plan for Messi (like Mou did with Pepe) and with Messi, Pedro, Villa, Xavi, and Iniesta all starting, along with Afellay in reserve, that’s 6 players who are difficult enough to prepare for without taking into account Alves and Busquets. The problems will come from the back like they have recently, but not from Rooney. It will be the sneaky Little Pea who will give the back line fits and with lingering questions at LB, the health of Puyol in some question, and Abidal’s slow return all in focus, it would mean VV has to stand on his head to make this Barcelona’s 4th European title and a huge Double. It’s not that I’m overconfident, I’m not, it’s just that I have so much respect for Messi in these huge games and Xaviniesta create plays better than any tandem in the world.”

Soccermom-Holy mother, Kanye West’s hypeman, union winner: 2-1 Barça

“I honestly have not the slightest idea, except for some really bad puns involving Bárdarbunga and plays by Eugene O’Neill. Don’t quote me directly but I’m going for Barça 2 – Man U. 1, goals by: Chicarito (min. 8), Messi (p., min. 37) and Iniesta (min. 68). Because really, why the hell not?”

Colin-British name, live blogging machine, thug life: 2-1 Barça

“Barcelona wins 2-1, with Messi and Pedro scoring. In my mind I’ve been billing this game as the Magnificent Barcelona against Stalwart Manchester. Early on it will be a very even match, but Barcelona will find the goal first and Manchester will be forced to chase the match. Xavi, Iniesta, and Messi will form a roving triangle of death for Manchester that they just won’t be able to stop. Manchester will pull one back in the second half, and it will be a nervy ending but Barcelona has the mental toughness to be champions, and they will repeat the win from two years ago”

Kari-Canadian, owner/operator of Cesc fan club, daughter of Jens Lehman: 3-0 Barça

“This match really depends on the first goal. Cliche, I know, but really. I don’t think Man Utd will be going all out against us, because, well, with all due respect that’d be suicide. My brain tells me they’ll play a conservative game and look to hit us on the counter using their pace (which is why I think Valencia will start), so it won’t be a high scoring game. Luckily, we’ve had ample time to work out how to play against such a team (4 times in fact. Ahem.) The boys are really, really ready for this one. I’m sure that Xavi and co. feel really pumped at the thought of winning the CL in the same stadium the club won its very first in 1992. They’re romantics like that. (And I am too).

Messi will probably be quadruple teamed but that leaves space for Pedro! and Villa to exploit. Iniesta will be massive in this match with his attacking forays (just chut de bol, Andres! Good things happen when you do! Like birth rates go up!) and to add to the team’s confidence is that our resident caveman of a captain is back, and our best outfield player of the season that isn’t Messi that come back from a liver tumor will feature as well. It’s both full backs and Villa’s first final and we want to win this one. United have boatloads of quality and will have their fair share of chances, but our ‘keeper Valdes is in a rich vein of form and it won’t be easy to beat him. I respect United, but I have faith in this team. I want this CL. Badly.

Official prediction that I wish will become a reality: 3-0, Barcelona: Villa, Messi, Abidal (what can I say? I’m a romantic.)”

Euler – Bridge Wanderer, Rinus Michels StickerCollector: 3-1 Barça

Barça have been off form for several months. With two weeks off and one game left to play I believe they’ll circle back towards maximum performance. Look for Barça to come out and press with great intensity like they did against Arsenal at Camp Nou. I expect that level of energy.

Manchester United is a wonderful club –- better than many give them credit for. However, United are weakest in the one area where you just can’t afford to give against Barça –- in the space between the lines. In turn Manchester United are going to be forced to make very difficult trade-offs in how they play, and how they allocate game resources.

Perhaps the key player for Barça is going to be the LB, who will most likely (hopefully?) be Abidal. United will look to circumvent the midfield when they are in possession, and look to play the ball out very fast to the wings to build play. The danger man for them is Valencia –- who is a wonderful flank player. Valencia lines up where Barça are in theory most vulnerable due to injury and lack of form. If the left back can contain the United right wing player, Barça will be that much more secure in winning. The other player who will need to be in form for Barça is Busquets, as he will likely be responsible for marking Rooney in his unorthodox role.

Goals by Messi, Ghostface and Pedro. Havoc wrought by all the blaugrana!

So there you have it, a lot of 2-1’s and everyone taking Barcelona for their 4th European title.

Posted in Champions League, Interviews34 Comments

CL Final Interview with the Enemy: Corey Dowlar

The Final

Luke’s Note: Corey Dowlar is a Florida State University alum (where I just graduated law school) and currently works as a blogger, writer, and editor for Noles247, a website that focuses on all Florida State Seminoles sports, but specifically American college football recruiting, which I could explain is extreme detail, but will let Wikipedia do the legwork for me. Anyway, Corey has graciously agreed to do a short interview with us and give a Manchester United fan perspective on the match, specifically that of an American. You can follow Corey on Twitter if you are so inclined at @cdowlar. And remember kids, be nice in the comments, Corey is a guest, and as a Seminole, he’s better people than you anyway. :)

Firstly, how did you become a Manchester United fan?

Well, must admit it was arbitrary as many followers are on this side of the large pond we call the Atlantic. Back in 2006 during college at Florida State, me and my roommates all selected teams and chose to follow them with the rule being everyone had to have someone different to make things interesting. I found myself taking a real liking to the game. Now I’d have to say it dominates my thoughts in the realm of sports. I have taken a lot of time to research on the youth teams, club history, and other facts, so I feel justified in calling myself a supporter these days.

You seem to be a prodigious follower of soccer, or as our blog title snootily calls it, “football,” on Twitter, even though your from Amurka, did you ever play the sport?

Competitively, no. On the Florida State IM fields, yes. Was a big target man forward that was less skillful than brute and I have a nice unrepaired torn ACL in my left knee to show for it.

As we all know, this is a rematch of the 2009 final, what is your most vivid memory of that final?

Has to be Park’s miss in the opening minutes. United fielded a squad built to hit Barcelona on the counter attack and had a golden opportunity. Park was unable to convert and soon the Spaniards did. It was probably all over at that point. Ferguson’s army had to chase the game – and the ball too. It was never going to happen then, was it?

Do you hold any animosity toward Barcelona over that final? Or are you one of those fans who just generally hate Barcelona for their “tapping up” and diving?

Not towards the final, but their tendency to mix scuba diving into the fray is quite annoying at times. I understand all teams do it, even Manchester United. It is reality. The most annoying part, for me, is the swarming of the referee. Four, five, and six Barcelona players will all have their say and quickly. I’m not inclined to agree completely with the self-proclaimed special one that there is some conspiracy, but there is a large amount of evidence that something is giving Barcelona the benefit of the doubt on a lot of crucial decisions. Could be based entirely on reputation, who knows.

Moving forward to today, what do you see as the key matchup in Saturday’s final?

A lot of it depends on what team Sir Alex intends to employ. It’s no mystery how Barcelona will play, I don’t think. It isn’t broken after all. I think it would be safe to assume Ji-Sung Park will be closely marking the Argentine wizard as he normally keeps tabs on the opposing dangerman on European nights. Two-lung Park has completely taken players out of the game before and will be expected to do the same – to the best of his capabilities – in the final. I think we’ll see two tired footballers at the final whistle.

Other than Messi, which player worries you the most? I’m assuming Messi worries you most, you are a mortal correct?

Well, I think I touched on this previously. I think Xavi/Iniesta actually hold the real keys to the carousel’s effectiveness. Those two will have to find ways to spot runs and use their creativity to unlock an organized defense. Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic against Villa will be an interesting battle as well.

If you’re Sir Alex and you’re looking for a big advantage, which Barcelona player do you attack and overload, and why?

Anyone in the back line. None of them are that overwhelming on the back foot and we have first-hand knowledge of Pique. Fortunately for Barcelona, they usually don’t need to be as they hold the ball for 60-75% of contests. I don’t think you will see much ‘overloading’ at all. Most of the attacks will try to hit back on the break.

As Barcelona fans, who should we worry the most about exposing the team’s super porous (right commenter’s, right?) defense?

Has to be the boy Wayne. He is certain to play in some type of trequarista role whether in the odd-man midfield or the two forward system. He has a keen eye for the killer ball wide or through the middle, and can score himself, you know. Also possesses the ability to win a header in the air and find the back of the net.

Even if you don’t answer “Chicharito” to the previous question, I will assume you did. If he scores, which part of his body will he do it with? I’m looking for a “nose of god” moment myself.

Does he play? I don’t think it is a certainty yet. Ferguson said after the last final he knows how he would beat Barcelona if they played again – that was before Hernandez arrived. It will be an interesting headache leading in. The 4-4-2 counterattacking system has been extremely effective of late, but does he use it? We’ll see. If he scores, has to be a back heel, right?

What is your prediction for the game? A Manchester United victory? Iniesta causing another Catalan baby boom?

I have zero feel for it this far in advance, I really don’t. It is going to come down to whoever scores first, that I am very comfortable in saying. It is absolutely essential United score before Barcelona if they want to win this one, or it might be a very similar one to the Rome affair. I guess you will force me to say something though. Barcelona have to be considered favorites, I think, given the perception of the club and the most recent contest. But I have a good feeling about this one, for whatever reason. It has been a special year for United. Hasn’t always been pretty, admittedly, but they’ve figured out ways to get things done. Might be biased, might be delusional, but 2-1 to the England side.

Looking then to the offseason, what position are the Red Devils most in need of upgrading for the 2011-12 season?

Obvious answer is the goal keeper. Edwin van der Sar will retire and certainly be missed. He’s been tremendous, absolutely tremendous since his arrival. Keepers don’t grow on trees, especially ones that stop shots in the biggest games. It looks like it is going to be Atletico’s de Gea, but don’t rule out the Ajax man Steklenburg either.

Beyond that it is midfield, midfield, and midfield. Owen Hargreaves, I am convinced, will never return to fitness. Paul Scholes very well may retire this summer. Tom Cleverly could be treated as a new signee when he returns from a successful loan spell, but I still think there is a need for a legitimate boss in the midfield. Modric has been mentioned often, but big money moves like that typically don’t happen at Old Trafford with the exception of a Ferdinand, Rooney, or Berbatov.

Varane of Lens in France seems a certainty, an 18-year old defender that can play in a defensive midfield role. Wouldn’t expect him to play straight away, and could very well be loaned back to France at a club such as PSG.

Finally, if you can only choose one Man U jersey and one player’s name to be on the back of it, who are you going with to celebrate the 19th English championship?

Must shake my head at the term ‘Man U’ but will forgive you. I think it is going to be John O’Shea. He’s been a loyal servant of the club, played a big role in the last several titles, and I am Irish.

Thanks Corey!

Posted in Barcelona89 Comments

Barcelona 2011-12 Kits are Released, Earth still rotates Sun

As you may remember from last year if you were here then, I love new kits. I love that they change every year, the new patterns, and all that jazz. There are a few rules to live by when creating a new kit: don’t stray from typical/historic club patterns when creating a home kit; stripes are usually a good thing (unless they are horizontal); simpler usually equals betters, too much clutter ends up making it look like a NASCAR vehicle (I’m looking at you every Mexican club team); and bold colors can be great, but within reason. Oh yes, and black kits are always a plus. A good example is the 11/12 Argentina NT home kit, which is as beautiful as ever. Blue and white stripes with the crest, just perfect. This year’s unveiling comes with the added bonus of the Qatar Foundation kit sponsor fiasco (some would call it that, I more or less call it an inevitability). Anyway, on to the unveiling. Here is a quick video with English subtitles of Puyol, Thiago, and P!!! talking about the kit (incidentally, Puyol tore a groin muscle while tying his shoe, Pedro died of shock at the sight of it).


The Blaugrana

I'm hardcore even when tying my shoes

The new home kit comes equipped with vertical stripes that start out fat and then get thinner going down, a highlighter yellow “Qatar Foundation” logo on the chest and UNICEF represented on the back, below the name/number. While I know there is much hand wringing about these on the Twittersphere, I like these to a certain degree. They are certainly better than the half and half treble-winning monstrosities from the 2008-09 season, though the change in stripes is off-putting. I do like the simple blue shorts/socks combo though. Overall I find these not totally abhorrent, though I do wish that the club had gotten a company like Apple to sponsor it, if only so I could have an Apple logo on my Blaugrana shirt, and my misgivings about the Qatar Foundation controversy are more or less trumped by knowing that this was in the offing for a very long time. So, 6/10 for some controversy and the ass logo, but not terrible.

The Black

/Plays "Imperial Death March"

Say what you want about the new home kit, it may take some getting used to, but this one, oh it is sexy. All black everything with only the highlighter yellow logos to contrast and the crest, oh my, I’m in love. Seriously, there is still some part of me, however, childish, that believes that black kits inspire confidence in the team wearing them, and trepidation in the opponent. These are simple, clean, contrasting, and have a nice collar touch. 9/10, would be perfect but for the ass logo.


Oh, and why the hell not, a Thiago sullen stare to send you off with.

Smolder young man, smolder

Posted in Team News257 Comments

Singing in Tongues: Learning Cant del Barça


I have a problem. It’s one of the few I have along with caring too much and people randomly coming up and telling me they are my father. I don’t know the Cant del Barça. Granted I can hum along with it and clap appropriately, but I don’t know the words. This probably boils down to the fact that I know very little Spanish (I can pick out subjects and some phrases but cannot speak it at all). And due to the transitive property of Spanish offshoot languages: I cannot speak Catalan either. But I will not let this deter me, I am going to learn the official hymn, or die trying. I will keep all of you abreast of my results and possibly post a video of me singing, which would be possibly the worst thing on the internet if not splash pages before websites and drop-down ads. Anyway, here are the official words in case you do not know them, from Wikipedia (English in parentheses):

Tot el camp, és un clam, (The entire field is a clamour,)
som la gent blaugrana, (we are the blue and red people,)
tant se val d’on venim, (no matter where we come from,)
si del sud o del nord, (be it south or north,)
ara estem d’acord, estem d’acord, (now we all agree, we all agree,)
una bandera ens agermana. (a flag unites us in brotherhood.)
Blaugrana al vent, (Blue and red with the wind,)
un crit valent, (a brave cry,)
tenim un nom, el sap tothom: (we have a name everyone knows:)
Barça!, Barça!, Barça! (Barça!, Barça!, Barça!)
Jugadors, seguidors, (Players, supporters,)
tots units fem força. (all together we are strong.)
Són molts anys plens d’afanys, (Many years full of zeal,)
són molts gols que hem cridat, (many goals we have screamed,)
i s’ha demostrat, s’ha demostrat, (and it’s proven, it’s proven,)
que mai ningú no ens podrà tòrcer. (no one will ever beat us.)
Blaugrana al vent, (Blue and red with the wind,)
un crit valent, (a brave cry,)
tenim un nom, el sap tothom: (we have a name everyone knows:)
Barça!, Barça!, Barça! (Barça!, Barça!, Barça!)

Isaiah will be along after the Madrid-Getafe match with your Levante-Barça preview, by which time the club may already be champions of La Liga. If Madrid drop any points, the championship is assured and the honor guard will appear against the jersey thieves.

Posted in Cant del Barça82 Comments

[UPDATE]Quick Note: Busquets’ Comment

Isaiah will be up with your preview shortly and Kevin has already told you the amazing news that Abidal has been cleared to practice (though he is unlikely to play this weekend due to fatigue issues). Unfortunately the biggest news of the days is the ongoing saga of Sergio Busquets’ comment or non-comment to Real Madrid player Marcelo during last week’s Champion’s League Semifinal First Leg.

Preeminent Sports Illustrated and Guardian football columnist Sid Lowe came away believing the weight of the evidence from Pep’s press conference today all but confirmed that some comments were made. From Pep at his press conference (translated), emphasis on the most interesting comments:

“I know these players. They are an example of professionalism,” said the Barcelona coach. “They love this sport. Some of them, during the game, can make a mistake but as players they are exemplary both for Spain and for Barcelona.”

Asked if he would punish Busquets he said: “We are not proud when they make mistakes but I know these players. If we do something wrong, then Uefa have to decide. What is in the past is in the past. It won’t happen again.”

From his Twitter, @sidlowe:

Pep Guardiola’s comments tonight appeared to confirm Busquets racist remark did happen. So, action presumably will (and should) happen

1. Let me clarify for those who don’t seem to understand ‘appeared to confirm’. Pep did not say Busquets made racist remarks, but asked

2. directly about it, he didn’t deny it and said that his players can make mistakes on pitch and are not proud of those mistakes.

3. It would of course still be helpful to have an explicit admittance/denial, though.

Many suggesting alternative interprets. There’s a certain ambiguity but i think what Pep said (and didnt say) implies confirmation

Mr. Lowe has never been one to pull punches, engage in oversimplifications, or get carried away with the mob and when he goes out on a limb like this, it usually means there is something to it. I am sure you have watched the video and possible made up your mind. Personally I cannot make up mine, mostly because I do not speak Spanish and am a terrible lip reader.

Until we know more, this blog will continue to operate under the familiar guise of “guilty until proven innocent” for Busquets. I would hope that a full investigation is under way by UEFA and the club and that if he is found to have been innocent, then Madrid should be punished for such lies, because falsely calling someone a racist is abhorrent. However, if Busquets did make these comments, then I believe he should be fined, made to offer a proper apology, and suspended or removed from the team. I personally vote for removal, since we have so many players from different nationalities, specifically 2 Brazilians, a Malawian, and I have no idea how he could look them in the eye again. But, I am not the final arbiter there, that is Sandro and Pep and his teammates. If they can forgive him, then that is excellent for them and I would hope he could continue as a productive member of the team, though I doubt I could forgive him (not that anyone cares about my forgiveness)

But make no mistake, racism is intolerable in any form, joking or serious. It has no place in the game or anywhere else for that matter. To be sure we stand by Busquets and the team until proven otherwise, but if the worst is true, then it is an action that should be swiftly condemned and is unacceptable, period. This is just an update of the current situation as it stand. NOTHING IS OFFICIAL YET. Please keep the comments germane, intelligent, and friendly.


This has been transcribed by a friend who watched the press conference:

“Pep was talking about the Pedro incident with regards to the quote “We are not proud when they make mistakes, but I know these players….etc”. He was asked by a lady who asked him what he thought about Pedro! grabbing his face. She outright called it pathetic and Pep said they weren’t proud but it’s in the past and he knows his players.”

Apparently, it’s being mixed up with the Busi quote where he was asked what Barca would do if Busi was found guilty:

“If proven guilty, we would take appropriate measures, but the players are honest”

Posted in Barcelona, El Clasico90 Comments

Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona Preview

2:00 pm EST Saturday, GolTV

Hey Gerard, can we go get some ice cream after training?

Oh hello there. Perhaps you meandered to this space looking for a story about the 4 clasicos in 3 weeks? Maybe you saw El Clasico III (Return of the Messi) and thought that you would come to the Barcelona football website of record (trademarked name, don’t try to take it) and spout off about how you think so-and-so is a diver, or you, like me, have been imparted with the knowledge that Lionel Messi is not actually a human but is actually the living embodiment of the great old one Cuthulhu, risen from his slumber, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, riled up into an angry fit after it heard lowly mortals naming false gods? Either way, you are out of luck. Cause we’re talking about the real show here, this Saturday’s match against Real Sociedad. Get excited!

As you surely know now, La Liga is coming upon Week 34 of 38, meaning that there are 15 points left to be had, including Saturday, and an 8-point lead for the good guys (9 technically when you could head-to-head). Sociedad is sitting on 38 points, 3 points out of relegation, yet still 12th in the Liga. Iniesta and Puyol are definitely out, Puyol I think is precautionary, and there is this minute little detail of El Clasico IV, The Footballening, on Tuesday, which means there is a good shot that this weekend will feature a number of the kiddos, including but not limited to, the young man featured in the above picture.

The usual suspects will be present including all the first-teamers available from the weekend (except Puyol) along with the normal bench guys, as well as Montoya, Roberto, and young Gerard Deulofeu (who will be wearing #41, which has always been my number in every sport). For those of you who might not know, Deulofeu is currently situated on Juvenil A, but recently made his first team debut with Barça B and is called up for his first match with the big guns. He is a forward/wing player and is getting a ton of hype from both the lower level managers/coaches as well as the Spanish national press for being the wave of the future with the national team. He’s 17 and if he played, it would certainly be a shock, but it would also be great for a lot of the young guys to get some playing time and rest players. Specifically Xavi and Messi. Messi, as you may know, has been the subject of some speculation this week because he originally had a “muscle strain” that was really just some bruises from the game, but apparently the staff are still trying to trick him in order to keep him off the bench. Our crack investigators here at BFB went undercover to hear what the training staff had to say to Messi:

Messi: I’m ready to go for the game this weekend sirs!
Staff: Um, Leo, don’t you remember when Ramos threw you down in the game Wednesday and your arm broke?
Messi: That was what? 2 days ago? It already healed after me and Bojan played Kinect and had juice boxes last night.
Staff: How does that heal a broken arm, don’t you use your body to control it?
Messi: *is distracted doing 500-piece kitty puzzle*
Pep: *apparates from thin air* You cannot play this weekend, you have a muscle strain
BFB Investigator: *sends anonymous text to Sid Lowe about it*
Messi: But coach, my legs are fine, and look, I can do the monkey bars
Pep: Lionel, please get down from there, look at all those bruises on your legs
BFB Investigator: *sends anonymous text to Isaiah about it*
BFB Investigator: *text message noise*
Messi: But Mister Guardiola, I really want to play
Pep: Lionel, I know you are 8 goals away from breaking the modern-day goal-scoring record, and 12 away from the all-time record, but you are injured
Messi: What are goals? I just want to play with my friends
Pep: *shakes head* I know, I know, that’s why we let you play in goal for the B team last weekend
Messi: But I want to play with the big kids again, plus Sergio said I was a cotton-headed-ninnymuggins, and I’m not, I promise
Pep: D’oh! Ok Lionel, let’s go look over this chart *gives signal*
Shadowy Figure: *chloroforms Messi and drags him off to Bojan’s Lego playroom dungeon*
Pep: *turns to the shadows* You, BFB Investigator, let no one know what you saw here *shoots poison-tipped dart*
BFB Investigator: *death rattle*
Luke: *watching via hidden video cam stream* Excellent

Prom pictures!

So basically, it is going to be a typical late-season FC Barcelona game under Pep: lots of young guys, probably sloppy, and hopefully a lead so the old guys can rest up some. Probably looking at Valdes-Alves-Pique-Fontas-Montoya-Keita-Thiago-Xavi-Afellay-Villa-Jeffren. I would love to see Sergi Roberto start as well, but I doubt Pep goes that young, that’s why I have Xavi in there. I also think it will be tied at the half and we will see Messi come on in the second half, just so the team does not drop points. I hope not, but I am realistic. Best case scenario: early goal for Villa and 2-0 at the half with Roberto, Montoya, Fontas, Jeffren, and Deulofeu getting a lot of time before a comfortable win.

My guess is 1-1 in the end because it is tough for the young guys to come in and meld so quickly, but securing Tuesday is a lot more important in the long run methinks. A draw will not be the worst outcome here.

Photo 1: FC Barcelona
Photo 2: Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images Europe

Posted in Preview203 Comments

Postmortem: King’s Cup Finale

Le Sigh

These games are brutal for a number of reasons. Your team loses the Cup final. To its biggest rival. A week before playing that same team in a two-legged tie to decide a berth in the European final. So many implications, and yet, still very few. There is not much to say here other than a few brief takeaways and to get ready for Osasuna and the Champion’s League semis.

1. David Villa was dreadful. I hate to pile on any player, I really do. I am still in the “Fernando-Torres-can-pull-it-out-and-get-back-on-track” camp. However, Spain’s leading national team scorer and Barcelona’s key summer offensive signing has been sputtering for over a month now. Could the culprit be a lack of confidence in his game right now? Possibly. I tend to think it has to do with playing so many games now (Barcelona plays many more than Valencia typically did/do) and being asked to adjust his role. Can he get back on track? Of course, he’s a trust talent, but he needs either a breather or a confidence boost. Which leads us…

2. A lack of depth. Pep likes to carry his small squad, and I don’t usually tend to question the manager who is on a historic 4-year run for the club, however, the injury to Bojan has killed the depth even more, and there is no help in the reserve. It is hard to comprehend now, after the Liga has basically been wrapped up with said lack of depth, but in these trying cup ties, it becomes much more apparent. This means a summer signing is needed up front. Either on the wing or a backup 9 to provide a change of pace.

3. It’s only one game. It was the finale, and yes it was a hard knock, but it is only one game. Losing to Madrid sucks, big time, but that’s the way it happens sometimes. And today, it fell their way. However, with the Liga all but assured, it means that this is not leading to some historic Madrid treble or any such thing.

4. Pep hopefully learned a lot from the second half about what was working. In the past 2 games, Mou has used the Pep midfield situation to a tee, and he might do it again in Madrid (being that Carvalho is suspended for that game, he might not be able to). But the second half flowed better and the offense moved through Xavi and things were looking up until Extra Time. If the team comes out stagnant like the 1st half again, it’s going to be bad. A defense that plays that high cannot rely on some of the best players in the world missing or having a bad touch to get by.

5. Madrid earned it, or Barcelona lost it, I can’t decide. One way or the other, the team that deserved to win, did win. The first half was dreadful, the second half was better, and the goal was perfect. No keeper would stop it, no defender except Pique could have defended it (and he was in position guarding Adebayor). It hurts because it was Ronaldo and because it was Madrid, but it happens sometimes. Losing to Real Madrid, aside from being their arch enemy, is not shameful. They are the 2nd or 3rd best club team in the world, it’s not the worst thing ever.

6. Losing this game does not take away the other good things from this year and the past few. Closing in the Liga, a load of trophies, the best player in the world, and the best club in the world. The Copa del Rey is not a loser trophy or something minor, it is a worthwhile cup that any team in the RFEF would love to win, and winning it would have kept another treble hope alive, so it’s not something small, let’s not act like small fans. Congratulate them for winning a game and then move on for Osasuna, the CL, and the Supercup of Spain next August. Let’s not be petulant.

7. Best players of the night: Pique, Pinto, Xavi (2nd half), Messi (2nd half and when he could touch the ball), Busquets (aside from his theatrics, which I thought we were past), and Mascherano. Sometimes the team has an off game, it sucks that it happened in a final.

Sorry for the brevity here, but I have little else to say. We will be along later in the week with more updates and the preparations for Osasuna!

Posted in Barcelona, Copa del Rey, Review179 Comments

Postmortem: Barcelona 1-Villareal 0


In what may go down as the most important week of games that does not involve El Clasico, FC Barcelona acquitted themselves nicely while Real Madrid struggled and ultimately faltered before Sporting Gijon (titters). As a result, Barcelona stretches to an 8-point lead in the La Liga race with 8 games and of course the second Clasico remaining. As a fan, one of the biggest things is breathing room, so there we go, enjoy.

The team was bolstered by Madrid’s early loss and, depending on your view of the situation, this either gave Pep a license to run out a greatly changed lineup without Messi, or had no effect on his selection at all. After watching Pep for this long, he never does anything without a reason, so I know where my guess lies. Going in to what is normally considered a tough game for the team, the injuries and suspensions mounted. No Pedro, no Xavi, no Puyol, and no Messi, whose absence from an Argentina-Costa Rica friendly apparently caused massive rioting and post-apocalyptic scenarios (read: complaining), meant a younger, more uncomfortable lineup, and it showed out of the gate.

Villareal gained a ton of possession in the beginning. Rossi was dangerous, so dangerous. He kept undercutting Busquets, who was starting in place of the injured Puyol and the indefinitely out Abidal at the back. Chaos ensued early on. The first about 15 minutes there was no central midfield control because Xavi was suspended and Iniesta was playing out of position on the wing (someone please cite a good game he’s had there, because I cannot remember one). This led to 2 golden chances for Rossi, both ending in quick thinking from Valdes stopping a disastrous start. The first had Pique playing the ball and Busquets getting turned around before Valdes took the ball off a wide open Rossi’s feet in the box. The second was an excellent pass leading to a great palm save from Valdes across the goal mouth. Pep had seen enough and switched Pique to the other side while dropping Mascherano further back. After this, Rossi’s supply dried up and he was a non-factor.

The rest of the first half went along mundanely enough. Adriano ripped a shot, but for the most part it was nothing to write home about. Thiago showed a ton of promise and alternated between great runs, smart passing, and overrunning or missing his spots. He’s 19, so we’ll forgive him, or at least I will. I’m sure in 5 years when he’s Xavi II, some of you will still be complaining about his missed passes and all. Outside of Pique, Thiago, and Valdes, our team was three steps short of garbage.

Guardiola made no changes at the half, but a few players came out re-energized. Iniesta, for one, looked like a new player. I have a theory about this: it is because he knew he was being moved off the wing, which I am convinced he hates. Improvement came and Iniesta and Villa got close. Messi came on and this opened everything up. He actually had very little to do with the goal, but 3-4 Villareal defenders attached to Messi at all times and the whole thing opened up. Eventually Pique scored off a corner, an excellent volley, and not a handball. Silly yellow submarine. A few chances came and went before Valdes came up with a kick save off an 8-yard Santi Carzola strike. And that was that. Now for your takeaways.

1. Most importantly, breathing room
Beating Villareal with a depleted side is a plus. Beating them after Madrid loses to Gijon at home and I no longer have to hear about that stupid home unbeaten streak anymore, well that’s just a great Saturday. I will echo the sentiments of Avoiding The Drop’s Twitter feed and simply state that it is a lot more impressive to actually win the big games with your bajillion dollar squad than hold on to that kind of streak. Suffice to say an 8-point lead with 8 to play and a win by manita over Madrid already is amazing.

2. Thiago = Very Good
Let’s just say this, Thiago is going to be excellent. He’s 19 and already doing great things. He was not perfect, and after the first 40 he slowed down a lot, but that is to be expected. He has control, finesse, and the eyes to see it all. I hope the hype does not grow too loud on the kid, but he’s going to be excellent in a few years time.

Enjoy the victory. Enjoy your evening, or morning, or whatever time it is where you live. Remember, it’s all relative.

Posted in Review81 Comments

Footballer Rights as Employees

Love me, embrace me

I find this a pertinent time to write on a subject which is very close to my heart: the rights of the workers, specifically those of the players (read: employees) of FC Barcelona. I realize the contentious nature of the rights of workers and I could weed through your responses one-by-one but frankly they are insignificant edit and I tire of incessant buffonery, even before it begins. If you would like to know more about what you, as an American (if you are American), can thank unions for, then find this link, and enjoy. This also comes with an eye toward the oncoming labor strife in La Liga based upon TV revenue and a possible strike of this weekend’s football. The idea here is that employees have rights, and their rights supersede those of the club, as it is effectively a corporation. I know many of you will question my love for the club, and that’s silly argument, since love or hate of a club does not mean I put its well-being over that of an actual human. So proceed down that path at your own risk.

This writing had more to do with my interest in the topic and less to do with the oncoming strike in La Liga regarding TV money.

I guess all of this starts building in me when I hear the all too popular refrain when a player leaves a club about how he should have been more “loyal” to the club and the fans or whatever. It is to be expected I suppose. Fans are looking out for themselves and the club they hold dear, and the players are, in the long run, interchangeable. Someone once said that being a fan of a professional sports team is basically like cheering for laundry, because the players come and go, but the jersey stays, for much longer (akin to how a music critic is effectively writing about his or her mail). To this end, the fan reacts with rage and anger when a player decides to leave for another club or turns down an offer from the club because it is seen as inadequate. The jersey wins. The player is de-humanized. “Why did so-and-so leave?” “Why didn’t he stay around and work harder for a starting spot?” “He should have been more like ?” We have heard it all before. Incidentally, I have also written about this before in terms of loyalty in professional sports.

The obvious problem with this is that the person is still a human being, with rights and ideas, and a life to live. That person has to make the best decision for them and their family, not for a club or a fan. When the offer comes in, the player must weigh how much the rest of his youth and young manhood is worth. Rest assured that $30M over 6 years to the player is a gracious sum, but also understand that when said player has used up whatever value the club places on him, he’s going to be left in the gutter by the club. Or at least a gutter of sorts.

This is all contingent on a foundational argument of course. One that must be accepted before any topic can really be broached outside of the most generic of statements. It is simply that all people are unfortunately not born equal, but that the so-called birth lottery should not stop everyone from having an equal opportunity to succeed and that all people deserve equal treatment in terms of working conditions, health care, and the like.

It thus behooves the workers to form unions and bargain for better pay and equal rights, or somehow bargain in an individual capacity for their own pursuits, though this would like hold much less weight for the employee since it is only their services, and not those of the whole (unless your name is Messi). The union gives power for the employee to bargain effectively and for better pay, time, and services from the employer. This may seem an overstatement, but I firmly believe that without unions in the public and private sectors, we would return to the robber barons of old. Because unions gain political power and can lobby for regulations that most of us enjoy today. The corporation (employer) would seek to keep as much money for itself and its stockholders, meaning lessened services and opportunities for the worker who has no real power at that point other than their own skill and labor, which may be undone at any point through negligence, stupidity, blind chance, or any other similar fact of everyday human life. Without a cohesive group that gives some kind of power, the employer is free to treat the employee as they choose, without regard for overall conditions, since no overall contract is in place.

Now, before you start in on me, with your “but corporations aren’t inherently evil” and “socialism” blah blah blah, listen. Corporations, just like everything else on earth that is not named Karl Rove, is not inherently evil. Nothing is inherently evil because we aren’t born like that, and corporations aren’t all created like that. Some are altruistic, good to people and the planet, and benevolent to their employees, but this is not the rule, it’s the exception. If it were true, then the industrial revolution would have immediately produced increased livelihood among the workers because the companies got huge and should have therefore trickled the goods down to the worker. Except they didn’t. If you don’t believe me, read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or anything by Charles Dickens, or look at the treatment of employees back in those days. To cite but one easy example, look at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in 1911. Fires break out in a sewing factory in NYC, employees could not flee because managers and owners had locked the doors to keep them from taking breaks from their shifts. 146 burned to death or jumped to it from windows they eventually broke. 2 14-year-olds died. So yeah, cram it with walnuts. It’s the pursuit of profit, and with no restrictions in the form of unions and regulations, corporations will seek profit to no end.

This applies to the current situation because if the games do not go ahead this weekend then we will have people who say that the players are selfish. Well that is just stupid. If you are getting screwed and you could hold out in order to make the money you deserve, would you? I would. And before I hear one comment about how much the players are paid as a reason for making them selfish, please understand that the market controls how much they are paid, the unions simply attempt to make sure it is livable in the first instance, and fairly administered in the second. Further, I am unsure that wanting retirement benefits is so much selfish as it is self-preservation when your primary means of making money involves running miles everyday, taking your body past normal limits, and dealing with the mental scrutiny that comes with being a professional footballer in a small league, let alone with the really huge leagues. If you give the best years of your life to an employer, you should be rewarded in the end with retirement assistance. That’s just how it is.

The point here is not to insinuate that employees are not selfish or that no union is corrupt, because neither is true. People are selfish in many ways, and when groups gain power, they can become corrupt. But 1 or 2 wrongs do not excuse the wrongs of a 3rd in allowing employers to treat employees like cattle, taking what they want and then discarding the remains. When people work, they deserve to be treated equally and not poorly simply because they are employees, and that’s why a strike is occasionally good and why you should care. The players have rights to self-preservation just like the club does, they just have much less power to exercise theirs. Just some thoughts.

Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe

Posted in Soap Box238 Comments

Praise Messi! Alves Re-Signs

As was previously predicted on these very pages by wise, old sage Kevin, Dani Alves will re-sign with FC Barcelona tomorrow until 2015. We attempted to contact Dani, but he was too busy celebrating:

Chest Bumps!


Samba Mofo's!

Seriously though, this is fucking huge. We rarely invoke the name of the most holy Messi as an explanation around these parts, but this deserved it. It signifies a few important points. The first of which is that Alves chose to stay. Make no mistake, Dani could have easily left for much more money at Man City without blinking an eye. Numbers have yet to be released, but City could easily double what FCB can pay. That’s the oil trade yawl. He either has just settled into a good life here or he really likes the club and wants to win. I do not care which.


Secondly, this means the core nucleus of the offense is all signed until at least 2014 (Xavi has a team option for 2015). Like Nate Dogg (pours one out) and Warren G, Pep like 16 in the clip and 1 in the hole in terms of having as much talent as possible. This is not small deal because it is very clear that Pep cares more about having Dani rove forward and throw crosses or cut in than he does about having a hold-up classic 9. He likes Messi as a flase 9 and he wants to keep the team running like it is now. Make no mistake, Ibra was thrust on him, there was a reason he did not like Eto’o up there, but now, he’s got the best player in a position where he’s scoring 40+ goals a season on the regular. Alves is a key component, because as you all remember, any other player over there drops the play ridiculously.

So let’s party, and of course as Blitzen has showed us, Dani knows how to leave the party:

This ain't Kansas anymore, thank Messi, cause that state sucks

Posted in Team News132 Comments

Postmortem: Barçelona 2 – Getafe 1

Two goalscorers

Of course I choose to volunteer to report on this game. “Oh yeah, Getafe, can’t be that bad right?” Mid-table, up-and-down, why not? Ugh. My reviewing prowess only goes so far, and it is definitely far too limited to cover all the minute aspects uncovered from yesterday’s 2-1 victory. So watch me fall flat on my face won’t you? Continue Reading

Posted in Review103 Comments

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