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Madrid

The 3rd clasico for the season. Well – technically not, because that term only really exists for the Liga games, but has now become synonymous with every meeting between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.

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Posted in Barcelona, Copa del Rey, El Clasico, Match comments post129 Comments

Qué será, será …

dorisHow one feels after a match has nothing to do with what happens during the match and everything to do with what one thought before the match. Say three guys are sitting in a bar aprés loss:

“I never thought we could win silver,” says the first. “But I’m grateful for the run.”

“I didn’t know if we would win,” says the second. “But I’m bummed we lost.”

“I was sure we were going to win,” says the third. “Now I’m having an existential crisis.”

A lot of cules appear to be suffering from an existential crisis these days. Odd, given that “these days” include a thrilling end to a roller coaster of a season with two titles as yet unclaimed, an international mash-up of football stars and styles, and a gaggle of coaches as colorful as any Shakespearean cast. But since the crisis is existential, it has little do with actual existence. Instead, we ruminate upon “those days,” back in the Spring of 2013, or dread “days yet to come,” such as upcoming transfer windows, or Wednesday. People thought what ought to come about. And now people are freaking the @*&^$# out.

During a freak out, it is helpful to know someone in Colorado who runs a pharmacy. But if you do not live in Colorado, you can always try Buddhism. Now, there are many varieties of Buddhism all around the world. Even here in the US of A, there are different kinds of Buddhists! You have your Venerable Greys, who deeply contemplate the ingredients list of a bag of granola at Whole Foods. Boy Scout Buddhists seek enlightenment by scaling mountains with little more than thousands of dollars’ worth of REI gear. And then you have the Oprahians, who spend the afternoon with their girlfriends dribbling chardonnay over dog-eared copies of Seat of the Soul. I happen to like food and not like heights, so I guess I am an Oprahian (Don’t you touch that DVR! She’s got Deepak on at 4!)

It’s easy to be an American Buddhist. All you need is a yearning for inner peace and access to the Internet. Once on the Internet, you can Google the word “koan”. Koans are little stories that don’t make any sense, but if you think about them long enough, you find inner peace, either because you finally get it or you give up and go do something else. There are hundreds of Internet koans, and I have gleaned a few that seem particularly relevant to our club and the current season in hopes of bringing all of you some inner peace.

 The Best Player

A sports journalist with writer’s block approached a monk. “Master,” he said. “Who is the greater player: Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi?”

“Yes,” replied the monk.

“Master, I don’t understand,” said the sports journalist. “Do you mean that Lionel Messi is the greater player?”

“No,” said the monk.

“So, Cristiano is the greater player?”

“Who?” asked the monk.

“I see,” said the sports journalist. Having received his answer, he left to file his article.

The New Stadium

Once a club president visited the monk. “Master,” he said. “Our board of directors is in disharmony over a stadium. A new stadium would bring revenues and offer better concessions, but some are still attached to the old stadium. I seek your counsel.”

“Go out to the stadium,” said the monk, “and count every blade of grass. When you reach the final blade, you will have your answer.”

The club president thanked the monk and went to the stadium, where he got on his hands and knees and began to count each blade of grass. After a while, he noticed the old monk, on his hands and knees, counting just beside him.

“Master,” said the club president. “It is difficult for me to keep track of the blades of grass with you right there counting too.”

The monk raised a finger to his lips and smiled. “Shhh,” he said.

prinzmonkThe Nature of Beauty

Three superstar players argued about the nature of beauty and decided to consult the monk.

“Master,” the first said. “Behold my Chinese tattoo. I don’t know what it says, but is it not beautiful?”

The master peered at the tattoo. “That is not Beauty,” he replied.

“Master,” the second said. “Look at my two-tone Bugatti Veyron. Is it not beautiful?”

The master stared at the car. “That is not Beauty,” he replied.

“Master,” the third said. “Here comes my Colombian girlfriend. Is she not beautiful?”

The master turned around. “Yeah, all right,” he said.

The Way to Play

A coach who didn’t know how to guide his players visited the monk. “Master,” he said, “my team plays an enlightened form of football which requires concentration and patience. But other teams disrupt our tranquility by placing more of their players in the midfield.”

“Then move everyone to the midfield,” replied the monk.

“Ah, because then we will have more players in the midfield?” said the coach. “But Master, if everyone plays in the midfield, we will have no striker up front. Who will score our goals?”

“Then keep everyone out of the midfield,” replied the monk.

“But Master, if no one plays in the midfield, our goalkeeper will not be able to move the ball out of our area. How will he pass the ball to the other players?”

The monk threw his hands in the air. “Well, what do you want me to tell you?” he cried. “Geesh.”

group_meditation

So … peace out, yo!

Posted in Barcelona81 Comments

Fear and Loathing in the Calderón

The day had started innocuously enough. I woke up and smiled at my woman and child, who guard over my sleep every night from a neat frame on my bedside table, right next to Dani Pandes, a seven-inch tall black-and-white teddy bear with the Barça crest stitched to his belly that I had picked up at the stadium less than a week before. Ho ho ho, my new room in a relatively humble working class neighborhood of l’Hospitalet, not Barcelona, is nothing if not homely. I greeted both my family and Dani with a cheery good morning but all three just stared at me in return, which I considered somewhat off-putting. No matter, I would refuse to let myself drift into negativity.

I went to the market and came back with two baguettes and 150 grams of blue cheese, which, together with the brie, eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and parsley made for an arsenal with which any self-respecting breakfast aficionado would feel ready to face the morning, although I have to say that if the clock had already crept past one in the afternoon by the time I sat down to eat, it was early. I digress. The point is that somewhere between waking up and my first meal of the day I just knew. Come nightfall we would be Victorious. We would force the ball down the throats of these nazi swine to score goals that would make grown men weep with unbridled joy like the spirit of a teenage girl trapped in the hairy body of a middle-aged bartender.

Don’t ask me how I knew, that is irrelevant. Somebody told me that what really mattered was not why I felt that we would win, but whether or not my prophecies tended to fulfill themselves, which was a fair question, the answer to which I have forgotten. We live in interesting times, in the oriental sense of the word, and good answers to good questions are not always coherent. What is important is that we remain True, and I honestly believed that we would cruelly bludgeon to death these hounds from hell like a heartless bastard with a duffle bag full of unwanted puppies. My feeling was boldened when I found out that our opponents would miss not only Diego Costa, but Arda Turan as well. Those are arguably Atletico Madrid’s two best players, Bubba, so how do you like them mattresses?

The rest of the afternoon was spent performing assorted tasks and chores, all of which were too mundane to bother you with in this space. I had acquiesced to my new roommate’s request to watch the game in a bar together, something which I had serious misgivings over. Not the bar, of course, which, provided that they are cheap, which my roommate, let’s call him Giorgi, had most definitely promised me it would be, are fine establishments at which to scream and cuss and cheer at your favorite football team. No, my misgivings were centered entirely on Giorgi himself. For one, he is Bulgarian, which I must admit is not a crime per se, but I just so happen to question the moral fiber of any Bulgarian that lives in Barcelona and does not like Hristo Stoichkov. Worse, however, is that he had previously told me he was not much into football. Generally I am not one to question a person’s likes or dislikes, but whenever I stumble upon a man who tells me of his disinterest of the beautiful game, the thoughts that ensue to consume my mind are   “Who is this man?” and “Why does he exist?” I now realize that I should have gone with my instincts and declined his invitation, but since at that moment in time he assured me that he would introduce me to his Spanish and Catalan friends, and I am, after all, new in this city of art and deception, I decided to accept. I may be a Foreigner but I am not Rude, and anyone who might tell you otherwise is a lying sack of manure and deserves to be castrated with barbed wire.

I continued to ignore the signs. We live at a ten-minute walk from the Camp Nou, but the bar was the other way and, not wanting to spend money on the subway, we set out on foot in the direction of Plaça de Espanya. Fair enough, I don’t mind walking and the weather was agreeable. During the next twenty minutes my mind was mostly on football-related matters, with half an ear focused on my Bulgarian companion’s constant blabbering about his professed love for his apparently soon to be legalized drug of choice. That didn’t bother me in the slightest, though what I did find mildly alarming was the confession that he could not hold his liquor. Nevertheless, I was in a good mood, as usual when eagerly anticipating a big match. There is something special about Champions League nights, or at least once the tournament has entered into the knock-out stages, and seeing so many culers sporting blaugrana gear while walking the street made me all the merrier.

We arrived at the bar in a timely fashion, with five minutes to spare before the match would start. Enough for quick introductions, during which my name created quite a lot of confusion and I was repeatedly asked whether there existed a Spanish equivalent. The answer, of course, is No. I don’t do equivalents. I only have one name and if you don’t like it, don’t call me. I am not your Chinese waitress who can barely speak your language but still goes by Helena. To a casual observer that might appear like a certain unwillingness to integrate, but I assure you that is far from the case. If you lose yourself, you are a Nobody, and a Nobody can never be good to anybody. To the delight of the group, I spent the remaining minutes before the game conversing in Catalan. They were astonished that I spoke their language better after three weeks in Barcelona than others who have been here a lifetime. Personally I am of the opinion that that says more about those others than about myself.

After ordering a round of San Miguels (that’s Spanish for Budweiser) I was soon forced to turn my back on my new found friends. Our players were getting ready to kick off a football match, one I knew that we would win. I faced the TV and I took a sip of my beer. It was already poured into a glass, and this is important because Helena had given me a bottle and I don’t remember pouring it. It tasted odd, but then I find European beer tastes odd regardless. I swear by the South American beers I have gladly gotten used to over the years. They are Refreshing, an important quality when you live in temperatures of well into the hundreds and a humidity that makes your toes feel like a pack of baby rats in a hot tub.

Back to the game, which started well, with Leo Messi cutting from the right flank towards the middle before unleashing a dangerous shot that sailed over the goal. Anyone who can do something better than anyone else is a natural friend of mine, and even more so if we share a first name (now there’s an equivalent for you, Bubba). Yes Siree, we were in for a lot of Fun that night, except for the lone Atletico supporter in the bar who was about to suffer the longest ninety minutes of his life. He was about to experience Tears and Humiliation after playing a Barça team that was supremely talented and fully motivated. If only he knew what I knew. I confidently took another sip of my beer.

I believe it was at that moment I saw bright yellow spots flashing from the corner of my eyes. I held on to the table. Had I been standing I would have crashed on the floor. Not that it made any difference. I felt like I had hit my head without remembering and all that happened after was dark and twisted. I vaguely recall a missile that sent both our crossbar and my heart trembling. Who doesn’t matter, but I it could have been Adrian. In a reality previously unknown, David Villa worked his butt off for every ball, winning being the purpose of each cell in his body. His cross was headed back across the goal mouth, and Koke, a hybrid monster with the body of a panther and the head of a poisonous toad volleyed the ball into our net.

Somebody must have spiked my drink. I glanced around for a suspect, only to see Doubt and Frustration filling the room, with the exception of two: Julio, the colchonero, a grown man with the look on his face of a fifteen year old boy in the midst of losing his virginity, and Giorgi, my roommate, completely uninterested in the game and playing Candy Crush on his cell phone. I kicked him below the kneecap and urged him to pay attention.

My head was spinning. What was to come was a trip I was only half-prepared for. Blurry visions of red, white and blue swirled over the pitch like an American dream turned nightmare in the Calderon. From its stands millions of voices were baying for blaugrana blood, and they entered the bar through the television speakers. Whenever we had the ball we were surrounded by two to four crocodiles snapping at our ankles and tearing at our limbs. They were everywhere and the pressure was terrible. I had to order another beer just to calm my nerves. Pinto played long balls forward, where midgets stood no chance against Spartan titans. The only space on the pitch was behind our defense, and it was repeatedly exploited by greedheads that knew of no bounds. Ye Gods, they’re trying to break our crossbar! Our coach paced the sidelines with the expression of a helpless father whose children had been inducted by Charles Manson.

Maybe we would turn things around in the second half. And maybe I had been drugged. I asked Helena for another San Miguel just to make sure, and told her to keep them coming. People who lack my expertise might believe this strategy to be counterproductive, but I knew better. If I had ingested a mind-altering substance I was going to flush it out, no matter how much alcohol it would take. Maybe we were all under the influence of the same psychedelic downer. It was a weird scene, and Julio didn’t help. He kept singing “Olé, olé, el Cholo, Simeone” and for some reason no one shut him up. I banged my fists on the table and stared at him hard when the second half started.

It did not get any better. Few people understand the implications of getting caught in the System and those that do are too traumatized to put it in words. Most culers are romantic at heart, and there is no tribe I’d rather join, but the System has no mercy for souls like you and I. Once it has you in its clutches, there is no escape.

In the end I felt relief when it was over. All of us did. Barcelona had fought for all that was Fair and Beautiful in a world that is Cold and Cruel, but they did so without strength against a bunker that was filled with zombie robots bent on destruction. We were zero hundred in fifty fifty challenges. If there was a hope in hell we would score, our hearts were a couple of levels below that scorching place of permanent residence. It was depressing. It was also Reality and one that we had to come to terms with, one way or another. Some were upset and disgusted. I personally could not bear to think about the consequences of this Loss. Not yet. It was too soon, and I was certain of only one thing:

The next day I would wake up with a terrible hangover.

Dedicated to HST (a teenage girl trapped in an old man's body). I pale in comparison to your awesomeness. May you R.I.P.

Dedicated to HST. I pale in comparison to your awesomeness. May you R.I.P.

Posted in Barcelona39 Comments

Epic

 

freize

When the gods want to punish you, the saying goes, they answer your prayers — and the Gods of Football have, of late, been especially punitive. Looking to draw a soft penalty to finish off the clásico and the league along with it? Why, here’s three! (You take one, and your archrival will take the other two.) Praying that your club president will finally come to his senses and ship that mean ol’ coach back to the miserable island from which he came? Presto! (What are you sulking about? You’re still captain!) Ever daydream that one day you would be the Zamora-winning first-string keeper between the posts of a world-class team? Done and done! (No, I mean done. Right now, mid-match, of a derby, with a Champions tie in two days. No sweat, right? You’re at least pumped for another Copa final!)

I’m inclined to think that the Gods of Football, at least those who preside over La Liga, are of the Greco-Roman pantheon. For one thing, I have it on good authority of the History Channel that the divinities of other cultures are not mythological deities but extraterrestrials who beamed to Earth eons ago to share some of their intellectual property with us (e.g., blueprints for the Temple of Angkor Wat, or how to make a really cool crop circle with little more than a scythe and a dream.) And the northern European variety, the Valhallians and Nibelungs and such, well, frankly they intimidate me. We’ll wait to see how Champions plays out before we deal with them again.

No, I’m pretty sure we in La Liga are dealing with your Mediterranean-garden variety gods and goddesses. They don’t care about how you eat or dress or feel about your kid’s best friend’s new young stepmother. They’re content to sit back and watch the show like the rest of us, only from the best vantage point ever … that is, until one of them gets a bee in their bonnet and then you have what is called a “problem.” Kind of like when Mom gets into one of her moods. You’re pretty sure you haven’t done anything wrong, but it’s best to stay out of her way until Dad gets home.

urkelSometimes the gods decide they’ve had enough of each other and would like nothing more than to spend some quality time with you. They can be hard to spot, if you don’t know what you’re looking for. If you are an archaeologist, you might think that a god resembles a reality-tv “Housewife,” lounging about in spa wear with an ambrosia smoothie complaining about her husband chasing young girls in the form of a farm animal. If you are a Hollywood director, you might believe that the denizens of Olympus shop at a mall outlet called something like “S ‘n’ M!”, where they grab unisexy leather harnesses and micro-minis right off the rack (as gods, they’re sample size.) But if you are a soccer fan, you know that the Gods of Football walk among us disguised as Steve Urkel from “Family Matters”: short pants, long socks, and a left-breast pocket brimming with writing utensils. He’s been there the whole time, but you hardly notice him … until he points at you and your universe turns inside out.

Now, a lot of Greco-Roman gods played favorites, usually against each other, for reasons beyond the comprehension of mere mortals. Maybe it’s a big laugh riot on Mount Olympus to say “Make it rain!” and then turn your pitch to sodden mush, or to explode a big volcano just as your team is about to fly over Iceland for a very important match. Other times, they pick some poor sap and say, “I want that one!” as if you were a puppy in a pet shop window instead of a world-class winger with a golden foot and glossy hair.

For example, if your name is Lionel Messi and you play for FC Barcelona, then you are Odysseus and your story is The Odyssey (trust me, I already did the BuzzFeed quiz for you.) Odysseus is king of the world (well, o.k., Ithaca) and, like you, is trying to get back to where he once belonged, with his wife and young son. There’s a bit of political upset back at the home field, which may or may not motivate his team’s drive to get to where they need to be. Odysseus is famous for being quick on his feet, such as when he has to figure out how to dribble past so many Sirens clutching at him, and he can nutmeg ya in the blink of a Cyclop’s eye. This has won him the admiration of Zeus’ daughter Athena, who is the goddess of philosophy and, like most smart girls, alternately makes her Dad proud of how much she has achieved or gives him a headache for going on about how independent she is.  But Athena is a standoffish gal, and leaves Odysseus pretty much to his own devices. This has drawbacks, such as when he lollygags around Circe’s island after she turns his entourage into a litter of piglets long enough to make you wonder how bad he really wants it.

outfitIf you are Cristiano Ronaldo and you play for Real Madrid, your hero is Aeneas and your story is The Aeneid. Odysseus is a guy with a god on his side, but Aeneas really is a god — or a demigod, anyway. His mother is Aphrodite, so he’s probably good-looking (if the tendency of his ex-girlfriends to throw themselves on flaming pyres is any clue), but you don’t hear much about his dad. Eventually, Aeneas arrives on a strange peninsula dotted with attractive villas and hand-pressed olive oil, where he will found a great European capital under the protection of the goddess Ceres (you might know her as Cibeles.) Aeneas is a mama’s boy; like Odysseus, he’s done well enough for himself in the Trojan Wars, but whenever he gets into trouble Mom sends him an invisible cloak and he moves about unsuspected until the last minute. It’s kind of like when you wander about pretty much invisible for an hour or so and everyone on the other team gets their hopes up only to see — tah dah! — a free kick granted only a few yards from the penalty area and — bingo! — we get to watch you prance around the stadium announcing that you are, in fact, present. However, even though Aphrodite is more hands-on than Athena, she tends to get wrapped up in her latest relationship so it’s risky to depend upon her much.

If you are Diego Costa and you play for Atlético de Madrid, your hero is Achilles and your story is The Iliad. Your name means something like “anguish,” which is a feeling familiar to Atleti fans, and you are famous for your colorful armor, which archaeologists have never found but there’s no reason to think it doesn’t resemble a mattress. Unfortunately, you don’t have any kind of special guy-goddess relationship. In fact, you spend so much time with your buddies, like Patroclus, that your mom worries that you’ll ever have a girlfriend that isn’t some kind of set up like that chit Briseis. But what you have, and what your fans love about you, is heart. Heart and muscle. Well, mostly muscle. Achilles is a “Saturday Night’s All Right for Fighting” kinda dude, and there are times, like when he drags poor Hector around the fields or stomps on Dani Alves up and down the left side, when he seems to be kickin’ ass just for the heck of it.  So far, Plan A is working. But look out, because sometimes Achilles gets into a mood and disappears into his tent for the afternoon, such as in previous city derbies when Barcelona really could have used a hand keeping the merengues behind them in the League standings.

And where does that leave us fans and spectators? We’re the chorus, I suppose. Kingless, godless souls who pray that their match is the comedy offering of the evening and that the tragedies are played out in other theaters. Who like to sing a little ditty from time to time, and with a penchant for stating the obvious.

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Posted in Barcelona173 Comments

We Need More Dakka : RM 3-4 Barça; A (Tactical) Battle of Firepower

So Kevin already summed up the majestic affair from yesterday quite nicely so you can read it here (if you haven’t already). This here will be a sort-of breakdown of the general tactics and other such things.

It went something like this:

1. Barcelona came to the Santiago Bernabeu in a decisive game.

2. Barcelona won at the Santiago Bernabeu.

3. HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Okay, okay. It was a tad more complex than that, I’ll give you that. Maybe it was a more like:

1. Ancelotti comes with a game plan that plays to his team’s strengths and the other’s weaknesses.

2. Martino comes with a game plan that plays to his team’s strength and the other’s weaknesses.

3. Neither really adjust to each other.

4. Quality of players proves to be the difference.

The last point is often debatable. The old football adage is when teams win it’s down to players; when teams lose it’s down to the coach. On the whole, that’s sadly true. But in the case of this specific game it was really down to the individual brilliance of the players and their ability to overcome system deficiencies through sheer force of will.

They came against a faster, stronger, taller team that was tailor made for their downfall and essentially said, nope. We’re winning this one no matter what. It’s a team of champions and the ability to compete at the highest level and come out on top is nothing short of extraordinary.

But enough of that. Let’s get down to game. :D

Overloading the right flank: Di Maria runs rampant

Ancelotti’s game plan was this: use Di Maria’s pace to flood Barca’s right flank – that’s traditionally been the most offensive-minded and thus the most vulnerable – and take advantage Mascherano’s short stature. Xavi lacks the speed to keep up with him, and mostly likely doesn’t want to get dragged too wide, and with Alves defending Cristiano Ronaldo (supported by Mascherano) he was left to run amok mostly through his dribbling and crosses. The idea to play an extra midfielder on the left (who was initially supposed to help track Di Maria in the first place) ended up playing into RM’s hands.

Tata largely didn’t have a response. Once it was clear Di Maria would be supplying crosses, it would have made more sense to switch Pique and Mascherano,  the former’s height an obvious asset in defending crosses. But perhaps Tata didn’t want Pique against CR – whose pace is often a problem for a slower Pique and  was often marked by Puyol (when fit)as a result, which was why Mascherano was suited up against him in the first place – and felt he was better suited to match up against Benzema. Perhaps he just had faith his players would take advantage in other areas and left it alone. Either way, it was a risky decision and almost cost Barça the game.

Let’s take see an example here:

RM 2-1 Barcelona; Lilliput Under Siege

It starts with Di Maria receiving the ball in space.

Di Maria crosses the ball

Di Maria crosses the ball. CR and Benzema make their runs.

Who’s marking him? Good question. In theory it should be Xavi, but with Di Maria that wide that goes to Alves. Meanwhile CR temporarily switches to the left and makes a run so Pique tracks him. That leaves Mascherano with Benzema, who is behind him, to defend the incoming cross. We know the result.

(courtesy of Twitter)

You could argue Pique just stopped, and many have, but it’s not actually Pique’s job to defend that. He’s marking CR and he can’t simply leave him to deal with it. It’s on Mascherano’s side (i.e. the ball side defender) and it’s on him to defend it. That said, RM know Masche is not the tallest so they purposefully go for crosses on the right side. It would be ridiculous to bash Masche for being short. If he could grow a couple of inches, he would. But it is a weakness, the exploitation of which became the basis of RM’s game plan.

Ancelotti leaves spaces between the lines uncontested: Arrivederci Xabi, from Messi with Love

But football is a chess match and while Barça did concede the right flank to Madrid, Barca were given acres of space on the left flank as well as between the lines;  areas where Barca process the two best players in which to take advantage: Messi and Iniesta.

Bale tracks Fabregas, leaving Iniesta open.

Bale tracks Fabregas, leaving Iniesta open.

Way open.

Waaaay open.

Coming in to match, RM expected to blitz Barcelona and it showed it the way they set up their team: none of the double pivots we were used to seeing nor any CBs moving to the midfield to deal with Messi.

And that’s the thing. This was the first game we’ve seen in a while where Madrid didn’t really do anything to stifle Messi (outside the usual). Ramos, Pepe, and Alonso were the usual culprits in trying to defend him but there was none of the narrow play that was commonplace in other Clasicos. I could almost hear Ancelotti thinking, “Leaving spaces for Messi to play in? Eh. We’ll just score 6 billion goals. Ain’t no thang.”

Underestimate Lionel Messi, will you? We’ll see how that goes for you.

In fact, let’s see that in action:

RM 0-1 Barcelona; Undone by Positional Play and Genius Passing

This goal came off a lovely 20+ pass move. (Just as an aside: when people wonder why Barca ‘pass the ball around’ so much it’s for reasons like below. They move things around so players are out of position, markers don’t know who to mark, and spaces open up.) I’ll start towards the end of the sequence with Pique stepping up from defense to play a pass into Xavi.

Pique passes to Xavi.

Pique passes to Xavi.

There are 4 things I want you to focus on and remember when Xavi receives the ball:

Xavi's got the ball.

Xavi’s got the ball.

Which I’ll highlight in next four screenshots.

(1) Ramos moves up to track Neymar.

Tis Ramos y Neymar. Check out that nifty arrow. Aww yeah.

Tis Ramos y Neymar. Check out that nifty arrow. Aww yeah.

(2) Messi makes a run across. Pepe tracks him.

Pepe stalks Messi.

Pepe stalks Messi.

(3) Marcelo keep an eye on Fabregas (underlined in red) supported by CR (underlined in yellow) who is also mindful of Alves (underlined in blue).

How do you like them primary colours? Eh? Eh?

How do you like them primary colours? Eh? Eh?

(4) Bale marks Iniesta.

Iniesta 'marked' by Bale

Alright. Now that that’s set up, in this next screenshot:

Just watch this magnificent trainwreck unfold.

Just watch this magnificent trainwreck unfold.

You’ll see Cristiano has committed to Fabregas so Alves prepares to make a run. Xavi sees the space between Carvajal and Pepe open up and starts a run as well. Carvajal, seeing this, moves to close down the space. Meanwhile Bale points to the space he’s supposed to defend.

What happens next:

¡Corred, cabrones, corred!

¡Corred, cabrones, corred!

Xavi continues to make his run. Newcomer Modric tracks him. Fabregas passes the ball to Messi with Alonso, Pepe, Ramos all in and around him. Meanwhile on the left Marcelo has to keep his position with Alves free in space. Iniesta makes his run. Bale stands ineffectual.

The madness (which clearly has a method only Barca understands) continues. The result is the RM defense collapse around Messi. We’ve seen this one before. Messi does what he does best and plays in Iniesta with a perfectly timed pass.

A familiar image....

A familiar image….

Iniestazo occurs.

...with a familiar result. You better be afraid, Ramos.

…with a familiar result.

(via Twitter)

RM 2-2 Barcelona: And Messi shall pass Ramos. Again.

So much to say but I’ll just leave it in video form (courtesy of HeilRj):

(Gets body checked by Ramos, still scores.)

Making Sense of Cesc

I spent some time keeping an eye on our #4 trying to understand what exactly he was doing most of the game. The consensus seems to be he was playing a free role, like he tends to do in these games, which I agree with. He was there for basically two reasons; to wit: for his skill in the counterattack and to be (essentially) an extra player in the zone he happened to be in and the zone largely depended on where the ball was.

(1) Cesc in offense: plays a beautiful ball from deep for Messi.

That's Neymar on the ground btw. Got poleaxed by Pepe lol

That’s Neymar on the ground btw. Got poleaxed by Pepe who runs from the scene of the crime lol

(2) Cesc intercepts a pass from Modric and plays a great ball for Neymar in a quick counter attack.

Cesc to Neymar

Cesc in defense: right place at the right time to receive Di Maria’s pass. (hehe)

Cesc Di Maria

no more screenshots after this

Cesc wasn’t actually marking a specific player. At times he was supporting Neymar and Messi (the only two forwards) up front, at others supporting Xavi and Iniesta (who often dropped back to add an outlet on the left side of midfield) as well as helping Busi help the defense. (A wise choice.) That has its pros and cons: if Cesc doesn’t really know who exactly he’s marking, the opposition has no idea either. But it also meant he wasn’t particularly dangerous offensively since he was just there as an extra man and he wasn’t decisive defensively since, again, he was just an extra body.

That’s not to say he wasn’t helpful (he dragged defenders away from our forwards quite well, as shown in the first goal) but it means that his impact was pretty minimal. Playing Alexis you would’ve had the same effort but with the bonus of having an offensive threat on the LW where there was so much space, particularly after the red card. (Then again with Andres scoring goals now….)

A free role work great for Liga sides where Cesc’s intelligent runs offsets his tendency to give away the ball, so it won’t be a glaring issue. But against top sides it’ll be more noticeable.

Neymar Negligible?

One of the talking points of the game was whether Neymar have enough of an impact to warrant his starting position in the game. I thought that while he didn’t have much power or accuracy in any of his shots, he was quite adept at getting behind the defense and Ramos was certainly concerned about him for most of the game, probably remembering how Neymar scored the opening goal and assisted the winning goal last time around, so it makes sense he solves that problem by getting sent off, eh….

So the verdict for me: not bad but not match fit, so his substitute should have came in earlier.

Don Andres Iniesta

I’ll be completely honest with you. I sat for a good ten minutes trying to write a short paragraph/eulogy in honour of him. I just couldn’t get anything down.  It didn’t seem like enough. I’m truly speechless.

Just a saying: an Iniesta that scores goals….

Xavi and Busquets

They didn’t get much notice in the post game but I thought they were fantastic when called upon. What semblance of control Barca had were largely down to these two. Xavi had more passes than most of the Madrid midfield combined and while some will dismiss that as common “sideways” passes, let me remind you what the lifeblood of the sport is. That is how you control a game.

Xavi had more passes (105) than Xabi Alonso, Modric and Di Maria put together (101). Maestro. [via Opta]

Piquenbauer and San Valdes

An excellent game from Pique who had to deal with RM taking advantage of our short squad. We expect our defenders to be able to handle Cristiano Ronaldo one-on-one (contrast that with Messi who we expect to be able to defeat 3-4 RM defenders). Just because CR or Di Maria get the better of them doesn’t mean they suddenly suck. It just means that the fact they had often had them under control  in the past should be praised.

On the same note, it was Valdes’ last game at the Bernabeu in Barça colours. I’m glad we could send him off if not with a clean sheet then with a thrilling victory.

A Bad Day for Arrogance

Madrid players were talking the other day to El Pais that they feared Iniesta or Eto’o more than Messi and that they would essentially destroy Barça.

(via @Emenderk)

The cycle continues. :D

(Although it could really use some help, stupid board)

Posted in Analysis, Barcelona, Classic Matches, Thoughts136 Comments

Close to Away (as a matter of Clasico, pt III)

This is not a preview, it’s a meview. If you want to read something that makes sense, I suggest you click here for Kxevin’s thoughts on the game.

camp-nou-3

(TRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!)

Zzzzzzzz

(TRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!)

Zzzzzzzz

(TRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!)

Huh!?! What?!? Huhyaaaaaawn…

Yo man, you up?

Wh-wh-wh-huh? What? Who is this?

It’s me man, me, that’s who!

Maaaan what the… (yawn) It’s three in the fu… (yawn) You know what time it is, you f—–g prick?

It’s CLASICO TIME!

(a loud crashing sound ensues, which is either indicative of the end of the world or of a culer falling out of his bed and generally making a mess of what once upon a time looked like a bedroom)

Still there?

What? Where? When? Clásico? Here? Now?

No, not now. Take it easy. Keep that heart attack at arm’s length from your chest. Breathe in, breathe out. The game is tomorrow.

Tomorrow? So why you calling me at three o’clock in the morning?

I can’t sleep.

Why not?

Tomorrow’s the Clasico.

Oh. Right. Why don’t you watch tv or something, get your mind off things? And let me sleep! Jeeez…

I tried that but they talk about the game on every channel.

Oh, right… Uhmmm… Hold on… Why is there a picture of the Camp Nou above this article? The game is at the Burn-the-Eeew.

Man, you’re slow!

Yeah, so? What does that got to do with it?

It’s got everything to do with it.

You’re a jerk. What do you think of the game?

Well, do you want my BFB-contributing, sangria-drinking, happy-go-lucky, rallying-the-troops and stand-behind-my-team opinion or do you want my honest opinion?

What do you really think?

Color me culer but I think we’re gonna lose. M*drid is playing like a monster right now. What do you think?

Man, you’re one pessimistic son of a bee. We’re gonna kick some whitey butt. We’re gonna run rings around Pepe until he bites his own —hole. We’re gonna make D-Lo wish that he’s Iker and Iker wish that he’s Sara sitting at home and breastfeeding the baby. We’re gonna make Ronaldo cry piss from his eyes, only they don’t call it piss they call it CR7. We’re gonna rip Bale’s nuts off and feed them to Tomás Roncero. We’re gonna fill their diapers with blaugrana doo-doo and snap the neck off of any Ancellady that tries to change ‘em.

Dude, forget I even asked. I forgot how weird you are. And Tomás Roncero would probably love to eat Bale’s private parts. Or at least nibble on ‘em just a little bit.

Man, he’d gobble ‘em up. And who you calling weird? Look at you, man, I mean, man, just look at you!

My point exactly. But I wish I shared your confidence. I’m also worried that Martino might have lost the team.

Lost the team? Martino? Not the Pope of the Pampas, no Sir. Gerardo knows what he’s doing. They don’t call him Tata for nothing.

Huh?

Ta-Taaaa, Ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-Taaaaaaaa! Ta-ta-ta-ta-Taaaaaaaaa!

Oh, I get it. Yeah, blazing trumpets. Cute. Some say he’s not Catalan enough for this team.

Sheeeeit, by the time he’s done they will hand him the keys of the city. He’ll be trainer, mayor ‘n president and all at the same time. Every other sentence heard on the streets of Barcelona will be “Who the f— is Pep?” They will change the country’s name to Tatalunya!

Enough with the madness already. You’re making my head spin. Why can’t you be more normal, like me? I thought you’d be more chilled out half-asleep. You’re still a crazy bastard.

I am chilled out, man. What the f—.

Yeah, I guess you are not as bad as usual. Wish you wouldn’t cuss as much, though.

Awwww be honest, you love me the way I am. Show me some love, man, let’s do it!

Hey, kids might read this, man, that’s nasty.

Here we go again (sigh). Always with the kids, huh. No kidding, man, but you’re boring! Anyway where we gonna watch the game, bro?

See, I don’t know. I don’t wanna go to La Rambla cause there’s just way too many tourists out there.

Shit now who’s crazy? The Rambla. Ha! Very funny! You act as if you’re in motherf—–g Barcelona or something.

Eh, du-uh! Where have you been?

Inside your head.

Yeah, and have you ever bothered to look out of my eyeballs?

I see a computer screen. An orange wall. A fan. And three mirrors. What you got three mirrors for? Wanna be three times as ugly?

Look to the left.

Ok.

Out the window.

Uh-huh…

(waaaait for iiit…)

WHOAH!!! Oooh shit! We’re in (breathe), we’re in (breathe), we’re in (breathe), we’re in…WE’RE IN BARCELONA!!!

You mean I. In the eyes of our beholders there is no we, ’cause we are I. One person, not two. You should know that by now. This ain’t the first Clàssic preview signed by yours trulies. I, that’s who!

Yeah, whatevs b—ch. We live and direct from the city that never creeps: Mother…F—–g… Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar – Ceeeeeeeeeeeee – LONAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! BARCELONA! BARCELONA! BARÇA! VISCA EL BARÇA! BARCELONA! OMG. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT! WE’RE IN BARCELONA. BARCELONA! BARCELONA! BARCELONA. OH MY MOTHERF—–G GOD! I CAN’T BREATHE. I CAN’T (breathe), I CAN’T (breathe), I CA– I CA– I CA– AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGHHH! BAAARCELONAAAA! BARCE—

Calm down, calm down. Calm down. I know how you feel, boss. Please, just trust me and calm down. Maintain focus. Stay sharp. Concentrate. Waaait for it. And inform our readers in a cool and collected manner that we will now write our articles for the best football blog in the world from the best football city in the world. The Camp Nou better be ready for us, and by the way, I really hope you’re not gonna get me banned. Enjoy el Clàssic, y’all! Visca el Barça i visca Catalunya. Over and out.

Posted in Barcelona, El Clasico, Fantasy, La Liga, Nonsense139 Comments

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