Maulaga 0, Barca 2, a.k.a. “Way to man up.”

Dude. Kick their asses for me.
Dude. Kick their asses for me.

As match-changing moments go, this one was huge. Thierry Henry’s thigh injury necessitated a substitution, and thankfully the healing powers of Zlatan Ibrahmovic had him ready and available for duty.

And we all know the rest, right?

But the important part about this match isn’t any refereeing, or missed decisions, or dirty plays. It’s about how we won, and that we rolled up man-style, returning dirty play by putting the ball in the back of the net.

We also won a match that we could very easily have lost, and might have lost last season (yes, even last season). There is an institutional arrogance to our side this season, a group of players that only cares about one thing: winning.

Last year, there was some of that. This year, you can almost smell it in the air. They don’t care about playing pretty, though they will if allowed. They don’t even really care a lot about what the ref does. If he isn’t making the calls, they speed up play so that the ball is gone before the opponents have a chance to foul. And rather than the little curlicues, the oh, so efficient triangles, just fling a pass in to Ibrahimovic and let him do his thing, if that’s what is called for.

Just win, baby.

Guardiola came out with a lineup that was interesting, for me: Valdes, Alves, Txigrinski, Puyol, Alves, The Yaya, Keita, Xavi, Messi, Pedro!, Henry. It was interesting because the attack, by using Pedro!, was missing some essential discipline that makes the machine go. In other words, P! runs around too damned much. It’s hard to play with a player when you don’t know where he’s going to be.

But more importantly, we started this match with a collective case of the team craps. Messi was laying bad balls around, Xavi was invisible and we were being pressured in our own end by a Malaga club that had clearly come out to play. They were playing football, and we were walking and looking as if we wanted to be anywhere except there. And Malaga was running around like a kid with the car keys right after dad came home, expecting to get a spanking that still hasn’t come.

And then, gradually, we started playing into the match, and the fouling began. The very first hard foul was rewarded with a yellow card by the ref, who seemed to want to establish an immediate tone: Physical play was okay, aggressively physical play wasn’t. Which is fine. I mean, was anybody really surprised that a lesser side was going to, once they realized that we were ready to start playing, try to kick us off the pitch? I hope not, because it’s a footballing tactic that has been in use almost since the game began. It wasn’t the first time we saw it, and it won’t be the last time that we see it.

Even as we started to play into the match, the craps continued. Pedro! made a bad decision with the ball, Xavi was invisible, Messi’s lovely run was rewarded with a half-assed effort from Henry, and then came the play that shocked the world.

Behind the play, Malaga defender Weligton stepped on Messi’s leg. But don’t watch a gif, watch the match. Play had begun in the other direction, and the referee was not looking at the incident. Does that make the incident excusable? Absolutely not. It had potential to to harm a player, and it should be dealt with by the Liga swiftly and harshly, hewing to precedents already established when it comes to disciplinary matters. That’s why matches are reviewed, and this one will be.

The ref’s job is to ensure that the match is fair. But he’s human, and if something happens where he isn’t looking, or where some of the other officials aren’t looking, he doesn’t see it. It was a shameful play, but if Weligton were really interested in injuring Messi, he would have stomped a lot harder. He wanted to get under Messi’s skin, to take him out of the match, to turn him into a one-on-one player instead of the thoughtful dynamo that he has become.

It didn’t work. More importantly, we had set up shop in their end of pitch, with possession stats were in the low 70s for us. And then came the penalty that wasn’t. Or at least it wasn’t called. I don’t know if it was a penalty, because with GolTV’s cutting away to the Bayern match, or showing us on a split screen, you don’t see what really happened during the play, so it’s impossible to know if it was a definitely penalty, or if Ibra was just hunting. I’ve learned to ignore Ray-Ray’s screaming and hyperventilating. Ibrahimovic didn’t protest too vehemently, however, which should tell us something. More importantly, we didn’t let it take us out of our game.

Back we came, and Pedro! laid in an exquisite pass for Ibrahimovic that deserved a better fate. He was one-on-one with the keeper, and had more time than he thought. He shot it too early and from too far, so the save was made. But the message was sent: Here we come, as did our first goal, which was a pure a thing of beauty as any of us are likely to see from this club. I won’t be able to break it down like Hector, but here’s what I saw:

–Ibra one-touches a long pass past Messi to Xavi as the Malaga defenders are so used to ball chasing that they are all leaning the wrong way …. constantly.
–Because Messi has two defenders around him, there are acres of space for Pedro! and Keita, so Xavi plays it to Pedro!, who plays it back to Keita.
–The defenders, beginning to wonder if something isn’t brewing over there, continue chasing the ball.
–At this point there are not one, but two triangles formed: Xavi-Messi-Keita or Pedro!-Keita-Messi.
–Alves is unmarked on the right wing, and continues to show, knowing that would draw a bit of attention.
–As the Keita-Pedro!-Messi triangle played, Xavi sprinted into space created, offering up a new triangle much closer to goal.
–Ibrahimovic slows down his movement, aware that he’s in a sweet spot created by the danger of Xavi and Messi.
–Keita batted the ball to Messi who, with a clunky first touch, chased the ball.
–Ibrahimovic sensed the time was right, darted back on side, paused to establish the position then broke at the very instant that ….
–Messi controlled the pass, and lifted a perfect side-foot lob to Ibrahimovic, who chested it down to his feet and off the bounce back, with a balletic move, volleyed an instep ball past the keeper.

Now, this all happened in about .004 seconds, but it was yet another episode in the “Why We Paid 60+ Million For This Dude” show. Ibrahimovic changes the way that we play, because now we don’t have to pass the ball into the net. We can just flick it in to BANGS and watch him do his thing. (It should be noted at this moment that the churlish would say “Hey, why didn’t he convert that chance against Inter, dammit!” Valid question.) It should also be noted that the defender owned on that goal was Weligton. Did annoyance focus Ibrahimovic more effectively? Quite possibly. And that’s 5 goals in 5 Liga matches for Ibrahimovic. Could he really score in every Liga match he plays in? Doubtful, but quite the streak so far.

With that goal, we seemed to solidify, and the match was effectively over. Because despite Alves repeatedly getting owned by his wing attacker, and Puyol having to put out some fires, the closest Malaga came to scoring was when a bad hop off the turf meant that Valdes yielded a corner off a ball that he was going to play at his feet.

Note to Phil Schoen: Knock it off, you douchebag. Valdes was Zamora last season, and an integral part of our triplete. By refusing to admit this, by refusing to admit that he has made infinitely more great plays and saves than bad ones, and harping on the bad ones every opportunity that you get, you diminish yourself, not Valdes. Just saying.

The second goal, earned off a for-real foul outside their box, was also a beauty because of what it represented: We can score off set pieces now, and if you foul us in a danger position, you are going to pay. This goal was a lot simpler than the first one, though there was some Nuryev stuff going on here, as well. Xavi knocked in a flawless free kick and Pique just stuck out a leg, at the end of which was a daintily pointed foot. And voila. Number two, and a cushion against the kinds of mental lapses we’d been having of late.

And really, the only other thing worthy of note in the second half, was Messi owning Weligton with a series of fakes, moves and dribbles, before leaving him in his wake. He might have been a bit vexed, which explains why his shot didn’t display its usual power and accuracy. But that run across the top of the box is a new trick of his this season, a real danger because if you charge him he dribbles past you, so you almost have to let him shoot, choosing the lesser of two dangers. Expect more goals like that last goal against Racing Santander.

Was Messi hauled down in the box? Watch the play again. He got a little shirt tug and went down. We’ve all seen the physical batterings that Messi has just dribbled right on through. Yes, some refs would have given that one. But this one wasn’t going to. Note, also, the “That’s enough of this shit” straight red for a play that didn’t deserve a straight red.

No, I’m not defending this official. I am saying that he didn’t really call that horrific a match. I’m sure that he’ll see the Messi stepping-on and be just as outraged as we all were, and ashamed that he missed it. But we are going to have many more matches like this, in which officials are going to think, however, unconsciously, “Let the hot-shots play through some physical challenges, and I’ll step in if it gets too bad.” And if we get this worked up over just the first of undoubtedly many such matches, however are we going to survive the entire season?

Team: 5. I don’t like the bad collective early play, as if we have a difficult time getting worked up for an opponent that we know we should beat. One of these times, a lucky bounce is going to get us in trouble.

Guardiola: 6. You can say he made the right substitutions but really, they were the only possible ones. Pedro! cannot start for this side. He isn’t good enough, even against Malaga.

Valdes: 7. Controlled and patrolled his area, even if he didn’t really have very much to do this match. He now knows to get his body in front of those back passes, right?

Alves: 6. I know, kinda harsh, right? Against a real team, the fact that he was getting owned by his man would have hurt us. Bad.

Txigrinski: 8. Here’s why I enjoy “Not the most confident performance, was beaten for pace by Obinna often, and his distribution was also inaccurate.” Wow. Now, we all watched him get his body between attackers and the ball time and again, right, and drop perfect pass after perfect pass to the likes of Pedro! and Alves, balls that weren’t just on target, but on target and easily controllable? And did you see the way that he dispossessed Malaga attackers twice? And what about those calm, controlled forward runs? Just checking.

Puyol: 9. Every time, every where, he was there, making an argument that “Yes, you have Pique and you signed that big, hairy dude. But I’m not ready to stop being the best center back in Barcelona.” He bailed out everybody and their mamas, except for ….

Abidal: 9. His world was on lockdown, and the best chance that Malaga had to score was knocked away by a charging Abidal. He was excellent today, even making well-timed forward runs.

The Yaya: 6. He worked into the match, but this wasn’t his kind of match, really, because we were so controlling at the front end of the attack. His yellow for dissent was rash. Yes, it was a fair challenge. But refs often get those wrong. Play through it.

Keita: 8. Okay. This new Keeeteee! isn’t a flash in the pan. It’s the real thing. Awesome, just awesome. But he has to learn to pull the trigger on his shot before the defenders arrive. Consider that a helpful hint, sir.

Xavi: 7. Uncharacteristically loose with the ball early, but was his usual self before halftime. That back heel to Messi was absurd, and his free kick assist for Pique’s goal was remarkable. And check out his constant movement into spaces that draw defenders, and create space for attackers.

Pedro!: 5. Nice pass for Ibrahimovic, dude. You should have had an assist. But you have to learn circumspection. You can’t just run around out there like you’re playing sandlot football. And you aren’t Messi, so stop dribbling into three defenders. You’re just going to lose the ball. I think that you have talent, but you’re trying too hard, so it seems as though you are playing out of control all the time. (As Jason correctly points out, you should have had two assists. Bummer.)

Messi: 7. He’s had more influential matches, though he played very, very well. And he played through all the crap, which was so impressive.

Henry: 4. I know, I know …. he came off injured. But that’s what he played to before he came off. I hope this won’t be a replica of his last season on the pitch at Arsenal.


Ibrahimovic (for Henry): 9. He defended on set pieces, he scored a killer goal, he harassed the Malaga keeper, he headed away a Malaga corner and was off on the break the other way. He just plain raised hell.

Pique (for Txigrinski): 7. Was playing his way to a higher rating, frankly. And work on your shooting. You should have had a brace. It’s nice that he and Txignasty play almost identically.

Busquets (for The Yaya): incomplete. Didn’t have any discernible effect, but didn’t have very much time.

This was an expensive win, costing us Henry (for at least one match) and Txigrinski for 3-4 weeks. But 2 of the 5 matches in the long end of that stretch are Champions League, and only one, Valencia, should be difficult. But with Pique and Puyol at the center of our defense, no worries. And wait a minute …. my math sucks. With the break for Internationals, figure Txiggy to only miss Almeria. Cool!

And finally, as is my wont, a little parting image:


By Kxevin

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


    1. i downloaded it anyway. not putting up w/their bullshit anymore. can’t wait to watch it. rough night & its hot. gotta get my little mermaid on.

    2. yeah that was awesome, i get the impression that zlatan isn’t one to fuck with, kinda like the wu-tang clan.

  1. “The defenders, beginning to wonder if something isn’t brewing over there, continue chasing the ball” – Epic. As if the defenders are mindless bots on fifa 09 😛
    Nice caption for the first pic, and a very cool last pic LOL
    btw, seen this ‘The New Iniesta’ on the other blog?

    Ibra lost out on an opportunity of scoring one of the goals of the season… A perfect pass followed by a perfect finish would have been just awesome. But yeah, whatever! Loved the way team came up lively after a substitution; not the first time this season, was it? Same happened when Messi came on as sub against Getafe. It was also away score 0-2

    1. Yes, he was, on a nice cut-back into space, though I’m not sure that he had any real idea what he was doing.

    1. Tito was working the fourth official pretty hard …. crazy hard, in fact, saying everything that Guardiola wouldn’t/couldn’t say, because he needs to be on the pitch.

      Sometimes, that’s the job of a good assistant coach.

      Puyol was, as Ray-Ray would say, magisterial. 😀

  2. “Barcelona opens season with victory over Gijon, Ibrahimovic scores”

    “Barca beats Getafe, Messi, Ibrahimovic brilliant”

    “Messi, Ibrahimovic destroy Racing”

    “Messi, Ibrahimovic dominate Atletico”

    “Barca lackluster, Ibrahimovic saves the day”

    ibra MVP so far?

    1. Interesting about Ibra…I say Messi for MVP at this early stage. One of the blog’s themes this year is “he IS better,” and it’s one of the points that I most emphatically agree with. Malaga wasn’t so great for him, but for me, last season was much more about Xavi ‘n’ Iniesta (Salt ‘n’ Pepa). This season validly looks like the season of Lionel Messi.

      Henry is probably going to Monaco in the summer. I still need to look at the Youtube highlight reels of Suarez, but I’m circumspect about such a purchase. I’m not sure about Gai, but Bojan, Pedro, and Jeffren are all waiting in the wings, and Iniesta is more than capable of playing at least part time at LF (though I will strike down the idea of Maxwell there, for the same reason I don’t want to see CBs and DMs switching places). Let’s face it: there’s a ton of quality in the side, and though you want there to be quality everywhere, going through a season where Bojan is the man and still growing is a lot more sound than buying someone unproven or risking sending him and the rest of la cantera in that position a subliminal pink-slip.

      Like Messi (a little like Messi), you can see that Bojan is better than last season, as is Pedro. They’re both very young. Henry, however, is 32. Let’s wait until January at least, perhaps until May, to think about replacing Henry.

      And yes, Fabregas would be a great person to give Xavi rest, but the way he’s playing this season is verging on atrocious. I’d go so far as back as that injury against Liverpool last season that kept him out a few months. Ever since he’s come back from that, he hasn’t been quite the engine he’d always been for Arsenal.

    2. no ibra isn’t the mvp, until he starts doing better with the ball at his feet and until i see some solid shots on goal from a range of distances 1-30 yards then he’ll always play second fiddle to leo and xavi.

  3. I am a little doubtful about Henry this season. I believe we need a good back up for his position this winter. Anybody on this topic???

    1. we should have signed silva, he can do it all. some back up for henry and xaviniesta.

      henry shouldn’t be a starter THIS season

    2. I agree, he’s the man that makes Valencia click. Although Villa still pulls rabits out of his ass on a weekly basis.

    3. I’m also worried about the left wing position. Even if Henry can play well this year, he shouldn’t be a starter next season. However, we don’t have anyone to replace him. Pedro isn’t good enough. Bojan might be able to replace him, but I think he is too young – he is the perfect supersub for the entire front line.

      But what to do? If you bring in someone young then you might stifle the development of Bojan and maybe even Gai (Jeffren and Pedro aren’t starters in my opinion).

      Here’s another option. Keep Henry for one more year and rotate Bojan, Henry, and Iniesta as the starting LW. Bring in Fabregas who can rotate in the midfield with Xavi and Iniesta (we all know Xavi needs more rest). Then the year after that, Henry will leave and Iniesta and Bojan can rotate for the left wing, with Iniesta also rotating with Xavi and Fabregas in the central Mid.

      The only problem with this is if you look at our youth coming up, the central midfielders are stronger than the wingers. This would indicate that it would be better to bring in a winger.

    4. Pedro, Jefferen, Gai, lots of talent on the wings coming up.

      “This new Keeeteee! isn’t a flash in the pan. It’s the real thing.”

      Most interesting tactical thing this season (incorporating Ibra aside). Keita has really laid claim to that advanced midfield spot. Guardiola will have interesting decisions to make about how to get SPF back into the lineup.

    5. I don’t think Iniesta should be rotating with anybody on the pitch, he’s proven he should start every minute that he’s healthy.

    6. Pedro just needs to stop screwing around and he is a decent stand in, Bojan would be nice (when is he back from injury?) Other than that Iniesta will play LF and Keita will continue as LM perhaps rotating Pedro as LM (since Pep remarked he can play midfield).

    7. Pedro wasn’t that bad last match in my opinion. He started off cold as did most, but gradually grew in the game and could have had two assists. He also drew the foul that led to Pique’s goal. So his nifty footwork wasn’t all in in vain.

    1. I honestly only see Maxwell as a stop-gap solution. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be mad if we brought in Filipe Luis next summer

    2. I’d agree with that. I think that’s why the price was so right. But I’m still not sure why we didn’t take advantage of the Filipe Luis situation this season, when he was available on a free.

      I can see us not wanting to torpedo a good relationship with any club, but can anyone imagine someone not snapping up one of our players, were one to come available on a free?

    3. yeah so far filipe > maxwell, not too fair to say that but its clear to me at least that maxwell’s defensive abilities are a bit dodgy.

  4. The fact of the matter is that while Iniesta should be starting as much as possible, Pep likes to gives players rest. If Fabregas is brought in Iniesta could still start most games, just that he would move between AM and LW. Bojan would start at LW in smaller games, and Fabregas would allow Xavi to be rested.

    Imagine this starting lineup:



    1. Dima?

      Looking at this, my instant reaction is (for Isaiah fans),

      Iniesta/Xavi > Fabregas/Xavi, + Iniesta LF < Iniesta LM.

      But when I think about it, that's an interesting proposition. Fab for me is a lot more like Xavi than Iniesta, but I could see that insane tandem developing between them, with Iniesta growing into the left. Still, I'm skeptical. I think Iniesta on the left makes us more of a 442 team

  5. I think that as with any organization that has a very high standard, it learns to get on without a part that was heretofore considered integral. So it is with Ghostface.

    Ghostface works so beautifully with Xavi in that they move as if connected by a rod. Xavi always has a way out, and an attacker to give the ball to who will do something with it.

    Two arrivals, Keita and Ibrahimovic, have enabled us to roll on fine without Iniesta. Does anyone notice how considerate Ibrahimovic’s return passes are? Xavi, rather than playing off of Iniesta to create space, will sometimes just feed the ball to Ibra in an advanced position, and he will feed it right back to Xavi, recognizing that at that moment, his job is as pressure relief valve. This was a crucial role for Iniesta, who would take a pass from Xavi, do one of his winnowing little runs, then return the ball to Xavi.

    Keita’s advanced presence gives that shooting threat from distance that Iniesta provided, as well as the defensive cover, heading ability and athleticism that Iniesta (no offense intended to Ghostface) doesn’t.

    Yes, it takes two people (sort of) to replace Iniesta, a tribute to his immense talents. But I just don’t think that the machine has run as smoothly when he’s been inserted. Clearly, however, this is a consequence of match fitness and game pace. When he comes back, and he will have to against Dynamo Kyiv, he’ll be able to work his way in more effectively.

    As for Pedro!, I still see him as the Giuly type, the instant destabilizer. His constant, unpredictable motion makes him most effective against tired defenses, rather than when the match just starts. My only issue(s) with him are the same as those with Jeffren. It isn’t that they lack talent, it’s that they don’t know what to do with it. Look at Krkic, by way of example. He has that same colt-like quality, but he’s more disciplined, so he’s usually where his teammates expect him to be.

    Admittedly, some of that is having been first team. Pedro! will learn to relax and play within the system, rather than using the system as an individual showcase sometimes. Time and patience are the answer.

    1. Spot on Kxevin. Hell, they (Pedro and Giuly) even look very similar physically and facially, not just playing style-wise.

    2. when iniesta and ibra start to get along in the field we’re gonna see some magic plays I think. I guess this is what pep thinks is the offense when all players are fit:

      (alves) xavi messi ibra iniesta all are most of the “most skilled players” in the world right now, they hardly miss a ball…and there’s also yaya that DOESN’T MISS A BALL.

  6. So the big question (sorry, ahead I know) is who would start at LW next season if Henry leaves and we buy Luis Suarez: Bojan or Luis Suarez?

    And if we bought Filipe Luis, what will happen to Abidal and Maxwell? Is Filipe Luis the ideal leftback for our system, or would he playing across from Dani be more harm than good?

  7. Love the idea of two Alves’ on the field Kevin…oh yes!

    It took me awhile to remember what you were talking about with Weligton’s stamp. To me, that wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it almost looked accidental. What stood out for me that said Weligton should get banned was that late swing he took at Messi(?) in the box after the ball flew away from a pass…or something. THAT was surely a ban, perhaps 3 matches.

    Any opinions on our very own Xavi Torres??

    For once, I have very little to say about the match. It was a pretty unremarkable and certainly ugly (“a win is a”) win, and I’m bummed about the injuries we picked up from a very “slash-and-burn” game. Two things…1)Ibra pinned down the 9 spot today for any remaining doubters. His impact compared to (sigh) Henry was immediately felt, and though I feel he became less involved as the game progressed, the way he made his mark so quickly was outstanding.

    2) Hector, I think you have another goal analysis on your hands, since that first goal was the end of about 60 seconds of play, perhaps the ONLY 60 seconds of play in the game, where we looked absolutely incredible. For me, regardless of how Malaga was defending, that was the only point at which I was truly awed. Classic Barca pressure: pretty attack that’s snuffed out, we get the ball back in seconds, pretty attack that ends in a goal.

    Great post-

    1. If you look at the vid again, you’ll see that Weligton did step on Messi on purpose. He looked down and then proceeded to step on him. Uncalled for. And the player he punched was Pique.

    2. damn weligton… I loved the “ballon d’or” reaction of messi. imagine someone did that to thong boy 😉

    3. Speaking of Xavi Torres, it’s kind of cool that in our 5 league games so far we have played three of our own players that are “on loan” and that all three of them are starters for their current teams(depending on whether you include Xavi Torres in the “loaned out” category).

  8. Okay some other things because they came to me. Pedro, I think there could be a problem there. I just don’t see what we saw in pre-season. All he contributed was 90 minutes of rest for our better players (if you want to call injury rest). Kevin, you have the right reason down too…he’s too free with his movement. THAT he will learn to fix (kind of like Bojan has learned). The question is, will he play well strictly within his confines (…kind of like Bojan).

    Bojan’s injury was a bit unfortunate. I think many of us, if we’re “missing” him, our missing chances for him to prove himself. These were some games where he could have delivered. Who knows, when he comes back….isn’t it great to speculate when a player’s injured?

    Alves looked pretty smoked out there toward the end. I’ve been saying before that he, like Xavi, will be playing way too much time. Perhaps it’s because he was playing on the right AND the left? (hehe, I’m sorry to bring up twice but it was irresistible…)

  9. Er, two last things…

    1) I think Messi DID let Weligton get under his skin a little. After two MOTMs in a row, we saw some of that angry ball hog come out again. He’ll recoup and destroy the CL in the midweek.

    2) Perhaps the most important thing about this match, and I know it was Malaga, is that we didn’t concede. We’ve had mental lapses of late while playing really well. At Malaga, we didn’t play particularly well, but we didn’t do anything too stupid. I’ll take the latter.

  10. Is there a private-group in UEFA fantasy football where all our blog followers joined? If not some one please take the initiative and create a group and add the details here. I want to compete with you guys on the points for selección 😛

  11. reports that Iniesta could start against Dynammo Kiev, as a replacement for Henry (a bit less offensive), their source:

    In another article, they claim that Bojan should be back in our squad for the match against Alméria. Source: none

    An attacking trio of Messi, Ibra and Iniesta – that would be nice 🙂

  12. Suarez hit the post twice yesterday. Tried another excellent long range effort. Had few other shots on goal. The first goal was a result of Suarez trying to take them all on his own, tried some fancy stuff. Did a fancy footwork on another occasion where he should have had the assist, only Cvitanich couldn’t finish off the move. But I believe the last two had some thing to do with the alleged Barca interest LOL. Showed a li’l bit of frustration when another nice pass of his was not converted(read by the same striker). But he succeeded to set-up a goal finally in 71st minute though it was not his greatness that resulted in the goal. Couldn’t finish off on a deflected ball and the frustration was quite evident. God, Barca when scouting on a player, shouldn’t let him know. It could be quite an unsettling for the player. Damn you El Mundo 😛 selected him for the Eredivisie team-of-the-week along with the fellow player we seemed to have interest from Holland, Afellay.

  13. Stats so far this season

    Goals :

    Messi 7
    Ibra 5
    Keita 2
    Bojan 2
    Pedro 2
    Pique 2
    Xavi 1
    Alves 1

    Assists :

    Messi 4
    Xavi 4
    Alves 4
    Ibra 3
    Pedro 1
    Keita 1
    Busquets 1

    P.S. Don’t forget about the UEFA fantasy group

    1. P.P.S. Though Xavi provided the final pass for Messi’s second goal against Racing, didn’t count that as an assist because it was all the Messi’s brilliance that brought us the goal.

      Barca’s previous ‘9’ provided only 6 assists last season, 4 in Liga & 2 in CL. Just saying

    2. Oh, great!

      I’ve been waiting for this statistic since Pep’s blog is inactive 🙂

      Would be nice if you can continue it, or maybe Isaiah, Kxevin or Hector could make it an official feature of this blog?

    3. Here onwards it would require just an update after each match… So won’t be a big deal, will continue 🙂

      No body interested in forming a group for us in UEFA fantasy football?

    4. I have already registered a team on 🙂

      I have to admit, it it A LOT stronger than my yahoo! Fantasy team. So if there are more players interested, I would join a group. Let’s wait until Kxevin and Isaiah read about your idea.

    5. Consider it done. It migbt not be immediate, but Isaiah is definitely working something up in that regard: he’s already been teasing me about my statistically supported hate of Henry.

    6. I won’t be doing a full run down every week, no. I’m thinking of adding a feature to the previews with goal scoring leaders for each team, though.

      The thing for me is, 1) BF is doing a great statistical job here and 2) I don’t like the assists stat because I don’t believe in it. BF just said “Though Xavi provided the final pass for Messi’s second goal against Racing, didn’t count that as an assist because it was all the Messi’s brilliance that brought us the goal.” which means to me that assists are too subjective, like “passes completed” and “passes missed” for instance.

      But don’t worry, I’ll start pumping out statistical analysis by the boatfull forever (har har!) in a few days time. I’m working on some different angles for this year, so stay tuned on that front.

  14. FutbolMercado reports that Cristian Ledesma allegedly under Barca radar has requested his club management to terminate his contract to become a free agent. Also that we are interested in Lee Cattermole of Sunderland. Now I have very good confidence in Steve Bruce, he’s got a knack in picking out talented players… he’s brought Figueroa, Bramble, Zaki & CATTERMOLE to Wigan. He took away Cattermole to Sunderland along with him which speaks some thing.
    But I prefer Gojko Kacar to these two players for all I know

  15. Waiting for Isaiah to come up with preview of our next game already!
    With the official website has reporting that Thierry Henry might not be able to play in a Champions League match against Dynamo Kiev tomorrow, would be interesting to see if any striker from ‘B’ is gonna get a debut tomorrow.
    As much as I’d have loved to watch Sheva live again, his missing the match could be considered a boon for us isn’t it? Dima though can’t play the match has some thing to contribute(read inform) to the team again 🙂

  16. Couple of things:

    1) I don’t think Jeffren will ever be good enough to be a starter

    2) Until Keita learns to stop skying shots I don’t think he’ll ever be a real threat from distance. I blame Pep for this.

    3) My main concern with Henry is that he is always injured. I think we should sign Suarez in January if possible as his replacement. For all of Gai’s hype he is nowhere NEAR first team material right now. So I don’t think we should be too worried about hindering his development. It’s Bojan (and Keirrison) we’d have to worry about. But I’d rather have too much quality than too little.

    4) Pedro! didn’t play too badly in my opinion. I loved the energy he brings (especially when you compare him to Henry). Yes he’s all over the pitch but that’s how I envisioned it being when Ibra was bought – our front line interchanging positions, wreaking havoc. Granted, it should probably be Messi who dictates where the other two go as opposed to Pedro :). But I agree that he is best as a supersub, running at tired defenders.

    1. Keirrison wasn’t picked up into the squad yet again by Benfica for their last match where they won 5-0. It’s quite frightening considering the fact that when they are running riots without having Keirrison even on the bench then they don’t need to use him and give him some experience. It’s quite lame how Keirri selected Benfica of all when they already have so much talent upfront. I’m pretty sure now, Keirri will be loaned out yet again like Henrique after he returns from his spell at Benfica. Dumb mistake from Keirri, should have chosen some Spanish club, where he’d learn not only about the Spanish defense but also the language and won’t be another Hleb. Can’t help but be sorry about him, was so excited about playing for us. The fact that he included a separate clause in his contract in case the board would consider him shows how much he wanted to come to Barca.

  17. So, I compiled some highlights from this season for my ongoing DVD project, and I have to say:

    –Alexinho is right. Krkic is better this year. We sometimes get caught up in the analysis of his play that such things get lost. He shows much better strength, movement and circumspection.

    –I still can’t believe that we didn’t score v Inter. When I re-watched the match, the quality of our chances, and the movement. It came at an unfortunate time a bit, in that we didn’t quite have the edge necessary to finish off those deals. I have full and complete confidence that in a month, with Henry and Iniesta at full song, our attack will be devastating.

    –So far, it seems that Fox Sports Espanol will be showing the Dynamo match live, with Fox Soccer picking it up later in the day, on tape delay.

  18. Im liking Keitee more and more… that dude has played all minutes of all games and he looks brand new all the time, wtf is he drinking!

    1. Loved how Keita played last match, he made many runs towards the opposing box that reminded me of the Ghostface.

  19. Agree with the sentiments about Valdes, Ibra, Puyol, who was immense, and Pedro – who wasn’t. I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think we’re ever gonna be as strong ( this season at least ) with any of the youngsters – and I’m including Bojan – on the field from the start. That doesn’t mean we can’t try it in a few games.

    I’m staying away from Abidal as I’ve said it often before and he did have a decent interception as you said Kevin. I still think you’ll find most of the goals scored against us over the season coming from that side. Didn’t see the great forward contribution he made but I only watched the match once. (Sorry, didn’t manage to stay away 🙁 )

    For me, the reason the midfield isn’t going full tilt is the absence of Iniesta. No complaints about Pep giving him time to recover as long as he is aware of the fact that Keita is nowhere near the quality of passer or mover that Iniesta is and its a wonder Xavi can keep it all together as it is. He may be in for another reason as others have speculated and he is playing better than last year but I want Iniesta back the first hard game we face.

    I’d advocate Henry being cut a little slack as he is still the best we have for the left forward position. Once he has Iniesta behind him I reckon he’ll come back onto a game. Really like the look of Suarez though. January might be an option for depth, especially if RM are still going well.

    Having said all the above, no question that we are looking a better side than the EE at the moment.. .. and all’s well in the world when the English press ( Sky Football writers on Sunday) are still thinking that they will have 3/4 semi finalists and Man Utd won’t make the same mistake twice against Barcelona 🙂

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