Granada 0, Barca 1, aka “My eyes! My eyes!”

"Check this out, slick!"

Um, wait a minute …. I like being right, but not about this. I kept blathering about a team malaise, wanting our players to prove me wrong, to have everything click into place in glorious fashion as they gave some deserving club the hiding that they didn’t deserve, but hey, there they were.

Not today. Today, it was again a club in disarray, a tired, disjointed, disinterested-looking club that played not only the worst match of this season, but the worst match that I can remember a Guardiola side playing. This team has always, always been characterized by effort. Even when not playing well, there was a collective effort that at least put them in a position to have things happen. Sure, we were hitting balls directly at Javi Varas, but stuff was happening.

Today, there was no effort, no fire, no nothing except one remarkable goal from one remarkable player.

Hair Gel and Magic

Our midfield maestro celebrated his record-setting 392nd(!!) appearance for the Blaugrana in style, by drawing the foul to set up the free kick, then bending an exquisite shot past the Grenada keeper, who looked back at the ball in the net as if thinking “How the hell did that happen?” Easy. Magic strike, magic man. Xavi wasn’t slacking in the effort sweepstakes today, slicing and dicing while probably wondering, as he did during the Sevilla match, just what the hell his attackers were doing out there. He danced and shimmied, pulled strings and tried things against a Granada club that is, frankly, woeful, standing strong to try to grab a point as they clutched round-trip tickets to the Segunda in their hard-working hands.

The gulf in quality was immense today, but we did our level best to play down to them. Egalitarian? Sure. Generous? To a fault. But one thing is for sure, we can’t say that Xavi didn’t do his part today, and not only from the goal.

Collective clunk

Guardiola started Valdes, Alves, Mascherano, Abidal, Maxwell, Busquets, Xavi, Fabregas, Cuenca, Messi and Pedro, a side that should have been more than sufficient to destroy Granada. But, when 25 seconds into the match Fabregas had already misplayed two passes, you got the sense that it was going to be that kind of a day. We were a team in name alone, players who have been playing together for years, playing as if they were some group, cobbled together for a pickup match against a local club. And these could be, and still might turn out to be, very dangerous times. There is an insane schedule coming up, whose only saving grace is that the teams should all be very beatable, except for a few: Mallorca, Plzen (CL), away to Bilbao (!!!!) and Hospitalet (Copa), Zaragoza, away to Milan (CL) and Getafe, then home to Rayo Vallecano.

There is a nice, 11-day break you think, from the 9th-20th of November but no, there are Internationals to be played. This will be a season-defining stretch for this team, that will have to play its way out a malaise the likes of which I have never seen under Guardiola. Yes, it got 3 points today, but think of this for a moment: If not for a moment of amazing brilliance, it’s a 0-0 draw. Against Granada.

Messi mess

Call me a hater, say I love Frenchies, whatever. Messi needs a break, and I just don’t see him getting it. Go back and watch this match, or the last few matches and think about how often you’ve seen him walking. Effort has always defined his game, a constant effort that finds him in the right place at the right time because he’s always moving. In the second half today, a misplaced Granada ball would have fallen right to him, had he been running. Old-school Messi would have run onto the ball and, with just one defender and a helpless keeper to beat, slotted home. Today, he ineffectually watched the ball roll right past him, looking as if he wanted to summon the energy to go get it, but just couldn’t. I hate watching him like this, and not only because it hurts the club. I know, I know …. I hate Messi. Be that as it may, it sucks to see the greatest player on the planet walking around like an injured veteran, waiting for the ball to come to him to actually decide to do something. Recall when people slagged Thierry Henry for a very similar behavior. Messi. Needs. Rest.

At least there was Cuenca

In searching for bright spots, the play of 20-year-old, starting XI debutante Isaac Cuenca is one. He was quick, aggressive and fit right into the side. He looked like a ping-pong ball at times, or rather like a puppy who had a new ball and wanted to play, while the older dogs just wanted to lay around and lick their butts. He threw in a couple of crosses that deserved better fates, and almost celebrated his debut with a goal, but for some lightning reflexes and a fine save from Granada’s keeper.

"Oh, poo! Youth will NOT be served!"

Remember the Mascherano debate?

“He’s a card magnet who will kill the side.” “He can’t pass gas, much less a football with the quality necessary to hold a spot in our exalted side.” “All he can do is tackle hard.” “We paid too much for him to sit behind Busquets.” Full props to Ramzi, who called wrong on all that stuff, and how right he was. Mascherano was another bright spot today, a bundle of boundless energy and focus. A pitch-length run with the ball, late in the match? “Yes! I can do that, coach! Let me at him!” Whenever Granada got a sniff of an opportunity, he was there. And his passing out of the back is swift and sure, bereft of the dithering that sometimes hamstrings us in attacking from the back. Bang! Ball is spot on, man-style. He had a wonderful match today, and I can only repeat what I said after the Sevilla match: Dude has to be in the side. These days, he’s playing as consistently well as anybody on the club.

Poor Pedro

Not only is he going through a rough patch, but now he has two weeks to think about it. There was a mini-discussion on Twitter, as someone suggested that Pedro has found his real level, that the goal-scoring wonder of the past few seasons was a fluke, that we are now seeing the real Pedro. I don’t know if I would go that far. I do know that he certain hasn’t been the same player after his injury last season. How he returns from this one remains to be seen. The unfortunate part is that it took him a while to regain that headless chicken zest for the game that he had. It was almost like he was starting over, post-injury, working his way back to being Pedro!!. And now, another setback as the infirmary list just grew a bit longer. Maybe we, like Arjen Robben, should start a casualwear line, just the stuff for when you’re chillin’ in the stands.

A yellow for you, and one for you, and ….

So there was the story on the weekend about the drunk referee at a match in the Czech Republic. He could barely stand, and sent off 3 players from the same side for no apparent reason, though those of us who have imbibed in quantities sufficient to render us barely able to stand, know that there was a very good reason: They had horns! And not just one. A LOT of them. Well, assuming referee Muniz Fernandez, aka Gordon Gekko was sober, then this was one of the worst performances by a head official that I have seen in some time. Fitting, perhaps. 12 yellows and two reds, not to mention many an unfathomable call. Maybe he, like us, was just playing down the level of the competition. Who knows?

What’s next?

This will be a true test of Guardiola’s coaching acumen, as he figures out how to get his charges right again. I’m shocked that EE isn’t petitioning the Liga to have the Clasics moved, to be played back-to-back on oh, this weekend, ohpleezohpleezohpleezohpleez. He has a number of problems on his hands, not least of which is that his lightning rod, his spark plug has gone horribly awry. It’s no secret that this club feeds off of Messi, which explains a lot of why the players are playing as they are these days. Like leader, like followers. How he will get out of this one, and what the damage will be, remains to be seen. But things will have to be handled very carefully. Clearly, Messi isn’t going to play his way out of this spell. The team can, however, but you wonder if it needs Messi to not be out there to do so.

Hey, jackass, what about the match review?

What is there to say, really? We strolled around, had some passing drills when we could string a few together, and rarely threatened their goal. Messi did once with a too-casual effort that was hooked off the line, Villa souvenired a shot that should have been a goal, don’t get me started about Pedro, and Cuenca was stopped. Those chances were rare. Mostly, with more than 70 percent possession, we were content to make sure that Granada didn’t have the ball enough to beat us. And that’s pretty much what happened. It’s 3 points, and some will console themselves by saying that’s all that matters.

The end.

Team: 2. Collectively, decidedly, mediocre. A better team would have waxed our hides today as the group played like lackadaisical strangers, even as individuals tried to lift the collective.

Guardiola: 7. Right lineup, right substitutions that were, however, a bit late for my tastes. He isn’t the kind of histrionic, get yourself ejected coach that can sometimes snap a side out of a malaise. But I think he also knows that his players know him well enough to see right through any such ruses.

Valdes: incomplete. I know. He played the whole match. But he didn’t do anything except spray a couple of bad passes. Weird, that one.

Alves: 3. I’m starting to wonder about my Three-Year Brazilian theory. He joined us in 2008, and here we are, wondering why he isn’t the same player that he’s been, particularly after that big, fat renewal that should have made him happy. He was outrun a number of time up the flank, to be saved by Mascherano. Loose control and bad passes were also abundant for him today.

Mascherano: 8. Magisterial, to borrow a Ray Ray-ism. Everywhere, all things all at once, stopping their attack, starting ours, intercepting balls and re-starting attacks, he was just a marvel, building a stronger and stronger case for full-time status.

Abidal: 7. The French Greyhound is working his way back to full force with his second fine match in a row, up and back, up and back incessantly, contributing to the attack, then chasing their leakers around as Granada showed fine spirit after going down 0-1.

Maxwell: 6. Strong effort, though there were some misplaced balls that were par for the course, team-wide today. His positional sense was on full display today, as well.

Busquets: 7. Another good one, in a match that was perfect for his skill set. But again, a strong performance within a pile of crap.

Xavi: 8. Did everything he could, including scoring a goal. My Man of the Match today. I’m going to consult with a physics teacher to figure out how he got that ball through to Messi, though it was just offside.

Fabregas: 3. Yes, he was out there. But this is his second lackadaisical, unimpressive post-injury appearance.

Cuenca: 6. Could have scored higher had he been more involved. His effort and energy should have been infectious but all too often, he was stranded on the left as the game went on without him.

Pedro: 4. Funny that he was most useful on the defensive end, where he was least needed. He just doesn’t have that eye for where to be any longer, and his control has all but deserted him. This injury comes at a very bad time for him, as if there can ever be a good time for an injury.

Messi: 3. He was part of the few moments of danger that we created, but he was spraying passes everywhere, and walking when everyone else was running, only seeming inclined to play when the ball came to him. Sorry, but that level of effort is, for me, inexcusable.


Villa (for Pedro): 3. When he wasn’t disappearing, he was misplaying passes or shooting wildly.

Iniesta (for Fabregas): incomplete. He tried. He should have been a fresh spark, but was subsumed by the overall malaise.

Keita (for Xavi): incomplete. A late sub that was more to get Xavi off the pitch, than to get Keita on it.

Next up this weekend is Mallorca, sitting 12th in the table right now with 9 points (to our 21). Do they have the talent to do some damage to us? All else being equal and if we were in form, no. But we aren’t, so this could be a very worrisome match. Thankfully, we’re at home.

And hey, there was a moment where the team was evincing cohesion. No, really:

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. Pretty much agree on everything. Busi and Xavi were the only players to do anything useful in the opponents half. Messi’s performance was probably his worst ever. Almost no correct passes or runs during the entire 2nd half.
    Cesc has yet to shine in a 4-4-3. All his good performances came as a false 9 (vs Sociedad) or a false 10 in 3-4-3 formation.
    How can we rest Messi when we only have 2 forwards now?

    1. Messi is either tired or has something going on in his personal life. Whatever it is Pep needs to leave him out and rest him despite Messi’s insistance of playing every match. He’s not going to be productive to anyone if this continues as we can cleary see, if one member of the team doesn’t play well, everyone is affected. Hopefully we can continue to pick up points and stop with the injuries and pick up as the season goes on. unfortunately with Pedro out now, i don’t think he’ll be rested anytime soon.

  2. I have to hand it to you Kxevin–you saw the Messi slump taking form when the rest of us were too mesmerized by manitas to notice. But there’s no mistaking it now. I can only hope that it’s a blessing in disguise–that Pep will straighten this team out while there’s still time to reverse the damage.

    Hey, maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that we are not peaking and dominating so early in the season–it certainly takes away any danger of becoming complacent–they now have to justly work to get the top spot back.

    Turns out you were right-about everything. Now I just hope they fight like hell prove you wrong.

  3. “This will be a true test of Guardiola’s coaching acumen”

    right, 12 titles in 3 years, 3 of them against the most expensive team ever assembled and building one of the 3 best teams in history was nothing. Now, getting over a mini slump that has kind of happened every year at different times of the year, is the true test. If he fails, we can finally realize that he was a bluff.


    Just wondering whether Phil Jackson still has to go through true tests of his coaching acument as well?

    1. Key part “a true test”, NOT ” the true test”.
      Meaning it’s one of many…

      IMO keeping that hunger and desire in his players after 3 years of ridiculous success at club and international level is probably one of the hardest challenges any coach can ever face.

    2. But it’s not even a trial test, it’s a mini slump. Whenever we’re 6 points behind in the league, we can talk about tests for Pep. This right now is the same as every year just that it happened in October.

  4. if i was guardiola i would do the following (apart from resting messi just for the heck of it and getting his hunger back)in practice
    – Make dani alves go an entire practice session only go outside of defender and then put those fast balls across face of goal
    – Do the same to Maxwell or adriano (But also give adriano some practice on cutting inside from left and shoot piece – he used to do it last year)
    – Ask Fabregas not to pass to messi and pass to somebody else (he has eyes only for messi)
    – Make xavi and thiago play a few throughballs and chipped balls (we have lost this subtle art this season – maybe because we have to pierce two banks of four instead of one)
    – Ask forwards (villa, cuenca and iniesta) go towards keeper for rebound post each shot from outside box..
    – I would have also asked for some finishing lessons too but villa seems to be too old a dog to learn new tricks..

  5. I really enjoy your articles, Kxevin. No suger coating, and no holding back from critisicm. It’s really fun to read!

  6. thanks for your Kevin Rating Synthesis, Review, and Thoughts, Kxevin.
    I’ve said what I wanted to say about this horrible match on previous thread.

    again, what Fontas has to do to get some minutes?

  7. I think this hasn’t posted before, from FB Barcastuff, Guardiola press conf.

    “I talked to Yaya Toure, with his wife and agent. The only reality is that he told Rosell that he wanted to leave.”

    “He also told president Laporta that he wants to go, I did not want him to leave.”

    “If I meet Yaya, I’ll make him see he was wrong.”

    now, either Yaya is a douche, or media made up/twisted his words..
    I have no idea, but I trust my coach…

    1. If it were somebody other than Pep I would reason; “well if more than 2 players are saying the same, they must have some reason why”. But BANGS is an idiot for me, and we aren’t sure about Toure’s comments. (I do believe Bojan, but that’s a miscommunication from both parts methinks).

    2. I’m really not sure if Yaya tried to make Pep looks bad, maybe it’s just another twisted words from media? or is there any video? Idk.
      because before now, I believe he spoke nicely about Pep, for example he said Barça is a genius coach.

      and I do believe right after his departure I read an article of Yaya said something like “Guardiola tried to convince me to stay, but I need time to play”

    3. Yaya did say that quote you mentioned last actually. He said that Pep wanted him to stay but that he is very fit and competitive and he feels he’s fit enough to be playing every game, and he wanted to be playing regularly and contributing though and thus he wanted to move. Was positive about Busquets and respectful about Pep.

      Why, any new quotes in the media about Yaya saying any such thing? Then probably made up by the Sun or Daily Mail etc (like the fake Fabregas interviews supposedly by Puyol etc) or some Italian rag like Tuttosport (like the fake Oezil religious insult story). Yaya is a very calm chill guy and Pep’s quotes about Yaya has always suggested they had a good relationship.

  8. Thanks Kxevin for the review.

    I’ve seen the entire match, you’re right that we lacked effort. I liked Xavi, Mascherano, Busi and Abi in that order. Messi had an off day, he really seems tired. Nice start-up in liga by Cuenca. I still believe in Marti Perarnau when he said that if they seem to be tired is because a mini-cycle of physical training in building up their strenght in order to reach fitness in late november and almost all of december, for el clasico and the world cup.
    This may be our first hlebruary.
    As always in Pep I trust. Hopefully we’ll survive this weeks, give ’em hell on the bernabeu (simpsons manita style) and win our second world club championship. I already know what I want for Christmas:
    Pep and Abi’s renewal.

  9. A little bit off topic, but i wanted to recommend to you guys, especially Kxevin who has been following this issue for a while, this article by the swiss ramble. It’s is centered mostly around the Liverpool claims over wanting to break away from the set agreement for TV rights in EPL, but he does a great comparison over the top 5 leagues in europe.

    I found it really weird that La Liga gets less TV money than Serie A and League 1. Not only that, but the difference between Serie A and La Liga is somewhere around the 300+ m range. If we get somewhere even close to Serie A, then both Real Madrid and Barcelona can improve their TV revenue while giving other La Liga teams more money to be happy. Essentially, Real Madrid can go up to 160 m each and still be able to distribute the 260 m over the other La Liga and segunda clubs. And with segunda clubs possibly only getting a max of 20 to 30 m of that money, that will leave 230 m to distribute over 18 La Liga clubs.

    With that said, all this won’t happen as La Liga is losing viewers season after season and nothing will change till 2015.

    Anyways, just wanted to share this since it’s general La Liga news. Here is the link:

    1. Nothing against the Portuguese. Just the self-proclaimed rich, handsome, great footballer ones. 🙂

  10. Yep. You saw it coming. I didn’t see it until Last Saturday. I knew the boy needed a rest but dang.

    So since my Juanjo kidnaps Messi and takes him to Legoland (yes it exists) for the weekend suggestion from last thread isn’t as brilliant as it seems due to the fact that WE AINT GOT NOBODY TO REPLACE HIM, what do we do?

    Pep needs to send the players home after a recovery session today and they need to not see a pitch again until Saturday. Preparation be damned.

    Then we go into survival mode for the next 24 days (8 games in 24) getting points and not caring about how pretty it is (but I luvs the oooooh purdy stuff 🙁 )

  11. Kudos to Kxevin for seeing problems with Messi before many of us.
    I would notice things, like “oh that run didn’t come off” or “oh that pass usually goes through”, but I didn’t think it was any sort of pattern.

    It’s become obvious in the last two matches.

    Pep: please rest Messi! He’s no good to anyone like this, least of all himself. We have possibly the greatest talent in football history here, and it’s our responsibility to take care of him. Pep is doing the team NO favors by keeping him out there.

    Now with Pedro out we have even fewer options in attack. I was thinking maybe Pep could start Cesc up front with Messi on the bench? He can certainly score goals.

    I wouldn’t be so worried if Pep hadn’t shown a determination never to rest Messi under any circumstances in the past, because I believe Messi hasn’t lost anything fundamental, the man’s just exhausted with his dispiriting summer spent with Argentina and playing every game, all game.

    1. That’s the thing…with all the injuries in our forward line it has been really hard to rest Messi…I also think it would have been wrong to rest yesterday – you simply do not sit your superstar after he misses a 94th minute game-winning (errr…drawing) penalty the game before

    2. Yeah exactly. Granada would normally have been the perfect time to rest Messi but after the previous game there would have been a lot of ‘oooh punishment for missing a penalty!’ rubbish if he’d been benched.

    3. Pep’s hands were tied for the Granada game. He needs to man up and chain Messi’s butt to the bench for Mallorca. He can always come in as a sub (Hey now, that’s some impact sub!).

    4. Yeah I understand why he started against Granada, I wouldn’t have liked the message sent there either if he’d been on the bench.

      But against Mallorca, he just has to.

      I mean it’s perfectly possible that Messi will just play through this and be his amazing self again, but there has to be a physical toll from all the minutes, and the lack of any extended period of time to rest.

  12. I don’t think Alves has been bad at all. He’s learning to play in a back 3.
    He’s playing well in our current setup, and when he’s off form the whole team is. I mean you’re going to deny the notion as ludicrous but I think, on paper, you’re saying hes been bad so your “three year brazilian theory” holds true.

    I mean Alves is no Willian and all, but he’s done well this season.

    1. I don’t know, when’s the last time you saw him beat a defender on the outside and put a good cross in the box? Not to mention his shooting has been atrocious the last year and a half (remember when he was a reliable source of goals?). Smart teams are clogging the middle against us, we need more danger from the flanks, especially with Afellay out for the season.

  13. why nobody is asking anything bout this season i havent seen the usual dani(i know i know there are some matches where we played the 3 4 3,but still).

    its the worst performance of messi i have ever seen.however where are the supporting casts?a fit messi plays and makes others play,but an clearly exhausted messi cant even play average let alone making others play.for all of our wonderful play our team we is too much reliant on messi to score goals(nothing wrong if we r reliant on him).the key word here is too much.

    thiago should be included in this match to help messi,cause a meticulous man like pep surely noticed that our forward line is not firing on all he can mix something to stir things up in the forward area.

    that being said our defence was very good,busquests was brillant,xavi was ok(his passes were slow and predictable),cuenca showed maturity without any flashes,maxwell had a very strong game.

    we need to rest messi,thats for sure but i am more worried bout dani.plz pep bring our old dani back

  14. So Pedro will be out for 2 – 3 weeks. That is, he’ll return for the Spanish national team friendly matches against England and Costa Rica (in San José, Costa Rica…).
    First of all, why the heck does Spain play a friendly in Costa Rica on a Tuesday, so that the players will practically not be able to train before Thursday – and the next league match (home vs Zaragoza) will either be on Saturday or Sunday.

    I have also heard that Sanchez will fly to South America for the WC qualifiers with Chile, but he won’t be playing for us prior to that. So what the f*ck… Real Madrid and many other clubs already did it: say the player is injured for up to 4 weeks, they both stay and don’t have to travel half the world (in Sanchez’ case, playing two competitive matches without having properly trained at club level).

    Messi is a different situation, because he is not (yet) hurt physically.
    But still, the whole internationals & friendlies just make me wanna puke :/

  15. Nothing to worry about, no crisis, no panic. Pep says we were just a little slow, but we saw the game out at 1-0 😉 Keeping a brave face, huh?
    Thanks Xavi, for saving us from a 4 point in as many days drop.

    I watched the match again, and I don’t know if it’s me, but the players don’t look as happy, or like they are enjoying their football as much – is it burn out? I feel like I’ve been watching these guys play every few days for years. Lots of winning can take just as much a toll (though different) as lots of losing.

  16. Sanchez trained with the group today. Don’t know if anyone caught the Fabregas presser, but he was very funny about Sanchez:

    “Alexis is a pain! He’s asking the whole day ‘Can I train? Can I play? Can I?!’ (laughs) People have to stop him, he’s very motivated”

    And also very frank:

    “Because of injuries, I didn’t play a lot last season, so I don’t really understand what I’m doing among the Ballon d’Or nominees.”

    Oh, and …. sorry, folks:

    “I’ll cut my hair once the people stop talking about it. The more they talk, the longer it’ll get.”

    just listenin makes a good point that I’ve made before. Lots of 1000-yard stares out there, not a lot of laughter and fun, which is to be expected. I can only imagine the pressure that those guys must be feeling right now. Every match has to be a manita, or they suck. Which just isn’t true.

    But it is worth noting that even last season, not only was the effort there but the joy was. Guardiola looks worried, some of the players look downright scared. None of that is good.

    I’m sure we’ll be fine, because we’re still the best team in the world. It must might take a while to find our way out of this thicket.

    1. Love the bit about Alexis. That’s the kind of eager attitude that will endear him to everybody, especially Pep.

    2. I also agree that in the long run we will be fine, but what worries me is how long is the “long run” and how much distance will Madrid be able to put between us.

      What’s really worrisome is if Messi is in a slump, where are the goals going to come from? This is where Madrid have us beat. Right now they have three strikers who right now score consistently Benzema, Higuain and Ronaldo. We just lost Pedro for two weeks and he’s looked at times awful on the pitch. Villa is a threat, but is often a streaky striker. He’ll score three in three games and then not score for the next five. The only consistent offensive threat has been Messi, and with him off, someone will HAVE to step up. (I’m looking at you, Fabregas).

      It can also be said that as a sacrifice of the 3-4-3 is it does not allow Dani the ability to bomb up the line as frequently as he is required positionally to be quite defensive. I don’t understand this move on Pep’s part because width is what will cause parked buses to break up and allow Messi some space as a false 9. Right offensively we have a crowded midfield, one striker, and two wing players who are more or less ineffectual/off-song right now. As bothersome as the defensive worries have been, it is the offensive woes that have me hoping that somehow players can get rest. Because ultimately I feel fatigue is what will wear this squad down to being innefective.

      p.s. Cuenca is the business for real.

    3. I’ve loved every shot of Alexis in the stands during matches lately. He’s either got this crazie-eyed stare at the field or was driving Cesc crazy with his constant chatter. Viva chileno.

    4. Despite Nike claiming to have fixed the absorbency issue with the Jersey, there does indeed seem to be something going on around the “weight of the shirt” (figuratively speaking, – I believe you’ve made this metaphor before too Kxev)

  17. Have to disagree with just about everyone here on this match. I’ve only watched the first hour and don’t have time to watch the last 30 minutes right now, but all I saw out there was Messi doing exactly what Sheena and Kxevin asked him to do: He has stopped running at congested defenses. This is the result: one goal in two games against parked buses. Up to the hour mark, Messi has run after balls, chasing down the keeper twice to pressure him, and he sprinted across the field pressing once in the first half. He’s made runs off the ball and he should have scored if not for a spectacular off the line clearance. The only thing he is not doing is running at the defense with the ball. Exactly what you asked for. The result: relying on Alves, Pedro, Maxwell, and Cuenca to break down the defense from the wings, which hasn’t exactly been too scintillating. Let’s not forget that all those times people were calling for Messi to pass the damn ball, the only reason the situation was dangerous in the first place was because Messi created the situation. Now, he’s looking to pass first almost all the time and there are no dangerous chances being created. Messi doesn’t need rest; he needs to start running into buses again.

    1. It’s not only Messi who needs to start running at buses, it’s the whole team. Movement (fast) needs to be created in the penalty box that will either create an opportunity to score, or force a penalty when the defence makes an error or panics. But that requires at least 3-4-5 Barca players crashing the box at the same time to ruffle an 8-10 man defence.

    2. I agree with this completely, but I also think it’s a good idea to give a little credit to Granada on the night too. This is the first time I’ve seen them play, but looking over their record, they’ve only allowed more than one goal in a game twice and they were well organized in defense in this game. Their defensive mind set, coupled with their obvious lack of scoring punch (2 goals on the season), must mean they absorb a lot of pressure from their opponents. Barcelona still should have managed a least a couple more goals with a makeshift lineup. Other than Messi, Barcelona didn’t have a single in-form attacking player in the game until Pedro went down. It was Cesc’s first full game coming back from injury and he was playing as a very serviceable but not very attack minded replacement for Iniesta, not in the false ten role he has been most dangerous in (I thought Cesc had a fine, if unspectacular, game). Cuenca is very green and I liked his directness, but I don’t remember him being involved in any combination play of note. I’m a big fan of Maxwell and I think he’s becoming more and more of a true Barcelona player, but there wasn’t much support on the left. Pedro and Alves are both playing awfully, in my opinion. With Messi playing as just another cog in the passing machine with this line up and Granada playing well organized, highly negative football, there simply wasn’t a lot going on. The team really didn’t play badly at all. They just didn’t create many chances and didn’t finish the ones they had very well.

      Playing against parked buses must be giving Pep headaches: These teams are simply not the toughest games on the schedule and would seem like perfect opportunities to give the Iniestas, Messis, and Villas an opportunity to rest, but creating scoring opportunities against them requires intelligent and fast off the ball movement, crisp ball distribution, and precise touches and finishes in the box. In short, it requires that our best attacking players be on the field, unless we are willing to grind out a few low scoring games.

      I am sure I am not alone in this, but I am really looking forward to the return of Sanchez. Having a player out on the wing that can break down players on his own will demand that defenses have to stretch a little thinner, creating more spaces in the back line for Barcelona players to run into.

      All in all though, I am not displeased with this performance given the personnel on the field. There was never really any doubt that the 1-0 scoreline would hold up. If teams want to continue to protect their goal in this manner even when down a goal, that’s their business. Granada kept the scoreline down even though Barcelona should have finished a couple of chances better. It’s not as though they were ever dictating play. I’d be far more concerned if they were pressing high, disrupting the possession game, and creating dangerous chances.

      If I were a Granada fan (or a Sevilla fan), I’d feel cheated though: playing not to concede doesn’t settle well with me and if Barcelona were to ever adopt this approach, I’d be the first one up to criticize the effort, even if it resulted in a smash and grab victory. Although I give a lot of credit for the low scoreline to Granada’s defensive effort, it still seems as if it would be a shallow consolation for a team at the bottom of the table.

    3. Yes, the Granada game was not the best in that the home team was defensive from the kick-off whistle, and not in attack-mode at all.

      The key to Barca preventing park-the-bus situations is, obviously, to score first in order to prevent the bus parking. (Unless the opposition wants to settle for a 1-0 result.) They have to start the game with high pressure and intensity and not allow the opposition to get too settled.

      What worries me more about the Granada result is that even against a 10-man average team, Barca still couldn’t score from open play. There was no extra pressure piled on Granada at all.

      Happy to see another Maxwell fan here! Jim and I were starting to feel lonely! 😀

      I feel that Maxwell is so under-utilised and not used as well as he could be. He’s capable of explosive runs up the wing and into the box, but he seems to have been told to pass sideways – most often to Iniesta who plays inside him. Maxwell may well-continue to run up the left to create a crossing chance, but the ball will never be returned to him, as it always goes to the right across the pitch to Xavi/Messi.

      The left has never been the same since Thierry Henry departed.

    4. It sure seems like the buses are getting a little narrower and denser, – short buses. It is getting really crowded in there. It seems opponents used to be pretty content letting us kick the ball around our own end and middle third, they seem to be getting pretty content letting us kick it around the perimeter of the 18 without coming out and challenging so as to not open a lane. Making runs is getting like trying to run through Grand Centra station at rush hour. I was surprised on the second watch of the match that we were not quite so technically off as many (myself included) thought. Let’s be clear we had a rough one, no question, but that there does seem to be something else related to frustration, or fatigue (and an impatience, I thought) that seems to be weighing us down… like Zain’s comments below about the heavy legs and touches. Maybe the quiet before the storm? I don’t know. I hope things are solid in the locker room, and there aren’t any other issues that aren’t in the open. There do seem to be some questioning looks on the pitch from time to time, something a little less gelled (with the exception of Xavi’s hair).

    5. The buses are getting narrower because Barca’s play is getting slower and pretty much occurs through the middle because, as adopted cule mentions above, our wing play is atrocious.

      The lack of faster play allows the defence to re-set and stabilise.

      If you watch videos of Barca’s play against bus-parking opposition, (especially the recent Granada and Viktoria Plzen games), you’ll see how often when Barca gets a break away from their own goal that they run flat out until about midway into the opposition half, then they slow down and allow the defence to over-run them and find the time to re-set. In that time, the Barca ball carrier has either lost the ball, passed it backwards, or is now playing tika taka in a corner with a couple of other Barca players, and the threat has now completely disappeared. It bemuses the hell out of me. (picture: screaming at the TV! 🙂 )

  18. Thanks for the review Kxevin, much appreciated.

    There are 2 main things I disagree about (which have been raised generally, not just by Kxevin although I’m gonna directly quote him (sorry!))

    1) ” This injury comes at a very bad time for him [Pedro]”

    Weren’t you saying you wanted Messi to be injured so that he could get some rest and regain his form? I think Pedro injury could do him some good. What is it, a twisted ankle? Also, I don’t believe that Pedro suddenly became bad after his injury during the previous season, as most people seem to believe. Those sort of issues are more common with older players. He was one of the regulars last season playing almost all the time, maybe the minutes took toll on him too.

    It was last season when I was worried that Pedro might not score as much as in his “real debut” season but he did. More than that he improved and gained more ‘tactical intelligence’. Pedro will come along. Maybe not right after his return from injury, but I don’t believe all this ‘now we are seeing the real Pedro’ stuff. Pedro isn’t Bojan 🙂 For me, he proved that last season.

    2) I’m starting to wonder about my Three-Year Brazilian theory. He joined us in 2008, and here we are, wondering why he isn’t the same player that he’s been, particularly after that big, fat renewal that should have made him happy.

    Yes, the 3 year theory that sometimes metamorphoses to 4, right? 🙂 Alves has been one the consistently inconstant in the long scale of a season, IMO. His over-generalized cycle of his first two seasons went like this: start off normally/adapt, increase level, reach top, continue playing every (aka too many) game like a maniac, reach the semi finals of the CL and play miserably at both games. Last season was slightly different. But he has had good performances this season, yes even after his pay rise. Wasn’t he one of the MOTMs in the supercopa vs EE, after stopping Cristiano at many times? He was poor yesterday, but so was pretty much the whole team. His performance changes from game to game.

    I think that’s all I have atm…

    1. If you’re going to take everything that I say seriously, you aren’t going to have very much fun. I’d never wish an injury on anyone. Never. T’was a joke.

      The injury does, however, come at a bad time for him, because he needs to find his way back to where he was. I don’t know if we’re seeing the “real Pedro.” Metaphysically, we’re always seeing the real Pedro, because it’s him.

      Re: Alves, 3, 4, whatever. He hasn’t been himself this season. Then again, hardly anyone has. As someone mentioned above, the 3-4-3 cuts back on his fun. But his first touch is particularly dodgy this season, and he’s trying to do way too much with the ball. It’s also interesting to see him letting balls go out of bounds for throws, that in his first two seasons he would run down, to feed back into the mixer before the defense had a chance to reset.

      I would hope that Alves would be immune to the Three-Year Brazilian theory. He’s a defender, not an attacker, which tends to help. But he also hasn’t been as good as usual this season. Sorry, but he hasn’t. But, despite its position at the top of the table right now and all, neither has the team.

  19. The team may be looking off song and ponderous, but slowly and quietly Valdes extends his minutes without conceding record. 🙂

    And hooray for Levante equalizing just now!

  20. It is clear to me that Levante have somehow tapped into the blaugrana power feed supplying the Barça dressing room and stolen our mojo. 👿

    I suspect an inside job. Pep should keep a (well-protected) eye out for disgruntled, possibly Portuguese, former employees in disguise. They should start by searching all the laundry hampers.


    The fact that they wear blue and red makes them that much easier to love

  22. Unbelievably bad refereeing from Muniz Fernandez last night. I don’t like the guy’s umpiring at all.

    His usual modus operandi is to ping one side more heavily than the other, and then in the last 10 minutes he switches sides, as if to even things up.

    Last night, I think that Barca got the better deal from him, but it was still a ridiculous performance from him.

    I said some things about the match in the last thread, and I reiterate that something isn’t adding up with the team’s performance, right now.

    Every player, from the midfield up to the front, can’t all be playing badly at the same time, or has the team become so dependent on Messi that no one else can step up when things aren’t going so well for him?

    There’s some sort of sickness that needs to be cured – and fast.

    Either that, or it’s all a big snow job that will melt as Barca gets into the business end before Christmas. 😉

  23. Interesting article from Franz Beckenbauer in which he states that the Barca’s biggest rival is Barca itself.

    He goes on to say that fan expectation is high, in that Barca fans treat each game as a test and if Barca doesn’t win by a landslide, then it is all doom and gloom among the fanbase.

    Run it through Google Translate if you can’t understand Castellano and it will give a fair translation. Just remember that Barca will translate as “boat”. 😉

  24. Mmh… we better recover our form!

    Madrid looks to break the goals scored and points gained record if they continue to play even on just 75% of their current level *fear*

    Btw, it’s also a shame that Levante, despite having their best run ever, play in a stadium that seemed not even half full.
    I start to lose some of the passion for la Liga -_-

    1. Their current average attendance has gone up by 3 thousand to 19500 out of a 25 thousand capacity stadium.Its more than champions league challenging Villarreal averaged in the last 3 seasons so there really is not much more you can ask.

    2. I don’t know where you got these numbers from, but my sources tell about 13k vs Malaga, 10k vs Espanyol and 18k vs EE (out of a possible 25k).

      Today, from the pictures I saw, it was not half full either.

      Could you tell the source of your data? Mine is

    3. I’m starting to believe this is the result/performance Mou had in mind when he made EE start preseason so early and vigorously. All his players are starting to hit full fitness around the same time, making rotation a cake walk for him.

      Not to worried however as I also believe they might burn out when the serious games comes along. Their season is all to similar to how we started the 09/10 season when we had Ibra,Messi,Pedro firing on all cylinders but eventually lost steam around spring time.

  25. Villareal going through their inevitable evisceration.

    I think Madrid’s style of play with lightning-fast counter-attacks is just most suited for sides that play with possession but aren’t quite at the highest elite level. The second-tier Spanish sides like Malaga and Villareal, teams like Spurs and Lyon. They’ve always racked up huge scores against those sides even last year. It doesn’t signify their overall prospects, though, at least not in the ‘if they put 4 past a quite good team then they should put 6 past a team lower in the table’ sort of linear connection, because their game is the type to gut medium-good sides that will have some possession and attack like a fish, doesn’t mean their game against minnows who will play tough and park the bus or European elites who will dominate games and have defensive nous will be equal. Even last season Madrid disemboweled (will use every synonym that comes to mind, yes) the likes of Valencia and the other 3rd-7th placed-ish sides but finished behind us cos of points dropped to the likes of Gijon, Sporting, and Clasico results.

    But I really came here to celebrate Levante. ANOTHER win! And resolutely staying on top of the table. Hard not to love them for how plucky and sports-movie they are.

    1. I’m waiting on their game to Real Sociedad this weekend to really see if they can break down a bus, that’s if Sociedad plays defensive. (something I find most team don’t play against EE)

    2. So someone in the Twitterverse posted a YouTube link to EE’s third goal, saying that is the kind of goal that they are going to score when they beat us.

      The day that we play defense like that (no offense intended to Villarreal) will be the day I set my butt on fire and make s’mores. I just don’t see it happening.

      Do I think it’s outside the realm of possibility that EE can take us down a peg? As much as it pains me to say it, given the form of both sides right now, the answer is no. But the first Clasic is some time away still. We still have an Argentine genius to heal, a Chilean dynamo to integrate and a Prodigal Catalan to fire up.

      I just want to see both sides at their best.

    3. The day that we play defense like that (no offense intended to Villarreal) will be the day I set my butt on fire and make s’mores. I just don’t see it happening.

      But if it does happen, you will of course be obliged to film it for poster(ior)ity. (See what I did there?) 😛

  26. Ray Ray gave BFB and RMFB a shout out during the Villarreal v Madrid game today. 89th minute.

    1. It was something along the lines of how he spends his mornings reading football blogs and how awesome it is that fans can share their passion and tons of information/intelligence about their clubs. Then he named y’all by name.

    2. Congrats to Bassam and the folks over at RMFB. Even if their team is evil, they’re humans just like we are, fans and hard-working bloggers. Very cool to get some Ray Ray love.

      And don’t forget that when he references “fans can share their passion and tons of information,” he’s talking about all of you, as well. Thanks for all that you do to make this place as awesome as I think it is.

    3. congrats for both fans and blogs…
      it’s always nice to get some Ray Ray love…

      “…Even if their team is evil…”


    4. Thanks a bunch, Kxevin. Ray Ray love is pretty awesome. And to get praise from both yourself and him in the same day. Well, that just doubles the awesomeness.

      I don’t need to tell you about how much I personally enjoy this blog, hence why I’m a Madridista here among a fleet of cules.

  27. According to the official site Deulofeu got an ovation when he got subbed in Huesca.Doesnt happen very often, much less to a 17 year old.

    1. With Pedro’s injury I wouldn’t be surprised to see him training with the first team for the next couple of weeks. Cuenca is basically a lock to play with the first team for at least two more weeks as well.

  28. Michelle has posted it before, but this is the translation of Beckenbauer’s interview..

    “The biggest rival for Barça are themselves…Barça fans never have enough these days. They have won so much silverware, they have played such great football… fans will not take any less than this. A victory with a small number of goals seems a little thing for them. If the team does not give a football exhibition it seems they have played poorly, and that might make things complicated for Pep Guardiola and his men…Each game Barça play is like a test for them. Some rivals may be happy with a victory, but that is no good for Barça, because people expect a exhibition every time they play.“


    1. I echo your thoughts of Cesc for next captain – he IS mature, gives good replies and can handle the media very well. Plus, he speaks and understands English which is important when facing the international media. After all, he’s had a lot of practice at Arsenal.

      Another good Barca player in front of the mic is Mascherano. Intelligent statements and a great interpretation of the game from a Barca standpoint. I believe that he’s one of the few players who has ever received a standing ovation from the attending press after finishing a normal press conference!

  29. Fun Fact : Messi has played the most minutes in all of Europe in the new season. 1224 Minutes.

    “This includes the UEFA and Spanish SuperCups”.

    Only other player who played more was VV.

  30. I’m very pleased with all these rumors of Jordi Alba coming in to replace maybe Maxwell. He is the future of Spain LB.

    1. I like how he plays, but isn’t him to small? Compared to Abi, not so much compared to Maxwell,. what do we need? I guy like Abi more defense oriented that can be also a center back, or a more offense oriented kind of guy?

    2. Alot can happen in a years time, we’re not so sure if Abi legs can keep up with him playing LB so often next season. His role will still be first choice LB and the usual CB he is now. Maxwell IMO is surly gone after this season and if reports are true Jordi Alba contract expires summer coming,perfect timing.

  31. I don’t understand why Cesc received some flak vs. Sevilla. He saved the team twice by running all the way back to help the defense which was everywhere.

  32. Usually on this blog, my thoughts have already been expressed by someone much more eloquently than I ever could. So I don’t comment that often. But regarding the supposed slump we are going through, I think there is quite a valid reason for it.

    My mind keeps picturing a runner training with weights tied to his shoes whenever I see our players in the game ( or Kxevin cycling uphill 😀 ). This is what their training sessions must be like nowadays. You can see poor first touches and passes going astray due to those heavy legs. I think Pep always does this in preparation for a batch of tough fixtures coming up in the next month or so. Remember the ‘tourmalet’ which we came across in his first season with us ? ( the one we passed with flying colors )

    I think the reason we raise ourselves so much in those fixtures is not just the motivation, but the change in training schedules. There are no longer any weights attached to their feet. They feel light enough to fly which gives them the edge over their opponents. The same opponents who themselves train very hard just in order to beat us, while we relax before the match.

    Also note, the players most affected by these intense training sessions are the one who played Copa America.

    1. Good points, Zain.

      My thoughts are that it is something that is changing in the training regime, or it’s a snow job leading up to the big games – making the team out to be worse than it is.

      Just saw the latter happen with the French at the Rugby World Cup! 😀

  33. Check out the Fabregas quotes from yesterday. He spoke to Kanoute, who swore that he didn’t tell anyone that Fabregas said anything racist to him.

    The idiots who we “swearing” that they could read his lips and knew hat he said it, are idiots. So much braying from so many jackasses. It’s appalling and ridiculous. I know that people like to hate us now, but this is ridiculous.

    Cesc: “I’m no saint, but that goes for all players. I’ve been insulted since I’m 12. My mom, my sister… That’s no reason to get violent. The people who spread on Twitter I said racist words got what they wanted. Although it’s a lie, the whole world heard about it. I spoke with Kanoute on the phone and he swore he didn’t tell anyone I said something racist. It’s difficult to know who invented it”

    1. I really enjoyed the comments about Messi, which I feel are spot on: (paraphrasing): If there are doubts about Messi, I don’t know how they see the rest of us.

      Also, there was an honest comment about the difference in his play when playing a deeper lying midfielder instead of a more attacking role in which he acknowledges that he still has quite a bit of tactical learning to do in the former position.

      Before his injury, we saw Cesc often in the latter position and his chemistry with Messi had the world agog. We haven’t seen him play that position since his return. Parked buses are going to have an horrific time keep the ball out of the net when Pep returns to that formation.

  34. Rossi out for 6 months with a rupture to his cruciate ligament. Could this season get any worse for Villarreal? My poor Yellow Submarine.

    Well, I suppose they could get relegated, that would definitely be worse. 😥

    1. Saw his “Another MRI” comment on Twitter, and feared the worst. Bummer for him. Imagine how he must feel, a guy who was all but packing his bags for Barcelona, and now is out for 6 months from a team that seems to be imploding. Ouch.

    2. Yeah, just watching him in his last couple of matches, you could see he was really struggling to stay motivated for his team, and now this. Who does Villarreal even have left as a striker now?

    3. They did some really stupid piece of business in the summer, where they bought Uche and sent him on loan to Zaragoza. Why would a team struggling for money splash out 3 m on a “ok” striker to just send him on loan I don’t know. Not to mention, they know they are competing on three competitions, why not keep him?

      Did you see Rossi’s interview after the Man City game? It will break your heart. He just stands there staring at the wall saying: “I don’t know what happened, I just don’t understand”.

      To add to missing 6 months, he might not make it to the euros, something that will really be on his mind.

  35. Kxevin

    Can you give me a link where it states Kanoute says the insult wasn’t racially motivated?


    1. It is appalling to me that people just jump on the alleged racism cue like Pavlov’s dogs..

      Calling someone a racist when he’s not and not being able to prove said racism, ensuring that the stigma of ‘racist’ is stuck with teh player when he is in fact completely innocent is a crime…labelling someone falsely as a racist is in many ways as bad as racism!

  36. @laliga_news : Sergio Ramos: “Now it’d be a good moment to face Barcelona”

    that’s true, yes?
    but August 14 and 17 was also the perfect time to beat us, even slaughter us.. and they couldn’t..

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