Milan 2 – Barça 0, as we neither barked nor growled

Some fifteen minutes before the match I wrote that I would be disappointed with anything less than a win. High expectations are a mo-fo. And so is our sense of entitlement.

We’re like the guy who goes to the prom, confident that his date will go all the way. And then gets upset when she doesn’t let him past second base. But we’re not even that guy. We wish we were that guy.

We’re the one who sort of dances and kind of tries to woo the girl the whole night, only for her to start making out with somebody else in the middle of the floor. The shock, as you stand there wistfully eyeing your would-be prize sneaking out the back with another dude; the horror, when she blows you a cheeky kiss goodbye before he closes the door behind her.

Now you’re probably thinking two things.

1. Make that three things: [expletive]!  [expletive],  [expletive],  [expletive]!

2. Tonight is not my night.

3. Hold on…This all seems vaguely familiar… Haven’t I been here before?


Prom Night
Prom Night

Yup, tonight we were that guy. The same one as on those previous catastrophical encounters on which the night was not ours, etched in culé hearts like the emotional wounds they are:

Inter 3 – Barça 1

Barça 1 – Inter 0

Chelsea 1 – Barça 0

Barça 2 – Chelsea 2

Champion’s League games are always special. The history. The glory. The butterflies flapping around your stomach on the day of a big game. The millionaire teams parking their buses whenever Futbol Club Barcelona rolls into town. Incredibly enough, we won the whole thing twice in the last four seasons. And we also got eliminated twice. By buses.

Buses. There’s a commonly held opinion that the way to beat us is to dedicate an entire football team to crowd their own box and lure for the occasional counter strike opportunity. Based on the soccer matches modern-day dramas listed above, that opinion certainly holds some merit.

Milan 2 – Barça 0

There are two significant differences between those four fatal semi-final legs and this game, though. One is that both Inter 2010 and Chelsea 2012 fielded more than a 100M euro worth of players, whereas Milan has just pretty much sold a 100M euro worth of players. The other, more important difference is the fact that I was as convinced then as I am now that we did not deserve to lose against neither Inter* nor Chelsea**. As much as I wish otherwise, we definitely deserved to lose against Milan.

Sleep therapist Roura induced the all-together surprising line-up of Valdés, Dani Alves, Piqué, Puyol, Jordi Alba, Busi, Xavi, Cesc, Pedro, Messi, Iniesta. Our strongest eleven, it is said. Featuring five players that were voted in the FIFA team of the year, combining a trillion votes for the Balon d’Or. The only Milan player up for Golden Ball consideration was cup-tied and hanging out on the sidelines with his posse. Be that as it may, I will dedicate the following paragraph to the scoring opportunities we created over ninety minutes.

We didn’t.

Think about that for a second. We fielded our supposedly strongest team, of a squad that has dropped a mere 7 points in 24 games in what is one of the, if not the best league in the world and we created nothing. Nada. Res. Niente. The same eleven who went to the Bernabeu only a couple of weeks ago and carved out no less than a handful of one-on-ones while playing badly could not manage even one opportunity against what is, on each and every position, inferior opposition.

No way through
No way through


Football is a funny old game, that.

The first half was a largely dreadful affair of Barça passing the ball around without any apparent plan of attacking the goal. We were playing against ourselves, mostly. The only danger created was on the other side of the pitch, as Milan took a cue out of Mourinho’s playbook and booted the ball behind our full backs every time we lost possession. Puyol saved us from Al Sharaawy getting on the scoreboard, although the mohawked Pharaoh would have probably done just that had he not gotten freaked out by all the sudden space in front of him. Boateng narrowly missed from the resulting corner.

I thought we started the second half with a bit more menace until ten minutes in Busquets got booked for getting kicked by his opponent. That our concentration broke and the momentum switched ever so slightly is on us. Milan got forward and another foul gave them a free kick in a dangerous position. At that point the referee gave the Italians a hand. Literally.

You know things are bad when Madridista (!) students send me text messages saying “prof este arbitro es una porquería“, and “fue una mano grosera q abuso“***. What can I say. I am a culé so I am used to it. If you don’t wanna get screwed by the ref, go find another club to support. They say aribitral decisions even out over time but we live on an uneven slope, for sure.

messi and dani alves

So it’s the ref’s fault, right? Wrong. Like I told many a Gunner the day after Van Persie got that ridiculous second yellow card at the Camp Nou two years ago, there is a point where your team plays like such crap that you lose the right to complain about such stuff. On this occasion it is as painfully true for us as it usually is for them. So even though the wrongly allowed goal bothered me big time, the way we played bothered me even more.

We have seen this before.

If the games in which we don’t create anything against an organized defense are rare, even rarer is it that we do finally score a goal out of nowhere in those same games. I almost broke my wrist on the counter when Messi and Xavi aimed their free kicks too high, even though they were obviously going to do just that. Iniesta blasted the ball a couple of inches too far right. A bloodied Puyol headed the ball a couple of meters too far left. And Muntari put his effort too far in between the posts.

2-0 isn’t exactly a fair result, but that’s a moot point. The most incredible thing about the whole game was how little Milan seemed to have to fight to best us. Both Inter and Chelsea worked their butts off to knock us out. Milan hardly seemed to break a sweat.

I can’t even say our players played badly individually. Not one of our guys stood out, either positively or negatively. Puyol let his opponent get the better of him quite easily in the run-up to our second goal, but that’s about it. As a team we were listless. Tactically Milan played the perfect game, but again, this is beside the point. If we show up and actually do more than just show up their game plan becomes a whole less perfect.

Just 'cause we're bloodied, don't mean we're dead
Just ’cause we’re bloodied, don’t mean we’re dead

Right now we are left with a mountain to climb. It’s not the mount Everest but uhhhm yeah, I’ll be honest with you, it is a pretty tall mountain. We can score two against Milan. We need at least three. And unless we keep a clean sheet for what would only be the sixth time this season, we will probably need four. Possible? Yes. It’s possibly more difficult than possible, but it is possible. Let’s not forget:

Milan 4 – Deportivo de la Coruña 1

Deportivo de La Coruña 4 – Milan 0 (Depor went through to the semi-finals)

Milan 3 – Liverpool 0 (first half)

Milan 3 – Liverpool 3 (Liverpool won the CL on penalties)

You see, there is hope yet. And let’s also not forget, ser del Barça es lo millor que hay!



“When you don’t show up for a game, this can happen. We’re capable of rectifying this mistake”

Andrés Iniesta Luján



*we got robbed in both legs

**we robbed ourselves by missing chance after chance after chance

***translation: “teacher, the ref is filth”, and “that handball was ridiculous, what an abuse”





By Levon

Culé since way before football boots were of the neon yellow and lizard green variety, Levon is a deep thinker with increasingly shallow thoughts. He lives in Barcelona with his gorgeous wife and daughter. The lucky bastard...


  1. Nice review man. There are so many problems we are having right now, so I would be surprised to see us go through. But then many consider this team as one of the Best of all time. So they have to once do this, especially when all the odds are stacked against them. Some points.

    I have earlier posted about the False 9 situation. One thing I am sure it is doing a lot harm than good. False 9 is brilliant defense which will track Messi. But teams like Milan does not do that. They crowd the entire box so there is no need for one person to track him. Whenever Messi got the ball he had at least four guys closing him down on the front. The only option he had then is to pass the ball sideways and you could see his frustration with some of the run he was making(when he clearly knew he was not going to get past that many players.

    It looks like Managers are a bit afraid now to ask Messi to move out of the false 9 position. For me the false 9 situation has not yielded much result against better opposition. Opponents have become smart enough to realise that they shouldn’t track his run. Messi has to start on the right for me once again. It doesn’t mean the false-9 tactic should stop, but we should not follow it like a bible. Starting him on right has two plus points – 1) Alves and Messi should combine well. They used to have the best understanding in this team and that should create some width. 2) Instead of finding himself against 4-5 players, Messi could find him only against 1-2 players to run at.

    For me whatever change that has to happen, should happen against Real Madrid in Copa Del Rey. We may not find a better opponent to check whether moving Messi to right will yield the result. I want Roura to start Villa in his natural position as a center forward. I do agree that Villa has been crap, and the number of offsides are also bad. But Messi at the moment will do great with having someone infront of him to play with. last night you could see that, every time he looked to make a run he suddenly realized that there are only Red and Black stripes ahead of him. Above that, whenever Villa has come up as a substitute he used to do well because he goes into the middle of the pitch. But when he start on that left he looks completely lost.

    We have been too static with our movement and tactics this season. Last season was the best I have watched this Barca play. Agreed, we didn’t win much last season, but what we saw was a footballing marvel. That was what I felt angry when Guardiola decided to leave. Becuse for me last season was a preparation for something majestic. And the team responded well also. Had Guardiola was keen to use his experimentation more at home then we would have done better also. This year our players stay in the places they exactly start. There is not interchanging of position which was a crucial element in our game plan. Since Messi remains in center for most of match the other two attacking players stay wide. The only switch we saw yesterday was between Iniesta and Cesc, which form me was a result of Iniesta reading Fabregas situation well. Even if Messi start on the right, the constant switch between Villa, Pedro and Messi could see him play in middle more often. That should also give something for the opponents to think about.

    1. And also if nothing is working by half time, send in Tello. One thing I like about him is that he does not care whether Messi is in middle or not. If he feel there is a shot to be taken, he takes it. Atyleast it will improve the shots on target number.

    2. We all like to see villa lead the forward in the centre, well maybe it’s just me and few others (?), but what are the chances of that happened? It’s quite sometimes to see another player occupied that spot, well the system is now intended to work well for Messi, now that we see when he’s completely surrounded, we are clueless in attack.

    3. Not to mention he’s still recovering from that operation of his, quite a thing to wonder to play in such condition, far less minutes still get more goals than pedro and alexis combined

    4. I disagree. Moving Messi to the right would actually just compound our problems. Our problem yesterday was that we were only playing through the middle. There was literally no width, whatsoever. What we need to do is to tell Pedro to stay wide, and tell Alves and Alba to stay right by the touchline, to alleviate the congestion in the middle.

  2. Now that I’ve had time to digest the result, I’m even more depressed. I’m more upset at the performance than the result. The way we played Chelsea last year was worthy of us going through but, it was not meant to be. The ‘crapfest’ Barca put up last night, I don’t know how to even explain it. As you said, Milan didn’t even try. They knew how we were going to line up and play. We are more predictable than ever and against very organised teams, becoming impotent as well. Guilleme Ballague was having a field day on twitter with his ‘I told you so’, blah blah blah. I hate to admit it but, most of the problems he has mentioned on revista were evident today. Graham Hunter did a preview and said ‘if Barca are to continue, defence is key’. Well, it was no secret coz everyone has been screaming about defence for a while now. It’s a deserved loss, handball or not, Milan were more dangerous in front of goal.

    I would like to believe my team will make a comeback, Arsenal almost turned around a four goal deficit last year against this very same team. Getting an early goal will be key and if we fail to do so, just like against Inter, we say bye-bye. Annoying thing is, Italian teams are very good at defending. You’d have thought Barca have learned lessons from past but, it seems not. Milan gave us the wings. The left one was wide open all night and no one utilised it well, not even any overlaps. Cesc tends to drift inwards so, this left just Alba who was forced to turn it back in.

    Now Barca have a difficult game vs Sevilla, return leg vs EE. Thank heavens we are comfortable in the liga coz we would have run the risk of losing all three competitions in a space of three weeks. 1-1 doesn’t look like a bad result for EE after all. Until it’s over, I say, we’re still in it. VISCA BARCA!!!!

  3. Also in coming matches not against Milan and RM, I would like to see Roura giving Batra and Montoya some playing time. We are playing the same players again and again. How do we expect thee players to develop if we are not going to give them minutes.

  4. Strongest lineup my ass.

    There cannot be a generic best eleven, it doesn’t make sense. Pep constantly tinkered, put out the best formation and lineup depending on the opposition. Doing this, not only keeps your opponent guessing, it also keeps the players on their toes.
    Yet Roura and Tito have persisted with this crap, just because of favourable results so far. I thought Barca valued playing well above results? The team not only played terribly, but 1 shot on target? does that even sound like Barcelona? Not to me.

    If we are to get knocked out, I’d rather we go out losing by a huge margin as atleast then the cliches and superlatives can be dispensed with and we can reset. This “best team in the world blah blah” stuff, I’m afraid, the players seem to believe that too much. Getting eliminated, again, with a very narrow margin will be too much for me to bear.

    1. Well said.
      Actually it’s not the 1 shot on target which was a disgrace. But the attitude. They simply stroked the ball around as if they were in some park. I though Iniesta tried top dribble froward a bit, understood nothing was happening and joined the rest of the circus.

      In our best eleven Cesc Fabregas has no role. Iniesta and Xavi has to start in middle against better opposition. Last night we saw how Cesc was getting over run in middle. It was only after Iniesta dropped into the midfield we started to move forward. But that move took out the entire left flank.

    2. I see Cesc getting a lot of heat here but he is the only midfielder capable of taking shots (remember over the weekend)?
      You gotta try it, if it doesn’t go in never mind, other players can get the rebound. Just look at Xavi’s shot. Abbiati had all the time in the world to catch that one. It was like a practice drill for the keeper type of shot. After many years of being pro he still can’t shoot.

      Cesc is the only direct player that we have, that is not all tiki taka, sideways passing. He is direct, over the defenders passes that is needed sometimes.

    3. I’ve always maintained that for Cesc directness to be effective, especially against defensive minded teams at the highest level, i.e. UCL, one of Xavi or Iniesta has to be sacrificed. Preferably Xavi, since Iniesta can occupy Xavi role.
      Also, if the club insists playing with an on F9 and also have Cesc on the team, why then not try playing Cesc as a F9 and move Messi to the RW?
      As we all saw yesterday, when Messi moved to the RW towards the end of the first half, he seemed to be making inroads in that area by either beating the left-back or cutting inside, however there was no one in the middle to receive a pass or make diagonal runs.

      Just my 2c

    4. If I had to blame one player for the defeat it will be Xavi.

      He was too slow to move the ball around. Everything moved through him and he chocked Barca midfield. A good player should know when to hand over the reigns and move on. He is coming of an injury.

      Yes Cesc Iniesta Busi and Thiago could have made a diamond midfield formation to break the defence.

    5. Putting Messi wouldn’t have helped us. We needed width, and as you said, Messi just dribbled towards the middle. He’s staying the F9 position, and I believe that’s his best position.

    6. “Strongest lineup my ass”

      Not sure if the ‘my ass’ part is written in agreement or defiance, but I if you read the paragraphs you refer to they actually make the same points as your comment:

      1. there is no “strongest” line-up
      2. we need to switch it up more

      I couldn’t agree more with you.

  5. We really don’t look like a side who can beat a quality side anymore, at least not convincingly. And when we face a side that we know for a fact will park the bus, I wonder if the coaches prepare anything. They had weeks to prepare for this match.

    My solution. I said this many years back on this blog and on BF.

    When I first started watching football, which was Ajax in 1995, their opposition used to park the bus too. What the Ajax players did was to pass the ball back to v.d. Sar. I used to get furious because why not attack? But I was just a little kid.

    My Dad explained to me that that is their way of getting the opposition out of their position. It is a bait.

    As a result when the opposition came out to try and get the ball, space opened up in the opposition half and Ajax will attack it. Most of the times they will use the flanks with Overmars (remember him?) and the Nigerians, like Kanu and one more guy and later Babangida.

    I wonder why Barca doesn’t utilize the flanks more. We did a lot earlier in the season especially on the left with Alba. So why stop using it when we need it the most?

    I know Messi moved to the right at the end of the 1st half but why not earlier and why not continue sticking with it in the 2nd half. It worked in the 5-10 minute spell that he was on RW so why stop playing him there?

    1. We actually did try to draw them out during the first half by playing it along the back but as soon as they crossed their half way line they slammed on the brakes and actually ran back into their own half to wait for us. That gives us a decision to make. Just not sure I’m prepared for us to stop playing football and attract the wrath of the rest of the football world, unfair and lose our philosophy of attacking football.

      Can’t join in any criticism of the midfield. We camped outside their box and played it about well. It’s just very hard when the play becomes dead like that to make ny headway. Xavi tried a few incisive passes but they were cut off. And that sparked a lightning break. Iniesta tried to dribble but for me we lacked a CF ( read Villa I’m afraid) playing in the centre with his back to goal moving about and offering himself for quick return balls.

      I am starting to like the idea of taking Messi wider and giving them the decision to make about how many they take out of the heart of their defence which gives others a chance. He also gets a chance to get up speed and with his footwork penalties may well follow.

      This has been coming only in the sense that there was bound to be a game where Messi couldn’t make headway – no fault of his imo. What we needed was to be thinking ahead before now about it and preparing. However, as Kxevin and others have said I’m not sure we can play as badly again, this time at home, in terms of lack of penetration. We are also capable of scoring three or four against anyone. I’m also going to stick my neck out and say that we could well keep a clean sheet. They’re not going to commit anyone forward in the return.

    2. “We actually did try to draw them out during the first half by playing it along the back but as soon as they crossed their half way line they slammed on the brakes and actually ran back into their own half to wait for us. That gives us a decision to make. Just not sure I’m prepared for us to stop playing football and attract the wrath of the rest of the football world, unfair and lose our philosophy of attacking football.”

      Like I wrote in my comment below, against M*drid we decided to say “screw it, if you don’t wanna play football we are not walking into your trap”…

      The only differences are that we completely underestimated Milan (who wouldn’t, right?) and that we seemingly refuse to acknowledge how Puyol’s age and the loss of Abidal are effecting us.

    3. Agree with this. Our centerbacks are all too slow. Even the best offensive teams will struggle at time but it’s been 10 matches since we kept a clean sheet. That’s the real problem there.

      We’re a completely mediocre defensive team. Maybe average for la liga. Definitely sub-par for Champions league.

      We have the two most offensive fullbacks in football coupled with 2 slow centerbacks and one slow DM. We then play with one central midfielder and our other 2 midfielders, Fabregas and Iniesta, play very high up. We then leave acres of room behind us to attack.

  6. We pretty much look like Rijkaard’s last year where the line up is set in stone. Just like in those days, it looks like that the coach is just hoping for Ronaldinho/Messi to work some magic.

    Obviously that is not going to happen as Messi has been playing non-stop without any rest. He needs to take a break. It will also help him to see the play from the side lines especially the coaches so that they can see how the team plays without Messi and then try to sort out something. It could give the coaching stuff to tweak.

  7. @Euler

    You’re right about Alves. I thought that he was wrong this time but once again it is because he was covering for Busi.

    Why is this (Alves needing to go out of position to cover Pique/Puyol/sMasch) happening over and over again?

    My reasoning is that it is because Xavi and Iniesta and Cesc are not applying enough pressure and are not tracking the runners. The lack of pressure from them has been happening for 1.5 seasons I noticed.

  8. Holy moly. The Brits at the Guardian are celebrating like mad. Look at all the haters coming out. Unbelievable. Was telling my self not to read it during office hours as I do not want to drive home angry but since there is a downpour and massive jam, why not? Kinda regret it.

    Found a funny comment though that I would like to share;

    Meanwhile in Barcelona a new restaurant has opened up just minutes after the final whistle was blown at San Siro!! Apparently you are just supposed to pass the food to each other and not eat it!!!

  9. As a Barca fan through and through (win or lose), i would like to ask my fellow Barca fans on this site a few questions?

    Before i do, i would like to state that although we as fans are not qualified enough to coach at the highest level as it were, some/certain observations we make during games do not need one to be a coach.

    So here we go:
    1. Although in Tito we trust, is it not glaring enough for the Barca coaching staff as it is for all fans, that whenever we anticipate a packed-bus, tactical changes need to be made to avoid yesterday’s Dejavu? It is extremely frustrating to watch at times when the ball goes from left-to-right and right-to-left next to the oppositions penalty area with no penetration whatsoever.
    2. Do we really need to be playing Xavi, Iniesta and Cecs in the same starting eleven (notwithstanding recent good results especially in the league) when clearly not only is the left wing of our play sacrificed but we also lose the telepathic understanding between Iniesta’s & Messi?
    3. Is Roura doing enough (as an assistant course) during games in a tactical sense to adjust the team based on not only the opposition but as play develops? This is were i think that as much as we might not admit it but Tito is really missed.
    4. Has anyone realized/observed Messi’s change of playing attitude when playing for Barca vs. playing for Argentina?
    Although Messi has been the catalyst in the Barca team in terms of scoring goals in the last 18 months, he seems either tired or uninterested in certain Barca games. Constrast that to the games he plays for Argentina where not only does he press but runs endlessly for the greater good of the team and has looked unbelievably dangerous especially on counter-attacks? This could of cause be because of tactical changes on the Argentina’s coaching staff side or could it not be that Messi has subconsciously decided that his energy will be best served for Argentina.
    5. Seeing as Messi appears tired in most games this season, what will it take for the coaching staff to bench him for two consecutive games at least? The guy needs a rest.

    1. Messi uninterested? I have feeling not. According to the rest of the players he takes defeat worse than anyone.

    2. Agree with most the points, except for Messi being disinterested. I think the coaching staff at Argentina must ask him to run more than at Barça. He also has to carry Argentina a lot more than he does Barça does.

  10. Unlike the other Bus’s, Milan defended intelligently with their bus and when they got the ball they attacked too, and they pressed us higher too. So there is a difference between this game and the previous ones that, we deserved this loss. The whole team did.
    There are other examples of teams overturning 2/3/4-0 in the past, but it doesnt look good for us. Simply because we can be 200% sure that Milan will drive their bus to Nou camp.

    Everybody is talking about how Barca is been poor. The problem is in our defence. Even if we have 90% possession, the opposition needs only one forward play to score against us. The goal from the weekend, and ydays second goal proves this. We do not know to defend well.

    I am sure others might have noticed too. When we played well in the past, our whole unit was very compact with very little space between defence, mf and forwards. Now it is a huge gap.

    Very disappointing that there was not a single stand out player for us. How can all of them be so dis heartened? Is it Tito / Valdes / or just complacency.

    1. The parking the bus issue is the most worrying for me, hence i think that it looks more unlikely that we will qualify for the quarters. Given the advantage that Milan has now, you can only imagine the type of bus that will be parked in the return leg, scary me thinks.

      I have a sneaky felling that Milan will go to the Camp Nou willing to leave their sweat, guts and blood on that pitch to make sure they protect their advantage with their lives.

  11. This Week is proving to be a bad one for me all round,started last night,we get bashed by milan last night and this morning at school,my exam result came out and my grades were pretty bad,my heart’s torn apart,i still don’t know how to explain that to my parents.I just hope we go through to the next round and i’ll try to turn my grades around next session,but if we don’t go through,so be it,i’ll support this club through thick and thing.visca el barça

  12. There are probably some major and minor problems. But we can only begin to start solving them with a coach. We need a coach!!

    Even if we diagnose the actual problem, who is going to provide the solution and ensure its implementation?

  13. Barca have reached the point where ideology has trumped reality. Ideological adherence to The Cult of Possession, has become the goal, rather than the tactic.

    So true.

    On Saturdays, we ask the kids to keep the ball, no goals or goal keepers, just keep the ball in play and a few defenders will try to intercept.

    I’m pretty sure that they (Barca) do this in training too but it looks like they forgot that this was a match.

    1. I dont think there is anything wrong with the ideology. Just a little of tweaking, when coming across the bus’s.
      I like to believe it as an off day for all our players, that we played poorly. What is terrible is that how can all the 10 on the pitch be poor at the same time.

  14. Good morning.

    A couple of things I’d like to add.

    1.The most important strategy in any football game is very simple. You have to play well.

    We played so badly that the worst Milan side in more than 25 years didn’t even need to play well. Did tactics have to do anything with the result? Sure. But not nearly as much as that we just did not show up. Even Marca headlined “This isn’t Barcelona”. Wow.

    2. Messi’s false nine has never been effective against 9-10 players crowding the area to defend. Neither was his moving to the RW that so many have been calling for.

    3. I don’t think Villa would have made any difference. Alexis certainly didn’t. His movement across the frontline didn’t bother their defense one bit.

    We have two players who in my view, when on form, are capable of maybe not breaking the bus, but at least finding a way around it. Tello and Cuenca.

    4. The only way a ref cannot see a handball of a player who jumps up with both arms straight in the air is if the ref is laying on the ground. And to think that there is a linesman and behind-the-goal referee, too. It is tempting to suspect foul play.

    For the millionth time in my life I, along with 99% of soccer fans across the civilized world, am left thinking:

    How freaking complicated would it be to have a 5th ref watching the game on a wide-screen TV to advise the head referee of the big decisions that directly effect the outcome of CL and WC games?

    We are the biggest sport in the world yet it is run by idiots.

    5. Back to the bus. To me the best clásico we played in the Pep years was not the manita on 29/11.

    It was the first leg of the Champion’s League semi-final.

    The one in which we refused to get drawn out by a Madrileño bus; in which we were content to play the ball around our own half for large parts of the game; in which Dani Alves hardly crossed the halfway line; in which we said “Oh, you don’t wanna play? Ok, we’ll just chill back here until you came out”

    We broke that bus so bad its driver was left crying about UNICEF.

    1. Great points, agreed with them all. I also see a lot of people calling for Messi to be moved to the RW again, but, like you, I see that it’s not going to work. We need width, and Messi on the wing will not help that. Tello and Cuenca, like you said, will.

  15. Sorry about the numbering Levonorgestrel but you make a number of points.

    1. Of course and we didn’t play well but there are no teams better in the world than us at breaking a bus RM this season?
    2. Can’t remember enough for the first part but I’m not sure we played against such complete buses when he played on the right
    3. Without getting into the whole argument again, imo Alexis was never going to be able to do anything in this situation. He doesn’t have the quick tika taka needed in that area. Villa certainly does – would he have made the diff in 25 minutes last night? Probably not.
    4. I was screaming like the rest of us and especially so since it was a Scottish ref. however, I’ve since watched it literally 20 or so times and I’m getting less certain each time. I still think on balance it must have been as the ball stopped so suddenly but even on slo mo I can’t be sure.
    5. Still not sure Milan would have come out. We played it along the back line all night and they didn’t. Still, it is at least, or was, an option. RM are no Milan though in terms of defence.

    Finally, a lot of people are reckoning this was a poor Milan team. That wasn’t what I saw. Agreed they may not be great in other circumstances but it is not easy to defend in your box against us for 90 minutes and not make a single error. The team I saw defended brilliantly – Messi avoids those lunging feet in most of our games and Xavi/ Iniesta and Messi don’t go a whole game without managing one telling pass against mugs. They also broke with lightning speed. Again, it’s not way to take a ball out of defence under pressure and first time it to a running player. Early on you could see they were good at the limited objectives they set themselves.

    1. Levonorgestrel? What’s that, Gaelic? :p

      The way the ball dropped and its change in velocity was a dead giveaway. Also the player in question did not fall to the ground as he would have had the ball hit his head at that speed. And the fact that he had both arms straight in the air!

      The more I’ve watched the more disgusted I get. How many more times will FIFA allow fans to be gutted by arbitral errors or bias? Video technology is the easiest thing in the world. Most refs would welcome it. Most fans would welcome it. Most players would welcome it. Wouldn’t you?

  16. Not going to whine about the lackluster performances and Replacement coach ineffectiveness – but I get the feeling that if Tito had been on the bench yesterday we would have seen Tello come on, a fourth attacker, like in the 4-3-3 last throw of the dice he was doing early on in the season when we were winning matches by the skin of our teeth. Not sure if it would have done any good, but it would have been something. A show of aggressiveness, a statement that we weren’t going to take things lying down. As things stand, I can’t see a single positive point we can take away from this debacle.

  17. Just a thought – against team which effectively park the bus, we shoudl start playing the 3-5-2 formation with the midfield V. Let’s say Mascherano, Puyol and Pique i defense. Busquets as DM. Iniesat and Xavi ahead of Busquets. Alba and Alves as wide winger or better Alba and Tello. And Messi and Pedro/Alexis/Villa up front. Will it work? God Knows. Could try in return leg as we have Nothing To Lose.

  18. It was 1992, at the U.S. Olympic Trials. I was competingi the match sprint discipline. I had done everything right: training, prep, rest, gearing. I was flying. Fkat-out, freaking flying. I was ready. Sprinters are seeded by riding a timed 200-meter effort. I was up.

    I rolled around, as normal, wound it up, as nornal. But when it came time to hit the jets …. nothing. I was one of the fastest guys in the country, and didn’t even make the rides. “Dude! What happened?” Simple answer. On that afternoon, I didn’t have it.

    So when I read here that Barça can’t beat a quality team, or that this group is doomed, or this or that I just have to ask, “In whose head?”

    The team had a bad match. No. The team had a really bad match. Teams get on the same cycles and athletic rhythms. It’s what often leads to surprise blowouts and upsets. The whole team lost. Nobody to blame unless you just point at a team pictire. Some seek out favored scapegoats, others just prophesy doom.

    For me, there is another match to be played. The team will not be that bad. Odds are that Milan won’t be that good, because we aren’t going to ALLOW them to be that good, just as they helped us to be that bad. That was as complete a breakdown as I have ever seen from this club, so out of the ordinary that it can be dismissed.

    Does anyone here honestly think we can’t score as many goals as we need to advance? Really? As I have said before, it’s two home goals. That’s ALL. I believe our team will advance. 3-0, 4-1, 5-2, I don’t care. We will advance. If something happens and we don’t advanve, it will not be through a lack of quality and effort.


    1. We all hope so. This was just a horrible day.

      However, what makes it look tough are two points
      – we need a 3-0 or a 4-1 or even more goals
      – with our best efforts, we have never scored more than 2 against a Bus (from teams like Chelsea/Inter etc)

  19. Barca has the worlds most technically proficient players and has developed a tactical system that centers around Messi that has proven to be wildly successful, but its not without its flaws.

    One is that it chokes originality and the element of surprise that is needed to beat certain teams. Secondly it needs to be managed by someone who can see the subtle tweaking and has enough confidence to make the required changes, adjustments.

    At the moment we are a boat without a rudder. The fact that we can’t pinpoint who had a subpar game yesterday goes to show just how technically masterful we are. I would say that the one of the reasons we are performing better in La Liga is because as Roura and the team are familiar and comfortable playing against teams the face week in and week out. Im not too sure that Roura is watching opposition tapes in the basement and less sure that he knows exactly what hes looking for or what to do about it. Pep was masterful at analyzing opposition strength and weakness and building a team around that info. Tito before stepping down showed that he wasn’t afraid to implement his own changes which included inserting Cesc in midfield to provide directness as well as rotating positions which regularly included tello, song, adriano. I fear that the longer the boat is out at sea without a rudder, the farther from land it gets. It’s a solid, seaworthy boat any yet it’s not getting to it’s destination.

    Our lack of surprise or options comes from our self inflicted dependency on Messi taking most of our shots. A combination of Messi sitting out some less important games with a change of tactics of allowing our forwards to be free to be more dynamic is sorely needed when you depend so heavily on very technical play. Our forwards including Villa, Pedro, Alexis (Tello to a lesser degree) at times need to be allowed to play more naturally which would include moving forward, penetrating the box, taking on defenders, taking shots without thinking of passing to Messi. They should be encouraged to take more chances so that when opportunities arise they will comfortable taking the shot. You may have noticed that our wingers (specifically alexsis and pedro) are missing 1 on 1 or 1 on 2 shots where they were sent forward on a through ball. Our front line needs to be able to destabilize opposition backlines by being more dynamic, changing plans, more forward movement so that defensive minded teams like Milan will be forced to mark all our forwards and not just Messi.

    1. I like your last paragraph a lot. I agree totally. I’ve been thinking this to myself for quite some time… (maybe a few years).
      It’s a point worth considering.
      And with out Messi we would see what the other forwards are capable of. It might give them plenty confidence too… or they might come up short. At least they would have that chance. Plus i don’t think it would hurt the system anymore than switching Messi to this “exaggerated” False 9 (really a 2nd striker/attaking midfielder with no striker to play off… no 1st striker)

  20. Just came back and watched the highlights on HD on DVR.
    I paid a special attention to 2 things; handball by Zapata and the 2nd goal.

    1) Alves
    While Pique tried to help Puyol out, Alves came running into the box with ElShawaary but as he was watching the ball, El Shawaary stopped and got a meter or 2 from Alves. Alves looked back and noticed this but didn’t bother to get back to El Shawaary and preferred to watch the ball.

    I thought that it was another case of Alves trying to cover someone but he just left his man.

    Euler, watch it again and look how Alves looked at El Shawaary as he stayed back and Alves was too stubborn to mark him.

    2) It was definitely a handball. After reading the comments on the Guardian that it touched Zapata’s head instead of hands and that it should’ve been a penalty in the first place because the ball hit Alba’s hands.

    I know for sure that it was handball but wasn’t sure about Alba.

    The videos on YouTube only showed one angle of that incident. They left out the camera from behind the goal where you can see it clearly touching Zapata’s hands.

    And if it did touch Alba’s hands, he was outside the box. So there wouldn’t have been a penalty anyway.

    The amount of people that are so anti-Barca on the Guardian is so amazing. Why are they so jealous? Even if I’m a Barca fan and dislike Madrid I don’t go away from the truth.

    1. This might interest you in regards to Alves:

      To me, it looks like he’s making sure to keep El Shawaary in front of him. That way, El Shawaary can’t get behind him to score on a cross, and Dani was in good position to close him down from taking a shot. I agree with allas that it was Xavi who was at fault for not tracking back to mark his man.

      …and Alves was too stubborn to mark him.

      I don’t understand why you’d say this? Why would Dani be stubborn about carrying out his defensive duties? And how is he being stubborn when he reacted (IMO at least) correctly?

    2. I’m not anti-Barca and I don’t see it as a handball by Zapata.

      I think everyone can agree that the ball hits Zapata somewhere between the right arm and the head/face.

      But the thing is, when the ball hits Alba, Alba is standing a coupe of meters in front of Zapata. I.e., Zapata is goalside of Alba. So the ball coming off Alba is traveling away from the middle of the pitch. Given that Zapata is facing Barca’s left side, his raised right arm is closest to Alba. So if the ball is headed goal-wards, it can only strike Zapata on the outside of the right arm.

      But that’s not where the ball hits. From the images, it can only be in contact with the inside of his right arm, which means the ball would have to be traveling from the goal towards Alba to do that. But that’s not physically possible given Alba’s relative position to Zapata.

      The only remaining possibility is that the ball hit Zapata in the head/face first and bounced back onto his raised right arm. But if I step through the footage frame by frame — and yes I’ve looked at the footage from behind the goal too — there isn’t enough ball action to indicate a double hit on Zapata. And if there was a double hit, it reduces the possibility of intent even further. (Never mind the basic issue of why Zapata would ever want to raise his arms to stop the ball from traveling towards Barca’s goal?)

      The referee was in a perfect position to see all this (he was directly upfield of Zapata at the perfect angle to see over Zapata’s shoulder).

      For what it’s worth, Craig Thomson is the ref I admire the most in Europe (I don’t watch much soccer from elsewhere), and I saw nothing last night to change my high opinion of him.

      What I saw last night was simply Barcelona out of ideas against a prepared, decent but hardly amazing team.

    3. Nothing last night changed your opinion of the ref? Even without thinking about the handball he booked Busquets for a clean challenge (pretty much allowed the build up to the goal) then Pique shortly after for questioning the decision to allow the goal, stopped the game because Milan players decided to lay on the ground (cue flashbacks to Chelsea last season), ignored the first half injury time…wasn’t exactly a horrible performance by the officials but certainly a decent-sized portion of “home advantage”…

    4. That’s right. Nothing.

      Busquets got the ball but his shin also caught the player in his follow through from an awkward angle. It was a clear foul. A yellow card was debatable, but not to the point of diminishing my respect for Thomson.

      Be sure to think of his performance again after Undiano Mallenco is done drumming Barca out of the Copa del Rey.

  21. NZM and Mom4, where are you ladies? I always loved reading your comments. It’s always helped to calm me down. Wise words from wise ladies.

  22. FC Barcelona is one of the most one-dimensional best side in history. It’s really fraustrating that we have the best players in the world yet in big games they keep on waiting for Messi to bail them out. How long will this continue?
    I think we should start having plan B as the formation that brought us success through the years have been found out. They should start by buying Ter Stegen, then two powerful and skillful CBs, and Neymar then sell Alexis, Pedro, Mascherano, Adriano and some other under-performing guys.

    1. Every team is one-dimensional. RM is a counterattacking side. United storms the wings. Every team has a way of approaching a match. And every team doesn’t win them all.

      Mascherano underperforming? Really? Puyol hasn’t been himself. Do we sell him? Alves is also off form. Him, too? Xavi hasn’t been himself all the time this season, as well. Let’s add him to the wagon, along with Pedro, Sanchez and Adriano (who is having his best season for the club).

      I can also safely assume that your two powerful, skillful CBs will be to supplant Pique and Puyol. And while we’re at it, let’s sell Messi, and start playing long ball, hoofing it to a big, strong forward.

      Or what say we recognize that yesterday was a bad match, and move on from there?

    2. I didn’t explain myself enough. What I mean is this;
      Masch and Song are not bad players but they are not necessarily needed since they DMs not CBs. Let’s buy what or who we need rather than buy a square peg and hope to make it round in other to fit it into a round hole. It works for small teams not against big teams like RM for example. My opinion will be take Masch back to DM and sell Song.
      Puyol is old he can not keep on playing consistenly at a high level therefore he should be benched more often in other to allow a younger CB (Hummels or Bartra) to take over.
      Xavi should be on the bench against bus-parking sides like AC since he doesn’t take risk any longer. He’s only interested in passing sideways in other to keep possession. But this doesn’t help the team in those circumstances.
      Buying Neymar will mean that under-performing so called wingers like Pedro and Sanchez will have to go.
      All these changes will make our team multi-dimensional and successful again in Europe.

  23. Correct me if I am wrong but did Barca win any important matches against strong teams since the last CL victory?

    Lost the super cup to Madrid, lost the Liga tie to them at home, knocked out by Chelsea. This year, two draws with Madrid so far.

    This is not a new problem. This Barca has been struggling against quality opponents for at least the last 1.5 years.

    It is easy to talk about how the Barca template has been modified and expanded when we play against weak teams (most of La Liga) and against reasonable teams (Malaga, Valencia, etc.).

    But the real test is against strong teams, and in those matches the team hasn’t done well in a long time…

  24. – Good review Lev, I liked it.

    – Some of the prematch comments seem pretty stupid now:

    I’d be dissapointing if we dont roll them at least 3-1 and put this one to bed quite early.

    Anything less than a convincing win here will be a surpirse and a dissapointment to me. I just do NOT rate Milan at all.

    – The thing is, Milan will probably pla the same game in 3 weeks: defend and play on the counter. Heck, they’ll probably be even more defensively inclined. I have no doubt that we’ll play slightly better then and yesterday, but I still think we’ll lack a sense of urgency in our game that puts bucketloads of pressure on the opponent, something I haven’t seen in a big game since the second leg vs. Arsenal which we won 3-1.

    – Still think the best way to be a penetrating team with our current players is to play Sanchez in the center ahead of Messi. Like how we switched to against RM when Benzema scored in 20 seconds. Of course, that required some fudging here and there and playing with 3 defenders, which is a risk no one would be willing to take, me included.

    I just hope we get our stuff together and play like FCB next time, even if we lose. All I heard today was people constantly taking Milan’s defending to levels of epic glory-ness. It’s really disappointing to show such a weak performance when a big match such as this one is broadcasted to the whole world. So many casual fans/ neutrals base a team’s entire season’s worth on one such match. The thing about 08/09 was how we constantly proved everyone wrong in (almost) in every single big match. Anyway..

    1. It depends, I think. I remember (and I confess that I can’t recall the sport or the team) a game in which a team got poleaxed, much like we did yesterday. The coach called a meeting, and just screened the game footage. Didn’t say anything. Didn’t have to.

      The players knew what they did, just as our players know what they did and didn’t do.

      People LOVE it when Barça fails, because of the reams and reams of press orgasms that have been expended on this club. Non-cules get tired of that, just as we tire of hearing the endless reams of effusion about Ronaldo, before the Emergence of Messi.

      I always ask them, “And what was YOUR club doing while my club was winning two of the last four Champions Leagues?” (cricket! cricket!)

      To turn the tie in the return leg will require luck of the same kind that Milan had with the deflection that resulted in the first goal. An early goal will be of immense value, set the Camp afire and get things rolling in the right direction. And we see what happens.

  25. So many people came to class in a Milan jersey today, it was really funny. It’s considered so cool to be supporting the team that beats Barca these days. I hardly see anyone daring to wear Barca colors for the fear of being called a glory hunter/ bandwagoner. Quite the change from 2009.

  26. CHILL Cules. We are gonna win this. We are in for another Iniestazo moment in March. Final is at Wembley, Barça cant/won’t miss that.

  27. I think ‘High Pressing’ is the key word year 2013.

    in away games many of our opponents were no longer just sitting deep, but were pressing high up the field.

    here are the games i remeber as we struggled

    1.real betis: in second half they pressed really hard and we coulnd’t control the game. they hit the post 3 times but we were in good form and managed to maintain 2-1 lead.

    2. real sociedad: again they pressed hard starting second half, then pique got red carded. 2-0 lead was over turned to 2-3 loss.

    3. RM: they started to press hard from the starting whitsle but got tired by middle of the second half. however, we looked tired also and wasted many chances. this was the weakened RM side and we’re supposed to finish the game there.

    4. Valencia: another high pressing game we struggled. we’re tired and valencia was fresh from having rested for a full week. if it wasn’t for miserable Soldado we’d have lost for sure.

    we struggled whenever opponents pressed high up the pitch. comforting point is it’s hard to sustain the pressing for 90 minutes. they get tired later in the game, we take advantage.

    then last night milan occurred.

    5. Milan: they started press hard we had hard time first 10-15 minutes. we started controlling and possession started increase.
    Milan did not waste their energy by chasing the ball. they retrived and sitting back and coserved energy and we’re helping them by just circulating the ball around. then pressing started again. 2 goals along the way surely boosted their morale, too.
    i think that’s very smart game plan and they executed brilliantly.

    we now have not only bus parking tactics to break down, but finding out the solution for high pressing games.

    a comforting point is return leg will be a home game. i don’t recall any team successfully pressed us in camp nou except rm.

  28. You are right about the first four games you mentioned, although one might add that we have done pretty well this season, having won so many games that the league is basically over.

    I don’t remember Milan pressing us, though.

    1. thank your for the review and i enjoy reading all the post here.

      yes, we’ve done very good so far, but i remember the games like sevilla and depor. in sevilla we were lucky to come away with all 3 points and with depor we needed 5 goals to defeat them.
      both of them didn’t sit back and just defend. they took the game to us and we struggled. i read ‘nobody can beat us in open game’ type of comments in many sites, so i am wondering.

      milan had someone in the face of xavi and busi all the time when we had the ball in our half, so we couldn’t move up fast. i thought xavi had very hard time moving the ball up. once we moved up they just sit back and wait for us to make mistakes.
      anyway that’s how i remember the game.

  29. I watched most of this game, and spent my time wondering what wasn’t working. Busi drifted wider than he traditionally played over the past few years, Xavi constantly opened himself up as an option, Iniesta outdribbled and tried some incisive passes. Alves marauded and Alba controlled the left flank. What was wrong?

    For me, it was Pedro/Cesc, for different reasons. Milan is a) very good b) very narrow. If you are going to play Milan with a narrow lineup (4 midfielders and a false nine), you need some sort of idea or plan. Barca seemed to rely on tiki-taka to get through Milan’s well-mustered defense, and it was clear early it wasn’t doing it. It is here that Cesc was insufficient – he’s a great player, but he was not the right tool for this game, or at least for the system Tito/Roura tried to play.

    But moreover, Pedro seemed like the weak link here. To beat a narrow side, effective wide play is key. Pedro is quick, but not Tello/Alba quick, and his pace wasn’t much of an asset. His ball control skills are terrible – not a great attribute in a winger – and he wasn’t able to hold the ball up for the team to move forward.

    Instead, Alves and Alba were charged as the primary wide players, allowing Abate, for one, some great runs along the flank. When Alves ran forward, Pedro tucked inside. But he’s not an effective enough controller to occupy more than one defender – in other words, he does nothing to help Messi escape his double-marking. If Alves has the ball, Pedro and Messi are both taken care of, so his only option is Xavi.

    Playing Pique as a distributor, which they tried, helps overcome a narrow side – Xavi/Iniesta/Cesc can get further forward, Busi occupies the Milan midfield, but Pazzini pressed too well.

    The answer to the problem of this match seemed to be Cuenca. Where is that kid? His wing play was the difference here.

  30. You know Barcelona is in trouble when Busquets could not find Messi and company with his vertical passes. There was simply no space between the lines. I think it was the key of the match that Busquets’ transition from defence to attack was basicly nonexistence. Usually when Barcelona are good they attacks are very fast, quick and sharp. Busquets finds Messi, Messi takes on defenders and finds some attacking player who makes a run behind the defence. This basicly didn’t happen yesterday, mostly because there was no spcae, partly because they didn’t move the ball quickly enough.

    When I first saw the first XI I was actually very disappointed. Everybody knows that the away goal(s) are so important nowadays that teams don’t mind sitting deep, even at home. We’ve seen this even from the top clubs like Real, Chelsea, Milan…I think Barca need to be a lot braver in their away games, especially when it’s the first leg.

    At the home match, I very much hope that Villa & Alexis will both start and they’ll be at their best, Iniesta needs to play in midfield. Be cautious defensivly, but if 0-0 would be for a long time, Adriano could be a great weapon to break trough the defence, eiether a long shot, dribble or anything. I wouldn’t mind trying even playing with 4 strikers like they have done sometimes with Alexis or Villa as true #9’s and Messi behind him. I still belive Barcelona could advance. I mean how many times they have been in a very tough position and still come trough. Chelsea 2009, Athletic 2009 Estudiantes 20009, Arsenal 2010, Sevilla 2010 supecup, Arsenal 2011, Milan 2012…I mean the list goes on and on. No need to hit the panic button already.

    Oh, and I hope winning Sevilla, Real Madrid (twice) and (Super) Depor (who beat AC Milan 4-0 in 2004) gives them enough motivaion to beat AC Milan ; )

    1. Villa & Alexis? What about starting Tello? He’s the kind of player that if he’s “on” he makes stuff happen. If he’s off we can always sub him for V or A.

    2. Maybe as an impact player (who I think he is) He tend to fade away in games too much. But as a sub defitnately, yeah. I don’t know why him or Adriano weren’t used yesterday though, maybe the connection between Tito & Aureli Altimira were disrupted in last 20 minutes or something…

    3. Adriano? Tello? Why would you want long distance shooting or speed and verticality in a match in which you aren’t trying to score anyway, right? 😉

      Pretty disappointing.

      But I do like what Xavi said: “a este generacíon le falta una gran remontada” (this generation is missing a big come-back). They owe us one!

  31. Oh and those who are calling FC Barcelona a one dimensional team, where were you guys when they beat United in CL finals or giving Madrid a Manita? I’ve seen more dimesnions in this Barca’s side (-2008) than I’ve seen from other sides in the rest of my life.

  32. Are we capable of parking the bus?
    Can we play with two DMs?
    Can we win the games without dominant ball possession?
    Can we play with true striker?
    Can we change the formation to 4-4-2 or 4-2-3-1?

    these are the questions those who think we are one dimensional might think, maybe. not just tweak in here and there.

    Levon mentioned 10-11 semi final RM game where we defend in our half. that season we started with a squad of 18 and with RM game, we didn’t have iniesta, puyol, abidal and adriano all injured. ther was only one play on the bench who can play in the caliber of CL semi final, Afelay. i guess Pep was kind of forced to resort into defending strategy.

    The time i really hope we defend like that was the 2nd leg of Chelsea game after we went up 2-0. After two goals we could have sit back and let them come out of their half. that might have opened up the game and who knows…

    1. The answer will be very simple. Because Barca will never play with double pivot. Ask Cruyff and he would explain you better that any of us, but yeah. No need for those dramatic changes after every time Barcelona lose.

      (Barca and) double pivot….this topic always gives me shivers shomehow.

    2. Yes, Cruyff said it had to do with the triangles…And yes, the answer was simple but he used a diagram to show it.

      Spain seems to play quite well with Xabi Alonso and Busquets, though…

    3. I don’t think he was forced to resort into a defending strategy at all.

      Pep (and Tito) knew exactly what M*drid were planning and they countered it brilliantly.

      By not committing our full backs to the attack we took away their strongest weapon, the counter attack. By passing the ball around in our own half we made it so that they did not know what to do anymore.

      They had prepared with the utter conviction that we do not adjust our gameplan for anyone. We cought them completely off guard and the frustration of their players and fans was palpable.

    4. the reason i said pep was ‘a KIND of forced’ was that was the only time he deployed that strategy. that was my impression.

      if we could do it in madrid why didn’t we defend like that against chelsea in london? just asking.

  33. What I know is this: The club is going to play its way in the return leg. It is the way that it knows, it is the way that it is equipped to play. At the end of the night, it will be good enough, or it won’t be. But I don’t think you will find that anyone has left anything on the pitch.

    That, my friends, is all that we can ask of our players.

    I don’t even think that we will see that different a lineup. I think the coaching staff believes in that eleven, and its ability to score goals. We all have theories, players we’d like to see, formations that might be worth playing with. But simply enough, the coaching staff knows better than we do. Yes, it’s fun to speculate. I still would have loved to have seen my Villa/Sanchez/Messi, Song/Busquets/Iniesta front and middle. But I probably would have made Jordi Roura bust a gut laughing when I suggested it.

  34. To me, it looks like he’s making sure to keep El Shawaary in front of him. That way, El Shawaary can’t get behind him to score on a cross, and Dani was in good position to close him down from taking a shot. I agree with allas that it was Xavi who was at fault for not tracking back to mark his man.

    He did good by keeping El Shawaary in sight but he shouldn’t have given him a good 2 metres space. There is no way Alves could’ve closed him down or blocked his shot. Watch this video;

    Alves saw El Shawaary moved away and he didn’t bother to follow to close him down. At least if he had followed El Shawaary, he would’ve given him some pressure and he wouldn’t be able to pass to the oncoming Muntari.

    If Alves had just moved closer to El Shawaary, he could’ve blocked the pass/shot or at least shut down the passing lane.

    Yes, it is Xavi’s fault, as I’ve noted many times before, our midfield just don’t bother to track back anymore. Been happening for 1.5 seasons now.

    Stubborn was maybe a wrong choice of word. Bad that is definitely bad defending in my books.


    So do you think it was a handball or not? I put it in slow-mo in HD and it was a clear handball.

    I seriously don’t understand the role of the 5th referee. It seems that they are just there to watch the match and getting paid!

    1. Alves saw El Shawaary moved away and he didn’t bother to follow to close him down. At least if he had followed El Shawaary, he would’ve given him some pressure and he wouldn’t be able to pass to the oncoming Muntari.

      If Alves had just moved closer to El Shawaary, he could’ve blocked the pass/shot or at least shut down the passing lane

      To me, it looks like he ran in, glanced over to make sure of where El Shawaary was when El Shawaary stopped sooner than he expected, and then tried to keep track of where the ball was & El Shawaary’s positioning at the same time. This happened in all of ~2 seconds. At that point, his job is to stay between El Shawaary and the goal, right? To shut down the passing lane, he would have had to move more to the left of El Shawaary (which is where Muntari comes flying in from unchecked), which would have left El Shawaary with a clearer sight on goal. At least for me, Dani reacted fine given the accelerated pace at which the sequence unfolded.

  35. Balotelli: “I didn’t participate yesterday because of the laws of the Champions League but I do not know why Messi didn’t participate.”

    I guess he missed out the parts where Messi skimmed past his mates and nutmegs them along the way.

  36. Although Dani Alves’s situation has been explained a few times on this thread about how this is not his fault for us to be conceding goals from our right flank, i have a different view which i think not only lays the blame on Alves but on the entire defence and failure of the coaching staff.

    1. Why did we manage to be solid defensively with Abidal and Alves in the same back four while still playing a high line?
    Because Abidal defends first and attacks second, while Alves’s nature is to attack first and defend second.
    This is where i think the problem started when Alba joined the team. This is not to say that it’s Alba’s fault but rather the coaching staffs. You cannot have two attacking fullbacks who share the same attributes and allow both to attack first and defend second. An instruction has to be given to both Alves and Alba that if one attacks the other one must priorities defense.

    2. Why did the team not concede the same nature of goals in the early parts/stages of this season although we had the weakest defence in living history? The simple answer is, Montoya. Though Montoya is not yet experienced at the highest level, he’s a replica of Abidal (in a sense of defend first and attack second) and a contrast to both Alves & Alba (attack first and defend second). The early games were played with Montoya at right back and Alba at left back, hence the reason why our left side of play looked the most dangerous to opponents in those games because while Alba was always high up the pitch creating havoc with Iniesta, the defense could still adjust itself accordingly because Montoya was always available when we got hit with a counter.

    I could be wrong in my analysis of cause but most of these types of goals have been conceded since Alves has been back in the starting eleven to replace Montoya. What is also glaring to see/notice is that the Alves of old, who seemed to have two sets of lungs is no more. Before he could dominate the right with tireless running back and fourth, but unfortunately nature is taking it’s course.

    The Alves of old has obviously been replaced on the left flank by Alba. So the strategy has to change, have the forward attacks initiated mostly from the left and have Alves/Montoya be cautious and attack only when necessary from the right.

    If you analyst the goals we are conceding on counters, two thing are obvious, to my observation anyway. First) When we lose the ball in the opponents half, they initiate an attack by playing directly over the top of our right flank (space vacated by Alves). Second) When we lose the ball in the opponents half, they launch a counter by playing the ball over the top to our left flank (vacated by Alba) and then a second phase cross or diagonal ball is then played to the far post of the right (where Alves has vacated the space by pushing forward at the same time as Alba) during our initial attack.

    On another note, wouldn’t it be interesting to see Messi being played as a midfielder alongside Iniesta with Villa/Alexis occupying the classic strikers role? It doesn’t hurt dreaming though!

    Just my 2 cents.

    Any agreements or disagreements with my observations?

    1. Have you forgotten the horrible state of our defense in the early part of the season?

      I would say that there are games where two attacking leave too much space behind. In those games we should simply tell Dani Alves to stay put, as I believe that he is a better player AND a better defender than Montoya.

      The idea of playing Messi in midfield makes no sense to me whatsoever. You want to position one of the best goal scorers in the history of the game further from the goal?

    2. I clearly stated/mentioned in my comment about the “weakest defense in living history”, check point number 2.

      With regards to Messi being deployed as a midfielder, it was just a crazy idea, followed by “It doesn’t hurt dreaming though!”

      My comments/complains regarding the fullbacks is a direct responsibility of the coaching staff.
      But then again, what do I know!

    3. ah, yeah, you did say that…point number 2 checked 😉

      I definitely agree when Dani Alves and Jordi Alba act as two marauding wing backs it leaves us very vulnerable at the back.

      Against “lesser” competition our possession game and attacking quality is enough to outscore any goals conceded as a result of the chosen strategy.

      Against top teams that near certainty becomes a mere possibility.

      As for Messi as a classic 10, yes I can see that. Did not know that was what you had in mind when you said “midfielder”.

    4. The idea of Messi as a midfielder is not that far fetched if you really think about it.

      Messi plays a classic “10” with Argentina with Aguero on the front left and Higuain ahead of him.
      And Messi being Messi, he excels in this position for them with goals aplenty also.

  37. Rumor mill grinding up (Tuttosport) that Sanchez goes to Juventus in the summer for 27m. For those who have forgotten, my comment was “For 30m or more, I would fly to Barcelona and help him pack.”

  38. Re: Tactics and the bus, sorry for joining the discussion late. As Einstein said, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Now it is clear Jodi Roura is no Einstein, and he is in a pretty difficult position, having being dropped into the squeaky bum managers spot out of the blue when he looks like he would prefer to be propping up a bar-stool somewhere watching the match on telly…but really – the torrid tactical lethargy displayed by Barca faced with the ubiquitous bus was excruciating to behold. 90 mins of tactical insanity.
    The result is not only a disaster for Barcelona but also for Italy, as it improves Berlusconi ‘s re-election chances no end.
    And while I am on my soap-box, yeah, very good writing Senor Levonorgestrel, but isn’t the prom analogy a bit 1950’s? Seeing as the Barca fan base is no longer an exclusively male club, all that stuff about her ‘not letting you get to second base’ seems a bit anachronistic. Just saying,like. Otherwise, thanks Levon for an insightful review of…the horror, the horror.

    1. anachronism /əˈnækrəˌnɪzəm/
      1. the representation of an event, person, or thing in a historical context in which it could not have occurred or existed
      2. a person or thing that belongs or seems to belong to another time

      Unfortunately you are absolutely right. Losing one’s virginity on prom night has long since been replaced by a frighteningly high amount of teenagers that either get pregnant or make someone pregnant in their sophomore, freshmen and middle school years.

      I am very happy that the Barça fan base is no longer an exclusively male club (or better yet I don’t remember when it ever was). You can interpret my analogy however you seem fit, of course, but rest assured I meant no ill will towards the stronger sex. Note that it’s the woman of the story who ended up getting what she wanted 😉

      Thank you for your comment!

  39. One thing I find concerning about the second goal is that no one tracks Muntari. At the time that Alba and Iniersta lose the ball at the touch line and Milan move forward, Muntari is at the 50 (center circle). Puyol and Pique are covering Boateng and Alves has moved center to cover El Shaarawy. Muntari crosses in front of Messi but more importantly in front of Pedro completely unmarked. He arrives as the farthest man left putting Alves in the position of trying to mark two men. Where is Pedro? Granted, he’s our forward but in this system he’s required to track back and defend. That’s one of the reasons we’re assuming his getting playing time over less pacey Villa, right? I understand that hindsight is always 20/20 but it’s urgent that if our forwards are having difficulties in scoring up front that they must prevent leaking goals in the back.

    1. Yup – we just don’t see that anymore.

      Gone are the times of 11 men in attack and 11 in defence.

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