Athletic – Barcelona

I’m sorry, but there is absolutely no excuse for this lineup before a midweek Champions League match, and this is a match that isn’t even necessary for the league. On a brighter note, go read Linda’s excellent post. Now.


Starting XI: Valdes Alves Pique Abidal Alba Xavi Song Thiago Pedro Cesc Alexis

Bench: Pinto, Messi, Villa, Bartra, Tello, Iniesta, Adriano


I’m going to be testing out a new coveritlive phone app, so bear with me. But like escalators can never break – they only become stairs; Liveblogs just become match comment posts.


  1. Few things I learned today.

    1) We are Messi dependant
    2) The players have either lost the hunger or are plain arrogant. Again they take the foot off the gas after a 1 goal lead.

    1) We are extremely lucky to have Messi to bail us out over and over AGAIN.
    2) Song, Thiago and Alves had a monster of a match!
    3) I hope Abidal will play vs Bayern since he only played 1 half.

  2. as i said in the liveblog, this game was a microcosm of our season:

    our defense plays badly, which is then papered over by Messi being Messi, before being exposed as not good enough again.

  3. Can someone explain to me why Pique was on the wing trying to block the cross while Alves and Song bumped into each other in the box?

    Very good 15 minutes between the 60th and 75th but the rest of the game was sad to watch…

    1. I agree though that Piqué shouldn’t have to leave the middle. With no height he should be last to go. Doesn’t seem to work that way.

    2. I didn’t mean to blame Pique – I just pointed out this should not be happening, whether it’s individual mistakes or system failures

  4. For more than a few pundits here, Messi not pressing is the reason why Barca lets in goals, not because our defence is poor.
    Ok, so Tito didnt play Messi and there were excellent pressing players. Did we see any benefit of pressing here?
    We see yet one more goal, just because of our defensive weakness.
    And then we go on to the verge of winning, just because of Messi – the man who dont press, and then again lets in another goal because of our defensive weakness.
    Pur defense is so poor that we cannot even entrust them to defend a goal lead for a few minutes.

    1. OMG This! I agree with what you said.

      Nope, the defense is just fine. Heck, we don’t even need a CB this summer, just have Messi press and we won’t ever concede. He is the Messiah afterall, he should be doing everything on the pitch. And hey, why not stick him in the GK position?! Folks want a better GK than VV anyways..

      *Note: strong sarcasm used*

  5. Are we still not allowed to question Tito? Oh yeah, that would be…absurd?

    Dani had a great game, but if anyone needed a rest for Wed, it’s him. On the plus side, Thiago looks like he’s hitting his form.

    1. I give in. What did he do wrong this time? He rested as many as he could and still had to bring on Messi to get us going.

    2. Back 4 – Adriano, Pique/Abidal, Bartra, Montoya. Dani rests. He’s going to need every bit of energy and then some for Wed. Unless of course another hiding, and this one at home, is all part of the plan.

  6. The only thing i was surprised is the substitution of Alexis. If someone should have left the pitch it was Pedro, and not to be substituted with Iniesta but Tello (was he on the bench) and go for the third.
    We had them completely during that period and instead of killing the game we(he) decided that we should keep that result.
    Iniesta for that matter didn’t brought any stability in the middle.

    1. Alexis came off because he’s playing on Wednesday. Looks like Pedro won’t. It’ll be Tello

  7. I’m looking forwards to next season where hopefully Pique actually rocks up; and somehow channels the piqué of 2009/10

  8. I don’t mind when people be saying we’re so dependent on Messi, because at the end of the day it’s the bitter true that staring everyone in the eye!

    Having said that, one of my repectful Cule friends said that we might get to a point that we’re so dependent on him yet he won’t deliver as much that we might kick him out like we did with Ronaldinho! That got me worried I swear

    1. We didn’t kick Ronnie out for his on the field problems. It was due to his off the field issues. Personally, I would’ve sold him for 100m when we got that offer from Milan in 2007.

  9. I don’t mind when people be saying we’re so dependent on Messi, because at the end of the day it’s the bitter true that staring everyone in the eye!

    Having said that, one of my respectful Cule friends said that we might get to a point that we’re so dependent on him yet he won’t deliver as much that we might kick him out like we did with Ronaldinho! That got me worried I swear

  10. What a wonderful game of football – best I’ve seen all season with two attacking sides going toe to toe.
    Song was magnificent all game. Should definitely be starting in front of Busquets. Even showed he can get forward and take shots at goal.

    1. The trouble is that that style suits them a lot more than it does us. I didn’t enjoy it for that reason although I can completely understand that may be a minority view.

      We do need to sit down though and have a good think during the summer. For me, we need to have our Plan A which is our usual possession style ( while sorting out the height issue,the continual problem of our inability to cover for each other in defence and gaining genuine attacking players up front) and Plan B which is a more defensive counter attacking setup ( maybe for use in later stages away CL games ). I wouldn’t have said this was needed a year ago but realistically it seems that there are two or three teams who have genuinely closed the gap on us and we now need to respond.

      None of this means I don’t think we still have the best team in Europe. Personally, I wouldn’t swap our squad for anyone else’s. if someone says Bayern to me I’ll say wait until after midweek or until we can once again field a fully fit side. If you said to any other manager he could have around 65% possession in every game he played he would bite your hand off (no allusion to our South American friend intended !) that is a platform for victory in every game. We just need to look at what we do with it and tweak where necessary.

  11. Congratulations to Athletic, they played a great game of football. That is the best they have looked all season. Fair result.

    My main takeaway from this game is that Xavi is not fit, has not been fit for some time, and should not start against Bayern. Thiago should.

    Also, Pique needs a boot in the ass.

    1. That wouldn’t necessarily be what I’d take. Doesn’t matter how fit you are as a midfielder if your team decides to play a quick vertical game. You end up running long distances to support both defence and attack which isn’t good for your health.

      Also the knocking of Pique. I finally watched the whole game this morning. Aside from the goal where his crime seemed to be slipping and there were others equally culpable I’m not sure what he did wrong. I don’t think he’s playing the best football of his career but he shouldn’t be out on a wing one on one with anyone or something has already gone wrong. He also provided the beautiful through ball to Dani at Alexis’ goal.

      One of our major faults imo this season has been the lack of cover we seem to be able to provide to our defence.

    2. Pique wasn’t terrible, but he’s a pale shadow of the towering defender he used to be. With Puyol out, he needs to step up his game and be a leader on the pitch. He’s not. Abidal was the one shouting orders and controlling the back line. People tip Pique as a future captain, but I don’t see it.

      Also, just for that haircut he deserves a boot in the ass.

    3. I didn’t see Abidal doing that and Pique has often done that in the past few months that although I agree with your point that Piqué doesn’t seem at the moment to be a natural leader.

      However, you need a settled CB pairing if you hope to have a good defence. How many different CBs has Piqué played with? All of whom have to learn where to hold the line when to press, how to cover etc. Piqué with Puyol was an outstanding partnership, Piqué with Ramos in the NT is an outstanding partnership. Our problem is the need to play a very sophisticated defensive system with a different partner every week allied to the fact that more is getting through to the defence.

  12. via Barcastuff

    Dani Alves has started the last 8 games Barcelona played, and 24 of the team’s 27 last game

    Is Montoya really that bad? I understand that at times it wasn’t possible to play Montoya since he had to cover Alba but for the past few matches, Tito could’ve played Montoya. Tito is running Alves into the ground. I cringed whenever he was tackled last night. Alves is key to us.

    1. That’s exactly where I was questioning Tito yesterday. That, and not subbing Pedro out for Tello. I know Tello is not yet a starting forward, and is pretty worthless in our own half, but he seems to be the only forward winger with a burning desire to go for the goal. Low crosses seem to be a lot more dangerous and problematic for defenses when they’re made from the touchline just a meter or so away from the post, which is where he often drives with the ball.

  13. My nuts solution to the Song connundrum is not to play him at CB but to rotate him to CF as our Plan B striker. Tremendously strong on the ball. Not a bad header. Lovely touch (to play the wall passes and bring other players into the game). OK, so maybe he’ll blast a lot of shots into the crowd. But he seems pretty composed to me. Give him a go.

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