Season Preview



This season:

It feels really odd not worrying about the life and death of a vital part of the Barça machine. Abidal has been sent away, Vilanova is continuing his fight in private. As I say, weird. It has been a summer of turmoil, mostly from expectant cules wondering if the club is going to sign a CB. There is a new coach, Gerardo “Tata” Martino, who promises to be more like Guardiola, if his disciple of Bielsabub approach is to be trusted. But he will have challenges, including reining in Messi to a reasonable amount of playing time, making he, Neymar and Sanchez work together effectively and fixing the tactical flaws that made our defense so vulnerable last season. It’s weird as well that the only new faces are Neymar and Jonathan Dos Santos, who deserves a hats off for his perseverance and self-belief.

Players to look out for:

Sergi Roberto: Thiago is gone, and the club has promoted him to the first team. He is a different kind of player than Thiago, so any considerations of him as a direct replacement are misguided. But he is a potential guided missile with his direct runs, ball pressure and excellent movement off the ball. Huge potential to make Xavi’s life a lot easier. Jonathan Dos Santos: Solid, dependable fresh set of legs. If he lives up to his potential, our midfield has playmaking depth which will come in handy late in the season. Alexis Sanchez: We are beginning to see glimpses of the player that we actually signed, finally meeting his immense potential. Neymar: His potential if off the charts. If he realizes anything approaching all of it, our attack is going to be dazzling.Lionel Messi: In preseason, he has been playing a deeper, almost 10-like role. Is this in preparation for Neymar and Sergi Roberto scampering about? Good question. Managing his playing time will also be crucial Andres Iniesta: He has been showing signs of fully coming into his own, taking shots, making runs and doing something other than being a beautiful series of “almost” moments.Adriano: If he doesn’t break and his pre-season form continues, look out.

Crystal Ball:

This is a team with something to prove, and a chip on its shoulder. Everyone discounted the club, are saying it’s all over, etc, etc, kicking sand in the players’ faces. I challenge anyone to watch the first half of the season, and tell me that team would have lost 7-0 to Bayern. You roll into a Champions League semi-final with your best defender on form damaged and without your best player and you’re probably going to get your ass whipped. If the Martino changes can come together in time, and the likes of Sanchez and Neymar find their form, I like our chances to pull off the double. The season starts with Levante, then Malaga, Valencia and Sevilla. If the club gets through that gauntlet without dropping points, I will have very high hopes for retention of the Liga crown. RM has purchased well, but that squad is still fundamentally unsettled. They will be stiff competition, but I think we will prevail. Martino will rotate wisely, ultimate choosing SuperCopa isn’t worth going all out for, and I’m okay with that.

Most likely January transfer:

Alex Song. His pre-season has been spotty at best, and suddenly there is stiff competition for that same approximate area that he plays, from Dos Santos and Sergi Roberto. I think he will have to show up, kicking ass and taking names. His competition will.



This season:

Yup, it has certainly been a crazy couple of months. The argument can be made that the whole year has been that way, taking into consideration that we won the league with a record amount of points and lost a CL semi-final by an almost record goal difference. This summer, after buying the most exciting talent on the planet we are still anxiously waiting for that glittering purchase to fix that glaring need. Life sure is tough being a culé.

On the real side we lost Abidal to a broken promise and Tito Vilanova to a nightmare, and now, with half of the culés seemingly wanting Johan Cruijff to never again enter the Camp Nou and the other half wishing that Sandro Rosell would set foot on Brazilian soil once more, our new coach Gerardo Martino has got his work cut out for him.

Reinvigorating the high press is a start, but it will not solve having replaced one of the world’s finest defenders with a fullback who disrupts our defensive balance (Abidal-Alba), nor will it make Puyol any younger. Even if we get the urgently needed CB we all desire, don’t expect him alone to solve our problems in the back.

I will echo Kxevin’s sentiments about the importance of keeping Messi fresh for when things get serious, but I think that Tata is just the man to convince his fellow Rosarian to sit out the occasional game. After all, this is a World Cup year…

Players to look out for:

You mean besides la Pulga, Ghostface and O Ney?

Well, here is who I am thinking about… after two years one of the world’s most talented midfielders has still not won over the unanimous support of our club’s followers. With Xavi in slow but steady decline it is high time for Cesc Fàbregas to live up to his potential. He doesn’t even have a decent nickname. Look for him to change that and truly come into his own.

Also I suspect his arrival in crime, fellow third year Mr. Sánchez, to have found the exclamation mark our new number 7 lost two years ago somewhere in the chambers of the Camp Nou. Wear it in health, Alexis! If not, Pedro or Tello won’t mind snatching it from your finger.

Finally it would give me immense pleasure if Jean Marie Dongou scored in the Camp Nou this season.

Crystal Ball:

Last year I predicted us to win the Liga and that other team to win the Champions League. Thank God I was only half right. I wouldn’t mind being fully wrong this time round.

Defensive frailty notwithstanding, we have the firepower to prevail against most domestic competition, and coming off of a hundred-point season we should be considered the favorites to win the Liga. I also think Tata will rotate enough for us to be more dangerous later on in the Champion’s League. Ultimately though I fear we will fall short on both. Our rivals are going to put up a monster campaign at home and, barring the arrival of a CB good enough to contend for a starting place, our squad is still looking a bit unbalanced so that I expect one of Europe’s finest to exploit that particular Achilles heel.

Negative any? Not at all. To be honest with you I am all smiles, because I am really looking forward to supporting our club this season – I am sure we will be treated to spectacular football and I feel we will be in all competitions to the very end. I can’t wait until tomorrow.

Visca Barça!



There’s a league going on? What? Since when? Were there any signings?…good god, €57m for a bad mohawk? Did we promote Deulofeu? Everton?!? And they can’t spell his name? Well, at least we have Muniesa to step into the first team–Stoke!?!? What in God’s name is going on? Speaking of, how’s Messi–tax fraud? Crikey. I think I’ll go back into the hole from whence I came. Wake me up when Champions League knockout stages start.

Categorized as Barcelona

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. What I hope happens is that Martino (I refuse to call anyone ‘Tata’. Who the hell thought that’s a good nickname to give someone?!?) phases out players like Xavi and Alves, giving more time to S. Roberto and Montoya. I fear however that he will be as obstinate as Villanova was in refusing to use younger players. Ahead of the first match he has cut Montoya, meaning almost certainly Alves (coming from a knock) will play the full 90′. Maybe things will change as the long season goes by but already I am having the same weird feelings I had with Villanova.

    1. Dude, We still haven’t even finished the first official match of the season.
      Our young players aren’t born with a birthright to play, They have to earn the coach’s trust and that takes time and work
      ‘Rotation’ doesn’t literally mean that each player will share 50% of the total minutes, It’s impossible, Unless our squad is composed of players of equal levels, It can’t happen, There will always be a senior player over another, And he will take the biggest slice of the pie.
      Martino doesn’t have previous la liga experience, And it’ll take time for him to get a clear picture of his future line-ups, Starting the first official match of the season with a mixed line-up or seniors and youngsters is not only arrogant but reckless, Specially when it’s of the biggest importance to start the season in a good way.

    2. I never said they had a birthright to play, but a callup would have been a nice reward for Roberto and Montoya’s having played in most of the preseason games.
      I have a contrary view. Starting the first game of the season with a mixed lineup of mostly youngsters and seniors would have sent a really strong message to the team. Victory or loss in a single game is meaningless in a league so poor that we’re guaranteed one of the top two spots, so Martino had better lay the groundwork for the season and the future. Villanova was not inclined to think that way and so by the end of last season the team hadn’t really changed from 2011 or 2012.

    3. By admitting that this is a two horse league, By logic there can’t be such thing as a meaningless game, A tight race means less margin of error, A single draw or loss might make the difference between the 1st and 2nd.
      Most of our main 11 were already on vacations when the pre-season started, There’re the ones who need minutes the most, No point rotating players that aren’t in need of rest, It’s a bigger priority to get xavi to his peak physical condition than roberto for example.

    4. Xavi’s time at the club is coming to a close, whether we like it or not. It is better to prepare for it than hope he’ll get younger. He’ll be 34 in January, so hoping to bring him to the peak of his physical condition is an oxymoron. We’ve already lost one prospect due to little playing time. I’d hate to lose another for the same reason.

      You misunderstand my meaning. What is the point of winning the league by 100 pts in a crap league? Villanova last year took no chances, and played the Inista-Busquets-Xavi triumvirate til he run them into the ground ahead of Bayern. It became ridiculous at one point. I think it is far better to take chances, risk losing points and the league, and prepare the young for the tough times at the club, than any league victory no matter by how many points’ advantage.

      I can already see what lineup Martino will use tomorrow; the same-old-same old, tried and tested., fan-favourite XI. Levante may well be hammered by an obscene score. But so what? Must we mortgage the future so we can win a league?

    5. When you say “we already lost one prospect,” I assume you mean Thiago. Xavi wasn’t the reason Thiago wasn’t getting minutes. Thiago was. Kick ass and take names in training, and you get minutes. Kick ass and take names in matches on a consistent basis and you get minutes.

      Thiago was in the same pool as Fabregas and Iniesta. With those two having significant roles for the senior Spanish NT, hard not to see the writing on the wall for an ambitious player. The Neymar purchase further complicated matters for Thiago, who chose to be the new toy (which would guarantee playing time) than the old toy, so to speak.

      Nothing against Thiago, but I think that it’s misguided to put his departure at the feet of Xavi. I would mark it as a situation that many wish would have ended differently, but didn’t. Is everyone happier? We’ll see this season.

  2. “Estoy esperando la llegada de Puyol, que trabaja en el campo con mucha intensidad y es probable que a partir de la fecha FIFA del mes de septiembre pueda volver a entrenarse con normalidad”. Continuaba: “Yo sé cuál era la postura del Club. Lo que yo digo es que estando bien ‘Puyi’, con Piqué, Bartra, Mascherano y Adriano o Busquets, estamos bien. Y si pasa algo, tenemos el mercado de invierno a tres meses”.

    “I am expecting the arrival of Puyol, who is working on the field with much intensity, and it is probable that beginning with the FIFA date of Sept 1 he will be able to train again with normality.” He continued: “I know what the club’s stance was. What I say is that if Puyi is well, with Pique, Bartra, Masch and Adriano or Busquets, we are fine. And if something happens, we have the winter market in 3 months.”

    1. Además, recordaba: “Los problemas que hubo el año pasado en la defensa fueron todos por lesión. Si están todos en condiciones, tenemos alternativas”.

      Additionally, he recalled: “The problems that there were last year in defense were all due to injury. If everyone is in good condition, we have options.”

    1. ditto, isaiahhhhhh!

      welcome home son, guess what we we’re doing while you were gone?
      cocktail party’s in gear and we were so glad that you’re here,
      why don’t you sit down?

  3. Martino said/did two things today that impressed the hell out of me:

    1. He said of (which means to) the players left off the squad, in effect, they were left off today, but they are part of this team and have a place. No worries.

    2. He said that he is a big fan of rotation as a way to keep key players fresh during a long season being contested on many fronts.

    — Ryan Giggs featured, and played very well for Manchester United today. He is 6 years older than Xavi. Just throwing that out there for those ready to put Xavi in a box and start kicking dirt on it.

    Of course, it has to be acknowledged that Xavi is, like all aging players do, losing a step. But he isn’t ready to be put out to stud quite yet.

    1. I think I understand what Martino is trying to do, which is I suppose setting the tone for this campaign with a victory, preferably convincing. I’m simply disappointed that the players who quite impressed me during the preseason were left out altogether.

      Each player’s different. Maldini was a good defender up to ’07 aged 38, but I would have still tried to convince him to retire or otherwise terminated his contract (I say this as a huge Milan fan whose idol is he). I have little time for patience or emotions. Frankly a player of Xavi’s undoubted intelligence, on and off the field, should be the first to accept fewer minutes on behalf of the upcoming generation of players. It’s good for FCB in the long run, no?
      (Incidentally my pet theory is that the reason for Guardiola’s departure is that he didn’t have it in him to cut Xavi out altogether, or he could not otherwise convince the board of the wisdom of this measure. But I admit that there’s little evidence for such claims.)

    2. *should read, “feelings” there instead of “patience.” I don’t know what I was thinking.

    3. Well, unless a player of Xavi’s intelligence understands that he still has no viable successor, and it would hurt the team more to cease bossing our midfield.

      And no, Thiago wasn’t that successor, despite the football fields of tears and rent garments during and in the aftermath of his departure. The closest I have seen coming through the ranks is Sergi Samper. Uncanny.

      But make no mistake, there is only a player playing in Xavi’s position. There is only one Xavi, and when he goes, the offense will of necessity run a bit differently. Iniesta is very close, so is Messi. Fabregas is not, though he could run the midfield in a very different fashion than Xavi.

      No, Guardiola, to my view, left because he saw what was about to happen and scuttled down the ratlines. I think that he also tired of the back room battles and stress. It happens.

      The Xavi decision isn’t emotional, just as the Puyol decision isn’t. It’s a simple question of who can/should replace that player. When there is no replacement, then either the system has to change, or find a way to keep using that irreplacable player in a fashion that doesn’t hamper the present system to that great a degree.

      At present, the latter situation is still the most viable for Barça.

    4. But I don’t want to replace Xavi. I want to change the way Barca plays altogether by being rid of him. I feel, maybe without cause, we’re being held hostage to a dogmatic way of playing that suits Xavi that’s not in keeping with the times. I think football has moved on from the small technical player of Xavi’s mold. Right now the question on everyone’s mind is just who should replace Xavi, and I find that unnecessary. Just change the system Barca plays. If that means sacrificing players along the way to keep up with the times, so be it.

    5. I agree that Xavi has not been at his best last season. But we need to remember that he has had to deal with that niggling achilles’ heel injury and was not being rotated.

      Even I have been frustrated with his constant lateral passes (bearing in mind that he is my favourite player!) but that has more to do with our last season’s tactics where every ball we lost made our back-line look like headless chickens.

      We’ve won about 15 trophies with Xavi masterminding our midfield and he still can be crucial to the team if the midfield is rotated accordingly.

    6. .
      Don’t take the following too seriously, just a little! 🙂

      As many of you know, Xavi is very Catalan: It’s not only that he enjoys «hunting» mushrooms, eating snails and «calçots»… those sorts of things. He’s so in his way of thinking, in his worldview. So, bearing this in mind, perhaps the most clear omen/sign about the end of his career as a player is, simply, the fact that he got married about a month ago!

      A traditional Catalan grannie saying, that Xavi ubdoubtedly knows from his infancy, says «Home casat, burro espatllat!», which is translated literally as «Married man, lame/broken down donkey!», and which, ultimately, points to the fact that the man in question has decided to «settle down» and has set other goals for his life…

    7. Had a funny image there of the Barca directors deciding Xavi is too old to play football so now he must spend the rest of his days impregnating women.

  4. I’m not worried about sitting JDS, SR and Montoya in the stands for the opening game. I am sure they will get the playing time they deserve this season.

    What I am worried about is not getting a CB because Puyol will recover from an injury in a couple of weeks. That is incredible short term thinking for a club that should have bought a CB two (or three) summers ago.

    1. Yes, Lev. And I also do NOT share the belief that it’s better to not buy anyone than buy the wrong CB. First off, what qualifies as wrong? Was Chygrynskiy wrong? Or was he used wrongly? Puyol cannot be depended on anymore. He is at best a bonus when fit. Further it’s not fair on the player too.
      The blatant reluctance to buy a defender is baffling to say the least. Let’s just hope Martino knows what he is getting into when he says he likes his options. In a way, I feel maybe its best a defender gets injured soon, so that we atleast feel compelled to purchase one in the winter market. Because if an injury happens later, it’ll be too late and I would hate to see the decisive part of the season get ruined due to the stupidity of the management.

  5. Yay, time to watch football again! And I just discovered Directv finally has Bein español in HD, finally finally! (I don’t have Bein english).

    Thanks for the preview, BFB team.

    So, just happy to have football back, and to see what our boys bring us. Did I hope that we had a new (tall, defensive) boy to help with the load? Sure. Will I miss Abi, Villa, Thiago? Sure. But my team is my team, so. Visca Barça!

    I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I was hoping to see a match when I was in Argentina at the end of the month for business. I am! River Plate is at home the night we arrive (16 hours of flight! Bfff.) so we are on! Funny thing is, all my Argentine co-workers are huge Barça fans (we reschedule meetings around CL matches), and are all from Buenos Aires, but are all for different teams there. So now I have been dragged into their rivalries, jaja. We had the following conversation:

    Independiente: River is at home on Sunday, has to be River.
    Boca: River, ayyy, noooo.
    Independiente: Boca and we are away that weekend. I can go to River. Thank god it’s not Boca. I could not take you (talking to me) to Boca. No, no way.
    Boca: Puto.
    River: (to me, and to Boca) You have to wear red and white.
    Boca: (walks away)
    Independiente: She can wear her Barça jersey?
    River: Ehhh… yeah, would be okay.
    Me: No, I’ll blend, I’ll get a bufanda.
    River: No, no, you can use a bufanda to strangle someone. And don’t wear a belt. Or a watch. They’ll just make you leave them outside.
    Me. ….

  6. The team selection is proper with me. I believe the sat-out players will still get enough minutes, no doubt. This is Tata’s first Liga game, and he wants a spectacular start-off.

    Yes. I think there would be no new CB. And I’m, again, kicked in the shin.

    I always scoff at the thought of Tata getting one during the Winter Break — if there be injuries, that is, and which is inevitable though.
    What CB would he get? What team would be willing to let-go of their CB, at such critical period? Wouldn’t the price be much MORE exorbitant, due to the blood-rush crave? How would the CB, if got — that is, synchronize with the other defenders?

    The forth season on a throttle, and still no CB to fill an obvious rut? And we let-go of Abidal and Muniesa? This just beats me.

    Oh, well. C’est la vie.

  7. Getting Xavi to stand down and giving younger players game time is spoon feeding and will contradict our attempts to reignite the competitiveness in our squad. Sorry, but players have to earn their spot, this is the first official game of the season and it is a must win game, so the very BEST players start, not the youngest.

    Plus, Xavi gave up his last appearance for the Spanish NT to prepare for the new season. Xavi is conscious about his capacity to perform at his best, but his commitment is still 100%. I’d surprised if the coach doesn’t start Xavi against Levante.

  8. I’m with Levon on this one. Really hate to be saying this but I just cannot see us winning the league or the champion’s league this season. RM look scary and have a complete squad with no holes on their squad(maybe striker)while we can’t seem to get that CB we’ve been craving for 2 years now. I’m also not 100% convinced that Neymar will deliver this season. He will need time.

    I hope Tata can resolve the issues we have at the back like not having 2 fullbacks bomb forward, realize that Xavi is a defensive liability and keep the team fit with plenty of squad rotation(especially Messi). Best of luck to the team.

  9. Tata has said officially that Barca will not be signing a centre back now as he is happy with the options he has. They are the same options that we had for the last 2 seasons which saw us fail to overcome Madrid and the very best teams in Europe so not sure this is the best decision. I’ll reserve judgment for well into the season but cannot help but think that if come Xmas we are trailing Madrid in the league and have struggled against a top European team in the Champions League then the decision not to strengthen the back line will come back to haunt us all…

  10. I try to understand it, but i cannot, for the past several years i cannot.
    Maybe, just maybe, after failing with Chyhhryryrhrryyrsky, Henrique, Caceres and who else? in the recent years, the club is simply afraid to make the right deal. That’s why it was either Thiago Silva or no one else, a safe option, a certain success.
    Maybe, just maybe, they feel (all together) that Puyol will be the fittest player in the team season.
    Maybe, just maybe, they do believe that Bartra have something that EVERYBODY else, including us, are not seeing. Quality, strength, speed, position awareness, pace…well, to be a defender that we all hope/hoped he will be.
    One thing that baffles me, is the fact that the last 10 years or so, since Puyol came through our ranks, we didn’t succeeded to produce another player of the same or similar quality. Is it that hard???
    I know we like our midfielders, we adore them in our academy, but a defender once in a while wouldn’t be that bad.

    1. “since Puyol came through our ranks, we didn’t succeeded to produce another player of the same or similar quality. Is it that hard???”

      Puyol has arguably been the best defender of his generation. Yes, it is that hard.

    2. a good point in general Levon…we have been blessed with the coincidence of several players that could be called ‘best in a generation.’ lets enjoy it while we have it, and not get too entitled…

  11. Okay, since everyone is chipping in with their thoughts on the season –

    Team wise, I think with the pressing reinstated and (hopefully, a better attitude to both FBs bombing forward at the same time) the defence will be fine till Puyol returns. Dont think we will win anything if we end up with either Bartra or Masch full time as our other CB. I think with both Messi and Neymar in the side the mids will be spoiled for options and we’ll start getting those goals out of nothing again rather than having to work v hard for them. I don’t see anyone replacing Xavi any time soon and I don’t see the youngsters getting as much time as some think but rotation can mean just taking the load off the midweek or easier home games. That’s enough. I also see Cesc winning us over a bit more. He knows last season wasnt great, despite all the good things and he’s burning to do better. Alexis / Pedro will be fighting for one spot and whoever can get the goals will win that one as they both defend well.

    Assuming Puyol is fit for the big games I still see us winning La Liga – if RM are trying to change their style to play more football it’ll help them against other sides but play into our hands because nobody passes the ball like us.

    I’m not sure about the CL because in the end you can always have a night like we did in Germany. We weren’t as bad as we seemed and we can’t play that badly again. However, this may just be another team’s time (PSG? ) Anyway, I reckon we will get to the semis and have a good chance of the final. ( Don’t care too much about the Copa although I suppose for some of the rotation players that’ll be a biggie so maybe I should).

    Whatever, I hope we continue to play our brand of football, although I suspect we may well now have a plan B with both Messi and Neymar able to profit from quick longer balls. That could well prove to be a nightmare for defences who will need 100% of the time to have both of them double teamed. You just can’t keep that up.

    1. I don’t think it’s any kind of slight against the Levantes of this world. He’s starting with rotation. Can you do that? Kinda like a theatre production starting with a pause….

  12. i dont know if anybodys noticed this but am luvin the way the guys are foulin when the other team is on the counter ….the ‘tata’ way

  13. I have to say I feel a bit sorry for Levante and the rest of the league, really. The idea that there are only two possible champions is really a travesty.
    On a more positive note, I’m really enjoying the team. Sanchez seems to have found a new determination and confidence this year, which is great to see. I think he has the potential to really tear things up. With the team on the field there are easily 6 guys who could rip one into the goal in the blink of an eye. Then there’s the bench (Iniesta, Neymar, Alba…). Damn. Too bad there isn’t more of a league.

    1. Yeah – it’s got to be pretty depressing to Levante when the Barca subs are Neymar, Iniesta, and Alba.

  14. I like that he took Messi off. In a game like that there was no need risking him at the end. Would love to see Messi and Neymar start together though.

    Great game, but it’s really sad to see just how much of a two horse race the league has become. All of the teams are capable of producing talent, but then their players get shipped off Barca, Madrid, City, Chelsea, etc. If all of the teams could afford to keep star players, for example; Mata and Silva, then the league would be greatly evened out. It’s really a shame to see teams unable to afford such great talents that they have created…

    But one a positive note we looked great! Look what happens when the pressing comes back.

    Visca Barca!

    1. I noticed Mata didn’t start today. I didn’t see if he got in the game, but I can’t imagine he’s happy with that. Mata has been Chelsea’s best player the last 2 years. I can’t believe I’ve seen his name in the transfer rumours even if it’s not true. If I were him I’d catch the 1st bus out of London.

    2. Neither did David Luiz get a start. Is he injured or are Terry and Cahill Mou’s starting CBs?

  15. Can Champions Leaugue start already watching teams get flattened and never having a chance gets old after a while. At least Super Cup is soon. Can’t judge how good a team is when they play against teams that have already given up before the game has even started. Association really needs to look at La Liga its starting to become an anecdote after people have actually watched competitive leagues.

    1. Impressive opening game against an opponent who almost (EDIT:always) made us struggle for the W in the last two seasons

  16. What an incredible work rate and quick passing from our boys. They were zipping that thing around in the 1st half and playing more through the middle than last year. Good to see. Xavi’s ball was a thing of beauty to set up the 1st goal. Pure class. So good to see him near the box again. I thought Adriano played really well. Tato has Dani playing more conservatively, which we need. Messi, for being questionable this week for the game, was Freaking Messi! Love it that he’s back to pressing. This is the Barca that we love. High pressure, tactical fouls, quick passing, intelligent runs. Beautiful!

  17. Via @LeeRoden89

    Tata: “Me and Leo spoke, the season is long. Resting minutes here & there = almost a full game of rest. He’s very smart, he agrees with me”

    Martino: “In games like tonight’s we have to look after his fitness so he’s well”.

    This makes me so happy.

    1. Also a nice sign to Cesc by starting him over Iniesta in light of the recent speculation.. Repaid by a great game from Cesc and I’m sure Ini isn’t put out. Good to have selection dilemmas for later in the season as well.

    2. Cesc looked pretty good in preseason, so he earned that start. Plus, didn’t Iniesta play in the Spain friendly? It makes sense that he’d be rested along with Alba.

    3. Don’t forget “Of course, when the game is tight, not even the biggest fool subs him.” 😉

  18. Sorry, but anyone whining about how the Liga sucks needs to watch the Betis/RM match. Could easily be 1-3 Betis, or 3-3. Open match in which the RM back line is being exposed time and again.

    Levante isn’t a good side, that was gutted by the loss of a couple of its best players. Everyone who knows Liga at all had them pegged for the drop, so I don’t know why the 7-0 home hammering is such a surprise to anyone. But people are looking for narratives, so that is as good a one as any, I suppose.

    Barça did what it was supposed to do: Kick the crap out of a markedly inferior opponent. Story over.

    Are there conclusions to be drawn from this match? Yes. Martino is the boss. That Messi sub was immense. Guardiola couldn’t do it, Vilanova couldn’t do it. Martino is like, “We talked, and it makes sense.” He’s absolutely right. This isn’t about Messi’s individual goals and stats. It’s about team accomplishment and rotation, to keep key players fresh. Xavi playing a full match surprised me, I have to say. Maybe he needs work on his fitness.

    — Fabregas looked briliant, but always does in the first half. Talk to me after the break about him.

    — That chest pass/volley attempt by Sanchez made me giggle, but it was the sign of a player brimming with confidence. Nothing is impossible. Good sign.

    — Pedro, freed from the stupidity of tactical width, is back in the play.

    — Messi is pressing and defending. This is what I was talking about. Our best ball winner is now part of the first line of defense. That is huge. If this intensity level keeps up, expect more matches to be decided by halftime, as in the Treble season.

    — Mascherano was a boss. On my Twitter TL, few were mentioning him, but I sure was. Not a foot wrong, and the perfect Barça CB for a high-pressing system, where his DM roots come to light. His being unsettled worries me greatly.

    A very good match that was more like a friendly. Few real conclusions can be drawn from it, other than that we have a hell of a football club, which is what I have been saying all along. The SuperCopa matches should be interesting.

    1. Mascherano was a boss. On my Twitter TL, few were mentioning him, but I sure was. Not a foot wrong, and the perfect Barça CB for a high-pressing system, where his DM roots come to light. His being unsettled worries me greatly.

      Excellent game by Masch. I have a feeling that he, along with Cesc & Alexis, are in for a good season under Tata.

  19. Also, ZubiZa said that barring anything unforeseen, no transfers this window. So much for the Rosell assertion that there would be one more signing. Maybe he meant Puyol.

    Also, there is growing speculation that when Cuenca and Afellay heal, they will be staying with the club. If that happens, our depth at key positions would verge on the absurd. As it is now, we had today a bench that included Iniesta, Neymar and Tello. Add Cuenca and Afellay to that bench, as well as Sergi Roberto, Dos Santos and Montoya, and Martino is going to have a very nice problem to have with selection headaches.

  20. I need help choosing TV service in the US that will allow me to watch the largest number of matches (Liga, CL, NT, etc.)

    What kind of service do you have and does it cover all of the matches you want to watch?


    1. I have Comcast, with the Sports and Espanol packs, plus TV 5/Monde. This gives me Liga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Prem, all Champions League including qualifiers, etc, etc, everything except Bundesliga, which I never watched before, and won’t watch now that our ex-coach is coaching Bayern.

      DirecTV and Dish have similar setups, though if you are interested in Bundesliga, I think that Dish is the only one still carrying GolTV.

    2. Thank you. That’s helpful. Does anyone here have Direct TV and comment on the type of plan they have?

    3. The Sports Pack, Espanol and TV 5 add $35 to my overall bill. TV 5 spendy fir a la carte channel. Sports Pack gets me all the English-language channels, includes BeIN, Fox Soccer/Sports, etc.

    4. Not sure where you live, but if you get snow or heavy rains, know that satellite service will be affected, where cable service won’t be. I have had both satellite (DirecTV) and cable, and would never go back to satellite, for technical and aesthetic reasons. That big grey dish is ugly.

      Advantages and disadvantages are that because cable is a mechanical system, it can be bandwidth limited, making cable providers slow in adding HD channels, which take up a lot more bandwidth than regular digital channels. Satellite, in effect being in the air, has no such limitation. Every channel can be 1080 on a satellite system and the bandwidth requirements don’t really matter.

      Yes, I used to cover TV/technology in a past life.

    5. That’s really good to know about satellite. It doesn’t snow where I am, but cloud cover could be an issue.
      Since I have no experience with this, I am pretty shocked by how complicated and expensive these packages are.
      I don’t watch other TV. I am only interested in watching sports. But it looks like in order to get all of the necessary channels (For La Liga, CL, CDR, EPL, and NT), this would cost around $100 per month after all the taxes and fees (DVR, etc.). Wow…

    6. I have DirecTv. Cloud cover is not a problem, although bad storms/snow can mess things up. My DVR capacity is greater than with cable (80+ hours). I had cable, but I actually prefer Directtv.

    7. Thanks for the perspective, Doug. What Direct TV packages allow you to watch all of the FCB games?

    8. Oh, cloud cover no problem at all. Just snow, heavy thunderstorms, etc.

      Yes, indulging a love can be a bit spendy. The larger problem is that all providers have a minimum level at which you must subscribe to start piling on the fancy stuff. That’s what gets you. In an ideal world, you would be able to get basic cable, plus the Sports Pack, which would include BeIN, Fox Sports 1, etc, and cover you for 95% of matches, for around $50 per month with a DVR.

    9. Yes, I have noticed that. Packages that have beIN Sport, don’t have beIN in Spanish. Ones that have ESPN, don’t have ESPN Deportes. Those that do, don’t have Fox Soccer, and so on. I couldn’t find any arrangement that includes everything for less than $80 (once the introductory rates expire).

      It looks like there is more and more talk these days, even in Congress, about a la carte channels.

    10. Hey alpine,

      We get DirecTV too and it’s true that we can tell when a storm is coming because we lose reception for a while. Normally though it’s o.k.

      One trick: check out the Spanish-language packages, not the English-language + extra channels packages. The Spanish-language packages often have the same basic-cable English channels + more sports (if you don’t mind watching your matches on BeIN / Fox Deportes / ESPNE, etc.) *and* it’s a lot cheaper!

      Also, in the Spanish packages you will find channels that occasionally run one of the old “El Santo” movies. James Bond in a silver wrestling mask, so great!

    11. Yes, I noticed the Spanish packages being a lot cheaper, but most of them, except for the most expensive, do not include basic English-speaking channels, like ESPN.
      Otherwise, I am fine watching in Spanish, but some games are only available in the English speaking channels.
      As Kxevin said, “indulging a love can be a bit spendy.”

    12. would totally be worth it if you were to catch el santo vs las momias de guanajuato, alpine

  21. Initial Thoughts ::

    ~ If Tata is gonna keep Messi pressing through the season, BEWARE people! Good things happens when Leo presses.

    ~ I think Pedro will keep his exclamation this season and Lexus will come good and get his own unique punctuation.

    ~ I like the thought that Tata will bring a bit of pragmatism to the side. The tactical fouling when transitioning to defense was refreshing to see. I sense that Barca under Martino is going to be very hard to beat in cup competitions.

    ~ Neymar is still a kid. One thing he would well to understand is that he musn’t try to Lexus himself by trying too much too impress too soon. He can and must take his time to naturally evolve. Learn the trade first. Then, entertain.

    ~ Lets face it. Levante were pathetic today. While Mascha has my biggest respect and love, our weak link is still the center of defense especially when it comes to defending in the box and aerial battles. Lets hope ATM gives us a good test and we pass with flying colors.

    ~ All in all, good sensations abound and I’m getting some flashbacks of 08-09 and 10-11 all over again. Barca looks refreshed. For the first time in many years, the clasico also promises to be purely about football without many undercurrents. With Mou around, ee never allowed the classic to be really only about who’s better at football. Visca Barca, I pray that we win big things this season.

    1. Yes, that last comment about the classicos — mou turned madrid into a bunch of thugs, and I’m really looking forward to a straight up match. Both squads are capable of brilliance, and it’s high time we get to see it again.

  22. I’m grumpy old man but I would have preferred a closer victory, even a 1-0, if it meant our using younger players in defence and midfield. I dont much care winnning so comfortably against such a poor opponent (on the field and financially poor to boot). The two things I did like were the confidence Sanchez displayed (which he tend to do against weaker teams) and Martino’s subbing Messi. That was brilliant.

    1. There’s no way that I would have preferred a 1-0 even with Bagnack, Barta, JDS and Sergi playing. Levante were bad but our intensity was impressive.
      Madrid are just about to win 2-1 against Real Betis and I’m sure they would have preferred a 7-0.

      Whatever about giving minutes to our young players, giving confidence to Pedro, Sanchez and Cesc is way more important to the success of this season

    2. Well to each their own. I don’t fancy watching games like this one; you apparently do. Where’s the fun in that, I ask? You can give confidence to Pedro, Sanchez, and Fabregas, AND play Montoya and Roberto at the same time, you know. Once again Bartra wasn’t used. If he isn’t good enough to play a couple of minutes vs Levante then he has no reason to be with our team. Just don’t ask him to step it up vs Bayern again when all season he can’t even get scraps off the table.

    3. I think some realism is in order. No coach is, on his home league debut, going to start a weakened side, no matter the opponent. The first home match of any league is a gala occasion, which will deserve something as close to the gala XI as a coach dares roll out. It’s as simple as that.

      Nobody honestly enjoys matches such as this one, that are so lopsided. But they are a reality of life in a Liga in which a team such as Levante exists. The point isn’t to gain confidence for young players, which is something they should already have, having gained it from practice. What do you reckon is going to give Bartra more confidence, defending against the best players in the world in practice, or taking part in a laugher in which he doesn’t do anything, against a relegation candidate?

      There will be plenty of time for rotation as the season progresses. A club’s first home match isn’t the time for that.

      Simple fact of the matter is that there is absolutely nothing to find fault in with this performance. I would wager that almost every fan would rather see their club win 7-0 than 1-0. This is the first match of the season. Give Martino some time before you question everything that he does. He deserves that.

    4. The fixture list for the next month reads @Atletico, @Malaga, vs Atletico, @Valencia, vs Sevilla. Now is the time to play the youngsters: so that by the next time an injury crisis hits, and it will hit as it always does a team with a short bench, they will be ready.
      Playing a real game will give you confidence. You can train with C. Ronaldo all you want, but it’s only playing with or against him that you’ll move up.

    5. I would love to have seen Bartra get some minutes today, but I’m giving Tata the benefit of the doubt on this one. It was his first league game, at home, and it was very important to win it in a decisive way. The team gains confidence, the fans are happy, and everyone is pumped up for the next game, where actual silverware is on the line (away to Atletico Madrid for the first leg of the Supercopa). This is exactly what the team needed.

      In his earlier presser Tata made it clear that he believes strongly in rotation, and everyone will get their chance. So I’m not going to panic if Montoya or Sergi Roberto don’t feature straight away. They will have their chances.

  23. Hmm… Contrary to the sensations I got when Neymar arrived, it seems he is going to have to fight for his place.

    He and Messi have hardly had anytime together linking up so far.

    I think Wed is when we get to find out who actually makes up the starting 11.
    Should be interesting.

    1. Neymar was always going to have to fight for his place. That was apparent to me from the start. In reality, he is a 17m transfer when you exclude the Daddy Bonus. That’s what we paid for Song, by way of perspective.

      His potential is immense, but he is a young player. We will get glimpses of it, but I don’t really expect full on mojo until next season. This season, he is going to have a hell of a battle on his hands with Pedro once again ready to rumble.

      My hope is that there won’t be a “starting XI” as much as a selection of players based on the opponent and the situation. Pedro will be better at times, Neymar at other times, Tello or Sanchez on left or right at others. The hope is that Martino thinks of this as a collection of pieces.

  24. Absolutely phenomenal performance both in offense and defense, My heart tells me we’ll kick-ass this season, My brain tells me it’s too late to judge.
    A bit of a flashback to pep’s last season with us shows that we obliterated most teams in camp nou, But in away games, We turned into headless chickens.
    Osasuna: 8-0 home, 2-3 away
    Villareal: 5-0 home, 1-1 away (i think?)
    Getafe: 4-0 home, 0-1 away.

    The conditions now and then aren’t the same of course, But what i’m trying to say, Is that the away games won’t be as easy as last season.
    Bringing back the pressure has it’s own set of problems, We get more ‘crowding’ and compressed lines near the oppositions goal, Due to camp nou’s pitch size and the short grass the team can still perform well in these tight spaces, But in other stadiums where the pitch is small and the grass is tall, Well things don’t go as smoothly, And this problem grew more and more with pep, So i’m interested how martino will handle this.

  25. OT: I was thinking of making a trip to Barcelona for the derby in the first week of November. Does anyone know roughly how much a match ticket would cost?

    1. It depends. There are levels of match, which dictates ticket price. Not sure what Espanyol would run, but you should be able to visit the official site and have some idea. Shouldn’t be too steep.

  26. Interesting thought for the day (two, actually):

    1. Friendlies, pre-season and first match, and Adriano isn’t broken.
    2. If the team continues to be set up as it was today, there is an argument to be made for Adriano leapfrogging Alba in the XI. Today, he was vaguely approximating that Abidal role, and worked really well with Alves on the other side. Alves was also more disciplined, btw.

    Once you don’t need your FBs to attack as much, you begin to want a bigger, stronger more physical player at that left fullback slot.

    Will be interesting to see what happens as the season progresses, before Adriano inevitably breaks.

    — Not sure if anyone watched Sevilla vs ATM, but more than a few pundits were commenting on something I also noticed, that Atleti got a LOT better when Villa came off and Oliver Torres came on. If the rumors are true about us having first rights on him, that Villa sale deal is looking better and better.

  27. A great performance by the team. Definitely reminded me of the 10/11 days. But lets not jump to conclusions just yet.

    -The team has yet to be tested. Especially in away games where things become complicated.

    -Did we defend that well or were Levante just not good enough? I mean Barral was the only player for Levante who created any sort of threat, the rest couldn’t.

    -However in attack, there is no doubt that we were AMAZING. It doesn’t matter if Levante couldn’t cope, but the way in which our attacking players showed character like little flicks over the top, cheeky dummy’s, perfectly timed runs. the movement off the ball was ever present. We brought back the unpredictability that we were missing in the past. When you see Xavi not even hesitate once to give a long ball then you know the team is working well.

    1. The attack part was brilliant especially the pressing off the ball and how they were becoming really compact. Even our players weren’t anywhere near the very best, look at the number of careless passes in between. But because of the pressing it never mattered. And once they play a couple of matches we will see the real beast of Tata Martino’s team which is quite scary for opponents.

      As far as the defense is concerned, we were never tested. Pique got seriously bored and was looking to play as a number 9 sometimes.

  28. LOL nice comment I saw on Sport: CR7 96 mil, Kaka 67 mil, Bale 100 mil, back to see Barca pressing and moving fast, PRICELESS!!!!

  29. my findings:
    1. The press is back and our forwards and mids, appeared to be fouling anytime they lost the ball, deep in the opponents half- Thats a good one to break up counter-attacks.
    2. Finally, I get me a coach who has the balls, to sub Messi when the game ‘is over’. Tito or Pep would have left him on the pitch even if the score was 100-0. We need our best player fresh for this long sojourn.
    3. Martino is trying to rid messi-dependence by trying to integrate cesc in that false 9 position. Cesc can only master it(albeit not in the messi way) in his own way, if he gets to play there now and then. Last season,tito just caught him ‘off guard’ and threw him in ‘that hole’ when messi was injured. Cesc will add that unpredictability cos he’s more direct; receive-ball-close to/inside-box-find-team-mate-or-score kind of player,no adornments.
    4. How I wish we dnt have a gala XI or, atleast one that is not is predictable. Tata is showing glimpse of that by preaching rotation.
    5. Our full-backs appear to be staying more put now. I think thats the reason, Tata isn’t bent on signing a CB. We won’t be caught-out quite often like before again. We just need to work on defending set pieces
    6. Au revoir! ‘stupid-tactical width’
    7. We taking more shorter corners now(whats the use of crossing it when no one is gonna head it in?
    8. Pique could be our planB CF (let me dream!).

  30. One thing i was not sure though, what was Tello doing on the right, where he can’t create nothing?

    1. Neymar was on the left and Cesc in the CF role when he came on the pitch… That was the only position left for him though eventually towards the end he came back on the left flank when Neymar started to drift off towards the CM and CF roles…
      I think we will be seeing Tello more on the right this season, considering if he comes on while Neymar is there on the pitch.

    2. I know that Ney was on the left, but you don’t through in a player just for a sake of it, to the only available position because his natural position is occupied.
      You want to take the full advantage of Tello, place him on the left, and that’s it.
      He wont do any good when he attacks from the right.

    3. Maybe Tata is trying to train Tello to be more versatile and play in a different position. Most of our players can play in more than one position, if Tello wants to succeed at Barça he should be able to as well. As we were already 6 goals up, why not experiment?

    4. I’m sure that’s what he thought, but considering the last 2 years of Tello with the first team, it’s evident that he cannot take a shot with his left foot, which is essential when he cuts from the right and tries to shoot.
      But, anyway, if he wants to succeed he must be more versatile, and who knows, it might surprises us all, at least me.

    5. Also other than the versatility point for Tello I think since Neymar is being integrated into the team as of now so Martino might be playing to his strengths rather than experimenting with him in new positions.

    6. What I meant by “Neymar started to drift off towards the CM and CF roles” is that when he started dropping deep or was tracking back towards the end of the game…

    7. Interesting point was that Tello was also played on the right with VdB vs. Ecuador. He has played on the right before as Kevin has commented that it’s a position in which he’d relish Tello being played.

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