It has been a really difficult week for us Cules. It was not really different from our typical week, started on Sunday in a game against Real Betis. We thought we won that game after the first 15 minutes but the team had to first tickle our nerves by allowing two goals before they could put that Betis down, and the gap was back to five points. It was a tough game, but not the ultimate clash of the week, that would go on to be the highly anticipated Clasico on the 17th. This time the two Spanish giants met for a quarter final show-down in the Copa Del Rey. The first leg match was hardly fought and won by our beloved team at the Bernabeu and the tie will be concluded on the 25th at Camp Nou.
This article is here to revisit, appreciate and honor some of our best comments on the blog posted before, during and after the clasico, and indirectly review the Clasico from the reader’s (me and you) perspective. A lot was happening, and it’s really difficult to pick from the large collection of comments and say that this one deserves to be here than the other one. So please bear in mind that some are not really the best but they simply stand-out especially on the point they were trying to stress. If yours happens to have missed out, you still have a lot of chances in future.
"4-3-3 with Iniesta on the left and Sanchez on the right sounds like the best option - the diamond would be too narrow and Alves has always been better coming from deep than playing up front. We can exploit Marcelo and Coentrao, and I’m pretty confident we can deal with Diarra and Callejon since Khedira and Di Maria are out. No time for complacency – get the job done, boys!"Al Benson
A lot of things were right about Al’s analysis/preview. Pep did come out with his predicted forward line and Iniesta was indeed keeping width on the left. He was our main attacking threat for majority of the game, a lot of attacks were through him and some of us even forgot that he is not one of the wingers we are used to having. Alves was under Benson’s spell as well, he was more of a right back than a winger and one of the times he tried to bomb forward, Cristiano punished us. Mourinho trolled us with his line-up Benson, so no, we were not exploiting Marcelo but Altintop and Coentrao. And lastly, thanks for motivating our boys, I know they read our blog; they were not complacent at all.
I was very optimistic, or should I say Peptimistic, during the game, so I said that it was going to be difficult for Madrid to beat us after having failed to beat us when we were weak during the Supercopa or after they were given an early head-start in the 3-1 win. So I asked: "what’s the worst that can happen?" Inder was quick to respond:
"The worst that could happen is Barca loosing by a big score! We can win it… but it’s no certainty… besides it’s that super gelled hair referee… same one in the Supercopa 2nd leg… I hate the man… he always makes funny decisions. The guy didn’t see Mourinho’s eye pokes and let him get away…"Inder Methil
Some of you know Inder by refusing (or being refused) to predict scores on the blog, "they" say he jinxes the team. If you are a long time member of the blog, you’ll remember him as having been one of our Authors, a good one at that. Sorry Inder your introduction is long I have to stop here. We did not lose by a big score, and in fact we didn’t lose, but apparently this gentleman was right about one thing – The Ref! They like calling him for Clasicos and his performance is questionable the majority of the times. The fact that Mourinho complained about playing with ten men doesn’t mean he should now be given a free pass. How did he not see Pepe stomping on our Argentine Genius? A lot of play-acting and off-the-ball incidents went unpunished too.
Still on the preview, Sebanovic had some advice for Mourinho saying that "If I were Mourinho":
"…I would drop a striker to play another midfielder that could man-mark Messi. Maybe move Lass to RB and bring Sahin into MF. Then Coentrao could mark Messi. He’s definitely fast, and he was awful at RB anyway, got owned by Iniesta and Sanchez too many times…"Sebanovic
I guess you found out Sebanovic that apparently Mou doesn’t read this blog, if he does; he didn’t take much of your advice. I have a feeling it cost him a first leg win at his home ground. He was too busy putting five men on Messi and forgetting about the possibility of handing rare goals to our defenders
When it comes to Coentrao sucking at LB, I think he heard you there because he was not even allowed to land a foot in that area. No better motivation for your exam than a Puyol goal, am I right Sebanovic?
"Considering Carvalho surely isn’t fully fit, it seems as though Mourinho is being bold. Literally no creativity though, seems to me like the two full backs will push forward (but if that’s the case why not Marcelo?) leaving the Trivote to drop deep. Barca going with a 4-3-3. What’s the bet on going upwards of 75% possession?"Arron Duckling
Bostjan was quick to respond to his colleague, saying that:
"Carvalho can’t be fully fit; he’s only been to a handful of trainings this year. 75% sounds a bit high to me; I think the trivote will cause quite a few problems, especially in the opening 15-20 minutes. We’ll need time to adjust to that."Bostjan Cernensek
I should have been bold and made the bet Arron, because you were wrong, by about 2%. I see you have been precise (or accurate) this week because your preview accurately predicted the outcome of this game. Apparently Marcelo was not used because Mourinho didn’t want the full backs to attack at all. He tried that in the 3-1 Clasico and Alves pinned him back anyway. Bostjan please note that I’m keeping my eye on you, I have a feeling you Jinxed us for Ronaldo’s goal. What was that about needing to adjust in the first 15 minutes? They scored on the 11th min Bostjan and I hope you had nothing to do with it, messing with my nerves like that.
The more I watch their goal, I realize it was not only against the run of play, but two things were at fault on our side; the defense left a void on that left side and our keeper could have saved it on another day. It was totally unnecessary, so we had to do that thing we like to do again, come from behind and humiliate them in their home ground just so some of their fans could leave the stadium before the final whistle.
The game was a typical clasico, with Madrid sitting back, inviting pressure and hoping to hurt Barca on the break, but Vladimir was "furious" about that, saying that:
"After seeing how newly promoted Real Betis took the game to Barca at the Camp Nou. I’d love for Madrid to take game to Barca at the Bernabeu"Vladimir Marinic
I don’t really know whether you are a Cule or a Merengue Vladimir, you never really formerly introduced yourself. I’ve seen you say good things about both teams before so I’m a little confused. If you are a Cule, I completely understand your disappointment in them playing like underdogs in their home ground with the bunch of stars they boast. Still, if you are a Merengue, don’t worry too much because you are not alone, a lot of Madridstas feel the same way. I hope the situation never changes though so I can continue having my peaceful sleeps.
So they scored the goal, and everyone wanted to blame something, a lot of us had our eyes on our backup shot-stopper, and Luis was quick to ask for someone to:
"…explain to me why Pinto starts? I mean I know it’s the cup, but against Madrid?
Luis Rodrigo M
Bostjan responded immediately saying that:
"Pep was clear, he made a commitment and he won’t betray Pinto or himself. I have no problems with Pinto starting, had it not been for him we wouldn’t have that CDR trophy in the trophy case. Pinto’s usually a great shot-stopper, heck; he won the Zamora some years ago."Bostjan Cernensek
I’m not one to dwell on past glory, one should only be judged on current skill and ability, but Pinto is still very competitive. But one thing Pep never wants is to have an unhealthy dressing room. Imagine how Pinto would have felt if he was denied the chance to start that game, we all know he never gets to play in the other competitions unless Valdes is unfit. The CDR has always been his to start. It would have produced one unhappy player in the team, and even worse, one who’s low on confidence knowing that his manager doesn’t have much believe in him. So whether he would have saved it or not, his fellow teammates came to his rescue and won the game for him, because that is what "teammates" do, they cover for each other.
Half time is always a good time to review the first half and possibly spot the changes one can make going into the second half. Vladimir didn’t hesitate to jot down his review saying that:
"The one thing stopping Barca… We tend to miss a lot of chances; Getafe and Espanyol are both good examples. If Barca were more clinical with their finishing they would be ahead by 2-1 or 3-1 by now."Vladimir Marinic
Bingo! I completely agree with you there sir, but that’s not what my "bingo" is about. See what you did there with your review? You wrote it as a Cule and not the opposite. I guess we were clinical in the second half by your standards because we did get THE two goals.
As far as reviews are concerned, Brodiebomber, the family man was critical of Mou and Madrid’s approach and this is what he had to say:
"RM tactics… bleh. How do they expect to win across two legs with one goal? Mourinho trying to protect one goal just like the last game… BLEH. Expect us to storm back. This is where Pep has made his money"Brodiebomber
He couldn’t protect the goal in that game Brodie, and I hope it gets worse when he visits our fortress home on the 25th. Please predict a 5 goal demolition because your predictions seem to come with some luck.
We were two goals up at the final whistle and Luis was already looking forward to the second leg tie, saying that:
"It’ll be interesting to see how RM will play the second leg. Needing at least two goals, surely they have to be more adventurous."Luis Rodrigo M
I really don’t care much about how they approach that game Luis, I just want a demolition. I want our boys to play THE perfect game, better than the 29th of November Manita. To conclude the thread, hobo_barca started a hilarious contest listing the top 5 Mou excuses for losing. You should see it in case you missed it.
"…not surprised by the result, it really could have been more like 3-0. Ronaldo’s shot would have been saved by most first team keepers in La Liga. It’s been a while since I’ve said at half time that the team behind 1-0 was likely to win it, but seriously, once Barca realized what Madrid’s tactics were and started to exploit them (about the 20-minute mark, I’d say) there was no way the home team was going to win this."
"I didn’t even think Barcelona played particularly well, and even so, Casillas made a couple of fine saves and the post denied Barca twice. Apart from Ronaldo’s goal and Benzema hitting the outside of the post from an angle, I don’t remember Pinto having anything much to do. Failing to press Barcelona’s back line was a big mistake; Pinto never did look very comfortable passing the ball from his area. But then, even a goal up Madrid didn’t seem really up for this game"Allen Dodson
I’m not really sure if Allen was speaking as a neutral on this one, but I don’t really care, I agree with him word for word. I don’t really have anything to add on this one sir, but I urge you to visit us occasionally, so we can feed from your wisdom.
Last but not least, another gentleman fought his way into the list; it’s our one and only Jeremy who had a review of his own, cracking it with the following:
"This team… Man, how can you not love them? I mean consider this: Real Madrid obliterates opponents (La Liga and CL) week in and week out and then is routinely outclassed when they play Barcelona, a team 5 points below them on the table. Guardiola has suddenly stumbled upon both a new formation – 4-5-1 (more on this in a bit) – and, more importantly, a dynamic playing style that Mourinho even at the furthest reaches of negative football he can go can’t defeat. Make no mistake: this current Barcelona team would crush that Inter Milan team a few seasons ago."
"I think we should all applaud Pep for what he’s doing. As brighter individuals than I foreseen, perhaps the uneven, often painful experimentation in the 3-4-3 isn’t so much him suggesting a "total football" endgame but, rather, forcing the players on the team to adjust to a way of playing that is even more collective, an evolving, self-regeneration dynamism. Rhizomatic football, we can call it. It’s something special."Jeremy Seyfried Clemmons
I was almost completely happy with your analysis and praise to the team Jeremy, but then your "Rhizomatic" reminded me about one field I almost pursued; the study of life, Biology that is. Thanks for noticing the 4-5-1 Jeremy, because a lot of us missed it. Someone somewhere spoke about a 4-2-4, there have been the 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 and many others, but maybe that’s something we need to get used to, that it is not all about formations for Guardiola. His team is very fluid and dynamic; the average positions in the end depend on the opponent. Defenders score and extra men are deployed in midfield just to be superior to the opposition and be able to control the game, because our team only has one way to play, pass the ball around and control the game and look for flaws in the opponent’s system. People no longer obsess about tracking the best team goals because almost every goal scored by our boys is a team goal.
So what was the point of all this?
Well I said it from the beginning that a lot of wise words in the form of criticisms, reviews, analysis and some just generally directed to the team are passed in our comments sections. Some console and motivate us when we are hopeless, some help us understand certain things about the team and some even come in the form of questions/problems seeking answers/solutions. So whether your comment was featured in this piece or not, just know that the Barca Blaugranes team appreciates your participation on the blog. Meadow, my fellow South African, will testify that the live game thread is the closest you can get to a live game when your country is not broadcasting and the Internet stream is weak, or when you want to add to the pleasure of watching our team play the beautiful game.
Enjoy sharing your thoughts with us and remember the fan-post section in case you want to stress a longer/special point. Next stop is Malaga… See you there :)