Barça 0 Athletic Bilbao 0

Photo: Efe

Barça face a difficult trip to San Mames on January 5 in our attempt to reach the quarter finals of the Copa del Rey after only managing a 0-0 draw in tonight’s first leg at Camp Nou. As expected there were changes to our starting line up but for the last 30 minutes of the game we had our “star” front five of Messi, Villa, Pedro, Xavi and Iniesta but we could still not find a way through.

Guardiola surprised me a bit with the team selection. I didn’t expect to see Xavi or Iniesta but perhaps this is a good sign that both our midfield maestros are leaving behind their respective injury problems. It demonstrated that we are taking this tournament seriously though Messi, Busquets, Villa and Puyol all started on the bench. It was no surprise to see Pinto, Maxwell, Mascherano, Keita and Bojan but I thought it strange that Adriano wasn’t given a run out and I was slightly disappointed that Thiago didn’t get the nod.

Our shape from the beginning saw Mascherano playing deep to support the centre backs allowing Alves and Maxwell to play in advanced positions, however, the crossing was pretty poor all night but to be fair to these guys there is often nobody really to aim at and it takes a very good cross to find forwards who are all so short. The most interesting was to see Iniesta given the “false 9” Messi role and while he may not be much of a target man, nearly all the danger in the first half came through Andres. In the 7th minute he played the ball out to the left from where Bojan cut in to shoot from 20 yards and force the first save from Gorka Iraizoz. After this, however, Bojan disappeared for long periods which left it to Pedro and Iniesta to look for a goal. Pedro continues to impress with his workrate and enthusiasm but he was unable to get a sniff of goal though he did send in a couple of dangerous crosses in the first half that found nobody to finish. Iniesta had two fine efforts in the space of five minutes in the middle of the half but twice Gorka leapt to tip the ball over the bar. At the other end Pinto had to make a couple of simple interventions and Athletic caused us concern from a couple of corners but little more.

We were in control of the game but we were lacking the killer instinct. Early in the second half Alves put in a couple of decent crosses but one was towards Bojan and Gorka was able to stretch enough to get there first and then another found Xavi unable to adjust enough to get his shot on target. Pep brought on Messi and Villa and we began to look more urgent but we were still failing to find a way through. This could have been because the team had got stuck in a lower gear from the start and couldn’t react, or it could have been simply that Athletic defended deeper and deeper as the game moved towards the end. There were moments when it looked like we mightgrab a goal but both Villa and Messi had shots charged down by the defence, Alves showed his frustration by shooting from a very wide position but maybe he was just irritated at only having little guys to aim at.

We finally brought another save from Gorka in the 75th minute but it was just a weak free kick from Xavi, apart from that Villa had one shot wide when he couldn’t break free from two defenders, and then Villa had the ball in the net but the ref had blown for offside. Near the end Messi sent in a dangerous cross but Piqué who was in a dangerous position could only wave his leg at the ball as he jumped and he failed to get good contact sending the ball wide. Our day was summed up in the very last action, instead of crossing Alves chose the option of a neat pass inside to Villa who had made the diagonal run but in his attempt to turn and cross Villa slipped and fell on his arse and the ref decided that that was enough.

It is obviously not a good result and we have a tough second leg, the tie is more complicated now but we will still be the clear favourites to go through. It is better that we have a second game to put things right and we have lost no league points tonight. Perhaps it is normal that the level dropped today after our recent games. It takes a lot of hard work for the team to arrive to the levels we have enjoyed in recent weeks and it is almost impossible to maintain the high levels of concentration needed to perform so well. Everyone was a little below their best though I thought that Abidal, Pedro, Iniesta and Mascherano all had reasonably good games. The most disappointing was Bojan which was a shame after signing a new contract, it was the type of game that makes me worry about him as he often struggles to make an impact on a game. I was also a bit disappointed with Keita who had one of the games where you hardly notice him, he’s always there working away but with practically no influence on our attacking game. It’s now a week and a half before the next game with Levante on January 2, let’s hope the players don’t eat too many turrones.

Barça: Pinto 6.5; Alves 6, Piqué 6, Abidal 7, Maxwell 6; Xavi 6, Mascherano 6.5 (Adriano m78, 6), Keita 5.5 (Messi m54, 6); Pedro 6.5, Iniesta 6.5 Bojan 5 (Villa m63, 6).

Barça yellow card: m90 Piqué

Attendance: 45,207

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21 Responses to Barça 0 Athletic Bilbao 0

  1. AyousB says:

    No more play in San Mames

  2. bc9jaCulé says:

    Admittedly, our performance was quite below par last night as everyone (xcept Pinto, Abidal, Masch, Iniesta, Xavi & Pedro) had their own share of blame. Anyways, they (Ath. B) are bound to face the rage of our startin’ XI @ the Mestala com Jan. 5. I seriously hope we’ll survive this home tie (@ least no goals were scored so even a 1 all would do).

    Up Barca!

    P.S.: Pls can someone transl8 these words in English?
    VISCA EL BARCA
    FORCA EL BARCA
    Thanks in advance!

  3. fcbholland says:

    I rest my case !!

  4. FCB-Parbo says:

    Yeah, crossing/delivery were very poor. Just a bad day I guess.

  5. Hilal says:

    Credit to Athletic, they defended exceptionally well. We still created enough chances to win it, but just couldnt take them. It was one of those days, Xavi/Pique both missed great chances to score. Little things like the ref calling a foul when Messi had dribbled past everyone and was ready to score. Just wasnt our day. Better in a two-legged tie than in a league game. We can definitely still win this and I think we will. I am sure Pep will field a near full strength team in the second leg, although for me this trophy is not a priority and considering how close the league is going to be this year, not to mention the CL, I wouldnt be too upset if we got knocked out nice and early. Could be a blessing in disguise.

    Players that impressed me today – Abidal as CB. Dont think there can be many doubters left about him. Pedro as always just relentless. Mascherano is really starting to own that defensive midfield role, in a different way to Sergio, but equally effective. I think it is going to become very difficult for Pep to find a favourite for that position. People who thought Mascherano wasnt Barca quality must be feasting on their words right now. Liverpool fans in particular who were saying he cant pass to save his life must feel like real idiots 🙂

  6. bc9jaCulé says:

    OFF TOPIC:
    Sorry to bother u culés about the English translation of “VISCA EL BARÇA & FORCA EL BARÇA”. I must admit the fact that I’ve used these words without knowin’ their actual meanings. Although I presume it’s one of those ways to hail Barça, I’d still like to know the English version of those (I guess Spanish) phrases.

    Thanks.

    • FCB-Parbo says:

      I would love to help you but I can’t. I’m not spanish oriented. I skipped spanish classes (too difficult for me) for english. But I think that Visca el Barca is the catalan version of Viva el Barca (long live Barca). Am I right? Nic/Darren translation pls.?

      • barcacentralroger says:

        Parbo, you’re right, “Visca Barca” is the Catalan of Viva Espana – essentially, “Long live Barca!” Forca Barca is more interesting – it is most literally to be translated as “Strength to Barca!” but would probably translate better as “Go Barca!”, more in the American High School tradition of “Go Team! Go!”

        I am not a Catalan speaker and wasn’t sure from where the term originated but asked my father who is a professional translator who says that “Forca Barca” ‘is used because of the kind of rhyme of the 2 words (“rhyme” is not the right word but you know what I mean). In fact I have never seen the word FORÇA used like that in any other context. The Italians use it as in FORÇA ITALIA and probably our version was inspired by this (although the Italian version does not rhyme).’

        Hope that is helpful.

  7. fcbholland says:

    @ barcacentralroger ,
    You are right . Italians use similar expressions like ; Forza Italia , Forza Azzurri , Forza Milan , Forza Juve …etc . It means ; let’s go or come on .
    I don’t speak Spanish or Italian with any fluency but that is NOT going to stop me from trying to BS my way abusing several languages including Dutch , German , English , Spanish , Italian and Arabic !!

  8. barcacentralomer says:

    Aside from sharing the concern expressed by Nic about Bojan, I don’t think there’s anything significant to be worried about. Abidal has proven me wrong a number of times now as far as his ability to fit into the CB role. However I still prefer having him play his natural LB position and worry that our lack of quality cover in that position might be exposed in the CL. Moreover with an ageing Puyol and Milito, perhaps its the right time to ease Fontas/Muniesa/Bartra as a regular bench warmer.

    Its almost unbelievable that the player who was one of the most promising cantera products [post-Messi] during the Rikjaard era is the most disappointing in Pep’s Barca side, the bulk of which is comprised of cantera grads. I know he hasn’t had loads of playing time but surely he must grab the limited chances that he does get. Being a La Masia grad means he will get more chances to challenge for a front 3 role but its sad to see a player like Bojan take a step backwards in the past few years as far as his growth as a Barca player.

  9. barcacentralomer says:

    I know Iker Munian didn’t have a gr8 game but any chance of us snaring this supposed wonderkid in the future or the other quality Ath forward aka Llorente considering the Ibra situation should get sorted over the summer.

    • Omer –

      I would love to see Llorente in our side…he’s been linked with us in some way,shape or form a lot, especially in the last 12 months. Whether or not we actually land him is another matter. Other clubs (English) have been sniffing around after him for quite a while, and from what I know about Bilbao, they are willing to listen….

      Personally I think he would settle in well at Barca…not sure if we can give him serious game time however – we are too good in the forward position right now – if we did land him, this would push Bojan down even more…

  10. bc9jaCulé says:

    @ FCB-Parbo & bcRoger

    Thanx a lot for puttin’ me in the know. Your clarifications were indeed helpful.

  11. Caleb says:

    Not our best game. But Mascherano seems to be a very good buy and really protects the defense. If we push up Alves and Maxwell/Abidal at the same time, Masch can cover for both sides. He reads the other team very well.

    Abidal was pretty good at center back besides a couple strange decisions.

  12. barcacentralroger says:

    I feel like some sort of riff on that old adage about buses coming along is in order for this game and yet I don’t want to tempt fate for the rest of the season (or at least three parked buses coming at once!)

    Plan B – we still haven’t quite figured that one out, but if every game goes back to setting out like this it’s hard not to imagine at least one draw coming along in the league.

    Yes, I like Llorente but hard to see him coming primarily to sit on the bench. I do like Affelay for his shots from outside the area though – on both feet – it’s not a Plan B even but is something else in the arsenal (although not against The Arsenal, whom we’ll dismantle a la total football).

  13. barcacentralroger says:

    Oh, and welcome, welcome to Omerpk, bc9jaCule/NigerianCatalan, Caleb (and Hilal, on another post)! Now where is Pabman?

  14. Pingback: Preview: Athletic Bilbao v Barça | barcacentral

  15. Pingback: Athletic Bilbao 1 Barça 1 (win on away goals) | barcacentral

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