Valencia 0 Barça 1

We took a massive step towards retaining the title tonight with a narrow victory in Valencia thanks to a late Leo Messi goal. We have now won an incredible 23 league games from 26 played which nobody has ever done before in the first 26 games, and we have also extended our unbeaten run away from home in the league to 20 matches which is also a record, our last away defeat in La Liga was at Atletico Madrid on Feb 14 2010.

Tonight’s match was a massive tactical battle between the two coaches and Pep Guardiola surprised by bringing in a big tactical change. Adriano was brought in at left back but he was given an attacking role very similar to Alves on the right. To compensate for these advanced full backs he played Busquets as an extra defender between Pique and Abidal, while Mascherano came in to play the holding role in front of the defence. Xavi and Iniesta played their familiar playmaker roles in midfield while Messi roamed free behind Villa who continued in a more familiar centre-forward role. Pedro was sacrificed which meant we had very little width going forward except for the advances of Alves and Adriano, but both players played a role in many of our attacks and Adriano turned out to be decisive.

But it was Valencia who started strongest, coming out to battle for the ball and pushing up on our defence they caused us some early nerves, winning four corners in the first six minutes. But Barça soon began to settle and little by little we began to create chances. in the 9th minute Messi broke through and had three attempts to score, Guaita the Valencia keeper stopped the first and third effort while Ricardo Costa somehow cleared the second. Jordi Alba had the ball in the net after 20 minutes but he was correctly called offside, but it was Barça who were looking better now and Adriano was causing problems going forward but his finishing was not good. Then on 30 minutes Messi stole the ball from one defender got past another but with just the Guaita to beat Messi chose his scoop option but only succeeded in scooping the ball over the keeper and over the bar onto the top of the net. The first half ended with a couple more half chances for Villa while we remained poretty solid at the back though Pinto gave us the odd nervy moment playing with his feet under pressure.

The second half began with Emery bringing on a centre forward, Soldado, in place of a winger, Joaquin, and soon Valencia began to cause us problems. In the 52nd minute Soldado got away from Busquets and Abidal before shooting wide, and a couple of minutes later Pablo shot straight at Pinto. The biggest scare came in the 59th minute when Soldado found Pablo on the left and his shot went across the goal and just wide of the far post. Messi shot just wide at the other end but Guardiola obviously saw that things weren’t working as well now so he moved from thge unusual 3-5-2 formation, taking off Mascherano, moving Busquets back to his normal role while Pedro provided some width up front in a more familiar 4-3-3.

The game seemed to be moving towards a tactical stalemate but with just twelve minutes remaining we finally made the breakthrough. Adriano had reverted to a more traditional left back position but this didn’t stop him getting forward. Xavi managed to thread a pass through to him, Adriano then jinked into the area before looking up and squaring to Messi who swept the ball gleefully home despite a touch from Guaita’s fingertips. Villa had a couple of chances but couldn’t find a goal on his return to Mestalla while we had few scares at the back in the closing minutes.

This will prove to be highly frustrating for Real Madrid who will have seen tonight’s game as a big chance for Barça to drop points. The new formation looked a little bit conservative and it did look as if our game plan might be for Leo to sneak a goal, but it is fair to say that Pinto had very little to do and this at the home of the third best team in La Liga. I was particularly impressed with Busquets who seems capable of adapting to Guardiola’s tactical ideas, while of course Adriano deserves praise for a very good match and a crucial goal assist. If anybody doubted his worth to the squad then surely he has shown his value today.

Barça: (3-5-2) Pinto 6.5; Piqué 7, Busquets 8, Abidal 7; Alves 7, Xavi 7, Mascherano 6.5 (Pedro m62, 6.5), Iniesta 6.5 (Keita m87, –), Adriano 7.5 (Maxwell m82, 6); Messi 7, Villa 6.

Goal: m78 Messi 0-1.

Barça yellow card: m64 Messi.

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9 Responses to Valencia 0 Barça 1

  1. barcacentralnic says:

    I forgot to mention that Guardiola has now won at every Primera Division ground as a coach.

  2. blaugranaboy says:

    yes. what a hugely important 3 points. not only mathematically but i think with that win we puff our chests out a bit more, and in the capital, shoulders start to drop a bit. now if pellegrini goes back to the club that treated him rather crap and manages to sneak a point, then, well, i will do a little dance or something.

    on the game itself, i think we were actually rather good in our patches. now i say patches because valencia showed during their moments they are a very solid side. i thought banega was especially impressive and also tino costa in the middle. during that first 10 or 15 minutes, they were all over us. we would get possession and literally millions of white shirts just appeared. all i said during that opening part was “they are so many of them”. emery also was tactically sharp with that double left back situation, it really worked for a while.

    so onto us. i agree with nic in complimenting busquets. he really is an incredible good player, as well as being very cerebral. he anticipates passes and movement at a very high level and adapts to tactics seamlessly. on the good side, abidal was again beastly, aside from one silly pass that nearly cost us. now while abidal is looking worldclass, pique is also a bit in the shadows, however, his game has improved hugely since he got a bit of slack a few weeks ago, i hope people are noticing.

    i would like to however give masch credit. i was shocked he was taken out cause i thought he was having a stormer. he was breaking up play like the elite midfielder he is. and he was actually doing it cleanly, stealing back possession and spraying some nice passes left and right. its a pity he isnt used more often cause i think he has adapted now and looks comfortable in the midfield. i really thought when pedro came on it was going to be for xavi who was definitely looking slightly out of match practice, i mean, people were just hussling him off the ball way more than normal. in hindsight it hasn’t mattered, and there are advantages to letting him get through a whole match, but i still thought masch deserved to stay on.

    adriano now, he has his best game in our colors on the left side he prefers. now i hope people realize im a big fan of his, i made that clear in the weekends game preview/report, i was just disappointed with him as i know he can do better. tonight he did do better, but with a bit of wastefulness inbeween. however, in terms of being fair, we all know alves does his fair share of wasting possession too. but adriano put in a perfect cross for villa 1st half (how unlucky that gk had his huge chest in the way of that), and then adriano when it mattered most, had the composure to look up and pick the right pass and the winning assist. congrads to him. though i also compliment pep/tito for getting maxwell on late, as he is as a defender better.

    there is only one player i think disappointed, and sadly, i have to say villa again. he just was not getting it today. the ball kept getting lost beween his feet, his touch was so unconfident and clumsy. i cant even believe im using those words to describe david villa. i dont know why he hasnt adapted as perfectly as many thought, and im not going to guess either. his stats are still very good and what will always do it for me is that the guilt edge chances he is still finishing and when its the 88th minute and he hussling the opponents defense. that effort is priceless.

    messi finally. he showed tonight that some times a bit of perseverance is just as critical as genius. i mean, come on, when have we ever seen messi miss that amount of clear cut chances in one game???? not in my memory bank. but he keeps trying and keeps trying and that is why he is a big time player. he doesnt shrink away from the game, hide in the shadows, hoping the next game is better. he keeps asking for the ball and keeps trying to get that goal and that sort of courage and heart are what eventually got us the 3 points. but, i wouldnt mind the superhuman messi returning soon, u know, the one that never misses. 🙂

    big big BIG 3 points. i celebrated that final whistle probably more than any this season.

  3. barcacentralnic says:

    Another excellent write-up on the tactical battle from Zonal Marking – http://www.zonalmarking.net/2011/03/03/valencia-0-1-barcelona-tactics/

  4. bc9jaCulé says:

    I must admit that I took a deep sigh of relief after the final whistle last night.

    And although I make due sense of your tactical rundown of the game Bboy, I think Pep was rather too cautious startin’ with a strange 3–5–2 formation. He accorded TOO MUCH RESPECT to the brutally offensive tendencies of Valencia @ the expense of our own more explosive and overly frightenin’ offensive capabilities.

    Our midfield was excessively choked with too many blaugranas (5 of them) and that sort of clipped the wings of our midfield dynamics. Xavi and Iniesta felt marked even by their own team mates. In fact, the major hitch we had in that game was settlin’ into our rhythm — which I highlighted in my comment in the preview post of this match — simply because we, by our own selves, overcrowded the midfield thereby sacrificing the killer instincts of our third attacker (Pedro, specifically). That definitely flung some spanners in the fluidity of our game, REALLY. They pressured us all around the pitch and we could only manage to regain our traditional flare when we reverted to our trademark 4–3–3 formation the moment Masch made way for Pedro and not too far afterwards, the ‘SAVING GRACE’ goal came. Thus, if anything, what I’ve learnt about Barça is that our customary 4–3–3 formation (irrespective of the lineup) is more than enough to bring down any team, no matter the offensive or defensive threat they pose. The best form of defense is offense — SIMPLE!!! You comprehend my drift?

    Please permit me to stress the fact that I’m no coach and I’m not criticizin’ Pep’s tactics. My analysis above is just a candid reflection of how I personally visualized the proceedings of that fierce encounter with Valencia last night.

    Anyways, it was an excellent win and the 3 points obtained matter a lot.

    PS:
    Admittedly, Messi did well to grab the winner and add to his tally again but the Messi I know would have clinched a hatrick last night. I seriously hope he regains his overflowing luck and preciseness in front of goal soonest.

    And here’s hopin’ Malaga will @ least pull up a draw against RealMad tonight. Fingers crossed!!!

    Força Barça!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Fredegar says:

    Agree with almost everything you two commented on…

    Adriano lively and ultimately decisive, but also wasteful, Pique far better than in recent games, Pinto still pretty solid in what he’s got to do (would really be an undeserved shame if he dropped a clanger in the Arsenal game…), Xavi and Iniesta quiet, Messi missing some incredible chances but still scoring the decisive goal, which after the misses is pretty incredible too…

    It was a fascinating game for the intensity, the tactics, and I rate our performance as very good. I can’t believe most newspapers were thinking it was a kind of poor performance from our team and that we somehow escaped with a bit of luck. We were playing one of our most difficult games of the season at the home of the second best La Liga team in 2011, and what did they get? Two and a half occasions and twenty minutes of the game, we completely dominated the rest of the time and created by far the best chances. Pep reinforcing the midfield did maybe not make for a spectacular first half, but after the first five minutes we completely dominated them and should have been 2-0 up at half time, despite them trying their best to press us high and to create something with their play. And then he had an excellent reaction when he saw we were losing composure at the start of the second half and brought the necessary change that allowed us to restore our domination.
    Only worry is of course the number of misses, we probably won’t be allowed to miss as much if we nurse any hope of winning the Champions League again, but for Yesterday at least it finished well.

    Fantastic result. I would have gladly signed for a nil, so this is really great. Till now, I hadn’t been too confident for the league, even when we took this 7 points lead and most newspapers declared La Liga over, cos’ I always had this run of away fixtures in sight and knew they could change everything. But after this, I start to feel pretty relaxed: we could lose our three away fixtures to Villareal, Madrid and Sevilla and still be a nil from Madrid from the top of the league (assuming we don’t take a hefty beating in the Bernabeu). And we are good, you can always fear that suddenly the form of the team will drop, but I don’t think this will happen to us now, February is over and, barring a horrible run of injuries, we should come back stronger in March and walk this league.

    Champions League will be another story though, so now let’s see what we can do with Arsenal!!

    Just one thing to Rog for his comment in the preview section: if Madrid can play their reserve in the Clasico in the league cos’ they feel it’s a lost cause, we will most probably be able to play our reserve with the feeling that it’s a “won cause” 😉

    • barcacentralroger says:

      🙂 And whose reserve side would come out tops? I would say ours, mostly because Mourinho has never let the reserve side play a competitive match this season (remember Canales?)

      • Fredegar says:

        Yeah… I remember when he signed, I wondered why a bright young talent would sign for Real when they haven’t been able to bring any youngster up since Iker. I really hope he won’t be crushed by this cos’ he really looked like a fantastic prospect (meaning I hope he will find his form, but in another club than Madrid of course).
        Still, a “Battle of the reserves”, that would be intriguing!

  6. FCB-Parbo says:

    All I can say is I’m very happy that the 3 points are in. It was indeed a difficult game. Messi has lost a little bit of his sharpness, but I’m confident that he will be back at full power.

    Credit to Pep that his presence somehow helped his boys to be strong and went for it. I could see how hurt he was and the pain on his face. He is such a wonderful leader. Yeah, he sure has guided his team to victory.

    Cheering for Pellegrini coz at least he deserves a draw. It will be sweet revenge for him.

  7. FCB-Parbo says:

    RM 7-0. Well that’s a big blow for Pellegrini. Did he do something? NO, duh!!!!

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