Barcelona 2 – Osasuna 0

Well, Guardiola didn’t see this game as one that needed a reaction.  Instead he took the more conservative and more pragmatic approach of resting our key players before the Wednesday night game back in the capital.  9/10 other coaches would have probably done this, but it was a bit surprising here as this sort of tactic has never been part of the Pep playbook.  He made 7 changes from the Copa del Rey final and we saw a very different starting 11.  Milito partnered Mascherano in the defensive, Maxwell came on for the injured Adriano, Keita and Thiago joined Busquets in midfield, while Villa was upfront with Afellay and Jeffren.

The game itself was quite a disaster and there are more bad things to say than good things.  We could barely keep control of the ball, barely put more than 6 passes together, passes were lazy/sloppy, and in general it was not enjoyable at all to watch.  The fact the referee had a bit of an incompetent and inconsistent game didn’t help things either.

The first half was particularly poor which can be highlighted in a game stat at the 54 minute mark when we had turned the ball over 30 times compared to Osasuna’s 14.  Of course a team with more possession will have more turnovers, but last night it was genuine bad play that created this.  The game also ended with more shots both on and off target from Osasuna and more saves performed from Valdes (5) versus Ricardo (0).

Nevertheless, we actually started well enough.  In the 3rd minute Villa pulled the ball onto his right foot and curled the ball just over the top right corner.  3 minutes later Afellay put in a decent shot that took a deflection and was not far off.

The only other thing worth writing about in the first 45 was David Villa’s goal.  Finally, he ended his drought, but his celebration was quite muted actually.  It was more like he thought, “I cannot believe it took me so long just to do that”, rather than relief and happiness.  Heck, I think I celebrated his goal bigger than he did.  Afellay swithed the ball to the left with the outside of his boot, Jeffren put in a perfect early slow cross which curled right around all the defenders and directly into the path of our number 7, who slid in but tucked the ball away into the bottom corner perfectly.

From that goal in the 24th minute, the only other thing to report is Victor Valdes’s awesome 44th minute save from Damia.  A cross came in from Osasuna, passed both Milito and Busquets, it reached Kike Sola who flicked it on, it reached Damia with just 1 meter to the goal, but Valdes anticipated the shot and instinctually dived into the path of the ball and saved our blushes.  Osasuna actually had 2 other decent chances before the half time whistle blew.

The 2nd half I have even less to say about, or less good things.  Iniesta came on for Jeffren during the interval, and I honestly hope Pep asked Nelson if we could please have Jeffren back because Nelson had him in his back pocket all night.  The cross Jeffren assisted the goal with was literally the only productive thing he did in those 45 minutes.

In the 50th minute Valdes was again very alert to stop an Osasuna freekick after a cynical Alves foul.  In an attempt to improve the dismal performance thus far Pep put in Messi in the 58th minute, and then due to a Milito injury put in Xavi in the 66th.  At that point we were now playing without a proper center back, something I don’t think I have ever seen happen.

Iniesta had a good chance he skied over in the 74th minute from an Alves cut back, but we finally put the game to bed in the 88th minute with Messi’s 50th goal of the season.  Messi passed the ball right to Alves, immediately started sprinting into the box, and Alves found him with a perfectly weighted through ball that Messi tucked past Ricardo with his right foot.  Now, when I wrote 50 goals, it was almost effortless, as with Messi I can believe it.  Still, it is a wildly amazing achievement and should not be seen as anything else.

This game did not go how I had expected, nor wanted.  It in no way, shape, or form gives any sort of indication about how Wednesday will go. I would have liked the first team to go out and get a confidence boost, but now we have to believe they have the mental strength and familiarity with each other to turn up Wednesday and turn it on immediately.  On the other hand, Madrid had another real morale boost in Valencia after their B team smashed the hosts 6-3.

In fact, this game has shown more limitations than before.  Afellay had an absolutely useless game.  He would get the ball in space on the right, put his head down, and just whip in a blind cross to usually absolutely nobody.  Seriously, the only passes he completed were backward ones.  Jeffren was owned by Nelson, which was no surprise to me as I have never believed he is good enough for this team.  Busquets was amazingly untidy at times, but I’m letting that go to the occasion.  Thiago had some nice early moments but then he was so wasteful with passes and gave the ball away in some dangerous area.

The truth is we can only rely on the starting 11 going forward as our bench (especially with the injuries) simply do not have the quality or the experience yet to make an impact.  The one area I think we do need to invest in is upfront.  The only really positive performance was from Mascherano who is without doubt my man of the match.  He did not put a foot wrong, his positional play was perfect, and he was putting in inch perfect slide tackles.  Valdes also had a top game when called upon, aside from one or two silly passes out.

So the only thing’s to smile about last night were: 3 points, Messi’s 50th, Mascherano’s ability at centerback, and Villa ending his drought.  We now go into Wednesday with less momentum than our opponents, so we really need to draw from our experience and team belief.  That is going to be one serious football match.  See you then.

Valdes – 8, Alves – 6.5, Milito – 6 (Xavi – 6), Mascherano – 8.5, Maxwell – 5.5, Keita – 6.5, Busquets – 6, Thiago – 5.5, Jeffren – 5 (Iniesta – 6), Villa – 6.5 (Messi – 7), Afellay 3

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6 Responses to Barcelona 2 – Osasuna 0

  1. wikd14 says:

    Thanks a lot Bboy.

    Seriously, it the mood for Barca fans isnt that good right now and this game wasn’t one of our best games.

    I won’t comment on how horrible, to our standard, we were but we got the three points. Most big teams in Europe excel in playing horribly and sealing of the game with three points. Take a look at the EPL and Serie A. Especially, Man U who are experts in this play style.

    I am pleased for Villa that he scored and I agree with Bboy on his weird celebration. I mean come on any other striker would have gone crazy in ending his goal drought at a crucial time in the season.

    For the first time I see Pep reserving all the important players for the coming big encounter but I don’t blame him. We are playing Madrid and they are raising the bar in their game. Also, what were Valencia doing yesterday, their defensive mistakes are worse than 2nd division teams. I never saw Valencia so horrible under Emri’s reign like the first half. I swear the score line could have ended 6-0 and I wouldn’t be surprised in the first half. Again, we need every single player in the starting 11 to be ready, fit and fired to play 2 back-to-back in CL semi-final.

    On injury, I think it is almost impossible for Abidal to ever play in this season. On Maxwell’s injury, let’s wait and see what happens. In worst case scenario we would see Keita as LB. However, that isn’t very securing. I have faith in Barca and in Pep.

    Vesca Barca!

  2. bc9jaCulé says:

    Taking our standards into account, we simply put up a dismal performance last night but could pass because;
    1) we bagged the three points which is most essential
    2) after 11 games, Villa eventually broke his duck in front of goal
    3) Messi scored his 50th goal of the season and,
    4) we played with a much–changed line–up.
    Maschete was excellent though and Valdes was always there to save our asses too.

    Our growin’ injury issues are beginning to worry me but seriously, of what influential use is Maxwell to the team even when fully fit?! REPLIES, PLEASE???

    Visca Barça!!!
    Força Barça!!!

  3. Fredegar says:

    I’m not surprised Pep used a second string for this game. In 2008-9, he made the same before the final in Rome as we had bagged the league already. This time it’s not mathematically done maybe, but as you highlighted, we can’t really rely on many players outside our first eleven, so it’s of the utmost importance to keep them as fresh as possible. Plus I’m not so sure of the importance of the “morale boost”, it would have been bad if we had lost, but hey: three points in the bag, a goal for Villa, a fiftieth goal for Messi (utterly amazing, out of this world…), game time for Maxwell (please let him be fresh for Wednesday, please), rest for our key players, I bet Pep will only take the positives out of this game…
    The football was maybe terrible, but who will remeber that in fifty years time? Whereas this semi-final of the CL could make its mark on a generation of supporters!
    And if you can’t discard lightly the possibility of a morale boost/blow, the same can be said of complacency, and I certainly will pray that just the tiniest ever bit of it will subconsciously hamper Madrid players, something that I’m now pretty sure we won’t be the subject of…

  4. barcacentralomer says:

    I have been a harsh critic in the past of Barca’s transfer policy, the absence of quality backup in the CB slots and to a lesser extent the lack of ‘competitive’ playing time for fringe players like Bojan,Jeffren and other youngsters like Fontas,Muniesa and JDS. However I believe this is not the time to be blaming Pep and Co. , we can do that after the season ends.

    I know we have a crisis at the back with just one fit fullback, one proper CB and a forward line [minus the magical Messi] that has been out of form for a while. Even the midfield maestros Xavi and Iniesta have been unable to perform to their level in both of the earlier fixtures against Real. However we had a similar situation before the CL final in 2009 where people said CR7 and Rooney would rip apart an aging Sylvinho and a makeshift CB in Toure. We all know how that game ended. Yes, its highly probable that a rejuvenated Real will expose the makeshift defence but we have to believe that our team will recover from the Copa loss and prove that a ‘team’ will always beat a assortment of superstars which is what Real represents IMO.

    Moreover I’m sure Pep and the team will have seen what we did wrong and not repeat those mistakes. Real are on a high no doubt and The Irritating One has knocked us out of the CL a few times. Their bench is perhaps as good as most of the top sides in Europe.

    However, every team has issues with injuries, suspensions and form but its these situations that separate the great teams from the good teams. While none of us [as Barca fans] want to remember the 1994 European Cup final against Milan but we should note that the Milan side that thumped us was in disarray before the match and Cryuff’s ‘dream’ team were favourites for the title. Milan were without the legendary Van Basten and first choice CB pair of Baresi and Costacurta. They also couldn’t field some of their non-national players like Papin and Brain Laudrup due to UEFA regualations. They still thrashed Barca 4-0 because they ‘believed’ they could beat the best team in the world at the time. Barca have to exhibit the same sel-belief on the pitch when they come up against a very strong Real side that on paper look like the pre-match favourites if they want to go down in history as a great side.

  5. muhyideen says:

    Well done Barca

  6. bc9jaCulé says:

    This forum never ceases to amuse me and I’ve got some stuff to discuss about our encounters with MOANinho’s Madrid.

    I, for once, tried to express a game MOST NEUTRALLY and my submissions ended up being misinterpreted and misrepresented as “lack of perspective” and the likelihood of being a “post Rijkard/Ronaldinho era” fan. In my own private world, I see such conclusions as being over assumin’. And FYI, I’ve been an avid culé for about a decade now. Well, there’s just no qualm if it’s just a few of us (fan or no fan) that will bold enough to call a spade a spade.

    I never (not even in the slightest sense) classified MOANinho as a genius and neither did I eulogize his antifootball tactics. On the contrary! I simply said he figured us out (and that remains a fact) and that we lacked the REQUIRED DYNAMISM to counteract his filthy strategy. That is, an executable PLAN B without necessarily being unfaithful to our TESTED & TRUSTED philosophy.

    If I’m not mistaken, we’ve fallen victim of MOANinho’s Park–the–bus tactics in about 3 decisive matches within the space of 1 year (the 2 legs in last year’s CL semis against Inter and the recent Copa clasico). The only time we owned him was when he attempted to play TOTAL FOOTBALL with us in Nov. 2010. Fool me once and I wouldn’t have been fooled but if you succeed in foolin’ me again and again, then you would’ve made an inconsequential fool of me. Get my drift?

    FRANKLY, we need an actionable PLAN B if we must sail past MOANinho’s dirty tactics (not Madrid in particular) and be @ Wembley next month. Our philosophy worked conveniently and effectively against Arsenal in the round of 16 of the CL because they were never the type to defend viciously (like MOANinho always motivates his teams to do against us) and wholly rely on counterattacks to score. More so, they (Arsenal) don’t have the luxury of ENERGETIC & EXPENSIVE WORLDCLASS players (like Madrid’s) to execute MOANinho’s overly demandin’ strategy for a duration of 90mins, how much less 120. Sure, we’ve been playing beautifully and have been winnin’ handsomely so too. But this beautiful play of ours desperately needs some makeup (DYNAMISM) when playin’ against MOANinho — PERIOD!

    And to my utmost surprise, some fans would simply and easily frown @ any constructive criticism against Guardiola. Admittedly, he has achieved so much in such a ridiculously short space of time (an achievement any coach would be proud to have had even for an entire coaching career) and while no–one can take that away from him, it’s also impossible for anyone to give him enough credit for all the landmark achievements he has attained. Among other things, trophies have been won, far more experienced coaches have been humbled, and records upon records have been shattered. It’s even ungrateful to ask for more from him but being the fans that we are, we’re just insatiable. Cap in hand, The Golden Pep!!! But to not boldly identify his lapses and undoings would not help him improve, SERIOUSLY. Fine, it’s not his own makin’ that our squad is plagued with both foreseen and unforeseen injuries but that does not make chaff of the fact that even the expected injuries are bound to deplete the strength of a small squad, a remedy of which should have been in place. FACT(!!!), Pep is also sometimes too scared to make DECISIVE SUBSTITUTIONS (squad rotation) even when the goings were very rosy, like in the first half of the season when our matches were decided even @ about 60mins of regulation time. Please don’t be TOO CULÉ such that you won’t even allow yourself to say things as they actually are because, as for me, my closest friends are those who constructively and objectively pinpoint my flaws and call me to order because those VITAL CALLS have always helped me in GROWIN’ UP by forgin’ me into a much better person.

    And permit me to HIGHLIGHT a point here. I don’t particularly feel hurt for losin’ to Madrid (any sane fan would expect that to happen sooner or later) but what gave me deep concerns is that this great Barça team (arguably the greatest ever) still haven’t fashioned a way of DISSOLVIN’ MOANinho’s disgraceful tactics and this is actually a cause for worry as we are bound to meet in the semis of the CL. Can’t afford to lose out against MOANinho again so soon, especially not in the semis of the CL again as memories of Inter are still as fresh as now in my mind.

    Barça(!!!), Wembley beckons and so WE must heed the call!!!

    CULÉ, FOREVER!!!

    Visca Barça!!!
    Força Barça!!!

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