Monday, February 20, 2012

FC Barcelona 5 - 1 Valencia

I moved to Barcelona with my missus and the toddler on February 7 of 2012. We hope to stay for a while.

This was my first game at the Camp Nou since moving (I went to the Classic in 2010 previously), and I was excited beyond measure. Here is what i wrote along the way - sorry if it's a bit rough around the edges.

It is 55 minutes before the start of the game but I have already entered the stadium. I took the 54 bus from near the Arc de Trionf to get here  - it was so slow, I'll be glad when my bike gets here.

I had two beers, one in Bar Jaguar where I struck up a conversation with a Morrocan. I left there pretty quickly. Too many gringos. Walked down the street to the Staff Bar - much better - Catalan bartender and folks speaking Catalan outside that I could chat with. Ok, I chatted with only one older guy, a soci. Asked him if we had any chance to win the league. He shook his head and said no. But maybe the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. I like his optimism.

40 mins before kickoff. The Camp Nou is starting to fill out, but it is still pretty empty. I'm off for a walk around the stadium.

5 mins before the start - Manel on the PA system.

Kickoff - turning off the iPad.

Half time 2 - 1 to Barca., it just started to sprinkle. Busquets' mistake led to the first goal - he's not been playing well. He did do better after that error at least.  Alexis has been stupendous. Messi's first goal had a touch of luck to it. So did the second.

Final result - FCB 5 - 1 Valencia.  Messi's chip on the keeper though was pure class. Iniesta has also been great. His little chip to set up a near spectacular effort from Fabregas was really amazing.

It was a great game for this Barca fan, a great welcome to Spain.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Liga is dead. Long live the Champions League! Barca and Arsenal

Molt be, al final, but we passed through some really rough moments in that game. This was a really important game for the confidence of the Barca players. Having just lost the league, and I am certain that they have just lost the league, the only competition of any great importance is the Champions League. Bueno, this is not to slight the great tradition of the Copa del Rey, but frankly, it's just not as important. Teams are judged by direct competition with their contemporaries in other leagues.

To reinstate player confidence, the ideal opponent would have to be credible, but not too strong. Bayern Leverkusen fit the bill perfectly. They have a solid reputation as a European club.  Though not in the top tier, they regularly make it into European competition. It is a good thing that we face them now.

Barca showed some frailty in this first leg. Sergio Busquets gave the ball away with far too great frequency; Abidal again was strangely out of character. Against Osasuna, Abidal had a crapper. Granted, so did the entire barca defense. Messi payed a poor first half, but made up for it in spades in the second. Credit should go to Adriano, playing left in the attacking three for the first time I have seen him the, ever. He played reasonably well. Alexis was stupendous.
And l thought the Barca performance was sub-par. Wow. Arsenal played a real stinker tonight against Milan. I am and have been a skeptic for some time of Arsene Wenger, but this performance was truly awful. Risicky should be sold, Arteta just isn't good enough. Henry? Past his prime and out of shape.

I understand that it is difficult to play so far away from home, and that everything is complicated by the opposition. Milan were much better prepared for this game. It looked like the payers had done their homework, and they stymied almost every single Arsenal attack. Good for them. It will be nearly impossible for Arsenal to turn this tie around. See you in the next round, Milan.

**In the near future, I will be heading to games at the Nou Camp. Pictures to be included.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Osasuna 3 - 2 Barcelona? Hem Perdut la Lliga

We were late. I knew we were going to be late, but didn’t know exactly how late we were going to be. It was too late, apparently. By the time I made it back from the Maquinista Mall, somewhere north of downtown, about 9 Metro stops north of the Arc de Triomf, after a marginally productive trip to the Genius Bar, Osasuna was up two to nil. What the fuck? I couldn’t believe what I was reading on the tiny screen in the bar we passed. I asked the guy outside the pub “Es veritat? Dos a cero?!” “Si, si, es veritat.” Madre mia.

We ran the last block and half to the entrada, zipped up the elevator shaft and stormed into the living room.  “Es veritat?! Dos a cero a Osasuna?!”

Thirty minutes had gone by, and so had the Liga.  There was no way Barca was coming back from two down, at Osasuna playing on their potato field of a pitch, in sub-zero temperatures. On top of this, they were playing with a makeshift midfield, saving the premier engine for the Champions League game this coming Tuesday.

Argh. I’m not sure I like this strategy.