Saturday, April 21, 2012

Clasico 2012 Post-mortem

Alright, so the blau-grana had a rough day at the office. From my seats just barely under la tribuna in the south-west corner of the Camp Nou, Barca just seemed to have an off night. The Madrid players were more up for this one, and their tactics proved effective enough for the win. The Barca players never got out of second gear.

This resurgent Madrid squad came to out fight Barca for every ball, to close the space down quickly, and to not let Barca get into any sort of attacking rhythm. They played out this strategy to near perfection. Like Chelsea at mid-week, when it mattered, they made their chances count.

So what now? So life goes on. We focus on the next game, at home to Chelsea, and we try forget about all of the misplaced and intercepted passes tonight.

Perhaps Pep played the cast he did with one eye on the CL tie in just a few days. No Pique, no Cesc, no Alexis, at least until later on. I hope that's the case; he's been saying for the past several weeks now that Barca will not win the league. Let's say Pep played a weakened side tonight so that he could deliver us he Big Eared trophy come May. Ya. That's my story and I'm stickin to it.

Everyone is entitled to have the occasional off night.  Barca's off nights in the league this year have sadly come a bit too often. Congrats to Madrid to have surely taken the title now. Hope the boys can pull it together in the Champions League.

Khedira scored the first goal on this play

El Clasico 2012 Preview

So here we are again, the Clasico. These games, and those of the Champions League, sort out who the best team, using the purest definition of the word, is. 

It is true that both Barca and Madrid lost their games in mid week ties, and it is entirely possible that one or both of these teams will not make it through to the Champions League final. Credit must go to both Chelsea and Bayern Munich for humbling the two Spanish juggernauts. Well done. Let's see if you can do that consistently now for a few years, as have done both FC Barcelona and, to a lesser extent, Real Madrid.

Those CL games are essential pretext for the Clasico tonight. Madrid arrive at the Camp Nou thinking primarily about winning the league, which they are in a position of strength to do, and rubbing it in the Catalans' faces regardless of the result. Of course they desperately want to win the Clasico and put an end to Barca's supremacy over the past three years, but a draw would suffice. A draw would keep them 4 points in the clear. This Madrid side however, might be a bit tired. Virtually an A-team played in Munich, and they were made to work hard by a Bayern team who was really more motivated than Madrid to win this one.

Barca, too, come into this one tired (loosing in the pouring London rain after complexly dominating Chelsea must have been exhausting). Problem is, they absolutely have to win this one to maintain any hope of winning the title. They would like to win this one also to keep their legend alive - a legend that puts this particular Barca incarnation among the best soccer teams in all time history.

Both sets of players will no doubt shake off their fatigue or play through it tonight. Both squads look to be at or virtually at (David Villa is still out) full strength. Pep is bound to surprise us with his starting selection (Cuenca or Alexis?); Mourinho is bound to park the bus, and instruct his players to rough it up.

This is my second Clasico and I feel supremely lucky to witness it, regardless of the outcome. I'll be watching this one from just outside the Tribuna on the south western corner of the stadium. Photos to follow tomorrow. C'mon you Barca!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Champions League Semifinal Preview

Expect some minor surprises, but the Big Two in Spain should make it through.

Bayern Munich and Real Madrid square off first at the Allianz Arena, a stadium all four semi-finalists will want to be at in just over month. Madrid looks stronger to me based from their form in both La Liga and in the Champions League. Bayern seem to have conceded the Bundesliga title to Borussia Dortmund, and for me run hot and cold in the Champions League. They lost 0-1 against Basel in the Round of Sixteen, before destroying them 7-0 at home. That the final is in Munich in late May is a red herring. Pros are pros, and Madrid's are just better than Bayern's.

In the other semifinal, Barcelona look stronger than Chelsea, but there is good reason for Barcelona to be very weary of the Blues. To me Chelsea appear as a wounded dog, possibly with rabies, that may or may not lash out at you and dish you a fatal blow. The Blues' upcoming fixtures look really exhausting to me (at Wembley against Spurs in an FA Cup Semifinal, home v. Barcelona; away to Arsenal; away to Barcelona). Expect at least one loss from those four fixtures, hopefully one big one against Barcelona.

See you at the Camp Nou!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Why Barca Should Cash in on Pedro (and keep Alexis)

Why Barca Should Cash in on Pedro (and keep Alexis) At 1-3 up against Zaragoza, Pedro dribbled two Zaragoza players, dished a sweet pass to Messi (who returned the favor with a sweet pass of his own), the finished the move in tremendous style. That goal was an incredible confidence booster for the cantera lad, and one the many Barca fans relish with pride. He is, after all, on of our own.

That said, I think Barca should sell him.

If you haven't noticed,  Barca, like other top clubs, bring in new striking talent every year or so, to keep partnership with the regulars fresh, interesting and challenging. Before Alexis, they bought Villa; before Villa, Ibrahimovic; before Ibra, Henry, and on and on.  Pedro is not a unique player (though his odd running style sets him a bit apart). He is akin to David Villa in my opinion, on that he is a very good player, but not a technically enhanced player.  He lacks the skills and some of the natural abilities of, for example, a player like Alexis Sanchez, his teammate and competitor for games at FC Barcelona. 

The reason I am lobbying Barca to sell Pedro is that the time is right - he is twenty-four, recognized world wide as a top player, and has loads of potential that would be realized by a club who could give him regular starting roles.  Barca still have Villa (who should be ready before season's end), plus they have a soon to be fit Ibrahim Afellay, they have fellow cantera lad Tello, Isaac Cuenca - in other words, they have plenty of backup for that role.  Let Pedro go while he is in his prime - keep Alexis as the starter for now; motivate the forwards be revolving Alexis with Tello and/or Cuenca to keep things fresh.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

FC Barcelona vs. AC Milan, Part 2

 As it happened: Twenty minutes before kickoff.  No trouble getting to the stadium from near the arc de trionf on bicicleta. Up the passeig de San Joan fins del diagonal i, zip - to the stadium. Wow. After so many years watching these games on tv, I am finally in the stadium for one. I am pretty fn happy.  This is my first time watching the game from the north end. I have been near the southwest corner for the other two games here. The Milan fans are making a ruckus way up in the third tier.  Nice! Did not hear that at either the Madrid game or the Valencia game.

Rumor has it that Cuenca is playing and not Alexis. A curious decision from Pep I think. Loads of potential but not yet proven. Hope he does not freeze up like Tello at the weekend.  Visca el barca!
 Halftime and it's 2-1 to Barca, two penalty kicks the difference. Bout time they started calling penalties for us. Seriously, believe they were just calls. The second looked a deliberate pull down, the first was a hard challenge by the goalkeeper on Messi who was clear through on goal.  Now to the since half. Cmon u barca!
It's over. The Milan fans have to wait for the rest of us to leave. 3-1 to Barca. It was tense right up to about minute 77, then it seemed Milan lost heart. The end included the ritual frustration fouls and bad energy, but this fan is leaving very happy. Bona nit.
Poco despres, my thoughts are that I am highly impressed with they way Cuenca played.  Also, Dani Alves ran his socks off and was involved in practically every attack of significance. It is a true pleasure to watch this team play. Oh, and messi scored two more goals. That means I've seen him net 6.

Monday, April 2, 2012

FC Barcelona vs. AC Milan, Part 1

Just a quick update.  It took much hemming and hawing, but I´ve decided to make this game my CL initiation. It´s a big one, and the result could easily go either way.  Barça is playing at home, which helps, but there are no guarantees. Last time Milan came to the Camp Nou, they pinched a goal in about a minute.

I hope to get the iPad into the game, and will live blog it as done with Valencia.

C´mon you Barça!