FC Barcelona 2011- Best Matches and Goals

This image is etched into the minds of every Barca fan, the moment when Abidal lifted the champions league trophy. After a successful liver tumor operation, Abidal was able to return to the field in just two months and help Barcelona win their 3rd champions league trophy in 6 years.

Here are the rest of my top 5 moments of Barcelona’s record breaking 2011 season.

5) Barca sweeps competition for the FIFA world player award with Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi as finalists. All three home grown products of the youth system, Barcelona shows the world how to create footballers.

4) Messi and Iniesta put on a show against Arsenal in the Champions League. A goal only Messi could score as he delicately receives the ball and chips it up over the charging keeper. The magic starts with Iniesta as you watch him carefully juke the defenders out of position with a fake shot and then chip the ball up through the tightest of spaces to land perfectly at Messi’s feet. This goal displays the pinnacle of Barca magic which no other team can produce.

3) David Villa’s wonder-strikes against Real Madrid/Manchester United. A tribute to David Villa, whose emergence in big games and important solo goals gave Barcelona the boost they lacked the previous year in their conquest of all competitions. When a striker can score despite the defense and keeper being in perfect position, as was the case in the Madrid goal, he is invincible, and world class strikers are defined by those kinds of goals. But more remarkably was his ability to check his ego, and be willing to partner with Messi and Pedro, and take less goals in exchange for trophies. Villa would be the leading scorer at any other club he played for, but he was willing to let Messi carry the torch, and this selflessness was what Barca lacked last year, and made the difference in their titles won.

2) Barcelona’s dominance against Real Madrid. The two teams met for a record amount games in all competitions, and Barcelona rose victorious. Most notably was their record breaking 5-0 destruction of Real Madrid in the the league at the Camp Nou, and Messi leading the charge as Barcelona knocked Real out of the Champions League semi finals. It was thrilling to win the League and Champions league, but doing so in the face of Real Madrid made it legendary. Messi continued to rise up during the biggest games, and no better example was his brilliant solo goal against Real Madrid as he continues to outperform his arch rival Ronaldo head to head.

1) Barcelona- European Champions. The holy grail for all European teams, Barca made the finals look easy. Nothing could mean more than these words, coming from possibly the greatest coach of all time Sir Alex Ferguson :

          “They play the right way and they enjoy their football. They do mesmerise you with their passing and we never really did control Messi. In my time as manager, it’s the best team I’ve faced.”

That’s saying something, considering Fergie started managing in 1974 and has faced all the best teams since then with his historic Manchester United sqauds.

For more top moments and photo galleries check out this 2011 photo review of Barca:

http://www.fcbarcelona.com/football/first-team/detail/article/year-in-review-barca-in-12-months

 

COMMENT BELOW AND LET ME KNOW YOUR FAVORITE FROM 2011!!

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Barcelona 9 – L’Hospitalet 0 (Game analysis and new record!)

Here are the highlights from this game

After Pedro’s penalty goal, Barca never looked back and tallied 9 goals in a total rout of L’hospitalet, spreading the ball around and allowing several B team players to jump in on the scoring action.

The score sheet as it looked at the end, with newcomers Thiago, Cuenca, and Tello getting a brace. But the game was more than just that.

Important points

Cuenca again proved to be a monster from the winger spot. He had 2 goals, at least 2 assists, was involved in even more goals and created even more chances that others squandered. They had no answer for him on the wing and his quick step and decisive crosses are going to be deadly, especially with people like Messi and Fabregas who are surgeons in tight spaces in the box. Notably though, Cuenca’s amazing performance came on the heels of him refusing to sign a contract extension with Barca, a move to get more money. Fortunately for him (or unfortunately for Barca) it seemed to work, with him proving during this game to be indispensable, and outright disastrous if he were to get swooped up by Madrid. More on Cuenca’s contract situation:

http://www.metro.co.uk/sport/football/885422-isaac-cuencas-contract-stand-off-with-barcelona-alerts-arsenal-and-united

Barcelona held onto yet another record over Madrid

It seems like in the last two years Barca has redefined all of the La Liga records, including most wins, most games without conceding, and last night they held onto the record of most goals in a year with an astounding 170. Barca had the record with 154 in 2010, but this year Real Madrid broke it with 167. That stood for 1 day until Barcelona got the last word, and with one fell swoop crushed the record and reset it at 170. Toma Madridistas!!

FC Barcelona – L´Hospitalet Dec 22, Copa del Rey (First Half analysis)

Barcelona started only local Spanish players, as the internationals like Messi are all on vacation. Still, they fielded an impressive and dangerous line up, much stronger than I thought they might need for a Spanish Cup game.

Pedro Fabregas Cuenca

Thiago Xavi Iniesta

Fontas Pique Busquets Puyol

Pinto

First goal from Pedro on an unmerited penalty. Not great to see but it makes up for the countless times Fabregas or Messi have been dropped in the box this year with no whistle. Good finish though, and also good to help keep Pedro’s confidence up as forwards feed off of their goals.

Absolutely clinical work on the second goal. Xavi had the chance to shoot from the top of the box where he received the ball unmarked, but instead worked it surgically around the outside to rip apart the defense and end with a nice finish by Iniesta who blasts it easily into the back of an empty net.

Horrible mistake by the defense on the third goal to gift it to Thiago who, like Iniesta, aggressively claimed his goal with a top shelf strike.

After an Iniesta injury scare and substitution I thought Barca might put on the brakes, but a delicate pass from Fabregas found Xavi, who scored again. Along with Fabregas he is on track to record his best goal scoring year, and without a key note forward this year they have been a major part in taking all the burden off of Messi.

Xavi was subbed, but the siege continued and Cuenca shined brightly as the next up and coming Barca youth team star. Just before half Xavi was subbed and his replacement Tello, a B team player, lead a very uncharacteristic Barca counter attack as he carried it by himself half of the field to score.

FC Barcelona – L´Hospitalet 22-12-2011 4:00 pm EST

Barcelona go into this game with almost the entire first team on holidays already. With a 1-0 lead coming in Barca will need to get at least one goal to relax everyone. Expect Pedro, Thiago, Cuenca, Pinto, and some of the other B team players that have been getting time like Fontas to carry the load in this game.

A doomed signing- Neymar

http://soccernet.espn.go.com/news/story/_/id/999738/barcelona-non-committal-on-neymar-rumours?cc=5901

More reports linking Neymar to Barcelona. These are the reasons why this is a mistake:

Barcelona does not need another forward. With Messi a constant fixture up top, and the likes of Sanchez, Pedro, Cuenca competing for one spot, and midfielders like Fabregas, Iniesta and Adriano able to fill the other, there is just no more room for another star up top. That list does not even include Villa, who might not ever be a major fixture in the squad again. Also, look at the last game against Santos, Barcelona didnt even start a winger or a striker. Their mob of midfielders did the job

Neymar is a typical Brazillian 11.  While these good qualities include amazing skills on the ball and the propensity for stunning individual effort, Barcelona is a team. They do not need a flashy player like Neymar. The first thing Guardiola did when he got to Barca was to unload Ronaldinho, a more extraordinary version of Neymar. His inability to fit into the Barca system of methodical possession and midfield fluidity would make his stay unproductive and needlessly expensive.

Real Madrid, the other team competing for Neymar, would be weakened by his addition.  Imagine Ronaldo’s psyche if another star joined that team, and then started to outperform him. Neymar wants to be the number one player, and that does not sit well with Ronaldo’s world class selfishness. Plus Barcelona proved that they have no problem shutting him down and squeezing him out of the game, much like they do to Ronaldo every time. Both players who need alot of the ball and alot of touches to get going, and Barcelona’s suffocating possession game is their kryptonite. Add those two up top for Real Madrid and you can guarantee Barca breezes to victory.

 

 

 

Barca vs Santos – Notes on the game

After re-watching the game I think there were a few main reasons why the finals turned into a Barcelona monologue.

First and foremost, Spanish midfielders are the best in the world. Some of the best ever may be on the field right now. Barcelona has an emphasis on their youth program and their home grown players like Xavi, Messi, Iniesta, Busquets, Puyol and Pique all are indoctrinated with the Barcelona way of possession and midfield dictatorship. Against a Brazilian side that lives for the quick break, Guardiola stated all midfielders and 3 defenders. Santos had never seen anything like it and the speed of the game and passing mesmerized them.

On the attack, Barcelona became a swirling mass of midfielders orbiting, all exchanging positions and depths and hunting for that perfect pass and run into the box. A cloud of Barcelona shirts hung just outside the area just waiting to strike at the sight of any weakness as the switched the ball back and forth. Barcelona’s goals were scored as players eventually found those gaps and were released behind the defense. The rest was just impeccable finishing.

Finally, as teams trying to figure out what to do with Messi, Guardiola continues to frustrate them. The predicament is that Messi really plays like a midfielder in terms of his distribution to players around him and using them in clever combinations to breeze around defenders. The only way to stop that is to clog up those passing lanes by sitting back with alot of defensive midfielders, which of course hurts your attack and is partly the reason Barcelona has let up zero goals at home this entire year.

But if you sit too far back, and Messi is allowed to run at you with pace, no defender in the world stands a chance 1v1 with Messi at full speed. So the option is to send a central defender (as Real Madrid did) out to meet him early so he cannot turn. Guardiola’s response has been to have Messi drop deeper and deeper, so that if the center defender does follow him, he is so out of position that Fabregas and Sanchez can exploit the space behind him, and the result is the slew of goals we have seen in recent weeks.

The final reason why Barcelona crushed Santos was Dani Alves playing so high on the right wing that Messi always had an outlet. Their combinations were better than perfect, a result of them staying for hours after practice just passing to each other. Alves-to-Messi was at the genesis of 3 of the goals, and is just one more element of their attack that seems impossible to defend.

 

FC Barcelona 4- Santos FC 0

These highlights are in Arabic I think but the quality of the video is good. And that is important because this game had some amazing goals and skills.

In this post I just want to briefly discuss the top players, and there will be another about the game tactics, and specifically about Messi vs Neymar.

Messi: Left his mark on all four goals, and his integrity in not diving to the ground payed off on the 3rd and 4th goal (where a certain drama queen RM player would have most certainly been writhing on the ground). Particularly exciting was his run in the 12th minute, his first slaloming run of the game where a burst of speed in a gear no one else has left Santos players appearing to stand still. Up until that point it was even with Santos thinking they had a chance. After that run they realized there were playing against something they had never seen before, and they would be lucky to survive the encounter. And the Santos defense barely got out with their dignity.

Dani Alves: Quite possibly the best game I have ever seen him play. He was Barcelona’s sole winger in a formation of all midfielders, and he totally and completely took over his side of the field. It was none more evident than on two changes of possession where Alves charged 50 yards back towards his own goal to scoop the ball away from several dangerous Santos counter attacks. No other team in the world has their players making such dramatic recovery runs from the attacking third to win it outside their own box. That type of dedication to your teammates only comes form a tight knit unit like Barca. Alves was also excellent on the attack and was the genesis of several chances and goals. Again, maybe his best game ever.

Ganso (Santos): The only player from Santos to impress. He was instrumental in all of their attacks. Considering how little time Santos had on the ball, and the fact that he was able to create 5 or so great chances going forward, speaks volumes. His one touch passing and field vision was excellent as he found the open spaces to send players into with almost no time to think as Barcelona was suffocating the midfield. Neymar and Borges were unable to finish, but that should not take away from this brilliant true ’10’ who I have no doubt will soon be playing for a Championship team.

Fabregas: Much like his clasico performance, I thought he was generally ineffective. He looked slow in possession and was often run down from behind. However, he was again good for a goal, and he scores the scrappy goals/headers that no one else on Barca will take, so he cannot be discounted.