Messi hat trick vs. Malaga as Barca wins (4-1)

“Messi is the footballing northern star, the one that is constantly burning the brightest”

A hat trick puts Messi on top of the La Liga score sheet, and continues to solidify his position as the world’s greatest. He did everything this game, providing mesmerizing passes, world class finishes, a free kick that rattled off the upper corner, and displaying the all around resiliency that defines him.

In the wake of another ugly clasico and more controversy last week, Messi again proves that he is the incorruptible football genius that is so deserving of the praise he receives.

It is hard to even pick out which of his genius goals was best, as all three were made of the skill and deftness that are afforded to only the top pantheon of football players. Even the free kick, which didn’t score, was as close and as impressive as a miss could be, curling way out beyond the wall only to slice back inward and rattle off the post.

Personally I’d have to go with his third goal, as he hurdles several tackles and shows his unique burst of speed and calm, off balanced finishes that have seen him strike the net so many times. It has been a while since he has had one of his trademark slice and dice runs through a defense, and two of them made today a memorable game.


MESSI wins third FIFA Ballon d’OR – World Player award

Messi puts his name up with the greatest of all time as he becomes only the second player ever to win three World player awards in a row

That covers the soccer. Lets talk about his purple pimp suit for a second. Apparently his new found haircut and fashion sense have Shakira all hot on his trail. Maybe him and Pique will be tunnel buddies soon?

And a definite step up fashion-wise from his previous appearances at the ceremony

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:



A doomed signing- Neymar

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.




Another look at Cesc Fabregas (repost)

While only a fool would try to predict Guardiola’s line up (essentially a revolving door this year), I have a feeling that Fabregas will be pushed into a forward role for tomorrow’s final. If he is, expect him to try to continue his fantastic streak of exceptional goals. Last week he added another header to his impressive tally in El Clasico.

I would love to see him and Messi combine for another chip over the top/side net volley.

Check out his other goals below:

At 5’9, Cesc is only average, but he has developed a knack for amazing goals scored with his head this year. A quick look at his trio of strikes shows incredible direction, power, and a touch of magic.

A textbook header that probably left a cannonball sized divot in the ground. The run, his form, literally perfect. Golazo.

This one was even better than the first. Note how far out he is in the box and how many times you have seen a player just send an easy floater on frame. Not Cesc. His contact with the ball in flawless and he drives it into the upper angle.

Once again Cesc’s impeccable run finds him on the end of a well played ball, and his subtle precision slots the ball into the net. The goalie is left with his pants down as Fabregas own’s him and the entire Barca attack in the air.

Life without David Villa

This man is now Barcelona’s biggest question mark. Forget the midfield problems and the questions over Barcelona’s tactical switch to a 3-4-3. Flash back to a week ago: Sanchez busts onto the scene with crucial goals in consecutive league games, Pedro comes back and impresses in the champions league, and David Villa looked to finally be getting his swagger back. Things were so good that transfer rumors started surfacing, assuming that Barca would not even need Villa anymore.

That was ill informed and poorly thought out, and clearly apparent now with the wave of panic washing over Barca fans. Without David Villa, the illusion of depth up top is gone. Pedro and Sanchez continue to get injured and miss length periods. Cuenca is a winger but only works well with deadly targets in front of goal to play into. God forbid the robot wearing number 10 that runs on endless energy were to get hurt. Barcelona would surely drop too far behind to ever catch Madrid.

Fortunately there is time with the holiday break to get everyone else healthy again before league play, but that still leaves the question of the Club World Cup. Some say it is not important, but any trophy that Barcelona can win burns the souls of the Madridistas like vampires in broad daylight, especially when they cannot even compete for it. The club world cup is important, and hopefully the empathy for Villa provides extra motivation for them to bring it home.

Pedro will be the key to this offense now. Unlike Sanchez, he is proven in the long term in previous campaigns. He is crucial to Messi’s success and knows Guardiola’s tactics better than almost anyone. Even David Villa said that last year “When I didn’t know which positions to take up last season, I just watched Pedro and copied him.” Pedro is the perfect product of the Barcelona system, a natural compliment to Messi, Fabregas, and the midfield Maestros. The key to the offense now lies on his boot.

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid Tactical analysis part 1

First part of player analysis. Coaches/Tactical analysis to come later this week.

First and foremost: Messi vs. Ronaldo. Plenty has already been written but it boils down to great players show up in big games. And they don’t just show up. They twist the fate of the game to fit their will. Messi does that. Against Real Madrid, Messi is credited with involvement in 21 goals (13 scored, and eight assists). Several of those games, he single handedly stole the points away for Barcelona (including his hat trick at the Bernabeu and some dazzling goals in last years Champions league match). Ronaldo? He scored a game winner last year, but it was in the SuperCup. Where was in the champions league clashes? His only other goal otherwise has come off a penalty.

If you want to read more here is a good article summarizing Messi’s supreme domination.

Moving on to the other attackers:

Sanchez- Absolutely stunning performance from a young addition to Barcelona. No mistake in leaving Villa on the bench. Sanchez was a terrorist when Real Madrid had the ball and never stopped running when Barcelona had the ball. He completely neutralized Marcelo by pinning him deep in his end, and was able to draw plenty of fouls and the ire of Pepe and Xabi. Add in his brilliant finish and Sanchez put to shame any and all Clasico performances of any of the Real forwards in recent years.

Benzema- Great finish, solid play. Benzema has come a long way under Mouinho and is having a great season. He seemed the be the only threat in terms of creating chances ( that Ronaldo squandered). Several of the 4v4 break aways Real Madrid had Benzema was in deadly locations but his teammates couldn’t get him the ball.

Ozil- Failed to make an impact. His volley leading up to the Benzema goal was a weak effort at best, and when Mourinho gave up an extra defender for Ozil, his responsibility was to create a lot more than one half chance deflection. Lost chasing ghosts in the midfield and when Real Madrid did get breaks he was unable to pierce the Barcelona back line.

Ronaldo- Who?

Fabregas- The equivalent of Ozil in this game, he did account for one goal on a fantastic header. However in the first frantic 20 minutes, he did nothing to help Barcelona get settled down. Once they did get their rhythm and the midfield giants had the passing game humming on all cylinders, he seemed to be lost and ineffective in creating chances. Once a team captain, he seemed to take a “let me just get out of their way” approach to the midfield duo.


More to come this week, comment and let me know what you think.