Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Barcelona Thank Bayern For Showing Up, Chelsea Edge Liverpool In Twelve-Goal Tie

If I had told you last Monday that the Liverpool-Chelsea tie would result in twice as many goals as the Barcelona-Bayern tie, how many times would you have slapped me?

Thoughts on the Barca-Bayern game:

1. So that's what Bayern look like when they're not shell-shocked. Give them credit, they showed up today and actually showed a semblance of fight. Fat lot of good it did them, but it was better than their show last week when they were trying their best "deer in the headlights" impersonation, or to use Uli Hoeness' phrase, "rabbits caught in front of a snake" impersonation. They weren't good enough to even threaten to challenge the 4-0 deficit, but at least they played hard and looked like a team from the same planet as Barca. That they did this 90 minutes too late is neither here nor there.

2. I haven't seen much of Luca Toni other than these two legs (and his performances for Italy of course) but color me unimpressed. He missed an absolute sitter in the opening five minutes -- seriously, Bendtner would have put it away -- and missed a chance to cause a few hearts to flutter in the Barca camp. Bayern really, really, REALLY needed a quick goal -- for self-belief if nothing else -- and if he had safely nodded in that header past Valdes, who the hell knows what would have happened? At the very least, it would have been game on.

Even discounting that chance though, he showed expertise at nothing else except (a) diving, and (b) running his hands through his hair. Disappointing effort.

3. Barca were off the pace today, no doubt about it. Whether it's the schedule catching up with them, or the self-assuredness that comes with a four goal lead, or half an eye on the next round of games coming up, they weren't the usual Barca. Sure they strung a lot of passes together and dominated possession (again), but the usual zip was missing. Many players, inclding Messi, Eto'o and Puyol, just seemed half a step slow today.

4. Ribery can play. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

5. Von Bommel is kind of a cunt. Thought I'd throw that out there too.

6. So what next for these two teams? Well, Bayern go back to the drawing board and have to figure out if Klinsmann is the manager for this team. More immediately, they're locked in a four-horse race for the Bundesliga -- one anticipates that the results of the latter will wholly impact the former.

As for Barca, well, maybe it's just better if I just give you the dates and opponents for their next few matches:

April 18: away against Getafe (given Barca a lot of trouble the last few seasons)
April 22: home to Sevilla (third in La Liga)
April 26: away against Valencia (fourth)
April 28/29: home to Chelsea (more on this in a minute)
May 3: away against Real (title race decider?)
May 5/6: away to Chelsea
May 10: home to Villareal (fifth in La Liga).
May 13: Copa del Ray final against Bilbao.

So, yeah. If you're counting the two Bayern games and the weekender against Recreativo, that's eleven games in 35 days, including two against the best German team, two against Chelsea (the English team most likely to cause Barca trouble), four against the rest of the top five in Spain, and a cup final. Fun stuff.

6. I will have a proper preview of the Barca-Chelsea tie at another stage, but I have to say that I don't see Barca getting past them. Too crazy a schedule, too physical a match up, too crappy a keeper, second leg away etc etc. But as I said, a proper preview will be had later.

Speaking of Chelsea, goddamn. I obviously didn't watch the Liverpool game, but eight goals? Seriously? 7-5 on aggregate? What the hell happened to these two teams?

UPDATE: Just watched the two remaining quarter-finals. On the Man U - Porto game, it was a fair result on the night and on aggregate. Porto gave it everything, especially the last 25 minutes or so of the game, but they just didn't have enough quality in the final third. They had one clear chance, and then a bunch of other half- and quarter-chances. You also have to tip your hat to United; it seems every time they need this sort of performance, they get one. Really steely performance, well-disciplined and organized. Well done to then. And -- it really hurts to say this -- fantastic goal from Ronaldo. Killer strike.

On the Arsenal-Villareal game, all the talk, I suspect, will be on the penalty (harsh) and the ensuing red card for the chit-chat (not so harsh). You really have to feel for Villareal, because even at 2-0 down, they really looked like they could get back into it -- constantly knocking on the door and asking questions. A lot can happen in 25 minutes (just ask Chelsea and Liverpool). But when the penalty came, it was over.

I'll have a preview thread for the semis up on the weekend.

UPDATE II: You've got to love United fans. Please read these two comments from a piece on the Guardian. First, this one:
Forget Messi tonight you saw the best player in the world score one of the best champions league goals ever! What a fabulous, fabulous strike. It reminded me of Bobby Charlton in his pomp and that is a compliment not lightly bestowed. It certainly outshone the Alex thump of last night.

And then this one:
Oh, and that goal is a good example of why Ronaldo IS probably the best player in the world. A goal like that is not in "Leo" Messi's arsenal, nor could he score the kind of headers that C Ronaldo scored v Roma or Chelsea last season.

You know, I completely grant people the right to be as irrational as they want, but don't fucking talk about Lionel Messi that way. It's goddamn disrespectful, ok?

UPDATE III: From the Guardian report on the Arsenal-Villareal game:
Former Arsenal players retain a special affection for life under Wenger, as Robert Pires demonstrated by hugging Gunnersaurus, the eight-foot furry dinosaur who greets the squads off the bus (the Arsenal team high-five him, but Wenger confines himself to a handshake).

The mental image of Wenger shaking a green dinosaur's hand just killed me. So much so that I google imaged "gunnersaurus wenger". This is what I found:


Asfandyar said...

The way Cech played in the second leg, I don't think you have to worry too much about Valdes being shit.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Ahsan, I hate to say I told you so (OK maybe not so much) but I called the Chelsea-Liverpool tie being full of surprises whether exciting or not. It just added the exciting part to its resume as well.

Ahsan said...


Cech had an iffy game. Valdes has had an iffy career. Big difference.


Haha yes, I seem to have misplaced your comment predicting twelve goals in the Chelsea-Liverpool tie. Mind copying and pasting that for me from the earlier thread?

No, in all seriousness, good call on the twists and turns. In hindsight, it's clear that the only problem with Chelsea-Liverpool European ties was Mourinho -- the last two years without him have thrown up some really exciting and compelling games.

AKS said...

Ahsan why the hell were you watching the Bayern-Barca. It was a pointless game. The Chelsea-Liverpool game was just fantastic.

Plus, Ribery is overrated.

I'm not saying anything about the Arsenal game. Don't want my big, stupid mouth jinxing them.

AKS said...

Ahsan, thought you might like this quote (Guardian minute by minute, again):

"David Pleat, on ITV, says that Jurgen Klinsmann hasn't been brave enough; that Bayern haven't got in Barcelona's faces. He might have a point but it's a fine line between showing too much respect for a team and knowing full well you're hopelessly out of your depth against one of the greatest club sides in living memory."

AKS said...

So I hear Hleb played some part in yesterday's game. And I hear Milan's utility player Flamini is getting the odd game off the bench as well.

Good on them.

Denilson's started every game this season.

zeyd said...

Chelsea/Liverpool fun? You havin a laugh?

Regarding Barca in the semi, we (Chelsea) are fucked in the first leg, absolutely fucked. Cole is suspended and we don't have a back-up left back. Paulo is injured and that's it: There's no one else to match up against the best player in the world! Fucked!

Basically someone's going to have to play out of position and I'd imagine that someone would be one of Ivanovich, Bosingwa, or Essien. Personally I'd go with Essien and have him stick to Messi at all times with Malouda helping out and playing a deeper LWB role.

But we're screwed, Cole is a top class left-back and his partnership with Malouda on the left has been flourishing. He's always dealt with Ronaldo effectively and his pace and size could have dealt (somewhat) with Messi as well. Massive, massive loss.

There's now way we're winning at the nou camp and I doubt we'll come away with a draw. I'd actually be pretty satisfied with a 1-2 loss.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

Haha, yes that 12 goal prediction does seem to have been misplaced. Though to my credit, I did tell a Chelsea supporting friend the game would end 4-3 in Liverpool's favour and they would lose 6-5 overall. Close but no cigar.

Btw the Chelsea-Barcelona Champions League ties were also quite the institution a few short seasons ago. Ronaldinho through Carvalho's legs anyone? I'm feeling another pair of crackers coming up.

Now if only Porto could eat some dodgy lasagna tonight. Damn you footballing gods.

Asfandyar said...

* Sir Alex's men haven't won in three previous visits to Porto. In fact, the Portuguese champions have never lost at home to English opposition in 11 matches.

* Porto have won seven of the eight ties in UEFA club competition in which they have drawn the first leg away from home.

* United have lost the last four knockout ties in the Champions League when they have played the second leg away from home.

Makes for absolutely grim reading. I wouldn't have cared about such 'facts' normally, but seeing how badly we've been playing it just seems that the stars aren't aligned for us.

Nabeel said...

Why so negative? Barcelona are playing as well as they've played all season, and Chelsea have shipped 7 goals in 2 games. Yes, Messi Eto'o and co. were a half step slow yesterday, and it was INTENTIONAL! They were just trying not to work too hard, not to get injured. The reason they had to be on the pitch was to hold Bayern off. Against a starting lineup with Bojan and Pedro and Gudjonsen and Hleb and Caceres, Bayern would have felt much more confident about going forward and would have gone apeshit on Barca. They still went for the jugular yesterday and it was only the control and threat of the first teamers that kept them slighly scared. The first time Barca REALLY wanted to score, they did. That tells you enough about Barcelona's form. They're playing great - and Inshallah will overcome chelsea too. It's going to be the midfield battle, because Barcelona's attack is kind of evenly matched with Chelsea's defence, and Chelsea's attack is nowhere near close to threatening Barca defence. Drogba is the only real threat up front. Alves can easily handle Malouda, Kalou will be too scared by Yaya Toure, and Anelka is not good enough to beat Puyol OR Marquez.

Ahsan, I would argue that Cech's career has been equally iffy, but he's just pumped up more by the English media. Turkey Euro 2008 anyone,for example? I personally just don't feel he's one of the greats. Neither is Valdes,obviously...

Asfandyar, how do you feel now that the rub is on the wrong side of the green? Wasn't Kiko an instance of the stars lining up for you? Btw I still feel Man U is too good to go out against Porto.

Asfandyar said...

wahey! Ronaldo :adore: Stunning strike. Should've gone 'BOOM!' to be fair.

Semis up next against Arsenal. I think they'll be dour games - Fergie won't send out a team as adventurous as he usually does against Arsenal. That's what makes the league games exciting; both teams have a go. Won't happen in the semis of the CL though.

Ahsan said...


Ribery is most definitely not over-rated. I don't know if you were kidding or not, but if you weren't, you're wrong.

And Hleb is a complete choot. What an absolute waste of time, space and money.


Wouldn't you rather have Essien draped over Xavi? I'm going to make this point in an upcoming post, but Barca can win with Messi being bottled up, but they cannot win with Xavi being bottled up.


It won't (can't?) be the same without Mourinho, but yes, Barca-Chelsea is as usual going to be tantalizing clash.


We can have a more prolonged discussion on Chelsea-Barca another time, but on the goalkeeper front, I beg to differ. Cech was, along with Buffon and Casillas, one of three best for about 3-4 yrs there.

Augustus Fink-Nottle said...

No, I disagree Cech wasn't one of the best for 3-4 years. He was one of the best up till he got injured in 2006 playing against Reading, so roughly 2 seasons. He signed for Chelsea in 2004 and shot to prominence in the Euro Championships that year when the Czechs reached the semis. More than that because of his young age, he was destined to be the best goalie in the world as its pretty commonly accepted they really rock the joint post 30.

He's still only 26 and is lacking confidence more than technical ability (the palming away of Kuyt's header?). Hiddink may yet straighten him out for the remainder of the season.

JJY said...

Hleb is the karmic price you paid for taking Henry from us - deal with it.

And seriously though, could Leo score that goal? Realllly? Could he?

karachi khatmal said...

before i came here, i was on ahmed quraishi's blog. i know i know, its a heresy and all, but i was following a link. it was disgusting.

then i come here and listen to man u fans.


christiano is good, yes he is. really good. good enough to get away with kissing bhipasa.

but that goal - senna, alex and a host of unfashionable bald men can score it. man, even you can score it. you just need to hit the ball really hard. these new balls they got the kids in sialkot to make swerve so much it's not even a challenge anymore. seriously.

but messi.

when messi runs, lead guitarists burst into spontaneous solos. when he passes, angels masturbate one another. when he scores, truck drivers in peshawer add another layer of decorative plastic stickers to their vehicles, young boys arrive at puberty, saturn grows another ring, and attractive women lose their pubic hair.

oh, just for the record, i support real.

AKS said...

"You really have to feel for Villareal, because even at 2-0 down, they really looked like they could get back into it."

What bollocks. You're talking out of your ass. In my humble opinion Arsenal pulverized Villareal. In fact I think this was the best quarterfinal performance by any team. They would've even made Barecelona look silly.

And Zeyd, are you ready for Saturday? Bring it on!

AKS said...

Arsenal's schedule:-

April 18: Chelsea (FA Cup SF)
April 21: Liverpool away
April 26: Middlesbrough home (they're in a relegation battle)
April 29: Man Utd (CL SF)away
May 02: Portsmouth away
May 05: Man Utd (CL SF)home
May 10: Chelsea home
May 16: Man Utd away
May 24: Stoke City home (an utterly pointless game, unless they screw things up and are fighting relegation.)

By the way, in England the relegation battle is going to be intense this year.

Mosharraf said...

Messi doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as St. Christian R.

Viva Utd.

zeyd said...


Do FA cup semis have replays if it's even at full time? If so, then we could potentially play you guys 4 times in the next month or so. The last encounter may well be the most important one.

@ Ahsan

Ribery is overrated because he's touted as being world class. World class quite literally means starting for a World XI. Ribery doesn't make that XI and IMO he doesn't even make the bench.

He's worth 20-25 million at best, not the ridiculous 35+ that he'll probably cost.

35 million = overrated

Regarding Xavi, yes I would like Essien to shadow him, but you know what, if Cole was fit and Essien free to play wherever, I'd imagine his man to mark would be Iniesta.

Xavi plays a deeper role and I don't think Guss would want Essien that far up the pitch. But hey, there's just gonna be speculation for the next couple of weeks. Nobody knows who's gonna play where. It's a bit of nightmare situation to be honest.

Asfandyar said...

zeyd: semi-finals haven't had replays since '99. Giggs' wondergoal was the last semi-final replay goal ever. If you weren't a Chelsea plastic you'd know that :P


You know, those Guardian comments ARE outrageous, but they aren't borne out of thin air. Messi doesn't possess the ability to score from 40 yards out, neither does he possess a half of Ronaldo's heading ability (probably cause Messi's a dwarf).

What Messi does possess is ridiculous ball control, an eye for a pass, near-perfect decision making skills and a tendency to not pout and whinge when a defender kicks him.

Though Ronaldo's play last night was pretty great. Really worked for the team and moaned no more than once or twice about decisions to be fair. Looks like Fergie's words to him had an effect.

Ahsan said...

Karachi Khatmal:

Hahaha brilliant comment. I do think that the universe's laws of gravitational pull are affected when Messi has the ball on the right.


I really wish you'd have the balls to talk such shit BEFORE games, rather than just after them.


You're right, the two players don't deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. I completely agree with you there.


Yeah fair point, except as I said earlier, the key player for Barca is Xavi, not Iniesta. If you shut Xavi up, Barca find it very hard to do what they do.


Yeah, I was impressed with CR yesterday. But what does it say about him that he needs a very public rebuking to track back and shut his mouth?

AKS said...

@ zeyd

Last encounter. Seriously not thinking that far enough - one step at a time.

@ ahsan

"I really wish you'd have the balls to talk such shit BEFORE games, rather than just after them."

That's just not going to happen. Every time I open my stupid mouth before a game bad things happen.

Ahsan said...

By the way, I would like to note that I got 3 out of 4 predictions right in the quarterfinals.