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2013-03-09_BARCELONA-DEPOR_18-Optimized.v1362868372
Alexis' teammates show him some love

Given that Deportivo was rock bottom in La Liga standings and Barcelona have a big match on Tuesday, namely the return leg against AC Milan in the Champions League, it was not so surprising that Leo Messi, Andres Iniesta, and Sergio Busquets started on the bench. Xavi Hernandez is still recovering from injury, while Victor Valdes was missing the first of four matches after his outburst against the referee at the end of last weekend's clasico. So the unusual starting line-up consisting of Jose Pinto in goal, Dani Alves, Carles Puyol, Javier Mascherano, and Adriano Correia in defense, Thiago Alcantara, Alex Song, and Cesc Fabregas in midfield, and Cristian Tello, David Villa, and Alexis Sanchez in the front line.

The first half was fast-paced and very exciting, even if there were essentially no shots on target from either side. Barcelona seemed to have regained their hunger - the week of rest after two tough and demoralizing matches in a row probably contributed - and almost totally dominated possession, with mostly quick, crisp passing and aggressive recovery of lost balls. Puyol was a standout, Dani Alves was excellent in defense as well as attack for a change, and Song played with much more confidence than usual. Not so David Villa, who despite having the coveted center forward role in Messi's absence could not seem to make his mark. He was called offside multiple times, and at one point found himself one on one with the keeper, seemed to lose his nerve, and finally kicked the ball awkwardly into Aranzubia's arms. The first goal of the match had to wait for Dani Alves to cross the ball into the center for Alexis, who leaped into the air and headed it down towards the goal. Aranzubia prevented it from reaching the back of the net, but it did cross the goal line as it bounced up and down between grass and crossbar. 1-0.

AlexisHeader
The Deportivo defense couldn't believe it either

The pace slowed noticeably after halftime, when Barcelona appeared more or less content to rest on their laurels. Messi replaced David Villa in the 62nd minute, with Iniesta coming on for Thiago shortly afterwards. For the life of me, I can't understand why it took so long to replace Fabregas, who was having a dreadful day, but Busquets finally replaced him in the 75th. As in the first half, Barcelona had their fair share of opportunities, but with Messi on the pitch and clearly intent on scoring, the other forwards seemed reluctant to shoot, creating the risk that Deportivo might capitalize on an error or breakaway and tie the match. Iniesta and Messi had one great attacking combination, with Iniesta's long shot parried and Messi ruled offside when his ball found net on the rebound. But in the 88th minute, Messi finally set up a successful play, crossing out to Alexis, who smoothly returned the ball to him just in time for a delicate chip over the keeper and into the net. This broke yet another record as Messi became the first player in history to score in 17 consecutive La Liga matches. He is also the top scorer in La Liga so far this season, with 40 goals compared to runner-up Cristiano Ronaldo's 24.

2013-03-09_FC_BARCELONA_-_DEPORTIVO_CORUNA_-_028.v1362864657
Let's hear it for the boy...

Still, Man of the Match for me was definitely Alexis, who had evidently made up his mind to go all out today, not just in terms of making runs and helping his teammates but in stealing the ball back with surprising determination and keeping his composure when he found himself with an opportunity in front of goal. After a pretty underwhelming season, it was great to see his skills on display. I love this kid and don't want to see him sold this summer, so I hope that he keeps stepping up. Also, kudos to the collective defense, as Pinto pretty much went unchallenged and we had not achieved a clean sheet since mid-January(!).

644229_444451128966898_1935750642_n
I prefer half-nekkid pics from Iniesta, but thanks Capi!

So does this make me feel any more confident re: their chances against AC Milan on Tuesday? Erm... not really. This was a fun match to watch, and I'm very glad that they won today, but come on, Deportivo is arguably the worst team in La Liga. Fabregas flubbed his chances, David Villa was no better, Tello was fast and fairly accurate but never really threatening, and Pedro has hardly been scoring this season. Thiago has terrific skills but hasn't yet developed the vision of Xavi, who should not be played when he's still not fit. Puyol played his heart out today and probably couldn't handle another full match so soon, and Bartra is injured, not that he'd be picked to start anyway, so it will be Pique and Masche again, with Jordi Alba on the left and either Adriano or Dani Alves on the right. That combination is good for attack, not so reliable for defense - and a solid defense is absolutely essential if we are to prevent AC Milan away goals.

Well, pessimistic or not, I will be watching on Tuesday come hell or high water. Visca el Barca!

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
sageharper
Mar. 10th, 2013 12:34 pm (UTC)
Overall it was quite promising. The win and getting to rotate the squad.

Yeah really don't know what happened with Villa, and Cesc was a waste of space.

Alexis really did step up so hopefully that will continue.

Messi is Messi, just a case of how long he can keep a streak going.

Pinto doesn't get enough love, think he did well as needed and bossing them; maybe that's what the defence needed to step up and defend then (not just think 'oh VV has it covered').

Tello is a winger for sure, not a striker; but that can work.

Nobody will ever have the perfect vision of Xavi; but Thiago is doing well for a kid, so paired with Iniesta & Busi that will help.

Eh well my other team just lost to bottom of the table, it was embarassing. The lower teams fight harder and have nothing to lose, and sometimes that comes off for them. So I don't have expectations that it's a forgone conclusion you can beat a team just because they're lower.

Tuesday is going to be an interesting one, I'm cautiously optimistic.
flywoman
Mar. 10th, 2013 12:47 pm (UTC)
Hi! *waves* I just updated the entry with a pic that Puyi posted.

My goodness, but Villa's timing was off. And Cesc has been terrible for weeks now. I hope that he doesn't play against Milan, tbh.

I really like Pinto, even if I cringe every time he tries to out-dribble the opposition. Hahaha, yeah, maybe trusting the keeper less makes the defense play harder?

Tello can strike, too, but tends to do better from the center, not from the steep angles he gets when he plays on the wing.

Thiago definitely played better yesterday than during other recent outings. I do think he should be getting more playing time and developing. I have high hopes for him.

Oh, you are definitely right about that. Many of our losses and draws have come from bottom-of-the-table teams.

Win or lose, I'm excited to watch on Tuesday, and I don't have to work that afternoon for a change.
sageharper
Mar. 10th, 2013 01:03 pm (UTC)
Those always make life better, but have to agree.

Ugh it so was, offside is his signature move but not that often and that blatant.
Yes think Cesc might need a little rest (damn if he's like this now how will he cope with a newborn at home?).

I was freaking out as well, but obvious he had it covered. It's going to be interest to see how the goalie situation pans out (can VV play on Tuesday?), apparently Oier is very good too.

Yes that's true, which is why most Barca goals start with a cross.

He does have a lot of potential, those feet wow, so hopefully they will nurture it for the future (not that Xavi will ever retire, I refuse to believe it).

Oh yeah kind of forgot the time diffrence thing. Kick off is 7.45pm gmt which is just right.
flywoman
Mar. 10th, 2013 05:49 pm (UTC)
Seriously, we all know that Cesc needs his naps, but he's going to have to figure something out.

As far as I know, VV will play on Tuesday since it's a European not Spanish tournament.
sageharper
Mar. 10th, 2013 06:30 pm (UTC)
That's kind of why (among other reasons) I didn't/don't have a lot of faith in his potential abilities as a parent. Bit late to worry about that now, and they certainly have enough money.

Ah got you, that's ok then.
flywoman
Mar. 10th, 2013 08:48 pm (UTC)
You mean like the fact that he'd forget to bring his head to practice if it weren't screwed on? I dunno, between him and Geri... Leo I was always confident would be a good parent, and of course Iker will be awesome someday.
sageharper
Mar. 10th, 2013 10:22 pm (UTC)
Yes, something like that.
lol yeah pretty sure Shakira is the bad cop parent there.

Oh totally, Leo adores children and is quite sensible; you can see that with his neice & nephews.

I know, those would be just beautiful children, and it's already almost fatal levels of adorable when he mentions his dogs. So this needs to happen and can't see why it hasn't already.
Then of course Xavi should have kids too, because those would be the best playdates ever.

If that happened while they're still playing and then Spain won the euros again I may actually faint from the overload of cuteness. I can barely cope with Pepe's kids.
flywoman
Mar. 10th, 2013 11:13 pm (UTC)
I'm honestly surprised that Iker and Sara haven't started having kids yet - we know he wants them, and they seem so devoted to each other.

I don't think that Xavi is quite ready, given that he just started dating Nuria within the past year and before that was quite vocal about the distractions from football posed by girlfriends (and even more so by children, one might think), but I expect that he will be in a few years, and yes, those would be awesome playdates.
sageharper
Mar. 11th, 2013 10:23 am (UTC)
Exactly, but then when you're in that place with a career it's never really a good time to step back. So can understand why it would be better to wait a while (for her more so).
He did say something like 'in five years time I'll be taking my kids to school' ... not too far off then.

Oh I know, it's just a pipe dream. Have to respect him for not just following the prescribe schedule that footballers generally marry/procreate young (when really in the grand scheme of things newly 33 isn't that old) as it often goes wrong.

lol I can totally imagine it (and if I didn't fail at het would probably write it). Iker going on the swings and slides with the kids. Xavi teaching them the offside rule before they can even walk. Loads of trolling.
flywoman
Mar. 11th, 2013 12:59 pm (UTC)
I know someone who literally taught his child to walk behind a soccer ball. We play with them sometimes, and the kid is amazing. I can see Xavi doing that. "Now pass to Papa!"
sageharper
Mar. 11th, 2013 06:08 pm (UTC)
That is awesome. :)
I am so writing that, because it totally would/will happen.
flywoman
Mar. 11th, 2013 06:44 pm (UTC)
A sequel featuring the first steps of baby Maia, perhaps? ;)
sageharper
Mar. 11th, 2013 07:30 pm (UTC)
Oh totally, at that stage she would have at least four diffrent club jerseys as everyone tried to make she grew up suppourting the right team.

Actually I have already written the sequel (after a fashion); in which Xavi teaches her the offside rule, she is about four months old.
So clearly this could run for a while as a series.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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