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Barcelona vs. Levante, 2-1

Today was the start of a tough couple of weeks for Barcelona - Levante today away, Chelsea for the Champions League semifinals on Wed., and the game that will decide their future in the League, El Clasico against Real Madrid at home next Saturday. Pep Guardiola claims that he's only thinking one day at a time, but that can't possibly be true: he needs to decide whom to play based on both availability and the likely consequences of exhaustion, injury, or card accumulation.

Today he started Barcelona with a fairly standard line-up, although he rested Iniesta for the first half and Dani Alves for most of the game, and he kept Pique on the bench. Levante is a team of grizzled veterans with a lousy pitch that they defend like a wall - a challenge for the top teams in the League on their best days. This was not one of Barcelona's best days, and the fact that they were slipping and sliding all over the field didn't help matters any. The only goal in the first half was to Levante from a penalty kick after the ball bounced up into Busquets' crossed arms in Barcelona's box. Valdes was not having a particularly superhuman night, and the shot went in without much fuss.

Pep rarely makes changes to the line-up midway through the game - he usually subs players out because of injuries or in the last ten minutes to give the juniors some experience - so the fact that he sent Isaac Cuenca on in place of Xavi at halftime and then replaced Pedro with Iniesta ten minutes later told us just how worried he was about how the game was going. In between, Levante came close to scoring a second goal, but Puyol read the situation correctly and positioned himself behind the beaten keeper to deflect the shot away.

Cuenca didn't score, but he did add much-needed width in a game that had Barcelona continually banging their heads against the wall of Levante players in the middle. In the 64th minute, Alexis gave a perfect assist to Messi, finally allowing Barcelona to equalize. About ten minutes later, Cuenca was pushed over in the box and a penalty kick was called for Barcelona. To anyone complaining that the contact didn't deserve a PK, I would point out that the ref had failed to call a clear penalty for a challenge on Iniesta earlier. Also, who could begrudge Messi a goal as beautiful as this one, arcing perfectly into the top right corner? Especially when it made him so happy? ;)

Anyway, it wasn't pretty, but it was 3 points more, which was all that mattered. The League is still alive.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 15th, 2012 07:58 am (UTC)
It was a loosy game on our side but I guess it was one of those games when nothing works yet you still win it. I'm glad for 3 points.

I don't understand what Pep wanted to achieve with this line up. It was bizzare and clearly didn't work. I know that he loves his midfielders but 3 men defence when only 1 is a nominal defender? Seriously ! I know we played a game with 9 midfielders this season and as I remember we won but this is the end of a season against Levante away! ... Pep, you'll give me a heart attack one of this days!

I am not even going to read commants with complaining about unfair refering. In fact I am going to skip media match reports all together. The last thing I need is last year style cry orgy on how refs allway help us. I am not assuming that we will win any of the upcoming games but you know what I mean.

And I'm not sure about MOTM: Puyol or Messi? I'm going to go with Puyi because I am a crazy biassed fangirl:)

And I read your "team of grizzled veterans" as "team of grizzly veterans" lol
Apr. 15th, 2012 11:57 am (UTC)
I agree, the first half was actually painful to watch. Messi was low-energy, they kept trying to pass through the most congested area, they *never* rushed the ball in counterattack, which let the entire Levante team get in position between Barcelona and the goal, etc.

But I thought that the 3 man defense worked okay - Mascherano and Puyol were fantastic, and Adriano wasn't bad. Levante's only goal was the PK for Busi's "handball." I thought that the problem was more trying to be too fancy with passing in the midfield instead of focusing on setting up a shot.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )



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