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Barcelona vs. Valencia, 1-1

Well, the good news is that we didn't suck.

Pep Guardiola mixed up the squad a little for the away leg of the Copa del Rey semifinal today: he benched playmaker Xavi, who'd had two lackluster games in a row, kept Dani Alves off for the first half, and brought in some junior players as well as new blood from the B squad. However, he still started Pique, Messi, and Cesc, all of whom have been playing poorly in recent games, and all of whom obviously could have used the rest. I will admit that Cesc stepped up his game and looked positively rakish with his bandaged head once one of his opponents drew blood. But Pique once again failed to cover the striker who scored against us, and also took the ball Messi handed him on a silver platter and headed it far over the crossbar. He should be taking lessons from defender Puyol, who not only faked out and dribbled around two defenders like a boss but also launched himself out of nowhere to head in our only goal off a corner kick. Messi was actually much more energetic than he has been lately, and made some lovely assists that unfortunately were shot wide or received just offside, but anyone would think that the three-time World Player of the Year couldn't hit the broad side of a barn based on today's attempts on goal.

Birthday boy Gerard Pique, wounded warrior Cesc Fabregas, and Man of the Match Carles Puyol

Am I disappointed that we only drew? Actually, no! This was a very exciting game to watch, and we created a lot of opportunities, even if we failed to capitalize on most of them. I was happy that Pep took a chance on starting with some younger players and resting Xavi (and I can only hope that he continues this trend - Messi especially needs to be benched whether he likes it or not, and Tello deserves more than five minutes on the field). Besides, the Mestalla comes with a notoriously tough crowd; when we face Valencia again next week at home, hopefully we'll wipe the floor with them (in our usual sportsmanlike manner, of course).



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