Mallorca vs. Barcelona: 6 Observations from Blaugrana Win
Barcelona have cemented their lead atop La Liga with a convincing win over now lowly Mallorca in the Balearic Islands.
The Catalans looked to have put the game away before halftime, with a rare error from Dudu Aouate giving the visitors a three-goal lead.
But Los Bermellones soon found themselves just one goal behind after scoring a pair in quick succession after the break.
In the end, poor first-half tactics undid the hosts, and La Blaugrana returned home with a full three points.
Tito Vilanova has now led his team to the greatest start in league history with 31 of a possible 33 points won in their first 11 matches.
Every win from here on just further builds their own record. There is one individual in the team who is setting his own records.
Read on to see six points of discussion from Barcelona's 4-2 win over Mallorca.
Messi Continues to Make History
First Ronaldo, then Pele, now Muller. Lionel Messi continues to build his legacy as one of the game's greatest players.
With his two goals against Mallorca, the Argentinian eclipsed the great Pele by scoring his 75th and 76th goal of the year.
Messi will target Gerd Muller's world record of 85 goals scored in a calendar year. He now needs nine goals and will probably have eight games to do it.
That was not the only record Barça's No. 10 broke in the Balearic Islands.
Messi also became the first La Liga player in 62 years to score 15 goals in the first 11 Liga games and the first player in history to score 11 goals in his team's first six away games.
He is now on pace to score 50 goals for the second straight season.
If Messi does end up breaking the second historic Muller mark this year, he will make a great case to retain the Ballon d'Or by beating his great rival.
Make yourself at home
As great as Messi has been this season, he really hasn't always looked his best. Even today he failed to have a truly great performance.
However, despite playing below his great standard, Messi managed still scored a pair of goals, and that is what separates his recent away form from his play in Barcelona.
Messi's last eight goals have come away from the comforts of Camp Nou. Cules hope he will get things back on track next week against Zaragoza.
Geromel the Best Defender on the Pitch
Gerard Pique made his first start in well over a month, and both of Barcelona's great defensive prospects got to see the pitch.
The defender that most deserves to be talked about played for Mallorca, though, is Geromel.
The Brazilian was the best defender on the pitch as he saved at least two goals and was the only player consistently troubling La Blaugrana.
His ability to read passes both on and away from the ball were on display here as he denied David Villa and Xavi clear chances on goal with some superb interceptions.
In total he made seven interceptions, five tackles and 11 clearances, but the stats still don't give him due credit.
Tello Was the Right Choice
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Alexis Sanchez may be in a perpetual struggle to hit top form this season, but Cristian Tello certainly is not.
The 21-year-old has now scored in each of the last three games he started for Barcelona—against Spartak Moscow, Deportivo, Mallorca.
His performance against Mallorca was just superb.
Playing on the left flank that David Villa usually occupies, Tello caused all sorts of problems for the hosts, even when they held a five-man back line.
His pace has always been a weapon, but now his decision-making is improving.
In this match, the youngster chose the perfect times to attack defenders and even went inside instead of predictably going around the last man toward goal as he did so much last season.
He also swung some key passes into the box, two that most likely would have been assists if not for Geromel.
Trouble for Alexis
Tello capped off a fabulous night with a fine goal that eventually sealed the win and seemingly put the game away in the first half.
If he keeps this form up, it will be very hard for Tito Vilanova to rest him in favor of Alexis Sanchez. The Chilean has improved over the last few weeks, but is still not catching fire up front.
Not All Defenses Are Created Equal
Despite having some of Europe's elite attacking players, the now defending champions of Europe chose to utilize their defensive strengths out of fear of the great Blaugrana attack.
Teams like Celtic and Mallorca do not have nearly the attacking quality of the Blues, so they understandably choose to use a similar strategy.
Some teams' buses are bigger than others
While a team as rich and talented as Chelsea should arguably be able to beat Barcelona without resorting to such defensive tactics, it makes sense for the English club to target Barça that way.
It utilized their strengths on defense since the Blues have a lot of big, quick defenders who eliminate any aerial threat and can also close down and even cut off Barça's quick passing game.
Mallorca, however, cannot do that.
For fans of Chelsea or the English game—and even for some newer fans of La Liga—watching teams park the bus against Barcelona might seem like some revolutionary idea.
Of course, the strategy is far from innovative and has been used by countess Spanish teams in recent years.
Teams like Zaragoza, Real Sociedad and Espanyol have had just as much success as Chelsea in recent seasons, but they did not get the same praise because the media stage was smaller.
It is really those defensive teams who have earned Barcelona's common—in all honesty, unfair and inaccurate—critique as a boring team.
This weekend, Mallorca reminded us that parking the bus against Barcelona fails more often than it works and that not every team is built to execute such a game plan.
Almost every team plays defensively against La Blaugrana and tries to score on the counter, but counter-attacking football and parking the bus are not the same thing.
Caparros Will Regret Playing with Fear
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For the first half hour or so, Mallorca looked to continue the recent success of Celtic by keeping nine or 10 players in front of goal.
They had a rather wide, five-man back line in place that was meant to force Barça to attack them centrally where the numbers were even greater.
Unfortunately, the strategy fell apart with one great free kick from Xavi.
The great flaw
The biggest problem with playing such a defensive game is that it is really not created to allow for adjustments.
Everything depends on keeping Barcelona out of goal or scoring before they do. As soon as the lead swings to the Catalan giants, everything is lost.
At that point, teams have to open up if they are to get even a draw, and that puts them at greater risk of allowing a second goal.
This is exactly what we saw from Mallorca.
As soon as the first goal was scored, the hosts began losing discipline and focus as they knew finding an equalizer would be difficult.
Rare misstep from Caparros
Ironically, it was not until Los Bermellones actually opened up and went after La Blaugrana that they were ever in the game.
There was some early success to be found when attacking Jordi Alba down the left flank, but the only consistent danger came after the break.
The great Joaquin Caparros should have known this. He is Spanish to his core and should not have risked losing his or his team's identity out of fear.
He will surely wish he had gone after the Catalans sooner.
Mallorca Are in Serious Trouble
It is understandable why Caparros chose to play Barcelona this way.
He tried an open game against Real Madrid and got shelled after a few defensive errors gave Los Merengues a two-goal lead.
The historic success of Celtic mid-week surely played a factor as well. They are the second UK team to find success against the mighty Catalans.
Loss of identity
Of course, Mallorca are not an English team.
Even if they weren't missing so many key players on defense, Los Bermellones aren't used to playing that type of football
Now they've done more than play outside of their normal game, they've potentially played their way out of any European qualification.
Mallorca have now lost six straight games, their last win coming back on September 23 when they beat Valencia to take over fourth place in La Liga.
Now they find themselves in an unexpected relegation battle as they sit in 15th place, just one point above Deportivo in the drop zone.
When will the free fall end for Mallorca?