Barca Deserved to Be Eliminated: Can Tito Vilanova Turn This Season Around?
"Disappointed" is not a strong enough word to describe how FC Barcelona fans feel after El Clásico.
"Gutted," "Heartbroken" or even "Disgusted" may be better terms to describe our emotions.
A great pass by Pedro set up Messi, whose shot just missed threatening Diego Lopez in the second minute.
A penalty was called on Gerard Pique in the 13th minute as he tripped Cristiano Ronaldo inside the box. Ronaldo stepped up and slid it past Jose Manuel Pinto for the 1-0 lead.
It was a clear penalty on Pique, by the way.
Messi had a great shot at equalizing later in the first half, but his free kick just missed.
In the second half, Diego Lopez had a great save on a Sergio Busquets shot in the 51st minute.
Ronaldo made it 2-0 in the 56th minute as an excellent counterattack by Madrid led to Angel Di Maria, whose dribbling made a fool out of Carles Puyol. He then found CR7, who put it past a diving Pinto for the 2-0 lead.
Raphael Varane headed in the third Madrid goal on the night to end Barcelona's chances in the 68th minute.
Jordi Alba made a late goal to prevent the shutout in the 89th minute.
FINAL: FC Barcelona 1 - 3 Real Madrid
One team was on point, the other was very predictable.
I have a lot to say about this elimination, so let's get started.
Initiate: "From The Mind of Xoel"
Once Again, the Counterattack Destroys Barca
Another loss due to Barça not being able to defend the counter-attack.
Fool me once: shame on you.
Fool me twice: shame on me.
Fool all Culés over and over again, Barça defense: shame on all of you footballers!
How many times can we keep letting the counterattack hurt us before we do something about it?
I've had enough!
Gerard Pique clearly fouled Cristiano Ronaldo in the 13th minute. Pique made a huge mistake, but a mistake that could have been prevented if Jordi Alba was back to help him.
I'm not saying it's all on Alba, but if he would have been at the back line helping defend instead of trying to attack, perhaps Ronaldo gets the ball taken away from him.
Some fans are asking if Dani Alves should be sold this summer, because he is, at times, too far forward and not defending enough.
Dani did a solid job against Ronaldo in this game, so it's tough for me to say. Martin Montoya is ready to be a starter, but I don't think Barça will sell Alves this summer.
But next summer, Dani will be sold.
Carles Puyol is still a warrior, but as we saw in the second Madrid goal, he lacks the speed needed for games like this. It's not his fault. Age catches up to all of us.
Puyol has the physical strength, but Carles is no longer the best option at CB in games with speedy forwards. He needs to be benched in those games. This Barça team needs speed and strength in the middle of the defense.
I'd prefer to see Marc Bartra get in some of these games, but it doesn't seem like that is going to happen anytime soon.
So once again, I'll say that Barcelona need to make signing Borussia Dortmund's Mats Hummels their No. 1 priority this summer—even before Sandro Rosell makes a move for Neymar.
I can't believe I have to repeat myself again, but here is what I said just last week about the need to bring in Hummels.
As I mentioned in a recent article, Hummels is the best choice to bring in this summer. At 6'4", Hummels and his long legs are able to slow down speedy forwards. Hummels would help Barcelona defend set pieces, as well as corner kicks—two big areas of weakness in the Barça defense.
And of course, Mats Hummels would help defend against the counter attack.
Unlike Gerard Pique, Hummels does not tend to move up forward to attack. Mats stays in at the back line like Carles Puyol. With Carles not as fast as before due to age, Hummels would come in and give Barcelona the speed, height and strength to help stop the counterattack.
I hope Sandro Rosell and the other Barça club officials realize that it's time to do something about this weak back line.
This team doesn't need another winger. This team needs to stop the counterattack now!
Barca Becoming Too Predictable?
One question football pundits and some Culés are wondering is if this Barça team have become too predictable.
Answer: Of course not.
If they have become too predictable, then every team would have beaten them by now. Let's not forget that they are on pace to break Real Madrid's record of 100 points in a Liga season. Barça are on pace for 103 points, and La Liga is essentially wrapped up for el blaugrana.
That being said, if Barça were only up by single digits on Madrid, and if Atletico was not so inconsistent in big games, the Spanish title would be in a bit of jeopardy.
While Barcelona have not become too predictable overall, one thing is very predictable about them (other than the counterattack hurts them): if Barça does not score an early goal, panic ensues.
And we saw this in El Clásico.
Xavi kept trying to figure something out, but his teammates where not helping out. Iniesta as well. I know Messi was covered well by the Madrid defenders, but we needed more out of him.
Cesc Fabregas was a no-show. Pedro had the hustle, but he didn't do much as far as taking shots. Some players were looking to make the perfect pass too many times.
I don't care about perfect passes, or over-thinking plays. I just want to see shots on goal. Doesn't matter who takes the shot.
I hate to say this, because I love Barcelona so much, but the players looked, at times, lost in the second half of this game.
Lost? In the Camp Nou?
I was so disappointed.
This game reminded me of the Chelsea game last year, where Barça didn't know where to begin to look for a goal opportunity.
What can done about this?
Perhaps David Villa at the striker position. With Messi at the CAM spot. Cristian Tello needs more playing time as well, as he opens the pitch for the offense.
There is no one answer for it, but it may be time to officially have a "Plan B."
All I know is that something needs to be done. Because whenever Barça do not score an early goal, that's when they become too predictable.
Is It Time to End the 'A' Starting Lineup?
Simply put: Is it time to end the "A" starting XI which includes Cesc Fabregas at midfield, and moves Andres Iniesta to LW?
Yes and no.
No, because we have seen this lineup do well before. Iniesta's dribbling skills has given defenders much problems on the left side. Also, his chemistry with Jordi Alba on the left has worked well. Cesc Fabregas does not play well at LW, so he needs to stay at midfield.
Yes, the "A team" starting XI needs to be scrapped for some games, because it has not produced as good of performances as expected. As good as Iniesta is at LW, he's even better at midfielder. Cesc would be at the short end of the stick, but a fresh Fabregas off the bench for some games would nicely help with the midfielding rotation.
It keeps Xavi, Iniesta, and Cesc with fresh legs for other games. Thiago is always there to help as well.
I understand that every footballer wants to be a starter, but you have to be a team player, and recognize what's best for your team isn't always what's best for your personal gain or fame.
Let's also not forget that neither Andres Iniesta or Cesc Fabregas are not true wingers. Both need to be in the midfield. It's time that the Barça wingers step up and make goals.
My hope is that Jordi Roura and Tito Vilanova will give David Villa and Cristian Tello the opportunities to start games more often that both players deserve. As we saw against Madrid, both Villa and Tello came into the game too little, too late.
The "A" starting XI is still good, but it is not always needed.
Give Credit to Real Madrid
I know it's painful for some to say it, but give credit to Real Madrid on their performance on Tuesday.
On Twitter, I congratulated Real Madrid on their win. But some so-called Barça fans did not like that I did this. Here is my response to them:
A true Culé always stays classy and gives credit where credit is due, even to their eternal rival. Madrid played well; Barça didn't.
— Xoel Cárdenas (@XoelCardenas) February 26, 2013
And I stand by my comment.
You got to give credit to any opponent that beats you, and beats you good. And that is what Real Madrid did to FC Barcelona, unfortunately for us Culés. There's nothing wrong with staying classy, and being gracious in defeat. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fake Barça fans who are are not being classy in defeat.
So sad to be a fake Culé, as there are many out there. To you fake Culés, I say go hop on another team's bandwagon now. We true Culés don't want you misrepresenting our club. And you call yourselves football fans? Pathetic. We true Culés give constructive criticism of our team, and are gracious in defeat.
Jo soc Culé!
Yo soy Culé!
I am a Culé!
For me, it's not painful for me to say that Madrid were the better team on the night.
Because it's the truth.
Madrid were better all around on Tuesday night. This truth does not hurt me.
But you wanna know what truth does hurt me?
The truth that FC Barcelona played poorly, were unrecognizable, and deserved to get eliminated from the Copa del Rey.
That truth hurts more than congratulating Real Madrid.
I'm very disappointed in my team's performance, but I still love and will always love my club.
Like life, football moves on.
Can Tito Vilanova Turn Around Barca's Recent Struggles?
After two of the last three games ending in disappointment for FC Barcelona, one question we gotta ask is if Tito Vilanova can turn around Barcelona's recent struggles?
Yes he can.
That's why it's such a shame that his illness has kept Tito away from A.) his family, most importantly, and B.) his team.
Tito has his family by his side as he continues to get treatment in New York. A healthy Tito for his family is more important than anything else.
Health and family first. Football second.
That being said, it's obvious that Tito's team needs him now more than ever.
There have been some critics that have said that this FC Barcelona team is so good and so talented, that anyone could manage this team and win games.
Where are those critics now?
It takes a special man to be the manager of this Barcelona team. And Tito Vilanova is that special man. Like Pep Guardiola before him, Tito is beloved and respected by all his players, the fans and the club officials.
As much as I like Jordi Roura, he's not the leader of this team. Yes, he knows the system, and the players respect him. But he's not their manager. He's the interim manager.
If we want to take it even further: Jordi Roura is like the uncle of the team (just follow me with this one). You like your uncle, you respect him, and you listen to him and his advice. But your uncle is not your father.
Tito Vilanova is the father figure of this team. There's no replacing your father, and there's no replacing Tito Vilanova's impact on the team.
Tito's in-game changes in tactics surely would have made a difference in this game against Madrid, as well as the AC Milan game last week. Jordi Roura is getting messages from Tito to know what to do, but it's obviously not the same. Tito needs to be there.
I hope Tito is able to be at the Camp Nou in two weeks for the return leg against Milan. La Liga is all but wrapped up, and Barcelona are now out of the Copa. The only thing that's left is the Champions League.
Tito Vilanova may be with his team in spirit, but this FC Barcelona team needs Tito physically there soon. I hope Tito recovers from his illness soon so he can be back with his family first, then with his team.
I know this is a tough loss for all us FC Barcelona fans, but in loss, there are lessons to be learned.
My hope is that the players have learned their lesson, and will bounce back in this Saturday's Clásico. If this team wants to make a statement to the football world, they need a convincing win at the Santiago Bernabeu.
If there is another lesson to be learned as well, it's that there is much to improve if Barcelona wants to come back and defeat AC Milan in two weeks.
Because by the way this Barcelona team is playing right now, this team won't be coming back against Milan and will be out of the Champions League.
But I have faith things will get better soon.
I know they will.
Messi will rise again. Xavi and Iniesta are the best midfielders in the world and will not allow their team to continue to slip. Puyol is "el capita" and will get his team going again.
Tito's words and his eventual return will rally this team soon enough.
Keep your head up, Culés. I know this loss hurt, as it hurts me as well. But we'll bounce back.
We always do, and we always will.
Visca el Barça!
Sincerely, this proud Culé, Xoel.
O le le,
O la la,
ser del Barça és
el millor que hi ha
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona.
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