November 22, 2011
It may come as some surprise to those who regularly read this column, but I was surprised at Saturday's victory against Real Zaragoza. Not particularly shocked that Barca won despite the team's penchant for dropping points after international breaks (I predicted a 2-1 victory, after all), but I was not expecting such an easy victory.
The stats, however, put it a bit into perspective: 11 shots on goal to 0. 68% possession to 32%. Zaragoza never really showed up or at least if they “showed up” they never really tried to leave their own half for any real amount of time. Part of that was Barça’s technical superiority, but it was also Javier Aguirre’s tactical approach that doomed them. They held out for just 18 minutes and then it became a test of how few goals they could allow rather than a question of whether they could get back into the match. Holding on valiantly for another 25 minutes before Lionel Messi scored could be viewed as a moral victory, but not much else.
November 8, 2011
During a conversation about the week's schedule, my wife, by nature not interested in sports and thus uninformed about the particulars of domestic cups in Spain, asked why Barça were playing a Segunda B team in their next game. They're in the first division, after all, and L'Hospitalet aren’t. It occurred to me that I've had basically the same conversation with several non-football fans over the last few months (my brother, my boss, a few friends) and it's kind of tricky. Still, I consider myself pretty capable of the explanation - it's not all that difficult - but after doing so, my wife asked the question that always comes next: Is it important?
For many Spaniards, the simple answer is yes. Like the FA Cup and the League Cup, the competition allows for some of the smaller teams to jump out of their lower leagues to face the big boys. Alcorcon's win in 2009 was huge for the team and big news throughout the country--schadenfreude is fun, after all. When Barça won the CDR in 2008-09, it was heralded as a massive achievement and celebrated wildly.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copa_Catalunya
November 2, 2011
This was the week that Lionel Messi became the second 200 goal scorer in Barcelona's history. It was also the week that Pep Guardiola coached his 200th official game for Barça and the team scored their 500th goal under him. Victor Valdes got in on the act as well, breaking Miguel Reina's clean sheet mark of 824 minutes without allowing a goal. Valdes is now at 877 minutes after he maintained the clean sheet all the way through the Champions League clash with Viktoria Plzeň.
I'm not sure what to find most impressive, but the fun part of Barça is that you don't really have to choose. You get both in this current iteration. It's a Golden Era and it's absolutely breathtaking. Sandra Sarmiento tweeted today that under Guardiola, Messi has scored a goal every 87 minutes, but this season it's been one every 66 minutes. That's absolutely incredible. It has even inspired a Real Madrid fan to honour the team with a song.