Sunday, 3 May 2009


Few days before the game...

Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova sitting around a table.

Vilanova: "Pep... We can rest Henry and use Iniesta on the left, with keita in the midfield we will have a solid midfield and lethal offense. And As you know, a fresh Henry is important for the game against Chelsea."

Pep looking at him with a smile.

Vilanova: "Alright... We can rest iniesta instead, and keep Henry-Eto’o-Messi"

Pep node his head to show that he is following what Vilanova is suggesting while reading Marca.

But Vilanova understands that for Pep to read Marca, it means that he (Vilanova) is saying exactly what Pep doesn't want to hear .

Vilanova, with a warning tone this time: "Pep, I really don't recommend benching Xavi... I know Chelsea game is ve.."

Pep starts to laugh... Takes a deep breath with that dreamy look in his eyes while looking to a big poster of no one but his idol, Johan Cruyff.

"I wonder what he would have done, Tito" Pep murmurs, then he gives Vilanova that look... Vilanova knows what it means.

"You got to be kidding me... you don't mean it right?! Pep, Football is different now…its more demanding, physically... it's... bu... ju...”

Vilanova know this skinny guy since they were two children in the youth academy. When this arrogant creature have something in mind, then better not bothering yourself trying to discuss. So he just sit staring on Guardiola's face.

Pep, looking back at Johan's poster: "Yeah, Tito... Stick to the selection that works... Stick to the selection that works." He says it as if he is getting that inspiration from heaven, Johan has always been a football prophet for Pep. But he notices how unsatisfied Vilanova seems to be. Pep leans his elbows on the table, resting his chin on his palm as he always do when he wants to start a friendly talk:

"Do you remember the game last season in Madrid?" Pep asks.

Vilanova gasps... but Pep smiles and continues: "I really understand your point Tito, we can put a practical selection that wins and save batteries. But that's not what we need! Not after..." He jumps up on his feet, the chair falls down to the floor, and with a face full of sorrow he roars: "That's not what the fans want! And you know it!", pointing towards Vilanova who stares to the floor. "I want to... I want.." and he starts walking back and forth…

It was Vilanova who drew a smile on his face this time. He has always been a fan of this driven legend. He picks up the chair inviting Pep to have a seat: "Alright Pep... Let's go for it, but we still have lot of things to decide."

And the two men start another long discussion, but not an emotional one this time.

The first step they planned was to cancel the last training session before the game. Tactically the solid defense was a need. No need to gamble using defenders like Caceres because you never know if he can handle the pressure of Madrid fans in the Classico. So it was Abidal-Puyol-Pique-Alves, sticking to what works, which is one of the most well known principles of Johan's coaching methodology.

In the midfield it was the tested trio Yaya-Iniesta-Xavi. But the roles were different. Iniesta was instructed to drop deeper than usual to assist Yaya and create an outlet for Xavi at the same time. As long as the team is clicking, Iniesta must not run and get involved, he is the guy of urgent situations. Using Iniesta deeper had another objective, pulling either Gago or Diara to the midfield to mark Iniesta away of their own territory on the edge of Madrid's box, which will give more space for the second tactical surprise to work.

The second surprise was using Messi in the middle instead of the right flank. To get advantage of Xavi and Iniesta movement that confuse both Gago and Diarra, and to benefit from the slow heavy movement of Real Madrid centre backs.

In my previous article "How will Barcelona beat Chelsea?" you can make a matching between Barcelona tactics against Real Madrid, and the tactics I demanded back then for the game against Chelsea. But instead of Xavi playing deeper and Iniesta moving forward, they switched the roles, first because Iniesta is more in need to be fresh, and secondly because Xavi is better for the one touch game. And that's exactly what you need when you make a tactical strategy to create spaces, and you put Messi in the center while facing old and slow defenders.

Juande Ramos wasn't so sure who will play on the left flank for Barcelona, is it Henry or Iniesta? So he kept Ramos on the right back to guarantee dealing with any Barcelona threat from that flank, or that's what he was hoping at least. And I even think that Sergio Ramos mental setup was more prepared for an Iniesta on the left than a Henry.

On the other side, he had Heinze as a left back and Marcelo as a left midfield and both were hired to close the path so Messi would not penetrate. They entered the pitch, positioned themselves on the left, but Messi didn't show up. Later on, they read in Marca that Messi was attacking from the center, all the time.

Lot of fans already pointed out the progress of two players: Pique, who is going to be the defense leader of Barcelona for years to come, and Iniesta. But there is a third player who improved and customized his game as well, Yaya. I remember him last season and at the beginning of this season, running with the ball through the middle, confusing our midfielders (especially Xavi), and even losing the ball and then running after the counters. Not anymore. His game is approaching perfection recently, and he certainly earned his contract extension, and enhancement.

As for Henry, he was dancing with pleasure. This was just the perfect game for him. The tempo was high, the pace was English. And with Messi moving between the attacking midfielder position and striker role, he magnetized Real Madrid players sucking them to the center as a black hole, creating a highway for Henry on the left to torture Sergio Ramos. And no one neglects Eto'o's contribution. When he opened to the right, he stretched the field for Messi and Henry. Beside doing his usual pressure on the defense.

The only bad remarks about the game were the high balls. The two goals conceded were Chelsea type. And Valdes needs to learn that the small box is his territory. While the defenders must have no naps, nor getting confused and wonder how the hell it happens that a monster like Yaya falls to the ground after a clash with... hm... Robben... They can analyze that superstitious event after the game. During the game, keep focused and alert.

While heading to his apartment, Vilanova noticed that his neighbor's TV was on. His neighbor was watching the game again. The moment Tito slipped the key in his door, the game finished and he heard his neighbor murmuring loudly with a mad excitement: "Now I dont care if I die!" Tito freezed in his place, as if hit by an electric shock! So it meant that much for the fans! The most wonderfull feeling to dream of! Pep's image came back into his mind, he shaked his head and smiled: "That psycho perfectionist was right... Again!"

Lot of things will be said about this game, I just hope I added something different to all the insightful analysis of our follow culés worldwide.

Even though personally I was expecting, and demanding, a different selection. Yeah, that Vilanova was me. But when a team performs with such a brilliance, you need to pause your calculator, clear your mind and just enjoy the show of magic. This is a kind of games that you know, after decades, you will be old, weak, ugly and while shooting a cough after every word you say, you will still insist to show up in front of your nephews and sing again and again: "yeah, I remember watching that game". They may get sick of you for telling this same story every time you feel your back pain (twice per day at least), but you will not notice that, and will keep enjoying the glory you feel pity the young breeds were not there to witness.

To the players, coaches, board of directors and all the workers serving the club and taking care of the Camp nou, we Barcelona fans want you to know that we are extremely proud of you. Nothing we say can express how we feel, so we will just say: “Thank you”.

Ramzi Tanani


Ljubo said...

thank you...
say no more...

Knives Out said...

Thank you Barcelona.
Mes que un club indeed!

0marX said...

Great article Ramzi! Thank you FC Barcelona. It truly is more than a club. :)

hieifcb said...

Barca barca! i luv you!

Helge said...

Indeed, it was perfection!

And I gotta admit that I identified myself with Tito Vilanova, too ;)

Simply a great, unconventional article.

Messi108 said...

Visca El Barca !

Barca for Life ( beating the chest twice )

Messi108 said...

And yes....... Superb read !
“Thank you”

Anonymous said...

amazing article

Hung said...

Great article!

Anonymous said...

Ramzi Tanani, thank you.

unreal2 said...

Great article ramzi....
well i have never watched a match like this in my life....can anyone plz tell me from where can i download the full match.... i know a few websites where i can watch the match but cant download.....
thank you!
the treble will land at the camp nou!

mofof said...

Thank you Barcelona! Thank you Ramzi for a great read!


kamikaze kontiki said...

Nice piece, Ramzi. I have to say that when I saw Barca play yesterday, I was like, OMG, Guardiola really reads Ramzi's articles.

It seemed to be almost exactly what you had asked for earlier only with Iniesta playing where I think you would have had Keita. And you are right, it is energy saving, it made defense easier and more compact and the Dream Boys had a lot less running to do.

I used to worry about tiredness after most of our games but not this one. It is remarkable how that Hole opened up for Messi to operate in. The other thing was that RM played with a higher defense creating a large space b/w their backline and GK too and this is a luxury we may not have against Chelsea.

With Chelsea things maybe more difficult if they play as they did in the Camp Nou but I don't think they will. They will have at least certain deliberate spells of offense. They will play Anelka on the right and try to use that channel and to support this they will have to push the defense up. Then we can cut them apart.

The small practical difficulty with the approach is; Messi even from the centre, drifts left so linking with Henry. This means Eto'o is only used to spread the defense and while his commitment to the team cause was admirable, I am not sure he will be happy playing this role for long.

Messi's evolution continues. This a more true Maradona-inside-fwd position than the RW role he has occupied before.

Anyway, great win and great foresight Ramzi. Tell us when Pep puts you on the payroll.

maximi83 said...

Thank you Ramzi for that great articel!
Thank you BARCA for the game!

badrimus said...

i've been enjoying reading this comments on realmadrid website that i want to share with you:

"It's a hard defeat to stomach"

Raul was one of the most visibly upset players following Real Madrid's defeat in the Clasico.

“Hats off to Barcelona for the three points and because they were the better team. We tried our best, but it wasn't possible. We wanted to score early, but they responded quickly and they are a terrible team to be up against when they have the ball. It's very hard to stop them.”

“They control their own destiny. The league is in their hands, but we will try to finish in the best manner possible. It's a painful defeat for us and our fans, but this is football and there's nothing more to be said.”

“We felt powerless. It hurts a lot to lose like this. We fought until the very end, but we were up against a better team. Losing like this at home make you feel helpless.”

“Barcelona have the title in their pocket and two more that come down to one or two matches. There's a reason they are where they are after ten months.”

“We are going to rest and finish the season as best we can. There are four matches left and we must win then. Then we will see. Members will decide what happens during the elections.”

“Losing the way we did is very painful, but what may hurt more isl losing 0-1 in the last minute. Barcelona are a great team and little more can be said. Congratulations to them.”

“Despite getting off to a good start, Barcelona dominated the match. I am saddened because we have working very hard.”

“I think Barça was sensational. They are a great team and nothing can be done against them. There are still twelve points in play, so let's see what happens.”

“Madridista fans can demand a lot from their players when up against a team like Barcelona in the Bernabeu, but little more. We couldn't stop the never-ending movement by Xavi and Iniesta.”

“They played a great match and were able to overcome our pressure, which wears out the opponent. After we pulled closer they scored the fourth goal.”

“It's a painful defeat because we see everything we have worked hard for slip away. We have fought hard all year to accomplish our goal.”

“The team is upset because we like to do our job well and we have feelings. We are sad that we upset our fans.”

RAMOS (the coach):
What a match...
It's not pleasant. We lost a lot of the hope we had of winning La Liga, but Barcelona were the better team. They played better than us and were the deserving winners.

What was the key?
We got our hopes up after taking the lead, but they scored two goals soon thereafter and the team didn't have time to reorganize. Barcelona control the match well with the lead. We suffered a lot and phyically exerted ourselves to try to get back into it, but it wasn't to be. Barça have a lot of talent and speed.

Did Real Madrid take too many risks?
In our first match we didn't play in suched an advanced position and everyone criticized us by saying we played as a small team when were about to obtain a positive result. We came out with the need to win. We had no other choice and we did well for 20 minutes, but Barcelona are lethal when given such space. You have to play either aggressively or defensively against Barcelona, and unfortunately it didn't work out for us..

Was it a schooling by Barcelona?
Barcelona are one step above the rest. They proved they are superior, but perhaps their first goals were a result of mistakes we didn't expect. We were a little off-balance, but we had to try every which way to win. You can't gift wrap anything for Barcelona because they will kill you. Barcelona have a team capable of winning in any stadium.

Are you the big loser of the Clasico?
I always evaluate teams as a whole. Wins and losses must be spread proportionally. Real Madrid was responsible for the great string of results, not a coach or a player. Whether good or bad, the whole organization is responsible.

This year Real Madrid lost to Liverpool and Barcelona.
Europe's big clubs got the better of us and as much as it hurts, we have to admit it.

Is La Liga lost?
I always try to think about the next match whether we have won or lost. We will feel the effects today and tomorrow and the players are upset. They will begin preparing for the next match on Tuesday. We will continue fighting as long as we are mathematically still alive, although now it is much more complicated. Real Madrid never give up for dead.

HAVE FUN "LOS CULES", forca barca the beauty of football

rockafella said...

mindblowing article ramzi!!!

i posted this whole article on the barcelona community and the real vs barca community on orkut
i hope you dont mind.

blaugrana_uk said...

brilliant article ramzi, as an english cule i want to say on behalf of all english and indeed british cules forca barfca i visca catalunya!!!, brilliant article my brother we barca fans are all brothers a nation without no boundaries open to all who share there love for the blaugrana im very lucky an proud because the two loves of my life west ham an barca try to play attractive attacking football, barca are the standard bearer and zola even said in a interview on a west ham website he looks to barca as a template on how to play football, i love barca i love the way they stick to their philosophy regardless of the result, no disrespect to rijkaard who was a great coach but barca would have folded last nite when madrid scored but this team has under pep a huge mental strength god bless barca.

Ramzi said...

rockafella Spread our message to the world;)

Mast said...

thank you, ramzi. truely amazing article :)

humiliation has a new face :)

AydinK-1 said...

Really great article,once again.
About the game,everything has been told.
Now we go in a hunt for Rome.

Erikoisasiantuntija said...

Thanks Ramzi for the article. Visca Barca!!!

akosvp said...

The full match can be downloaded from here:
I've never seen such a magnificent match from any clubs! FORCA BARCA!

LeónDragón Soleil said...

...i take a bow low to you,ramzi's undeniable that i enjoyed this one...not only your heart,but your blood too seems to be blaugrana...ONE LOVE!!!!! honour for all being a part of this blog...

noubarca said...

Ramz, just tell them to vote me in, then you are the coach.

gre8 piece of writing mate.

ElovesBarca said...

Wonderful article ~

Thank you, Ramzi~

Thank you, Barca, you've become part of me ( with teary eyes >< )

FC BARCA said...

guys you can download the match here:

Enjoy! Visca El Barça

Anonymous said...

Just wondering...who does Ramzi write for? I'd like to read more of his articles.

AMJ said...

Great reading Ramzi, thank you.

zealot said...

Thanks Ramzi for the article. I tried to imagine your story, and I cried as a result :P

Thanks to Barca, for the great ride you have brought me along all season :)

Anonymous said...

wait a minute; is this a work of fiction? we're treating this "article" like some great literary piece. before i anoint it as much, somebody answer my initial question.

another crazy culééééé said...

Ramzi you are a genuis
thank you and visca barça

Anonymous said...

i'm a huge barca fan, but... you're all a bunch of morons if you believe this fictional story to be true. stop calling it an article and refer to it as what it truly is: a creative and well written story.

zealot said...

C'mon anony, of course it is a fictional story. Nobody said it is a real one. Ramzi said that the Tito in his story was actually represent him, demanding a formation that may save energy for us to be well prepared for the Chelsea game.

I guess you also didn't expect Pep to put our strongest team in the match, did you? Since we still have 4 points lead coming into El Classico and the Chelsea game is a very crucial one. We all did expect Henry to be rested, while Iniesta/Xavi will be substituted early.

So I may say that Tito in the article was, in fact, represent all of us before the match.

But why Pep didn't want to do just that? Think, and you will easily find the answer. It was indeed for us, dude ;)

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