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Jan 29, 2012

FC Barcelona could have handed over the Liga title to Real Madrid unofficially after drawing away at 17th placed Villareal. The lead at the top of the summit is seven points which could be too much for our boys to climb. Already with a very depleted side, we weren't helped by Guardiola's decision making all night. And whatever he gives as excuse, he had to take teh majority of the blame for this performance. Leaders Real Madrid won earlier in the night and that took their lead at top to 8 points. With 14 first team players only available, Guardiola had not much choice to pick the first eleven. Victor Valdes came back a sthe keeper. The defense had Puyol, Pique, Mascherano and Abidal. Xavi, Busquets and Fabregas made up the midfield. And Adriano, Alves and Messi fromed the forward line. We were so stretched that we have to take Sanchez to the stadium eventhough he was injured, because Pedro picked up a late injury problem.

In the 3rd minute Alves forced a save from the keeper on the near post. In the 9th minute Cani had Villa real's first shot on target, but it was straight at Valdes. Once again in the early exchanges, we were trying to be too fanciful rather than efficient. In the 15th minute Barca forwards pressed the possession out of Villareal defense but Alves final shot was deflected. In the 17th minute Messi caught the Vilareal defense napping, but Messi's chip over the keeper went agonisingly close of the far post. In the 25th minute our defense was caught out but Abidal tracked back and cut the danger in time. In the 27th minute Valdes made a miss off clearing a free kick and it had to be cleared off the line. In the 36th minute Senna forced Valdes to make a save from outside the box. In the 41st minute Fabregas had the best chance of the frist half when Messi played him through with a reverse pass, but his first touch was too heavy allowing keeper to grab the ball.

Villareal once again starte the game pressing us well and forcing too many errors from us. In the 60th minute Guardiola brought in sanchex, who was supposed to be injured and took Pique off. In the 63rd minute Adriano tried to curl a ball into the far top corner from the edge of the box, but it went high over the bar. In teh 76th minute Guardiola finally decided to make some changes - Thiago and Tello coming in for Xavi and Adriano. It was quite a surprise to see Cesc fabregas, who was pathetic staying on the pitch. In the 79th minute Tello went in a great run through the left, squared the ball to Cesc whose shot was deflected on to the bar and there was an almighty scramble in the box to clear the rebound. In the 85th minute Thiago send in a wonderful free kick into the box, but Alexis was millimetres away from finding the contact. In the 87th minute Lionel Messi danced into the box but his shot was saved by keeper, Cesc who got hold off the rebound blasted high infront of an open goal. In the 89th minute Lionel Messi had another shot straight at the keeper.

FC Barcelona's La Liga title defense may have run over it's course following this draw. To overturn five points was looking difficult, but seven looks like an impossible number. What was going through Guardiola's mind while selecting the first eleven and when the game was on? He should have started with Thiago in the middle, but instead started with Cesc, who was the worse player over the Liga this weekend. Why he still persisted with him till the end God knows. Everyone would have been calling for him to be substituted but it was Xavi who went off. Of the Barca players Abidal was the best player on the pitch. He did brilliantly to cut off any danger and did well to go upfront also. Lionel Messi also looked like having an off-night. Why we try Alves upfront is till a big question? Guardiola have tried him upfront a number of times and he always screws up. The only positive from the night was the performance of Tello, boy he was fast.

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