The international break is over. It’s that time of the season when players go off to play for their national teams and get the bad habits out of their system, like Masche’s proclivity to collect yellow cards with ARG, or Xavi’s and Messi’s sudden urge to get their free kicks just right. The players are back, we’d like to add safe and sound, but of course, it’s completely unheard of to have an international break without the FIFA virus striking. This time, the victims are Iniesta, who is out for 10-15 days with a right thigh muscle injury, and Alba, who is out temporarily with the flu.

For a recap, first, we’ll start with the free kicks. Just because, you know, it’s not straight at the wall or directed at the stars or kicked backwards as we’re accustomed to, but are two such perfectly rendered versions.

Xavi’s Free Kick vs Saudi Arabia

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We are thinking back to the last time we came up with a prediction. And there’s this unsettling feeling that it was during that couple of weeks that no one really wants to remember. It was something along the lines of – “Pep Guardiola is definitely not leaving Barca next season”. Yeah well. Any predictions before that, you ask? Yes, there was one for the second leg of Chelsea game in CL semis. And suffice to say it was nothing like how that turned out. So, with that confidence building exercise out of the way, here are our predictions for the upcoming Clasico.

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It has been quite a ride the last couple of weeks. A sinusoidal curve that peaked at the brink of competing very realistically for the treble and reached its nadir barely a week later after being knocked out of Champions League, losing La Liga to Real Madrid and of course, Pep Guardiola’s heart-breaking yet totally understandable decision. “In three games, we could be out of two competitions” Pep said then, and for once the Pepssimism ended up ringing true. Once again, as journalists hurry to write premature eulogies mourning the “end of an era” in an age where teams can be “the greatest ever” or “maybe not the best in the world currently” based on the outcome of a crucial game or two, we are merely amused. Well, we are usually amused by almost everything, so you can’t really go by that, and no one can really guarantee anything about the future, but sometimes you just don’t understand the exaggerated reactions, and it’s a little funny when definitions are applied to a work-in-progress. Judging by the media reactions, one would think we got knocked out of the Champions League in the group stages and finished eighth in the league. Semifinal – win – semifinal – win – semifinal?! Good Lord, the team has totally lost the plot! Clearly!

Guests at Cesc's birthday party are capable of giving any football team a run for their money.

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The only good thing about playing Chelsea-Real Madrid-Chelsea in a week is that at least it’s not Real Madrid-Real Madrid-Real Madrid in a week, thank heavens and UEFA draw. A tough stretch of games always requires fan support and optimism to counter all the dreadfully pessimistic facts Pep is no doubt going to lay on us during the pressers ahead (“It’s impossible to win the Liga unless all the planets align and there are bats sightings during the day” “We haven’t won against Chelsea in like…ages”). Well, not to worry, here are some reasons from us as to why we should be confident for the panic-attacks inducing week ahead.

(1) First of all, be aware we have Cesc. If all else fails, he will unleash his Football Gods Appeasing Dance to turn the tide in our favor, even if the opposition goal keeper is left emotionally scarred for life. A missed free kick or two later, goals will flow like water (Barca goals that is). Do not fear.

Cesc's antics made us giggle. We are pleased. Grant them a goal.

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11th February 2012. A seemingly Liga-deciding loss against Osasuna that resulted in a 10 point difference to La Liga table leaders Real Madrid. “Barca threw away the League in 45 unrecognizable minutes” lamented the covers of Sport and EMD, which is a little mild given their fondness for hyperbole. “It’s a conspiracy!” pointed out some cules, just as a few of us convinced ourselves that Pep Guardiola was deliberately throwing away La Liga so that he can concentrate on winning back-to-back Champions League titles. You know, because, having won 13 out of the last 16 possible tournaments, he might have suddenly forgotten how to multi-task. “It’s Shakira!” cried some others, there were also the “It’s Cesc with his Hamstring Curse and Trophy Jinx!” believers, not to mention the “Xavi should shut up about superior football, it’s bad juju” brigade. Oh, and we almost forgot the “Pep’s experiments are ruining the team” cliques.

 

Believe in the team! Oops, sorry. Wrong pic.

 

Pep Guardiola: “We started the year with the obligation of winning the six titles. We have to live with this obligation. (Now that Liga seems out of reach), it seems that unless we win the Champions League, this season would be a failure. The Champions League is a major challenge, it is tremendous. We couldn’t have won the things we have the last four years if we’d been throwing titles away. That shows we care for every title we fight for. We do not think there is a game or a competition more important than another, but I am not one to convince people we haven’t thrown La Liga away. I made the decisions that I think are the best for the team.”

 

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Translation: He's really REALLY good!

It’s getting really difficult with this guy. If professional journalists are running out of superlatives, what do you expect from us mere bloggers? We’d go with “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” but we already used that one up when he scored 5 goals in a CL knockout game. And now he’s gone ahead and broken one more record with most number of official goals for FC Barcelona at the ridiculous age of 24. Short of videotaping our collective faces when Messi consistently makes the miracle look mundane and vice-versa every three days (and we’d NEVER do that to you, dear readers), we can’t think of much else to do.

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This is our post on Barcelona Offside

Alexis Sanchez recently mentioned that he is learning a lot from his team mates, playing for a team like FC Barcelona. This obviously got us thinking. What could Alexis possibly be learning? Forgive our skepticism, but every time we think of Alexis’s teammates, we think of this.

And then we become very concerned about the content of his learning. We pray, for instance, that it has nothing to do with “101 ways to make an ass of yourself on twitter”. Or becoming a serial napper cum former-team jinx agent. But not to worry, we do have a (wink wink) exclusive on what he was talking about (Yeah right!). Here you go. You can thank us later.

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