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Treading Water: Barcelona, VAR, and THAT referee (FM2020)

An ugly loss may end up being a turning point.

FC Barcelona v Villarreal - La Liga Santander Photo by Rico Brouwer/Soccrates/Getty Images

On the edge of European places, we host Barcelona in La Liga action. After a win and two draws following our decent showing against Atleti, I figured we should at least hold our own for 90 minutes... not so much...

Barcelona and darkness

There are two primary ways to go about facing a possession heavy team. I started out with with the more conservative, a deep block counter attacking system. I figured hey, maybe I frustrate Barca and steal a goal against the run of play on the counter attack. That plan took a serious blow in the 8th minute when Luis Suarez scored.

I stuck to my guns, however, and sat back deep, thinking that if we just nabbed a goal somewhere we could come away with a credible draw, and stood by that notion until the hour mark where we still had attempted no shots whatsoever. I switched to what I consider to be the other notion against possession heavy sides, high desperate pressing, and frankly it just made things worse. Busquets and De Jong were just not going to be bothered by the likes of our midfielders, and extending myself allowed two more goals in during the later stages of the game. No shots attempted all night, a miserable failure that lies mostly on my shoulders.

Gil Manzano and VAR conspire to ruin football

On the heels of this match we had Eiber at home and Mallorca away on the docket and it was back to basics. Two 1-0 wins (one by a Toko goal and one by a Santi dialing back the clock down the left wing) took us up to FOURTH place going into a match against Real Sociedad. We come into this match well rested as I heavily rotated for Mallorca, who have no better odds staying up in a video game than they do in real life.

Travelling to the Anoeta with Gil Manzano officiating was never going to be an easy job and we trailed 1-0 at half after an Isak goal. I felt conflicted about the tactics. On one hand, we were creating good chances, but on the other, we were giving up far more that was reasonable for being in such a defensive posture. I decided to narrow the width of our formation and keep everything else the same. The hour mark came and went with us not getting the goal we needed and I decided it was time to get aggressive.

In the 94th minute, Carlos Bacca gets free in the box and scores an equalizer, only for Gil Manzano to go to VAR and rule it out. The match ends 1-0. We’re back in 7th, right where I was when this set of games started.

What’s next?

Real Madrid. My confidence is just not very high for this one. They’re five points clear at the top of the table and we made such a mess against Barca that I really don’t know what we’re gonna do. I’ll probably dictate my exact strategy after the game has already begun, because depending on virtual Zidane’s lineup choices maybe I can press Casemiro or focus on attacking Marcelo’s side.. we’ll see. Eden Hazard staying healthy in this reality is a Real problem for the rest of the league.