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In Pep, We Trust!
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The points gap in the Liga is back up to five, and Barcelona have shed their recent aura of invincibility. But just as Sergio "Kun" Aguero put in a fine day's work to give Atletico a win over the blaugrana, did Frank Rijkaard shoot himself in the foot with his own team selection?

Rijkaard cannot legislate for a barnstorming showing from an opposition player; nor can he, within reason, anticipate a poor showing from one of his own. But as his players trudged off the pitch in Madrid after their 4-2 defeat at Kun Aguero's Atletico Madrid, he may have joined others in wondering if he might have set things up a bit differently.

You could run the rule over many of his choices to meet Atletico Madrid at the Vicente Calderon, but in my estimation, one change was greater - and more damaging - than any other: the exclusion of Toure Yaya.

Maybe it's easy to judge in hindsight, but I felt that the Ivorian could have made a huge difference in the capital, and that Frank Rijkaard misjudged the situation incredibly by leaving the midfielder out of the squad entirely. Rijkaard, it seems, didn't quite accept what Yaya could have offered in what was always going to be a tough fixture, and that his decision to rest him was a massive error.

I obviously do not mean to contend that Frank Rijkaard does not rate Toure as a player. For one thing, it's unusual to rest a player that you do not deem valauble for other situations. And in terms of raw numbers, Yaya has won his boss' confidence enough to start 16 Liga games - more than Deco.

Rather, the question I'm asking is, does Rijkaard truly appreciate what Toure offers to the team, and does he know how to get the best out of him?

A Change Is As Good As A Rest

Toure was not the only one rested at the Vicente Calderon. Lionel Messi also failed to start, although he did make the squad. In the end, though, the main difference appeared in midfield.

Edmilson took on the anchorman role in the absence of the Ivorian, and he was not to impress. After going 1-0 up, Barcelona should have been able to control the game, with Edmilson's task being to play the simple pass, put in the tackle, and otherwise frustrate Atletico's central midfield into overextending himself.

In fact, he was to do none of these things. It is actually quite sad to watch a model professional labour so badly, but that's what happened. He was past his best to such an extent that it was hard to reconcile his performances with those of years past. He was a different player.

Toure Can Be Key

Rijkaard did his usual in sacrificing a defensive influence for an attacking one when he hooked Edmilson for Gudjohnsen midway through the second half, but this failed to stem the tide as Atletico managed a game-sealing fourth. Barcelona were, by this time, growing increasingly nervous and devoid of shape. A calming influence like Toure's, on another day, might have made all the difference.

It could have done so earlier, as well - as early as the first minute, in fact. True, Atletico started badly, but they did recover. Toure's influence may have seen to it that they weren't able to do so at all.

Partially, Edmilson's plight was borne of the fact that Rijkaard only uses one defensive midfielder, but one still feels that Toure could have done more. For one thing, he could have held the ball with greater ease, meaning that Barcelona would surrender it less readily and thus be less susceptible to the ever-present threat of the counter-attack.

Of course, others must carry the can as well as Rijkaard. Puyol did not put in a captain's showing - something that has become worryingly commonplace over the last twelve months. But with Iniesta and Xavi playing advanced roles, you simply need a dependable performer in the middle at an arena like Atleti's, and Rijkaard did not oblige. This put the captain and his cohorts under pressure.

The Dangers of Rotation

And as well as pointing out Toure's individual worth to the team, it showed that sometimes tinkering with the squad can be a major error.

Of course, with the blaugrana famously still fighting on three fronts, they need to make the odd change here and there. But removing Messi and Toure from the equation in the Liga - on a week when, had things been just that little bit different, they could have gone top - was mystifying.

The two will probably return against Celtic in the Champions League midweek, and they'll probably help the blaugrana to victory. But would that not have been a better time to give the two a spell on the bench? Barcelona did magnificently well to leave 'Fortress Parkhead' with a 3-2 win; as much as complacency has cost the blaugrana at home in Europe recently (Liverpool last season, anyone?), that's still the hard part over with, and it would be in this game, not the Atleti one, that Rijkaard could cut a corner or two.

The one lesson, above all, that he should take from the capital, then, is that if it's a must-win game, then Toure is a must-play midfielder. Essentially, Rijkaard got it all backward in Madrid - and he could pay the price.

source: http://www.goal.com/en/Articolo.aspx?ContenutoId=607492

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What do you guys think?
 

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Atletico away is a tougher game than Celtic at home, so he has a point about playing your best team, but the most important thing this week is to progress in the Champions League and given the tight schedule of the past month, some rotation was inevitable.
 

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Toure was left off for injury reasons (slight those might have been), and not technical ones.

Frank might be high most of the time, but he isn't stupid. He knows Yaya's importance to the midfield.
 

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I think it is a matter of Rijkaard and the technical team better managing players. There's no reason why Toure and Messi for that matter didn't provoke the yellow card in Glasgow. That way they would have been suspended and cleaned their record going into the quarterfinals. Now you're most likely going to have both of those players out in one of the final matches of the champions league. very poor management there, these things have to be watched for. a big oversight and could prove costly especially to your holding midfielder
 

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Wasn't Toure hurt for the Atletico's game? How was Rijkaard going to play him?
 

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I think it is a matter of Rijkaard and the technical team better managing players. There's no reason why Toure and Messi for that matter didn't provoke the yellow card in Glasgow. That way they would have been suspended and cleaned their record going into the quarterfinals. Now you're most likely going to have both of those players out in one of the final matches of the champions league. very poor management there, these things have to be watched for. a big oversight and could prove costly especially to your holding midfielder
This is a serious problem. When asked after the Celtic match, several players (I believe Puyi was one of them, he was suprised) answered they weren't aware of that Yaya and Messi had yellow cards.
 
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