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Andy Gray Questions Whether Barcelona Could Handle Stoke or Blackburn

I admire Lionel Messi’s incredible skills as much as the next soccer fan, but I’m not a member of the recent love fest in the British media where they’ve heralded Barcelona as the greatest team ever. They’re up there, no doubt, but I question Messi’s talent when he comes up against the tough teams either in the Champions League or World Cup, where the Argentine routinely disappears in matches whenever he’s faced against a tough opponent. So many of the opponents that Messi faces in La Liga look like Swiss cheese, allowing the best player in the world too much space to dart in and out before pulling the trigger to score wonderful goals.

That being said, Andy Gray and Richard Keys (both men were part of the second worst soccer TV show of 2010 according to a recent review of mine) took it one step further this past Monday during the Manchester City against Everton match when they entered into a Premier League versus La Liga debate. Andy Gray said:

“I don’t know if Barcelona have ever gone to a place like the Britannia Stadium and suffered the kind of onslaught from Tony Pulis’ team of long throws and free-kicks or been up to a place like Blackburn and been beaten up by their long ball into the box.”

I don’t doubt that Barcelona would have a tricky time wondering how to deal with Rory Delap’s long throw, but I’m confident that Barcelona or Real Madrid would be able to defeat Stoke or Blackburn. Just last weekend, Real Madrid faced a Sevilla side that played a very old English style of play where the team hoofed the ball up the field. Real Madrid won 1-0.

Here’s the complete video of the discussion between Keys and Gray. Keys, especially, was asking some leading questions:

Taken as a whole, I believe there is more depth in the Premier League than La Liga. I also agree that Tottenham Hotspur would be able to defeat Valencia. But I do believe that Barcelona and Real Madrid have more depth than the top Premier League clubs. In previous seasons, Premier League clubs have been able to defeat Real Madrid pretty easily. Barcelona has been another thing entirely, except for Liverpool who defeated them in the Champions League a few years ago.

Thanks to 101 Great Goals for finding the clip, and thanks to Things Fall Apart blog for the hysterical English Football’s Map Of Europe.

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  1. arijit

    April 9, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Yeah yeah…. Messi messii…. I still feel ronaldo is way better than messi…. He scores whereever he plays not like messi scoring only with barca……

  2. Mick

    March 20, 2012 at 4:31 pm

    I’d like to see Messi play in the EPL week in and week out, he would struggle as he does not have physicality to cope with the strength of English football. We all know about CR7 in England so: CR7> Messi

    P.S I wonder who all of these Barca fans who can’t speak a world of spanish will be supporting in 10 years or 20 years?

  3. Jacqui

    April 28, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Liverpool beat Barca twice get it right…. Only English Club to ever do it.

  4. Zach Nix

    April 27, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Barcelona. We beat chelsea, man u, and arsenal and your saying we couldnt survive in the premier league

    messi kicks english ass on a monthly basis every euro encouter, he would run rings around your players

  5. mikey

    January 27, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    English pl teams suck and the reason for that is they lost to most spanish opposition, seville beat middlesborough 4-0 in uefa cup final, atletico madrid outclassed inter and fulham, valencia were robbed from man utd, id rather watch technical football over epl football, a league with no skills and technique but playing like a holland like game.

    • O

      February 2, 2011 at 7:44 pm

      @ Mikey, for your information middlesborough are NOT a premier league team, theyre in 2nd division, dats like saying tottenham wud whup on real betis. And athletico madrid beat fulham? Yeah fulham are 14th in epl, athletico r 5th in la liga. Basically ure saying that champions league teams such as athletico, sevilla are better than fulham and middlesborough. Thats ure reason why epl is crap? Oh and man utd wud waste any team, messi wud struggle playing nemanja vidic and rio ferdinand.

  6. Brendan

    January 26, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I’d love to watch this video of what was said, but unfortunately that incredibly irritating advertisement which I CAN’T turn off, won’t let me hear the sound!

    Never mind Gray and Keys, sort out your advertising policy epltalk

    • The Gaffer

      January 26, 2011 at 8:57 pm

      Brendan, we’re aware of it and will be correcting that in the near future. In the meantime, feel free to hit refresh and it should load a different, quieter ad.

      The Gaffer

  7. oscar

    January 25, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I think Andy is absolutely right. Messi is playing in la liga, a league with no competition what so ever. He doesn’t have to defend at all, therefore he can focus totally on attacking. no wonder he score alot of goals, same with Ronaldo, he was a better player in man utd

  8. Wati

    January 24, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    4gt abt goals, messi wl b defending if barca wer a team in EPL.. why does barca n ream madrid alwys win in la liga? Bcoz there s no competetion..4m da 16+ weak teams. 8s almost lik thy are playng against 3rd division teams.
    .MAN UNITED or CHELSEA wl also nevr lose if thy wer 2 b demoted 2 3rd division…

  9. Michael Scott

    January 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

    Forgetting when Man Utd beat them a few years back I think it was in the semi-final of Champions league? 0-0 in camp nou and then 1-0 in Old Trafford with barca hardly creating a chance

  10. Dominic Yusoff

    January 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    And btw Barca went out to Liverpool on away goals. Yes they beat Barca, but Barca also beat them in their backyard.

  11. Dominic Yusoff

    January 23, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    So Barcelona’s quality is not measured against facing the big teams of English football, but the likes of Stoke, blackburn etc. Interesting. Does that mean the quality of Man Utd, Chelsea etc can only be measured if they play the weaker teams of La Liga? Btw Athletic Bilbao plays like an ‘English team’ and they have lost in ther home ground to Barcelona this year.

    On La Liga however, yes the EPL is more competitive, but that doesn’t mean that the quality of the other la liga teams outside Barca and RM are poor. I remember Valencia handling Man Utd quite well in the group stages and were unlucky to lose to them.

  12. Mike

    January 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    This whole thing was the biggest joke.

    How many goals would Stoke ship playing on a hot Saturday night in September in Barcelona?




    Messi would have no issues scoring 30+ in a season in the EPL if he was in all 38 games.

  13. Joe smart

    January 1, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    also those 27 league goals I’ve talked about this season are for all competitions “only” 17 of them are league goals

  14. Joe smart

    January 1, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    british people are so f***ing stupid when it comes to football. He’s scored 27 goals this season, scored a hat-trick against real madrid when he was 19, scored 4 goals against arsenal, scored in the champions league final, scored 38 goals in the 2008/09 season, scored 47 goals in the 2009/10 season and already has 27 goals in the 2010/11 season so how on earth can you think that the fact that Blackburn and Stoke are physical will be enough to stop a player like Messi. It’s people in British football with narrow minded, outdated footballing philosophies like Andy Gray, Sam Allardyce and Tony Pulis that are to blame for the failure of English and Scottish football over recent years.

  15. Ravi

    December 28, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Most ridiculous article ever, if u have seen the passing game of barca and any game in Premier league u can easily tell the difference, current barca will tear the EPL teams apart and Messi vanishes in big games? Lol looks like you havent seen anything in the past few years, go watch some games and then talk. He along with Xavi are the soul of Barca who are definitely the best soccer team right now. If not for the long drive to Milan last year they would have secured Champions League as well, you will witness it this year when Puyol and Barca lift the cup. All 3 players for Ballon Dor oh wait do you even know what it is are from the same team and you still question and put up this ridiculous article? UNBELIEVABLE!!

  16. Manny

    December 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Another big difference between the EPL and La Liga besides the physicality vs open play is the refereeing in the EPL is very poor and they allow hard tackles without issuing as many yellow or red cards. So teams like Barcelona would find themselves spending more time on the treatment table. Bring in better referees and teams like Stoke would end up with players being sent off regularly.

  17. Rumple

    December 25, 2010 at 3:15 am

    britannia stadium? intimidating? well then ehy don’t barca invite one of the gretest english teams to the nou camp for a macth? aresenal, for example. wait….too late.
    Messi + Barca > EPL
    Camp Nou > England (the whole country)

  18. Gaz Hunt

    December 24, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    To his defense, the question was basically, “would Barcelona and Messi have a harder time of it in the Premier League”?


    He’s saying that the Premier League is stronger all around than La Liga and that Barcelona wouldn’t go about getting 5-0 wins every week (and Messi may not get two or three goals a week).

    While Barcelona have more quality than Stoke or Blackburn, playing higher quality and much tougher teams week in and week out would be a more difficult experience for Barcelona.

    It’s definitely up to debate but I really don’t see it as being that controversial.

  19. mike

    December 24, 2010 at 11:41 am

    la liga is pretty much crap once you get beyond real and
    barca and one or two others. the premier league is a much better
    league when you consider all 20 teams. however, this does not mean
    that barca or real would struggle in england. barcelona are just
    filthy, no one can deny that. it’s not their fault that la liga has
    no depth.

  20. alex

    December 24, 2010 at 9:21 am

    andy you are a complete bias prat!

    as already stated the champions league is the best level of football and hes beaten many english teams along the way.
    as someone said earlier sod stoke and blackburn go to athletico bilbaos or espanyols stadium thats hostile.
    and la liga has no strength and depth other than barca and real madrid? valencia villarreal seville athletico madrid and even teams like bilbao (who have the spanish striker llorente) are more than a match for everton etc
    stick to your long balls your rb hoofing it down the line because thats more “technical” lol you moron andy

  21. Blake Hampton

    December 23, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Agree 100% Andy. I’m going to reserve judgment on Messi until he plays at the Britannia. HAHAHAHAHAHA

  22. brian

    December 23, 2010 at 9:31 pm

    how’d messi do against arsenal last year in CL?

    on aggregate,
    messi – 4
    arsenal – 3

    just saying…!

  23. tedekm

    December 23, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    I can not believe the stupidity of the Sky team in questioning how Messi would fare against stoke. Their comments on technical football, where absurd, comments such as how Barca would fare against long throw in’s and long balls, are exactly why the england football team and english managers are stuck in the dark ages. Pure stupidity from Andy Grey

    In terms of how Messi, would fare against stoke – I wish we never see this, since i could foresee some bonehead like Ryan Shawcross breaking the Argentine Wonders leg.

    The majority of PL teams dont deserve to share a pitch with Barcelona

  24. RedMD

    December 23, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    More importantly, Gaffer, where were you able to watch the SKY feed of the match last Monday night? I want in;o)

  25. jleau

    December 23, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Barcelona are the best club in the world and would probably win this year’s version of the Premiership without too much competition. I’m sure that the physicality of the EPL would cause them a few problems, but their incredible passing and technical ability would cause the rest of the league a lot more trouble.

    I haven’t been a fan long enough to have an opinion on the best team ever. However, in my short time following the sport, Barcelona’s demolition of Real Madrid was the most dominating performance I have witnessed. Madrid are a top club filled with world class internationals managed by one of the best managers in the world. They were helpless.

    I was amazed a few years ago that United could demolish Roma so completely in the CL. Barca’s perfromance against Madrid made that look ordinary.

  26. efrain

    December 23, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Messi is a great and arguably the greatest player at the moment. He is better with Barcelona than with Argentina. He is part of a well oiled machine when it comes to Barca. On the occassion when he “disappears” he is always there for some great passes/assists that lead to goals. Yes, in some Champions league games he may have an off night in scoring, but he makes up for that with his brilliant dribbling/passing to Villa, Iniesta, Xavi, etc., which ultimately lead to goals. So, regardless of which superstar scores for Barca, they are the best team in the world!! There may in fact be more “depth” in the EPL than LaLiga overall, but Ill put up Barca against any EPL team, or any team in the world for that matter.

    Sound cocky? Yup, cuz Barca rocks!!

  27. rivnam

    December 23, 2010 at 11:48 am

    Andy Gray shows again what an absolute fool , he is….

    Barcelona are too strong for the majority of prem teams, against the top 4 it would actually be a contest but against the best in their own league they showed their dominnace (cough) 5-0 (cough)

    Forget the Britannia stadium places like San Mames (Athletic Bilboa Stadium) are much more intimidating…..

    • phalgun

      February 15, 2011 at 10:13 pm


  28. Charlie

    December 23, 2010 at 11:26 am

    Liverpool beat Barcelona in 2007 when Messi was only 19 and Ronaldinho was still around. Same goes for Man U’s victory in 2008 when Leo was 20. Since inheriting the #10 shirt following Ronaldinho’s departure in 2008, Messi has gone on to lead the Champs League in scoring in both 2009 and 2010 – beating the likes of Chelsea, Man U and Arsenal along the way. Heading into the 2011 knockout rounds, Leo is 2nd in Champs League with 6 goals. Only Eto’o has more (7).

    My point is, you can’t base your reservations about a guy on losses his team suffered at the highest level of competition at a time when he was still just a 19/20 yr old role player. To do so is to ignore the fact that Barcelona’s current dominance is predicated upon Leo’s emergence as the best player on the planet over the past 2+ seasons. Are they the “Greatest of All Time”? No. But Messi is the best player of this generation as well as the reason this Barca team has even entered into that conversation.

  29. Ivan

    December 23, 2010 at 10:58 am

    Barcelona is the best club team in football history. Results speak for themselves. Barcelona will pummel competition in England, including the anti-footballing clubs like Stoke and Blackburn away from home.
    The best 3 players in the world play in Barcelona, Spain has been the most dominant national side in the world for the last 3-4 years, and as to Messi…he only has the World Cup to win to be the greatest player to EVER play the beautiful game. He has dominated the Champions League and the Primera for years now.
    As exciting the Premier League is, it is nowhere near as good, quality-wise, as it was 4 years ago, when 3 out of 4 english teams would get to the champions League semi-finals.The balance of power is shifting away from England, slowly but surely.
    Just look of how few players who play in the Premier League were selected in the footballer of the year short list.

  30. SantaClaus

    December 23, 2010 at 10:20 am

    In a one off game anything can happen. However, if teams like Real Madrid or Barcelona were to play an entire season in the EPL I would consider them among favorites to win the title. They just have too much quality. We saw what happened in the World Cup to Spain when teams went out to defend with ten men behind the ball and invited them to break them down. Spain won those tough games and Barcelona have most of those players on their team.

    Most of the other Spanish teams would struggle in the EPl because they are used to open play and the EPL does not allow for that with its physicality. On the other hand, most EPL teams would have a hard time in La Liga because it is so open and defensive-minded teams get the odd result but not much more. So we are comparing two different leagues with different characteristics. Only the top teams in both leagues would do well in the other league.

    • Gaz Hunt

      December 24, 2010 at 6:00 pm

      I don’t know.

      A season in the Premier League would be much more difficult for Barcelona. One off matches are one thing but for Barcelona to play a “beat you up” team like Stoke followed by another like Blackburn next week followed by another like Bolton the week after that would be a much harder task for them.

      Granted, they’d still do rather well but it would be a much harder task.

  31. Frank

    December 23, 2010 at 8:21 am

    Does not show up in the Big game? how about in the Champions League Final where he scored with his head (oh yeah he cant do that either).
    or in the semi’s against a “tough” chelsea team where he set up the winning goal? or against Arsenal last year when he tore them apart?
    he’s scored in all the clasico’s against Madrid (except the last one where he set up 2 goals with brilliant passes) and those are the biggest games in his league! as for Liverpool beating them “a few years ago” it must be said that all teams lose every once in a while.

    • O

      February 2, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      @ frank messi set up the winning goal against chelsea? What? You mean that two yard pass which my little sis(who’s 7) could do after michael essiens failed clearance. Yeah mate not doubtin messi is the best in the world, but evry time he comes to england, he flops

      • Messi's Right foot

        April 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm

        Is that when he had a goal incorrectly called for offside at the Emrites and scored in the CL final at Wembley to Barca in the lead?

  32. yves Paquin

    December 23, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Salut, j’adore votre blog et votre façon de raconter tout ça. Bravo et bonne continuation.
    regarder vidéo But real madrid vs levante

    • jumbo

      December 23, 2010 at 10:50 am

      f**k you. excuse my french

  33. Doug

    December 23, 2010 at 7:25 am

    You question Messi when he comes up against the best. Ever heard of the Champions League?

    He has scored 29 goals in his last 39 Champions League games, which it doesn’t need to be said is much, much better than any other player in Europe. If you doubt Messi in the big games you have to doubt everyone.

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