Tactical Review: Malaga’s defensive plan to contain Barcelona falls short

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A well executed Thomas Vermaelen volley – the Belgian’s excellent technique a testament to his growing confidence, his newly found form, and growing role in the squad – was all that separated Javi Gracia’s Málaga CF and Luis Enrique’s FC Barcelona. As was the case in the La Liga opening fixture against Athletic Bilbao, this match too was defined by the two previous encounters between the sides- it is well known that Malaga collected four points against Luis Enrique’s treble winning team last season, while completing 180 minutes of superb defensive football without conceding a single goal to what many consider the best attacking trio in football history.

Despite both ‘Samus’ leaving Malaga for Villarreal, Gracia was expected to keep the same system and mimic the approach that worked so well for him last season. For Luis Enrique, it was an odd opportunity to prove that his team had evolved, could beat the squad that had been a minor thorn in their side last season, and a chance to remind us that their positional, possession based style attack is still as dominant as it once was and hasn’t fallen into disuse now that the trident have become more accustomed to attacking the space in transition.

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Café con leche: Neymar set for new contract

Photo by Alex Caparros/Getty Images

All hands on Ney…

Much has been made recently of Manchester United’s supposed interest in Neymar, with English media outlets even going as far as mentioning silly money having been offered by the Red Devils to Barcelona. Barcelona executives are certain that Neymar’s father is using the story as leverage to secure a better deal for his son.

The signs show that the Brazilian will get what he wants in the end, as president Bartomeu is now ready to dedicate 100% of his time to club operations, with Neymar’s issue top of his priority list. The club is reportedly ready to make Neymar the second best paid player behind Leo Messi by offering him a contract worth 14 million euros a year, along with various performance incentives. The offer almost doubles Neymar’s current base salary of 8.8 million euros annually, and serves as an attractive proposal for the player, who also has a 20 million euros-a-year offer from Manchester United.

Developments on this front are expected soon, as Barcelona executives want to seal the deal as soon as possible, well before the 3-man shortlist for the Ballon D’Or is announced, as it is expected that Neymar’s representatives could use Neymar’s potential inclusion in the shortlist as another negotiating weapon.

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Back & Forth: What now for Alex Song?

Image: FC Barcelona

To keep or not to keep?

If you hadn’t realised yet, Alexandre Song is still an FC Barcelona player. The Cameroonian returns from his loan spell from West Ham having missed out on Barça’s extraordinary treble-winning season. A season every footballer who joins the Catalan side dreams of being lucky enough to participate in. And unlike by-standers Thomas Vermaelen and Douglas Pereira, the former Arsenal player was unable to match their luck.

The 27-year-old has one year left on his contract with the Catalan club, and his exclusion from the Joan Gamper presentations already signals Barça’s intentions on the matter. Now as the new season takes shape, and with the transfer window about to shut, totalBarça’s Aly Abdelwahab and Youssef Khalifa go head-to-head to debate the subject most culés have been ignoring. Should Alexandre Song feature in Barça’s new season or should he pack his bags and look for another club?

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Review: The Verminator strikes

JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images

It was a game where the scoreline didn’t totally reflect the state of the game, but culés should be very satisfied with the 3 points. FC Barcelona finally managed to take 3 points against Málaga for the first time since Luis Enrique has taken the helm. With shades of Sergio Busquets’ volley at Mestalla last season, Thomas Vermaelen stepped up to win the game and ensure that the club stays 2 points ahead of Real Madrid. More after the break.

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Cartoon of the day: Sport

Cartoon of the day: Sport

VERMAELEN’S FACE BEFORE THE GOAL

VERMAELEN’S FACE CELEBRATING THE GOAL

VERMAELEN’S FACE AFTER THE GOAL

HAVE WE TRADED VERMAELEN FOR A ROBOT?

A ROBOT WHO PERFORMS IMMEDIATELY

MADE IN ZUBI

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The Front: Sport (31.8.2015)

The Front: Sport (31.8.2015)

NEYMAR WILL ASK FOR A SUPERCONTRACT

He tightens on Barça to renew: He wants double of his signing and to earn just under Messi

Brazilian hopes for the Ballon de Or to complete negotiations

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The Front: Mundo Deportivo (31.8.2015)

The Front: Mundo Deportivo (31.8.2015)

SIGNING VERMAELEN

The Belgian defender is confirmed as the best reinforcement under the impossibility of signing players

Thomas, with his great performance, has stepped ahead of Mathieu and Bartra in Lucho’s preference

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Café con leche: The rise of the Verminator

JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images

Not as shocked as the rest of us

180 minutes of football last season weren’t enough to break down Málaga’s defence and score, and yesterday it looked like the opponents were once again going to leave the Camp Nou with at least a point. But thanks to Thomas Vermaelen, the man with a point to prove, Málaga were finally beaten by Luis Enrique and his players in a fixture that was lost last season. The coach, however, is not surprised to see the Belgian win Barcelona three valuable points.

“[His goal] doesn’t surprise me because he is a player of the top level. On a football level, there are no doubts about him. He is physically still not 100 percent, though. He is a very important player when it comes to set pieces, he is an expert in the air,” Lucho said.

The match winner will also be rejoining his national side after reassuring outings with the Catalans. “I’m happy he’s going with his national team, just like any Barça player. It will be good for him, although they have to evaluate his fitness. It’s good for Belgium and its good for Barça.”

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Dear Thomas, we need to talk

Barcelona's Belgian defender Thomas Vermaelen congratulated by his teammate Barcelona's defender Jordi Alba  (JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

The following is a piece of satire. Much like the rest of the culé-verse, I’m delighted with Vermaelen’s performances, and hope to see his excellent form and fitness sustained over the course of the 2015-2016 season.

Dear Thomas,

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

You were never meant to play. I said it, they said it, we all said it – and it wasn’t ice cream we were all screaming about either.

You were a figure of fun, subject to all kinds of repeated mockery, as chronic in its nature as your perennially torn hamstrings. See? It comes so naturally.

You were a living testament to ‘Wenger Knows,’ the latest in a long line of dummies sold to us. Hell, the last one even embraced it and started modelling his fashion line. Where’s your Tchakap? Get with the ‘systeme.’

There’s a reason why the Frenchman, long since called the professor, smirks uncontrollably like a schoolboy. This isn’t it.

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The Front: Sport (30.8.2015)

The Front: Sport (30.8.2015)

VERMAELEN THE SAVIOR!

A GOAL FROM THE DEFENDER GAVE BARÇA A VERY DIFFICULT VICTORY

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