Gerardo Martino sat with the press for the mandatory pre-game discussion. As usual, Martino isn’t taking the match lightly. “I’m worried because of who the opposition are. They are struggling against relegation and have only won four home games, but then again, they have only lost two. They’re strong at home.” Tata isn’t completley wrong but not entirely correct either. Real Valladolid have played 12 home matches, won three, drawn six and lost three. The Barça boss had a voluminous amount to say yesterday, part of which was presented here. Below find Martino’s thoughts on squad rotation, Carles Puyol and Leo Messi.
FC Barcelona last lost to Real Valladolid in October 2002, and presently the pucelas reside in 18th place, 40 points adrift of Barça. The first-leg against Manchester City couldn’t have finished any better, but the match Wednesday still presents a formidable challenge, particularly as now Manuel Pellegrini really does have to try and attack. While Gerardo Martino won’t be as lavish with rotations from now onwards, the line-up will certainly feature several squad players.
In Johannesburg, South Africa’s Soccer City stadium, Neymar helped himself to a hat-trick as Brazil beat host South Africa 5-0. Those three goals took the 22-year-old Brazilian’s total tally for his country to 30.
Neymar has taken 47 games (0.64 goals/game) to reach this mark, and again it’s worth repeating he’s only 22. Lionel Messi reached 30 goals for his beloved Argentina at 25 years old and after 74 Albiceleste caps (0.41 goals/game). Another goal machine, Cristiano Ronaldo, hit his 30th goal for Portugal at 26, on his 86th appearance (0.35 goals/game).
Not too bad in my opinion.
Moments ago, club captain Carles Puyol announced in a brief press conference that come June 30th, he will no longer be contracted to FC Barcelona. Puyol said that the club and he were in agreement and due to his relentless injury issues he is no longer able to maintain the high standards required. Thus his remaining two years of contract are rescinded by mutual agreement.
However, Puyol stressed today was not about goodbye. “There are three months of competition and I’m not giving up. I will help the team.” He also said that come the end of the year, there will be a proper event for him to say his thank you’s and farewells to everyone.
This was not an announcement of retirement. He will “rest” over the summer, basically implying he won’t be in Brazil, and then reassess everything and take a more definite decision on his future in the professional game.
Spain’s secretary of state for sport, Miguel Cardenal, came to FC Barcelona’s defense in an interview with El País. “FC Barcelona are a relevant component of Spain’s brand. It is a benchmark multi-sport club, committed to its youth system as its identity.” Check out what more this leading figure in Spain had to say after the jump.
Week to week league games, midweek Europe or the cup, business end of the season; yeah, why not whack in an international day. Anyway, 14 of the FC Barcelona senior squad have joined their national sides for games tomorrow, Wednesday, March 5th.
Víctor Valdés, Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernández, Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro Rodríguez thankfully only need to travel a few hundred kilometers to Madrid where Spain face Italy. Sergi Roberto is with the under-21s taking on Germany. Lionel Messi and Javier Mascherano are in Bucharest, Romania to take on said national side. Alexis Sánchez is in Stuttgart where Chile face Germany, Alex Song is with Cameroon to face Portugal and finally Brazilian buds Dani Alves and Neymar travel to South Africa.
The latest news is that Xavi and Fàbregas haven’t trained with the squad and both seem unlikely to feature tomorrow.
The pre-match word was reaction. While the final score suggests mission accomplished, it wasn’t the swashbuckling and electrifying performance that many expected and craved. Nevertheless, all things considered, the 4-1 victory over Almería was three pretty easy points. Sports teams never play to their potential all the time. Cite the money footballers make and whatever else, but as players and managers constantly claim, it isn’t always possible to turn it on. Push come to shove, this is still their job, and let’s not pretend everyone is always at 100%. If not for poor finishing, the first half should have ended 4-1 or 5-1. That didn’t happen, but Almería were still as threatening as a gazelle to a lion, and Barça treated them as such.
FC Barcelona president has been busy doing the media circuit of late. Recently he sat down with 8TV’s Josep Cuní on the program 8 al dia. Josep Maria Bartomeu went into detail on Gerardo Martino, Andoni Zubizarreta as well as the up-coming member’s referendum to vote on the Camp Nou and Espai Barça projects. The most controversial aspect of the board’s proposal, the possibility of adding a “surname” to the Camp Nou, was discussed in length. Translated exclusively from Sport by totalBarça below.
“UEFA’s control and disciplinary body has banned Manchester City head coach Manuel Pellegrini for three UEFA competitions games, one of which is under probation for two years.” Thereby Pellegrini is prevented from accessing the dressing room at Camp Nou or partaking in any kind of communication with any of his players or staff during the match. He will be suspended for a second match, either if Manchester City turn a home 2-0 first leg deficit around and progress, something that has been done only once (last year by Barça), or otherwise the match will carry over to the 2014/15 season. The probationary match will only come into effect if the manager breaches rules again in the two year span.
The Spanish Supreme court ruled on Monday French newspaper Le Monde is guilty of damaging the images of FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. On December 7th, 2006, the paper ran a story connecting the clubs to the now infamous Eufemiano Fuentes, the medical doctor found guilty in the illegal doping of Spanish athletes known as Operation Puerto and Galgo. Fuentes has recently served a year in prison, but the case is one of much controversy seeing as the contents of over 300 blood bags were ruled by the same court to remain confidential. It is widely suspected some of those bags are from high profile footballers.
The French paper has been ordered to pay Barça and Real Madrid 20,000 and 300,000 euros respectively. The disparity in the amounts is due to a technical oversight.
On Sunday La Vanguardia reported the club would make a payment to the Spanish Treasury due to different interpretations on the amounts paid to Neymar’s family company. More details here, but basically FC Barcelona assert the payment was for the “penalty clause” inherent in the original pre-agreement with Neymar. The Spanish tax authorities believe the substance of the amount is actually income for the player, hence carrying an income tax component. Per personal experience, while this isn’t an everyday event in football (mostly because transfers are not scrutinized to this degree), such difference in interpretations between companies and the tax man are commonplace in business. As the statement below also notes, it should be remembered that FC Barcelona is audited by an independent auditor, who additionally would have analyzed this issue.
FC Barcelona experienced their soundest beating of the 2012/13 season yesterday in San Sebastián. While of course the narcissism of fandom will take precedent, it’s both rude and shortsighted to not recognize that Real Sociedad performance for the master-class it was. Mostly the players acknowledge they were second best, here are the reactions of Andrés Iniesta, Víctor Valdés and Gerard Piqué.
In late 2013, esteemed football magazine France Football ran an extended story on former FC Barcelona president Sandro Rosell’s Brazilian affairs. The exposé focused primarily on the civil litigation Rosell’s Brazilian company Ailanto Marketing was embroiled in the capital city of Brasilia. On Tuesday this week, a federal court of Brazil absolved Rosell’s company of any wrongdoing in this civil suit.
“We feel at ease. The contracts with Neymar and Santos are completely legal. We consulted externally with experts in finance and tax and we can say the club is up to date with payments to the Spanish Treasury. Barcelona is an exemplary club.” Once again, strong and assured words from club president Josep Maria Bartomeu. Following yesterday’s legal developments, Bartomeu sat with Teledeporte’s Estudio Estadio to discuss the topical issues. Fully translated interview below.
The latest news regarding Spanish High Court judge Pablo Ruz’s investigation into the Neymar transfer returns to FIFA. As totalBarça reported exactly 20 days ago, Ruz’s initial petition for the transfer documents from FIFA was rejected. World football’s governing body apparently replied saying, “They will only facilitate [the request] for confidential information with a pre-petition and notification from an international court.” More below.
Surely only a complete coincidence, the day following global headlines of FC Barcelona beating Manchester City, a Spanish prosecutor for the Spanish Tax Authority in Madrid announced that they have submitted a petition to judge Pablo Ruz that FC Barcelona as an entity must be named as a suspect of fraud. This differs from the original, now infamous, petition by Jordi Cases, which only named former club president Sandro Rosell. Just an hour ago, this petition was accepted. The details after the jump.
Manuel Pellegrini, Monday, February 17th 2014:
“When you play against Barça, of course one has to always consider a variety of important aspects, but it is essential to remain the same team that is seen week-in week-out in the Premiership.”
“…we are not going to only be thinking about defending them, rather what we can do with the ball. This is critical.”
“Same team..week-in week-out in Premiership” – Manchester City average 58% possession in the English Premier League this season, even boasting the highest away possession statistic of 58.9%. Maybe I’m confused, but that indicates the “personality” of this team is one that holds the ball, which was pre-match deemed “critical.”
Pellegrini was so convinced possession was the key to success, that his side finished the first half (with 11 men) with 35%. It was so “critical” to display “what we can do with the ball,” that the grounds-man was instructed to let the grass grow long and mow it directly following the game. Because as everyone knows, longer grass is always better for passing possession football.
I got a lot right in my three part Manchester City scouting report, but one sentence was very wrong: “Barça will need to be at their best to triumph over the 180 minutes, from front to back.” FC Barcelona barely had to kick into third gear to defeat a cowardly City side improperly instructed by Manuel Pellegrini. There is no question the red card was critical, but anyone and their dog who know a lick about football would never have started Martín Dimichelis. There are no excuses whatsoever after spending over half a billion pounds on transfers and then starting him. I was erroneous with the sentence above, but not here: “Barça should rejoice if that is the case [Dimichelis starting], because despite his manager’s undying faith, Demichelis is an absolute liability.” And rejoice they did, a liability he was. A 2-0 away defeat is as good as it gets and Barça need only not trip over themselves in three weeks time in order to advance to the next round.
Pep Guardiola lost his first ever away trip with FC Barcelona. That was back on August 26th 2008, a 1-0 defeat in Poland to Wisla Kraków (Barça won the first leg 4-0). Since said defeat (and including), FC Barcelona have played 16 away knock-out fixtures. They have only won three, drawing seven and losing six.
But it’s not all doom and gloom; since 2008 Barça have made the semi-final each and every season. Almost half of the 15 away trips resulted in draws (seven), and here’s a key statistic: Whether on the first or second leg, whenever Barça have drawn away, they have advanced to the next stage. Furthermore, on those three away victories, Barça similarly advanced every time. And even a defeat does not necessarily equate to an exit. Barcelona have advanced 50% of the time they have lost on their travels.