Martino: “It’s a really tough blow”

Martino: “It’s a really tough blow”

It’s a really tough blow because the expectations are so great.” Gerardo Martino is correct on both fronts, particularly the latter. FC Barcelona are now their own worst enemies, having set the standard so high, it’s what too many assume to be the norm. Martino kept it short post match, but whether truthful or not, the Argentine felt his future hasn’t particularly changed. “As I have said for one, two, three months now, I don’t feel that my future has changed because of all that we lost, and nor do I think it would be different if we had won.” The part that is likely to prove true is that even if Barça had won, Martino’s future wouldn’t have been any different.

Commenting on the winning goal, Tata was annoyed because he felt “the game was going our way after we had leveled until that counterattack”, but also was impressed to see someone “sprint like that at that stage of the game.

Obviously this is not a good moment. It has been a hard week on all fronts.” But Tata also stressed the need for perspective, to look at the bigger picture, to trust in the fundamentals of the squad and look to build for the future.

One month remains in the season, and there is only one competition to focus on. The league isn’t over as both Madrid sides have a very real distraction in Europe. Martino has to implore the players to muster one final push and finish the season undefeated.

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Messi cam

Messi cam

Tonight the Copa del Rey final broadcasters RTVE will have one of their 24 cameras solely focused on Lionel Messi for the entire match. There will be another lens on Gareth Bale, and the footage will eventually be used to produce a special program on the two players. However, while one enjoy the match on the TV, tonight is will be possible to follow every step Messi takes live at www.rtve.es.

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Copa del Rey final Preview: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid

Copa del Rey final Preview: FC Barcelona vs Real Madrid

Pros: Gerardo Martino is 2 for 2 against Real Madrid, Marc Bartra appears set to start, Leo Messi might be feeling in the mood for proving a point and tonight genuinely is Barça’s best shot at silverware. Cons: Carles Puyol and Gerard Piqué are effectively ruled out and Cristiano Ronaldo is unavailable. More pros than cons then, but of course, football is not won with a pros and cons table. Thus far Tata has had Carlo’s number, but Ancelotti is as experienced and able as any, it would be some feat for Martino to make it 3 for 3. But that’s what he must do, operative word being must.

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Quote of the Day: Ni nada

Quote of the Day: Ni nada

“If we lose the Copa [del Rey], Tata Martino isn’t done and we won’t call elections.

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Video of the Day: Munir’s stunning UEFA Youth League goal

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Official: Cristiano Ronaldo out of Copa del Rey Final

Official: Cristiano Ronaldo out of Copa del Rey Final

Today Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti officially ruled Cristiano Ronaldo out of tomorrow evening Copa del Rey final. Winning will still need a fully focused and committed performance from FC Barcelona, particularly considering the last several days. But with Ronaldo out, Gerardo Martino’s team’s task has markedly improved. Less excuses now, lads.

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Oé, oé, oé UEFA Youth Team Champions!

Oé, oé, oé UEFA Youth Team Champions!

Just some time ago, FC Barcelona’s Juvenil A side defeated Benfica 3-0 in the first UEFA Youth League, the competition that mirrors the Champions League for players of 19 years and under. The star of the show, and the tournament, was Munir El Haddadi. The young man got a brace this afternoon, and over the entire competition 11 goals and six assists. The other goal today was scored by Rodrigo Tarin. Adama Traoré also shined in the win, as he has done all season. It’s truly a great accomplishment for the club and La Masia, which despite all the negative press stemming from the FIFA ban, is still the benchmark for football player development. I recommend anyone more interested to check out @Youngcules Twitter page for everything including the goals.

Congratulations Juvenil A! The future is bright indeed.

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Puyol: “I ask the supporters to give everything”

Puyol: “I ask the supporters to give everything”

He may be injured, he can’t even play but Capità still knows how to make culés proud. This afternoon Carles Puyol went in front of the media to basically try and straighten out the narrative, to try and regain some perspective in this myopic world of sport. Below is only a brief summary of what was said in his statement as well as the barrage of question, but basically Puyol said it’s no time to point fingers, that the team is always trying its best and have been for quite a few years now. He also defended Lionel Messi unscrupulously and had to explain that it’s impossible to always win. It was additionally a rallying of the troops, to try and get everyone on board with the final push.

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So what if he is

So what if he is

The metric that Lionel Messi ran 6.8 kilometers the other evening has produced a lot of chatter. A favorite narrative theorizes the Argentinian captain is protecting himself for the 2014 FIFA World Cup beginning in 60 days. Well, so what if he is?

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Happy Birthday: Carles Puyol

Happy Birthday: Carles Puyol

Today Capità turns 36, and it’s very possibly the last birthday Carles Puyol will celebrate in the blaugrana strip. Time is the inescapable constant, and even a warrior of Puyol’s calibre will suffer it. The man broke his body for the sport and club he holds so dear, he will be universally missed.

Happy Birthday Puyi from totalBarça. Don’t be a stranger you hear.

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Unhappy Numbers of the Day: 2,050 & 5

Unhappy Numbers of the Day: 2,050 & 5

No goals midweek at Vicente Calderón, no goals yesterday evening at Granada. This is the first time since Pep Guardiola’s second and third official games in charge (2008/9) that FC Barcelona have failed to score in consecutive matches, spanning 2,050 days. Guardiola lost 1-0 to Wisla Krakow in the Champions League qualifier return leg (after essentially securing victory in Spain) and then lost his first La Liga match 1-0 at Numania. History knows how that season ended, how will this?

Additionally, defeat yesterday brings Gerardo Martino’s total league losses to five. That’s the same figure Barça have experienced in the last two league seasons combined. Pep Guardiola lost three (1-0 Getafe, 3-2 Osasuna, 1-2 Real Madrid) in his final campaign (2011/12), whereas Tito Vilanova lost just two (Real Sociedad 3-2, Real Madrid 2-1) in 2012/13.

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Martino: “There is no time for lamentations”

Martino: “There is no time for lamentations”

Hurting but not defeated was the message from Gerardo Martino going into today’s match against Granada. “It is impossible for a team to be fully over an elimination like that in so little time. You cannot be in top spirits just by magic. Nobody is in the best of moods, but there is no time for lamentations. There is no time for crying about things, although some defeats are very painful. We have to get straight back to thinking about the league. A win against Granada would allow us to move on a bit from the result in the Champions League.” More after the jump.

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Barça Zone Valencia

Barça Zone Valencia

Those heading down to the Mestalla in Valencia to see FC Barcelona take on Real Madrid for the Copa del Rey should be sure to stop by Barça Zone Valencia. From 10 am to 7:30 pm, the club have organized a fan zone for the estimated 20,000 supporters that will make the midweek trip. Set up in Parc dels Tarongers, Barça Zone with have a range of activities on offer. Four bands will be performing live: The Uppshitters (apparently) (2 pm), Itaca Band (3:10 pm), Pirat’s Sound Sistema (4:25 pm) and Dr Calypso (5:45 pm), there will be various activities for children, foosball, mini-arena football, Catalan billiards, video games and of course plenty of food and beverages.

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Best Goal’s from Barça’s Youth

From the weekend of April 5th and 6th, here are La Masia’s top five goals from Nils Mortimer (U13), Alexis Meva (U17), Adama Traoré (Barça B), Sandro Ramírez (Barça B) and Godswill (U18).

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Number of the Day: 6.8

Number of the Day: 6.8

He was told to not actively participate in the game, and that translated to Lionel Messi running just 6.8 kilometers. That’s 1.5 kilometers more than José Manuel Pinto and just 56% of the amount Atlético’s Koke put in.

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Quote of the Day: Not only you Andrés

Quote of the Day: Not only you Andrés

Yes, it surprised me being taken off, but that is decision for the manager.

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Match Review: Atlético Madrid 1-0 FC Barcelona

Match Review: Atlético Madrid 1-0 FC Barcelona

And finally there is a victor. Individually, collectively, FC Barcelona were utterly dire, completely dreadful and wholly undeserving of progressing. Readers here know I always credit the opposition in defeat; usually it is what is merited as defeats typically take two to tango. I applauded Ajax, I applauded Real Sociedad, and of course tonight I applaud Atlético Madrid.

However, tonight Barça’s ineptitude played a significant role. Atleti weren’t that special tonight. Yes, they ran tirelessly, were dogged and aggressive. Their shape was solid and their positions disciplined, as they always are. But Barça were awful: No precision, no movement, no sharpness, minimal spirit, no focus, no control. Frankly they looked flustered, dazed and rather confused. Atlético’s goals and chances came from the most basic of ploys. When Sergio Busquets (90% completion) and Andrés Iniesta (84% completion) are misplacing five yard passes, when barely anybody could get past a man, when Lionel Messi only attempts three take-ons and less than 40 passes, something is very wrong. When that is supplemented with poor defending, what chance was there? Defeat is one thing; this was another. I barely flinched during the Bayern massacre because I knew it was entirely unavoidable. But tonight Barça were not outclassed, they were outfought. Tonight Atlético only had to do basic things right, because their opponents did nothing right at all.

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Stat of the Day: 5 for 5

Stat of the Day: 5 for 5

Twice with Celta Vigo, thrice with FC Barcelona, José Manuel Pinto has always won at the Vicente Calderón. Pinto kept a clean sheet in a 0-3 win with Celta in 2005/6 and the very next year was victorious again (2-3) despite conceding a pair of goals. With Barça, Pinto has tasted a 1-3 win in the Copa del Rey quarter final in 2008/9 and also kept goal for a 1-2 league victory in 2012/13. The fifth victory was technically at the Calderón, but was against Atletic Bilbao in the 2011/12 Copa el Rey final (a 3-0 victory). Here’s to hoping Pinto can extend this record to 6 for 6.

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Video of the Day: Humble and Positive

Always one to entertain, Dani Alves posted this video on Instagram from his Madrid hotel room on the eve of today’s match. Accompanied was the message: “Following our dreams, humble and positive“.

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Number of the Day: 452

Number of the Day: 452

No club has fallen victim to more Leo Messi goals than Atlético Madrid, with 20 goals in 19 games. However, that was pre-Diego Simeone Atletí; it’s quite a different story now. Simeone lost his first three matches to Barça after taking over as manager on December 23rd 2011: 1-2 at Vicente Calderón (2011/12), 4-1 at Camp Nou (2012/13) and 1-2 at the Calderón (2012/13). Messi scored one goal in the first victory and two in the second. And since then, El Cholo has devised both some anti-Messi and anti-Barça voodoo. Barcelona have now failed to defeat los rojiblancos in the last four matches, and Messi hasn’t scored since December 16th, 2012, covering 452 minutes.

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Iniesta 499

Iniesta 499

Tomorrow will be Andrés Iniesta’s 500th game for FC Barcelona. How time has flown? How have the other 499 gone?

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Quote of the Day: Like a dream

Quote of the Day: Like a dream

Getting here was very difficult. It’s a great joy for me. To be in Barcelona today, my dreams are achieved. To get into the dressing room, its like a video game. Because there is Xavi, Dani, Pinto, Messi, Valdés…they are like my family.

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Bartomeu: “His exit won’t solve anything”

Bartomeu: “His exit won’t solve anything”

Nobody can say Josep Maria Bartomeu is hiding. He’s done more press in his short tenure as president than I recall Sandro Rosell doing over his several years at the helm. Yesterday, he was on Catalan Radio’s El club del la Mitjanit where he discussed the hot topics, though his comments concerning Andoni Zubizarreta are causing some confusion in Catalonia.

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On this Day: 14 years of waiting ends

On this Day: 14 years of waiting ends

On this day, April 7th 1974, the La Liga crown returned to FC Barcelona after a 14 year absence. Inspired by the signing of Johan Cruyff from Ajax in the summer of 1973, including the original Real Madrid manita, and under the guidance of legendary manager Rinus Michels, a 3-1 victory at Sporting Gijon saw culés rejoice. It had been a difficult time for the fans of Barcelona and all Catalonians under the dictatorship of General Franco, and during this 14 year draught, Real Madrid had won nine league crowns as well as established themselves as Europe’s top dogs. Incredibly, this would be Cruyff’s one and only league title as a player for Barça. But of course, it was only the beginning of his Catalan story.

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La Masia No Es Toca

La Masia No Es Toca

“LA MASIA NO ES TOCA” read the unmissable flag prior to the Real Betis match kick-off. This bold and brazen move by the club was unmistakably both a message to the fans as well as to a certain footballing institution. Thursday’s blockbuster press conference saw president Josep Maria Bartomeu follow two main narratives: The dark forces and the club’s immense displeasure with FIFA for attacking the practices of La Masia. “La Masia is not to be touched. It is a model that made us world leaders in football for the last ten years.

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The votes are in

The votes are in

What sets FC Barcelona apart from the vast majority of football clubs are its members. The democratic process is a cornerstone of the institution, and one that should never be taken for granted or under valued. Today nearly 119,000 club members (socios) were invited to attend the Barça Space or New Camp Nou referendum, whatever one wants to call it, and use a 12 hour time span to exercise their democratic right. Democracy is far from a perfect model in whatever sphere, but it’s collectively agreed upon as the best model humanity has managed to come up with thus far. So today in all the glory of democracy, 37, 535 votes were cast, representing 31.65% of total socios. Of those, 27, 161 or 72.36% voted YES. That is an overwhelming majority. But for many, today was democracy in both shame and glory. More than 80,000 members didn’t even pitch (where they reside is not an all encompassing excuse) and 751 people decided it was worth their time to attend and simply submit a blank vote, which is really useful. Like it or not, the people have spoken and as it stands the current club administration have the legal power to begin moving forward with a 600 million euro budget.

Nevertheless, this is only the beginning. Actual construction will only begin in 2017 and the acquisition of permits occurs midway through 2016. What makes these dates so key is they are all post the 2016 presidential elections. Theoretically, if this administration is not re-elected, presumably with Josep Maria Bartomeu at the head, it will be extremely interesting to see what happens. My guess is if say Joan Laporta wins again, or someone with similar animosity towards the current suits, the entire plan could be scrapped or significantly amended. How easy that will be is another story, depending on what contracts are signed and what extent penalty clauses to breach contract would apply. Yet, those are discussions for another day. Today, April 5th 2014, the socios have spoken, and they’ve said yes.

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The referendum

The referendum

What has almost been forgotten amidst all the FIFA ban drama, is the fact one of the most important referendums in the history of FC Barcelona happens tomorrow afternoon. Essentially members will vote either YES or NO to the Espai Barça proposal, which includes on top of a remodeled Camp Nou, a new basketball arena, upgrading of several facilities and a commercial area. But of course, as is always the case at Barça, nothing is straight forward.

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The story of the Ledermans

The story of the Ledermans

Sam Borden wrote a piece for the New York Times in November 2013 about 13-year-old Ben Lederman. A large part of the narrative focuses on the lives of Ben’s parents, the sacrifices they have made and their testimonial that FC Barcelona has given little to no help.

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Club publish a history of communication with FIFA

Club publish a history of communication with FIFA

FC Barcelona published concurrently with president Josep Maria Bartomeu’s press conference a history of communication with FIFA from the Catalan’s club perspective. During the press conference, Bartomeu had said that Barça heard nothing from FIFA in five months. Full transcript below.

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On loan players can return

On loan players can return

El Mundo Deportivo (MD) published a report earlier this afternoon that a FIFA source has confirmed that FC Barcelona’s loaned out players like Gerard Deulofeu, Rafinha and Bojan Krkic can return to the club in the summer and play with the first team the 2014/15 season. Now, I wouldn’t exactly call this “confirmed”, seeing as no statement was published by FIFA, and I don’t understand either why the FIFA source has to be a “source” and not named. It’s not like he’s risking his life providing such innocuous information. So keep that in mind if reality differs going forward. More after the jump.

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