Daniel Alves played his 293rd game yesterday, giving him the second-most appearances for a non-Spanish player at FC Barcelona. He surpassed Dutchmen Phillip Cocu, who was a staple of the Barcelona midfield from 1998-2004, but is still a distant second to Lionel Messi’s incredible 421 games. This milestone serves as a reminder of just how important Alves has been to Barcelona at a time where many fans have made him a target for criticism and even advocated his sale. Hit the jump for a few of Dani’s recent stats.
With the Copa del Rey and the Champions League gone, Barcelona must turn their attention back to La Liga. While hopes of finishing higher than third are slim at best, they must give one hundred percent for each of the five remaining games of the season. Athletic Bilbao will probably represent the Catalan’s greatest challenge until the final day of the season, where they will of course take on leaders Atlético Madrid for a potentially title-deciding match.
But first, the Basques. They handed Barça their first league loss of the season back in December at the New San Mamés, which has been a nigh-impregnable fortress this season. Undefeated in their last seven away trips, though only one win of the last four, Bilbao have ample motivation going into this game. They are currently in fourth with a six-point lead over Sevilla FC, but that lead is surely not enough to be comfortable – a loss to Barcelona and Sevilla next week would open up the battle for Champions League football. Athletic will be eying Barcelona as wounded giants, an opportunity to gain points from what used to be a certain loss.
When Gerardo Martino was signed as FC Barcelona’s manager in July, the prevailing attitude was one of cautious optimism. He was an unknown quantity, and less rigorous media made his lack of European experience a major talking-point. But more level-headed fans did their research, got to know Martino’s bielsista heritage and pragmatism and welcomed him. Nobody expected an all-conquering winner; while Tito Vilanova was considered a continuation of Pep Guardiola’s project, Martino was an outsider, the first non-Masia coach in five years. Cules hoped, however, that an outside perspective would revitalize the team, diversifying and strengthening the famous Barça DNA, now a stagnant gene pool. In short: not titles, but transition.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti and captain Iker Casillas weighed in with their pre-match thoughts yesterday in anticipation of tonight’s Copa del Rey final. Despite a loss in the last clásico, Ancelotti’s men are in good form, having earned a semifinal berth in the Champions League, while Casillas has not conceded a goal so far in Madrid’s Copa campaign. Both individuals are going into the final against Barcelona confident; see what they had to say about the game below.
Yesterday, Granada CF beat FC Barcelona for the first time since 1972, dealing a massive blow to Barça’s hopes of winning La Liga. As it stands, the blaugrana sit in third place, and with the toughest schedule of the top three in the last five games of the season, they are odds-on to stay there. If Barça were to finish bronze, it would be the first time since the 2007-08 season, well known as Frank Rijkaard’s last year and the year before Pep Guardiola came in and cleaned house. The Barça players have not given up yet, and the fans certainly shouldn’t – but maybe, just maybe, Gerardo Martino has.
With Barcelona’s Champions League run over, they now have to focus on La Liga. There may be concerns that their European form might carry into their weekend match at Granada, but history suggests otherwise: Barcelona are undefeated in the games immediately following each of their last six CL exits, with five wins and a draw. In fact, the most recent victories were emphatic goalfests, taking out the frustration of Champions League defeats with a total of 21 goals spread over four games. It’s scant solace, but Barça must turn their heads now to the competitions at hand.
Atlético Madrid coach Diego Simeone addressed the press ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final clash with FC Barcelona in Madrid. Make the jump for all the details.
Atlético Madrid have just released their official match squad for the UEFA Champions League second leg against FC Barcelona tomorrow, and midfielder Arda Turan has been left out due to injury. Diego Costa is in the squad, though he is doubtful for the match. Read on after the jump to find out the squad.
FC Barcelona sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta spoke to the media today before traveling to Madrid with the team for the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinals. Zubizarreta has been the subject of a lot of discussion this past week as a result of the FIFA transfer ban, and President Josep Maria Bartomeu revealed that the former goalkeeper offered his resignation. Zubizarreta offered a few short comments on his situation and the match against Atlético Madrid, read on below.
About Barcelona’s chances against Atleti, Zubizarreta was enthusiastic: “Do we have a good chance? Without doubt! We’ll leave the bookmakers to decide who are the favourites.” He explained that the team’s spirits were high and that they are determined, saying, “We are going there knowing what we have to do. Our idea is to be at our best and on Wednesday night get back on the plane knowing that we are in the semi-final draw.” Read on for more from Zubi.
Barcelona host last-placed Real Betis tomorrow in the 32nd match of La Liga. Only seven games remain, as Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Real Madrid remain locked in what has been the tightest title race in recent memory. The Catalans have been navigating rough waters lately: Severe injuries to key players Víctor Valdés and Gerard Piqué, a tough home draw to Atlético Madrid, and the shocking transfer ban imposed by FIFA earlier this week. Barça badly need a win – fortunately, Real Betis are not the most difficult opposition.
Dani Alves gave an extraordinary press conference today ahead of tomorrow’s Champions League clash against Atlético Madrid. The Brazilian full-back was in high spirits, joking with reporters and speaking with complete freedom – a breath of fresh air from the often stilted press conferences professional footballers give most days. Alves held forth on fickle media and dwindling support at Camp Nou, praised his teammates and opponents, and poked a bit of fun at Luis Figo. Read on to see exactly what the Brazilian had to say.
Gerardo Martino’s comments after the Espanyol match were succinct and pragmatic as ever. Despite the physical, chaotic nature of the match, Martino said that his team were “expecting a game like this.” While they may not have always been in control, Barcelona rode the waves of tackles and fouls and managed to earn a crucial win in their search for the title. Read on to see more of Martino’s thoughts on the match and the final stretch of the season.
FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu gave an interview with Catalan radio station COPE yesterday at midnight. It was an unusual hour and an unusual type of interview for a club president. Unlike Sandro Rosell at any point in his tenure, Bartomeu answered a host of different questions and was forthcoming about many issues that have been swirling in the media lately. The Barça president spoke freely on subjects ranging from Víctor Valdés to player contracts and summer transfers – check out some of Bartomeu’s most interesting comments after the break.
Yesterday FC Barcelona defeated Celta Vigo 3-0, moving up to second place as Real Madrid lost later on in the evening at Sevilla. It should have been a cause for celebration, but the victory was deeply bittersweet, tainted by the image of Víctor Valdés crying as he was stretchered off the field with a torn ACL, presumably never to don the blaugrana kit again. The heroic keeper has done wonders to get Barcelona this far in the title race, but now the Catalans will have to make it to the finish line without him. With eight games left in the season, Barça are one point out of first place. Win out and they take the title: It’s a daunting task, but against Celta Vigo on Wednesday, Barcelona took one step closer to their objective.
FC Barcelona has confirmed that goalkeeper Víctor Valdés tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee before being stretchered off Wednesday in the first half of a La Liga fixture against Celta Vigo. Valdés will require an operation and will likely be out for six months. This injury is a devastating blow to club and player alike–more on the repercussions after the break.
FC Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu spoke to the Catalan press today about the state of the club and the financial side of its future, including the proposed new stadium, Messi’s contract, and transfer activity this coming summer. Read on below to see what President Bartomeu had to say.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti spoke to the press in advance of the looming Clásico, which his team will enter as hosts and slight favorites. The Italian manager tried to convey a balanced mix of confidence and caution, refusing to underestimate Barcelona but also promising not to take any special precautionary measures, unlike in Ancelotti’s first Clásico. Read on below to see what the Real Madrid man had to say ahead of his biggest match of the season.
There comes a time when tactical analysis needs to be given a rest, where fans need to backseat drive a little less and just enjoy the ride. Today was one of those days. Forget the upcoming Clásico, forget the quibbles about line-ups, forget the records broken, forget score lines at all as goal after goal begins to blur together. This match doesn’t need description – every cule has seen this match a dozen times. What matters is how we enjoy it.
FC Barcelona have agreed yet another sponsorship deal, this time with Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix. The three-year agreement means that “an exclusively designed and accessible watch” will be on sale at FC Barcelona and Maurice Lacroix stores, as well as some minor branding in and around Camp Nou. Economic vice-president Javier Faus said of the deal, “We have chosen Maurice Lacroix for their international image, their position in the Asian market, how they activate their partnerships in a digital fashion and because it is a brand which is entering the world of sport through its quality and excellence.” He also praised the club’s branding and sponsorship work, which have been more active in the past six months than at any other point in this board’s tenure, and further boasted a nearly 50% increase in marketing income since 2010.
Photo: Víctor Salgado
Catalan daily Sport reported yesterday that Victor Valdés is set to publish a new book, possibly to release by April this year. This is no ordinary autobiography, however. Valdés has been under immense pressure throughout his career, and has never been shy in speaking about the difficulties and stress he’s experienced as Barcelona’s goalkeeper. Thus it is fitting that his book will be directed as a guide to dealing with pressure in various facets of life. Using “a simple method of eight steps” and his own experiences as a model, Valdés hopes to help readers take control of stressful circumstances and better their lives. A worthy project for such a great role model.
Despite coming heavily under fire since his team’s 1-0 loss to Real Valladolid over the weekend, Gerardo Martino was calm and assured in his pre-match press conference for the Champions League game against Manchester City. Barcelona welcome the Citizens to Camp Nou following a 2-0 victory in the first leg, but Martino urged the team not to become complacent despite their lead. Read on after the jump for more from the Barcelona manager.
Alexis Sanchez was nominated as the Barça representative to speak to the press on Monday after the loss to Valladolid this weekend. The Chilean was direct in acknowledging the team’s failures but also emphasized the need to look forward, with key matches against Manchester City and Real Madrid approaching. Read on to see what Alexis had to say.
Barcelona lost 1-0 to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid today, seriously damaging their title hopes in La Liga. Away matches have been a serious challenge for the Catalans in the second half of this season, and Valladolid proved no exception. Away from Camp Nou, Barça’s run of form is shocking: They have won just one of five games in 2014, kept one clean sheet in the last eight matches, and have not scored the first goal of a match since November 2013. Though one can remember that the players are human and have had a difficult week between the international travel, Carles Puyol’s announcement, and a personal tragedy to Andrés Iniesta, nonetheless there is something inexplicable about the downward spiral occurring to Tata Martino’s men. Make the jump as we try to dissect this puzzling match.
FC Barcelona President Josep Maria Bartomeu and his board began an information campaign Wednesday designed to educate socios about the new Espai Barça project, which is scheduled for a referendum on April 5. The project’s main components are a renovated Camp Nou, a new Palau Blaugrana for the basketball team, and new social and commercial areas to attract more revenue for the club. In total, the Espai Barça has an estimated cost of €600 million euros and would be completed by 2021. Read on below for a summary of the proposed project, and check out more extensive videos and infographics on the club’s Spanish website.
Cesc Fàbregas and Pedro Rodríguez sat down with UEFA.com for an interview recently. The two discussed their growth as players and their Champions League experiences – see what they had to say below.
Barcelona host relegation-threatened UD Almería tomorrow in their first game of March. The Catalans will be hoping to start the spring on a good note, having struggled throughout January and February, dropping ten points in seven games. Fresh off their worst defeat of the season, a 1-3 loss to Real Sociedad, Barcelona need a solid win to settle back into form. And with Almería having won only two of their last six games, this match could be just the morale boost Barça need. It will also provide an opportunity for the blaugrana to gain on their title rivals, who will be meeting in the derbi madrileño earlier on Sunday. Any result among the Madrid teams will be a good one for Barça, as they could either regain first place or put some light between themselves and Atlético Madrid.
18-year-old Juvenil A striker Munir El Haddadi has been called up by Eusebio Sacristán for Barcelona B’s match against Mallorca on Saturday, his first ever summons to the B team. Equally adept as a winger and a striker, Munir is widely regarded as one of the best attackers in La Masia, and he is a regular feature on Barcelona’s weekly top five goal videos from the youth teams. In addition to his extraordinary left-footed shot, the youngster has a seemingly endless reserve of creativity and dribbling skills, drawing comparisons to a Barcelona legend, Rivaldo. This excellent news comes just a few days after Munir received his first call-up to the Spain U-19 team for a friendly against Holland, along with fellow Barcelona youngsters Adama Traoré, Alex Grimaldo, and Sandro Ramirez. A great week for Munir El Haddadi, and a great sign for Barcelona’s future.
17-year-old Dinamo Zagreb midfielder Alen Halilović has confirmed a move to FC Barcelona on his official Facebook and Instagram accounts. The young Croatian is regarded as one of the best midfield talents in the world, drawing comparisons to Andrés Iniesta and even Lionel Messi, due to his excellent left foot. He has made 48 appearances for the Dinamo first team in the last two seasons, becoming the youngest goalscorer in the Prva HNL, the second-youngest player to ever feature in the Champions League, and the youngest ever player to debut for the Croatian national team in the process. The transfer fee is rumored to be somewhere between three and ten million euros, and Halilović would play a year with the B team before promotion.
In the aftermath of terrible performances like Barcelona’s 3-1 loss against Real Sociedad on Saturday, fingers are always pointed. Cules find themselves filled with frustration and confusion: How could this team, our wonderful team, play so poorly? How could the team which has produced so much magic look so lackluster and confused? But nobody asks these questions – to ask questions is to admit confusion and helplessness. Questions don’t make us feel better about ourselves, we want answers, somewhere to pile on the frustration and hurt and rage we feel as passionate fans. So this weekend cules, Madridistas, and armchair analysts around the world flocked to comment on the spectacle that is a Barcelona defeat, each with their own answers.