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.
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.
In part 1 of the series, Manchester City’s goalkeeper and defense were scrutinized and assessed to be the weakest component, though not exactly weak. The news doesn’t get rosier with the midfield, and as mentioned in part 1, will be a five man contingent with a double-pivot, Manuel Pellegrini’s formation.
Don’t kid yourself for a moment, Manchester City are a challenging and scary proposition in many aspects. No team in Europe’s elite five have scored more goals than Manuel Pellegrini’s slick attacking force. But they do not top the Premiership, a function of ever-patronizing “unexpected” results against “lower” opposition. City certainly have much to concern Barça, but perfect they are not. Below is a part one of a multiple part scouting report on FC Barcelona’s formidable Champions League opponents Manchester City. Today’s focus is the Citizens’ defense.
Although they weren’t able to get the win, FC Barcelona earned a 1-1 draw away against Real Sociedad and a 3-1 victory on aggregate to advance to the Copa del Rey final, their fourth in six years, where they will play Real Madrid. Despite coming into the match with a 2-0 lead, Gerardo Martino took the tie very seriously, as Real Sociedad are famously difficult for Barcelona to play against away – the last time the Catalans won at La Anoeta was 2007. Martino named a largely first-choice lineup, but opted to play Andrés Iniesta as a fourth midfielder rather than a winger like Alexis Sánchez. Martino has experimented with this formation a couple of times lately, but this was the first time he used it for his starting lineup, and I think it merits some focus.
Perhaps there’s something to the February curse after all: On the first day of the month, FC Barcelona lost their first home game of the season, to a Valencia squad that was completely revamped over the last days of the transfer window. It was also the first time that Barcelona have conceded more than two goals this season, as well as one of the worst all-round performances of the season. In some ways, the incredibly poor nature of the match is reassuring: It is clearly an outlier to what has been an otherwise excellent season for Gerardo Martino, just one of those bad games that every team has. While hardly pleasant for players and cules alike, the blaugrana should be able to bounce back without difficulty.
On a normal day, this would be a one-paragraph post announcing FC Barcelona’s semi-final opponents in the Copa del Rey. However, today, lurking behind this innocent headline is an account of epic mismanagement and of the pernicious way that the global economic crisis is seeping ever deeper into the game we all love. Social commentary, history lesson, Copa semi-finals: This post has it all! Follow me after the break for more.
What do you call five players playing for the same club producing seven hat-tricks in less than five months? A class of magicians.
Cristian Tello is the fifth Barça player to score a hat-trick this season, joining the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar Jr, Pedro Rodríguez and Alexis Sánchez. Tata Martino has really outdone himself turning a team that was once regarded as a one-man team, with only Lionel Messi scoring all the hat-tricks, super hat-tricks and that Manita of goals scored against Bayer Leverkusen, to a team full of magicians. More about each of these player’s magic tricks after the jump.
After an awful first half, FC Barcelona managed to come back from a goal down against Levante UD to win the quarterfinal’s first leg with four goals to one. Full credit goes to the new, devastating Messi-Tello partnership, who single handedly managed to exploit Levante’s high defensive line. Cristian Tello scored three of the four goals, all assisted by Lionel Messi, while the fourth goal came from a Juanfran own goal.
Barça’s starting XI consisted of Pinto, Alves, Puyol, Bartra, Adriano, Song, Xavi, Sergi Roberto, Pedro, Tello, and Messi, while Levante’s starting XI was made up of Javi Jimenez, Vyntra, Barral, El Zhar, Juanfran, Nikos, El Adoua, Xumetra, Sergio, Nagore, and Camarasa.
FC Barcelona progressed to the Copa del Rey’s quarterfinals after a 2-0 away win (6-0 on aggregate) against Getafe CF. Both of Barça’s goals came from Lionel Messi in his first start since recovering from injury. However, the game was interrupted midway through the first half after Neymar Jr. suffered what seemed like a sprained ankle but more tests to come. The team will face Levante UD in the next round.
The game was always going to be tight, but a 0-0 finish does not typically go with Atlético Madrid versus FC Barcelona. Perhaps it’s something to get used to because one of the most impressive managers in world football, Diego Simeone, has created one of the best drilled, physically fit and tactically disciplined teams around. Three encounters this season, 1-1 the combined score-line. Each team won a half, it ended scoreless and there is still nothing to separate first from second in Spain.
The holiday festivities may have come to an end, but FC Barcelona emerged from all the jollity and merriment with a ruthless 4-0 mauling of lowly Elche in La Liga.
Now with a looming clash with second-placed Atlético Madrid on Saturday, coach Gerardo Martino must resist the urge to use all his ammo on a home match against Getafe in the Copa del Rey, having just bested in the final game of 2013 the very same club 2-5 in Madrid in the league.
FC Barcelona started the new year with a bang, defeating Elche CF 4-0 at the Camp Nou. The King from Chile, Alexis Sánchez, led the way for the hosts, scoring a hat-trick, while Pedro Rodríguez carrying on his goal scoring form, also put in an excellent performance. ‘El Tata’ Martino’s Barça was entertaining on the eve of the day of the Three Kings, and sent out a clear message to a certain Madrid side waiting for Barça to visit the Vicente Calderón next week. The team can now look forward to the cup tie against Getafe CF.
More after the jump.
In a somewhat similar vein to El Pivote’s Christmas Holiday Report Card, totalBarça youth specialist Savi Marquez tackles the Barça B side and lays down his mid-season progress reports. The grading utilized here, different from El Pivote, is in the fashion of the standard A-F system, including plus and minuses.
As we start the new year, football fans are already thinking about the UEFA Champions League round of 16, and many particularly focus on a pretty intense fixture: FC Barcelona vs. Manchester City. It is a matchup we’ve never witnessed officially before, but surely promises to be one of the greatest encounters in the Champions League’s recent years. This is not going to be an easy tie for either side. Both teams will undoubtedly have to play at their best in order to earn progression to the next round, and there is still plenty work to be done.
Barcelona B has had a very bizarre first half of the 2013-14 season. The Blaugrana reserves proved capable of both the best and the worst, with form reflecting just that. Seven wins, two draws and 10 defeats is their league record so far. They were able to beat some of the heavyweights of the league like Zaragoza, but didn’t manage to get the maximum out of the games against teams at their level. Failures of that kind have meant that the team is rooted to the lower parts of the table, currently in relegation place 19th with 23 points from 19 matches. The Miniestadi proved to be more of a curse rather than a blessing. In ten home games, Barcelona B got defeated five times, drew one and won four.
FC Barcelona closed out the year at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez with a swashbuckling 2-5 win at Madrid-based Getafe CF to return to the top of the La Liga table. The scoreline might fool you; it might make you think that Barça had the easiest of afternoons, and that those two goals for Getafe came when Barça’s players took their foot off the gas when it didn’t matter much. Yet reality is so different. Barça had to work to get the result they did, for Getafe gave them a real run for their money, managing to go to 2-0 up with just a quarter of an hour played. With things looking gloomy, somebody had to step up. Enter Pedro Rodríguez. The diminutive winger had a game to remember yesterday, for he completed the comeback on his own, scoring the team’s first three, assisted the fourth, and won the penalty for the 5th. The game was, ultimately, a true exhibition of fighting spirit by Tata’s men. In the true Barça spirit.
As most will know by now, yesterday Lionel Messi shocked the football world, and FC Barcelona’s board of directors in particular, with a string of stinging remarks live on radio in Argentina. The provocation was an off-hand, dismissive comment from one Javier Faus, the economic vice-president of FC Barcelona – hardly a major insult, it would seem, but it was perhaps the straw that broke the camel’s back, in more ways than one.
With Lionel Messi and Victor Valdés injured, an ominous confrontation with Manchester City in the Champions League next year, an ailing B team languishing in the relegation zone, and rumors of a retiring captain, the papers would have you believe Barcelona is headed into Tuesday’s Copa del Rey return leg against FC Cartagena in crisis.
Not exactly. The Catalans broke a La Liga record at the weekend with victory over Villarreal. Barça have now sat atop the domestic table for the 54th consecutive week, surpassing the Real Madrid of 1988. Barcelona’s back line looks surprisingly healthy and Real’s draw at the weekend puts it ahead by five points despite being almost completely flush in the standings with Madrid’s other top club, Atlético Madrid.
FC Barcelona opened up its 2013/14 Copa del Rey campaign with a strong showing against FC Cartagena in the first leg of the round of 16. Barça had a two-game losing streak as well as a Senyera jinx to kill off, and a lightweight from the Spanish third division Segunda B seemed to do just the trick.
Two Barcelona goals either side of half time by Pedro Rodríguez and Cesc Fàbregas cancelled out Fernando Noriega’s goal in the 16th minute. Late on, Pedro proved he was the athlete of the evening with another strike before newcomer Jean Marie Dongou pounced to end the evening at 1-4 on his official first-team debut.
It’s safe to say the honeymoon period is over. Sunday night marked an inflexion point for FC Barcelona manager Gerardo Tata Martino. Two defeats in a row is a rarity at Barça these days, which should actually be viewed as a blessing, but rather has born an avalanche of criticism and questions. While it’s still somewhat hysterical, my opinion is that the disastrous display in Bilbao merits both. Losing in itself isn’t a problem; it is one of only three natural outcomes in sport, however one must uncover the ‘hows’ and ‘whys,’ as well as consider what adjustments are required going forward.
Barcelona rarely treats us to so much disappointment in such a short period of time. It is sort of unthinkable for Barça to have two defeats in a row, but it does happen and the unthinkable does come to fruition from time to time. Barcelona has suffered its first league defeat under Gerardo “Tata” Martino, a 1-0 disappointment to Athletic Club Bilbao at the San Mamés. Read more after the jump.
Why is it so immensely difficult for people to give opponents credit? Barça people loathe when opponents try to taint our well-earned victories with excuses yet these same people are similarly incapable in the reverse. I smell hypocrisy. FC Barcelona lost their first match of the 2013/14 season to Ajax yesterday evening. Let me repeat that: FC Barcelona lost their first match of the 2013/14 season. Gerardo Martino’s 20-match run comes to an end; it had to happen and rather sooner than later. Defeat to Ajax will serve to improve Barça a great deal more than commonplace 4-0 rout in La Liga. Defeat can be the best medicine in the world of sport. Particularly when the consequences are inconsequential.
This isn’t my typical post-match analysis and apologies for the delay. There is little worth in transcribing play by play in a game marked more by tactics and positional lapses than ball play. The majority of this review will focus on the first half, which upon a second viewing this morning, was fascinating, if a bit worrying, tactically. I have also used statistics from Squawka to demonstrate some observations.
The injury to Lionel Messi leaves a giant-sized hole in the center of our attack for the next eight weeks. The injury, however, comes at the best possible time for FC Barcelona as Barça have already qualified for the knockout stage of the Champions League and have relatively easier fixtures in La Liga over the next two months. The main focus is to get Leo fit for the all important encounter against Atlético Madrid on 12th January. In the meanwhile, the question still remains – who will lead the line for Barça?
WhoScored.com, using data from OptaSports, recently put together a concise info-graphic of Alexis Sánchez’s three seasons with FC Barcelona. The most immediately interesting aspect is from the heat maps. While it shows year on year he is consistent in tracking back, his positional instructions appear more defined this season. He is being utilized almost exclusively on the right-wing. More details below.