In a season when things have not been going very well for FC Barcelona, one would expect that the coach would turn to the club’s endless conveyor belt of youth talent for the answer to the team’s lack of fresh legs and fresh ideas. Instead, players from FC Barcelona B have only seen 72 minutes of first team football this season. Read more after the jump.
If FC Barcelona are going to finish this season with their heads held high, they need to get their fighting spirit back. They need to get angry! Fight for it! They showed a bit of fight during the last 15 minutes of yesterday’s match and came back to win 2-1. Let’s hope the players don’t slide out of the rest of the season and away into their separate teams for the World Cup. Let’s hope that someone in that locker room gives the team a damn good talking to and gets them fired up to finish strong. Get angry!
“The team is giving up? Absolutely not. We all felt the pain of the last weeks, a blow every third day, but it can still happen that those ahead of us have a result that favor us and we have the obligation to continue competing.” It’s business as usual from Gerardo Martino, and frankly, what else do you expect? I have seen comments begrudging the manner Martino speaks before games, saying it’s always the same positive, time to move forward rhetoric over and over. Well, what is it exactly you’d like him to say? Should he say, “I don’t care, my job’s probably not going to continue anyway, so yeah, I’m not really bothered.” How about, “I barely have any fit players, and many of them are struggling with form, so who knows what’s going to happen? I’m not a prophet.” Would that be preferable? Managers can only say so much, there’s also only so much to be said, and if anything, one of Martino’s faults is his honesty and candor. It’s not actually a fault, but in the vicious, unforgiving world of elite sport, those attributes are preyed upon by the vultures.
And Martino is absolutely right, FC Barcelona are four points from leaders Atlético. From the fatalism aplenty, one would think Barça trail by some insurmountable margin. Four points is a two game swing, one against leaders Atleti. There are five matches left and both teams who currently usurp Barcelona have a pair of very taxing midweek matches on their plates. It’s reasonably common for sides to drop points the weekend following such physically and mentally exhausting Champions League battles. Nobody’s saying it will be easy, some fortune is certainly required, but far crazier things happen.
“We are only one mistake from our rivals of taking control of the league. It’s one mistake.” More from Tata after the jump.
A trophy-less season for the first time since Pep Guardiola’s arrival marked the end of an era at the Catalan club. Once the most feared team in Europe now struggles to be the best one in Spain. But like any cycle, it needs to end in order for a new one to begin. This club has redefined football and marked history with legendary achievements; a fall was imminent. But so soon? At the hands of the very same generation? That’s what hurt culés the most. So who’s to blame?
The reason we are having this discussion in the first place, the reason we are suffering from depression is because these players have set the standards incredibly high. They are the golden generation of not only FC Barcelona, but football in general. We were spoiled, and watching this team run over all opposition with ease turned into a habit, but even golden generations reach a time where change and new blood are needed. We just want to stay on top of the world and bring back the mighty Blaugrana. Before you go on, this isn’t one of those pieces that will promote an entire overhaul of the squad. If anything, players like Lionel Messi, Víctor Valdés and Xavi Hernández should be thanked day in and day out for the performances they’ve given us for so many years. Nonetheless, there are things that need to be said and fingers that need to be pointed.
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.
Out of the Champions League. Looking from behind in the league chase. Out of the Copa del Rey. The last time Barça lost three times in a row was in the first months of 2003, and even then it wasn’t as bad as it is now. But who’s to blame? The coach? The players? Messi?! or perhaps the board. After 5 years of success, last night’s match truly marked the end of an era at the Catalan club. Poor results, thin squad and awkward tactics, things haven’t been this bad for some time.
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.
FC Barcelona’s Sporting Director Andoni Zubizarreta spoke to Catalan station TV3 about matters concerning the team. A loss at Vicente Calderón in Madrid and another at the Estadio Nuevo Los Cármenes last week created some “crisis” talk around the club. Suggestions behind Lionel Messi’s lack of play along with rumours surrounding Gerardo Martino’s exit by the end of the season were all denied by the former goalkeeper, who clearly stated that both Argentines deserve merit on their hard work. He also admitted that as a Sporting Director, last match highlighted his “worst moment” at the job. More from Zubizarreta after the jump.
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?
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.
Four games, four draws. Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona will now meet for the fifth time this season, and neither team has emerged victorious yet. Many non-La Liga fans underestimated Atlético’s strength when they were drawn against Barça, but their style has proven to be one of the most difficult to face. Now, the Catalans go into the game knowing that they must score a goal for a chance of qualification, but it won’t be the easiest of tasks especially with the exceptional Thibaut Courtois standing between the goalposts.
Atlético needed two wonder strikes from David Villa and Diego Ribas to score, while Neymar Jr. managed to exploit Juanfran’s defensive weaknesses twice to save Barça on two separate occasions, which only makes things the more difficult to predict. Will it end with a goalless draw? Will Messi settle this once and for all? Will Diego Simeone follow in Jose Mourinho’s footsteps and defend till his last breath?
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.
Andoni Zubizarreta, FC Barcelona’s sporting director, has been the subject of some juicy rumours since the FIFA transfer ban dropped this week. Firstly, it was reported by Cataluyna Radio that “Zubi” gave his resignation to the club after the FIFA sanctions were announced but had it rejected by club president Josep Maria Bartomeu and sports vice president Josep Maria Mestre.
Also being reported is that Zubi has personally called Marc Andre ter Stegen, Barça’s hoped for replacement for departing goalkeeper Víctor Valdés, and reassured him that his transfer would still be allowed.
Read on to see if there is any truth to either of these rumours.
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.
The world of football was shocked when FIFA’s disciplinary commission sanctioned Barça with a ban embargoing them from making any transfers for two consecutive transfer windows for breaches related to the international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18. Culés all over the world were left lost wondering whether the ban will prevent the ‘supposedly already closed’ signings of German goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen and the Croatian youngster Alen Halilovic. I’m not going to lie guys, I’m as lost as you are. Read on after the jump!
Another day, another drama in the never ending story of FC Barcelona’s legal troubles. Today football’s world governing body FIFA announced that the Catalan club will be subjected to “a transfer ban at both national and international level for two complete and consecutive transfer periods, together with a fine of CHF 450,000″ as a result of breaching regulations in regard to the transfer of “ten minor players” as well as “other concurrent infringements.” The violations occurred between “2009 and 2013“, so the current club administration cannot on this occasion go pointing the finger at Juan Laporta. But what truly makes this outrageous and damning is the ruling is no surprise.
And once again there is no victor. Two moments of magic were all that separated two gargantuan performances that will be praised in completely contrasting ways. FC Barcelona gave it absolutely all they had; yet in another very new-age Barça-Atletí flavored meeting the final score read 1-1. Of the encounters this season, tonight Atlético most embodied the ghost of Diego Simeone the footballer: Fouling consistently and physically. German referee Felix Brych was delighted to produce the first yellow, but when a second was more than warranted, the man in the middle cowered. Leo Messi had a quiet night thanks to his man-marking shadows, but the remainder of the side performed admirably and despite a godly Andrés Iniesta and terrific showings from Sergio Busquets, Neymar and Alexis Sánchez, the win was out of grasp.
Three times so far this season have La Liga’s two Argentine coaches come to figurative blows. And three times so far this season no one could be declared the victor after 90 minutes (if one discounts the away-goals rule in the Spanish Supercup).
In a matter of hours, the season-long stalemate between Atlético Madrid and FC Barcelona will spill over into the UEFA Champions League onto the pitch of Camp Nou, and not a previously ambivalent soccer-watching soul will be able to turn away.
It is now certain that José Manuel Pinto is FC Barcelona’s first choice goalkeeper after Víctor Valdés’ injury will see him sidelined for the next six months. The injury has forced Barcelona manager Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino to announce the club will not seek an emergency loan for another goalkeeper.
But does the Andalucian-born keeper have what it takes to fill the big gloves left by Valdés? Or is he too rusty and beyond his prime to be trusted for the final push for the treble?
The once criminally under appreciative culé nation has today mourned the “loss” of Víctor Valdés. Those in love with the blaugrana colors may never again [though there are loose reports indicating otherwise] see the club’s best keeper ever make another save, hit another perfect 50 yard pass. It’s a cruel end, but in a harsh sense almost a microcosm of his unjust up and down narrative.
“It’s hard to believe there are Barça fans who don’t believe in us. This team has won the right to the fans’ trust. Sure we’ve had off days, but nobody should think Madrid are going to find us an easy prospect.” This was Andrés Iniesta’s message to the fans before the clásico, the fans who gave up on the team’s title hopes, the fans that called for an entire change in the squad, the fans that outrageously suggested selling Messi. I hope these fans recall what they’ve said and stick with their statements rather than celebrating with the true culés.
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.
Vincent Kompany said pre-match there is “nothing better than chasing a lost cause”, well then he must have thoroughly enjoyed his evening at Camp Nou, because from minute one to ninety, that’s all it ever was. FC Barcelona bossed Manchester City most of the evening, and if not for a couple of scandalous decisions early on, the game would have been over with barely 20 minutes played. But despite the best efforts of referee Stephane Lannoy and his crew, Barça are once again through to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals.
There is still plenty to play for. Nary a culé out there will say all is lost. Yes, Bayern Munich still looms large despite drawing Tuesday to Arsenal. Yes, eternal rivals Real Madrid appear to be on an upswing that could very easily annihilate the Catalans’ chances of a fifth La Liga title in six years should they slip up any further. Yes, the Copa del Rey final against Real will also be a nervy test, but at least Barça go into the return leg of the Champions League Round of 16 with a two-goal advantage over Manchester City FC.
“In no case should we have in our heads that we already have a good result,” FC Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino said ahead of Wednesday evening’s clash at the Camp Nou.
So much for thinking positive.
Barcelona suffered yet another defeat this weekend, this time against Valladolid, meaning that the club’s title chances took a big blow. Many players seemed rather uninterested on the José Zorilla pitch, prompting many culés to call for wholesale changes this summer. A big squad overhaul is easier said than done though, and it doesn’t always work.
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.
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.
In a totalBarça special, we bring to you the Back and Forth series! Throughout the season rumours and stories come and go. We constantly hear and read articles about players leaving, signing and retiring while others compare players, judge coaches and debate who’s better.
Now Aly, Youssef, and EnriqueSDS are bringing these discussions to you. All three writers will share their views and opinions regarding certain matters that have been haunting many culé minds. Meanwhile, you vote who you agree with more and share your views with us as well through comments. Back and Forth’s last edition debated whether Barça are in need of a classic #9 striker or not, the culés have voted in favour of signing one. Now, it is time for another debatable topic. Shall we begin?
What is next for Gerard Piqué?
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.
Shambolic. One word that perfectly summarizes Barça’s showing at the Anoeta last night. Was that the team that won at the Etihad four days before? The blaugrana lacked energy and enthusiasm, playing one of their worst games of the season, if not the worst. Gerardo Tata Martino made the wrong choices of tactics and personnel, and if that wasn’t enough, he added to the team’s suffering by getting sent-off for a verbal exchange with a Real Sociedad assistant coach in the tunnel at halftime.
This was Barça fourth failure to beat Real Sociedad away from home in four seasons. Is this some kind of a curse, a mental block? I say this is no real excuse and remember, “Excuses are for losers.” Barça played the Anoeta game without any real determination to win and received a good beating by a team that deserved their victory. A defeat that might well prove decisive in the closest La Liga race in recent years.