São Paulo FC fans all over Brazil are lauding the efforts of club directors after off-loading right back Douglas Pereira, whom many fans considered a liability and not worthy of a starting place on their beloved team. To be fair, Dani Alves is also seen by many Brazilians in a similar light domestically, but how one performs from team to team can sometimes provide quite the study in contrast. While assurances of his defensive abilities are plentiful online, numbers from Opta Sports compiled by ESPN Brasil do a little bit more to dispel the worries of non-Portuguese-speaking culés frantically combing the internet for more on who exactly this Douglas character is and what he could possibly offer on a right flank that has been so dominantly deputized by Dani Alves and to a far lesser extent, Martín Montoya.
The last time FC Barcelona lost on the opening day of La Liga was the 2008/9 season, when Pep Guardiola’s eventual all-conquering triplete side lost to Numancia 1-0. After that, Guardiola managed a win on the opener of his other three campaigns as did Tito Vilanova and Gerardo Martino in their debut seasons. Will Luis Enrique make it six on the trot?
The current 2014/15 FC Barcelona squad is the second most cosmopolitan in history with 10 unique nationalities represented. This falls one behind the 2008/9 squad that featured 11. The usual suspects are all present: Spanish, Brazilian, Argentinian to which is added German (Marc-André ter Stegen), Chilean (Claudio Bravo), Belgium (Thomas Vermaelen), French (Jérémy Mathieu), Uruguayan (Luis Suárez), Croatian (Ivan Rakitić) and Cameroonian (Alex Song). Therefore, of the current 10 nationalities represented, half come from new signings.
Luis Suárez became today the fifth Golden Boot winner to sign for FC Barcelona after sharing the award with Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo for the 2013/2014 season, finishing ahead of Lionel Messi, Diego Costa, and Zlatan Ibrahimović. Suárez scored 31 league goals in 33 appearances for Liverpool FC last season as the English club finished in second place in the Premier League and secured qualification for the Champions League. Hans Krankl, Hristo Stoichkov, Henrik Larsson, and Thierry Henry also joined the Catalan club after winning the prestigious award, and they did not disappoint.
FC Barcelona’s ace attackers Lionel Messi and Neymar Jr have taken the 2014 World Cup by storm. Both men have inarguably been their national sides’ top performers. Messi has 24 goals in his last 24 Argentina caps, or 32 goals in 36 games in 2014, with 10 assists. In canary yellow, Neymar has outrageously good career statistics, 22 years old, 52 appearances, 35 goals and 20 assists. After the jump are their group stage performances in numbers, including an impressive 92% shot accuracy from Neymar.
FC Barcelona’s Javier Mascherano is on the cusp of making his 100th appearance for Argentina. El Jefecito should accomplish the feat this evening (or afternoon) as the albiceleste take on Iran. Mascherano will become only the fourth Argentine to ever reach a centenary of caps, joining now Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone (106), legendary center-back Roberto Ayala (115) and of course mister indestructible Javier Zanetti (145). Though one day they will all be passed by Lionel Messi, who already at 26 has 87 caps.
After a long and painful season, here’s a look back at the individual stats in the league campaign from the first team players. With the statistics broken down to 14 categories, we could see who former coach Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino favoured all throughout the season and the reasons that may be behind it. Take a look at the stats provided by Opta Sports after the break.
FC Barcelona have managed to clinch the Liga title on eleven previous occasions when the final game took place on the Blaugrana’s home soil, the most recent during the 2009-2010 season when the team defeated Real Valladolid 4-0 to end the season on top of the table with 99 points. Five of these occasions occurred at Les Corts, while the other six were celebrated at the Camp Nou. Now, the team is ready to face Atlético Madrid and fight for the fifth La Liga title in six years. Camp Nou magic?
Barça’s favorite opponents in such situations are Athletic Bilbao who were beaten four times before (1944-45, 1947-48, 1952-53, and 1991-92) when the Catalans were seeking another league trophy to add to their record books. The remaining wins came against Real Zaragoza (2), RCD Espanyol, Real Sociedad, UD Las Palmas, Sevilla FC, and Real Valladolid. Will Atlético be added to the list of victims?
Two wins, and it’s La Liga 23 for Barça. But while eyes are glancing a week forward, Sunday’s game against Elche looks to be far from simple. Elche languish in 14th place, only three from safety, BUT, the side from Alicante is undefeated at home for over five months, including the entirety of 2014. Elche’s nine home matches this calendar year have ended in four wins (Rayo, Almería, Celta, Getafe) and five draws (Sevilla, Osasuna, Betis, Bilbao, Levante). This success falls squarely on Elche’s stingy defense, which over this 8,100 minute undefeated home run have only conceded two goals. This isn’t an anomaly either. Elche boast the second best home defensive record in La Liga, having conceded just 12 goals in 18 games, which is only bested by Atlético Madrid’s nine goals in 18 games.
Elche will play to their strengths tomorrow and pack the defensive line and plan to keep the game scoreless. They have the joint worst offensive record in Spain with only 29 goals scored in 36 total matches, so Elche boss Fran Escribá will know their best bet for points will be to park the bus. Barça know the challenge, now they must face it and ensure to break through the lines and get a goal. A La Liga crown will depend on it.
When looking for a goalscorer, Lionel Messi is always a safe bet. With his late winner against Villarreal, the little wizard from Rosario has reached 40 goals in the season. This is the fifth consecutive season in which Leo’s goal tally has been above 40 goals. Considering that this season he has only played 43 games, compared to last year’s 50 or 60 two years ago, him passing the 40 goal is no mean feat.
According to a Business Insider poll, Lionel Messi is America’s 7th most popular athlete. Michael Jordan took the top spot for the third straight year, followed in order by the Denver Bronco’s (NFL) Peyton Manning, the Heat’s (NBA) LeBron James, LA Laker (NBA) Kobe Bryant, Tiger Woods and New England Patriot quarterback (NFL) Tom Brady. Lionel Messi finished tied with New York Yankee’s (MLB) legend Derek Jeter. These sort of statistics have shown consistency year on year the impact football (soccer) is having in the US, and particular the popularity of Barça and Leo Messi.
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.
Ernesto Valverde’s Athletic Bilbao will prove a test for FC Barcelona at Camp Nou. Despite defeating the Basque team in Catalonia 68% of the time historically, including their last nine visits, Valverde’s Bilbao are undefeated on the road in 96 days, stretching back to January 5th. Since then they have won at Osasuna, Betis and Levante, while drawing in Celta, Valencia and Elche. The key? Defense. In these last seven away trips, Bilbao have conceded only four goals.
Injuries, legal headache, apparently unhappy, reportedly [irresponsibly] wanting more money, looking ahead to the World Cup and whatever truths and lies are circulating, Lionel Messi has scored 38 goals in 41 appearances this year. A few assists too, 13 if we’re being accurate. What a rotten season huh?
Marc Bartra, the player who gave FC Barcelona fans a reason to smile yesterday, has now taken part in 50 games with the club’s first team. Yesterday’s was his first clásico and Spanish Cup final, where he managed to restore hope for a short period of time with a towering header from a corner to bring things level against Real Madrid. Unfortunately, the promising youngster was injured while attempting to catch up with the incredibly fast Gareth Bale, as he explained later: “I got cramp and hurt my hamstring.” Bartra won 12 balls, completed 31 out of 36 passes, shot twice at goal, cleared 15 balls, and played 87 minutes.
Bartra has so far played 16 games in La Liga, 4 in the Champions League, and 6 in the Copa del Rey, totaling 26 games out of a possible 50. The future looks bright for our young Spanish defender. Will he be given the chance to shine?
When it comes to statistics, yesterday’s game against Granada CF was probably FC Barcelona’s best in terms of domination yet the team failed to score. Barça attempted 33 crosses, their record in a league game this season, but there was no one to convert or make use of them which brings up a common question. Why not sign a classic #9 striker if crosses have become such an essential part of our game?
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.
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.
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.
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.
The last ten meetings between FC Barcelona and Real Betis at Camp Nou have witnessed 44 goals, a 4.4 goals per game ratio. Real Betis have failed to defeat the Catalan club at their home ground in all of those games, with Barça winning eight and drawing twice. The team also managed to score three or more goals in eight of these games, while Betis found the net in only seven. Things are looking good also in the sense that Gerardo Martino’s men are the league’s strongest attacking force, scoring 89 goals, and will now face the team with the second most goals conceded, 61.
Gerardo Martino didn’t get the “W” versus Atlético Madrid, and thereby did not genuinely best Pep Guardiola’s first 50 games in charge. Tata’s half-century reads 37 wins, eight draws and five defeats, scoring 136 and conceding 37. Guardiola has the exact same game record, but his 2008/9 side scored 133 and conceded 42.