Back from the international break that had unleashed yet another curse by injuring Victor Valdes, FC Barcelona hosted Granada at the Camp Nou for the 14th round in La Liga. The watching football fans were treated to Lionel Messi presenting his Golden Boot award prior to the start of the match, and then a team photo around it. Other than that, the Argentinian player settled into the stands to watch his team drub Granada 4-0 in an entertaining encounter that featured Iniesta magic, Bartra dependability, and the promising debut of Adama Traoré.
That was easily one of the most entertaining games of the season. While the final 4-1 score-line suggests the match was comfortable, viewers knows that to be untrue. Real Betis were brilliant during the first 35 minutes, completely prohibiting FC Barcelona from playing their game. However Betis’ gung-ho mentality, which I respect deeply, was unsustainable and as both mind and legs tired, the home side succumbed to defeat. For Barça, it’s a great way to go into the two-week international break still undefeated.
Coming back to the Camp Nou, FC Barcelona managed a narrow 1-0 win in the derbi barceloní against Espanyol. The 12th round match of La Liga was full of possessive play, but not enough chances and clinical final balls. It took one great run by Neymar in the second half and a lapse in the Espanyol defense to leave Alexis wide open for the Chilean to score.
With the win, the blaugrana move four points clear of Atletico Madrid with 34 points, at least until Sunday when the capital side take on Athletic Bilbao.
FC Barcelona moved four points clear of steadily creeping Atlético Madrid with a hard-fought victory at Celta de Vigo on Tuesday night at Balaídos Stadium in Vigo. The Catalans faced opposition against a heavily Barça B-influenced side but still managed to get three goals and a clean sheet thanks to a spectacular performance from Victor Valdés, a goal from Cesc Fàbregas and a goal from Alexis Sánchez and an own goal from Celta keeper Yoel.
It was a match of firsts. The first Clásico for Tata Martino, Carlo Ancelotti, Neymar, and Gareth Bale. The first time since 2009 that Messi had started a match of this magnitude on the right wing. The first of many Clásico goals for one Neymar da Silva Santos Jr. And for the first time in over a year, Barça got the better of their rivals in a Clásico .
A draw is just fine. The match ended 1-1 and while FC Barcelona were clearly the more ambitious and aggressive unit, it isn’t the most unfair result. AC Milan lifted their game, like all do versus Barcelona, with the Italian backline not the shameful version of itself observers have seen this season. Barça still top the group with seven points, Milan are two back on five, Celtic and Ajax lag behind and thus Gerardo Martino’s team has positioned themselves nicely to finish off the group with home matches against AC Milan and Celtic and a trip to Amsterdam.
At last, a win! Barcelona B put an end to their losing streak last night in Mendizorroza by beating Deportivo Alavés 2-3. They also put an end to the home side’s unbeaten run at home in an exciting match. Eusebio’s men put in a spirited performance, showing great character and determination to fight from a goal back and into a two goal lead. This win took Barça B to 13 points and, for the time being, into 13th place on the league table.
FC Barcelona returned to La Liga action, taking on lowly CA Osasuna in Pamplona, and only managed to come out with a draw. Overall, it was an underwhelming performance, the highlight of which was the return of club captain, super sportsman Carles Puyol. Other than that, the team’s sluggish efforts in attack left a heavy weight in a fan’s stomach. The play was mostly slow, allowing Osasuna to harass the Blaugrana players. So what’s to say after a disappointing performance tonight? Mostly, thank you Espanyol for keeping Atlético off our backs. Or better yet, thank you Courtois for deflecting a shot into your own goal.
Another game without Lionel Messi, another dominant victory for Barça. Martino’s boys have been moving from strength to strength lately, while constantly adapting. Against Celtic and Almería they were comfortable defensively, absorbing pressure and then suffocating the opposition with possession, while against Ajax and Real Sociedad they ruthlessly exposed shaky defenses, as they did again last night. While it would hardly be fair to say that Barca are playing better without Messi and Javier Mascherano, the past two matches have allowed Barca to avoid becoming too dependent on either of the Argentines, be it for Leo’s goals or El Jefecito‘s counter-nullifying tackles. In their place, Neymar, Alexis Sánchez, and Marc Bartra have all stepped up confidently, and all three were outstanding last night. Barca’s attack was decentralized, free-flowing, and dangerous, while the defense was rock-solid, with Piqué composed and commanding in a more withdrawn sweeper role alongside Bartra.
I hate Celtic – Barcelona matches. It’s always the same played out narrative: Celtic’s guts, heart and “getting stuck in” versus FC Barcelona’s technique, ingenuity and guile. One side defends, the other attacks (mostly). Opportunism versus patience. Tiresomely, the narrative won’t change because it plays out so accurately every time. Last season Celtic won this fixture (which the commentator tonight called a “miracle.” Patronizing much?) and just barely lost out in Spain. Thankfully, for football and FC Barcelona alike, Barça came out 0-1 victors tonight.
Continuing from mid-week’s 4-1 La Liga victory against Real Sociedad, FC Barcelona has managed to win by 2 goals to nil away at UD Almería’s Juegos Mediterraneos. A Lionel Messi jewel of a goal in the first half was supported by an Adriano team-effort finish. However, this came at a cost as Messi withdrew with injury seven minutes after opening the scoring, going off midway through the first half. Although this will be the main talking point for the next few days leading up to Tuesday’s Champions League match in Glasgow, there are other events that need to be highlighted.
You would have gotten decent odds betting on a 0-0. But that’s how it finished and Gerardo Martino is one for one. A tight first half evolved into a somewhat more open second that concluded in a blizzard of yellow and red cards. Lionel Messi missed a penalty late on but 0-0 was enough for FC Barcelona to lift the trophy on away goals.
Gerardo Martino warned that the first leg of the Supercopa against Atlético Madrid would be an “extremely tough test“, and he was proved absolutely right in last night’s 1-1 draw. Fueled by the seething, roaring crowd of the Vicente Calderón, Atleti came out with a physical and immensely disciplined game plan. Atlético reminded its overconfident opponents just why they had the best defense in the league last season, just as David Villa reminded Barca how lethal he could be when given pride of place in attack. Barca managed to weather the storm and fight back in the second half, in which Neymar was able to disrupt a tired Atleti defense and grab the equalizer.
On a picture perfect summer’s evening in Catalonia, FC Barcelona stepped onto the pitch champions hoping that come May 2014, they step off once again as champions. And the first obstacle in their way was Levante. It’s not exactly a new look Barça but the arrival of Neymar and possibly more importantly Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino significant. The Brazilian superstar only got his official debut from the bench, perhaps indication from Martino that he needs to prove his mettle in Europe. Or perhaps simply integrating the player gradually, also not forgetting these health stories. Either way, Barça galloped to a 7-0 victory.
On Saturday Barça played its final match of the preseason, a 3-1 victory over the Malaysia XI. Played on a poor pitch against an excessively physical Malaysian team, the match was an underwhelming affair and a reminder of the perils of this preseason. By the end of the match, Cesc Fàbregas had picked up an injury, joining Messi who already had a thigh overburdening on the injury list.
It was the expected blowout. FC Barcelona triumphed over Thailand 7-1 and it quite easily could have been more. The game was put to bed in the first half (5-1) and then a ruthless opening five minutes to the second half made it emphatic. Not a great deal can be used as conclusions from this match but nevertheless the signs are positive. He may have been in a mini-transfer saga but the star of the pre-season continues to be Cesc Fàbregas who is putting in majestic showings with delicious through-balls. Alexis and Pedro similarly look renewed, not to mention that I’m liking everything I see from Roberto.
On Tuesday FC Barcelona played their third pre-season friendly of the summer against Polish side Lechia Gdańsk. While Tata Martino stayed in Barcelona to train with the returning internationals, one Confederations Cup player stole headlines as he made the trip to Poland: for the first time, Neymar’s name appeared on an FC Barcelona squad sheet.
The Catalans faced a mammoth task to overturn the four nil deficit against FC Bayern Munich at the Camp Nou. Comebacks against AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were somehow possible this season. But without Messi this task proved to be too much and a seven nil drubbing from the Germans over the two legs left FC Barcelona licking their wounds and scratching their heads.
Barcelona humiliated by Bayern
Luck finally ran out tonight for a certain Tito Vilanova, whose refusal to address defensive frailties in either of the last two transfer windows has led to a humiliating end to Barcelona’s golden era. Youngster Marc Bartra was forced to shore up a lack-lustre defense in a desperate attempt to fill the giant boots of Javier Mascherano and Carles Puyol. To cast a fresh-faced 22-year-old to the lion’s den of the Allianz Arena in Munich against one of the most potent attacks in recent memory smacked of desperation. From the first whistle it looked as if it wasn’t going to be the Catalan’s night.
If there is ever a football representation to what is referred to as a ‘Sunday picnic’, Real Zaragoza can be considered as lunch to FC Barcelona’s day out. The match started with all guns blazing, and soon it became obvious that the game would be highly dominated and controlled by Barça. Thiago finally showed his fantastic talent, without resorting to needless risks, and his focus truly orchestrated the game, with Tello wrecking havoc on the backline and left-wing with his immense speed and technical skills. A dominant performance, with the 0-3 scoreline, tells little of the brilliance on display.
Visitors FC Barcelona were buoyed by the return of their head coach Tito Vilanova last night and took to the Parc des Princes with a renewed confidence after their stunning comeback against AC Milan three weeks ago. Barça were made acutely aware in the opening minutes of the quality of the home team however, and just about survived an opening twenty minutes of sustained pressure from Paris Saint-Germain.
Barcelona smashes Milan
Apologies, apologies and a thousand more apologies. In the conclusion of the last match report after the fiasco in Milan, I lamented the end of Barcelona’s football empire. I have never been so thrilled to be wrong.
There were more than ninety eight thousand pairs of fingers crossed in the Camp Nou tonight as Barça took to the field. Turning around a two nil deficit had never been done in the history of the Champions League knock out stages and Jordi Roura was praying his troops would break tradition. Instead they smashed it.
In our La Liga return game at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid, Barça has carried on with our record-breaking trend, and has now managed to do something that hasn’t been done since 1962. The blaugrana squad has now conceded goals in its 13th consecutive game. Join me in exploring the whats, the whys, the whens and the how-comes, of the game, and if indeed FC Barcelona were playing Casper the Ghost as a defender, and with Callejon looking more like Bart Simpson everyday, this was indeed a game of comical events fit for the Cartoon Network, and not a sports channel. More after the jump.
For Tuesday’s second leg Copa del Rey match against Real Madrid, interim manager Jordi Roura made the decision to ignore recent form and keep David Villa on the bench in favour of Cesc Fabregas, leaving the home side toothless in attack once more. Barcelona has been failing to turn possession into goals in recent games but once again it was decided to field a team very short of attacking options.
FC Barcelona started on its journey of recovery from a disappointing midweek loss to record a 2-1 win over Sevilla. The possession rate was high as always, and there were some wasted chances and some defensive mishaps as well. However, the encouraging signs of the match, including having Villa and Messi on the scoresheet, leaves much to be talked about. More after the jump.
Barça will feel relieved to leave the Cármenes Stadium this evening with all three points. Not so much a result of being outplayed, because the team performed rather well, but mainly because it seemed the rub of the green was against them (penalty shout, red for Sigqueira, incorrect offside decisions) all evening coupled with a few late chances that fell Granada’s way. This game was far more complicated than most will have predicted, so credit to Granada who under the new stewardship of Lucas Alcaraz look a tidy outfit safely capable of securing a place in La Liga for 2013/14.
This past Saturday, Barça B suffered its seventh defeat of the season at the Nova Creu Alta stadium. The blaugrana fell to the 3-2 loss against Centre d’Esports Sabadell after an initial 0-2 lead before a comeback by the home team. The first half saw goals by Rafinha and Lobato, but before the break Hidalgo made it 1-2 and in the 70th minute, ex-Barça player Lanza tied the match. Twelve minutes from the end, Luis Alberto scored an own goal to make the final score 3-2.