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.
It finished 1-1. And that seems fair. There was something just so ‘middle of the road’ about the game: it wasn’t dire, but it was far from pulsating. While certain passages were precise, others were a mess. It was quick at moments, a snail’s pace at others. Fatigue possibly? Lest one forget Barça have played 8 games in 33 days prior to tonight. Either way, a far from memorable match but a decent result nevertheless. The trip to the Mestalla is in the top percentile of match difficulty, arguably the 3rd toughest match of the season, and leaving with a draw is no shame. The goal was never to win 38 games, the goal is to win the league and this result is a step forward in that direction.
There was no holiday hangover for FC Barcelona as the team began 2013 as it ended 2012: winning. It was no surprise but certainly warming to have Tito Vilanova (dressed Guardiola-ish) back on the bench after the shock and melancholy felt just a couple of weeks prior. No shock either in the lineup as Vilanova went chiefly with the form players of 2012 starting with Valdés; Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Alba; Xavi, Busquets, Cesc; Pedro, Messi, Iniesta. Fàbregas returned from injury over the holiday break to fill the spot of either Alexis or David Villa, whose frustrations continue. But let’s focus on the good stuff: Barça is back and Barça is still winning.
Eusebio Sacristan was delighted with his young side after they took all 3 points from their encounter at El Madrigal.
The ‘Yellow Submarine’ were always going to present a stiff challenge to Eusebio’s side, having been unbeaten at home all season, but the win sees them leapfrog their hosts into 5th place in the Segunda table.
On a triumphant evening for the city of Barcelona, the number of consecutive defeats for Atlético Madrid at the Camp Nou extended to seven. And while it wasn’t at the level of humiliation as some of the spankings in recent memory, a 4-1 victory this evening leaps FC Barcelona 9 points ahead of the Mattress-Makers. A 2-2 draw earlier in Madrid, inspiring the fans of the Camp Nou to sing “We love you, Mourinho stay”, has widened the gap from Real Madrid to 13. The match started shakily enough but the spirited response to going behind was simply too much for our opponents.
350. 190. 84. On his 350th official match for FC Barcelona, Lionel Messi scored his 190th La Liga goal and his 84th goal of the 2012 calendar year. These numbers level him with Cesar for the club record of all-time La Liga goals and leaves him just 1 behind Gerd Müller’s record of 85 goals in 1 calendar year. Messi nevertheless did create a new record this evening with his 5th successive match with 2 goals or more (source: @MessiStuff). But the match was not all about Leo this evening, because the team from 1 to 11 gave a top notch performance filled with hunger, precision, and creative flair. I’d expect Manuel Traquete’s latest set of ratings to be rather high.
Today’s match was highly anticipated as Barça was facing a challenge difficult to predict. Despite FC Barcelona’s good form, the team was playing Levante away, a trip that has proven to be complicated in the past. With that in mind, Barça started the game doing what it does best: controlling the ball and pressing the rivals from the first line of attack. It worked, but Levante provided a very ordered structure in the back, with at least 5 players present at every moment. They were also quick at attacking, which was even more evident after some time had passed. Balls were easily lost by Barça’s attack, as precision was not at its best, and Levante took advantage of that lack of concentration. They had two good chances to score through Barkero (12 min) and the dangerous Martins (38 min). Barça, in the mean time, tried too hard from the center of the attack. There were some good combinations between Messi and Xavi, while Cesc was a bit off and not reading the last pass well.
There was never any doubt who was going to triumph in this match once Barça announced their intentions in the early stages.
Even before Gerard Deulofeu had given the hosts the lead from the penalty spot on 13 minutes, Luis Alberto had already gone close on three occasions including hitting the woodwork.
Barça were simply too good for their opponents who took until the 22nd minute to register their first chance, a free kick that slammed into Lomban’s face and back off of Luis Alberto’s nose, leaving both slightly dazed.
On Tuesday in Moscow, FC Barcelona was hoping to put the embarrassment in Glasgow behind them and take a positive step along the road to Wembley. Vilanova fielded a strong first eleven, taking no chances against Unai Emery’s side. The conditions were freezing and the grass artificial but after Celtic’s heroics two weeks ago – the chance of an upset was real.
Zaragoza will have to add another year to the 47 they have failed to register a win in the Camp Nou as they went down 3-1 as Barça recorded league win number 11 of 2012/13.
It appeared Tito Vilanova wanted his defense pairing back in tandem ASAP because Puyol and his now correctly bending elbow started the game somewhat surprisingly. Montoya was given the start on the right, Alba the left, Piqué the middle while Alex Song filled the pivot role for the suspended Busquets with Xavi and Iniesta on his right and left. ‘MVP’ started upfront.
Ahead of the difficult challenge that is a visit to Mallorca, Barça had its own problems to solve. One of them, the defense, is slowly resolving, with the anticipated and most welcome come back of Gerard Piqué after a long time away from the pitch. Another issue is the old debate of what to do against defensive teams that do not hesitate to park the bus against us when needed. Many have stated that Barça still doesn’t have the answer to this problem, but Tito seems to be finding it, despite the loss at Celtic. That was one of the key things today.
Celtic arrived at the Camp Nou two weeks ago with little more than a prayer, but it was the home side that were on their knees thanking the heavens after a miraculous winner in the dying seconds of injury time. Buoyed by their team’s recent performance, the Celtic fans lifted the roof of Celtic Park tonight and the Barcelona players seemed genuinely unnerved by the intensity of the atmosphere.
Tito Vilanova left very little to chance in this Copa Del Rey fixture, fielding an almost full strength side content on finishing the tie in the first leg. Pinto manned the posts as per usual. The back line consisted of Dani Alves, back after a spell on the side lines, Bartra and Mascherano as well as rising star Montoya, who rarely sees the bench these days. The rest of the starting eleven featured Busquets, Sergi Roberto, Fabregas, David Villa, Alexis Sanchez and Iniesta. The most notable absentee was one Lionel Messi, suggesting that perhaps Vilanova is content to rest the Golden Boot winner from time to time this season.
In what was a really lively encounter, Barcelona finally shipped 5 goals and kept a clean sheet against Rayo Vallecano. The result brings Tito Vilanova’s run in the league to 8 wins and 1 draw in 9 games. This equals Van Gaal’s record in the 1997/1998 season, which up until now was considered Barcelona’s best ever start in La Liga.
FC Barcelona walked onto the pitch in Lisbon with a challenge: make history by scoring in Portugal. The team was able to do exactly that courtesy of two goals from Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas, who were both assisted by Messi. The blaugrana maintains a 100% win record under Tito in the Champions League thanks to this win.
Real Madrid drew first blood this season, taking back the Spanish SuperCopa after a 2-1 victory at the Bernabeau on Wednesday. But don’t let the tame scoreline fool you: this was a night full of high emotion, individual failure and collective triumph. And although it was the Madrid players who hosted the trophy at the end of the evening, the spirit and resourcefulness of Tito’s squad, just as the team was staring into the abyss, should give Barcelona fans reason for optimism.
And so Messi begins in Tangier. In the much anticipated preseason in Morocco, FC Barcelona gave a masterclass in teamwork and defensive pressure. Lionel Messi’s debut game this season really brought fans to their feet with his hattrick and two key passes. Messi has developed a good understanding with Alexis Sanchez, who scored two goals and made two assists himself. The match in Grand Stade ended with an entire outfield of Barcelona B players from the 70th minute mark.