Tired, tough, victorious: Barcelona hold Valencia at bay

Tired, tough, victorious: Barcelona hold Valencia at bay

Luis Suárez scored in the first minute and ran joyfully into the arms of his teammates. Lionel Messi scored in the last minute and collapsed on the ground behind the goal, exhausted. Between the two, there were 92 minutes of scintillating, scoreless football. Before the match, Luis Enrique had said that he was worried about his team’s fitness after a grueling run of games, and it certainly showed as Valencia battered Barcelona in the first half. Somehow, the Catalans held on, and in the second half were able to regain control as their opponents tired. Once again, Barcelona defended deep and chaotically against a disciplined, high-pressing side, and once again won three points through their superior stamina and quality. But it wasn’t easy.

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A game won on the extremes, job done in Paris

A game won on the extremes, job done in Paris

That was good, not far from a perfect Champions League away result. Had Jérémy Mathieu not wildly slashed at a weak Gregory van der Wiel shot, FC Barcelona would have left the Parc des Princes unscathed and shoo-ins for the a semi-final place. Regardless, a dominant 3-1 away win against one of Europe’s elite sides is as good as it gets in football’s toughest competition and makes Barça a near certainty to advance. This was the best display against Paris-Saint Germain (PSG) of the three, though very different from to the master-classes against Manchester City (though more and more that’s looking largely due to City’s ineptitude). Again, tonight showed this is an adaptable and ever-shifting Barcelona.

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Barcelona lament errors as Sevilla extend unbeaten streak

Barcelona lament errors as Sevilla extend unbeaten streak

For 83 minutes it seemed like FC Barcelona were about to end Sevilla FC’s amazing unbeaten streak at home, but that’s football. Barcelona squandered tonight a two-goal lead that may prove vital as we get closer and closer to the end of the season, and a disciplined Sevilla under the guidance of Unai Emery secured a massive point to keep them in the race for a Champions League spot. Disappointed? Angry? Satisfied? What exactly happened tonight?

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Barcelona pass Almería test in second gear

Barcelona pass Almería test in second gear

A home match against 18th-placed Almería was never going to be particularly exciting, especially with a daunting gauntlet of Liga and Champions League games ahead. In fact, the game’s most interesting aspects were how Luis Enrique rested players for the road ahead, with Gerard Piqué, Jérémy Mathieu, Andrés Iniesta, and the misfiring Neymar Jr. all left on the bench. It was up to Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez to score goals, which they had no problem obliging – along with the now traditional set-piece goal from a defender, this time delivered by Marc Bartra.

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Sporting Gijón-Barça B: Crazy game yields a point (0-0)

Sporting Gijón-Barça B: Crazy game yields a point (0-0)

Yet another game, yet another point for Jordi Vinyals’ Barça B. The reserves put in a solid, if not spectacular performance, considering that they were playing against the league’s third-placed side, and came out unscathed following a pulsating end-to-end affair that saw both teams squander good chances to get the win. Vinyals’ men gave it their all, the coach did his best trying to mastermind the first win for the blaugrana in nine matches, yet everything came to no avail. Read more…

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Celta-Barcelona: Barça wins ugly, but still wins

Celta-Barcelona: Barça wins ugly, but still wins

Speaking to the press before last week’s clásico, Luis Enrique said that the match against Real Madrid would be important, yet not decisive. Few people would agree with him, but actually, this quote from Lucho has to be the mind-set to guide Barcelona. League titles are not won by winning clásicos. They are won by winning at places like Balaídos. On Sunday night, Luis Enrique’s Barcelona arguably played one of their worst matches in 2015, excluding that terrible night at Anoeta. Yet they found the way to victory. And that’s exactly what matters.

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Alcorcón-Barça B: Yet another defeat (3-1)

Alcorcón-Barça B: Yet another defeat (3-1)

Barça B’s situation this season is getting more and more abysmal by the day. The reserves are set to spend yet another week in the relegation zone after losing 3-1 at Alcorcón. Fortune once again seemed to be conspiring against the reserves, who had a first half to forget. Despite playing with ten players for more than an hour, goalkeeper Ortolá was sent off, Barça had chances to equalize in the second half, yet they all came to nothing, condemning Barça B to seventh  match without a win.

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Are you not entertained?

Are you not entertained?

After Schalke 04 and Arsenal FC almost completed miraculous comebacks against their respective opponents, and after Paris Saint-Germain, against all odds, knocked out Chelsea CF at Stamford Bridge, I was a little nervous when it came to tonight’s game. I thought Manchester City would go into the match fearlessly and play as if they have nothing to lose because, after all, a Champions League Round of 16 exit against FC Barcelona should not be surprising, so why not give it their all? Or at least I thought they would.

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Barça B-Racing: Cruel twist of fate robs reserves of three points

Barça B-Racing: Cruel twist of fate robs reserves of three points

New game, same old story. Barça B were unable to get three direly needed points against Racing Santander, despite dominating and taking the lead for the first time during Jordi Vinyals’ time as coach. A goal by Sandro in the second half seemed to be sending everything down the right track for Jordi Vinyals’ men, but four minutes from time yet another cruel twist of fate robbed Barça of a much needed win.

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Eibar-Barça: Business as usual

Eibar-Barça: Business as usual

No rival can ever be underestimated in football. Especially if we are talking about La Liga. Yet sometimes you can be forgiven for valuing some games a bit more than others. After all, can a game against little Eibar ever have the same value as a game against your eternal rivals or a game that will decide whether you will play midweek in Europe for the rest of the season? In their first visit to the Estadio Municipal de Ipurúa, Barça’s players played as much as they needed to do to make sure that the team will go into next week’s clásico defending a lead no matter what.

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Back where they belong

Back where they belong

It’s been a while since we last saw FC Barcelona sitting atop the league table, and we’ve missed it greatly. What hurt most about the loss against Real Sociedad was not the fact that we again lost at the Anoeta, but rather that the team had wasted a rare chance to close the gap on then leaders Real Madrid. But ever since that loss, the response has been nothing but emphatic. And now, after two months of hard work, Barcelona are back where they belong – top of the league.

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CD Lugo-Barça B: Bad luck condemns reserves to yet another defeat

CD Lugo-Barça B: Bad luck condemns reserves to yet another defeat

Wins in football always come down to a variety of factors. It’s about being switched on during the whole game, running faster, covering more distance than the opponent, but it’s also about Lady Luck being on your side. For Barcelona B, Lady Luck was obviously unwilling to let the reserves get their heads above the water. Jordi Vinyals’ men for yet another week had the strength to come back from behind, this time completing the comeback, but suffering a monumental collapse in the final ten minutes.

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3-1 victory sees Barça comfortably reach Copa final

3-1 victory sees Barça comfortably reach Copa final

Villarreal huffed and puffed, sprinkled in a little hacking and stomping, and Barça won 3-1 anyways. The game was effectively over before it got going when Neymar put Barcelona ahead three minutes in. At the end of the day, it comes down to basic financial arithmetic: Lionel Messi, Neymar, Luis Suárez versus Ikechukwu Uche, Luciano Vietto, Denis Cheryshev. Whilst Villarreal gave it their all and had a flurry of chances in a first half against an opponent that clearly knew they were 4-1 ahead on aggregate, superior caliber creates higher quality opportunities which leads to a greater frequency of goals. With a smiling Sergio Busquets on the bench, who despite what looked a horrific ankle injury reportedly only suffered a sprain, Barça qualify for the Copa del Rey final as everyone expected they would and with no damage done (fingers crossed still, you never know).

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Barça B-Mallorca: Close but…

Barça B-Mallorca: Close but…

In football, you sometimes get those days on which the universe seems to be conspiring against you. Those terrible, horrible days on which nothing seems to be working for you. Barcelona B’s match against Mallorca at the Miniestadi on Saturday was certainly one of those days. Jordi Vinyals’ men found themselves two goals down after conceding two first half goals in quick succession, but still had the mental capacity to fight back and bring the match level. However, a late and highly controversial penalty and a magisterial free-kick condemned the hosts to yet another defeat.

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Barça say goodbye to February with a win over Granada

Barça say goodbye to February with a win over Granada

The dreaded February has finally come to an end. FC Barcelona will now depart Andalusia with a 3-1 away win against Granada CF, a fixture that ended in defeat last year for Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino’s side. The team is now a point away from La Liga’s top spot as we all await Real Madrid’s game tomorrow against Villarreal CF, hoping that either the Yellow Submarines pull off an upset or at least go into Wednesday’s Copa del Rey game exhausted.

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An opportunity spurned but still an advantage earned

An opportunity spurned but still an advantage earned

An imperial first half followed by a bumbling second gave life to a tie that should be dead and put to bed. Given the palpable ease of the first 45, it was a poor showing to concede that extent of control to Manchester City and sit back, knowing City’s goal was only the next chance away. Even when Gaël Clichy was sent off following two clumsy (and deserved) bookings Barça didn’t put the home side under enough pressure. Then Lionel Messi threw away Pablo Zabaleta’s gift of a penalty to encapsulate an undeserving second half performance. Winning away from home is always the goal, yet tonight feels an opportunity blown. I’m genuinely disappointed with Luis Enrique tonight for not reacting appropriately to what were the two obvious problem areas. You obviously overwhelmingly fancy the blaugrana to see out the 2-1 advantage but The Citizens walk off this evening a happier side than they should be.

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Llagostera-Barça B: Reserves blown out (1-0)

Llagostera-Barça B: Reserves blown out (1-0)

Barça B may have a new coach, but getting rid of old habits is so much harder than sacking a coach. Jordi Vinyals’ team was every bit the team that was often embarrassed during Eusebio’s time against Llagostera today, and inevitably the reserves’ new coach tasted defeat in his first match on the road. His players simply played worse than the rival.

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Barça B – Alavés: Vinyals’ first point (0-0)

Barça B – Alavés: Vinyals’ first point (0-0)

Half a step forward for Jordi Vinyals’ Barça B. The reserves played an acceptable brand of football for a Barcelona side and got a point that might prove useful in this incredibly tight fight against relegation. Vinyals’ hand in the side was clearly evident, from the team selection to the tactics, and one can definitely say that the first (and often unreliable) first impression is positive.

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Athletic Club-Barcelona: Esto es Barça!

Athletic Club-Barcelona: Esto es Barça!

The Barcelona team we watched last night at San Mamés was a pure joy to watch. Credit to Athletic for making Barça work to a resounding 2-5 victory at a ground where the blaugranas hadn’t won since 2011. It also has to be noted that Barça’s defence didn’t have the best of nights. Yet the team’s quality was there, standing tall and imposing over La Catedral, like a ghost haunting. No matter how much Ernesto Valverde’s spirited troops huffed and puffed on yesterday’s cold night at the Basque Country, there was only ever going to be one winner. Barça simply gave that impossible sense of being untouchable. Read more…

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Real Zaragoza vs FC Barcelona B: Back to normality (4-0)

Real Zaragoza vs FC Barcelona B: Back to normality (4-0)

Barcelona B couldn’t make it two wins in a row Saturday at La Romareda. Eusebio’s team went back to this year’s bad habits, lacking control of the match for the best part of the 90 minutes and being torn apart by a terrifyingly effective Zaragoza on the counter, in Eusebio’s 150th game in charge of the reserves. Read more…

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Sabadell-Barça B: Convincing Victory in an Electric Match (1-4)

Sabadell-Barça B: Convincing Victory in an Electric Match (1-4)

This weekend took a different turn from the past few weeks for the blaugrana youngsters as they managed to convincingly grab the three points at play in the Catalan regional derby against Sabadell. This gave Eusebio’s young men a push up to the 15th position of the classification in the Liga Adelante while they await the result of CD Lugo’s match on Sunday, who in case of a win take the Barcelonese contingent a level down to 16th position. The confrontation started out in a very open way, yet Barça B were more effective and efficient in front of goal and took over the tie bit by bit. For full details on the match read more…

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Something seems to be happening at Barça

Something seems to be happening at Barça

Rarely in football do you sincerely think “that was bloody brilliant”. Obviously I’m not referring to the second half (except for Arda Turan’s wonderful moment of theatre), but that first half was one of wonderful ebb and flow. It started with a bang, then an elegant rebuttal, an unsurprising controversy, a swift reply and finally it ended with a bang. Instead of being called for a clear handball, Jordi Alba burst the length of the field to superbly assist Neymar’s winner on a night the Brazilian sparkled. Down 2-3 at the half (2-4 on aggregate), Neymar finally had enough of the relentless fouling, got into Gabi’s face and then stood up to Fernando Torres. Eventually that concluded with Gabi being sent off during the break and viewers needing a double take when Atlético took to the field curiously a man down.

I must say, there’s been few firmer admirers and supporters of Atletí but lately it feels things are getting nasty. The soldier “never say die” mentality is shifting into a bit of a sore loser routine. The Atlético guys seem to genuinely believe they’re being wronged despite cynical and excessive physical fouls that are blatantly obvious. Whether a direct consequence or not, it was poetic that referee Gil Manzano had to ask for a new disappearing spray can with 10 minutes still to spare. He blew over thirty fouls and distributed 13 yellow cards (10 to Atlétio Madrid) as well as 2 red cards. Barça were unable to beat Atletí in six attempts last year, they’ve now won three times in barely over two weeks with an aggregate score-line of 7-3. Something seems to be happening at FC Barcelona.

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Context and clean sheets: a look at Elche-Barcelona

Context and clean sheets: a look at Elche-Barcelona

As the final whistle blew on Barcelona’s 0-6 thrashing of Elche, several people noted that the scoreline was misleading out of context. Indeed, Elche attacked decently and defended well, while Barcelona were lackluster for 50 minutes and only broke the game open with goals off a set piece and a penalty. The goals only started to flow once Fayçal Fajr received his second yellow in the 57th minute, allowing Messi and Neymar to run rampant against 10 men. All of which is true, of course. But two things stand out to me in that line of thinking. First, if you were unable to enjoy the show of samba and smiles put on by Barça’s brilliant duo in the last half hour in Elche, you should stop reading this piece and go back to kicking puppies and pissing in flower beds. Second, and more seriously, is this tricky notion of context, the idea that some numbers are misleading and others aren’t, which I think bears more exploration.

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Barça B-Recreativo: Light at the end of the tunnel (3-1)

Barça B-Recreativo: Light at the end of the tunnel (3-1)

A win at last. Barcelona B put an end to a miserable five match losing run with a well-deserved 3-1 win over Recreativo today at the Miniestadi, the team’s first at home since October 19th, and for now, Eusebio’s men can sleep with a little more tranquility. On Munir’s return to the reserves, Eusebio’s men beat all the absences and played a game of good football against a direct rival, and led by the ‘rabbit out of the hat’ (aka Juan Cámara) they were able to get a result that allows them to set their sights on putting the relegation battle behind them for good. Read more…

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Neymar, Suárez, Messi – Barça beat Atlético 3-1

Neymar, Suárez, Messi – Barça beat Atlético 3-1

That did not look a team in the midst of mutiny. FC Barcelona put in their best performance of the season, in particular with a sensational first half that at the very least merited the two goal advantage. Atlético Madrid certainly overstepped with their physical play, it got dirty, and only through the incompetence of La Liga officiating finished the game with all eleven men on the pitch. It was that same ineptitude from Undiano Mallenco that also gifted the visitors with a chance for points. At the end however, Barça matched Atletí intensity and very deservedly walked off the Camp Nou pitch worthy winners.

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Leganés-Barça B: No end to the crisis (2-0)

Leganés-Barça B: No end to the crisis (2-0)

Nobody had great expectations from Barcelona B for today’s game against Leganés. The way last season’s third placed team have fallen from grace is just spectacular, and three consecutive defeats in the league didn’t create any high hopes. We just expected Eusebio’s men to finally react, but in the end we just got a typical Barcelona B performance of the 2014/15 season: soulless and utterly lacking in creativity. Read on for more.

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Barça B-Las Palmas: Free fall continued (0-2)

Barça B-Las Palmas: Free fall continued (0-2)

New Year, same old story for Barça B. The reserves surely had one of their toughest challenges in their hands with the opponent being the league leader, but one would still expect Eusebio’s men to make a notable effort. The league leaders left Barcelona with three points in the bag after a game during which they barely had to stretch their feet to overcome the tame challenge presented by the hosts. Eusebio’s team seemed lost in space once more, with the players seemingly coaching themselves against a rival that came to the Miniestadi with a clear aim and an even clearer plan. Read more…

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A match for the misfiring and maligned

A match for the misfiring and maligned

To most viewers, FC Barcelona thumping the 19th-placed team in La Liga 5-0 at home is the definition of business as usual, but in many ways Barcelona-Córdoba was a match for the unexpected. With rare sightings of Martin Montoya, a misfiring Messi, an in-form Pedro, and not one but two set-piece goals, fans were taken on a veritable safari tour of foreign sights.

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Copa del Rey Match Review: FC Barcelona vs SD Huesca

Copa del Rey Match Review: FC Barcelona vs SD Huesca

Not much opposition was expected from SD Huesca for the return leg of the Copa del Rey round of 32 encounter. Indeed, with a four-goal cushion and having recently dropped points in the league to Getafe, FC Barcelona manager Luis Enrique’s thinking was obviously more about resting up for the long La Liga/CdR/Champions League marathon ahead, rather than use Lionel Messi to clobber some pretty weak opposition.

Wisely, Lucho opted to leave most of his first team to watch from the stands. Of the sixteen players called up, he asked only eleven first-team players to suit up. Even Martín Montoya got a much-deserved start. Heavens!

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Barça B-Mirandés: Reserves self-destruct (1-3)

Barça B-Mirandés: Reserves self-destruct (1-3)

In football, the ball never forgives. If you fail to put the ball into the net, you get punished. It is as simple as that. Yet Barcelona B seem to be so deeply confused at this time that they can’t even do basic things right. The match against Mirandés on Saturday was a true disaster. For all of the team’s good efforts in attack, there were tons of missed chances and a catalogue of inexplicable defensive errors. In essence, Barça B managed to throw away a match that could have very easily been theirs. Mirandés may have had the lead from early on, but once Dongou equalised it all seemed to be going the right way. No. Somehow, Mirandés scored two more goals to triumph in Barcelona. Read more…

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