Ten minutes into the game, it was a familiar scene. Barcelona were away from home on a shoddy pitch, patiently working the ball back and forth as they tried to break down the two banks of five men defending deep in front of the opposition goal. Then it happened – a stray pass in midfield fell to Levante, who broke quickly into the spaces left behind the fullbacks. Down Barcelona’s left, evading a desperate challenge from the exposed centre-back, then crossing to the unmarked man on the opposite flank. An easy goal – Barcelona have seen it too many times over the past two seasons.
In football, you always have to work to get results. Matches are never won before kick-off. Perhaps that’s what Barcelona B’s players were thinking when they took to the pitch to face Llagostera yesterday. But when the match started they were faced by reality: They had no answers for neither Llagostera’s brilliantly orchestrated defensive tactics, or for their venomous counterattacks. The front line had a day off, and the defence made mistakes of the kind that have been unseen for months now. Defeat was inevitable for Barça B yesterday, despite Sergi Samper’s spirited performance in the pivot role. It is a rule that when your forwards are absent, getting goals is hard. Read more…
It was a match of minimal thrills or spills. FC Barcelona put in considerable effort packed with sharp touches and energetic movement to try and unlock a stubborn APOEL side who appeared more or less content losing 1-0 after going down within in the first half hour. Okay fine, they had a corner in the second half, two threatening second half attacks and a last minute scare. There has been chatter of new schemes and radical shifts in Barça’s system under Luis Enrique, but I call wishful eyes creating a perception of want rather than is. The sample size is too small to make sweeping declarations. The reality is, one can have whomever on the bench, but when a team plays compact and narrow with all eleven men behind the ball, Barça and every other team on the planet will struggle to fashion double digit proper chances. Not to mention, that as much as Barça is a proactive side, often an opponent forces a degree of reactivity. But Gerard Piqué scored and while a 1-0 victory isn’t flashy, it provides the same number of points as a 3 or 4 goal margin. If teams want to come to Camp Nou and not lose yet still end up losing, Luis Enrique need not complain.
Barcelona B managed to record their first away win yesterday, beating Alavés 2-3 in Vitoria, but the truth is that the scoreline should never have been so close. Eusebio’s team dominated against a clueless Alavés in the first half, and despite of the hosts having some chances, they managed to put themselves into a three-goal lead by halftime. The second half was another story, as the reserves completely lost control over the match, conceded two late goals, and saw the opposition miss a penalty right at the death, ensuring that they had to suffer in order to get a third consecutive win. They did though, and that’s all that matters. Read more after the break.
If anyone told you that Barcelona B would end up beating Zaragoza 4-1 in two weeks’ time of the opener at El Sadar, you would have probably thought the man was over confident, or blown away by last season’s extraordinary exploits. Yet that’s precisely what happened at the Miniestadi yesterday. Eusebio’s team not only beat a promotion hopeful, but they completely demolished Zaragoza. They did so with 10 absences, in the aftermath of a summer that saw many of the team’s stars depart. The storyline is just inspiring. What’s more exciting than the previously sloppy, chance-missing Dongou bagging a brace for the second week on the run, and Gerard Gumbau, some 19-year-old kid who had only previously played football in the Primera Catalana scoring seconds after he came on? These moments are moments only offered by Eusebio’s Barça B. Read more after the jump.
It took 81 minutes, but Barcelona finally managed to break down a stubborn Villarreal side at El Madrigal last night. On the one hand, it was a familiar sight: the home team defending deep and compact, launching counterattacks into open space behind Barça’s high line. But the Barcelona side that met Villarreal on the pitch today was distinctly unlike anything seen in the last two seasons. They created numerous chances against an excellent defensive side, looking relatively composed and solid at the back, before a youth player and out-and-out striker managed to net the game-winner. All new, all exciting.
After a making significant improvement on last week’s average performance in Pamplona, Barcelona B was able to take its first win of the season with a 3-1 win against the fellow Catalans of Sabadell. It was a very eventful night at Barcelona’s Miniestadi, as Sabadell went ahead, were then reduced to ten players, Barça B managed to win two penalties but converted just one, and finally Dongou turned the game on its head for the hosts. Definitely an enjoyable showing from Eusebio’s men, that leaves a lot of promise for the long season ahead.
The early star of the show was an old Camp Nou friend (or an omen for those suspiciously inclined folks). But when the black cat was shown the exit (the security man earning a bite for his trouble), Luis Enrique’s new look FC Barcelona comfortably beat Elche 3-0. The visitors’ defensive strategy was voided when Lionel Messi opened up his 2014/15 account and despite a late first half setback, a debut goal 49 seconds into the second half from Munir El Haddadi ended this game as a competitive affair. There is certainly praise to go around, but seeing an energetic Messi with his much missed smile is unquestionably tonight’s key takeaway.
Barcelona B’s 2014/15 Liga Adelante season began with a defeat at El Sadar against promotion contenders Osasuna. What the reserves showed on the pitch at Pamplona must have surely left coach Eusebio with plenty to ponder. The team was lackluster, lackeing the grit and determination to match the hosts’ energy. Eusebio’s side created very few chances, and was forced to play with a backline that was totally in shambles. Avoiding relegation will be a challenge this season. Read more…
FC Barcelona had to settle for a 1-1 draw at the French Riviera following a match in which the blaugrana had two very different halves. Luis Enrique had the chance to experiment around with players and tactics, and it is certain that the coach wasn’t left disappointed, as the match gave him plenty of food for thought. Read more after the jump…
Luis Enrique’s coaching spell at FC Barcelona kicked off with a narrow win over Recreativo de Huelva thanks to a goal from Joan Román. Enrique introduced all 23 players that were called up for the club’s first friendly game as the players start their journey towards regaining full match fitness. The game was far from entertaining, but the time will come when fans expect beautiful football and it is not now. The squad was mainly made up of Barça B players who will aim to impress Enrique for a shot at joining the first team.
It was a depressing afternoon for Culés as the team’s La Liga hopes came to an end after a poor draw against Getafe CF. The Camp Nou mourned the death of Tito Vilanova with the players wearing a tribute jersey for their former coach. Lionel Messi and Alexis Sánchez scored for Barça, but Angel Lafita was able to equalize twice for Getafe. A rare trophy-less season seemed inevitable ever since the defeat against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final, but some fans still hoped for more.
A lot of desire, a healthy slice of luck and perhaps a dash of the mythical. In the match following the painful passing of Tito Vilanova, the clock read 55 minutes and Barça were two goals down, seemingly on the road to further suffering. There was never a lack of effort and drive tonight, but Villarreal not only matched FC Barcelona’s intensity, they surpassed it. But fortunes change so quickly in football.
Barça B extended their unbeaten run to eight matches with a hard-fought victory against Girona at the Miniestadi. Eusebio’s team had to come back from behind, after conceding a first-half penalty, but the task proved easy for the leaders of the Juvenil A, Adama and Munir, who came on as substitutes in the second half, changing the shape of the game completely. The win puts Barça B on 54 points, which places them right in the upper echelons of the league standards, in 3rd place, just six points behind leaders Deportivo, who have a game in hand.
The Copa del Rey final kicked off as a potential saving grace to a disappointing FC Barcelona week, and what might prove to be a disappointing season, at La Mestalla in Valencia, and ended with a painful loss.
With this defeat, the chances of winning any title has dwindled down to La Liga, where the team trails in 3rd behind their Champions League vanquishers, Atlético Madrid, and tonight’s winners, Real Madrid. It has been a heartbreaking week indeed, yet tonight’s game was even more so because there were moments when a fan couldn’t be faulted in believing that it could have turned out better.
Yesterday, Granada CF beat FC Barcelona for the first time since 1972, dealing a massive blow to Barça’s hopes of winning La Liga. As it stands, the blaugrana sit in third place, and with the toughest schedule of the top three in the last five games of the season, they are odds-on to stay there. If Barça were to finish bronze, it would be the first time since the 2007-08 season, well known as Frank Rijkaard’s last year and the year before Pep Guardiola came in and cleaned house. The Barça players have not given up yet, and the fans certainly shouldn’t – but maybe, just maybe, Gerardo Martino has.
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.
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.
It was an ugly match, with moments of brilliance few and far in between. Espanyol hosted FC Barcelona at Estadi Cornella-El Prat in a highly physical and tense encounter, which stayed unsettled till the last 15 minutes, although there weren’t many signs before that of the fixture ever ending well.
When Barça were able to reach the opposition’s goal, their attempts were wasted, otherwise, they were just bullied and beaten off the ball in plain sight of the officials. The match was a counter-tactic to the one employed by Celta Vigo, whom were rightly hailed as an example of attacking play and sportsmanship.
Yesterday FC Barcelona defeated Celta Vigo 3-0, moving up to second place as Real Madrid lost later on in the evening at Sevilla. It should have been a cause for celebration, but the victory was deeply bittersweet, tainted by the image of Víctor Valdés crying as he was stretchered off the field with a torn ACL, presumably never to don the blaugrana kit again. The heroic keeper has done wonders to get Barcelona this far in the title race, but now the Catalans will have to make it to the finish line without him. With eight games left in the season, Barça are one point out of first place. Win out and they take the title: It’s a daunting task, but against Celta Vigo on Wednesday, Barcelona took one step closer to their objective.
FC Barcelona went to the Santiago Bernabéu with the hope of closing the gap with a highflying Real Madrid, and take their last chance at possibly winning the league, as Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino said in his prematch press conference. They managed to accomplish that in an exciting 7-goal game, that ended with the visitors claiming all three points in a spectacular and nerve-wrecking contest.
Iniesta and Messi were the absolute stars of the show, with the former pulling off some of his best illusionist moves, leaving behind some of the greatest players like a child leaves rag dolls behind. With this win, Barça managed to end Real Madrid’s 31-game unbeaten run that extended back to the last Clásico, when the blaugrana defeated their rivals 2-1 at the Camp Nou. Also, with this win, FC Barcelona reaffirmed that they are not done with the league yet, and sent out a clear message to the strongest teams in Spain and in Europe that they can still dispatch any pretender team around.
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.
Barcelona lost 1-0 to relegation-threatened Real Valladolid today, seriously damaging their title hopes in La Liga. Away matches have been a serious challenge for the Catalans in the second half of this season, and Valladolid proved no exception. Away from Camp Nou, Barça’s run of form is shocking: They have won just one of five games in 2014, kept one clean sheet in the last eight matches, and have not scored the first goal of a match since November 2013. Though one can remember that the players are human and have had a difficult week between the international travel, Carles Puyol’s announcement, and a personal tragedy to Andrés Iniesta, nonetheless there is something inexplicable about the downward spiral occurring to Tata Martino’s men. Make the jump as we try to dissect this puzzling match.
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.
This Saturday night saw FC Barcelona host a smooth-playing Rayo Vallecano at the Camp Nou and serve them an early appetizer, a four-part main course, and a super sweet dessert at the end. With his two goals, Messi managed to match the record of legendary striker Telmo Zarra’s of 335 goals for the same Spanish club, and also be 24 goals short of breaking the all time La Liga goal scoring record.
This 6-0 drubbing was a pleasant return to effectiveness after some lackluster displays in front of goal, and serves as a good lead to Tuesday’s Champions League game against Manchester City, away at Manchester’s Etihad Stadium.
FC Barcelona headed to Sevilla with the ambition of reclaiming the top spot after Atlético Madrid fell to Almería on Saturday. With that in mind, no flooded pitch or tenacious opposition was going to stop them from redeeming themselves from the underwhelming performances that they had displayed in the latest La Liga games.
What started as an apprehensive display, with many dangerous chances by Sevilla, and wayward passing by the Catalans, transformed into a dominant display by the visitors from the latter part of the first half onwards. Los Rojiblancos remained a constant threat, but Barça managed to rally together and emerge victorious with a 1-4 drubbing of the home side.
There was a bit of luck involved and it wasn’t pretty, but Barcelona obtained a very good result in the first leg of the Copa del Rey semifinals against Real Sociedad. La Real came out to play for a draw, setting up in a very conservative 5-3-2 formation that essentially put eight men in defense, clogging the midfield and forcing Barcelona out wide. The tactic proved effective at first, but Barcelona persevered and were able to grind out the win.
Last weekend was undoubtedly quite bad for any barcelonismo given the first team’s unexpected loss at Camp Nou against Valencia CF. Yet FC Barcelona B managed to fly the Blaugrana flag high, beating a rampant Real Zaragoza 2-0 away and delivering a footballing exhibition in their first ever visit to La Romareda. It is no coincidence that a certain Spanish website called the Barça reserves “the best team that has played at the Romareda this season“. Barça B had everything: possession, speed, high pressing, energy and incisiveness. In fact, were it not for home keeper Leo Franco, the match would have ended as a rout for the next potential Barça stars.
Perhaps there’s something to the February curse after all: On the first day of the month, FC Barcelona lost their first home game of the season, to a Valencia squad that was completely revamped over the last days of the transfer window. It was also the first time that Barcelona have conceded more than two goals this season, as well as one of the worst all-round performances of the season. In some ways, the incredibly poor nature of the match is reassuring: It is clearly an outlier to what has been an otherwise excellent season for Gerardo Martino, just one of those bad games that every team has. While hardly pleasant for players and cules alike, the blaugrana should be able to bounce back without difficulty.