Barça’s 2011/2012 Season – Part 4

Part Four of Six: In a multi-part saga, Barcelona Football Blog offers a retrospective blow-by-blow account of events around Barça’s First Football Team over the past season. Join us as we look back on the high and lows of the 11 months that were Pep’s last, as Manager.

Season Review: Part One
Season Review: Part Two
Season Review: Part Three

…Continued from Part Three

January 2012

Alternating La Liga and Copa del Rey matches would fill this month’s schedule. Pep’s player shortage headaches continued with his long-term injury list now including Villa. Players would leave during the January transfer window. Major awards were won by team members; silly errors and missed goals would lead to a drawn game, and Keita would temporarily leave the club to join his Mali team for the African Nations Cup. Dropped points extended the gap at the top of the La Liga table.

2nd January:  All players were present for the first training of the day, except Messi (vacation), Abidal (flu) and long-term injured Afellay and Villa. Messi arrived later in the day and attended a light training.

2nd January: Pinto’s contract was extended for one more season until 30th June 2013.

3rd January:  The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), named Xavi as the “2011 Best Playmaker in the World” for the 4th consecutive year. Messi and Iniesta were placed 2nd and 3rd, while Cesc was 10th.

3rd January:  Guardiola had all 18 available First Team players present at a full training, although Iniesta and Puyol performed specialised work because of their injuries. (Only Villa and Afellay were missing.)

4th JanuaryValdés and Messi were ruled out of the Osasuna Copa del Rey game because they had caught the flu, and Iniesta had still not recovered enough to be considered.  However, Messi had other plans

4th January:  Home vs. Osasuna. 
Copa del Rey.   4-0. 
The first game of the new year was a Copa del Rey match against Basque side Osasuna. Pinto was between the sticks and Oier was on the bench to replace an ailing Valdés. Messi also sat on the bench, having phoned Pep to say that he felt better and wanted to play.

Possession went the home team’s way, (although Osasuna chased every ball passed back to Pinto), and it wasn’t long before Alves sent a pass to Xavi on the middle-edge of the box, who spotted a free Cesc to his left. Running onto the pass, Cesc slotted the first (13’) home for the night and the first goal for 2012. Minutes later, a recovered ball at half-way saw Puyol pass up-field to Xavi who sought out Cesc for a beautiful chip (18’) for his second of the night. Barça continued to pressure the Osasuna goal, and were only stopped from scoring by an on-form Asier Riesgo.

Into the second half, and on came Messi for the last 30 minutes. The pace and pressure picked up, and it wasn’t long before he had his first for the year. Nice play from Xavi in the box saw him pass the ball back over to Cesc to cross into Messi who ran into space to head the ball (74’) into the net.

A minute into injury time, Xavi sent a ball into Messi who made no mistake about slotting (91’) the ball home. Barça comfortably won the first leg of this CdR round. Xavi had a wonderful game with 3 assists, as did Cesc with 2 goals and an assist, with Messi also scoring 2 goals in the 30 minutes that he was on the pitch.

Game Facts:
~  The game was Guardiola’s 25th CdR game as manager: 18 won, 4 drawn and 3 lost, with 62 goals scored and 14 conceded.
~  This was the first time that Messi played in the opening game of the year under Pep.
~  Piqué had a great night, recovering 20 balls.

Link to Match Highlights Video

4th January:
As an early Kings’ Day gift, the team received a brand-spanking new bus.

5th January:
  Kings’ Day is a major celebration in Spain. The day of the 3 Magi (6th January) is when children receive the majority of their Christmas gifts. As a gift to the fans, a training session open to the public was held at the Miniestadi the day after the Osasuna match. We braved the freezing day to go along and watch, as reported in an earlier article.

6th January:
  The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), named Pep Guardiola as “The Best Club Coach in the World” for the 2nd year running. Pep finished ahead of Mourinho and Sir Alex Ferguson.

8th January:  Away vs. Espanyol.  La Liga.  1-1. 
The team travelled across town for a derby match against RCD Espanyol.

The home team started very strongly and the pressure was put on Barça for the entire game, which ultimately paid dividends for Espanyol. An early, strong Blanquiblau attack saw a headed goal miraculously pushed out by Valdés. In the 13th minute, Messi won the ball back from GK Álvarez and Cesc slotted home in front of an empty goal, but the goal was disallowed by a Messi handball for which he was carded. In the 14th minute, a runaway Alexis was unable to control the ball in the box, (and looked to have been fouled by Álvarez), and another chance was lost.

Cesc soon put Barça ahead with a header (15’) from an Alves cross. In the 16th min, a strong Espanyol shot on goal was stopped and gathered by Valdés. Espanyol had several shots saved, as did Barça. Chances were lost as shots missed, hit the woodwork or were saved. The 3-man back-line was not working as Espanyol came at them with 5 forwards and, just before half-time, Piqué was seen calling for reinforcements.

Messi was denied by the woodwork in the 76th minute. Espanyol gathered momentum, and confidence, and scored the equalizer in the 85th minute. In the dying minutes, a Piqué shot hit the post and Pedro’s shot was blocked by an Espanyol hand-ball which was not called. The game finished with yet another draw at 1-1, and the team was left ruing the missed opportunities and poor finishing as they fell 5 points behind Real Madrid.

Game Facts:
~  Cesc’s goal was the team’s 100th goal for the season.  (51 in La Liga, 20 in Champions League, 14 in the Copa del Rey, 8 in the Club World Cup, 5 in the Spanish Supacopa and 2 in the UEFA Super Cup.)
~  Although he played in the match, it was obvious that Iniesta had not fully recovered from his hamstring injury.

Link to Match Highlights Video

9th January:
  Selected team members and management jetted to Zürich for the 2011 FIFA Awards.

2011 FIFA Awards

~  Messi won his 3rd Ballon D’Or in a row.
~  Guardiola won Manager of the Year.
~  Messi, Alves, Piqué, Xavi and Iniesta were voted into the FIFA/FIFPro World XI team for 2011.
Messi’s Ballon D’Or put the club out in front with 9 trophies, ahead of Milan and Juventus who both have 8.

10th January:  Afellay returned to Barcelona from the Netherlands and began his physical training.

10th January:  Keita left the team to join the Mali camp for the African Cup of Nations to be played in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. His presence would be missed for the good part of 6 weeks in which over 12 games would be played.

11th January:  Alves experienced some pain in his leg during training and would miss the upcoming Osasuna match. Iniesta was also left out, as it was clear from his performance against Espanyol that he was not up to full match fitness.

11th January:  An agreement was reached between FC Barcelona (Qatari-sponsored) and Paris Saint-Germain (Qatari-owned) for the transfer of Maxwell. After 2.5 seasons, 10 titles, 89 games and 2 goals for Barça, he left the club immediately for France where he and his hair look damn good in the PSG kit while getting more regular game time and positively contributing to the PSG campaign.

12th January:  The International Federation of Football History and Statistics (IFFHS), named FC Barcelona as the “Best Football Club in the World”, beating Real Madrid and Argentine club Vélez Sarsfield.

12th January:  Away vs. Osasuna.  Copa del Rey
.  1-2. 
After their plane was diverted to Vitoria because of heavy fog, the team finally reached Pamplona by bus. The fog was still around when the game started, and it was very cold at the Reyno de Navarra.

With a 4 goal advantage from the Camp Nou leg, all Barça had to do was not allow Osasuna to score the same amount. Guardiola rested a lot of regulars from the starting 11 including Messi, and gave Mascherano a rare game in midfield. Fontàs was included in the back-line and B-team players Cuenca, Sergi Roberto and Montoya also started.

Fontàs started promisingly, only for it to turn sour for him as he slipped in a tackle in the 14th minute and came off with a season-ending ACL knee injury. Abidal replaced him and almost immediately gave the ball away to Osasuna from which they nearly scored, only to first be denied by Piqué on the line, and then Pinto.

Barça found the conditions to be tough, and a Piqué shot was denied, after which Lekic nearly scored, his ball narrowly going wide after another Abidal error. Minutes later, after Sergi Roberto was roughly played off the ball, Lekic opened the scoring (40’) for Osasuna, getting the first goal past Pinto for the season.

After the break, Alexis quickly equalised (49’) with a low header from an Adriano cross. Alexis went off to be replaced by Messi in the 58th minute, and shortly afterwards, Busquets came on for an injured Pedro who limped off with a thigh strain. The game quietened down after that, and it wasn’t until the 71st minute that Messi fed a ball to Sergi Roberto, who made up for his earlier defensive error by scoring the 2nd Barça goal for the night.

It was enough for Barça to go through into the next round of the Copa del Rey, where their opponent would be Real Madrid.

Link to Match Highlights Video

13th January: 
Pedro was confirmed out for 10 days with a hamstring injury.

13th January:
  Fontàs’ ACL injury could not have come at a worse time as, on the same day, it had been announced that Maxwell was to leave Barcelona for Paris St. Germain (PSG).  The Barça back-line’s left side was being decimated – with more bad news to come later on.

14th January:  Due to Maxwell’s PSG transfer, injuries (to Afellay, Villa, Fontàs and Pedro), and Keita’s national commitments, Pep only had 15 senior players available for training and the preparation for the upcoming Betis match.

15th January:
  Before the Betis match kicked off, the team presented the Club World Cup, and Messi presented his Ballon D’Or trophy to the Camp Nou faithful – and a visiting Mom4.

Oh – hi, mom4!

15th January:  Home vs. Real Betis.  La Liga. 
Seville’s Betis came to play at Camp Nou and their sabres rattled the Barça defences and threatened the home side with a first possible defeat at Camp Nou for the Liga season.

It all started beautifully when Alexis slid in a ball for Cesc, whose shot for goal rebounded for Xavi to stroke (9’) into an empty net. (Cue mom4 swooning as her hero scores a goal right in front of her – AND she’s wearing his shirt!) A couple of minutes later, Messi joined him on the scoreboard (11’) when Iniesta passed out to Alexis on the left, whose cross found Messi in front of goal for the easiest of shots.

Some Barça complacency then allowed Betis back into the match when Castro scored (31’) just before half-time. After half-time, the home team was still unsettled when Betis substitute, Roque Santa Cruz, scored a blistering curler (50’) during which the Barça defence did not commit to tackling him. A 2-0 lead was leveled to 2-2.

The home team ratcheted up a few gears and assaulted the Betis goal. Iniesta was brought down in the box but, instead of an awarded penalty, he was shown a Yellow card for diving. Minutes later, Mario hacked down Messi on the edge of the box and was sent off after his second Yellow of the night.

A great Xavi lob from mid-field found Alexis, who regained the lead with a straight shot (73’) which managed to find its way under a diving and very frustrated Castro. The Blaugrana pressure forced the opposition into making fouls and reduced them to 10 men.

In yet another Barça attack, Betis’ Dorado handled the ball in the box and a penalty was finally awarded. Messi sealed the win (84’), but Betis could leave with the consolation that they had nearly toppled Barça at home AND they were the first La Liga team to score on the Camp Nou pitch in this season.

Game Facts:
~  Xavi played his 400th Liga game for the club.
~  It was the 100th Liga win for Guardiola, and required on 132 games in which to achieve it: a win average of 76% with 57 victories at home and 43 away.
~  Busquets appeared in his 100th Liga game.
~  Puyol took his unbeaten streak to 50 games. The last loss with him on the pitch was 20th April 2010 against Inter Milan in the Champions League.
~  Prior to this game, Barça had not conceded a goal at Camp Nou in 18 Liga matches.

Link to Match Highlights Video

18th January: named Alves, Piqué, Xavi, Iniesta and Messi to be included in their “ Ideal Team”. Pep Guardiola was voted “Best Manager”.

18th January:  Away vs. Real Madrid.  Copa del Rey. 1-2. 

What – another Copa del Rey match? Why yes, and why not make it a Clásico?  Pep’s birthday?  Alrighty then. The team travelled to Madrid for another nail-biter.

Mom4, nzm and respective spouses travelled to Flaherty’s Irish Bar, just off La Rambla, where they parked themselves in front of the big screen, ordered buckets of beer and eats, and watched the game through splayed fingers when the pressure got too much.

Madrid started strongly by pressing high and were rewarded with an early Cristiano goal (11’) easily beating Pinto. After that, the ball was Barça’s, with 2 near misses from Iniesta, an Alexis header off the bar and a Messi shot from the same direction as Iniesta’s first attempt. A Cesc cross just missed Alexis’ head, and a sliding Messi also couldn’t put it away. Casillas saved a certain Cesc goal with a wonderful header as he came out of his box to put the ball away. Barça wasn’t able to score in the first half.

After the break came a quick corner. Xavi crossed the ball in, and a charging Puyol ran onto it to score a header (48’) that was reminiscent of his goal in the 2-6 victory three years ago. El Capità to the rescue!

The goal rattled Madrid, and the fouls started to mount. Another Iniesta attempt was just deflected by Ramos onto the post. Benzema missed a header in the 57th minute when it hit the outside of the post.

Pepe’s foot did its best to break Messi’s left hand in the 67th minute when Callejon brought down the #10 in midfield. Unbelievably, Pepe escaped sanction. A Xavi free-kick into the box was put high by Busquets’ head (69’).

The 1-2 win was sealed at 76’ when Abidal, latching onto a prescient Messi cross, curled the ball past a desperate Casillas who futilely appealed for an off-side play.

More Iker faces to add to the growing collection.

Game Facts:
~  Messi played his 300th game for Barça over which he has scored 213 goals.
~  Guardiola’s team equalled the club record for consecutive unbeaten Liga games (5) at the Bernabéu which was set from 1969-1974.
~  Barça had 72% possession, with 744 passes compared to Madrid’s 234.
~  Xavi completed 122 out of 140 passes; Busquets 109 of 117.  The best for Madrid was Alonso’s 35 of 40.
~  Piqué won the most balls – 19 in total.
~  19 different Barça players have scored this season.
~  Happy 41st Birthday, Mister!

Link to Match Highlights Video

20th January:  Fontàs underwent an operation on his knee’s damaged anterior cruciate ligament.

21st January:  Pedro was cleared to play again.

22nd January:  Away vs. Málaga.  La Liga.  1-4.
Betis should have been the last game for the 1st half of La Liga but, because of the players’ strike at the beginning of the season, there was one more match to play – away to Málaga and a rejuvenated team starting to find its way under Manuel Pellegrini.

The home side almost went ahead in the 15th but Valdés pulled off an incredible flying save to deny Isco, before making a double save (also against Isco) from the resulting corner. Barça started to gain momentum after this, and it wasn’t long before Adriano crossed into a rising Messi who powerfully headed (33’) the ball into the net.

Soon after the break, a Thiago shot was saved by Caballero before being sent back into the middle by Adriano for Thiago to miss again, but Alexis was there to square away (47’) the ball. Minutes later came Messi’s second (49’) for the night when he collected the ball in mid-field, beat 4 converging defenders and shot home.

The pace slackened for a while, and around the 70th minute, Adriano was subbed off with muscle cramps. A Messi free-kick struck the bar, before an absolutely brilliant individual run saw him score (80’) his hat-trick. Rondón scored a consolation (85′) a few minutes later, but the damage was already done.

Game Facts:
~ Iniesta played his 384th game for the club, equalling the records set by Guardiola and Ramallets.
~ With his 15th club hat-trick and 5th for the season, Messi finished the first half of the season with a record 22 goals and equalled the half-way record set by César in the 1950/51 season.

Link to Match Highlights Video

25th January:  Home vs. Real Madrid.  Copa del Rey.  2-2.
This time it was Xavi’s birthday to be celebrated with a Clásico, and Real Madrid finally came to play a decent match for the second leg of the CdR match at Camp Nou.

Higuain almost scored in the first 20 seconds, but his shot went wide across the goal. Three minutes later, and another Madrid near goal from a free-kick was stopped by Pinto, as well as ruled off-side. A Ronaldo shot went wide and another was saved by Pinto. Cesc and Messi broke free, but a poor pass from Cesc made Messi lose momentum as he stopped to collect the ball, and his attempt went wide. A Ronaldo cross was saved by Puyol and the resulting corner was cleared by Busquets. A long-range Oezil shot rattled off the bar before Pinto stupidly kicked the ball out to Higuain, but managed to save the Argentine’s weak return shot.

In the 29th minute, Iniesta’s Clásico came to an end as he went to ground with another hamstring injury. He was replaced by Pedro. The first 30 mins saw an unsettled Barça hard-pressed by a strong Madrid attack. It settled down after that with the home side regaining control, and in the 43rd min, Messi flew with the ball from midfield before slipping a sublime assist for Pedro to shoot a trademark straight shot (43’) past Casillas.

Cue great video capture of Cristiano throwing his toys out of the cot.

Lass bought down Messi just outside the box, with what should have been his second yellow card incident for the game, but the referee was too chicken to send someone off. Instead, Casillas was pinged for coming out of his box to complain.

From the Xavi free-kick, Lass deflected the ball towards Alves who wound up his rubber-band and fired a scorcher into the top corner of the net. It was a typical Alves shot which can either miss by a mile or be on target and, on that night it was, fortunately, the latter.

The second half saw Barça take the foot off the gas, and 2 quick, successive goals from Madrid (Cristiano 70’ and Benzema 74’), resulted in a nervous remaining 20 minutes of game-time in which both teams did everything but score again. The 2-2 result meant that Barça advanced to the next CdR round on a 4-3 aggregate.


Game Facts:
~  This game was the 9th meeting between the teams over 10 months.
~  Pep’s record as Manager vs. Real Madrid is: 9 wins, 3 draws and 1 defeat.
~  Playing in his 31st Clásico, birthday-boy Xavi equalled the record of Joan Segarra who played 31 Clásicos between 1949 and 1964.

Link to Match Highlights Video

26th January:
  Iniesta’s injury would keep him side-lined for 3 weeks.  Alexis was also injured and would be out for some days with shoulder damage.

26th January:  The club was rocked by the death of Catalan La Sexta TV football journalist and commentator, Dani Montesinos, who was killed in a traffic accident. The ever-present and fun-loving journalist was a friend of Puyol and Xavi, and the 4 club captains attended Guardiola’s press conference where a minute’s silence was held for Dani.

27th January:
  During the last training before the Villarreal match, Pedro tore his hamstring. Alexis, who was injured during the CdR match with Real Madrid, would travel with the team due to the shortage of front-line attack players.

28th January:  Away vs. Villarreal.  La Liga. 0-0.
The second half of La Liga arrived, and the return matches commenced.

The seating at El Madrigal means that the home crowd sits very close to the pitch which can unnerve visiting teams, and Villarreal was defending an excellent home record while their away results were dismal. Sound familiar? Barça, weakened by injuries, started with a 3 man defence of Piqué, Puyol and Abidal with Mascherano playing midfield.

Alves and Messi missed 2 great chances before Villarreal found their way back into the game, harassing the Barça defence and with each player taking a turn at committing a foul to stop the flow of play. Mascherano cleared a Villarreal chance after Valdés had been beaten, and Villarreal had another goal ruled offside.

Into the second half and Busquets was lucky not to concede a penalty. An injured Alexis came on for Piqué, but the Blaugrana siege on goal came to nothing, as no shots would go in. Another disappointing away result, and 2 more points dropped to increase Real Madrid’s lead to 7 points.

Game Facts:
~  Piqué played his 100th league game for Barça:  77 wins, 19 draws, 4 defeats.
~  Tello made his league debut.
~  It was the 5th away draw this season, and the 6th draw in total.  12 points lost to draws.
~  This season, the team had already hit the woodwork 15 times in 21 league matches.
~  There were 10 shots on goal during the match.
~  Villarreal committed 22 fouls against Barça.

Link to Match Highlights Video

31st January:  Isaac Cuenca signed a new contract until 2015, and was officially promoted to the First Team.

31st January:  The January transfer window saw the club clear out some of the driftwood, and Hleb was finally released from his contract to become a free agent.

All Month: Afellay with ACL injury and Villa with broken leg.
Part-time: Tito Vilanova with parotid tumour.
1st – 3rd: Abidal with flu.
1st – 5th: Valdés with the flu.
1st – 7th: Iniesta with a hamstring injury.
1st – 6th: Puyol with a groin injury.
9th – 13th: Iniesta rested to recover fully from hamstring injury.
11th – 13th:
Alves with leg pain.
12th – 21st: Pedro with hamstring injury.
12th – 31st: Fontàs with ACL injury.
25th – 31st: Iniesta with a hamstring injury.
25th – 31st: Alexis with shoulder injury.  (Had to play injured.)
27th – 31st: Pedro with hamstring injury.

10th – 31st: Keita with Mali for African Cup of Nations.


Hlebruary 2012

The month, (most dreaded by all dedicated Culés), had arrived; typically the time of the season when Barça experiences a drop in form, except that Hleb-the-jinx had just left the club. Had the bad voodoo gone with him? It may be the shortest month on the calendar, but there were still 7 games to play, and only 14 fully-fit First Team players at the start of the month.

1st February:  Messi
appeared on the cover of Time Magazine.

1st February:  Away vs. Valencia.  Copa del Rey.  1-1. 
The semi-final stage of the Copa del Rey, and Valencia was the opponent. The Mestalla was dry and dusty – not conducive to the Barça smooth passing game.

An early Messi free-kick flew just wide, before a Pinto User Head-Space Error saw him handle the ball outside the box and somehow not red-carded for it.   A 19th minute Soldado effort, from a corner kick, flew just over the bar.

The Valencia players took turns at committing fouls before they went ahead in the 26th minute when a quick run of play ended with Mathieu crossing to Jonas to score.

Missed shots from Messi and Alexis,  before Cesc, (with a bandaged head from an earlier clash), fed a corner kick into a flying Puyol, who saved the night with another fabulous ball ricocheting off his granite head (35′) onto the ground and into the net.

The second half saw an early disallowed goal to a just-offside Alexis, before Messi put another shot over the top of the goal, while Piatti did the same from a long-range shot.

In the 55th minute, Thiago was brought down for a penalty. Messi stepped up and missed, as Alves guessed which way he’d send it. The 2nd missed penalty to Valencia this season.

In the 64th minute, we could only laugh in admiration as Puyol intercepted the ball and performed a double roulette in mid-field. Valencia’s GK, Diego Alves, saved an Abidal thunderbolt, while a Dani Alves shot hit the upright with Thiago unable to pot the rebound.

More missed opportunities and another doctored pitch meant that the 1-1 result was slightly better than a loss, especially with an away goal on the score sheet.

Game Facts:
~  Valencia committed 25 fouls to Barça’s 12, and had 8 shots to the Blaugrana’s 15.
~  Barça had lower possession rates than usual – only 58%.
~  Abidal won most recovered balls – 14 in all.
~  Dani Alves’ shot onto the post made it 28 times that Barça has hit the woodwork this season – 15 in La Liga and 13 in other competitions.
~  Diego Alves has a record of saving 13 penalties out of the 19 that he has defended in La Liga. (Messi scored 1 of the successful 6.)
~  Puyol scored his 3rd goal of the season – 12 in 535 appearances.

Link to Match Highlights Video

2nd February:
  A cold snap hit Catalunya and, while it didn’t bring snow, temperatures dropped down to below 0 at night.  The frigid weather continued for at least a couple of weeks, and forced the club to break out the thermal blankets to stop the pitch from freezing.  A rare occurrence in Barcelona.

3rd February:
  After 5 months of negotiations, Éric Abidal signed a contract renewal until June 30th 2013, with a provision to extend until 2015.  In his interview, he stated that FC Barcelona was his second family and that he would like to retire at Barcelona.

5th February:  Home vs. Real Sociedad.  La Liga.  2-1.
On a f-f-f-freezing night, Real Sociedad came to town to play in front of the brave 50k+ brass monkey fans who had turned out to watch.

Despite the insulating blankets that had been put on the pitch, the grass still froze after it was watered just before the game.

Playing with 8 La Masia starters, shots were traded before Messi threaded a beautiful assist to a charging Tello, who pushed the ball past the GK and into the net to score (8’) in his first La Liga game as a starting player.

With so many injuries, Barça still did not look comfortable with misses from Alves and Cesc in front of goal. Messi continued to press, but wasn’t rewarded until he finally scored (72’) from an Alves cross.

The Blaugrana seemed to switch off with 2 goals scored, and were immediately punished by Carlos Vela who slipped the defence to score (73’) with almost 20 minutes left in the game. The 3rd goal of the Liga season to be scored against Barça at home.

Puyol and Dos Santos were taken off for Abidal and Busquets, but the latter only lasted 7 minutes before leaving the pitch with an awful inner knee-scraping injury after colliding with a Real Sociedad player. Cesc turned white and almost passed out.

Piqué came on, and the team played out the rest of the match to gain a valuable 3 points.

Game Fact:
~ This was Pep’s 160th win as Manager (2008-2012), and he equalled Frank Rijkaaard’s tally set between 2003-2008. With 250 victories, only Cruyff has more wins.

Link to Match Highlights Video

6th February:
  Busquets required stitches to his inside right knee and would be out for several days.

6th February:  Several players attended Audi Driver Training in the new Audi Q3 – part fun and part sponsor duty.

6th February:
  Rosell went to London to attend the Laureus Awards and picked up the trophy for “Best Team”, awarded to Barça who were placed ahead of the Dallas Mavericks, the Red Bull F1 Team and the New Zealand All Blacks.

This was the video played at the awards:

Link to Laureus Awards Video

7th February:  Iniesta and Pedro returned to full training, but still without full medical clearance.

8th February:  Home vs. Valencia.  Copa del Rey.  2-0. 
Los Che arrived at Camp Nou for the first of their 2 visits for the month.

At 1-1 in the first leg of the CdR semi-final, tension was high, and Valencia got off to a great start with a near miss inside the first 3 minutes. The visitors continued to press for the first 15 minutes and created havoc for Pinto.

Barça regained control when a wonderful overhead Messi pass found Cesc, who chipped it over Diego Alves for the first (15’) of the night. Minutes later, a defensive error from Rami gave Messi the ball, but he was blocked by Alves, with Cuenca’s rebound shot going wide.

A Messi free-kick was also expertly stopped by Alves. Alexis shot off target and tweaked his already injured shoulder as he fell after the shot. More defensive errors gave Cesc and Xavi the ball but they were unable to score.

The second half had barely started before Jordi Alba was racing for goal, only to be denied by a kick-save from Pinto, who also saved the subsequent header from Aduriz. Another miss for Messi, before Mascherano blocked a Aduriz chip after Pinto had advanced too far out of his goal area.

Messi appeared to be clipped from behind when clear on goal, but the penalty wasn’t awarded. A Xavi chip was too high, before a blistering Aduriz shot was pushed over the top by Pinto.

An elbow to Puyol’s head by Feghouli saw the Valencia player sent off with 2 Yellow cards before Xavi finally got the second goal (82’) to seal the win. Great free-kick saves from both Pinto and Alves denied more goals.

Barça will now face Athletic Club Bilbao in the Copa del Rey final on May 25th – their 3rd King’s Cup final in 4 years.

Game Facts:
~  With his goal, Xavi equalled his personal best of 10 goals in one season.
~  With 3 goals, Cesc became Barça’s top scorer in the CdR campaign for this season.

Link to Match Highlights Video

9th February
Iniesta and Pedro received medical clearance to rejoin the team and will travel to Pamplona.

11th February:  Away vs. Osasuna.  La Liga3-2. 
Back to the Reyno de Navarra for one of most difficult games of the season. The pitch was frozen and in deplorable condition – the bare areas in front of the goals were painted green. As well as being very cold, it was also extremely windy, and Puyol even resorted to wearing a head-band to control his hair.

With the absence of Busquets (injury) and Keita (with Mali), and not wanting to risk Xavi or Iniesta in the conditions, Pep was forced to play an unorthodox midfield of Thiago, Mascherano and Sergi Roberto. Osasuna’s Lekic scored 4 minutes into the match and again in the 21st minute, and the home side was hugely dominant for the entire first half, with Barça unable to score.

Early in the second half, Barça responded with an Alexis goal (50’), however another goal was scored by Osasuna 5 minutes later, and although Tello put another into the net (71’) for Barça, it was not enough.

An Alexis goal was disallowed (the 3rd for the night) and there were more missed chances, but the game was lost 3-2. To make matters worse, Mascherano was red-carded for a second bookable offence after he voiced his dissent to the referees in the tunnel after the game.

Game Facts:
~  Real Madrid was now 10 points clear of the Blaugrana team at the top of the Liga table.
~  This was the club’s 2nd La Liga loss for the season.

Link to Match Highlights Video

13th February:
We’re on a plane again, for the quarter-final stage of Champions League in which Barça had drawn Bayer Leverkusen. The team was greeted with snowy conditions upon arrival in Germany.

14th February:
  Xavi injured his leg during training and was unable to play in the Leverkusen game.

14th February:  Away vs. Bayer Leverkusen.  Champions League.  1-3. 
Piqué was surprisingly not included in the team for “technical reasons” and Mascherano was in the back-line again. Busquets returned after his inner knee injury.

The Bay Arena was in great condition considering the cold weather, and Leverkusen began by playing a tight defensive game in which all the possession was handed to Barça as the home-team defended deep in their half.

A Leverkusen defensive error saw Messi get hold of the ball on mid-way and, with Cesc and Alexis running free on the right, Messi fired the ball into their path. Alexis nut-megged the goalkeeper (40’) to open his Champions League scoring account and the Blaugrana went into the half-time break with the advantage.  Quick play from a defensive blunder was the key to the break-through.

Early in the second half Barça again got caught napping, and Leverkusen equalised in the 51st minute. Alexis soon countered with another goal (54′), after a wonderful Cesc assist to Alexis had the Chilean round the keeper for his second of the night.

Leverkusen abandoned their defensive tactics to become more attacking, and it was credit to Valdés who made 3 great saves to keep the home team from scoring again. Messi almost scored the goal of the season, but his amazing chip hit the post. Finally, Alves unselfishly fed a scoring opportunity across to Messi who pushed it into the net (88’) to make it 1-3.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Game Facts:
~  The win was the first away victory for Pep Guardiola in a CL second round tie.
~  Pedro played his 150th official game for the club, during which he’s scored 52 goals.
~  Messi became the first player in Champions League history to score in 6 consecutive away matches.
~  Messi also set a new Champions League record for all-time highest goal scorer in the CL knock-out stages with 19 goals. He was now ahead of Raúl (18), Shevchenko (18) and Inzaghi (16).
~  Alves played his 40th Champions League match with Barça.
~  Mascherano (16) and Puyol (15) recovered most balls in the match.

Link to Match Highlights Video

14th February: 
Adriano sustained a hamstring injury during the Leverkusen match.

15th February:  The team arrived back in Barcelona to prepare for the next Liga game against Valencia.

16th February:
  After his season-long ACL injury, Afellay started training on the field once more.

17th Feb: Welcome back, Keita! The Mali player returned from the African Cup of Nations and resumed training with the squad.

19th February:  Home vs. Valencia.  La Liga.  5-1.
For the 3rd time in 3 weeks, Barça’s opponent was Los Che. Montoya started in place of a carded-out Alves, and Mascherano was also missing after the red card (2 Yellows) which he had received in the tunnel after the Osasuna match had finished. Xavi was on the bench in an attempt to give the old man some rest, and because he had been suffering from a foot injury.

Valencia had a goal on the scoresheet in the 8th minute after Piatti put away a Feghouli cross. The Blaugrana woke up after that, and possession and chances started to come their way. Pedro missed a great chance by playing it directly to GK Diego Alves. Pedro then crossed into Messi who put the ball away (21’) from an impossible angle, after Rami failed to clear the ball.

Minutes later, Iniesta fed the ball out to Abidal who shot it into Messi. Diego looked to have saved the shot, but the ball spilled and it was all that Messi needed to net (26’) for his second of the night in 5 minutes. Alexis was the next to break free, but a wonderful save denied the goal. A Cesc shot was also parried away, before Messi put a ball into the side of the net on the half hour. Diego again saved a potential Iniesta threat, before a cross from Alexis was too high for Pedro to collect. Cesc was the next with an amazing bicycle kick which hit the bar and the GK was able to catch the rebound header from Pedro.

After half-time, Alexis had another shot within the first minute, but Diego was equal to it. Alves made another save off his fingers from a marvelous defence-splitting run by Cesc. Puyol had a certain penalty appeal denied after his jump for a corner kick was impeded by Rami in the 54th minute, and Iniesta curled the rebound ball just wide of the far post.

Diego Alves was getting the better of the Barça players and he pulled off the save of the match by denying a close-range Messi header. Montoya was the next to have a goal denied and the rebound was horribly candled by Cesc in front of the goal.

It was Valencia’s turn, and Valdés saved a thundering shot from Feghouli which Piqué cleared away. Tello replaced Pedro, and Busquets had a rare shot at goal which was on target but sailed straight to a waiting Alves. Tello was next to shoot, and Alves spilled the ball into an empty space between 5 Valencia defenders, which Messi was happy to collect and score his hat-trick in the 75th minute.

Piqué collected a header from a corner kick which rebounded off Costa’s face and back onto his feet, but his powerful shot went over the goal. A steal from Messi was sent high by Tello who perhaps should have sent it back into the middle.

The game was well-secured when Busquets fired a ball into Messi who collected it, beat a defender and chipped it (85’) over an advancing Diego for his 4th of the night. Xavi came on for Iniesta for the last 5 minutes and his first attempt went wide, before Alexis had another close miss. In the first minute of injury time, Xavi chipped a loose ball over Alves to finish the night.

One of the best performances of the season from Barça and, if it hadn’t been for an inspired Diego Alves, the score could have, at least, been double.

Game Facts:
~  It was Messi’s 200th La Liga game and he celebrated with a poker of goals, bringing his Liga goals to 27, and 44 in total for the season.
~  Messi became the youngest Barça player to play 200 Liga games, and the 12th youngest player in Spain’s top league to achieve the landmark.
~  In 200 Liga games, Messi scored 146 goals – another club record.
~  This match was the 8th time that the team had scored 5 or more goals during the season.
~  9 La Masia players were in the starting line-up and 3 others were subbed in.
~  Xavi’s goal was his 11th for the season – a record for him, surpassing the 10 scored in 2008/09.
~  Busquets’ and Messi’s Yellow cards now meant that they were 1 game away from suspension.
~  Montoya played his first Liga game of the season, his 3rd with the team, and the first in which he has played the full 90’.

Link to Match Highlights Video

20th February:
 The team headed into the first 6 day break of the season without a mid-week game.

20th February:
  The Italian Football Player Association, with the support of FIFPro, awarded its Bulgarello Número 8 award to Xavi, beating Daniele de Rossi (Roma) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (Bayern Munich).

20th February: 
Pelé, stuck for something to say for his weekly soundbite, stated that, “This Barça is like my Santos”, which is another way of saying, “You know that Santos team which was beaten by Barça at the Club World Cup?  They were but mere shadows of the Santos of my time.”

21st February:
  The Catalan Football Federation hosted its Gala Awards where Pep was named “Catalan Coach of the Year” and Xavi won “Catalan Athlete of the Year”.

26th February:  Away vs. Atlético Madrid.  La Liga. 
The final game for February was away to Atlético Madrid, and yet another sub-standard pitch on which even Los Colchoneros had problems playing.

A wonderful Alexis/Messi play saw the goal in the net in the 7th minute, but the goal was denied because Messi had handled the ball. Messi was awarded his 5th Yellow card. A Xavi free-kick was played away by Courtois. Atlético played ultra-defensively, and it wasn’t until the 35th minute that Messi passed out to Cesc on the left, whose shot across the box was collected by Alves for the goal. Valdés snuffed out a Falcao opportunity after a defensive error had gifted Atlético the ball on the edge of their box.

Soon after the 2nd half started, the Blaugrana – again – allowed the opposition back into the match. From an Atlético corner kick, Busquets played the ball on with his header which found an undefended Falcao who ran past a flat-footed Cesc to score in the 49th minute.

The game nervously see-sawed after that, with Alexis missing the best opportunity for another goal. Pep changed to a 3-4-3 on the hour and it nearly brought disaster, as Falcao slipped the defence with only Valdés in front of him. VV advanced almost to the edge of the box, spread himself like an octopus and saved a certain chipped goal, with the rebound shot saved by Puyol who had run back to stand in front of the empty net.

Pedro was fouled just outside the box in the 80th minute, and Messi cheekily took the freekick before Atlético could set up their wall. The ball curled beautifully into the far top corner of the goal, followed by vociferous Atléti protesting which did nothing but produce cards for them.

In the last minutes, Valdés made another two brilliant saves to keep the score at 1-2 for a vital away win against one of Barça’s strongest remaining opponents. Such was the stress and pressure that Puyol collapsed onto the pitch, in exhaustion and relief, as the final whistle blew.

Man of the Match game from Valdés who saved the winning result on many occasions.

Game Facts:
~  Messi’s 5th Yellow card (the 3rd for handball) meant that he would miss the next game against Sporting at Camp Nou.
~  Busquets also received his 5th Yellow and would also miss the Sporting game.
~  The quick free-kick was the second time in which Messi had caught out Atléti in the same way. The first was in 2008 at Camp Nou.
~  Valdés blocked 7 balls and turned away 8 in one of his busiest nights keeping goal.
~  Iniesta equalled Chendo’s record of 47 consecutive undefeated league games, and is 3 short of the all-time record.
~  Puyol had another sterling game with 12 recovered balls. Mascherano and Abidal were next with 10 each.

Link to Match Highlights Video

27th February:
  Various team members then scattered to join their national teams for friendlies. Apart from the injured Villa, Afellay and Fontàs, only Keita, Pinto and Pedro remained at the club. They trained with the B team, and then had 2 days off.

All Month: Afellay and Fontàs with ACL injury, Villa with broken leg.
Wrapped in Cotton Wool: Xavi rested whenever possible.
1st –  10th: Alexis with shoulder injury. (Had to play injured.)
1st – 9th: Pedro with hamstring injury.
1st – 9th:
Iniesta with a hamstring injury.

5th – 12th: Busquets with gash to inner knee.
14th – 19th: Xavi with injured foot.
14th –  25th: Adriano with a hamstring injury.

1st – 17th: Keita with Mali for African Cup of Nations.


In the next instalment Devastating news for a player and the team; drama galore as the Liga points gap starts to shrink, and crunch time in Champions League.


The physio room off the First Team’s dressing room at Camp Nou
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  1. providence
    July 16, 2012

    …and. it was 10. points. and this moment everybody was saying it was over….

    lets waitn for the next series when hope was re-installed after it was 4 points…

    well done NZM …well done…

  2. providence
    July 16, 2012

    its time we leave HLEB alone whhe came to serve Barca although he wasn’t successful as he wanted.

    he would you love Hleb failing @ Barca or. Figo been successful and betraying us to EE.

    please its a new season, so please lets leave Hleb alone… hv said that I’m saying my last “HLEB-UARY”

  3. July 16, 2012

    Oh – Hi mom4

    Ha! Excellent nzm!

    With only 3 pts dropped to freakish conditions at Osasuna, I think the month wasn’t as bad as Hlebuary suggests. And to think despite trailing 10 pts we managed to take it to the home clasico. If it weren’t for those moments at the back.. (Tbf, those kinda reminded me of the old Barca, letting in goals for fun)

    With Villa and Falafel Affelay Afellay (dammit!) Afellay back, the attack and midfield has way more players than positions, which should last the season unless we suffer a more ‘redonkulous’ injury spell than last seasons.

    Keita though has left a big hole defensively. Whenever we needed to close the game out, Pep turned to him if wasn’t on the pitch already. His physical presence, availability as an outlet and lung bursting runs will be missed, despite what people say. With Puyol’s presence sadly waning (he’s 34. I doubt Tito will use him twice a week) the lack of defensive cover could lead to an increase in the number of ‘moments’ I talked before.

    Unless someone from the B-team steps up and steps up big, we need to buy someone. Preferably a hybrid DM/CB and call it a summer. Preferably before the pre-season starts. What? Started already? Err.. I blame the Hector pills. Eh chuck it, we won’t buy anyone and I’ll spend the season wishing we had, like the last.

    [Spent a full hour writing this drivel. The lengths grad students will go to procrastinate 😀 ]

    • July 16, 2012

      I’m also concerned we will end up not buying anyone and praying some of the young players step up in a big way.

      You’re spot on with Keita – we don’t have any other midfielders with his skill set, and it will be very hard to fill that role. He was physical, had great stamina, played the ball simply and effectively, and most importantly always seemed to be everywhere on the pitch – a credit to his vision and understanding of the game. Who can do that job for us now? Not Dos Santos (as much as I hope he succeeds, I’m still very skeptical). Cesc excels more when given freedom, not a stricter tactical role. Thiago spent way more time doing dirty work in the midfield last season than I expected, but let’s be honest.

      That leaves Mascherano. The problem of course is that he isn’t Messi and therefore can’t be asked to play two positions at once. And we need him desperately at CB. We are light there and two injuries could leave us depending on Piqué and Bartra, or moving Busquets back and losing what he brings to the midfield.

      We have essentially been priced out of both our first choice CBs. I can’t see any other worthwhile deals on the market, and my guess is the board is having the same problem. (while I’m on the subject I’ll give my traditional WTF Vertonghen! rant. I had some doubts but Frank de Boer said he could play at Barca, and I trust his opinion a lot more than mine)(Also I don’t think it will happen anytime in the next decade, but watch him for a future Barcelona coach).

      Back on topic – I’ve been thinking the best option is to bring in a defensive, hard tackling midfielder type and teach him to play CB as well over a season or two. It worked with Mascherano – granted he’s quite the player, but we didn’t has much success buying CBs during the Guardiola era. Caceres, Henrique, Chygrynskiy, all failed. Only Piqué actually worked out. Meanwhile Marquez (who could play DM as well), Toure, and even Busquets had moderate success in he position. I get the feeling our playing style might mean that the CBs play a role similar to most teams DM, and we might have more luck buying a strong, intelligent, decently technical midfielder.

      • July 17, 2012

        As if on cue,

        Tito: “We will only sign a defender if there is quality available in the market. If not, we count on the academy.” [via ‏@Youngcules]

        Somewhere JdS is doing cartwheels.

        Agreed on the last point though, just bring in a technically sound DM and we’ll convert him into a CB as we did with Masche and to a lesser extent Busi (1st Liga Clasico previous season).

        Can’t we simply clone Masche?

  4. mom4
    July 16, 2012


    About fifty yards away from me.

    But the tings I remember most about the game were the little things: Puyol being so ticked at himself he pounded his fist into the ground, Xavi is in constant motion, Messi is always geting into smart positions and when he gets the ball the whole camp holds its breath expecting a miracle, Iniesta is flat out startlingly amazing.

    Yup, and the clasico. You three drank the beer. I kept ordering cava…too much cava.

    • July 17, 2012

      Rumor has it that dad4 is little jealous of your undying love for Xavi 😀

      • mom4
        July 17, 2012

        Nope. Really only love Xavi for his soccer (and because he speaks his mind). Hubby’s favorite player is Iniesta. We each wore our favorite midfielder’s jersey to the game.

      • mom4
        July 17, 2012

        He is cute though (but hubby is cuter to me). 🙂

  5. Messiah10
    July 17, 2012

    Ajax to take Muniesa on loan according to de Boer. Deal all but done. He will replace Vertonghan. I think it’s a great move for both clubs. He’ll get a lot of experience in a similar system and Ajax get a quality player with loads of potential. He needs games and I’m excited to see how he progresses there.

  6. providence
    July 17, 2012

    Lesllie Davies – Bangor city- lol

    what a joke UEfA! no Bayern Player? hahaha….

  7. Gogah
    July 17, 2012

    Could Barcelona be the team that suffered the most number of injuries in all of Europe last year?
    Certainly seems that way.

    Considering that we play a relatively non physical game without many coast to coast runs, last ditch tackles etc etc, the injury count is baffling and so is the pattern that has emerged the past 3 years.
    I’d put that down to physical and mental fatigue arising from the pressures of a small squad. Really hoping that Tito is taking this into account.

  8. providence
    July 17, 2012

    Vilanova: “Mourinho pardoned for eye-gouge? Tired of
    the issue. I accept the decision, the biggest punishment
    are the images.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “We thank Keita for those four fantastic years
    he has given to the club.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “If we find a player who can play centre back
    and defensive midfielder, perfect. If not, we count on the
    youth players.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “Exit rumours Afellay? I’m counting on all
    players. He’s a real quality player, we’ll see how he does.”

    Vilnova: “During holidays I talked with some players.
    Yesterday we had a little group chat, but main chat will
    be when squad is complete.”

    Vilanova: “Javi Martinez? It’s not up to me to talk about
    concrete names. He fits the profile, but 40-50 others in
    Europe fit it too.”

    Vilanova: “I don’t think Mourinho and I have a bad
    relation after his attack. We already greeted each other at
    the Bernabeu in December.”

    Vilanova: “Guardiola’s absence? It feels strange the first
    day, but things will feel normal after a while.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “Will I reply if Madrid attack Barcelona again?
    We shouldn’t suppose that they will attack. If they do,
    we’ll see if I’ll react.”

    Vilanova: “Messi looked great. He knows now is the time
    to work hard so he can keep going until the end of the
    season. He’s really focused.”

    Vilanova: “The Super Cup is an important trophy and it
    would be good that we can start the season winning it.”
    #fcblive #elclasico

  9. providence
    July 17, 2012

    Vilanova: “Villa’s progress has been pleasant surprise. He
    has been working hard, we hope he’s 100% as soon as
    possible. He’s a key player.”

    Vilanova: “Villa’s progress has been pleasant surprise. He
    has been working hard, we hope he’s 100% as soon as
    possible. He’s a key player.”

    Vilanova: “Being Barça coach is never easy, and the past
    years we had worldwide recognition, so I’m aware it will
    be difficult.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “Being Barça coach is never easy, and the past
    years we had worldwide recognition, so I’m aware it will
    be difficult.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “I’m convinced that Alexis Sanchez will perform
    even better in his second season at the club.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “Deulofeu possibly promoted? We shouldn’t
    rush things. Could have chances but he’s a B-team player
    now. We’ll see how he performs”

    Vilmanova: “As I said before, we’re not looking for
    forwards. We focus on signing defenders.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “We’ve evolved and matured these past four
    years. I think we’re now capable of changing the system
    during a game.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “Messi is a more complete year every season, he
    gets better year after year.”

    Vilanova: “I also like to work with a rather small squad,
    but we’ll see what happens during the preseason

    Vilanova: “Alexis is still very young [note: 23], he still has
    a big margin of progress left, also because of the many
    injuries last season”

  10. providence
    July 17, 2012

    Vilanova: “I understand Alba wants to play the Games.
    We’re only worried about him having enough days to rest
    this summer.” #london2012

    Vilanova: “Alba was our priority signing this summer. That
    he played a great Euro only confirmed the planning was
    good.” #fcblive #euro2012

    Vilanova: “Tello definitely promoted? We’ll see during the
    season if he will be fully part of the first team.” #fcblive

    Vilanova: “I know Cesc well. He’s very demanding, hard
    on himself. I’m convinced his second year will be a lot
    better.” #fcblive

    • July 17, 2012

      Thanks for posting all these. Saves me from having to comb through my twitter timeline. Cheers.

    • July 17, 2012

      And the Babies get to prove themselves! Look how srs bzness they all look! 😀

      • July 17, 2012

        It’s all kinds of adorable, even as I recognize that we’re talking about young men. It’s rare that you get to see hero worship and pure ambition embodied in a set of faces.

        Have said it before and will say it again, I’d rather lose playing our way than win playing someone else’s. I know that makes a for-real cule, but let’s support the academy, build a foundation for the future and give them young’uns a chance.

    • Messiah10
      July 17, 2012

      Thanks for posting that Kevin. It’s an excellent read! I’ve seen a documentary about 3 African teenage footballers who were duped by unscrupulous agents and left for dead in the cities they were taken to for trial. These agents are asking for payments in the thousands, telling players it will guarantee them trials. Most of these players families can’t afford to pay these sums, so they take out loans to pay these scum bags. It’s a vicious cycle. This article is interesting because it shows the part clubs play in this process. Some clubs are just as shady as so-called agents and lawyers. They’ll try to save a buck anyway they can. Hopefully, with Paulo Teixeira’s courage this will end the practice of non-payments to feeder clubs. These non-payments are a vicious cycle because then the kids end up in “slave like” conditions because of lack of money. i.e. Vasco da Gama case Bravo to Teixeira!

  11. y2k156
    July 17, 2012

    Ibra signs for PSG as well. PSG has got one hell of a team.

    Considering that all the players negotiate for after tax salaries and french taxes scheduled to go up to 75%, i wonder how high their wage bill is going to be.

    Summar is still interesting. I think we are still too light for the season.

    • July 17, 2012

      “The man who moved my bed with Catalan fury manhood”

      Too Much Information! @@

  12. Dave
    July 17, 2012

    Exactly, squad is not robust enough. Need 2 signings of a defensive nature. No one ridiculously overpriced like Martinez.
    Would love to see Hummels and a physical dm.

    B4 anyone says it, I know Hummels won’t happen

    • July 17, 2012

      Re. Hummels – We can dream 😀

      In reality, I think it will be J. Mart. or no one. Since I didn’t get to watch him much last season, I’ll be scouting him during the Olympics.

      Alternatively, maybe we can use Fontas as a DM? He played in that position before with youth teams, maybe he can learn a dual role.

      It’s also interesting that we are signing a lot of good prospects for our B-team. Maybe that is the way forward with financial fair play going into effect this season.

      • Clouseau
        July 18, 2012

        If i remember correctly Fontás played against Malaga as DM but didn’t really impress much.Mainly he tried to avoid in making mistakes but didn’t gain controll in midfield by supplying passes.Maybe Keita’s supersub successor?As destroyer/ballwinner for the final minutes.

        The approachment to buy young latin talents is in general a good idea but it has it’s fallacies.But i wouldn’t interprete it as a response of the FF more a reaction of the (excessive) increase of prices in latin Markt.Neymar,Lucas,Oscar(Chelsea bound)..all costly fellas.In doing that one won’t have to compete with the sugardaddy Clubs anymore.

        It sounds good but we’ll have to see.Barças record by buying young talents(19-22)needs improvement anyway.That Boca fella isn’t easy to handle as i heard..

        • July 18, 2012

          But Fontas can always improve if he plays that role more regularly. Just a thought 🙂

          I like that we are buying young unknown talent instead of competing with sugar daddies of the world. Super rich people annoy me sometimes. Why throw away so much money on a sport that often doesn’t guarantee profit? Do something good with that money :/

    • samarth-culé
      July 18, 2012

      Exactly… I’m surprised we didn’t follow Hummels this season or did we? I didn’t see any mentions of him on barcastuff.

      He would have been, ofcourse:
      a) About 10m cheaper than Javi.
      b) A better signing than Javi because IMO he is better.
      c) He would sell more shirts as we don’t have any German players right now.
      d) He could be a fit successor in CD for our beloved Capita, plus he has good leadership skills so he could be a binding force in our defence for the future.

      And i don’t want us meddling with Athletic, they have a quality squad with Bielsa at helm and i dont want them to weaken a bit… Winning a qualitive Liga with 80 points is better than winning over rubbish at with 100

  13. yana
    July 18, 2012

    Alexis just has the most infectious smile, doesn’t he?

    Meanwhile, Villa looks awfully fragile. He’s never been a muscular-type, but he seems to have lost a lot of weight. Don’t break him, Dani!

  14. providence
    July 18, 2012

    Messi: “Last season is history, we
    start from zero again. We want to
    compete for all trophies, like we
    did last year.” #fcblive

    Messi: “Don’t think about breaking
    records. I try to get better every
    year and I hope I won’t get injured
    and will be able to play al games”

    Messi: “Tito helped me a lot to
    grow as a player at the academy.
    Couldn’t have imagined we’d meet
    again at first team, but I’m happy
    we did”

    Messi: “Ballon d’Or? Still a lot left,
    we don’t even know the nominees
    yet. Casillas? He can also win it.”
    #fcblive #ballondor

    Messi: “At the start of a season,
    my goal is always to better myself.
    Not regarding goals, but regarding
    helping the team.”

    Messi: “Cristiano Ronaldo
    criticizing me during the Euro? I
    don’t have anything to say about
    that.” #fcblive

    Messi: “Xavi and Iniesta Ballon
    d’Or candidates? Hopefully one of
    my teammates wins it, they’ve
    done a lot, they desrve it.” #fcblive

    Messi: “I’m not used to holidays
    being that long. I was very eager
    to start again.” #fcblive

    Messi: “Villa is a key player for us,
    his return to the team is crucial.
    He scores a lot and we missed him
    last season.” #fcblive

  15. providence
    July 18, 2012

    Messi: “Hopefully Mascherano can renew. He’s important
    on and off the pitch. He does great at centre back, didn’t
    play one bad game.”

  16. Judas Pissed
    July 18, 2012

    Do we get any money from the Ibra to PSG deal? If not, Milan have pulled off the deal of the century & left us looking very stupid indeed. We bought him for 69 million, sold him for 24 million & Milan have just sold him for approx 35 million!

    • July 18, 2012

      At the time when we were selling Ibra PSG didn’t have any money and couldn’t have bought him even if they had wanted to. We made the best deal we could get on such short notice.

      (Having said that, though, I bet Rosell is choking on this news right now.)

    • Ryan
      July 18, 2012

      Not only that, but we sold him after one season at Barca, Milan sold him after two!

      • July 18, 2012

        I think if we kept Ibra to date and sold him to PSG for 35, we would incur a loss of 64 mill, compared to a loss of 55 mill when sold to Milan two years ago. I’m evaluating this Ibra deal in isolation, not taking into account the purchase of Alexis and brand value Ibra could add to the club.

        69(transfer) + 30(salary) = 99 total cost
        35(resale) – 99 = -64mil!

        When we sold him to Milan, his total cost was:

        69(transfer) + 10(salary) = 79 total cost
        24(resale) – 79 = -55mil!

        Also, we won the league and CL after he was gone, so I wouldn’t say losing him hurt us. Plus his attitude could be a significant implicit cost to the team’s achievements. Overall, the deal was bad to begin with. But no regrets.

        Maybe, we’ll get the last payment from Milan to buy…Neymar 😀

  17. Lev
    July 18, 2012

    Have you guys seen the new shirts yet? Judging them from seeing the pictures I wasn’t sure but now that I have seen them for real I can tell you that they look awesome! (except for “Qatar Foundation”, of course)

  18. samarth-culé
    July 18, 2012

    And recently Don del Bosque was asked if he would ever consider contesting for presidency of EE, and as expected he denied saying he would like a much active role in football… What’s everybody’s take on this, if he ever becomes the presi of our biggest rival?

    I would say we might finally start calling them Real Madrid again & not EE, as I’m sure with him at helm there things would be way better…

    • mom4
      July 18, 2012

      Holy crap, that’s abit scary. Freedom of speech in Esp?
      And how are they gonna prohibit him from entering all stadiums. I can think of a couple at which he will now be welcome with open arms 😉 .

    • mom4
      July 18, 2012

      Fret not! Sometime soon we’ll see a picture of him chewing on his shirt collar or sitting on a football with an impish grin and he’ll look the same little flea we know and love.

      Good to see Messi fit a ready for the preseason but dang, Masche has been working out!

    • sd
      July 18, 2012

      He looks like a beast. He looks stronger than last year.

      • July 18, 2012

        Mascherano is ready to GO. He looked pretty scary in that training video. More leading by example. I still think he, more than anyone on the squad, has that Puyolesque captain quality.

  19. providence
    July 18, 2012

    Kxevin u read Spanish? I thought u we’re an American….

    having said that I also from Ghana…BFB is world

    • July 18, 2012

      American, but speak French, learning Catalan. Not all of us are monolingual, eh?

    • mom4
      July 18, 2012

      Most Americans learn Spanish or French in high school, providence (they can pick other languages if available (for example, my #3 child chose and is now fluent in ASL (American Sign Language) and has chosen to study Japanese her first semester at college)). Most universities require a foreign language as well.

      We learn it, and then usually lose it through lack of practice.
      I took both French and Spanish. I can’t speak or understand it spoken worth beans but it helps me read articles in Spanish and Catalan so I guess it wasn’t a waste 😉 .

      While in Barcelona, nzm’s j told me a joke:

      J: What do you call someone who speaks two languages?
      Me: Bilingual.
      J: What do you call someone who speaks three languages?
      Me: Trilingual.
      J: What do you call someone who speaks one language?
      Me: um?????
      J: American

      • K_legit in Oz
        July 18, 2012

        Could be Australian to my knowledge so far, all they tend to speak is English, a smattering speak a bit of French, Spanih, Italian etc depending on their ancestry but most are stubbornly unilingual (if that’s a word)

        • hansh
          July 18, 2012

          The word is monolingual :).

          You’re right that a lot of Anglophones speak only English, but not without good reason. English is the dominant language worldwide – a person from Namibia and a person from Slovakia are going to communicate in English. We are just lucky that by chance our native language allows us to communicate with so many people!

          Also, at least in the US, our foreign language education system is terrible. We don’t start until middle school (around 12 years old), and can drop it after 2 years at the high school level, although like mom4 says many universities require more.

          Overall, we don’t get enough mandatory education to learn any language at any advanced level; the only people who get advanced are the people who are really interested in the language they study, and there isn’t a huge motivation to be interested in a foreign language because so many people worldwide speak English anyways.

        • nzm
          July 19, 2012

          Part of the disadvantage of being brought up in the antipodes – English is pretty much all that you get to learn, unless you really go out of your way to take specialty classes.

    • Ryan
      July 18, 2012

      Being an American can mean so many things though! We’re a nation of immigrants and also the 2nd largest nation of Spanish speakers behind Mexico. Yes, that means there are more Spanish speakers here than in Spain. 😉

    • Ben
      July 18, 2012

      Wow – absolutely ridiculous. If that doesn’t get you pumped up for the upcoming season, I don’t know what will. Messi’s passing is superlative but I continue to be amazed at his ability to ride tackles. I’ve never seen (admittedly in my limited time following soccer) anyone who could shrug off tackles the way he can.

    • Momo
      July 18, 2012

      I get the feeling he’s really going to benefit from alba exploiting the space on the left. He’s got that pass between the LCB and LB down to an art…

    • Chiu
      July 18, 2012

      – And note how good Messi make the passes by chipping/scooping the ball in tight space with crowded defenders. He make it like just a routine thing.

      – Some of Messi assissts to Henry from the left flank reminding how we miss that left flank dearly for the entire second half of last season with Villa and Abi absence.

  20. July 18, 2012

    EMD is engaging in its usual Silly Season dimwitted depravity, saying that Afellay met with Vilanova, who told him that he has no place in the team, and no guarantees of any playing time.

    But if you really look at the situation, it’s speculative crap that uses reality to distort a situation.

    There is a starting XI, and Vilanova knows what it is. After that, NOBODY has a guaranteed place on the squad. You play, and prove yourself. Some times Afellay will be the answer. Some matches, Pedro or Fabregas will be the answer. It all depends. If Afellay wants first-team footy or even guaranteed minutes, he shouldn’t stay at Barca. Yonder lies disappointment.

    That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if he left in the winter window. But not now. And we probably don’t want him to leave, as good showings with us in pre-season can only raise his value.

  21. providence
    July 19, 2012

    Mascherano: “I’m very happy here,
    I feel valued and I want to
    continue for many more years.”

    Mascherano: “When I decided to
    take a pay cut to join Barcelona, I
    didn’t do that thinking they would
    return me the favor later.” #fcblive

    Mascherano: “It was a sporting
    decision and it was the best
    decision I made in my life. Without
    it, I wouldn’t have achieved all I

    Mascherano: “At this club, I feel
    more comfortable at centre back.
    But I’m available to play wherever
    the coach wants me to play.”

    Mascherano: “There won’t change
    a lot now that Tito is head coach,
    because Pep and Tito agreed on
    the things they did before.”

    Mascherano: “The Ballon d’Or is
    an individual trophy. I’d give it to
    Messi. Then Xavi and Iniesta. Messi
    scored 80+ goals, that’s madness.”

    Mascherano: “Cristiano attacking
    Messi during Euro? I’m not there
    to judge, everyone is responsible
    for his own acts and words.”

    Mascherano: “Retiring at Barça? I
    am not thinking about that. The
    renewal would be until 2016, when
    I’ll be 32. We’ll see then.” #fcblive

    Mascherano: “Without the tactical
    concepts Pep explained me and
    without Gerard by my side, it’d
    have been impossible to play at
    centre back”

    Mascherano: “We still feel bad
    about the CL elimination. I think
    we were the beter team over 180
    minutes, but we couldn’t make it

    Mascherano: “Villa is doing great.
    The important thing for him now is
    to get his confidence back. We
    missed his goals last season.”

    Mascherano: “Mourinho pardoned
    for eye-gouge? Tito closed the
    discussion the other day. As he
    said, the biggest punishment are
    the images.”

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