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Granada delivers blow to Barça’s league hopes

April 14th, 2014

A complete disaster. There is no other way to describe Saturday’s result again Granada and what should pretty much have been a formality for Barça turned into a humiliation for the Catalans as the team completely failed to make an impact on the pitch.

Granada scored the opener at the quarter hour mark. Brahimi slipped through Barça’s defence in the host’s first attack of the match and suddenly Granada was a goal ahead. While not the best position to be in, normally a one goal deficit wouldn’t be match deciding. However, it turned out to be the only goal of the night and the Barcelona players left the pitch with their tails between their legs.

Once again Barcelona completely dominated possession, with the home side registering a measly 14% throughout the match, yet the visitors were unable to do anything with the ball. According to the stats Barcelona shot at the goal 29 times, but they lacked their normal spark.

It has been a tough 10 days, following first the decision by FIFA to ban the club from completing any transfers during the next 14 months and then being knocked out of Champions League by Atletico Madrid. But the result from this weekend looks like they’ve now blown any remaining chance to take home the league title too.

Gerardo Martino said that the team lacked killer instinct on Saturday. But the question is, where has it gone?

For the last few matches even Leo Messi is has been lacking the creativity and passion that makes him such a pleasure to watch. It may indicate things are amiss behind the scenes either with the coach, or with the club directors. But whatever it is things need to be resolved in order not avoid this kind of meltdown happening next season.

1-0 Brahimi (min 15)


La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 32

April 7th, 2014

While Atletico Madrid achieved a narrow victory against Villarreal on Saturday and Barcelona looking lacklustre against Betis, Real Madrid convincingly beating Real Sociedad 4-0 away. Barça is a single point behind Atletico, with Real Madrid trailing by two points leaving the league title open.

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Barcelona beats Betis as members vote for new Nou Camp

April 7th, 2014

After Tuesday’s Champions League tie against Atletico Madrid, Barcelona’s draw this weekend looked relatively easy with Real Betis at the bottom of the league, having won just five matches all season.

The week has been overshadowed by the fourteen month transfer fan handed the club by FIFA for breaking rules on the signing of minors for its youth training program, which might have big repercussions given that Victor Valdes is set to leave the club at the end of the season, as is captain Carles Puyol. And Saturday was also the date on which the club membership was being asked to vote for the Camp Nou redevelopment plans.

Despite Barça going ahead quarter of an hour into the first half with a Messi goal from the penalty spot it was far from clear that the Catalans would win this match. As is usual with FC Barcelona, possession remained high, but try as they might they were unable to penetrate the Betis defense for a clear shot at the goal with the result that the first half ended 1-0.

Back on after the break Betis looked as if they might do something and, given that they almost certaonly face relegation at the end of the season, have little to lose. It looked as if it would just be a matter of time before the visitors scored.

However, during an attack on the Betis goal, defender Jordi Figueras kicked the ball into his own net instead of clearing it. It looked as if Barça would have scored anyway, but the players’ faces showed how it affected morale. Despite this Rubén Castro scored almost immediately after, closing the gap on Barcelona and again making the final rsult less clear. Victory was sealed within the last 10 minutes though when Messi scored his second of the evening from the spot after a handball in the area by Amaya.

1-0 Messi (min 14)
2-0 Jordi (own goal, min 65)
2-1 Rubén Castro (min 66)
3-1 Messi (min 84)


La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 31

March 31st, 2014

Barcelona remains in second place in the league after all three teams at the top of the table won their matches this weekend. Barcelona played first, an early kick off against Espanyol, while Atletico and Real Madrid played their respective matches on Saturday evening.

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RCD Espanyol vs FC Barcelona: Barça scrapes win in local derby

March 31st, 2014

Saturday afternoon saw Futbol Club Barcelona travel the short distance to Cornella-El Prat to face Espanyol in the Barcelona derby. With an early kick off the match was a tough one for Barça, who scraped to a win thanks to a second half penalty kicked by Leo Messi. Both teams put on a good performance, with Barcelona missing a couple of early opportunities to go ahead, but despite playing well, the hosts were quick to take any opportunity whenever it arose. Despite this the first half ended with neither team scoring.

After the break saw more of the same but as Espanyol’s players began to tire the number of fouls committed against Barça rapidly rose, but it took a handball inside the Espanyol area to provide the opportunity that provided the only goal of the match, Messi calmly putting the ball into the back of the net to put Barcelona into the lead.

Espanyol’s fate was really sealed though when their keeper came forward out of the area and saved the ball, earning a red card. With Espanyol’s substitutions already made it took a while to decide who was to wear his number 13 shirt, with defender Javi López eventually pulling it on over his own shirt and donning the gloves. While they were perhaps the most terrifying minutes of his life, the countdown to the final whistle saw him acquit himself well, stopping the ball twice.


La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 30

March 27th, 2014

The top of the table has changed again, with Barcelona moving up into second place after Real Madrid’s defeat by Sevilla last night. Atletico Madrid’s win against Granada keeps them in the number one spot by a margin of just one point. Barcelona plays Espanyol in the Barcelona derby on Saturday, with Atletico facing Athletic Bilbao and Real Madrid playing Rayo Vallecano.

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FC Barcelona vs Celta: Valdes injured in Barça win

March 27th, 2014

Following Barcelona’s clasico win on Sunday night and a single point separating them from the top two league places it was important to follow up last night with another win and whatever happens elsewhere Barça cannot at this point afford to slip up again and seemed to have regained some confidence from last weekend.

That quickly turned into an early result for the Catalans, when a move just five minutes in from Iniesta, Messi and Alexis saw Neymar score the opener. However, after initial jubilation when Victor Valdes made a save following a free kick awarded against Barça it became clear that he was injured and after receiving medical attention was stretchered off to be replaced by Pinto.

The initial prognosis is poor, with an expected six month recovery for torn knee ligaments and it has been this morning confirmed that he will require surgery. That almost certainly means he will sit out the remainder of the season, his last at the club after deciding not to renew his contract, as well as scotching any chance of playing for Spain in the World Cup this summer. After that bad news both Barça and fans were a little subdued, but just before the 30 minute mark Messi scored the second goal of the night to bring a little cheer to the Nou Camp.

Back on after the break Iniesta was taken off due to a thigh strain with Sergi Roberto replacing him. Celta immediately applied pressure with Pinto soon being called into action and making a couple of great saves. Soon after it looked like Cesc Fabregas had made it 3-0, only to be ruled offside, but then 20 minutes from the end it was Neymar who scored the third goal and effectively sealed the result for Barça. If it wasn’t bad enough having Valdes injured, Pinto looked winded for a few moments after hitting the post after stopping the ball but after ice on his knee he was up on his feet again to the relief of everyone.

1-0 Neymar (min 5)
2-0 Messi (min 29)
3-0 Neymar (min 70)


La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 29

March 24th, 2014

While the Spanish league was just a three horse race going into the weekend, the result of the clasico could easily have turned the rest of the season into a fight between Madrid’s two main clubs.

However, Barça’s win shows the world, and the Spanish sports media in particular, that the club has what it takes to win when it counts and there is now a single point between the number one spot and third place Barça. Whether it silences critics of the club, and in particular of Gerardo Martino, is a different matter though.

Team
P
W
D
L
F
A
Pts
1
Atlético Madrid
29
22
4
3
66
21
70
2
Real Madrid
29
22
4
3
80
30
70
3
Barcelona
29
22
3
4
85
25
69
4
Athletic
29
16
7
6
52
32
55
5
Sevilla
29
13
8
8
53
44
47
6
Real Sociedad
28
13
7
8
49
39
46
7
Villarreal
29
13
6
10
49
36
45
8
Valencia
29
11
6
12
41
40
39
9
Levante
29
9
10
10
26
35
37
10
Espanyol
29
10
7
12
32
34
37
11
Granada
29
10
4
15
28
39
34
12
Celta Vigo
29
9
6
14
33
41
33
13
Málaga
29
8
8
13
28
36
32
14
Rayo
29
9
3
17
33
63
30
15
Elche
29
7
9
13
24
41
30
16
Osasuna
29
8
5
16
25
50
29
17
Getafe CF
29
7
7
15
26
46
28
18
Valladolid
29
5
12
12
31
49
27
19
Almería
28
7
5
16
27
52
26
20
Real Betis
29
4
7
18
23
58
19

Real Madrid vs FC Barcelona: Messi hat trick seals el clasico for Barça

March 24th, 2014

The clasico is one of the most eagerly awaited matches of the football calendar, with football lovers worldwide tuning in to watch the clash between two biggest sides in Spain. However, while the clasico is certainly a big deal, its importance is too often seen out of perspective.

It is largely symbolic of the antagonism felt between centralist Spain and Catalonia rather than actually being a title decider and all too often it is a damp squib after all the media hype leading up to the game.

That was not the case last night though and although the season was still a three horse race going into the weekend, a loss last night could certainly have put Barça out of contention for the league title, but the match was exciting throughout.

From the word go play was intense and while Madrid were looking for an early opener, it was Barcelona who scored first after just six minutes when Iniesta put the ball into the back of the Madrid net from a Messi assist. Despite dropping the chance for a goal a few minutes later, Benzema scored the equaliser for Madrid just before the 20 minute mark and then put the hosts into the lead just minutes after. However, Leo Messi scored his first of the night towards the end of the first half to go into the break equal.

Less than ten minutes into the second half Ronaldo put Madrid back into the lead from the penalty spot, although replays showed Alves appeared to bring him down outside the box; that’s the nature of football though and Barcelona has benefitted from similar decisions this season too. Messi equalised from the penalty spot ten minutes later after Neymar was brought down by Ramos, who was shown a red card for his efforts.

Alves came close to scoring with quarter of an hour to go with a blistering shot that struck the woodwork, but the decider came in the last ten minutes after Iniesta was brought down in the area and Messi scored his hat trick from the penalty spot.

The win leaves Real Madrid and Atletico madrid on 70 points, with Barcelona in third place on 69, leaving the season far from decided. A lot of flack had recently been aimed at Barça, in particular coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino, after Barcelona slipped behind Real Madrid, with media stories that he would leave the club at the end of this season, stories denied by both him and the club.

This happens at both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid; but the truth is they cannot be expected to win every single match and, indeed, a club that wins every match is one playing in a league below its true capabilities. Yet the critics are quick to sharpen their knives for the smallest failing and the media talks about the clubs being in crisis.

It remains to be seen whether the pressure on Martino will ease off, but what is clear is that he and his squad can produce results when they are really needed.

0-1 Iniesta (min 6)
1-1 Benzema (min 19)
2-1 Benzema (min 23)
2-2 Messi (min 41)
3-2 Ronaldo (min 54)
3-3 Messi (min 64)
3-4 Messi (min 83)


La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 28

March 17th, 2014

While Barcelona lie four points behind Real Madrid and just one behind Atletico, next weekend sees the Bernabeu leg of the Clasico and the chance to close in on the league leaders.

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