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Champions League exit by Barça as Atletico outplays Catalans

April 10th, 2014

FC Barcelona signalled their intentions clearly enough. Gerardo Martino said a few days ago that his team would try and score first, while Xavi had previously said that in his opinion the first goal would be key. And while Xavi turned out to be bang on the money, Barça had few chances early on as Atletico Madrid stormed the area and scored within minutes of kick off.

One goal up, the hosts didn’t let up. Wave after wave of attack on the Barça goal saw them lucky to only have conceded one goal, with Atletico striking the woodwork three times within the first 20 minutes. Barcelona was ragged, the players seemed barely awake and certainly in no position in at the start of teh match to stage any kind of counter attack.

After 20 minutes though the Catalans regained some composure and began to control the game more. As so often with Barça though, the players were finding it tough turning possession into real opportunities. While Messi had a good go at the goal, set up by Neymar, he shot wide and didn’t seem on form at any stage of the match. And while Cesc appeared to be brought down just inside the box a couple of minutes before the break, no penalty was given.

Back on after the break things looked quite different for Barça, who seemed to have a more focus. Dominating possession they attacked the Atletico goal, but time and time again the attacks ended without result.

In the closing stages of the match on came Diego for Atletico. He soon came close to scoring, only to be denied by Pinto. As the minutes ticked down the Atletico crowd roared but try as they might, Barcelona just didn’t have enough to make a last minute comeback and force the game into extra time.

In the end Barcelona retained 75% possession throughout the game. However, possession doesn’t always add up to victory, as is all to often demonstrated by the Catalans. And this time the result is the club being denied their seventh successive Champions League semi-final. No doubt the knives will be out for Gerardo Martino.

The result is disappointing, for sure, but personally I don’t know why he has become so vilified in the Spanish press. Despite what you may read, FC Barcelona is doing well this year, but there are some other good clubs right now. At the moment Atletico is the one to beat. In the league Barça is just a single point behind them and just two ahead of Real Madrid.

It is far from being a disastrous season, but it is a competitive one and that is good for the game. What we want, above all, is thrilling football, not a team that wins every competition it enters; that is not what sport is about.

1-0 Koke (min 4)


FCB not to renew reserve keeper Jose Pinto

April 9th, 2014

FC Barcelona is to let go of second goalkeeper, Jose Pinto, at the end of the season according to reports.

The club is apparently so confident that they will overturn FIFA’s 14 month transfer ban that, rather than keep hold of him in case they are unable to sign a new keeper when Victor Valdes leaves this season, they have told he is no longer wanted.

It does seem a strange decision and could backfire spectacularly if the ban is not overturned at appeal.

Source: International Business Times


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.

Read the rest of this entry »


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)


Nou Camp redevelopment given green light by club members

April 7th, 2014

Saturday saw FC Barcelona put proposed plans for redevelopment of the Nou Camp and surrounding area to club members, who were able to vote before the match with Betis.

The result, which was annmounced on Saturday night, showed an overwhelming majority of those who voted backing the plans, with 72.36% voting YES.

Plans will see the stadium enlarged and modernised, with the area around the stadium remodelled to give the club new offices and other sporting facilities and are due to be completed in 2021.


Valdes arrives back in Barcelona [Video]

April 4th, 2014

Victor Valdes arrived back in Barcelona yesterday after his knee operation in Germany.

In the video below, Valdes is seen to exit a minibus in the pouring rain and, after giving a smile to journalists, makes off on his crutches.

Valdes is expected to be out of action for seven months and since he is planning on leaving the club at the end of this season makes it likely that he has played his last match for the Catalan giants.

It also makes it more difficult to find a position elsewhere, and given that FIFA has banned Barcelona from transferring players for 14 months, it is perhaps likely that the Barça board will attempt to make him an offer he can’t refuse, even if only for one more season.

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FCB issues statement on FIFA transfer ban

April 3rd, 2014

Following yesterday’s shock announcement that FC Barcelona would receive a 14 month ban on player transfers for violating FIFA’s rules on international signings of minors the club, as expected, has issued a statement and will appeal the decision.

Key to the club’s defence is that the youth training academy, La Masia, does guarantee the development of young players signed by the club whose number include Lionel Messi, who joined Barça in his teens.

Source: FC Barcelona

The FIFA sanction is a blow to the club, whose reputation has been further sullied after the allegations of tax fraud surrounding Neymar’s signing and the subsequent resignation of Sandro Rosell as club president.

For an organisation that prides itself on being “more than a club”, FC Barcelona is not doing well at the moment and making the news for the wrong reasons.

There is a suggestion that the vote on the future of the Nou Camp, due to take place on Saturday, will become a vote of no confidence in the club leadership by club members, many of who are unhappy that elections did not follow Rossell’s resignation. Whether this happens or not remains to be seen, but it does appear that much is amis behind the scenes.


Barça receives 14 month transfer ban from FIFA

April 2nd, 2014

FC Barcelona has been banned from player transfers for 14 months and been fined 450,000 Swiss francs after being found guilty of breaching FIFA rules on international players under the age of 18.

Although they will no doubt appeal, this is a serious blow to the club, as they need to bolster the midfield and find a replacement for Victor Valdes, who is currently planning on leaving the club this summer when his contract expires.

The Spanish Football Association, the RFEF, has also been sanctioned for breaking the international transfer rules on minors. FIFA says that the protection of minors is an important social and legal issue in this context as they may negatively affect the youngsters involved. The club was ruled to be in breach of the FIFA regulations between 2009 and 2013.

Source: FIFA

Gerard Pique out of action for 4 weeks

April 2nd, 2014

Gerard Pique will reportedly be out of action for four weeks after sustaining a hip fracture against Atletico Madrid at the Nou Camp last night.

Pique fell to the ground after just ten minutes play and was seen to clutch the back of his thigh. He then clearly struggled even to walk and, after being attended by teammates, was substituted by Marc Bartra.

This is a blow to the team, currently without Carles Puyol and Victor Valdes through injury.

Source: BBC

First leg Champions League semi-final against Atletico ends in draw

April 2nd, 2014

Atletico Madrid is turning out to be the big rival in the Spanish league this season, although it is still to early to write of Real Madrid, and so it was rather unfortunate for Barcelona to be drawn against them in the Champions League. On the other hand it also presents a chance for either team to get ahead mentally in the domestic competition, with whichever team qualifies for the final surely mentally wired to win the la liga title too.

Looking back at recent matches there is a clear pattern. Since facing Atletico twice in August for the Spanish Supercup and then in January in the league all matches have ended in a draw. In August they first played at the Vicente Calderon stadium, drawing 1-1, followed by the Nou Camp leg of the competition, which ended goalless and Barça taking the trophy thanks to the away goal rule.

And then in January, at the Vicente Calderon for the first leg in the Spanish league, the matched ended a goalless draw again. And so perhaps it was unsurprising that last night at the Nou Camp the match ended with each team scoring a goal apiece.

The beginning of the match began a bit scrappily for Barça, but once they seemed to have warmed up a bit that changed; Pique came off with a thigh injury, replaced by Bartra, after just 10 minutes following a fall, another blow to the squad. After the first quarter hour Barcelona’s performance picked up visibly and began to dominate, controlling possession and ensuring play was focused on the Atletico end. Despite this neither team had many opportunities to score, and the few chances on goal were stopped.

The match was certainly exciting though as both teams were playing well, although perhaps Messi was slightly off. As the match progressed though the referee seemed reluctant to show any cards to the visitors who were going in harder and harder against the Catalans.

Soon after the break the visitors went ahead, when Diego scored following a free kick and Pinto was just unable to get his hands to the ball, which slipped into the top corner. With Atletico now with the advantage, Barça stepped up the pace, with the visitors response being an increase in fouls. Finally Neymar equalised nearly half an hour into the second half and although the players kept on the pressure they were unable to score another to win this leg.

Next week sees Barça travel to Madrid for the return leg, with Atletico having the advantage after scoring away from home. If the current pattern of goals remains then the match will end goalless; however, there is no reason for that to happen and Barcelona needs to focus on getting an early goal to win this round outright.

On social media some Barça fans were complaining that the team lacked the killer instinct last night. I don’t think that is the case at all, apart from a poor start they rose to the challenge and produced some great football. The problem is that Atletico is really on form this season and a true competitor, much more so than Real Madrid.

0-1 Diego (min 58)
1-1 Neymar (min 73)


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