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La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 34

April 21st, 2014

Atletico Madrid remain four points clear of second place FC Barcelona this weekend, with the Catalans in second place at least temporarily as Real Madrid’s match has been delayed until May due to Champions League commitments.

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Win against Athletic ends Barça losing streak

April 21st, 2014

Nothing much has seemed to go right for Barça of late, with FIFA’s transfer ban shortly preceding the club’s ejection from Champions League by Atletico Madrid and then the loss against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey final last week. And then there are the league woes.

Athletic Bilbao are always a tough opponent and, standing fourth in the table, well up to strength this season. With Barça suffering three straight losses, Messi not performing lately and a number of players unavailable through injury last night’s match was always going to be tough. Messi did appear to have overcome at least some of his woes and appeared to have scored 18 minutes in. However, the ref ruled the goal offside and despite some chances the first half ended goalless.

It didn’t take long after the players came back on for the first goal of the match, when Aduriz scored for the Basque team four minutes in. The visitors looked to have scored a second soon after but, like Messi’s goal, it was ruled offside.

However, as Barcelona started to pile on the pressure things started to look better and finally, 25 minutes into the second half, Pedro scored the equaliser. Just two minutes later Messi blasted a free kick through the wall to put the Catalans ahead and seal three points.

0-1 Aduriz (min 49)
1-1 Pedro (min 71)
2-1 Messi (min 73)

Barça loses Copa del Rey to Madrid

April 17th, 2014

It’s been a tough fortnight. First FIFA bans Barça from transferring players for 14 months; their Champions League hopes are dashed by Atletico Madrid; losing against Granada makes the league title unlikely; and last night Real Madrid beat them to win the Copa del Rey, the only major trophy Barça had a realistic chance of winning.

Things went wrong early on, when Di María scored in the tenth minute. While Barcelona did bounce back and dominated possession, once again they were unable to break through Madrid’s defence. Leo Messi had a chance as the break approached but the first half ended with Madrid one goal ahead.

Back in after the break it looked for a moment that Madrid had scored again, only to have the goal disallowed. Finally Bartra levelled 20 minuted into the second half, putting the Catalans back into contention.

With stalemate on the pitch it was starting to look as if the match would go to extra time as the clock was ticking towards the end of the second half. But then, seven minutes from the end Bale put Real Madrid ahead again. In the final minutes Neymar came close to forcing the match to extra time but in the end the final whistle blew with Madrid taking the title.

While FC Barcelona were not at their best, it’s not the worst they’ve played recently either. However, Messi was noticeably absent from much of the action once again. The club needs to find out how to return him to form, but the club should also build a team that is so reliant on a single player.

Whether an on form Messi would have made a difference last night or any of the recent run of poor results is unknown. But with no chance of signing new players for more than a year, next season is looking like it might be lost already.

Di María (min 10)
Bartra (min 66)
Bale (min 83)

La liga 2013/14 – standing after week 33

April 14th, 2014

FC Barcelona slipped into third place in the league after losing against Granada on Saturday. The result came at the worst possible time, with just five matches to play and coming four days after Atletico Madrid ended their Champions League hopes.

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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)

Match against Athletic Bilbao moved – again

April 11th, 2014

The match between FC Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao, originally scheduled for the weekend of 19/20 April but later moved to 6 May has now been confirmed for 20th April at 21:00.

The original decision, made by Spain’s football association, was made in order to free up the schedule so that Barça could play in the Champions League semi-final. Given that they are no longer in the competition the match has been moved forward to the weekend it was originally scheduled.

This kind of meddling happens far to often in Spanish football and shows just how out of touch those running the sport at the highest level are. Until recently match dates were fixed a week before they took place, allowing little time for anyone wishing to travel to see their team to find transport and accommodation. Certainly they are unable to benefit from discounts from booking early.

This takes a certain kind of arrogance. Those who are running the sport are doing it purely out of self interest, which is far too often the case in Spain at a high level.

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.

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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)

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