Saturday, August 29, 2009

Barcelona Win European Super Cup - 2/6 Complete

Barcelona beat Shakhtar Donetsk 1-0 in Monaco to clinch their second trophy of the season, and fifth since Pep Guardiola took charge last season.

Pedro scored the winner deep into extra time in the 115th minute after a deft passing exchange with Lionel Messi.

Barcelona Squad



Touré (100th minute - Busquets)

Ibrahimovic (81st minute - Pedro)
Henry (95th minute - Bojan)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Barcelona 5-1 Bilbao on Aggregate - 1/6 Done

Barcelona crushed Athletic Bilbao 3-0 at the Camp Nou and 5-1 on aggregate to clinch the Spanish Super Cup, which is their first trophy of the season.

Barca will be competing for six trophies this season, and have clinched their first in emphatic fashion.

Messi scored two goals, including a penalty while Bojan added the third by walking the ball into the net in embarassing fashion for Bilbao.

Messi - 49th (assist: Ibrahimovic)
Messi - 67th (penalty)
Bojan - 72nd (assist: Alves)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bilbao Should Be Afraid!

This could be Barcelona's forward-line against Athletic Bilbao if Guardiola's assertion to go all-out is true.

First Trophy of the Season Could be Won Tonight

Barcelona face Athletic Bilbao at the Camp Nou tonight, taking a 2-1 aggregate lead from the first leg away at San Mames.

The game should turn out to be an easy affair for Barcelona with Athletic Bilbao not placing much importance on the fixture, opting to save them for the Europa league qualification game against Tromso later. Athletic coach Joaquin Caparros has elected to rest eight key players for the game.

Apart from Aitor Ocio and Fernando Amorebieta, who have slight knocks, Yeste, Markel Susaeta, Javi Martinez, Iker Muniain and Oscar De Marcos have been left out of the squad.

Fernando Llorente has been included, but is unlikely to play.

Barca, however, are at nearly full strength, with only Iniesta and Marquez, plus long time absentee Gabriel Milito, unavailable. It is believed that the former pair should be ready for the first league game of the season, against Sporting Gijon. Zlatan Ibrahimovic gets his first official call-up to the squad, while Marc Muniesa, Andreu Fontas, Jonathan Dos Santos and Jeffren have also been called

Barcelona squad

Valdés, Pinto, Jorquera; Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Henrique, Fontàs, Muniesa, Maxwell, Abidal; Xavi, Touré, Keita, Busquets, Gudjohnsen, Jonathan; Pedro, Jeffren, Messi, Henry, Ibrahimovic, Bojan

Athletic Bilbao squad

Iraizoz, Toquero, Koikili, Ustaritz, David López, Llorente, Gabilondo, San José, Armando, Iraola, Orbaiz, Etxeberria, Gurpegi, Ion Vélez, Castillo, De Cerio, Iturraspe, Xabi Etxebarria

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bid for Schalke Right-Back Rafinha

Barcelona have made a preliminary 4 million euro bid for Schalke's Brazilian right full-back Rafinha (23), reports Catalan daily

Rafinha's relationship with Schalke's management is reportedly strained since last year's Olympic games, where they had fined him 700,000 euros for a "breach of contract", when he had returned after representing Brazil in the Olympics.

Schalke nevertheless would be wanting 10 million euros fo the marauding full back, who is guaranteed to have a bright future ahead.

Barcelona would be hoping to close the deal for 7 million euros.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gamper Cup Result: Barcelona 0 - 1 Manchester City

Barcelona fielded a largely second string side in the Gamper trophy, and found themselves on the wrong end of a 1-0 scoreline against Manchester City, despite a dominant second half performance.

Martin Petrov scored in the 28th minute to give City the lead from a counter-attack.

Guardiola brought on eagerly awaited signing Ibrahimovic in place of Bojan in the second half, and he came close to making an impact in the game.

Shay Given saved smartly with his feet from Ibrahimovic after 73 minutes and he was on hand again in the dying minutes to spoil the Swede's party after some neat foot work from Lionel Messi.

The former Inter striker combined with Thiago Alcantara once more but failed to connect when he had the goal at his mercy from about seven yards and City cleared the ball to safety.

Despite a stoppage time effort from Messi hitting the upright, City held on and emerged victorious to claim the Joan Gamper Trophy, becoming only the third team in 20 years to beat Barcelona in the annual pre-season fixture.

Barcelona 0-1 Manchester City

0-1 Martin Petrov 28'

FC Barcelona: Pinto, Montoya (Alves 45), Fontas (Henry 63), Puyol (Bartra 31) (Pique 63), Maxwell (Muniesa, 63), Toure (Tiago 45), Busquets ( Keita 45), Gudjohnsen (Jonathan, 45), Pedro (Messi 45), Bojan (Ibrahimovic 45) and Jeffren (Gai Assulin, 54).

Manchester City: Given, Onuoha, Kolo Toure (Ben-Haim 45), Dunne, Zabaleta (Garrido 65), Weiss, Ireland, Barry (Etuhu 70), Wright-Phillips (Trippier 80) , Petrov, Tevez (Bellamy 65).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ibrahimovic to Make Debut Tonight

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make his debut for Bacelona against Manchester City in the Gamper Cup at 2215 hours Barcelona time.

Ibrahimovic had been signed from Inter Milan but was unable to play until now because of a broken metacarpal bone in his left hand.

When asked how he felt ahead of his debut, Ibrahimovic said,"Of course I am a bit nervous but I am not worried about my qualities. I know how good I am. I have a lot of confidence.

I always try to do my best and give something back to the spectators. It's the people who follow you and pay the expensive tickets and I think they will enjoy it."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Not Exactly Barcelona, But Still...

Well, this is the first humour article I have written on B/R and thought of posting it here too. It is not strictly about Barcelona, but there are some references. So, without further ado, let me introduce (drum roll)

The Transfer Policy of Some Football Clubs

A lot of Europe's top clubs have displayed a sort of "pattern" when it comes to signing players. Here is taking a firmly tongue-in-cheek look at some of the more peculiar ones:

Real Madrid:

Valdano and Perez sitting and discussing the transfer policy.

Perez: Get me last year's Ballon d'Or nominees list.

(Valdano, shuffles around, hands him the paper)

Perez: Ah, yes. Table offers for the top ten players on it, and come back to me. Spend no more than 350 million, that is a strict cap we must adhere to. Remember, the world is in the middle of a severe recession.

Valdano: But don Floren, there is no defender in the top 10.

Perez: Huh?? Defense? We need that?

Manchester City:

The Manchester City transfer policy can be summarised as follows:

- Go to the first Champions League playing club you can find.

- Table offers for the top four attacking players, usually equalling their multi-million euro release clauses.

- Stay undeterred by the players' complete lack of interest. Instead, start throwing blank cheques to everyone, in the hopes that some players (read: Greedybayour) start drooling and sign up.

- Move on to the next club, then the next, and so on.

A crucial point to be noted is that at no point in the season should there be less than eight strikers in the squad. The more the better.


Guardiola: I have a "feeling" that some players are not needed at the club. I also have a "feeling" that some defenders (read: Caceres, Henrique) who are widely believed to be average, are in fact perfect for the squad, and we can splash out a cumulative sum of nearly 25 million euros on them.

Laporta: We make stars, Real Madrid buys them. We refuse to spend big in the current economic climate.

Then, he promptly flies to Milan to seal a deal worth "only" 40 million euros+Samuel Eto'o for Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Guardiola (at the end of the 2008-09 season): I would like a bigger squad next season to compete for six trophies.

Then, just a few days back: I prefer a smaller squad, of only 18 players or so.

Huh, come again?


Arsenal's transfer policy can be summarised as follows:

- At the start of the transfer season, sell at least one player who was integral to the team in the previous year, preferably to Barcelona, without actually lining up a replacement.

- Towards the middle of the window, look at possible targets. Naturally, all targets above the age of 20 are immediately discarded as being too old. The others are discarded one-by-one as being too expensive.

- Finally, sign one unknown player who is turned into a world class talent.

- Next season, repeat the same procedure.

AC Milan:

The exact opposite of Arsenal's policy. Summary:

- At the start of the transfer season, buy one player from Barcelona. The player should normally have been an outstanding performer , but somehow, his performance must have "dropped" over the last year.

- Sell their best player and then declare that the squad is complete and no reinforcements are needed.

- Later, after the club headquarters have been trashed by ultras demanding Berlusconi's head for cavorting with another 40 women, start looking at possible targets.

Naturally, Milan transfer targets have the following characteristics (remember, opposite of Arsenal):

- Usually above the age of 30, the older the better.

- They are usually world class talents when bought, and then turn into unknown players!

PS: This article is intended for humourous purposes only. No offense is meant to any clubs or their supporters, as is evident by the fact that I have pulled Barcelona's leg as well.

The cartoon is the scene described in the Real Madrid section.

Athletic Bilbao 1 - 2 Barcelona

Barcelona kicked off their season with a win over Athletic Bilbao at San Mames in the first leg of the Spanish Super Cup final.

The starting lineup was:



Xavi (80th Busquets)

Henry (69th Jeffren)

Iniesta, Ibra, Messi and Marquez were all unavailable for this match due to injury. Considering that, and considering the stature of the opponents (remember, Bilbao is the only team aside from Barca and Real that has never been relegated), this is an admirable result.

Barcelona' goals came from Xavi and Pedro in the 58th and 68th minutes respectively, after Bilbao had taken the lead through De Marcos in the 44th.

The result leaves Barcelona in pole position for the return leg in the Camp Nou on 23rd August (next Sunday). For that game, they will have the attacking trio of Iniesta, Ibra and Messi, and hence a goal fest would not be an unreasonable expectation.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Barcelona's First Competitive Match of the Season Tonight

At 2200 hrs. Barcelona time, the Spanish Super Cup first leg encounter between Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao will kick off at San Mames in Bilbao.

Barcelona have been Super Cup winners on 11 previous occasions, with the most recent win coming in 2006.

Bilbao, in contrast, have only won the Super Cup once, in 1984.

Thierry Henry has been named in the squad despite being doubtful with an Achilles tendon injury, but Lionel Messi has been excluded.

The full squad is:

Goalkeepers: Valdés, Pinto

Defenders: Alves, Puyol, Piqué, Abidal, Maxwell, Muniesa, Fontàs

Midfielders: Xavi, Touré, Keita, Busquets, Jonathan dos Santos, Gudjohnsen

Forwards: Pedro, Bojan, Henry, Jeffren

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why Barcelona's Pursuit Of Cesc Fabregas Is Justified

Why are Barcelona trying to sign Cesc Fabregas? Why, when they already have the best central midfielder pairing in Xavi and Iniesta, are they willing to spend another 40-45 million euros on another central midfielder? And also, where in the name of heaven will Fabregas play, with two superior midfielders in Xavi and Iniesta most definitely above him in the pecking order? Why also, do they want to take away Arsenal's captain and most iconic player of the current squad?

These are questions being thrown around by many of Barcelona's detractors as well as the indignant and irritated Arsenal fans. And their irritation is understandable, as Barcelona do give the impression of regarding Arsenal as their unofficial "feeder club", with the number of Arsenal players they have signed over the past years, including Thierry Henry, Alex Hleb and Sylvinho.

But do they realise who Barcelona wants right now? Fabregas is one of Barcelona's own, a youth product of Barcelona's famed La Masia. A cule, who Barcelona want to bring back home, after his premature exit from the Nou Camp at the early age of 16.

Why does Barcelona want him when they already have two similar players in Xavi and Iniesta?

That is, honestly, a rather silly question. If the people asking this would care to see Barcelona's record over the last season, they will realise that Andres Iniesta, though a brilliant player, is highly prone to injury. He was out for spells totalling nearly three months last season. Who will play when he is injured (which, incidentally, is pretty often) ? No prizes for guessing.

And Fabregas will not just be an extremely expensive cover for Iniesta or Xavi. Fabregas' arrival will make Barcelona's midfield the best in the world, and indeed, one of the deadliest ever. It will also provide the sort of rotation options that most coaches would drool over. The midfield load that would previously be shared by Xavi and Iniesta alone, would now be spread equally among Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas, without any appreciable drop in quality or creativity.

Next season, Barcelona will be competing for six trophies, and will be playing a maximum of almost seventy games in a shortened year because of the upcoming World Cup. Then there is the African Cup of Nations to consider, during which two midfielders, Toure and Keita, will be unavailable. With the number of games coming up, it seems silly to rely on only two central midfielders.

Why, even when Barcelona had Deco, Ronaldinho and Xavi, they had creative cover in the form of Iniesta. Creativity in midfield is something Barcelona cannot do without, as their entire game is based on possession football. Cesc provides this creativity even when Xavi/Iniesta are unavailable.

Another factor to be considered is that Xavi is nearing 30. Though he is still brilliant and sharp, there is a possibility that in a couple of years, the spark will begin to leave him. In that case, who better to replace him than Fabregas? The transition of power in Barcelona's midfield will be seamless and smooth if Cesc is bought now.

Lastly, there is the question of the price. The figure being quoted is in the region of 40-45 million euros. Now, I wonder, how is this a "ridiculous" price as some are claiming? How many young, creative midfielders who are already captains of their team, will you get for a cheaper price than that? And also, how on earth can you expect to pay less than that when even Emmanuel Adebayor costs 25 million pounds in the current economic climate?

The transfer of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona does seem unlikely this season, I agree. However, if it goes through, it will be an absolutely fantastic piece of business by Barcelona, as they will get an established, young, Catalan central midfielder who will undoubtedly lead the line in the years to come.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Henry and Messi Injured, Might Miss Super Cup Game

Barcelona players Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry have suffered minor injuries which might rule them out of this Sunday's Super cup game against Athletic Bilbao.

Lionel Messi has suffered a cramp in his right leg and will definitely miss Argentina's friendly match against Russia. However his exact recovery time is not yet known, and there is a possibility that he might also miss the Super cup game on Sunday.

Thierry Henry has pain in both Achilles tendons and will also miss his international friendly against the Faroe Islands. It is currently doubtful if he will take part in the Super cup game as well.

Ibrahimovic and Iniesta have already been ruled out of the game against Bilbao, though Ibrahimovic will make his debut in the Gamper cup next week.

Vincent Kompany and Two Other Defenders on the Radar

British tabloid
The Daily Mail have claimed that after being spurned in their efforts to sign Ukrainian Dmitryo Chigrinskiy from Shakhtar Donetsk, Barcelona have turned their sights to Vincent Kompany (23), Jonny Evans (21) and Joao Miranda (24) of Manchester City, Manchester United and Sao Paulo respectively.

While Manchester United are unlikely to let go of Evans who would be seen as a promising prospect, the signing of either Miranda or Kompany looks likely.

The signing of Kompany is looked on as particularly attractive mainly because of the player's versatility which enables him to play in both central defense as well as defensive midfield.

The Daily Mail claims that Barcelona would be looking to make a possible bid of 10 million pounds in the coming days for the young Belgian.

Barcelona's other target, Miranda is also being tracked by AC Milan and Tottenham.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Barcelona now Aiming to Get Cesc

After being told that Javier Mascherano is most definitely not for sale, Barcelona have now turned their focus and attention to bringing back Arsenal captain and playmaker Cesc Fabregas (22), report all Catalan media.

Barcelona representatives reportedly spoke to Fabregas' entourage, and were told that Cesc had given the green light for discussions with the club, but would do so only after Barcelona talked to Arsenal first.

Barcelona now have the tough job to convince Arsene Wenger to sell his most prized asset. The price that has been doing the rounds in the Catalan media is in the region of 40-50 million euros, which would make this, if completed, Barcelona's second record signing in the same season.

The signing of Cesc would be hailed as a mighty achievement by most Barcelona fans, and for good reason. He has the qualities to become the finest playmaker in Spain once Xavi retires. Also, he provides excellent rotation options in midfield, without causing any dip in quality.

Barcelona are Favourites for 2009/10 Champions League

Betting site bet365 has made Barcelona 4/1 favourites to win next season's European Champions League, thereby also making them favourites to make history by being the first team to successfully defend the Champions League crown.

Other favourites according to the odds published by bet365 are:

Real Madrid at 9/2.
Chelsea at 6/1.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Which Position To Strengthen Now?

Barcelona's signings of Maxwell and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have filled up the left fullback and striker positions respectively. However, at least one more player needs to be bought, to give the squad enough depth to compete for six trophies.

Barcelona's signing of Ibrahimovic has been criticised in the media, and the club has been accused of overpaying to get their man. The fee paid has also decreased the budget available dramatically.

The questions that come to mind are - now what? Which position is remaining? Which player(s) to sign now, to make the treble winning team a sextuple winning team?

To answer these, we must look at the positions Barca employs and the players and backups available for each.

Goalkeeper: Not a problem. Victor Valdes proved last season that he is reliable in the biggest of games. A few errors notwithstanding, VV was immense last season, and justified his new contract. Jose Pinto is an adequate replacement. Jorquera is disappointing however, and could be discarded in favour of youth keepers Oier Olazabal and/or Mino.

Right Full-Back: Daniel Alves. The fittest player in La Liga, he played exactly 4614 minutes last season. That was the most for any player in the squad. Barca were lucky, however, that he was never injured. In the event of his absence, El Capitan Carles Puyol is a solid replacement, while back-from-loan Henrique can also play in that position if required. In other words, this position is covered.

Central Defense: Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique are rocks in central defense, ably supported by Rafa Marquez. Martin Caceres, however, has left on loan. Gabriel Milito has still not recovered from his long term injury, while Henrique has not exactly impressed in his first two preseason games.

Marc Muniesa and Andreu Fontas of Barca Atletic are good backups, however. Also, in dire straits, both Eric Abidal and Yaya Toure can cover for this position. Though this is a possible problem position, it seems unnecessary to spend on another backup. A young signing is a strict no-no as this could stagnate the development of Muniesa and Fontas, who are both brilliant prospects.

In my opinion, Barcelona should gauge the performance of Henrique during the remaining pre-season games before considering signings for the central defense position.

Left Full-Back: Covered with the signing of Maxwell. Earlier, Barcelona only had Eric Abidal for this position. Now, they have two able players who can give each other strong competition for this last position in defense. If really needed, Muniesa can also pitch in for this position. Covered.

Defensive Midfield: Yaya Toure had made this position his own last season until he was forced to cover for central defense towards the last few games of the season. He was replaces by Sergi Busquets, who started the Champions League final, and in general was impressive last season.

Though this position is looked on as a problem position by many, I feel this is unnecessary. Agreed Toure will be out for 1.5 months during the African Cup of Nations, but we have a very impressive replacement for him in the shape of Busquets. Also, Marquez and Maxwell can play in this position. Then there is Barcelona Atletic prospect Oriol, if everything else fails. In my opinion, covered.

Central Midfield: Xavi and Iniesta, the Gods of midfield. With these two controlling play, Barcelona never really had a problem keeping the ball and beating teams, not only with 5-0 scorelines, but with 65:35 possession ratios.

Problems occurred when Iniesta was injured. With his injury, the creativity of Barcelona's midfield was reduced to half. Though Busquets and Toure can cover for this position, neither is really of the same class as Xavi or Iniesta. The bottomline is that Barcelona would fail miserably if either of them was injured/suspended.

This is a definite problem position, despite the presence of four backup players in Busquets, Toure, Keita and Jonathan. Not because of the numbers, but because of the amount Barcelona depends on this position, and because of the sheer quality of Xavi and Iniesta. Any replacement that Barcelona has seems inadequate if try to compare with the first choice players.

I will be coming back to this position later, when I put forth my verdict at the end of this piece.

Right Wing: Lionel Messi, the best player in the world and also the key cog in the Barca machine. He has made the right wing his own, either cutting in and shooting lethally with his feared left foot, or dribbling through the entire opposition to provide a killer pass for the strikers.

There is no denying that Barca were very lucky that this man did not suffer a single injury during the previous campaign. He was ever present and immense throughout the season.

It is impossible to find a backup of equivalent quality, as such players are rare. However, for the sake of argument, he was backed up by Bojan and Pedro, both Barca youth products. Is this a problem position? Whenever Messi is unavailable. Can anything be done about it? Not really. There is no backup that would come even close to Messi's quality in the event of his unavailability.

Striker: Earlier this summer, Barcelona bought Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He is the man for this position, strong shots, good aerial ability and excellent technical ability. With the supply that he will get at Barcelona, Ibra will doubtless perform brilliantly.

He is also backed up by a good young prospect in Bojan and the old but reliable Thierry Henry. This position is pretty much secure.

Left Wing: Henry was excellent last season in this position. He is backed up by Iniesta and Bojan. There is also a possibility that Gai Assulin will be promoted this season, which means he will be added to the list of backups as well.

This is however, one of Barca's weak points. Henry, though still great, is not getting any younger. The left flank just does not possess as much steel as the right one, which has Messi and Alves. However, there is some backup in Iniesta, Bojan and possibly Gai for this position.

Verdict: The positions that look dangerously thin are central midfield and the left wing, both of which have very little backup.

Since Iniesta can be moved to the left wing when needed, Barcelona do not really need to be too concerned about quality in that position. However, shifting Iniesta will leave a hole in midfield that will be difficult to fill.

There is also a possibility that defensive midfield could be stretched dangerously thin during the ACN, when Toure and Keita leave.

My recommendation is this - a cheap, versatile midfielder, who can play in both central midfield and defensive midfield, and would not really mind being benched for a large proportion of matches. A left winger would also be a welcome option, as this would free up Iniesta to be used only for the central midfield role.

Possible Candidates
  • Patrick Vieira: Strange as this may sound, Vieira would be a good signing. He is old, which means he is a short term replacement and will not affect the youngsters in the squad. He is cheap, which is required. He is also highly experienced.
  • Hernanes: Reportedly available for 10 million euros, Hernanes will be a decent replacement for either Xavi or Iniesta when desperately needed. However, he is young and this could affect the youth players who will be looking forward to breaking into the team in the near future.
  • Angel di Maria: He would be a good backup for left wing. However, it is very unlikely that he would play second fiddle to Henry, as 2010 is World Cup year and he would want to break into the Argentinean national side, which is not something that can be achieved from the Camp Nou bench. However, he is a good player and Barcelona also have first option on signing him from Benfica, as part of Keirrison's loan.
  • Jan Vertonghen: He is a player who is extremely versatile. He can cover the entire defense line as well as defensive midfield. A good, cheap signing. An added advantage is that he plays for Ajax, which employs a 4-3-3 similar to Barca's and will thus adjust quickly.