Monday, September 28, 2009
Ibrahimovic scored his fifth goal in as many games, and super-sub Pique added a second to give Barcelona a 2-0 victory in a hard-fought game at Malaga.
The game was extremely difficult for Barcelona due to the uncompromising nature of the Malaga defenders. And this is just putting it mildly. Messi got stepped on thrice, Henry and Chigrinskiy walked off injured and the referee literally ignored every bad tackle by Malaga.
Though Albert Luque did get a red card late on, the real culprit was Wellington who was guilty of some truly horrible challenges.
However, the negative and despicable tactics of Malaga did not prevent Ibrahimovic, who replaced an injured Henry after 25 minutes, from becoming the most successful signing in the club's history by scoring his fifth goal in five games.
Another impressive performance and three points. However, Barcelona are second in the table on goal difference over Real Madrid.
Posted by Anurag at 10:55 AM
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Yet another Barca-Atleti fixture. Yet another goal-fest. It is a fixture that has the word "GOALS" emblazoned all over it.
This time, it finished 5-2 in favour of Barcelona, with goals coming from Ibrahimovich (who called him a flop?), Messi, Alves and Keita.
Barcelona started with Valdes in goal, Alves, Pique, Chiggy and Maxwell in defense, Xavi, Busquets and Keita in midfield and the attacking trident of Messi, IBra and Henry.
Ibrahimovich started off proceedings in the second minute with a superb chip that Eto'o could not have scored even in his wildest dreams, showing why Barcelona bought him for that ridiculous amount at the start of the season.
Messi then reaped the rewards of a brilliant Xavi cross to make it 2-0 within 20 minutes. He ran onto the exquisite pass, used his pace to beat his marker and slotted it coolly past the hapless keeper.
On the half hour mark, Alves then scored another excellent free-kick which went in off the post.
Ibra was involved again in the move that led to Barcelona's fourth goal. After a run down the left wing, Ibra stopped, watched Messi's run and then coolly chipped the ball over his marker to the little Argentinean. Messi did the rest. With three superb touches, he beat his man, ran to the touchline and gave an excellent cross to Keita to make it 4-0.
Barcelona's clean sheet record was broken before half time however, as Busquets' error led to an Aguero goal.
Barcelona geared down in the second half, despite the introduction of Andres Iniesta. They conceded another goal due to a poor clearance by Valdes which put Forlan in acres of space to find a finish.
However, Messi completed the rout just before full time with a goal befitting a nifty little set of touches exchanged between Alves and Xavi.
Another win and another superb performance by Barcelona. They remain at the top of the table with 9 points out of 9.
Posted by Anurag at 9:48 AM
Friday, September 18, 2009
Lionel Messi has agreed a contract extension with Barcelona that will tie him to the club till 2016. He is expected to sign the contract today.
"It's an immense piece of news for the club and for the player that Messi is renewing his contract," said Barça manager Pep Guardiola. "As it also was when Victor Valdes and Xavi did so.
"People go to football to see the best and that's what they are. It's
a privilege for Barça to have some of the best footballers like Messi."
Messi will be paid an improved salary of 10 million euros a year, and his release clause will be increased to 250 million euros from its previous sum of 150 million euros.
Posted by Anurag at 7:28 PM
The parked bus has struck again. Barcelona were once again, undone by the strong organisation and commitment of an opposition defense (though some poor finishing also helped in getting Inter off the hook).
Dominating the game for the course of the entire 90 minutes with a possession ratio of 67:33 in their favour, one might have expected Barcelona to take the game. And they probably would, against a coach less wily than Mourinho.
Jose, knowing that Barcelona was far superior to his own side, did what a certain Mr. Hiddink did with Chelsea last season - he parked the bus. At any point of time, I counted seven-eight Inter players in the penalty area, just waiting for Barca's concentrated attack to break.
What I saw was, that despite this, Barcelona had their chances. Messi broke through very quickly in the 1st minute itself to test Cesar with a shot that would have beaten most keepers. In the 7th minute, Ibra had a half chance, but made a real meal of it. However, the guiltiest party in the lineup was Seydou Keita, who squandered the best chance of the match (it was a chance I could have finished off).
The game progressed with Barcelona attacking at every gap they could possibly find, and Inter blocking them off. The result was a disappointing one indeed, but not the worst result in the world.
What worries me is the reaction of Barcelona players after the game. A lot of them were whining about Inter's "negativity". Yes, Inter played negative. As would any other team if facing opponents of Barcelona's stature. As did Chelsea, and almost came away with a win. As did Man City, and actually won. As did Shakhtar and almost took Barca to penalties. Barcelona need to understand that the parked bus, though not yet a feature of Spanish football, will always be employed by foreign opponents to stop them from weaving their magic.
Pep Guardiola needs to work out a plan B to use in these situations. It is easier said than done, agreed, but otherwise there is a high likelihood that Barcelona will get embarrassed sooner or later by opponents who restrict them, cut them off and then finally score a fluky goal on the counter.
I would like to end by saying - this was not a bad result. It was an away draw against a good team. However, the parked bus is something that, if not countered now, will certainly cause Barcelona's downfall in the not-so-distant future.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Barcelona start their Champions League defense in unarguably the most mouthwatering opening day tie against Inter Milan at the San Siro.
Not only is this a battle between two European giants, it is also a game where many players will be playing against their former clubs.
Barcelona do not have an easy task on their hands, that is for sure. Inter, for all their domestic successes, have not made strides in Europe in the recent years. However, the Nerazzuri might feel that, with the additions that they have made to the squad this season, they have the best chance in a long time to finally provide a serious challenge in the Champions League
Form Guide: Barcelona have made a very positive start to the new season. In two league games, they have scored five goals and conceded none. Ibrahimovic has netted in both the games, and his link-up play with Messi was evident against Getafe.
September 12 v Getafe (A) – WON 2-0 (La Liga)
August 31 v Sporting Gijon (H) – WON 3-0 (La Liga)
August 28 v Shakhtar Donetsk (A) – WON 1-0 (UEFA Super Cup)
August 23 v Athletic Bilbao (H) – WON 3-0 (Super Copa)
August 19 v Manchester City (H) – LOST 1-0 (Friendly)
As we can see, in the last five games, Barcelona have lost just once - when they had played their reserves in the Gamper Cup against Manchester City. They have won the remaining four games in comfortable fashion without key players like Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta.
The team will also be high on confidence with the fact that they have won two trophies already.
Probable Line-up: Valdes - Alves, Pique, Puyol, Abidal - Xavi, Toure, Iniesta - Messi, Ibrahimovic, Henry
Rafael Marquez has been included in the squad after his long injury layoff. However, it is highly unlikely that he would start, given the stature of the opponents and the importance Guardiola lays on physical fitness. Dmitryo Chigrinskiy is, of course, ineligible to play in the Champions League this season.
Players to Watch
Zlatan Ibrahimovic - Ibra will be keen to prove that Barcelona got the better part of the swap deal sending him and Eto'o in opposite directions. The reception from the Inter fans is something he will have to take in his stride, as he strives to live up to his 46 million euro transfer fee. A goal against his former employers would provide him with a confidence boost as well as serve as a deterrent for the people who call him a big-game flop.
Andres Iniesta - Finally back to full fitness, San Andres will be rearing to reunite with Xavi to complete the deadliest midfield in the the world. With Xavi pulling the string and Iniesta providing the creative spark, it is difficult for Barcelona to lose.
Barcelona have their strongest starting eleven available for tomorrow's game. It is in fact, stronger than the team that took Rome by storm on May 27th. Over the course of the past season, we have seen this starting eleven wreak havoc against the strongest of opponents, and tomorrow should be no different.
Inter Milan News
Form Guide: Inter have made a good start to the season as well, the highlight of which was the 4-0 thrashing of AC Milan in the Milan derby.
September 13 v Parma (H) – WON 2-0 (Serie A)
September 5 v Lugano (A) – DREW 3-3 (Friendly)
August 29 v AC Milan (A) – WON 4-0 (Serie A)
August 23 v Bari (H) – DREW 1-1 (Serie A)
August 16 v Bahrain (A) – WON 1-0 (Friendly)
Inter have also not lost in the last few games, and have been high on confidence with the performances of new signings Eto'o, Milito and Sneijder.
Probable Line-up: Julio Cesar - Maicon, Lucio, Samuel, Chivu - Zanetti, Motta, Stankovic - Sneijder -Milito, Eto’o
Dejan Stankovic has overcome the flu that struck him in recent days, while Cristian Chivu should return to left-back in place of Davide Santon. Esteban Cambiasso trained on Tuesday but is unlikely to start.
Players to Watch
Samuel Eto'o - Naturally, the first person that comes to mind here is a very familiar face for Barcelona fans. Samu has scored twice in three league games, and he will need to be contained at every opportunity. His goal against Parma was spectacular, and Pep Guardiola will be working to ensure that the Cameroonian is not given any space to work his magic. Especially with him being eager to prove a point to his former employers.
Douglas Maicon - The best player of the Nerazzuri by a mile, Maicon is a danger in defense as well as attack. He can break up opposition attacks, as well as create some spectacular ones himself. With him and Alves on opposite flanks, we will witness some fireworks for sure.
Inter have made some quality additions to the squad in Milito, Sneijder and Eto'o. With these three, and the remaining players they have on offer, Barcelona know that they do not have an easy task ahead of them.
Inter are the first stiff challenge Barcelona will be facing this season. The Nerazzuri will be looking to derail Barcelona's train before it is fully on track, and a home win would also provide a huge confidence boost to Jose Mourinho's men.
However, on the other side stands a formidable Barcelona eleven. While people have been moaning about the lack of depth, they have overlooked the full quality of the starters present in the squad. And the entire starting eleven being fit, Barcelona would be looking to sweep the board at the San Siro
Prediction: Inter Milan 1 - 2 Barcelona
Posted by Anurag at 8:21 PM
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Barcelona visited their bogey stadium, the Coliseum Alfonso Perez, to face Getafe yesterday in a top of the table clash. Barcelona have traditionally had tough fixtures against the Madrid based side, but yesterday, a superb second half performance saw them run out 2-0 winners.
Ibrahimovic scored one goal and set up Messi for another to make up for a rather poor first half, while new signing Dmitryo Chigrinskiy had a debut to be delighted with. His passing was accurate and his involvement in offensive build up play was impressive.
Andres Iniesta also made his first appearance in nearly three months when he came on as a sub for Pedro in the second half.
I have now decided that I will put down whatever good and bad things that I saw over the course of the game. This is merely my thinking, and suggestions are welcome.
Postives to be taken from the game
- The three points (naturally)
- Ibrahimovic and Messi combining very well
- No goals conceded so far
- One more headed goal makes it four out of five goals from headers
- Chigrinskiy is already settling in
- Bogey game handled well just after international break
- Jeffren is still unimpressive
- Gulf in class between offensive starters and subs
- Marquez was not fit to play
Posted by Anurag at 9:14 AM
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Since there is no La Liga telecast in India, I will be streaming matches from now on. Anyone who is not able to find a streaming link, here is a place where you can look:
The match starts at 1800 hrs Barcelona time, which translates to 2230 hours India time.
Posted by Anurag at 5:57 PM
Friday, September 11, 2009
There are reports emerging there is a high chance of the La Liga fans in India missing out on this season's actions. ESPN Star network had the right to telecast La Liga last season. The fans had already missed the opening day matches but was pinning hope of ESPN-Star network bagging the rights late on. But now it looks like that is a non-existent option. ESPN STAR Sports paid 1 million/ year last season for the telecast of La Liga action. In most times they showed deferred and truncated matches; but still La Liga fans were satisfied as they could catch some actions of the same. La Liga matches start late in the night in India and ESPN STAR Sports has decided it does not make economic sense to air the same. Now the only Barca action we will be hoping to catch will be the Champions league actions, which will be aired by Ten Sports and Zee Sports.
In India Cricket has more priority than football. Actually a minority watches football matches. Cricket survives because of India and that will be given priority ahead of any sport. The difficulty in succeeding in a game which is played all over the world is the reason why football never gets any huge fan following. As far as cricket is concerned only nine countries plays it properly and so there is high chance of success. This season the major stars of the game is playing in La Liga and the non-telecast will be determental for the promotion of the game in India. The only option will be to stream it on internet if you have an unlimited broadband connection. Sites like Justin.tv and myp2p.eu will help you in that.
Posted by Anurag at 7:23 PM
Monday, September 7, 2009
Barcelona president Joan Laporta revealed the reason for the replacement of Dutch manager Frank Rijkaard at the start of the 2008/09 season.
Speaking to Catalan paper La Vanguardia, Laporta said,"Frank lost his authority in the dressing room".
He said he was displeased with the lax rules imposed by Rijkaard which allowed players to do as they pleased. The lack of authority and discipline in the dressing room was something that displeased Laporta.
Rijkaard had helped to lift Barcelona off its knees in his first three seasons in charge, guiding the team to two league titles and the 2006 Champions League title.
Posted by Anurag at 7:32 PM
Sunday, September 6, 2009
British newspaper The Daily Mail claims officials at Barcelona are preparing a swap deal sending Robinho and Henry in opposite directions during the January transfer window.
Man City manager Mark Hughes is reportedly not very pleased with Robinho's performances, particularly during away games. As such, he is also displeased with the fact that Robinho is not living upto his 30 million pound price tag.
Pep Guardiola, on the other hand, is reportedly keen to add Robinho to his squad.
Henry however, may not be altogether willing to move to Manchester City. He had previously stated that he would only move back to the Premiership to reunite with Arsene Wenger. However, a sufficiently big offer may be enough to tempt the French hitman.
Posted by Anurag at 3:04 PM
Football website Goal.com claims Barcelona has made a list of players to go for in the January transfer window.
Despite the August window closing, Barcelona's squad looks a little thin, especially in the left wing and defensive midfield areas, especially when Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita leave for the African Cup of Nations.
Barcelona's primary target is Robinho of Manchester City. One of the primary reasons for his purchase would be that he would not be cup-tied for the European competitions. There are also rumours that he is looking to leave Manchester City after falling out with manager Mark Hughes.
If Barcelona fails to land Robinho, their second target would be PSV youngster Ibrahim Afellay for the left wing.
As for defensive midfield, Goal.com states that Barcelona would be looking to sign Patrick Vieira on loan from Inter Milan, while Christian Poulsen would also be reopened as an option. Daniele de Rossi is also being considered, but is a highly unlikely option.
Posted by Anurag at 2:55 PM
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Lionel Messi found the back of the net five times in Argentina's first preparation match ahead of the decisive 2010 World Cup qualifier with arch-rivals Brazil on Saturday.
The Barcelona superstar was in extraordinary form as Diego Maradona's side thrashed local side Tristan Suarez 7-0. Not only did he score five times, but he demonstrated his incredible ability throughout the game. Carlos Tevez and Jesus Datolo scored Argentina's other two goals.
This display should stand him in good stead for the World Cup qualifier against Brazil on Saturday, which takes place in Messi's home town of Rosario.
Posted by Anurag at 8:07 AM
Next weekend's game against Getafe, scheduled for Sunday 13th September, could be moved to Saturday 12th September, reports Madrid based tabloid As(s).
Barcelona have requested that the game be rescheduled to give the squad more time to prepare for the Champions League group stage game against Inter Milan on 16th September.
Although there is no official confirmation of this yet, As claims that this request has been granted and the game will be rescheduled.
However, the flipside of this ruling would be that the international players returning from World Cup qualifier duty will have only 48 hours before the game kicks off.
Posted by Anurag at 7:57 AM
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Barcelona is looking to tie up Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta to the club for life, with the new renewal offers tabled by the club.
Catalan paper Sport claims that the deal with Messi is almost done with the base salary amounting to 10 million euros a year. Aside from the significant pay rise which makes him the highest paid player at the club, Messi will also have his buyout clause increased to 200 million euros.
Iniesta's renewal is not nearly as advanced, but the player will probably receive a salary in a similar bracket.
Both players will be given Barca for life status with the duration of their contracts going upto 2016. Messi will be 29 and Iniesta 32, when these would expire.
Posted by Anurag at 1:48 PM
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Barcelona hosted Sporting Gijon at the Camp Nou on Monday, and came away with a 3-0 victory, with Bojan, Keita and Ibrahimovic netting headers.
It was a simple game for Barcelona who were without three key players in Messi, Iniesta and Toure. They were never stretched by Sporting.
This win means that Barcelona are at the top of the Liga table from day 1.
18 Bojan 1-0
42 Keita 2-0
82 Ibrahimovic 3-0
The bad news however is that Bojan and Maxwell have both picked up minor injuries. Bojan has been ruled out for 15-20 days while Maxwell will undergo a scan on Wednesday to see the extent of his knock.
Piqué (83 Fontas)
Maxwell (57 Abidal)
Bojan (80 Jeffren)
Piqué (83 Fontas)
Maxwell (57 Abidal)
Bojan (80 Jeffren)
18 Bojan 1-0
42 Keita 2-0
82 Ibrahimovic 3-0
Posted by Anurag at 7:51 AM
Barcelona have signed Ukrainian central defender Dmitryo Chigrinskyi (22) from Ukrainian outfit Shakhtar Donetsk for a rather hefty fee of 25 million euros.
Pep Guardiola had insisted on the signing of Chigrinskiy, and had rejected many potential center back and full back options in favour of his man.
Chigrinskiy will, however, be ineligible to play in the Champions League this season because he has already played two unsuccessful qualifiers for Shakhtar Donetsk.