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Jan 31, 2008

Lionel Messi A Pichichi without Barcelona PresenceTo get a testimony of how bad this season performance is, don't have to look beyond the present Pichichis table. I can't remember the last time when we had a total absense from the Pichichis table top ten. The only guy who is near the top is Lionel Messi. This just shows how much we have missed Eto this season. He used to be in the top five evry season. Victor Valdez leads the Zamoras table just ahead of Cassilas. That also shows that our defense and Goal Keepers are not doing much wrong season. What is hurting us the most is inability to create Goal. Above all the shots on target and off target statistics looks like coming down this season by huge. Barcelona never used to convert everything they create. The maximum they used to convert was 30% of all shots on target. With those shots on Target coming down, logically goals have dried up. Anyway Messi and Eto still can make it to top ten.

Pichichi League Cup Europe Total(Penalties)
Luis Fabiano (Sevilla) 14 2 7 23 (4)
Kanouté (Sevilla) 8 4 5 17 (2)
Milito (Zaragoza) 14 2 0 16 (5)
Van Nistelrooy (R Madrid) 12 0 4 16 (2)
Agüero (Atlético) 9 1 6 16 (0)
Nihat (Villarreal) 11 0 3 14 (0)
Diego Forlán (Atlético) 7 1 6 14 (1)
Güiza (Mallorca) 11 2 0 13 (1)
Oliveira (Zaragoza) 10 2 1 13 (0)
Raúl (Real Madrid) 9 0 3 12 (1)
Messi (Barcelona) 8 0 4 12 (4)

Barcelona vs. VillarrealIf there is a trophy which Rijkaard might be craving the most, it had to be the Spanish Kings Cup. It may not have the stature of the La Liga title or the Glamour of a UEFA Champions League title, but for him this one trophy has eluded him the most. Considering last season was a trophy less one - he will be in immense pressure to bring home at least one and Copa Del Rey trophy looks like the most gettable one. If they succeed to get past Villarreal, they may well easily end up with the crown (considering Getafe, Valencia all are having a torrid season). But then that would be only possible if they get past Villarreal at home.

Even though the first leg ended in a goalless draw, but i consider that result a s good as a victory. Barcelona has been very strong in their home matches and should win this match by at least a couple of goals. Last time when Villarreal visited Camp Nou they were thrashed 4-0. Ronaldinho didn't have a great game then, but scored one of the best goal of last season. Ronaldinho is back in the side along with Rafael Marquez. For me returning of Marquez is the most important as it gives more stability in defense. We can expect Ronaldinho to get some time on the pitch in the second half. It’s very important not to start with him as it will only add to his voes this season. Gudjonsen is out so we can expect Iniesta and Xavi to start in the middle. Bojan looks to me the best bet at the centre and should do well with Messi and Henry.

In the defense Rijkaard might stick to the tried and tested with Zambrotta and Abidal making up the Full Backs. Milito and Puyol are expected to guard the Goal in front of Valdez. I believe we will win by a couple of goals. May be a Copa Del Rey trophy is the one which will inspire the team to reach unconquered heights.

Jan 28, 2008

With the last night draw against Athletic Bilbao, Barcelona quest for another Spanish League title has taken a serious setback. If anything hurts more is the fact that Real Madrid won against Villareal yesterday. Barcelona failed to hold on to the lead and perished for their goal scoring nuances. mathematically barcelona is still in the hunt even with the huge nine point gap between the leaders. And there have been a huge sense of optimism among Barcelona fans (saw it in the many barcelona blogs i visit) about getting the job done this season. Barcelona have no one else to blame for the mess they are in now. They started the season without much purpose and are catching up with Madrid for their lack of effort and enthusiasm. Actually from last January Barcelona are desperately trying to catch up with Real Madrid, a team many pundits wrote off some season ago.

Barcelona will be trying their best to keep the league alive till 7th of May, when they play Real Madrid at Bernebeu. For that they need the help of their fellow clubs in the league to cut down Madrid's lead to three points by that time. If that happen and Barcelona wins every other game left in this season, they have a real chance as everything will depend on the El Classico at Bernebeu. One thing that works against the above mentioned possibility is Barcelona's form this season. For a brief period in the start of the year they looked really compact and confident. But with Eto's departure for African Nations cup everything started to fall over again. Many fans have complained about the African Nations cup and how its going to hurt us. But those sentiments is never justified as it is impossible to explain a star studded team like Barcelona failing to put up a decent show in the absence of two of their stars.

Another factor which will work against barcelona is the fact that they still remain in three competitions - Champions League, Copa Del Rey and La Liga. The hectic schedule will take a heavy toll on the Barcelona players - already rusty and out of form. The third factor is Madrid's form this season. they may not have looked convincing, they may not have thrashed their opponents, Cassilas may have been making an average of 8-10 exotic saves per match but they look like more organised and more importantly they doesn't seem to be in a mood to drop any points. They are already out of Copa Del Rey and that means they only have two tournaments to concentrate.

The fourth factor is the fact that Barcelona has to play Sevilla, Zaragoza, Athletico Madrid and Real Madrid away from home and Getafe and Espanyol (two clubs which have a history of hurting Barcelona) in home in coming weeks. Whereas Real Madrid will be playing the Getafe, Sevilla, Valencia,Deprtivo (Clubs which can help Barcelona) at home and zaragoza away from home. Zaragoza have in the past hurt Real Madrid, but the match is in 36th week and it might be too late by then. So basically Barcelona may be chasing a losing race over here. Barcelona's greatest oppurtunity lies this season in Copa Del Rey. La Liga might be over for them, if they stop concentrating more on La Liga, they could win the Copa Del Rey and put up an impressive show in Champions League (who knows we can win that too).

But all this is for Rijkaard to think upon. He is the Boss and he have to take an immediate decision. But as fan i would love to see them fight for all the trophies, but then somewhere in my brain some voices echoes the above mentioned ideas. May be my brain is dump, many say so and i hope that is true in this instance.

Athletic Bilbao vs BarcelonaBarcelona inherent lack of ability to kill the match off came back to haunt in the last quarter of the match against Bilbao. Courtesy of this draw they now find adrift of the champions by a huge nine points. Barcelona went into the match with their task really cut down - they need to win this and hope Villareal at least hold the champions. Neither did happen.

Barcelona started with the Deco, Xavi and Iniesta in the midfield. Did they paid the price of not having a tall Defensive Midfielder? I don't know even though they may be weak in defense because of that, these three should have provided more attacking stint. Deco was as usual very rusty. But the real surprise was Iniesta who had an average night and that showed in Barcelona's attacking chart. The game started really boring; it took quarter an hour for Barcelona to create a meaning full attack. Messi was the first to test the Bilbao Goalie in the 17th minute. Messi received a throw in and turned inside of his marker and shot only for the Goal keeper to save. In the 33rd minute Athletic Bilbao counter attacked from the left and the cross found Aduriz in the box, who suddenly found himself one on one with the Goal Keeper, but he shot too high. In the 35th minute Iniesta attempted a long through ball to Messi, Messi was beaten on the ball by athletic Goal Keeper but the scrambled away ball found Bojan who slotted the ball past the keeper into the far corner. Bojan did not have a very good night, but he is keeping up with his amazing strike rate in the Main division also.

Barcelona started the second half in the right fashion with their famed attacking line twice raiding the Bilbao goal led by Messi. The first attack saw Messi feeding Bojan, who actually struggled to control it but laid it to Henry who tried to find the far right corner, only to miss by a couple of inches. The second attack saw Messi dribbling up to the line in the box drawing a bunch of defenders along with him, he pulled the ball back to Deco who shot high. In the 56th minute Valdes was called upon to make a decent save off Javi Martinez after Xavi gave away the ball cheaply. Then in the 71st minute Iniesta found sylvinho down the left and his cross found Puyol but he defenders did well to deflect it wide. Then in the 79th minute Barcelona were made to rue all the missed chance as Thuram tried to get in front of Llorente only to deflect the ball into his own Goal. Thuram did not make much mistake in the night (apart from the own goal) but i though he was too slow. The best player on the pitch for Barcelona was Messi, who couldn't do too much - that explains Barcelona’s poor performance.

Henry had a very bad night and there is high chance he will be overlooked when Ronnie come next week. My suggestion is that Rijkaard can try Ezquerra down the left now maybe. Now the big question on every bodies mind will be - Can Barcelona overhaul the nine points lead? There is precisely two reasons why i would say its difficult.

1) Barcelona does not look like capable of winning all their away games.

2) Madrid looks like they are not in the mood to drop a single point now.

Barcelona needs lot of help from other clubs to come near Madrid. But there is not much club in La Liga which looks like will be able to cut down the resilient Madrid side. Anyhow we will hope that they will slip sometime and Barcelona more importantly will take advantage of that. I pray and Hope that the title will be decided when Barcelona will take on Madrid in Barnebeu. For that to happen Barcelona needs to put up so much work, and lady luck has to smile on them relentlessly.

Bojan Goal

Thuram Own Goal

Jan 26, 2008

Andres Iniesta extended his contract with barcelona till 2014. the contract was due to expire in 2010. He still had two years in his existing contract but the Club might be forced to offer him a much better deal after all the transfer rumours. Last transfer window there was too much speculation surrounding him with Madrid's wish to sign him. But there was no concern shown about the speculation by barcelona. Maybe they know the kid too well. Anyway its not known how much he is going to take home weekly, but his Buy-out clause is being increased to 150 million euros. So that's a statement made by barcelona about how much they rate him. There were complains that he was one of the worst paid stars among the barcelona players (Iniesta never made any complaints), hope now he get paid as good as others also.

Iniesta is a fabulous product which barcelona youth academy should be proud of. And the extended contract should be a Medal of Honour for the hardwork put by the Academy to churn out talents like Messi, Xavi, iniesta etc. He himself d confessed that his first year in the academy was very hard. But then leaving home in Fuentealbilla at an age of 12 is not that easy. He may be the most hardworking player in this Barcelona side. With his skill, flair and hardwork there is no doubt he will become a Barcelona giant pretty soon. It's sad that he hasn't found a regular place in the National side starting eleven, but he is one of Spain's key player. Let's hope he can take Spain to glory in the Euro.

For Rijkaard this contract extension should be sweet music to ears. Iniesta is the most key player in his scheme of things. In Iniesta Rijkaard has a trump card which can be placed anywhere in the field, ofcourse expect Goal Keeper. Hope this contract extention inspires him to do more and more great things at the club.

Jan 25, 2008

Just completed watching the highlights of the game and have to admit that the match looked like having more memorable moments than I expected. But whatever a goal less draw at El Madrigal will be as good as a victory only if Barcelona can finish their good work in the return leg. I believe they can do it.

The first Barcelona attack came in the fifth minute, when Iniesta received a cross from Deco. Iniesta dribbled into the the box well and crowded by a bunch of defenders, in the mayhem the ball reached Henry who could only place the ball just wide of the post. Villareal responded in the 16th minute with Nihat shooting wide of the Goal. In the 20th minute Victor Valdez, who was Barcelona's best player on fieldtheir produced a spectacular save from a tremendous long range effort from Rossi. The majority of the first half remained with Villareal, with Barcelona attempting to break the Villareal defence with some cut through pass. In the 18th minue oone of such pass found Giovanni, who tried to curl the ball towards the far post. He did curl the ball, but never had any power to get past the Villareal Goalkeeper. In the 37th minute Valdez has to produce another magnificient save inorder to deny Villareal going one up in the tie. Pires cross was beautifully headed down and set for final assault but Nihat for my view hit too straigt to Valdez. In the next minute Cazorla attempted a long range shot on goal which went just high, but Valdez had that covered too.

Barcelona brought in Messi in place of Giovanni in the start of second half and that started changing the game in favour of Barcelona a little. In the 51st minute barcelona started producing a glimpse of the vintage quick feet attacking style with so many players getting involved with their quick touch but the Villareal defense held their fort. In the 62nd minute Iniesta was denied by a wonderful save by Villareal Goalie, Diego Lopez. Iniesta had a great evening and that one looked like going in. By this time Messi started to show a glimpse of what we were missing for sometime. As a contrast to first half, villareal never had any decent chance till the 75th minute when Valdez threw up another fine save from Senna. Subsequently Barcelona started attacking more and resulted in Iniesta and Bojan both shooting wide in a space of two minutes. Barcelona ended the game as usual with a small fright with Valdes again saving Nihat's free kick.

All in all it was a very good match and a much betetr result also. The only negative point would be Messi trying to score using his hand. The defense looked like solid, the attacking stict looks like coming back and Messi is surely coming back actually he is almost there.

Highlights Of The Match

Jan 24, 2008

Lionel MessiEl Madrigal stadium does not bring happy memories to many teams, especially Barcelona who failed to win there the last two times. The funniest fact is that Frank Rijkaard has never won there, the only time Barcelona has won there after he became the coach - Hen Cate was in charge. Villarreal is the most improved side in La Liga this season. Last season they were not at their best, but the last week 3-0 thrashing of Valencia should put them in the right set of mind (May be there is a curse associated with Valencia - Any team thrashes them will lose the subsequent game(remember El-Classico), I hope ;-) ).

As Rijkaard said in the pre match press conference "They are a team that can wait for to play in their half before launching counter-attacks or can come out and attack you from the first minute". They will be very tough opponent to deal with especially at home. As Lionel Messi said "We have to keep the return leg in mind when we play”. This Leg also has to be planned well like the Sevilla one. Barcelona definitely has an advantage with playing the return leg at home. Why not to use that advantage to full benefit? A 0-0, 1-1 or at worst 1-0 result will not do any harm to Barcelona's effort to make it to the semifinals.

The starting line up should give Barcelona a definite head ache. Deco should definitely be a no-no in the starting eleven. Marquez or Edmilson (I prefer Marquez as Edmilson returned just from injury) has to return back as DM as they will be much better equipped to deal with Villarreal than Iniesta in that position. Xavi is expected to make the lineup, but will there be place for Iniesta will be a question. I expect Iniesta to join the midfield as he gives a much better attacking option there. I would prefer Henry to start in the left with Bojan in the centre and Messi at far right. If Henry starts in centre then we can have Iniesta taking up that left position and Gudjonsen making up the midfield trio. Another big question is about who will start at the Goal- my preference will be Valdes as El Madrigal will be a very tricky place to give a new Goal keeper his debut.

There were some noises made about Giovanni’s attitude in the last match (mostly toward end which ended in some audience booing him) - get over it guys. He is just a kid, he needs to be protected and encouraged. It was wrong to start with two of the youngsters in the lineup, we cannot expect them to provide the attacking stint when the more known seniors were failing, at least this early in their career.

Jan 23, 2008

UEFA on 21st January 2008 announced the creation of the European Club Association (ECA), a move it said would be the start of a new era of the game. "The creation of the ECA paves the way for harmony to return to football between the governing bodies and the clubs," said UEFA, the governing body of European football.

What is the sole aim of creating the European Club Association - Increase the buying power of Clubs when dealing with FIFA. And in the initial rounds the dominating clubs have won the round against FIFA. UEFA looks like very cleverly sided with ECA to isolate FIFA in the whole process. ECA has made some agreements with FIFA and UEFA about international matches. The first is the agreement with UEFA which involves the distribution of an amount from UEFA European Championship to these clubs. The amount will be approximately 4000 euros per day per player basis. Actually there was a big fight between clubs and FIFA in dealing with players getting injured in international duties earlier. Now this clause resolves that, as the clubs will be compensated for that through this method. This makes sure that the big clubs make huge amount of money whereas the smaller clubs make nothing. The irony will be that this clause will negate the effect of the smaller clubs in the development of these stars. For example, lets take the case of Wayne Rooney - he spent his youth years at Everton, indeed Everton invested on him when he was nothing. Now he may be a property of Manchester United, but nobody can deny Everton's share in creating such a player. From a National Association point of view it is these comparatively smaller clubs which unearths talents for the big guns to exploit. So from a National Association point of view it is these clubs that needed to be rewarded more than the greedy bigger ones.

The second agreement is the most disturbing - National teams will be allowed to call up each player for no more than one friendly outside Europe. Here I believe that UEFA sided with ECA to isolate the other continent's National association. Obviously most of the friendlies involving UEFA countries will be in Europe and therefore they will not be least bothered. Nic from says : this will benefit players like Ronaldinho and Messi who are sometimes made to travel across the Atlantic or further to play in meaningless friendly games. First of all these friendlies are not some meaningless games. These are the best way the coach can find the best starting eleven who gels well. If Thierry Henry can take this much time to settle in Barcelona line up, think about the hardships of National team coaches who has to find the ideal line up through this so called meaning less friendlies. Now you are taking those friendlies away from them, What they are now supposed to do? I see this as the clubs attempt to kill the big events of national importance like the World Cups and Euros. A team which cannot gel well will not play good football, and incidentally more viewers will prefer to watch club football than National teams’ performance.

The third decision is to change the days in which International matches are played, I have no objection to it. But the fourth is reducing the size of qualifying groups for European championship. This will limit the chances for the smaller national association to match with the big guns. Everybody is complaining that there is too much International football - but the fact is that there is too much club football.

I would love to see national associations taking some bold steps. If a player is reluctant to represent National side, let him go. Hundreds have come before him and hundreds will come after him. For instance, Argentinean football has survived long before Messi came and will survive after him. It should be who decides whether he wants to be a part of it.

Jan 21, 2008

F C BarcelonaBarcelona went in to this match trailing the league leaders by a massive ten points. They were looking forward to cut down the lead back to seven points and suceeded in just doing that. The manner in which Barcelona may raise some criticsm neverthless it was a massive three points, as it helps them to stay in hunt for the League title. For the first time Barcelona started with the two new kids - Bojan and Giovanni upfront, Iniesta was given the role of defensive Midfielder (may be inorder to give Marquez some rest ahead of Villareal match). But Iniesta staying in a defensive position cuts down Barcelona's attacking instinct a lot. Deco started the lineup ahead of Xavi and should be awarded by the Worst player on the pitch title.

Both the teams started the game very quietly, Racing looked like more settled in the early exchange, Barcelona was ver nervous with their passing. Racing came to camp Nou with the idea of keeping barcelona quiet for the first hour and hurt them when they are desperate for a goal. The first move of the game came in the 7th minute which ended with Henry caught offside. In the 15th minute Bojan had a more of hopeful shot for the Goal Keeper to perform a regulation catch. Next was Henry who shot awfully high from a decent pass in the 16th Minute. By that time Henry had switched to left where he looks more comfortable. In the 19th minute after a very good build up Giovanni shot hit the defender. In between Racing looked to attack on the counter but was reduced to some awful long range shot. The real chance came in the 24th minute when Bojan heads the ball wide from sylvinho free kick, can't blame him as it was due to lack of experience. He tried to put a lot of weight on the ball, but it would have been better he dircted the ball with a deft touch. By that time Deco was showing everyone that how terrible he can become. His passing was appaling, we can count the occasions when Deco's pass found the intended target. In the 31st minute Henry ends his two months La Liga Goal drought when he easily tapped the ball in to the net, after Racing failed to clear Iniesta corner. By the end of first half minute, the crowd was desperately trying to inspire their heroes on the fiel, but for no avail.

If somebody hoped the second half would be better, then they were mistaken. The crowd got frustrated such that there were huge cheers when Messi was asked to start up. By that time Barcelona defense looked so disorganised, for that much time they allowed the Racing side to dominate. That resulted in Valdes producing a spectacular shot in the 57th minute, valdes was so upset that he was literally shouting at his defense. By hour mark the crowd had enough, chants of messi were resonating all over the stadium and in the 66 minute there wish was granted. Immedietly he wins a free kick in an interesting position after a wonderful 1-2 with Iniesta, but only for Deco to waste it. Messi looked a little rusty, but can understand that after a long lay off. But he had the desire to get a goal. In the 84th minute he combined well with Bojan but couldn't reach the final ball.

If it was not for the ill equiped and unambitious Racing side, Valdes would have been in some more trouble in the later stages. Deco was the worst player on the field. Henry who did not had a good game proved it again that he is comfortable on the left than centre. There is no purpose in having the two kids in the starting linup, either one of them start. It like putting a lot of pressure on them, they need to be protected and comforted. Anyway a three point is the most important thing now.
Thiery Henry Goal

Jan 18, 2008

With the whole world against him, Ronaldinho will find it difficult to rediscover the form which made him the "World Player of The Year". Every one who loves Barcelona (that includes me also) has called for his head, but there is no doubt that everyone of us still hopes and prays that he finds his touch as soon as possible. But it looks like he needs a change now to re assess his priorities and game. Whatever be the reason or whatever be the outcome, nobody including the Great Cryuff cannot question his contribution to this Barcelona team. So let's forget all the nuances surrounding
him and just enjoy this goal again

With Real Madrid up against the challenge posed in the Madrid derby by Athletico, Barcelona will be surely hoping to cut down the defending champions lead. Barcelona fans will be positively looking towards Athletico Madrid to do them a favour. With Madrid's form of last weeks and considering that Casillas may not be able to keep everything out of Goal, there is a sure chance. But this Madrid side has raised their game every time they came across a tough opposition.

But first of all Barcelona should and will (hopefully) concentrate fully at the job in hand. Playing Racing at home should be easy, especially with the good results running up to the match. Racing currently is at 6th position eying for a UEFA cup spot this season. If Barcelona’s away form has been worse then Racing's has been appalling (but better than Sevilla). Are they capable of a surprise at Nou Camp? I don't think so. Again Barcelona can become own enemy.

Henry needs to start at the left; he looks more comfortable there and can provide enough attacking options from that position. Picking up the midfield formation will be the toughest one. Rijkaard has to pick from Xavi, Deco and Gudjonsen to decide the starting line up. Oleguer should be back in the squad but Ezquerra is most likely to miss out with a groin strain. Either one of the kids - Bojan or Giovani is expected to start along with Iniesta and Henry.

Barcelona is all set to sign José Manuel Pinto from Celta as a back up for injured Joquerra. This should be the only acquisition this mid season transfer window. Nic has more on that Barça And Celta Agree Terms for Pinto or you can visit F C Barcelona

Barcelona LogoFrom the most beautiful offence in Europe, Barcelona in the recent past has slowly transformed into a highly effective defense. How much of this was contributed by the lack of form and understanding of their recent players is the only matter of question. Certain injuries also have added to the recent state of affairs - mostly of the talented Lionel Messi.

It came as a surprise to a lot of people across the world that Barcelona with their ultra talented line up won nothing the last season. They played bad at crucial games and juncture and looked like a completely spent force. So naturally everyone expected things to turn around this season. From the administration front all efforts were taken to plug any weakness in the side. Yaya, Abidal were brought inorder to plug the defensive holes. Henry was brought so that the Champions League title come visiting back again.

Heaven O' heaven, you can plan as much as you want, but somebody else will be controlling things around. The season started with all kind of things. Barcelona suddenly forgot to win at away grounds. Home teams which were afraid of Barcelona's offensive even in away matches now looked to hunt them down. They may not have hunted them, but surely maqny have hurt them. Above all Barcelona saw their arch rival crowned as winter champions with a seven points lead, in which the old fort of Nou Camp fell to the Mardid attack.

Maybe the loss against Madrid came at the right time. Barcelona looks more determined now. They look like they have decided to drop the non performers from the side. I haven't seen this Barcelona side use their grit to overcome an opponent. Earlier they depend only on their flair. But the Sevilla tie in Copa Del rey was an exception. They planned, executed and fought the opponent with perfection. They might have become a little less attractive, but they are still as effective as earlier.

All the hardcore Barcelona fans will be wishing the team come back to the earlier style. But I believe the pattern for sometime will remain the same. They might add some flair with Messi coming back. But still they will be looking to grind the results. As I believe "Everything Happens for Good".

Jan 16, 2008

In a match where Barcelona were prepared to defend and attack on counter, a goal less draw looks as good as a win, particularly when you proceed for the next round of Copa Del Rey. The defending champions could not break down the Barcelona defense and had to exit the Copa del rey race much earlier than they expected. All across Barcelona forums and blogs there is a sense of disappointment in the way Barcelona went with the Job. But Let me congratulate the team and their coach for a job well done. They planned this two legged tie well and executed it to perfection.

Sevilla started the game brightly with a wonderful attack on Barcelona Goal mouth which should have (on any other day) resulted in a goal. Daniel Alves one of the best Left Wingers in the game, provided a inch perfect cross to which Chevanton could not make a decent contact. A goal there should have changed the game towards Sevilla. The first half had few chances and the only one clear cut chance was the early mentioned one. In the third minute Iniesta did well to advance from a Gudjonsen pass only to shoot wide of the post from outside the Goal post. In the 19th minute Iniesta made another wonderful run(this time inside the box) off the wonderful work by Henry again to shoot above the crossbar from a very tight angle. In the 23rd minute Sevilla missed another great chance to score a goal when Fabiano headed wide from a Chevanton Corner. He should have at least tested the Goal Keeper as he has done the difficult job of climbing above the defense.

For Barcelona the only good chance came at the 32nd minute when a poorly taken Alves free kick found Giovani. Giovani after the initial acceleration fed Henry with the perfect through ball, but unfortunately he shot wide. I though he took the shot too soon. Till that point the Barcelona team never forced the Sevilla keeper, De Sanctis to make a decent save. that honour went to Eidur Gudjonsen when he forced the keeper to make his first save from a long range shot.The keeper did look like making a mess of it.

In the second half it was clear that Barcelona were prepared to defend their lives out.But effectively they shut down the Sevilla attack completely. Sevilla were forced to retort to long range shots to find the Goal. In the 82nd minute daniel Alves looked to surprised valdes with a free kick, it dipped and Valdes was indeed surprised, but was saved by the crossbar. The arrival of fresh legs in the form of Bojan and Deco didn't change anything. Then in the 85th minute Navas scrambled the ball into Barcelona Goal, but to be adjudged offside rightly. In the injury time Bojan and Iniesta forced two good save from sevilla Goalkeeper.

Barcelona team can consider themselves to have done a very good job. there were some nervous moments, especially the Navas Goal. They could do well without those nervous moments. henry looked more comfortable when he is in the left side and Iniesta (who was the best player on the field) did well but need to improve on his scoring ability. With Messi going to return soon we might be able to turn the tables pretty soon.

Chevanton Chance and Subsequent Iniesta Shot

Jan 14, 2008

Samuel EtoWith the 4-0 away victory against Murcia, the spirits should be high in the Barcelona Camp ahead of the second leg match against Sevilla. In the form of the away Goal, Barcelona has a definite advantage in this tie. But as we have seen in the past barca also has a disastrous tendency of folding down at the crucial juncture. How much inspiration can be taken from the Murcia match will be another question, especially considering that we managed to lose to Madrid after an excellent away win against Valencia.

With that sense i will prefer the team start the preparation a little cautious. In the match against Madrid we could not carry the excellent form of the previous match because there were too many changes in the side. In this match also there will be some changes, especially centre forward position. I will come to that a little later. I expect Thuram to be replaced by Milito, apart from that and the Centre Forward position, there should not be anymore changes. Gudjonsen and Xavi looked good in the midfield role and should continue there. Marquez is the only choice available for Defensive Midfielder role. Don't even think of putting Iniesta there, especially in a match against Sevilla. Zamrotta should be the out and out choice for Right Back.

But the most significant of changes will be in the forward lineup. Many says in the forward position Rijkaard is facing a problem of plenty. Is he? I don't think so, that is the reason why I have titled the article as "Sweet Headaches". For the last two to three matches, Henry is our best player along with Marquez. Saturday he was marvelous. Many attribute his sudden change in the form to the prolonged rest he got during the injury. I do believe that rest might have done him a world of good, like in the case of Eto also. But I don't think that is the only factor contributing here. From the last two matches he is playing in a position which he was so used to at Arsenal. In Arsenal he may not have been playing so much to the left, but a little close to the centre. In the initial time in Barcelona, he donned the role of a Centre Forward and literally failed. But when he moved back to his natural position, because of Ronaldinho injury - he started giving the glimpses of old Thierry Henry. So Rijkaard should prefer him to stay at the front left. Now the question is that who will play the Sole Centre forward role. If you look at the option

1) Gudjonsen - He looks settled in the Midfield.

2) Ezquerra - He also prefers either of the flanks.

The only option left here is the two kids - Giovanni and Bojan. Out of these two, Bojan looks like a more natural Centre Forward than Giovanni. Now if you add the two injured players - Messi and Ronnie, none of them can don the role of a natural Centre Forward.

I believe that Rijkaard will move Henry to the centre of the plot. I totally disagree with that, he should move Bojan to the centre and have Iniesta at the right. Many may not agree with the my views, many believe that since Barcelona forward players interchange their position very effectively in the course of a match - they can start at any place. I don't agree with that. They all prefer to start at their favorite places. Maybe and I hope and pray, Henry proves me wrong if he is moved to that position. But I believe like a Centre back, the Centre forward is also a specialist position. Nobody can even think of pulling a defender back to open up space like Eto did in last match. Saviola would have fit to that position - but he is not here.

Now coming to the Sevilla side, watch for that Brazilian duo - Fabiano and Alves. they have hurt Barcelona in the past and could hurt us tomorrow. With the 2-0 loss at Bilbao, their spirits maybe a little low. So take the attack to them early. And like the last match Barcelona should defend up front, the forward line should keep on putting pressure on their defenders.

On the organization front Barcelona is contributing more to the society by means of tying up with United Nations Refugee agency (ACNUR). The formal agreement will be signed on January 22 in Geneva. This is in addition to the agreement with UNICEF. "The two bodies will unite their efforts to help work together with their respective programs and to build common initiatives that try and bring a new quality of life to child refugees. A delegation from the club's Fundaciò, headed by President Joan Laporta, will travel to Geneva to finalise the agreement in the ACNUR headquarters. The former Portuguese Prime Minister, Antonio Gutérres, will receive the delegation as his role as head of the agency." - FCBarcelona site. For the Barcelona fans these are moments of pride and honour. When almost all the clubs are running after money and more advertisement, Barcelona still care to look into the more complex social and economic issues related to the society. The founders of the club will be proud to see that the younger generation still believes in the purpose of this great club. And these measures are truly the one which makes Barcelona - More Than a Club.

Jan 13, 2008

Real Murcia has surprised many by being in first half of the table. But their dreams of surprising barcelona was blown away by a resurgent Barcelona side,which looked like their old self in the second half. But still Murcia players walked away with their head head high. Especially in the first half they did make a match to the renowned Barcelona lineup.

As expected there was not much surprise in the Barcelona Lineup.Marquez moved forward to take up the defensive midfielder role. Puyol and Thuram started in the Back along with Zambrotta and sylvinho as full backs. Marquez was parterned in the midfield by Xavi and Gudjonsen. Bojan joined Eto and Henry to form the attacking trio. Both the teams started the match pretty brightly. Barcelona started the attack pretty decently with Eto shooting twice in the spate of two minutes. The second attempt (even though the angle was tight) was kept away by an alert Murcia keeper Notario, who had a wonderful game. Murcia was not the one to be backed down, that too that early in the match. They responded well with Valdes making a wonderful stop of De Lucas attempt. On 13th minute Xavi played a wonderful ball to Henry, which should have resulted in the first goal but only for the linesman to flag a non existent offside. Slowly, Murcia was settling down in the defense and Barcelona found it difficult to penetrate the same. The dead lock was broken in the 27th minute when Marquez sent Zambrotta down the right flank and the Italians wonderful cross was met by an excellent finish by none other than Gudjonsen. The finish may not have looked exquisite but Gudjonsen did really well to control a difficult cross from Zambrotta. Its always good to have a natural Right Back down that side, Rijkaard are you listening? The goal might have settled the nerves in Barcelona side, but there was not clear cut chance until the 42nd minute when an alert Murcia defense blocked out Puyol from getting his second goal of the season off an eto pass.

The second half also started in the same fashion of the first half. But the turning point of the match came at the 50 th minute when Valdes did well on a one on one situation against Baiano, who was played onside by Thuram. If Murcia has equalised that moment, then the fate of the match may be different. Valdes looks to me as one of the best when it comes to one on one situation, its only his positioning sense when the an aerial ball is sent in to the box make him vulnerable. The attempt by Baiano was the wake up call Barcelona players needed and they responded well. In the 51st minute dribbled into the box from the left but to see his his team mates failing to get into the end of a wonderful cross. In the 53rd minute Henry once again dribbled past a defender from the left, this time Bojan received his cross to register his 4th Goal for Barcelona. Eto did well there to pull one defender away by moving into the centre of the box. Withe the two goal advantage Barcelona was in full control of the match. There was a flurry of attempts by Barcelona players on the goal. In the 55 the minute Notario brought an excellent save to deny Xavi. In the 66th minute Eto was denied off an Henry pass, next minute Bojan rounded off defenders after a good run but to see his shot go wide.

Barcelona's persistence was rewarded in the 77th minute when Eto scored off an Henry pass whch was set up by an exquisite pass from sylvinho. In the 85th minute Eto set up zambrotta after an excellent 1-2 with Iniesta only to see Zambrotta being denied by the crossbar. In the 87th minute Eto rounded off the good performance by scoring off an excellent setup by Dos Santos. But the best moment of the match was when the crowd gave a standing ovation to Pedrito, the debutent (who got a chance because Esquerra was sick). His first touch was welcomedby huge roar in the stadium, I just loved it.

The best player for the Murcia side was their Goal Keeper Notario, if it was not for him they would have lost by some more oal. For the Catalan side , Henry was their best player. He looked so confident and he is getting back to his best.

The Goals of the match

Jan 11, 2008

Marc CrosasEven if Barcelona is not involved that much in the mid season Transfer market, many of the barcelona players are getting involved. Marc Crosas has just signed a loan deal with Olympique Lyon for the rest of the season. Its rumoured that there is a clause for making this arrangement permanent and that disturbs me. Marc Crosas looked like a solid midfield player and did impress a little. How much playing time he will get in Lyon is also doubtful, I expect them to extend the Loan next year. But it will be disastrous if he signs permanently for Lyon or other club, it sets up a wrong precedence and a wrong notion that the talented players coming out of Barcelona Youth Academy needs to look somewhere for a permanent position.

Dos SantosThe most wierd rumours coming out the transfer market is involving Giovani Dos Santos, he is being linked left, right, centre. the latest clubs which are linked to his transfer is Chelsea, Manchester United, Arsenal and Totenham. I don't think he will be leaving Barcelona or that Barcelona will let go of him. Another strong rumour that making the round is Gudjonsen's departure to Everton. This maybe a possibility as we did with Saviola. Gudjonsen is playing well now and should be rewarded with a place in sqaud. But Barcelona may do a Saviola with him also. Another one is Zambotta's departure to Juventus. Even if he makes such a move, it will be based on personal matters.

Barcelona will be looking to find a replacement for Jorquera. The latest player lonked with this option is Porto keeper Nuno.

Edmilson injury comes at the wrong time for BarcelonaGod only know if there is any curse involved with Barcelona's defensive Midfield position. Last season everyone with a little bit of footballing sense was complaining about the lack of a quality defensive midfielder. So Barcelona went and acquired Yaya Toure and it looked like he was doing well in that position. Now the inevitable comes, Yaya has to leave for African Nations cup and its understandable as Nation comes before club. We were never that worried as we had edmillson coming back into the side. To go by his performance in last match he looked very good.

But when it comes to Barcelona's DM position, it looks like nothing can be taken for granted. Now its confirmed that Edmillson has indeed torn adductor muscle in his left thigh. How long he will be out is the only fact to be decided and the club doctors are taking their time on it. There is only one somewhat genuine option left for Rijkaard for that position - Rafael Marquez. We will see Iniesta donning that role in some matches, but cannot visualize him doing the same in crucial matches. The only positive that will come with this incident is that Puyol may get back his usual position.

Now coming to the Real Murcia match Xavi, Milito and Marquez may not be in the starting lineup as all of them are carrying knocks. I expect Rijkaard to rest Marquez as he has to don the role of DM in coming matches. With Barcelona’s lineup strength and quality Murcia match should be a cakewalk. Iniesta should perform the DM role in this match. Giovanni is expected to be in starting line up, but i will love seeing Bojan in the lineup too. This will be the perfect opponents for these two to display their skills. It does not look like Barcelona's dream of cutting down the Madrid lead will come true this weekend, as Madrid will be against struggling Levante. But that's no excuse for Barcelona not to put pressure on Madrid. You sometimes don't know from where the opening comes.

Jan 10, 2008

Thiery henry against sevillaHow valuable will be the hard earned draw against Sevilla can be said only after Jan 15th, when the two teams meet against for the second leg. But there is no denial of the fact that as of now Barcelona has gained a definite edge over Sevilla to proceed for the next round. In the preview of the match I have written - how slowly Thierry Henry is gelling into the side. I was proven right by the great striker who had a very good night. He is showing slowly but steadily, why he is regarded as a great striker.

Rijkaard against my wish again fielded Puyol as a Right Back. The only reason i can see for this stupid decision time and again - may be he needs a somewhat taller Centre Back. Giovanni found his place in starting line up along with Thierry Henry. Unfortunately Gudjonsen missed out, I always believed Iniesta is Rijkaard's favorite weapon - He can be put anywhere in the field. Iniesta joined the midfield with Edmilson.

The game started with Luis Fabiano forcing a save from Victor Valdes, who had to be on his toes to save the nest Alves free kick. Meantime Henry and Giovanni were combining well to make Barcelona presence at Sevilla Goal mouth. After an initial exchange of passes with Henry, Giovanni shot wide (I mean just wide). But the defining moment of the first half came when Puyol has to go off for treatment, Barcelona quickly shuffled the defensive line with Marquez moving into Right back role. It was Marquez as the Right Back gave that wonderful long pass to Henry, which resulted in the goal. Henry's control was exquisite, especially first touch - the beauty of the goal was that he made it look so simple. Maybe he might be returning to form as we all prayed.

As expected following the Goal, Sevilla upped the tempo, but Barcelona defense especially Marquez soaked the pressure. But just before the half time as usual Barcelona's defense started losing concentration. Capel was finding all kind of cracks in Barcelona defense. All these pressure resulted in the Goal which came from the corner (Valdes could have avoided that) by Capel (what pathetic marking).

It looked like Barcelona was ready to settle for a draw in the second half. Sevilla was constantly raiding the Barcelona Goal mouth, which forced Valdes to bring out two spectacular saves (which still become the defining moment of the tie). The chances were limited for Barcelona in the second half and the best one was Edmilson long range shot which hit the post. But for the rest of the time Barcelona defense held firm. For Barcelona the best players on the field wwere Marquez and Edmilson.

There would be a certain sense of relief from the result in the Barcelona camp. But complacency would be Barcelona's biggest enemy in the second leg. Sevilla is no ordinary team and their chances of winning in Nou Camp cannot be written off. But the point I want to mention is why Rijkaard still perceives with Puyol as RB, either put Marquez or Zambrotta there. Marquez showed how good he can be as a regular Right back. He not only is capable of orchestra defense but also offence from that position.

NB: "The secret of success is constancy to purpose." - Benjamin Disraeli

Goals of the Match

Jan 9, 2008

Many consider him as the sole survivor of the dreaded Galacticos era. But the way he plays, he resembles more of Hierro rather than Zidane's and Figo's - Gritty, Hardworking, Sensible and Extremely Talented. It should come as no surprise that he shares birthday with another gifted Goalkeepr - Peter Cech. Madrid's victory against Zaragoza laid rest (temporarily) my hopes of Barcelona cutting down the Madrid lead to five points or better three points. I downloaded the goals from the match and didn't care much about the rest of the match. Accidently I got a chance to see the highlights of the match yesterday.

Boy O Boy, if it was not for this gifted player Barcelona would have cut down the lead to three points. The final 2-0 result does no justice for the way Zaragoza played. The irony was Zaragoza played with Madrdid's attacking style in Madrid. If it was not for the talented Iker the score line would have been some thing like 2-4 or maybe worse 2-8. Iker Casillas was stringing up saves one after other and when he was beaten (the only time), the post came for his rescue.

Madrid has been saved numerous time by the numero uno of Spain. For this precise reason I don't see Madrid winning the Champions League this season. With such a fragile defensive line, they may not match up to the powers of Milan or Arsenal. Niether do Barcelona. If it was not for him, Barcelona would have escaped with a draw at Nou Camp. And he may be big factor which will keep Barcelona's hope of regaining the Championship at bay

Jan 8, 2008

Rikaard will be looking for a good result in the first leg Spanish Cup match against Sevilla. Barcelona will be hoping that the result will be a repeat of their League match. Sevilla has been the team of La Liga for the last two seasons, but surprisingly were finding it difficult to maintain their high standards this season. But recently they were able to string up a series of good result and this along with the fact that its a home match for them, barcelona is not the best travellers should give them ample hope to win the match.

Barcelona itself is having some sort of problem, the last time they face a tough opposition (Madrid) they failed miserably. This is a cup they failed to win for some time now, that also will not adda any confidence to the bunch. But the most significant factor might be their hero of earlier victory against Sevilla, Lionel Messi is missing. But still they can produce excellent football. If last match is some indication, I believe Henry is slowly gelling with the side. Bojan needs to start ahead of Giovanni as I think he has more energy to offer. Edmillson should take Toure's position.

The main question in Rijkaard's mind will be "Whether I should go For a win?" - My answer will be employ a defensive strategy like last game and try to get out of there with a draw or worst a single goal loss. The two stage ties needs to be planned well.

Jan 6, 2008

With the not so comfortable victory against Mallorca, Barcelona seems to have put their derailing quest for the championship back on track.In a match were goal scoring oppurtunities came at a premium Barcelona emerged victorious with Marquez and Eto getting in to the scoresheet. There were lots of talks inside and outside the Barcelona camp about playing with style and playing with substance. It looks like players have chosen to play with more substance rather than style.

For the first hour of the match defence were completely on top. Both the defence looked extremely organized and were too good in cutting down any opposition chance. The first googd chance of the match went to Mallorca with Daniel Guiza showing some good skills, rounding off Milito only to see his shot go wide. He should have done better, atleast tested the Valdes. Some minutes later Iniesta returned Mallorca the favour by shooting wide after dribbling in to the box. A goal there would have changed the complexion of the complete match itself. Much of the first half the pattern continued but ended with Xavi missing from an Eto'o Pass. After the break, Bojan was introduced in place of Gudjonsen. But that didn't seem to improve a thing until from nowhere Xavi's corner found Marquez. With a Goal lead Rijkaard introduced Henry in place of Giovani and Edmilson in place of Yaya. With the goal lead Barca looked more confident and upped the tempo a little with Henry finding the net, but adjudged offside. To put the icing on the cake Eto striked in the injury time to make it 0-2. With three points in the bag barcelona will be keenly hoping madrid to start slipping soon.

Barcelona may not have played the most attractive football in the match , but still it was effective. Its good to win away from home as it will help them climb the table above all the players will be confident and motivated. There may be some criticism from the fans and media for not playing with flair. As far as i am concerned, I don't care a damn if Barcelona continues to win. Always remember that we cannot win beautifull all the time, we should be prepared to win ugly( i mean really ugly). Secondly once the players can put together a string of victories their confidence will be high and slowly the flair in their game will return as twice as effective it was early. As far the players effort were concerned everyone had a good game( not great game). Henry looked like the time off the game has helped him a lot. Bojan looked very natural. Iniesta squandered some chances but as usual he looked very good on the pitch. Marquez looke dlike the best Barca player on the pitch.

2nd Goal by Eto(Don't Miss it):

Mallorca vs Barcelona: Golazo de Eto'o
Uploaded by Gazpacho27

Highlights Of the Match:

Line Up:
Mallorca (4-4-2):
25 G. Lux,7 F. Varela,17 D. Navarro,16 J. Nunes,3 F. Navarro,23 J. Manuel Gutierrez,4 G. Pereyra,6 A. Basinas,18 J. Arango,10 A. Ibagaza,14 D. Guiza

Barcelona (4-3-3):
1 V. Valdes,5 C. Puyol,4 R. Marquez,3 G. Milito,22 E. Abidal,6 X. Hernandez,24 Y. Toure,7 E. Gudjohnsen,17 G. Dos Santos,9 S. Eto’o,8 A. Iniesta

Jan 4, 2008

Barcelona vs MallorcaFrank Rijkaard has expressed his disappointment about the way the team squandered the Alcoyano match. But he also added that "This result should not be exaggerated". Excuse me! Isn't this the pattern Barcelona has been showing for some time. How did we manage to lose to drew with many teams last season? If my memory serves me right, there were only few match we came back from behind and some how drawn the match. Most of the games we gave away the win in the last ten minutes. You got to admit that you have a problem and then only you can resolve it.

Anyway coming to the match in hand, Mallorca should be not a tough opposition and Barcelona should win it comfortably. But only fact that is stacked against a good Barcelona victory is Barca's dismal away record. With Ronaldinho injured, Rijkaard should get his Line-up correct here. He can have Iniesta in the Front left position and should prefer Bojan on the right. Bojan along with Giovani showed excellent promise in the match against Alcoyan (Eventhough he missed some oppurtuinity, he is just a kid!!). Gudjonsen should be start in midfield, he should resist the temptation of bring Deco in the starting lineup. I know many will disagree with leaving Deco in the bench. But the combination of Xavi and Gudjonsen was working well and should not be seperated. Deco still can come as a substitute and influence the match. Its in the barcelona back most of the time the recipe for failure is being prepared. With Zambrotta back, Puyol should be freed from that stupid Right Back role.

How Much you plan before , Battles won on the field. Barcelona team should prepare themselves to win, I mean win ugly. We cannot afford to slip down anymore. Its time the players should payback the fans with some wonderful results. I still remember the Champions League final when each player were supporting each other and we were constantly trying to destroy the Arsenal defense fort. In the end persistence paid and the fort fell.

I thought this January transfer window we will be pretty quiet, but Jorquera injury proves me wrong. Now we need to find a replacement as soon as possible. Nic from FCB News reports the local papers speculating about Sander Westerveld, Jose Manuel Pinto and Sergio Asenjo joining Barcelona.

NB: "Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all." - Dale Carnegie

Jan 3, 2008

Barcelona vs C D AlcoyanoBarcelona in its usual careless style squandered a two goal early lead to drew the match at Nou Camp. Santi Ezquerra put Barcelona infront with just two minutes in the clock and doubled the lead after exactly eight minutes. But Barcelona again struggled two find a third and finish the game. Instead they managed to concede two goals and lose all the positives from the game. In my preview report I have said the important of winning. If you look Madrid team of last season, when they made that unbelievable fight back after Christmas they were winning all the matches. They were not winning pretty, but they were winning mostly scrapping through. But the most important thing was that with every win they were gaining momentum for the final assault for the Championship. I do agree we did field a kind of second string side, but still they were expected to win the Match. Watching the highlights of the match, a strange idea stroked my head. The chances of Barcelona winning the La Liga title looks very bleak and if the form continues like this we will not make further inroads in Champions League, then isn't it better to concentrate all your energy on one trophy - Copa Del Rey (we haven't won it since 97-98). Maybe it is a crazy idea, then sometimes crazy ideas might work. Any way Highlights of the matches (mostly Goals) are below.

Jan 2, 2008

F C Barcelona will play their first match of New Year when they take on C D Alcoyano in the Spanish Cup match second Leg at Camp Nou. The match looks like already settled with Barcelona's 3-0 away victory. And more over Alcoyano don't have the power to repeat a Getafe of Last season.Eto'o,Henry,Iniesta,Oleguer and Toure will miss the match due to injury along side Lionel Messi. Barcelona will be looking to kick away the dissappointment of the defeat against Madrid. They needed to win what all that come their way to mount a serious challenge for title this season. Alway Remember "Winning is a habit. Winning is a mindset. Winning is an attitude".

NB: "Winning is a habit. Unfortunately, so is losing." - Vincent Lombardi

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